Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just came home last night from a 5 day vacation at Hong Kong, taking advantage of the holiday – extended weekend. At any rate, it was quite a nice vacation and the trip was kind of memorable to me. Hong Kong is not actually new to me. I’d been there like a dozen times before. In fact, I’d sojourned there for like a month sometime in the early 90s (that is because I had two aunts who lived there). Despite that, I never really “traveled” Hong Kong. I mean despite my numerous visits, I’d never go to places in and around Hong Kong save for a few shopping destinations that my aunts took me to and I soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hate shopping!!! Anyway, when the extended weekend showed up in the calendar and my travel bug – bitten shobe of mine was itching to go “anywhere”, I decided to take advantage of it and travel as well. After all, I do need a vacation myself. However, when the choice of Hong Kong cropped up, the one question that perturbed me and my shobe was “where to go in Hong Kong?” I mean going to Hong Kong, there are only 5 reasons to visit that city aside from seeing old relatives and they are: Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, and Shopping, and more Shopping, and even more Shopping (and I sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hate shopping). Ocean Park, I’d been there like once or twice already. Disneyland, not my forte, I’m no longer a kid anyway and as for shopping, never mind. As such, it’s really quite a problem then but through diligent research using Wikitravel (about the favorite travel guide site of mine). I was able to come up quite an interesting and in fact, an adventuresome itinerary, which my shobe and I were able to roughly follow during the course of our trip. The trip, which I dubbed as an adventure can be categorized roughly into 6 activities. First, there is the Biblio – excursion, which is basically a bookstore tour as well as a visit to the Hong Kong Central Library (which is like my favorite place in Hong Kong). There is also the Culture Exploration, which is about visiting museums and places with cultural significance. The Sightseeing tour is about visiting some of the famous landmarks in Hong Kong and Macau. The Gastronomic Escapade is about satisfying that epicurean curiosity by trying out the food in restaurants around Hong Kong and Macau. Then, there is the Hiking Expedition, a trip to the wilderness in Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Lastly, a Hong Kong adventure wouldn’t be complete without a Shopping Quest (but that doesn’t mean that I anywhere “liked” shopping at all). Anyway, travelling to Hong Kong at this time of the year is SWELTERING HOT!!! Manila by contrast is a lot cooler. During our stay in Hong Kong and Macau, the temperature is like in the vicinity of 33 – 34 oC. And the only time it rained was like very late Monday afternoon for like 30 minutes or even less. To use a metaphor to describe the hot clime at Hong Kong, I would say that I’m not “melting” under the scorching heat of the Hong Kong summer rather I’m “evaporating” underneath its sun. It was that hot! It is not that I’m not used to the hot weather, having living in a country near the equator. Rather, it is because in Manila, I live in a bubble, an air conditioned bubble. I mean, I slept in an air conditioned room. I worked in an air conditioned office. If I had to go out, I drive in my Honda Accord, which is also air conditioned. I visit my clients in their air conditioned office. I dined in a restaurant and leisurely stroll in a mall, both of which are also air conditioned. If by any chance I had to stay out under the sun in Manila, it would be like 2 – 3 hours tops. As a tourist in Hong Kong on the other hand, I walked a lot (which is natural considering the fact that I’m sightseeing) and stayed under the sun for like almost the whole day, which is why I looked “drenched” and “dripping wet” after the day’s trip not by the rain of course but by my own sweat! It’s really that hot in Hong Kong! Despite the hot weather, what makes my latest Hong Kong trip standout from my previous trips to Hong Kong? Well, I had to say, memorable places, great food, and 2 new books that I bought in a Hong Kong bookstore (Commercial Press in Causeway Bay).

Friday, July 31, 2009


Spoiler Alert: The following reviews may inadvertently reveal some details of the books. If you don’t want to be spoiled, refrain from reading this review.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding: How to Build a Product or Service into a World Class Brand by Al Ries and Laura Ries ISBN 0887309372 Rating: 3Stars/4
Truth to tell, there isn’t really 22 laws but just 2 laws. The first law is to maintain uniqueness, remain focus with your message by being consistent, and don’t muddle your message by trying to become “everything” to everyone. The second law is that a 100% domination of the market is impossible because not everybody has the same need and thus wouldn’t equally appeal to your brand message and purchase your product. If you get 50% + 1 market share, be happy and move on and create another brand. The remaining 20 laws are just rewording of the 2 basic laws. If you have too much time to kill, be my guess and read the book. It ain’t a boring read anyway just repetitive.
The Art of Kissing by William Kane ISBN0312117442 Rating: 3/4
Ever heard of a “butterfly kiss”? Or maybe “Lip – O – Suction”? If you haven’t, read the book. If you’re bored with French Kissing, read the book. However, take my word for it. Reading the book doesn’t make you a good kisser, practice do.
The Laws of Seduction by Robert Greene ISBN 0142001198 Rating: 3/4
This book is the author’s attempt to inject science into the art as well as an attempt to “procedurize” the “step by step process” of seduction. To do so, the book put forth a lot of examples based on real life personalities as well as fictional characters to prove its point. The latter (fictional characters especially from the Tales of Genji and Dangerous Liasons) are much more heavily favored over the former (real life people), which somewhat diminishes the convincing aspect of the arguments. Despite that short coming, I still find the points elucidated in the book to be rather practical and common sensical. Nothing extraordinary actually. As for the value of the book, well, let’s face it. The reason that we read the book in the first place is to master the art of seduction and as such, we wonder if the Laws of Seduction is anywhere applicable. Well, let’s put it this way. If we want to learn about physics, we turn to a physicist with a phD from a reputable school. We all know that Robert Greene is a “professor of seduction” but have we ever heard of Robert Greene, the seducer?
The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action by David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan ISBN 0875846513 Rating: 4/4
One of the biggest problem in management is that Business Strategy is always good on paper but not in the real world. This is because Business Strategy is made in the board room, isolated from the real world that is the front line and once this strategy is handed down from the top, frontline executives are at a lost on how to execute such a strategy. Balanced Scorecard as a framework links this Strategy – Performance gap. Norton and Kaplan’s other book, “Strategy Map” deals with the development of an “executable” strategy while this book provides the framework for monitoring and controlling of the “performance of strategy”. The book is not for everybody though. Definitely, this is not a book that a non – business or for that matter, even an occasional business reader could appreciate. This is a hard core business book that is most appropriate for those who understand the nuances of Strategy making, Implementation, and Performance management.
Bioethics and Moral Decision by Florentino Timbreza ISBN 9711181355 Rating: 4/4
This is a basic introduction to the moral philosophy on issues arising from the advancement of biomedical science such as Surrogate motherhood, genetic engineering, etc. The book is especially praiseworthy in the fact that it doesn’t subscribe to only one narrow religious ethico – moral philosophical point of view rather it proffered several ethico – moral philosophical point of views. A recommended reading for people who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the raging bioethical issues.
明代國家權力結構及運行機制 作者 方志遠ISBN 7030221877 Rating: 4/4
A Study into the Political Structure and System of the Ming Dynasty by Fang Zhi Yuan ISBN 7030221877
在諸多關於明代政治制度的史論中,往往看到“宦官干政”,“宦官亂政”的評論。傳統史書把“宦官干政” 視作恆古未之有的異象而加以彈伐。此書之論點與衆不同,它不僅把“宦官干政” 視作明代政治結構的一部分。而甚至把它視作不可或缺的一部分。此書認爲宦官是明朝皇帝的代表,而“宦官干政”更是至高無上皇權的延伸。我認爲此書的論點比較附和歷史實況。尤其是更附和歷代“内朝—外朝”政治權力斗爭規律。由此,我認爲此書對研究明朝政治歷史是非常重要的。
In most history books regarding the political system of Ming China, one would always find a negative criticism on the “political intervention” of the palace eunuch. In fact, traditional historiography would find political intervention of palace eunuch as an aberration, an indirect cause of the downfall of the Ming dynasty. This book however, posited a different point of view, one in which I wholeheartedly agree. The book subscribes to the theory that eunuch participation on the political decision is not only part and parcel of the Ming political system but also an indispensable one. The palace eunuchs as portrayed in the book are the representatives of the Ming emperors and their participation in the political process is clearly an extension of the absolute power of the Ming emperors in the matters of the state. I believe such point of view fits better with the historical reality especially since it conforms to the traditional “inner court – outer court” power struggle pattern of politics in Imperial Chinese. As such, I strongly recommend the book as a must read for anyone who is interested in the study of the political history of the Ming dynasty that is assuming you could read Simplified Chinese.
兩漢縣行政研究 作者 邹水傑ISBN 754385404X Rating: 3/4
A Study of the Xian (County) Administration during the Han Dynasty by Bao Sui Jie ISBN 754385404X
This book is all about an analysis of the xian or county administration during the Han dynasty period in Chinese history. The book utilizes the latest archaeological findings in developing brilliant insights into the mystery of xian administrative practice during that era. Also, because xian administration is the most basic level of government during the Chinese imperial era, it is the institution that had the most dealings with the societal forces at that time. As such, the book also indirectly touches on the societal development as well as the social reality during the Qin, Han, Three Kingdom, and early Jin dynasty period. Personally, I think this book is a big help for those serious academic study on the societal development in Ancient China. Again, assuming of course, you can read Simplified Chinese.
赫遜河畔談中國歷史 作者 黃仁宇ISBN 9571300462 Rating: 4/4
Conversation on Chinese History by the Hudson River, authored by Ray Huang ISBN 9571300462
首先我要說,黃仁宇是我最尊重,最喜愛的歷史學家。我總覺得他的大歷史觀是一個卓越的歷史解讀方法。他從上層政治勢力與下層社會力量的各自演變,發展以至後來的沖動,對抗再者往後的容和連接來解釋中國歷史的演變。這就是大歷史觀。在我的看法,黃老師寫這本書的最大目的就是要探討為什麽資本主義社會(Capitalist Society)不能在中國誕生或者落地生根。早在一千多年前,中國社會已經進入了前工業化時代(pre – industrial society)。 然而,在條件俱備,臨門欠一踢的情況下,中國古代卻未能引發工業革命(Industrial Revolution)。也由於此,中國社會政治制度未能徹低的改造。此書從頭到尾,一直牽引讀者去縱橫一千年中國歷史至到元初。目的就是讓讀者親自了解中國滯留原因。黃老師把這本書寫到元世祖時代而只字不提元,明,清往後的歷史是因爲過了元世祖,中國已喪失了工業化的機遇條件至到二十世紀。他在寫這本書的最後結論是在研究理學。雖然他沒有直接指責理學為中國落後的原因。然而很明顯,他是持有這樣的結輪。
First of all, I like to say that Dr Ray Huang is one of my favorite historian. To me, his thesis on Macro – history is such a brilliant concept of historical analysis. Using the development and growth, the conflict, and the eventual merging and harmonization between upper echelon political forces and the lower strata societal forces, Dr Huang has masterfully recasts our understanding of Chinese history with his Macro – history analysis. In this seminal book of his, Dr Huang attempts to discover the underlying reason as to why Capitalism as socio – political system didn’t take root in China before the 20th century. According to his theory, a thousand years ago, China is on the verge of an Industrial Revolution (approximately 500 years before the West). It’s society has already exhibit properties of a pre – industrial society. Yet, the Industrial Revolution failed to ignite at that time despite the conducive environment at that period. As a result, Chinese socio – political system failed to transform leading to stagnation which eventually allows the West to overtake it in the 19th century. In this book, Dr Huang manages to take the reader on a roaming journey over a thousand years of Chinese history allowing readers to personally “understand” as to the reason behind China’s eventual stagnation. It’s a lucid read. The book ends in the era of Kublai Khan, the first Mongol Emperor of Yuan China. It didn’t tackle further the latter history of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The reason behind this treatment is that to him, after Kublai Khan, China has already lost its golden opportunity to industrialize. By then, it has lost all it’s pre – requisite advantage to jumpstart an Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, Dr Huang in his concluding chapter wrote about Neo – Confucianism. Although he didn’t directly pin the blame on China’s eventual stagnation to Neo – Confucianism, it is quite clear in his writing that he does harbor such conclusions. By the way, the book is written in Traditional Chinese. And though Dr Huang is fluent in English and has studied in an American University, there is to my knowledge no English version of the book available.
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein Rating: 4/4
The book despite it’s “eye catching” title isn’t about religion or faith but rather is a book on the “history” of the development of risk management. It began with the telling of the invention of mathematics, then shifted to the discovery of probabilities and statistics, then to the conceptualization of the idea of risk, and finally to the modern development of risk management. The process by which Peter Bernstein tells the history of risk management is through the introductions of the key concepts in risk management (such as probability theory, normal distribution, variance etc) by way of meeting the personalities behind the “creation” of such concepts. In this sense, the book feels like an amalgam of biographies of “eccentric” but otherwise pretty interesting mathematicians. Though the book is about mathematics, surprisingly, the book seldom talks about numbers. Instead, the book delves almost exclusively on the theoretical concepts. In fact, the discussions on the theoretical concepts usually turned profoundly philosophical in nature. Because of that, I find the book not only interesting to read but enlightening as well.
Acknowledgement: I like to thank for my old pal, Jerry for proof reading my reviews in Chinese. Thanks, pare!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

金縷衣 (The Gold Laced Suit)

唐 杜秋娘 (Tang Dynasty Du Qiu Niang)


Abandon thy pursuit
Of that Gold Laced Suit,
‘Stead cherish that fleeting youth
Of dreams and romance.
Pick, smell the roses
At its fullest blossom,
Lest it past and wither
Left holding a dried fig.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

少年行 (A Young Man’s Quest)

唐 令狐楚 (Tang Dynasty, Ling Hu Chu)


Bow swung
On my back,
Sword hung
On my waist.
With shining armour,
And glittering banner.
I push my steed
With all speed
I rode out of Xian Yang
To the valley of He Huang.
Bent on reclaiming,
The lost land for my king.
Till that day come,
I shan’t even look back at my home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

劍客 (The Wandering Swordsman)

唐 賈島 (Tang Dynasty, Jia Dao)


Ten years I labored,
Long I waited
To unsheathe my sword.
Point me to the nearest strife, my friend,
That justice be served
With thy blade.
(Another translation)
Ten years I trained,
Raring to unsheathe my sword.
Tell me stranger, where is the nearest battle.
For which glory that my blade shall earn.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Read an article on CNN’s website the other day regarding China’s newest consumer buying trend, Tuan Gou 團購 or the literal translation, team buying. The idea as I understood is that using internet as a tool, a group of Chinese netizens would band together to purchase in bulk a product that they commonly like to buy. Because of their “relatively large” number and thus, their huge combined purchasing power, these netizens was able to haggle or more appropriately, coax a better price and terms from sellers. These Tuan Gou netizens have no formal organizational structure and are driven to organize merely by impetus and as such, they would only elect a temporary leader (or more like a purchasing manager or a leading negotiator) to do the haggling for them using their numbers as a negotiating leverage. According to CNN, such purchasing/haggling tactic worked pretty well and had actually succeeded in generating huge savings for buyers (you can check CNN about it). Personally, I think the whole idea is brilliant. Simple yet brilliant. Furthermore, I personally believe that this whole scheme of thing could possibly be transformed into a profitable new business model. Since the inception of the internet, many businesses and entrepreneurs have squeeze their brain juice dry to come up with a “winning” formula for online business success but so far, only a handful did make it. Many tried but failed. The reason is because the business models they come up with only attracted “visitors” and “page views” but hardly translate that “number” into revenues and eventually into profit. The idea of Tuan Gou could be the key since “they” not only have the “numbers” but also the group members are actually buying instead of soaking up freebies offered over the net. Furthermore, in the early days of the internet, the prime movers of the World Wide Web are the content providers. They generate contents interesting enough to attract visitor traffic and from there, they make their sales pitch but with the advent of Napster, Apple online music store, blogging, and social networking, the internet underwent a radical makeover into a tool for P2P (peer to peer) interaction and Tuan Gou is a genuine PSP interaction. It is precisely because that Tuan Gou is a user generated interaction rather than a proprietary development of a commercial entity, Tuan Gou as a consumer trend is more spontaneous, more “credible” and may perhaps be a longer lasting trend than an occasional hype usually identified with the early internet driven consumer behavior. However, for Tuan Gou to work, a few key ingredients must be present. Foremost among the factors is that the products that are the target of these Tuan Gou participants must be sufficiently generic (though not entirely) to have a single price point and be also readily available with other sellers as to foster competition. If a certain product has multitude of available variants and each has their own price, there will be more choices and therefore, instead of one concentrated buyer – group, several smaller sized buyer – group each with fewer members and hence, lesser bargaining power would exists. In addition to that, less generic product would provide points of differentiation that each seller would strive to emphasize in order to justify charging a higher price and hence, negate the bargaining leverage of the Tuan Gou group. Secondly, a Tuan Gou group should be fairly large in order to create the necessary bargaining leverage. The size shouldn’t be just a dozen not unless the item in question is pricey such as an automobile (which would probably have few purchase in a day) but rather in the vicinity of 30 – 50 people in order to be effective. Otherwise, sellers would quickly dismiss the group since they could easily “replenish” the “lost sales”. More appropriately, the “number” should be large enough as to comprise a significant portion of a sellers’ transaction for the day. As an example, suppose a seller has an average of 1000 transaction per day, a Tuan Gou group of 12 (assuming each member constitute 1 transaction) would be miniscule and even in fact, would be negligible to the bottomline of the seller. Conversely, if a seller has an average transaction of say just 100 a day, a Tuan Gou group of 50 representing 50 possible transactions would be a tempting prize for the seller. A third factor for the success of the Tuan Gou is that the Team Leaders or more importantly, the entire Tuan Gou process should be credible. There should be no suspicion of one member or any member of the group making money off the Tuan Gou group by entering into a backroom deal with the seller. As much as possible, transparency should be maintained during the deal making process. Losing credibility in the process would mean a loss of solidarity among the Tuan Gou group eventually resulting into the disbandment without any deal being made. Lastly and most importantly, the deal or more accurately, the savings that could be generated should be substantial. Anything less than that would put into doubt about the usefulness of the whole Tuan Gou system. This is because the question that each member of the Tuan Gou group would frequently ask is that “can I get the same deal if not better on my own?” If the answer were to be a yes, then what is the point of joining up with a Tuan Gou. It is because the individual doesn’t have enough leverage to get the “best deal” from the seller that the idea of Tuan Gou even existed in the first place. For now, Tuan Gou is still uniquely a Chinese consumer concept albeit one probably growing in popularity as suggested by CNN but I believe that such a concept could well applied outside of China as well and who knows, Tuan Gou would probably become a consumer reality in a next few years instead of just merely a temporary fad.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The most frequently asked question whenever one is in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant is that “how does the restaurant make money?” I mean given the huge selection of food available on the buffet table and the “unlimited” amount of food that a patron can consume, most diners would think that they’re getting “the better end of the deal” and that the restaurant would surely go for broke feeding every patron till their belly ache. Actually, the truth is there is no such thing as a free lunch (both figuratively and literally) and restaurant that offered such fare are actually making quite a profit. To understand how an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant are making money, it is important to fully grasp two important issues central to this concept. The first one is the costing of foods being served in restaurants and the second issue being the difference between “unlimited” and “eat – all – you – can”. In a regular ala carte restaurant, food (or entrée) are priced based on servings or serving size. To illustrate, whenever a patron orders ala carte, the food is served on a dish, which represents one unit or serving that is enough to satisfy certain number of people usually 2. In some restaurant, they offer varying serving sizes of the same entrée to satisfy varying number of patrons. So there is a regular size that is good for 1 – 2 persons and a larger size good for 3 – 4 persons and still larger serving size for more persons. Pricing of the dishes in these ala carte restaurants are based on servings or serving size. In an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant, there is no serving limitations nor there is serving sizes. Regardless of any type of restaurant, the method of costing food or entrées is the same; that is they are based on weight. Raw foods like meat, seafood and vegetable are purchased based on their weight. In a regular ala carte restaurant, an entrée’s serving size is determined by weight and costing is based on all inputs that go into preparing the entrée in it’s specific serving size including labor, cooking fuel, the raw food including ingredients. In an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant, since there is no serving size or serving limitations, the cook could prepare the entrée in “bulk” (in short, in a very large serving size) even though there is a practical limitation to the size of that “bulk” (such as the limiting size of the cooking utensils and the time needed to fully cooked such large size). At any rate, in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant, each entrée at the buffet table has a certain cost based on weight (as in per kilo). In the Philippine setting, the cheapest entrée on the buffet table would be steamed rice. A kilo of local variety uncooked rice costs around Php20 – 30 per kilo while that of imported jasmine rice variety cost somewhere Php50 a kilo. Add labor and electricity plus water, a kilo of steamed jasmine rice could cost anywhere from Php65 – 75. Anyway, not all entrée is as cheap as steamed rice but some entrées would definitely cost more than others. Taking note of that in mind, it’s time to explore the second issue. Though an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant may seem to offer an “unlimited” food for the patron to consume, the reality is there is a limitation, a natural limitation, which in this case is the size of human appetite hence the term “Eat – all – you – can”. Now the question is how big is an “average” human appetite? 100 grams or food? 200? Half a kilo? Take note also that human appetite tends to “increase” when there is an abundance of food available or when the atmosphere is “conducive to binge eating” as in the case of Eat – all – you – can buffet. Despite that, assuming that a patron consumes ONLY the most expensive entrée on the buffet table to the exclusion of other entrées, we now have a “maximum cost per patron”. From this “maximum cost” add a certain mark up to cover overhead expenses, we now have our buffet price. The mark up in this case is our “minimum” expected profit. This is because in reality, patrons don’t just consume a single dish all throughout, they actually sample practically everything on the buffet table. As such, the profit can only get “fatter”. However, all of this computation is based on an assumption of an “average” human appetite albeit an increased version of it. What about those patrons who have above average appetites? Well, this is where statistical theory comes in, The Law of Large Numbers. What this theory suggests is that while there are patrons who have above average appetites, there are also patrons who have below average appetites and that in large numbers, the two just simply “even out”. Furthermore, at the end of the day, what really matters is how much profit does the restaurant make? And profits are not computed on an individual patron basis but by bulk. As an example, assuming that there are 1,000 patrons taking their meal at a certain Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant and assuming also that the average appetite is half a kilo, that would theoretically require the kitchen to prepare around 500 kilos of food just to satisfy the appetites of the patrons but in actuality due to the “relatively good appetite” of some jolly old guests, the kitchen dishes out 550 kilos of food. Supposed that the average cost of the dishes is Php200/kilo and the restaurant charges Php300/person, the restaurant would still make a profit of Php300/person x 1,000 person – 550kilos x Php200/kilo = Php190,000 (exclusive of overhead costs). Although the restaurant made Php10,000 less than “normal” (the profit should be Php200,000 assuming average appetite) but still, it makes money. Having gotten a picture on how an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant makes money, it is thus easier to understand the various policies and practices that an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant implements. One such policy is No Sharing, which may sound absurd given the fact that the offer is supposedly “unlimited”. Well, the reason is because the pricing of the buffet is based on an individual’s appetite size, sharing with a NON – PAYING sit – in guests would render the “limiting” assumption invalid but sharing with another paying patron is actually favorable to them. The same reasoning applies also to the policy of no leftovers because it exceeded the assumed limits of the appetite size on which pricing is based. The use of shallow but heavy plates in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant has its purpose to deceive the senses. With a shallow plate, a patron could easily “fill up” the plate thus tricking the patron into thinking that he/she has enough. The same goes with heavy plates. In short, what all this analysis on the business model of an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant suggests is that “The House Always Wins” regardless how much one eats (except of course if there are too few guests patronizing the establishment such that the restaurant cannot recoup the overhead expenses from the net margins). But then again, do we really need to “Beat the House” when dining in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant? I remember a classmate and a friend of mine in business school who offered her thoughts on Eat – all – you – can buffets. To paraphrase, she said that we pay not to binge eat but rather we pay for the variety of dishes available, which is quite true. When we dine at a regular ala carte restaurant, because of the price, we can only order a limited number of entrées but in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant, with the same “budget” or a little bit more, we actually have more choices to choose from in order to satisfy our craving and that is really the benefit of dining in an Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant. However, if one is really mischievous enough as to “dare to BREAK the House”, there is actually a way…….. but not by eating more. The formal business classification of a restaurant is food service companies and as such, it is surprising to most people that restaurant doesn’t really “sells” food or dishes or entrées or meals but the services that goes into preparing and serving the food itself. And that services includes among others: buying of raw foods and their ingredients, preparation including chopping, slicing, dicing, marinating….., cooking and preparing the food/dish/entrée, setting up the place creating the conducive ambience of food enjoyment or simply for occasions, the serving of the food/dish/entrée, the cleaning of the table, washing of the utensils, maintaining a sanitary environment, the whole enchilada. It is the service that is basically why we would venture out to dine in a restaurant and willingly part our hard earned cash. We like to eat Chinese dishes or Italian food but we don’t know how to cook Chinese or Italian or perhaps, we’re a lousy cook or better yet, we’re too lazy to cook. The solution, we dine out at a Chinese or an Italian restaurant. We don’t have time to cook because we’re too busy so we dine out. We had a party but we are so overwhelmed with the preparation and so we make a reservation with a restaurant. The kitchen is stockpiled with dirty dishes that reaches to the ceiling and waiting to be cleaned, the solution………………… we dine out at a restaurant. It is by understanding the nature of the restaurant business that would provide us with a strategy “to beat the house” (which in this case is the Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant). The strategy is actually simple. Rather than filling up the plate with food per trip to the buffet, get only a small portion of the food per plate but “get as many plates” by returning more often to the buffet table. In that way, you practically eat the same amount of food that your stomach can digest but the restaurant waiter has to remove more plates, the dish washer has clean more plates than the usual load, both of which would probably necessitate hiring more hands just to keep up the service quality. Furthermore, because more plates are needed to “circulate”, the restaurant has to make additional investments in buying more utensils. As a result, financial wise, the restaurant in an effort to maintain the service quality would have to absorb an increase in their overhead costs which consequently reduces their profitability while at the same time requiring them also to shell out more money just to satisfy the patrons’ whims. And that is how you make the “House (in this case, the Eat – all – you – can buffet restaurant) run for its money”. On a more serious note however, this concept of Eat – all – you – can or its equivalent is actually a very “clever” business model. By offering unlimited use, the sellers stoke the buyers’ greed and entice the latter to patronize the formers business. The sellers’ offer of unlimited use is actually a ruse because in reality there is a “natural limit” to the use of the service or product that the sellers offer and the sellers priced their offering based on the maximum limit, thus guaranteeing their “minimum” profitability. Pretty shrewd but not bad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I finally visited to YAKIMIX last week after my brother strongly recommended it. YAKIMIX is an all you can eat buffet type of restaurant offering Japanese sushi and Korean barbeques with some Chinese dishes. It is located along Macapagal highway, right across HK Plaza and near the World Trade Center. Personally, I think the food there is great. It is not your regular fare eat – all – you – can restaurant where the food are so – so and are simply stomach fillers. This place is a cut above the rest though not in the same league as the hotel buffets. It is also a shade more expensive because of that. Anyway, to start, the look of the restaurant is quite modern though not dazzlingly fancy. It is not strip bare either. The place is rather spacious and also well – lighted. Overall, the place exudes a kind of soothing ambiance. In terms of amenities, the parking space is adequate and the sanitation facilities are ok. Now for the food, I started the lunch by making myself a salad at their salad bar. I find their greens quite fresh and crisp, which you don’t see often in other similar buffet restaurant except probably in hotels. The sushi bar is placed right after the salad bar and their offering though plenty are quite the standard fare. You can see something like 15 sushi types being offered. In terms of the freshness of the sashimi both the tuna and the salmon being offered, it is rather fresh though not exactly Tsugi level fresh but still it is better than the other buffet type restaurant wherein the sushi are kind of frozen and “smelly”. One probable reason as to why the sashimis are rather fresh here at YAKIMIX is because the sashimis are laid over a covered “pillow” of crushed ice instead of a simple plate, which somehow “preserved” the freshness of the sashimi and not freezing it outright. The sashimi slices are quite larger here at YAKIMIX compared to similar buffet restaurants. The same goes with the other sushis. Aside from the salads and sushi, there are also Korean appetizers such as Kimchi, though I really won’t even try to touch it with a pole, not because there is anything wrong with their Kimchi but rather I really don’t Kimchi at all but according to my siobe, their Kimchi is less than authentic, i.e., doesn’t taste that good as those from Korea (my siobe loves Kimchi). After the appetizers, you have two choices of soup, both of them are Japanese. Didn’t try them though but again my siobe says its ok. Next to the soups are the cooked dishes, which are predominantly Chinese though at that time, they also served Crispy Pata (the meat only without the bones), Ebi Tempura, Tonkatsu. In fact, they have plenty of offerings to choose, which is somewhere around a dozen more or less. My favorite among the dishes that they offered is the Salt and Pepper Spareribs, though it is not that spicy the way I wanted it but then again it is rather meaty. The Ebi Tempura they’re offering uses less batter and as such though the shrimp fillings aren’t exactly “humongous” (more like small), one can actually taste more of the shrimp than the flour and egg that wrapped it. As for the Tonkatsu, the breadings are thin and the Tonkatsu is quite meaty. Overall, I find the quality of their cooked food rather excellent. Next to the cooked food are the Korean barbeques, raw meats such as beef, pork, lambs (according to my brother but I never had one because they didn’t offer it that day), and raw cuttlefish or squid (thinly sliced). All these barbeques are offered in two varieties. One marinated with black pepper and the other marinated in garlic and bell pepper. Again, there are about a dozen offerings on the buffet table. The raw barbeques are cooked on a cone type frying pan located at the center of your dining table. The slices are quite thin and are thus easily cooked. The barbeques taste great but seemed “few” because of their thin slices. However, by the time I get to it, I was already more than half full so it doesn’t really matter. The sauces by the way that is available for the patron to use is similar to the shabu – shabu sauces, which includes among other, the Sate paste. After the belly busting, full course meal, the dessert came in next. The desserts being offered consists of fruits (3 or 4 kinds), sweets like custards and cakes (around 5 to 6), and the traditional ice cream. It is surprisingly that they didn’t cut back on their dessert offerings unlike some other buffet restaurants. Plus, the ice cream is not the usual “Big Scoop” ice cream. Instead, its Selecta ice cream. Not only that, they also offer popsicles alongside the “traditional” ice cream scoops. Overall, the food offering is quite plenty and I find their taste and quality to be excellent. To be more precise, on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 the highest, I would place an 8.5 – 9.0 for their food offering. After the meal, came the bill. The price of YALIMIX’s buffet during lunch time on weekdays is P499 + service charge. The price is already inclusive of bottomless drinks. Prices other than the regular lunch is somewhere around P600+, drinks not included (+ P55 for the bottomless drinks). As I said, the price is a shade expensive considering the fact that the average shell – out while dining at a fancy ala – carte restaurant is around P400 including drinks. The other all – you – can – eat buffet restaurant charged around P350 for the food and roughly P400 with drinks during weekdays and on Sundays and holidays and dinner, the latter charged somewhere around P500 with drinks (definitely less than P600). Despite that, I think value – wise, YAKIMIX is a much better deal over the other buffet type restaurants. This is because you shell out a few extra bucks in return for a much excellent quality food fare.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I’ve been reading this book, “Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk” by Peter Bernstein for like 2 months now. The book despite it’s “eye catching” title isn’t about religion or faith but rather is a book on the “history” of the development of risk management. It began with the telling of the invention of mathematics, then shifted to the discovery of probabilities and statistics, then to the conceptualization of the idea of risk, and finally to the modern development of risk management. The process by which Peter Bernstein tells the history of risk management is through the introductions of the key concepts in risk management (such as probability theory, normal distribution, variance etc) by way of meeting the personalities behind the “creation” of such concepts. In this sense, the book feels like an amalgam of biographies of “eccentric” but otherwise pretty interesting mathematicians. Though the book is about mathematics, surprisingly, the book seldom talks about numbers. Instead, the book delves almost exclusively on the theoretical concepts. In fact, the discussions on the theoretical concepts usually turned profoundly philosophical (an example would be the Theory of the Average Man which Francis Galton, one of the mathematicians being mentioned in the book proposes to be the tantamount to the perfect human being, the Theory of the Average Man is ultimately borrowed from the mathematical concept of Regression to the Mean). One of the recurring philosophical “rumblings” that is mentioned in the book is the assumption of Rationality. All of the mathematical concepts and models being discussed in the book are premised on a “rational” decision maker; that an individual would accept the conclusion of a logical analysis in choosing the appropriate course of action in an uncertain situation. The mathematical concepts and models would provide the framework for such logical analysis however, mathematical models aren’t the sole framework for logical analysis; conceptual frameworks are as effective as well. In real life however, such is not the case. Human beings decide or more appropriately, react despite what the logical analysis dictates. A case in point would be the recent financial crisis. The whole idea of Credit Default Swap is the shifting of the burden of default risk to the entity that could and willingly absorb it in return for a commensurate (which is often times lucrative) premium. Yet, even the most “secure” of the creditors (the ones who buys the CDS) eventually got to absorb the losses arising from default which goes against the very grain of CDS (creditors who bought CDS for protection against default losses done so after careful logical analysis, see “The Global Financial Crisis of 2008, dated”). Or in another case after the collapse of global finance, creditors/investors became extremely risk averse that they dumped even the most creditworthy of securities despite what the numbers generated by their analysis are favorably suggesting. So what this say? Are we human beings irrational? Or that our “models” of rationality is irrational in the first place? And this is the gist of the latter chapters of Peter Bernstein’s book, which is irrational? Us human beings or the conceptual models that we create to tell us which is rational? On one hand, human beings are too emotional to be rational. Our emotions tend to “cloud” our objective assessment of the facts of the matter and which is why we make mistakes in the first place. On the other hand, mathematical and conceptual models of analysis and decision – making are overtly “simplistic”, relying on 1 or 2 variables that poorly approximate the complexity of the human behavior. It is also too “static” to adapt to the ever changing human mind. But then again, aren’t human emotions itself a rationale of human rationality? I mean human emotions are built – in, instinctive, reactive mechanism. We react immediately to a stimulus to “preserve” ourselves, to protect ourselves from the perceived harm even without a thorough analysis of the still vague and unfolding situation. We couldn’t simply say, “wait, I haven’t thoroughly analyzed the situation yet and therefore, couldn’t make a decision as what to do, give me more time to finish….” in the face of imminent danger, can we? Of course not! Our emotions, our instinct does the “rational thinking” for us in a split second in such scenarios. It is for this obvious reason that we could conclude that we human beings are very much “rational” and this in turn led us to concede that our current mathematical and conceptual frameworks for decision making are still far from perfect. Now, if human beings are truly rational, why then the idea of rationality exists? If everybody is human and therefore rational, rationality as a concept shouldn’t be around because the mere notion of the existence of rationality implies that it’s anti – thesis, irrationality also exists, which in this case is true. We often label certain individuals or group of individuals as irrational, illogical, crazy, and even insane. But what is rationality anyway? Or better, what is irrationality? Based on dictionary definition, rationality is the quality or state of being agreeable to reason. Irrationality therefore would mean that being disagree to reason. And reason according to dictionary definition is a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc. So in this sense, the whole idea of rationality is one of conformity; a conformity to reason or logic and irrationality is non – conformity to reason or logic. But what is the basis for reason or logic? Mathematical frameworks? Conceptual frameworks such as those based on faith, belief, traditions, or logical analysis? As mentioned, frameworks both mathematical and conceptual ones are insufficient basis for rationality. Furthermore, who determines that a framework/model for rationality is generally applicable or for that matter, incontestably correct? An authoritative figure? A synod of authoritative figures? Or simply general consensus of acceptance? Is there even a democratic process to determine the general acceptance of such model/framework for rationality? What about those who reject the model/framework for rationality? Are they being “irrational”? Perhaps the more interesting question is, “is a ‘reason’ based on some framework/model applicable to all?” Perhaps in some cases. Or there are as many “reason” as there are people in this world? So, is there such a thing called “rationality”?

P.S. If you ask the same question then welcome to “deconstructionism”.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


0.4%! That’s the growth of the GDP for the 1st quarter of 2009 versus the same quarter last year as reported last Thursday. Seasonally adjusted, that translates to a figure of -2.26%. Wow! Nobody as in nobody got the Philippine GDP prediction right. Most of the economist (including those from the WorldBank and IMF) figured that the Philippines would grow somewhere between 1 – 3%, the government in fact was looking at more than 3% GDP rate (see “CRYSTAL BALLING 2009 – THE SLOWING PHILIPPINE ECONOMY – IS IT LUCKY?” dated December 16,2008) The fact that the GDP rate went below most economists expectation is beside the point. The real issue here is the fact that the GDP number figured closely to zero at 0.4%. Notation-ally speaking, a number close to zero means a stagnant economy however if inflation were to be considered, the economy is in reality contracting and because of that, we are in a RECESSION. Of course, some perennial optimists would argue that we aren’t there yet considering that recession is by definition, two consecutive quarters of negative growth and that the figure isn’t “exactly negative”. In short, if you were to listen to the die – hard optimists, the economy is just “teetering on the brinks” of recession and not yet in recession. Well, not to be a pessimist but we’re already over 2/3 of the 2nd quarter and by all indications, it’s no rosier than the 1st and in fact, it seemed to be pretty much worst. If you were around in the country during the second quarter, it seemed that after the Holy Week vacation, Filipinos suddenly became misers and withheld spending altogether. One of primary reasons is the early opening of school season (school opened on June 1 this year) and “normally”, people saved whatever they can to pay for the tuition fees and everything else needed to breeze through schooling. As such, spending on most “non – essentials” including holiday vacation trips are done way. Talk about the “resiliency” of the Philippines against the Global Financial Crisis. It seemed that we aren’t immune after all. Anyway, the debate as to whether or not we are in a recession is irrelevant at this point. What is more of a pressing concern is that “how long would this situation last?” “Theoretically” speaking, the Philippine economy shouldn’t perform this badly given the fact that 2010 is an election year and that incumbents would “move heaven and earth” to have government spend money on infrastructures in order to court the goodwill of the electorates in hopes that they would get reelected come 2010. But with a government constantly in short of money, a “fiscal stimulus” plan (to stimulate the election hopes of the incumbents and secondly, to steer the economy out of the doldrums) may actually fall short of “stimulating” the economy. It is not that the government didn’t pour money into the “system”. They actually did except that the magnitude isn’t “big” enough to cover the shortfall from “other sources of demand”, namely personal consumption expenditures or consumer spending, which grows only 0.8% in the 1st quarter and private investments of businesses, which actually contracted. In layman’s term, the Filipino consumer stopped spending except for necessities while businesses became cautious in their investments on building up inventory for eventual sale, on new ventures, and on new production capacities. Even so, there seemed to be a great chance that the government would still embark in a “spending spree” just to prop up both the economy and the politicians seeking reelection but whether or not that would make a dent on the economy remains to be seen. On the personal consumption front, consumer spending in the last few years is largely driven by the huge remittances from OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). Aside from that, the “call center boom” has also contributed to the improving purchasing power of the Filipinos. That all changed last year with the weakening of consumer spending, which is attributed to the sudden change of behavior of Filipino consumers from one of conspicuous spending to that of “saving for the rainy days”. And 2009 is no different. This is in spite of the apparent hefty growth in remittances in the 1st quarter of the year. The primary reason I think for the sudden behavioral change is the perception of consumers on the future well – being of the Philippine economy. A cursory look at the Philippine economy would reveal that the country is highly dependent on the American economy. The United States is our largest export market. It is also our largest call center market as well. America also hosts one of the largest OFWs communities and as such send a huge share of our dollar remittances that is propping the Philippine economy. With America in the red, job losses locally and in the US among OFWs are expected and plainly evident and this in turn contributed to the mentality that hard times are ahead of us and thus altered our spending habit. In my opinion, on the short term, the American economy would seem to start to turn the corner but a full recovery would take some time (see “The World Economy, 2010 - , dated May 6,2009). And because of that, it would take some more time after the full American economic recovery before the effects of the American turn around be felt in the country (in terms of exports, call center service demand, and demand for OFWs). There is a lag phase. On the business investment side of the economic demand, according to UP economists, Philippine businesses actually follow a boom – bust cycle of 6 years, which overtly coincides with the political – electoral cycle. The reasoning behind that is that with a change in regime, there follows a “restructuring” of the business “hierarchy” with some businesses being favored over the other while others are being “prosecuted”. Such restructuring opened up business opportunities, which embolden the favored businesses to invest more thus, jumpstarting the “investment boom” at the beginning of each new administration. As times goes by, with political reality settling in and political environment becoming more stable, the new administration’s policy directions would also get clearer, which encourages further investments even among the most skeptical. This “investment boom” would peak somewhere on the 3rd year of the administration continuing to the 4th or maybe even up to the 5th year. By then up to the 6th year, businesses would turn cautious, withholding investments, and adopting a wait and see attitude in order to avoid potential losses in the event of “policy reversals” of the next regime (hence, the oft complaint of businesses about the government’s lack of continuity, transparency, and sustainability of policies). After which, the whole cycle starts again. One way of viewing the current economic situation in the country is that on one hand, the economy is battered by the current Global Financial Crisis and on the other hand, it is also affected by the upcoming political uncertainty brought about by the coming election. Based on this diagnosis, the short term scenario of the economy looked terribly weak and in my opinion, the earliest that the economy would turnaround would be in early 2010 (due mainly to election spending) if not the 4th quarter of 2009 that is assuming the American economy would be on its way to recovery. A definite recovery in my view would begin in mid 2010 right after the election.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Watched Night of the Museum 2 last week, it was a nice movie. Really enjoyed it. However, there is this one particular phrase in the movie that struck me. It is the one uttered by the “animated wax replica” of General Custer near the end of the movie. To paraphrase what “General Custer” in the movie said, “I am remembered by that one failure that I made”. And that one failure he mentioned refers to his ill – fated “Battle of Little Bighorn” or more famously, “Custer’s Last Stand” (see Wikipedia for the details). The phrase struck me because it reminded me that history is not solely about the record of great deeds, of towering success, of stunning victory. In fact, more often than not, history records failure with more lucidity than success and General Custer doesn’t enjoy the singular distinction of being a great failure. There are many more failures like him that littered the pages of history. The reason for this is because history is the collective memory of a people, of a nation, of a race, of a civilization. It is not just about names , dates, and places of famous people, place or events. It is about past experiences engraved in the collective memory of a people. It is from this collective memory that we seek success by trying to emulate acts of great personalities and at the same time, avoid the costly mistakes of historical failures. There is however, something in common that successful great men in history and those men deemed as historical failures shared and that is they have ambitions and they have the audacity to realize such ambition. Many have ambitions but few possessed the audacity to achieve it and the few who dared to live up their dreams, some end up a success while others failed either due to an act of nature or to their own blunder but in spite of that, we “remembered” all of them equally. It is due to this reasoning that I came to the conclusion that “being audacious has its rewards; you either end up as a monumental success or an epic failure; either way, you’ll be remembered.” But of course, being remembered for as a success is way better than being remembered for as a failure.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


There is a huge uproar that is been going on for the last 3 weeks or so if one has been following Philippine based blogs. And recently, that “outrage” has even spread to mainstream media with several high profile columnists/journalists expressing their “indignation” on the matter. The heart of issue is about the taxation of imported books to the country which ultimately led to what Robin Hemley, an expatriate in the Philippines described as “The Great Book Blockade of 2009”. The whole brouhaha started when a book importer ordered a huge shipment of the popular Twilight novels of Stephanie Meyers (ostensibly to satisfy Filipino booklovers craving for vampire romance) and once that shipment arrived to the country, Customs led by a certain Rene Agulan refused to let the cargo out of the port not unless the book importer paid the “proper” custom duties on the shipment to which the importer initially refused citing the Florence Agreement. The Florence Agreement is an international treaty signed in 1952 by 98 countries around the world of which the Philippines is one of the signatories. The treaty’s objective is to promote international understanding by allowing the free circulation of educational, cultural, and scientific books. The means to promote such free circulation is through the removal of custom fees among the signatories of the treaty. It is because of that, no Philippine book importer had paid any custom duties for the last 57 years until that incident. The particular enterprising custom officer, Rene Agulan’s stated reason for his stance is that the Twilight novels were neither educational nor cultural and certainly it ain’t scientific at all hence, that particular importer had to pay custom duties somewhere between 1 – 5%. Because of the mounting storage costs of the withheld cargo, the particular book importer relented and paid the said duties. That act of “kowtowing” to the rapacious appetite of government for money (of which the government is perennially short of it due to ….) has set off a “bad” precedent. Every imported book shipment since then were levied a custom duties of 1 – 5%. This naturally raised a howl of protest from all the book importers, who refused to pay and sought out government explanation on the matter. What transpired was something of a tragic comedy. Sought for explanation, a wisecracked Department of Finance (the supervising government body of the Customs Bureau) undersecretary Espele Sales, who is also probably an expert grammar professor, cited a passage of the enabling law, R.A. 8047 to defend government’s action. According to her, the law provided for “the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing”. Because of a “missing” or “vanished” comma right after the word books, our creative undersecretary interpreted the passage as to mean only “books used as raw materials in book publishing” are exempt from paying taxes. Every other else is subject to tax. Geez! She must be a pretty darn good grammar expert! I mean for the past 57 years, nobody got the “interpretation” of the law right until she came along (incidentally, if you have to get a good lawyer, get Espele Sales because she could help you to walk free of bloody murder by simply reviewing the incriminating affidavits for grammatical error or typographical errors which thus void its usefulness as an incriminating evidence). Anyway, because of the tiff between the book importers and the Tax agency, it was alleged that for two months, no new books has entered the Philippines (and hence the term, “The Great Book Blockade of 2009). It is no wonder that I felt that there is a dearth of new titles in the shelves the past few months. Anyway, like all issues in this country, this particular issue has also 2 opposite sides/opinions. On one side, there are those who doubted the very existence of a “blockade”. They argued that books never “disappeared” from the shelves at all during the tiff, which is quite true, a dearth of new titles maybe but disappearance? So where is the blockade? Furthermore, these people argued that 1 – 5% tax is “minimal” and that the “ridiculous” book prices are more of the book sellers doing. On the other side, some people are indignant; indignant of the government’s insatiable demand for “blood”, sucking every penny out of people’s pocket just to line theirs. The more statesman – ly of them argued that the government’s action are in contravention of the government’s lofty goal of uplifting the people’s literacy. By restricting the free circulation of books, we defeat the policy of expanding knowledge and literacy. Furthermore, the action amounts to a censorship and is an assault to the people’s freedom. Also, the government’s unilateral action has reneged it’s commitment to the spirit of the Florence Agreement to which it is a signatory. As such, it sends a “wrong” signal to the world that the Philippines government is whimsical when it comes to policy adherence and applications. Well, that’s in a nutshell, what the whole Great Book Blockade of 2009 is all about. So what do I think about the whole enchilada? Well, personally, I’m against the imposition of the duties on imported books (even though I’m not really a fan of vampire fiction) and my reason isn’t those lofty ideals of freedom but something more “grounded”. You see Philippine books are pretty expensive! I should know because I’m a book lover, I like reading books and I also collect books (to date, my Anobii account listed 271 books and I not only buy books from the local stores but also during my foreign trips). A “really good (imported) book” in the Philippines, hard bound, excellent paper quality written by a noted author can command a price of upwards 2000 pesos. The paperback edition of such book with nice paper quality sells at around Php1500 to Php2000. A “good book” (one in which the author is not that popular) with a nice paper quality typically sells around Php1000 – 1500. Between Php800 – Php1000 are the “downsized” version of a typically good book or the so – called mass paperback copies. Below Php500 are books whose printed pages are of newsprint quality. By comparison, in China, a paperback edition book with nice paper quality costs around Php300 – 400 (converted already) tops. As a matter of fact, last December, during my vacation in China, I’ve bought 7 books for 341 RMB or roughly Php2500 total. Imagine 7 books for the price of 2 or maybe even 1 bought in the Philippines (the books I’ve bought in China are scholarly works on Chinese History). Now that is expensive. It is due to this high price of books that book buying and collecting is fast becoming an expensive “hobby” of the “well – to – do”. A “financially struggling” individual can’t “afford” to read and collect books even if he loves books. It is for this reason that an imposition of a few percentage points of custom duties on the cost of books would only make books more expensive and the matter worse. However, it won’t be that bad if we have a “functioning” public library system instead of a pathetic one that we have now. In other countries I’ve been to, the public library system was so well – managed and well – endowed that people actually flock to it and literally crammed it. An example would be the Hong Kong Central Library, right across Victoria Park in Hong Kong, one of my favorite places. The Hong Kong Central Library is huge, 8 floors tall like a shopping mall but instead of merchandise on its shelves, it’s all books. The place is so popular with the locals that every seat in the place is taken and one literally has to sit on the floor in corner with his back against the wall just to be able to enjoy his reading. You can’t find those here in the Philippines. Without an “effective” public library system and with books getting expensive, how do you expect Filipinos who want to read to be able to read? One Anobii member used to say that “a room without books is like a person without his soul”. Perhaps not everybody would agree with his view but I think everybody could agree with me when I say that “you are what you read or didn’t read”. So, ever wonder why our country is like this?

Monday, May 11, 2009


Spoiler Alert: This article contains some spoilers of the movie. If you wanted to be surprise, don’t read this article.

“Space……… the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise. It’s continuing mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly go where no man has gone before!” – Opening line of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

As a trekkie, I’ve been waiting to see this movie for a long time now. Correction, I’ve been dying to watch this movie for ages already ever since Paramount pictures began showing trailers and teasers of the movie sometime last year (or was it the year before?). And on the opening day (May 8), I finally get to relieved my frenzied anticipation and thankfully, the weather cooperated (it was raining heavily the day before; a storm was coming to town then). And thankfully, the movie didn’t disappoint and honestly, I was pleasantly surprised on how the movie is done. It is somewhat different from what I would expect because the movie contravened established Star Trek conventions or more appropriately, TRADITIONS. Despite that, it was a great movie and I like it. In my assessment, I would give it a 4 out of a rating of 5. The 2009 Star Trek film is the eleventh film in the Star Trek movie franchise and chronologically the first film or a prequel to the 10 films before it but probably, this film may not even be considered a prequel at all given it’s radical retconning (as in total revision of the story line to the extent that it stray away from the storyline’s continuity) but an “alternate” franchise altogether.
The movie is some sort of a biopic of Star Trek: The Original Series’ leading characters, most notably that of Captain James Tiberius Kirk and Captain Spock (although at the movie they haven’t earn their command stripes yet). It tells a little back story of their youth, their first mission on board the newly built Constitution class, USS Enterprise and how they eventually rise to their respective position at the ship and finally becoming the legend that we all knew. The main plot line of the movie revolves around the revenge of a future Romulan by the name of Nero against the future Spock in particular and Vulcan and the Federation in general. The plot started during the late 24th century when a giant star near Romulus, the homeworld of the Romulan Star Empire went supernova, which threatened to totally annihilate Romulus itself. The 24th century Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy, the “original” Spock) then working as Federation ambassador to Romulus frantically devised means to saved Romulus from certain destruction. He along with several Vulcan scientists were able to develop “red matter”, an unstable compound that when reacted with matter would induce the formation of a singularity, a “gravity well”, a.k.a. “black hole”. However, Spock’s effort went for naught as he wasn’t able to deliver the red matter on time to save Romulus from complete destruction. In spite of that, Spock still pressed on with his mission intent to stop the spread of the energy shockwave resulting from the collapse of the supernova and thus destroy other planets in the neighboring star system. As he was approaching his target, a marauder ship, an advance, heavily armed Romulan mining ship commanded by Nero, who happened to be on a mission outside of Romulus before its destruction and who had lost everything with the destruction of Romulus appeared. Hellbent on revenge, Nero pursued to destroy Spock but instead was “sucked” into the time – space fissure created by the black hole, as a result from the detonation of the red matter by Spock. The result was to “throwback” the marauder nearly 129 years (or was it 150 years?) into the past. The time – space fissure created an electrical storm phenomena in space during the early 23rd century that attracted the attention of the Federation vessel, USS Kelvin, whose first officer, Lt. George Kirk was the father of our hero, Capt. James Kirk. A battle ensued between the marauder and the USS Kelvin resulting into the self sacrifice of Lt. George Kirk by ramming the Kelvin into the marauder in order to save the lives of escaped survivors of the Kelvin. It so happened that one of the escaped survivors happened to be George’s wife who at that time is pregnant and in labor. And in a dramatic coincidence, she gave birth to our hero, the future Capt James Tiberius Kirk, while the baby’s father is in his last few seconds of his kamikaze run. For the next 25 years, our heroes (James Kirk and the younger version of Spock played by Zachary Quinto) grew up while the marauder and it’s captain, Nero planned their revenge. Nero eventually got hold of the future Spock and the red matter, both came into the fissure a few seconds after the marauder but only emerged after 25 years of the appearance of the marauder in the past. With the possession of the red matter, Nero finally set in motion his revenge, complete destroying Vulcan and is in the process of destroying Earth when he was eventually defeated by Kirk, the younger Spock and the crew of the USS Enterprise in a dramatic battle. The movie concluded with a meeting between the future Spock and the younger Spock and the beginning of the legendary 5 year voyage of the starship Enterprise as depicted in the Original Series.
One of the obvious “loop hole” of the film’s script is the numerous “continuity error” that punctuated all throughout. There are about a dozen of them that a not – so – fanatical trekkie like me could find and expose. Such blatant “mutilation” of canonical rules would for a “traditionalists” trekkie, who uphold trekkie canons as bible truth, be considered as “blasphemous” if not an outright “sacrilege”. However, all of this are neatly “smoothen over” (and ultimately assuage the hard core trekkie’s indignation) by the most convenient of all the plot devices available to a science fiction film, that is TIME TRAVEL and it’s PARADOXES. Personally, I find the script is cleverly done. For one, by retconning the storyline, writers had the creative freedom to come up with an entertaining piece without being bogged down by numerous conflicting canonical conventions. There are many films (Star Wars the prequel trilogy) and TV series prequels (Star Trek: Enterprise series is one such case) that got mired in negative reviews simply because the writers are trying to be faithful to the establish canons. As such, in an effort to create a plausible back story to an established canons, some of the plots are deemed illogical while others are seen as somewhat “forced fitted” into the story line. I simply couldn’t imagine how the film would look like if the writers followed the established canons to the letter. Probably, it would not be as entertaining as this movie. However, some errors do occur in the script. Foremost among them is the part wherein the Romulan captain Nero stopped an attack once he discovered that the ship he is on the verge of destroying is actually the USS Enterprise. And he was able to do so by “reading” the markings USS Enterprise off the ship’s hull. Imagine an alien who could read English! For obvious reasons that Earth based movie goers couldn’t understand a word of the Romulan language, the conversation even among the alien Romulans are uttered in Federation Standard a.k.a. American English in trekkie universe (the classic explanation according to a trekkie lore as to why Romulans or for that matter any alien race “seemed to speak” Federation Standard is because they are fitted with a device called a Universal Translator) but to have a Romulan read Federation Standard?! Unless, Federation Standard is part of the core curriculum of school aged Romulan in the late 24th century, the writers must have seriously erred in the script and at critical juncture!
Directing and Special Effects
For science fiction movies like Star Trek, special effects played a very prominent role in the movie if not for much of it. Personally, I think JJ Abrams did a good job with the film direction. If you are familiar with the battle scenes of the previous Star Trek movies, the battle scenes in this movie are much more “clear cut”. The battle scenes of the last few movies in the franchise use CGI effects. It is very fast paced and quite short such that it literally “finishes” in just a blink of the eye. The relative shortness and fast pace of the battle action doesn’t leave a lasting imprint on the mind. The battle scenes in the current film however are more clear cut and “realistic”. The style of which reminiscences that of another sci – fi series, the new Battlestar Galactica (the 2008 version). Furthermore, the design of the Constitution class, USS Enterprise is more swanky, more sleek than the Original Series era starship, which is quite “geometric” in appearance. The internal design of the ship is also much different from the previous incarnations of the USS Enterprise starship in that the inside previous starships are literally more spacious with little “protrusions” of pipes and metals. The only thing that one can see inside the “old” Enterprises in their various incarnations is the desks containing the computers complete with view screens. In this latest version of the starship Enterprise, the internal layout is more cluttered with the engineering room looked more like a pipe maze. Overall, the feeling is that the ship’s internal layout resembled more of a submarine or an aircraft carrier layout than the “regular” starship layout of the trekkie universe.
Characters and Actors
One of the most impressive things about the latest Star Trek movie is the degree of imitation by the current crop of actors to the original cast members. In particular, Karl Urban’s portrayal of the irascible Dr Leonard McCoy was such an “exact” replica of the speech, the accent, the mannerism as well as the irascible character to the “real” McCoy portrayed by DeForest Kelley that one would think that Karl Urban is a younger clone of DeForest Kelley. Other actors too are equally “faithful” in their imitation at varying degree. Such “faithful” rendition of the original characters allows trekkies to easily accept these new actors in their roles because for the longest time possible, most trekkies didn’t even dare to imagine somebody else would be playing the parts of the original actors in the roles that the latter are typecast into. Accent apparently played a large role in the maintenance of this “imitation”. For example, Montgomery Scott, the Enterprise chief of engineering is played by James Doohan in the Original Series had a heavy Scottish accent and Simon Pegg, the current “Scotty” also exhibit such heavy Scottish accent (complete with the character’s condescending attitude). Pavel Chekov is another case. The character in the Original Series played by Walter Koenig has a distinct Russian accent and Anton Yelchin, a Russian with also a distinct Russian accent currently portrays the role of Chekov in the movie. The movie however is not a simple “imitation” exercise by the current actors of the original casts. They are also given some creative license to develop the characters. The most readily seen example is the portrayal of Kirk by Chris Pine and Spock by Zachary Quinto vis – a – vis to William Shatner’s portrayal of Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock in the Original Series. Shatner’s Kirk is decisive, arrogant, and bold. These are the same qualities that Chris Pine was able to elucidate in his rendition of Captain Kirk. However, Shatner’s Kirk is cool and calculating, more of a risk – taking explorer rather than a gung – ho, swashbuckling adventurer that Pines’ portrayal seemed to suggest. Furthermore, Pines’ Kirk seemed to be more like a James Dean type of rebellious bad boy than the more “gentlemanly” officer image of Shatner’s portrayal. Probably, the script called for such a portrayal since this version of Captain Kirk does have a stormy childhood. However, still, I would prefer a more “gentlemanly officer” type of Kirk even if it has some sprinkle of James Dean in it. Spock on the other hand as portrayed by Leonard Nimoy is an expressionless being trying hard to get in touch with his “human” side and for that, Nimoy’s Spock is the “model” Vulcan for which all subsequent Vulcan portrayals are based in the Star Trek universe. Zachary Quinto’s Spock conversely looked more like a human trying hard to be a Vulcan. Again, this maybe what the script calls for, to accentuate and ultimately explore the inner struggle of Spock between his “humanity” and his Vulcan lineage. Well, I just kind of that felt that it was quite odd for a “model” Vulcan to suffer identity crisis and trying hard to be a Vulcan. Anyway, despite that probable script’s attempt at ‘reinvention of the characters”, I felt Zachary Quinto’s take on Spock is done pretty well. I mean it is hard to portray a Vulcan especially their ubiquitous hand greeting signal. As for Chris Pines portrayal, I think he has to be more “mature” in his portrayal relying less on physical brawn. Other than that, I think he does well. There is another thing I’ve noticed in this current group of actors. They seemed to be more “cheery” when compared to the original casts. I mean Kirk is the quintessential leader and he almost always maintained that “coolness”, which William Kirk played to perfection. Nimoy’s Spock is ever expressionless and DeForest Kelley’s McCoy is the usual irascible self while George Takei’s Hikaru Sulu wears a long face that seemed to suggest a calculating and scheming personality. In short, the original casts’ portrayal seemed to be more “stoic”. Conversely, the current actors seemed to wear a smile constantly even if they’re serious and thus, they seemed more “cheery”.
Overall, as I said, the movie is a 4/5 in my book and it is one of the few movies that I deemed as worth watching the second time around, which I did last Sunday by the way (I’ll probably go for a third one soon).
P.S. To better understand the terminology of trekkie “speaks”, please refer to Memory Alpha, a Star Trek Wiki hosted by Wikipedia,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Note: This is just an opinion of mine and not based on some economic model, nor is it based on any factual data or figures. Furthermore, I’m no economist, just a regular businessman. I don’t have a degree in Economics either, just plain old fashion common sense.

A few weeks back, my eyes caught on an intriguing title of a magazine cover (either TIME, Newsweek, or Fortune, can’t remember). The catchy title goes like, “Cheap Oil Forever” or something to that effect. Anyway, I was so “stimulated” by the catchy front title that I proceeded to read that particular article on the magazine right on the spot at the bookstore. The central claim of the bold statement is based on a comparison of the oil price behavior made in the previous price cycle during the 1980s oil shock and the current price cycle. According to the article, both cycles though different in their peak prices exhibit similar behavior and from the comparative analysis, the author concluded that the current price cycle has already seen its peak and already went pass of it and the ensuing price trend would only see prices going down if not stabilizing. In short, oil prices is not likely to “skyrocket” in the short term foreseeable future much unlike the price fluctuation seen in the last two years or so. Wow! This is really a bold statement, indeed! Just last week (I think), the IEA, the rich western countries’ energy advisory group, projected a shortage of crude oil production capacity as early as 2011! With shortage as the logic goes, oil prices would revisit that unbelievable price tag of $147 a barrel in the next two years. That assertion though of IEA is hinge upon the complete economic recovery of the US and the OECD economies (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the organization for advance economies mainly western countries) by 2011. Contradicting? Yes, absolutely! That the price of oil would buck the established historical trend is both “seemingly anomalous” and unnerving. However, the assertion of full economic recovery by 2011 though is not without basis. The news for the past month or so on the economic front is somewhat optimistic with American authorities claiming to see the “green shoots” of economic recovery based on encouraging economic data so far at hand. In addition to that, China’s economy is coping pretty well with the crisis and it’s export shows signs of improvements as of late. All this fueled market rallies around the globe, reacting in a way that suggests that the end (to the free fall of asset prices and to economic contraction) is already here and that we have already “bottomed out”. The most optimistic in fact, believed that there is nowhere to go from here but up. Pardon me for being a killjoy but I’m still unconvinced that this is the case especially the latter (that there is no way to go but up) though I don’t deny the fact that we had already turned the corner and “bottomed out” but recovery? I felt that assessment is too early to call (and I’m not alone in that assessment). Also last week, the former NEDA director, Cielito Habito, wrote in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer about the future economic prospect. Specifically, there is a debate whether economic growth pattern from 2010 onwards would be an “L” (sudden contraction of the economy as seen in 2008 followed by a prolonged recession or at least, an extended period of lethargic growth in the short term), a “V” (a sharp rebound; a momentary “dip” on the economic growth rate followed by an unusually strong recovery), or a “U” (a sudden contraction of the economy followed by a slow recovery). And this is the reason why the magazine article is such a “bold statement” because it presupposes that the global economy will experience a slow recovery or a “U” if not an extended recession, an “L” which goes against the recent raft of evidence of economic optimism. The recent market’s reaction on the other hand assumes a “V” shaped recovery if not at least a short “U” type of recovery. As I explicitly said, I don’t believe that a “V” shaped rebound is in the offing but a prolonged recession (the “L”) seemed to be contrary to what is happening around. Instead, I believe (as a growing number of analysts and economists do) that the world economy will experience a “U” shaped recovery if not an extended period of lethargic growth (or a modified “L”) in the short term. And I had my reasons for believing so. The current economic malady was borne out of the financial meltdown in the US brought about by the overextended debt burden of the typical American household. The debt situation was in turn derived from Americans assuming the mantle of being the “global consumer of the last resort” or being the “consumer of the world” for the last decade or so. This unflattering mantle came about during the last decade of the previous century with the internet boom. As we all know, the Americans have this 301k pension fund, which are heavily invested in securities and with the booming stock market, the value of their future “savings” correspondingly ballooned. Couple this “boom” with easing government restriction on the use of pension fund savings, the average American felt that they are “rich” even if their so – called wealth are in papers only. This “boom” wealth has drastically altered the American psyche and underpinned much of their consequent spending spree. You see, an average person would save a portion of their income as an insurance against future needs but with an extraordinary gain in their “creditable savings” due to the internet boom, most Americans believed that setting aside cash for future needs is no longer necessary and that future pensions and future income streams is as good a substitute to savings. As such, Americans began to spend and spend and spend even more. The internet bubble burst before the turn of the century didn’t give much of a dent on American propensity to spend because the government’s aggressive monetary policies and easing fiscal policies enabled the securities market to continue rolling on. As such, this created an illusion that “good times are here to stay” fueling even more spending spree. Eventually, a point came when this unrelenting spending spree gave rise to a voracious demand for resources that stretch global supply capacities to its limits and by the law of supply and demand, when supply dwindles and demand increases exponentially, exorbitant price increase inevitably follows. Inflation is the end result and we see the $147 a barrel crude oil in the market. As inflation began to bite into the income of the average individual by reducing their buying power, the inflation looks set to spiral out of control and governments worldwide began to drastically change course on their monetary policy from free – wheeling credit to one of restriction. This in turn took the wind out of financial markets resulting into a series of events that led to the current state of things. The current “Great Recession” differs from the previous recession episodes of the 90s and the early part of decade of the 21st century in that American savings are seriously affected. Previously, American savings are “protected” through government’s aggressive monetary policies but the financial meltdown has practically wiped out American savings. This could be gleaned from the news that people are coming out of their retirements to work for a living. And this is exactly my point as to why the current “Great Recession” would drag a bit longer or that recovery would be weak and slow. Americans can no longer spend. They don’t have money to spend. They need to rebuild their savings that they’ve lost. And as Americans were the “consumer of the last resort” or the “consumer of the world” with the American economy contributing a hefty share to the global economy, good times won’t be back for the rest of the world for quite some time. That however, wasn’t the “shocking” part of my “intuitive” assessment. I believed that the current crisis has “shocked” the Americans back to their senses (the common one). From a propensity to spend unleashed in the 90s to a propensity to save, Americans found out that there is no real substitute to savings than putting aside a portion of the hard earned cash in the bank and get this. No amount of government intervention would make people spend again, well, not at least the type of spending that we seen in the last few years. Remember, Economics is not a mathematical science but rather a social science that studies a person’s behavior in allocating resources or in layman’s term, how people spend their money. When people collectively became frugal because they felt they don’t have financial security to spend, no amount of government intervention would force people to spend. They would just save whatever money is thrown at their way. Not even disincentive to save such as zero interest rate on deposits or penalty on savings would force a change in behavior. People would just dug a hole in their backyard and bury their cash. With a much reduced spending resulting into a much reduced overall demand, economic growth would be stagnant, lethargic. The only time would economic growth return to “normalcy” is when spending goes back to “normal” and that can only happen if Americans manages to rebuild their savings or more specifically, when the Americans felt that they are financially secure enough to spend, which could take some time under a “favorable’ economic condition. Just exactly how long would this take? Well, if the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis is any gauge since the severity of the 1997 debacle is as catastrophic to Asian as the current crisis now hounding the Americans, it took some economies several years to recover. Of course, the stronger ones recover first while countries like the Philippine took practically a decade to get out of the rut. And the Asian economies were able to get out of the crisis because of “favorable” conditions. I mean the American economy then is on a bull run and China is equally bullish back then. As of now, there is no economy that is going to pull the world out of the rut. Many pundits are saying that China would save the world economy as its economic stimulus plan is deemed a success and that its domestic consumption is rising. China, however though the world’s third largest economy is far from being the “consumer of the world”. This is because their per capita income (the average income of their citizen) is below par. As such, present global economic recovery could take a much longer time. Speaking of China, the tremendous economic growth of this export juggernaut the past decade has partly contributed to the rising price of commodities of which crude oil count amongst it. What would happen to the crude oil prices if the US economy were to hobble along in a slow recovery while Asia, mainly China’s economy is bustling? Would the scenario of a $147 a barrel oil come back? Well, for one, China’s economy and to a certain extent, Asia’s economies are not as badly affected as that of the US and Europe in this current crisis, which could allow them to recover faster economically compared to the US and Europe and as such, Asian economies could provide some solid demand for commodities like crude oil in the near future and thus, provide support for prices. However, Asian economies and China in particular though big as they are, are merely a fraction of the size of the US economy. Therefore, it is inconceivable that they would be able to absorb the demand slack from the US and thus, tighten supplies and stoke debilitating price increases but nevertheless price increases attributable to China and Asia in general are to be expected. What is more worrisome is the current stimulus package being implemented by the US. The flooding of dollars in the world market serves as a volatile fuel ready to ignite a hyper – inflation in the coming years. This is because prior to the current crisis, the American dollar is trending lower vis – a – vis to the other major currencies around the world such as the Yen and the Euro. In layman’s term, the American dollar is devaluating in the global currency market before 2008. It is due to the crisis that the trend is reverse since the Dollar is the global currency of choice and American Treasuries are a safe haven for Dollar investments. However, as the crisis bottoms out, money would begin to flow out from the low yielding American treasuries and into other markets which offers better yield. Furthermore, recent pronunciations of American policy makers doesn’t really encourage holding onto the Dollar. I mean phrases like “Rebalancing the economies” sounded more like Americans should “sell more and buy less” (which translates to America should export more and import less). Less spending, lower overall demand also support US policy makers’ Dollar depreciation tact. On top of that, we have the flooding of Dollars in the international market. All this doesn’t really augur well with the value of the Dollar. As the value of the Dollar depreciates, prices would correspondingly increase since commodity prices selling in the international are produce locally (as in their respective countries) and as such are priced in local currencies (all production costs are valued in their respective local currency and not in US dollar) and with the fall of the Dollar and the corresponding increase in the value of their local currencies. It would require more dollars to buy the same amount of item even if the value of that item doesn’t change at all in terms of the local currencies. In short, prices would increase and in our case, the prices of crude oil would certainly “jump”. The only question is at what magnitude? This in turn depends on the strength of the underlying demand and the extent of the depreciation of the Dollar. That is a bad news for Dollar and other dollar – linked economies (countries whose currencies are closely peg to the dollar) as they not only have to grapple with slow growth but also with inflationary pressure (for non – dollar linked economies, the net effect could be zero if their currencies correspondingly appreciate against the dollar). This would turn provoke a policy response from the US FED in the form of raising interest rates in order to “mop up” excess dollar liquidity. The net effect would be further slowing of the economic growth and recovery as the economy is starved out of cash in circulation as people prefer to keep their money in banks and earn high interests. With that, we would end up with a classic case of stagflation, stagnant growth and high inflation (if the inflation didn’t subside fast enough), which is about the next worst economic state, next to Depression and /or the Great Recession (another way to “appreciate” what “stagflation” is, is to relate it to income; in stagflation, your income doesn’t improve at all but the cost of living would tremendously increase). Then again, it may not happen since demand may not be present to support stratospheric crude oil prices. But then again, who knows and that is why the “bold statement” magazine article pique my interest.
P.S. I don’t want to be right this time around. I prefer to be proven wrong. After all, I’m just partially correct with my last assessment on China, see “The Coming Collapse?” 9/26/07 (ok, I’m probably way off the mark, which is a good thing). “ )

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


There is this article written by Greg Macabenta that came out at today’s issue of the BusinessWorld (April 22, 2009, page 4/S1, “On transplanting a Business”). The article is about “transplanting” a successful “homegrown” (which in this case, the Philippines) business model to a foreign country, which in this article refers to the United States. Specifically, the authors warned about the mistaken notion that a proven business model could be replicated in another country and still be successful. This is because “foreign” consumers have a markedly different needs, wants, and taste compared to the “local” consumers, i.e., consumers from the home country that the business originated. As such, the author opined that most business going international usually took two routes. The first route is to play on the niche of a “natural consumer” group, specifically the immigrant group from same country as the business. The other route is to go mainstream, i.e., to sell to the general consumers of the host country not just to a specific group. Most “transplanted” businesses taking the first route would eventually take the second route in order to expand and break free from a limited market segment. Quite an interesting article actually since the author utilizes his own experience to write the article. I remember during my business school years when I’m taking up Global Marketing. The one and only commandment of Global Marketing is adaptation, i.e., a business’ product, brand, and marketing strategies must “adapt” to the local conditions of the host country. The notion that “one size fits all” is quite “blasphemous” (for wanting a better term) in Global Marketing because different people has different needs, wants and taste both individually and collectively as a national/racial/religious entity. However, there are some “high profile exceptions” to this “core truth” of Global Marketing as some brands seemed to defy this core logic. One such case is the Tokyo Disneyland theme park and to a lesser extent the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park. Disneyland is unabashly an American theme park and yet, it not only thrives in a thoroughly un – American environment. It is rather successful. Paradoxically, one other “foreign” Disneyland theme park is a colossal failure, that of Euro Disneyland in Paris, France and French culture is part of the greater Western culture of which the American culture also belong. Another exceptional case that defies the adaptation logic in Global Marketing is Coke. A Coke is a Coke and is still a Coke wherever you are around the globe, be it in China, in Europe, in the Philippines or in the US. McDonald’s would also fit the bill but it has since allowed “local” menu content (a form of adaptation) in countries like the Philippines where it is lagging in market share. Quite contradicting, indeed. On one hand, logic portends that adaptation must occur in order for a product or a business transplanted into a foreign soil to succeed while certain cases dramatically prove that it isn’t the case. And this is where messr Macabenta’s insightful article proved useful. While products and its marketing might not need to adapt in foreign lands, business strategies and certain aspects of the business operations do have to adapt. For one, a company’s business model or competitive edge may not be useful in a foreign land (and this is the limitation of Global Marketing since it only concerns marketing). For example, a company’s competitive edge in the local market may hinge on it’s taste, which in turn hinge on logistical support to ensure freshness as well as on adept sourcing capabilities and it’s knowledge of the local consumer’s taste. Granting that the taste is acceptable to the foreign consumers on the host countries, yet the logistical challenge to ensure product freshness as well as the sourcing of some ingredients which is not available in the host country might severely cripple the company’s ability to replicate it’s competitive edge in the host country and hence, necessitate changes in it’s business operations in order to sustain it’s “perceived” competitive strength (which the host country’s consumers may not appreciate at all especially if it involved added cost and therefore translate into higher prices) or all together create a new competitive strength based on “new realities”. Another example would be, if the company is hugely successful in it’s local market simply because it’s business model dictates that it had to deliver it’s products or services as fast as possible but in a foreign country, speed of delivery may not be the “deal clincher” especially if the mainstream competitors are delivering as fast as the company or that the consumers of the host country doesn’t particularly value speed of delivery and instead opt for something else like quality for instance, which thus turned the wildly successful business model simply a “local” phenomenon. Taking this as a cue, it would be safe to declare that there is no international company that haven’t “adapted” to the local conditions and still be successful. Coke for instance has a markedly different and yet successful distribution strategy in the Philippines compared to other countries like the US or in Hong Kong, or China but even so, Coke is still Coke nonetheless. In short, what messr Macabenta advocates about businesses going global is that it has to adapt to the local condition that it is “transplanting”. Moreover, I think this adaptation theory is not only applicable to businesses that is going global but may as well apply to businesses being put up in a foreign soil by immigrants using the business model develop from “home” (the country of origin). A case in point here is the delicacy shops in Chinatown (in Manila). Most of the delicacy stores in Chinatown are set – up immigrants and are highly focused on a very particular market segment, mainly fellow immigrants. These Chinese delis sell food stuffs from mushrooms (I knew of 3 or 4 kinds of “Chinese” mushrooms), Wooden Ear (木耳), Hopia, Tikoy, Scallops, Chinese candies (like White Rabbit), to the more “exotic” stuffs like Stuffed Pork Intestine Sausage and the likes. And just like what messr Macabenta observes, the market focus strategy on immigrants though hugely successful in the early stages of the business would eventually reach it’s limits in terms of number of clients. Furthermore, the clientele base, as observe by messr Macabenta would sooner or later diminish as second or even third generation immigrants whose taste are more in tune with the locals shun their products. As this develops, most of these “specialty” stores are forced to go “mainstream”, i.e., cater to the locals other than the particular immigrant groups. However, going mainstream has it’s difficulties and challenges. For example, in the Philippine Chinese deli’s case, selling mushrooms, wooden ear, and scallop to the Filipinos would be futile since Filipino cuisine don’t actually use those stuffs. Some of the more exotic delicacies like intestine sausage don’t exactly appeal to the Filipino palate at all. However, the Philippine Chinese deli’s are pretty much successful in going mainstream precisely because it was able to adapt to the locals. Tikoy for example has become popular because it has adapted (by coming up with small personal sizes) to the Filipino’s gift giving tradition during major holidays (which in this case is the Chinese New Year). Now, it becomes an SOP to give and receive Tikoys during the Chinese New Years whereas in China and elsewhere where Chinese are the majority, such practice of giving Tikoy is less seen. Hopia, as a Chinese delicacy has evolved into a Filipino delicacy simply by adapting its flavor to the Filipino taste. Instead of the original mungo only variant, it now has ube….. Changes can also be seen from the way businesses are conducted by the Chinese delis. They no longer boxed themselves in Chinatown. A few of them actually branched out ostensibly to cater to the growing demand of the mainstream markets. As a conclusion, for any businesses “transplanted” from the home country and into a foreign country, adaptation is a must, be it in the product offering or in the strategies used or in the business models being utilized. Relying on a proven successful formula made in the home market doesn’t guarantee survival in the new foreign market much less success.