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By Digoy Fernandez ONE does not have to be a genius to figure that any large city – Metro-Manila, for example – generates a huge carbon footprint by way of car and truck emissions, the generation and improper handling of waste, buildings and homes that are not green enough, and the lack of enough green spaces that can serve as carbon sinks while generating oxygen at the same time. In the case of our own metropolis, short-sightedness on the part of many past administrators would find them making decisions on the basis of expediency rather than the consideration of the longer term suitability of the city as a habitat for man, flora, and fauna. Thus, if a road had to be widened, any tree getting in the way would be immediately cut or destroyed, instead of seeking out a win-win solution where the road could be widened but not at the expense of such trees. Instead of encouraging the practice of separating garbage at the source in each and every single household and institution, we still have unsightly garbage dumps containing all sorts of detritus. This situation is what attracts the scavengers who seek to eke out a living by trying to salvage the recyclable or usable materials from plain garbage. There are already too many environmental problems in the city begging for attention. For now, we will focus on the simple task of seeking empty spaces in the metropolis and converting these into green spaces. As a example, I just have to point out what I have done within my own property and in the alleyway adjoining it. Not to mention the adjoining streets and some of the areas in our village park. Over the years, I have taken to picking up seedlings –many of them sprouting now that the rainy season has started – and putting them in small pots or containers for future planting activities. Lately, I have tried to obtain more balete (climbing fig) varieties, knowing that these grow very quickly and also attract all kinds of birds. I am still mourning the loss of practically all or our Aratiles trees that were cut down upon instructions by a village official because she found them messy! Aside from disappointing many villagers, their children, and even househelp from the pleasure of picking and eating the nice sweet berry-like fruits of this tree, we also deprived a lot of birds and other living creatures that depended on this link in the food chain. Now that I have whole banks of trees growing in my property, I can enjoy the sight and sounds of many birds that have made our place their own. My friend, the nature habitat specialist Ed de Vera, passed by one day and pointed out that my trees had a whole family of yellow orioles. I see them at various times during the day, together with other birds, frolicking near our fishpond area. It does not take much to create a green space. Even companies get into the act. I saw this in some of the companies like Toyota that have set aside areas for mini-forests in their properties. A green space can range from a few square meters to a few hectares. The idea is to keep the space well planted, using organic methods only, and allowing nature to take its course. That is the logic I used when we set up the mini-forest in our village. We planted the trees close together to simulate a forest environment, and then left nature to weave its magic. Pretty soon we had a combination of tall trees and small saplings in a small space of a few hundred square meters, providing an attractive base for other flora and fauna to take root in. Unfortunately, good intentions can only go so far. A series of unenlightened do-gooders subsequently introduced “innovations” like concrete pathways and even a gazebo into the mini-forest, aside from the sacrilegious act of placing pebbles to act as a floor for the whole forest!!!! The whole purpose of keeping the area as pristine as possible went down the drain. Succeeding teams of do-gooders even used a portion of the mini-forest to “burn” fallen leaves and twigs, destroying fully a quarter of the area previously planted. This should serve as a lesson to all concerned. Just because one has set aside a green space for plants and trees does not guarantee that it will remain that way. One will have to literally fight the attempts of others who see nothing of value in green spaces. That is why it is also important to choose potential green spaces that will not be used for other purposes. One idea is to utilize those neglected portions of the parks or similar areas that have been set aside by law for green spaces. The area where we live has a large property owned by one of the country’s better -known families. This property was earmarked for development a few years ago, but residents of adjoining villages objected strenuously. I am hoping that the property remains as is because it has become home to countless numbers of night herons. One can see them start to take off at dusk, heading for Laguna de Bay to do their fishing and eating. They can also be seen at times making the return trip after a satisfying hunt. My friend Ed de Vera and I have been witness to this spectacle many a time, and we never tire of watching the night herons fly off to feed. Another time, I was able to catch a glimpse of some fireflies in the same area, which means that they also made use of the stream traversing the property. There is nothing that evokes memories of days gone by than the sight of fireflies. When the birds, butterflies, moths, bees and hornets, and even bats move in, one will know that he or she had done well with a given green space.

Pets in the city

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By Digoy Fernandez A few months ago, my kids introduced me to Facebook, and I have taken to the social interaction medium like a fish to water. It took a while, of course, but starting with my neighbors – specifically, their kids – my list of friends gradually spread out to former classmates, old friends, and even new ones who I have been pleased to discover. One of the things that struck me is the love and care many of them show their pets, most of which are dogs. Some even have their dog’s pictures adorning their profile pages. My son, who inherited my love for pets in general, just sent me two amusing threads. One was of a puppy Retriever trying to sleep using a stair step to prop his head, to no avail. The other was of the Boston Terrier Breed, one we have grown to love ever since a bouncing bundle of Boston joy entered into our household four years ago. This little dog of ours has become truly one of the family and even sleeps between my two boys. My friend Wilson Ang of BioResearch is in the business of selling pets to people. But few know that he also has some sort of animal rescue center where he takes in battered or abandoned pets, mostly dogs, and tries to nurse them back to health. I have seen these dogs while walking through their area, and have been struck by their demeanor, wagging their tails and yelping for attention. Dogs truly are man’s best friend and crave for attention and love by instinct. Contrast this with the naturally feral nature of even ordinary household cats, that have to be won over if one is to be trusted by them. There was a time when I could not resist picking up little kittens that had probably been abandoned or appeared lost, and have tried to either raise them or give them to friends. Keeping a couple of “house cats” has certainly helped in keeping the vermin population at lower levels. Last week, my gardener found a baby python and promptly killed it. I was aghast and told him to never do that again, since I could have brought the snake over to the rescue center where it would become a nice addition to the menagerie there. Some of my Facebook friends have invited me to support their causes, many of which have to do with the care of and stopping the abuse of animals. These are easy to support, given my love for animals in general. (Without demeaning the need to stop the abuse of people too!) Many abandoned pets start off as whimsical purchases by people who think that they would just love to have an unusual pet, and then surrender to reality. But abandoning pets by literally throwing them out into the streets is a crime in itself. Not only is the animal left to fend for itself in a hostile environment, but the poor animal adds to the increasing number of strays in the metropolis. It is this thought that has kept me from buying those lovely little crocodiles or boa constrictors.
By Digoy Fernandez FIRST of all, we must make one thing clear. We support and believe in the right of the state of impose just taxes that are to be used for the maintenance and development of a country and its people. Unfortunately, this principle works well in theory only in a few cases. Because of very poor tax administration(i.e., the inability or unwillingness of our revenue collectors to properly enforce tax regulations) the government finance team is often pressed to make up for deficits that crop up because of the larger amount of expenditures over receipts. So, what does the typical government bureaucrat do when tasked with thinking about ways to bridge the gap between expenses and revenues? The knee-jerk response would be to simply impose a new slew of taxes, the more the better. Perish the thought that revenue agents should soil their hands with attempts to impose a more efficient regime to tax collection or administration on existing taxes! And yet, our country’s multilateral and bilateral creditors and donors have long said that our revenue people have to tighten the ship and undertake a more efficient collection machinery. What seems to be the problem, then, in simply enforcing better tax and revenue collections? It is an open secret that the two or three main revenue generation agencies are plum posts sought by those seeking to increase their respective net worths. I recall an instance when a supporter of Ka Jaime Ferrer visited the old man when I happened to be in his residence. When Ka Jaime asked the man what he wanted, he simply requested that he be given a position in either Customs or the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Ka Jaime--a paragon for honesty in government--shouted at the hapless man: “What? I will assign you there just so you can steal or make money illegally? No!!!” This is why the onerous book tax contemplated by the brain-dead Espele Sales of the Finance department was pounced upon by book lovers and right thinking people both here and abroad. First of all, it was a clear violation of an international convention, and no amount of stretching of semantics could or would justify such a stupid tax, all to raise a few bucks for the government. Unfortunately for Ms Sales, just when the campaign against her and her tax scheme was escalating, the two Davids (Cook and Archuleta) visited the country. Their arrival, stay, and performances here resulted in the Philippines coming up in the top ten places being followed in Twitter. Well, to make a long story short, local cyberspace mavens twittered Espele Sales and her ill-contrived tax scheme resulting in a rapidly mushrooming viral anti-Sales/anti-tax campaign that was likely to drag President into the more negative aspects of the fray. Whatever her motivations, she most likely saw the light and rescinded the stupid book tax. End of problem. Once again, people in government were put on notice that they cannot assume a “business as usual” with respect to their shenanigans, because all it takes is a small band of intrepid cyberspace jockeys to put out the dirty laundry of these malefactors for all to see…and get very angry at.
ONE of the stories related to me by my late father about his friends’ exploits while they were still students at the Ateneo (before the War), were the times they played hookey and swam across the Pasig River. Needless to say, they would often get caught and earned the ire of the Jesuit prefects of discipline. But the point being made here is that, in those days, the Pasig was clean enough to attract people to jump in for a relaxing swim. Many years later, I found myself helping the late Roberto T. Villanueva, a good friend of my late father, as a consultant in the newly established office euphemistically referred to as the Coordinating Council for Philippine Assistance Program (CCPAP). The CCPAP was charged with overseeing the inflow and expenditure of bilateral and multilateral funds meant to help spur or maintain economic and social development. One time, it was suggested that I look into the cleaning of both the Pasig River and Laguna de Bay. As a committed environmentalist, this was the sort of project that got me excited, until I made a series of phone calls to development agencies and donor institutions. In short, they said that there were dozens of clean-up studies floating around, and that only political will was needed to get the project off the ground. The problems of the Pasig and Laguna de Bay are numerous, and some of the proposed solutions only serve to exacerbate rather than alleviate the problems concerned. First, and most obvious, is the amount of garbage together with human and industrial waste being dumped into the two water systems daily. So, cleaning up the river and the lake would have to go beyond carting off the garbage and waste on a one-time basis, or, even on a regular basis. More important would be to attack the core of the problem and stop the people and institutions from dumping waste into the two systems. And this is where political will comes in. For example, in countries like Korea and Taiwan that had similar problems, they tackled the problems with gusto and hacked away at the sources of pollutants until, to a large extent, their riverine and lake systems were cleansed. I saw this in various trips to Korea over decades where the Korean authorities literally created a buffer of land between the roads & human habitats and the rivers. In the case of the Han River, for example, one sees parks and playgrounds right beside the riverbanks, and no one is allowed to simply dump garbage or waste directly into the river. I would also venture a guess that they make extensive use of waste treatment plants before any of the waste water is reintroduced into the water systems. In the case of the Pasig, therefore, one would have to literally move the illegal human structures away from riverbanks and into new habitats further inland. The vacated areas must then be quickly converted into parks or playgrounds before new sets of squatters move in. This is where political will comes in because the rights of the people soon to be dispossessed must be respected, but their eviction also pursued. Industrial polluters must also be “convinced” to invest in waste treatment plants so that whatever is treated is recycled or pumped into the river in a literally drinkable state. Anyone who is familiar with the Pasig River and Laguna de Bay knows that both are heavily silted. Instead of the former depths of about 5 meters, we now have average depths of only 2 to 3 meters. A top view of the lake on Google Maps will show not only the proliferation of fishpens, but also the extent of the siltation. Most of the silt emanates from the nearby Sierra Madre range and the foothills that abound in Rizal and Laguna provinces. The wanton destruction of forest cover and nature habitats has resulted in the loss not only of precious topsoil, but any other kind of soil, leaving these areas previously rich in tropical growth now relatively barren. Talk of dredging the river must consider that the Pasig is a relatively short waterway. Its mouth in Manila Bay is not too far from the other end, Laguna de Bay. The water flows back and forth depending on the tides, making it difficult to consider bringing in large dredgers to do said work. The problem is compounded by the very low overhangs of many of the bridges that span the river, a prime example of which is Jones Bridge. Dredging the river cannot be done in isolation of the wave action at its mouth in Manila Bay and the silted area that is Laguna de Bay. Then, there is also the problem of what to do first: Clean up or Dredge or Aerate, etc. Those of us who are topical fish hobbyists laugh at the fears expressed by many on the presence of the so-called Janitor Fish, which is more properly called Plecostomus. A computer search of the species will make one realize that what they accuse the fish of being is not really correct. I have had this species of armored catfish in my aquarium tanks and in the relatively large fishpond I have at home, and have yet to see signs of the behavior they are accused of. The Pleco subsists on a diet of algae and small crustaceans, and maybe the small occasional fish that wanders into its mouth while it is feeding in its typical upside-down position. Myth busted! The task is a Herculean one, and I salute Ms Gina Lopez and her Bantay Kalikasan Foundation, together with the government agencies that have finally bit the bullet and started on this interesting exercise. This will not succeed overnight, and will probably be a 10- to 20-year project. Then, just maybe, my generation may be able to jump into the Pasig to take the proverbial swim without gagging on the refuse and detritus that plagues the river just now.
HAVING graduated from grade school in 1962, high school in 1966, and college in 1971 (all from La Salle-Taft) plus two years in graduate school (AIM in 1973), I have come to realize that my compatriots and I are part of the leading edge in the Boomer generation. Since the Boomer generation embraces those born after the great War (WWII) up until the hated war (Vietnam in the 60s), my bunch is pretty much in our early 60s and feeling the heavy hand of gravity–--falling hair and drooping stomachs on our physiques. In addition, we now have to contend with more senior moments as we tend to be more forgetful in both big and little things. My La Salle classmates continue to whoop it up every quarter or so with a class party featuring the music of the 60s and 70s. Fortunately, we have sort of an in-house band composed of many who played the music of the 60s back then, the GGBB. What does that name mean? Anything from Great Green Boogie Band to "Gago Gago Bobo Band," depending on how many bottles of wine find their way into my classmates’ constitutions. The GGBB has played in many revival concerts and its leaders are part of the online group Pinoy Classic Rockers, a group that promotes the musical genre of our generation. As a result, we have had very nice class parties with wives and lady friends from our generation who share a common love for the music and light company akin to what we used to have in our erstwhile jam sessions way back when. The other evening, My AIM classmates met--once again--in the penthouse residence of Mon Abad and Lenny de Jesus. A common love for music has resulted in many talented and accomplished artists finding their way into the equivalent of a musical atelier, one that has seen classical artists, chorales and choirs, and yes, the inevitable classic rock groups gather to entertain or to jam. The evening in question found Lenny’s prize group, the Electromaniacs, playing back up to wannabe singers from my class as they waded through a collection of Beatles songs and even a credible incarnation of a Credence Clearwater Revival piece. Many in my class who idolized the Electromaniacs for their incredibly complex and accomplished music during the 60s were struck by the irony of having one of the greatest music icons providing back up for our motley bunch of, singers. How lucky could we get? Finding solace and comfort in something like the music of our generation is not limited to a few groups alone, as we find more and more Boomers letting what is left of their hair down in order to play both the instrumental and vocal hits of our time. Lenny finds pleasure in supporting musical causes and musicians through activities like the Electromaniacs concert that saw the launch of their revival CD, the proceeds of which had been earmarked for a music foundation. That same evening, we were talking about the different perspectives of the Pacquiao fight and also the man himself. We whipped out a sample computation of what we thought would be the net earnings of Manny after at least two more good fights--assuming he wins both and gets the guaranteed amounts and share of PPV for TV--and came up with a net amount of only about P2 billion. This is less local and US taxes, managers’ and promoters’ shares, trainer’s share, and so forth, leaving only about 35% of the gross as his take home. We figured that his earnings from endorsements and other activities would be needed just to maintain his lifestyle and the upkeep of the barangay of followers who hold court with him wherever he goes. But we came to one inevitable conclusion: Manny P may have enough to run for Congress but not enough for a stab at the Presidency. So, whoever is thinking of making him run and hold on to his fame, would also have to be excellent fundraisers. Furthermore, he is not guaranteed a win because he has possible determined opponents who will not give up their seats without a fight. Some of us who are in Facebook elicited interest from those who are not. I think that enough was learned by some classmates present to get them to try this social networking medium. And this is the surprising thing about networking sites like Facebook. Among the largest increases in users now being recorded by Facebook belong to the Boomer generation. At first, many moms and dads opened Facebook accounts in order to keep track of their kids. But after finding many fellow Boomers signed up, their average usage goes up dramatically from about 30 minutes per day to an hour or two, especially since many in our generation have more time for themselves now. It is indeed rewarding to be able to hook up with old friends not seen since graduation. Internet marketing mavens have taken note of this increased usage by Boomers and have began to target them through the various media available on the web. To find out how this can be done, you may have to attend the new course offered at AIM that my son Jayvee will be handling (see my last post on the new media and how it can be harnessed for marketing and business purposes). During these, our sunset years, it is pleasant to be able to get together with old friends to talk about nothing significant in particular, and just enjoy each other’s company with the music of the 60s playing in the background.
By Digoy Fernandez There are many compelling reasons for continuing education, and this is true for executives meant for higher positions, aging dinosaurs of the corporate world, but especially for crusty entrepreneurs who have built up businesses from scratch. When we wanted to change the mind-set of the middle and top executives of a particular organization, we would start by sending junior executives to school for either short courses or full-scale MBAs. Before long, the more progressive among the middle managers demanded some form of continuing education of their own. After a few years, different levels of management and staff were undergoing complementary management education, and our organization spawned a generation of decision makers and thinkers who could self-start or handle crises on their own. When we first proposed computerization, the immediate answer was that it would cost too much. This was in the early late 70s and early 80s, mind you. An opening occurred when we were loaned some versions of the early word processors by a client. These WPs were strategically distributed by my office to a select of group of senior executive secretaries…who became enamored with their new toys and demanded that they be kept with their offices permanently. Faced with certain rebellion from the senior secretaries’ ranks, senior management caved in to this first thrust in favor of automation. Another happy accident happened when a client decided to pay us in desktop computers. Again, we distributed these to a group of up and coming executives who began to see the benefits of using computers beyond word processing. The seeds were sown, and these allies fought for full computerization in coming budget sessions. Before long, our group and others in the organization kept the software boys and girls busy by looking into more and more applications that could be applied to make our jobs better and easier. With the advent of the Internet, moreover, even more ramifications set in since I formally retired from the 8 to 8 grind. First of all, I was able to whet the interest of my boys in what computers could do when I was tasked to set up the design parameters and the RFP for what is now the successful on-line lottery of the PCSO. The boys would accompany me to office and would tinker with the computers and the new (then) Windows OS. Pretty soon, I noticed they were fooling around with software of their computer games and doing things like giving themselves more lives, essentially defeating the computer games’ ability to do them in! Now, my two boys blog effectively and the eldest is part of a group that exploits the ability of the internet to supplant the old parameters of marketing and doing business. My elder son Jayvee and a team of other professors from AIM and other sectors, just finished conducting a week-long course on the new media and how it can be harnessed as an effective marketing and promotion tool. As one who grew up with the age-old norms that also knew only of one type of tri-media (radio, print, tv), the new media made available thru the internet boggles the mind. Good thing that I have tried to peep over the shoulders of my sons and have managed to keep up with both the jargon and the applications in the internet. Thus, I email and some blogs regularly, gobble what I can from various sites in the net, Google for factoids, watch Youtube for anything from songs to basketball, enjoy a FaceBook account, and even set up a Twitter account that I still have to learn to navigate on. The executives who still think that the new media available thru the internet will just be another fad have a rude awakening in store for them. The social networking sites are now a permanent, if shifting, phenomenon. To be ignorant of their existence and their effectiveness as marketing tools is to court disaster arising from ignorance. Where else can one get almost instantaneous results and gratification? Where else can a nobody become a big somebody overnight, with millions of adoring fans (read Susan Boyle)? Where else can a product find adherents in just an instant – compared to a marketing campaign – based on a succession of favorable blogs and commentaries? You need information, go to the internet. You want to know what movie is hot, check out the appropriate sites. Ad infinitum. Thus, Jayvee was tapped along with some others knowledgeable in the industry to conduct a short course in the use of the new media. This course will also become an elective in the coming school year at AIM. To think that the interest in the school began when a student who had been following Jayvee’s tech and other blog sites invited him to give a talk in the school. I was there one time when he was giving a talk. We were a group of alumni, professors, and others interested in charting new directions for the school. During one particularly extended exchange, I told those present that they should listen in to what my son was telling the students. That what he had to say was not even being taught in the school. It helped that Jayvee also graduarted with a Masters in Eduation, which made him desirable from the Institute’s point of view. Now, we have my young son who is in his twenties, teaching people twice his age. He laughingly told me that on the first day of the course, the participants thought he was a student. At the end of the course, they all became believers.
BECAUSE of the excitement generated by the Tomorrow Leaf, one guesses that so many people are indeed looking for relief from the many ailments that plague them or their loved ones. Of course, my doctors always stress that the best way to avoid getting sick is to simply diet (eat the right food and avoid junk food) or exercise (walk walk walk, or just move move move!). But then, weak mortals that we all are, we do indulge once in a while – sometimes more than just once in a while--in delicious ice cream, candies, pork rinds, and many other wonderful food that add to our weight and calorie levels. Thus, the rush to look for those “miracle herbs” like the Ashitaba medicinal plant that seems to tackle so many of the ailments that plague us in this modern age. One day, I requested Wilson Ang, the generous proprietor of Bio-Research, to lend us his lovely daughter Charlene to deliver a short spiel on the Ashitaba plant to the Tahanan Village Garden Club. She came with some fifty newly established plant stems and proceeded to explain the history of the plant and its healing properties. Needless to say, the Ashitaba has quietly become a hit in our village and is now sought after by many of its residents, especially since the once young contemporaries who settled the village have grown older over time. Others took our advice and have gone to Bio-Research in Sucat to obtain their own plants for both propagation and ingestion. I am now supplying some pictures taken during this turnover that took place a fortnight ago. The first picture shows a newly established cutting of the Ashitaba plant. These plants can grow into small bushes that one can use for pruning to obtain new stems and for the harvesting of leaves. The second picture shows the plants when they arrived, in a small box. The third picture shows Ms Charlene Ang together with some members of the Tahanan Garden Club and others who attended the turnover. The last picture shows the temporary planting site until the one being set up in a nearby place under the full sun would be available.
THE response to my initial blog on the Ashitaba Medicinal herb, otherwise known as the Tomorrow Leaf, seems to have generated a great amount of interest. This is probably an indicator of the number of people who need assistance in the healing of certain physical ailments. This particular blog will serve only as a quick response to some of the queries posted by those who read of the wonderful qualities of the Tomorrow Leaf. A longer response will be forthcoming, complete with pictures of the plant – albeit, a small one at that – and the turnover of a number of them by Ms Charlene Ang, daughter of my classmate Wilson Ang of Bio-Research, to our village Garden Club. First, Wilson Ang propagates the Tomorrow Leaf as an avocation, and distributes the plant (one plant for each visitor or depending on need) FOR FREE to those who go to his Bio-Research plant in Sucat, Paranaque. Second, Wilson Ang DOES NOT SELL the Ashitaba plant, but makes it available to those who go to his 4-hectare office FOR FREE as an advocacy, his own way of giving back to the community that has supported his business for so many years. The staff of Bio-Research also hand out a primer on the Ashitaba plant that contains some instructions on how to consume it. But for the sake of clarity, I will make some other recommendations based on what I have heard from Wilson and Charlene, and my own observations after a few weeks spent with the plant. Some points to remember: The plant does best when established under full sunlight, and watered the usual way, either early AM or late PM. Once established, either in a potting medium or in a garden plot, observe how the plant grows. It grows pretty fast and after a couple of weeks, can be pruned to obtain a new stem for planting. Make sure that enough leaves remain on the two stems to promote photosynthesis. You can take anywhere from two to four leaves from each plant per day as long as you see new leaves sprouting the next day, thus the name Tomorrow Leaf. Once harvested, clean the leaves like you would do to fresh vegetables. Wash them and then place in a mixture of water and salt for some time just to eliminate any germs, microbes, or other vermin. Then, wash again and store or consume. Some people make the leaves into a tea, but also consume the leaves after. Personally, I just take four of the leaves per day and chew on them like I would lettuce. My son, who is particular about taste, dips the leaves in his coffee and is satisfied with the taste! Will the Ashitaba plant solve all our health problems? Maybe yes, maybe not. But the plant has been documented as a particularly effective healing herb, which explains why its existence and availability has kept secret by many who have had access to the herb. Thus, Wilson Ang has chosen to break from the mold by not only propagating the plant, but also choosing to give it away FOR FREE to anyone willing to make the trip to the Sucat facility. (For those who don’t know how to get there, take the SLEX and exit at Sucat. Go straight until reaching the second Shell station that is at a corner, just before Jaka Plaza. Bio-Research is on the other side of the road, going toward the Sucat exit, just after the Holy Trinity chapel and mortuary(!). For those coming from Baclaran, just look out for the Holy Trinity facility. Bio-Research is located right after that place.) Hope this answers some of the questions that came in.

Winning the Lottery

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WHEN times are tough....people buy lottery tickets! Even with the most recent huge jackpot of about P347 Million (a little over $7 million), long lines can still be seen in lottery outlets as the public hopes to be the next lucky person to win a big prize in the other games still playing with relatively large jackpots. Many times, people ask me if I have ever won in either the Lotto (pari-mutuel game) or the Numbers (fixed odds games) games, and I have had to answer in the negative. I am not, after all, a gambler at heart, but do wander off to a nearby lottery outlet to take my chance once in a while. Those who ask the question are the ones who somehow know of my involvement in the conceptualization of the online lottery game in the country. It began with an invitation by my uncle Norberto Quisumbing, Jr. to help him when he had just taken over PAGCOR upon the assumption of power by the Cory government. He had in mind the transformation of PAGCOR into an authority able to operate like the Nevada state gaming authority. On the other hand, he wanted to try to introduce the concept of the online lottery here, having seen how successful lottery operations were in various jurisdictions around the world. So, armed only with this informal mandate, I gathered together a small team composed of my classmate Mon Abad, Atty. Gerry Geronimo--a former colleague of mine in a bank--and one other person whose name escapes me. We drafted a revised charter for PAGCOR that somehow got lost in the Palace, and we lost the initiative of getting a law in place before the deadline for issuing Presidential Decrees. Studying the operations of different lottery organizations around the world was a more pleasant task. Suffice it to say that I visited many countries, and, in the case of the US, some half-dozen of the larger lottery operations of different states. Sadly, the climate was not suitable yet for the implementation of the online lottery and so we shelved the study. Many years later, a friend contacted me and asked if I still remembered anything about the study I had made some five to six years earlier. When I inquired, this friend mentioned that Mamita Pardo de Tavera had just taken over the PCSO and wanted to try implanting the game. Knowing her to be an honest and wonderful person, I readily agreed to dust off the study and begin the process all over again. Turns out that PCSO did not yet have the firm mandate, but that we had to go through some sort of bureaucratic shootout wherein the President would select one appropriate government corporation or agency to start the process....but not after proving that the agency could do it. Well, to make a long story short, PCSO won the shootout because we already had the core study in place. Then began the long process of drawing up bidding requirements through an appropriate RFP, designing the parameters for the game in terms of hardware, software, and other considerations that would help make the game successful. We also had to struggle through various sessions with Congress and the Senate, a process that was not easy but which we managed to survive. Unfortunately, many people mistook the online lottery as a replacement for the jueteng and masiao informal games, and we had powerful people calling up to see if they could get franchises for entire provinces. It was not easy convincing them that the typical lottery outlet was either a Mom and Pop store, or an existing business that would have a terminal as a sideline. And when I told them of the (measly, it seems) 5% commission that each outlet would get for every ticket sold, they all realized that the game was not for them. Some of the changes we effected then were to keep the entire draw process televised, requiring winners of the grand prize(s) to be brought straight to the Chairman’s office for documentation and awarding, dispensing with the previous practice of issuing winning checks made out to “Bearer,” and so forth. But few are aware of the effort backstage during the draw to ensure that it is fair and beyond reproach. A committee of scrutineers selects a suitcase from a universe of many suitcases containing the balls used in the draw. The (pingpong) balls are taken (not by hand, to minimize human contact) from the suitcase and weighed carefully. Balls outside of a given tolerance level are discarded. Practice draws are made using the balls, and if any given ball comes out too often, it is examined again to see if it is too light, for example, since this would allow it to rise higher and more easily through the hole. After each draw, the balls are again scrutinized and examined to see if they really allowed for a random draw. This process is done every draw, and the idea is to make sure that the public gets a fair game. Yes, we did encounter some opposition from Church quarters at first, but we managed to convince them that the online lottery was just another form of entertainment and did not constitute hardcore gambling. Thus, by the time we held the bidding and the award was made by the President, most opposition to the game had quietly gone away. Did we get to savor the actual setting up of the game? No, this honor went to Mamita’s successor, Manoling Morato, who ran a pretty tight ship and managed to get the game going despite the usual carping from the sidelines. For personal reasons, Mamita quit soon after the selection was made, and since I came in during her watch, decided it would be best if the torch was passed on too. There is one thing that I would have wanted very much to do, based on the experience of lottery winners both here and abroad. Some studies have shown that winners, especially in the US, do not end up happier after spending or using their windfall earnings. This is why I thought it would be wise to have a professional (person or institution) give general advice to lottery winners to protect them from themselves and from the many investment and financial traps that they could be prey to. Not to mention a horde or old and newly minted relatives queuing up for a share of the now hapless winner’s earnings.
WHEN certain buddies of mine decided to once again take up the hobby of setting up and maintaining tropical fish aquariums, we vectored directly to our usual complete source for this enervating undertaking, our schoolmate Wilson Ang, founder and head of Bio-Research. This was after a fairly long hiatus, mind you, because time and circumstance had managed to pry many of us away from this hobby. In my case, I lost all my fish (accumulated over many years and placed in a humongous 400 gallon tank and a smaller 110 gallon tank) to a wrongly applied cleaning agent by a contractor many moons ago. Right then and there, I decided to spend more time – and money – in my other hobby, serious amateur photography, with the Camera Club of the Philippines as an ideal venue for this avocation. But this is another topic for another time. While in the main corporate offices of Bio-Research in Sucat Road in Paranaque, we realized that our good friend Wilson had gone beyond his traditional setting of tropical and marine fish. He had managed to accumulate distributorships for what looked like a serious water pump and waste-water treatment business, among other things. But more important, he managed to convert his 4 hectare property into what he hopes will be a suitable habitat for the various flora and fauna he has accumulated – and continues to accumulate – over the years, some for sale and some for keeps. (Read about some of what he is doing in this area in my son Jayvee’s blog, A Bugged Life. But what struck me was a little project that Wilson had started to undertake. In the herbal gardens that he has strewn all over the property, he has a specific medicinal plant that seems to be sprouting successfully. The name of this herbal plant is ASHITABA, one of the elite among plants considered for their medicinal qualities. Legend has it that an old Japanese man went off to an island basically to spend his last moments on this earth, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is said to have observed a tribe of old, sickly, and decrepit looking monkeys head off to a certain place where he witnessed them eating some vegetation daily. The result? The monkeys that ate these plants – that turned out to be the Ashitaba medicinal plant – soon got well and went back to where they came from, only to be replaced by a steady stream of incoming sick monkeys. So, hoping against hope, our terminally sick man partook of these plants and, before long, found himself strong enough to go home where he was diagnosed free of the dreaded disease. It seems that Ashitaba is well known and has been documented in Ming dynasty Chinese medicine records of the 16th century. It is said that Ashitaba is, strictly speaking, a weed, which accounts for its ability to propagate so quickly. Containing a considerable amount of chlorophyll, it naturally does best in areas with full sunshine. I placed the samples Wilson gave me in different parts of my garden and validated this observation. Wilson Ang is now giving back, in a way, to people by propagating this plant and giving it for free to friends. Thus, the samples he gave me are being planted and, hopefully, will multiply so that I can spread them around to the sick people in my village. But what I plan to do is turn over a reasonable number of these plants to our village garden club, many of the members belonging also to the senior group, so that they can plant them and take care of distributing the leaves to those who need them. Another name of the plant is the TOMORROW LEAF. Why so? Well, it seems that the more one plucks leaves from these plants, the more they propagate new leaves even more lushly the very next day. And after a reasonable growth, one can cut the stem and plant the cutting to generate yet another plant. I found many related sites through Google Search and will post some of them here so anyone can do further research on this plant. It seems that the plant is good in tackling the following disorders (per the handout given to me by Wilson): Lungs, Coughing, Asthma, Digestive System, Intestinal problems, Kidneys and Kidney Stones, Urinary Tract bleeding, Liver, Gall Bladder, Hepatitis, Gall Stones, Suppression of growth of cancer cells, Constipation, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Blood Poisoning, Skin Allergies, Rheumatism, High Cholesterol levels, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and a host of others too many to list down. As proof of the effectivity of the plant, he trotted out a staffer of his who has had the unfortunate situation of living in an area with both air and ground pollution. She had developed a hacking, wheezing cough that was not amusing at all and extremely convenient for all concerned. After only three days of munching on four leaves a day, she improved dramatically. I have been taking the leaf (4 a day) for a week now, and noticed that my blood sugar level has gone down by a significant measure, since I self-test every other day. Does it work? I am betting that this medicinal herb is what it is touted to be. Wilson gives the plants to friends for free. But some others have taken advantage of his generosity, because he found that one person who had apparently gotten a couple of plants from him had developed a small patch somewhere in the north where he sells the leaves for P3 each. Oh well..... http://www.organicashitaba.com/ http://www.organicashitaba.com/articles.html http://www.helium.com/items/851529-ashitaba-chinese-herbal-medicinal-plant