Saturday, November 8, 2008

Load Available Here

I know I said government personnel are generally inefficient. But my recent transactions with the government aren’t as painful anymore. There are signs, thank God, that the budget intended for computerization was actually put to good use. In some gated village somewhere, the botoxed wife of a politician must be crying her eyes out over her husband’s failure to buy her a new Louis Vuitton. My condolences go out to her.

I had to get the usual clearances for the first time to get a job: baranggay, NBI, police, drug test, the whole sha-bang. In no instance was I made to go back or to wait for more than an hour to get what I applied for. Ironically, it was my U.P transcript that took two days to process. That’s excusable, I think, because U.P has always been the University of Pila to me.

It was such a welcome change to be handed wet wipes after taking my finger prints at the NBI Satellite Office in Mandaluyong. I thought, “Uy, ang galing .May kasamang panlinis.” I was on my way to concluding that efficiency has finally become the new work ethic for government personnel. To my surprise, though, I was charged Php5.00 for the towel, which amount was not included in the official NBI receipt. Sideline pala.

I did not feel cheated by the way. I also did not raise an eyebrow over a sign that read: “Smart/Globe/Sun Load Available Here” and “For Sale Envelope ” at the releasing counter. I’m cutting our public servants some slack this time. If they have to make ends meet with their pitiful salaries, it’s better that they do it by making an honest living, selling things. There are worse politicians who do not sell envelopes but get kickbacks in the millions out of government projects. In my opinion, yung mga yun ang dapat sisantihin.

'D Diary

I wouldn't be able to go on vacation until after six months because of my new employment. So even with a tight budget, I tagged along Pao on his recent trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It felt great not having to think about anything for a week. I only had to decide where to eat, what to do and whether to buy something I didn’t really need. Actually, the last of these wasn’t so much of a problem. Like I said, I brought little cash and only a husband with a credit card on this trip.

Pao was busy with work in KL. Meanwhile, I intentionally left my laptop at home to forget about work altogether. (I resigned in September and had only my final inventory of cases to finish.) I thus explored the city with Carla, Carlo’s (Pao’s officemate) wife, while our husbands “foraged” in the 21st century concrete jungle. Husbands work to make money. Wives go to the mall to spend money. Ah, utopia.

 

Since both Singapore and Malaysia have first-world status, the trip wasn’t as interesting in the Cambodia-Quiapo sense. For instance, we stayed in a comfortable serviced apartment in KL and had restaurant-cooked dinner.  Luckily, bad judgment on my part and the lack of extra money on our part led to a few interesting stories to tell.

 

Day 1 – KL: I took Cebu Pacific to KL because I had to finish some things at the office and well, Singapore Air, which was Pao’s airline, was too expensive. As we all know, Cebu Pacific departs from Manila at ungodly hours. I arrived in KL at close to 12:00 midnight. And, since the airport is an hour’s drive away from the city, I had to travel the equivalent of Laguna to Manila at 1:00 in the morning. (Un)fortunately, the taxi that I rode sped at 120kph minimum all the way to the city. I got to the hotel before 2:00 a.m., shaken but in one piece.

Day 1 – KL: Pao set aside food for me, since Cebu Pacific does not serve food on their flights. My dessert consisted of two of the things I like most in this world combined: Mochi bathing in salabat (ginger tea)! Yummy.

 




 

 

Day 2 – KL: Carla and I spent the whole day combing through KL’s many malls in search for what looked like ukay-ukay there but would be priceless in third-world Manila . Just between us girls, I bought Aerosoles sandals at Tangs (at the Pavilion) for 83  Malaysia Ringgit (about Php800). I saw the same tsinelas at Trinoma yesterday for Php2,995. Tignan niyo na!

 






 

 

Day 3 – KL: Because Pao and Carlo were still working, Carla and I decided to show ourselves around Kuala Lumpur by riding their hop-on, hop-off bus. The “coach” or “bas” in Malay takes you around KL through 22 stops for just RM38 (about Php500). Giddy me tried the ‘Cute Fish Spa’ at the Central Market, where Taiwan fish nibbled at my feet in what I later realized are quite unsanitary, bacteria-laden waters. I lost sleep that night, imagining the fish giving me disease…

Day 4 – KL: …so the next day, Carla and I cajoled our husbands and their boss, Neric, to try it out for themselves. After all, our vows generally read: “…in sickness and in health.” (Mwahaha-haha.)

 




Day 1 – Singapore: We stayed at a dubious hotel in Little India. The place looked nothing like the pictures on the internet. It was worse than the Php800/night apartelle that we stayed in in Bangkok where we were younger and had very little money. Here is Pao at the train station nearest our hotel, redeeming the deposit for our single trip card. This looks funny now, but we were both nervous wrecks at the time. Hala!



 

There you go folks, a chronicle of what generally happened between the day I left Siguion Reyna and today, which is three short days before I report for work at WESM. I’m off to my new adventure on Monday. Until then!

Where Do We Go?

There are certain universals among Filipinos abroad. For example, there will always be a Filipino who has lost her way in the train station. Hearing the familiar “Argh. Nasan na ba ito?” over your shoulder even in Clarke Quay is inevitable. We are just everywhere - domestic helpers and office workers all.

There is nothing new with Filipinos leaving the country in search of better opportunities. I'm sure we all grew up with the term OFW in our vocabulary. The difference, I guess, at this point in my life is that now, MY friends are out there. They’re no longer parents of my friends, or my titos and titas, but MY friends, people I actually grew up with.

I’m sure they’re scared living in an unfamiliar environment, where EDSA is nowhere to be seen and television is considered a “privilege” worth taxing. But what can we do? Good jobs are rare in the Philippines. Where else can we go but out of here?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Looks Like A Good Wall To Me

I have developed a huge amount of respect for lawyers in my practice, especially those working in law firms. It takes the right mix of confidence, compassion, diskarte, and most importantly, humor, to practice law in the Philippines.

I unfortunately can’t direct you to a particular moment in my short-lived firm practice that I could proudly tell my grandkids about when I have become nostalgic and huwag naman sana incontinent.  But I will remember and miss finding myself in a random officemate’s room with five other lawyers at around 5 p.m. everyday.

We’ll each have our respective cups of coffee, and our respective humiliating and/or frustrating stories to tell about a judge and/or a boss and/or an opposing counsel. Laughs will be exchanged for about an hour, at which point everyone would quietly disappear and make their way back into their rooms for yet another three hours of work, at least, as a general rule.

Long hours will be missed, because I’ve somehow gotten used to them. Working weekends and working lunches will also be missed, for the same masochistic reason. Intelligent conversations about a case that you’re passionate about will be missed, along with really early flights for out-of-town cases. Even the privilege of saying “Same appearance, Your Honor,” will be missed, just because I won't be able to say it too often anymore.

But I’m off to a new job in a couple of weeks. After less than three years of law practice, I realize my ladder may have been leaning against the wrong wall all this time. Law firm practice may not be it for me. So I got down, scouted for other promising heights, and set up my ladder against what I hope to be MY right wall this time around.

Looks like a good wall. Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doughnut Buy

A lot of cheap-looking things are sold at unreasonably high prices to get us social climbers to buy them. Just off the top of my head, there are brands like Melissa, Crocs, Havaianas, Grendhas, Ipanema, and Pluey.  These are, basically, rubber footwear; substantial equivalents of which may be bought under the brand names SM Parisian, Reva, Islander, and Beachwalk, respectively.

Why few middle-class people buy the latter items constitutes interesting material for a study in sociology. Why do we prefer buying rubber slippers for thousands of pesos rather than just chucking P49.75 for a pair? (Melissas cost between P2,000 to P4,600. A pair of SM Parisian shoes that look exactly the same and serve exactly the same purpose, cost between P150 to P500.) My theory is that if our high school classmates saw us in the supermarket wearing Havaianas instead of Beachwalk sandals, then they’d see how effortlessly affordable thousand-peso tsinelas have become to us and accordingly conclude that we’ve made it big as adults. Yes. The sweet smell of rubber slipper success.

On a purely incidental note, I don’t understand why people who buy Pluey boots even buy Pluey boots. If you can afford a Pluey, you’re probably never going to have to wade through flood water in your life. You’ll have your driver lie on the street for you so you could use him for a plank.

To justify our socially unacceptable spending, we make excuses like, “Ooh. These are just so comfortable. I could use these shoes forever.” Really? My feet are yet to recover from the Havaianas that I thought I needed for the Eraserheads concert. The thongs pinched the sides of my feet. I had to put on band-aids to save the suckers. Crocs aren’t as comfortable as they market them to be either. The straps are as much pinchy, and they aren’t at all flattering on the feet. I look like a toddler wearing them for Pete’ sake. So why, why must we buy all of these?

Yesterday, Pao saw a ridiculously long line in front of one of the stores in Trinoma. We had to see what hundreds of people were lining up for. Maybe the NFA decided to set up distribution centers in malls and this was NFA rice. Maybe they’re giving away free food. Chicken nuggets? New Lucky Me instant noodles? Instant Pho perhaps?

No, no and no. People apparently waited in line for half an hour just to get into the All Flip Flops store. The sign at the store window read: “40% off on any two identical pairs.” Ahh. Now we could buy gomang tsinelas for just P600 a pair. What a bargain.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We did it. We did it. Hooray.

This is no ordinary desk. This is Sheila Coronel’s desk. This is where she probably sat writing pieces for iReport – the magazine published quarterly by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) of which Ms. Coronel was co-founder and Executive Director.

(For those of you pagans who do not know what PCIJ is,  it's only the non-profit media organization that published the report on the Erap mansions in 2001. The report sparked the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Estrada, which eventually led to that joke of a revolution called “Edsa Dos.”)

Ten years ago, when I was an Ikot-riding Journalism student in U.P., I would have given up a month’s worth of fishballs to get a glimpse of Shiela Coronel’s bookshelf, more so to snoop around in her workspace. I would have had, as Celina would put it, a tween’s equivalent of a Miley Cyrus moment.

At 27, I actually got to drink hot tsokolate-e in Shiela Coronel’s home. The moment made me realize what a lucky son-of-a-gun I turned out to be. By grace, I am able to do things now that the 17-year old me could have only wished for some years back.

Sure, many of my grand plans are yet to be fulfilled, like winning a Pulitzer, flying a hot air balloon over Scotland, and running a bed and breakfast in Tagaytay. But this post is about the simple things that come with being an adult - things we sadly take for granted because they have become too familiar and well, “unsophisticated.” My list includes, among others, being able to: travel with people I like, drive to a Jollibee at 12 midnight for a Jollihotdog, and watch R-rated movies during payday Fridays.

Every January in the church that I go to, we are encouraged to list down things that we’re believing God for in the coming year. In January 2006, before I took the Bar and when I just started my first job, I listed down: “buy Christmas gifts for my family with money that I earned.”  Whatdoyaknow, I am able to do that now. I could just buy AC that Ben 10 wristwatch this Christmas, and maybe one too for Gab.

What a lucky son-of-a-gun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Am Walrus

We lost our Internet connection two Saturdays ago. It turns out PLDT’s big gray box in our street conked out, resulting in dead phone lines and inactive DSL connections. Believe you me when I say nothing can be more distressing. I’d rather watch that KC Concepcion – Richard Gutierrez movie again than endure another week without Internet. No…wait. I take that back.

 Pao and I seemed able to survive the absence of the Net in our lives for a full 12 hours. We entertained ourselves with food, books, television, and the occasional hanky-panky. But even these could only occupy so much of our day. By Saturday afternoon, we were begging Pao’s family in Quezon City to please report the blasted Internet connection. Like the Philippine Police force, PLDT responded with unbelievable speed. Their response was, uhm, lethargic.

We’re back online ten days later. The fact that Pao and I aren’t talking because we’re both busy updating our Facebooks/blogs is a testament to how miserably dependent we’ve become on the Internet. To further isolate ourselves from each other, Pao decided to install a Wi-Fi router in the house. Now we’re able to browse through our  preferred Internet pages at different rooms in the house without having to see each other. What brilliance!

Since it’s been a while since I’ve had my groove, I hope you bear with me if I post an unusual amount of blogs in this site. Think of me as a big brown walrus who was taken captive for behavioral testing in a laboratory and then brought back to the wild to freely swim, swim, swim in the cool, calming waters of the Internet.*

* This could very well be the worst metaphor ever constructed, but what the heck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jose is My Hero

A t-shirt that I wore this weekend led to an interesting conversation between Pao and myself. There are few of these conversations in a couple's life, so interesting they're worthy of a blog. Kaya for posterity's sake...

Pao: (while alternately looking at me and my t-shirt) "Uy, pareho pa kayo ng hati ng buhok ni Rizal."
Gladi: "Well, great minds think alike."
Pao: "Think alike. Hindi naman LOOK alike."
Gladi: "Bakit? Nung tinanong si Rizal ng barbero niya kung saan niya gusto yung hati ng buhok niya, sabi niya sa kaliwa. Ako din, sabi ko sa kaliwa..."

As usual, this round goes to Team Nebab.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Super Savers Club

You know you’re getting older when you begin picking up habits from your parents that you once thought were embarrassing.

My mom, for instance, has the habit of squeezing toothpaste tubes before throwing them away. By “squeezing” I mean “wringing the life out of”. The trick is to use a butter knife to “shepherd” the remaining toothpaste towards the tube’s mouth, and then tightly rolling the  tip to pack the paste in some more. My mom also seldom bought toothpicks, ketchup, creamer and sugar from the grocery. Instead, she simply asked for extra condiments during her usual morning breakfast at Jollibee Quezon Ave., which she then brought home for our happy consumption.

These quirks made little sense to me while I was living on allowance. Really, why run the risk of being accosted by Jollibee security guards for a few packets of Coffeemate?

Fast forward ten years when I start working for a living and paying off, among others, electric, cable, phone, gas, water, househelp, and association bills. Although still childless, I now find myself using the same "technique" on toothpaste tubes like my life depended on it. (It's easy; It's all in the wrist.)

I have not gone to the extent of smuggling condiments from fastfood chains but I must confess to bringing home toilet paper and toiletries from hotels. Since Pao also brings a whole bunch of these every time he comes home, I believe we now have enough body lotions and bath gels to last us a trip to the moon.

After 27 years, I finally understand the reason behind my parents' penny pinching habits: Every centavo counts. When prices are this high, we all can’t squeeze the toothpaste tube enough.

* Shown here is my recent loot from Dumaguete - two sachets of Palmolive shampoo, a pack of Colgate and two mini bars of Safeguard. To the right are the conditioner and lotion that Pao brought home months ago from his hotel in Thailand. They're not Crabtree, but they're free! Yipee.

Monday, September 8, 2008

This blog's first Top Ten

My friend Jing emailed me this list of quotable quotes from UP Professors. In honor of my incurable nostalgia for all things UP and (sige na nga) the UP Centennial Celebration,I am reproducing my top ten favorite quotes below. Non-UP alumni may not be able to relate to most of these. Too bad for you. Fortunately, you can put up your own list when your school turns 100.

1. "Oo, nagpapaulan ako ng uno. Baket? Aanhin ko ba yun? Di naman ako yayaman dun." - Sir Atoy Navarro, Histo I

2."Oh, this is good. It's poetic because it's perfectly stupid." - Ricardo de Ungria

3. "Atheist ako, pero pag nasa bahay, nagro-rosary kami ng Nanay ko. Eh kung magalit sa kin yun." - Socio 11 Prof

4. "Pag nananaba ka sa oras ng exams, ibig sabihin di ka papasa."

5. "The more wisdom you obtain, the more you shut your mouth. This is because the more that you learn, the more you realize that there are even more things that you do not know. The true mark of an idiot is a loud mouth, the true mark of a wise man is humility." - Paraphrased galing kay PI100

6. Galing kay Sir U Eliserio during creative writing class...
"Try everything once except incest."

7. "I'm gay. So gay I could show you my penis because it is but an accessory to my body." - Jean Navera, SPCM1

8. First day of classes: "Kung may boyfriend o girlfriend kayo na hindi taga-UP, hiwalayan niyo na agad. Walang pupuntahan yan. Hindi kayo magkaka-intindihan. Tapos yung mga anak niyo, magiging bobo. Gusto niyo ba yun?"

But from another professor:"Hoy girls wag kayong kukuha ng boyfriend dito sa UP. Pare-parehas tayong mahirap dito. Kumuha kayo ng mayaman. 80% of the child's intelligence comes from the mother naman eh. Kayo guys, wag kayo kukuha ng bobong babae. Kahit matalino kayo, magiging bobo anak niyo."

9. "Kapatid ng sinungaling ang magnanakaw. Ergo, GMA's marriage to Mike Arroyo is null and void ab initio." - Consti Law class, 1st sem, AY 2005-06

and finally --

10. "Punyetissima!" (Sosyal, pati mura Italian.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Call 1-800-PAO

I have come to the conclusion that Pao is the kryptonite of litigation. He is litigation’s downfall; the antidote, the Clorox, the Zonrox, the liquid Sosa to the bacteria-infested stain that is a civil/criminal suit.

I was scheduled to attend a trial on Monday in a town called Bindoy, which is about two hours away from Dumaguete. I had to fly in early last Friday to check court records and meet with witnesses. I figured, the period between Saturday noon and Monday morning, where I will have very little to do except work, will require some form of entertainment. So, I asked my handy-dandy husband to come with me. Pao flew in late Friday, considering that he too has a job and would have to see through the end of the workweek before becoming my official Guest Relations Officer.


Yesterday afternoon, after interviewing witnesses in the nearby town of Bais, I get a text message from the Clerk of Court saying that all hearings on Monday, including my case, will be cancelled. It appears that the Judge will not be able to report back to work after undergoing surgery. The civilian Gladi did backflips in ecstasy upon hearing this news, since this means she can go home early. The lawyer Gladi, who could have done something else that’s productive with the three days that she spent preparing for this trial, was hitting her head against the wall.




Anyway, some things in the justice system, like resettings and motions for extension/s, are unalterable. I decided to swallow this bitter pill and rebooked our flights for later today. While waiting, Pao & I attempted to roam around Dumaguete City. We took pictures of the church and the city's official seal, some trees along Rizal Boulevard and the tarpaulin of the “Bankaton” in front of our hotel/hospital. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything spectacular outside our room except the heat. And of course, this picture of me and ex-PBB housemate Jason (I forget his surname, Sonza?) who is here in Dumaguete to host a show for Touch Mobile. I like him. He’s such an amiable, good-smelling fellow.




Going back. This is the third time that I asked Pao to accompany me to my out-of-town cases. The first was when we side-tripped to Siquijor and the second was when we side-tripped to Boracay. In all instances, my hearings got cancelled – either because of miscommunication or because someone got sick. It is clear, therefore, that Pao is the person to call if you want to avoid litigation. Coincidentally, Pao in lawyers’ speak, stands for “Public Attorney’s Office.”


Monday, September 1, 2008

Well Worth It

I am teary-eyed now that I think about it. I watched the Eraserheads play the anthems of my generation last night. There were the four of them – Ely, Raimund, Marcus and Buddy – on stage, once more. It was a sight I never thought was (again) possible.

The Eraserheads’ songs are the soundtracks of those brief years I spent in high school and the next eight that I spent in UP Diliman. ultraelectromagneticpop! was the only other cassette tape that I bought with my high school allowance, apart from Nirvana’s Nevermind. Even when I outgrew my angst-ridden pubescence, I still listened to Minsan, Spoliarium, Julie Tear Jerky, Huwag Mo ng Itanong, Overdrive … Each time, I felt a certain connection to the heartfelt words of the songs. They were forthright and uncomplicated, and written before Raimund began wearing eyeliner, and Ely began wearing aviator shades.

Six years after The Eraserheads disbanded, I wasn’t sure if I could again withstand having to sweat the equivalent of half of my body weight while listening to them play in what I reckon would be a largely testosterone-y crowd. I did this every weekend during my stay in UP, with Wolfgang and Razorback and The Dawn. I wasn't sure if I can do it again, seeing that I’ve grown into a pretty boring salaried person. This was why watching the Eraserheads Reunion Concert was a last-minute decision. Our friend Mike bought the tickets on Thursday. We paid for them after the concert, on our way home.

Short as it was, the Eraserheads Reunion Concert is the highlight of my year. I did not mind that I was squeezed from all sides by sweaty individuals. Truth be told, I was reeking myself. I also did not mind that several persons dared smoke while packed like sardines in the crowd. I did not mind that most of the people around me shouted/sang with the band, resulting in my occasional failure to listen to Ely sing himself. Heck, I also sang like it was the end of the world.

For an hour yesterday, we all forgot we were now engineers, private bankers, sales managers, doctors. We tuned out, shouted “Gusto mo ba-aaang suuu-mama?!” while The Eraserheads played Alapaap, and thanked the greatest Pinoy band ever in silence, for letting us recreate our most carefree moments.

Long live The Eraserheads.

(* Watch a video blog of the concert here.)




Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Linus

I find it difficult, even when on holiday, not to think about work. My files are my Linus blanket/s. I take them with me wherever I go, so I can feel secure at the thought that I can always work when I want to.

Of course I often end up just bringing unnecessary baggage that I don’t even touch. Worse, since I know I have work but don’t really want to work, I end up debating in my head whether I should even begin working. Work then takes up much of my now free time, which is  counterproductive and yes, very strange.

This vacation however, was pleasantly different. I boarded the plane under threat from Pao that he will not speak to me if I even bring something to work on. Being the weird-o that I am, I snuck in a couple of files in that hidden portion of my luggage that is meant for suits. Happily, my files remained hidden there for the next five days, because this time my brain went out of the office with me. Until today, I did absolutely nothing related to work.

It is refreshing to leave our professions behind once in a while. The sight of other people on a subway train going about their usual business puts my "usual business" in proper perspective. I realize in hindsight, that we're all just persons making a living the way we know best. Bills have to be paid and most of us have to work to pay for them; but as my friend Rona says, "Ang hanap-buhay ay hanap-buhay lang. Hindi yan buhay."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Beach Boy

I like to take my time on the beach. My idea of a vacation is waking up at 11:00 a.m., getting a massage under a coconut tree, and drinking ice-cold San Mig Light with my inihaw na pusit on demand. If I had my way, I would lie in a hammock all day, read a book and sleep. Ahh, how I love to sleep.







But since I got married, I now have to take The Husband’s activities into consideration. My luck is that unlike me, Pao prefers to do as many things as he could in a day even when on vacation. If Pao had his way, he would eat, swim, watch a reggae concert, eat, jog, eat, bike, eat, skimboard and eat as much as possible. Sayang sa oras, he would say. Get up, stand up, let’s do something exciting, anything, go, go, go.





Eh ‘di go. We went to Tambisaan beach by tricycle on the eastern side of Boracay at 12NN. We rented two snorkels for P50 each and swam in what was, at the time, pleasantly cool waters. Three hours later, I get sunburns on my cheeks and forehead the size of roadkill caterpillars.







I burn easily. This is why I don’t like playing water sports or swimming in the water for periods longer than an hour at a time, much less at the height of the midday sun. While some people look “exotic” or “godly” when bronzed, I end up looking like a 12-year old boy. Wearing my hair short already treads that thin line between being fashionable and looking like a lady-boy. I don’t like to push myself over that line by turning into a brown male adolescent. Oh well.

ExaJ. Over. O.A.

The primary reason why I went to Hong Kong, my very motive for taking every painful step to the MTR, is to visit Hong Kong Disneyland. Mickey Mouse is the huggable rodent to see when you want to act your age less twenty years, and forget even for a while that you practice law in the Philippines. That motive, that cause, that reason is gone. Nada. Vanished. Could no longer be accomplished.

It is Tropical Cyclone No. 9 here.* All the shops are closed. Work and school are cancelled. The streets are deserted. There are no open government offices. We’re not even sure where we’re eating dinner. My guess is it’ll either be 7Eleven or Watsons, because, lo and behold, these are the only establishments open today.



In desperation, we tried every stop along the MTR to find a shop that’s open.  We got off the stations at Sheung Wan, Central, Admiralty, Wang Chai and finally, Causeway Bay. We found absolutely nothing except for five computer shops at the Wang Chai Computer Centre and several hundred other confused tourists. Even the second best thing why I went here, which is to visit the Louis Vuitton flagship store, could not be done. Mr. Vuitton is sleeping in today and is closed for business due to the "heavy rains."





It's a huge wonder to us typhoon experts from the Philippines why the locals are panicking like it’s the end of the world in this weather. There is hardly any rain and the winds are not strong enough to even rattle the billboards along EDSA. If this “cyclone” were in the Philippines, it wouldn’t even count as Signal No. 1. And, even if it did, we would still have gone to work and drank coffee in SM after office.






But, as the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do. So we’re staying in the hotel and updating our Facebooks while the locals figure out that this isn’t really a “cyclone” but a mere ambon.








Hopefully, when our Lucky Me La Paz Batchoys and Nissin Seafood Cup Noodles have been exhausted, Hong Kong would have already realized that there’s nothing to worry about. We should then be allowed to spend our hard-earned cash in their amusement parks.








* Photo taken in the morning, when only "Tropical Cyclone No. 8" was hoisted. (And you thought I forgot my numbers).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Must Reach Bed

It’s my first time in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it appears that I came at a time when the weather is unbearably humid. It’s a sunny 31C and it feels like we’re children playing inside a stuffy carton box all over again, except this time we’re in the box with a million other Asians.

While the locals don’t seem to mind walking in this weather mostly in three-piece suits, my clothes have been alternating from wet with sweat and then dry by airconditioning throughout the day. But since we’re just glad we’re away from the Philippines (and consequently from work), my travel companions and I were willing to overlook this “minor” glitch, walked around Hong Kong and Kowloon Island until our feet begged for mercy, and rode the MTR like the wild stallion that it is.


We’re staying in a hotel where our bed occupies two-thirds of the room space. It takes three medium-sized strides to get from one end to another (I counted). But there’s wi-fi all over (which allows me to write this blog); the lights, the temperature, video and surround-audio are all controlled by one remote; and we’re right smack in the middle of the city, so who cares?






We met up with Pao and Mike’s highschool classmate Silet upon arriving at the airport. Silet, God bless Silet, is a flight attendant for Cathay based in London, who’s staying in Hong Kong in between trips. He saved us a couple of hours of “duh” time in the MTR because he knew which track colors to go to in order to get to wherever. Silet, God bless Silet, also picked us up from the airport, paid for our one-day MTR passes and our lunch, and gave us the free bags that came with the Nikkon DSLR that he bought in Mong Kok. Hoorah!




With Silet and his handy-dandy British accent in tow, we were able to visit the Ladies’ Market in Tung Choi Street, the row of upper-end shops along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, and [the entrance to] Hong Kong Disneyland (We just bought tickets. We’ll come back Friday) in less than three (3) hours. Silet had to go back to the aiport for Luhn-duhn at 4:30p.m. But between that time and 11:00 p.m, we managed to watch the light show at Harbour City, buy Olympic souvenirs from the Hong Kong Olympic Piazza, drink the equivalent of P210 Starbucks mocha frappucinos at the Hong Kong Cultural Center and then ride the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island.




Finally, our internal “extra-Joss-es” ran out.The weather and our constant running around, has further caused my old friend “the migraine” to come all the way to Hong Kong to pay me a visit. Must now reach bed and close eyelids to sleep.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Regroup

There are days like today when you just have to stay at home in your pajamas, eat popcorn and blog.

By god, have I been making mistakes at work lately. Although not fatal, they eventually add up to form that dreadful cloud of incompetence looming over my head. I’ve been trying to shoo that cloud away. But it’s sticking around like dog shit in my happy field of lush green grass.

I could just blame the impossible work load, which makes weekends to myself, at least six hours of sleep and hence, daytime concentration impossible. But my corner of the world has always suffered from the same dizzying schedule. Unless the human race finally decides to live in peace and do away with lawyers, I'm sure it will be like this forever. I must simply take a step back, look at the battlefield, rethink and regroup.

So here I am at home on a weekday, in my pajamas, eating popcorn and blogging. I feel bad for not going to work, but I feel I deserve a break.

Poso negro nga napupuno; utak ko pa kaya.

Friday, July 11, 2008

We Deserve Better

The reason why I don’t like dealing with the Government is because government offices are so grossly inefficient. As a general rule, government personnel lack even half the skills required to discharge the functions of their office. That’s because most of them are hired not on the basis of merit but because they’re related somewhat to ‘Gov’ or ‘Mayor’.

Infrastructure is terrible, which makes mediocre personnel turn pitiable. How could clerks be expected to work efficiently when they’re surrounded with decomposing documents and their offices smell like outhouses? So, I guess, they should get some slack for looking miserable all the time and coming across as perennially sad that they had to go to work. I forgive them for wearing furry slippers and eating saging na saba on their desks outside of lunch hour. But I refuse to acknowledge bad environment as an excuse for regular incompetence.

In a province outside Manila today, it took me close to two hours just to get a certification from an office, that our client had no pending criminal cases. The reason: They had no computers, which means their inventory of cases consists of a pile of yellow pad papers fastened on the side. Names aren’t even in alphabetical order. They are handwritten, so the clerks had to manually go over each and every folio, looking for our clients’ names.

The printing of the actual certification is another matter. The clerk had no idea how to work the computer, which resulted in an unfortunate waste of printing paper and ink. She also knew little English, so I ended up writing the certification on scratch paper and handing it to her for typing.

It’s just so sad, considering that not one Filipino can live his life without having to transact with the Government. Government workers should be better paid, greater appreciated, so only competent and honest people would end up in its ranks. We deserve better.

** Picture originally appears in http://heritageconservation.wordpress.com/category/bohol/.

Thoughts So True They're Worthy of a Quotation

“If you speak to anyone from UP – student, professor, alumnus - you will get no Latin slogans or apologies about how the school teaches values in spite of its outward materialism.  This is not a student population that thinks about basketball games or memorizes school songs.  This is not a school that chooses one statement to drill into the minds of its students.

This is not, of course, to say that UP does not care about values.  It is that UP, in its own inimitable way, believes that values cannot be force-fed. The statue of the naked man that guards the entrance to the campus in Diliman best represents UP’s approach to all education and the respect for students that is the center of its educational philosophy.  All who come to this university, regardless of origin, bring themselves naked, carrying nothing but their thirst; like the proverbial empty teacup, making an offering of self, waiting to be filled…There are no children here.”

– Prof. Maya Baltazar Herrera, Voyage - first published in the Manila Standard Today

(Read the rest of her article here.)

Isn't She Lovely

I love U.P. with every bone in my body. I love the eight years that I spent in the Diliman campus, which are thus far the best years of my life.

After graduating from high school, I prayed everyday for the Lord God Almighty to please make me pass the UPCAT. I guess I was meant to spend weekdays eating isaw in front of Ilang-ilang, so I passed. Coming from an all-girls’* Catholic school, you could just imagine what a shock U.P. was to me.

U.P. recognized a student organization called the “Atheists’ Circle.” Its student population had the strangest demography ever known to mankind. In class, I sat in the same row as the daughter of a General, who was in the habit of wearing white miniskirts to class and the son of a farmer from Samar, who wore the same pair of jeans every time. Meanwhile, our professor sat on his table instead of on his chair while he lectured. He sipped occasionally from the Zesto tetrapak that he brought to class, because Starbucks was then inexistent in the Philippines and he probably was too underpaid to afford a venti mocha frap anyway.

U.P. taught me discipline, since only 2 of my professors religiously attended class during the semester. The rest told us to just “please photocopy the syllabus from my office at the FC; let’s meet after four weeks for our midterm exam.” U.P. taught me to proud of being Filipino; to do everything in my power to change the Philippines for the better; to accept differences in opinions; and, to dip my fishball into the sauce only once – all for less than Php200 per unit.

I remember in U.P., the branches of the trees along the academic oval touched pass the oblation, forming a canopy of leaves over student joggers and ice cream vendors alike. It was a lovely sight.

* Debatable.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Revenge of the Nerds

Thanks to youtube, I am now able to solve a Rubik’s cube in ten minutes. Pao will claim that he is able to solve it in five. I cannot confirm this categorically because Pao times himself. But it is quite possible for him to be better at solving things, considering, among others, my unstable emotional quotient.

The first Rubik’s cube that I bought was from Tickles in Glorietta. What a sore waste of money. It turned to this in a couple of days. We bought another one of these cheap Made-in-China Rubik’s in the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao. We were waiting for the showing of our friend’s independent film and couldn’t find anything to do in the meantime, so we got ourselves another puzzle. This one is sitting on our console table as I write. It is, again, quite another useless piece of crap.

My favorite Rubik’s is the one that we bought at a magic store in Shopwise. It glides easily, which makes solving it faster. Pao bought another one last Saturday in Tiendesitas. The Tiendesitas Rubik's is okay but I’m not using it out of loyalty to my Shopwise piece.

So anyway, it turns out that we have a knack for discovering the "IN" thing earlier than the rest of the Philippines. There was, lo and behold, a Rubik’s cube-solving competition at the mall last weekend.

Uso na pala ito. "In na in" na talaga ako. Shucks.

Responsible Pet Stewardship

Pipo went to the groomers* for the first time in his 28-doggieyear existence. We did not see the need to bring him there previously because one, he's a smoothcoat so he has very little hair, and two, he doesn't get very dirty because he sleeps on our beds.

However, there was no escaping the groomers this time. It was an urgent matter of health and sickness. It turns out, the flesh inside a dog’s nails grows with his nails. If ignorant owners like us are not into the habit of regularly cutting the subject pet’s nails, then the flesh inside that has grown too long would have to be cauterized, resulting in some amount of blood loss. Ouch.

Fortunately, groomers have sort of a quick-stop ointment that they place on the nails immediately after cutting to make the bleeding stop faster. But this is not an excuse for making Pipo, the devil that he is, bear the consequences of our ignorance. So, if you’re a pet owner, please take your pet to the groomers this weekend. It isn't just a vanity trip. It's something that has to be done to make having to live with you more bearable for your pet.

*My apologies for the pic. I tried to turn it right side up but I failed. Just tilt your head 45 degrees to the right. There you go.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Adoptive Province

I consider myself an Ilocano, although I’ve never lived in Cagayan Valley. My visits to the North, in fact, have never been for more than five days a time. I just grew up in an Ilocano household.

My parents spoke to each other in Ilocano. As children, my sister and I enjoyed a constant supply of Alcala Milk (pastillas from Alcala, Cagayan), patupat (triangle-shaped rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves), tinubong (kakain cooked inside a bamboo), and tinupig* (coconut kakanin roasted in leaves and then wrapped in newspaper). My father also occasionally slaughtered your standard goat in our garage at home. He would then cook the goat’s innards to make papaitan, which expectedly resulted in complaints from the neighbors because well, innards smell terrible when boiled.

So even though I’ve lived in Metro Manila my entire life, I automatically answer “Cagayan Valley” to the standard small-talk question of “San ang probinsya mo?” I feel a certain affinity with Ilocanos. I actually understand Ilocano; I just do not speak it for fear that I would end up bastardizing the dialect.

I suddenly remembered papaitan, pinakbet, dinardaraan** and all the fantastic smells and tastes of my childhood because in La Union today, I found myself saying “Wen” to the judge's question that went: "Maawatam ti Ilocano?"

*Shown here. I bought a bunch along the National Highway in Pangasinan on my way home. Doesn't quite taste like Cagayan tinupig though.

** Ilocano for dinuguan, aka "blood soup."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Huli Ka

The game plan is to henceforth eat healthy. For dinner today, Pao and I whipped up our own version of Italliani’s sicillian salad. Okay, we only had Caesar salad dressing in our refrigerator so we ended up using that. But toss together some romaine lettuce, canned mandarin oranges, canned chicken chunks, and toasted Gardenia wheat bread (aka croutons) and viola, you got yourself a decent-looking meal.

To my surprise, we didn’t finish the entire batch. Pao particularly felt full early; and, without the better eating machine in this two-person guzzler, the rest of the salad had to be saved for later.




It's almost end of day and it looked like our common plan to eat and live healthy is turning out to be quite a success. Too bad I caught Pao eating Oishi in bed at 10:00 PM. Sus naman.

This Can't Be It

I woke up panicking at 4:00 AM today. I thought it was already a Monday, and I still haven’t started the 3 pleadings that I was supposed to finish over the weekend. It took me ten minutes to realize, Sunday pa lang pala. I still have time to get my work done after church in the afternoon.

This is the story of my life. My job follows me everywhere I go, even when I’m asleep. My life revolves around the predictable blur that is the law office: I wake up at 7:00 AM everyday, rush to juggle a meter long list of things to do during the day, leave the office at 9:00 PM, sleep at 12:00 MN, and then wake up at 7:00 the following morning to do it all over again.

Fridays afternoons are okay. Fridays give me the pleasure of looking back at an accomplished workweek and of looking forward to a promising weekend. I actually sleep very late on Fridays because I don’t want the day to end. But soon there’s the Saturday, which I mostly spend doing errands for the house, like grocery shopping and plumbing. And then there’s the Sunday, which I mostly spend figuring out how I'm supposed to finish all that work that I brought home.

If you think about it, I make a living six days a week (Sundays included) but actually LIVE for only half of my Friday. There's got to be more to life than this.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Note To Self

I’m going on a diet. I decided to write this down here in case I forget when I see liempo for lunch tomorrow. I haven’t gained a considerable amount of weight, but my age has taken a toll on my body. I noticed yesterday that I’ve developed mommy thighs, meaning ripples (known to the female population as cellulite) have taken up residence on my legs. My lower abdomen also permanently looks like I drank too much water.

I should exercise again. I did go to the gym a year ago when it was one of the freebies I enjoyed at my old job. Unfortunately, I lost all motivation to go back because I would now have to shell out my own money to get some exercise. In the meantime, mallwide sales are the only opportunities I get to “exercise” for a couple of hours.

But enough of these excuses. Tomorrow, I will walk across the street to my sister’s house to use that Carl Lewis Air Walker that Auntie Mira gave us. It'll be such a bore using that Air Walker in their spare room with no one to talk to. Maybe I should first buy an ipod so I have music to listen to while I run. Brilliant. Tomorrow, I'm going to the mall to window shop for a new ipod.

Popcorn. Extra Butter.

I watch movies for free. How I’m able to do this is a long story, which traces itself to the day I took my oath as a kagalang-galang na Notaryo Publiko for the City of Makati. In a nutshell, two months after notarizing documents for an orphanage, I found myself to be a Deputy for the MTRCB. Now I’m able to watch as many movies as my swollen eyes can handle, and even take a “companion” a.k.a Paolo with me.

This week, I watched:

The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton is my soul mate. I was meant to marry Edward if he only knew where the Philippines is. Not to worry, it was Edward’s loss. Going back… I especially liked the scene where Bruce Banner had to “retrieve” the flashdrive that he ate as a "matter of last resort," because Edward had to brush his teeth after that scene, and he had to wear only a towel.









Get Smart

Steve Carell is the funniest man after Robin Williams (and also maybe Adam Sandler). I’m not a fan of Anne Hathaway. I get images of her as a blonde in that scene in Brokeback Mountain everytime I see her, and it annoys me to pieces. But I don’t mind that she’s here. Notice that her nail polish is orange and chipped in most scenes.









Wanted

This is weird. A regular office worker discovers that he has the talent to bend bullets, among others, and so he joins a fraternity of assassins who kill on command. Blood and bullets are all over. Angelina Jolie looks beautiful as always, but she’s gotten so thin it’s become difficult to imagine her having the energy to be an assassin. As it looks, she barely has the energy to feed herself.









Made of Honor – Not a movie I would pay to see. There’s not much kilig factor, if that’s what you’re going for. Just think My Bestfriend’s Wedding – male version. Patrick Dempsey is gorgeous though. As compared to Edward Norton in the Incredible Hulk, he appears in more than one scene half-naked. So dreamy. Don’t you just want to run your fingers through that hair?





I also watched Definitely, Maybe on DVD. It was a drag. If it weren’t for the main plot that gets you involved in figuring out who Ryan Reynolds ends up with, you’ll probably end up sleeping in ten minutes.


I insist on watching Urduja tonight, which is the first all-Filipino hand-drawn animated film retelling the life of the legendary Princess Urduja. Will let you know how that turns out.

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