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Have blog, will travel - even if it's just to your neighborhood shopping mall. 

Last April, the Robinsons Retail Group opened its first community mall in Metro Manila right here in the BF  Commercial Center, the 3rd mall under its wing (the other two are in Pulilan, Bulacan and Cabanatuan City, and a fourth one being developed in Davao City.)  What many do not know is that Robinsons Supermarket is actually a mall.

To get us better acquainted with the mall, they organized their first Bloggers Meet and invited us.  We met up with its Mall Marketing Officer, Ms. Eileen Navarro, who shared with us its backgrond and services.

Although it is a mini-mall, it comes by the name of Robinsons Supermarket because the supermarket is its anchor business unit together with Handyman.  Its other regular units are the Robinsons Appliance store,  the department store, and its regular tenants like the Sun Shop, Sanries, Lechon Ahoy, and the Big Apple Pizza Co.

Robinson's Supermarket has a special focus on wellness --calling this The Wellness Generation--and has developed an in-house brand called Healthy You.  Its specialty areas also include Super Savers and Island Favorites, with the latter bringing local brands from all over the country under one roof. 

Handyman also has its own in-house brands like Bow Wow, the most popular dog food brand, and Wishy Washy, for soaps and disinfectants.  Every month, it features different themes and different sale items.

The Robinsons department store specialty on the other hand is bringing in all sale items, which are given exclusively to the BF branch.  Currently, it has its Big Bag Sale.

And finally, the mall has a wifi-free dining area cum events area cum activity area on the second floor for events like this Bloggers Meet and other future events (The Grand Wellness Week for Grandparents' Day, Mad Science, and Krissy and Ericka to follow this September).  The area also hosts Camp-1 Playland where parents can drop off their toddlers (for a fee) while they go shopping.

To cap off the day, they brought in the youthful band, Up Dharma Down, featuring Hana Flores (the daughter of Homer Flores).  I noticed that not all the people in the audience were young 'uns.

Special Mention must go to Big Apple Pizza Co. who provided our lunch of pizza (of course) with four different toppings.  I hope they stay around for a long time because I really like their offerings.  Pizza houses have come and gone and I find myself going back again and again to the oldest one, still my favorite; but Big Apple Pizza can give it a run for its pizza, especially with its white cheese.  The crust of their pizzas is not as thin but thin enough so that even after a day and a pop in the toaster, the pizza still tastes great.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
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Robinsons Supermarket

 
 
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Photography truly has a way of opening new worlds to us.  Seeing a a strikingly photogenic hijab-clad girl sitting on the steps of the musallah (small prayer center) in BF Northwest led me to befriend the Muslims who go there, who then invited me to attend the Eid ul-Fitr celebration in their masjid (mosque) in El Grande.

I jumped at the opportunity to make a photo essay of the occasion.  So early Friday morning I hied off to the address, which turned out to be a house that was converted into a mosque with only the hand-painted words, The Masjid, to indicate that it was one.

BF security personnel were doing a good job of warning vehicles to use another route; the celebration was, after-all, some kind of a street party with attractive prayer carpets laid end to end in front of the masjid and crowded with men, women, and children in festive attires.

I struck a conversation with  Hans Pamplona, a visitor with a very un-Muslim name, who turned out to be not only a fellow Ilonggo, but also a fellow photo enthusiast.  He ended up being a very supportive guide, cueing me in on what was happening and accompanying me inside the masjid, although we only got as far as the entrance as it was a packed house.  Sheik Abdul Razzaq from Pakistan led the prayers and and gave the khutbah (sermon), followed by the dua (supplication).  And then food was served.

Not only did I come away with a lot of photographs of Eid ul-Fitr as it was celebrated this year in BF Homes, I was also given a gift of a pack of dates.  More importantly, I felt they had also given me a gift of themselves.
 
 

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“I was fascinated with the Salcedo and Legaspi weekend markets.  I figured that there’s nothing in BF like it and since I’m a resident here I decided to organize one,” Andrew Yu revealed to me.  And so he did; so today we have the BF Homes Weekend Organic Market.  It takes a lot of optimism, chutzpah, and perseverance to transform an audacious idea like this into reality but the affable and personable Andrew seems to have plenty of these traits.
 
Replicating the business model of the extravagantly successful Salcedo Market and its lesser-known sister market may not be too hard, but duplicating its success may be the real challenge, as Andrew has found out.  From an initial 33 concessionaires--many of them drawn from these two bazaars--when he first started last November 6 inside the basketball court, it is now down to around just a dozen.
 
His Friday experiment lasted all of four months.  Undaunted, he moved it to the weekend starting in March.  “People prefer to go on Saturdays,” Andrew explained. Unfortunately, many of his former concessionaires had conflicting schedules elsewhere so he ended up with fewer sellers but with more buyers.  He figures it is just a matter of time--and enough publicity--before he gets the right balance.
 
Despite its name, it is not limited to organic products--although that is its central focus, in accordance with Andrew’s health and wellness motif.  His concessionaires are not limited to BF residents either.  His only criterion is that there should be no two sellers of the same product.  He provides the tent; you bring your own table and chairs or you could rent from him; and  electricity is free.  
 
I had been eyeing the Organic Market ever since I saw his ads around the BF commercial area and Dariel and I finally had the chance to visit one Saturday.  Even with only eight concessionaires present that day, we had no regrets dropping by.  After all, you go to any bazaar to find stuff you cannot get in your regular supermarkets.
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Rico dela Fuente of Mambos
Take the specialty cheeses of Mambos.  Entrepreneur Enrico dela Fuente, who comes all the way from Quezon City, has come up with his own Neufchatel cheeses from carabao’s milk and fromage de chevres from goat’s milk.  Then there is the more familiar kesong puti and the smoked kesong pinoy, which I got on my second visit.
 
The latter promised to be very interesting, as it was carabao's milk kesong puti treated to a native smoking process, hence the darker hue and the name, kesong pinoy.  How was it? As good as we had hoped, and even better!  The smoke flavor is sharp and clear, but not overwhelmingly heavy--it must be the wood used.  I discovered a great way to enjoy this cheese, by microwaving it on High for a few seconds.  Heating the cheese thus renders it into a flavorful and wonderfully not-so-gooey mess that's perfect on hot pan de sal.  I guess that shouldn't be a surprise--after all, it's made from the same kind of milk as mozzarella.
 
Why cheese?  I asked Rico.  “After my masters I was already thinking of having my own business.  Someone from the government just mentioned it to me, if I wanted to make my own cheese,” he explained.  “I looked at the internet, did some little research then I looked at how cheese was made and I found it kinda doable.  I just studied on my own; did research; bought books and after making the finished products, I gave it to my friends; got feedback; tried selling it in small markets then I got feedback again and made research on what other cheese products people might buy as well.  I also consulted some people in the know.”
 
Why Mambos?  Rico laughs as he recalled the origins of his brand name. “When I was trying to figure out the brand name for my products, it had to have a strong brand name recall. I thought of using the name that my former officemates used to call me, which was (Rico) Mambo, that's why I came up with Mambo.  I just added an “s” just like when you say Mambos green tea, Mambos guyabano juice, Mambos goat cheese.”  It may be a little, uh, cheesy, but hey, it works.  
 
He started experimenting with regular cream cheeses in 2005 but only in mid-2008 did he put up his dairy operations to complement his fruit processing business. Today, he has fresh cheeses and the regular processed ones.  Rico gets his supply of carabao’s milk from the Philippine Carabao Center and his goat’s milk from suppliers in Pangasinan.   At the start, he used garlic powder but is now growing his own fresh garlic (and other herbs) from which he extracts the juice.  
 
We pause in our conversation as Rico entertains a customer who buys his other bestselling cheese, the fresh Herb and Garlic, which comes in both carabao’s and goat’s milk versions.  This cheese, he says, is a favorite of foreigners; Filipinos have taken to it as well.  He also has pimiento and ricotta cheeses.  Another customer drops by to give him praise and some encouraging words. 
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Even as he is already supplying some restaurants and deli shops and is looking to expand his market, he still does his own marketing, purchasing, delivery, and selling while supervising his people at the same time.  And he has not forgotten his original products, his processed fruits--blueberry and mango balls that are excellent for ice cream, cakes, and crepes--and his fruit juices, the most popular of which is the guyabano juice, which for him is also the most difficult to produce.  
 “It’s the most popular, kasi walang tangang gumagawa ng guyabano juice, ako lang,” Rico jokes.  “In terms of quality of fruit, it's so hard to find guyabano fruits that are really perfect--nice-looking on the outside and good and nice-looking as well on the inside; most often, they’re nice-looking on the outside but bad on the inside.  Maybe that's why hardly anyone is making the juice or you seldom see it,” he explains, shaking his head as if to wonder why he was doing it at all.
 
I confess I am no fan of the fruit; but anything that is touted to be cancer-preventive is worth a try (plus I tell myself that Dariel and Dad do like it) so I buy his last bottle.  After I drain my glass of the guyabano juice shortly after coming home, I want Rico to know that, notwithstanding the danger to his sanity, God put him on this planet to keep on making this wonderful health drink.  I have become a fan--it just had the right amount of sweetness.  He says it must be consumed within three days after opening.  No worries there because I tell you, you’re going to finish it within 30 minutes after opening the bottle.
 
One juice that he started producing this summer is his pure cantaloupe juice.  Rounding out his drinks is his Green Tea using tea leaves from Taiwan.  Other than that, he sources all his ingredients locally, like the sea salt from Zambales.  He avails of a natural sweetener, stevia, and does not use preservatives.  Rico hopes that the health fruit juice industry will be given proper attention by the government to make them more competitive.

Now on her fourth week in the market, Ella, a BF Homes resident who is originally from Baguio, has partnered with a sister who helps her identify products from the north and sends it over for her buyers here.  This mother of two finds the Saturday market a perfect venue for her entrepreneurial spirit.  “I just left my job last year and I'm a full-time mom and on the side I'm trying to find things to do,” she tells me in a lilting voice.
 
Although her products may differ from week to week depending on their availability, she nevertheless has found some staples, like the malunggay- or spinach-enriched pancit canton that have found her steady buyers.   On my second visit, she showed me her other products for that day:  The fragrant bananas that were the best variety for making banana bread; the “kinuday” or Cordillera bacon; the Ibaloy native red rice; bugnay and coffee wine; native corn; and even dayap “from my mom’s tree.”
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[clockwise] Ella's table, AusZeal's Louie Ceniza, Marilao Puto from Bulacan, Ginny
I decided to go for two of her products that had intrigued us on our first visit--the  yacon and the camote chips.  Known also as the “apple of the earth,” the yacon is slowly penetrating the Filipino consciousness.  Originally from South America, an enterprising missionary brought this tuber to Benguet where it has thrived in the Cordillera climate; today, yacon is offered in agri fairs and bazaars and even some supermarkets.  
 
At first glance this new vegetable is something of a puzzle; it looks more like a smooth ginger or taro root, and my husband and I were expecting it to be like a potato inside, but cutting it open reveals an inner texture that is not starchy at all.  It's more like a turnip (singkamas), sweet and crisp with a hint of something peppery and minty, or a bit like ginger.  
 
The flavor is very refreshing, and we could easily imagine this new vegetable going well with fresh salads, or cut into finger-size bites and served with a dip for appetizer. As a health food, yacon is a must-have item on every diabetic’s table according to some websites.  Ella advised me to wash it only once--“It isn’t that sweet so do not wash it again after you peel it or it might dilute the sweetness.”
 
I have always liked banana chips but Dariel finds that many are cut a bit too thick to be enjoyable, especially as they harden in sugar.  The camote chips have a sweet flavor very much like banana chips--camote and saba being practically synonymous to many taste buds--but with the light flaky crispness of Pringles or Lay's chips.  They're crunchy and have just the right level of sweetness without going overboard with the sugar, and they’re very addictive!  

Another hearty merienda that did not go overboard with the sweetness is Ginny’s ginataang matamis.  This Filipino snack is one of my favorite native merienda and I was glad that it did not disappoint.  Another of her staple offerings is her tulingan cooked in gata, which I promise myself to get in the future.
 
Also on my second visit, I saw a new entrant to the market, South Fil-Zeal, headed by young entrepreneur, Maria Lourdes Ceniza.  Less than a year old, South Fil-Zeal is a direct importer of New Zealand meat products.  Louis has a lot to say about her company's competitive edge:  "Our meat products are lean, nutrient-rich, and are healthier as they are grass-fed, not grain-fed (which is what is usually done.)  The animals are reared in the fresh, open doors, on their natural diet of abundant grass, making them free of diseases like FMD and harmful residues."
 
Her company’s bestsellers are the sukiyaki cut, the oxtail, and the ground beef but for today, some cuts were not available.  “We didn’t really know which cuts would click; we just listed them down so that next week we could have them available,” she states.  Judging from her list, she already has attracted a market in BF Homes on her very first day.  

While the BF Weekend Organic Market may not yet match the popularity of its Makati counterparts, there was a steady stream of patrons as the day progressed, enough to bode well for Andrew’s dream of creating a go-to webazaar for the BF Homes community.  With a populace as large as BF Homes and its neighbors, there is no reason why it should lack for buyers and sellers alike.  Dariel and I only know that we will definitely be back for more.

BF Homes Weekend Organic Market

 
 
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Sensei Winston demonstrates how to lock properly
A familiar sight caught my eye as I was going around the baranggay center.  There pasted on the wall of their function room was a large sign that spelled AIKIDO, The Way of Harmony.  An aikido dojo here in BF!  Why have I not seen this before in my three years in BF?  I took down all of the pertinent data and promised to come back.

When I walked in on a Monday afternoon just after 5:30 p.m. for the start of their warm-ups, a flood of memories swept me almost 15 years back to the time I first enrolled in a Makati dojo.  I knew I wanted to take up martial arts but didn't exactly know which one.  I knew what I did not like--judo and tae  kwon do.  I finally settled on Aikido.

Because we used the harder puzzle-mats instead of the softer foam-lined rubber mats normally found in many dojos, it felt like we practicing on soft ground.  That and the constant parrying movements resulted in my waking up a month later and finding big bruises on my arms and legs.  Somehow that brought home to me the martial aspect of this budo or martial arts.
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But aikido as a martial art has undergone a series of transformations almost right from its inception because of a perceived "lack of realism in training," and therefore it is seen by many to be inapplicable in real combat. 

Students of the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, also known as Osensei or Great Teacher, diverged from his techniques and styles and created their own schools even while he was still alive.

Today, the schools and styles range from the soft to the hard forms, with some even incorporating competitions, contrary to the spirit of the founder. 
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Deriving mainly from the martial art, Daitoryu Aiki-jujutsu, Ueshiba branched out and "envisioned aikido not only as the synthesis of his martial training, but also an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation."

Its teaching centers on defending yourself while harmonizing with your attacker resulting in as little injury to both as possible.  Initially, it seems alien to the popular concept of martial arts where disabling an opponent almost always means delivering a fatal blow.  But go deeper into budo philosophy and you will see that your worst enemy is your own ego.

Becoming a passionate aikidoka made me fall in love with many things Japanese.  When I continued practicing aikido after temporarily moving in with my parents in Davao City, I created a Japanese-inspired bedroom for myself and bought books on the subject. 
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Shodan Tess Torres assisting Berna as she practices for her exam
Two of them were It's a Lot Like Dancing:  An Aikido Journal by Ueshiba's student, Terry Dobson and Angry White Pyjamas, by Robert Twigger, who chronicled his one-year intensive training in Japan.

I had to laugh when I saw the title of Dobson's book--he said it like it is--Aikido is a lot like dancing, the very description that came to my mind while watching my own sensei twirl around mesmerizingly in a constantly moving circular fashion--it was so aesthetically pleasing and so deadly at the same time.  

The nage (thrower) and the uke (receiver) have to harmonize their moves to blend together like a pair of experience dancers in order to effectively execute a technique.

The nage has to adapt and adjust to his or her uke to unbalance and render the uke vulnerable while allowing the uke to exit unharmed by doing an ukemi or a breakfall.  While the uke must attack honestly in order to allow his or her nage to apply the technique correctly.
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It's a play on balance that focuses on the role of your hara, or lower belly, said to be the center of your gravity or the center of your balance.  A person of gravitas is said to be one who contains a certain dignity and substance.  My sensei could not emphasize enough the importance of doing things from your hara, whether physically or spiritually.

How apt then to come across a dojo called the Hara Aikido Dojo.  Established in the mid-90s, its longevity is good sign of its success.  Sensei Winston Guasch is a 4th dan master who has studied under various Japanese senseis from the Hombu Dojo. 

He can switch back and forth between easy camaraderie with his students to sensei-mode in a flash, at home both as a friend and a teacher.  And his students respond accordingly.
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Tess Torres, the dojo's secretary, entertained me the second time I visited the dojo.  Showing that it's never too late to take up martial arts, she signed up five years ago as a 39-year-old veteran of gyms and yoga.  

"I needed another exercise that made me think.  I wanted an exercise that challenged my mental and physical abilities.  When I enrolled, I checked out another one just to compare, but of course I live near here so this was really my target dojo."

Not satisfied with what she saw in the other dojo, she happily settled here and has thrived ever since, reaching shodan (1st dan) level two years ago.  Her young son, Enzo, now practices with her; her daughter plans to join them next year. 
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Enzo (left) with other students of his age
I immediately noticed the wide range of age groups of the students, from grade schoolers to middle-age enthusiasts.  Apart from Tess and her son, there is also a father and son, brothers, and sisters.  Tess wants to encourage parents and children to practice together.

The class is almost evenly divided between the genders, says Tess, both ranging in ages as well.  I was privileged to be present for the exam of one of them.  "When I came here there were two women so it boosted my confidence--they seemed to be ok, they don't seem hurt," she laughs.

Speaking of her sensei, Tess relates that "he makes sure that for beginners, there's a one-on-one with you and him until you learn your correct uke.  And then he joins you in the techniques.  That's how he teaches you."
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Reflecting on the relative unpopularity of aikido, Tess echoes the glaring difference of aikido from other martial arts.  "Our culture embraces more of the competitive martial arts.  Even in school.  If you notice, there's no aikido in schools because schools like competition and competing with other schools like in basketball or volleyball.  When there's no competition, generally it's not well funded.  Not a lot of people are interested.  It's like, for what?  There has to be some goal.  But the goal here is really for refinement."

But she has no quarrel with MMA, shrugging that if that's what people want, you have to respect them.  For her, she has found her niche and sees herself practicing till she's 70.

"It's not about taking down somebody.  The self-defense part comes more as a reaction, the evasion.  When you're walking down the street, it's more about awareness and reaction (evasion).  It's not about doing incredible technique."
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Practicing the ukemi
"When you're attacked on the street, the first thing you can do is do an atemi (a strike or a feint) on your attacker and if he's disabled, the next thing you should do is to run!.  Preservation of life first.  Walk with confidence."

"But in a knife attack, practically speaking, the chances of escaping unscathed are probably none.  The goal is for you not to get stabbed fatally, but expect a 50% chance of taking a cut.  And as much as possible, just disable and not kill," Tess concludes.

My sensei used to tell this story.  An attractive woman was walking down an alley when her way is menacingly blocked by group of young men.  She confidently walks up to the leader, gives him a big smile, and asks in her most charming voice, "What time is it?"  The young man automatically looks down at his watch as if in a trance.  Smiling again, she walks past them.

That, my sensei, said is the aikido spirit as embodied in an atemi that unbalanced a would-be opponent without throwing a punch.  Osensei would have been proud.

Hara Aikido Dojo

 
 
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What is it with animals that arouse a primal fear in humans? Maybe we can trace it back to our evolutionary history and survival.  

Psychologists Vanessa LoBue and Judy DeLoache conducted a study that showed adults and children are adept at detecting the presence of snakes and spiders whether they fear them or not, not out of an innate fear of these creatures but maybe from "experience or learned bias."

However another research showed that it is not so much an evolutionary response as it is a natural fear by the inexperienced.  Indeed, my close encounter and observations at the Kinder Zoo seem to support this conclusion.

Last Saturday, The Pergola invited the Kinder Zoo of the Manila Zoo to showcase some of its animals at the mall.  The Zoo brought over Julia, the meter-long, full-sized adult caiman whose jaws were taped shut; Snikee, a very active 7-foot Burmese python; Pig-Ibig, the sleepy Vietnamese potbelly pig; Mols, the dancing Moluccan cockatoo, who feasted on sunflower seeds and grapes; and Boji, the Sulcata tortoise, who moved relatively fast for his size.

This was only the second stop of the roving Kinder Zoo after a three-month stay at the SM North and the enthusiastic response overwhelmed the organizers.  

It helped that we got lucky with the weather.  Coming at the start of the rainy season, the Man upstairs must have a special love for children and animals because He made sure we had a sunny afternoon to make this event a rousing success.
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As soon as the animals were let out of their cages, there was not a moment's rest as they attracted wave after wave of parents and children who were by turns curious, shy, tentative, terrified, amazed, , delighted, exhilarated, and entertained.  

Given the chance to mingle with the animals, they began to relax and interact with them.  But not all children did; there were one or two who adamantly refused to let their natural wonder overcome their fear.

It did not seem to border on agrizoophobia, the fear of wild animals; it may have been more of a fear of the unknown for these children.  It may surprise them that many wild animals have a natural fear humans borne out of the fear of predation.  

But just as exposure to animals can make people lose their fear of them, so do animals lose their fear of humans after constant exposure to the human world.  However, this leads to dependency and ultimately conflict.  So fear on both sides serve to protect us both from upsetting the balance of Nature.
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I had my own chance to face my own fear of the snake at the Crocodile Farm in Davao City.  Dars challenged me to pose with a Burmese python--whose circumference was probably as big as my thigh--and have it wrap around my neck as was the case with everyone else.

Oooookay.  Piece of cake--except for that instance when I felt its powerful muscles moving as I held its length in my arms and my heart just stopped momentarily.  Let's just say that's why I prefer to be behind the camera.

When I was a child, I had nightmares about being eaten by a tiger.  It was not so much the thought of dying that terrorized me--I had thought that that would be the end of my soul too, and then I would cease to exist forever.  

Isn't that how the native Indians of America also felt towards the camera?  It may well have resembled an animal in their minds, ready to devour their souls if their pictures were taken.  Fascinating objects of wonder these are, animals and cameras alike.

See Picture Gallery here.
 
 
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Manual voting seems so ancient.  This picture was taken back in 2004.

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With the success of our first automated polls, there's no going back to manual voting.

I was one of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Volunteers for this election and was assigned as a Roving Photographer for our 76 precincts grouped under 13 clusters.  Here are my notes about election day.

1.  It was generally peaceful.  At least in Phase 3.  Yes, it may not have been as orderly as people wanted it to be--people shouted; tempers flared; and maybe there were near-riots--but there was honest effort on the part of the teachers and the PPCRV volunteers to give everyone their due.  I was also in awe of the voters who patiently stood under the unforgiving sun and waited for their turn to vote.  I salute everyone.

2.  Can a cleaner election season be far behind?  For now, we seem to have dealt dagdag-bawas a fatal blow with our first automated counting.  If we managed to somewhat clean our electoral system, I hope it won't be far in the future when we can also do away with 90% of our election posters and hold a more environmentally friendly election season.

3.  It could have been better.  It was our first time for automated polls so the chaos was expected.  Nevertheless, crowd control could have been better.  Planning could have been better.  Information dissemination could have been better.  But the Comelec never tested the system in a mock election scenario so even they had to admit that their clustering system, which greatly contributed to the huge crowds, is something they have to rethink in the future. 
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4.  We needed more volunteers.  The PPCRV had its hands full handling pre-election preparations and providing election day assistance to the Comelec.  On hindsight, more planning for crowd control could have been done but the organization did what it could, thanks to a lot of  help from its dedicated volunteers and our parish church, which lent its site and facilities to the PPCRV pre-election seminars and meetings.

5.  It was a miracle no one fainted in the oppressive, rubber-melting, strength-sapping, sanity-endangering and mind-numbing heat.  I couldn't sleep the night before.  I thought it was hotter than usual.  Election day proved no better.  I had to get up at 5:15 a.m. to be at the site by 6 a.m.  By 10:30 a.m., I was too enervated to continue so I went home to take a short rest and change to sandals.  My neck was chafing from lugging a camera for hours on end, which wasn't exactly a sane thing to do that day.  They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.  Well, only askal dogs and patriotic Pinoys stay out in the midday sun and tough it out. 
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6.  Senior citizens rock.  There was the smiling 85-year-old Mrs. Bella Cotoner who came with her daughter followed by her 90-year-old husband, Mr. Venusto Cotoner, who walked with his grandson.  With canes in hand and hope on their faces, they managed to walk into our historic first automated polls.  Wheelchair-bound men and women were not an uncommon sight either.  At the other end of the generation scale was first-time voter, 19-year-old Larissa Lim, who voted after the Cotoners.  It may have been that the senior citizens caught my attention more but they seem to have outnumbered the youth that day.

7.  Democracy is worth all this.  We had our first automated vote even though the automated part was really limited to just automated counting but who cared?  Something was automated at last.  We leaped from 3rd-world 20th-century backwardness and knocked on first-world 21st-century technology, even if only for the counting part.  It's a small step up but a giant leap forward.  So were the pre-election doomsayers justified?  Let's just say given the track record of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, they had every right to keep everyone vigilant.

8.  If I become president....  I would have the Comelec build voting centers all over the country, with complete amenities like waiting areas, bathrooms, food counters, voters assistance areas, etc.  The centers could double as convention centers in the non-election years to generate funds.  But it would also serve as a venue for continuing voters' eduction seminars as well as biometrics center, voters' lists cleansing center, etc.  Voting should not stop after the polls close--it should be a continuous process of improving our technology, our systems, our mechanics, our voters, and not least of all, our candidates.  I can dream, can't I?  

9.  And speaking of biometrics, if I were president (while I'm at it), I would implement the National ID system.  Half the long lines and voting delay can be attributed to the time spent (or wasted) registering at the Comelec desk.  The next part of automation should be for a reliable voters' identification system.  The third part can perhaps be devoted to automated voting per se. 
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10.  Teachers and volunteers should merit a day-off the day after elections.  It was a 20-hour day for most of us, perhaps even longer for the teachers.  At least some volunteers had shifts--the teachers worked straight.  Their enviable stamina could put many athletes to shame.  In the future, I hope voters pause and take note of their dedication, their nightmarish working hours, and their work ethic before they heap criticisms on them.  When I went home at midnight, many of them were still inside the court.

11.  I still haven't had the time to see if there was news about the 300,000 teachers in danger of disenfranchisement.  Of all the duh scenarios about this election, perhaps this takes the cake.  You mandate teachers to serve then you penalize them for voting elsewhere?!  Sometimes, you wonder if working in the Comelec melts your brain.  

12.  Elections in the Philippines is hope and despair personified.  It gives me hope to see how patriotic we can be; the look on some voters' faces while they were voting and after they had cast their votes was priceless.  That said, it makes me despair to see the kind of people we elect.  Erap Estrada in second place?  On the other hand, you might ask, who made him eligible to run again?  Intellectually-challenged and intellectually-endowed leaders seem to have little difference between them.  Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto, and Lito Lapid in the Senate?  Don't get me wrong--Vilma Santos, from what I've read of her, seems to have performed admirably in Batangas.  But I can name more deserving candidates than those three men above.

13.  Elections in the Philippines is a paradox.  All candidates promise the sun and the moon (some may even promise the universe) but they cannot follow a simple rule and plea to follow the poster rule?  In the same breath, we expect the sun and the moon (and maybe the universe, too) from our candidates and yet we also cannot follow the simple rule regarding election posters?

14.  The surveys were, after all, accurate.  Will they get a little more love and respect from the public after this?   

15.  And lastly, it's a new beginning.  All eyes are on the president-elect.  His late mother hardly had the normal 100-day honeymoon before the bickbats and coups started flying her way.  We gave the outgoing president 9 years of our lives.  She gave us 9 years of suffering and yet we tolerated her.  Would that we give Noynoy Aquino the space and support he deserves and needs to restore our faith and trust in government.  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made sure that the next president will have a hard time--her final laugh is appointing Justice Corona, a known crony of hers as Chief Justice--so bear this in mind as Aquino negotiates his way through the landmines she has unconscionably laid down for her successor and pray for him.  God bless the Philippines!
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