Dateline Manila: Welcome home, Blue Eagles Print
Friday, 05 December 2014 13:48

BY Sammy Santos


I will be one of the exiled Blue Eagles who will be coming home today to attend the annual and much-looked-forward-to Ateneo de Zamboanga University Alumni homecoming weekend. For starters, I am excited to pick up my first bottle of ice-cold beer when the ADZ campus backfield socials commence tonight after the traditional alumni mass and torch parade.

I see myself catching up with old friends who shared the Ateneo campus on La Purisima street with me during my students days in the late 1960s (grade school), the 1970s (high school) and the early 1980s (college).

Tonight, I will be with my High School batchmates, the ADZ HS Class of 1977, but will loiter around  and visit other batches’ nests to avail of free beer and swap the latest jokes, stories, and intrigues (read liyos he he he) of our lives.

Attending the Ateneo de Zamboanga alumni homecoming has become a sort of ritual for me where for one weekend a year, I temporarily retire from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila life to sit back and relax, unwind and reminisce with childhood friends in a futile attempt to relive that free, gutsy, and energetic spirit of youth in my hometown. Of course, the alcoholic drinks will always be there as before. Remember the Tanduay Extra Smooth Quality?

Another stimulating facet of my homecoming will be my all-time favorite, albeit self-indulgent endeavor of girl watching. But this time, I shall observe how much fatter, or shall I say chubbier, and aged (read: old, elderly, mature, mummified) my campus crushes have become after more than 30 years of tasty Zamboanga food, raising children, surviving husbands and lovers, doing dope and booze.

But rest assured, I will always smile when I meet them and say with all the sincerity I can muster: “Bonita lang man tu siempre,” or “Hende man tu ta queda vieja?”

But kidding aside, my Ateneo homecoming is always a heartfelt tribute to my alma mater for the values it inculcated in me and which accompanied me in my life’s journey.

These values include honesty, integrity, love of God, dedication to hard work, tolerance to those who are different, commitment to peace, and service to others. In Ateneo, we were trained to be “men and women for others.”

Without these values, my life’s journey would not have been fun. I say, therefore,to my all my former teachers, the past and present members of the Ateneo de Zamboanga staff and to the Jesuits who dedicated their lives “pro deo et patria,” thank you for making me who I am.

Fly high, Blue Eagles. Hail Ateneo, hail.

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During the monthly meeting of congressional leaders last Monday, Senate President Frank Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte agreed to tackle a host of legislative measures to purge unfair business practices and to increase the take-home pay of workers in the private and public sectors.

The Senate leadership reached a consensus with the House of Representatives to enact at least eight or nine proposed measures before Congress takes theChristmas break on December 17.

Among the measures to be acted upon is the bill that will raise the tax exemption ceiling of 13th-month pay and other benefits from P30,000 to P82,000, which President Aquino, hopefully, will sign into law before the year ends.

Congress is also slated to pass the Fair Competition Act to promote economic efficiency in trade, industry, and commerce through the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers, which distort and restrict competition. The proposed competition law is expected to foster the competitive environment in our national economy, spur economic efficiency and innovation, and attract investments—all of which lead to lower prices, higher quality of products and services, and more choices for consumers.

The House of Representatives is also expected to pass its version of the Senate Joint Resolution 2 that seeks to expand subsistence allowance of Filipino soldiers.

Likewise, the House will approve its own version of Senate Bill 2138 that seeks to strengthen the current structure of the Sandiganbayan. The bill, authored by Drilon, a former justice secretary who is a staunch anti-corruption advocate, will decongest the clogged dockets of the country’s anti-graft court.

Congress will also act on bills that will establish open high school system for out-of-school-youth, amend the Fisheries Code, repeal a provision in the Revised Penal Code penalizing premature marriage, and authorize sale of Zest Airways to Air Asia Philippines.

Lastly, the House will also tackle the supplemental budget as requested by President Aquino. The Congress is also expected to pass and submit to the President for his approval the 2015 General Appropriations Act.

* * * *

One of my favorite senators, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago launched her new book “Stupid is Forever” at a bookstore in Trinoma Mall in Quezon City Wednesday.

The 132-page book features a collection of jokes, speeches, and pick-up lines delivered by the feisty senator. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Defensor-Santiago did not make a long speech during the book launching, quipping that “I’m not yet being introduced as the president in 2016.”

The audience was mostly composed of students, armed with monopods and digital cameras. They took photos with Santiago.Some fans of Santiago lined up as early as 10 a.m. in order to get a copy of her book.

I was not able to attend the book launch due to a conflict of schedule but I was able to secure a copy of the transcripts of her press conference with members of the media later.

Here are excerpts of that exchange:

Why a book of jokes?:I came up with this collection of jokes because sometimes we are being too serious about the issues facing our country today. I think if we laughed more, and took ourselves less seriously, the public debate would be much better.

What’s the most stupid thing you’ve heard in the Senate?:There’s no one stupid thing. There are millions of stupid things I’ve heard in the Senate. But I like one particular answer, the best in the Senate. In the plenary session, there’s always a so-called debate because one person will introduce a bill and another person will question the bill as to its desirability. Sometimes, when a person who is sponsoring a bill is asked a question by another senator and the sponsor does not immediately know the answer, that person will simply say, “That’s a very good question; I like that.”

What are your top three pet peeves?:Maybe not top three, just one: the Senate.

If you can throw a one-liner to Pope Francis, what would it be?:Hi, sexy.

Why sexy?:Just to make him laugh, because everybody pulls such a long face when he’s around, everybody pretends to roll his eyes upward, to look very penitential or to look divine. People should put a little bit of humor in the lives of even the pope. He has shown by his issuances so far that he has a very progressive trend of thought. Those who have studied theology would know that we are either classified as radicals, conservatives, or progressive. I, personally, for example, would be classified as a progressive, and I think Pope Francis would classify as a progressive as well. I don’t think he will take offense.

On her next book:This one was Stupid is Forever. Maybe the next one will be about morons. There’s a difference, you know.

Does the presence of a huge crowd during the book launch bolster your resolve to run for president:Yes and no. Yes, because it shows that I have popular support, and no, in a way, because I am fully aware of the responsibilities that I will assume. People seem to have very high expectations of me; it frightens even me. No person can meet all the expectations of all these young people, especially those who played hooky from school today, whom I tried to reprimand but who were faster than me in their repartees.

What is your advice to the unwise, in the context of Stupid is Forever?:The advice is to keep on reading. There are studies about the gains of reading from print and reading from e-books, and it appears that the gains from reading are all to be gained from print instead of e-books.

On reading books:I did very well in school because we had a free library in my hometown. I used to walk two miles and I had to borrow books under the name of my mother because I was underage. I was supposed to be 12 years old and I started borrowing books when I was only nine years old. I had to walk back and forth, which entailed some sacrifice on my part. But it was all worth it. I decided when I entered the room that I will finish reading all the books clockwise, and I did.