Marcos’ Martial Law in Perspective

MarcosMartialLawWhich do you prefer? Martial Law under Marcos or allowing the Communists to take over in the 1970s.  3,257 Deaths were reported during Martial Law.  Martial Law was instituted to prevent Communism in the Philippines and most of these deaths were people connected to Communists.

Communists cleansed their countries of the wealthy landowners, businessmen, the educated, capitalists, the religious, and and purposely starved people to death for population reduction for more efficient resource sharing.  This is what Communism looked like in other countries.
Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh: 900,000 political dissidents killed
North Korea: 1.5 Million killed and starved to death
Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge: 2.2 Million killed (total population at the time was 7 Million)
China’s Mao: 2.2 Million political deaths, 45 Million starved to death
USSR’s Stalin: 61 Million dead
If there was no Martial Law, Philippines might have ended up on this list instead.  I’m not saying extrajudicial killings are right, but President Marcos did prevent Communism’s spread into the Philippines.  I’m not justifying whether Marcos was a hero or not, but just stating the facts and putting things into perspective.

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What Rody Duterte’s New Constitution Should Have

President-elect Rody Duterte​, you’ve finally made it, and you’re destined to be put in a position to truly create a government that will finally work for the people.  The 1987 Constitution is proving more and more obsolete to the needs of the Filipinos and I hope that we will draft a Constitution that will be a living document that not only sets the standards for our future democracy but with the flexibility to grow with the needs of the people.  A Philippines Constitution that will shift our system to a Federal form of government will undoubtedly enable the flexibility, but would also bring democracy closer to the people to be active participants.  President-elect Rody, you have campaigned for it and it was one of the reasons you won my support and hopefully we can have a successful Constitutional Convention that drafts a true living document.  I would like to see the following changes made in your constitutional reforms:

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1) Remove 60-40 FDI Restrictions across all industries: we need jobs and we need to take a deeper participation in globalization like the rest of ASEAN. I’m sure UP Prof Ernesto Pernia would even advise allowing 100% foreign owned entities. We have coddled the Oligarchy industries long enough at the cost of higher prices and lower quality of goods and services for the Filipino people.  Philippines experiences some of the slowest and most expensive telecom services in the world, and removing the economic restrictions would invite companies like Google, Duetsche Telekom, and Telstra to do business here in the Philippines to compete with Globe and PLDT.  100% by these companies would encourage greater investments in building cell cites, setting up retail stores, and local customer support.  All 3 of these activities would require hiring Filipinos and in the process provide more choices for the Filipino consumer.

2) Remove the Vice President Election: the executive branch should be unified. It’s a waste of election resources and the country has suffered enough with politicians doing backdoor maneuvers to discredit opposing parties in a divided executive branch. Also, a VP who is selected by the President ensures true will of the people until the next election should something happen to the President.

3) Change the Senatorial Election Process: we need regional representation from the upper house. The lower house is already broken down into districts from each province, we should now have Senators that represent entire regions. We should reconfigure the country into 12 regions with 2 senators representing each region. This will curb the monopoly of trapos who have the resources to campaign nationwide and level the playing field to allow newer faces to enter the political landscape. Currently the Senate races are being used as a prep for executive candidacy instead of forcing Senators to be more forward thinking with their legislations to attain that popularity. We need Senators who are working to earn a national reputation if they want to be considered President.

4) FEDERALISM! Increase IRA to 70% using current distribution guidelines to allow regions the resources to develop independent of the national government. Make sure to reserve powers specifically when it comes to commerce and civic codes to each region so that we can experiment with legislations at the regional level before implementing at a national level.  For example, I like the idea of a nationwide restriction on Alcohol service, I still believe that the Federal government should set the standard of 3AM-6AM, I think in the spirit of true Federalism allow each region to decide which hours are best so if Davao wants to keep it at 1AM-8AM allow them since it still fits into the Federal standard.  This will allow the regions to experiment within those guidelines and if they notice that crime and alcohol related accidents are optimally low in one region, then other regions might copy those same hours.  It’s important that each region will be allowed to create their own regional constitutions so that it allows experimentation of civic codes such as marriage and divorce laws as well as tort law, which will come in handy with giving proper autonomous power to Bangsamoro.

Change is definitely coming, and I really hope that Constitutional Change will be done right this time.

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Condos in the Philippines: Good or Bad Investments?

All around Metro Manila, there are condominium projects being constructed and advertised. The brochures and videos paint a picture of a residential community with amenities and a clean paradise hidden from the smog that covers Metro Manila. Balikbayans mainly from the middle classes of the US, UK, and Australia are drawn to these projects and many developers even send international sales teams to these countries to lure would be investors to purchase a condo in the Philippines at a price equivalent to $60,000.

A condo in Makati, Philippines

Most of the condos in Metro Manila however is not a good investment. I would only recommend purchasing large area luxury condominiums from reputable developers like Rockwell, Shangri-La and Ayalaland Premier. They maintain your investment very well after turn over and you’ll have a higher chance of rent income as well. After 10-15 years you’ll have a better chance of not getting stuck with it if you want to resale at an appreciated price. Condo units from those developers within Makati or BGC have been going up in value from 8-11% annually. Also look at Rockwell’s 20 year old projects as a prime example as units that retain value and even appreciate compared to other developers I haven’t mentioned. Owners from other developers struggle to rent out or even resell after 10-15 years.

Condos generally have a 50 year lifespan so if you’re not able to sell or rent out your unit before then, your kids or more likely your grandkids will have to wait for the profits of the developer’s sale of the land after 50 years. If you purchase a condo with high density (20 units to a floor) or in a bad location then your kids or grandkids won’t see much from the sale of the land.

So stick with the three brands I mentioned in either Makati CBD, Rockwell, or BGC. Although investing in condo units in any of those places with either Rockwell, Shangrila, or Ayalaland Premier can yield 8-10% annual growth which is double the earnings on a 401K it’s still a real estate investment and real estate is still the least liquid investment tool. I would highly recommend instead investing in the Philippines stock market. Equities like stocks and mutual funds are still the most liquid assets anywhere in the world next to actual cash. Check out Bloomberg.com and do a growth analysis of Philippines Stock Exchange index compared to either NYSE or Shanghai and you’ll see that the PSEi outperforms both of them in terms of percentage growth.

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Ube Cheesecake

I grew up in America.  A melting pot of cultures, ideas, and people.  Interestingly enough, I can’t think of a country in Asia that’s as close to that as much as my home country of the Philippines.  The only difference is that people come to America and contribute to the always changing and always evolving American culture.  In the Philippines, their people leave the country and bring back cultures they learned.  For instance, I find that shwarma and kabobs are popular in the Philippines due to the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) that live and work in the Middle East.  I also was very aware of my relatives back home who exhibited a certain affinity towards products that were labeled “Made In The USA” and all though very Asian in geography and ethnically related to the Malay race and with languages that closely resemble Indonesian and Malaysian, it’s easy to mistaken Filipinos as culturally closer to Hawaiian rather than Chinese or Japanese.  It’s really easy to be tricked into the imagination of Filipinos being Pacific Islander rather than Asian, only because Hawaiian is a hodgepodge of different cultures as well.  Another case of mistaken identity also happens with food.  I’ve sometimes come across people mistaking Dioscorea alata as taro, and it’s not.  Dioscorea alataDioscorea alata or more popularly known in America as purple yam is also known as ube in the Philippines.  Now the whole point of digressing about melting pots and cultures, is that today’s recipe is that melting pot of that we have come to know today as fusion cuisine, which really is Hawaiian mostly, but I’m taking a great American dessert like the New York style cheesecake and mixing it with ube, one of the main staples of Filipino dessert flavors.  I’ve had ube pancakes, ube ice cream, ube candy, ube in my croissants, and ube jam on my toast, and by far my favorite ube flavored anything has been in a cheesecake.  Ube cheesecake will probably rank in my top 3 favorite all time desserts as well.  I found this ube cheesecake recipe from food blogger Nastassia Johnson of Let Me Eat Cake. She was a founder of LA’s first gourmet Filipino food truck, the now defunct Manila Machine.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t living in LA yet when it was running but I heard a lot of great stuff, and implemented some of the same ideas at a restaurant I used to manage in the Seattle area around that same time.

Ube CheesecakeIngredients

Crust

  • 2 cups of gingersnaps
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 pounds cream cheese (450 g), room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar (135 g)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 30 ml Ube Flavor Extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (160 ml)
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (160 ml)

Topping

  • 2 cups sour cream (475 ml)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 tspn coconut extract

Special equipment needed

Prepare the crust

1 Prepare the springform pan so that no water leaks into it while cooking. Place a large 18-inch by 18-inch square of aluminum foil on a flat surface. Place the springform pan in the middle of the foil. Gently fold up the sides of the foil around the pan. Make sure to do this gently so that you don’t create any holes in the foil. If there are any holes, water will get into the pan and ruin the crust. Press the foil around the edges of the pan. Place a second large square of foil underneath the pan, and repeat, gently folding up the sides of the foil around the pan and pressing the foil against the pan. Gently crimp the top of the foil sheets around the top edge of the pan.

2 Preheat oven to 350°F, with rack in lower third of oven. Place the gingersnap biscuits in a plastic zip lock bag and use a Meat Tenderizer to crush the biscuits into a mixture of small pieces and crumbs. Put in a large bowl, and stir in the sugar and salt. Use your (clean) hands to stir in the melted butter.

3 Put all but 1/4 cup of the gingersnap crumbs in the bottom of the springform pans. (Save the remaining 1/4 cup for if you happen to have any holes that need to be filled in, either while you are making the crust, or after the cake has cooked and you’ve unmolded it.) Gently press down on the crumbs using your fingers, until the crumbs are a nice even layer at the bottom of the pan, with maybe just a slight rise along the inside edges of the pan. Be careful as you do this, as not to tear the aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Make the filling

4 Cut the cream cheese into chunks and place in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes until smooth, soft and creamy. Add the sugar, beat for 4 minutes more. Add the salt and vanilla extract and mix again for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the ube extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the heavy cream, beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, and scrape up any thicker bits of cream cheese that have stuck to the bottom of the mixer that paddle attachment has failed to incorporate.

Cook the cheesecake

5 Place the foil-wrapped springform pans in a large, high-sided roasting pan. Prepare 2 quarts of boiling water. Pour the cream cheese filling into each of the springform pans, over the gingersnaps bottom layer. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place the roasting pan with the springform pan in it, in the oven, on the lower rack. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan (without touching the hot oven), to create a water bath for the cheesecake, pouring until the water reaches halfway up the side of the springform pans, about 1 1/4 inches. (Alternatively you can add the water before putting the pan in the oven, whichever is easier for you.) Cook at 325°F for 1 1/2 hours.

IMG_49356 Turn off the heat of the oven. Crack open the oven door 1-inch, and let the cake cool in the oven, as the oven cools, for another hour. This gentle cooling will help prevent the cheesecake surface from cracking.

7 Cover the top of the cheesecake with foil, so that it doesn’t actually touch the cheesecake. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.

Prepare sour cream topping

8 Place sour cream in a medium sized bowl, stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and coconut extract, until smooth. Chill until you are ready to serve the cake.

Note that this recipe produces enough sour cream topping for a thick topping and some extra to spoon over individual pieces of cheesecake, if desired. If you would like a thinner layer of topping and no extra, reduce the sour cream topping ingredients in half.

Prepare the cake to serve

Ube Cheesecake10 Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the foil from the sides of the pan, and place the cake on your cake serving dish. Run the side of a blunt knife between the edge of the cake and the pan.  Spread the top with the sour cream mixture.

 

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Caesar’s Salad Dressing

My sister has been bugging me for weeks about this recipe.  I’m not sure how the story goes but she finds out from a very good friend of mine that I have a really great recipe for Caesar’s Salad Dressing, Caesar's Salad Dressingand of course my friend is a bit of an expert on good recipes.  He runs one of the most popular food trucks in the Seattle area.  Check out Big Boy’s Filipino Food Truck if you’re ever in the area.  So my sister reaches out to me, and I kept meaning to post this up just for her but it’s been a busy month.  Back to the real subject though, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to recipes and although I stay pretty close to the original Caesar’s Salad Dressing recipe from Caesar Cardini, there’s a few changes I’ve made.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground salt
  • 8 anchovy filets, chopped
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoon calamansi juice
  • 2 coddled egg yolks

In a large wooden salad bowl, mash the garlic cloves against the sides of the bowl with the back of a wooden spoon.  Then add the coarse salt and black pepper, and rub the pieces against the bowl until they begin to disintegrate. Add the anchovies and maintain using the wooden spoon to smash against the bowl with garlic, salt, and pepper. Now add the Worcestershire sauce, calamansi juice, dry mustard, and egg yolks and blend well.  Slowly add the olive oil, stirring with a wire whisk until all ingredients blend with remaining oil to form a thick consistant creamy form.

Most basic form of serving this as a salad is to toss this dressing in with Romaine lettuce, croutons, and shredded parmesan cheese.

Caesar's Salad

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Filmmaker, Writer, Entrepreneur