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?

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