Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Condemn....

First and foremost, I condemn the parents who couldn't and wouldn't look after their young ones and leave them alone to fend for themselves. The street is not a place for children and even though they couldn't afford to give their child a better place to live. It is no excuse for them, not to look over their child and protect them against the ever lurking danger. I condemn the government, whose obsession in the exacting taxes from the citizenry to the extent of extortion but somehow manage to consistently mismanage the economy and waste the valuable resources given to them. For jobs are scarce even to those who are willing to work and some of these people live under a roof made out of sack with no walls and located on the sidewalk. The money earnmark for the poor always seem to manage to end up in the pockets of wealthy politicians. I condemn the passersby who couldn't lend a helping hand when help is needed and only manage to surround the victim when accidents happen and pity the latter and debate on who is at fault except them. They are the perennial "uzicerro". I condemn the cynical world, who could express anger and indignation and wonder out loud, "how could such horrible thing happen in this world?" and then turn their head, have their sumptous meal and go on as if nothing has happened or that it was just a bad movie. Lastly, I condemn myself for being part of the cynical world. I condemn everybody but did nothing to change the world. I condemn myself for shrinking myself to become infestissimally insignificant when in fact I had the power no inferior to anybody and equal to every man to change the world but I just didn't. A 5 year old boy's place is in the playground amongst his friend and not alone, beneath the tire of the back wheel of an 18 wheeler trailer truck laying in the pool of his own blood with his brain scattered in the pavement. This tradegy could have been avoided if only..................

Friday, December 16, 2005

S.W.O.T. / T.O.W.S.

One of the most celebrated characteristics of an entrepreneur is their ability to spot and exploit opportunities. Many business writers took pains to emphasize this unique quality and contrast it with the qualities of an “administrator” i.e., managers. To adequately differentiate the two, it is necessary to understand the difference from SWOT and TOWS. SWOT is the acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats analysis of the environment and company while TOWS is short for Threats, Opportunities, Strength, and Weaknesses analysis of environment and the company. Technically both are the same except for the order of wording and it is in the wording sequence that spells the difference between the two. I’m not playing semantics here but with SWOT analysis, one would always proceed by determining the strength and weakness that one possesses and try to look for the opportunity to exploit that could utilizes the strength that an individual possesses. In short, it is playing to one’s own limitation. This is the archetypal “administrator”. Administrator are ones who exploits opportunities as long as he could reach it else, the best thing he could do is wait and see. The typical order of questioning by an administrator is what resources do I have and what can I do? Followed by “what opportunities are available to us?” TOWS analysis on the other hand, would start by identifying the threats and opportunities in the environment, then determining what skills, capabilities are needed to exploit it, followed by an audit of the skills and capabilities available and develop those that are not present. Here, capabilities are not the pre-requisite to exploiting the opportunity rather the opportunity is the paramount. It is in the creative nature of an entrepreneur that he could remedy his “weaknesses” in order to exploit the opportunity. In fact, “weakness” is not the traditional definition as weakness but rather a “things to do or develop” list in order to exploit opportunity. An administrator would balk in exploiting an opportunity when he doesn’t have the funding to do so while an entrepreneur would not be deterred, instead if he lacks the capital to exploit the opportunities; he finds a “creative” solution to his problems. Possible solutions include borrowing capital, raising it through some offerings or finding a joint business venture partner or some other creative method. Here, the entrepreneur often ask, “What is the next big thing that we could try our hands on?” first. Followed by “what do we need to get things going?” then by the question, “What do we have?” and lastly, “what should we do about it?” An entrepreneur is not in any way hindered by his limitation. I’m not deriding the “administrator” here but one would often expects their attitude to be as perceived because most of the time, administrators are given a mandate and a “budget” to work with and they are expected to do what is necessary within the limitation provided. Entrepreneurs on the other hand, create his own mandate and they are expected to work towards the goal a.k.a. the dream they set.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


In most popular magazines and column advice on entrepreneurship would focus more on the tasks needed to do in order to start and run a business. I on the other hand stress on the mental preparation on starting a business (the reason why I wrote the 4 previous articles). My reason is simple. Most would be entrepreneurs don’t lack the skills of running the business. What they lack is the “courage” to start the business. Besides, I’m also biased to this kind of approach since I’m an introvert, a person who is motivated by his inner thoughts as opposed to an extrovert who is energized by the outside event. Anyway, to me, entrepreneurship involves a great deal than just a simple how to. It’s the kind of attitude and psychology that an individual must possess. I didn’t mean that if a person who lacks the attitude would fail in business and hence, avoid go into business but rather what I stress here is mental preparation i.e., if you don’t have it, try instilling it. One of my idols in business is Sir Richard Branson. Sir Branson was the ultimate entrepreneur and a billionaire. He started the Virgin group, first with Virgin Records and now, Virgin Airways. When asked sometime ago on why he called his businesses as Virgin, he quipped that because he is going into the business “like a virgin”. I don’t know if Sir Branson likes to listen to Madonna or if he is still a virgin but for those who are “inexperience” and “naïve”, what he meant by “like a virgin” means he knows nothing about sex but is eager to lose his virginity (Ok, probably determined to lose his virginity would be more apt or is it “desperate”?). And that is what an entrepreneur is all about, know nothing if not little of the business he is interested to go into but is eager to get on with it and try it and get his hands dirty. It is this kind of admirable attitude that led Sir Branson to succeed in most of his undertaking and one that every entrepreneur should possess i.e., be “like a virgin”. The second quality in my opinion that an entrepreneur must possess is that old Chinese attitude immortalize in a song, Ai Piyaa Chia Ae Yahh, literally, one must give his best and pursue it in order to win. It is the same attitude as expounded by Al Pacino in the movie, Any Given Sunday, “To fight for every inch of the field, never give up and fight for every step of the way until you reach the Goal” or something like that. In connection to this, an entrepreneur must also take charge especially when the going gets tough. If you want to win so badly, you must take the ball even if there are others who are responsible for them and not you. Patience is another virtue that an aspiring entrepreneur must have. Unlike in a job where an individual could easily discern his/her performance by the reward or punishment he/she gets, in business, such is not the case. Although, an entrepreneur could already tell his success by the amount of money he is earning or in the wealth he is already accumulating but achieving the ultimate goal or the vision or the dream takes a lot longer time, very much longer actually, something like if you are successful 25 – 50 years. There are times even when it would take generations to realize the goal but it is still achievable. Patience is needed here to see it through and slowly built it towards it conclusion. Rome isn’t built in a day. You can’t expect that your business would become a multi – billion enterprise literally over night. Along with patience is motivation. Patience is not enough, an entrepreneur must be sufficiently motivated to move on, to move forward against all odds, against all the luxury that softens his fighting spirit, against all the set backs that would have easily destroy a lesser mortal. Lastly, an entrepreneur must be bold. It is here that greed would “force” an entrepreneur to be bold, to take risk knowing the reward that would shower when he succeeds. As the old Roman adage would say, “Fortuna fortun adiutat”, literally, fortune favors the bold.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


In many business literature involving legendary CEOs and entrepreneurs, the constant advice one would occasionally hear from them is necessity of greed in order to ensure the success of business. Greed is a necessity because businessmen are driven to acquire a profit in their undertaking and they are relentless in their pursuit of opportunities. It is no wonder then that most people generally attach the prefix of “shrewd and greedy” to businessman. And greed has a generally negative moral connotation because we are being taught since birth to be “happy” with what we have and to be generally considerate to others. It is in other words, a moral limit to our acquisitive human nature. However, I would like to clear up some “misunderstanding” about greed but I would like to emphasize that this is strictly a private opinion, you may not have to agree with what I’ve discussed. However, I would advise people to seriously think about it too. Here are a few rules that I find relevant:
1. You don’t have to steal anything. There is always a “legal” way of obtaining what you want. Remember this, greed is the act of acquiring things that you don’t need or that your appetite can no longer support. In other words, an individual just keep on acquiring things even though he has no use of it or in that he no longer needs them like having 10 cars when a person could just ride one of them or having too much money to spend. Stealing on the other hand is the act of acquiring things that doesn’t belong to you. Thieves are generally greedy by nature because they wanted somebody else’s stuffs but not all greedy people are thieves! I’m emphasizing this because some people generally felt that being an acquisitive greed is equal to stealing. It is not!
2. There are some businesses that you don’t go into because it contradicts your principle even if you are greedy. Not all greedy person would want to go into illegal businesses like drug trafficking, gambling, slave trafficking, porn, prostitutions, and others even if the said person has the means and opportunity to do so.
3. There are things more important than money and money couldn’t buy everything. Every greedy people would subscribe to that. Health, love, life are some of the things that one couldn’t simply buy.
4. Know when to quit especially when you’re ahead. As Warren Buffet would say, “to be greedy when others are fearful (meaning to pound on opportunity and take risks) and to be fearful when others are greedy (meaning get out while you still can)”.
5. Know when to cut your losses before it is too late. It would be very difficult if one is greedy but generally, one would “know” and be fearful especially when the losses mounts.
6. Risk taking is not gambling. Gamblers are generally risk takers and greedy but taking risks in business is not gambling but more of a calculated move. It is not by luck.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

December 25,1914

I went to watch a movie last Sunday and I watched the movie, “Merry Christmas”. It was an emotional movie based on a true and actual event during World War I. I read the story something like 5 – 7 years ago in a trivia box inside the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The story goes like this, on Christmas Eve, December 24,1914, the Germans, the French, and the British (which according to the movie are Scots) fought to a stalemate on a particular frontline. Battles then are hardly decisive due to the development of the trench warfare, wherein troops dug up a trench and connected it through an underground tunnel networks and infantry with fast clip rifles settle in and shoots the enemy. Tanks weren’t “invented” yet back then and mass cavalry charges (similar to the ones you see in LOTR) become a fool’s death charge because of the “fast” clicking rifles (if you remember watching any Napoleonic army fight scenes or even American Revolution or Civil War movies, rifles are much “slower” back then and the mass cavalry charge is still considered the decisive advantage in warfare). Hence, battles are fought long and boring with massive losses of life on both sides foolish enough to mount a charge. Anyway, it is this backdrop that the story came to being. After fighting for something like 3 years, troops morale are down, soldiers are weary and very disillusioned. On that fateful evening, the Scots missing home began singing Christmas carols out loud and generally, trying to do some merry – making after all, it’s Christmas. The Germans on the other side heard the heartfelt song and missing home nonetheless, began to also sing their own Christmas carol. Soon enough, both sides began singing carols and as the story goes, both sides declared truce and even held a soccer match until January of the following year. Well, that’s the story I’ve read in the Inquirer. The movie’s story line is much more complete, detailed, and developed as well (go watch if you want to “discover” the details). Anyway, I was particularly “drawn” into a scene in the movie. The troops from both sides couldn’t hold back their emotions after singing the carols that they decided to cross the line and meet up in the middle of what was once the battlefield. I couldn’t simply fathom how the soldiers would feel when they first “see” the face of a faceless enemy (they all hide behind the trenches remember?), the murderers of their father, their brothers, their sons, their friends, and their comrades. Now, they come face to face, no longer an enemy? These soldiers exchange liquors and cigarettes and share the Christmas meals just like what friends do. They even held mass together. Ironic isn’t it and life seems to be full of it. And there, friendship grew in the strangest of places. Soon, both sides exchange their POWs and were allowed to bury their dead without impediment. Before long, both sides were warning each other of the impending bombardments from their respective sides and each offers the other temporary shelter against such attacks. Words about what happen soon reach the ears of the high command, and each side suffer a disgraceful and harrowing fate. The Scots were disbanded and disgraced while the French were reprimanded and sent to a “quiet” sector. The poor Germans were sent to the Russian front to die an “honorable death”, an euphemism for being sent to the battlefield as cannon fodders. Sad and devastating, maybe their fate, their reputation was even more savaged! Public opinions on both sides branded them as cavorting with the enemy, a classic act of a traitor. How could the French party with the occupiers of their country, for Alsacae – Lorraine was occupied by the Germans more then 50 years ago before the outbreak of the war? How could the Germans trust the French for they have signed pacts with their enemies, the Russians and have geographically encircled them, threatening their very existence? They simply cannot. Fast forward a century later, here I am among many who’ve watched the movie and have nothing but pity to those “foot soldiers”, a mere pawn in the struggle of their megalomaniac rulers, who sip champagne in the headquarters whilst they die in the field. If they have indeed commit any wrong at all, it is because they are human, disillusioned and weary of war. However, history isn’t always kind to these people as I mentioned, during that time they are traitors and much more so by the time of WWII. Now, they aren’t? History is not what it seems for those who are too naïve to understand. History is not the “faithful” retelling of the story past rather it is the biased propaganda of those who controlled the right to interpret history. Furthermore, history is the interpretation of the past in the present limelight. What was a victory would be painted as a massacre in a century from now and a madman who murders by the millions would be hailed as a legendary military genius. For what is the difference of Napoleon the Great, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great with Hitler? (FYI, I DON’T IMMORATLIZE HITLER BECAUSE HE IS A MONSTER BY ALL STANDARDS, ANCIENT AND MODERN!!!) All of them commit brutal murders and they are all conquerors. Funny, but isn’t history supposed to be the truth about what has happened? Why then people “worship” conquerors and abhor “cowards”? Perhaps, it is because war is particularly glorious to those who haven’t seen the gory of it. It takes a few to start a war and carry it and would take many to fight a war and sustain it and much, much more would have to suffer and die to end a war. There are times that as a historian and a strategist, I could easily understand the “necessity” of war but as a human being, I cannot but simply abhor it and it is for this reason that one could always identify with the soldiers depicted in the movie and lament their fate. I remember a poem that I’d recited in class during my college days, one that I think is apt and fitting description of the movie. Indeed as the poem ends, there are so many “disturbing” questions about man’s behavior in history, this one in particular but no one seemed care to answer it.

By Bertolt Brecht
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of the kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
Of gold – glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is filled with triumphant arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did Caesar triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beats the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the second won the Seven Years’ War. Who
Else won?

In every page a victory,
Who cooked the feast for the victor?
Every ten years another great man,
Who paid the bill?

So many reports,
So many questions.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

“My” Philosophy of Money

Some people would probably scratch their head as to why in the world I’m writing something about a philosophy of money as part of the series of article on starting a business. Well, the reason and I don’t want to sound critical, is that I find the views of some of my friends regarding money as quite “disturbing”. Business revolves around money and if one has an “unsupportive” view of money, I don’t see how the individual is going to profit in business. One of the most vivid conversations I have with a college friend of mine is about the “correct” level of profit. He started out the conversation by criticizing his cousin for being too greedy to the extent of being usurious. His cousin is assembling AVRs or automatic voltage regulators and he heard him saying that his cousin is earning a 150% mark up. To me at that time, he seems to be condemning his cousin as immoral (he is such a religious guy by the way) because his cousin is too indifferent to the consumer by “over” charging them. To him, the “appropriate” level of mark up is 5% and 10% is pushing the limit already. All along as I was listening to him, I was both puzzled and shocked. Puzzled, because I didn’t see anything patently wrong about the 150% mark up and shocked is that how could he be thinking something like it in the first place? Apparently, his religious tenets is against the practice of usury and in medieval times, such teaching often arouse mass hostilities against the merchant class for their indifference to the plight of their fellow men. Years later, in my various conversations with friends, I found out that a lot of them and not only my particular friend hold some “disturbing” views about money. They either didn’t fully understand money or have entirely a lack of understanding about money. They have a love – hate relationship about money. Some viewed money as evil while others viewed them as a necessary evil. When I started thinking about writing business articles, I immediately thought of making a statement about money through sharing my own philosophy of money since money is of critical importance in business not only due to the fact that business revolves around money but money is also a powerful motivator especially for ones who went to business to accumulate wealth or earn a living. In fact, money could be for some the only motivator in business. Here are some of the beliefs on money that I hold, and I wish to stress that this view is mine alone. I don’t intend to convince anyone to adopt my belief nor would I hold out that mine is the “right” one. My intention here is for everybody who read this to seriously think and evaluate about his or her own philosophy of money and whether that philosophy could “support” their bid in business.

1. The “correct” level of profit or mark – up. Honestly speaking, there is no correct level of profit or mark – up. As a consumer, we maybe incensed with the exorbitant prices and the huge mark – up that businesses charge us but from the business perspective, mark – up and profits are “dictated” by the market, which in this case, competitors and buyers (there are other of course but we’ll get to that in the latter articles) as predicted by the laws of economics. In a seller’s market wherein demand outstrips supply, prices generally goes up. This is acceptable since sellers incur additional cost and expenses just to increase output to meet the huge demand from buyers. However, there are instances when price hikes are more than justifiable, i.e., the increases more than compensate the additional costs. In this case, to me, I still felt that it is acceptable since buyers are generally “willing” and “able” to pay for the price being charged because they “needed” or “wanted” it. However, I would find it morally reprehensible in instances when staple commodities like rice are being raised beyond the capacity of the majority of buyers. Another justification for raising price levels and charging huge mark – ups during a seller’s market, is that the favorable market condition don’t last. Sooner or later, the market would shift. Either prices run too high that people stop buying because it doesn’t meet their value expectation anymore or that the huge profit potential has attracted several new entrants into the industry introducing new capacities and thereby increasing the supply beyond the current demand and thus, crowding the market, which force these new players to compete on price to stay alive. In such situations where the supply outstrips the demand, the market becomes a buyer’s market and buyers hold all the bargaining power against the businesses in a particular industry. In such scenarios, buyers wouldn’t “remember” nor would they “express” gratitude to a firm that didn’t raise their prices during the boom market by rewarding their continued patronage. On the contrary, buyers would be enticed by the lower price offered by competitors even if the said competitor is “heartless” during the boom years. Sometimes, the prices are so unbelievably low that it is already unprofitable and unrewarding to the business owner. In this scenario, the firm that didn’t charge “enough” during the boom years would find it hard pressed to sustain their operations in this crisis time because they didn’t have sufficient cash or profit cushion to tide them over until the next market upturn. It is like storing food before the long harsh winter. If you didn’t store enough, you won’t last the winter. Another justification for the outrageous mark – ups is how would we justify the price of luxury brands or some products like appliance, which have huge mark – ups on their own? I mean if the cost of a watch is only this much, how one would justify paying say like 100 times its cost? The answer is simple, we’re paying for the status symbol attach with the possession of such brand however vain it seems. And people, could be very vain. The principle here is that people are “willing” to pay for what they need and want regardless how much profit you make as long as there is no affordable “alternative” (which is where competition comes in). Therefore, don’t worry about “usurious” mark – ups.
2. Never mix business with charity but this doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have to be charitable. Business is an entity and have a legal personality, i.e., it is treated like a person with rights in a court of law but it is not human and hence, businesses aren’t capable of piety or pity but the people who ran the businesses are human and they do. Never use business as the vehicle to provide charity instead, give out charity on a personal basis to an institution or better, set – up your own charitable institutions. Most often, I’ve encountered people who charged a buyer an exorbitant price for their product and turn their face next to a needy person and gave the same product for free. Nothing wrong here really except that buyers generally feels they’re being “used”. It seems to them that they are subsidizing the poor folks but the credit goes to the business owners. If would be better if the business owners give the “needy” person money out of their pockets. On a larger scale, I find corporate philanthropy seriously flawed especially publicly listed ones. Unless approve by the stockholders, corporate philanthropy is simply using other people’s money for charity, which in the process reduces the expected dividends an investor could get from the stock. If a CEO wants to show his compassionate side, give out his own money and not other people’s money entrusted to him. The investors didn’t appoint him to be their Chief Charity Officer (they don’t need one anyway, they could do that job superbly) but their CEO in charge of maximizing the value of their holdings.
3. One can be a spend rift or very charitable in real life but when it comes to business, penny pinching is an absolute necessity. Again, always separate the personal life and the business. In business, the concern is about profit and if unwanted and unnecessary spending eats into profit, it must be “controlled”.
4. Money isn’t evil neither is the insatiable human want but rather the means humans deploy to satisfy their wants. Money is an inanimate object. It isn’t valuable at all. It becomes valuable because we make it so. Corollary to this idea, money is means of exchange, a measure of value. In some ancient civilizations, because of the scarcity of precious metals, these civilizations resort to using other objects of value and in relative abundance as a means of exchange like shells and pearls. If we disregard money, as we know it now, we will always seek something else as an alternative medium of exchange. Probably, instead of paper money we would be talking about how much shells or clams we had in our bank accounts and most predictingly, there will be individuals who would pull all stops to “hoard” all the seashells and clams in the world.
5. Money is a means to an end and not an end by itself. The moment when one treats money as an end, he inevitably becomes a slave of money. Again, money is a medium of exchange, a means to buy what you want, what you value the most. Keep it that way! You can’t literally eat money, wear money, or shelter in money but you can use money to buy food to eat, clothes to wear, or house to live. P.T. Barnum once said that, “money is a terrible master but an excellent slave”. The trick here is to assert your “independence” from money by having a “healthy” conception of it and utilize it for an end.
6. In life, money isn’t important. Or that money can’t buy you everything. Oh yeah, indeed! To me, money couldn’t buy anything and there are things that money couldn’t buy (come to think of it, isn’t it stupid to buy something that is supposedly “free”). However, money does buy 80% if not 99% of everything and that is good enough for me. I’m not making a pun on an old saying but rather I want to set the facts straight. We grew up watching TV and in the process, we are brainwashed into believing that the definition of an ideal life is a happy family living in a nice house in a respectable and peaceful neighborhood in suburbia with a big screen TV and a satellite dish and drives around town in a nice car and kids going to a private school. All of this cost money. Unless, one would think that happiness or an ideal life is living in a shanty the size of a room on top of “Smokey Mountain” and eats twice a day with each meal, a small cup of rice with vinegar or pansit canton. In the latter case, money wouldn’t be important.
7. This is my favorite. How many times you hear Filipinos say these words, “When you’re dead, you can’t bring all your money to heaven”. I so hate the people who peddle this line over and over again. For one (forgive me for being sarcastic), if money were important in heaven (because it would seem to be so for one to aspire to bring all his wealth to heaven), can I buy my indefinite stay here on Earth? Besides, what they wanted me to do? Earn my money by breaking my back and give all of it to them? Subsidize their indolence? I earn money not because I wanted to bring it to heaven but because I’m going to use them to buy something I want and if I can’t spend it all, I’m going to hand it over to my offspring in order for them to have a good life. Sometimes, this quotes along with the previous quotes are used as a means to force people to be charitable but charity should be given by freewill and not by threat. Furthermore, the quotes are also meant to “balance” ones material life and spiritual life and soothe the spirit. It has that effect when it is repeated from time to time but if repeat it indefinitely, it becomes an excuse for not pushing oneself to it’s maximum profit potential. It becomes a retardant per se. The principle I’m suggesting here is that don’t “limit” yourself because of what other people say.
8. The money you receive in business is not all yours, what is yours is only a small fraction thereof. Too many times, I see people spending everything they got from their business. Splurging in buying a new car or house. Bear in mind that for every peso one got from business, a major portion goes to pay the suppliers, a sizeable part goes to pay for the labor rendered by your employees and God forbids, taxes to a corrupt government, whatever remains after deducting everything is your share. In effect, a business owner is just a custodian of the money that a buyer pays for his suppliers and employees. The only time when one affords to splurge is when one accumulates “enough” of his share.
9. Business is the only other way that one could use money to “buy” more money. Another way is to invest in an “interest” bearing financial instrument (which includes stocks). Unless, of course, you could print your own money. Businessmen perform a noble function in society. We are in effect the “legal” Robinhood in a society. Because we redistribute the wealth we created. We sell a valuable product or services and receive cash in return and pay them to our suppliers and employees, which in turn they spread it elsewhere. It very much different from the ancient times when aristocratic land owners hoarded all the gold in their warehouses because they don’t need to buy anything nor pay anyone. They get free service from their serfs and slaves. This precipitated the collapse of money economy as gold circulation becomes scarce. With business, we stimulate activity and circulate the money and in the process spread the wealth, of course, we get to keep some of them.
10. Another often heard phrase I got is “if I got this much money, I could last a life time.” My driver always repeats this “wish” every time he bets on lotto. My standard answer to him is yes, the money you’ve won although considerable could last you for a lifetime provided that you lived exactly the same way as before. That is, take public transport, live in the dilapidated house, eat 3 simple meals and day etc. If he spends like less than 100 pesos a day currently, then winning a million pesos would last him 10,000 days or 28 years assuming we ignore inflation. But that is not the case, more often than not, people would change their lifestyle the moment they receive a huge windfall. They would buy a jeep, move in a new house, and eat more than usual. After this, they would wish for more money thinking that it would again last a lifetime but just they think it would, they buy a Japanese car, then a luxury car, and ultimately, a super luxury car or a bigger house, then a mansion, then an even bigger mansion, then a second house and so on and so forth. There is no end to human want and just when one thinks that there is nothing else to spend, guess what? There is something to spend for. There is no end to spending. Therefore, there is no such thing as “enough” money to last a lifetime.
11. My mother kept on repeating this line for quite sometime now and I felt that this is a universal truth. According to her, “if the sons and grandsons aren’t ‘capable’, no amount of inheritance would suffice to last them a lifetime because it would eventually be used up somehow and sometime; if the sons and grandsons are ‘capable’, even if there aren’t left a penny by their forbearers, they could always find a way to rise from their station”. Money can always be earned and that the greatest inheritance one would get is not money but the family value, skills, and life’s wisdom. Lack of wealth is no hindrance at all!
12. This one is also my favorite. How would someone who is already a billionaire keep on amassing wealth? A few years back, Lucio Tan gave an interview to the Philippine Star(?). When asked about why he is buying PAL, he answered, “It is because of his desire to help the country and he feels challenged”. He then went on to say that earning an extra billion doesn’t enable him to eat one more hamburger or one more fried chicken than his appetite would allow but he stills wanted to earn the “extra” billion because he feels challenged. I read something like that in “The Book on CEO’s Wisdom”. An American CEO once said that money is no longer important to him because he has so much already. He keeps earning money because that is how he keeps the score (Apparently, the guy is a subscriber of the Power School of Management, for the only people who keeps a “score” are the people who believes that business is a game). When an individual starts from a relatively poor economic station, earning an extra buck would enable him to eat more and better but there will come a point wherein the individual would reach his limit and earning extra would be “immaterial” already (though there are always ways to spend it). Motivation becomes less of money and more of the “vision” thing. However, in business, money is still important even though one may not “need” it anymore. Hence, some ‘well – to – do individuals motivate themselves by keeping a score using money as the points. However, by viewing money as a score, there is a sense of detachment from the real value of money, i.e., money is just a number on a piece of paper and nothing more. It is no longer a means of exchange or a measure of value. Troubling it may sound but nonetheless I find it useful in motivating an individual no longer in need of money to further earn money from business.
I still have a few more viewpoints on money but these are the essential ones that I have. Again, I would like to emphasize that this strictly my view and I’m not implying it’s the “correct” one but rather to point out the necessity of having a personal philosophy of money, one that could “legitimize” and “encourage” the accumulation of wealth. I’m ending this article with another quote from Warren Buffet, the world’s greatest investor and second richest man after Bill Gates, according to him, the secret to success is “to be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy”. And if I may add, to be greedy is not a sin.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


One of the important things to understand before an individual embarks into business is what is the person’s motivation. Motivation is very important in business because it is for the long haul. Not only that there are periods in business when situations would be quite stressful and challenging. Unlike in a job, when one could always walk away, in business, walking away from it means losses because it’s your own money. Most people think that being a business owner is a pretty easy job, i.e., big money, less menial work, etc. On the contrary, it’s the opposite. When the situation demands it, being a business owner requires you to take the lead and do it yourself. There is no day or night, no holidays even for those who venture into business. This is of course in addition to the constant worry in running a business like what should I do next? What the future holds and what should I do to negate the adverse effects on my business? Where am I going to get money to pay my supplier or employee? In business, the little stuff matters and could give you something to sweat about. Without some sort of vision, it would difficult for an individual to “stay”. For unlike in other fields when one could easily reap what it sowed, in business, the time for one to reap from what it sow could take quite a long time. So what are the motivations that individuals who started business usually have? Using the Maslow’s hierarchy of need, individual motivations could range from physiological and security need to self – actualization need. Typically, most start – up business owners are motivated by physiological and security need. These are what business thinkers called livelihood businesses. Livelihood businesses are as the name implies businesses whose main purpose is to earn an income to sustain a family whether fully or simply just to augment the main source of income. One could always hear these words from the business owners, “Thank God! I’ve managed to feed my family, clothe them, gave them a roof to live on and manage to send my kids to college and now they’ve finished and are working already. My task is done and I could rest now.” Physiological and security needs are a great motivator but they could only sustain up to when business owners have already satisfied his need. Livelihood businesses typically decline if not ends when the need that instigate it’s birth is met. However, livelihood businesses could evolve into an enduring business concern, the so – called “immortal businesses” when after a few years of operations, the owners manage to develop a “higher” thinking, i.e., a vision and intends and has passed that vision to the next generation. In livelihood businesses, most business owners are engage in businesses that have small capitalization, usually trading or service type businesses simply because investing in a capital – intensive business not only requires attention and years of insignificant personal incomes if not outright losses but the exit cost is also prohibitively expensive, i.e., the liquidation cost would just be a fraction of the original investment. Corollary to that, in livelihood businesses, the owners are usually hesitant in investing in the expansion of the business and reinvestments are always kept to a minimum since the reason is simply to earn an income. Another type of businesses are the so – called “lifestyle businesses” or the “self – actualization” businesses (By the way, the terms I used here are borrowed from an article written by my professor at BusinessWorld, which is in turn attributed to Peter Wooliams). This are the businesses wherein the owners are motivated by self – actualization. Marquee chefs who wanted to run their own show rather than cooking in a five star hotels, hot shot executives or professionals who felt that they could do better going alone instead of working for a boss or an artist who wanted flexibility to express themselves or celebrities leveraging their fame. These are some of the examples of a self – actualization businesses. A famous example of this kind of businesses is Steven Spielberg’s outfit, DreamWorks SKG. Wasn’t the name obvious? This type of businesses not only provides self – actualization to the owners but it is also intended to provide a means to support their existing lifestyle, hence, the name “lifestyle businesses”. Business owners in these businesses are quite aggressive by nature and businesses are expansive as a result but it is also short – lived by nature because it was never intended to be passed on to a successor. In fact, it could be somewhat impossible to pass on to a successor. Would people still patronize a famous chef operated restaurant when the said owner – chef is gone? People would probably think that nobody could replace the great xxxx and the business would never be the same again. Again, such businesses could also be transformed into an on – going concern or an immortal business provided that the intention for succession is present and that the “dreams” of the founder could be passed on. The last but not the least is the immortal businesses. These are the visionary businesses wherein the vision of the founder is passed on and carried over by the succeeding generations and in the process, is institutionalized in memory as something permanent. There is nothing patently wrong in choosing whether one would engage in a livelihood, lifestyle, or immortal businesses. What I’m stressing here is that individuals who wanted to start a business must “discover” his or her motivation and from there choose a venture that suits it’s needs and be able to sustain it until such time that either the individual close the business or pass it on to the next.

P.S. If you have some comment, I would like to hear it. Please don’t hesitate to post it except of course for blatant shameless advertisements. On the other hand, if you have a violent reaction to what I’ve written, never mind, keep it to yourself.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

For the Love of the Game: The Purpose of Business

Why people engage in business? Well, the answer is relatively straightforward and simple. People engage in business to make money, to earn a decent profit and get a fair return on investment. But is that all? Is business all about money? The answer is yes; business is about money but more. For if business is solely about money, what is then the difference between running a business and investing in a financial instrument like a stock or bond? Surprising, there is none! Why then people even bother to go through all the trouble of starting and running a business when there is a less hassle option of making money? Is it because of the expectation of a bigger return? The fact is that there are instances when investing in a financial instrument would yield a higher return at lesser risk than running a business. Not only that, financial instruments could be crafted in such a way that expected revenue incomes would be consistent and stable compared to the unpredictable and volatile nature of business. Why then would people engage in a risky venture called business? It is because of what in MBA parlance is called the “vision”. In layman’s term, it is called an idea, i.e., the idea of what the future should look like but to romanticist like me, it is called a “dream”. It is this “dream” that drives individuals to be creative and offer innovative products and services to the world to satisfy the people’s needs, wants, and desire and in the process transforms the way people think and live, and ultimately, burrows deep into the people’s subconscious thought to create an immortal legacy. Such is business; it is conceived as an idea, which once ably executed would later on evolve into an immortal legacy. Consider this, for millenniums, human beings drink water to quench their thirst but more a century ago, a genius concocted a syrup and mix it with excessive amount of sugar and a lethal dose of carbon dioxide, bottled and sold it to the public. Today, millions of people drink Coke not water just to satisfy their thirst and also a few million people with type II diabetes as well. Henry Ford didn’t invent the car but he dreamed that one-day, every American would own a car. It is this dream that led him to develop the mass production system and create the modern factory. Now, not only Americans own a car but everybody else in the world. Not only we have attained unimaginable freedom of mobility but we also have nightmarish traffic jams and suffocating air pollution. For all the wrongs that car brought us, the world still owes a great deal to Henry Ford. For if not for him, cars would be just an expensive toys for the big boys with fat wallets and we mortals would have just to suffer walking, if we can’t afford feeding a horse and be stuck in our small world that our two feet would bring us. A dream is not a business. Of course, that should be clear. Imagine where would we be if Henry Ford were simply dreaming of building cars rather than actually making one. However, a business is a dream. Business is not simply an entity made up of people with a structure to perform the functions of operations, finance, marketing, accounting, and human resource development. It is not a standard set – up with the only variable being the type of product or service one wish to sell. On the contrary, the “dream” is the core in which all the business functions are built around it to realize it. DHL is not about the people that deliver the package nor the airplanes the carries the packages around the world nor is the entire logistic system nor is the software. It is the dream of delivering a package on time that everything else is built. SM the mall is not the gargantum monolith that people shop. It is the idea of a “one stop shop” and in the interpretation of Henry Sy Sr. of his dream of “we got it all for you”, it is the structure that we all came to be familiar with. But if he were to interpret it as an internet website that offers virtually everything that could be sold, then SM would be very much look like Amazon, the website. Again, the idea of “We got it all for you” is intact. Business doesn’t have to be a new discovery or invention. SM is not an invention and Henry Ford didn’t invent the car nor IBM about the PC. Some obscure inventor whose name we care not to remember invented the car and the PC. We rather remember the ones that popularize it because they conceive a future based on those inventions in their “dream”. Without a dream, a firm would be without a soul, without a purpose and hence, deprive of it’s reason for existence. Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world, once defined that entrepreneurs are the ones who “dream, invest, and succession (pass it to the next generation).” Therefore, the first step for people who wanted to start a business is to “dream” but don’t stop at it. Chase it!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


A beautiful lady friend ask me sometime ago about what business to start here in the Philippines because she is moving back here and she is tired of being an employee. Funny, but I’ve been asked by the same question ever since I’ve entered business school. Every term, I have classmates asking me that question or classmates telling me “not to forget to call them when I’m starting a business because they wanted to chip in”. It is as if I knew the secret to doing business and making money but truth to tell, I only had a big mouth. Anyway, I did promise my beautiful lawyer – friend that I’ll look into it and help her “analyze” things. However, for the past few weeks, I find myself hesitating to write anything about business not because I couldn’t write nor knew what to write (actually, I already have a fairly good idea on what to write) but more like I’m not “qualified” to write something like this. Don’t get me wrong, business is a passion of mine and I’m accustomed to writing this stuffs in business school. I hesitated because I’m no expert in business, I’m no ph D and furthermore, my record as a business manager is spotty at best. I prefer to write stuffs like this when I gained credibility by making billions. That way, I know people would listen. However, I’m no way near that as of now. If I write about business at this time, I would risk being as what the Chinese proverb would describe as “kao thaan kwang lun, cher shang thaan ping”, i.e., “to argue out loud about the art of war on paper and not been to the battlefield itself.” Also, I had to do tons of research to write a business paper although I have a few insights that I could share. Then, there is also the fact that people may just do what I said and later on, blame me for their failure because I’ve “said” it. Two things changed my mind though. The first was my professor, his text message, and the book launching event and the second, was some articles I’ve read. A few months back, my professor congratulated me on my success at my oral defense of my business plan and he suggested that I took up ph D and teach at the undergraduate school. I declined to his disappointment. I had no appetite for multi – variate analysis, which is the cornerstone of doctoral studies and research and I rather teach when I already make my mark furthermore, I prefer to earn my ph D the hard way, honoris causa. A week earlier, I received a text from him, those feel good quotes, “Don’t keep searching for the truth; just let go your opinions..” a quote attributed to the Chinese sage, Seng Ts’an. And then, there was the book – launching event of his, and his speech reminded me of my promise to him, actually our class’ promise to him contained in a manifesto I wrote and signed by our classmates as a parting gift to him. I felt that it is my “duty” to write. Besides, I read some articles from business magazines purportedly as an advice and being an MBA graduate, I find it “lousy” and it sucks. I figured a few more lousy articles from me won’t hurt much, I hope. Anyway, here I am writing a blog proclaiming my opinion about what I’m going to write, proclaiming that it is my point of view and what I think of things and not as a solid fact whether or not you believe me is entirely up to you to decide. If by any chance, the articles I’ve written are in any way good, well, it is not because I’m good or a “genius” rather it is because I’m a good student, a keen observer, a reader, and I could write a few coherent sentences in English. Traits, that are expected of me, being an MBA graduate. I would also like to outline what my professor would call, a framework for my business writings. Being an MBA graduate, I would be mostly using the frameworks developed by the Positioning School of strategic management as espoused by Harvard Business School (By the way, I’m no HBS graduate) modified by the Entrepreneurial/Visionary school that my professor is championing and being taught to me and my classmates in MBA. However, I have “evolve” since my last formal academic subject in MBA in 2001 (I’d just graduated this October by the way) and I had came to “accept” other school of thoughts that would seem contradictory to the established school like the Learning School, the Cultural School, the Constructionist School, and most importantly, the Power School of thoughts. I was already leaning to that school since my last formal studies and it is fairly recent that I “discovered” that there is such a school of thought in management (all along I thought that I’m a genius, guess somebody beat me to it). If in Star Wars, there is the dark side of the force and in Harry Potter, there is the dark arts magic, well, this school is its equivalent in management. The Power school studies the political process of strategy development, namely how office politics affect the choice of corporate strategy. That is in the micro level and frankly, I’m not too keen in that. It is on the macro level that I’m interested in. At the macro level, the Power School deals with how firms utilizes their “market power” to gain advantage and realize the 4 Ps, Price (that firms dictates and not what the market wants), Profit (the more the merrier), Power to influence trends, behaviors (to gain more profit), and Prestige and sugar coating such actions and shove it down the people’s throat. This is the school of management that treats business as a “game”. If you’re thinking in such term, well, welcome to the club. I’m opening this topic because frankly my writings would reflect these thoughts and I would like to dispel any questions as to why my conclusion is this and not the other way around. I would be also adding some experience of mine however little, some observation however narrow, and some insights however insignificant to the articles I’m writing. Another thing, I would STRONGLY ADVISE that MBA students REFRAIN from reading some of the articles I’m going to write (I would indicate as such). Well, this is because I don’t want to “corrupt” and “trash” their young minds to what I’m going to write (READ: READ THE ARTICLES AT YOUR OWN SANITY). A quaint but interesting note on MBA, Henry Mintzberg wrote a book called “Managers not MBAs”. In his book, he laments that business schools are turning out analyst not managers, i.e., the skills taught in MBAs are geared toward analysis. If I may add to his assessment, MBAs are not only analysts but they are also taught to be cocky and overconfident to the extent that they have an incurable messianic complex believing that they could save the company from sure oblivion. The truth is they could and they couldn’t. Management is both a science and an art. MBA teaches the science while the art is gained through experience. MBA teaches one to run a company but not to start it nor to “lead” it. Leadership comes from experience in the line of fire. Take it from someone who is thru with business school, one cannot become a military genius in the likes of Napoleon or Alexander the great simply by studying the art of war. However, in the same breathe, a general couldn’t become a soldier of genius if he only understand on how to charge an enemy in front of his eyes and couldn’t understand the intricacies of deception and maneuver as espoused by the art of war. I end this article by stating that there is a difference between walking the talk and talking. I do the talking, you do the walking if you wanted to start a business.

A Manifesto of our Commitment

I wrote this piece as a Christmas gift and a tribute as well from our MBA class to our Strategic Management professor, Elfren Cruz, a great man who I considered my mentor. This article came out in his column in BusinessWorld dated January 15,2002 under the title, “Why I Teach”. I had since taken this commitment as a pledge to a mentor, a debt that I would repay back in due time.

In the beginning, we all have dreams. It is this dream that led us to De La Salle University and MBA. Because we believed that we lack the skills and knowledge to help us achieve our dreams and we believed that in this institution, we can learn those skills and knowledge. We were willing and able to endure all the sleepless nights, the pressure of balancing study and work, and braving through the tortuous traffic simply, because we wanted to achieve our dreams and that was all we know. We never knew of a higher calling or purpose until we took up your subject (Strategic Management). Like all of us, you also have a dream or in your business parlance, a vision. Your vision is a Philippines where no Filipino goes hungry or seen begging in the streets. Every Juan or Eva would have a decent job and lived a prosperous and dignified life. Everywhere Filipinos go, they will hold their heads high and proud of their heritage and race and not being look down upon by other races and people. To achieve this vision, you devise a strategy. Again borrowing from your word, reengineer the elite, specifically, the future elite which in this case is all of us, your student. By helping us to develop the skills, you would help us succeed in our career and make our companies more profitable and in the process, we would be hiring more people, generate employment and thus improve the lives of millions of poor Filipinos. By teaching us the frameworks to analyze our companies and making them more competitive, we would be making the Philippines competitive as well, since, the economy is but the aggregate sum of all the companies in the country. For that notable goal, you have our most sincere respect from the bottom of hearts. Before we came to class, we know only our dreams but now, thanks to you we have a vision. For this, we want to offer you, our heartfelt appreciation for what you did for us and for your noble goals, we cannot find a more appropriate response than to pledge our solemn commitment to your vision and to do all we can to improve the performance of our respective companies and in turn contribute to the national economic development. We pledge this with our heart and soul.

From the class of GSTRAMA, 2nd term, 2001 – 2002, Monday class.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Book Launching

Last Thursday, November 24, I attended the launching of my professor, Elfren Sicangco Cruz’s first book entitled, “Setting Framework: Family Business and Strategic Management”. It was my first time to be invited to such an event and boy, it was a “star – studded” event. By star – studded, I didn’t mean that showbiz celebrities attended the affair, in fact there was none of them instead I saw some of the biggest name in politics, academe, and business to have grace the event. There was Senator Joker Arroyo, my professor’s boss during the Aquino Administration (my professor is the Presidential Management Staff Secretary and Metropolitan Manila Governor and later on, MMDA Chairman while the good senator was the executive secretary), Supreme Court Justice Adolf Azcuna, who was his colleague during the Aquino Administration, being the President’s Chief Legal Counsel, Secretary Angelo Reyes, a personal friend of my professor, former Manila vice – mayoralty candidate, Dondon Bagatsing, one of his buddies at the Rotary Club. I also happen to see Teresita Ang See and almost all my professors in DLSU – GSB – MBA. Among the business legends to grace the event was Jake Almeda, the former top honco of ABS – CBN, who also happened to be my profesor’s first boss – mentor. Then, there are of course, the most important guests of the evening, me and my fellow graduates of DLSU MBA, his students, the future leaders of corporate Philippines. In fact, one could really say that the entire event was really oriented towards us, his former students for not only we make up the bulk of the attendees but the structure of the book was so familiar to us. I think this is his way to teach us and update us on Strategic Management in out post – graduate life. What can I say, we are his hope, his life work. Professor Elfren Cruz was a student activists/leader in his college days at DLSU during the martial law era. And like many of the middle class intellectuals of his day, he was a communist sympathizer if not a communist himself. Funny but come to think about it now, he is a former communist teaching a capitalist subject. Anyway, he was the type of person who felt so indignant and angry with poverty and the apparent indifference of the ruling elite on their plight. So much so, that he ventured to understand the poor and he did by “living” with a squatter family for a year. I remembered him telling us during the end of the term that he endured all hardship and eventually “learned” to live and adapt to a life in the slum including the smell, the hunger, and the hard work except for one aspect, personal hygiene and sanitation, i.e., he couldn’t get himself to unload his metabolic waste anywhere around the corner but instead he uses the toilet of a nearby cinema. Later on, he went to work for companies and taking up his MBA at AIM and then was recruited to be the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Secretary of President Aquino. After his stint in government, he went on to teach at DLSU MBA, write a column at BusinessWorld and work as a strategic management consultant to a number of Philippine firms, majority of them Filipino – Chinese family businesses serving as their board chairman or chairman of their management committee. Even with such responsibility, his fervor for the alleviation of poverty among the poor didn’t diminish but somehow I think he realizes that he couldn’t do it alone nor could he do it in his lifetime and which is probably why he teaches. To train future leaders who could carry out his vision of alleviating poverty economically through secure employment by healthy and competitive Philippine companies lead by visionary leaders, a noble goal worthy of praise, support, and emulation. This is why he wrote the book because 90% of Philippine businesses are family businesses and most of them are small to medium scale and probably a number of his students are actually working in family businesses if not owning one. In his experience, strategic planning and management is notably absent in family businesses and few of the businesses survived through the generational shift because of the inability to plan for the future. It so happen also that there is a dearth of books regarding strategic planning in family businesses, more so, in the Philippine setting and in a Filipino – Chinese setting. He wants to share his experience, impart his wisdom, and hopefully, his vision hoping someday we would succeed…. As the night withered away in laughter and exchanging of stories among old friends in business school in the midst of all the finger foods, cocktails, and wine, I can’t help but to keep returning to a part of his speech earlier on. In that part of the speech, my professor offered his gratitude to three of his mentors, Jake Almeda, Macalintal, and Senator Joker Arroyo. He is a lucky man for mentors are hard to come by. There are many teachers of course, people that teaches you skills to survive, to earn a living but there are only a few mentors in life who not only teach you skills, but also taught you how to live, show you a way to the future, and inspire you to move towards it. Very few people could find one but everybody needs one, even geniuses need a mentor, for without mentors, they could never blossom. My professor has 3 and though I’m no genius, I’m lucky to have 2 and my professor is one of them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

68 More Visits to the Grave………..

There was a slight drizzle this morning greeting the pilgrims to the stone city. It was as if heaven was silently weeping reminding us the solemn occasion. The teardrops from heaven awaken us to the painful and gloomy memories of the past and reminded us also of what future lies ahead, that someday we will be dead and share a space however small in this city of stone. It is in this backdrop that the city of the dead suddenly became bustling with life with the living haunting the dead and breaking the eerie silence. I was one of pilgrims this morning and like everyone else, I came to visit the dead. Visit, what an inappropriate word used to describe the act for as if the dead ever knew or even expect that somebody was coming to see them. The proper term for such act should be to come and pay my respect for the dead. Anyway, like every year, I first visited my father’s grave, lay out the offerings and pay my homage by inserting 4 lighted incense sticks on a small mound of sand in front of his tombstone along with my whispered message. After which, I lay the paper money on top of his grave and hike off to do the same with my grandfather, which happens to be located on the farther end of the stone city. It is actually a very frantic day filled with formulaic rituals and cumbersome ceremonies. In the midst of this frenzy, I actually forgot to “tell” both my grandfather and my father the good news that I graduated from my masters a month ago. I was meaning to “tell” them the Sunday after the graduation but somehow the mundane tasks of living allowed me the excuse to postpone again and again and now I was there and I forgot to “tell” them. Actually, I’d never believe in rituals and ceremonies neither in any religion that supports such. Nevertheless, I still perform the rituals and ceremonies because human beings are such a succor for rituals even if they don’t understand them neither would they care to understand them. As for me, I do understand them, i.e., those rituals and ceremonies. The things we do like offering incense, offering foods, burning paper money, etc., are done to remind us of our departed love ones. Those formulaic acts are devised to institutionalize their past existence into our memories by expressing our love to them however futile and useless it maybe by now. There are not acts of worship as some foreign, close – minded religion suggests because I never view my father as a “god”. He would always be my father. I remember a story my elementary school teacher once relates to me in class. The story begins with a Westerner chiding a Chinese for preparing an elaborate banquet as an offering to the dead saying that the dead wouldn’t rise up to eat the foods being offered to them and to which the Chinese shot back, neither would your dead rise up to smell the flowers you put in their grave. The point of this little anecdote is that the acts and rituals we do aren’t meant for the dead. It is actually a way we comfort ourselves of their “missing” presence. It is a way we try to remember them amidst a fading memory. And what better way to remember our departed love ones than to labor on their favorite dishes and offer it to them? As for the other rituals and ceremonies, though their origins has religious connotations, I still performs them even though I don’t believe in them anymore. My reason is simple. Why should I forsake a cultural tradition that I’m familiar with in favor of a tradition that is totally alien to me? Wasn’t it the thought that counts rather than the action? If it is so, why the insistence? My mother once told me a long time ago, that she wanted to be “worshipped” like her ancestors before by the time she pass away (She is still very much alive). It is then I realize the essence of perpetuating “old” traditions. “Old” traditions are an assurance that the living will be remembered when they’re gone. It is when traditions are passed from one generation to the next that that assurance will be affirmed. This brings me to another question. How do I want to be remembered? Looking around, I’d only found tombstone with pictures and names written along with their date of birth and their date of death and nothing else. These dead lived their entire life and what do they have to show for? A blank tablet. Was this tablet enough a description of their existence? Is that will be my epitaph? “Here lies Mr. XXXXXX, born XXXX, died XXXX”. It is so short and so unfair and so unjust but an inescapable fact except for a kindred few. History immortalizes the memories of these exceptional few. They are rare because their exploits are also rare. It is as if they are the only ones living in their times while the silent many were simply nothing or didn’t exist. Funny, but wasn’t that silent many that remembers the exceptional few? Or perhaps, I’m looking at the wrong signs. It is not the epitaph that perpetuates memory rather it is the number of incense sticks that protrude from the sacred ground. It is the offspring that comes every year to offer food and incense that perpetuates the memory of that person, proving that once he or she existed and that although he or she didn’t do great feats worthy of historical records, he or she will be remembered nonetheless because he or she was their love ones. As I was engrossed with this thought, I began counting. I’m now 31. The average Filipino male lived up to 65 and for a Chinese, we visit the dead twice a year, one on November 1 and the other during the Ching Ming, that means I had 68 more “visits” to go before it would be my time to lie on the ground 6 feet under. Plenty of time to live, to build an edifice, and to raise a family to pass on the tradition and hence, be remembered for.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Lately, if one were studious in monitoring the news from the Philippines, one would notice the very noisy political squabbling going around among the ruling elites. The core issue of the squabble is about the political legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency, which the opposition argued and proven rather convincingly to be a sham since the president cheated on the last election. However, the real trigger point that further deteriorates the political climate was the stratospheric oil price couple with the implementation of E-VAT, which put pressure on the cost of living of the majority of the Filipinos. Though the oil price increases were not the president’s fault neither was the near bankrupt fiscal situation, Filipinos nevertheless “blame” a perceived corrupt and “illegitimate” president for their misery. As a result, rallies and protests became a daily staple in this country and it is beginning to affect the economic situation in the country by projecting an image of instability that could easily descend into anarchy. As a result, businesses shun making investments until some semblance of stability and predictability is in place. This brings me to everyone’s question in mind, when will this all end? Well, setting aside the question of legitimacy of the sitting president, the current political turmoil can be attributed to the present’s ruling class own doing when they started EDSA 2 some 4 years ago. Again, setting aside the judgment on the previous president’s case, EDSA 2 enabled the disenfranchised faction of the ruling elite to ignore elections and instead opt for people power revolutions as a means of regime change and enthroning themselves in the position of power instead of waiting for the next election. Their justification is contained in the oft quoted phrase, “ 6 years is too short for a good president while it is too long for a bad one.” As a result, it has become a fanatical obsession of opposition politicians to hunt for a “smoking gun” of corruption or wrong doing of the incumbent president, using this as a basis for impeaching a president and if all else fail, launch a people’s power to topple it. It used to be that the Philippine economic boom – bust cycle closely follows the electoral cycle itself. Economic activity is recovering and improving quickly at the start of a president’s term culminating a peak during the mid terms and went on a steady decline until the next elections as investors adopted a wait and see attitude on the emerging economic policy of the next administration. However, with the prospect of having EDSA’s every now and then, that pattern of certainty, that cycle is ominously broken. Why would businesses hesitate with every regime change? Regime changes occur rather frequently in a democracy, so why the cautious attitude? Well, the answer lies in the political realities of the post – Marcos era. Politics has sunk to the level of vindictiveness and umasked greed with the faction in power threatening the economic interest of the deposed factions in the form of legal harassments and threat of seizure. It is no wonder that the disenfranchised faction would always seek to protect their interest by overthrowing antagonistic regimes. Furthermore, policy invariably changes with each regime changes causing serious losses among investors hence the caution. The proposed remedy floated by the politicians to solve the perennial politicking is to shift to a parliamentary form of government, which according to them would give the country stability that it hoped for by giving power to the person that could wield the most votes in parliament. As justification, they again use the phrase as well as pointing to the fact that it’s rather wealthy ASEAN neighbors are all parliamentary government with the exception of Indonesia. The proposal suffers serious flaws. First of all, none of the country’s neighbors could be considered as democratic in its truest sense. There is a limited democracy. The success of the Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Singapore could be attributed to the iron – clad rule of their political leaders. Oppositions are muted if not allowed little expressions but they were able to impose order and galvanize the populace towards economic growth. Clearly, its not the parliamentary system that makes it work rather it is the leadership and the iron clad policy on dissent that keep disruptive politicking in check. Second, politicking is not the problem per se that stagnate economic growth rather it is the consistency of policy implementation and the respect for rule of law and private property that is stifling growth. European countries are all parliamentary governments and they are as noisy as the Philippines could be (just look at Italy and France) but these countries were able to grow nonetheless simply because the economy is divorced from politicking. Certainty and predictability as well as legal protection make such divorce possible. Third, political allegiances are fickle and party loyalty is inexistent in Philippine politics. Destabilizing regime changes would become more frequent and “legitimate” under the new set – up, i.e., one doesn’t need people power to affect change but simple gather enough numbers. Fourth, parliamentary politics is about the number’s game. What assurances do we have against having a “bad egg” in the helm? In the present system, we could be assured that the “bad egg” only stays for 6 years. In a parliamentary system, the “bad egg” stays indefinitely as long as the numbers. It is not about the system, it’s the leadership and the culture of the ruling elite that is the plaque of the Philippines. To reestablish stability, it is imperative that the ruling elites “respect” basic property rights as well as contractual obligations, good or bad and not change them when another comes to power. In this way, the economy would become independent of politics. Lastly, though it may sound distasteful to me since I don’t support the present regime, let’s wait the next election to affect a change and not trying to circumvent it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I never like writing about politics in my blog because politics are messy and I skip reading them in the newspaper for about 2 – 3 years already. This is because the stories are the same with little imaginative variation. It usually revolves around the “pie” and their relative share of it. You see politicians are just like spoiled brats that never grew up. They always complain that they never got enough share of the pie, i.e., that their share of the pie is small and insufficient for their gluttonous appetite even though it is big enough to feed a hungry family. And the one who wields the knife, i.e., the one in power always manages to get the largest slice. Expectedly, the ones who got the “small” slice complain about inequity and they go on ranting about it even to the extent of throwing tantrums. After some time and several barb trading, the knife welder would “give in” by providing the supposedly “injured” party with an “extra” slice of the pie though the combined slice isn’t as big as their slice just to stuff their mouth full and mute their complaint. But here is the catch; the extra slice didn’t come from the knife welder’s share. Rather, it came from the share of someone they knew would be angry but wouldn’t complain at all, the general populace. And after several partitions, the people eventually end up with crumbs! To add insult to injury, the politicians expect us to thank them for the crunchy and yummy crumbs! It is for this reason that I always deemed politics not only a waste of my valuable time since it doesn’t add to my knowledge but also a waste of my valuable computer memory because hard disks space is more valuable than writing about their trash talks. In addition to that, blogging about politics require me to spend extra sum of money to soothe my boiling indignation as well, e.g., I had to treat myself to a festive meal or watch a feel good movie. However, sometimes, it’s hard to ignore politics especially when it concerns both business and the economy. Take today’s headline for example. I woke up to discover that the high court has just lifted the restraining order on the implementation of the controversial E-VAT law and the government plans to implement them this November 1. Among the salient provisions of the E-VAT law was the removal of exemptions from a number of previously exempted transactions like electric power, gasoline, some processed foods, healthcare services, and other services. The income tax would also be increased from the present 32% to 35%. Furthermore, the law empowered the President to increase the rate by 2% next year in order to “improve” the fiscal situation, which all the more add burden to an over burdened populace. The intent of the law is to remedy the fiscal deficit of the government through increasing the revenue it could collect. Analysts especially foreign analysts from such institutions like the IMF, World Bank, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and others would always painfully pointed out the “dismal” tax effort of the government, which stood at around 16% of GDP. It should be higher considering the fact that the tax rate is 32% plus VAT equivalent of 2% and other taxes. The conclusion, government should improve its tax collection effort and it still has some elbowroom to increase its tax rate. Really, who they think they’re kidding? It’s easy for them to say that because they’re not actually living here and hence, they’re not paying for their stupid advice! Besides, they stand to gain from the increase revenues because they would get paid for the loans they extended to the government. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating that we renege on our debt obligation rather I deplore their prescription on solving the fiscal crisis. It’s not the inadequate tax take that is the problem but the system, the system of dependence on government “doling” as a means of enrichment and livelihood. Corruption is just one of the obvious form of that dependence on government to make money. Other forms include an entrenched, bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, unnecessary subsidies to buy political support from certain sectors of the society, wasteful spending like pork barrel funds, huge budget funding for “studies” and consultancy and the likes. On top of that, throw in economic mismanagement to the equation and there you have it, a ballooning budget deficit. Declining tax take is not the cause of the problem but the “symptom” of a failed system that is collapsing under its own weight and pressure from the environment. If I may allude to a historical precedent to prove my point here, one of the causes of the fall of the mighty Roman Empire is in its heavy exaction on the general population in the form of high taxes and often unscrupulous and “inventive” methods in the collection of taxes. The Roman Empire came to this situation because of its burdensome bureaucracy and military, its wasteful spending, and its ruinous economic policy, which were aggravated by endemic corruption. The effects of this abusive exaction was to trigger peasant revolts all throughout the empire but as the coercive power of the state were bought to bear against the dissidents, the Romans simply “evaded” paying taxes. Townspeople, barely surviving on their meager subsistent agriculture chose to give up their lands and freedom and offer themselves to the protection of a powerful magnate, which are usually government officials and senators since the latter’s households are exempted from paying taxes. These “colonus” or people of a “colonia” (Roman town) would work in the “Latifunda” (the equivalent of the modern day Hacienda) of these elites for a share of the crops. They are actually better off this way because they don’t have to pay the ruinous taxes at all but still they only earn subsistent wages, i.e., enough only to feed themselves. These colonus become the forerunner of the serfs in the European Middle Ages and the Latifunda become the precursor of the fiefs in the Feudal Age. As a result, monetary economy collapses, as less people were able to buy goods. Barter trading was revived. Economic inequalities became more pronounced and poverty becomes widespread. Taxes again fall short of expectation and chronic budget deficit appears. And what the Roman government did? They impose more taxes and inflict heavier penalty for failure to pay taxes, which all the more drive away the small remaining free farmers into the fold of the elites. Then, the barbarians came, and Rome couldn’t do anything about it because it is short of men and money. There are instances wherein the people actually welcome the invaders as long as these conquerors forgive their debt and lift their burden. The result, Rome fell and the Dark Ages sets in. Sounds familiar? Of course, history is repeating itself except that the Philippines is no Rome. It never was. Increasing government exactions only drives the economy underground further crippling the government’s tax effort, which invariably force government to raise more taxes and the cycle goes on until it couldn’t continue anymore and something happens. On the microscopic scale, both employers and laborers would seek means to “survive” and if the present labor situation is a gauge, things are set to get worse. Again, these are symptoms not the disease. Of all the economic classes affected by this latest crisis, the middle is the unhappiest of the lot. For unlike the poor (the ones living below the poverty line) who couldn’t pay anything at all even in better times, the crisis wouldn’t drastically change their status. Furthermore, the poor are the “pampered” class because of their number, which the politicians wasted no time in courting their votes by offering them subsidies and other forms of “bread and circus” as the Romans would call it when they surrendered their freedom in exchange for the imperial yoke. Rich, on the other hand, though affected would always manage to “get away with it”. The middle class however, is the ones over burdened with taxes and inept leadership. They are being pauperized and they stood to lose their status become noveau poor. The reaction? They immigrated not only to seek better opportunities but to escape hunger much like the Irish did when they leave their famine struck British ruled homeland in the 19th century and going to America or like what the Sicilians did in order to escape poverty and went to American or like what the Chinese did during the first half of the 20th century, escaping from the civil war. Again, this is a symptom of a decaying system and not the cause. Clearly, something has to be done to arrest the decline but RAISING TAXES is not one of them! Failure to address the systemic failure would lead to a situation where John Locke would describe as a man driven up to the wall and being denied of all his right, has no recourse but to exercise his one and only undeniable right, the right to rebellion. I hope that we don’t have to reach that point.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Ceremony

There are certain moments in every person’s life when a point is reached when one could clearly see a break between the past and the future. Those are the moments when time stood still and everything that happened in the past flashes in front of you in a matter of seconds while at the same time, the future is shown before you like a premonition. However, those moments come at an inauspicious times replete of the honor and the dignity that should have accompany such rare and splendid occasions. It is in this sense of inadequacy of honoring the memory of that fateful moment that we humans created ceremonies in which not only we celebrate such moments but also to render it both solemn and dramatic, imbibed with the due importance that such moment deserve and consecrate it to our collective memory in the form of photo albums. As these ceremonies are repeated over the years and in each time with different actors, it has become a ritual and carry the force of tradition to the extent that it has become more important than the moment that it serve to commemorate; To the extent that the ceremonies supplanted the moment as the point of change; To the extent that the ceremonies has become the goal of the entire journey rather than the hard journey towards that moment or the moment itself. Humans, they are such succors for rituals and illusions. The truth of the matter is. The clear break happened way before the ceremony when one decided to reach the point of no return and cross it. The ceremony is just an imprimatur or a recognition of such successful crossing; an investiture of your new found status of a being different from the past; an announcement to the whole world that you are now ready to face a different challenge; a pronouncement to the entire assembly of human race that here is humanity’s newest hope, a hope that is consistently renewed every time the ceremony is performed. Last April, I not only closed a chapter in my life but also ended a phase as well and stared a new phase and begun writing a new chapter in my life and last October 1, I’ve formally obtained an imprimatur of my successful passing, a recognition of rights, and an investiture of my new status. Last October 1, I’d graduated from MBA.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I started the day as usual and didn’t realize what the date is until I was filling out the date on a document that I was signing. Today is that time of the year when I would email you a two worded message saying, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I’ve been doing this every year since we broke up and most of the times, you only replied, “thank you” until recently when you ventured to inquire my state of my life. And then, we would exchange one or two emails concerning each other's status and then, I had to wait till following year to start the entire process again. I didn’t simply email you to wish you a happy birthday. For beneath those simple words, I also wish you the best and also, I want to know how are you doing and if you are happy. I want to know this because I still care about you and I still love you after all this years even though the possibility of us being together was nil. I could have just included those questions in my emails but somehow I couldn’t. I felt awkward to ask especially now that you’re already married. I felt that I had no right to know what is happening to you in detail because we’re no longer together. Besides, what is there to talk about? Everything is in the past. No use to bring it up. At any rate, I just wish you a “Happy Birthday” and that “may you live a happy life”. And maybe, if I could, I like to say this, “I’m sorry for everything in the past and those unfulfilled promises and thanks for the memories however bittersweet and I would always love you”.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Tallest Tree

I was shifting through my email this morning when I come across with this old email from one of my friends. The story is about choices and how we make them. The story goes like this. One day, a wise man called out his apprentice. He showed him the forest and ordered him to go into the forest and seek out the tallest tree, uproot it and bring it back to him. The young man wandered into the forest looking for that tallest tree. He looked far and wide and searched carefully until it was sunset. He came out the forest empty handed and the wise man asked his young apprentice: “Where is the tallest tree?” To which the young man replied: “I didn’t found it, sir.” “How come?” was the quick inquiry of the wise man. “Sir, I can’t make up my mind as to which is the tallest of them all and the forest is just too big for me to search in just a day, I need more time to look for it.” was the young man’s sorry excuse. “Very well, if that is the case, you go look for it tomorrow then.” The old man decided. At day break, the young man immediately went to the forest to search the elusive tallest tree and before long, sometime after noon, he came back carrying a tree, the supposed “tallest” tree. The master asks, “How did you find the tallest tree.” The young man hesitated to answer into the query but he eventually replied, “I learned my lesson yesterday, I could go on and on forever looking for that “tallest” tree and may never even find it, because from my vantage point, every tall tree looks the same. So I decided to choose the “tallest” tree that I find yesterday and bring it back to you, Sir.” The master smiled. The moral of the story is simple. Practicality rules and never asks for the most perfect of all outcomes since it would only waste your time. However, I wish to venture and ask, what if on his retreat from the forest, the young man “discovered” and even taller tree, would he throw away the first and choose the “taller” tree? Or would he just stick to the one tree that he believed to be the tallest? What if he did in fact chose the latter, what would hinder him from choosing an even taller tree once he spotted one over the course of his return trip? Practicality dictates that one has to drop the last and choose the best. However, that is not only a very tedious process but also what if the decision is not just merely choosing the “tallest” tree, but rather one that involves another or several human beings? Would one forsake the current choice in favor of a better choice and hope that in this trial and error process, one would be able to settle down with the right one? Or would one rather stick it out and look for the “best” choice, hoping that the right one would “show up” eventually in one’s lifetime? How do we even “know” that the choice we made is the best of them all, if one hasn’t looked through all the possible choices? Is it possible or even practical to looked for all the choices and decide? How does one know that the current choice one had is already the best? Is it only after one forsaken it in favor of a lesser alternative? I remember the lyrics of a song and it goes like this, “Oh its sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.” Oh yeah, where is the right one? Definitely, it’s not in the forest. And is there really a right one? Or is the right one simply myth?

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Today is the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is the day of the traditional Mid – Autumn festival. The festival is actually a full moon festival since every 15th day of the lunar month coincides with the full moon. What makes this full moon festival different from the 11 other full moons is that according to widely held belief, today’s full moon is the most perfect and brightest of them all. Modern day Mid – Autumn festival is unequivocally identified with the mooncake and the dice game but the festival is not the food or the parlor game. The true meaning of the festivity is about reunions or establishing that lost connections that have existed between friends and relatives as well. And for some, it is a time to establish that connection to that special someone whom one is destined to be with. The Mid – Autumn festival has its origins in the prevailing circumstances of a medieval Chinese agrarian society. Around that time, with the improvement of farming technology, surplus labor exists. Many young men would leave their parents, siblings, wife and kids behind to go to the nearby town or a distant city to work for the local magnate or for some aristocrat hoping to earn extra cash for the family. And every year, they return home days before the festival to participate in the autumn harvesting season. Naturally enough, it was a scene of joy and a cause for celebration when somebody gone for several months would be back home bringing bounties with him. Family, relatives, friends and neighbors all come out to greet the returning son and party. It was like thanksgiving cum reunion party; for today, we party and tomorrow we can expect a bountiful harvest. Amid the rancorous celebrations, there are also some who felt sorrow and sadness on the occasion. For when their husband, or son, or relative or friend failed to appear on the appointed day and news about them are forthcoming due to the backward technology then, those people dear to him would felt a shivering incompleteness, which was made more pungent by the celebratory atmosphere around. And so they look up to the full moon, hoping to send a message through it across time and space. Hoping that their love ones are also looking at the moon from the other side far away from home. The poet Li Po summed it up pretty well. “I raised my cup and toast to thee while admiring the beauty that is the moon and I wish that thou would be doing the same, thousands of miles away.” Well, with modern communications, we don’t need the moon to send our longing for one another and reestablish that connection. But what about those sublime connections? The connections that we all subconsciously felt but haven’t had, could we call or email them? We can only look up to the moon and hoped that someone out there is also looking at it at the same time and somehow connect us through across the distance.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

When I’m 80…………

I was talking to a friend a day or two before and in our conversation, I told her a story that actually happened sometime ago. I received a call from an 80 – year old guy looking for my mom. Naturally, I passed the phone to my mom thinking probably he was a relative or an old acquaintance from the mainland. After the conversation, I ask her who he is and to my surprise, he was actually some distant grand uncle of mine. My mother told me that he called to thank her mother, my maternal grandmother, who happened to be dead way before my mother got married. I was quite confused about what she said and she explained further to me that he wanted to thank my grandma for supporting his bid in courting my grand aunt. Well, he eventually married her as the story goes but unfortunately my grand aunt died of childbirth complications. I had to say that I admire the guy. After all this years, he still love my grand aunt to the extent of calling up to thank my grandma through her daughter. He is a guy who is in his twilight years and looking forward for a peaceful departure and he wanted to say his goodbyes and thank you’s before he depart. He is looking for peace, probably closure, and probably make amends. The entire episode made me think back then as it was now on what would I be doing when I turn 80. Would I pick up the phone and call up every person I know and say what I needed to say? Or should I just keep my mouth shut and bring all my regrets, hopes, and passions to my grave and bury it there? Or if I do going to pick up the phone and call by the time I’m 80, what would I say? Funny to be thinking about it when you’re not yet 80 but I was thinking it already. I think probably I’m going to say: “You know what? I had a crush on you when we were studying however I was young and shy and I was sitting by the window and you were sitting near the door at the other end of the room and we never manage to really talk.” Or I could say: “You know what? I was going to court you when we were studying but then again your father or your brother looks like a mass murderer and actually scared me to bits.” Or maybe I could say: “You know what? I love you but somehow I fail to tell you that when I was a lot younger for reasons that I could no longer remember by now. We could end up together and things could turn out different.” Or “You seemed to be a nice and decent person but somehow we never get to be close, I wish that we get to chat more often and get to know each other better. Who knows we could have been the best of friends?” Or “You’ve been good to me so far, friend and I never did get to thank you even once in my lifetime. Well, thank you.” Or “We were not that close before and there is some sort of animosity between us. I don’t know what I did or what I’d said before to cause this rift between us. I couldn’t remember anymore. And if I do wronged you before, I would like to apologize for it and hoped that you have in your heart to forgive me after all this years.” Or “I never fulfilled my promise to you and it seems that I would never do.” Or “I never hold up my end of the deal and I’m just terribly sorry after so many years.” After which, I would probably end the phone conversation with: “Well, that was in the past already. What is in the past is past………….” Then again, why should I wait till 80 to make the phone call? I can just pick up the phone and call the people that I wanted to talk to and say the things I wanted to say. Never mind that people would think that I’m crazy or that I’m sick somehow, I think they would appreciate it. After all, it’s not everyday that they get to hear something like this. Then again, maybe something are best left unsaid at least until I’m 80 when everything is already moot and academic. When emotions had all but died down, when tensions are gone and everything is futile and passion has become as dry as the flesh that clings to my decaying body by that time. Perhaps, I’ll wait till 80 to make the call like what the old guy did. To say my thank you’s, to make amends, to tell them what I think and to cap it all with my farewell. That is of course if I am still alive by then and if I do, would the other party survive till then? That is another question to ponder.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Wise Guy Speaks

After several weeks of dilly-dallying, I finally opened and started reading the book I’ve purchased. The book is titled “ Strategy Safari, A guided tour through the wilds of Strategic Management” written by the management legend, Henry Mintzberg. The book talks about the “evolution” of corporate strategy as well as the various schools of thoughts regarding strategy formulation. Mintzberg pointed out that strategy formulation process cannot be adequately describe by just one school of thought but rather strategy formulation process is sum total of all the school of thoughts combine. Anyway, I just started reading the book and haven’t gotten to the juicy part yet to really assess the idea behind the P655.00 book. Instead, what I find amusing is the poem that the author uses to point out the state of corporate planning in the real world. The poem is written by John Godfrey Saxe and is titled, “ The Blind Men and The Elephant”.

The Blind Men and The Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind)
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to brawl:
“God bless me but the Elephant
Is very like a wall.”

The second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What we have here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see” quote he, “The Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt around the knee,
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resemble most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed long and loud,
Each of his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Point well made, John Godfrey Saxe. However, a wise guy like me couldn’t help but ask how could the six blind men of Indostan “know” what a wall, a spear, a fan, a snake, a tree, or even a rope looks like? I mean to a blind man, a wooden palisade, a brick wall, or any rampart or tall obstacle could qualify as a “wall”. The presumption of the poem is that these blind men “knew” already and they try to correlate the elephant to what they’ve experienced before. To them, a wall is the brick wall that perfect sighted individuals knew. Ok, granted that these blind men were able to know by feeling the objects they mentioned before but I can’t help but wonder, how could they “feel” a snake? Wouldn’t the snake kill them before they get to know what bit them? Of course, one could reason that they “feel’ a dead snake before but if that is the case, wouldn’t they mistook it for a rope or a vine instead? Funny, I can’t help but laugh at my own triviality however; my point here is that even though Lord Saxe’s poetry is interesting, one cannot discount critical thinking while reading. Another point in the poem I’d like to question. Wouldn’t it be practical for those debating blind men to just move around and “see” what the other see and thus end all the nuisance debates? After all, they’re blind but not lame, nor limp nor crippled. They did come all the way from Indostan to “see” the Elephant right? The morals of this blog that I’m writing are that, One; it pays to be a critical thinker, who might find something to laugh at and come out being a wise guy. Two, never argue with a blind man or for that matter, any close minded person who doesn’t want to “see” the truth or any person who wouldn’t want to move around and “see” the entire truth on what an elephant looks like because it is an argument one cannot win. And third, always look around and “see” and don’t be blind even if one could be wrong in order to “know” what an elephant looks like. As for me, I haven’t seen an elephant in its entirety yet. Have you?