Friday, March 19, 2010


My barber asked me once, “Is the United States of America democratic and republican  because the government is run either by the Democrats and/or by the Republicans?”

I said, “The U.S. Government is democratic because sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. It is republican because it is a representative government whereby powers are delegated on behalf of the people, for the people, and by the people. The fact that most of the chosen representatives are either Democrats or Republicans is because we have basically a two-party system. There are very few independents or third parties.”

“That’s why in Congress, it is always a battle between the Democrats and the Republicans”, my barber interjected. “Either one is the majority and the other the minority. They battle according to certain rules and are expected to use these rules to achieve their goals.”

“The last time we talked, you recommended that as an answer to the Republican Senators’ plan to filibuster, the Democratic Senators should reconcile. Now I hear that the House Democrats also plan to use the “deem and pass” rule for the healthcare bill to become law. The Republicans call it the Slaughter solution - hence barbaric, undemocratic, and unconstitutional. What do you say?”

Smilingly, my barber began, “I’d rather call it the “barberic” solution. This is the way I understand it. The Senate bill as passed is not totally acceptable to some Democrats and obviously to most Republicans. It therefore needs some “fixes”. Normally, a string of amendments would be made to fix the objectionable parts. But because the 41 Senate Republicans cannot be stopped from filibustering, the Senate bill has to be passed in toto by the House before it is sent back for reconciliation by the Senate. Congresswoman Slaughter proposed the use of the “deem and pass rule” whereby a rule incorporating the fixes and the entire Senate package is passed. A passage of the rule also means that the Senate bill is “deem” passed. It goes back to the Senate for reconciliation where only a 51-vote simple majority is needed.”  For a barber, he is well-read and politically sophisticated. His approach is reflective of the way he cuts hair – full of restraint in taste, manner and style as opposed to being barbaric which is the lack thereof.

The Republicans question this method of legislation as “slaughtering” the democratic processes, and brutally dismantling the Constitution. They argue that for a law to pass, each member of Congress must knowingly and courageously vote for the specific provisions of the Senate bill. It should be voted upon and passed expressly and not impliedly.

This method is also called “self-executing rule”. It began in 1930 and has been used by both Democrats and Republicans in the past. Democratic Speakers Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright used it 20 and 18 times respectively while Republican Speakers Gingrich and Dennis Hastert used it 90 and 70 times respectively.

There is a threat to challenge it in court for it being unconstitutional as was done previously. But my legal view is that the Supreme Court would not touch it, also on constitutional grounds. Under the Principle of Separation of Powers, Congress is an independent body and governed by its own rules. Neither the Executive nor the Judiciary could interfere in the same way that Congress could not be involved on how the former run theirs.
March Madness just started. This is true in both sports and politics. My barber is very disappointed that his favorite team, the Georgetown Hoyas got eliminated. He wished that they were more aggressive and more “barbaric” in their play. However, he hopes to win the bigger stake in the political arena – Healthcare Reform. In fact, he is so convinced that he now deems it passed.
Indeed, there is time to be “barbaric” and there is time to be plain “barberic”.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Kissinger Approach and the Barber's Way

I read the news that Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was just recently hospitalized for stomach pains. The 86 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner was known for introducing Shuttle Diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the ‘70s.

Learning it in my early professional and entrepreneurial life, I described to my barber the Kissinger approach to negotiations this way:

Kissinger saw his good-looking and smart nephew while traveling to Israel. He noticed that the latter was still single and carefree. He told his nephew, “why don’t you get married and live a more responsible life?” His nephew responded, "why should I? I am enjoying my bachelorhood, no married plans right now.” Then Kissinger immediately retorted, “Not even if the bride is the beautiful daughter of  Rothschild, one of the richest men in Europe?” Then the nephew said, “Well, in that case….”

Kissinger shuttled to London and met with the head of the Rothschild family, a European dynasty of German Jewish descent, and his daughter. He asked why his daughter remains unmarried, and the answer was that the daughter liked her status and was still looking for the right man. So, Kissinger said, “What about marrying the good-looking and smart President of the Israeli National Bank?” Rothschild then said, “Well, in that case…….”

Kissinger went back to Israel and talked to the Chairman and majority owner of the Israeli National Bank. “Why don’t you make my nephew the President of Israeli National Bank?” The Chairman answered, “Why should I? Your nephew is too young and inexperienced running a bank like ours.” Then Kissinger replied, “But he is going to be the son-in-law of England’s richest man, Rothschild.” The Chairman proclaimed, “I will convene the Board to confirm the appointment.”

Upon hearing this story, my barber commented, “The Kissinger approach is not really original. Do you know how I started this barbershop in the heart of McLean – where the Kennedys, the Cheneys, the Quayles, Pat Buchanan, Colin Powell, the Brzezinskis and other powerful people live?" I said, “No.” Then he proceeded,

“Being a barber in the Philippines, I wanted to practice my expertise in the United States. I had no capital so I approached a rich Filipino doctor whose hair I was cutting at home. “Why should I invest?” he asked. “I told him that it would be profitable, to be located in McLean, and the rent is already taken care of.” He okayed.

Then, I went to the owner of the building which was vacant at the time and offered a partnership together with the rich Filipino doctor also known to him. “Why should I do that?” “Because in your building will be the first all beautiful,  all women barbershop in Metro D.C. where men and their boys would rather go,” I said. He agreed.

Then I went around hair cutteries and Vietnamese-run barbershops recruiting attractive female barbers. The common question, “Why should I?” The common answer, “It would be in McLean and would be the only all female barbershop.” They all joined.

As you can see, it was not really all women. My barber is a man and so is the doctor and landlord. The barbershop is still on-going. So are the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and my barber does not foresee any conclusion anytime soon.

Yet the Kissinger Approach is somewhat like the Barber’s Way.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


"Elections have consequences.” Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina made the statement in justifying his affirmative vote for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

My American barber agrees. That’s why he is disappointed and frustrated with the Democrats. In the last Presidential and Congressional elections, the citizens of the United States of America, in the exercise of their sovereign power, granted the Democrats, Presidential or Executive powers and majority control of the law-making body called Congress. The mandate was quite clear. Commensurate to the power, is the responsibility to rule firmly and strongly as a government of, for, and by the people. Yet, after conducting hundreds of haircuts over the past year, he still has to see a strong President and a Congress where majority really rules.

My barber, who voted Democrat but attended Sarah Palin rallies, does not blame the Republicans. The minority has a role to play in a republican democracy. Its role is not unlike that of a defense attorney who must explore all and the best options to question the prosecution or in this case, the majority’s position. It is also expected that it pursues its own platform or ideological goals. Its on-going objective is still to take back the powers of the majority in the next election(s). Expectedly and understandably, the minority’s role is to oppose and oppose they must, either loyally or otherwise.

On the healthcare debate:

I was telling my barber that this healthcare debate has been going on for decades stating that in fact, I represented my school, Huntington Beach High, in 1963 in a debate with the proposition: “Resolved: That Medical Care Should Be Provided to Everyone.” I won the debate but it is not the point. It is more the fact that up to this date, about 5 decades later, the debate is still going on. The American citizenry was exposed to this issue in the last Presidential and Congressional primaries and elections. They were given choices as to who should execute the laws, make the laws, and who should appoint those who interpret the laws. The verdict was the following:

President/Vice-President: Obama/Biden(Democrats Won) Senate: 57 (Democrats Won - Majority); 41 (Republicans – Minority); 2 (Independent)

House of Representatives: 255 (Democrats Won – Majority); 178 (Republicans – Minority); 2 (Vacancies)

Based on the verdict, it should be clear that the Democrats must legislate and Obama must execute and appoint members of the judiciary, among others. This is the only way to interpret what Senator Graham said and that of the sovereign will.

A healthcare bill was drafted, presented and passed through the Congressional mill. Discussed and debated over cups of coffee, tea parties and town meetings, the House passed their version and the Senate passed theirs with 60% of the votes. Over a week ago, President Obama presided over a summit meeting that included the Republican minority leadership. The latter had the opportunity to present its views and proposals. Some of the Republican proposals were acceptable to the President and the Democratic majority but the former prefer to start over and proceed with a clean slate.

My barber can no longer wait. He suggested that the Democrats “reconcile”. First, reconcile their differences among themselves; second, reconcile the acceptable Republican proposals with theirs; and thirdly, use “reconciliation” without hesitation to pass the version that include those resulting from the first and the second processes. If this is not done now, it would be extremely difficult to do it in the future. Reconciliation, as a process to pass law, has been done 22 times since 1980; 16 times by the Republicans and 6 times by the Democrats. After this, the record would be: Republicans – 16, Democrats – 7.

Growing up as a young boy, I remember what the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay said, “Those who have less in life must have more in law.” I recall reading as a young adult the Papal Encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Populorum Progressio and the Post Vatican II Reforms which advocated the preferential option for the poor. I know the bipartisan support for programs assisting the economically and socially disadvantaged Americans, having been in the Minority Business Development Advisory Council of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and in the board of the National Minority Suppliers Development Council. We are all aware of the tremendous support extended by Americans to victims of natural calamities all over the world, be they in Haiti, Chile, Africa, etc.

The Healthcare bill seeks, among others. to do the following:

1. Insure over 30 million Americans who otherwise cannot afford;

2. Remove pre-existing conditions;

3. Remove the Anti-Trust Exemption for Health Insurance companies;

4. Reduce the growing healthcare costs per family.

These should be enough reasons. The first two assist the helpless amongst us. The third prohibits the insurance companies from conspiring to raise premiums. The practice is anti-free market and in fact, anti-Republicanism. The fourth results from volume purchases or group discounts, the removal stated in No. 3, and the availability of several options.

The U.S. despite its budget deficits continues to give foreign aid. In some cases the recipient countries use the aid to treat their own sick and disabled. Why not a domestic aid for our own people in need? It is indeed hard to conceive for the richest country in the world not able to provide care for the needy, and less fortunate - "those who have less in life".

President Obama, Senators and Congressmen. You were provided by the American people the Sovereign Power of Attorney. USE IT OR LOSE IT!

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

Today, March 8, 2010, is International Women’s Day. In fact, in 15 countries including China, Ukraine and Vietnam, the day has been declared a holiday. In America, the month of March has been designated Women’s History Month.
This day and this month, all of America and the whole world celebrate the struggles and achievements of women. Also on this month, our family celebrate the birthdays of three powerfully beautiful, and brainy women: niece Kana Manglapus-Gilberd (March 8th); youngest daughter Traci Maynigo (March 9th); and eldest daughter, Tanya Maynigo Loucks (March 21st). My scientist nephew, Eugene Maynigo Denton’s birthday is on March 23rd but he will have his day. So will my smart college boy nephew, Hochi Manglapus who was born March 11th.
Originally designated and organized to fight for better pay, voting rights and an end to discrimination, International Women’s Day has evolved into inspiring women to pursue higher goals of leadership in socio-economic and political development, and celebrating their corresponding successes.
This reminds me of the discussion I had with my Filipino barber. The issue was, who is superior, man or woman? Apparently, he has asked the same question to his other customers but could not get an agreement. The debate is indeed a never-ending one. So I said, “perhaps, we should get some Divine guidance or signs as to who did God choose to be superior.”
I went further, “In any project, be it personal, social, economic or political, the following 3 things are required: first, you must be innovative, you must conceive of new ideas; second, you must labor hard to implement those ideas; and third, you must perform or deliver. Key words: CONCEIVE, LABOR, and DELIVER. Question, who did God choose to conceive, labor and deliver?”
It turned out that I was just reinforcing his belief. In fact, between his Filipino parents who have been married for more than 40 years, he claimed that his father was Vice-President at home. When they immigrated to the United States, his father’s status was elevated to being “King” to his mother’s “Queen” at home. The latter however, retained being “Ace”.
Asked about his parents’ secret in being together for such a long time, he said, “compromise. Both perfected the art of compromise. Example: when my father wanted to see a basketball game and my mother wanted to see a movie, they had a very civil and intelligent debate and came up with an acceptable compromise – they saw a movie.”
He believes that the reason Adam was created first was to give him a chance to say something.
He also told me this story. “So, God made Adam. Adam was walking around one day and realized that he was lonely, so he asked for a companion.
God said, "I can make a woman for you. She will cook and clean and do everything you ask her to. She will wait on you hand and foot. She will be so beautiful that you won’t be able to take your eyes off of her. It’s gonna cost you an arm and a leg, though.”
Adam said, “Well, what can I get for a rib?”
We all know by now that when you want something said, ask a man. When you want something done, ask a woman.
Lastly, a woman uses the part of her body above shoulders to think. A man makes his decisions led by the part of his body below the belt.
Happy International Women’s Day! A recognition day for woman's superiority?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I write this note with a mixed feeling of joy and sadness. Joy, because on this month, more specifically, March 4, 1977, my family (wife Tina, daughter Tanya, Manang Preding) and I, arrived in the United States to start a new life. This was after escaping from the Marcos dictatorship, traveling days and nights by boat, and living in an island in Sabah, Malaysia for several months, and eventually paroled into the United States as UN-recognized political refugees. Joy, also because on this month, we celebrate the birthdays of those who brought joy to our lives; first of my daughters Traci (March 9th) and Tanya (March 21st); and secondly, of their first cousins, Bri (March 3rd), Kana (March 8th), Hochi (March 11th) and Eugene (March 23rd). This is also the month when Tanya got married to Tim (March 31st).

Sad, because also on this month, in fact, on March 4, 2009, my loving sister, Manang Perla, died. Ironically, while among all of us in our immediate family, she was one who successfully avoided the dreadful genetic heart disease, she eventually succumbed to lung cancer. Manang Perla, who never smoked, approached life with calm, humor and positive attitude, She was loving to and dearly loved by, her family, relatives, friends, town mates and colleagues. Her significant achievements as a wife, mother, sister, relative, professional and community leader are forever enshrined in our hearts. The tribute, eulogies, and news articles during her funeral attested to this fact.

Manang Perla’s life intertwined with mine for as long as I could remember. As a young boy, she relied on me and my friends to reserve seats in church during simbang gabi (evening or early morning masses). She was touched when I offered her my earnings, five pesos (P5) as an altar boy at the cemetery during All Saints’ Day blessings, after overhearing her conversation with our mother re college expenses. As soon as she became a nurse, she always made sure that I was always a notch above the others. In high school, I was one of the first to wear “banlon” t-shirts and “converse” basketball shoes which came from her. As an AFS scholar in Huntington Beach, CA., I was given $14/mo. allowance but she used to send me $20 intermittently to augment it, hence-an edge over the other scholars.

In San Beda College where students like Ambrosio Padilla, Jr., Antonio Raquiza, Jr., Ramon Bagatzing, Jr. , Carlos Fernandez (son of Sen. Estanislao Fernandez) were enrolled, she managed to level the playing field for me. She used to send me an allowance of $20 a month which in the ‘60s was a lot. This was in addition to what I was getting from my parents who also rewarded me by giving me the equivalent tuition fees for maintaining my full scholarship. Under those conditions, I was able to compete and even ran and won the presidency of the San Beda Supreme Student Council with some of the above-mentioned sons of rich and famous politicians running under my ticket. During graduation, San Beda awarded me the ABBOTT’S AWARD, the highest award for academic excellence and outstanding leadership to go with the Magna Cum Laude honors. Manang Perla provided me inspiration and stability in my academic pursuits. Even in courting Tina who is now my wife, she used to buy jewelry for her. When I got married, she and my other sister, Manang Nelly, contributed dollar amounts sufficient for us to host an impressive wedding reception at the Eugenio Lopez, Jr. residence in Forbes Park, Makati, Philippines.

She also played a role in our transition to facing the challenges of living the American way. In our first visit to her San Diego home, she took us shopping for new winter clothes, went on leave and drove us to Disneyland, San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Las Vegas and other places. She also managed to counsel us on how to face the up’s and down’s of living in the United States. I understand that she was as helpful to other relatives who newly arrived.

My family and I were lucky to have settled in the United States partly because of our access to my sister, Manang Perla. While we lived in the East Coast, we were always in touch. Because of her, San Diego was always our favorite vacation city. In fact, she even organized a family trip from California to attend Traci's Yale Graduation. She indeed moved not just our hearts and minds but her community as well.

“What we are is gift given to us by God. What we become is our gift to God.”

PERLA MAYNIGO TORRES. From the Pearly Towers of this material world to the Pearly Gates of heaven, you were a great gift to us by God; and for what you became, you were as great a gift to God.