Keys Me

Last night, Raquel and I have received from a friend of ours an email titled “Keys Me” with a link to a YouTube video and not much in way of a description as to what to expect from the video. So, we clicked the link, watched and discovered why the email was titled “Keys Me”. Click on the image on the right to see the video first.

Apparently, the singer, Alyssa Alano, is a Filipino celebrity (nowadays at least as I haven’t heard of her before now) and a member of a group of female stars under contract with Viva Entertainment dubbed the Viva Hotbabes. So, no, she is not a loser in a singing contest as the video was implying with the scoring animation in the end. But then, she might as well have been.

I found the video hilarious! And not because of her accent (which is not her fault) but because she didn’t take the time to learn the lyrics of this well-known song before singing it in public. It’s as if she only knows the words from hearing the song over and over again but never really understood the words sung by the original singer from Sixpence None The Richer.

So, when she sang it, she used made-up gibberish words strung together in parts of the song that didn’t make any real sense to her — just as long as those string of words sounded like what she heard from the original song then it nobody will notice. But in fact, people who are more familiar with the song will notice, specially those who are more educated in English. The least she could’ve done was go on the Web to look for the actual lyrics for the song and memorised it before going on stage.

I feel so embarrassed for her. Her only saving grace, probably, was that she was at least moderately pleasing to watch.

Published in: on June 15, 2006 at 8:21 am  Comments (5)  

San Mig has landed

Almost two years after San Miguel Corporation bought 50 percent of Australia’s Berri and after splashing out on ads for San Miguel beer, it looks like San Miguel is bent on going mainstream here in Oz.

A local grocer’s brochure has 24 cans of SMB on specials at $29.99, boasting a savings of $32. The discounted price is pretty competitive considering that a similar pack of the popular Victoria Bitter (VB) is selling at $33.99. At the regular price of $61.99, San Miguel might struggle to get local drinkers. Sure, there would be Filipinos who’d understandably want a taste of home but I don’t know if they’d buy it regularly at that price.

On the other hand, I’m glad (for the beer drinkers, at least) that SMB has at least now reached Australian shores. Wonder how long before other products of San Miguel reaches the shelves? Maybe some Purefoods hotdogs, anyone?

Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 8:41 pm  Comments (5)  


Is 30 years old considered old? I remember back in 1995 when the World Youth Day was held in Manila, the event was supposed to be for the Catholic youth which included the kids up to those who are 30 years old. I remember reading that in disbelief because I thought that any 25 year-old would’ve been labeled an adult, much more a 30 year-old.

Now that I’m actually 30, I do consider myself to be relatively young. I’d actually still feel young if not for some health concerns I didn’t have to worry about back when I was still 20. I now have a higher blood pressure, I’ve had some cysts removed, and I had a kidney stone episode. These things reminded me that I’m not getting any younger.

Other things that remind me of my growing older come from external sources, too. Friends and family get married and have children. Their children who were mere babies a few years ago are now starting primary school. My younger cousins who were still in elementary school when I left are in college now. I have friends who have passed away, too, due to health-related issues.

I remember my uncle who refuses to have his hand placed on our forehead when I was growing up. This placing of hand on the forehead or kissing it is a show of respect to one’s elders in the Philippines called mano. He said that it makes him feel old. I used to think to myself upon his refusal for a mano, “well, you are old.” But now I’m at probably the same age he was when he started to refuse our show of respect, I realise that maybe he actually didn’t feel that old himself.

Another Philippine form of respect to one’s elders is to use the word po or ho in sentences. In English, I guess the words “sir” or “madam” could be used as an approximate translation of po, but po is only used when talking to someone who is like a generation older than yourself.

I use po whenever I’m talking to my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, and people who I feel could be my uncle or aunt. Nowadays though, it’s starting to become harder to determine which people to say po to. Some Pinoys I meet look like they could be my aunts’ age when I was growing up so I’m more inclined to say po to them. But when I think about it, these people could actually be just about ten years older than me and I just didn’t realise it.

When I went to my friend’s pre-wedding party a few weeks back, I remember using po to the older women that reminded me of my Mom’s sisters. But should I have done it, really?

I used to think that older people prefer they be addressed with po when you talk to them as a sign of respect. But maybe not all of them wish it. After all, when people start using po when they talk to you, it could only mean that these people think you are actually old. Specially those older people in denial.

Speaking of which, Raquel and I went to buy some groceries at Coles last weekend. While at the checkout counter, the Asian girl busily scanned our groceries. She paused after a while and asked me in English, “er, are you Filipino?”

“Yes,” I replied in an unsure tone.

“Can you speak Tagalog?” she probed again.

This time I replied in Tagalog in the affirmative “oo”. It would’ve been silly to continue speaking to her in English when we can both speak in Tagalog anyway. Not to mention more difficult, anyway.

She mentioned that she’s only been in Australia for a year and that she came with her parents. From the looks of her, she seemed to be around 16 or 17 years old. I asked her if she was adjusting easily to Australian life (and accent). She said that it isn’t really a problem. Ah, youth. It must be easier to adapt to the slang and accent if one is younger.

Anyway, my conversation with her got me a little disconcerted. Unnerved even. She used po when she was talking to me! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t stop her from using po though thinking that maybe I do look old. Maybe I look like the same age as her parents. And maybe that’s true, too, specially if her parents are around 36 years old.

In my mind I always think I’m still young but the reality of it is that I am getting old. Or at least older. I keep thinking that my college days happened like it was only a couple of years ago when in reality, over a decade has passed since then. If I was the cashier girl and I was talking to my older self, I’d probably use po, too.

It was a shocking revelation that has pre-occupied my mind for the rest of the weekend. If I’m upset now, I just wonder how upset I’ll be when I have my midlife crisis in another decade or so. I’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Published in: on May 2, 2006 at 12:01 pm  Comments (4)  

Australia Needs Skills Recruitment Expos

The Australian Needs Skills Recruitment Expo would be held in Manila from May 17-18 this year. There are already schedules for Shanghai, Hongkong, USA, Brazil, Peru and major cities here in Australia while there are plans to also bring it to places like Dubai, Dublin, Manchester and London (exact schedules still to be determined, check the immigration website at a later date to see the schedules for these places).

According to the Australian immigration website, if you are under 45 years of age, have good English language skills, interested in living and working in Australia and have qualifications for an occupation as listed on the Migration Occupations in Demand List or Skilled Occupation List, then Australia wants you!

Interested parties should register their interest via this link.

UPDATE (02 May 06): Just learned that the expo is by invitation only, based on the answers you give on the online registration form (why you want to come to Australia, where in Australia you want to settle, how old you are and more importantly, what skills/qualifications you bring to the table).

I know that a lot of people may be discouraged by this but it would also mean that people who get invited are the ones who have a good chance of completing the process and that organisers would be able to focus on genuine applications. For more information, please visit this link from the Australian embassy in the Philippines.

Published in: on May 1, 2006 at 11:46 am  Comments (8)  

Why Maundy Thursday?

Today is Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday. In the Philippines, this is a public holiday. Here in Australia, we have to come to work. At least we get Monday off though because of Easter Monday which was something we didn’t have in the Philippines.

This reminded me of a story of when I was still working in the Philippines for an American company’s new Philippine-based office. There were only a handful of us working for the company and we were left almost entirely unsupervised in the first few months of operation. However, we are required to make a conference call to the bosses in the US every week to monitor our progress.

On one of these conference calls, we mentioned to the boss that there would be public holidays coming up during the Holy Week. We said that there would be no work on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Our boss couldn’t believe it. He said that he was surprised to hear that there was a week-long public holiday coming up. We were a bit confused with his reply. Week-long? We clarified that there’d only be no work on Thursday and Friday.

He said, “then why did you say there’d be no work from Monday to Thursday and Friday?”

Ah! There it is. We corrected him that we didn’t say “Monday to Thursday” but “Maundy Thursday.” We had a good laugh about it. He still complained though, “why didn’t you just Thursday. Why did you you have to say ‘Maundy’?”

We didn’t actually know why it is called “Maundy”. We’ve only ever known the holiday as Maundy Thursday and sometimes as Holy Thursday.

I did a little research and found out the reason for Maundy in Maundy Thursday. According to scholars, Maundy is derived from the Latin word Mandatum that means Commandment. It is taken from John 13:34 of the Latin version of the Bible: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos ut et vos diligatis invicem,” Jesus Christ said to His disciples during the Last Supper. In English: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

Well, now you know why, too. For more information regarding Maundy Thursday, you can read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry here.

Published in: on April 13, 2006 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Promoting the Philippines in Oz Libraries

The Philippine government is set to promote the Philippines in Australia through the Read Philippines Project in Australia. The project aims to “encourage interest and awareness of Philippine cultural heritage by enhancing the existing collection of books and audio-visual materials on the Philippines in Australian libraries,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Unfortunately, it seems like the DFA is only targeting the Blacktown City Libraries in New South Wales at the moment. It would be great if the project extends to public libraries here in Melbourne.

Read the whole article here.

Published in: on March 28, 2006 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  


When RA9225 (otherwise known as the Philippine Dual Citizenship law) was made into law on August 29, 2003, I remember hearing about a lot of Filipinos abroad being interested in re-acquiring their Filipino citizenship. Not only could they engage in business, vote and own property in the Philippines but also has the option to retire there in the future. It certainly sounded like a good idea for the government to finally recognise that Filipinos who were naturalised citizens in their country of residence could continue to contribute to the growth of the Philippines.

I initially thought that people who lost their Filipino citizenship prior to the passing of this law would have to apply to re-acquire their citizenship while Filipinos who become naturalised citizens of other countries after September 17, 2003 (when the law went into effect) would automatically be dual citizens. I recently learned that this is not the case – all Filipinos who become naturalised citizens of other countries automatically lose their Filipino citizenship and should submit a petition to the Philippine embassy in their country to have it re-instated. No big deal, right? Well, once you take into account the number of documentation they are asking for and the AUD$100 fee, you start to question the process. And don’t get me started on that oath-taking ceremony they could only administer in either Sydney or Canberra. Tough luck to those of you who don’t reside in either area.

To compare, please see the table below in this comparison of applying for Australian citizenship versus the process of applying for re-acquisition of Filipino citizenship. Why the list of requirements to retain Filipino citizenship is longer than the list to apply for Australian naturalisation is beyond me. Shouldn’t copies of the birth certificate, old passport and marriage be enough? As well, the requirement to take the oath-taking in either Sydney or Canberra is a big hassle for Filipinos living elsewhere in Australia who are considering this step. Do they propose to pay your airfare and possible lost income in attending the ceremony?

Australia (naturalisation)* Philippines (retention/re- acquisition)**
Method Online/email Post (snail mail)
  • PR visa holder
  • present in Australia for 2 years in the previous 5 years, incl. for 12 months in past 2 years
  • Basic knowledge of English
Natural-born citizen or dependent of a natural-born citizen
Required to attend a short interview? Yes, to look over your application form and documents and learn about the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship to assess that you understand and speak basic English No
Supporting documents needed
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Evidence of permanent residence (visa)
  • Proof of any changes of name (i.e. marriage cert.)
  • Police clearance certicates (if overseas for 12 months or more)
  • NSO-certified birth certificate
  • Old passport
  • Baptismal certificate
  • Marriage contract
  • 3 recent 2×2 photos showing front, left and right side views of applicant over white background
  • original or certified copy of Certificate of Foreign Citizenship
  • photocopy of data page of applicant’s foreign passport or driver’s license
Fee $120 $100
Method of payment Credit card Bank cheque or postal money order
Oath-taking Venue Local government council office or at a location near you Sydney or Canberra
Oath From this time forward, (under God), I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose Democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
I, ___________, solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and obey the laws and local orders promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines, and I hereby declare that I recognise and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto, and that I
impose this obligation upon myself voluntarily without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

*Source: Australian citizenship website **Source:Philippine embassy in Australia

Then there’s the subject of the fee. The FAQ document in the Philippine embassy’s website claims that this is an administration fee covering all expenses in the processing of documents and oath-taking. Again, why even have this oath-taking in the first place? Shouldn’t the signed application sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace by the applicant be enough to signal his/her desire to be a Filipino again?

The whole thing reeks too much of bureaucracy and looks like yet another money-making vehicle by the Philippine government. How ironic is it that ex-Filipinos may well be discouraged in taking this step simply because it is too much trouble, costs too much money and remind them of the red tape that is one of the reason why they left the Philippines in the first place?

So if you’re a Filipino who is currently a permanent resident of Australia, would you a). apply for
naturalisation, lose your Filipino citizenship and apply to retain it; b). remain a permanent resident of Australia indefinitely while to maintain your Filipino citizenship; or c). apply for naturalisation and forget about re-acquiring your Filipino citizenship altogether?

I guess the question is, what is the Filipino citizenship really worth to you these days?

Published in: on March 21, 2006 at 12:20 pm  Comments (7)  

Awards for Writing

The 56th Palanca Awards is now open to entries. For the longest time, I wanted to submit something — anything — to this prestigious Philippine literary competition but I always fail to send over a submission.

During my years in university, I entered a phase where I wanted to be a writer, even though I was actually there studying to be an engineer. And so, I joined the Writers’ Guild and wrote for Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, the university’s Filipino-language newspaper. I also befriended the staff of the university’s Malate literary folio whom we, the Plaridel staff, shared our office space with. It was through my association with these organisations that I learned about the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature or simply known as the Palanca Awards.

Winning an award in that competition will not only make the writer a few thousand pesos richer, but it will also gain the writer the much sought after recognition of being part of the Philippine literary elite. However, before I could ever hope to win such an award, I first needed to work on my writing.

Since I’m not really a Liberal Arts major in university, I had to read various books on writing just to get a better handle on this whole writing business. But I can only learn so much from reading. I had to actually write.

Back then, I was more comfortable writing in American English than in Tagalog. I saw it as a tremendous challenge to write in my own native language. So I was very pleased when I won an Efren Abueg Award for my Tagalog news writing for Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, and an award for third best short story in Filipino in the De La Salle University Annual Awards for Literature.

The awards should have encouraged me to ultimately write something — a poem, a short story, a children’s story, or an essay — to the Palanca Awards competition, but twelve years later, I have yet to write anything in English or Tagalog worthy of a submission. The biggest problem was that by the time I remember submitting something for the Palanca Awards, there’s only a month left. Not a lot of time to produce quality work in my opinion.

So now, like then, I remembered about the awards with only over a month left to write something to submit to the competition. Should I even try?

Then Raquel reminded me of something. Back in university, she also won something like a total of four awards in the DLSU Annual Awards for Literature for two years running. Her achievement was awesome, I thought then. But she told me that the only reason she probably won was because she had at least submitted something and not a lot of others did. “Half of it is writing and passing the work,” she said.

Or to put it another way, I couldn’t win a game if I never was in the game. Maybe I should just write what first comes to mind and submit that. Who knows? I might win something without even trying too hard. And if not, then there’s another whole year to prepare for the next annual Palanca Awards.

And in between that, maybe I could also write something for the writing competitions right here in Australia. I remembered missing out on last year’s The Age Short Story Competition mainly because I found out about it too late. I also thought that I couldn’t convincingly write a short story that has an Australian feel to it. In retrospect, maybe I didn’t have to. Maybe I could’ve written something in a way most natural to me and then afterwards I should’ve just replaced the Z’s with S’s in words like realize and authorize, and added a U in words color and favor.

And if I submitted something to The Age competition, I should probably also try writing something for the annual national The Australian / Vogel Literary Award.

Of course, to be able to submit something for any competition, I should actually be writing. We’ll see. Maybe I could squeeze that activity in between my household chores, my guitar practice and my other artistic pursuits.

Published in: on March 7, 2006 at 12:01 pm  Comments (4)  

Australia Will Send Help to the Philippines

The Philippines was featured in the news on Australian TV these past few days because of a landslide in Leyte that buried an entire village in mud last Friday. The tragedy was appalling considering that something similar has already happened in the past in the same area.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of those confirmed dead or still missing under the buried village. I just wish the whole incident could have been avoided.

Thankfully, there were nations that gave their support and aid including Australia. According to an article on The Age newspaper’s website, Australia will “send a team of engineers to help asses the damage” caused by the devastation as well as provide a $1 millioin aid package “for immediate relief and medical assistance”.

Published in: on February 20, 2006 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Manila is Not in Indonesia

There’s a new men’s magazine in town from the makers of FHM. The name’s Zoo Weekly and their first issue came out today — for free! Yep. A girl dressed like she works at Hooters was handing them out at the Flinders Street station earlier today.

So, what’s the magazine like? Well, it’s kinda like another FHM really. Only, weekly. And lots of pictures of nearly naked women. And, yeah, the requisite articles and pictures on cars, jets, sports, gross topics and some geeky topics.

Well, on this issue, it also had something on the Bali Nine and their sentencing. It basically detailed the life of Australian Chris Parnell who was jailed for 20 years in Bali and how it was such a horrific ordeal that he wished he got the death sentence instead.

I thought the article was quite an unpleasant but surprisingly interesting revelation. It made me think about how scary it could be in prison, specially in a third world.

I then looked at the photos that accompanied the article. Then there’s one where it looked like a bunch of smiling Filipinos crammed together in jail. Now, that was weird. It must be some kind of mistake, I thought. The article was about the Indonesian prison of Bali.

I had to take a closer look then I read the caption: “Manila City jail: five times over its capacity”.

No wonder they looked like Filipinos. Heck, they were! Oh, I’m sure it’s very cramped in the Manila City Jail but there was nothing in the article about Manila at all, apart from the picture.

I only take issue because people reading the article might think that the Manila City Jail is in Bali, Indonesia when in fact it is not. Either the magazine accidentally used the photo thinking it’s actually in Indonesia or they intentionally wanted to pass it off as a photo of inmates in a Bali jail.

I just thought it was weird.

Published in: on February 14, 2006 at 9:35 pm  Comments (2)