Paul Monozca: The Lion Tamer

Having done well in Singapore, Paul Monozca now seeks to do good at home

The stereotype of the silver-spooned haciendero, one born into the land of the sugar barons, haunts many sons of the well-to-do from the plantation-rich society of the island of Negros. A few are content to bask in their gentility, cultivating a charmed lifestyle as their ancestors must have enjoyed. But some strive to shake it off, break away from the shackles of privilege, and show everyone up on their own terms. Or as Paul Infante Monozca puts it, “have the passion to dare to dream and do it”. An overlooked facet of the oft-romanticized saga of the sugar plantations is how many families, including Paul’s, struggled to cope with and recover from the profound impact of the sweeping land reform program on the province’s agriculture-based economy. This struggle, compounded with his upbringing among a family of dedicated doctors, helped develop a passion for service in the young Paul.

A proud native of Bacolod City, the 38 year-old Paul has been based in Singapore for the past 14 years, where he is arguably the most visible Filipino personality. He currently stands as the Asian regional head for business development for leading investment advisory service PricewaterhouseCoopers, handling the banking & capital markets industry group. Three years ago, Paul made waves in both his host and home country with the impressive feat of bringing together scions of five prominent Filipino families to work as one in doing business with companies linked to the Singapore government. He has been invited by no less than Singapore’s Minister of Parliament and Rotary President Claire Chiang to speak on 2nd generation Philippines-Singapore business relations, and by the Philippine Embassy to be involved in entrepreneur training workshops for Filipino workers.

Paul was recently awarded the Singapore Sports Council’s ‘Sporting Singapore Inspirational Award 2006’ bySingapore’s Minister of Sports Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the first Filipino ever to receive such a prestigious recognition in the history of the awards.

His philanthrophic efforts have raised over SIN$300,000 (over Php10million) for various charitable causes, including the Dr. AB Monozca Foundation which focuses on providing medical missions to the Philippines, funding for church restorations and scholarships to needy children.

“Because I grew up in Bacolod, a passion not only of myself, but also of my late father, is to be able to provide good health care for sugar farm workers,” shares Paul. “We’ve been fortunate to be supported by some very good names like Caltex Asia, Unilab andSingapore’s CK Tang property group. Now we’re working with a leading charitable organization in Singapore to send some Philippine doctors on scholarships and train them, but in exchange they have to commit to help out in our medical missions,” he explains.

Numerous Filipino athletes have also been given the chance to work overseas due to the foundation. “I’ve been talking to a few close friends who own PBA teams. Certain players, especially alumni, can be given opportunities to coach in Singapore and get paid well doing that. So they’ll be able to follow through after their career as a player.” The foundation’s basketball project is a nationally endorsed program by the Sports Council and Basketball Association of Singapore, currently serving an initial 17 schools with more to come.

An avid sportsman, Paul counts equestrian, golf, karting, shooting and basketball among his leisure activities. He runs some of the most high-flying fund raisers in Singapore such as the Annual Celebrity Golf Classic and the Gatorade Basketball Academy which have been attended by international celebrities including British Open Champion Gary Player, NBA great John Havliceck, China’s basketball star Chen Zhen Hao, Olympic Badminton Champions Susi Susanti and Alan Budi Kusuma, concert queen Pops Fernandez and former Philippine President Ramos. He is also credited for assisting inSingapore’s Formula One bid and Sports Hub initiative, which envisions top regional athletes converging on Singapore to participate in the global drive to promote foreign talent in the city state. “I’ve been asked by former President Ramos to see if these events can be brought to the Philippines, especially our golf event,” he reveals. “This will bring in media coverage, top sportsmen and personalities from all over the world. There are a lot of opportunities between the two countries to be visible together. The plan is to use sports to build diplomacy.”

Paul’s subsequent goal is to assist in reclaiming the investment priority status of the Philippines with the region’s financial centre, Singapore. “We used to be Asia’s number one economy. That has translated into Filipinos having a first world mindset. Our infrastructure has to keep up,” he contends. “Singapore is pretty much the hub of the region. It’s not an easy country to please, but at the same time we have to engage them because they have quite an influence over the investment landscape.”

It is this talent at engaging people, corporations, and even other countries that has obviously served Paul well in his sterling career. But he makes it very clear that above all, he will always be Pinoy at heart, and he doesn’t hold back in airing the extent of his patriotism to the Philippines.

“I’m just one of the millions of Pinoys who are based overseas, one of the guys who continually want to do good for our country. We hope that everything we do contributes to everyone’s well being,” he states. “We’ve been known as a country that deploys a lot of talent overseas, at the same time we should be mindful that all these people are still attached to our mother country whether they are vocal or not. We should strengthen our links to leverage on each one’s success and failures. Indirectly we bring Filipino traits like being respectful to our host country. This is a great way to contribute and make our presence felt”.

Paul feels that above everything, it’s all about embracing the current era of globalization. “Filipino talent is being recognized on a grand scale all over the world right now, especially our creativity, service and hospitality,” he asserts. “Filipinos can be very competitive, but are quiet about it. Now is the right time to be visible and to grab opportunities. I’ve always said that I feel that the Philippines is where China was in the 1960s, where we’re sort of living in our own world, always doing things the Filipino way.” Paul hopes that through his work he can help in creating a new mindset for the country, through sports or whatever other medium, and make a difference.

It is this noble objective of serving the greater good that now drives Paul to succeed and gives him fulfillment, after having reflected on how the world right now just revolves a lot around money. “A lot of our countrymen are forced to do a lot of things which they don’t even want to do to earn money,” he bemoans. “I’m not someone who should give advice, but a food for thought for everyone is just to follow your heart and what you want to do. Do it sincerely and credibly because that’s not something money can buy. You achieve certain things but no matter how small it is you should put in all the effort and not step on anyone. Daanan sa galing, huwag sa gulangan”.

A real never-say-die guy, Paul believes in gaining the right outlook and following what you’re passionate about and continually doing it despite people telling you it’s not going to work. “If it makes you happy, weigh the risks and do it,” Paul affirms. “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, has their own passion and is successful in their own right. The bottom-line of the whole thing is that when you’re passionate about something it becomes priceless.”

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Manual magazine, 2006

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Crash Chords: Rock the Line

Pinoy Rock, or Filipino Rock, is Rock music – Pinoy style, Made in the Philippines,  Original Filipino Rock Music. The words may be in English or whatever language, but the sound is pure Pinoy.

Timeline of Pinoy Rock

Pre-Rock Age (The Stone Age)

  • “Combos” roamed the scene, bagging nontraditional instruments like floor-bass bongos, maracas, and gas tanks
  • Bobby Gonzales – One of the first Filipino proto-rockers, major hit was “Hahabul-Habol”
  • Eddie Mesa – the “Elvis Presley of the Philippines”

The 1960s

Swingers’ Scene

Maria Cafra logo.

Maria Cafra logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Instrumental bands like The Deltas, The Celtics, RJ & the Riots, The Technicolors, The Downbeats, The Hi-Jacks, and The Electromaniacs cropped up, spawning the first Filipino singer-songwriters
  • The British Music Invasion influenced a new breed of acts like Downbeats, Tilt Down Men, The Moonstrucks, The Dynasouls, and Bits & Pieces.
  • Rock culture arose in the wake of Woodstock producing acts like Circus Band, Maria Cafra, Anakbayan, Isang Kilo Band, Psyclones, Makati Avenue Blues Band and Juan De La Cruz Band

The 1970s

Classic & Psychedelic

The Best of Apo Hiking Society Volume 1
Apo Hiking Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Nationalism drove the rise in songs composed in Tagalog. Socio-political issues were hot topics for all artists.
  • Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Florante fused Folk with Rock.
  • Freddie’s debut single, “Anak,” became the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history
  • Apo Hiking Society, Anakbayan, Juan de la Cruz Band, and Banyuhay also came to the fore.
  • The term OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was touted.
  • Hotdog gave birth to the Manila sound.

The 1980s

Punks and Protests

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enveloped Ideas

Enveloped Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Protestors used song lyrics to vent socially relevant themes, like in the music of Gary Granada and the band Buklod
  • Freddie Aguilar’s Bayan Ko (My Country) was the unofficial anthem of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
  • Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad popularized Ethno-rock
  • Pinoy punk rockers like Betrayed, G.I. & the Idiots, The Jerks, Urban Bandits, and WUDS could care less about politics, it was all about the attitude
  • With The Dawn’s independently released single “Enveloped Ideas”, a New Wave of music dawned over the scene.  Unsigned struggling local bands like Deans December, Ethnic Faces, Identity Crisis, and Violent Playground gained cult status

The 1990s

Pop and Postmodernism

The rise of NU 107.
The rise of NU 107. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Parokya ni Edgar at a live performance
Parokya ni Edgar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Introvoys and After Image ruled over the early 1990s
  • Then in 1993 the Eraserheads released their first commercial album, Ultraelectromagneticpop and the decade was defined.
  • Rivermaya emerged as a worthy challenger while Yano persisted in mining the sociopolitical schtick.
  • The NU Rock Awards gained cred as the awards to pursue
  • Wolfgang and Razorback muscled into the Metal sceneOn their heels followed Nu Metal mutineers Greyhoundz, Cheese, and Slapshock.
  • Novelty rockers Parokya ni Edgar began to hit it big

The 2000s

Pretty and Pogi

Barbie's Cradle's Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Gar...
Barbie’s Cradle’s Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Garcia, and Kakoi Legaspi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The upsurge in popularity of Hip-hop, R&B and covers saw hard rock go dormant at the start of this decade.
  • The commercial success of Bamboo and Orange and Lemons got labels interested in bands and song-craft again.
  • Cute singer-songwriters such as Barbie Almalbis and Kitchie Nadal gained fans of all persuasions while the “good-looking” front-men of Cueshe and Hale broke out as the new breed of matinee idol.

More stuff at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinoy_rock

-compiled, adapted and edited by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: D’ Hebigats

Heady, heavy assignment, figure out the TEN most influential Pinoy albums EVER in less than a week. In the end, I could only come up with nine, and a few days late too. But, tough noogies. During crunches like these it turns out that everyone’s an expert, everyone’s a critic, and everyone interprets the word “influential” in a different way.

Ultraelectromagneticjam!: The Music Of The Era...

Ultraelectromagneticjam!: The Music Of The Eraserheads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody agrees on one album though – the Eraserheads’ “Ultraelectromagneticpop”. I can still remember watching their first TV performance on Dawn Zulueta’s late night show RSVP, and foreseeing that they were going to be big. Released in 1993 by BMG Records, the album’s commercial success rejiggered the sound of the decade, reintroducing band-based music into the pop mainstream, leading the way for rivals Rivermaya, Yano, and arguably every Pinoy pop-rock band created since then.

Filipino musician Pepe Smith, Philippine Rock ...

Filipino musician Pepe Smith, Philippine Rock n Roll Legend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going back to the era when Pinoy rock first exploded, the Golden Age is tied irrevocably to the rise of The Juan Dela Cruz Band, founded by legends Edmund and Mike Hanopol. The band was named after the common man and played rock for the common man. Although the band debuted with “Up in Arms,” in 1971, it is “Himig Natin“, released in 1974 and featuring the too-cool trifecta of Mike, Wally Gonzales, and the notorious Joey “Pepe” Smith on the cover that will always resonate for a generation of teenagers that lived through the “maximum tolerance” of martial rule, a time when sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll raged under the cloak of curfew.

Hotdog’s Unang Kagat” combined big band music with droll Taglish lyrics resulting in their patented “Manila Sound”. Hitting it big with the theme song to the 1974 Ms. Universe Pageant held here in Manila, “Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko” could have cemented Hotdog’s immortality all on its own, if it hadn’t been followed by the just-as-memorable smashes “Pers Lab”, “Annie Batungbakal”, “Bongga Ka ‘Day”, “Beh Buti Nga”, and eventually “Manila”. The 1970s saw Hotdog, together with VST and Company and the Boyfriends, pushing Filipino pop music to innovate, adopting foreign trends such as disco to serve local tastes.

The culturati may beg to differ, but novelty songs are as important a subgenre in Pinoy music as jazz and classical. Although its roots can be traced as far back as vaudeville and even bugtungan, and its fruits continue to haunt us in the musical stylings of the Sexbomb girls and the Masculados, only one man can stake a claim as conquistador of this turf, and that’s “Magellan”, Yoyoy Villame’s first recording in 1972. As an artist, Yoyoy has had his ups and downs, but he’s never worn a frown.

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musician from the Philippines who is best known for the hit – Bayan Ko-, which became the anthem for the opposition to the Marcos regime during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. Photo taken in Tondo, National Capitol Region, The Phillipines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the late 1970s Filipino rock musicians started infusing folk influences into their sound, leading to the 1978 breakthrough success of Freddie Aguilar‘s debut recording “Anak”. This album was the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history, even crossing over to the rest of Asia and Europe. Master Freddie went on to record other powerful (and revolutionary, in a literal sense) anthems such as “Bayan Ko“, and he also paved the way for later Filipino folk stars such as Joey Ayala and Grace Nono.

Rey Valera

Rey Valera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Few could have predicted that a fresh young 12 year-old mayor’s daughter would eventually spawn a veritable industry unto herself after first listening to the sweet, inoffensive, obviously-sucking-up-to-the-radio-stations ditty “Mr. DJ”. But the hits and record albums kept coming and a Megastar was born. To her credit, Ate Shawie has managed to use her considerable popularity to boost the careers of talented composers such as George Canseco and Rey Valera, and even other singers like Raymond Lauchengco…

…who, as we of a certain age all know, shot to stardom with his songs for the soundtrack to the mother of all 1980s barkada flicks – Bagets (and its sequel). Not only did this flick define teen fashion, trends and morès for the pre-Edsa era, but its accompanying songs burrowed into the collective consciousness, prompting laughter and tears for many proms, graduations, homecomings, reunions, and nostalgia sessions to come. “Growing Up”, anyone?

Francis Magalona

Francis Magalona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francis M’s “Yo!” exploded in 1990, the first rap album by a Filipino to be commercially released in the Philippines, giving birth to Filipino hip hop (for good and ill). Francis M always seemed to take rapping seriously, unlike some of the subsequent pretenders (like the Es, Vs, and “Amirs”) to his throne as “King of Pinoy Rap”, thus earning the respect of even the folksters and rockers, and bridging a customarily unbridgeable divide.

A couple of years ago, thanks to an inundation of Chi-novela-induced pop and other Pan-Asian pap, it was a real slog wading through the sickly-sweet waters for something less cloying. But something was there all right, and ‘twas Sugarfree no less. Drowning in obscurity for months, their album “Sa Wakas!” was finally rescued from the depths and heralded the resurgence of the real Pinoy music scene. Record labels started taking chances on local talent again, and the rest, as they say, is the present.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2005

Clean and Mean: Scrubbing Isn’t For Sissies

(first published in Blubook Magazine, 2003)

Aside from hunger, thirst, and lust, one other basic human desire is the need to feel clean, smell good, and look presentable. This aspiration might be slightly more pronounced within the Filipino race. We may litter, pollute, and befoul our fair land indiscriminately, but when it comes to personal hygiene, you can’t fault us Pinoys. We’re just cleaner and we smell better than everyone else, and nobody can tell us any different. This almost obsessive-compulsive fixation with bodily sanitation is more typically attributed to the female component of our population. All the better for them to win beauty contests, and seduce less hygienically-endowed foreigners. But the Filipino male was never really a sloppy creature to begin with. And as the divisions between gender roles start to blur, and personal care corporations begin embarking on a thorough rethink of their product lines, Juan dela Cruz is faced with the opportunity to be true to his roots and embrace his inner hygienochondriac. Spotless, sweatless, and shower-fresh, that’s the ideal.

Filipinos have always been a vain lot, gender notwithstanding, but the dividing line between run-of-the-mill Pinoy vanity and the new enlightened narcissism lies across the shower curtain. Whether one’s wash-weapons of choice, a.k.a “pang-hilod”, are pumice stones (rubbed smooth by the waters of the Cagayan River), loofah pads (grown organically among the fields of Cavite) or bath lilies (manufactured in the factories of China), we Filipinos are not afraid to rub our skins raw in the name of a smoother, fairer libag-free complexion. Micro-abrasions be damned! As a people, we have a long tradition of obsessively sloughing off dead skin cells. One of our ancient legends, that of Lam-ang, deals with how the otherwise macho warrior, unable to withstand the knowledge that his pores were clogged and dirty, scrubbed himself clean in a stream, thus in a stroke of mythical biogenesis, populating our waters with a rich supply of aquatic fauna. When you look at it from an anthropological perspective, exfoliation is but a natural extension of the grand old Filipino tradition of eXtreme! Cleansing, clearly demonstrated by our penchant for laundering clothes by pounding them with heavy wooden paddles in the middle of white-water rapids, or voluntarily signing up for intensive monthly medical facials. There’s really nothing sissified about it. If you’re gonna get all cleaned up anyway, why not wash on the wild side? What could be more macho than scouring your hide with a rock?

But there are still hold-outs in the push to extend the range of beauty products for men. Marketers tend to butch up the process by using manly, terse words in naming their goods. Strong action-packed verbs like “scrub” and “sandblast”, or hard-edged ingredient names like “shell grits” and “tree bark” are preferred. Some also try get away with it by deceptively promoting their products as shaving aids. Because only manly men are supposed to have enough facial hair to make shaving a big deal, so the more shaving products you need, the manlier you are.
And so men’s grooming is going mainstream. And what does this mean for the old guard preeners and primpers? They have to ride the bleeding-edge and embrace even more unorthodox modes of vanity in order to stay ahead of the increasingly more dapper herd. They must go alternative, hardcore, left-field, or risk being labelled as “regular guys”. So what sets apart a dedicated dandy from a mere dabbler in the finer points of manhood? A “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” cast member from a temporary testosterone suppressor? Real metrosexuals exfoliate. But soon even that might not be enough. There’s only so much research and inspiration one can gather from within one’s own shower. If you’re a die-hard exfoliator and not content with what the supermarket skin product aisle and your own two hands have to offer, then it’s only natural to take things to the next level. Get cleansed by a professional.

I decided to go straight to the source, the temple of bodily indulgence, pamper central – a spa. Incognito, I hied off to the Nurture Spa for a “body treatment”. The spa promotes itself as “an oasis of peace and tranquility tucked away amidst the coffee orchards of Tagaytay, designed to be a refuge from the stress and tension of urban life”. I chose to submit myself to the Exfoliating Scrub Massage, which was billed as “a pampering treatment combination of a luxurious exfoliating treatment designed to rid the body of dead and dry skin cells to even our skin color and aromatherapy massage in one”. This was after going through a “relaxing 30 minute Turkish steam bath”. Those with a phobia of being manhandled by strangers might read the words “full body exfoliating massage” and envision being kneaded into ribbons by a sadist-for-hire wearing sandpaper-coated gloves. I interpreted it as “research for the remaining 1,000 words you need to finish your article”. This may all sound a little intimidating, and even scary to the uninitiated. But for the past few weeks or so I had become intimate with the intense processes one must undergo in the pursuit of smooth, spotless skin. And I was ready.

So I change into the requisite spa attire, a petite pan-asian batik kimono and shorts ensemble, and into the Turkish bath I go. The Turks came up with this hybrid of a garrote and an isolation pod probably to intimidate invading Christians and other heathens. To add to the torture chamber vibe, I’m supposed to strip to my batik shorts, which are barely decent to start with. My attendant asks me to take of the kimono with my back to her while halfway inside the bath and hand it off to her for safekeeping. This feat of dexterity executed, I’m then left to steam like so much dimsum. You’re supposed to cook in the thing for 15 or so minutes. To flush out impurities they say. And to tenderize the flesh I think. It’s all so very Iron Chef. I steam and sweat, pant and breathe in the (not very aromatic) fumes. The attendant comes in to check on me in the middle of the steaming to ask if the temperature isn’t too high. To be honest, it slightly is, but of course I don’t tell her that. I also don’t tell her that I’ve been cheating by venting off the too-hot steam from time to time. Just when I was starting to feel courageously martyr-like, it was over. So with the tenderizing done, we were now off to apply the marinade.

Restricted to a draped room, lying on a massage bed, nothing much on, staring down into a faux-natural flower arrangement floating in a wooden bowl, no escape from the new-agey neo-classical muzak pervading the soundscape, this is not a process you’d recommend to the average young male with a standard case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Suffering from a mild form of the condition myself, I couldn’t help but squirm a bit from all the enforced relaxation. It all seemed like a way subtler, more insidious version of the classic Frankie Goes To Hollywood song (which you really ought to know, if you’ve been reading this far).

Cover of "Candyman 2 - Farewell to the Fl...

Cover of Candyman 2 - Farewell to the Flesh

There are a few other squeamish moments you have to get over first before going all Candyman 2 and saying Farewell to the Flesh. This includes the realization that you’re wearing a silly-looking batik-shorts-and-kimono combo that’s way too small for you. Unlike say, other Asians like the Japanese or Koreans, we Pinoy guys are generally not as comfortable in our birthday suits when in public. Thus the apprehension that comes with having to take off your clothes in front of complete strangers, and of the opposite gender to boot. And finally there’s the moment when you become conscious that a strange lady is scrubbing your butt. And just when you start getting used to it, she then starts inching up your groin. Just making sure you get thoroughly cleansed, of course. Having some other person washing your body for you feels unnervingly regressive. It’s like being given sponge baths by your mom as a kid all over again. Mom’s rates for her services were never this high though. In fairness to the spa personnel, they conducted themselves very professionally while seeing and touching things that would make the typical convent-bred colegiala blush. Based on what I could still discern by the fading light of day, the scrubbing compound was made up of these tiny dark brown specks which could have been ground walnut shells, kiwifruit seeds, or bits of asphalt as far as I knew. The actual scrubbing process was commendably thorough and soothing. One experiences a sensation I imagine as being not too far removed from getting licked all over by the warm, moist, and raspy tongues of two Siberian tigers. And because of the open-air nature of the spa, there was nothing to stop the chilly Tagaytay breeze from wafting all over your recently-rubbed-raw skin. It’s a strangely enjoyable chilly thrill, that is, if you get off from getting all goose-bumpy. So depending on your masochistic tendencies, there is some degree of discomfort involved, but it’s mostly overwhelmed by all the other pleasurable sensations. The process over, I felt like a whole slew of adjectives beginning with the letter S – smooth, supple, soft, sarap!

So until they can train a team of Siberian tigers well enough to be able to give full body tongue lickings without being tempted to take a bite off my kimono-clad butt, I think a spa treatment will do just fine for me to get my kicks. Some guy friends have asked why I would want to do all this silly stuff to myself. The simple answer is because it feels good and it’s actually good for you. It’s like taking in your recommended weekly dose of fiber, but externally. You’re ridding yourself of cellular debris, taking care of your holistic well-being, improving circulation, balancing your energies, and all that other pseudoscientific jazz. You know it won’t hurt, and it feels better than expected. And there’s nothing silly about the price. Let the big boys buy their toys, real men book their treatments.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved

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