Changing of guards and elections in the Philippines

In a few days, millions of Filipinos will troop to their respective precincts to vote for the next President of the Republic of the Philippines.

I will join them not as a voter, but as an observer, as I have not been a registered voter since Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago ran for President against former President Fidel V. Ramos. This is a choice–and an act of protest against an election system that is broken.

I will be volunteering as an official watcher, making sure everything is in order in one of thousands of precincts that I will be assigned.

For years, I have been an observer, albeit a participant or a member of the electoral process. I volunteered several times as a third member of Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), as they are called. These BEIs are often public school teachers mandated to assist millions voters in their precincts. BEIs are compensated for their service.

Later, as a member of a news organization, I was again an observer but more to document what was happening for a news website. I was assigned to follow politicians around the country, as they campaigned. I was among those young journalists jostling for a position to get an interview with a popular actor turned presidential candidate who later died after he lost to an alleged massive cheating in our Philippine elections in 2004.

Then, I progressed to running an election website along with a team of Internet-only journalists for an a pioneering Internet brand in the world, which won accolades within this Internet company.

In the next few days, I will be back as an observer from a precinct to ensure that the May 9, 2016 polls will be clean, fair, and peaceful. *Crossing my fingers*

Some people and friends do ask me why am I NOT using my Constitutional right to vote for the next President.

It is a choice that I have made because for years, I have seen how our Philippine elections were manipulated (i.e. 2004) by the very people who were appointed to make sure each vote is counted. I have covered news and reported some incidents of vote-buying, intimidation, and massive cheating that led to questionable results. In this country, there are NO losers. Only political candidates who always cry foul, alleging they were cheated.

I was assigned to an institution for years that we call the Commission on Elections. I followed this institutions’ officials, including one chairman who was forced to resign after he was implicated in a government deal that involved a foreign company hoping to land a major technology project worth billions of pesos. I reported on a poll official who disappeared after he was linked to a shocking zero-vote in a province that was venue of a massacre involving journalists who was part of a convoy following a supposed political rival of a powerful incumbent.

Prior to the invention of social media, I reported on a video showing gun-totting  men caught who succeeded in scaring off voters from entering polling precincts in one southern town in the Philippines.

I may be called jaded by saying that I’m not a registered voter. But I am not alone. There are a couple of friends who are also not registered–and if they are, they’re not sure whom to vote.

Again, this is a choice not to vote. But I’m devoting my time on election day to ensure we have an honest, clean, and yes, peaceful elections on May 9.

Here’s to an honest & clean elections on May 9.


Ideas come and go, but stories stay.  – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

There is no better way of explaining an idea than turning it into a nice narrative. So let me roll with this story:

A mouse was happy roaming around his favourite spot in an abandoned house. He knew all the corners. He even created a mental map of exit holes in case humans find or get him cornered.

So it was one of those days. He was hungry and wanted to explore the abandoned house–which for him was immense. This house was made of pinewood and stone–slate and limestone. It looked more like a castle, but without the king, knights, and queen.

Our little, happy mouse decided it was time to explore the numerous rooms. There could be some food lying around. Thus his little adventure began.

To be continued…


Do It. Then Pivot.

man-person-cute-youngIt’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. There have been issues with my host (DreamHost), but I think it is now working *crossed-fingers*

We’ve always been told to just do whatever it feels right. There is no perfect timing than now. If you fail, then pivot. These are words that carry a lot of weight when you’re looking at jumping into a start-up company. Stories about entrepreneurs abound these days (and currently I’m reading about Elon Musk). Their tale reveals a common trait among these innovators: they’re hell bent on making things happen no matter what. The price of succeeding is heavy–and could even affect their relationships, marriages, etc. But they push on amid the setbacks.

Recently, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people–entrepreneurs, idea people, and some quirky ones. They all share one common trait: they want to disrupt the status quo. They’re also big dreamers who want to escape the corporate life, and the rat race (grind, for some).

These thoughts do cross my mind everyday, and there’s not a day that I start dreaming of a life that I can control. The four-hour work-week comes to mind too.

Then, I saw this film about this guy, a psychiatrist who seemed to have a comfortable life. He had a steady pool of clients; a caring partner; and good friends. However, as time went by, he realized he was unhappy. Thus, sparked his physical journey to research on what made people happy. He went to China and found a rich, American businessman who taught him that money can buy happiness. Nah. Then, he moved on to Africa where he met a drug kingpin and some low-life kidnappers. He learned that happiness is about taking advantage of situations and turning such situations to his favor. Happiness is also about being alive. Finally, he ended up in L.A. where he met his unrequited love. But he realized that he was chasing a fantasy and NOT love or happiness. In the end, his journey made him understand that it was his partner/wife who made him happy.

The End.

Such are stories made for movies or TV. But there are grains of truth in such films. As they say, art imitates life. Or art is a reflection of life and of our values. So I guess, what I’m saying is that our lives are essentially pursuits of happiness. And we often look for answers elsewhere, when they are sitting right in front of us (or in my case, right beside me now).

Family keeps me grounded. As long as they are happy, I’m happy.

#LookUp: Put the phone down.

We spend our lives looking at screens every waking time, that we miss life that is happening right in front of us. This video–poetry–reminds us that we all have  responsibility to humanity–let’s all go back to the basics. We all need to PUT THAT PHONE DOWN!  Take a break and talk to people, and I’m not talking about IMs, but face-to-face conversations.

Goodbye, dear friend

Dexter Rene Fernandez
Photo of Dexter Rene Fernandez (Taken from Google+ Profile)

Today, you joined our creator.

Your friends and family will miss you. But we all know you’ve lived a good life. You’ve made people happy. You’ve made people laugh. You’ve been a good friend and brother. You inspired people to be better.

Your passing reminded us of the inevitable: that we would also join our creator in our good time. The life you lived, the legacy that you’ve left behind, the people you’ve touched–they all thank you.

I watched you struggle the past few months. I wanted to know how you have felt. But I was afraid to dampen the vibrant mood that always surrounded you. Amid the suffering, you kept on smiling, singing, and reminding us that we are one in Christ. You were surrounded by LOVE. The Lord was and is always present, giving you strength and courage to deal with the painful experience.

As I read the messages flowing from your family and friends, I felt the warmth of their words—words of faith, of encouragement, of LOVE. You united us once again through a virtual connection that kept us informed of your situation.

My dear friend, I’m relieved that your suffering is over, but deeply saddened of your passing. We know you’re in a happier place now, singing songs and hymns with a new choir alongside our creator.

Do look after us, and remind us that we’re mere tenants in this world. Your death and your life are both reminders of our mission and purpose in life. We are mere passers-by, and thus we must keep our light burning as we face our own mountains and storms.

You are leaving a family who are well-loved; a wife and daughter who loved you until the end. We will take care of them.

We love you brother, and to this, I pray that you watch over us. Whenever I’m down, I will always look up to remind myself of you, smiling down upon us.