Thursday, 29 August 2013

The One Million People March in Luneta

Juana Change 
To celebrate National Heroes Day last August 26, we (Madonna, Ninfa, Jiggy and I) together with 80,000 or so of my countrymen marched to the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to protest against the misuse of over P10-billion (about US$220-million) pork barrel in a period of ten years.

The pork barrel is slang referring to [wiki] 'the funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers."

In the Philippines, it is referred to as the discretionary funds allotted to politicians for spending on priority development projects at the local level. We're talking about funds amounting to as much as P200-million (or US$4.4-million) to each senator and P70-million (or US$1.54-million) to each congressman.

The fund was scrapped during the Marcos regime and reintroduced during President Corazon Aquino's term in 1986 and was then called the Countryside Development Fund. It was later changed to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Signed petition to end pork barrel 
The petition (right photo) was filed by Peachy BretaƱa in It calls for (1) the abolition of the pork barrel system; (2) account for all spent pork; and, (3) investigation and punishment for all guilty parties.

The pork barrel scam is actually not new. PCIJ in a report filed in 2005 "Billions in farm funds used for Arroyo campaign" bared that the P3B released by the Department of Agriculture to fund farmers' fertilizer needs and bankroll community irrigation projects, was allegedly divested to the presidential campaign of President Arroyo in 2004. As of this day, the controversy has not yet been resolved.

This new pork barrel scam involves businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles working together with senators and congressmen to divert their pork barrel to fund ghost projects' specifically, to non-existent foundations and non-government organizations (NGOs).

It was Benhur Lim Luy who exposed the fraudulent activities of her second cousin and employer. Click here to view the timeline starting from the six-part series expose of Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 12 to her surrender on August 28. To date, more whistleblowers are coming out and hopefully, aside from naming names, help build evidence to start the prosecution.

Photos taken during the One Million People March:

Thumbs down and say "Oink Oink Oink" to protest

Akbayan placard

Some protestors were in costume
Madonna with a protestor

Jograd dela Torre's version of Price Tag called 'Kawatan'

Friday, 16 August 2013

There's hope for Autism!

I remember way back in the mid-1990s when my sister Chato was worried about her daughter. Mrs. Ladron of the toddler school where my niece was enrolled in, found her behavior way too rowdy and too independent for a three year old and recommended that she goes to Cupertino Center instead. At that time, there was only one school for special children and most of the students were autistic.

My niece was enrolled for 3 months or so. until my sister pulled her out when she started copying her classmates and was banging her head against the wall, desk or floor.  Autistic children would display certain behaviors and head banging is the most common. Chato took her  to Berkeley where she, after several tests, was diagnosed with ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It was fairly novel then and since the symptoms were quite similar with autism, the two conditions more often than not, caused confusion and even misdiagnosis.

J.A.  next to his stamp
(photo from
Mayo Clinic defines autism as a "spectrum disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate and interact with others."  According to CDC, autism is now more prevalent than childhood cancer. The rate is rather alarming in the United States, with stats indicating one in 88 children diagnosed with autism versus 16 in 100,000 children with cancer.  In the Philippines, the incidence is still low.  Autismpinoy said that at least one in 150 children is autistic.

That's why I was happy to hear that Jose Antonio "J.A." Tan is back in Manila to open his second one-man exhibit called "On and On... Step by Step" on August 21. He's the inspiration to those with autism and/or other development disabilities.

Like my niece, J.A. was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. His was high functioning autism which literally means he is higher functioning than others with the same affliction.

At 5 years old, he started painting and from then on, has managed to overcome his challenges through his art.  He said "I have come to the realization that I have always used art as a way of  helping myself bring out my thoughts, feelings and ideas. I consider it an integral part of my existence as each work is a personal journey of myself with myself, and myself with the world, bringing a feeling of peace and happiness since things become clearer to me through the images and visual pictures before me."

"Victory" (Photo from
Now 25-years old, he has already accomplished quite a lot - -  He graduated from Emily Carr University of Art in 2010, followed by a one-man show in Manila (his first), then participated in group shows in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Last year, his  painting "Victory" (left) was chosen from over 200 submissions to be part of the eight stamp collection of the United Nations Postal Administration's Autism Awareness Campaign. His artwork was issued as a stamp on April 22, 2012. Note that the print is part of the exhibition in Manila.

To those who want to meet the artist who braved all odds, the opening reception  is on August 21 from 6:30 to 9:30pm.  The exhibit will run until September 3, 2013 at the Artist Space, ground floor of the Ayala Museum.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pet Shop Boys' Electric Tour in Manila

Pet Shop Boys rock Manila with opening number "Opportunity"
Can't believe that after more than 20 years, the Pet Shop Boys has finally decided to come to Manila!!!

I honestly didn't know that they were coming. Thank goodness Tessa P pulled me to watch last night! When I asked her kids though if they were joining, they kitted their brows and asked 'Pet Shop who? Who are they?'.  Ha ha.. Well I guess they can't relate since they weren't born then.

The Pet Shop Boys are an English duo who were smashingly popular in the late '80s and early '90 with their electronic pop, new wave, alternative music.

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met in 1981 and managed to survived after all these years. Note that they both do look a little bit older on stage. Neil is apparently 59 years old this year. But mind you, they still sound the same as before and man, they can still perform!

Tessa in full 1980s mode (center) and we're ready  to dance
I love the concert's club vibe with the criss-crossing laser lights, the giant video wall, the disco lights and kudos to their outfits  especially their head gear - from feathers, a disco mirrorball cap, minotaur heads and tangerine colored hats.

I must say though that of the Tour's 24 set list, they played only seven of their top hits! Seven!! They sang - West End Girls, Its a Sin, Always on My Mind, Opportunities, Suburbia, Domino Dancing and Go West.

This is Manila, they should have been tipped to play all their old songs so we can welcome them back with open arms. Just take a look at Tears For Fears, their second time around was so successful that tickets were sold out on the very first day. Paging organizers!!

I would've enjoyed the concert more if they played my favorites What have I done to deserve this', Where the streets have no name, etc.

Electric Tour Set list :
1. Axis
2. One More Chance/Face Like That
3. Opportunities (Lets Make Lots of Money)
4. Memory of the Future
5. Fugitive
6. Integral
7. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
8. Suburbia

9. I'm Not Scared
10. Invisible
11. Last to Die
12. Somewhere
13. Leaving
14. Thursday
15. Love Etc.
16. I Get Excited
17. Rent
18. Miracles
19. It's a Sin
20. Domino Dancing

21. Go West
22. Always on My Mind

23. West End Girls
24. Vocal

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Kundalini Yoga treat in Yoga Plus

I love sharing what I'm currently into and so, after coming back home from the yoga retreat, I invited a bunch of friends to join me in a kundalini class at the sprawling new studio of Yoga Plus in Salcedo Village in Makati.

I have to hand it to kundalini teacher Marisa HardNah, not only was she happy to oblige, she even came up with a poster (right photo) indicating that "the path to higher consciousness begins when our head learns how to bow to our heart."

Well, my friends were in for a surprise. Kundalini is different from any of the mainstream yoga practiced in Manila. Instead of a standard set of asanas, kundalini focuses on kriyas to address a health concern or emotional issue. The kriya is designed to work on a specific organ through elimination, purification, etc and heal  at the cellular level. For example, to address anger, the liver or the third chakra is most likely unbalanced and thus, the kriya to bring new circulation to the liver, spleen and adrenals may help.

Each kriya varies and as Marisa emphasized, there are over a thousand different kriyas.  A kriya is a set of asanas combined with breathing techniques (such as the breath of fire), body locks, mantras, hand mudras and the length of time for each kriya may be as short as 15 minutes to as long as 40 minutes.

Annie and Tessa with Marisa 
The class normally starts by tuning-in. The Adi mantra which goes "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" is recited three times. The translation is I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, I bow to the divine teacher within. This is an ancient mantra as taught by Yogi Bhajan, to center to the higher self and to spiritually guide both the teacher and the students during the class.

Actually, tuning-in before the class is not new. In ashtanga for instance, the opening mantra is "Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde..." The difference is, in Kundalini, the mantra is recited while sitting in an easy pose, with straight spine, the palms are placed together in a prayer mudura at the heart center with fingers pointed up at 60 degrees with the base of thumbs pressing against the sternum.

After tuning-in, the sequence in kundalini usually starts with spinal warm ups and stretching, then the kriya (may be more than one),  then meditation. The closing sequence  includes a cat stretch, spine roll, rubbing of the hands and feet together, singling in english "May the long time sun shine upon you" and reciting Sat Nam three times.

with Yoga Plus Neil, Dina and Dinah 
For this special class, Marisa wanted it to be extra special and thus, found three kriyas that would [as she indicated in the poster] "release tension, re-vibrate your life, kiss depression and fear goodbye and be you."

The kriyas that she chose and its benefits were: (1) Elimination and circulation kriya - to drain lymph glands in the groin and thighs, maintain potency, stimulate the sex nerve, regenerate the nervous system, improve digestion and elimination and release toxin from the throat glands;  (2) Commanding the Command Center of Glandular system kriya - to clean the subconscious mind and bring clarity in times of chaos. Stimulates the pituitary glands to strengthen intuition; and (3) Pitta kriya - to destress, stabilize mood, conquer depression and strengthen resolve.

Unfortunately [for me], we never made it to Pitta kriya.  Mind you, the sets were not easy and my friends were already grunting 'happy birthday Rosan' in between poses. Despite the fact that Marisa halved the timing of the sets, we still ended past ten o'clock. We didn't mind not finishing the last kriya to destress since most were already starving and tired.

with Shakti Kitchen chef Madonna English
Dinner was a healthy healing treat from Madonna's new "Shakti Kitchen" vegetarian catering. She served quinoa salad and fresh spring rolls. Luckily, Yoga Plus' Salcedo branch had a lounge area to set up the buffet spread which was complimented by Corner Tree's organic red and white wines and my favorite salted caramel chocolate torte.

Marisa wanted to impart to us that kundalini is a science and as such, there are specific lengths of time needed to obtain certain desired effects. She shared this information:
3 min - affects circulation (blood) and electromagnetic field
7 min - causes brain patterns to begin to shift and the magnetic field surrounding the body to increase in strength
11 min - changes glandular system and nerves
22 min - balance and coordinates the three minds - the negative, positive and neutral. The subconscious mind begins to clear.
31 min - affects the cells and rhythms of the body and all layers of the mind's projection
62 min - changes the gray matter of the brain, integrates the subconscious shadow mind and the outer projection
2 1/2 hours - holds the new pattern in the subconscious mind by the surrounding universal mind

Yogi Bhajan said that it takes 40 days to change a habit. He recommended to practice a particular kriya or meditation everyday straight, consistently for a number of days: 40 days will break the habit; 90 days will confirm the new habit; 120 days will make the new habit your identity and 1,000 days is requited to master the new habit.

I'm not sure if my friends would come back and practice this esoteric form of yoga but I'm happy that they showed up and endured the class. Satnam!  :-)
after class with the birthday crew, thanks guys for coming!!