Select Page

Winston "Arf-Arf" Arpon
PMA '64


Watchful Thinking: Where There’s Smoke

“See you all, two weeks from now; same time, same place….”

This is what we wrote – okay, this is what we promised – in our last issue of Witful Thinking, Wednesday [1].

That was more than two weeks ago. As a matter of fact, that was 19 weeks ago.


"I kind of missed it,” Cavalier Gregorio “Blackjack/Bj” Carino ’69 admitted in an email to his fellow reNEGades [2] a couple of months ago, wondering then if WTW had become GWTW.

GWTW, as in Gone With The Wind, that novel and unforgettable movie of long ago.


Reserving the right to use Philippine local time or the US Pacific, Central, Mountain or Easter Time Zones – choosing, of course, which of the five will work best for us to meet our WTW deadline – we have promised ourselves to have this issue out today, Wednesday, before midnight.

This is one midnight appointment we hope to keep; with apology to Cavalier Victor “Vic” Erfe ’69 who reminds that in the Philippines, ‘midnight’ has become a bad word these days. (For this thoughtful reminder, Erfe, a WTW C5 [3] has earned the right to be called our midKnight in shining armor).


The other day, Brigadier General Danilo Lim a.k.a. Cavalier Danilo “Danny” Lim ’78, was released from detention  – courtesy of a classmate of his, AFP Chief of Staff Delfin Bangit a.k.a. Cavalier Delfin Bangit ’78.

An earlier grant of temporary liberty, say a month before the election, could have helped Lim in his bid for a Senate seat. For now, he is an ex-future Senator, although in the opinion of many, including us, he’s one of the best members the Philippine Senate may never have.

Today, the good general is celebrating his birthday, his first outside of his cell in the last four years. The resumption of WTW today on his birthday is just coincidental.


POTUS Barak Obama: "I'd rather be a really good one-term President than a mediocre two-term President."

You’re good, not mediocre, Mr. President. So, by your own terms, not ours, it’s one-term for you, sir.


An article in Time magazine made the claim that Warren Beatty slept with 12,775 women. By most counts, Tiger Woods was involved with at most a dozen or two.

For Warren, the movie actor, there was hardly a whimper of a protest but as we all know, this wasn’t so for Tiger, the golfer.  

Like us, Tiger must be thinking: I should have taken acting instead of driving lessons. 


In recent days, hints about the make-up of his cabinet have been in circulation, but Noynoy Aquino has reportedly confirmed only the names of three choices: Dinky Soliman for the Department of Social Welfare; Ging Deles as presidential adviser on the peace process; and, Florencio “Butch” Abad as head of the Department of Education.
Social welfare, peace and education. We think there’s no way Noynoy could have gone wrong with naming names for these three among many important areas of governance, under his governance.


But in his analysis, [4] Amando Doronila takes exception to these choices, warning that “old faces in next Cabinet bode ill for Noynoy.”

Doronila is an old face himself, isn’t he? Also, we happened to find in the issue where Doronila’s opinion piece cum analysis appeared, these names: Neal Cruz; Fr. Joaquin Bernas; Ramon J. Farolan; Conrado de Quiros; Manuel L. Quezon III. Like Doronila, old faces in the business of analysis and/or opinion-making, aren’t  they? Still, we don’t think they bode ill for the Philippines Daily Inquirer, day in or day out.   


Hocus-PCOS. This has become the term of choice for the problems, real or imagined, encountered with the use of Smartmatic’s Precinct Count Optical Scan machines in the recent Philippine elections.

Hocus-FuCOS. The term of choice for the problems, real or imagined, of the congressional Board of Canvassers?

Hocus-FuCOS, as in losing focus, deliberate or otherwise, on the task of proclaiming the next President and Vice-President of the Philippines.


But who cares? Board Co-Chair and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has already been proclaimed as Senator by the Commission on Elections. Co-Chair and House Speaker Prospero Nograles, on the other hand, could not care less; having lost his election bid for mayor of Davao City, he’s not looking forward to any proclamation.


“I want you to be happy.” This was a popular jingle of Enrile in a television ad that may have captured the imagination of and resonated well with the voting population, as to make Enrile the number 5 top vote-getter among the senatorial candidates.

Sorry, Senator, but you’re not making us happy by your handling of the Board of Canvassers.


This is a Board of Canvassers, not a Board of Inquiry.

Decrying the slow pace of the canvassing, Arroyo was absolutely right on this point. That’s Joker Arroyo, not Gloria.


Yet today, this headline caught our attention:   Congress tally speeds up.

And just when we were about to resurrect earlier suggestions of a NoProc scenario! Yes, the No Proclamation scenario – remember? – which was to take place in case the Failure of Election game plan of you-know-who failed to materialize.  

So, there will be no NoProc after all. Enrile and company surely know how to spoil everything. Killjoy!


The sentiment that the Filipino soldier performed well in the last elections, keeping the peace and remaining low-key and non-partisan, is shared by many in both government and the civilian sector.

Once again, as in the short-lived declaration last year of martial law in Ampatuan country, er, South Cotabato, the Filipino soldier did remarkably well, in spite of being underequipped and underpaid.

And this time, under Bangit?


Headline item:  Euro generals lose.

Perhaps, these candidates – all four of them, recently retired general officers of the Philippine National Police who were held at a Moscow airport for carrying euros worth 6.9 million in Philippine pesos – three running for Mayor and one for congressman, were neither current with nor in possession of the right currency for election campaigns in Philippine civil society.


Vicky:   Why are you working in the dark?
Me: Honey, I am dark.

Yes, when my wife said this, I was really working in the dark. But once again, it’s not what you are thinking, Bj. So, banish that thought, please.


We have all the reasons in the world to be guardedly excited about the role we have assumed or are about to assume in the Aquino administration – adviser.
We are prepared to give him all the advice we think he’d need to be a successful President of this republic. Of course, like those of many others, ours would be unsolicited advice. 

You can call this wishful thinking on our part. But how about watchful thinking?

Then again, aren’t we all, shouldn’t we all – we the people – be advisers to the man who will lead in the next six years of our life as a nation?


Noynoy’s response to the continuing clamor from the citizenry for him to quit smoking: “I’m sorry, I will not dance to everybody’s tune every time.”

Whether or not he used the right metaphor, we are willing to give Noynoy a break on this issue; not forgetting, of course, that each time we allow a playing partner in our mahjong sessions time for a stick of cigarette, we call it a “cancer break.”


Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In the case of President Aquino – whether he decides to live in Malacanang, the Arlegui House or Times Street, or in Valenzuela – he might just make it easier for us to spot and find him. Where there’s smoke, there’s the President.


Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino, Jr., and 10 others, bore the title of “Presidentiables” well up to the 2nd Comelec tally of votes on Election Day when Noynoy was shown to have won the presidential derby.

He can’t be called President-elect; not yet, until Enrile, Nograles and Company proclaim him. But hand it to the Philippine media to come up in the interim with an appropriate title: Presumptive President.

Given the indications that his proclamation isn’t coming anytime soon – two weeks at the earliest, according to House Speaker Nograles – we prefer the other title: President-in-Waiting.

Just take special care in saying it, remembering that the W in PiW is pronounced, waiting; not jueteng – the illegal numbers game prevalent countrywide that caused the fall of a sitting Philippine president and, if speculations are to be believed, helped in the election of more than just a candidate or two in Philippine elections, including the last one. 


Unless PiW Noynoy Aquino changes his mind soon, his girlfriend Shalani S Soledad could remain FLiW – First-Lady-in-Waiting – for some time. While she waits, she can be content just being the First Councilor, having garnered the highest votes for councilor in Valenzuela, Bulacan.


And unless he is convinced otherwise, his official residence won’t be Malacanang or the Arlegui Mansion in Manila but West Triangle Homes in Quezon City, specifically #25 Times Street.

That’s a security nightmare, if we ever saw one. Security nightmare times 77 for the group whose task it would be to protect the President.


Carlos “Phateets” Castro, writing on his behalf and that of his wife Gigi, conveyed their congratulations on our wedding [5] which we mentioned in our first issue for 2010 [6]   
Castro also wanted to know: What are you going to name your first born?


A belated acknowledgment of a correction to a footnote in our last issue on the use of ‘mistuh’ or ‘mistah.’ [7].

“Mistah is not a West Point expression,” according to Cavalier Carlos “Chuck” Agustin ‘59. “It is uniquely PMA,” he said, citing as his source a well-respected and authoritative alumnus of PMA, Cavalier Leoncio Tan ‘28 [8] 


Incidentally, Agustin credits General Tan for institutionalizing the term “Cavalier” among PMA alumni. “I heard him vocalizing it during one of the PMAAA Conventions in the ‘70s. We became very close in his final years and his memory never left him to the end, at the age of 99. It was an honor being one of the eulogists on his funeral.”


If he were alive today, what would the venerable and well-respected General say about present-day “mistahs” and “Cavaliers” who never spent a single day as a cadet of the PMA or its predecessor, the Philippine Constabulary Academy? [9].


RP’s GDP grew by 7.3%.

Exceeding the most optimistic predictions, [10]. this is good news for the country and to be sure, good news to us who hold high hopes for the country, and accordingly, disposed as ever to the ritual of opening our window each day to be able to see that the sun is brightly outside (Or, find it, if you don’t see it).

Alas, it’s bad news as well, if you listen to economists like the eminent and PheDigreed Ben E. Diokno. In his column [11] he wrote that this growth is not sustainable, largely debt-driven, and non-inclusive, the latter to mean that this did not filter down to the great majority of Filipinos.

The growth, according to him, was largely because of election spending. If so, we are tempted to ask: would holding elections every year help sustain such GDP? We ask this, mindful of course, that the  Econ 101 in our curriculum vitae pales before Diokno’s resume [12].


This US congressman who had yet to lose an election in his political career was asked, “When do you start working on your reelection?”

His response: “The day immediately after the election.”


The candidates that won in the last Philippine elections will be up for reelection in three years, with the exception of the elected President, Vice-President and the 12 Senators. That’s just a little over 1,000 days from today.

With the usual high stakes in that election and every election thereafter, particularly in view of the objective of a more reliable and error-free Automated Election System as well as other government and non-government electoral reform activities, we thought that this early, we will begin, with this issue, a countdown to that election, using “How Many Days Oh Noble Cataline?” a plebe knowledge [12] ;in our countdown. And borrowing, of course, from that US congressman the notion that whatever is it that we want to accomplish for the next election, the time to start is now.

Sir, there are 1,072 days, 25,728 hours, 1,543,680 minutes, 92,620,800 seconds and 185,241,600 ticks before the next Philippine elections on May 9, 2013.


@arf-arf ‘64
wtw 2010-03
makati city, philippines

[1] 2010-01-13 WTW/”I Lied, Sorry”
[2] Former cadets of  PMA belonging to the fraternal alumni association, the  North East Group
[3] In WTW parlance, C5 means Cavalier correspondent, contributor, confidant/conniver, and critic
[4] Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 31, 2010
[5] “You have a very lovely bride,’ he emailed. “And you looked quite sharp yourself.”
[6] 2010-01-06 WTW/”Yes, I Did – Yesterday.”
[7] In that issue, we wrote: “PMA classmates addressing each other 'mistuh’ or ‘mistah’ is a West Point tradition. PMAyers use it interchangeably with ‘mistah.’” 
[8] In an article General Tan wrote when Agustin was Editor of the PMA alumni magazine, The Cavalier, in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, Tan claimed that it all started at Camp Allen during the Philippine Constabulary Academy days, thus before 1928. The Corps saw one of those US movies where a black American was loudly using the word ‘mister” (pronounced “mistuh”) when talking to close friends. Thus PCA cadets jokingly started calling each other “mistah,” later with the accent placed on the second syllable. It became a tradition from then on.
[9] Officially, PMA traces its origin much farther in time than the PCA’s 1905, the AMP or the Academia Militar de Pilipinas in 1898. To our recollection, General Tan was among many PMA alumni who do not exactly embrace this historical view
[10] The prediction  for GDP  growth to be in the 2- 3% range
[11] Core, Business World, June, 2010
[12] PhD (Syracuse University); Professor, UP School of Economics, Secretary, DBM (Joseph Estrada administration); Undersecretary, DBM (Cory Aquino administration)
[13] A ‘plebe knowledge’ is a collective body of composition, poems, rhymes, verses, definitions, etc. that plebes in military academies, like the Philippine Military Academy, are required to know and recite verbatim, a requirement that is aimed at sharpening their memory skills while adding to their knowledge (a good number of plebe knowledge, like “What is a Kiss?” or “How is the Cow?” are funny and frivolous, but some, like The Origin of Coal, contain factual information that are good to know and remember).
In this plebe knowledge, How Many Days, Oh Noble Cataline, we are doing what the plebes would have done in a countdown to the next Philippine election  in 2013 – compute the days and convert them to hours, minutes, seconds and ticks.

Witful Thinking, Wednesday