September 2004

Perryscope
By Perry Diaz

After surviving the biggest threat — the Angelo de la Cruz kidnapping — to the stability of her presidency, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) made a bold move by visiting China. Chinese President Hu Jintao rolled out the red carpet for GMA’s state visit.

A total of five bilateral “agreements of cooperation” were signed covering tourism, energy, fisheries, trade and investments. China and the Philippines agreed to conduct a “seismic study” of potential petroleum reserves in the South China Sea which included the Spratly Islands, a small group of islands claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. Included in the deal were financing of several major infrastructure projects. And, according to Philippine Communications Director Silvestre Afable, Jr., “the two countries agreed to cooperate on defense and security by sharing intelligence and technology.” It was not clear if “sharing intelligence and technology” was covered by an “agreement of cooperation” or, simply, by a good-faith handshake between the two leaders, the mechanism of which would be worked out by their respective resident spies, oops, I mean diplomatic attaches.

What was in GMA’s mind when she thought of paying her giant neighbor a visit? It’s like a kitten entering the tiger’s den and extending her cute little paws as a friendly gesture. Evidently, it worked. GMA left a good impression upon President Jintao and took the bacon home.

Is the Philippines ready to embrace it’s erstwhile ideological adversary by opening its doors to trade, tourism, investments and “sharing intelligence and technology” with China? Let’s look at some historical trivia.

Long before Ferdinand Magellan “discovered” the Philippines in 1521, the inhabitants of the 7,100 islands in the archipelago had been trading with their neighbors: Chinese, Japanese, Malays, and Sumatrans. Actually, for 2,000 years preceding Magellan’s historic “discovery,” the archipelago was already the major crossroad in the East.

During the reign of Emperor Yung Lo of China (1402 to 1424), he claimed the island of Luzon and placed it under his empire. The biggest settlement of Chinese was in Lingayen, now the capital of Pangasinan. Lingayen also became the seat of the Chinese colonial government in Luzon. When Yung Lo died, the Chinese colonial government was dissolved. However, the Chinese settlers in Lingayen remained and prospered. Most of them hispanized their names during the Spanish era. In 1828, Spain decreed that the Chinese in the Philippines may form their own local government. Thus, Lingayen — with its large Chinese community — had two municipal governments: one for the natives, or “indios,” and one for the Chinese, or “sangley.”

According to a recent article in the Manila Times by Restituto Basa, Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s roots came from the sangley community in Lingayen. One of the sangley’s leaders was a lawyer named Don Manuel Facundo de Quitos. He became a “gobernadorcillo” of the sangley. Don Manuel married Regina Ursua from a Southern Tagalog province and they had a daughter Brigida de Quintos. Brigida married Lorenzo Alberto Alonso and they had a daughter Teodora de Quintos Alonso. Teodora Alonso married Francisco Rizal Mercado. These were the parents of Jose Rizal Mercado. Rizal was not only a Pinoy, he was also a Chinoy!

With a long historical link between the Philippines and China, it is no surprise that Chinese influence in the Philippines has remained strong even after the Communist takeover of China and the expulsion of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and his Kuomintang to Taiwan. The Cold War that ensued had placed the Philippines squarely behind the United States. The Philippines’ foreign policy had always been patterned after the US foreign policy. In the United Nations, the Philippines echoed the US positions. Whenever the US went to war — World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian War, and Iraq War — the Philippines sent a Filipino contingent to fight alongside their American allies. Every Philippine president was considered pro-American. From the turn of the last century — a span of more than 100 years — the Philippines had always stayed within the protective shadow of the United States. By doing so, the United States has considered its relationship with the Philippines as “very special.”

But just like a “Very Special” Napoleon Cognac, a 100-year-old “very special” relationship could turn sour if not handled properly. The Angelo de la Cruz affair had severed the umbilical cord that has kept the Philippines a de facto colony — economically, militarily, and politically — of the United States . The Filipino-American community was divided to its core. However, the Filipino people stood behind GMA during the loneliest period of her presidency — a military coup ready to unseat GMA if Angelo was beheaded by his Iraqi captors. One citizen’s life for the president’s political life. GMA, in her boldest decision, brought Angelo home — alive. The “coalition of the willing” protested the decision of GMA to pull out the Philippine troops in Iraq in exchange for the release of the kidnapped Angelo de la Cruz. The Philippines was no longer part of the “coalition of the willing.” And GMA became a pariah in the free world until… her state visit to China.

Upon her return to the Philippines, she reported that China was willing to help the Philippines with military aid to fight terrorism. For the first time since the communists took over mainland China, there is now a window of opportunity for cooperation between the Philippines and China. The question that lingers in people’s mind is: Can China — with its communist regime — be trusted?

On September 19, President Jintao took over, peacefully, the most powerful position of Chairman of the Central Military Commission from retiring Jiang Zemin. It was the first orderly transfer of power in modern China. How long will the Philippines-China friendship last? How would it affect the Philippines’ “very special” relationship with the United States? What would the United States do?

Like any new relationship, there are more questions than answers. However, if the Chinese and the Philippine governments would respect the sovereignty of each country, then the opportunities for mutual progress is limitless. This could also be the beginning of real peace in the region. And the United States should be happy that its protégé has finally come of age.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

When I was a young boy, most boys wanted to be doctors and lawyers and most girls wanted to be  nurses and teachers.  It is no wonder that, today, the Philippines has an abundance of doctors, lawyers, nurses and teachers.  When the “Brain Drain” — the Filipino Diaspora — started in the 1960’s, thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers left the Philippines for greener pastures in the United States and other countries.  Left behind were the lawyers to govern, or misgovern, the country.

In the past 30 years, the Filipino doctors, nurses and teachers didn’t have any problems landing the jobs they sought in America, provided that they pass the licensing and credential requirements of their professions.  Since all of the examinations were in English, proficiency in the English language was an indispensable attribute.

With the shortage of nurses in the United States that began in the early 1980’s, due to the hysteria on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Americans  — particularly Caucasians — shunned the nursing profession.  Hospitals started relying on foreign-trained nurses.   Due to the Filipino nurses’ technical skills, patient skills, and proficiency in English, they have an advantage over the other foreign-trained nurses.

The biggest problem for all foreign-trained nurses is passing the requisite tests for nursing professionals — CGFNS, TOEFL, TSE and the all-important NCLEX.  The applicants’ English proficiency is tested in the TOEFL or Test of English as a Foreign Language.  Every year, 800,000 individuals around the world take the TOEFL.  The number is rapidly increasing every year because English — more than a billion people on earth consider English as their second language — is the universal language of commerce.

The Philippines’ claim as the third largest English-speaking country in the world may have been true a couple of generations ago.  Today, the ability of Filipinos to converse in English is rapidly deteriorating.  According to recent test results, only 16% of Filipino nurses passed the TSE or Test of Spoken English.

Shortage of nurses in the United States would have been a boon to the recruitment of Filipino nurses.  The key factor is that Filipino nurses are exposed to the English language in Philippine schools.  However, non-English-speaking countries — particularly China — are now on a fast track to teach English to their large labor force.  According to the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FAME), 300,000 Chinese nurses are attending English schools.  India, Korea, and Thailand are encouraging students to learn English.

According to a recent article by Elrond Galaraga, titled “Bad News for Nurses,” published on the SunStar, India — with a force of one billion people — has already cornered the Florida market, “guaranteeing the entry of 8,000 Indian nurses into the US nursing workforce.”  The Indian government has implemented a program to produce nurses like assembly line products, fully trained in American English and ready to pass all the required licensing tests.

South Korea, Galaraga said, “is gaining  ferociously on the competition, as evidenced by the 100 percent leap in their examinees passing the NCLEX.”  He added that the “South Koreans even asked a famous university in Cebu to hold a special class for their nurses.”  Galaraga concluded, “What an irony, to be training foreigners to take jobs away from our own nurses.”

And finally, Galaraga raised a red flag by saying: “There has been disturbing news that recruiters are now looking to other countries since Philippine nurses are flunking the examinations especially the NCLEX.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “Is Pilipino good for Filipinos?” It was about House Bill 1563 — now in the Philippine Congress — which seeks to make “Filipino” as the primary medium of instruction in Philippine schools.  Sponsors of the bill wanted to replace English as the medium of instruction.  They believe that the use of “Filipino” would “better promote love of Filipino.”

Given this impending catastrophic situation of the besieged Filipino nurses, what good things would be evoked that would warrant reverting the medium of instruction to Filipino.  Oh, yes,  the Philippine government had tried it before for about 15 years only to change it back to English in the 90’s.  Did the Filipinos learn to love Filipino more than ever?  Or did their proficiency in English decline?  Wasn’t that the time “Taglish” — a form of Carabao English interspersed with Tagalog words — flourished?    Quite frankly, I think that changing the medium of instruction only confused the students.  Do we expect “Taglish”-speaking nurses to get jobs in the US? Or, first and foremost, do we expect them to pass the qualifying tests?

In my opinion, the Philippine government must keep English as the medium of instruction.  In addition, it must implement an immersion-type program to teach nurses conversational English, a key factor in hiring foreign-trained nurses in the US.  And lastly, it must periodically review the curriculum to make it more attuned to the constantly evolving environment in the nursing profession in the United States.   Let’s bring the Philippine nursing profession to the cutting-edge technology of US hospitals.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

“Hope is on the way,” was the oft-repeated slogan during the Democratic National Convention which formalized the candidacies of John F. Kerry and John Edwards as the Democrats’ presidential and vice presidential nominees, respectively. “Hope is on the way,” the two Johns led their delegates in chanting “Hope…”

Four years earlier, Republican candidates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney promised the Republican delegates that “Help is on the way.” Eight years earlier, in 1992, Bill Clinton — the man from Hope, Arkansas — emerged as the Democratic candidate against George HW Bush (the father).

Last September 2, 2004, George W Bush accepted his nomination for a second presidential term. As he concluded his acceptance speech, “A safer world, a more hopeful America” was emblazoned on the humongous screen behind him.

By combining the Democratic and Republican slogans, the message would be: “Hope is on the way to a safer world and a more hopeful America.” Why not? Isn’t that what this year’s election is all about? This year’s election is not just electing the President of the United States. It is about electing the leader of the nation that would lead the world in charting the future of mankind — a world at peace and free of terrorism or a decaying world in perpetual turmoil.

On the domestic front, it is about an America searching for a Solomonic wisdom to preserve the ideals of the founding fathers while developing a formula that would make America safe and secure from the threat of terrorism without infringing its citizenry of the freedom that the founding fathers bestowed upon them. The war on terrorism that followed 9/11 has placed President George W. Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, in a tenuous position where he has to perform a diplomatic/political balancing act on a tightrope without a safety net. So far, the President has done a superb job as the leader in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, on American soil, President Bush — faced with a close election race — has to grapple with an ever changing public opinion on domestic issues. Compounding the fluid state of a myriad of domestic issues are the diverse priorities of the states. For example, jobs. Some states may have a lower unemployment rate than other states. Immigration issues are more prevalent in southern states but not in the northern states. Different states, different issues.

California, the most populous state with 55 electoral votes, is so diversified that nobody could — or would — tackle its problems. The major presidential candidates seem to leave California alone — for the moment — and let “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger handle the state’s problems.

California is the state that nobody wants to touch with a ten-foot pole. Instead, the presidential candidates are locked in mortal combat in a few smaller states called the “battleground states.” These are the 12 states whose voters are slightly leaning for Bush or for Kerry — Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. On Election Day, these states could sway either way. They are the swing states.

With each state having its own homegrown problems and local issues, the presidential candidates have to address these issues state by state. In essence, there are 51 presidential elections happening all at once — the 50 states and the District of Columbia — on November 2, 2004. However, the candidates are trying to simplify their campaign strategies by tailoring a national message that would send a message to all the states regardless of the different priorities and issues in the states. One message fits all. No kidding! Does it make you wonder that running for the president of the United States is like running in 50 different countries all at once?

Ultimately, running for president of the United States is all about leadership. Americans want their president to be a leader of all Americans. They want their president to be the leader of the international community. They want their president to be a strong and resolute leader. They want their president to be a caring leader. They want their president to unify America in body and mind. They want their president to keep their homes and families safe and secure. They want their president to make America and the rest of the world peaceful. They want their president to make America prosperous. They want their president to create jobs for all Americans. They want their president to provide a health care system for all Americans. And they hope… that whoever wins on November 2, 2004, would be the embodiment of these leadership qualities.

With the election less than two months away, America’s hope would become crystal clear in every home in the country. Every American would go to the polling booth on November 2, 2004, and ask themselves: “Who is the candidate that I hope would be a great leader of this country and who would epitomize the American Dream?” Yes, at the end of the day, it is all about the American Dream.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

“Hope is on the way,” was the oft-repeated slogan during the Democratic National Convention which formalized the candidacies of John F. Kerry and John Edwards as the Democrats’ presidential and vice presidential nominees, respectively. “Hope is on the way,” the two Johns led their delegates in chanting “Hope…”

Four years earlier, Republican candidates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney promised the Republican delegates that “Help is on the way.” Eight years earlier, in 1992, Bill Clinton — the man from Hope, Arkansas — emerged as the Democratic candidate against George HW Bush (the father).

Last September 2, 2004, George W Bush accepted his nomination for a second presidential term. As he concluded his acceptance speech, “A safer world, a more hopeful America” was emblazoned on the humongous screen behind him.

By combining the Democratic and Republican slogans, the message would be: “Hope is on the way to a safer world and a more hopeful America.” Why not? Isn’t that what this year’s election is all about? This year’s election is not just electing the President of the United States. It is about electing the leader of the nation that would lead the world in charting the future of mankind — a world at peace and free of terrorism or a decaying world in perpetual turmoil.

On the domestic front, it is about an America searching for a Solomonic wisdom to preserve the ideals of the founding fathers while developing a formula that would make America safe and secure from the threat of terrorism without infringing its citizenry of the freedom that the founding fathers bestowed upon them. The war on terrorism that followed 9/11 has placed President George W. Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, in a tenuous position where he has to perform a diplomatic/political balancing act on a tightrope without a safety net. So far, the President has done a superb job as the leader in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, on American soil, President Bush — faced with a close election race — has to grapple with an ever changing public opinion on domestic issues. Compounding the fluid state of a myriad of domestic issues are the diverse priorities of the states. For example, jobs. Some states may have a lower unemployment rate than other states. Immigration issues are more prevalent in southern states but not in the northern states. Different states, different issues.

California, the most populous state with 55 electoral votes, is so diversified that nobody could — or would — tackle its problems. The major presidential candidates seem to leave California alone — for the moment — and let “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger handle the state’s problems.

California is the state that nobody wants to touch with a ten-foot pole. Instead, the presidential candidates are locked in mortal combat in a few smaller states called the “battleground states.” These are the 12 states whose voters are slightly leaning for Bush or for Kerry — Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. On Election Day, these states could sway either way. They are the swing states.

With each state having its own homegrown problems and local issues, the presidential candidates have to address these issues state by state. In essence, there are 51 presidential elections happening all at once — the 50 states and the District of Columbia — on November 2, 2004. However, the candidates are trying to simplify their campaign strategies by tailoring a national message that would send a message to all the states regardless of the different priorities and issues in the states. One message fits all. No kidding! Does it make you wonder that running for the president of the United States is like running in 50 different countries all at once?

Ultimately, running for president of the United States is all about leadership. Americans want their president to be a leader of all Americans. They want their president to be the leader of the international community. They want their president to be a strong and resolute leader. They want their president to be a caring leader. They want their president to unify America in body and mind. They want their president to keep their homes and families safe and secure. They want their president to make America and the rest of the world peaceful. They want their president to make America prosperous. They want their president to create jobs for all Americans. They want their president to provide a health care system for all Americans. And they hope… that whoever wins on November 2, 2004, would be the embodiment of these leadership qualities.

With the election less than two months away, America’s hope would become crystal clear in every home in the country. Every American would go to the polling booth on November 2, 2004, and ask themselves: “Who is the candidate that I hope would be a great leader of this country and who would epitomize the American Dream?” Yes, at the end of the day, it is all about the American Dream.

Balitang Kutsero is my monthly column in the Philippine Fiesta, a bi-monthly newspaper in Sacramento, California.—Perry Diaz

Yo!  Finally, Max’s Restaurant has arrived in Sacramento, next to Seafood City.  With Manila Restaurant, Chow King and Red Robin, the South Pointe Shopping Center is turning out to be a Little Manila Town.  My sidekick-cum-journalist, James Macaquecquec, has observed that about a third of the Pinoys he saw at the new Little Manila Town were real estate agents and mortgage brokers!  Makes me wonder if Amway has finally gone into the real estate business.

There’s a new restaurant in the South Pointe Shopping Center (a.k.a. Little Manila Town) called L&L Hawaiian Barbecues.  The franchise is owned by Eddie Flores, a Filipino entrepreneur in Hawaii.  One of Eddie’s hobbies is building community centers like the one he built in Hawaii.  Supposedly, he raised more than $20 million from private donors to build the center.

Talking about food: In Hawaii, to show that you like the food, you’d say, “I broke my mouth.”  In Japan, you burp to show your appreciation for the food you ate.  In the Philippines, you clean your teeth with a toothpick with one hand while the other hand is covering your mouth.  Make sure you do not show your teeth while picking them.  You’d be called “bastos.”  In America, you pick your teeth after you’ve left the table.  But do not cover your mouth with your other hand.  If you do, people think you’re weird.  In some parts of Borneo, do not eat with your left hand.  It’s considered unsanitary.

FPJ Saga Continues:  FPJ’s supporters have formed “Uno Poe” to pursue an electoral protest against GMA.  The problem is: GMA has beaten them in the “numbers game.”  Rumor has it that GMA’s group calls themselves “Sam Poe.” That sounds like “10” in Tagalog — “Sampu.”  Well, that’s 10 for GMA and 1 for Poe.   How can Poe win?

Defeated VP candidate Loren Legarda said there is no need for reconciliation with new VP Noli De Castro.  She said Noli is not her enemy; however, she refuses to concede defeat.  One thing about Pinoys, we’re a proud people.  When we lose, we’ll say we’re cheated, not defeated.

“Fake money circulating in Metro,” says the news article.  “We still have no idea how much in counterfeit money is out there,” said a Bangko Sentral official.  Don’t they usually have this kind of problem after each election?

Meanwhile, Angelo de la Cruz is finally free!  “Hero’s Welcome Awaits Him in RP,” says a news headline.  And guess, what?  Senator Lito Lapid wants to play Angelo de la Cruz in a movie.  Nothing is wrong with that.  After all, the Honorable Senator Lapid was an actor before becoming a politician.  I just have a gut feeling that with his popularity, Angelo de la Cruz might even run for Senator in a few years.  And that is just a stepping stone to something bigger. “President Angel de la Cruz” certainly has a nice ring to it.

“Court Stops ‘Imelda’,” says a tabloid headline.  Imelda Marcos has succeeded in stopping the documentary about her life in the Philippines.  Meanwhile, the documentary is scheduled to be shown in the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.  Wow!  That’s what I call marketing genius.  Forget about the measly pesos the film would earn in Manila theaters.  Think big, think US dollars and the Euros.

I bumped into Clem Fernandez the other day.  He’s now sporting a short ponytail.  Why not?  He just got back from Manila where he is a movie producer!  He said that he completed his first movie titled “Sex Scandal.”  Hey, give the macho-nurin Pinoys what they want.

The Fourth Annual API Achievers Scholarship Awards Event was held at the Sacramento Community Center last July 16.  A hundred and five students were awarded $1,000 each by the Ronald McDonald House Charities.  The awardees included  Fil-Ams Marielle Discipulo and Rebecca Apostol.  The 700 guests included Davis Mayor Ruth Asmndson, Ruthe Catolico Ashley, Dave and Dinnah San Pedro, Josie Patria, Dr. Fred Aquino, Sorcy Apostol, Cynthia Bonta, and yours truly.  After the awards event, the guests were treated to a performance by “The Stars of the Peking Acrobats.”

Good news!  The Filipino Veterans program was put back in the state budget and Governor Arnold did not axe it.  For those who heeded the call to bombard the Governor’s office with emails — thank you.  And thanks to Guv Arnold for not vetoing the program.

Guess what the No. 1 novelty item is?  The Arnold Schwarzenegger bobblehead.  Guv Arnold settled his three-month legal battle with the manufacturer.  The Guv didn’t like the original bobblehead holding a gun.  All parties agreed to market a new bobblehead without a gun.  Rumor has it that the old bobblehead with a gun is going to be a rare collector’s item.  If anybody finds one, pleeez call me.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Like clockwork, Berting gets up at 7:00 every morning, Monday through Friday, have his usual breakfast of tapsilog and a cup of coffee.  While eating, he reads all the major newspapers (about seven) in Manila. This morning, one newspaper headline said, “GMA says RP has Fiscal Crisis.”  “This is going to be bad for my business,” he told himself.

He dressed up and looked at himself at the oversized gilded mirror in his bedroom.  “Not bad,” he told himself, smiling, “Not bad at all for poor boy that made good… very good.”  His left eye twitched occasionally.  He almost lost his left eye in an accident when he was 13 years old.  He was then a runner for the remnants of the Asiong Salonga gang in Tondo.  He put on his sunglasses.  “That takes care of that little problem.”  His twitching left eye became his trademark and his friends call him “Berting Kirat” or just “Kirat.”

He opened his drawer and picked up a 10-carat solitaire pinky ring and a watch from his expensive collection — a diamond-studded gold Rolex President.  This watch had a sentimental value because the late Senator Cosme de la Concepcion, his former boss, gave it to him.  Those were the days when he worked as a chauffeur for “Kissme,” as the powerful Senator — and bohemian — was called by his friends, especially the women.

He kissed his sleeping wife, Ai Ai, and left the room.  Ai Ai had been playing mahjong till 3:00 AM.  Berting looked at his young and beautiful wife and smiled. Ai Ai is the daughter of one of Berting’s former clients, Toto, a rich Chinese smuggler, and Gigi, a beautiful Spanish mestiza. It was rumored that Gigi was once working as a guest relations officer – used to be “hostess” — at the Bayside Club on Roxas Blvd.

Berting stepped out the door to his waiting car, a Mercedes S500 with tinted windows.  “I hope you did not forget to buy a bottle of Remy,” he asked Rico, his driver.  “I got it, sir,” Rico answered.  Berting is going to give the expensive bottle of Remy Martin “Napoleon Baccarat” cognac to his friend, Ignacio “Quincy” Ramos, at his birthday party tonight.  Quincy is a tax examiner with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  His friends call him “Quincy” because of his practice of requiring a 15 (quinse in Spanish) percent kickback.

Berting arrived at his office at the Manila Peninsula — the “Pen.”  He instructed his driver to pick him up at 12:00 for a lunch meeting.  He looked around and then went to the coffee shop.  He took one of the empty tables and signaled the waitress for his usual coffee.  This is Berting’s office. The “Pen” is where Berting and other fixers hang out everyday, except weekends.  This is where they conduct their business.

Berting and his associates do not call themselves “fixers.”  They hate the word “fixer.” They want to be called “brokers.”  Whether they call themselves brokers or fixers, the correct description of what they do is “influence peddling.”  They act as facilitators to clients who want to do business with corrupt government officials.  They use their connections with elected officials and government bureaucrats to “facilitate” illicit deals.  In the old days, a 5% commission would suffice to fix a deal.  Today, it could be anywhere from 20% to 50%.

As Berting was drinking his first cup of coffee, Bong, another fixer, joined him and told him about the successful outcome of a deal they worked together.  Bong handed Berting an envelope, “Here’s your cut.”  Berting looked inside the envelope and saw a thick wad of P100 bills and smiled.  “By the way, what do you think of the fiscal crisis?  Will it affect our business?” Berting asked.  “Ah, don’t worry about it, pare,” Bong — who is more experienced in this business — said, “Our business is good any time… all the time.  It’s recession-free.  There are always people out there who need us.  So, don’t worry, we’ll be around for as long as this country exists.  I’d better go, I’ll see you tonight at Quincy’s party, okay?” He stood up and left.  Berting held the envelope tightly.  This reminded him of his first “fixing” job when he was driving for Senator “Kissme.”  The Senator told him to go see Mr. Reyes about a deal being worked under the table.  Berting went back and forth several times serving as the conduit between Kissme and Mr. Reyes.  After the deal was concluded, Mr. Reyes gave Berting his first envelope. “Not bad, not bad at all,” Berting told himself.

At 11:30 AM, Rico came back. “Bring me to Santa Maria Country Club,” he commanded.  They reached Santa Maria — the most exclusive country club in the Philippines — in one hour.  Berting rushed in and found Mr. Santander waiting for him at a table.  “Sorry I’m late,” Berting said.  “Don’t worry, please sit down.  I know you’re very busy so I ordered the food already.  Care for a Remy while we wait?” Mr. Santander asked. “Sure,” Berting replied.  One of the two waiters serving them ran to the bar to get a Remy XO.  Their table was being waited by two waiters to make sure that they got served right away.

After their sumptuous lunch Mr. Santander went on with his agenda.  “Robert, I need your help.  This guy from BIR told me that I owe the government P120 million in back taxes.  His name is Ignacio Ramos.”  “Oh, yeah, I know that guy.  Actually, he’s having his birthday party tonight.  How can I be of help?”  Berting — Robert to his clients — asked.  “Well, I can afford to pay P20 million. Do you think he’ll agree to that?” Mr. Santander queried.  Berting replied, “You see, that’s P100 million you’re trying to keep.  GMA needs the money to keep our country afloat.”  Berting took a sip from the snifter handed to him by the waiter and said, “Excellent Remy, thanks Roger.”  “You’re welcome,” Mr. Santander responded meekly.  After three minutes of deafening silence, Berting said, “I have a plan for you.  How about paying P40 million in back taxes and you give me a 25% commission from the amount you’d save? I have to take care of several people including Mr. Ramos.  You’ll end up with a net saving of P60 million.”  “That’s very generous of you Robert. I like your plan.  What do we do now?”  Mr. Santander said with a sigh.  “Mr. Ramos will call you.” Berting replied with finality in his voice.  “Not bad, not bad at all.  That’s 15% for Quincy and 10% for me,” Berting told himself and he let out a smile.  The lunch meeting ended at 2:00 PM just in time for him to go back to his office at the “Pen” to pick up another envelope.  It was a busy day for Berting Kirat, indeed.

(Note:  This article is fictional and all the characters are fictional.  Any similarity in names and circumstances is purely coincidental.)