The President’s alternative

I can’t believe it! There were more than 200 tweets and likes of Facebook greetings for me during my 88th birthday last Sept. 15. Thanks to all the acquaintances  and friends of our family.

During the past years, my wife and I stopped celebrating my birthday for one reason—we had only about three or four people whom we could invite. The rest of our batch have either gone ahead of us or are wheelchair-bound. Some have dementia.

Even our scheduled trips abroad with my family had to be cancelled because my wife could no longer endure more than two hours sitting down inside a plane.

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As the dates for filing of the certificates of candidacy for national and local candidates approaches, the more I am convinced that Senator Grace is really the alternative presidential candidate of President Aquino.

There is a lot of speculation; remember that Mr. Aquino met with Poe five times. Perhaps President Aquino wants to make Poe his alternative candidate just in case Mar Roxas does not make it. This will be his guarantee that he would not go to jail for all the cases that would be brought to court against him.

But how in the world can Mr. Aquino get out of a hole of his own making?  He has the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the killing of the 44 commandos of the Special Action Force in Mamasapano, and many others.

The President knows several legal luminaries are preparing the cases against him this early.

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What I cannot understand is the reluctance of President Aquino to have his “kabarilan” or shooting buddy former Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres investigated for her reported attempt to have more than P100 million worth of smuggled sugar in 16 containers released by the Bureau of Customs.

Why can’t Congress follow through with an investigation? All of a sudden, the issue just disappeared from the newspapers.

I can understand why the President protects his friends and supporters. That’s not news anymore. But, when somebody allegedly uses the President’s name in an attempt to release smuggled sugar, that’s a crime.

I covered Customs for many years. I know for a fact that anybody  brazen enough to smuggle anything through the piers must have somebody powerful at Customs conniving with him.

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With Ayala Land developing the former Jaka Tower, an eyesore around the Central Business District of Makati will be erased.

In fact, Alveo, an Ayala Land arm, said that it has already sold more than half of the total units in its latest office project, called Alveo Financial Tower, in a single day. The company said it may soon increase its price for the remaining units.

The former Jaka Tower along Ayala Avenue used to be the Elizalde Building owned by Tanduay Rhum of Manda Elizalde, son of Manuel Elizalde. When The Standard was organized in February 1987, the former Elizalde building was the office of the newspaper publication.

But, when the 1996 Asian financial crisis hit the Philippines, the Jaka Tower was discontinued. Later on, Ayala Land bought the building from Jaka. Now, it’s the most expensive financial tower at the CBD.

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My wife and I have been invited this evening  to attend the opening of the Julian Ongpin “Young Artist (JOYA) gallery for a debut show, Frontiers, featuring Australian artist Henry Curchod with “Reductions,” and Filipino photographer Artu Nepomuceno with his first abstract offering entitled Psychedelic Warfare.

The opening will be held tomorrow at the second floor of Alphaland Makati Place, a high-end development of international investment banker, Roberto “Bobby” V. Ongpin, the father of Julian Ongpin, and my  student at the Ateneo High School many years ago.

I will attend the affair since my wife and I have always been fascinated with the works of visual artists. In fact, we collect the works of masters and young artists alike.

Bobby Ongpin himself and his son Julian are direct descendants of the first great Filipino painter Damian Domingo, and Julian’s great-great grandfather, Roman, had an art supply shop called El 82.  He was friend and patron of many Filipino artists. Julian’s great grandfather, Alfonso Ongpin, is still famous today for his collection of Lunas, Hidalgos, Amorsolos and many other masters, most of which are now with the Araneta family and the Lopez Museum.

My wife is actually the  artist in my family. It was she who infected me with the love of the arts.

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