Month: December 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Past

December 24, 2010 – 6:00am

The morning breaks with melancholy. I woke up today with the cold breeze of Christmas Eve morning touching my face. For the first time this year, the spirit of the Yuletide Season has finally reached me. I can already feel Christmas but it is definitely much different now compared when I was a little kid.

It was still a little bit dark when I stepped out of the house after grabbing a big mug of coffee and lighting a stick of cigarette. After inhaling my first round of cigarette smoke, I suddenly smelled the kind of Christmas when I was a young boy where Christmas had this particular distinctive smell. I can’t actually describe it.  But to badly put it, it’s like the smell of home as soon as you step in to your house.

I can’t fully remember the last time I felt something like this but certainly I can recall my childhood’s Christmas Eve celebration. There was a growing excitement in sharing the simple and modest Noche Buena feast with my family, wearing the new pair of clothes that my mother bought and playing with the new toys with my childhood friends in the old 2nd Street in Angeles City.

Much anticipation was spent in playing with my friends during Christmas Eve than the actual Christmas itself. I guess that’s because December 25 was always reserved for a family reunion which I never really enjoyed as a young kid. My awareness of my family’s social status alienated me from bonding with my rich relatives every reunion. Unlike with my childhood friends in 2nd Street where we really celebrated the spirit of the Season on the street by just being together sharing all sorts of things.

In this moment of sharing with my young “barkada” came the distinct smell of Christmas.

I remember when we used to make Samurai swords out of “yantok” sticks, shuriken from soda bottle caps and t-shirts to cover our faces whenever we play ninja-ninja. We never needed expensive toys to enjoy Christmas. We only needed a little creativity and lots of imagination. We even had a story-line wherein we alternated for the role on who plays the good white ninja vs. the evil black ninja. I was nine years-old at that time and I had so much fun playing with David Sellers also known as Pok-pok. Arnold Oyan AKA Arnold Laki, Arnold Mendoza AKA Arnold Liit, Mario Bolocon and others. (One day, I would write a book about 2nd Street)

I guess I am just getting sentimental at the age of 34.  Time flies so fast and before you knew it, you already have a different life and a different Christmas. It’s a grown-up life with a grown-up Christmas where the Season begins with countless Christmas parties and the hope of winning the major raffle prize.

I wish my daughter Raine would have her own distinctive smell of Christmas. Don’t grow up so fast my Raine.

Merry Christmas to all.

How about you, what is the ghost of your Christmas past?

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The Myth of Phil Younghusband

Phil Younghusband in action

The public first saw him in a celebrity duet singing contest a few years ago on national television. He was described then as a Pinoy football player from Chelsea. He became an instant celebrity after that gig not because of his singing prowess but because of his guy-next-door image considering he is a half-Filipino and half-Brit.  Several endorsement deals followed after. He was on billboards, print and TV commercials.

But who is Philip Placer Younghusband or simply Phil Younghusband?

Actually this was my question when our agency proposed him to become the endorser for Alaska Powdered Milk Drink, the carrier brand of our Alaska Football Power Camp and Alaska Football Cup. I never heard of him prior to his celebrity duet gig. My only concern at that time was his legitimacy as a football player. Can this guy, who first blossomed into the public consciousness through a singing contest, really play football? And at that time, no knows about our national football team.

This is important to Alaska Milk simply because we want truth in our communication materials and credibility in our sports development program. We have the Alaska Aces to lean on for our youth basketball program and professional Spanish football player Tomas Lozano for our 15 years-old youth football program.

Can Phil Younghusband really play football?

After a thorough research and based on the info gathered, Phil Younghusband can play football. We inked him to endorse Alaska Powdered Milk Drink.  But to be honest, I was still skeptical. We know he can play football. We know he is a good football player. But we have to understand that we haven’t seen him play an actual football game since there was no opportunity at that time.

Then came the biggest youth football event in the country, the 13th Alaska Football Cup in 2008 where we invited him to be part of the awarding ceremony.  I asked him to stay inside the Alaska tent while waiting to finish the games. I was then with my four years old daughter Raine (she is six now) at that time. Raine brought her inflatable beach ball designed as a football and kicked it around inside the tent. I went out for a while to check on the games. When I got back and to my surprise, Phil was playing football with my daughter using the beach ball.  And boy, they were having fun.  

Phil and Raine with the beach ball during the 2008 Alaska Football Cup

Phil has a soft heart for kids. He loves being with them and moreover he loves playing with them. I guess that’s because he has a little sister.

Then the awarding came. I escorted him out to go to the stage. Who is Phil Younghusband? The 3,000 kids in the Alaska Football Cup certainly knew who he is. He was literally mobbed. And young girls participating in the tournament were shouting their lungs out upon seeing him. “Oh my God, it’s Phil,” they shouted.  He was like a rockstar. Well, those kids who love football look upon Phil as a hero, a football hero. I even heard an echo from some female voice box from the other side of Alabang Country Club shouting “I will marry you when I grow up.” I was simply amazed, astonished and shocked. Young footballers knew him even before he joined that singing thing on TV.

And this was in November 2008, two years before the emergence of the PH Azkals into national consciousness.

So Phil became the brand endorser of Alaska Powdered Milk Drink and our football ambassador. He did a TVC, posters, print ads, TV guestings and others. More than his great skills as a football player, his fondness and the way he relates to kids made him fit to the brand. The other factor was his sincerity that he believes in what Alaska Milk is doing in supporting youth football development in the country for 1 and half decades. It was more than a business relationship, it’s a partnership.

In 2009, Phil and his brother James were in our office for a visit. I asked him about his plans whether he will pursue a career in the entertainment business and alike. He said no. He doesn’t see himself in showbiz. He doesn’t like the entertainment culture. He doesn’t want to be a TV or movie star.

He said his passion is football. He wants to help kids play football. He wants to be a catalyst in the development of football in the country. And so he  pursued his passion. 

 A few months later, he and James again made a visit. We talked. And what interested me was that he and his brother James were trying to go back to the national football team. Phil said that it was not easy going back. He said that the team has a new foreign coach, Simon Mc Menemy.  Phil revealed that Mc Menemy said to them that “we don’t need models here.”  My reaction was a burst of laughter.

Eventually, they proved their worth in the field and became part of the national football team now called the PH Azkals.  

The next thing I knew, the football team was competing in the Suzuki Cup.  Honestly, I just hoped that they would  fair in that tournament. After the game against Vietnam, an officemate CK Kanapi posted a video of the Azkals win in her FB account.

Can Phil Younghusband play football?

What I saw was what I wished of seeing since 2008. Phil actually playing. That second goal against Vietnam was a highlight reel for many Filipino football enthusiasts. Phil kicked that football using his left leg with ease after shaking off two defenders. That was pure talent.   

Yet that goal made him a target in the games that succeeded. Against Indonesia in Game 1 of the semis, Phil was being guarded and even tackled by three Indon players. In Game 2, there were already 5 defenders against Phil. Even his Ronaldo-liked-dribbling couldn’t get through those many defenders.

Phil chose the right path of serving the country first by being part of the national team. His new found fame not only in the Philippines but also in Indonesia is better than that of Christian Baustista. Phil Younghusband is now in the national consciousness not because of his individual football skills but because he is part of the team that we Filipinos are proud of.

 He is not Phil Younghusband. He is a PH Azkal.

My Rule of Thumb for PH Azkals: THUMBS UP!

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Hubert, Vizconde: Injustice is blind

Hubert Webb and Lauro Vizconde are in the headlines again after the former was acquitted by the Supreme Court yesterday. There were sudden outbursts of emotions from the two camps after the SC announced the decision as shown on major TV news programs last night. There are already many opinions and thoughts shared in the media and internet about the Vizconde case.

Yet, many failed to see that the real story is neither the acquittal of Hubert nor the denial of justice of Lauro Vizconde but the power of media to influence public opinion.

Though the journalistic dictum that “news is only supposed to be right today” is true, we must realize that the concept of what is right now becomes absolute in the opinions of many even if it’s wrong tomorrow. Though balance and accuracy are the primary elements of news writing and news reporting, the manner of executing the news itself creates a misconception particularly when presenting the priority angle of the two sides of the story.

A news story can be presented in either negative or positive angle as long as these are based on facts. For instance, the news yesterday about the SC decision on the Vizconde case can be presented in these angles: HEADLINE 1: “SC acquits Hubert Webb et al” or HEADLINE 2: “Justice denied for Lauro Vizconde”. Both headlines are factual but the angle makes the difference. If the news focused on the side of Hubert Webb first, chances are public opinion may be in his favor and the same goes for Lauro Vizconde.

The key in influencing “initial” human judgment about a particular issue lies in the headline because it dictates the story angle and builds the interest of the reader or televiewer as the story progresses while the other side becomes a “by-the-way” or a mere rebuttal in the totality. Collectively, this initial human judgment becomes the public opinion. It will take a long time before this can be reversed.

HEADLINE: Solon’s son accused in Vizconde massacre

This was the headline more than 15 years ago at a time when the entire nation cried for justice and needed an outright answer to the question “Who massacred the Vizcondes?” The name of Hubert Webb was in the headlines as a suspect. Hubert Webb became the outright answer in sympathy with Lauro Vizconde. Hubert Webb was already guilty in the eyes of the public even though he was only an accused who is supposedly innocent until proven guilty.

The story of Hubert Webb as the prime suspect was very interesting simply because he is the son of then Paranaque Congressman and TV and sports personality Freddie Webb. The angle was for the masses where Hubert symbolized the fall of the discriminating influential and wealthy class by committing a heinous crime.

HEADLINE: Hubert Webb acquitted

This is the headline today fifteen years later. Hubert Webb was found not guilty by the Supreme Court yesterday. The SC ruled in favor of his innocence. If you are going to conduct a survey or a focus group discussion about Hubert Webb, I will my mug of coffee that the opinions will be in his favor. The sympathy will be his.

The story of Hubert Webb today is that 15 years was taken away from the life Hubert Webb for a crime he did not commit and wrongly accused of. As for Lauro Vizconde, justice is really denied. He was chasing the wrong people all along. With Hubert Webb being acquitted, the entire case has become meaningless and a major futile exercise. Justice is also denied for Hubert Webb for being incarcerated for something he did not commit.

It’s the irony of all ironies. Injustice is blind.

The question 15 years ago on who killed the Vizcondes was already answered through Hubert Webb. I think it should be asked again and the demand another answer. The PNP and NBI should do their job carefully and efficiently and should not be affected by public opinion this time. The same thing with court judges, don’t get influence by public opinion.

Our consciousness is susceptible to the bandwagon effect being reflected by the media. We easily get influence by what we see and what we are told on TV, newspaper, radio and internet. There is no difference between news and advertising. We buy what is advertise and we believe what’s in the news.

The big difference is that news and opinions are free.

My Rule of Thumb for our justice system is THUMBS DOWN.

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PH Azkals: The Birth of Filipino Football Consciousness

Phil Younghusband of the Azkals vs. Vietnam during the Suzuki Cup

For  many decades, Filipinos have always been indifferent with the rest of world during World Cup. Football as a sports in the Philippines takes the backseat behind basketball, boxing and billiards. Our version of World Cup fever, the street celebration and the sudden surge of nationalism, happens only during a Manny Pacquiao fight or an Efren “Bata” Reyes billiards championship match.

Why the indifference with football? It’s not that we don’t like football per se but simply because the most popular sports in the world is not present in the consciousness of many Filipinos.

The lack of a concrete football program by the local governing body, funding from national sports authorities and dirty politics contribute greatly in the unpleasant state of football in the country. Moreover, despite the attempts of a few football enthusiasts to resurrect the interest in the sports, it does not get enough attention to reach the level of national awareness.

Planting the seed of football consciousness at a young age for these aspiring footballers
Amazingly, football exists in this country as a youth sports. It’s very popular among kids as seen during the Alaska Football Cup which is the oldest and biggest youth football event in the country. For 15 years, Alaska Football Cup attracts 280 team nationwide with 3800 players and they play in 25 football fields simultaneously in one weekend every November.
I have not seen this kind of interests in football except in tournaments for the youth like this one. This event molds not only the interest and consciousness of the youth in football but  develops their fundamental skills as well. Yet the question for most, if not all, participants of the Alaska Football Cup is “what’s next” after graduating from youth football competitions.

The buck stops there.  It’s a dead end.  

There is nowhere to go for these aspiring football players. The only option they have is to join local football clubs that compete in the local tournament called United Football League (UFL) which many don’t know about  or the national team.

Football in this country can only get the full support it needs from the government and private sectors if it can build an equity as sports entertainment.  Meaning, football should have a commercial value which many Filipino can patronize.  This is the only way it can get a mainstream status and entry into the national consciousness.  

 A few days ago, a spark happened. The Philippine Football Team also known as the PH AZKALS did the impossible by defeating ASEAN football powehouse Vietnam in the Suzuki Cup, 2-0. The victory of the PH Azkals is considered as one of the biggest upset in the history of Asian football.

The PH Azkals became an overnight sensation and front page material. They were in all media especially the internet. They were with the President. They were in congratulatory ads. Funds for the team started to pour. Everyone wants a piece of the PH Azkals. Yet, the most phenomenonal thing about it was not the victory itself but the reaction of the Filipinos both home and abroad.

The reception was like that of the World Cup. That victory sparked the bandwagon that have spread into the minds of Filipinos like a wild fire. Their monicker Azkals suddenly became a brand. The players were regarded as heroes. But more than the PH Azkals, the winner here is football itself.

The football fever has finally arrived in the country. Football is finally in our consciousness.

On December 16, 2010, the PH Azkals will face another powerhouse, Indonesia, in the semi-finals of the Suzuki Cup. Though they are homecourtless, the entire nation will be watching and supporting the PH Azkals. I can already sense street party celebration and surge of nationalism regardless of the outcome.

To the PH Azkals, good luck.

My Rule of Thumb: THUMBS UP!

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