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#NaMochaYo

I guess the recent Assistant Secretary of the PCOO appointment of Mocha Uson is probably the best “pie-in-your-face” moment for all her detractors. I could imagine the horrified look on their faces when the appointment was announced. As expected, her detractors were up on their toes denouncing the move by questioning her background, raising her past, and questioning her qualifications. But one thing that you cannot deny is that she has redeemed herself, leaving her detractors completely muddied and embarrassed.

First up, I was never a huge fan of Mocha and I only get to read up on her when her detractors are up in arms over something she said or something that came up just like her appointment. I never read her posts so I have no proof whatsoever that she is responsible for spreading fake news as what her detractors would commonly say. All I know at this point is that she is a huge supporter of the PDiggy with a huge following on social media.

As always, the first thing that her detractors raise against her is her past having gone through the sexy image route to penetrate the showbiz industry. She did make a stir and has a created her own niche. Unfortunately, this past, emphasis on the past, has been used and abused by her detractors. It has come to a point where a person that I follow on twitter would retweet Mocha’s tweets with sexual color almost everyday. But here is the thing, these tweets were posted years ago, long before this newfound fame she is enjoying now. This guy really takes the time to go back to memory lane just to smear Mocha Uson.

But if this would be used as a point against her then, to be fair with everyone, we should also ask those who are in public office who came from the same route to vacate their positions, right? This would include the likes of Vilma Santos, Jestoni Alarcon, and Richard Gomez who also went sexy at one point in their career in the entertainment industry. I mean, let us put these people in the same box. The same goes with G Toengi who ironically used this card against Mocha, not realizing that she was also once an ST star.

The point being is simple, people can drastically change their lives depending on their conviction. Yes, it is possible to make that 360-degree change in a snap and that is what we are seeing in Mocha Uson at this point. Honestly, what I am starting to admire about her is the way that she is handling the criticisms. She does not let her past haunt her or affect what she is doing now but instead focuses on what she can do better at present.

Another point of contention by her detractors are her qualifications. Some have even came to the point of saying that she does not deserve the salary grade that she is in and that they deserve it more. Others compare that salary grade with others below it hoping to initiate that ill feeling from those who receive less.

Let me emphasize two arguments on this one – the salary grade and her qualifications.

Qualifications-wise, Mocha Uson is a distinguished alumni of the University of Santo Tomas. Yes, she is a college graduate contrary to what her detractors are trying to paint against her. Although she did not proceed to becoming a medical technologist, she has established herself in the entertainment industry prior to becoming an active supporter and staunch defender of PDiggy. Again, her detractors would argue that the only qualification that she only had for being appointed by the PDiggy was the latter’s “utang na loob”.

We need to understand that the role that she was assigned to directly handles social media and, with a social media following of close to 5 Million and with a high rate of interaction, Mocha Uson is a more likely candidate for the role. PDiggy’s strategy is to reach out to the masses and he needs someone who can easily do that. Whether you like it or not, Mocha stands out on this aspect. What the President needs is someone whom he can trust to simply get the info out there to his constituents. If I were in the same position, I would make the same tactical management decision of installing someone who I know is a staunch supporter and someone that I can trust. I mean why would you install someone who will just simply be a headache, right? No offense meant, VP Leni.

As for the salary grade, this has been mandated by law ever since and it is not simply within the whims of PDiggy so to use it against her is completely idiotic. Now to use it as a comparison to your sorry being is a lot more idiotic. If you feel that you deserve that kind of salary grade then I suggest that you go to your direct superior and present that argument to them. They would have a better explanation as to why you are not getting that kind of salary and give you a career growth plan of how to get there. Hopefully, your direct superior will also be able to whack your head and wake you up to the reality that you are not as good as you think you are.

I really think that her appointment was a triple whammy to her detractors. I mean they do not realize that they also played the part of making her a popular personality on social media with all the insults and reactions that they throw at her. They easily played their part for her to get this following and eventually to becoming an Assistant Secretary. To make matters worse, they cannot easily put down her Facebook page or Twitter account now considering that her new appointment legitimizes her as a communications officer of the government. It would be stupid for Facebook to shut down the page of the Assistant Secretary for Social Media of the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Philippines, right?

I guess, Mocha Uson just went on an attack from behind and simply gave her detractors the gift of a hashtag – #NaMochaYo!

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Lessons From A Traveling Backpack

As I was on my way to BGC yesterday for a meeting, I stumbled upon another horror travel story that was posted in one of the FB travel groups that I follow. It warned its members about getting the services of a Facebook travel organizing group sharing the horrors of her experience. She shared that the way it was handled by the organizers were so bad that it completely spoiled her whole travel experience.

The incident made me smile because I, myself, had a slightly similar experience over Labor Day weekend but not as horrific as the one shared by the FB user.

Just to give you a brief, I decided to be “joiner” to an organized backpacking trip to Romblon last weekend. My decision to join this organized travel by this FB group was that I wanted to visit Cresta de Gallo in Sibuyan Island without the hassle of arranging the transportation on a very long weekend. In short, it was more of the convenience over a DIY trip. Now, this was my first time to be a joiner of a trip.

Everything was going smoothly. There were some bumps along the way but that was understandable. I mean no trip is close to perfection and, as an advocate of local travel, I have understood that through years of traveling in the Philippines. These “bumps” add flavor to the travel experience. But a major mishap towards the end of our Romblon trip created a stir to most of the joiners.

The trip organizers failed to secure our return tickets to Batangas City ahead of the long weekend so their purchase went head-to-head with the deluge of ticket demand from the Labor Day weekend crowd. And for those who have been traveling in the Philippines, you know what that means, right? So to cut the story short, we got stranded for a day in Romblon and we were all “lucky” as chance passengers on our second day. We arrived in Batangas City a day later than what was mentioned in the group’s committed itinerary.

Honestly, the “mishap” was an incident that could have easily been recovered had the organizers properly handled the situation. It was a simple case of managing the expectations of everyone on board. I think that if the organizers approached the situation tactically, the tour would have ended on a high rather than on a sour note.

Let me share with you my pick-up points from the incident and I hope that for those who are involve in organizing these kinds of trips or for those who intend to go into one, you could learn a thing or two from this piece.

Commitments are commitments. Stop giving “backpacking” a bad name.

For FB groups who organize trips, please drop the “backpacking” excuse to cover up for your mistakes.

Backpacking is a travel concept where the idea is you only have a backpack for your stuff and for mobility purposes. It also involves the flexibility of time and destination depending on the whims of the traveler or travelers. Everyone is involved in the planning and execution. The uncertainty and unpredictability card for this kind of trips are high and this is usually applied to DIY trips.

But when a group offers a package for an organized tour, the trip’s level of uncertainty and unpredictability for its participants diminishes at a very low rate. The understanding is that the organizer has already studied the itinerary that he or she is presenting hereby giving the participants the leverage to manage their schedule around the itinerary. In short, you do not ask the participants if they are okay with the itinerary but you tell them that this is our committed itinerary to the traveling group and the participants’ work around it.

With this itinerary, you also work on the arrangements for everything because the organizer offered a package where he or she commits to take charge of all these arrangements – from transportation, food, and accommodations. It is the reason why participants join in. They want the convenience of a person or a group to organize everything. In most cases, organizers are not commissioned to draft it and he or she offers these packages to followers which makes their commitment stronger to participants.

In short, an organizer’s commitment is a commitment. If changes should occur along the way, the organizer takes on the responsibility for it. You do not turn the tables around and make it look that it was the participants’ fault because it was a backpacking trip. You offered an organized tour where participants work around it and it is the organizer’s responsibility to deliver. It diminishes the right of an organizer to pull out the “backpacking” card when things go wrong.

When things go wrong, it is a mistake of the organizer and not the concept of backpacking.

Apologize, Resolve, and Offer Concrete Solutions

Every trip will always entail some minor bumps along the way and to minimize those “bumps” is part and parcel of being a travel organizer. It is the organizers responsibility to manage these bumps and expectations. In fact, some of these bumps, if managed properly, will actually be swept under the rug in no time.

But there are those really nasty travel “bumps” that could have been avoided with proper planning and foresight. In our case, having no return tickets back to Batangas could have been avoided if it was addressed weeks ahead considering that organizers knew it was a Labor Day Weekend. But as they say, shit happens and it did. Unfortunately, that crucial mistake caused a domino effect during the latter part of the trip.

I think another crucial lapse on the part of most travel organizers is their inability to sufficiently address such “travel crisis”. Travel organizers should take heed that no amount of explanation will justify the organizer’s mistake of not handling a basic expectation from them. It is like a student coming into an examination room with a calculator but without a pen. That is how important the basics are.

But there will always be situations where basics are being missed out and these situations would differentiate the mature ones from the rest. The mature ones will simply apologize, recognize their lapse, and offer no other explanations. Again, you can give a hundred of explanations but it will not diminish that it was the organizer’s fault.

Sabi nga nila, kayo nagkamali, sino ang dapat mag-aadjust?

Mature tour organizers will always find a concrete solution and will not work on chance. Organizers need to address the uncertainty that the participants are feeling. Whether they admit it or not, a feeling of disappointment will run among the participants and organizers should be ready to face that. But if you give them a concrete plan where the feeling of uncertainty is addressed, most of the participants would understand.

In our case in Romblon, all of the participants knew that we were already stranded and we were all trying to just go on with the day. However, the feeling of uncertainty with everyone later on took a toll because the organizers failed to give us a specific date on when we could return back to our normal lives. It was like getting stuck without knowing when we will get out. As I have mentioned to a friend, it would have been better if the organizers told us that we have sure RoRo tickets for everyone on May 4 but we will still try our chances on May 2 and May 3 to get on a boat for Batangas. If this was the case, I could have easily adjusted my schedules to May 5, planned where to go on the next two days, and I would have been one person off their back.

Again, it was a simple case of providing us with a concrete solution rather than simply playing with chance and uncertainty.

What you say matters. Watch your words.

I have always believed that in whatever “crisis” that you are into, less is more. I have always practiced to only provide details on what is necessary to those affected rather than giving them a whole gamut of explanations to which they would then start rationalizing. I stick to the facts, share the action plan, and just give you the status. This way it also shows that I am on top of the situation because I can explain the situation and action plan simply.

The wrong words can get a whole fire running.

Travel organizers should have a strong presence of mind during these “travel crisis” and the first impulse should be to work on the welfare of their participants. They should ensure that proper assistance is of high priority. Most of your participants know that you are not a legal business entity so they are aware of your limitations but that should not stop you from providing assistance, at the least.

Due prudence with your words and actions will give organizers an added advantage. Remember that it is the primary responsibility of the organizer to make their participants understand the situation, and not the other way around. It was the organizers’ negligence that caused the inconvenience so do not expect paying participants to understand especially if the lapse was a basic expectation that the organizer promised from the start.

On the side note, travel organizers should also refrain from sneaky side comments because it just adds fuel to the fire and it does not help the situation. Remember how the situation is handled is a reflection of the tour organizer and not its participants.

As I look back at the situation, it was one of those opportunities where the coordinators could have easily worked the situation to their advantage if they only stopped for a brief moment and coordinated themselves first. Having done DIYs and organized group trips previously, I understand that there was a lapse on their part but they could have easily recovered if they managed expectations early among the participants.

As I have said earlier on I will practice due prudence by intentionally not naming the FB travel organizer’s name on this blog. I would like to give them the space to further improve their services through this feedback and hopefully help the start-ups, as well. Feedback is best way to make people see how they can move from good to great but the first step is to accept the feedback with an open mind.

So how was the Romblon experience?

It was a great experience.

There were some lapses and bumps but I would not let those bumps spoil a weekend that could rival the events happening in Boracay. No one can definitely beat that King’s cup game in Cresta de Gallo. No worries, I will be blogging about the trip soon but probably without endorsements or recommendations, at this time.

VolunTourism: Making the Most of Every Trip

As a traveler, I have always believed that the people that you meet will always have a role to play in your travel experiences and, in some cases, your life. These people can be as mundane as your hotel receptionist who will make you realize that strangers are willing to go beyond their call of duty just to get the right directions to get you to your destination. Or it can be as important as your child who ends up to becoming your travel buddy. In the same way, that we play a part in somebody’s travel and it is just a matter of whether you play the good part or the bad.

It is also interesting that you also get to meet strangers that share the same passion as yours and that you end up sharing ideas like good old friends even if it was your first time to meet or, in my case, we have just been friends virtually.

As I was preparing for a four-day island trip that we have planned since last year, I got more excited with the idea that we will be doing a side trip that would give us the opportunity to reach out to young Filipinos in this far-flung community that we are heading to. It was because of this minor shift in our itinerary that I got to talk with one of the organizers, got to share ideas, and discovered a common ground when it comes to our thoughts about the need for a sustainable tourism program for local communities.

The past years have seen the rapid growth of local tourism in the Philippines. The power of social media platforms and the entry of budget airlines sparked interest in exploring the country’s beauty that is a lot easier to one’s pocket. A beautiful snapshot of a rustic destination can go viral if it goes to the right “hands” in social media. A local’s “secret” then becomes a “discovery” and you can expect travelers of different sorts flocking to see this latest attraction.

It is great to see, that with the renewed attention that Filipinos give our local destinations, Philippine tourism is no longer boxed up to Boracay, Bangui Windmills, the Philippine Eagle, or the Tarsier. Who would have thought that there is a cheaper way to enjoy El Nido? Or that there is more to Baguio City than its cool weather and strawberries? Not to mention, the huge potential in economic gains for the locals of the community. I have seen how communities responsibly adapt to the sudden attention given to their places. Tali Ti Amianan in San Juan, La Union is a good example. It is a local community effort that converts used clothes, collected as garbage from their shores, into creative bracelets handmade and sold by the locals.

Unfortunately, most communities, even local government units, are not equipped with the right mindset and skills on how to address the influx of tourists. The opportunity to earn more outweighs the potential environmental damage of these tourist activities. You cannot blame the locals’ attitude because it is an opportunity for them to provide something better for their families.

I remember having to lecture locals in Calaguas Island about calling the attention of their guests to throw their garbage at designated areas. I was appalled to witness a young lady from Manila leave the wrapper of her chips on the sand when the garbage bin was just three steps away from her! A local went on to pick it up and throw it at the bin. When I asked him why he did that and not call the attention of the guest, he was afraid to sound rude and feared that she might not go back or recommend the place to her friends. The incident had me doing an impromptu lecture about the need to protect their place and it starts by teaching their guests about discipline.

The sad truth is that local government units need to implement programs that put emphasis on sustainable tourism for its communities. A lot of our tourist destinations, especially the new ones, get abused by both tourists and locals because there are no concrete plans in place on how to find a balance between tourist influx and environmental care. Too many times, we see communities just accepting guests to the detriment of nature. All in the name of revenue.

There are cases where LGUs understand their role and put into play a concrete action plan on not only providing a viable source of income for its communities but to ensure the sustainability of this income source. This is what we all need to focus on as the country’s tourism industry starts to mature and we need to understand that this is not only the role of the LGU. Local travelers are at the forefront in making locals understand that sustainability is more important than just cashing the business in.

I have been around the Philippines to actually see the realities that a lot of common Filipinos face. I have also seen how blinding opportunities can be for locals that they set aside the long-term. I have to do my part as a traveler.

I have shifted from being a “checklist tourist” to becoming an immersed traveler. I have learned to haggle “smart” for the prices of services and produce that local’s offer that would be equally beneficial. I have learned to practice being a responsible traveler who behaves like a guest rather than a privileged tourist.

And if given the opportunity, share my knowledge to locals on how they can make things better and more sustainable for their families and communities.

In the end, this new source of livelihood called tourism, if sustained, can be their hope for alleviating their families from poverty.

My Belmont Hotel Experience: When the First Impression Made Everything Go Wrong

First, let me start off by saying that this was not the initial topic that I wanted to blog about for this week. In fact, I am almost done with the blog that I initially started writing about when I decided to shift topic after a disappointing hotel experience yesterday. Yes, I am deviating from my politically charged blogs this week to give way to a more “learn from experience” blog.

I seldom blog about bad customer service in length because, being in the customer service industry, I have learned to be understanding of situations that involves meeting customer expectations. I have had my own share of clients, handling concerns from the tame ones to the really rude ones, so I am aware of the things that happen when these kinds of situations arise. I always put myself in the shoes of the staff to make me see what is viable among the “solutions” that they present to me and to make me calm down.

But yesterday’s experience was definitely one for my books.

Let me kick it off by sharing with you what happened. On the last week of January, my wife told me that they were going to have their annual conference in Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. Just like in her previous physician conferences, we always tag along with her so I decided to book a room near the venue. I know that these kinds of conferences are well-attended that it was imperative that I book way ahead of time. I did book a room at Belmont Hotel because it is close to the venue and it has a swimming pool.

My wife checked a day ahead in the same hotel and I asked her to confirm our room reservation for the next day to which the hotel staff confirmed our booking. I asked her to make a request for an earlier check-in time to which the same staff said that they cannot guarantee it but she will give Jeh a call if it was possible. She did give her a call on the day of our reservation to inform us that our request cannot be accommodated due to the volume of hotel guests. I understood the situation.

So we arrived at 3pm.

To my surprise, I was turned over to the manager-on-duty and I was told that I cannot be accommodated in the hotel because the electricity supply got cut-off in one of the floors rendering it “uninhabitable”. I perfectly understood the situation but after being told that it was out for a week now, I was asking as to why they confirmed my booking and denied my request for an early check in considering that they had a situation? All that she could do was apologize and they did give me options – be transferred to another hotel, about three blocks away, or to another hotel along Roxas Boulevard.

My wife insisted that we stay there as it would be a hassle moving her stuff from one hotel to another and we told her that we were willing to wait. The manager-on-duty said that even we were to wait the whole day, there is no room available. Jeh then said that why did your staff confirm with her yesterday? Again, all she could do was apologize. She also verified that rooms are assigned to guests only upon check-in.

I gathered my thoughts and weighed the options. I was looking into transferring to the hotel three blocks away but remembered that the reason why I did not book in the hotel was it has no pool. So I told the manager that I wanted to be transferred to a hotel with a pool. She gave me two options – transfer to the one on Roxas Boulevard, which is far from the venue, and use their hotel pool. Funny that she would ask me to walk three blocks just to use their pool and just imagine having to walk back dripping wet – such a hassle.

Here comes the clincher – her fellow doctor comes in, 15 minutes after us, and was able to check-in to a room. I also observed some guests coming in and were being given rooms. We asked as to why she and the others got a room and she explained that there are rooms that were checked in from the day before. How can somebody be checked in from the day before when obviously she just arrived? It was then that I got upset and made my demand that they find me a room in the hotel or an alternative hotel in the area with a pool at no extra cost.

In my frustration, I blurted out that I was a travel blogger with my own website. I saw the change in her face and asked for a moment. She went inside the office and in less than 5 minutes, take note… 5 minutes, she comes back to us and informs me that we can now check-in.

I asked her to help me understand as to why suddenly they have an available room. She quipped that it was because of a late booking cancellation. Two things came into my mind – luck was on our side that she came in just right in time for a room availability or the hotel was just simply a f*ck up and was giving me a convenient excuse. Save your conclusions for later.

We were able to check-in 50 minutes later after we arrived.

What did I pick up on these “unique” experience?

WHAT YOU TELL YOUR CLIENT MATTERS TO THEM

We have always heard that what you say does not matter, it is how you say it.

This statement only holds true IF you are being honest and transparent to your clients. However, if you give false information and, through the process, your client figures it out, no matter how nice you give your justification, you simply tarnished your brand. It will then affect how your customer will deal with you during and after the rendering of your service. In short, what you say and how you say it will determine whether your client will trust you or not.

Let me be transparent with how I processed the information that was being relayed to me and how it affected the whole “Belmont” experience:

Belmont Staff Statement: You are only assigned a room once you check-in.

My thoughts: With this statement, I easily figured that they overbooked and the hotel is already at maximum capacity. Why then was my wife’s colleague able to check-in considering that we arrived 15 minutes earlier before her? We had the same case, we were booked on the same day and yet a room was assigned to her immediately.

Belmont Staff Statement: Even if you wait for the rest of the afternoon, no room will be available.

My thoughts: The staff stood her ground and held us up for 45 minutes but after I asserted my point and introduced myself further, a room suddenly became available in less than 5 minutes. I was given the reason that the room availability was because of a last minute cancellation. So I go back to the first statement – you are only assigned a room once you check-in. I definitely did not see anyone at the reception cancelling their room after they checked in.

The first two statement are both crucial as I lead to the third statement. But before I just do that, let me point out that at the time that we were having the “stand-off”, these thoughts were running in my mind. I was starting to doubt the integrity of the information being relayed to me. In simple terms, “niloloko ba ako nitong kausap ko?”

Do not get me wrong, the manager-on-duty were saying things in the nicest way she can but when a room suddenly became available, I started to not trust her and any of the staff from that point on so no matter what assistance they offered, like assisting me to the room, I blatantly refused. I simply did not trust them.

Which then leads me to the third statement.

Belmont Staff Statement: One floor does not have electricity so we have less rooms to accommodate guests.

My Thoughts: Throughout the duration of my stay, I made a mental note of the floors where people were going on and going off from the elevator. I had to confirm whether there was truth to what I was told. Guess what? All floors seemed to be occupied.

This was a case where the words spoken by the staff mattered to a guest and the conflicting statements had an adverse effect towards the actual guest’s experience. My whole experience became a “witch hunt” on the validation of what I was being told earlier on. It did not help that the conflicting statements at the start and as the whole experience progressed my doubts were being validated. In the end, I started to cast doubt on the integrity of every staff that even if they offered help, I simply turned them down. I simply did not trust them.

In short, be mindful of what you tell your clients because they will always find ways to validate the information you hand them. The honesty will determine the level for trust, or in my case – distrust, that they will give your brand and your staff.

MANAGE CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS AND CONSIDER CONVENIENCE

It was also interesting to note that my Belmont experience also brought into light a very crucial element of service delivery – understanding the expectations and convenience of the guests or clients.

Understand that prior to us entering the premises of the hotel, our expectations were already set. We confirmed our booking from the day before and the turning down for our early check-in request was some sort of a confirmation on the hotel’s end that we had a confirmed booking with them. So you can just imagine the frustration of traveling for 2 hours from my point of origin only to be greeted with a “booking concern”.

If I were to take Belmont Hotel’s excuse that they had maintenance issues that has been running for a week, they should have had anticipated the problem. Remember that they had two opportunities of open communication to us prior to our arrival. And yet they still went through with the confirmation.

It was interesting to also note that they would inconvenience me to walk three blocks just to have access to the pool. It was quite obvious that they cared less about giving their guests a great experience. I got the impression that they didn’t care for their guests to even consider offering me pool access that was three blocks away. I couldn’t imagine myself walking the streets of Newport dripping wet.

Honestly, I did not feel the sincerity of the apologies of the hotel staff the whole time. They were simply trained to speak that way and they do not care less.

A great experience will always emanate from the value of caring for your guests. It is about managing expectations ahead of the actual experience. I have always maintained with my team that you anticipate and inform the affected client, way ahead, because it shows that you care for them. Furthermore, you always provide solutions based on their expectations and their convenience because it shows that you are not only addressing the inconvenience that you caused them but it also shows that you are taking that extra step to make the situation better for them.

It is simply showing that you care.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER

I have always shared that the first point of contact will determine how clients will evaluate the brand. A good impression will give a lasting one but a bad impression will make clients critical of everything. As an example, a client who had a bad first impression who sees a single candy wrapper on the floor will see your facilities as dirty.

It was the same case during my stay in Belmont Hotel. The initial contact created an “untrustworthy” atmosphere that I started being critical about the experience. I did not entertain any assistance from any of the staff. I found the room small. Worse, I got an impression that they do not really put emphasis on cleanliness after I saw an empty C2 bottle, from the previous guest, tucked inside the refrigerator. The housekeeping did not even bother to clean it out! It was gross that I did take a picture of it. As a result, we kept checking the complimentary water if it was sealed and was not previously opened.

The bad experience at the start magnified the small things. The usual stuff that I would have probably set aside on a normal day became noticeable and all these noticeable things defined my Belmont experience. And it all began because of a bad first impression.

As of this writing, I received an email and a reply on my FB feedback from a Belmont Hotel manager apologizing for the inconvenience and offering me a free room upgrade on my future visit. Honestly, I am no longer interested on staying at the hotel. My recent stay have clearly defined what I now call my Belmont experience and it was not a nice picture. It is definitely an experience that I do not wish to repeat.

My Belmont experience highlights an important lesson – building your brand boils down to experience. The experience that you give your clients will define your brand and the values that the brand stands for. The experience that you offer will make your brand stand out from the rest and it starts at the moment your client steps into your establishment.

#SilentPaMore

The landscape of Philippine politics was once more rocked last week when the first of part of the #NagaLeaks expose was released targeting VP Leni Robredo. Yes, I did anticipate its release last Friday afternoon and I have read the full content of the first release despite of the article’s length. My perception shift to VP Leni from being hopeful to disappointment to disdain was the reason why I am interested with the article. At this point, I am delaying my comments pertaining to the “revelations” pending more details on the expose and after I have done my fact checking.

I have couple of observation, though, that stands out at this time. These observations are more inclined towards the reactions on VP Leni’s side considering that the page that handles the expose is a bit more aggressive at this time. Names have been dropped and more names are being dropped as the days are progressing. More and more people are getting involved and, as of this time, we already have one person stepping forward verifying part of the information that were already released.

But one thing that stands out – the awful silence and the contradictions of VP Leni Robredo.

Through all these social media “battles”, I have seen and heard the arguments of both sides – from the pro-Duterte personalities to the faceless anti-Duterte peeps. One group that I have seen that purposefully defend their stance and leader is the Office of the Vice President. I first took notice of the OVP’s presence when the US trip of VP Leni became an issue and from then on the team had made their presence felt in ALL social media “battles”… until now.

Interestingly, the silence speaks volumes and raises a lot of questions on the expose considering that VP Leni Robredo is always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. If I am to make reference to her husband’s publicity strategy that was stated in the expose, it is the same strategy that I think she is trying to employ at this time. She does not miss out on opportunities where she gets a chance for positive publicity – even if a Grade 6 student proudly declares that the student voted for her in the last election.

They are also at the forefront in defending the VP from her detractors. That is the reason why I am quite curious as to why they are now silent about the issue.

The only statement that we got so far from the Vice President herself was that this was about the attempts to destroy her reputation. She even added that these attempts have been done before with the objective to silence her and that she won’t be silenced by it. Note that she has not categorically denied any of the accusations hurled towards her better half.

The general statements of VP Leni does not work for me. I guess, all of us at one point in our lives, have encountered being at the receiving end of a nasty gossip and you can recall how you managed your way through it. You won’t take it sitting down especially if the accusations are not true and it involves a family member. I remember in second year high school when I pulled a “You are not a virgin anymore” prank to which my classmate/victim vehemently denied it and started crying. I ended up in my teacher’s office, by the way.

My point being is that a denial directed to the issue is definitely necessary at this point. A simple categorical denial that the accusations are not true and that the late Jessie Robredo was never involved in illegal gambling or illegal drug trade would suffice. A comment stating that they do not own condominium buildings in Quezon City would, at the least, make the issue simmer down a bit. I think that it is a necessary act on the part of VP Leni considering the gravity of the expose damaging the legacy of the late Robredo, to whom she is saying that she has not moved on yet from his untimely demise.

However, her perceived silence on the issue and the inconsistency in what she says and what she is not doing for her love of her life raises a lot of questions, more than giving out answers. So much more that it does not give her the “right” image that she has been working on since her return from the United States.

Interestingly, I find her shifts on standpoints particularly amusing. Her shifts give me an impression that she redefines her standpoint based on her convenience. She initially called for tolerance to those whom she called as social media “trolls”. It can be recalled that she reminded her followers to “Don’t mind the trolls. Let us direct all our energies to all things positive”. This tweet came out from her twitter account on December 27, 2016 (http://www.fashionpulis.com/2016/12/tweet-scoop-vp-leni-robredo-reminds.html). She further reinforces her standpoint on February 2017 stating that social media trolls are a “lost cause” in an article that came out in Inquirer.net (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/868133/i-have-no-time-for-trolls-theyre-a-lost-cause-robredo).

A month later, she then shifts her standpoint from tolerance to going to battle against these social media trolls. She now declares that this is the “perfect time” to fight those that drive “alternative facts” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/877374/robredo-declares-war-on-online-trolls). Apparently, her shifting gears come at a convenient time when a supposedly “explosive” revelation about her is set to come out. Giving de Lima the benefit of the doubt (as if I care about her), VP Leni sought prudence from the revelations against de Lima, a fellow Liberal. Now that an expose is claiming to be setting the stage for the VP’s downfall, she then changes her stance. So don’t you think that it is rather convenient for her to declare her “war” as perfectly timed now that she is at the receiving end of the expose?

My question, why shift gears now VP Leni?

Furthermore, I remember her proudly declaring that as a democratic nation, the PRRD administration should be open to dissent. She is at the forefront of on the “fight for the right to speak dissent” (http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/02/24/17/robredo-fight-for-the-right-to-speak-dissent). This was on February 2017 when de Lima was arrested for her alleged involvement in the Bilibid drug trade. She refers to dissent as one of the foundations of a free country. She even declared that “democracy demands dissent” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/875972/democracy-demands-dissent-says-robredo-on-senate-shakeup).

Less than two weeks after the statement, she again shifts her stance to saying that dissent is now being abused on social media. In a recent interview with her in Cebu, she referred to social media as problem citing “Easy access to social media is being used to abuse those who are brave enough to express dissent.” (http://interaksyon.com/article/137495/watch–vp-robredo-shrugs-off-naga-leaks-article). So does this mean that VP Leni Robredo is okay to dissent if it is against the PRRD government but when she is at the receiving end of the dissent, she terms it as abusive? So her statement about the right to speak dissent as a foundation of a free country is only appropriate for her and her minions?

The VP seems to be at a loss with consistency with her statements as it shifts within a matter of weeks and, even, days depending on what is convenient for her.

The silence of the VP on the #NagaLeaks issue and her inconsistency are troubling. Again, her actions and inactions create a void that raises more questions rather than answers. Furthermore, the conflicting stance on certain issues makes one think – why the sudden shift when the #NagaLeaks came out?

The questions right now is more on the “whys” rather than the contents of the actual expose.

Why shift on your stance on dissent?

Why the deafening silence?

Why?

Edsa 1 and Its “Benefit of the Daw”

On the way home, I happened to pass by the People Power Monument along the corner of White Plains Avenue and EDSA. The image of “Inang Bayan”, with hands raised up in the air, was striking against the backdrop of the summer afternoon skies. I was so mesmerized by the imagery that I grabbed my phone and tried to grab a clear picture of it.

Incidentally, we are only a couple of days away from the commemoration of the event that freed us from the hands of a dictator some 31 years ago… as what we have been told. Where has this famous “People Power” revolution led the Filipinos and the country, three decades after?

The claim-to-fame of the bloodless revolution was it overthrew the dictatorial regime of the late Ferdinand Marcos. It overthrew an oppressive government whose alleged crime involves corruption, human rights violations, mysterious disappearances, and brutal deaths. Crimes that Filipinos hope and pray would stop after the Marcoses flew to the US to escape the fiery emotions of Filipinos that was oozing along EDSA.

The EDSA revolution kicked out the dictator “daw”.

Although true to their claim of having successfully kicked out the former President and his family, it is interesting to note that the same family is back in the order of things in Philippine politics. What is REALLY funny is the tremendous noise created by EDSA 1 personalities and their “believers” on the controversial burial of the former President and yet they only managed to simply ring the bell as the Marcos family slowly got back to power. The culmination, so far, is having Marcos Jr. finishing 2nd in the Vice Presidential race and now has a pending election case in court. I have no words for these EDSA personalities. They feared the dead more than the living Marcoses. Truth be told, EDSA 1 definitely kicked out the Marcoses TEMPORARILY.

The EDSA revolution brought back power to the Filipino “daw”.

School text books and prominent EDSA personalities brandish that the said revolution gave power back to the people. We have been overwhelmed by pride for this grand declaration for years. Imagine having ordinary people numbering to thousands, and possibly millions, in one gathering demanding for change. But was power really transferred to us or was power transferred from a few to a broader few? Come to think of it, all national and local elections from then on have been mired by alleged electoral fraud. Why? Because some people wanted to retain the power with them. We have been blinded that the EDSA revolution gave power back to us but reality is, it never did. It just gave birth to a new and broader batch of power-yielding families who simply infatuated us by blasting us with the propaganda that the EDSA People Power was for the people by the people. Reality… they asked Filipinos to go to the streets to transfer political and economic power from them to a bigger them.

The EDSA Revolution was the road to justice “daw”.

People Power was a sigh of relief for the thousands of Martial Law victims. It was a turnaround for them to finally start their search for justice. But 30 years after, some of these victims still has to receive their compensation after winning a landmark case. In fact, it was only a few months back that PDuts have given the nod to start the release of these compensations to its rightful owners. Yes… justice still has to close its loop for these victims. Well how can we expect justice to be served fast when even after two Aquino Administrations, we are still in the dark on the mastermind behind the death of their patriarch, Ninoy Aquino.

The EDSA revolution gave way to reforms “daw”.

The hope when common people occupied EDSA was a hope for reforms. Reforms that would trickle down to the majority of Filipinos. But I guess most of these reforms remained as a hope, some 31 years later. Case in point, while the Cory Aquino administration brandished its success on Agrarian Reform, the vast land in Tarlac owned by them remained in their stead. And when the Supreme Court upheld its ruling to distribute it to the farmers, the PNoy Administration retaliated by having the SC Chief Justice Corona impeached from office. To this day, we have yet to see the actual implementation of the reform by the family of the former Philippine President who signed it into law.

Some may say that there were a lot of reforms in place and it is true. But far from these reforms are those that needs to be implemented and felt by the common Filipino. The Agrarian Reform is a just example of the many hypocrisies of some of the ruling parties in Philippine government. Reforms that would make the lives of common Filipinos better are being held in bay in favor of the ruling class’ whims to hold on to power.

The EDSA revolution gave Filipinos their freedom “daw”.

We were made to believe that the People Power Revolution gave back to the Filipinos our freedom. Sadly, the freedom that we claim to have regained is the same freedom that we make as an excuse to justify our wrongdoings. Most Filipinos have a skewed understanding of freedom. It does not surprise me that media personalities have gone far with their lies in their field and when apprehended will hide under the guise of “press freedom”. But give them a dose of their own medicine and they will be the first to raise heaven and hell to claim that their rights have been trampled on. It is only in the Philippines where our rights and freedoms get to change depending on one’s convenience.

I hate to say it but the EDSA Revolution managed to blind a lot of Filipinos with hypocrisy. As a GRAB car driver placed it neatly, EDSA was simply used for our mind conditioning. It infatuated us enough that we lived in helm that it was a pride that we all stood up against a dictator and that we regained our freedom. What it doesn’t show is the fact that it paved the way for a larger scale of oppression for common Filipinos. The “diwa ng EDSA” bounded us to the whims and tantrums of the ruling class. That is probably the reason why it has lost its flame because there was none to begin with. The generation who got drunk from its popularity eventually realized that there was really not much difference from the old to the new except that you have more people sharing the power. They realized that it was starting to be an embarrassment when the same problems propped up and it was better not to talk about it. It was the same feeling that I felt after participating in EDSA Dos and then see the rise of Erap back in power. The efforts of heeding the call to go to the streets led to simply nothing.

The People Power Revolution is ONLY for the books to make Filipinos feel our “alleged” freedom. But truth been told, we have never been free from the oppression of the government. It simply shifted power from a dictator to a larger group called Oligarchs.

Yes, there were changes that happened but I wonder how life would have been without Kris Aquino screeching on TV.

The Story of Mommy Meng

Mommy Meng died in the hospital at the age of 57. She died on a hospital bed surrounded by the people she selflessly loved and who loved her back even more. She lived a meaningful life – one where she chased her passion and owned it.

Mommy Meng chose a career that many women probably won’t even consider at this day and age. She chose to be a full-time housewife and has been one until her untimely demise. The economical challenge to raise a family have resulted for most partnered women to take jobs as the family’s breadwinner or help in generating income for the family.

In the article “How Working Moms Defines Success” published by CNN Philippines on May 21, 2015, working moms define success by balancing supporting the family, career fulfillment, and maintaining a healthy relationship with their kids. However, the same survey by CareerBuilder also yielded that a substantial number of their working mom respondents felt that they were unable to find the balance in all three measures. The survey also showed that the mom-children relationships are affected by their work, more than their male counterparts.

In the case of Mommy Meng, she chose a life that was traditionally defined by Philippine culture – a life where the mom stays and cares for the home. She was the homemaker. She was in-charge of making sure that everyone woke up and came home to a hot meal, made sure that the kids are guided right, ensures that the family’s finances are managed appropriately, and she had to make sure that everything is running smoothly at home. She was a manager-on-duty for 24 hours and 7 days a week.

If there was one thing where Mommy Meng really stood out, it was her complete love for her four “marias”. She wanted and drove them to be successful in their chosen fields. She accepted them for who they were and was always there to guide them. Of course, there were times where she had arguments with one of her daughters but her being a mother always surpasses whatever heartaches she may have felt during those times. She was often heard saying that she would be okay after her “bunso” graduates from college. The fate of her daughters mattered dearly to her.

She had spent many sleepless nights for her daughters, be it trying to figure out where to get the money for their tuition or for challenges that she was facing with them. There was one incident where one of the “marias” ran away from home. The family did not know where she was. She spent many sleepless nights reaching out to her daughter’s friends who can help them find her or, at least, give them any news that her daughter was fine. There were a lot of times where you would catch her staring blankly… worrying whether her daughter has already eaten or has taken the maintenance medication that she needed on a daily basis. I guess, Mommy Meng was the most relieved person in the family when her daughter finally went home.

Mommy Meng’s motherly love goes beyond the four corners of her house. She was a mother even to her extended family, neighbors, and even to complete strangers. She was the busiest person during family gatherings making sure that everyone was comfortable or had their full from the meal. She was the last person to eat because she was so busy attending to everyone that she forgets that she also had to dine with the family. Everyone remembers her as the Mommy Meng who will not stop offering you the last piece of fried chicken even if you are already full. The only way to stop her insistent prodding is for you take and eat the last piece. With that, you simply made her happy.

It should not come as a surprise that Mommy Meng has touched a lot of lives, even to regular people that you see in the streets. The vegetable street vendor will always find a willing customer from Mommy Meng, even if she has a full cupboard. It is her way of helping out. She will not hesitate to give what she can give to someone in need. It was very easy for her to give an extra free shirt when a stranger buys from her garage sale. She will always find a way to help or be generous despite just having enough.

Dressing up was one thing that Mommy Meng loved. Every occasion was an opportunity to be fashionably beautiful. This was how she pampered herself. She just had to be beautiful in her cute and funny way. She was often chided by family members whenever she goes to the market because she goes there prepared – prepared in the most fashionable way. But that makes Mommy Meng unique. She shows you that there is nothing wrong with being beautiful whenever you do things, even the mundane ones.

Mommy Meng had her own funny moments which her daughters loved to capture on video. She was funny in her own little way and, often times, in the most unguarded moments. She had her own mishaps which gets everyone rolling with laughter but she would always join in the fun. She was not afraid to laugh at her own mistakes or to make fun of herself. I guess, she never knew that she was a natural comedian.

She may be bubbly and carefree but Mommy Meng is her own biggest critic. She criticizes herself more than anybody else. And when she critics herself, it takes a very long time to convince her that it is not really the way she thinks it is. She loves to cook and the kitchen is probably her favorite spot inside the house. This is also where she criticizes herself to the brim. She would always be the first one to claim that the viand that she dished out lacked a particular taste even if no one has even tasted it.

If there was one word to describe Mommy Meng, she was selfless. She lived a happy and fulfilled life in a chosen career where she gave more than what she can actually receive. She offered herself to a career where she was always on-duty for her family and friends. She was not defined by the societal norms but it was her who designed her role the way she wanted it to be. She chose being a housewife and passionately owned it. It was a career that only a few can handle and Mommy Meng did it excellently.

As the cries of loss echoed along the hallways of hospital, the spirit of Mommy Meng echoed with it. She echoed the spirit that women can be good at their chosen career as long as you are passionate about it. She echoed that you cannot let society dictate on what you can be and what you can do. She imparts a very strong message that it is only YOU that defines how you live your life so live it!