When Pink Is The New Green…

Very late last year, I decided to take money management more seriously. This started with a really bad injury whose very expensive treatment was not covered by the company HMO. My finances took a big hit. And that’s when I decided to really study alternative income streams.

I discovered that a lot of my savings were really just sleeping. 0.2% (minus taxes, minus service charges) per annum was a shock. My mutual funds took a hit when the global economy crashed a couple of years back.

As a stock market noob. all I was really doing was trolling for tips wherever I could find them. On the other hand, I’ve also been looking for as much education as I can about trading and investing.

Thus, it was a blessing that I ran into a prodigal friend whom I haven’t seen in 15 years, Charmel Delos Santos-Marcial, who was in Manila promoting her new book, “High Heeled Traders”.

I will admit that I wouldn’t have bought “High Heeled Traders” on my own volition. How a screaming pink book can turn my portfolio numbers green was sort of hard to fathom. The things we do for moral support (sigh). It’s a stock market book that’s really targeted towards women. The pink cover will shoo away the most hardened macho stock market trader wannabe.

But if the reader strips away the anecdotes and side stories clearly aimed at the book’s target demographic, one will find an extremely friendly introduction to trading that can be appreciated and understood by anybody who’s about to take the plunge into trading/investing. The book’s scope ranges from the very basics of choosing a broker and how to buy stocks to somewhat intermediate topics like position sizing and option trading.

One of the gems in the book is the brief discussion on Van Tharp’s position sizing and the concept of R. While it is very introductory, it will really help stock market beginners to manage risk and control their investments. This brief discussion really made me google Van Tharp to look for more resources on the net. For more on Position Sizing, surf on over to http://www.vantharp.com/

There are some inspirational rah-rah anecdotes in the book encouraging newbies that anybody can make decent money off the stock market. But interspersed in between are cautionary pieces of advice, often backed by the author’s own failures in the market. This gives a much needed dose of reality warning beginners to know what they’re getting into before investing their hard earned money.

The book is not perfect. In the later editions, I’d like to see the flowcharts and tables more professionally produced. There’s a “dot matrix” quality to these that make them quite hard to read. I also think that flowcharts should have dedicated pages as shrinking them makes the already sometimes-blurry text even more of a chore to decipher.

While the chapter on options is very thorough and very easy to understand, we don’t trade options in the Philippines. Nice to know, though, if the reader plans to trade elsewhere.

Yet, despite the easily fixable layout glitches, “High Heeled Traders” is a really good book for those who’ve always wanted to try their hand at the stock market but were too intimidated to try. The author brings stock market buzzwords down-to-earth for anyone, woman or man, to understand.

It’s not an end-all book on stock trading. Experienced traders might find the treatment shallow. But rather, think of it as a springboard to other more advanced books by William O’ Neill, Van Tharp and Martin Pring. It’s an appetizer that makes the main courses of Fundamental Analysis, Techincal Analysis, Position Sizing and <insert trading buzzword here> more palatable.

High-Heeled Traders is available in the Philippines from any Fully Booked branch for about 1,500.00. Part of the book’s sale price goes to funding United Nations women empowerment programs.

The author can be reached at www.highheeledtraders.com where visitors can get a free preview of the book. She can also occasionally be seen lurking in Phil. Stock Market Discussions, Comments and Forecast   facebook group where  she moderates a High Heeled Traders sub-group specifically for women traders (though the men sneak in once in a while). 🙂

A most entertaining RIVALRY

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkFvFILZpZs&w=420&h=315]

When I first heard that someone was producing a musical about the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry, I thought that the folks behind it were a little bonkers. And with that, wished them a whole lotta luck. The reason was that the other original Filipino musicals with English lyrics I’d gone to really didn’t leave an impression. They were great attempts but far from unqualified successes.

I was right, sort of. The people who’re behind RIVALRY: Ateneo-La Salle The Musical are bonkers. And I mean that in the BEST possible way. Who’d have thought that the La Salle-Ateneo basketball-centric (but not exclusive) cycle of one-upmanship could become a killer musical?

This is not just some cheapo production. RIVALRY has a huge ensemble composed of theater veterans whom regulars will instantly recognize. The whole cast fills up the stage at portions of the show. No mean feat as Meralco Theater has one of the widest stages among the performing venues in Manila.  Ed Gatchalian’s score, Joel Trinidad’s lyrics, and Jaime Del Mundo’s book and direction come together for a very entertaining night at the theater.

Set in the alternate-timeline of the 1968 NCAA basketball season (nb. I write “alternate-timeline” because La Salle and Ateneo did not meet in the NCAA finals in 1968.), the story revolves around the basketball shaped world of the Valencias and the Basilios. The Valencias representing the Ateneo. The Basilios, La Salle. Something seemed to happen a long way back to spark a bitter rivalry between the two patriarchs. A rivalry that’s been passed down to their sons. Paco, the star Blue Eagle and Tommy, the ace Green Archer. Quito, the younger Valencia, falls for a Maryknoller and asks his cousin, Tommy for advice on how to win the girl. As with stories like this, things get quite complicated.

The show had heaps of interesting moments: the ROTC number citing the Science/Math inclination of La Salle and the Liberal Arts specialty of the Ateneo,  pre-game locker room scenes that capture the war-like fanaticism of basketball, a hilarious song number by colegialas (Spanish accents! No Valley Girls!) about La Sallian Sallite boys, actors singing while doing burpees and push-ups, a musical tongue-in-cheek speculation on how the rivalry began (CHICKENS!) and some other scenes (which I will avoid raving about to keep this spoiler-free).

Oh yeah, La Sallites Sallians beware! We are the butt of the big jokes in this play. You’ve been warned!

The show isn’t without fault. I thought that the first act was a bit too long. Possibly because so many plot points had to be set up for the second act. I thought that the orchestration sometimes drowned out the vocals. But then, this was the same problem the last time I saw a play in this venue.

My highlight of the evening was getting to meet Noel Trinidad who I thought stole the show with his short cameo. Watch out for him when he shows up on stage! I made the effort to congratulate him after the show. I’ve been a fan of the Champoy duo ever since I was a kid (Yeah, looong time ago). It was fun geeking out about theater with people who’ve made the stage their lives. Yet another moment where I really regretted not having a camera.

Ed Gatchalian, the man behind the music, said that while the Philippines has one of the most the most talented pool of theater actors in the world, the local theater audience is not expanding as it should be. He cited the need for original content that the audience, not the writers, would like. The rambunctious La Salle-Ateneo rivalry is something that a lot of theater-goers would remember as either a rabid participant or an amused spectator. If this gets La Sallians and Ateneans to troop to into the seats and watch their FIRST theater production, this may pique their interest to catch others. The increase of theater-goers may then support the creation and production of original Filipino material.

I think that everybody will get something out of Rivalry.

For Archers and Eagles, it’s a story of why we should give credit to the other for ending up who we are, for better or worse. For Maroons, Tigers, Falcons, Bulldogs, Warriors, and Tamaraws, it’s your chance to laugh at the sheer spectacle (and sometimes ridiculousness) of it all.

Highly recommended. Support Philippine Theater!

RIVALRY: Ateneo-La Salle The Musical will be staged at the Meralco Theater from January 27-29, February 2 to 5,  February 9-12, February 15-19, February 22-26, February 29-March 4, and March 7-11.  Shows startsat 8pm on Wednesdays to Saturdays with 3pm matinee shows on weekends. Get your tickets at Ticketworld branches or from the Ticketworld Web Site or call 891-9999 for details

The obligatory rivalry joke:
(school names removed to protect the guilty)
A conversation between 2 students from [SCHOOL 3]
Student 1 : Isn’t your Dad from [SCHOOL 1]?
Student 2: Yeah.
Student 1 : And isn’t your Mom from [SCHOOL 2]?
Student 2: Uh-huh.
Student 1: So why are you here in [SCHOOL 3]?
Student 2: My Mom and Dad were at each other’s throats for for weeks trying to get me to enroll in their alma mater. Finally, during one of their really heated arguments. I had enough and just shouted at the both of them to just let me decide where I’d go for college.
Student 1: And?
Student 2: They didn’t take too kindly to me shouting at them. So they both told me to GO TO HELL! And that’s why I’m studying here in [SCHOOL 3]

Onstage in 2012

I haven’t been collecting as much info as I should regarding the theater scene this year. But from the little info I have, these are productions that will be making a dent in MY credit card bill this 2012.

  • You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (9Works Theatrical) – After scoring a home run with Sweet Charity last year, this should be a fun a way to experience your second (or third, or fourth) childhood.. The songs are recognizable as commercial jingles and Sesame Street songs from ages ago.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL-kWD8Gtdg&w=420&h=315]

  • Jekyll & Hyde (Repertory Philippines) – This is one of those cast recordings I’ve been playing for what seems like forever. The once overplayed “This Is The Moment” comes from this musical. Besides that, there are are other more powerful, darker and more interesting pieces in this show. I’m really curious how they will present the transformation scene where Jekyll turns into Hyde.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k23ztv7Qyhk&w=420&h=315]

  • Rock Of Ages (Atlantis) –  This promises to be a fun rock musical with the music of Starship, Journey, Twisted Sister, REO Speedwagon among others being used (and lyrics amusing mangled) to tell the tale of up-and-coming rocker Drew, the in-danger-of-being demolished rock club, the Bourbon and mega-ego rocker, Stacee Jax.  It’s interesting that the movie version of this with Tom Cruise will be showing this year too.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBI0DNn0g_c&w=560&h=315]

  • God Of Carnage (Atlantis) – Lea Salonga and Menchu Lauchengco-Laurel in one play sharing the same stage. ‘Nuff Said. This has a VERY limited run so expect tickets to disappear really quickly. The movie version of this play will also be showing next.
  • Forbidden Broadway (Upstart)a mishmash of broadway parodies making fun of Les Mis, Miss Saigon, Rent, Wicked and other hit shows. Though it might not be as enjoyable for those who aren’t familiar with the songs and the shows, the inside jokes and numerous winks will have theater regulars rolling in the aisles.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa0pw6SIWtA&w=420&h=315]

  • Virgin Labfest 2012 (Tanghalang Pilipino)this annual collection of short plays performed at the CCP showcases the best of the best of Filipino playwrights. Check out the CCP website for featured shows and schedules when this comes around.
  • The Phantom Of The Opera (Concertus) –  The company that brought Cats and Stomp! to CCP will be bringing an Australian cast to stage Phantom in the CCP. I really want to watch this though I’m sure ticket prices will be through the roof. Not really happy about the acoustics of CCP from watching Cats. Expensive seats are a must to get full satisfaction from this. But if anything, Cats was a spectacle. Phantom, with the lavish sets and costumes will be even more so. If they use digital backdrops like they did with the 25th anniversary at Royal Albert Hall, this is really gonna blow the audience away!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGUSFVEvTio&w=560&h=315]

There will be returning shows from last year. Atlantis will be restaging Next To Normal and In The Heights. Defending the Caveman and Love, Loss and What I Wore will also be restaged for those who missed it last year (or those who want to see it again).

And Yes, I know there are other awesome productions this year. With my severely limited budget (‘specially after Phantom), I have to be really choosy stingy. 🙁 The list is also subject to change (we all have dreams of winning the lotto, right?)

Beyond The Barricade, Is There A World You Long To See?

It really wasn’t a good start to 2012. I was down in the dumps partly because of a really long recovery period from an injury. But really, my sad state was really because of a series of related questions that I couldn’t find any convincing answer to end 2011. The questions were “What are you passionate about?” “What makes you happy?” “What is it that will make you jump out of bed in the morning rarin’ to go?”

Two weekends into 2012, I found a copy of the 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables. The one that was performed at the O2 theater in London. Wasn’t really expecting much from it. Loaded up. Clicked play…

…and I found myself singing along to the entire musical. I found it astounding because I really couldn’t remember the last time I Iistened to the CDs. I first listened to this over two decades ago. I was instantly transported back to the first time I’ve ever heard the Les Miserables Cast Recording. I remember falling in love with the wit of the book and the power of the music. This was the cast recording that made me fall for the music of the theater and discover Sondheim, Bricusse, Lloyd Weber, diPietro and other lyricists and composers of the theater.

I remember trooping to Meralco Theater over two decades ago only to be told there were no tickets left.

I remember the confrontation duet where Valjean and Javert face off after Fantine’s death.

I remember RED AND BLACK!

I remember STARS!

I remember ONE MORE DAY!

I remember ON MY OWN and a very heated debate over who was the better Eponine: Lea Salonga or Kaho Shimada. (ME: Kaho Shimada because of the vulnerability she brought to the role. THEM: Lea Salonga for power and style)

I remember BRING HIM HOME! (Alfie Boe’s operatic interpretation was something else)

I remember that killer call to action FINALE.

The copy I got came with some great supplementary documentaries. Matt Lucas’ (Little Britain fame) road to playing Thenardier, a day in the life of Cameron Mackintosh as he closes down the production at the Barbican and oversees the 25th anniversary production, and a behind the scenes of the first run through of the anniversary performance.

The O2 performance was a concert just like the 10th anniversary celebration. They had clever ways of showing key scenes. I particularly liked the way they “built” the barricade in this performance. It was symbolic, high-tech and very dramatic. I will not spoil it for anyone planning to catch this.

Alfie Boe sang a really different interpretation of Valjean. An opera singer by trade, he had some operatic affectations that I sometimes found distracting. But after “Bring Him Home”, I was sold. It felt like “The Prayer” where the power of his voice….

Lea, as always, killed it with Fantine. I thought Samantha Barks, the girl who played, Eponine, had some missteps with some songs. Very pretty Eponine though. Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) was just okay as Marius. Nothing really spectacular. The guy who played Javert was also okay. But I felt he lacked  the power of the Javert in the cast recordings. I thought he was too easily overshadowed by Alfie Boe during the confrontation duet.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuJSDILBqdI&w=560&h=315]

I missed this when it was shown in the cinemas. Seeing the Phantom Of The Opera on the big screen in digital HD was a treat. Would have loved seeing this in larger than life HD. Would love it even more to finally see this live. (sigh). Ah well, one for the bucket list.

What the hell happened to me? (or why I’ve been screaming in pain for the past 3-ish months)

I’ve been absent from the world and extremely grumpy since November 2011. Being in the sort of pain where industrial strength painkillers have absolutely no effect does that to you. Some of you out there have asked me what happened. Well, this is for you (and maybe some of you who just happened to wander in out of curiosity)

This all started back in late October. My foot suffered a minor pinched nerve. I was used to this sort of injury from badminton and running. It was the type of injury that just a needed a couple of days rest. A couple of days rest later, it stayed on but didn’t really get worse. So I started walking around again and doing normal everyday things. NORMAL in this case means no strenuous activity. No gym, no badminton, no running, no physical activity whatsoever. NOTHING!

It got a little worse again, with some irritation crawling up the leg to the knee. Rested a bit again. It was getting better when I got forced to go to the doctor to have it checked.  The drive. The long walk from the parking lot to the doctor’s office. The standing around waiting for the doctor. The long walk back to the parking lot. The drive back. My leg was throbbing but not painful after this trip. Two days later, SUFFERING 1.0 began. What was a minor pain in the foot became what felt like small nails being pounded in the foot and the knee.

A trip to the doctor’s office made it worse. Ironic, isn’t it?

Anyway, complete rest for about a week and again, it was getting better. Felt well enough to allow myself to get dragged to mass. Got there late. There were no seats. Stood up for the whole mass. And two days later, SUFFERING 2.0 began.

When you wake up and you find that your knee is locked into position neither being able to be straightened or bended , be afraid. When every little movement feels like bigger nails from SUFFERING 1.0 being hammered into the back of your knee, be VERY afraid.  After a week, the pain dissipated enough for me to go to a doctor (not the one from SUFFERING 1.0). My knee remained locked at about a 170° so I was walking really oddly. While staying still and making small movement, there was really no pain but walking was another story. Every step would cause said nails to be pounded into the leg.

The visit to this doctor did not go well. The doctor was 2 hours late. I was really not happy with the consultation. As I was telling the whole sordid story, the doctor interrupted me to examine the leg. He tried to push the leg down to straighten it. The knee wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t straighten into place. So the doctor started saying some really scary words like MRI… Torn Ligament… Torn Miniscus… ACL… After leaving, I immediately decided to look for a second opinion.

Now, I USED to live a pretty active life. I play badminton. I go to the gym. I run. And if this injury happened a couple of days, heck, after a week of doing these. I’d really understand. But this happened as I was living a sedentary lifestyle. That is, recuperating from a “minor” foot nerve pinch. I admit it could have been a result of the continuous strain these activities due to my being gravity-friendly and all. But I digress…

Anyway, towards the last part of November,  I heard about INTERCARE. This really good, but somewhat expensive, sports medicine clinic in Makati. They took a look at the injury. The doctor listened to the whole sordid story and proceeded with treatment. Treatment was a daily 2-hour session of intense pain. The affected areas (which turned out to be the entire back the leg from the foot, up to the calves and the hamstring)  were  so sensitive that even light rubbing would make the entire leg spasm and would summon the dreaded nails. A week later, treatments were down to three times a week. The leg was straightening out really slowly, though the pain during treatment was still 11 out of 10. To add to my misery, the treatments were not covered by my HMO. Did I mention that the clinic was somewhat expensive?

What did the doctor say? The muscles of the back of the leg tensed up and could not relax. Which is why when the doctors tried to push the knee down, it never straightened and all it was to cause a lot of pain. During the first week of treatment, the fear of an ACL and/or torn miniscus was still lingering. The really weird thing (though reassuring) was that while there was pain, and the locked leg, there was no swelling and lessened the probability that it was a torn ligament. To the doctor’s credit, they decided to try therapy before asking me to go for an MRI. (Side note: I didn’t need an MRI).  As to WHY and HOW this happened? That’s something the doctor couldn’t even answer.

By the way, though somewhat expensive, I cannot recommend INTERCARE enough for anyone with this sort of injury. Besides getting better, the constant reassurance that I didn’t need an operation was very comforting. The doctors and therapists really know what they’re doing. Check them out http://www.intercare-centers.com.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program…

This was my December 2012 story. Crutches, pain, painkillers, Muscle Relaxants, therapy, rinse, repeat. I couldn’t even sit down for long periods or else the leg would lock back into the bended position and undo the progress from therapy. So no computer games, no work (primarily though because of pain the painkillers I was taking were making me really woozy), no Christmas parties. These days were spent with  hot compresses and weight spread over the leg to push down and straighten it. Not comfortable at all and in varying degrees of pain.

Towards the end of December, things were getting better. I traded the crutches for a cane. I really thought I’d have fully recovered by New Year’s Eve. I was wrong.

Up ’til now, I could use a cane but extending the leg is still painful and the knee has a tendency to buckle. Just last week, the doctor said I could just have a home therapist go to the house every couple of days. And these sessions are still really painful. Stairs are still an obstacle. Walking long distances cause knee pain and sometimes tighten up the loosened muscles. I still can’t drive because the leg can’t move fast enough to use the brake and gas safely, in traffic. Hopefully, I’ll be fully up and at ’em by late January. At least, I can sit down without fear of the leg locking again. Trying to avoid painkillers as much as possible. I’m sure I’ve ingested enough from November and December to need major detox when I get out and about.

This ordeal was no joke. Besides the constant excruciating pain, I was constantly on the verge of getting really depressed. On several levels, It wasn’t really a good 2011 for me. Being alone and in pain, gave me scratch that, forced me to really think about several things that have to be done and have to be removed purged exorcised (and I don’t use that term lightly). It made me rethink relationships and friendships. Of Whys, Why Nots, What-Coulda-Beens and Thank God-That’s-Bloody-Over. There were several bits of sunshine (one coming from an unlikely, though very welcome source) that seeped through the clouds, and to those bits of light, you have my gratitude and it is a privilege for me to call you friend.

After this, I’ll never look at a flight of steps in the same way ever again. Heck, I won’t take walking for granted ever again. Besides the “insult” of being severely injured while being sedentary, there was another “insult” which I’ll share if ever we bump into each other. If you’re still reading and got to the end of this tale, I really pray that nothing this bad will ever happen to you.

Listening to my 15k running playlist as I finish this off. See y’all when I see you.