Saturday, May 23, 2009

Send protest emails to usec estela sales ( and unesco (

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 23, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Protest against book blockade

Books are very much a part of my life. I always say that I have my own library at home and the books are all over my house. And so my friend Rene Mayol would always correct me, "You live in a library." I have read all my books (except those on the staircase). Wherever I travel, I buy books also. From my recent South African trip, I managed to bring home only four of my books (by SA authors) because of baggage weight limitation. I still have books left in the care of a friend.

I don't always buy new books. There are a lot of very good books that are sold in used-book stores like Book Sale. In Berkeley, California, being a university town, there are many bookshops that sell books discarded by students after using them for a semester. You also get the bonus of reading the notes they took in their class.

Last year, I attended the Book Expo America in Los Ange les. Wow! I went gaga with all the books on display. I brought home a Balikbayan box filled with books I got for free for the five hours that I went around the Expo. And I only went to about seven rows of publishers booths. If I were not going to San Diego to attend ASTD 2008, I would have gone back the next day and gotten more books. Unfortunately this year, BEA (New York) and ASTD 2009 Conference & Exposition (D.C.) will be held on the very same dates. I am going to ASTD.

I grew up with books. I was a regular at the library and when I was in college, I worked at the Manila City Library. Heaven!

Upon receiving her doctoral degree, a friend tried hard to convince me to pursue similar studies on organization development. I asked her if she has read such and such books and if she has had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with authors like Jim Collins, Robert Kaplan, Peter Senge, Arie De Geuse, Bob Pike, Ken Blan chard, Malcolm Glad well, Marcus Buckingham and many other gurus. She said no, and was even unaware of many of the books I mentioned. I have all those books and have at one time or another chatted with the authors in person.

And now, here comes Undersecretary Estela Sales wielding her power unilaterally and the next minutes—boom!—books are now taxed.

One big reason many global organizations set their offices or plants here or hire employees from this country is because we have very competent, talented, innovative, well-informed and English-speaking people. This is due, among others, to the availability of television shows, books and publications from all over the world.

So Usec Sales wants to push us back to the medieval times and reduce us all to one word: "igno ramus." And take note, hers is a unique interpretation of UN Florence Agreement. Only in the Philippines.

And so, book readers, publishers, bookshop entrepreneurs, even ordinary citizens, are aghast, disgusted and angry at how our civil servants are serving us. This issue is becoming the Arroyo government vs. the Filipino people.

One columnist wrote that doing so will force us to read Filipino authors, just like the Filipino Film Festival forces people to watch Filipino movies for a week? Huh, where did she come from?

I have many books by Filipino authors—business, recipe, poetry, coffee table, etc. Nobody forced me to buy them. I appreciate books not because of the nationality of their authors but because of the content, the research that went into the making of the book, the writing style and my take away from them.

I will not buy more Filipino-authored books just because imported books are more expensive with the additional taxes. But I will be forced to buy less.

I am really wondering what got into the mind of Usec Sales or whoever ordered her to impose taxes on books?

Or maybe I wouldn't mind these taxes so much if I know that the money collected will be returned to the people in terms of better service and solid projects that will benefit the people. The question is, in whose pocket would the tax money end?
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Global Filipinos

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 16, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Filipinos here, Filipinos there, Filipinos all over the world

Our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are not only propping up our economy; in particular, they keep afloat all airlines flying the Philippine skies. The Philippine Airlines plane from Manila to Hong Kong and the Cathay Pacific plane from Hong Kong to Manila were simply brimming with OFWs. There were just a few of us non-OFWs and foreigners on those flights.

In the Hong Kong-Johannesburg leg of my tour and the return trip, maybe a fourth of the passengers were OFWs, mostly seamen and mine workers.

You know you are travelling with OFWs when:

• They show pictures of their family to one another.
• Male OFWs talk about their spouse with longing ("I have to buy this face mask to follow my wife's orders for me to take precautions against swine flu. I didn't really wear it."). The females talk mostly about their children, their parents, their friends. They talk about their dreams and aspirations for their children.
• They compare notes about their employers and circumstances of their employment, happy or sad.
• Going away, they bring a lot of local cooked food, even instant noodles.
• Coming home, they bring everything that they could put their hands and could afford—anything that would please the family they left behind and compensate for their absence. They could barely lug their hand-carry baggage filled mostly with toys and overstuffed dolls.
• At the NAIA pre-departure, nobody is in the mood for chitchat. The moment the plane takes off NAIA runway, there is a silent mantle of sadness (or even a feeling of doom) and you see a lot of eyes filling with tears. Nobody is talking now. They pretend to sleep or read the inflight duty free catalog. When they reach Hong Kong, they are businesslike. They plead their newfound acquaintances to meet on Sundays at the park.
• From the pre-departure area in Hong Kong and all throughout the flight, they are very animated and jubilant. Some are resting, with a smile on their face (maybe playing in their mind their anticipated reunion with their family, kin and friends).
• The moment the plane touches NAIA runway, there is an air of euphoria! Never mind the admonition of the purser to sit tight until the plane comes to a full stop; they jump from their seat and retrieve their baggage from the overhead bin. When the plane finally stops, they are all lined up in the aisle, ready to bolt out of the plane, touch the soil of their motherland and hug and kiss the faces of their loved ones.
• They rush out of the airplane, stop at the duty free counter for some last minute pasalubong walk fast to Immigration, wait restlessly at the baggage carousel, pass customs (some even give something to the customs personnel), and zoom to the waiting area where their family shout their names all at once while the OFWs review the faces at the other side of the road, recognize loved ones and shout with glee while waving hands vigorously. Lots of kissing and hugging and joyful tears.
• Some get out of the arrival area via the vehicle exit, cross the street to get a regular taxi. All along they walk in a bunch, people and cargo (in Tagalog, kuyog). Everybody happy.

Some of the OFWs I met are: Delia Tolentino, Brian Dionela, Noli Santos, Robert Espina, Larry Mendoza, Rely Mendoza, Mina Foronda, Elaine Oliver, Willie Bonaquit, Ana Marie A Martin, Dunder and Bernadette Velasco, Russelle Matitu and Jun, Isay and Joshua Regala. Thank you all!

Questions: While everybody is proclaiming our OFWs as modern day heroes, are we doing enough for them and the family they left behind? What assistance do we give them at the airport? They appreciate the rondalla. I have a thousand and one questions. I wish every OFW is a Manny Pacquiao who earns millions and who puts our country in the consciousness of the whole world. But in their own quiet toil, don't all our OFWs do the same? We are known every day in the whole world because of them. The people they serve only have praises and gratitude for them (even HK mediaman Chip Tsao).,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Love at first sight

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 09, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Love at first sight

I've always reminded my family and friends that we do not fall in love with things or ideas. We only fall in love with people. We like things and ideas.But when I set foot on Jasmyn Plaas Produkte in Hartbeespoort, Gauteng, South Africa, I knew it was love at first sight. They sell fresh produce, dried fruits, juices, dairy products (such a line up of cheeses!), dried meat (biltong), books and curios. Plus an art deco coffee shop. It was Europe in South Africa.

I've not seen a specialty store so specially organized and appealing to all the senses—touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. The food goods were not just bunched in kind but they used different containers and they were arranged in such a way that it became very tempting to eat them right there. There were not the usual supermarket shelves; there were all sorts of shelves of different sizes and forms. It is like being in Disneyland. It was homey, but at the same time business. It felt spacious because of the wide alleys so even if there were a number of shoppers, you maintain your own space and pace.

The curio area contained many home and work thingamajigs, all country-inspired and made of different materials by craftsmen in different parts of South Africa. I did not notice anything made in China.

The day before, I bought a beautiful set of native-looking candle-holders at Edgar's in Menlyn Plaza, Pretoria. To my chagrin, when I inspected it closely back in my hotel, it was made in China. Arghhhhh!

The bookstore was dream-like, displaying a wide variety of books by European and South African authors. As they say in Afrikaans: "Lackerrrrrrrr!" (Read: Fantastic!).

If not for the limited (20 Kg) checked baggage allowance in South African Airways, I could have maxed my resources and bought half of the store. Hahahahahahaha!

Thanks to a newfound friend, Annie Coetzee, who is a best-selling author, an engaging speaker and expert on emotional intelligence. We spent one whole day driving around the Harties Dam area surrounded by an awe-inspiring view of untouched wilderness. It is about 30 kilometers from Pretoria, SA's capital, yet it felt and looked so bucolic with its wide roads, few cars (I am so used to the bumper-to-bumper situation in Manila, anything less is few.) and country-styled houses and other structures. Even the dam looked ornate. South Africans have a great respect for nature and tradition.

Tan Malie is another coffee shop and food store that brings you to centuries past with its rustic architecture, antique decors (including the restrooms), and warm service. Even Sonia's Garden in Tagaytay doesn't come close to its simple splendor.

Our last stop was Chameleon Cultural Village, 200-plus shops selling native crafts, trinkets, decors, costume jewelry and many others. Annie said she would do the negotiating for me because I am a tourist and she speaks Afrikaans, She was so surprised at the price I paid for my purchases. She doesn't know that Filipinos are used to haggling and negotiating. (Hehehehe) And I have previously been to Rosebank, a flea market selling the same products, in the heart of Pretoria so I have an idea how much things cost after much haggling and pa-charming. Also I find the gift shop atop the Table Mountains in Cape Town as having the best low prices without haggling. Again, at the back of my mind was the baggage limitation on the airplane ride back to Johannesburg, so I only bought refrigerator magnets there.

We ended up with the love of Annie's life, Louie, in Dros Restaurant and Wine Cellar having pizza dinner and red wine while exchanging business notes and chatting on Facebook and Twitter and doing emails. Have laptop and wifi, can multitask.

Those of you who wish to see what I am writing about can e-mail me and I will send you pictures that I took.

If I were in the tourism and retail business, I would go to South Africa to benchmark the 7 Ps of marketing—product, price, people, place, process, physical evidence and promotion. The one area we are up is the price, but at the rate our businessmen are upping their prices for every conceivable (but not real) reasons, our prices will be at par with SA's.

Moje is back in Manila and longing to go back to South Africa. Get in touch with her at and

Friday, May 1, 2009

We are all one species

Learning & Innovation – April 25, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


We are all one species


I am back here in South Africa, this time to speak at the ASTD-SA Global Network Conference & Exposition in Cape Town, April 21-23.  My topic is "Leadership Branding through Organizational and Personal Learning" which i will share with you in subsequent columns.  It feels so good to be in South Africa with its vast open spaces, clean air, unspoiled  nature and wonderful people.


We just delivered our luggage in the beautiful home of our gracious hosts Juanita and Robin Probart, together with another speaker from Portugal, the very articulate Dr. Filipe Carrera, we motored to the Cradle of Humankind. 


Robin is the president of American Society for Training & Development-South Africa Global Network and is the one who set-up and manage its annual conferences and other activities, the one who invited all speakers. 


Okay, so do you know that you, me, all of us are descended from South Africans?  The exhibits at the Cradle traced the origins of man to SA from various fossils dating millions of years found in the Cradle's vast area.


Being a Catholic and believing in the Creation, let me just share with you parts of the systematically and creatively displayed artifacts and scientific assertions of the Evolution of Man and our changing environment.


·         SA has yielded fossils of some of the earliest known dinosaurs, at least 200 million years old. Massospondylus carinatus is the oldest known dinosaurs and lived over much of southern Africa during the Early Jurrasic.


·         Fossils of our distant mammal-like ancestors, which lived more than 200-million years ago, have been found in South Africa.


·         Many significant fossil finds have been made in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, including the famous fossils "Mrs. Ples" and "Little Foot."


·         Mrs. Ples is the best example of an adult Australopithecus africanus ever discovered.  The skull was found by Dr. Robert Broom and his assistant, John Robinson, at Sterkfontein in 1947.


·         Hominids, the ancestors of modern humans first emerged some 7 million years ago in Africa.


·         The first stone tools were made and used in Africa, at least 2.6 million years ago.

·         Our ancestors were able to use and control fire at least one million years ago in the Cradle of Humankind.


·         Homo sapiens, the species to which we all belong, evolved in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.


·         Africa ignited humankind's imagination.  Some of the world's oldest rock art has been discovered in southern Africa.


·         All of humanity shares an African heritage.  We are one, diverse species across the globe, with our roots in Africa.






Alas, a clean, honest and transparent elections!

Learning & Innovation – May 2, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


Alas, a clean, honest and transparent elections!


Jacob Zuma is the incoming president of the Republic of South Africa and he is shuttling from meetings to meetings setting up his government amidst mounting speculations of who he will pick to serve in his cabinet.  The Pretoria News quoted a member of the ruling party, African National Congress  (ANC), national executive committee said, "Zuma's administration is goin to be about continuity as well as change, and his cabinet will reflect that."  His inauguration is set on May 9.


I arrived here in Johannesburg, South Africa, last April 18.  Unless you read the papers and you watched local TV news, you couldn't have guessed that there was a national election here.   Posters are limited to few designated posts.  ANC held townhall meetings in the rural areas and that is one big factor they garnered 66% of the total votes.  The 14 or so opposition parties led by COPE (the breakaway party from ANC) and DA (led by Cape Town mayor  Helen Zille, a white person) limited their campaigns to their bailiwick areas and to the broadcast and print media.  ANC got a bad press because of Zuma.  Of course, one must remember that newspapers and magazines here are owned and controlled by the whites and that Zuma and the deposed African and ANC President Thabo Mbeki are mortal enemies.


It was a very clean, honest, transparent and serious campaigns and elections.  No noisy campaigning and speeches, no noisy and gas-guzzling motorcades, no loud huge posters, no guns, no goons, no gold, no paid showbiz personalities to lure people to attend meetings, no violence, no one was killed.  Election results came out promptly a couple of days after the elections.  Thus, there are no election protests, only post-election celebrations.   There's lots of promising, dancing and singing.  And gallons of mud mostly directed at Zuma. 


Though Election Day, April 23, was a public holiday, there weren't any campaigning in the streets.  People in the rural areas lined up for as much as eight hours in order to cast their votes for their beloved ANC.  Travelling Africans were given privileges to cast their votes for national and local elections anywhere they are.      


The South Africans voted for the party, not persons. Though the presidents of the party are presumed candidates for the presidency.  For example, if a party garnered the most votes in the city or township, the party gets to appoint the incoming president, the mayor, provincial premier (equivalent to our provincial governor),  and representatives to the parliament.   The president appoints his own vice president from his party.


We and the rest of the world, definitely, have much to learn from South Africans.  Remember that SA is a young democracy rising from Apartheid only 16 years ago.  They have had only three elections and four presidents—Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki (who was unseated by ANC in mid term), Kgalema Motlanthe and now, Zuma.


Hats off to South Africans, especially to two strong and virtuous women, Brigalia Bam and Pansy Tlakula, the chanirman and CEO of the iNdependent Electoral Commission (equivalent of our Election Commission).


I remember our recent local elections.  Our entire neighbourhood woke up in the mornings to find our houses, fences, street divisions, trees, telephone and electric poles and cables, every space available surreptitiously plastered with campaign materials in the dead of the night by paid supporters of candidates.   Every day, we had to wash them down.  Likewise, on election day, the road leading to the voting areas are littered with sample ballots you couldn't see the pavement anymore handed by thousands of paid supporters and promptly thrown away by the voters.  Our elections are dirty, literally and figuratively, to say the least.


We need a change of heart , attitude and habits, not charter change.


(Moje spoke at the hugely successful ASTD-SA Global Network Conference and Exposition in Cape Town , South Africa and is presently touring SA.  Follow her blog at or email her at