WHY ARE PINOY IT PROS LEAVING?
Filipino IT professionals are being pirated by Asian companies, and it can spell disaster for the Philippines’ telecommunications infrastructure.
It seems that professionals in the country, including those practising Information Technology (IT) are being hired by companies abroad such as Singapore, Malaysia, and other East Asian countries despite being employed in foreign-owned companies situated in Metro Manila.
At first, these IT professionals somehow worked to maintain websites of both private and government institutions against hacking and malfunctioning in order to have smooth flow of transactions, and also worked in order to improve internet speed in telecommunications companies such as PLDT and Globe.
These practitioners may had done well in their respective field of interest, but with other countries offering much bigger pay and really secured tenure, most IT professionals, especially those affected by everyday crisis such as contractualization and insufficient pay, have no choice but to accept opportunities from abroad that are greater than those offered at home.
According to the Office of the Press Secretary last 2008, there were 12,000 Filipino IT practitioners working in Singapore, and most of them were appraised for their skills and talents in their work.
In addition, there are probably more in the Philippines choosing to leave the country for Singapore or any other country in search of much greener pastures.
The Philippines is starting to feel the effects of this recent brain drain. We are left with less competent IT workers who are incapable of securing local networks in case a security breach happens.
Consequently, government websites are often hacked, while people often complain about slower internet speed as compared to those of the neighboring countries.
Groups like the Computer Professionals Union have urged government officials not just to tax-exempt IT professionals, but to create an environment for these practitioners in testing and implementing innovative ideas with government support, as science and technology professionals are vital for national development.
The Philippines’ IT-BPO industry has total revenues that rose from $12.1 billion to US$ 13.5 billion last 2012, and employment that rose to 769,932 from 679,494, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) figures.
Yet these figures may possibly change in the following years, as IT professionals are being promised bigger pay and security of tenure by companies abroad.
There is enough possibility that both revenues and employment would decrease in IT industries in the Philippines.
There is steep competition as local IT professionals find it more difficult to work in the country, given the inadequate infrastructure and wrong government priorities.
President Noynoy Aquino, in his address citing the Philippines’ amicable relations with Singapore, stated that “Singapore and the Philippines will continue to work together on the expansion of cooperation in the fields of infrastructure and construction, tourism facilities, information technology-business process management, shipbuilding, logistics services, and agribusiness”.
In spite of the country losing its best IT workers, the government continues to brag about development, cooperating with countries that are ironically becoming the working destinations for Filipino IT professionals.
By Miguel Raymundo
Yearly, the government allots billions of pesos in taxpayer’s money to build roads, but it’s the private contractors who are making a killing at public’s expense.
Take the 94-km North Luzon Diversion Road, built in 1996 by the government which has fattened the pockets of its new owners, Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group.
Renamed North Luzon Expressway, the project has emerged as a cash cow of listed Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), the group’s infrastructure unit in the Philippines.
Last year alone, the MPTC saw profit bursting at the seams, surging sharply, thanks – or no thanks – to the government’s benevolence in allowing with impunity the company to jack up its toll rates amid mounting protests from motorists.
Buoyed by robust revenues, the Salim firm even went to the extent of proposing to stretch its franchise to cover the lucrative Manila-Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway under a 50-50 revenue sharing deal with the government.
But the proposal hardly took off the ground, shot down in no time at all by a government wizened to the profiteering ways of private contractors.
Typical of its insensitivity to public welfare, the state-run Toll Regulatory Board allows a toll road operator every two years to raise its rates without the need for the agency’s prior approval.
Cashing in on a hefty traffic volume, the MPTC’s bottomline, up by a hefty 32 percent to P2.784 billion year-on-year, only showed how the government’s infrastructure program has turned out to be big business for the private contractors.
In short, a conspiracy exists between government and the private contractors by cashing in on the commuters’ gullibility to take any toll rate increase without raising a whimper.
Admittedly, the privatization of public utilities only leads to huge profits for big foreign and local corporations – and, effectively, widen rich-poor gap.
Other than TRB’s automatic approval of any toll rate increase every two years to allow operators a fair return on their investments, another contentious issue is the 12 percent value-added tax on toll approved by the Supreme Court which has been passed on by operators to the already financially burdened commuters.
Ultimately, the country’s public roads and highways should be taken over by the government to prevent corporations from increasing their profits at public’s expense.
The toll road operator’s wallowing in profits amid complaints of rising rates could have provided a benchmark, a caution for the government in tempering privatization of its public infrastructure projects.
But that appears not to be the case as more and more projects are up for grabs, ranging from toll roads to ports, airports, to the highest bidders in the private sector.
Apparently, profitability is key reason why there’s a mad rush among the country’s corporate titans to bid for the proposed P35.42 billion, 44.6-km Cavite-Laguna Expressway (Calex).
Auctioned off by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the project has attracted four qualified bidders, including powerhouse San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
Jockeying for the highly lucrative contract is so intense that the Salim Group has sought SMC’s disqualification for allegedly submitting a non-compliant bid.
The Indonesian group has argued that SMC’s bid did not contain a valid bid security, a bond that protects the government in case a winning bidder decides not to proceed with the project.
But SMC, which has adopted infrastructure as an integral part of its core businesses, has disputed its rival’s contention.
“We are compliant. We have a very competitive bid and we are confident we can give government the best deal for the benefit of the taxpayers and the country,” it says in a statement.
Irked over the rivals’ raising of petty issues, the conglomerate admonished them not to waste energy pulling each other down, saying “we want our countrymen to get the best price from several, not a few bidders.”
Other bidders expected to give competitors a run for their money are the joint venture of Ayala Corp. and Aboitiz Group and Malaysian infrastructure firm MTD Bhd.
Part of the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) program, the project starts from Kawit, Cavite, and ends at the Mamplasan interchange of the South Luzon Expressway in Biñan, Laguna.
Based on DPWH’s terms of reference, private investors will finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the expressway that will connect Cavite and Laguna directly, greatly reducing travel time between the two provinces.
The two highly industrialized and urbanized provinces are home to hundreds of international and multinational electronic, semiconductor, automotive and manufacturing companies, in addition to residential developments.
With infrastructure deemed as a key component of economic growth, the government is projected to invest about P750 Billion for projects between 2011 and 2016.
Separately, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is also proposing about P403 billion in infrastructure projects in 2014 to boost the country’s competitiveness, spur investments, create jobs and improve the country’s economy.
The budget outlay would result in a five percent infrastructure spending in relation to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio and increase revenue effort to 17.1 percent by the year 2016.
But somehow, the government has rationalized what it says is the essential role of the private sector as the main engine for national growth and development.
Under the PPP, the government will provide incentives to stimulate private resources for financing the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects.
To a large extent, the government is even willing, on a project basis, to protect investors from certain regulatory risks such as court orders or decisions which prevent them from adjusting tariffs to contractually agreed levels.
Risks and Regulations
Such regulatory risk insurance could take the form of make-up payments from the government to PPP investors, other guaranteed payments, and adjustments to contract terms.
The specifics of the type of protection to be offered by the government, and the mechanisms through which such protection will be offered will be part of the contract terms for each project. Such protection will only be offered for solicited projects which undergo a competitive bidding process.
But certain advocacy groups had criticized the PPP, saying the public is being held hostage by private corporations whose overriding purpose is only to amass profits as much as possible.
In effect, the responsibility to build roads is being handed over by the government to private concessionaires who are only too eager to squeeze money from the financially depressed people.
Google Car: Will It Work in PH?
By Andrea Lim
Google has recently come up with a prototype that, although it looks like it came straight out of a Disney Pixar movie, is an innovation that will seem to put us forward into the twenty-first century – the ‘Google Car’.
It is basically a self-driving compact version of a Mercedes-Benz smart car, big enough to fit two adults and a few pieces of luggage in the back.
The Google Car, or ‘Goog’, possibly owes its appeal to its friendly, ‘cute’ appearance – its face having ovoid eyes and baby-blue retinas, a shiny button nose and a straight-line mouth. However, the design strategy was “a concession to a fact about glaring fact about driverless cars: To a public raised on taking the wheel, the very concept of ceding control is terrifying.”
Although most people have nothing but positive words for this development in technology, we can only speculate if and how this will be beneficial to a third-world country like the Philippines.
Take for instance, the fact that while the Google Car is driverless but may still follow rules of the road down to the letter, there are still other factors to consider. Among those are the safety of the driverless car’s passengers and of course, the other drivers.
Google released a trial product where the car has nothing save for the seatbelts, a start button, and an emergency stop button. Cliff Kuang of wired.com says that a driverless car has to be “filled with cues in the knobs and interfaces that teach the user even while it’s enticing and acclimating the audience of potential users.”
If we are to have this sort of modernization running along our streets, it should be worth noting that Filipinos are known for their short attention spans, sad to say. If a billboard of a half-naked woman along EDSA could divert drivers’ attention from the road, what more a driverless vehicle running at 60 miles per hour?
Network-Able Medical Equipment
FOUR PILLARS OF MODERN COMPUTING: It was bound to happen, and the time has come for it to happen. Perhaps not too long ago, the field of medicine has been “taken over” by cloud computing, and from here onward, things will not be the same. Cloud computing is one of the pillars of modern computing. The other three pillars are broadband, big data and server virtualization. The field of medicine is not the only one that has been “taken over”. Practically every field of human activity could benefit from these four pillars.
CLOUD COMPUTING: Before cloud computing came along, companies or organizations had to put up their own data centers either in their own premises, or offsite in hosted facilities. That approach would entail a lot of capital expenses, investments that would go to waste as soon as the machines are depreciated. Because of cloud computing however, any company or organization could use the data centers of cloud service providers in remote locations. The internet cloud is neither a place nor a state of being, as many would try to describe heaven. In a manner of speaking, the internet cloud is the totality of computing power somewhere and everywhere, for everyone to use as long as they could afford it.
BIGGER BANDWIDTH: The bigger the bandwidth, the faster is the connectivity. From the very slow dial-up connectivity, we moved up to the not so slow digital service line (DSL) connectivity. Fast forward, many areas are now moving up to fiber connectivity. From that point on and onward, things will also not be the same. Broadband is the “juice” that enables us to transmit voice, text and data faster and better, the latter in terms of being more stable and more reliable. Because of broadband, we are now able to transmit or view larger files, and that includes big data.
BIG DATA: It could be said that big data has always been there, but until now the technology did not exist to mine all of it and to analyze all of it. Yes, the size of big data has always been there, but what is new is the ability of new technologies to read data, to fetch data deep down into the data assets, in ways that has not been done before. In layman terms, this would include every piece of data that has ever been recorded about a medical patient, no matter how many and how widespread it is. For example, that would include x-ray files and cardiograph files.
SERVER VIRTUALIZATION: Before virtualization came along, many servers were needed to provide the computing power of data centers. As it is now however, data centers including those in the internet cloud would need lesser servers. That means having more computing power with lesser expenses. This new technology is also good for the environment, because with lesser servers, lesser energy would be needed. In a related development, data storage space has been “divorced” from the servers, so much so that these are now scalable.
FROM BUYING HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE TO BUYING SERVICES: Because of cloud computing, companies could now buy offsite services without buying hardware and software. Actually, clients could now buy “Software as a Service” (SaaS), instead of simply buying software licenses. This approach is directly related to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). More than ever, anything and everything could be outsourced now, and even the BPO companies could outsource their own computing needs to internet cloud service providers.
NETWORK-ABLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: Technically speaking, any machine that has a processor, a keypad and a display is a computer. That is why I always say that an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) is a computer, and so is a Point of Sale Terminal (POST). Given that definition, any digital medical equipment is a computer, including dialysis machines and x-ray machines. I have known this all along, but I never thought that all digital medical equipment could be networked. As I see it now, the state of the present technology has surpassed my own imagination because the equipment could not only be networked now, these could also be located in the internet cloud, thus eliminating the need for on-site machines.
LEVELING THE HOSPITAL FIELD: Because of cloud computing, any hospital big or small could now have access to all kinds of medical equipment and devices, no matter where they are, for as long as they could connect to the internet. Before cloud computing came along, only the big hospitals could afford to buy the big pieces of equipment, thus subjecting the quality of medical services to the availability of big capital. The field has now been leveled for the good of all.
THE KEYPAD IS IN THE DISPLAY: Before smart alecks would argue with me about what I said, I will say it first, that the keypad in the tablets and the smart phones is in the display. Therefore, there is still a keypad (or a keyboard) in these devices, except that it is already in the display (or the screen). What is most important in these devices is now really the keypad, but the processor that makes it possible for the software and the applications to work.
MOBILE APPS VERSUS WEB BROWSERS: Apps and browsers are completely different from each other, although they could work alongside each other. Apps are software applications that are “native” to the devices. Apps “talk” to the servers to fetch data when needed, but most application features are already in the devices. On the other hand, browsers are simply “readers” (or surfing tools) so to speak. Browsers actually “read” data from a website, meaning to say that the data in this case is “native to” or are “residing” in the site that is offsite.
THE MOUNTAIN GOES TO MOHAMMED: Simply put, Mohammed no longer has to go to the mountain, because the mountain now goes to him, figuratively speaking. That’s a big wow!
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Topless Woman Dances with Bees
Mapelli, 44, has created a lot of Internet buzz by topless dancing with 12,000 bees all at once.
The Portland, Oregon-based beekeeper describes her bee dances as “a duet among many.”
“These 12,000 bees push with their powerful wings from each side of my body, I resist and then I let go and flow and move with them,” she writes on her website.” It is a deep meditation and I feel the hive mind surround me, hold me, and expand my body on a cellular level.”
In order to attract the bees to her topless body, Mapelli anoints her body with a special pheromone oil that is equivalent to the scent of 100 queen bees.
The bees usually stay on her body for about two hours at a time.
When Mapelli is done shaking her tail feather with the bees, an assistant removes the pheromone oil around her neck and then she jumps up and down to shake off the swarm, the Daily Mail reports.
She then removes any stingers sticking to her flesh with a soft brush.
Mapelli believes her bee dances send a message to the bees as well.
“I hope to help the bees of the Northwest by encouraging them to swarm and become hardy to the ever-changing environment,” she said in the description for a bee dance video posted to YouTube in 2012.
Peter Cauton: Pinoy Startup Mastermind
Peter Cauton considers himself a career HR Practitioner turned serial entrepreneur. But he is more than that. Technopreneurs and aspiring startups all over the country know him more as an inspirational speaker and a founder of several startup companies. He is an expert on how to get someone’s dream tech business started, and how to sustain it.
He started his first company, STORM Consulting back in 2006. The company has since grown by leaps and bounds and is now called STORM Rewards.
Peter Cauton is considered a leader of the Filipino Startup Movement via his site Juan Great Leap (juangreatleap.com). His mission in life is to inspire others to take the great leap into entrepreneurship. In his interview with Tech In Asia’s Raya Edquilang, he was asked: What was that defining moment when you made a conscious decision that helping others is what you want to do?
He answered, “In 2008, I made the biggest career decision of my life – I took the leap, kissed my corporate career goodbye and went full-time to help my struggling startup. Considering it was in the middle of the recession and I had a newborn son, it was an idiotic decision. By God’s grace, it worked out. In 2011, not only was I making a good living running my own firm, I also founded more startups. I just felt incredibly blessed.”
Peter felt the need to pay it forward. He also wanted to write a book. He shares, “It would consist of some of the lessons I learned in leaving corporate and developing my startup. But after some months, I found that it was just a huge step to develop material from scratch into a book. So I thought of something I had never thought I do – write a blog. I remember writing my first post. I dilly-dallied a lot, postponing pushing the ‘publish’ button for as long as I can. In many ways, starting a blog was scarier than writing a book. The exposure was instant. What if people hated what I wrote? Or thought ‘this guy is a hack’? But I thought, like my startup leap, nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without some risk. And so I clicked publish. The blog has almost taken a life of its own now. I totally did not forecast how much it would resonate with people. Its been an amazing blessing for me.”
His idea for Juan Great Leap is to do advocacy work to promote startups. One of their plans is to popularize Juan Great Leap conferences. “In the last one, sponsored by Ayala, we attracted over 200 people to a learning session/panel discussion. We are planning another one on March 2nd: a mass ‘speed dating’ event with 20 awesome startup founders. These bigger events are geared towards creating a mass learning opportunity for participants.”
Juan Great Leap also organizes smaller meetups, called Open Coffee. Every month, around 40 to 50 people participate. The meetup is geared towards collaboration and helping other aspiring techpreneurs. Peter says that the meetup is open to people from any part of the startup process from ‘I have an idea’ to ‘I have just sold my startup.’
The main attraction in Juan Great Leap events, according to him, is the open floor where people have two minutes to pitch anything to the group – an idea, a problem to solve, a need, a survey. The idea is to learn, share and have fun.
“Aside from these, I meet two to three entrepreneurs for coffee every Saturday morning. We talk about everything and anything – from startup ideas, outlining opportunities, and even the spiritual side to startups. A couple of people I’ve met at Startup Saturdays have become dear friends of mine, some also who I’ve had the privilege to mentor,” he adds.
Asked about the greatest challenge for Filipino tech startups, Peter remarks, “There aren’t enough entrepreneurs to take on the multitude of great ideas which are available. Right now, you see the same people in startup events – this is very good of course, as we are creating a strong community, but we need more people to join in. The biggest challenge is to inspire even more Filipinos to take that great leap!”
In the midst of his success, Peter admits that he has made mistakes anyone could possibly imagine. But he did not allow mistakes to stop him from pursuing his goal. “By sheer perseverance, passion, and prayer, STORM is still standing after nearly 7 years, and has been growing steadily,” he says.
Peter knows that being a technopreneur is also a process of learning things about yourself. He muses, “What I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that I really love the startup process – I absolutely love getting the right ideas and the right people together in solving great problems. I guess the HR person in me never left – I want to help other people find their passions. With this end in mind, can it get any better than rallying people to build startups, new entities that are supposed to center around the entrepreneur’s passions?
Looking around what has been happening in the startup scene around the world, I feel the Philippines has been left out a bit. I look at the Techcrunch-type sites around and I notice more and more extremely passionate, talented people taking huge leaps in pursuing their dreams, almost on an everyday basis.”
Peter has some words of wisdom for fresh college graduates and young aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Our graduates by and large think of one path: to make a resume, get hired by a corporation, and work their way up the corporate ladder. Then maybe get an MBA in 3-4 years, ideally abroad, and then resume going up that ladder. Talk to any business graduate of any school and this is what you’ll hear. This is the mind-numbingly singular plan.”
“Ever think about starting a business? What if you took that leap 2 years ago?
It is shuddering to think how many dreams have been quashed, how many creative impulses wasted, how many spirits have been broken, in these corporate jobs where positions matter more than people.”
Peter continues, “No way in hell is this because of a lack of talent. Filipinos are world-renowned talents. No way is it because of a lack of ambition. It is because of a lack of perception. A perception that, yes, someone in her twenties can put up a great, world-class startup. That, yes, you can make a dent in the universe.”
His final piece of advice for those who want to become entrepreneurs?
“Take that leap, Juan.”
“Na-Edca-Han Na Naman Tayo”
Many Filipinos are wondering, why is it that the signing of a very important pact as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which is actually the centerpiece of US President Barack Obama’s visit was not signed by the US and PH presidents? Instead was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg hours before the arrival of Pres. Barack Obama. To think, the signing was not even witnessed by the two presidents.
Some pundits believe that the EDCA was not signed by the two heads of state, because US does not want to hurt China in the process. So it is quite obvious that every time the issue of how far Uncle Sam will help the country in times of trouble with China (and/or other aggressor) the safe answer of the big brother – “We are not doing this because of China. We are doing this because we have a longstanding alliance partner [the Philippines]. They are interested in stepping up our military-to-military,” and “we (US) just want a peaceful and safe navigation in the South China Sea”. All rhetoric, but can we fault them in protecting their interests!
We really never learned from the past agreements that we had with the US, always lopsided, favoring the US more and in the end we are shortchanged (again). So the doublespeak of PNoy’s people of not allowing the Filipinos to be shortchanged in the latest pact are all double talk.
Like what the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and other organizations observed – they have been unimpressed, seeing the EDCA as an open invitation to a molester to offer protection against a touted bully. “The oft repeated rationale,” explained Bayan’s secretary Renato M. Reyes, Jr. is that we need this agreement with the US to protect ourselves from Chinese incursions. So what Aquino is basically saying is, to protect Filipinos from the neighborhood bully, we’re inviting a rapist inside our house to do as he pleases.” (by Binoy Kampmark)
Just like what I have been saying for so long now in my writings and daily radio program – this is rape with consent. Again, no thanks to our leaders.
Furthermore, in this EDCA, the so-called camp sharing operation will make the whole country as Uncle Sam’s military base. So the ‘chubibo’ of not going to build new US military bases here is true because through camp sharing scheme, US will not pay any rent and all the AFP’s camps from north to south of the archipelago will be the US ‘military base’, free of charge, translation – ‘rape with consent’. Need we say more?
And remember, back in August 2009, in her affidavit, Navy officer Nancy Gadian accused the US military of building permanent structures in different military camps in the country. She said US forces have established “permanent” and “continuous” presence in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the south.
She added that the Philippine military has no access to the camps built by the US soldiers in these areas since they are “fenced off by barbed wires and guarded by US Marines.”
Gadian likewise said these structures are indications the US troops had no intention of leaving the country, which is a violation of the Philippine Constitution.
For over a decade now, we are actually being ‘screwed’ with the willingness of past and present administrations in the guise of being part of the coalition of the willing to fight the global war on terror of then President George ‘Dubya” Bush Jr.
And like what former senator Joker Arroyo said “What did the Philippines get out of the Obama visit? Zero.”
Especially on the part of our Filipino war veterans that was tackled by a former ambassador Jose Zaide, a pro- American historian turned patriot in his article (April 28 at the Manila Bulletin) “the more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought for USA in WW2 and shared the same foxholes with US troops were promised equal treatment. But the US Congress 1946 Rescission Act denied Filipino war vets, making a dishonest man of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Filipino WW2 vets were only collateral damage (add-on) to the Recission Act, which was passed principally for the purpose of controlling excessive claims of US war supplies providers.
In 2009, US Congress threw small bones granting one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino vets in the USA and $9,000 to those in PH. More crumbs promised to Filipino vets helped swing trusting Pinoys in USA to vote for re-election of Barack Obama.
Our problem is that the GPH representing the Filipino WW2 vets has one eye cocked at its own shopping list (for hand-me-down armaments and surplus and other USAID).
US Congress, which passed the Recission law, would not reverse itself. (No constituency in support of granting monies to historical allies.)
On hindsight, Filipino WW2 vets should do their own pleading, i.e., sue the US government at the US Supreme Court, which will be no less noble than the French Court de Cessation and the British High Court.”
As a whole, all the excitement and fanfare that the Obama visit has created in the country are all ‘chubibo’ and sadly, the current administration welcomed the EDCA with open legs. Carol P. Araullo of Businessworld said the EDCA is a negotiated surrender of our sovereignty.
“Na-EDCA-han na naman tayo”
PAL Saves Sharks
By Nicole Ann M. Aguila
All people might not know how important sharks are on our planet, thus raising awareness is the key to finally educate the whole world reasons why we must protect them.
Who would have thought that an airline company will put an effort to save marine life? Yes, Philippine Airlines or PAL just announced the ban of shipping of sharks’ fins.
This is after Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Earth Island Institute – Philippines and other concerned organization started a petition that protests against their freight policy.
“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins,” said Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island.
The airline was previously reported tohave shipped 136 x 50 kg bags accumulating 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong storeroom run by Global Marine.
Shark fins are hailed as an important ingredient on soups and traditional cures in China. But animal welfare groups toughly disagree with the trade, which usually comprises of taking only the fins and leaving the main body dead in the ocean.
“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches.
“We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem,” he said.
Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death.
Globally, tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.
Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food. The ocean produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.
Sharks play a vital role at the top of the food chain by maintaining balance in the oceans. Destroying shark populations could destroy our oceans and our life support system.
(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)
Bridging In Venice
VENICE, ITALY- I had no plans of visiting this city. The only images that I had seen so far of the place, aside from sticky lovers on gondolas, were secret agents and fiends blasting at each other on the city canals and rooftops, blowing up old buildings in the process. Venice seems to be both beautiful and sinister. The creepy “Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie is still etched in my mind. This was also the locale where Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” led James Bond into an era of being real and human, thereby obliterating the need for arsenal gimmickries.
In addition, I have read about a famous Venetian named Marco Polo, explorer and writer, and from him I could adopt a stronger spirit of adventure. There is also the painter Tintoretto, with his portrayal of disrobed voluptuous women. And Antonio Vivaldi, composer of “Four Seasons” that has been overused for commercials and graduation walks. Then there are the famous Venetian glass and the theatrical masks, some inspired by the Bubonic plague that almost annihilated its populace centuries before. Those are just about what I know about Venice.
Tourist brochures indicate that Venice is a city in northeastern Italy with a total of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, mostly pedestrian bridges. As movie productions suggest, Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its art. The entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.
It took the wife and me some 24 grueling hours to reach Venice from Manila, with nine hours flight to Qatar, eight hours lay over at the Doha International Airport, and a seven hour flight to Italy. Thank God for lovely in-flight movies like “The Book Thief”, “The Invisible Woman” and “Iloilo”, flying time became easy to bear.
Getting Lost in Fun
For the first day, we were booked at the Carlton Hotel, an old but charming place but with front desk people having the brusko attitude of New Yorkers before 9/11. The hotel is along the busy Grand Canal and faces the hideous looking train station on the other side. The Olimpia, our second hotel, is more elegant, with beauteous, gracious and helpful front desk employees giving that expected Italian warmth. Our room was much more spacious, and it let some sunshine in.
Venice could be brutal for senior citizens with heavy luggage to move from their bus to the hotels. You have to cross up and down several bridges that are hostile to PWDs and geriatric folks. It becomes obvious why the city government has deployed porters along the routes. For a fee, of course.
On the first night, the wife and I went out of the hotel to look for a trattoria or a snack bar. I am not exactly a fan of Italian food, pasta, pizza, ‘paghetti, or whatever, but this trip is wife’s time so she gets to have first crack at everything. In stead, we got lured by the sights of rushing people, the dark winding streets, the shops, and the edifices, until we got lost in the maze of narrow passageways, archs, alleys, and piers.
I marveled at the textures and more textures, of centuries old layers of brick walls, some proud and some disintegrating with their plasters falling off with them; at the multi-faced buildings that seem to grow organically with tiny-leafed shrubs and vines, at the variety of window grill works; at the character of doors and the worn-out knobs oftentimes positioned at the center of the panels. The whole city it seems – with walls, the gates, and the roofs having distressed look -has been described as one elegant decay.
Glimpses of Day In A Life
My friend Chito Irigo says that the knobs carry the identity of families living within, and are supposed to distinguish them from the others. Even the mailboxes and the knockers could speak volumes. We saw lone men and families with prams going in and out of dimly lit doors and we wondered how life could be in this rich tourist town with a long history of heritage.
I learned that Venice was, one time or another, a major maritime power, the fulcrum of commerce and trade in the world, the fashion capital rivaling Paris, and the center of arts and literature. New York Times has called it “the most beautiful city built by man”. Give me a few days more, and I might agree.
The wife and I stopped by an unmarked small pizza and ice-cream shop where we halved a focaccia stuffed generously with prosciutto ham, mushrooms, and Mozzarella cheese. We finished this off with green tea while standing and so, for an equivalent of 350 pesos, we had our first fine dinner in Venice. We would have wanted some of the tempting gelato, but we were full.
We walked and walked, observing the surroundings, the steeples, the various faces of homes, and the people. I am wont to lug my camera whenever I go but, this time, I purposely left it to be able to take all the images in with my naked eyes. Then it suddenly rained; we had no umbrella. The temperature was probably 16 degrees Celsius, meaning cold, and we got wet. After probably six kilometers and three hours of being lost, without panicking, giggling like children even, we got back to our hotel like drenched cats.
The wife and her dozen or so high school buddies, most of whom have retired from their successful careers, have promised to themselves that, as a gang, they will see parts of the world in the next few years. And whenever they do, they promised that they will bring no husbands, no boyfriends, and no significant others. But this time, I am the designated photographer.
These dragon women have conceived of a calendar spread of golden ladies – them in white beach ensemble at Santorini and in little black dresses in another exotic location. They needed someone with Sports Illustrated or Vogue ambitions to do the camera works. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. May the Santo Papa help me.
Teach Your Children
There is actually an international association of dental professionals who use eco-friendly methods.
It is called the Eco-Dentistry Association.And it offers six tips for improving dental health – and the environment.For a start, it recommends that children should start early.
It says dentistry is a healing experience and should not be traumatic. Trauma – and the fear of dental chairs and drills – is best prevented when one takes children to dental appointments at a young age.
Teach children to turn off the water while brushing the teeth.
Teenagers should try using night guards. These devices prevent damage caused by clenching and grinding related to stress.
Choose the night guard created by your dentist specific to the teenager’s bite. Be sure that it is not made of plastics potentially detrimental to the environment.
Select the appropriate mouthwash for children – the one that doesn’t contain alcohol. This is important because a tooth tonic or mouthwash should be introduced as a dental routine during the teenage years – and alcohol is certainly an ingredient that is not part of this.
Then try digital imaging. Although the technology is not so widespread in the Philippines, it is available and used in some clinics like Dr. Smile at The Podium in the Ortigas business center in Pasig and at SM North Edsa, The Annex, Lower Ground Level, Q.C.
These diagnostic images use less radiation than radiographs (also called X-rays). The digital images don’t degrade over time and are easily sent by e-mail to you, your dentists and other appropriate specialists.
And while we are dwelling on the topic of what’s the right dental care for our children, I will take this opportunity to offer a few advice for adults as well. Mind you, these recommendations come from no less than the American Dental Association.
Eating – and crunching ice cubes – is a favorite pastime, as if the cubes are part of the snacks as well. For that matter, include candy and popcorn that hasn’t popped, or any other hard chewables that should not be chewed or crunched.
This is a no-no habit as it can fracture teeth.
Clean teeth the right way. This is done by ridding of food debris the space between the gumline and the point where gum attaches to the tooth. Turn the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle in order for the bristles to reach out-of-the-way places.
Use dental floss in order to reach particularly deep pockets. Tie a single or double knot in the floss to reach food particles.
When flossing the back teeth, curve the thread around the tooth and push it underneath the gumline.
Change toothbrush regularly. A change is due when the outer bristles of the brush start to flare or look like overgrown bush instead of the straight lines they were on during first use.
Last but not least, stop smoking. Smoking is so destructive to teeth and gums that many gum specialists in the United States won’t even treat smokers with dental problems because they don’t respond well to treatment.
For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s Web site: ada.org.
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, President/CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or text 0917-8591515.