1 Comment 30 June 2013

By Cherie del Rio —

All-time Favorite Love Team on Movies and TV — this description of the Richard Gomez-Dawn Zulueta tandem is not without basis. They have a roster of movies and television projects as well as a massive fan base to prove it, and best of all, they carry the title as a legitimate award. The onscreen tandem was recently crowned as such in the recently concluded 44th Box Office Entertainment Awards of the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation, Inc.

In the face of hugely popular love teams from the younger generation, such as Kim Chiu & Xian Lim and John Lloyd Cruz & Sarah Geronimo, it came as a bit of a shock that a “mature” couple surfaced and stole a bit of the showbiz spotlight. In the Philippine industry, budding love teams of teenyboppers usually take center stage (for instance, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla). When the popular 90s tandem of Richard and Dawn bounced back on a Kapamilya teleserye, audiences were happily surprised that the former real-life lovers still had the magic. And it seems that this magic will continue.

After their successful team-up last year in the soap Walang Hanggan, Richard and Dawn will reunite for two movies and another soap opera in the next two years. “Then there is another movie that we’re working on,” Dawn disclosed in a recent interview, “which will be coming out for release naman next year.” Dawn says that she feels as though she and Richard are classmates — having the opportunity to see each other every day because of their work schedules. These projects will be under the umbrella of Star Cinema. The soap opera, Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin, also stars Gerald Anderson and Cristine Reyes.

They have magic together

Perhaps no other contemporary love team has achieved what they have accomplished in recent years. Although fans are more than happy to welcome the two back on screen, viewers are still left to wonder about where the magic of the Goma-Dawn tandem comes from? What makes their pairing still so popular even after two decades later? What makes them click?

The Eternal Love Team – as their loyal fans call the tandem – had its beginnings in the early part of 1991 when they were paired in the movie Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, the 1991 Pinoy adaptation of the English novel Wuthering Heights. From reel lovers, they soon became real-life sweethearts.

Their chemistry was undeniable — one that, up to now, is apparent on screen. With older personas and more mature roles and stories, the magical chemistry of Richard and Dawn continues to mystify fans from all across the age groups and social classes. Even Richard’s wife, Lucy Torres, is a fan of the love team. “Kahit pagbalik-baliktarin mo, meron talaga silang magic together,” says Lucy.

Why they split

In an interview early last year as they were promoting their last teleserye, Walang Hanggan, Dawn recalled how both of them were so young when they got involved. She revealed that she could have ended up with Richard if he had stayed faithful.

“We had potential,” she said. “Unfaithfulness takes a toll on the girl in any relationship. She doesn’t know where she stands. It’s possible that the guy loves her but can’t help himself. He probably doesn’t have emotional attachments to the girls he dates on the side. Still, that’s hard to accept. That was how I felt.”

They were on the brink of separation while working on their 1994 hit movie Saan Ka Man Naroroon. Dawn recalls going through a painful breakup. “We’re trying to be sweet-sweet, pero galit na galit ka sa kanya, gusto mong sakalin,” she said, smiling. The two attribute the failed relationship to their young age, the surrounding publicity, and attendant showbiz intrigue.

Reliving the past

According to her, Richard, as an actor, has become “more well-rounded now… more mature in the way he attacks his roles.” Asked if she reminisces the old times, Dawn said, “A little. We had a lot of memorable experiences, especially when we traveled together. I had to refresh Richard’s memory about how we broke up. He had forgotten (laughs).”

Dawn, now married to Davao del Norte Rep. Anton Lagdameo Jr., said she was glad Richard settled down with Lucy, now a congresswoman representing Leyte. “It takes a certain kind of a woman, like Lucy… she has so much confidence to allow her husband to work with an ex. He’s so lucky,” Dawn said.

Despite all that has happened, the Eternal Love Team has maintained its lustre and loyal fan base as shown by the phenomenal success of their last teleserye. To their multitude of fans, it does not matter that their idols are now happily married to their respective spouses. What they look forward to and never tire of watching are the kilig moments as the two recreate their romance, even only in the small screen.

They look good together

If there is one simple explanation for the enduring popularity of the Richard-Dawn team-up, it is perhaps because they just really look good together. Both have aged well and they look as bagay now as they did 22 years ago. Their physical appearance blend; their good looks complement each other.

Another thing going for them is their acting skills. They are so effective in lulling the audience into believing that they remain deeply in love up to this day. Having been real-life lovers, Richard and Dawn perhaps needed only to recreate their past to be able to convince their loyal fans that they have not left during all these years. Their fan base is 20 or so years older but it has stayed on. Many of today’s younger love teams can learn a thing or two from Richard and Dawn on how to maintain their aura and chemistry as well as the loyalty of their fans. But then again, not all love teams are created in heaven and destined for eternity.




No Comments 26 June 2013

Robbie Antonio’s new house in Manila, designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, will be filled with portraits of himself, by world-class artists such as Julian Schnabel, Marilyn Minter, and David Salle. Is the 36-year-old real-estate developer a patron, an egomaniac, or both? READ FULL STORY

PHOTO: Robbie Antonio next to a Kenny Scharf painting, one of the many portraits he has commissioned of himself.





No Comments 24 June 2013

From the early 1900s to the 1960s, Escolta was the country’s premier shopping mecca. With the emergence of the commercial and business districts of Makati and Quezon City, the prestige of Escolta gradually faded. READ FULL STORY





No Comments 18 June 2013

Friday night last week, it seemed everyone who owns a TV set was glued on the final airing of the Channel 2 teleserye, “Ina, Kapatid, Anak”  directed by Don M. Cuaresma and Jojo A. Saguin. READ FULL STORY


Current Affairs


No Comments 18 June 2013

It’s raining season once again and we face the yearly problem of flooding in Metro Manila. I keep getting calls from broadcast media asking for interviews about the problem, its historical origins and urban redevelopment solutions. READ FULL STORY





1 Comment 15 June 2013

Nancy Binay is the product of a political system in which “Anak ni…” is a prevalent and effective campaign slogan. She joined the senatorial race without a day of experience in elected office, and she survived the campaign without engaging her opponents in televised debates. READ FULL STORY




No Comments 09 June 2013

Mateo Ragonjan took a leap of faith in August last year.

The executive sous-chef of a seven-star luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi packed his bags to take up a similar job back home in the Philippines.

He is one of a small group of like-minded Filipinos returning to jobs back home, a sign of confidence in an economy that for decades has seen millions leave in search of better prospects overseas.

Ragonjan now helps run a 300-man kitchen that caters to guests and high-rollers flocking to Manila’s newest and most luxurious casino resort, one of 400 overseas Filipinos who came home to work at the hotel.

“The Philippines is booming at the moment, so I thought it was the right time to go back,” Ragonjan, 41, said on a break from his 10-hour shift at the Solaire Resort & Casino in Manila Bay, developed at a cost of $1.2 billion.

The Philippines economy is leaving behind its reputation as a regional laggard. It reported annual GDP growth of 7.8 percent in the first three months of the year, outstripping China to make it Asia’s fastest-growing economy.

Earlier this year, the government secured an investment grade credit rating, reducing its borrowing costs, while the stock market has reached a series of record highs this year.

Returnees like Ragonjan are just a trickle compared to those still leaving the country, but the hope is that the more the country can draw the diaspora back to the Philippines the more that the entrepreneurial spirit that prompted them to leave in the first place can add fuel to the economy.

Nearly two million Filipinos left last year to take on jobs such as seafarers, maids, laborers, hotel staff, and medical workers, forming one of the world’s largest diasporas of nearly 10 million migrants, about a tenth of the population.

The returnees are limited for now to a few sectors, including entertainment, tourism and information technology, but some hope that it marks the start of a stronger flow.

“I am seeing the trend happening,” said venture capitalist Francisco Sandejas, who as head of the Brain Gain Network, an online platform connecting professional Filipinos overseas to develop business ideas in the Philippines, has been campaigning for more job creation at home for two decades.

“I am just seeing that now it is much easier to convince people to come home, it was never easy and it is still not easy… people are very optimistic about the next three years,” he added, referring to the remainder of President Benigno Aquino III’s six-year term.

Still, Aquino faces an uphill task to overturn criticism he is presiding over a jobless economic boom.

The economy is unable to create enough jobs for around a million new job seekers each year. A quarter of the labour force is unemployed or underemployed and the government is struggling to reduce poverty.

Solaire is the first of four new casino-resorts to open in Entertainment City, a 10-hectare development near Manila Bay that is at the forefront of the government’s push to boost tourism and investment.

Ragonjan said part of his decision to return to the Philippines was because there seemed to be more opportunity than in the past. He says his base salary in Manila is higher than it was in Abu Dhabi, but in returning home he has also given up some financial grants that went with his job in the Gulf.

“If the Philippines continues to grow like this, it can help a lot of Filipinos here. It is good to be back,” he said.

The Philippines’ call center industry, the world’s biggest, continues to grow strongly and the country is also home to small but expanding software and information-technology firms. The country’s business process outsourcing industry is expected to employ 1.3 million people by 2016, up from 640,000 in 2011.

Earl Valencia, a former business incubation manager at Cisco Systems in California, came home with his family two years ago to help co-found a business incubator and accelerator company in Manila to support start-ups and tech entrepreneurs.

“There were a lot of things to anchor me in the United States, but there were also a lot of economic attractions in this part of the world,” said the 30-year old.

To turn the trickle of returnees into a flood, officials acknowledge the economic boom needs to be more broad-based.

Some skeptics say the boom is mostly benefiting the country’s entrenched elite, with little trickling down to alleviate a poverty rate that has remained stubbornly high near 30 percent, far from the 17 percent Aquino hopes to achieve by the time is he due to leave office in 2016.

Per capita GDP was 6.1 percent greater in the first quarter than a year earlier, the highest in at least two years. But official unemployment remained stubbornly high at 7.1 percent as of January, the highest in Southeast Asia.

“Growth is not resulting in the creation of more jobs because the growing sectors are not really labor intensive,” said former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. “We really need to revive manufacturing. We can do more.”

In one promising sign, manufacturing grew in the first quarter by 97 percent over a year earlier despite sluggish export demand. Capital formation, a measure of investment, jumped 48 percent as the private sector expanded capacity to meet domestic demand, which is partly fueled by funds sent home by overseas Filipinos.

While Aquino has had success in plugging holes in the national budget and imposing revenue reforms, his government still faces a daunting task to fix infrastructure bottlenecks and investment constraints that hinder broader-based growth.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan acknowledged that while real GDP per person has risen 11 percent over the last two years, the gains have not been evenly spread.

“Inclusive growth is not about averages, but about the lower part of the income distribution,” Balisacan told reporters after the GDP data.

He said the solution is to link the poor to growth sectors in the economy, such as manufacturing and agriculture.

In the latest World Competitiveness Report by the Swiss-based Institute for Management Development, the Philippines moved up five places to 43 out of 60 economies, overtaking Indonesia and India.

While it showed improvements in economic performance, and government and business efficiency measures, the gains were not accompanied by job generation. It was down seven places in employment, one notch down in overall productivity and two rungs down in labor productivity.

Still, in Manila’s bustling new casino, freshly returned workers, or overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as they are known, believe the time is ripe for the decades-long exodus to reverse.

“I believe it is really time for our country, our economy to get a slice of the cake that companies abroad are enjoying at the expense of our hard working OFWs,” said Rosario Chavez, a gaming manager at Solaire, who spent three decades abroad.

“I really hope that our government will open more opportunities here, more reasons for our OFWs to come home.” (Reuters)


Current Affairs


No Comments 07 June 2013

Just like its infamous traffic gridlock, Manila’s airport woes have defied solution for the longest time. But if our officials are to be believed, there is a glimmer of hope, at least on the airport scene. (Forget the monstrous traffic jams on EDSA, they’re beyond salvation.)

The Aquino administration is hell-bent on finding a long-term solution to Manila’s airport woes after numerous rehabilitation efforts at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have failed to uplift the gateway’s reputation as one of the world’s worst airports.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Emilio Abaya said the government is studying several options on whether to rebuild NAIA into a modern facility or move the international airport somewhere else.

In a speech before the Makati Business Club last April, Abaya said his department has submitted three proposals on the airport system to President Aquino and the Cabinet.

The first option, Abaya said, involves a single airport system. Under this proposal, the government will end operations at NAIA and sell the property, and develop the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The second option is the twin airport system, where the government will develop Clark while maximizing operations at NAIA through 2025. At the same time, the government will look at an alternative site for a new airport, preferably 25 kilometers or 30 minutes away from the NAIA.

The third option is also a twin system, where the government will develop both Clark and NAIA, while considering an alternative airport.

“Previously, the direction was to move all NAIA’s current operations to Clark International Airport within the next five to seven years. What is clear now is that we need Clark to absorb some of the traffic in NAIA. Even if initially, it seems more cost-efficient to have a single main gateway, there are dual airport systems existing around the world that actually perform well commercially,” Abaya said.

While the Palace has yet to decide, Abaya said he could sense ample support in the Cabinet for the second option, wherein NAIA and Clark would be jointly developed while looking for a new site for an airport. Possible sites for the new airport include reclamation of Laguna de Bay or Manila Bay as well as the Sangley airport in Cavite.

The DOTC is still looking to increase the capacity of NAIA, but Abaya noted there is no available land to extend its runway or build a new terminal.

Since the planned move to Clark is not immediate, the government is spending P150 million to fix NAIA-1. Abaya said the ongoing improvement work at Terminal will be finished within the year, while the structural retrofit of Terminal 1 will continue through 2014.

Meanwhile, the expansion of Clark International Airport’s passenger terminal is expected to be completed by September, in time for the launch of new flights by a Middle East-based carrier, according to Victor Jose Luciano, president and chief executive officer at Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC).

“The existing terminal can only accommodate two million passengers annually, while the new passenger terminal expansion will further boost its capacity to 4 to 5 million passengers annually,” Luciano said in a statement.

CIAC expects passenger volume at the airport to reach two million this year, after registering 408,895 passengers in the first quarter alone.

The option of operating both Clark and NAIA involves a strategy that sends international air traffic to both airports, as well as feeder flights from or to domestic routes for passengers arriving from or departing for destinations abroad.

The most crucial ingredient in pursuing this dual airport plan, however, is a train system that connects them.

A “bullet train” project connecting Clark and Manila – covering a distance of 113 kilometers – has a long way to go in terms of project approval and bidding. It is being mulled as an alternative to the Northrail project that was mired in legal, financial and technical issues between the Philippines and China, the rail project’s funder.

The conglomerate Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC), led by Manny Pangilinan, is still keen on undertaking the government’s bullet train project between Manila and Clark, according to a company spokesperson.

However, the project seems a long shot since it remains in the early stages of project evaluation and has a long way to go before it reaches the bidding phase. Only when the government has decided on its airport will the rail project proceed.


Current Affairs


No Comments 02 June 2013

Overseas absentee voting (OAV) turnout in the last May 13 mid-term elections was way below the Commission on Elections’ hoped-for 60 percent in major precincts around the globe.

Based on available reports, the overseas vote may be even less than the 26 percent achieved in 2010 despite the stepped-up OAV campaign, with some major areas logging only five to eight percent voter turnout.

The troubling development prompted Senator Franklin Drilon to demand an explanation from the Comelec and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Drilon, tipped as the incoming Senate president, wanted to know how the poll body and the DFA spent the additional funds they received to ensure that the overseas voting turnout in the last elections would surpass that in the 2010 presidential polls.

Through Drilon’s efforts as chairman of the Senate finance committee, Comelec received P105-M from the 2013 national budget, while the DFA was granted P43-M to implement the absentee voting law and “influence the result of the election by electing qualified leaders,” Drilon said.

But the turnout of only 113,209 overseas Filipinos means each absentee vote costs P1,310 per vote.

“This is outrageous. I wonder how the Comelec and the DFA can justify these numbers,” said Drilon, one of the principal sponsors of Republic Act No 9189, or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act enacted in February 2003.

“I hate to sound like a broken record, but I again deplore the dismal implementation of the absentee voting law in the just-concluded midterm elections,” Drilon said in a statement.

Lower than 2010 turnout

He said he wants to know why, despite an increased budget allocated to Comelec and DFA, the May 2013 polls had even fewer overseas voters — a low turnout of 15.35%.

Of the 737,759 registered overseas voters, only 113,209 actually cast their ballots, according to Drilon.

Drilon said the turnout was even less than the “already low” 26% turnout in the 2010 presidential elections, which is “getting more and more disappointing.”

“It seems that less and less Filipinos abroad are inclined to exercise their right to vote, contrary to the intention of Congress when this law was enacted,” he said.

In April, Comelec had predicted that 60% of overseas voters would participate in the polls. But for still unexplained reasons, the actual turnout was way off the target.

Less than 15% in Mideast

In Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East, which accounts for 40 percent of almost a million OAV registrants, turnout figures point to less than 15 percent.

The Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia reported only 13,321 votes cast out of 164,290 registered voters in the three-city cluster composed of Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar. Only five percent turned out in Jeddah, eight percent in Riyadh and 10 percent in Al Khobar. The Dammam precinct reported a 10.96 percent turnout or only 2,723 out of 24,842 registered voters.

In Kuwait, a major destination of overseas Filipino workers, the voter turnout was barely eight percent of some 40,000 registered voters, according to embassy officials there.

In the United States, another big voting bloc, the turnout was placed at only 11 percent. Reports said only 13,976 out of 125,604 registered voters in the US and the Caribbean actually cast their vote.

The only relatively bright spot was Hong Kong, where 34 percent of its over 122,000 voters cast their votes. According to Hong Kong media reports, 28,260 Filipinos in Hong Kong participated in the month-long OAV. The turnout surpassed the 20 percent turnout in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Dismal turnout in Europe

Reports from Europe, indicate barely 14-percent turnout. ABS-CBN News reported that the European turnout “did not even reach 11,000 out of the total number of registered voters of 75,666.” In the United Kingdom, just over 2,500 out of 11,900 registered voters cast their ballots. In Italy, only 5,000 voted, out of 31,030 registered voters, while in Spain, just over a thousand out of some 7,000 registered participated.

Postal voting was allowed in almost all European centers and in Canada. But many overseas Filipinos, particularly in Canada, complained they did not receive their election ballots in the mail because they were mailed by Comelec to the wrong or old address. It appeared that Comelec staff failed to update the voters’ addresses.

The mailed ballots were meant to allow overseas voters to cast their votes from their homes and offices. But because many of the ballots were misdirected, the voters were directed by Comelec at the last minute to cast their votes at the Philippine Embassy or Consulate, which proved impractical for voters who cannot leave their work or home or live far from a Philippine diplomatic outpost.

Internet voting is best option

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he was also disappointed with the low overseas voting turnout but he could not explain how it happened.

Instead, Brillantes pushed for the adoption of Internet voting to generate increased participation among overseas Filipinos and speed up the voting process.

“If there will be Internet voting it should go up to about 60 to 70 percent,” he said. “It’s the old law that is being applied up to now [and] it’s not very practical to go to the embassy or consulate [to vote which] is the basic requirement. The solution is Internet voting.”

Internet voting, however, poses tremendous technical and logistical challenges Even advanced countries have not fully embraced it because of security problems. Putting up an online voting platform is the easy part, securing it from hackers is the hard part.

Brillantes would not own up to any shortcomings on the part of the Comelec. “Wala tayong pagkukulang. Talagang konti lang lumabas,” he said. “We’ll just have to study it now.”




No Comments 02 June 2013

Three beaches in the Philippines landed on CNN’s “100 Best Beaches” list. These are Palaui Island in Cagayan Valley (No. 10), El Nido in Palawan (No. 14) and Puka Beach in Boracay (No. 84). CNN cites Palaui’s “raw beauty’, calls El Nido “the gateway to adventure”, and bills Boracay “a tropical paradise”. READ FULL STORY


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