One more week: SC defers vote on Bongbong protest to Oct. 8

It seems the Supreme Court is being extra careful about deciding on the electoral protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos against the victory of Leni Robredo as Vice President.

Just this afternoon, veteran journalist Edu Punay tweeted that the High Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal,, had reset its deliberation and voting on the report of Justice Benjamin Caguioa on the results for the pilot provinces to Oct. 8.

This one week delay in the voting only adds to the growing suspense on the outcome of the protest.

Marcos has insisted that he lost to Robredo due to massive cheating that took place not only in the three pilot provinces, but in many other provinces of the country.

The official count showed that Robredo won by a margin of 263,473 votes, which is considered a hairline victory in the race for the second highest post of the land.


Teaching kids how to write

In any age, good writing skills are always an advantage for every individual. Its importance is even bigger in this era of social media, when we need to write brief and concise posts to convey our ideas. Good thinking is equated with good writing, and vice versa. This is the reason every parent should want to see their children grow up into good writers.

But unlike all other subjects, there is no formal course for teaching children how to write. In fact, the best writers didn’t learn their craft in the classroom. Teaching writing in the traditional sense of education doesn’t exist. There is no one method or approach to teaching children how to write.

I speak from experience. I’ve reached a point that I can fairly say that my writing skills would be proximate to excellent. At 60, I’ve probably written millions and millions of words, most of them in my work as a journalist. I was also a public servant (Provincial Administrator of Iloilo) for nine years. I worked in a bank for eight years. And as a parent, I’ve raised six children into becoming good writers.

I’m sure that my formula — if you can call it a formula — is similar to others who achieved a high level of writing skills and taught their children to do the same. It’s not a big secret. It is very simple.

In 1991, I had the privilege to attend a seminar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, FL as a 32-year old Filipino newspaper editor. I spent a week with Dr. Roy Peter Clark, considered the guru of American journalism writing. I came to Poynter with a feeling of inferiority. I was at the Mecca of journalism, and I had vowed to bring home as much knowledge about writing.

Dr. Clark asked the participants to write a feature story. At the time, the Apple Mac was still a novelty. I had never laid my hands on an Apple Mac before. Oh boy, did I relish every moment writing on a Mac (I think it was Mac II with floppy discs). It was like being allowed to drive a Rolls Royce; that’s how primitive IT was at the time in the Philippines.

And so I saved my work on the Apple Mac II and waited.

After a day, Dr. Clark invited me to a small conference room for a one-on-one coaching session. My first question was: what mistakes did I make? Was my grammar atrocious? Was I an embarrassment to the institution which gave me an all-expenses paid trip to Poynter?

To my surprise, Dr. Clark was all praises for my writing. “Where did you learn how to write?” he asked. My lame answer was: “In school.”

Of course, that was an exaggeration. School didn’t really teach me how to write. But school was where I was introduced to reading. It helped that my aunts had plenty of old editions of Time, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest. These I literally gobbled up whenever I could.

Looking back, I realize now that this is how most of the great writers discovered their talent. At a young age, they devoured books. It became their introduction to a world of words. Every page that they read became a building block for their writing ability.

No writer who is now famous was given formal lessons in writing. As Dr. Clark told me, “you taught yourself how to write.” This is the same thing with all writers. Later in life, it helped that they had mentors. This is the reason journalism is one of the best ways to sharpen one’s writing skills. Editors teach us what to avoid and how to conserve on words to put across our meaning.

Having great writers as models is also a good way to develop your writing skills. When we read the great books, we come to see how their ideas are packaged in easy-to-comprehend sentences and paragraphs. I do remember a high school teacher tell us: “If you want to write well, just follow the three R’s: read, read, and read.”

So, if you want your children to learn how to write, encourage them to be readers at an early age. That will give them a big headstart in becoming good writers.

Suspense: Nation awaits verdict on Leni-Bongbong case

Like most Filipinos, I am eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s announcement on the manual recount conducted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal for ballots cast in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur in the May 2016 elections for Vice President.

It’s been three years since former Senator Bongbong Marcos filed a protest on the results of the elections and challenged the victory of Leni Robredo in the VP race. Based on the results, Robredo narrowly defeated Marcos by 263,473 votes. It was a hairline victory at best, and Marcos’s protest has drawn widespread belief that he is the rightful VP.

On Sept. 10, 2019, the Supreme Court spokesman, Atty. Brian Keith Hosaka, told media that the PET chaired by Justice Benjamin Caguioa, had submitted the results of its revision for the three pilot provinces. He declined to give a clue on the contents of the report.

The announcement triggered a flood of speculations in social media. Was there really fraud in these three provinces? If we look back to the revision activities during last year, there were instances when tell-tale signs of ballot boxes being compromised were discovered. The ballot boxes have security features to ensure that the contents are not manipulated or destroyed. The condition of many boxes put the integrity of the ballots in question.

We can imagine our Supreme Court Justices going over the PET report with a fine-toothed comb. As Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said, the High Court has to go carefully on this matter because of the paramount public interest involved. But we also hope that the agonizing wait will not last too long. Filipinos want to know the truth.

Marcos needs only to prove one thing with this first phase of the protest: that indeed, cheating had taken place in the three pilot provinces. Nobody can tell as yet on just how much cheating did take place, if any. But a finding to that effect would be fatal to Robredo even if the recount’s results fail to change the result to favor Marcos.

Robredo as presidential bet in 2022: pure hallucination

Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV believes that Vice President Leni Robredo is the opposition’s best bet to run as President in 2022. He described her as a “widow to be reckoned with.” Well, everybody is entitled to dream big. But this one is pure hallucination. Robredo is the worst candidate the opposition can field against the administration in the next Presidential elections.

For one thing, Robredo’s ascendancy to the Vice Presidency is shrouded in doubt amid allegations of massive cheating. Iloilo is one of the pilot provinces chosen by former Senator Bongbong Marcos in his protest for recount. I have reason to be believe the results of the elections in 2016 was manipulated to give Leni a big margin in Iloilo.

Heck, she was a total unknown in Iloilo. How could she have obtained the 573,829 votes canvassed in her favor as against Marcos’s 94,411? Bongbong Marcos has many followers in Iloilo, especially among the older voters. His wife’s family, the Aranetas, also wields considerable influence in Iloilo. Had she just won by a 100,000, that would have been more believable.

Anyway, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal is reportedly set to announce the results of the recount. We’ll wait and see what the outcome is.

But to say that Robredo is presidential timber is far, far off the mark. It is a wild, wild dream of an opposition incapable of putting up a credible candidate for the Presidency. There will be no President from that side of the fence for a long, long time.

Do millennials still read the classics?

Not too long ago, book lovers always made reading the classics as part of their regular diet. One didn’t get to appreciate the full depth of literature without dwelling into the pages of books that, in the words of Italian writer Italo Calvino, are read and reread and reread. Classic books never fail to uncover new twists and turns for the reader, such that the experience provides never-ending satisfaction.

In fact, Dr. Charles Eliott, president of Harvard University more than a century ago, came up with a list of 50 classic books that he believed would provide individuals with the broadest education. The collection became known as the “Harvard Classics”. The human experience was lacking unless one got to read the Harvard Classics.

That was then.War and Peace jacket

Nowadays, the millennials — those born in 1981 and up — seem to have ignored the classics. In an article, Quartz Magazine worried that “millennials may be the death of classic books.” It’s not that millennials don’t read anymore. In fact, millennials read more, according to Quartz.

Part of the problem is that millennials have different reading habits. Most young people seldom read paper books. Instead, their reading is done with eBooks.

Secondly, the pace with which books are being published is twice as rapid as it was in the 1950s. Authors churn out books almost with assembly-line productivity. The classics usually took years of toil to write and publish, especially when there were no typewriters yet, and most of the books had to be written by hand. These days, with word processors performing editing chores with great efficiency, a book can be turned out once every six months and certainly not over a year.

With so many books competing for readers’ attention, best-selling books stay on the New York Times lists for not more than 20 weeks. “The path to the top of the best seller list is more crowded than ever,” Quartz said.

Definitely, no modern-day book can ever hope to become a “War and Peace” classic that has survived centuries of reading and still continues to be enjoyed today.


Can you succeed without reading books?

These days, people think their success depends on the degree they obtain, or the university they attend. They grind their way through college, studying long hours to fulfill academic requirements, and ultimately wave their diplomas upon graduation.

However, most college graduates mistake their diplomas as evidence that they are ready to tackle the challenges of life. And after college, they cease learning, and hardly pick up a book. In their minds, whatever they need to learn to navigate life and pursue their careers are packed up inside their heads.

That is a big, big blunder.

The demands of the workplace is rapidly changing, and what college graduates have learned are often inadequate for the required skills. People who don’t read are unable to gain new knowledge and skills. For one thing, it betrays an attitude of one who has shut the doors to lifelong learning. Second, reading gives our brains a good work-out; every page we read is like a rep of pumping iron.



eBooks vs. paper books

I started reading eBooks around 12 years ago. There was no Kindle yet. I had a Blackberry which had an eBook reading app. But the screen was too small, and I seldom read more than a few minutes. Then came Kindle, and I began building an eBook library.

But I still love reading paper books. There’s something about holding a book in your hands while sipping a cup of coffee and jotting notes on the side. The feel of paper feels good on my hands. And maybe I could add: the smell of paper.

So which do I prefer? I would still read paper books when I can. It’s not all the time, however, that I have a paper book on hand. I do bring two or three paper books with me in my truck. But most of the time, I forget to bring them with me when I get down to have coffee.

On this point, the eBook wins it!img_20190921_0601031903627806768887232.jpg