Category Archives: News

Bus Explodes Along EDSA Buendia

These are not my pictures – just some images of the Newman Goldliner bus explosion along EDSA Buendia Northbound which I saw on the MMDA official Twitter account.

What is happening in this country?

Am not an incendiary expert, but it looks like there’s no fire damage inside the Newman Goldliner bus, judging from the very “clean” looking interiors. It seems to be a very tight, focused concussive force that punched out the right front windshield and the window located mid-way down the body, where Director Nicanor Bartolome of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) says the explosion occurred.

EDSA Northbound from Ayala to Buendia is reported to be closed indefinitely.

Tragic for those who have died or been injured – according to ABS-CBN News, the numbers so far are 2 dead, 15 injured.

I hope this is not part of some wider destabilization effort.

But Vice President Jejomar Binay says there’s a strong indication this may have been from some kind of bomb.

Crazy. Scary. Sad.

Interesting observation shared by the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Dax Lucas on his personal Twitter account: Do terrorists celebrate Aquino family bdays? Today is birthday of Tita Cory. Last bus bombing on Edsa was on Kris Aquino’s birthday.

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Confirmed: Shangri-La Death Ruled A Suicide

So it’s confirmed.

ABS-CBN reports that the stomach-churning death of Dr. Mary Ann Magtoto, 34, a dentist who died after falling from the 6th floor of the Shangri-La mall all the way down to the Grand Atrium, was a suicide.

In a sworn statement made to the Mandaluyong City police, a British national asserted that he saw the victim climb over the railing of the escalator before plummeting to her death.

An anonymous commenter in my previous entry, who claimed to actually be at Shangri-La when the incident occurred, said that Dr. Magtoto was screaming all the way down.

What a gruesome end.

I suppose this brings new meaning to the term “jumping to conclusions.”

Photograph (c) 2010 by @NeilParas

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Death At The Shangri-La Mall

Tragic. Stomach-churning. Seasick.

Twitter was all abuzz yesterday afternoon with reports of a lady dentist, identified by DZMM and the Philippine Daily Inquirer as Dr. Mary Ann Magtoto, 34, who fell to her death from the 6th floor of the Shangri-La Mall all the way down to the Grand Atrium carousel level on the 2nd floor.

Photograph (c) 2010 by @NeilParas

This happened shortly before 4 in the afternoon on the 1st of July. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the Medical City.

Some people say it was a suicide; others say she was pushed, or that it was an accident. I still haven’t seen any definitive explanation on this, but the point of the matter is that someone who was part of someone else’s lives a day earlier just isn’t anymore.

Apparently, Shangri-La mall continued operations after this incident (wouldn’t want to miss out on the Twilight and Zara sale crowds, huh?), although the Atrium was closed off to the public.

Photograph (c) 2010 by Maria Almendras

I love this mall, but I swear to God my balls are always in my throat every time I take their two-story-spanning escalators hanging over a five stories of empty air. I’m surprised incidents like this don’t happen more often – although I do hear urban legends of a man who was installing some sort of Christmas decors or tarps high up over the Atrium slipping and going splat! down by Haagen-Daaz.

Rest in peace, Doc. I was never a very big fan of dentists, but I have always been a tremendous fan of human life.

Photograph (c) 2010 by @maitecaliente

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The Economics Behind A Democracy: How Much Did Our Presidentiables Spend? (Part 2)

A few months ago, I posted a little summary of who the top 20 overall advertising spenders were in Q4 of 2009. You can find it here.

Big headlines back then – despite being surrounded by the certified big guns of the FMCG world, i.e. Unilever, P&G, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, and Unilab, Manny Villar managed to artfully squeeze himself into the Top 20 with a jawdropping PhP1.3-billion pesos in advertising spend, based on rate card*.

(That’s roughly the equivalent of the total 2009 GDP of Tuvalu and Niue, by the way. I saw it on Wikipidia. Therefore it must be true.)

But that was six months ago.

The big question is – was Villar able to sustain his spending into 2010, leading up to yesterday’s national presidential elections? And how much did the front-running Noynoy Aquino spend?

I’ve got the answer.

Based on estimated rate card spending from AGB Nielsen, here’s how the Q1 advertising spend played out.

First headline: Yes, when it came to sustaining ad expenditures, Villar kept it up.

PhP1.23-billion advertising in Q1 2010.

Hard to envision that much money? It’s enough to buy roughly 1.5 kilos of rice for every single one of the 16-million Filipino households (or, if you’re a little bit more in a doting mood, roughly enough to get a one-piece ChickenJoy meal per household).

And he blew it all on advertising.

Put Q4 of last year and Q1 of this year together, and you’re easily looking at a bill of over PhP2.5-billion in a six-month span just to win a seat in Malacanang.

Makes you almost feel bad for the guy. Mainly because he lost is losing.

Second headline: Noynoy, on the other hand, had almost non-existent ad placements in Q4 last year – and it wasn’t needed, after all. With the passing of President Cory Aquino still fresh, he had an organic buzz going for him, and didn’t need to draw from his resources to play up his image even further.

But he was no small spender either. The AGB Nielsen reading above says that in the first quarter of this year, he still shelled out over half a billion pesos in advertising funds – even more than Coca-Cola, Smart, and PLDT each did!

I’m not quite sure where he got the money, but it quite possibly could have come from a garage sale involving Kris Aquino’s incredibly garish aluminum foil gold couch..

Final election results are still pending as of this writing, but it seems that Mr. Aquino has built up an insurmountable lead, despite just 1/5 the ad spend of Team Villar.

I wonder how this ties into this nice little article I found on the ABS-CBN.com website, which says, the Cojuangco/Aquino wealth depends on Noynoy’s presidency

But the most interesting number here is a very rough computation indicating the money-spent-versus-votes-achieved ratio for both men.

As of noontime today, Noynoy had scored about 12.6-million votes in the Comelec partial results. That works out to about PhP42 per vote, assuming PhP530-million spent in advertising.

Villar on the other hand is running at just 4.5-million votes. At PhP2.5-billion spend, that works out to a whopping PhP555 spent per vote.

It’s crazy. I don’t know what to say. Was that money well-spent, for both men?

What would you have done with the money, if you wanted to make a change?

* For those of you not familiar with media buying, “rate card” refers to the standardized rates published by the media networks for a standard commercial spot, although depending on negotiation skills and volume commitments, certain large advertisers may secure massive discounts off of rate card – therefore actual money paid out by each advertiser could theoretically be 50-60% lower than what is listed here.

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Napoleon Hits The Road (Or, How Little Men Make Up For Shortcomings In The Philippines)

I have never made secret the disgust I have for goons who drive SUV’s. They’re rude on the road, they’re arrogant, they’re obnoxious, and show an incredibly disproportionate sense of self-entitlement as to who gets right of way in the daily traffic gridlock that defines the Manila motoring experience.

I myself can count 3 close calls when I’ve been cut off, nearly side-swiped, or forced to the very edge of the road by these arrogant beasts who felt that me and my cute but cheap little Japanese sedan don’t deserve the same road privileges that they do.

This is all anecdotal of course; but I do not think people will disagree that it’s irritating to see a giant black SUV storming through traffic with its illegal blinkers flashing red and blue, and its horn modified to mimic the blaring trumpet typically reserved for legitimate police and fire department vehicles.

The frustrating thing is that law enforcers in this country don’t seem to act on it. Even car manufacturers seem to have embraced this perceived right to road sovereignty by running advertising campaigns highlighting how one can dominate and intimidate the road through their massive gas-guzzling behemoths – was it Nissan, or Ford, or Chrysler?

I imagine a part of this problem is that these SUV-driving despots are generally anonymous – they hide behind opaque window tint, and further reduce traceability through ill-gotten plate numbers that represent them as purported congressmen or mayors.

Which is why I was incredibly thrilled to receive a series of images that a friend had discovered on Facebook of a real-life man who not only drove an imposing SUV, but had the bravado to brandish a gun out his window to frighten a particular motorist whom he wished to out-place and out-pace.

These pictures really rock.

Wachoo looking at, fool?!

I ain’t as pretty as you, but look, I have a gun, and am therefore more important than you!

You don’t like me? Why, look, why don’t you take down my plate number?

I will confess that this is all creative license and conjecture on my part; I neither know, nor have any access to knowing the circumstances behind this incident. I do not know if he had a legitimate reason to threaten a perceived aggressor, or if he himself was simply a victim as well and was acting in self-defence.

But this set of pictures served to illustrate an important question in my mind – what is it about SUV owners, and why do they act so belligerently on the road?

[EDIT: Apparently, someone successfully tracked down and identified who owns the SUV in question – I don’t see the point in posting it (although you can certainly find it online if you Google hard enough), but it just makes it clear that gun owners and rude drivers need to exhibit a greater sense of accountability in this Web 2.0 age where information can be completely crowd-sourced. And on that note… be careful when you’re driving around Marikina.]

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Does Senator Juan Ponce Enrile Want To Lower Our Cellphone Load?

Look, I totally get what Senator Juan Ponce Enrile wants to do for the country. The dude is all for protecting the rights of prepaid SIM cellphone users. That much is clear. I’m cool with it, conceptually. It’s a completely relevant, practical cause to champion.

But the man may want to consider hiring new copywriters for his propaganda.

Spotted this on the back of a bus, while driving over to SM Mall of Asia this morning.

A few minor quibbles first.

There’s a lot to be questioned on the art direction side.

I’m not a tremendous fan of the shade of orange he chose, although I will concede that it does project a fair sense of kinetic energy and enthusiasm on his part (a little bit of Gaussian blur and judicious use of the ‘clone’ tool on his wrinkles might have helped too).

His pose itself is less than meaningful – at first glance, it looks like he’s shilling some new Chinese knockoff cellphone brand (NOKLA, anyone?), and I fail to see how it reinforces how he’s supposed to be the “Sipag at Talino ng Senado” – although considering how complicated it can be to use today’s generation of cellphones, I suppose they do take a fair amount of “sipag at talino” to operate. I mean, gosh, have you even tried using a Motorola phone lately? I feel like I need three thumbs and an intricate system of finger gymnastics and smoke signals just to type out “WRU N?” or “HUS DIS?” on one of those bad boys!

He won’t be winning any awards for Most Breakthrough Use of Outer Glow on Photoshop In The 21st Century either. But at least they had the restraint not to Lens Flare the hell out of this either.

But let’s get to the point.

Here’s what the copy says.

Patuloy na naglilingkod upang pababain ang cellphone ‘charges’ at ‘load’ natin.

Wait, what?

Part 1 makes a lot of sense. He wants to lower our cellphone charges. I dig that. I hate hidden charges as much as the next person. That’s one of the main reasons I’m switching from Smart back to Globe when my contract holding period is up in April.

But part 2 – I’m not the greatest Tagalog speaker in the world, but just to continue the logic that he so neatly set up in part 1 of the line, is he saying that he’d like to lower our cellphone load too?

Patuloy na naglilingkod upang pababain ang cellphone ‘charges’ at ‘load’ natin.

I will keep fighting to lower both your cellphone charges AND your load.

Am I the only one getting mixed messages here?

(Although considering how much money people waste on sending all sorts of craptacular jokes and allegedly inspiring quotes, perhaps they do deserve to have their load taken away from them…)

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Making History, One Slice of Cheese At A Time

I love cheese. It’s good, it’s healthy, and you can literally do so much with it – bake with it, melt it, make dips out of it, fry it, bread it, dice it, et cetera. I love the way it feels in my mouth, and one of my absolute favorite things is when you get that sweet spot where it’s kinda-sorta-toasty-sunog, but still gooey-stretchy-stringy-melty.

Now, I’m not much of a cook. Possibly the most I have personally done with cheese in the kitchen is pitch it into the microwave, and melt up a bowl for me to eat while watching the latest episode of MythBusters. Which is why I found what Eden Cheese did last Monday, December 14, at the historic Araneta coliseum so astounding – they set a new World Record for the most number of unique dishes on display, but with one tantalizing twist: every single one of them featured cheese.

I’m told that the official Guinness mark was set in 2007 by India, a nation of over 1-billion people, at 4,668 unique dishes.

The Philippines on the other hand has a population of roughly 90-million, with 75% falling into the dirt-poor classification – which makes this particular feat so stunning.

I was personally astounded by the turnout at the event itself – seven culinary schools from all over stepped up to contribute their own recipes to the world record attempt. There was no financial reward at stake – just the opportunity to stand up and show the world what the Filipino is capable of. In fact, I’m told that MIHCA, the Magsaysay Institute for Hospitality & Culinary Arts came up with thousands in a matter of three weeks. And the dishes they came up were superb.

Forgot what this was called, but for the sake of posterity, let’s just dub it “MDJ Superporkloin a la Cheese.”

I was particularly impressed by their professionalism and technique – they weren’t just mass-producing the world-record recipes, they were doing full styling and plating for each dish they proudly set forth.

The array of dishes everyone came up with was overwhelming. Literally the entire floor and lower box area of Araneta Coliseum was covered with various cheese-themed dishes – from appetizers to salads to soups to sandwiches to entrees and even to desserts! This was probably the first time the Big Dome didn’t smell like sweaty socks for a major event.

As a nice little touch, the various schools present (Regina Carmeli, St Paul College Manila, Centro Escolar University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, La Consolacion College, and Arellano University) also came up with cheese carving centerpieces. Here are my two favorite pieces from the night.

It wasn’t immediately apparent to me whether this was Jesus Christ or Santa Claus, so let’s just say it’s a carving of Joaquin Phoenix from his iconic appearance on Letterman.

I loveloveLOVE the craftsmanship on this one, however. The detail on the ledges and facade was really pretty, but the absolutely BRILLIANT touch was the grated cheese sprinkled all over to mimic a fresh snowfall.

Even Sheryn Regis lent her hand (or more accurately, her voice!) to show her support for the Philippines’ thrust for a World Record. She performed a wonderfully moving anthem called “Sarap Ng Buhay” as her own tribute to the creativity and will to spread goodness in the world, which seems to come so naturally to the Filipino people.

She’s tiny, but man that woman has a spectacular pair of lungs!

The Nielsen Company, one of the most respected global research agencies, released their unofficial “Comelec Quick Count” at around 730 in the evening.

The verdict?

India had set the existing Guinness World Record with 4,668 unique dishes on display at the same time and the same place.

On December 14, 2009, the Philippines, still reeling from the various natural disasters, political turmoil, and civil unrest that had struck over the last 4 months did a tiny little bit better than that.

Five thousand.

Eight hundred.

Forty.

Five.

(Okay, that’s a LOT better than India.)

5,845 unique dishes, all of them inspired by cheese, all of them a testament to the great things that are possible with the Pinoy spirit of culinary adventure.

Needless to say, the thousands in attendance were delirious with joy as jetsparks went off and a blizzard of confetti and balloons rained down to celebrate the milestone.

Eden has this tagline that I saw in their latest TV commercials – “Kay daming nagagawa.”

Being at this event showed this to be true on two levels.

On a functional level, it proved without a doubt that cheese can literally inspire limitless possibilities when it comes to dish preparations. I grew up knowing it as palaman or a spaghetti topping or the occasional cheese omelet. But now I know it can do so much more – the 500 chefs and students sweating over their stoves and ovens and dishes and chopping boards proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But on a nobler level, I thought it demonstrated the great things that Filipinos can accomplish when mobilized towards one goal in service of the country. It seemed that everyone in attendance had forgotten their school allegiances or job titles or employers – everyone was there as a Filipino citizen, bursting with pride at the opportunity to be a concrete part of world history.

Kay dami nga talagang magagawa basta sama-sama tayong lahat.

P.S. Saw some of the recipes posted at the Sarap Ng Buhay website – will definitely register and see if it’s not too late for my Gourmet Deluxe Microwaved Eden In A Bowl to be eligible for next year’s world record!

All photography by Paolo Serrano. Follow MDJ Superstar on Twitter!

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Manny May Have Won The Battle, But Hatton Won The War

Fight fanatics will always remember this one iconic image from the Battle of East vs. West – Ricky Hatton, the brutal British brawler sprawled ingloriously on his back, his brain spinning from the crunching left hook of Manny Pacquiao, who, in less than six minutes of ring time, revealed the bully for the spongecake he really was.

hatton-vs-pacquiao1131

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. To that, I disagree.

This picture says but one thing – that Manny Pacquiao won the battle.

But the real truth, a truth that people dare not speak of yet in the midst of such national euphoria, is this: Ricky Hatton won the war.

Here is an indisputable, irrefutable dissection of four key elements that cement this daring statement, and the stark reality that despite being counted out by Kenny Bayless, Ricky Hatton did in fact emerge the better man today.

  1. National Anthem Performer. As much as “Lupang Hinirang” rocks my socks, there are two things you do not do to it: (a) reinvent it as an Aqua-ish bubblegum techno fluff piece, and (b) ask a t-shirt and blazer-wearing Martin Nievera to make it birit it for you. There are things that demand gravitas, solemnity, dignity, and grace, and the national anthem is certainly on the top of this list. Martin Nievera was just pure fail. When you bring out Tom Jones, on the other hand – a man who personifies gravitas and solemnity, you automatically win. Who wasn’t on the edge of their seat, waiting for him to bust out It’s Not Unusual or What’s New Pussycat? I’m sorry, but when Tom Jones is involved, there is no fail possible. Edge: Ricky Hatton
  2. Fan awesomeness. There are no fans like British fans – they’re vocal, they’re creative, they’re rowdy, and single-handedly consume enough beer in one night to knock the entire global population of elephants unconscious were they to drink the same amount. The way they sang along to Ricky Hatton’s awesome-beyond-awesome marching song, bleated out the lyrics to Manchester City’s “Blue Moon” theme, and started all sorts of ingenious chants to amuse themselves during the incredibly dull undercard was beyond compare. Manny’s fans could muster up one thing, and one thing only – “Manny! Manny! Manny!” Which is not to say this particular chant was neither stirring nor awe-inspiring. It just wasn’t particularly clever. Again, the Hitman trumps the Pacman. Edge: Ricky Hatton
  3. Theme Song. And on that note, how awesome was it that Ricky Hatton had his own marching song, with a totally thumping drum beat and an easy-to-pick-up chorus behind it? Manny Pacquiao came out to his own Lito Camo-penned theme song, which was only slightly less gay than coming out to an a capella medley remix of “Paper Roses” and Ogie Alcasid’s “Nandito Ako” performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra. Edge: Ricky Hatton
  4. Porn star potential. Take a look at the chiseled, rugged good looks of the blond-haired, square-jawed, blue-eyed Ricky Hatton. Then take a look at Manny Pacquiao. Repeat. Ricky Hatton. Manny Pacquiao. Ricky Hatton. Manny Pacquiao. Who would you rather see nailing both Miley Cyrus and Haley Duff in a drunken toilet stall gang-bang? Case closed. Edge: Ricky Hatton

Manny, you are a national hero, and I confess that your stellar performance today blew me away. But all you won was one boxing match. Ricky Hatton won the war.

You know?

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