Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 20, 2006

Dear Fab Five,

Fantabulosa you could all come! Your gay Flip fans can’t wait to see you!

Up for a lot of noshing and parties and cruising? Because that’s what we love doing here.

I haven’t gotten my invite to the cocktails but I’m not holding my breath. Did I tell you about the time Globe, the cell-phone company here decided to give out your soundtrack to Queer Eye and then had a “Spot A Queer” daily text? You’d get these texts saying how you can spot queers because we love stilletto heels and get hardons for basketball players and we’re forever putting lip gloss on making us out like we’re so dizzy and stupid. I threatened their flabby asses and the texts stopped the very next day!

We still have some pretty clueless people in the islands, so I’m going to give you the gay lay of the land, comprende?

First, you’re going to see the best parts of our city and really gorgeous shopping malls.

But go sneak out one afternoon and tell the driver to drive to EDSA, the main highway, and you’ll SCREAM! The billboards are a fucking nightmare! And even those with hunks on them are beside billboards with disposable diapers. Like in ADULT diapers. You got telephone wires and dirty banners dangling from the air, the palm trees on the islands look like they haven’t been watered in months. Heavens, they’re dead!

The horror of it all is that all this billboards gone mad are done by ad agencies run by queers and fag hags. The very same bunch who’ll buzz you on the cheeks and chew your ear off about aesthetics. Hello! They’ve made the country look like shit.

That’s you’re first task sweetie pies. You may have done wonders for one straight slob per episode. Now I’m begging you to do a make over for a whole city ruined by PLU’s (People Like Us). No, they’re not us. Real Queers have style. They’re faux-fags.

How to do this humongous makeover? I’m sure the President (yes, like, of the country) is going to have you over the Palace. She’s desperate and figures a bunch of celebrity queers will raise her popularity a couple of notches.

Better pop a valium before you make it to the Palace. That dump needs massive beaucoup work. Start with the carpets, (yuck), shred the plastic flowers, and throw away that cheesy photo portrait of hers with the curled bangs on the forehead. While you’re at it, tell the security folk that at the next uprising, don’t pile dirty container vans to block the crowd. Looks sleazy on CNN.

Tell the president to give you carte blanche total power, like in dictatorship, to redo the entire Metro Manila. You’re the only group on this universe that can redo this disaster zone. You can start with telling her it is outré and so boring to see her sour looking face in every poster about every project she’s done. What she’s doing invites every ugly politician with their equally gross mug shots to do the same.

We got street signs in yucky pink instead of fuchsia. And check the street lights! Yeah, the one’s looking like glowing lollipops with zits. Can you just barf? I know you don’t want to be rude and cringe or die of laughter. But with your fashion police powers, all this can go! You can even get the street sweepers wear designer shirts!

How to get the contract? Easy. Tell her to hand over the First Gentleman to you all for a day, maybe even a week! We’re talking major renov here. After you’ve done with him, the President might be so grateful, you’ll probably get Metro Manila AND the whole country!

While you have her, tell her to cool it on the ice cream because she’s getting to be a chubbo and short and chubbo don’t mix right? Tell her to make Manila Mayor Lito Atienza stop demolishing the city’s gorgeous old buildings (he’s got a thing against Art Deco, must be from childhood). And to stop cutting down trees. We can’t have decent parks if we don’t have frigging trees n’est ce-pas?

Back at the mall, you need to recognize the nasty folks who don’t deserve your autographs and picture poses. There’s the schizoid fundies who watch every Fab episode but still think you’re sinners. You can tell who they are by the trickle of blood coming down their black pants or the poly-blend dresses with crucifix designs. They’re hopelessly trying to make sure you’ll never marry their cute sons on Philippine soil. And this must be the last country on earth where they’ll stop you from using condoms. So, don’t go around giving autographs to creeps who want you single and terminated OK?

Is there romance here? Your Gaydar won’t stop blinking at all these guys who’d want to get into your pants and into your hearts. Unfortunately, many of them are still in closets. The
rich closet ones have PR firms sending out weekly press notices about them “…not having met the right girl” and that kind of bullshit.

Yet, these businessmen, these politicos, lawyers, doctors, the hotel front desk guy, the cab drivers, they’ll all flirt with you and hope to God you’d make the first move. Go for it Fab Five! But you tell them they’ll only have your hearts if they come out!

As for shopping? Ayala Malls of course. Tiendesitas, a new shopping area has fab antique shops and foodie stalls. Dining, it’s got to be People’s Palace or Sala. An A-Gay manages them so they have that frisson, sexy waiters, and scrumptious food.

Enjoy our country. Despite our problems, we’re better than Singapore. Over there, five open queers would be an illegal gathering.

John L. Silva
The Fab Flip

Sunday, July 16, 2006


July 16, 2006

Dear Friends,

Here's the complete set of correspondence between Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee President, Mr. Erwin Elechicon, Greenwich Pizza President, and myself for you to understand my objection to the illegal food stall set up by Greenwich in Pila, Laguna's historical landmark plaza. I also attach pictures of the stall, the complete Presidential Decree 1505 protecting heritage landmarks, and Mr. Rina David's editorial about the issue. It is a happy day for all who care about our heritage landmarks. My correspondence are instructive as well to fellow advocates who want to learn how to write effective advocacy pieces.

July 9, 2006

Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong
Jollibee Foods Corporation
Jollibee Plaza
10 Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center
Pasig City

Dear Mr. Tan Caktiong,

I would like you to please look into the matter of an illegal placement of a Greenwich food stand on the Historical Landmark Plaza of Pila Laguna. I attach pictures of the stand taken today. The stand has been on the plaza for four days.

The plaza of Pila, Laguna was declared a National Historical Landmark on May 17, 2000 by the National Historical Institute through Presidential Decree No. 260. It is a landmark because it is one of the few remaining examples of a Spanish colonial town plaza, surrounded by some very fine examples of Spanish and American period homes. Since its landmark status, Pila has become a tourist destination and is loved by local and foreign visitors.

Presidential decree 1505 amends Presidential Decree 260 by prohibiting the unauthorized modification, alteration, repair and destruction of original features of all national shrines, monuments, landmarks and other historical edifices.

The illegal placement of this food stand began with a company representative offering the Mayor of Pila a fee of 10,000 pesos to set up their stand on the Landmark Plaza for a period beginning July 5 ˆ July 29. Both the Greenwich representative and the Mayor of Pila had no legal basis to make such a transaction and go against Presidential Decree 1505.

The Greenwich food stand insults the townspeople who fought for and secured the Landmark Status. In addition, the food stand negatively affects the aesthetic charm of the plaza and will definitely affect tourist visits.

I will counsel you that in the past, several companies have violated the Presidential Decree (the last being Globe) by defacing and altering the Landmark Plaza with their materials or structures. The townspeople, with the help of the activist group, The Heritage Conservation Society and the media immediately organizes and have the offending materials or structures removed. The errant corporation only suffers ill will and bad publicity.

We strongly urge you to have the Greenwich food stand removed immediately. You have garnered many accolades as a good and far-sighted businessman. Let’s see you earn it on this issue.


John L. Silva
Senior Consultant
National Museum of the Philippines
Former Trustee, Heritage Conservation Society

July 10, 2006

Mr. John L. Silva
Senior Consultant
National Museum of the Philippines

Dear Mr. Silva,

This responds to your July 9 email note to Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong regarding the Greenwich food stand at the Plaza of Pila, Laguna. Mr. Tan forwarded this note to me for immediate action in my capacity as the President of Greenwich Pizza Corporation, which is a part of Jollibee Foods. In the interest of a speedy response, I am emailing this reply to you, as well as copying the rest of the persons on your copy list.

Let me start by thanking you for sending us the note. We take very seriously our commitment to be a good corporate citizen, which tries to do the right thing in every decision and action we take. Consequently, we have quickly looked into the matter you have described and are already taking the appropriate action.

By way of background, I’d like to briefly go over what has happened, from our perspective. Jollibee Foods has been a major patron of the community activities of Pila in the past, including supporting Pila’s Foundation Day events last year. Event sponsorship as well as the setting-up of food stands were among the activities our brands Jollibee and Chow King undertook in the area of Pila’s town plaza last year. We believe these helped contribute to the success of the celebration.

We again wanted to participate in Pila’s Foundation Day this year, which we understood would be celebrated with activities throughout the week of July 24. In the same spirit of celebration, we again proposed to support the event, this time with Greenwich Pizza as a principal sponsor. This sponsorship included the earlier set up of a food stand last week, in anticipation of the Foundation Day activities. We had hoped that this would help create an early festive atmosphere, and spur interest and participation in the Foundation Day events. We made this sponsorship proposal to the local government unit, headed by the Mayor, as this is the usually-accepted practice with events of this nature across the country. The local government saw merit in our proposal, and consequently approved it. From our perspective, we were simply repeating what we believed was our participation in a successful event last year, and advancing this by a couple of weeks with the approval of the appropriate authorities.

We regret that we may have inadvertently offended sensibilities with our sponsorship. We certainly had no intention of doing so, much less defacing or marring anything¦ be it the Historical Landmark or indeed any other feature of the town. We had simply wanted to be a part of the town’s celebration, and do what we could to help make it a happy, activity-filled event. The food stand we put up is temporary, and by the week of the Foundation Day events, would be part of all the other stalls, stands and the ˜tiangge” that we understand will be set up in the area as part of the celebration. After the week of July 24, the stand would be dismantled and taken away.

Given the situation, however, we have asked our local representatives to meet the Mayor of Pila immediately, and offer to either relocate our stand or take it down and remove it temporarily. We are definitely more than willing to remain the sponsor of Pila’s Foundation Day. Our only request is that if the town decides to set up food stands and other stalls as planned during the period of Pila’s actual Foundation Day celebrations, that Greenwich Pizza will be a part of this, and will be allowed to set up its own stand as well. We hope you will agree that this is a fair and reasonable request.

Once again, we apologize for the sensibilities we may have offended. Certainly, no offense was intended.

We take much pride in our brands, and in the strong businesses we have built. We are a Filipino company, run by Filipinos, serving Filipinos and proud of our Philippine heritage. Indeed, we trace our success to the Filipino values that are an inseparable part of our Company’s culture and operations, and an important reason that we earn the preference of millions of Filipino consumers everyday. This pride in being Filipino is reflected in many ways in our Company, in our food products, in our employees, in our customer service, in our community involvement, and in our economic contribution to the country. Sponsorship of local celebrations like fiestas (and indeed, Pila’s Foundation Day) are important ways we involve ourselves in the Filipino community and contribute productively to it.

This is why we take your concerns very seriously. We want to be a positive, productive and proactive contributor. To do otherwise simply goes against what is at the core of Jollibee Foods and Greenwich. We hope the actions we are taking will address your concerns completely.

Please do email or call me if you have any other concerns that you want to discuss, or need any clarification on. I can be reached via email address, or you can call my direct line at +632 687 0919.

Best wishes.


Erwin M. Elechicon
President & General Manager
Greenwich Pizza

July 11, 2006

Erwin M. Elechicon
President & General Manager
Greenwich Pizza

Dear Mr. Elechicon,

Thank you for your prompt reply and a history of your company’s participation with the yearly Pila Foundation Day activities.
The people of Pila, Laguna take to heart and welcome Greenwich’s interest in our town.

Your company went to the Mayor this year, as did Chow King and Jollibee last year, to negotiate your participation as you say, in “…the usually accepted practice with events of this nature across the country.”

There begins the first and overarching problem. Remove yourself as corporate person just as I remove myself as heritage activist and we are left facing, as citizens of this country, Presidential Decrees 260 and 1505 safeguarding national landmarks. The spirit of the latter decree is to give teeth to the first and exacts a punishment to violators of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 pesos.

The Pila Plaza, a designated landmark by the National Historical Institute is protected by these two decrees from any alteration, modification, and destruction of the original features of the landmark. If you look at the photographs taken of your Greenwich food site (attached), surely any simpleton will agree that the food site violates and ruins the plaza’s original features.

The Presidential decrees supersede any agreement with the local government because it a decree which binds everybody. Ignorance of the law excuses no one. Your defense that your company went through the “…usual accepted practice…” disturbs me and the townspeople of Pila.

Let me illustrate my disturbance by noting that your parent company, Jollibee, has restaurants in the United States, Brunei, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Every one of these countries have federal, constitutional, and socialist laws protecting their national landmarks with similar language and penalties. If Jollibee in Daly City decided to put up a food stall in Golden Gate Park, a national landmark in San Francisco, would connecting with the city Mayor and giving him, say, $10,000 suffice as a business procedure without consulting the American landmark laws? Would you do the same transaction with a Brunei Datu, or Mayor of Ho Chi Minh City, or the Hong Kong Mayor without consulting their landmark laws? You’d not only be foolhardy but could be accused of bribery as well.

So why should the Philippines with its own landmark laws be any different? You proclaim in your letter a pride in being Filipino, in its heritage, in its values yet you don’t seem to recognize two Presidential Decrees aimed to uphold, preserve, and safeguard landmarks that are the essence of all the pride and heritage and values you trumpet.

You are thinking on the small side if you say it “..fair and reasonable” if the Mayor allows other food stalls to go up, Greenwich should too. Where is your corporate social responsibility? The Mayor was in complete violation of the Presidential decrees in making illegal deals with food stall vendors both last year and this year. The townspeople have had a running battle with the Mayor on upholding the decrees. And yet, here’s the biggest food conglomerate in the Philippines still trying to tell the Mayor “Me-Too-Me-Too-food stall” instead of upholding the laws of the land, exercising corporate citizenship and not be party to an illegal act.

As a major food conglomerate, couldn’t you have realized there was something terribly wrong setting up your food stall alone, (“to create an early festive atmosphere”) in this beautifully kept plaza and park? Do you know why you were the only ones in the Plaza? Because the townspeople and the Pila Historical Society have been vigilant in keeping the Landmark Plaza in its preserved and pristine state. I’m sure you would have sensed it if you were setting the same food stall in Golden Gate Park. But somehow you seem to be oblivious and clueless doing it in the country you supposedly take great pride in.

However, your company was not all too clueless. When Ms Cora Relova, a member of the Pila Historical Society took photographs of the food stall, (the ones I sent Mr. Tan Caktiong) one of your employees threatened her, telling her to stop taking pictures. Clearly your own employees sensed something was wrong and illegal.

Members of the Pila Historical Society have decided to obtain from the local judge a temporary restraining order to remove the illegal Greenwich food stall immediately. We have asked Ms. Crystel Ronquillo, Store Manager of Greenwich, Santa Cruz to have the food stall removed but, as of this morning, she says she will not do anything until she hears from the Pila Mayor. The Mayor has called in sick. We are now considering filing criminal charges against Ms. Ronquillo for violation of Presidential Decree 1505.

Last year, Globe decided to hang banners throughout the Landmark Plaza. We acted immediately, recited the Presidential decrees to the Globe heads and the banners were promptly removed, without even consulting the Mayor who they negotiated with. Clearly, Globe read, understood, and upheld the law, the same one you are faced with. Greenwich/Jollibee should do no less.

Do we still want Greenwich’s participation? Of course, for so long as you respect the laws governing the town. You may even have your food stall be at the perimeter of the Landmark Plaza but one thing is clear. The Landmark Plaza which cover the grounds between the Municipio and the Church will not have food and commercial stalls of any kind. You should discuss this matter with Ms. Monina Rivera, President of the Pila Historical Society. Her phone numbers are 831-9666 and 831-3781. Ms. Rivera, a native of Pila has donated property in various parts of the town for use as a market or recreational purposes and is not averse to cooperating with companies like Greenwich in promoting its products. But, like other Pila Historical Society members and concerned townspeople, she is adamant about respecting and enforcing the law governing Pila’s Historical Landmark Plaza.

If you came from one of the most beautiful towns in the country with a plaza intact and centuries old trees ringing it and quaint colonial houses still prevailing, wouldn’t you feel the same way too?

We ask that you exercise corporate social responsibility and have the food stall removed today regardless of the Mayor’s approval. Take the loss of the 10,000 pesos you paid and exercise Philippine citizenship. You are sending a message to the Mayor and local government officials that a major conglomerate will not be party to law-breaking. The townspeople will have greater leverage with the Mayor in enforcing the landmark laws. We will be, like we have with Globe, thankful for your love and respect of our town and we will repay it with consumer patronage.


John L. Silva
Senior Consultant
National Museum of the Philippines
Former Trustee, Heritage Conservation Society

July 11, 2006

Dear friends,

We just got word tonight from the Greenwich Store Manager of Santa
Cruz, Laguna that their food stall, illegally set up on the grounds of
Pila's Historical Landmark Plaza has been dismantled and tomorrow
there will be no sign of its presence.

A series of correspondence below between Greenwich/Jollibee and myself will explain the whole incident and with your support, caused the stall's dismantling and bring back the integrity of beautiful Pila

I want to thank all of you that I alerted, who in turn, wrote letters supporting our effort and letters of protest to Jollibee/Greenwich and spread the word to others who love Pila and heritage conservation. The
force of an enlightened citizenry through this medium called the
internet caused the corporate heads to see the light. This has not
been the first time I have asked your help. But the lesson here is
clear: if we all do our share, we will overcome any adversity.

I thank Mr. Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee President, and Mr. Erwin
Elechicon, Greenwich President for immediately responding to our
letters and in two days, resolved the matter. It's no use saying who
won because, actually, I find all this citizen protest personally
aggravating and time consuming and we, heritage lovers always feeling
that the corporations should know better given their battery of
lawyers and their knowledge of corporate social responsibility.

The only winner in this fight is Pila, this charming town with an
old-world presence. If I should ask compensation as an aggrieved
party, it would be to invite Mr. Tan Caktiong and Mr. Elechicon to a
tour of Pila and to make them fall in love with a heritage landmark so
that their corporations will not repeat this sad mistake in any part
of the country. The Pila Historical Society extends an open
invitation to both gentlemen and their families during its Foundation

For concerned citizens who ask how does one write an advocacy letter
to get results, the letters I wrote below are a good, and now,
successful examples of effective advocacy letters.

Thank you all again. This victory is for our beautiful country.


July 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Silva,

Thank you for copying me on your note below. As you have heard, we have closed the food stand. I am told that the full dismantling and removal of the stand will be completed sometime today. I’m glad that the issue is finally resolved, so that we can move on.

I’m also glad that you still welcome Greenwich’s participation in the town’s activities. If the town – including the Pila Historical Society and the local government – will agree on an appropriate site (which meets all legal, aesthetic, or any other requirements) for temporary commercial activities…then we certainly want to be a part of it. Our Company does not condone, and most definitely will not be a party to any questionable or illegal activity. Again, we simply want to be a positive, productive and proactive contributor.

We at Jollibee Foods and Greenwich wish you, and the Historical Society, and the entire town of Pila all the best. We can only hope that any discord is fully resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and without divisive confrontation. A “win-win” for everyone, so to speak. We gladly offer to support any activity or event in Pila that promotes this harmony, whether it be on the town’s Foundation Day or at any other time of the year. It is in this kind of environment that business (including ours) thrives, the community prospers, sustainable progress happens, and the values that we all hold dear really come to life.

Please do call me if you have any questions or suggestions
related to this issue or any other in the future. I believe you’ll find that a conversation with us at Jollibee Foods and Greenwich can get issues addressed responsibly and quickly.

Maraming salamat, po.


Erwin M. Elechicon
Greenwich Pizza Corporation

M a n i l a

WHEREAS, Presidential Decree No. 260 dated August 1, 1973, as amended, has declared certain sites, churches and places as national shrines, monuments, and/or landmarks, and placed their preservation, restoration and/or reconstruction under the supervision and control of the National Historical Institute in collaboration with the Department of Tourism;
WHEREAS, Section 4 of said Presidential Decree specifically vests the National Historical Institute with the right to declare historical and cultural sites and edifices as national shrines, monuments, and/or landmarks;
WHEREAS, Presidential Decree No. 1 dated September 24, 1972 reorganizing the government, has assigned to the National Historical Institute the preservation, restoration, and/or reconstruction of several historic sites and buildings;
WHEREAS, some private individuals and entities have undertaken the repair and alteration of historic edifices without the prior written permission of the National Historical Institute resulting in the change of the original features of such edifices;
WHEREAS, such moves adversely affect the efforts of the Philippine government, in general and of the National Historical Institute, in particular, in the preservation of our cultural heritage through the conservation of our historic sites and buildings; and
WHEREAS, there is a need to safeguard the improvements that have been made by the National Historical Institute in the development, preservation, reconstruction and restoration of said national shrines, and to prevent the careless and unscientific modification of the original features of important monuments, landmarks and historic edifices;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in by the Constitution,, do hereby order and decree:
Section 1. Presidential Decree No. 260 is hereby amended by inserting another section after Section 4 to read as follows:
"Sec. 5. It shall be unlawfully for any person to modify, alter, repair or destroy the original features of any national shrine, monument, landmark and other important historic edifices declared and classified by the National Historical Institute as such without the prior written permission from the Chairman of said Institute.
Any person who shall violate this Decree shall, upon conviction, be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years or a fine of not less than one thousand pesos nor more than ten thousand pesos or both, at the discretion of the court or tribunal concerned."
Section 2. Sections 5 and 6 of the same Decree are hereby renumbered Section 6 and 7 respectively.
Section 3. This Decree shall take effect immediately.
Done in the City of Manila, this 11th day of June, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-eight.

Rina David's editorial, July 16, 2006, Philippine Daily Inquirer

A food stand in the plaza
By Rina Jimenez-David
Last updated 01:35am (Mla time) 07/16/2006
Published on Page A11 of the July 16, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT MAY now be considered water under the bridge, but a recent dispute between concerned citizens of Pila town in Laguna province (with the support of the Heritage Conservation Society) and Greenwich Pizza as well as its corporate parent, Jollibee Foods Corp., is a good example of citizen action borne of vigilance, as well as of corporate responsiveness to public concerns.

The dispute began with a letter sent by e-mail to Tony Tan Caktiong, president of Jollibee Foods, by John Silva, a consultant with the National Museum and former trustee of the Heritage Conservation Society. It was about the setting up of a temporary food stand of Greenwich Pizza in the town plaza of Pila. The plaza was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 2000 because, said Silva, “it is one of the few remaining examples of a Spanish colonial town plaza, surrounded by some very fine examples of Spanish and American period homes.”

Because of its landmark status, the Pila town plaza is protected by law from “unauthorized modification, alteration, repair and destruction.” As Silva noted: “The Greenwich food stand insults the townspeople who fought for and secured the Landmark Status. In addition, the food stand negatively affects the aesthetic charm of the plaza and will definitely affect tourist visits.”

The next day (which says something about Jollibee’s responsiveness -- Tan Caktiong actually reads his e-mail!), Silva received a response from Erwin Elechicon, president and general manager of Greenwich. Elechicon explained that Jollibee Foods has been a “major patron of the community activities of Pila in the past,” and on the occasion of Pila’s Foundation Day last year, both Jollibee and Chow King sponsored the events and set up food stands in the plaza area.

This year, Greenwich, as principal sponsor, proposed to set up a food stand two weeks before the Foundation Day and secured the approval of the mayor for a P10,000 fee.

* * *

“FROM OUR perspective, we were simply repeating what we believed was our participation in a successful event last year, and advancing this by a couple of weeks with the approval of the appropriate authorities,” Elechicon wrote. He assured Silva that the food stand was temporary and would be dismantled after the Foundation Day activities.

“Given the situation, however,” Elechicon added, “we have asked our local representatives to meet the mayor of Pila immediately, and offer to either relocate our stand or take it down and remove it temporarily. We are definitely more than willing to remain the sponsor of Pila’s Foundation Day. Our only request is that if the town decides to set up food stands and other stalls as planned during the period of Pila’s actual Foundation Day celebrations (the week of July 24), that Greenwich Pizza will be a part of this, and will be allowed to set up its own stand as well. We hope you will agree that this is a fair and reasonable request.”

The Greenwich head concluded his letter by stating his company’s and Jollibee’s support for “Filipino values” and pride in Filipino heritage.

* * *

MOST other activists might have let the issue rest, but not Silva. He wrote a reply letter to Elechicon that not only allowed him to get some licks in, but also clarified for Greenwich and Jollibee what should have been the full extent of their response, given their claims to exercising corporate social responsibility.

It was not enough for Greenwich to have secured the local government’s approval for its participation in a community activity, Silva noted. “The Presidential decrees (on national historical landmarks) supersede any agreement with the local government because (they are) decrees which bind everybody. Ignorance of the law excuses no one. Your defense that your company went through the ‘usual accepted practice’ disturbs me and the townspeople of Pila.”

Added Silva: “You are thinking on the small side if you say it’s ‘fair and reasonable’ if the mayor allows other food stalls to go up, Greenwich should too. Where is your corporate social responsibility? The mayor was in complete violation of the Presidential decrees in making illegal deals with food stall vendors both last year and this year. The townspeople have had a running battle with the mayor on upholding the decrees. And yet, here’s the biggest food conglomerate in the Philippines still trying to tell the Mayor ‘Me-Too-Me-Too-food stall’ instead of upholding the laws of the land, exercising corporate citizenship and not be party to an illegal act.”

In that letter, Silva also informed Elechicon that members of the Pila Historical Society had decided to go to court to get a temporary restraining order to have the food stand removed from the plaza.

* * *

FORTUNATELY, the matter didn’t have to go before a judge. Two days after the exchange of e-mails began, Silva got word that the food stand had been dismantled and by the next day there would be no trace left of the structure.

Elechicon, for his part, said Greenwich still wanted to take an active part in Pila’s community activities, and if the town and the historical society could agree on an appropriate site (other than the plaza) for food booths, then they would want to be part of it. “Our Company does not condone, and most definitely will not be party to any questionable or illegal activity. Again, we simply want to be a positive, productive and proactive contributor,” he said.

All’s well that ends well? Yes, but only after concerned townsfolk who valued their town’s history and beauty kicked up a fuss, found an advocate and champion who knew the right buttons to push, and were met by a prompt and proper response from a company that believed in living up to the values it espoused.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


(A fundraising appeal sent out for a retro dance party to benefit classmates in need. It's unique because we raise money to help those in our midst with medical problems rather than a charity outside. It's also unique because we, from a private boy's school, acknowledge that our classmates have needs.)

April 5, 2006

Dear ‘69 classmates,

It will be close to 40 years since we graduated from Green Hills. If you are reading this, you are the lucky one who is still alive, despite some aches and pains and may be hanging out every now and then with our classmates.

Many in our class have been blessed with good health, great careers, wonderful families, and lives we can’t really complain about. But, I know, you know, that we have in our midst, classmates that didn’t get the luck and the good fortune we have had and are now faced with the prospects of needing our help.

That is why this letter is being sent to you. Recently, a group of our classmates set up a foundation. Their purpose is to help those classmates who could use our support if a medical crisis occurs, or a financial burden is upon them. The foundation will also help poor individuals with micro-financing projects.

I have been in several meetings now and to kick-off the foundation in securing its first chunk of funding, we are having a dance party entitled MAMA MI VERDE to be held July 1, 2006, at the Manila Pavilion on UN Avenue. If you haven’t gotten Alzheimers yet, this is where we had our Junior-Senior Prom when the place was called the Manila Hilton. Remember?

This is going to be pure retro fun with Mr. God and Company, doing the honors of making us sing and dance once again to Smokey, and Sly, and The Four Tops and all the others I’ve now forgotten their names (oops).

Remember Dan Dia? Well he’s the big guy now at PAGCOR and in charge of the casino at the Manila Pavilion. He’s giving us the place and 300 pesos worth of gaming bets for free. He’s even throwing in the printing of tickets. In fundraising parlance, this event is almost free and it means we are going to be able to reach our 400,000 peso goal a lot faster.

Our goal is going to be reached because YOU are going to help. I appeal to all of you, everyone of you, to help by pledging right now to buy 5 tickets at 500 pesos each (or 2,500 pesos). Take your wife, your companion, or anyone you know that can relate to 60’s and even some contempo music. They have to dance because this is a dance party.

The last time we got called on to “give back” to La Salle was on our 25th anniversary and many of us kicked in funds to help deserving poor students to go to our Green Hills night school. This time, the “give back” is to our classmates in need.

We know the need is there. We’ve heard the stories of some classmates and the suffering they’ve been through. We’ve hesitated to help, or given what we could, or sadly walked away. Let’s stop the niceties and the macho bullshit about not bringing this up because we’re suppose to be the lucky privileged men. Disaster and misfortune and illness don’t exclude us and when such things happen, we should respond immediately to help our classmates. We learned this from our Alma Mater.

High School is the time when we formed our values to become who we are. Guess who we picked them up from? Aside from our parents, much of the values come from our classmates. My sense of humor comes from Gerry Lapuz. My trying to be studious comes from Benny Legarda. My love for family comes from Tommy Lichauco. I could go on, and you’ll agree the same formation happened to you.

It’s “give back” time. To our classmates who we owe who we are, we should in turn take care of when the call arises. Let’s start now.

I want you to e-mail me back through this e-mail or to my personal e-mail ( Tell me that you will commit to buy five tickets. We will get them to you and we will tell you how to pay for them.

For our classmates abroad, you are not off the hook. I want you to commit to buying five or more tickets (which we can distribute for you or consider them as a donation) and we will instruct you on how to wire transfer the money here.

In the next few weeks, if we haven’t heard from you, your closest classmate will give you a call and appeal for your help. I also know your e-mail and I will spam you until you commit to this, or you better give me one good reason why you don’t want to help.

We’d like to achieve 100% participation in this effort because our classmates are the closest friends that we have outside our families. And, guess what? This very same fund could actually help you too one day. As I said, we’re not exempt from bad times.

Enough of the guilt trip! E-mail me back by saying you’re in. Give your share and come to this incredible dance party! Remember Bobby de Castro? He’s still crooning Smokey. You haven’t seen your barkada? They’ll be there! You want your wife and friends to reminisce? We’ve got the music. You’ll have the greatest time and you’ll also be helping a good cause. Our cause.

So, e-mail us your commitment right now. If not, expect a call from your classmates. Help our classmates who didn’t get the luck you received. In the end, compassion comes back to the giver a thousand-fold.

Thank you,

John L. Silva
Class of ‘69


(This piece appeared in Philippine Starweek Magazine, June 25, 2006).

A Contemporary Retelling of Our Spanish Legacy
By John L. Silva

“Filipiniana” an extensive, arts, cultural, and historical exhibition opened last May 11, 2006, at Centro Conde Duque in Madrid. The Centro was thronged with visitors led by Philippine Ambassador Joseph Bernardo, senior officials from the sponsoring organizations, Casa Asia and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Reviews in the various newspapers were enthusiastic. Juan Guardiola, Casa Asia curator, managed to borrow over 300 Filipiniana material and works from various parts of the globe for this exhibit, many having never been publicly shown. When brought together, thematically, the works are extraordinary.

The long dark hallway flanked by rooms on both side gives one the feeling of having entered a warehouse or the innards of a galleon ship. The first hold contain early and modern maps of the Philippines, from a 16th century Abraham Ortelius - so early that the island of Luzon hadn’t been charted - to contemporary artist Stephanie Syjuco’s World War II map of the 1945 reconquest of the Philippines. The rooms proceed in chronological order from early botanical prints and drawings of the country’s flora, fauna, and vistas to the latter 19th century photographs by Albert Honiss and Francisco Van Kamp.

The next rooms show the development of Filipino painting highlighting a selection of Juan Luna’s sensual paintings of Madrid women (the catalogue refers to them as “…ennobled portraits of prostitutes.” ) The Juan Luna piece “Parisian Life,” lent by the government’s insurance company (GSIS), showing a young dishevelled French woman sprawled on a café couch was perhaps a last ditch attempt to justify their spending over a million dollars in public funds at an auction three years ago. The purchase, recently ruled unwise and inappropriate by government auditors, is now under congressional investigation.

There’s a long wall full of artifacts displayed in the 1887 Madrid Exposition. Bulols (rice gods) kris, exquisitely carved wooden containers, textiles, model houses, capiz containers, fans and many more items, scrupulously chosen as the finest examples of the colony’s craftsmanship. Given the dubious provenance or the bad tourist market carvings that abound these days it’s a delight to see actual period pieces lent from Madrid’s Museo de Antropologia’s collection.

There is much historical material citing the beginnings of the propaganda movement led by our heroes Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena (with some justifiable boasting in the catalog that their intellectual development blossomed in the ‘mother country.’)

The inevitable Filipino revolution is covered and authentic Katipunan banners, documents and the painful photograph of the execution of Jose Rizal by Manuel Arias appears which the catalog sadly admits as the “…beginning of a legend which would be used as a symbol of colonial disgrace.”

The saving grace for the Spaniards is that the Americans came to take over the country and the following galleries with photographs of tortured “insurgents” and racist political cartoons on display are ample enough evidence that the Yanquis were far less “fino” than the previous colonial administrators. For good measure, there’s also a section devoted to the three years of Japanese occupation. There’s enough burning of Manila, dead Filipinos and other ravages of war by Fernando Amorsolo buttressed with Japanese wartime propaganda posters to almost pine for Spain’s benign rule.

It’s a relief to get through this unfortunate section of history (some Spaniards get soppy and apologetic like the Japanese over their imperial past) because the next galleries and all the way to the end are a stimulating array of paintings, sculpture, the plastic and kinetic arts, photography, film and video of the past seventy-five years.

Much of these works were lent by the artists themselves and by private collectors, galleries and museums including the National Museum. A grand countryside scene with villagers at work under a papaya tree, lent by Mr. Eleuterio Pascual, dominates one wall and is breath-taking. Entitled Interaction, the 1935 painting was a rare collaboration of Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco. It would be like the Mexican greats Orozco, Siquieros, and Rivera given one huge canvas to play with.

The selected paintings of the fifties shine in these rooms. A 1951 Romero Tabuena of hanging laundry from nipa huts and a 1952 Arturo Luz of three men celebrating the new year on a speeding bicycle, both from the Ateneo Art Gallery, have so much verve. Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s laughing women, entitled Tawanan, (1950) and a nearby heavy wooden sculpture called Planting Rice by Napoleon Abueva, both lent by the Kalaw Ledesma Foundation, sustain the dignity of peasant women.

David Medalla, an internationally known artist residing in London reconstructed his incredible Bubble Machine, a 1964 kinetic artwork, composed of standing funnels whose tops spew bubbles to the delight of all.

Despite the restrictive policies of the Marcos Regime, social realist artwork flourished along with political films and they are given ample space in the exhibition. Some of the more stirring are the portraits of workers by Antipas Delotavo (Ang Paglakbay 1983) and by Gene de Loyola (Napipintong Pagtutuos 1984). Other works have strong Chinese Cultural Revolution leanings, with linked arms, clenched fists and waving flags. The passage of time tend to make them look stale and stilted, more reflective as period pieces rather than classic social change art. As for the inclusion of Imelda Marcos in one video, well, there’s the Hola! magazine crowd to contend with.

A whole last section is entitled Memories of Overdevelopment and roughly covers the period 1986 – 2006. Video shorts from both Spanish and Filipino artists air on screens above and on panels in the rooms. One notable project is a large photo diptych showing a soldier in a forest is part of a project by Helena Cabello and Ana Carceller. The scene is Pagsanjan and the video artists have decided to revisit the site where the film Apocalypse Now was filmed. The soldier, a Filipino version of Martin Sheen is mysterious with queer and feminist perspectives thrown in.

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan have all the things we shop for which fit in a balikbayan box and sent to relatives. Canned goods and towels vie with t-shirts and toys and are cleverly piled neatly on top of one another so as to look like a balikbayan box had been removed with the contents retaining the box’s shape.

One of the most haunting works is that of Susan Meiselas, an American photographer who follows a middle-aged American arriving in the Philippines to meet his young bride-to-be after a year’s correspondence (by mail, not internet). There’s the wedding, the party and the camera follows them to their bedroom recording their wedding bliss. Photographs the morning after show the American waking up from a bad dream.

You can almost miss the room solely devoted to Jose Legaspi’s naughty black and white drawings in checkered form. Called Drawings, 2000-2006, Legaspi’s ghoulish themes –daggers in bloodied mouths, crawling figures with ropes tied around their necks – seem akin to all the Abu Ghraib torture pictures. But at least Legaspi’s are just drawings.

Manuel Ocampo’s canvases with the usual medieval atmosphere overlayed with babies shitting, piss stains, nose snot, and juvenile hysteria over colonialism seem overwrought in 2006. He painted Black Sambo Filipino faces on the columns of the exhibition space. They weren’t shocking, not even amusing. One can be more lathered up about the Spanish biscuits called Filipinos, if only they weren’t that delicious.

Filipino art works in a foreign setting take on added inadvertent identities. After the shock value and exotic appeal, we Filipinos who live in the Philippines and see these works abroad hold a secret incantation in our heart. It goes like this: “Dear Gods, I hope these works doesn’t make us look more stupid to the foreigners.” We who live in a country with an image so tattered need a break, one that shows artistic achievement over and above the tourist schlock and the bungling government we are snickered about these days.

That’s why the inclusion of Bencab’s 1978 Filipina Domestic Help and Santi Bose’s Remapping the Colonized Subject in this exhibit leaven the angst, the pedantic, and the historical sorrow that occasionally rear their pesky heads through the galleries.

Bencab, recently declared National Artist, doesn’t add froufrou to the front and side view of a servant in a white apron, dignity writ on her face, her hands belie the slightest nervousness in her pose. No deranged look, no proletarian appeal. Simple yet majestic, it acknowledges and pays tribute to Philippine service workers all over the world.

Santi Bose starts with a painting derived from an old photograph of Juan Luna, Jose Rizal, Felix R. Hidalgo and an unidentified gentlemen posed in Luna’s studio in Paris. A thick gold outline of a tribal god and amulet incantations overlay the photograph. Luna holds a paintbrush whose tip touches the god’s design, as if he himself drew the god. These expatriates are far from their homeland but the god of Juan Luna reminds them of their roots and their destiny. No lengthy discourse on the Propaganda Movement or the enlightened ilustrado is necessary. It is haunting and moving and rounds up all the disparate but forceful elements in this exhibition.

The modern curator has the nagging preoccupation of making an exhibition relevant. When you add history as the theme’s foundarion, the task is formidable. Juan Guardiola and his sponsoring institute, Casa Asia, had the yeomans’ task of putting the Philippines on the Spanish cultural radar. Despite all the sentimental blandishment about the Philippines being Spanish kin, Spanish tourists would rather fly to Bangkok than Manila. Filipinos in turn would be happy with Disneyland.

The exhibit is admirable not because it pulls patriotic heartstrings (although Filipino viewers will feel it and the indulgence allowed). Instead, the exhibition is about Mr. Guardiola assembling the most enlightening, rapturous and best works of art and artifacts of a country (it could be any country) and presenting them clearly and with affection to his own countrymen.

FILIPINIANA at the Centro Conde Duque, C/Conde Duque, 11, Madrid. The exhibition will last till September 24, 2006. For further information visit the Casa Asia website (
John L. Silva ( is the Senior Consultant of the National Museum of the Philippines. Write him if you are interested in a tour of the exhibit and “Rizal’s Madrid” slated for the first week of September.