POSTSCRIPT / March 5, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Crowds squeal with glee over Cory-Fred ‘love team’

UY! There’s a new “love team” blooming on the presidential campaign trail!

Don’t laugh, but in most places where she stumps, the staid and proper Cory Aquino is asked anxiously by followers if it’s true about her and Manila Mayor Fred Lim.

Not that there’s anything wrong with two adults, both widowed, falling in love with each other. But it’s not so, Cory replies with a laugh. Yet the crowds keep watching her, them, to catch any give-away body language.

If you ask me, the rumors could do more good than harm to Lim’s candidacy. In fact, the showbizzy “love team” angle may have been a stroke of genius. It is a juicy piece of legitimate gossip that the fans would just lap up. Many of them may even end up voting for Lim.

We’re waiting for that time when Cory, 65, and Fred, 69, appear on stage and the excited crowd starts shrieking “Kiss! Kiss!”

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NOW, Cory’s daughter Kris Aquino, who is lives in with much-married Phillip Salvador with their son Joshua, may have to give way to mom in the chismis columns.

Cory herself has expressed surprise that the rumor had gone all out, even in the Internet. When she recently went to the inauguration of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, some Korean officials asked her in respectful whispers if it was true. Filipinos she met in Seoul also asked her.

(By the way, Kim is a very very close friend of the late Ninoy Aquino, something akin to what we may call barkada. To some extent they led parallel political lives.)

In endorsing Lim, Cory not only sallied into the unkind world of filmdom-type tsismis and intrigue. She also took a big gamble being pitted against her former protégé Fidel Ramos, who had endorsed Speaker Jose de Venecia of the administration Lakas party.

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NO charges have been filed, but it is generally known here that among the biggest culprits in the economic squeeze are the banks themselves. Many of the banks, not to mention their top officers, hoarded US dollars at the height of the erratic fall of the peso. This they followed with a surge in interest rates on loans.

Now the banks find themselves victims of the same crisis they helped fuel. Some big borrowers (a few of them bank owners themselves) cannot pay. A total of P12 billion in loans cannot be paid by 22 defaulting companies that have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission for permission to suspend payments.

Some of the defaulting firms are garment manufacturer Midas Diversified Export Corp (P3.05B), appliance maker Nikon Industrial Corp (P2.08B), Financiera Manila Inc (P1.335B), and Paper City Corp. (P1.012B).

The Bangko Sentral is asking banks to limit to 30 percent the portion of their loan portfolio devoted to consumer lending, particularly housing, auto and credit card loans.

One thrift bank channeled 60 percent of its loan funds to auto loans. Now it has a huge garage choked with repossessed cars. Auto loans become past due after six consecutive months that the principal and interest remain unpaid.

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IN a few neighborhoods in Metro Manila, Philippine flags are proudly displayed from windows — an unusual sight among Filipinos who are not known to unfurl the colors even on public holidays like Independence Day.

This sudden interest and pride in the flag is part of the buildup for the celebration this June of the centennial of our independence. In fact, March 5 marks the start of a 100-day countdown to June 12, that day a century ago when then President Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from his balcony in Kawit, Cavite.

Interest in the flag was recently stoked by questions raised over the use of dark navy blue instead of the correct lighter shade of sky blue. Somebody explained that the dark blue started appearing a long time ago after materials for the correct color ran out and a substitute was sought. (Check the flag of the Philippine consulate in your place.)

One problem now is that there are not enough flags to meet the sudden widespread demand, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao.

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OTHER centennial problems

* Despite the lead time given it, the centennial commission headed by former Vice President Salvador H. Laurel has failed to generate enough awareness and interest in the celebration. Its information campaign has been spotty.

* The celebration coincides with the bruising national elections. While the centennial seeks to promote unity, among other things, the elections are divisive. The ongoing campaign has distracted the nation from what should be a centennial focus.

* Until this late date, the Philippine Centennial Exposition being built in Clark Field, Pampanga, is still unfinished. A dispute over money (what else?) prevented its targeted opening in December 1997. Opening was moved to February (last month), but until now the carpenters are still hammering it together.

• The commission is at a loss at how it could effect the speedy return of two church bells being kept in Wyoming. The bells were looted from the church of Balangiga, Samar, during the Filipino-American war at the turn of the century. Vengeful American troops swooped down on Samar with orders to turn it into a “howling wilderness” to teach resisting natives a lesson.

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