Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Dennis & Rhian's hot summer at Puerto del Sol

•A popular young actor (the playboy kind) is being accused of being the father of a love child delivered by a non-showbiz girl last week. According to the actor’s manager, it’s the actor’s brother who’s the new father but it was the actor who shouldered the hospital bill that’s why he became a “suspect.”

•Could it be true that a once-powerful executive at a TV network has, well, fallen out of grace (just like an equally-powerful colleague)? Did he also squander a sizable sum on failed projects?

•Did a popular young couple really check into a hotel/suite in Ortigas Center for an overnight(?) stay? Maybe they just wanted a much-needed day-off from the rigors of showbiz, away from prying eyes?

* * *

The rainy season has started but there’s enough left of summer — and what better way to celebrate it than to venture into a beach escapade in the company of Dennis Trillo and Rhian Ramos?

The Puerto del Sol Beach Resort in the picturesque town of Bolinao, Pangasinan will be the backdrop for your fantasy date with SODA Fragrance endorser Rhian, and SODA Man endorser Dennis.

Simply purchase P600 worth of SODA apparel or P300 worth of SODA fragrances and get one raffle entry that will qualify you to win the grand prize of an all-expense paid dream date with them in SODA’s Two Hot Summer Escapade promo.

A uniquely-inspired seaside resort hotel, the 10,000-square meter Puerto del Sol is the ideal vacation spot that offers the ultimate in grace, elegance and detail. World-class accommodation, first-class amenities and the warmth and friendliness of the staff make for one unforgettable summer (or even post-summer!) experience.

At Puerto del Sol, you can have your choice of things to do: Go for a refreshing dip in one of the resort’s outdoor pools or jacuzzi, take a stroll along its unspoilt sandy beaches, work off your excess energy with water sports activities, or if you’d rather take it low and slow, enjoy the massage services they offer and sip a tropical drink while you watch the sunset — and with Rhian or Dennis for company, well, that just makes the prospect of a summer at Puerto del Sol so much hotter, doesn’t it?

The resort, which is the brainchild of SODA creators Lucero and Amor Bona — for whom it was a dream to come up with a resort that everyone could enjoy — can also be booked for private functions like weddings.

Since the promo was launched a few weeks ago, entries have been pouring in. So to give everyone an equal chance of bagging their fantasy date for one last summer fling, SODA is giving more opportunities for its customers to join the promo.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Memorial Day

Is Kris riding on Katrina-Hayden issue?

The answer to today’s interrogative headline is: No, Kris Lawrence is not riding on the controversy involving his ex-girlfriend Katrina Halili and Dr. Hayden Kho.

It’s pure coincidence that Kris is promoting Careless Whisper, a spin-off from his latest album Moments of Love (released by MCA Music and ALV Music), now that the Hayden-Katrina video is the talk of the town. You see, one video shows Hayden and Katrina rehearsing a sexy dance number to the tune of, that’s it, Careless Whisper — you know, I’ll never gonna dance again, guilty feet have got no rhythm.

Katrina decided to end her brief romance with Kris as part of her “moving on” after she recovered from the initial impact of the issue that broke out late last year when Hayden denied the existence of the sex videos now circulating, yes, worldwide.

Kris’s album contains 11 tracks, mostly covers.

According to MCA Music sources, the promo for Careless Whisper was planned long before the current video scandal exploded.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

GMA richer by P44.9 million

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo has more than doubled her wealth since she replaced deposed President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Mrs. Arroyo’s latest sworn statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN) filed with the Office of the Ombudsman on April 30 showed her P44.9 million richer than in the previous year.

Her total declared assets in 2008 stood at P177.179 million but her liabilities in the form of net payables amounted to P33 million, leaving her with P144.539 million.

In 2007, the President’s SALN showed her total assets at P99.616 million, or P11 million higher than in 2006.

When she assumed the presidency in 2001, her declared net worth was only P66.747 million. As president, her annual salary is P693,000.

Her shares of stocks, declared under the category of personal and other properties, stood at P110.437 million last year.

Mrs. Arroyo declared only six real properties in 2008 as against seven in 2007, including a house and lot in Baguio worth more than P67 million with cost of improvement at P645,287; a residential lot in Antipolo worth P1.7 million; a commercial lot in Tayabas, Quezon worth P2.4 million; an agricultural lot in Nasugbu, Batangas, P1.5 million; raw land in Coron, Palawan which she bought in 2005 for more than P2 million; and a fish pond in Malolos, Bulacan purchased in 2007 for P507,800.

Her declared real properties last year amounted to more than P5 million as against the P6.8 million reported the previous year, during which she declared ownership of another agricultural land in San Rafael, Bulacan.

For 2007, Mrs. Arroyo’s SALN declared “no business interests and financial connections” but for 2008, she identified La Vista Investments and Holdings Inc. as a business interest run by her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

La Vista holds office on the 8th Floor of LTA Building in Legaspi Village, Makati City.

As required by law, the President listed the names of six relatives who are also in government.

They were led by her two congressmen-sons Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel M. Arroyo and Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado M. Arroyo who, based on their own SALNs released by the House of Representatives in May 2008, are among the richest congressmen with net worth of P96.7 million and P83.7 million, respectively.

Her brother-in-law Ignacio T. Arroyo Jr., the richest among Arroyo relatives in Congress with a reported net worth of P145.8 million, was third on her list.

The President identified the rest as Ma. Lourdes T. Arroyo, her sister-in-law working at the House of Representatives; Erlina M.B. de Leon, a cousin working at MalacaƱang; and Carlos L. de Leon, a cousin-in-law connected with the Office of the President.

Noli’s SALN

Vice President Noli de Castro also grew richer, by more than P3.8 million in 2008 based on his sworn SALN filed with the Ombudsman.

The broadcast journalist-turned-politician declared his total assets at P60.902 million and liabilities at P2.5 million.

De Castro, who receives a monthly salary of P46,200, declared ownership of five houses and lots and three lots worth more than P29 million.

The properties include a house and lot in Lagro, Novaliches, Quezon City worth P40,000 with an improvement cost of P200,000; a house and lot in Tierra Pura Homes, Tandang Sora, Quezon City worth P3.5 million; houses and lots in Pasong Tamo, Quezon City worth P1.4 million and P7.7 million; and a house and lot in San Antonio Heights, Batangas worth P695,000.

De Castro also declared ownership of lots in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan worth P2.7 million; a lot in Mindoro, P300,000; and a lot in Forrest Hills, Antipolo, P3.8 million.

He also declared ownership of several pieces of jewelry worth more than P2 million; appliances and furniture, P2.060 million; paintings and other artworks, P480,000; three vehicles – a Suburvan, a Ford Expedition and a Chrysler – worth P8.4 million; shares of stocks in ABS-CBN worth P1 million; and P17.5 million bank deposit.

His SALN report in 2008 also showed five more relatives joining the government namely Marives de Castro, his niece-in-law who is a municipal officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Oriental Mindoro; Perla Lauterio-Barcelon, his cousin who is clerk at the Department of Public Works and Highways also in Oriental Mindoro; Rey Leuterio, a cousin and a Master Teacher at the Oriental Mindoro High School in Calapan; Danilo Leuterio, a cousin and the principal of the same school’s Bucayao Annex; and Lourdes Leuterio-Ledesma, a teacher the Adriatico Memorial School also in Calapan.

In his 2007 SALN, De Castro identified only five relatives working in government, namely Dr. Grimaldo Catapang, a nephew and the provincial veterinarian of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro; Veronidia Catapang, a niece working for the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s National Capital Region office in Quezon City; Dr. Florecita Catapang, a niece who is a revenue collection officer based in Socorro, Oriental Mindoro; Janice Anne Pasco, also a niece who works in the Office of the Vice President; and Allan Leuterio, a cousin and a director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region IV-A.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Raymond pursues his own American Dream

When Funfare met last week with Raymond Bagatsing at the coffee shop of the Beverly Hilton (where the international journalists were billeted for the print/TV interviews with Terminator Salvation stars Christian Bale and Sam Worthington...more on them in this Sunday’s Conversations with Ricky Lo), he begged off from talking about his private life.

It was understandable. When he married L.A.-based journalist Cora Pastrana last year, the thirtyish Raymond was roundly criticized (nay, ridiculed!) for marrying a woman twice his age even if, he insists, he did it for love and not for the papel (you know...).

Instead, we talked about his pursuit of his own American Dream.

He has been in L.A. for more than two years, spending his first several months doing some “soul-searching.”

“I rested from being showbiz and lived a simple life,” said Raymond, still goodlooking with shoulder-length hair. “Why did I have to soul-search? Kasi nga, I’d been in showbiz for 20 years and I wanted a change of pace, go back to basics, and enjoy life as an ordinary person. Now, I’m ready to return to showbiz. My manager and I have several plans.”

His manager, Everett Wood (who accompanied Raymond to the interview), said that they are preparing an album to be recorded in the US but released in the Philippines and finalizing a plan for Raymond to star in an indie film.

“I have gotten adjusted to the American way of life,” added Raymond. “It wasn’t hard for me because I spent several years in Australia with my mother. I was there when I was 10 years old until my college years. Life in Australia and life in America are almost the same — you know, no maids, at talagang kayod.”

It wasn’t a total turning-back on showbiz, though.

“I first came (to L.A.) in 2006 to play Jose Rizal in a one-man play. Every now and then, I would sing for Filipino communities. But I spent most of my time doing muni-muni.”

Asked what he missed most about the Philippines, Raymond said, “A lot. My friends, my fans, everybody and everything.”

Isn’t he coming home yet?

“Not in the near future. But I will, in due time.”

Come to think of it, will he and his wife have a baby...soon?

“No, not yet. She’s concentrating on her work and so am I on mine.”

Monday, 18 May 2009

Ron Howard takes on The Vatican

TOKYO — “Do I think Angels & Demons will generate the same vehement reaction from church leaders as did The Da Vinci Code? I don’t think so.”

At a function room of The Peninsula, Ron Howard, director of Angels & Demons, the latest Dan Brown novel to be filmed, discusses his own faith and beliefs as did Tom Hanks (in last Sunday’s Conversation) who reprises his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon who this time is tasked to help save The Vatican from being reduced to shambles by the Illuminati.

“When I read Angels & Demons,” continues Howard, “I was really engrossed by the idea of the Illuminati. This four-centuries-old society is said to include people like Galileo and Bernini. What happened to them? Were they really crushed? Did they really leave us? There are those who believe that the Illuminati have survived as an organization and are with us in secret today, influencing our everyday lives, government policy decisions and corporate strategies.”

Released by Columbia Pictures, Angels & Demons reunites Howard with Tom whose last collaboration — yes, The Da Vinci Code — was an explosive hit. Perhaps not many people know that Howard started as an actor (The Journey, The Music Man, etc.) and then shifted to directing, taking audiences around the world on a spin with such riveting works as A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man (both starring Russell Crowe), Backdraft (Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell and William Baldwin), Far And Away (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) and Frost/Nixon.

He calls Tom a great actor and disagrees with those who think that he’s miscast as Robert Langdon.

“Langdon is not an action character; he’s a thinker. Tom perfectly fits the role.”

Good morning, Ron. Nice book, nice movie.

“Thank you. Did you like it?”

The book or the movie?


Yes, I did. Although in the movie of Angels & Demons, there are a few changes which are not that significant.

“Hmmmm. We have to do it.”

I’m amazed by the way you guys recreated The Vatican in the movie, its every nook and cranny. Looks very real.

“Does it?”

I understand that you had a hard time getting a permit to shoot in The Vatican?

“Yes. They were not cooperative...which you could understand. But my job was to take people on this adventure, so we used shots that we could get, we used sets that we built, computer-generated images and whatever. But I hope that audiences will forget all of that when they watch the film and just go along with the adventure of Robert Langdon.”

Have you been to The Vatican?

“As a tourist, I’ve been there a number of times. For the research, I was there three or four times. But most of the places were off-limits. We got a couple of tours into the gardens which I found remarkable. The Vatican is a wonderful world, the smallest country in the world.”

Do you think Angels & Demons will draw the same vehement reaction from church leaders as did The Da Vinci Code?

“Well, there are some controversial ideas and controversial elements of the story that could ruffle a few feathers. But, even from the start, I never thought that Angels & Demons would be as controversial as The Da Vinci Code. It’s more an action film, it’s more fun, and I think the spirit of it is balanced.”

After reading the novels and doing the movies, did they affect your faith in any way?

“No. My beliefs and my faith were not influenced. I don’t think that a work of fiction would ever change my view of the world. But it’s an interesting subject to talk about after you see the movie. I really hope that, first and foremost, it’s an entertainment piece but maybe on your way home you have something to talk about.”

In the movie, Vittoria Vetra (played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer) asks Robert Langdon, “Are you Catholic?” I’m asking you now, are you Catholic?

“No, I’m not.”

Are you Christian?

“Neither am I.”

Then, what’s your religion?

“I’m not a member of any church right now but I was raised in the Presbyterian Church.”

But, of course, you believe in a Supreme Being?

“I do, yes, and I believe that God wants us to use our imagination and our intellect to keep asking questions to learn more about our world and universe.”

After The Da Vinci Code, did you begin to look at The Last Supper in a different way?

“Hmmmm. Yeah, it made me very, very curious. I think that’s what Dan Brown stories do more than anything. It’s not that they should change your mind but in some ways, while they entertain you, they might open your might ask more questions and be curious about things that perhaps you haven’t thought of in years. It’s a nice combination when fiction can both entertain and provoke you.”

Which was more challenging to do, The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons?

“I think Da Vinci Code was more challenging; it’s a more difficult story to adapt. The way the story moves...much of it is in the past, so a lot of things have to be explained and discussed. It works against the flow of a thriller sometimes. Angels is a clearer kind of genre story. So for me, as a director, Angels was easier to do. Also, I was probably more confident telling this story. I made more changes from the book because of that confidence, thinking of the film audiences and not so much only for the people who had read the book.”

Angels & Demons is your fourth collaboration with Tom (after Splash, Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code). I presume that you have developed a comfortable working relationship.

“Great. Just great! And I hope I will work with him in more Robert Langdon adventures and other films as well. Tom is a great talent, a wonderful collaborator. He thinks about the audience, not just trying to please them or pander to them but with respect. He really wants to give the audience something that they’ll feel is original and memorable.”

Some people think that Tom is miscast as Robert Langdon. What can you say about it?

“Obviously, I couldn’t disagree more. I think Tom is gaining a deeper sense of the character and how the character works. Tom has so much intelligence...that intellect and curiosity are something that he brings to the Robert Langdon character. I think that’s absolutely appropriate. Robert Langdon is not an action character; he’s a thinker, he’s an everyman, he’s like you or me suddenly thrown into remarkable circumstances.”

Friday, 15 May 2009

The true story, according to Martin

I have been waiting to speak to you to share a very heart-warming behind-the-scene story that happened backstage during the Pacquiao-Hatton fight right before I entered the ring to sing the “now” very much-talked-about Philippine National Anthem. This story may not mean anything to anyone but I want to share it with you anyway.

It’s funny but this is the first time in all the years I have known you that I am writing you feeling nervous and insecure. I have never been one to look before I leap, but with all the names and words that have been thrown at me, above me, through me and below me, I come to you now wounded, hurt, confused but inspired.

It happened during the second to the last round of the last fight before the big, very publicized “main event” between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton. I was so nervous I could actually hear my heartbeat as I paced back and forth like an expectant father alongside Tom Jones. I was going over the lyrics of Lupang Hinirang for the one millionth time. It was right about the time we were all being called to stay together to form the first half of the usual boxers parade and their teams, when my son Robin tapped me on the shoulder with what I thought at the time was extremely bad news.

“Hey Dad, remember the minus one CD we used during the sound check earlier today? Well, I left it in the car.”

I nearly had a heart attack. If you have ever been to any Pacquiao fight or any event of this size, you know the car was not right outside the backstage. No, no, no. The car was parked just a little closer than Earth is to Mars!

So before I could be arrested for killing my first-born, I calmly, in almost a crying kind of a voice, asked Robin, “What? Am I not a good father? Do you really want to kill me now? Or, if you do, puede after the fight?”

I mean, with all that was going on way before this recent controversy, with the rumors about being a jinx because I was the first male anthem singer and so many people telling me to NOT forget the lyrics, and so on and so forth... I was a wreck!

Okay, pause. Let’s go back to a month before the fight...

Weeks before flying to Las Vegas, I think I asked at least 10 people about how I should or should not sing the anthem. If I remembered correctly I asked Louie Ocampo, my back-up singers and vocal coaches. Then there was Karylle, Christian Bautista, Regine Velasquez, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Kuh Ledesma and even Pops. Oh, and lastly, Ryan “Mr. C” Cayabyab did “advise” me against changing notes and melodies. All of the above did.

But Mr. C “advised” me; he did not “warn” me. There is a big difference. In fact, he was the first one I received a text from right after I sang that night and it read, “Awesome!” I am forever grateful to you, Mr. C!

Anyway, right before I left I took the advice of all the above mentioned and had another minus one arranged that was more traditional and safe even though I knew no matter how I sang it I was gonna get criticized. So I decided to put my original “version 1 minus one” on hold and made “version 2” to try and avoid even more criticism than I already knew I was gonna get.

Okay, back to real time...

You can probably feel my frustration and pain right about now, but I tried to keep calm and not de-focus from the enormous task ahead.

Just as I was already telling myself to sing it a cappella, my son Robin leaned over to me and told me a mouthful I will never forget for as long as I live.

“Don’t worry, Dad. I have already put in the ‘version 1 minus one’ in the sound booth. Come on Dad, this is the version you dreamed of doing and now we are finally here. I know how hard you worked on this song and you got it! I know you want to do this version and not the one we did during sound check so I purposely left that CD in the car. So you can finish what you started. Never mind what others may say, Dad. You get that all the time. Don’t compromise a goal that you yourself set. If you compromise, what will that mean for the next singer? Get up there, Dad, and do it!”

My eyes, already watery, finally gave way. Everything went screams, no music, nothing. After my son pushed me up into that ring with his wisdom, I thought either I was dead or going deaf. Then I realized that I had plugged in my monitors into both ears and I wanted to laugh. I realized at that moment that my son was absolutely right.

With all my heart and my love for the Philippines mixed together with my wanting Manny to win just like anybody else, I felt a surge of energy that literally lifted my feet off the ground. It was as if the Holy Spirit ran through my veins right at that moment and, with as much humility mixed with an over abundance of honor, I knew I had to make this the proudest moment for every Filipino.

That night I was not a concert king. That night, I was the proudest Filipino alive. That night, I was a hero in my son’s eyes and that to me was all I needed to get over the fear and finish what I started.

I think we all learned loads from all this and I know that the next anthem singer will be more informed the next time around than I ever was or those who sang before me. My hope and prayer is that he or she be free to sing the anthem without laws and limitations, but with pride and passion and respect for country and the history that defines it.

For me, History should be remembered, taught and learned, but never repeated. Unless, of course. You are Manny Pacquiao.

Thanks, my friend.


Friday, 8 May 2009 - Celebrities on Twitter

Jennylyn no plans to let Patrick see baby

Here at last are the first photos of Jennylyn Mercado’s son AJ (Alex Jazz) which she has kept from the public since she gave birth eight months ago, setting off speculations that she’s afraid the baby would look like anybody but its biological father, Patrick Garcia.

You see the photos first only in Funfare, so take a good look at them. Compare the baby’s photos with that of Patrick. AJ does look every bit like Patrick, doesn’t he?

Unfortunately, like Funfare readers, Daddy Patrick is seeing his son for the very first time only from this page.

“No,” Jennylyn is firm, “I have no plans of letting him see AJ. After what he did to me, why should I?”

If you recall, when Jennylyn was heavy with AJ, Patrick was asked in a TV show how he would react if the baby’s father turned out to be somebody else and Patrick, who is a few years older than Jennylyn but several years less mature, gave this mindless reply: “Kung hindi akin (‘yung baby), I would still treat it as my own.” Or words to that effect. He could have simply said, “I am the baby’s father and I take responsibility for (the baby) and Jennylyn.” Oh well, but wouldn’t it be expecting too much from the guy old enough to sire a child but not mature enough to act in a responsible manner?

“You replay that show at ganoon talaga ang sinabi niya. Mahirap bang sabihing, ‘No, hindi totoo ‘yan? Sa akin ang batang ‘yan; ako ang ama ng batang ‘yan.’ Ganyan ang tamang sagot.”

Asked why she decided to show her baby’s photos only now, trusting only The STAR for it, Jennylyn said, “Kasi di ba nag-tsi-change ang itsura ng baby as he grows older? At least now, talagang fixed na ang features niya.”

The baby’s full name is Alex Jazz Mercado, minus Garcia.

“I saw to it...,” stressed Jennylyn.

Jennylyn only laughed at the rumor that it was actually Sen. Bong Revilla who is the baby’s “real” father, a rumor that Bong (and his wife Lani Mercado) simply shrugged off; and that Bong even gave her a house and lot.

“Why should I waste time on that rumor? Sa akin, kung hindi totoo ‘yung tsismis, why should I let myself be affected by it?”

Asked further if Patrick is giving her and/or AJ any support, financial or otherwise, Jennylyn smiled wanly and then frowned.

“Wala. As in wala talaga. Not that I’m expecting him to. Kaya kong buhayan mag-isa ko ang anak ko.” Take note: “Ang anak ko”, not “Ang anak namin.”

Jennylyn said that AJ is now on “bottle-feeding” after Jennylyn breastfed him for almost three months. Back at work, Jennylyn is busy with the GMA mid-afternoon soap Paano Ba Ang Mangarap?, her birthday concert I Am Woman (at the Music Museum) and the launching of coffee-table book Reborn middle of this month.

How has AJ changed her life?

“Talagang na-iba ang buhay ko,” Jennylyn admitted. “Pati sleeping schedule ko naiba. When he’s asleep, asleep din ako; kapag gising siya, gising din ako. Sabay kami parati. When he was inside my tummy, I would make him listen to mellow music. Now, he can’t sleep kapag hindi ko siya kinakantahan. My mom (Lydia, her adoptive mother) is there to help me take care of AJ.”

Luckily, AJ is not a cry baby, unlike Jennylyn.

“Medyo bratty na siya,” said Jennylyn. “When he wants something and he doesn’t get it, magwawala na ‘yon..iiyak na ‘yon. That’s the only time he cries.”

Jennylyn was a battered child. She admitted not having seen her biological parents for years.

“Whatever I am now,” she said, “I owe it to my Mommy Lydia and Daddy Romy (who died last year due to complications of diabetes).”

Is she bringing up AJ the way she was brought up by her adoptive parents (said to be close relatives of Jennylyn’s real parents)?

“I will make sure that AJ will have a happy childhood, a better life.”

What if, just if, AJ starts asking for and about his father when he grows up?

“I’m sure that time will come. Then, maybe...maybe...just maybe...”

Rumors have been linking Jennylyn to a few guys (one of them a veejay). Is she ready to fall in love again...and again, knock on wood, fall flat on her face?

Jennylyn laughed.

“Ayoko muna. Tama na muna ‘yung minsan.”

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Jeweler employee accused of stealing $12M in gold

NEW YORK - Prosecutors say a suburban New York woman stole $12 million in gold over six years from the jewelry manufacturer where she worked.

Teresa Tambunting has been charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. Prosecutors say she took gold from Jacmel Jewelry in Queens and hid it in the lining of her pocketbook.

The company discovered in January that nearly $12 million in merchandise was missing.

Prosecutors say the thefts occurred from 2004 until Tuesday and that a search turned up 450 pounds of gold at her home in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Tambunting was released Tuesday on $100,000 bail. Her attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Prosecutors are investigating what she planned to do with the jewelry.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Paris Hilton not only one confused about swine flu

CHICAGO - Paris Hilton says "I don't eat that" when asked about swine flu in an online video. She's not the only one confused about the outbreak.

Others have vowed to stop eating pork. Some, worried about germs spreading in confined spaces, won't fly _ anywhere. Or they think petting zoos and farm visits are off limits.

Like the swine flu itself, misinformation is spreading like a virus across the Internet, around the watercooler and across the backyard fence. Here are some facts to dispel myths about swine flu.

Q: Should I avoid pork?

A: There's no evidence that swine flu spreads through pork. While it's important to cook it properly to protect against other germs, experts say even handling raw pork poses no realistic risk of swine flu.

Q: What about airplanes _ aren't airline cabins breeding grounds for germs?

A: Vice President Joe Biden suggested he believes that when he said Thursday he has advised his family not to fly. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against going to Mexico, the country hardest hit by swine flu. And public health officials say people with flu symptoms should avoid public transportation. But they aren't telling healthy people to avoid all air travel, and Obama administration representatives later said Biden had misspoken.

Most modern airliners have air filtering systems that are as efficient at weeding out germs as those used in hospital isolation units. While there have been occasional infectious disease outbreaks associated with airplane travel, they're not common, and generally only people within a few rows of the sick individual have gotten sick.

"We shouldn't go overboard" on limiting air travel, said Dr. Mark Dworkin, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But he said it's a good idea to check the CDC's Web site before making travel plans because the agency's advisories may change as the outbreak develops.

Q: My child's preschool class is planning a visit to a petting zoo _ with piglets. Should we skip it?

A: Dr. Kenneth Alexander, the University of Chicago's pediatric infectious disease chief, says there's no danger in touching pigs, although a sneezing, sick-looking animal should be avoided. Adults also should be vigilant about making sure kids keep their hands away from their faces after contact with farm animals and they should always wash their hands thoroughly afterward.

Q: My child is healthy and there are no reports of flu at her school, but I'd feel more comfortable keeping her home for a while.

A: Right now, public health authorities say there's no reason to restrict healthy children if there's no flu at school. That could change if the outbreak turns into a global pandemic.

Q: If this outbreak is declared a real worldwide pandemic, tens of millions will get sick and die, just like in the 1918 Spanish flu _ right?

A: Public health officials say there are a lot of reasons why that's unlikely, at least in the United States. Unlike that crisis, we now have flu-fighting medicines and antibiotics for secondary infections such as pneumonia, which killed many people during the 1918 outbreak.

Because it appears to be a novel flu strain, everyone exposed to the virus is at risk of getting sick. Authorities are trying to determine how aggressive the new flu is, but even if it turns out to be a particularly dangerous strain, the United States and other developed countries have a strong surveillance network and comprehensive public health measures that didn't exist in 1918, Dworkin noted.

If the new flu turns out to be similar to regular seasonal flu, as some authorities predict, Dworkin said it might double the number of illnesses and deaths seen in an average flu season. In the United States, that would mean about 70,000 deaths and more than 400,000 hospitalizations.

In developing nations, without strong public health networks, the situation could be more dire.

"It could do much more harm than we would see in a country like ours," Dworkin said.