Thursday, July 23, 2009

Substance, Packaging, Timing (or the lack of these among government communicators)

. . . are elements that define good communication, this Gary Teves learned the hard way, courtesy of his now unenviable and equally stressful job as finance secretary; a hundred times more stressful than his former post as president and chief executive of Landbank, confessed the gray-haired former congressman of Negros Oriental.

Gary Teves was the guest speaker and inducting officer at the annual general membership meeting of the International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC Phils.) held at the Filipinas Heritage Library.

Though he admits to be far from being an expert in communication, Teves makes us listen whenever he responds to questions from the media, be it a calculated or a plain dumb question, with the latter in abundance. It could be because he is the finance secretary and whatever he says will have far-reaching market implications. But he certainly knows how to play the game here; he knows his SPT the way smart kids know their ABC. Personally, I prefer him to be the press secretary; his manner of speaking is both elegant and intelligent, his language sharp yet witty with trademark Gary Teves touch--empirical as it is relational. Yet, Teves proves to be too honest and straightforward for the job that is normally reserved for spinmeisters and euphemists. On the other hand, the job of improving revenue collection might be too challenging (and equally tempting as well) to be given away to those whose only mission in life is "to make more and more money for tomorrow we shall all perish."

Lest I be mistaken for selling Gary Teves to voters for next year's poll, let me make it clear here: I was there to attend the meeting and listen to him share his perspective and lessons in communication; lessons that I myself almost/nearly mastered but nevertheless need to be refreshed as learning never stops.

Lesson learned: government executives, especially those in the upper echelon, should learn how to communicate effectively. Certainly, there is a better way of informing us citizens where the hell our blood taxes go than just announcing it on oversized and expensive billboards and, in keeping with the forthcoming election season, on television via brainlessly thought-out commercials by political wannabes. F@#$%*g morons--by this, I mean the politicians and their PR handlers.

Essentially, the line-up of wannabes who are itching to replace Madam La Gloria Vda de Inutil are all UNSALEABLE items. They are all bootleg, pirated copies, much like the goods Edu Manzano is running after. Edu can only run after because he could not, and probably will never, run ahead and catch them. But at least he should run along, di ba? But these gremlin, fungus-faced (sorry Aling Miriam), white leghorn of presidentiables are willing to drop the price rock bottom, as in SALE at up to 70% off! Wow! That cheap, really. As in a big mall sale that is becoming famous this side of the world, people will flock to where the best bargain is. The cheapest gets the vote, er, bill. Needless to say, this is the best example of a worst communication practice--selling the unsaleable. It's like eating poison; since poison is cheap, go eat it! Now, I'll have more poison below:



Lito Camo and Willie Revillame will be holding a political campaign strategy workshop 90 days before the election period. There will be song and dance sessions, speech clinic, and many more. Major PR and law firms will also participate in the workshop. Call Lito or Willie for more details.

Monday, July 20, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth (About Going to Ilocos These Days)

We trek up north Wednesday night for the MLE forum and launch of Sukimat. To save your precious time, let me just paste here the portion taken from the blurb for a preview. Here we go: " . . . Sukimat—the work of scholars, academics, and cultural workers committed to the exchange and diffusion of knowledge and information on Ilokano and Amianan Studies—offers a way to rethink of education to democracy and freedom."

A few weeks before, I had been to La Union on a related business, and thought the Ilocos trip was no different, except that it would take five more hours on the road. I took the Partas bus to La Union and it was relatively a good ride, except that, again, I could not and will probably never sleep while travelling by either bus, car, or plane. Maybe my insomnia or probably some unresolved psychological issue has something to do with this inability to sleep during travel, except by boat on a long trip.

I assumed then that the longer the trip takes, the more comfortable the ride is. I was darn WRONG! The four of us had purchased our ticket about 10 minutes before departure. It turns out we got the last four seats on the de luxe bus that was to take us to Laoag. Except for Dr. Agcaoili who had taken seat No. 24, Dr. Nolasco, Lucy, and I and a lady passenger from Paoay had the misfortune of occupying the last four elevated seats with defective backrests and recliners. WORST, the seats are too high that our legs were hanging like columns of chicken feet being drained in a Mongkok kitchen. The "ottoman" or the leg support was defective, too, making it extremely difficult to stretch our already tired hanging legs.

Minutes before rolling along EDSA, I had asked the conductor if he could lend me something to keep my back from being reclined too much and he was kind enough to part with his still unopened inflatable pillow that looked like he rarely used it. I had no choice but demand some comfort. After all, I paid not just the miles but for a comfortable ride. Remember it was "de luxe," whatever that means to Lakay Chavit. The defective seats, I learned from the conductor, had been left unrepaired for weeks already and I was given the lame excuse that repairs can only be done once the parts--purchased by bulk--arrived from Mars or Jupiter!

Will someone blow this bus into pieces, please? I'm sure, replacement will come faster that they can claim insurance.

That inconvenient seat had me behaving like a little boy who has yet to undergo deworming; I could not settle down my seat from Manila up to Rosario, La Union. I must have tried all possible seating positions just to make myself calm, collected, composed, and comfortable to my supreme frustration. I had to keep my cool although I could smell blood and gunpowder already!

After La Union, I thought my ordeal was over because early on I had psyched up for a sleepless day or two and kept telling myself to get a full doze in my bed on weekend. I was wrong again. As soon as we hit Tagudin, signs of more inconvenience were all over the roads.

A few months back, the region had been battered by storms, and its network of national and provincial roads took the beating to the worst. Bad timing!

The bad roads and the ongoing repairs along the southern stretch of Ilocos not only lengthened travel time by more than an hour; it kept most passengers awake as the bus negotiated with potholes and had to tilt left and right more often than we could curse DPWH and the bus company management.

By the time we reached Santa Maria for stopover, I was too tired to complain of my misery and resigned to the fact that I didn't have enough vision to appreciate the majestic Ilocos coastlines at sunrise. I had to give up taking shots of the mighty Abra River as it pours into Bantay. Though weakened by my misery, I still managed to take some shots of the inconvenient bus and its inconvenient seats that gave me my most inconvenient ride to date.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Few Good Men

Yesterday, July 14, was the feast day of an Italian saint from Lellis, who founded a society of young, privileged men who dedicated their lives to ministering the needs of the infirm--the sick (physically and otherwise). Today, his followers call themselves Ministers of the Infirmed, and usually attach a two-letter abbreviation M.I. after their names.

As customary in this predominantly catholic republic, feast day of saints are eagerly celebrated not only by their devotees but even by the most unsaintly among us for various reasons. And in keeping with tradition, we also held our own de facto feast--a feast made merrier by the retelling of stories and memories of days of innocence, of submission, of awakening, and finally, of realizing that we have had enough.

Most often our 'tragic' stories are intertwined, have the same plots, involve the same characters and persona, and would always end up a comedy. As one would recount a chapter of his own life story, we could not help but laugh out loud together, and curse together the character/s whom we love and hate together with equal fervor. It was this sharing of common feelings for or against certain character/s that we find ourselves united and unfied not just by our tragicomic experience but more importantly, by the lessons we have learned as we dealt with those who made our lives both heavenly and hellish back then.

In hindsight, life back in the hills of Marikina was a process. Whether it was designed deliberately or by sheer divine will is now less important; what matters really now is that the process has resulted in quantifiably favorable results.

I can only speak for myself and for a few good men who have not lost the candor in the face of the changing and challenging times when principles and honor become a commodity in the free market of lies and deceptions, as well as divine interventions. Not that I have morphed into someone with whom the world owes its inspiration to survive; nor I'm Salman Rushdie of the Muslim world. No. The quantifiably favorable results have to be found in those minority voices that, when they tell their stories together, command the attention of the world. This is far, far better than a voiceless, headless, nameless, candor-less, and ultimately, a useless majority.

The de facto feast therefore is a feast of and by the majority. A minority feast.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Politicians . . .

like diapers, must be changed very often for the same reason: they're dirty."

--Tom Dobbs, the protagonist played by Robin Williams in the political comedy hit Man of the Year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nationalize or ban religion, take your pick

It's not an easy choice. In fact, even to friends, it's a crazy idea.

(to be continued)