A different kind of transport
We were transported last Friday to a different world. Whilst transport transported no one anywhere in the gridlock that was Friday night in Makati, we went to a wonderful concert at the Ayala Museum: the “Rush Hour Concert” hosted by the museum and one of Asia’s oldest (1926) symphony orchestras, the Manila Symphony Orchestra. (Why, by the way, was it called “rush hour”? The last thing you were doing was rushing. “Stalled hour” would be a better description of the reality.)
Arturo Molina conducted an orchestra that featured the incredible thrill from a grand piano by one of the country’s foremost concert pianists, Ingrid Sala Santamaria. The melody flowed from her fingertips to a hushed crowd of enthralled music lovers.
I had expected a crowd of oldies, as the young seem to have sunk into a world of mindless pop, only a step up from that earlier hideous noise called rap. But I was delighted to see that half of the 150-200 guests were young and enthralled. There is hope for the world, after all.
The intimacy of the room and the relative smallness of the crowd immersed us in the wonders of Tchaikovsky and Schumann together in works of complexity and rhythm—composers of that too-brief time, the Romantic period of the 1800s when amplifiers didn’t exist, so large numbers of instruments were needed for the volume of sound. But it’s not the volume that captures you (something rather essential for that other wonderful music genre, rock), but the composition, the majesty, the mood-creating magic of classical music. Classical music has a romance to it never since captured, a romance that brings out the romance in you. My wife and I, and a dear friend, Vermen Verallo, dined at the Museum Café afterward. A glass (or two) of red wine together with some Malagos cheese from Davao kept the glow going. I’d like to say the wine flowed like the music, but we were a bit more circumspect with the wine (I think). But not with the music: It truly flowed seemingly endlessly. The standing ovation told you it should never stop.
It’s a monthly event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with the next scheduled on Aug. 21. We heartily recommend it. Forget the traffic, be transported in mind and spirit. Let the body escape the traffic stress, and relax.
One recommendation to the organizers: Do it weekly.
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“I had planned to write about the Sona this week, but it’s hard to do. The speech was just that: the ‘State of the Nation.’ It had little of what I’d hoped would be there—President Aquino’s vision of the future, what he’d like to accomplish in this year and in the next two. It was a speech to appeal to the general public, and was well-crafted to do so. It did, as all Sonas do, list the achievements of the past year or two. And they are commendable. But we live into the future, not the past.
“The country’s business chambers, 17 of them, wrote to him on what they considered important issues to address if the jobs the people need were to be provided, if the wealth of the country was to ‘trickle down,’ as the latest buzz phrase has it. It was glaring that there was no discussion on these or how the government will generate jobs for the more than four million unemployed Filipinos (excluding the underemployed and those who had to flee the country to get a job).”
I WROTE THAT LAST YEAR. I can write it again today. I ended that column by saying: “It was a State of the Nation even if through slightly rose-colored glasses. It wasn’t a vision for the future, which would be far more useful to us. He should present that vision now.”
This year’s Sona may have been a necessary statement from the President at this time. It was certainly very well received in Congress, so I can only hope his business/economic plans for the remainder of his term will be announced by him separately soon. Doing so in a meeting with the business community would make sense.
Here are the issues that now 18 business chambers (11 local, seven foreign) want the President to address immediately:
1. Good governance. Those involved in the pork barrel scam and other scams to steal the people’s money must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law at the soonest time without fear or favor.
2. Government agencies and companies must sign the Integrity Pledge, and institutionalize it.
3. Improve competence, efficiency and integrity in the justice system.
4. Focus on improving production in agriculture and implement roadmaps for specific subsectors.
5. Accelerate infrastructure development. Improve and expand Naia and Clark and build a third airport. Speed up construction of the SLEx-NLEx connector road and connect it to the Port of Manila. Shift cargo traffic to Batangas and Subic and stimulate economic activity in those areas.
6. Fully and properly implement the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act). Don’t amend it as that will result in an unstable regulatory framework. Look more carefully at attaining energy security and electricity price competitiveness as quickly as possible. Appoint capable, proactive and visionary staff in the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Council.
7. Increase foreign investment by opening up the Constitution. In the meantime, reduce the list of industries on the Foreign Investment Negative List.
8. Reduce smuggling and approve the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act as quickly as possible. Create a high-level oversight committee of government and private-sector personnel.
9. Don’t allow the Supreme Court ruling on the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) to weaken the administration’s efforts to pursue key reforms.
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