Good Eats

By the time you get 45 kilometers up the potholed and traffic-choked Emilio Aguinaldo Highway into the Cavite highlands south of Manila, and your knuckles are locked onto the steering wheel so that your companions have to get the tire iron out of the boot to pry them off, it’s probably a good time to…

Criminal Rape or Philippine Nationalism?

Sympathizing with convicted rapists is more controversial than appealing for the release of journalists accused of revealing state secrets but it is hard not to see the reflection of the tortured state of Philippine-American relations in the case of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. This 21-year-old was recently sentenced to 40 years in jail…

The Philippines in a Holiday Mess

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was busy part of this week filming her annual holiday message to the nation. Clad in a pink pants suit, she posed in a life-size manger on the grounds of the Presidential Palace, complete with Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men. Surrounded by Christmas kitsch, Arroyo may be hoping that…

Asean Caves In to the Bad Guys

Gone are the days when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was steered by Indonesia's Suharto, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad. Call them dictators or whatever you like, but to be sure, these leaders did lead Asean and made it a real entity in world affairs. A case in point was the…

Should the Philippines Cha Cha?

Lawmakers allied to beleaguered Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are attempting to use sheer political muscle to change the constitution — Cha-Cha or charter change in local parlance—in record time. Arroyo loyalists said Monday they would press ahead with a “marathon” session of Congress this week to pass an administration-backed proposal to give the Philippines a…

Living Large

For years, beginning in the late 1980s, Carmen Nuguit routinely carried three foreign currencies -- US dollars, Saudi riyals and Japanese yen  - to exchange at often-shadowy dealers in the Malate district of Manila. Remittances from her older sisters working in Chicago, Riyadh and Shizuo Ka, they arrived through couriers or intermediaries outside the banking…

Fresh Surprise

Like many visitors, I don’t associate the Philippines with fine local cuisine, a fact that makes it seem out of step with its neighbors. Thais stir up miraculous delicacies conjured from chilies, lemon grass, fish sauce and crisp fresh vegetables on side streets almost anywhere. Vietnamese cuisine is also famously fresh with added touches borrowed…

Philippines: Off its sick bed?

Could the country perennially described as the sick man of Asia be reviving? Its economic vital signs are unexpectedly better than thought possible, with growth in gross domestic product that could hit 6 percent in 2007. On the other hand, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations released a report this week putting the…

Face Off

One of the Philippines’ top opposition politicians, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, barricaded himself in his office on Tuesday hours after the government issued an order suspending him and his entire city administration from office. As supporters of the mayor gathered outside his headquarters, police in Metro Manila were placed on alert in anticipation of…

A Bad (Constitutional) Joke in the Philippines

I have been in favor of a parliamentary system of government for the Philippines since the time of President Corazon Aquino, but I am against the current drive to change the constitution and make the shift away from our presidential system. Charter Change, or ChaCha in local slang, is gathering momentum and being promoted as…