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30 November 2006

milenyo destroys philippine high school for the arts

i gathered from my friend trina pineda-tinio and her aunt irene that the philippine high school for the arts (phsa) on mt. makiling (in los banos, laguna) had been devastated by typhoon milenyo. i was shocked to hear horror stories of phsa students holding on to their precious instruments as they escaped the school site at the height of the devastation. many of these students were unable to bring with them their other precious belongings--photographs of family members and friends, books, clothes, and other basic necessities. these students were also unable to eat properly until days after the typhoon. they simply held on to their instruments as they ran away. and yet, the incident was left nearly unreported in the papers and on television.

though i am here in canberra, i am urging friends and acquaintances in manila to attend a free concert entitled mt. makiling musicians stage benefit reunion concert for milenyo-hit phsa. the event is being organized by the philippine high school for the arts parent-teacher-staff council, inc. and musika ibarang - phsa music alumni association on friday, 1 december 2006, 7:30 p.m, at the francisco santiago hall, of equitable pci bank tower 1 (makati avenue corner horacio de la costa street, makati city) through a venue grant from the manila chamber orchestra (mco) foundation and equitable pci bank.

the concert will be hosted by phsa visual arts alumna and bb. pilipinas universe 2000 nina ricci alagao. musika ibarang will highlight the homecoming of the following artists: austria-based pianist aries caces, belgium-based soprano fiona de ocampo and italy-based pianist jourdann petalver.

philippine-based performers for the benefit reunion concert include: my cousins jay (flutist german jay gomez), gigi (pianist virginia gomez-arambulo) and veron (pianist veronica gomez-tan); violinist-conductor jeffrey solares; violinists lorenzo raval, isidora miranda and ralph taylan; cellist nino llorin; banduria player rowena bicaldo; pianists katherine fernandez-asis, miguel castro and milkos zalameda; pianists jonathan arevalo coo and melissa geronimo; pianists marianna fajardo, reubel rodriguez-uy and harold galang; sopranos karlene denolo and ethel alon; counter tenor chris borela, assistant choirmaster of the philippine madrigal singers.

entrance to the concert is free but donations are sincerely requested.

kindly write check donations to PHSA-PTSC, INC. there are also other options for donations.

for more information, contact musika ibarang (phsa music alumni association) through katherine fernandez-asis +639209102920 or jonathan arevalo coo +639212172617 or the phsa-ptsc through joe datuin +639176157302, issa calinawan +639209216872, fe ferriols +639178001811 or rey wong +639175456653. email queries may be sent to fe.ferriols@beacon-frontline.com or khakibirdinus@yahoo.com.

for almost 30 years, the philippine high school for the arts (phsa) on mt. makiling has served as a haven for aspiring young artists who would be future leaders in the socio-cultural transformation of our country. it has prepared and graduated hundreds of scholars who have taken leads in their respective fields of arts. after super typhoon milenyo destroyed phsa's facilities last september 2006, phsa students and teachers are still holding classes with no electricity and water supply. 1970s phsa buildings designed by philippine national artist leandro locsin were damaged heavily. phsa alumni, students, parents, teachers and staff, are now being compelled to raise funds to help the government in the rehabilitation of phsa.

it would be a total waste for filipinos to allow phsa to lose its steam and deteriorate. please spread the good word about phsa's fundraising and free concert.

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bb. pilipinas universe 2000 and phsa visual arts alumna nina ricci alagao
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the philippine high school for the arts after the storm

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28 November 2006

‘Trapo’-like spins on UP tuition hikes by Solita Collas-Monsod

(Published on Page A12 of the November 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

IT IS neither accurate nor fair to associate all students of the University of the Philippines (UP) with the so-called boycott of classes that was supposed to have taken place this past Thursday in protest of proposed tuition and other fee increases. What is accurate to say is that there was no boycott, or the boycott attempt failed. Why can one say this? According to information from all the colleges on campus, the classes proceeded as usual -- none were cancelled for lack of attendance. And this was buttressed by my own personal experience -- I teach two lecture classes on Thursdays, held in an auditorium because of the large class-size, and both were well attended. Definitely, there was no diminution of attendance that would spell “boycott.”

What is accurate to say is that what occurred was a rally/demonstration, attended by anywhere from 200 to 400 people (whether they were all from the UP community, one could not be certain; neither was it certain whether the students at the rally were all UP students), per eyeball estimate. One cannot really tell from the pictures because they were all “tight” shots -- almost close-up, giving the viewer no idea of the magnitude of the crowd. Which is in itself a dead giveaway, because if the crowd was large, the pictures taken would have been panoramic.

Moreover, as anyone familiar with the Diliman campus knows, these rallies/demonstrations are commonplace, and are generally organized by the same groups. Nevertheless, in the spirit of academic freedom and freedom of speech, they are allowed, defended, and even encouraged by the UP authorities. In effect, a rally of that size is no big deal.

A logical question would be: Why were there relatively few participants (considering that there are more than 25,000 students on campus, not to mention about the 1,500 faculty and 2,200 other staff)? One reason for this could be that, in the main, the students were indifferent -- probably because they will not be affected by any tuition fee increase, since this will only be imposed on incoming freshmen. The principle underlying this is that there is an implicit contract with students who had entered under a particular tuition fee structure that the structure would remain unchanged until they finished their studies. Doing otherwise would be like perpetrating a hold-up on their families, who would have very little choice other than to pay, because it is difficult to change schools.

But another reason -- which is not considered by many because of the perception that everyone in UP is a leftist/radical -- is that the students, studied, with no preconceived notions, the De Dios Committee recommendations (the report was released over four months ago) and found them reasonable. They refused to be carried away by the slogans and buzzwords that they were being inundated with.

A stretch? I don’t think so. In my years on the faculty, I have found that UP students, for the most part, have more important priorities than to wave banners, throw eggs, or scream epithets. But the latter is the kind of behavior that gets the publicity, and gives rise to the perception (including, that of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who should know better), that UP is a waste of public money.

Everyone has a right to his own opinion, of course. I do not quarrel with that. What I find disturbing, however, is a certain similarity between some campus leaders and their national counterparts: the tendency to take liberties with the truth. Putting their own spin, as it were the facts, until they are unrecognizable. The youth hate the “trapo” [traditional politicians] for doing it, but they seem to have no problems doing it themselves, if it helps their cause.

Take for example (if newspaper accounts are accurate) one UP student leader quoted as saying: “Can you imagine? From P6,000, you’ll suddenly have to shell out P18,000 a semester?” This young man must have known (unless he didn’t do his homework, in which case he is even more like his adult political counterparts), that only (incoming) freshmen whose annual family income is more than P500,000 a year -- i.e., those belonging to the top 5 percent of families in terms of income -- will have to pay that amount. Since it would be silly to waste his sympathy on them, or on those who will have to pay P30,000 a semester because their family annual income is over P1 million, he makes it appear as if all students have to pay that much.

Not content with that, he then expresses his concern that more and more indigent students would not be able to get into UP for the simple reason that they could not afford it. Excuse me? Again, he completely ignores (or just as bad, is ignorant of) the Student Tuition and Financial Assistance Program of UP. Under this, the poorest students are not only exempted from paying the tuition and other fees, they are also given stipends of P12,000 every semester. As I mentioned in last week’s column, even the not-so poor (with incomes of P70,001 to P135,000 a year) will not experience a tuition fee increase at all, because they will be given a 70 percent discount from the new fees. In other words, UP is definitely taking care of its poor but (intellectually) deserving students -- it has been doing so since 1989.

Intellectual dishonesty or incompetence has contributed to the nightmare that is Philippine governance. That it has started in one so young, an “iskolar ng bayan” [people’s scholar], and a possible future leader of the country, is a shame.


UP professors earn less than PMA cadets, says regent by DJ Yap

(Published on Page A20 of the December 29, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

CADETS at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) may not know it, but they are actually earning more than some teachers at what is considered the country’s premier educational institution, the University of the Philippines system.

While a PMA cadet gets P16,338 every month, including subsistence allowance, an assistant professor I at the state-run university, with salary grade 18, has a monthly salary of P15,841.

“At standardized salary rates, the UP faculty is resigned to a life of genteel poverty,” Roland Simbulan, faculty regent, said at the recent UP System-wide Academic Personnel Conference in the Diliman, Quezon City campus. “If a faculty member is an instructor or assistant professor, it means that he/she gets less than what a student earns in a call center,” he added.

The UP has a faculty of 3,600 educators in all its campuses.
Simbulan said that while faculty members were proud to be teaching some of the brightest students in the country, even the prestige of teaching at the premier university was being eroded by the more pressing need to survive.

“Because of their meager salaries, most UP teachers can only afford to live in rented apartments on or outside their campuses,” Simbulan said. And those who stayed on campus “dreaded” the day of their retirement, knowing they would be evicted from their subsidized housing facilities, he added.

“Professors who are too old to shift careers are forced to peddle insurance plans and real estate, chorizo, and even cemetery plots to augment their income,” Simbulan said in his report.

The meager compensation based on the Salary Standardization Law was a “pittance compared to what is given to professors in leading private universities,” he said.

According to the 2006 report of the UP Ad Hoc committee to review tuition and other fees, a full professor at UP is paid P13,686 per teaching load unit—well below the P27,971 at De La Salle University and P18,600 at Ateneo de Manila University.

A UP associate professor receives P11,019, while his/her counterparts at La Salle and Ateneo receive P18,312 and P15,400, respectively. For UP assistant professors, the basic rate is P9,033. At La Salle and Ateneo the rates are P13,645 and P11,000, respectively. UP instructors get P7,098, while those in La Salle and Ateneo receive P9,454 and P7,600, respectively.

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27 November 2006

UP and the case for state subsidy by Randy David

(Published on page A13 of the November 26, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

LESS than two years from now, the University of the Philippines will mark its centennial. It will do so in a world far more complex than the colonial era that saw its founding. Additional campuses and new curricular offerings mirror the basic changes in function that UP has assumed as a state university. Over the years, it has had to negotiate the terms of its relationship with the State that supports its existence, constantly weighing the pressure of societal demands against its own self-understanding of what it means to be a university.

The Philippine Normal School was actually established a few years ahead of UP. The priority placed on the training of teachers for the public school system was in keeping with the American colonial government’s plan to democratize access to modern education. UP was meant to serve as the receptacle for the best and the brightest graduates of the public schools, who would then be trained and prepared for the various positions in the government service. UP was clearly at the center of the nation-building project from the start. The country needed a cadre not only of teachers but also of scientists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, engineers and, of course, lawyers. It was UP’s role, as a state university, to produce a new generation of modern leaders and public servants.

The top graduates of public high schools were automatically admitted into the university and were granted exemption from paying tuition. Tuition at UP, in any case, was minimal until the ’70s. Still, not many Filipinos felt they needed a college education.

When I entered UP Diliman in the early ’60s, there were no more than 4,000 students on campus. They came from all over the country, representing the brightest young people of every province. They thought of themselves as the nation’s future leaders by virtue of their simply being there. Much was expected of them. In turn, they were imbued with a deep sense of duty to country and people. They did not think that their country owed them anything; on the contrary, they felt they owed the country everything, and that nothing would please them more than to be able to serve it. One might call it the nobility of public service. UP was elitist only in this sense—that its students thought of the nation’s future as their responsibility.

Basic education—grade school and high school—was something that every Filipino valued highly even before it became explicitly enshrined as a right in the Constitution. But I do not know when the idea began that college education is a basic right of every citizen, which the State must provide for. I am sure it did not come from my generation. Perhaps, it came with the decline of basic education itself, when the high school diploma was no longer acceptable as proof of functional literacy, and employers began to require a college degree for even the simplest jobs. In any event, there was a surge in demand for college education in the 1980s.

The student population of UP itself has grown to more than 50,000. But its faculty and facilities have failed to keep in step with this phenomenal growth. Its classes are packed, and the faculty has little time for anything more than teaching. While many bright students still opt for an academic career upon graduation, very few remain after they have earned a second degree. The psychic reward of teaching in the country’s best university is simply not enough to keep them going. Not a few have painfully traded a promising life of scholarship for a better-paying call center job.

I am sure the desire to serve the country remains strong among our students. But, invariably, many of today’s UP graduates, like their generation, will leave the country and spend their most productive years abroad. No one in particular is to be blamed for this. And many come home yearly to perform medical missions. Others contribute generously to the university to support scholarships and various programs, in grateful recognition of the formative years they spent at UP.

But, clearly, the policy of subsidizing university education in the era of global labor mobility no longer makes much sense. If the goal were to provide college education to poor but deserving students, it would be more sensible to give out individual scholarships than to pay for the operations of a whole university. Indeed, if the only role of a public university were to provide higher instruction, there would be little reason for the State to run its own university. Private institutions all over the world are taking over this function because in many ways they do it more efficiently.

Why not close UP then? Why persist in running a state university on a dwindling budget that can no longer decently support the work of a higher learning institution?

The answer lies in the complex functions that a university performs in society. Any good university worth its name will not confine its work to teaching. It will insist on producing new knowledge through research. It will enrich and extend the horizon of existing culture, and promote its own world view in the larger society. It will assume the primary task of forming the nation’s leaders, of shaping their political consciousness, and equipping them with those traits and skills that mark them out as leaders. None of these functions are explicitly contained in any specific set of courses; they are integral to the learning process that uniquely belongs to all great universities. It is for these reasons, and no other, that a university deserves public subsidy.

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20 November 2006

kubrador wins at cinemanila, rome; gina pareno is best actress in brussels and amiens

jeffrey jeturian's kubrador bagged the lino brocka award (best picture prize, world cinema competition) at the 8th cinemanila international film festival. it also received a special jury prize for best picture from the 7th asiatica filmmediale in rome, italy. kubrador has been accepted for exhibition and/or competition by at least thirty six (36) film festivals worldwide.

janus victoria, one of my many outstanding students at u.p., received cinemanila's best short film award for hopia express.

meanwhile, in less than a week, kubrador lead actress gina pareno has tucked in two more best actress awards: one from brussels international film festival of independent film and another from amiens international film festival.

the other winners in brussels are: best film, cheng wen-tang’s “blue cha cha” (taiwan); jury prize, zézé gamboa’s “the hero”(angola); best actor, oumar makena diop, “the hero”; best director, fariborz kamkari’s “the forbidden chapter” (iran); best screenplay and best cinematographer, girish kasaravalli’s “hasina” (india).

the roster of winners in amiens are: best film, “10 canoes” (australia); special jury prize, “dreams of dust” (burkina faso/canada/france); best actor, damian alcazar, “a wonderful world” (mexico); and the city of amiens award, “a wonderful world.”

other winners in the rome's asiatica filmmediale are "mainline" (directed by rakhshan bani etermad, iran), best film; "the island of rebirth" (directed by rustem abdrashev, kazakhstan), audience award. in the best documentary division, the winners are: "buddha’s lost children" (best documentary) from the netherlands, directed by mark merkek; "total denial" (special mention), from italy, directed by maurizio morriello and "indonesian cinema", from bulgaria, directed by milena kaneva.

so far, kubrador has garnered eight (8) international prizes: two fiprescis, two best picture awards (one from new delhi and another from cinemanila), three best actress awards (new delhi, brussels, amiens) and one special jury prize (rome).

mabuhay!, indeed.


CINEMANILA 2006 List of Winners
November 11, 6 p.m., Malacañang Palace Ceremonial Hall

GRAND PRIZE LINO BROCKA AWARD (International Competition):

KUBRADOR by Jeffrey Jeturian (Philippines)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE (International Competition)
EVERLASTING REGRET by Stanley Kwan (Hong Kong)

BEST ACTRESS (International Competition)

BEST ACTOR (International Competition)
Alexei Chadov (9TH COMPANY, Russia/Ukraine/


HOPIA EXPRESS by Janus Victoria

PAPER DOLLS by Tomer Heymann (Israel)

MANORO by Brillante Mendoza

SQUATTERPUNK by Khavn Dela Cruz

BEST DIRECTOR (Digital Lokal):
Brillante Mendoza (MANORO)

BEST ACTRESS (Digital Lokal):
Maricel Soriano (NUMBALIKDIWA)

BEST ACTOR (Digital Lokal):
Archie Adamos (RAKET NI NANAY)

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jeffrey jeturian and gina pareno at pusan film festival

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gina pareno signs autograph for korean fans in busan
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jeffrey jeturian with fans in brussels
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gina pareno (with jeffrey jeturian) after receiving her cash prize as best actress in brussels
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jeffrey jeturian and gina pareno with the latter's best actress trophy at amiens


kubrador countdown

* 42 international film festivals
* 9 international awards and citations


1. moscow (competition - won the FIPRESCI -- international critics jury prize)
2. new delhi (competition - won best film, best actress and the FIPRESCI -- international critics jury prize -- the first time for a film to win 2 FIPRESCIs)
3. toronto
4. antalya, turkey
5. mumbai, india
6. pusan, south korea
7. vancouver
8. hawaii
9. valladolid, spain (competition - kubrador received a citation from the young critics group)
10. sao paulo, brazil
11. tokyo
12. london
13. cinemanila (competition - kubrador won the grand prize)
14. brussels (competition - gina pareno won her 2nd best actress award)
15. amiens (competition - gina pareno won her 3rd best actress award)
16. thessaloniki, greece
17. rome (competition - kubrador won the special jury prize)
18. tallin, estonia
19. bratislava, slovak republic
20. cairo, egypt
21. dubai
22. chennai/bangalore, india


23. bangkok (competition)
24. palm springs, california
25. rotterdam, netherlands
26. copenhagen, denmark (competition)
27. calgary (alberta, canada)
28. cleveland (ohio, u.s.a.)
29. belgrade, serbia/montenegro
30. melbourne
31. fribourg, switzerland
32. tromso, norway
33. goteborg, sweden
34. guadalajara, mexico
35. warsaw, poland
36. vilnius, lithuania
37. brisbane (queensland, australia)
38. barcelona (spain)
39. brugge (belgium)
40. fajr (iran)
41. hyderabad (india)
42. calcutta (india)

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12 November 2006


it was certainly more than just your average coin-operated cold beverage dispenser.

when i was about four years old, i remember having this particular fascination with vending machines. people used to call it “vendo” during those days and i saw one for the first time at the old manila international airport (mia). family members flocked to the airport where my grandfather was arriving from a trip overseas.

the old mia was, quite possibly, the most modern airport in southeast asia. state-of-the-art escalators led guests to an amusement center, a café and a view deck where everybody got to say hello or goodbye to their loved ones. i also remember staring cheekily at teary-eyed passengers walking across the tarmac with their entourage near the plane. security was a bit lax during those days. people were generally free to roam all over the airport premises.

when family members rushed towards grandpa, i was suddenly left alone near the lobby. there were too many people all over the airport. suddenly, i could no longer determine the location of the arrival area. i was just about to cry when i came across kids drinking (paper) cupfuls of coca cola, royal tru orange and fanta root beer from a vending machine. i had not seen anything quite like it before. i got myself distracted until, minutes later, my parents had finally spotted me. right after, grandpa rewarded me with coca cola (worth about twenty five cents) from another vending machine. for sentimental reasons, i kept the coca cola paper cup for several days.

months later, i would accompany my mother to her ob-gyne specialist (the late francisca tan de leon) at mary chiles hospital along manila’s gastambide street. as soon as mother sees her doctor (she was then pregnant with my second younger brother), i would sneak out of the doctor’s room then rush to unsystematically press each button of the hospital vending machine. sadly, i didn’t have money then and mother dear wouldn’t give me some of her loose change. but i was happily observing doctors, nurses, midwives, patients and guests every time they slip in coins for a drink. occasionally, i even got treated by passers-by (usually hospital staff) who knew my mother.

my fascination with vending machines ended abruptly at age five, when i entered primary school. there was at least one vending machine on the fourth floor of u.s.t.’s albertus magnus (education) building, right on the education high school side. but that particular vending machine turned out to be a hive for bees. once, i got stung painfully on my right forearm. i cried and my teacher (milagros bautista-villarama) rushed me to the university health center for emergency treatment. from then on, i lost my sense of fascination for vending machines. i became a nerd even more preoccupied with homework.

but decades later, i still wouldn’t readily dismiss the intensity of my emotional state when i saw a cold beverage dispenser for the first time. one can always be like that little child by accepting joy and comfort from seemingly everyday things.

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vending machines at the tea room, a.n.u. research school of pacific and asian studies

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old manila international airport (1960s-early 1970s)

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1950s coca cola vending machine

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candy vending machine

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only in japan: tea vending machine beside cigarette vending machine

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egg vending machine

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coffee vending machine

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fresh vegetable vending machine

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hot soup vending machine

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rice vending machine

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movie sound track and mp3 vending machines

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beer vending machine

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03 November 2006

bob barker

"come on down", was his catchphrase.

bob barker is one of my all-time pop culture icons. the other day, i caught the news from good morning america—that bob is retiring at age 83. “i want to retire young”, he said.

these days, many filipinos wouldn’t even know bob barker. but when i was growing up, he was very famous as the host of the price is right. if i am not mistaken, bob was hosting that game show since 1972, the year marcos declared martial law. the philippines didn’t have cable television during those days (save for those who lived around clark, subic and other u.s. military installations-they had exclusive access to far east network a.k.a. f.e.n.) but manila’s rpn channel-9 (then, the country’s no. 1 station) aired past editions of bob’s show day and night. and i would religiously watch each episode partly because of the prizes and largely because of what i had considered extraordinary hosting by bob barker.

good morning america had failed to point out that, from 1967 to 1987, bob was also famous as the host of the annual miss universe and miss u.s.a. pageants. he hosted pageants when they were more acceptable and political correctness hadn’t gone to people’s heads. when manila first hosted miss universe at the folk arts theater in 1974, bob was culture-sensitive enough to speak some tagalog and wear barong tagalog during the proceedings. filipino viewers then loved bob barker. and i got the feeling that the love affair was mutual. during live interviews, bob would normally ask winning questions to filipina candidates in the semi-finals. twice, the winning questions turned into winning answers (in the case of gloria diaz in 1969 and margie moran in 1973). other times, they became particularly memorable performances (in the case of armi barbara crespo in 1972, guadalupe sanchez in 1974, chiqui brosas in 1975, chat silayan in 1980, desiree verdadero in 1984 and pebbles asis in 1987).

In 1988, bob resigned from hosting the twin pageants because he had objected to the use of animal fur coats during each show. he is an animal rights activist and when the fur coats got retained as prizes, he didn’t stay on. growing pains star allan thicke and tracy scroggins from the colbys took over at the very last minute. and they were promptly booted out the next year. so did 1982 miss universe karen baldwin with the dynasty tandem of emma samms and john forsythe (1989). charlie (forsythe was that mysterious voice behind the tv and film versions of charlie's angels) was clearly no match to barker's bag of tricks. and while dick clark(1990-1993), leeza gibbons (1990-1992), miss universe 1978 margaret gardiner (1990), miss universe 1987 cecilia bolocco (1993), miss universe 1989 angela visser (1991-1994), arthel neville (1994), bob goen (1994-1996), jack wagner (1998-1999) and miss universe 1997 brooke mehealani lee (2001-2002) were noteworthy replacements, succeeding presenters george hamilton, marla maples trump, shemar moore, sinbad, julie moran, ali landry, elle macpherson, naomi campbell, todd newton, phil simms, billy bush, daisy fuentes, nancy o'dell, carlos ponce, miss u.s.a. 2004 shandi finnessey and queer eye's carson kressley failed to match an original. viewers clearly missed bob barker.

i am not sure if the price is right is still being aired on philippine television. but i do get to catch it when i am overseas. bob barker has so much charisma as he would make you salivate over anything he endorses. he is one big reason why the price is right is still on top of the u.s. ratings, even after 34 years. cbs and the miss universe organization should have known better. immediately after bob resigned, pageant ratings sunk to an all-time low. to this very day, the contest has lost much of its luster and relevance, not to mention the element of excitement and entertainment bob barker had put into every edition of the annual extravaganza.

as years went on, bob became even more popular—and relevant. he founded the dj&t foundation (named after his wife dorothy jo and his mother matilda) to help control the dog and cat population. In 2001, harvard university ‘s law school established the bob barker endowment for the study of animal rights law to support the engagement of teaching and research in this field. subsequently, bob received numerous other awards and accolades as a television host and an animal rights activist.

meanwhile, as i got older and in spite of my tremendous stage fright, i have been asked to emcee big and small events every now and then. there isn’t really anything special about my barangay-level hosting skills. but somehow, i breezed through every time because bob barker has always been my benchmark. i would always attempt to perform in each gig with a vision of bob barker nailing each word that i say.

these days, film buffs would faintly remember bob as the hard-hitting, silver-haired golfer who made his walk-on debut in adam sandler’s happy gilmore. i will always remember bob barker as the ultimate emcee, the one who rendered color and authority to the price is right and the miss u.s.a./miss universe pageants.

bob barker hosts the 1974 miss universe pageant at manila’s folk arts center

bob barker hosts the 1979 miss universe pageant at perth entertainment centre, australia

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bob barker hosts the 1980 miss universe pageant at sejong cultural center in seoul, korea with (l-r): delyse nottle, new zealand, 2RU; linda gallagher, scotland, 1RU; maria rosario rivera silayan (chat silayan), philippines, 3RU; shawn weatherly, u.s.a., miss universe; and eva brigitta anderson, sweden , 4RU

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at king’s park, with a view of perth entertainment center in the background (august 2005)


(Editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer published on page A12, 3 November 2006)

IN retrospect, it may be that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was at her most impressive and effective when she was still routinely conducting inspections and behaving as the scolder-in-chief. She was living up to a tradition as old as the Philippine presidency itself. When she materialized in government offices and papers flew -- because she'd caught policemen watching pornographic videos, or officials were absent from the work place, or citizens were tangled up in red tape -- the public not only took a vicarious delight in it, but were reassured that government was where it should be, which is on their side.

But then, desperate to be seen as cuddly and lovable, the President stopped taking officials to task and engaged in gimmickry that was doomed to fail from the start. Her husband also took to suing critics and playing golf. And so it was with a poignant reminder of what could have been -- and in a sense, what should always have been -- that the public read news of Evangeline Lourdes "Luli" Arroyo speaking up for Juan de la Cruz.

She did so at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. She was incensed over a foreigner jumping the line (VIP, mind you) without so much as a by-your-leave to anyone or an explanation from the immigration officer at the counter. When the President's daughter asked why this was so, the immigration officer made the career-fatal mistake of snapping back at her.

It turned out that the foreigner jumped the line because he was in danger of missing his flight -- and Luli Arroyo was reasonable enough to state that had this been explained from the start, no one standing in the line would surely have objected. The whole thing ended up being a problem of communication. The foreigner was just whisked through without so much as a by-your-leave to those lined up; Luli Arroyo spoke up (and rightly so), only to have a civil servant try to pull rank. And while she has no rank, she was correct to feel that it was anyone's right to ask -- and get an answer.

Had the President's daughter not been in the habit of lining up (even in VIP lanes), she'd never have seen what her countrymen see all the time: people simply ignoring the rules and then getting upset if anyone dares ask why. The low-key Luli Arroyo has always insisted on being treated simply and fairly in public and has received respect for it, unlike, say, her congressman brother Mikey. It has given her the right to ask questions -- and be praised for asking them.

Indeed such have been the steady, unostentatious, fundamentally democratic instincts of Luli Arroyo that we can't help but wish that she was the rule and not the exception both within the President's family and among her mother's officials. A fundamental sense of fair play tempered by typical Filipino reasonableness is nothing uniquely Luli Arroyo's -- it is something shared by most citizens of this Republic. The problem is that it is something alien to those with rank, regardless of which side they occupy in the political divide.

If more officials patiently waited in lines; if more of them gave up their motorcycle escorts and vehicles devoid of any low-numbered license plates and waded through the traffic everyone else endures; if fewer of them lent their official license plates to nephews and nieces in private schools for the purpose of intimidating policemen and running red lights; if all of them insisted on going through what every citizen has to endure -- red tape, long and slow lines in government offices, the hostility of lazy or the curtness of overworked government workers; if more of them, in a word, got angry over official abuse instead of being abusively angry at the citizenry, this country would a better, more harmonious place.

But it isn't, because our officials refuse to lead in the manner we've come to expect, but rarely find, and that is, by example. A citizenry that seldom encounters an official motorcade would be willing to endure the inconvenience of one, because they would acknowledge that the official must really have to attend to an emergency. Instead, official abusiveness has become so familiar that it has bred contempt.

So, bravo, Luli. And boo to everyone else all around.

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