the babel machine


Saturday, October 16, 2004

forward, back

Sam with her new remote control buggy. She quickly learned that the right button makes the car go forward, while the left one makes it move backward. I taught her to say "Forward" and "Back" whenever she pushes the appropriate button. And when I was teasing her a few minutes ago by tickling the right side of her tummy while saying "Forward," then tickling the left side while saying "Back," she said, "No! I'm not the remote!"  Posted by Hello

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 4:48 PM :: 1 Comments:

Post a Comment

biker girl

Sam on her year-old tricycle, which of course is now getting pretty small for her. Now she wants a big scooter, sigh. Maybe I could trade in the trike, hehe...  Posted by Hello

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 4:33 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

accelerate change

Andre told me about this exciting conference at Stanford University in California and asked me to spread the word -- some of you might be interested in attending it.

Gamers take note: Will Wright, the genius behind The Sims; Steve Salyer, president of Internet Gaming Entertainment; and Keith Halper, CEO and co-founder of Kuma Reality Games are among the invited speakers. In fact, The Accelerating Change Conference has an incredible Who's Who list of information technology luminaries sharing their knowledge.

Here's Andre's announcement in full:

"Yesterday, I received an invitation to attend The Accelerating Change Conference at Stanford University, California which I would like to share with you. Included in the invitation is a $50 discount to everyone I shared this information with (PLEASE QUOTE THE CODE at the end of this post ON REGISTRATION -- ALL CAPS, as the code is CASE-SENSITIVE).

I think you will find it interesting. And I would encourage you to attend, if at all possible. Here's what they say:

Accelerating Change 2004: Physical Space, Virtual Space, and Interface (AC2004)November 5-7 at Stanford University, Palo Alto CA ( There will be 42+ world-class speakers, 3 awesome debates (very fun, very heated, very interesting), some great new technology demos, and many opportunities for networking and conversation with leading futurist thinkers.

Speakers include:
* Peter Norvig, Director of Search Quality, Google* Helen Greiner, Co-founder, iRobot* Shai Agassi, Executive Board Member, SAP* Doug Engelbart, digital interface legend--creator of the mouse* Jaron Lanier, Founder, VPL Research* Will Wright, Creator of The Sims* Peter Thiel, Co-founder and former CEO, PayPal* BJ Fogg, Director, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University* Gordon Bell, Project Director, MyLifeBits, Microsoft BARC* Cory Ondrejka, VP of Product Development, Linden Lab/Second Life

Special Events include:* Tech Night at SAP Labs, Palo Alto (* Interactive demos at the Human Virtual Interface Lab, Stanford U* Collective Intelligence Dinner, Futuristically Incorrect

Accelerating Change is your community for the most broad minded, future-aware, practical and passionate speakers and participants.

Enter "AC2004-BLOGGER" to receive a $50 registration discount before October 20th.


Thanks Andre! And everyone, show him your appreciation by visiting Andre's blog.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 8:22 AM :: 1 Comments:

Post a Comment


Friday, October 15, 2004

captured online

This Friday's YOU Blog Addict is Shirley, a.k.a. Shireyu-chan, a senior at the Philippine Normal University whose favorite anime series is "Cardcaptor Sakura."

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 7:15 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

blogging cubed

Check out Gabby Dizon's YOU Technogear article, "CubeBlog and Pinoy blogging."

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:11 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

margaux's tsokolate

Find out how former GMA newscaster Margaux Salcedo, who used to be my Global Nation New York correspondent (but you're not in New York now, are you, Margaux, hehe) aims to put Nana Meng's Original Tsokolate Filipino on your table this Christmas and New Year.

Read "Lola's 'tsokolate' funds entrepreneur's US trip."

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 3:15 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Thursday, October 14, 2004

2 poems and a short story

Check out Maria Oryza Martinez's poem "The Violinist" and Dianne Capulan's "Angel's Sin" in YOU Expressions, as well as Migs Marfori's short story "Ping-Pong Emotions."

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 4:06 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

my essay in business day

I'm happy to report that Business Day magazine is supposedly reprinting my Palanca prisewinning essay "Surviving the Zeroes" next week. I sure hope they do, because otherwise I'm announcing vaporware, hehe.

Here's an excerpt -- shameless plug, I know:

Surviving the Zeroes
By Jose Maria G. Alarilla

Our daughter Sam, who is two years and four months old, walks over to the DVD player and casually presses the eject button. She removes the disc, replaces it with a new one -- most likely "Toy Story," which lately she has been watching about a google times a day -- and then pushes the button again to close the DVD tray.

This is something that she has been doing even before she turned a year old, though of course not with such finesse at the start. She also tinkers with the other gadgets and appliances around the house, such as our desktop PC, cell phones, Xbox console, Game Boy Advance and digital video camera. Sam takes technology for granted not only because she possesses the supreme self-confidence of a young child and we encourage her to explore, but also since we have been blessed to live in an age where such digital tools and toys have become accessible to many people.

Welcome to the Zeroes and the future that our children are building today. More than any other generation that came before it, the children born during the Zeroes (also known as the 00s, Zero Years or, my personal favorite, the Oh-Ohs) will be called upon to build a new world and create the rules for surviving in it. They are the first generation whose formative years will be shaped by pervasive technology, whether in our homes or in our offices (which, in my case, are one and the same). They are the true children of the digital age -- not we who may have embraced the information technology revolution but whose roots are firmly embedded in the analog world.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 3:16 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

talking points

It's come to my attention that the launch of's Talking Points blog has elicited a negative reaction among certain members of the Philippine blogging community -- you know who you are.

It's OK to rant. It's OK to say that you hate our blog and don't want to have anything to do with it -- no one's forcing you to use it if you don't like it. But to say that it's not a "true blog," that has no right to use blogging as a tool because we're the mainstream media (the establishment as opposed to the bloggers who are the alternative media), and worse, to say that we apparently stole the idea from certain Philippine bloggers, well, who are now positioning themselves as the gods who determine what blogging is and who and how it should be used?

What I find hilarious is that here I was, excited over blogging and deciding to feature bloggers in YOU and Infotech after friends got me hooked on it, and now it's being made to appear that all along I was stealing ideas from people. That, evil, mainstream, I'm-the-
establishment, was plotting to benefit from all the hard work of the Philippine blogging community without giving proper credit. Give them credit because we thought of a way to use blogging to give our readers a new means to express their opinion, give them credit because we introduced what the other mainstream media outlets haven't? This is like saying that companies should not put up a webpage because websites are meant for individuals, that it's a personal space that would only be commercialized or what have you. The funny thing is that I've always had a bias for writing IT stories about people, not companies, because I figure companies already have their own PRs to generate publicity for them.

Are we telling people not to visit these personal blogs? No. In fact, I've been featuring these bloggers -- and I didn't hear them screaming, "I don't want to be interviewed by because you're part of the evil mainstream media." Don't we have a right to use blogging as a tool just as we've made news and opinion accessible through PCs, PDAs, mobile phones, interactive TV and other devices and platforms? Wake up and smell the coffee: newspaper columnists are blogging, the military is blogging, companies are blogging. You don't own blogging. The Internet was originally a response to the threat of nuclear war and was once upon time the exclusive playground of the military, scientists and the academe. Does that mean it shouldn't have been made available to everyone, especially the evil mainstream media?

And don't quote Migs Paraz out of context, because I was the one who brought up the idea of using blogging as a tool for online journalism (funny how the relevant phrases mysteriously disappeared in their post, eh?) and this was his response in full:

Do you see blogging as the next step in online journalism here in the Philippines?

I've never thought about it; now that you mention it, I don't see much value in the journalists themselves posting the stories as blogs. What I think would be useful is building a community of bloggers who can post reactions to the stories. The journalists/news outlets can help by making the updated stories easily available -- like by syndicating them via feeds. If the journalists read the comments, then that completes the feedback loop.

In fact here's the article in full. Go to the Sassy Lawyer for the truncated version of a paragraph from the article.

Blogging the RP tech scene
Updated 05:28pm (Mla time)
Sept 30, 2004

By Joey Alarilla

SURE, we have lots of Pinoy bloggers, yet how many of them write about technology or cover the latest developments in the Philippine information technology industry?

Enter Migs Paraz, techie extraordinaire and one of the pillars of the Philippine Internet community, who, since June of this year, has made it his mission in life to aggregate feeds from Pinoy tech blogs on his Pinoy Tech Scene site at
So, why would anyone undertake this kind of project (for free, I might add)? We'll let Migs do the talking.

What's your main goal for putting up the site?

I saw a lack of tech blogs (and other serious essay/topic blogs, as opposed to personal ones -- though I haven't addressed that yet). I wanted people looking for dynamic Pinoy tech content to easily find it. The bloggers can post topics that aren't covered by mainstream tech sites or give some opinions and insights that otherwise wouldn'tfind an audience.

It can also be accessed with an RSS (which can stand for Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary, depending on which encyclopedia you believe. The important thing to remember is that this is one of the standards for syndicating website content and publishing regular updates available to web users.) reader. I aggregate the feeds (Atom or RSS) into a single RSS feed.

How many people regularly visit Pinoy Tech Scene?

Not many. Like the past few days, I averaged 250 hits a day. Some are from people all over the world not looking for anything Pinoy, but [who] came across the site when searching for tech keywords. If the pages satisfied their knowledge requirement, then I'm happy that we were able to export our knowledge!

Do we already have many tech bloggers in the Philippines and what can be done to encourage the growth of tech blogging?

I don't know many aside from the ones I listed on the site. Unfortunately a lot of local tech content is posted in forums which require registration and are thus not searchable from the outside. One of my goals in putting up an aggregator is to make these [sites] more searchable.

Other technical discussions are in the form of mailing lists. While these are informative, they follow the form of a conversation, and one message alone is not complete. A tech blog can help by summarizing the discussion.

Another downside of tech blogging is that many techies aren't really interested in documenting their experiences, or if they are, can't find the time. (Like myself -- there's a lot of stuff I've done that I haven't written about. I want to, but then, priorities...)

How has blogging helped you and other tech bloggers get more people interested in technology and Philippine IT issues?

I don't have concrete examples of it happening, but I think what blogs can do is present a personal face to tech. When people talk about it in the context of their daily living, readers who are interested in personal blogs will discover the tech stories within.

Do you see blogging as the next step in online journalism here in the Philippines?

I've never thought about it; now that you mention it, I don't see much value in the journalists themselves posting the stories as blogs. What I think would be useful is building a community of bloggers who can post reactions to the stories. The journalists/news outlets can help by making the updated stories easily available -- like by syndicating them via feeds. If the journalists read the comments, then that completes the feedback loop.

What new features would you like to add to Pinoy Tech Scene?

My immediate goal is to fix the formatting of the posts. Right now, long posts and those with extra formatting break the layout. After that, I don't need extra features unless I get more tech bloggers onboard. When I do, I may need to organize the posts better.

* * *
Visit Pinoy Tech Scene at You may also visit Migs Paraz's blog at

E-mail the author at and visit

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 1:52 PM :: 26 Comments:

Post a Comment

sam's masterpiece 2

Here's another masterpiece. Pardon the Care Bears by the way, hehe. The thing is that Sam also loves drawing on our walls. Posted by Hello

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 8:21 AM :: 7 Comments:

Post a Comment

sam's masterpiece 1

Sam's turning out to be a budding artist -- good thing she got it from her mom 'coz I can't draw a straight line if my life depended on it. Here's a page from her coloring book which she did this morning. Not bad for a two-year-and-nine-month-old toddler, huh, hehe. Posted by Hello

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 8:12 AM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

fil-am vote?

Since introduced its Talking Points blog a day and a half ago, we've already gotten a lot of thought-provoking comments, particularly when it comes to the impact of the so-called "Fil-Am vote" on the outcome of the US presidential election.

In fact, many readers have expressed doubt that a "Fil-Am vote" even exists. To be fair, you have organizations like the Fil-Am Voters Initiative Coalition in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is doing its best to "rock the vote." But fairly or unfairly, it seems that the perception is that, just as in the Philippines, Filipinos in the US find it hard to unite and still fall prey to talangka or crab mentality.

Here's what one reader, Andro Karlo Fortez, has to say about the Fil-Am vote:

"Are you kidding? There's nothing, nada, nyet, bokya that the so-called 'Fil-Am' vote could have on the outcome of the forthcoming election. I've been here for the last two decades and there's no data to prove that there was any impact caused by the 'Fil-Am' vote. Filipinos here are more apathetic than the Filipinos back home when it comes to elections. Here, they take care of their own economic ass with their who-cares-who-is-the-president attitude. In the first place, only few Filipinos go out to vote!"

And here's what Canada's Andre Faura -- hmm, Andre, meet Andro, hehe -- has to say:

"The Fil-Am voters, in my opinion, are not solid; there exists the usual parochial tendency among Fil-Ams. If anything, the impact would be felt more in states where there is a large concentration of military camps where the families of the servicemen live:

a. There appears to be an ever growing resentment by the military families (and extended families) against the current administration. The states where there are larger military camps/bases are: California, Florida, and Texas.

b. These three states hold the plurality in numbers by electoral districts: California (55), Texas (34), and Florida (27). History might repeat itself for the third time in that granting Bush gets the popular vote (which I personally doubt), he could lose at the Electoral College much like what happened in 1888 (Cleveland vs Harrison), and in 2000 (Bush vs Gore), but he MIGHT and COULD lose in the electoral votes. Clinton got the plurality in California in both the 1992 and 1996 elections which tipped the scale in his favor.

It will be an interesting fight since Bush has Texas as his home state and Florida where his brother Jeb is the current governor."

Check out these and other comments on the upcoming US election in Talking Points.

Want your voice to be heard? Then join the conversation today.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:59 AM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

sacha speaks

Read "Sacha and the art of tech blogging" and get to know this multitasking tech blogger.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 10:10 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

death of a playwright

Award-winning playwright and director Lito Tiongson, who also taught at the UP College of Mass Communications in Diliman, passed away on Sunday. He was 51.

You can read the story here.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 2:14 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

e-mail auto-reply

Hehe, this one was forwarded by Sam's Ninang Kay.

Out-Of-Office E-Mail Auto-Reply:

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. Sorry to have missed you but I am at the doctors having my brain removed so that I may be promoted to management

4. I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from vacation on 4/18. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

5. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first ten words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

6. The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again.'(The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over.

7. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queueing system. You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

8. Hi. I'm thinking about what you've just sent me. Please wait by your PC for my response.

9. Hi! I'm busy negotiating the salary for my new job. Don't bother to leave me any messages.

10. I've run away to join a different circus.

And, finally, this one takes the cake:

11. I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons. When I return, please refer to me as "Loretta" instead of "Steve."

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 2:06 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

artistic license

Meet comic book creator Elbert Or, editor in chief of Nautilus Comics and the man behind "Cast" (as editor), "Cherry Blossom High" (as writer) and "Two Color Truth Theatre."

Find out how he hooked up with Dean Alfar and what great things you can look forward to in the upcoming "Siglo: Passion." You can read all about it in this 2bU! article.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 1:49 PM :: 1 Comments:

Post a Comment

join the conversation

Guess what? now has a blog!

Whew, I can finally talk about it, hehe. We've just launched Talking Points -- in fact, I just posted the entries a few minutes ago, so this is still piping hot. Talking Points is the latest column in's Viewpoints section and we hope this will be a new, more interactive way for you to share your thoughts on different vital issues. So, does anyone still believe that the blogging revolution isn't for real?

I've been given the privilege of kicking things off by letting the global Filipino community weigh in on the upcoming US presidential election. As Bush and Kerry duke it out, and with fears of a repeat of Bush-Gore 2000, it's safe to say that the outcome of this election will not only affect Americans but will have an impact on everyone in the world. Add to that the fact that Filipino-Americans are one of the biggest and richest ethnic groups in the US, and the "Fil-Am vote," if it does exist, might just help tip the balance for Bush or Kerry.

That's why we're inviting everyone to join the conversation and share their thoughts. Unlike other blogs, you'll have to e-mail your answers and editors (including, natch, me) will go through the submissions and post them.

Some of the questions are specific to Fil-Ams, but you can choose to answer the questions that are relevant to you. Particulalry the most important one: Who do you think will win: Bush or Kerry?

Visit Talking Points now.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:33 AM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

dylan and vash

What is it with The Velvet Ash and kids?

Not only does my daughter Sam love their songs, particularly our favorite "All Is Forgiven," but Pauline told me that her not-yet-three-year-old son Dylan also liked their tunes.

"It must be Lille's soothing voice," Pauline said in her e-mail.

Hehe, Lille and l'il kids -- bet Vash never figured their music would also reach out to this very young audience.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 7:44 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

blogging as a way of life

Get to know our Tuesday YOU Blog Addict, Gail, a 19-year-old student at the University of the Philippines-Manila.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:42 PM :: 2 Comments:

Post a Comment

chat and go

Blame it all on Gabby, hehe, he's the one who introduced me to Chatango.

If you've been too afraid to try out that blue chat thingy on this blog's sidebar, read about it first in my "Chat and go" article.

And if you're looking for a gabfest in a full-blown chat room, check out I tried out its free chat service once 'coz I saw banner ads plastered all over, including the sites I handle.

Well, it's OK -- the site offers a number of fun Friendster-like features, but since I only chatted there once, I can't really tell you much about it yet.

What I can tell you is that I might feature their image model Kriztyle soon. We'll see.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:09 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

golden halo

Yup, this is turning out to be an incredible year for gamers. Let's see: Doom 3, Fable, Half-Life 2 (well, they're pre-ordering but keep your fingers crossed) and The Sims 2.

And now Halo 2 has gone gold!

Read all about it in this YOU Technogear story.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:05 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Monday, October 11, 2004

bringing home the ash(es)

Read The Velvet Ash story that came out today in Global Nation.

I managed to interview Lilledeshan Bose (lead vocals, guitar), Mabel Orogo-Cajayon (bass), Chie Orogo (guitar) and Mark Roldan (drums).

Unfortunately, Jenna Urban (keyboard, vocals) wasn't able to answer the e-mail questions 'coz she was out of town, but hey Jenna, we could always feature you next time.

So, what does The Velvet Ash sound like? "Think a sexier Joy Division, or Interpol with a girl singing, or an always happy The Cure with drum beats as snappy as The Police's." Better yet, go to this page to download their songs in MP3 or Windows Media Audio format.

And don't forget to visit Lille's blog, OK?

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:18 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

death of superman

Superman is dead. And this time it's for real.

Christopher Reeve, who will always be the Superman for most fans, has died of heart failure at age 52.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 4:55 PM :: 2 Comments:

Post a Comment

new kid on the blog

Hey, Andre has a blog!

Thanks for the kind words, Andre. And hope you weren't pressured into suddenly posting a number of entries, hehe -- just call me the Limestone Cowboy.

Check out New Kid on the Blog today!

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 10:44 AM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment


Sunday, October 10, 2004

jacques derrida

Jacques Derrida is dead.

Most people won't know him, but if you're aware of deconstruction, he was the French philosopher responsible for it.

Found out while browsing, and then checked out the news sites. He died in a Paris hospital late Friday, reportedly due to cancer. He was 74.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 7:02 PM :: 4 Comments:

Post a Comment

baguio blog

Erwin sent me a message via Friendster today, saying that, thanks to me, he's been "forced" to update his blog, hehe. He actually started blogging way before I did, and I'm glad he's reviving his site.

Erwin is our hotshot Infotech reporter at, who has won first prize for the online publication category of the DOST Media Awards three years in a row. He's also been my good friend since his days as a staff writer of Metropolitan Computer Times (where I also got my start in IT journalism) as well as a drinking buddy, so head on over to his blog and show this Baguio boy some love.

Hey Leo, Joel and Don, when are you guys gonna start blogging, hehe.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:34 PM :: 0 Comments:

Post a Comment

great white lie

Sam watched her first movie inside a theater today at the Shang Cineplex, and she was wonderfully well-behaved considering that she's not even 3. Too bad "Shark Tale" wasn't a good movie.

Sam happily stayed in her seat during the first part of the movie, sharing a hotdog bun with me and drinking lemonade, while getting popcorn from her mom. When she got bored, she inspected the other seats and ran to and fro a bit during the remainder of the flick, but not once did she cry, complain or bug us to leave the movie house.

Of course, I explained to her before we bought the tickets (it's 150 pesos per person and we were also charged the full price for Sam, so yeah, we were worried that we might just be wasting money if we were forced to leave) that the movie house would be dark but that this is OK and she shouldn't be scared, that unlike the DVD player she couldn't tell me to fast forward the film if there are parts she doesn't like, and that we had to stay and finish the movie. Sam nodded and said,"OK," and she was true to her word.

Unfortunately, while "Shark Tale" had its funny moments, it lacked magic, great characters and an interesting story. Don't watch it expecting another "Shrek" or "Finding Nemo." For one, the movie's story is too complicated for kids and kind of ho-hum for adults -- definitely none of the wit of the two blockbusters I mentioned.

Honestly, storytelling has always been DreamWorks SKG's weakness, "Shrek" and "Shrek 2" being the obvious exceptions, as well as "Sinbad." Still, Sam, Ellen and I had a lot of fun watching our first movie together inside a theater -- enjoying each other's company and creating our own magic.

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 6:11 PM :: 4 Comments:

Post a Comment

saigon revisited

Caught this "Filipinos in Vietnam" feature last night on the Living Asia cable channel, which made me wax nostalgic over Ho Chi Minh City, or, as it's still popularly known, Saigon.

Saigon will always be memorable because it was my first trip abroad, when I was covering a Sun Microsystems Asia South symposium for Metropolitan Computer Times. This was during the days when Vietnam was just starting to open its doors to foreign visitors and investors, so needless to say we were all excited and just a bit anxious over the prospect of visiting this communist country.

Vietnam has acquired larger-than-life status what with all the war movies and the angst of a generation of Americans scarred with the loss of lives and the bitter divisions this spawned in American society. Not to mention coming to grips with the fact that, somehow, this tiny country had kicked the butt of the world's strongest nation. While I would be the first to condemn the Vietnam War, I have to confess that though I was raised, as many Filipinos are, to worship all things American, when I first learned about this war of attrition, I couldn't help but root for the underdogs and admire the determination of the Vietnamese people to fight for independence.

Our trip to Vietnam was also memorable because we had to overcome many obstacles going to that country and returning to the Philippines. The first was an embassy that became overly suspicious when it found out that a bunch of journalists were going to Vietnam. In not so many words, "What the hell are you really going to do there?" was what they wanted to know. In fact, we only received our visas the night before our flight. Then, the Philippine Air Lines employees decided to launch a massive strike on the day of our flight. The PAL strike forced us to delay our flight by a day, and to choose another carrier, Vietnam Airlines.

The following day, after worrying whether we would finally be able to get on our flight and being slightly disturbed by how small the Vietnam Airlines plane was, we were finally on our way to Ho Chi Minh City. Once we arrived, the travel agency representative who met us and helped us load our luggage into the van attested to the nationalistic pride of the Vietnamese. While recounting how the Vietnamese people have tried to put the horrors of war behind them and to rebuild their country, he said, proudly but without gloating, "Vietnam beat the French. Vietnam beat the Japanese. Vietnam beat the Americans." Now it was time for them to move on, and enjoy the benefits of peace.

You must remember that Vietnam is a developing country, and that Ho Chi Minh City still mostly has old buildings and lots of trees. In fact, it was the first time we saw traffic jams caused by hordes of motorcycles, some driven by ladies in their ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese female attire that Lea Salonga made familiar to Filipinos everywhere. This was a country with a strong culture, one that was still grappling with modernization but was equally eager to preserve its past.

It was also an eye-opening experience, after all those images of the Viet Cong and wartorn Vietnam, those tales of atrocity, betrayal and regret, to finally be in a country that had existed vividly in my mind for so many years. I knew too that we were lucky, because Vietnam is one country that we will probably not have the opportunity to visit again, unlike Singapore, Hong Kong or the other usual business or tourist destinations in Asia.

While we were inspecting different sidewalk stalls, I struck up a conversation with the Vietnamese war veteran who owned the place -- I think I still have his business card somewhere. When he found out that we were from the Philippines, he spoke of Ferdinand Marcos and how the Vietnamese had always considered Filipinos as their friends, even though the war had divided the two nations.

We were struck by how much these Asian neighbors look up to us -- as noted in the "Filipinos in Vietnam" feature, most of the Filipinos in that country occupy upper- or middle-management positions or have their own companies -- even as they take pride in being survivors. The man I spoke to of course fought for the US-supported South Vietnamese government, but while he said it was difficult when the communists first took over, the country had moved on and it was time to forget the bitterness of the past while remembering its lessons.

Another thing is that we all felt like millionaires in Vietnam, since at the time the exchange rate was 10, 000 dong to the dollar! Yes, some of us were walking around with one million dong! Of course, everytime you asked a vendor how much something was, it was worth at least one dollar. The vendors were generally friendly and you could haggle, but sometimes you would be swarmed by the children selling leis, supposedly antique coins and stamps, and other trinkets. Some of the vendors were also very pretty -- Eurasian beauties trying to charm you into buying silk cloth or an ao dai.

Apart from their nationalism, we were also struck by how disciplined and hardworking the Vietnamese are. In fact, then fellow journalist Sam Jacoba, who would pretty soon leave our ranks to earn something like 20 million dong or more a month at Microsoft Philippines, said that if the Philippines didn't watch out, Vietnam will leave us behind in a few years. And I agreed.

How prophetic. It's already coming true. As the "Filipinos in Vietnam" feature showed, more Filipinos are going there because they have better chances of landing a good job in Vietnam than in the Philippines. With a growth rate of six to seven percent a year, according to the feature, Vietnam is already on the verge of becoming the region's next tiger economy.

And while I'm happy for the Vietnamese, I wonder: What's going to happen to our country?

Posted by Joey Alarilla :: 7:06 AM :: 4 Comments:

Post a Comment


© the babel machine 2005 - Template by Caz.