Sunday, July 25, 2004

Mr. de la Cruz and the Rest of Us

Like many Filipinos, I find myself hypnotically drawn to the unfolding saga of Angelo de la Cruz. It's a tragicomic hard-luck story, alternately thrilling, heart-wrenching, and funny. Deep down, I hope he comes out of it unscathed, back to the loving arms of his wife and children. At the same time, I can't help but cast a sardonic eye at the background where all the action seems to be happening.

For starters, you know that the media loves our hapless hero. A complete stranger up until two weeks ago, reporters and commentators are already on first-name basis with him. It is never Angelo de la Cruz, much less Mr. de la Cruz. They call him Angelo, a familiarity usually accorded only to celebrities and royalty. Think Diana, Kris, Gloria, and Erap, and you'll know what I mean.

Our government also provided several opportunities for drama and comedy. No other government that I know of has sent emissaries to plead and negotiate for the safe release of their hostage citizens; then again, no other government has probably had as much experience with turning kidnap situations into full-blown melodrama.

And what about that premature announcement of Mr. de la Cruz's release? A week ago, newspapers proclaimed the good news, and it looked like several officials were ready to step up to the limelight to take credit. Then it turned out that the news was false, that Mr. de la Cruz was still in the hands of his captors. Pity the de la Cruz clan. For a while, it looked like an episode of "Wow! Mali!"

The seeming capitulation of our government to the captors' demands has invited a lot of negative comment. The withdrawal of the Philippine contingent from Iraq is seen by many allies as a sign of weakness. They say that this bodes ill for us, encouraging terrorists and earning the ire of United States government. But how can you not feel happy at the sight of a healthy Mr. de la Cruz, eagerly anticipating his reunion with his family? Perhaps other countries will learn that compassion and pathos are not necessarily inappropriate responses.

Perhaps this decision is a bad one, or perhaps it is not. It's hard to see that far into the future, and the state relationships are almost always in flux anyway: if it's not one thing it's another. The decision has been made, though, and we should let it stand.

For the first time in a very long time, we are not dancing to a superpower's tune, least of all now when the international spotlight is on us. A sign, I hope, that we are finally growing up as a nation.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Book Addiction

A Rational Technology repost.

I was five years old when I first tried to run away from home. Mother and I had a spat, and I decided I couldn't take any more of it. I was going to go away to live with my friend and neighbor. I got a box, tied a piece of rope to it, and packed in...my school books.

It all seems very silly now. Mother caught me before I could set foot outside our store, and so my adventure ended before it could begin. But she had a good laugh when she found out I didn't pack food or clothes but only books. Seriously, who could have known nerdiness started so early?

Close to thirty years later, I am still in love with books. My sisters and I have shored up enough to fill a whole room in our house in Davao, so much so that the collection is now spilling out into the living room. If I'm not careful, the house in Dumaguete might just end up in similar straits.

I can't help it, you see. A bookstore is an irresistible magnet, and I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if we had well-stocked libraries in this country, but unfortunately we don't. So bookstores have been my substitute. I browse more than I buy, but with the number of visits, the occasional purchase is just unavoidable. A book here, a book there, and soon we're talking about a veritable library.

My tastes have always tended towards science fiction, and that's a genre I enjoy to this day. I've also had an brief dalliance with philosophy and the classics, though that affair started out with somewhat snobbish intellectual ambition; I still revisit them now and then.

Somehow, as I've gotten older, I'm finding that my tastes are changing as I now gravitate towards history and biography. I still turn my nose up at business and management books, however. De gustibus nil dispatundum.

In hindsight, though, I wish I had mentors and guides to tell me which books to read and with whom I could discuss those books. Alas, about one out of every ten books I read was just so much bunk. Being an impressionable youngster, I started out with the mistaken notion that, just because any work that someone cared to publish was good; that's sadly far removed from reality.

Nevertheless, I've had a very exciting journey with books and the joys have been innumerable. What can I say? Deep down inside me, there's still that five-year old who tried to run away from home with only his books.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Final thoughts on Eastwood

A Rational Technology repost.

Lest you think that I've become terminally struck with Eastwood-envy, let me assure you that I haven't. The past few columns have been as much an exercise as to what the editors of this paper are willing to let me get away with -- what with the pictures and maps -- as they have been on ruminations of what an IT ecozone might be like.

Eastwood City is instructive in a lot of ways. It's not the only IT park initiative in the country, yet arguably, it's the most successful thus far. A large part of its success can be attributed to adroit marketing and salesmanship. Just because you have nice paved roads, manicured lawns, and shiny buildings doesn't guarantee you a market.

That's why the developers of Eastwood City made great pains to woo anchor tenants, big names like IBM, Citibank, Canon, and Trend Micro. Just like you need well-known brand names in a mall, so goes for a an IT park as well. They lend credibility to the project and attract other companies into the area.

Eastwood City also capitalized on the call center boom. In a way it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. With DTI heavily pushing for call centers early on, Eastwood became one of the attractive location options.

It was just about time, too. Real estate in the Makati central business district had become too congested and expensive, and so too with the Ortigas area. Companies were looking for other places to relocate to. Eastwood City came along with other property development projects like Fort Bonifacio and Rockwell. Eastwood City, for the reasons cited above, seems to have outstripped all others in terms of progress.

Of course, a project as impressive as Eastwood City does not come cheap. It's price tag comes in at a hefty P50 billion (that's with a "B") so it will likely be a few years before the investment pays off. There was even a time that it looked like Eastwood wouldn't make it, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

By and large, Eastwood is a case of a big vision paying off big time. Somehow I wish we could give Eastwood a run for its money here in Dumaguete. It's going to take big dreams, hard work, and a lot of cooperation from different sectors. For once, let's not be satisfied with big city scraps.

Alright already. So I do have Eastwood-envy.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Eastwood Dreams

A Rational Technology repost.

Eastwood City is a sprawling 15-hectare complex that boasts of being the first information technology ecozone in the country. Accorded special status by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), it has attracted major players in the IT industry, both local and international. All told, over 6,000 people work in Eastwood, and it truly is a city that never sleeps, as it is the base of operations of several call centers.

More than just a place for IT, Eastwood is also well-known for its trendy bars and restaurants. The place really comes alive in the weekend nights as young professionals from around the area unwind in its various watering holes.

Completing the equation are the various upper-class condominiums, shopping malls, theaters, fitness centers, and schools located within its area. Eastwood City rightly boasts of being a showcase of master planning, mixing all these elements harmoniously.

Eastwood City, my friends, is where I work. This is what I see.
The clock tower, an easily-recognizable landmark of Eastwood City. Behind it are the various upscale bars and restaurants.
Anchor tenants in Eastwood, easily-recognizable names which attract other companies into the area. The tall building on the right is the IBM Building. The building on the far left is Citibank. The short building in between is Epixtar, which is surprisingly rather empty.Eastwood City Walk up close, with all the restaurants. There's also a venue for concerts and fashion shows.More restaurants and bars. This place is packed on weekend nights, but it's all good clean fun. Eastwood City Walk 2. More restaurants, but what this area really boasts about is the high-class mall and theaters.
More of Eastwood City Walk 2.This is actually an semi-enclosed area which can be used for large corporate gatherings.

Condominiums on the rise. This is just a third of the high-end condominiums in Eastwood City.
I have only one major complaint about Eastwood City: that it's not in Dumaguete. But there's no reason we shouldn't have its equivalent, is there?