Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reminiscing

I think you never forget your childhood, whether it was happy or unhappy. - Marcel Carne

With the present spiraling prices of commodities, everything has a price even when entertaining ones self. Feeling the pinch, I can’t help but be nostalgic of my childhood years. That was a time when life was simple, where summer fun is playing “patentero” and “taguan” in the town plaza under the watchful eyes of the full moon. A time when a child’s toy truck consists of a sardine can for its body and four milk cans as its tires. Where all you need is two sticks taken from a branch of a guava tree to play “shato” with your friends all afternoon.

Unlike today where I have to wakeup early to bring my daughter to her nursery class, I walked to attend my primary education. It’s not because of the unavailability of transportation but because my school is just a few hundred meters from our house. My “baon” consist of two sandwiches and kalamansi juice prepared by my Mom and put in one of her Tupperware (she’s got a cabinet full of those plastic containers). So that I won’t feel left-out, she gave me 10 centavos to buy what ever I want in the canteen. What can you buy with 10c? In those days a lot, mostly junk foods, from 10 pieces of “dolce de lemon” to 10 Tarzan bubble gums or two bars of Thunderbolt chocolates.

During weekend, our parents treat us to a movie. We have to eat dinner early because the last full show starts at 7:00 in the evening. They always play double feature films so you’re glued to your seat for four hours, mesmerized to the magic of cinema. During intermission, my Dad gave us extra treat by buying soft drinks and siopao. Sometimes my parents allow me to watched movies on my own. They are at ease because movie employees knew me already. Cinemas charge only half for minors, so I only pay 25c to get in plus 15c for soft drink and 10c for the siopao. Talking about cheap entertainment, fifty centavos and you could enjoy all of these.

My grandmother has her own story to tell. She said all you need is 20 centavos to do your daily marketing. I’ve never seen one, but when she was young they have a currency denomination called “maraveles”. I’ts worth half of one centavo. Just imagine what it was back then when there are things you could buy for half a centavo.

Haay… buhay.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Memoriam: Victims of Typhoon "Frank"

It could had been prevented if only personal interests were set aside.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Down and Out in M.E.

In many cases, a bout with sickness stretches your soul, opens your eyes, and introduces you to a world of unimagined grandeur, possibility and joy. - Tony Snow

I just got back to my office yesterday. I was away from my computer for one week not because I was on some assignment but because I was bedridden. I seldom get sick, once a year and only last 3 days tops. But this time it was worst. First it was my wife, and then my daughter and I got infected last.

My body was aching all over. My fever bounced back and forth between 38 and 39.5 and was chilling for two nights. I have no appetite and my intake consist of orange juice and four different tablets and capsule I pop up every 12 hours. My doctor blamed it on climate change. Sandstorm occurs now and then plus the unbearable heat was up one degree more than last year, and its only June. It’s either that or I’m getting old. In the bright side, I lost 2 kilos in the process.

It’s difficult to get sick in a foreign land. You either has to drive yourself to the hospital while shivering in fever or wait for somebody to come after work to fetch you. I’m one of the lucky few. I have my wife to care for me and a good friend who called now and then to ask if we need anything from the supermarket. Malaki na ang utang na loob ko sa kumpare kong Jun Geronimo.

But what about if you’re all alone? I knew one guy who had an accident and was brought to the hospital by some good soul but doctors won’t attend to him. They want confirmation first from the company he worked for. The problem is nobody’s there to answer phone calls at the office during night time. The company only found out what happened when he didn’t arrived for work the following day. He was at the hospital’s emergency ward but left unattended for 12 hours because the f*cking hospital wants to make sure the guy has a f*cking health insurance.

Hinde lang sa Pinas, kahit dito matakaw din ang Medical Institution. It makes you sick sometimes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Show Me Your Ride, I’ll Show You Who You Are

The car has become the carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man. - Marshall McLuhan

Early in the morning, we’re on the road, trying to be on time for work after I drop my daughter to school. All of a sudden a car cut us in front, releasing some expletives from my lips. My wife asks “How did you know that driver was an Eg**t**n”? “By the type of car his driving”, I answered. Sure enough, when we stop side by side at a traffic light, it was an Eg**t**n (or looks like one).

I’m not stereotyping, but most Arabs prefer huge cars (American) while South and Southeast Asians like the Japanese models. I myself drive a Korean model. But when it comes to old cars (model 80’s and 90’s) the stereotyping begins and the similarity is not further from the truth. Let me illustrate:

A typical car driven by typical people like me. Nothing fancy. It has all the necessary accessories for safe driving.

A car probably owned by locals. I’m not kidding. The tinted windows are to discourage prying eyes, especially if there are women inside. It’s not because cars are gendered as female as the reason of the hood covering, but to protect the lights and engine when driving on severe sandstorm.

I have no rational explanation for this, but I often see North Africans and Sudanese driving this kind of car. Remove the baggage carrier from the roof and most likely a South Asian is behind the wheel.

You guessed it right. It’s owned by a Pinoy. “Rice burner” I think is the American term for it. They modified it to look like a race car. Even change the muffler to sound like it has a powerful engine, but nothing special under its hood and suspension system. Maybe its owner is a frustrated race car driver, has a lot of money or has “attention deficit syndrome” ( kulang sa pansin).

A big metropolis in terms of area, my city is still lacking in mass transport. The majority prefers to drive their own car and culture, I guess, has something to do with it. As for me, I bought my car so I could go from point A to point B, if I go shopping or incase of emergency. I maintain it well because it’s an indispensable part of our daily life but not to a point that it’s “fully loaded” with non-essentials.

I still could not understand why some of our kabayans invest heavily on something they will only own temporarily and could not bring back to the Philippines. Your guess is just as good as mine.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Fighting Fire with Fire

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. - Sun Tzu

A good friend of mine bought a house in Cavite, in a subdivision managed by a real estate company owned by a very rich lawmaker. When they were first shown the site map, a creek exist a few hundred meters away from their prospected house. They signed the necessary documents and finished paying the last installment in 2006.

Lately, they received news that the creek has changed course and now eating vacant lots a few meters away from their backyard. Anak nang tinapa, hinde pa nga na titirhan yung bahay kakainin na nang ilog. Alarmed, they e-mailed the subdivision management about the situation. They must have sent 5 letters for the past weeks without any response from the recipient. Finally in desperation, they e-mailed their final letter, threatening that if no action is done, they will dissipate their story in the internet. After two days, they received a letter from the management, stating that they are preparing a site inspection to build riff-raffs along the banks of the creek.

I surmise that since the target clients of this subdivision are OFWs, as shown by their commercial ads on TV, a negative story dispersed as chain letter in the internet is disastrous to their business. Afraid of another “Malu Fernandez” scandal, they have no option but to abide to home-owners’ will.

Some business deals are sealed by trust and a handshake. Some, you have to break the other person’s arm to fulfill his part of the bargain. Gone are the days when a person’s word and integrity are enough to gain another person’s confidence. In a dog-eat-dog society like ours, one should be shrewd when dealing with strangers, friends or even relatives. One should always read the fine prints and what’s between the lines.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On Lunar and Lunacy

Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god, but a great rock, and the sun a hot rock. - Anaxagoras

The moon is a fascinating object. Its gender classification is a “she” because of her beauty and mysterious nature. In olden times men considered it god, like Luna, goddess of the moon. A lot of words where extracted from it like “lunacy”. I don’t know why a person with an abnormal conduct is akin to this huge rock. Maybe because of what the moon does to tides. Like a tide, a lunatic also manifest sudden burst of insanely behavior.

In the Middle East, where symbolisms abound, the moon has its proper place. One can see it in national flags of Islamic nations. It’s on top of every mosque and Red Crescent (similar to Red Cross), has it as its logo. Except for dental clinics, which use a giant molar, every hospital and pharmacy is represented by it.

She’s so highly regarded that they still based their calendar from it. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is based on solar cycle, Hejira calendar is based on lunar cycle. It has 12 months but has shorter days per month. Ten days difference in one Gregorian year. The kingdom have an official “moon watcher” who, by the shape of the moon, tells authorities if it’s the end of the month (especially during the holy month of Ramadan) or the end of the year. I wonder what these officials do if it’s cloudy and could not see the new moon.

Hejira calendar with its corresponding dates in Gregorian.

This method of counting time has its pros and cons. When dealing with government agencies, our company uses Hejira. But we use Gregorian in our internal affairs. It’s advantageous for government workers since their salary is based on shorter months. It’s profitable for apartment owners since they based rental fee on a shorter year. It’s disadvantageous for me since my wage is based on Gregorian, compounded by the fact that rental dates are always moving every year. I have to shell out rent money because our housing allowance is also based in Gregorian.

Some people find this kind of system lunatic. For me it’s a culture thing and I’ve learned to live with it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Educating Bea

No sacrifice was too great to forward our education and, fortunately, books and the tradition of study were not unknown in our family. - Sidney Altman

Today is the first day my daughter goes to school. She’s attending nursery in one of the international schools managed by Filipinos. It’s not cheap, her tuition fee plus “blah blah fees” are equivalent to enrolling your child to an exclusive nun-supervised kindergarten in Manila. I just hope they have the same standard of teaching.

I don’t know who is more excited, the child or the mother. My wife woke up around 5:30 while my daughter and I are still sleeping. Preparing everything her daughter needs, from her lunch to her extra clothes and towel. Teary-eyed pa when she was dressing up our daughter. Anak nang tupa, nursery lang e, melodramatic na itong misis ko. How much more kaya kung aakyat na yan to receive her college diploma. Baka mag lupasay na.

I have to adjust too. Since I have to bring my “mag-ina” to school and back, I have to wakeup earlier than I use to do, to avoid heavy traffic during school days. Doble-talo. Pagod ka na, butas pa ang bulsa. But I’ll do anything when it comes to my daughter’s education. Kahit ipang-utang ko pa, just to ensure my child’s future. Any responsible parent knows that.

Now I know the real meaning behind what my Mom used to say to us “Makakabawi na kami nang Daddy mo pag meron na kayong sariling anak”.