BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Sunday, December 31, 2006


I spent the last 48 hours cleaning my places as part of my way of ushering 2007. I started with the bookshop and then my place. I have turned almost everything inside out to make sure I get rid of all the trash I have accumulated through the years.

It's fun to clean and let go of things I have kept for sentimental and mundane reasons only to be buried in layers of thick dust. It's always refreshing to let go. And it's fun, too. Looking at old stuff reminded me of past experiences that are all partly the reasons I am my own mold now, of dreams realized and still to be realized and of victories and failures.

There are the old letters, clothes, gifts and many other stuff from people of the past. There are dainty but useless bottles, Babushka dolls, unused post cards and other souvenir items collected from trips abroad. One cabinet is filled with old newspaper articles, photos, unused albums and even unused clothes.

Letting go of stuff I no longer use is one way for me to let go of irrelevant things in my more than 20 years of existence. I am happy to let go of so many things that no longer matter. At the end of the day, after all, it's a big world out there and unnecessary baggage will only make our journeys heavier.

When we are younger, we would hang on to every friend, every new fad or whatever it is that the times would introduce. As we grow older, however, we realize that not everyone can be part of our lives.

There is a need to discard old stuff to make room for new ones, new experiences that can make our lives more enriching than they already are. There is a need to purge those that only make the journey heavier. Traveling light, after all, makes the journey more memorable.

Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 29, 2006


He sits on that busy corner, by the road behind the pink fences, below the Quezon Avenue station of the MRT. He cannot see the hordes of commuters going about their daily grind through that part of the city because he is blind. But he knows they can hear him.

His vocal contortions, after all, fill the air. Never mind if his microphone and speaker are covered with layers of dust left by speeding vehicles plying that part of EDSA. He sings everyday to make a living. A box for coins is on top of the black rustic speaker.

His singing is louder than the deafening horns of moving buses and jeepneys.

I could not miss him. Whenever I take the train, this blind man is there singing a different song each time. His voice reverberates through the loud speaker but it is never unpleasant to my ears. And I always make it a point to drop off some coins. My aunt once said that if you enjoy the music of street musicians, even for just a split second, you ought to share something in return just as they shared their music to you.

Early this evening, on my way home, I didn't take the train. I drove my car but still I heard him as I passed by that part of the city. He was playing Pasko na Sinta Ko. I don't know about the other motorists or the thousands of commuters around him but as always, his music was a treat for me.

It is a momentary respite from both the noise and the silence around me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Innocent Man

Just finished reading John Grisham's first nonfiction work and latest book, The Innocent Man. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy nonfiction that reads like fiction. I am reminded of my favorite author Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

The Innocent Man tells the story of a man sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Grisham said he was simply flipping through the newspaper when an obituary caught his attention..."Ronald Williamson, Freed from Death Row, Dies at 51."

Wrote Grisham: "I read it the second time. Not in my most creative moment could I conjure up a story as rich and as layered as Ron's. And, as I would soon learn, the obituary barely scratched the surface....Writing nonfiction has seldom crossed my mind--I've had far too much fun with the novels--and I had no idea what I was getting into."

More than the lessons about capital punishment and injustice, reading the book made one thing clear - real life is so much more colorful than fiction.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

independent living

Let me share with you the story of my best friend, Joon. I met him many years ago in JASMS. We were in sixth grade then. We started as enemies. I considered him the kind of classmate whom you get very pissed at for no particular reason. Years passed, however, and we became really good friends. We filled each other's younger days -- from the clubs, parties, concerts (we rocked with the Pearl Jam) to the sentimental heartbroken episodes that each of us went through. It was the kind of friendship that made one forget the passing of time, the curfews and the ticking of the wee hours of the morning.

Something changed, however, not too long ago. Joon met an accident one fateful day in 1998. He is now paralyzed from the neck downwards, pinned to the bed 24/7 because the accident killed more than half of his body. He needs at least two people to sit him on a wheel chair and always, at least one person to help him do the simplest things -- turning on the computer, preparing his meal, grooming his hair, brushing his teeth and even smoking. He can no longer do things on his own.

But despite all this, I never saw Joon -- not once -- bear a disabled being's soul. He remains the strong, forceful individual that I know.

And he continues to live life to the fullest, trying the best he could to live independently. But he needs help. He is inviting us to help him and others in similar situations in whatever way we can.

Read on:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Life Haven, Inc. (LHI) is a non-profit organization with a mission to establish Independent Living Centers in the Philippines in order to promote the Independent Living Philosophy. The Independent Living Philosophy started in the USA in the early 70’s. The ideology of independent living is to inculcate in persons with severe/non severe disability/disabilities a sense of value of getting over and adapting to our disabilities and to be independent by practicing self-choice, self-determination and self-responsibility.

The Independent Living Concept was introduced to the Philippines by the Human Care Association of Tokyo. Members of Life Haven, Inc. have attended seminars and had undergone intensive training regarding the Independent Living Philosophy.

One of the services provided by an Independent Living Center is Peer Counseling, a service that aims to restore the sense of self-worth and re-establish the self-confidence of a person with disability (PWD).

In this regard, LHI will conduct a series of peer counseling seminars and workshops to empower fellow persons with disabilities with the concepts of independent living and the services of peer counseling for us to become service providers to other persons with disabilities instead of being just merely its recipient.

In this light, we would like to solicit for your kind support in whatever contribution payable to Life Haven, Inc. to help us defray the expenses in the implementation of this worthy undertaking. Help us realize our objective to enhance self-acceptance and dignity of persons with disabilities and help us live more independently in a manner dictated by our abilities, not our limitations.

One last request. Please forward this email to your friends and relatives for they also might want to help in this endeavor of ours. We will greatly appreciate this simple gesture.
Thank you very much and we highly anticipate your favorable response regarding this matter.

Very truly yours,

Joon G. Baltazar, Jr.
Public Relations Officer

Noted by:
Abner N. Manlapaz
President, Life Haven Inc.
Board Member, AKAP-PINOY
Council Member, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) - PWD Sector
Chairman, Independent Living Committee of NAPC – PWD Sector
Tel. Nos.: +63 2 4569819/ +63 928 2769513

Life Haven Incorporated is an organization duly registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 7th, 2005 with Company Registration Number CN200511789
For your donations:

For donors in the Philippines
Please deposit your donations in favor of:
Account name: LIFE HAVEN INC.
Account number: 590078348
BANCO de ORO, Potrero-Malabon

Friday, December 1, 2006

Farewell, dear Gov

He was valiant to the end, much like a runner triumphantly rounding the homestretch after a fruitful life that included a successful stint as the country's top banking regulator.

Former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Rafael Carlos B. Buenaventura passed away at 3:10 p.m. yesterday at the Asian Hospital in Muntinlupa City after a falling into a coma, said his wife, artist Ma. Victoria Rufino who was with him.

"He passed away peacefully at 3:10 p.m. because of cardiac arrest due to complications," she said yesterday.

His remains were to be cremated last night. A novena mass will be held today (Dec. 1) at 6 p.m at the Santuario de San Antonio church in Forbes Park, Makati.

The 68-year old Mr. Buenaventura, who was born in San Fernando, La Union, on August 5, 1938, served as BSP governor from 1999 to 2005.

During his stint, he managed to keep monetary policy and the banking sector stable despite facing one of the toughest political transitions in the country's history.

Gov."Paeng" as he is fondly called by family and friends, emerged as one of the most colorful personalities in banking.

He implemented much-needed reforms in the sector and saw the Philippine central bank through one of the toughest times in the country including the impeachment trial of former president Joseph E. Estrada.

Mr. Buenaventura considered his biggest achievement as laying down the foundation for microfinance banking.

"I like to think that microfinance is my most important contribution," he said in an interview back in 2004.

He has become so passionate with Bangko Sentral's microfinance initiatives that reporters covering the beat during his time have become so used to the topic.

In fact, reporters would jokingly close their notebooks when the amiable governor starts talking about his latest microfinance initiatives.

But people aspiring to put up small businesses can only thank him for his legacy. Since Mr. Buenaventura introduced microfinance initiatives, the number of banks engaged in small-scale, collateral-free lending has risen to 132 from only 20 in 1999.

Mr. Buenaventura encouraged banks to engage in microfinance lending by having the central bank provide incentives for those venturing into the business.

The former Citibanker also counts as an achievement the central bank's shift to the so-called inflation-targetting method of setting monetary policy.

Local and international business circles recognized his successful term but it was the recognition fromthe prestigious New York-based Global Finance magazine that he is most proud of.

He was given a Grade A from 2002 and 2003, a feat that was difficult to achieve for a monetary chief in an emerging market like the Philippines.

Before being appointed as central bank chief, Mr. Buenaventura spent more than three decades in the private sector as head of PCIBank and regional treasurer of Citibank. He also headed the Bankers Association of the Philippines, the lobby group of local bankers.

He ended his stint at the BSP happy that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Amando M. Tetangco as his successor.

On the lighter side, Mr. Buenaventura is known for his sense of humor, his crisp barongs, well-combed hair and colorful ties.

Mr. Buenaventura is a proud Atenean, where he completed his secondary education.

After completing his high school education at the Ateneo, Mr. Buenaventura studied at the De La Salle University, where he received a bachelor's degree in commerce.

He completed a master’s degree in business administration at the Stern School of Business of the New York University in the United States.

(A shorter version of this article was published in BusinessWorld on Dec. 1; photo from

I covered Gov. Paeng for two years when I was assigned to cover the central bank beat in 2004. I didn't like him at first because I felt like he only wanted to talk to the veterans but I would later earn his trust.

I learned a lot from this man, a sweet, charming, brilliant and well-respected government official. Although there were times when I felt like he was still wearing a bankers' hat while at the central bank, the policies that he pushed proved otherwise.

"Chances favor a prepared man," he likes to tell reporters. I never forgot that piece of advice since then.

The last time I talked to him was in September when I apologized for missing his dinner invitation. He was charming and amiable as always. He said we'd see each other again. That was, however, the last time I would talk to him.

Farewell, dear Gov.