A privileged friendship

Subject Washington SyCip and biographer Butch Dalisay in 2015

The last time I saw Wash SyCip was from a far distance. It was his 95th birthday on June 30, 2016, and a long line of well-wishers — businessmen, politicians, and other celebrities — had queued up at the ballroom of the Shangri-La Makati to greet him and have their pictures taken with the icon. I thought for a second about falling in line, just to say hello, but then decided against it, already having spent more time with Wash than most people except his closest associates. He looked more frail than I had ever seen him, even as he kept up a cordial countenance seated in his chair on a raised dais, and I felt content to remember the sprightlier octogenarian I had first met a decade earlier.

Of course I knew who Washington SyCip was well before then; my wife Beng worked as an artist in the communications department of SGV in the 1980s, but I had never met the man himself — not until an opportunity arose to bid for and to write his biography in early 2006, when he was turning 85. I felt very fortunate to have been chosen for the job — and that’s what it was to me then, a job, albeit one involving an illustrious subject. I had no inkling that I was about to enter into a privileged friendship, something that would extend well beyond the writing of a book.


I had already done books for and about other personages in politics and business, and would do many more after Wash. But none of them — meaning no disrespect to or disregard for my other clients — would come close to the biography I would write for Wash, and it had everything to do with the uniqueness of the man, who lived not only an extraordinarily long life but also one far more colorful than you would credit an accountant for.

For months, we met Saturday mornings in his seventh-floor SGV office, and chatted for a couple of hours about phases of his life, proceeding chronologically from his childhood to the key decision to open his own accounting firm, a moment that I would later decide to open the book with. (Wash: Only a Bookkeeper was published in 2009 by the SGV Foundation and the Asian Institute of Management, and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010.) Immediately I felt at ease with his polite formality; no artificial chumminess there or dramatic flourish, just a quiet consistency of well-remembered detail, everything from trying to learn the foxtrot for a graduation dance and breaking Japanese codes in Calcutta to carrying a cold, dressed duck under his arm on the New York subway to bring to a lady friend.

Most readers, I’m sure, were looking for the grand contours, the big business decisions — and there’s all that in the book — but I tried to keep things homely, and was glad that Wash was game for it. He liked to play Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago on his iPod — but not being a techie, often forgot to recharge it.

My last message from Wash

When he learned that I collected pens, he sent a bunch of them over to my house; I opened the box and saw that he had gifted me with some very nice ballpoints, which I thanked him for. When a perceptive associate gently reminded him that I collected not ball pens but fountain pens, he sent another box of the correct writing instruments — CEOs like him typically received scores of these as gifts and stored them away in drawers — with an apologetic note, even more graciously acknowledged by the ecstatic recipient. And every Christmas we would receive a box filled with some lovely piece of décor handcrafted by a microenterprise he supported in Cebu. 

He had a soft spot for Filipino talent of all kinds. He once hosted a party at his home for President Cory Aquino, some ambassadors, and similarly lofty people. After dinner, he sprung a surprise on them. “Just get into your cars and follow me!” he announced with a twinkle in his eye. He led the convoy to a dimly downscale stretch of Boni Avenue, down into the happy maw of Club Mwah, the gay musical revue. Cory had a blast, and I had fun watching Wash garlanded by that feathery parade.

Sometimes I dropped by his office or chatted with him in the corner of a soirée to hear him share his views on current goings-on, both of us probably thinking that they would be useful inputs to the centennial update of his biography, but really just to catch up. It was these unscripted asides, his inviting trust, that I felt most privileged by. I suppose biographers come in through some special door, and with Wash, that door always seemed open.

Last July I received an envelope from Wash, and even without opening it I could feel that it contained a pen inside. “Dear Butch,” said the accompanying note, “This is the only pen that I have come across which may be new to your library. Just note the owl at the head of the pen. Sincerely, Wash.” It was a ballpoint, but I didn’t mind — owls (and turtles) were his trademark avatars.

His generosity was well known, but it was never the showy or sentimental kind. He believed above all in the capability of the poor to learn and to lift themselves up with a little help. Despite the American citizenship he had to accept in a time of war, he thought and acted as a true global Filipino.

When he passed away last week on a plane above the Pacific — bridging the two shores he knew best, and still on the job at 96 — I was requested to draft an obituary, and I replied, choking, that it was going to be my honor. It was the first — and, almost certainly, the only — time I would shed a tear for someone I wrote about.

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Email me at //This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./" style="color: rgb(0, 113, 179); text-decoration: none;">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit my blog at www.penmanila.ph.

Do androids dream of unexpected sequels?

BLADE RUNNER 2049. Ryan Gosling is Officer K in 'Blade Runner 2049.' Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures 

MANILA, Philippines – Halfway into our screening of Blade Runner 2049, an impatient mumble rose from audience members in the theater. We were watching Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling) stalk through the bombed-out remains of Las Vegas. It’s easily one of the most memorable set pieces in the film, those giant collapsed statues resembling the victims of a nuclear Vesuvius.

Most of the audience had probably seen the posters, watched the trailers, and expected an action-adventure flick. And if this were that kind of movie, we’d already be building up to the third act, where the hero kicks the villain’s ass and saves the world. We’d have explosions. We’d get a heroic shot of the hero looking pretty heroic. 

But this isn’t an action-adventure flick. This is Blade Runner 2049. It’s somewhat reassuring to know that the sequel continues the original’s tradition of confounding audiences.


Blade Runner 2049 is an art film masquerading as a neo-noir cyberpunk drama. Its almost-3 hour run time and glacial pacing gives you just enough time to take in the derelict grandeur of its cinematography and set design. Director Denis Villeneuve’s film is remarkable not just for being made, but for being so well-made.

While the tech is more advanced here, the movie never sacrifices style and atmosphere for efficiency. Replicants, bioengineered humans, are squished out of a birthing chute (compare it with Westworld’s antiseptic 3D-printed hosts). Computer displays flicker and stutter. San Diego is a giant landfill with an orphanage. Traffic congestion still hasn’t been fixed. (Will it ever?)

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures 

The story itself is set 30 years after the first Blade Runner ended. The Tyrell Corporation, the original manufacturer of replicants, was bought out by the Wallace Corporation. The iconic pyramid is still here, and this time we get to see more of the interior, which is equal parts Edward Hopper and Giza.

While Eldon Tyrell had the pragmatic demeanor of a businessman, Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) indulges his god-like aspirations. Wallace’s Nexus-8 “angels” are fully subservient, and possess none of the aggressive self-preservation instincts that Tyrell’s replicants had. 

Officer K is a blade runner, a special agent working under the Los Angeles Police Department and tasked with tracking and executing rogue early-model replicants. K is a replicant himself, but the job gives him none (at least not initially) of the misgivings and trepidation that haunted Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in the first movie.

In one of the more poignant scenes in the movie, K and his holographic, store-bought love interest Joi engage in some pantomime-domesticity. It’s easy to dismiss this strange couple, the skinjob and the program skin, for playing house. But how different are they from supposedly “real” people, really? 

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures 

While working a case, K discovers a box buried in the farm of fugitive replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). And as one would expect from a box found buried in a farm, the contents are mysterious. K sets out to find the only person who could make sense of it all: Rick Deckard. 

Harrison Ford is pop culture’s beloved grumpy uncle. At this point in his career, he has little, if any, fucks to give. It’s an attitude that works well while playing Deckard. Deckard has neither the charm of Han Solo nor the thirst for adventure of Indiana Jones. Deck just wants to be left alone in his slightly radioactive Las Vegas man-cave (or man-casino, as it turns out).

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures

Screengrab from YouTube/Warner Bros Pictures 

The sequel enters a pop culture landscape where artificial life has been gradually edging out zombies as TV and cinema’s unlife of choice. The original Blade Runnerhad few peers when it was released in 1982. But today we have Westworld, Ex Machina, the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, and many others.

While many of those shows were preoccupied with asking Who am I? Blade Runner 2049 flips the trope on its head by instead asking Who am I not? And also, What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can’t get into more detail without spilling some major spoilers, but there are enough existential quandaries here to satisfy Kafka (and probably Pinocchio) fans.

Photo from Warner Bros Pictures

Photo from Warner Bros Pictures 

Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t provide a whole lot of answers. But anyone brave and patient enough to wander through its byzantine passages will find no shortage of questions worth pondering.  – Rappler.com


US rapper Nelly arrested over tour bus rape allegations

NOT TRUE. Rapper Nelly is accused by a woman of raping her inside a tour bus, which the rapper said was not true. Screengrab from Instagram/@derrtymo

LOS ANGELES, USA – Grammy Award-winning rapper Nelly was arrested Saturday, October 7, after a woman accused him of raping her in his tour bus, police in the northwestern state of Washington said.

Just before 4 am local time (1100 GMT), a woman called the emergency 911 line "to report that she was sexually assaulted by a male, who is known as the rapper 'Nelly,'" police in Auburn, Washington said.

After police investigated the incident, "at 4:37 am Nelly was taken into custody and booked" at the local jail, the police statement read.

The alleged assault reportedly took place on the tour bus hours after Nelly had performed at the White River Amphitheater just east of Auburn.

A lawyer for Nelly vehemently denied the charges.

Nelly – born Cornell Haynes Jr – "is the victim of a completely fabricated allegation," his lawyer Scott Rosenblum told Agence France-Presse in a statement.

"Our initial investigation clearly establishes this allegation is devoid of credibility and is motivated by greed and vindictiveness.

"I am confident, once this scurrilous accusation is thoroughly investigated, there will be no charges," he added.

According to TMZ, Nelly, whose schedule has him performing Saturday evening with country duo Florida Georgia Line in the city of Ridgefield, a two-hour drive to the south of Auburn, was booked on a charge of second-degree rape.

The 42-year-old has received 12 Grammy nominations and won 3 Grammy awards, including for best rap solo performance in 2003.

Following the report, his manager Juliette Harris told USA Today that Nelly will miss his show in Ridgefield and that he was released without being charged.

Nelly took to Twitter to speak out on the accusation.

"Let me say that I am beyond shocked that I have been targeted with this false allegation. I am completely innocent. I am confident that once the facts are looked at , it will be very clear that I am the victim of a false allegation," he said.

"I do want to apologize to my loved ones for the embarrassment and for putting myself in a situation where I could be victimized by this false and defaming allegation.

"I also want to thank my fans for their unwavering support. They know me. I assure you I will be vindicated. And I assure you, I will pursue every legal option to address this defaming claim. Thank you.

"In other words y'all know damm well I ain't do no dumm S^*t like this..!! Love ..!!!!

"To be absolutely clear. I have not been charged with a crime therefore no bail was required. I was released , pending further investigation."

A native of Austin, Texas, he grew up in St Louis, Missouri. His first 3 albums, released between 2000 and 2004, were all US number ones. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Now Kathy Griffin Is Taking Back Her Apology For Trump Head Photo

“I am no longer sorry.”


Video link: aba21ba9a4404860b9fc674f049d4346.m3u8

Kathy Griffin is sorry she ever said sorry.

The comedian told the Australian talk show “Sunrise” Tuesday that she’s rescinding her apology for the photo that showed her with a fake severed, bloody head made to look like that of President Donald Trump’s. Griffin lost gigs, was investigated by the Secret Service and saw a friendship with Anderson Cooper dissolve in the aftermath.

“I am no longer sorry,” she said in the segment below. “The whole outrage was BS, the whole thing got so blown out of proportion.”

“I lost everybody,” she continued in the interview to promote her October tour dates in the country. “I had Chelsea Clinton tweeting against me ... I have been through the mill.”

When host Samantha Armytage suggested that even Democrats felt the image was over the line, Griffin good-naturedly took umbrage: “You’re full of crap ― stop this,” she retorted. “... Stop acting like my little picture is more important than talking about the actual atrocities that the president of the United States is committing.”

“I’ve been talking to Australians who, for the first time, are saying, ‘We’re afraid to go to America,’” she added. “I never thought I would hear that in my lifetime.”

Once more, for emphasis, Griffin said on the show: “I don’t apologize for that photo anymore and I think the outrage is complete BS.”

Ron DickerGeneral Assignment Reporter, HuffPost

Video link: 


A 23 Year Old Eric Clapton Demonstrates His Unique Guitar Playing Style In a 1968 Interview



In 1968, just before the iconic “Cream Farewell Concert” at Royal Albert Hall, a 23 year old Eric Clapton explained the different functions of his electric guitar, how he achieved the sounds he wanted through different pickups and then gave a fantastic demonstration of his truly unique playing style.


Video link: https://youtu.be/2tAE2K3YT_A

Farewell Concert is the live recording of the Cream’s final concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. Aside from the band’s reunion concert in 2005, it is Cream’s only official full concert release on video. It was originally broadcast by the BBC on 5 January 1969. It was not released on video in the US until 1977. The opening act for the concert was future progressive rock stars Yes who were just starting out.

via Open Culture

A Game of Trolls': A play for that friend spreading lies about Martial Law

AGoT is not about Duterte. It could be any politician’s use of power.
Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) — in partnership with the National Historic Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, and DAKILA — guides the audience to the facts and perspectives they need to find their own answer. A Game of Trolls (AGoT) discussed the role of narratives in shaping not just our history, but how we perceive it.
The audience sees Martial Law through the eyes of Heck, a professional troll employed to argue fallaciously, LEAVE COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS, and sow doubt in the minds of people about what really happened during the Marcos era.
The play will run the whole of September and tickets are available at ticketworld.com.ph. –GMA News

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