it's my 5th month in SG on Tuesday. but i still feel like i'm on an extended vacation in this 'island nation'. today I watched 'The History of SG' on Channel News Asia (one of only 2 channels(!) i can watch here, the rest are in foreign tongues). this country has a very interesting history that's not much different from the Philippines: started out as a colony, then suffered under the Japanese, became independent after that, led by a strongman in the 60's onwards... unfortunately our strongman had to have Imelda for a wife.
BUT i don't want to go there.
the Wife and I are gradually settling into a weekly routine:
Mondays to Thursdays - we go to work, and when we arrive home we whine all night about how godawful our day was
Fridays - we drag ourselves to work and go home early sooo excited about the weekend
Saturdays - in the afternoon take Simone to her gymnastics class, after which we go to the city take her to ballet class (yes, we're serious about bringing her up as the next lea salonga/lisa macuja/sarah geronimo rolled into one)
sundays - grocery day and lounging around doing absolutely nothing
on my lonely train rides home, i realize that SG is the perfect country to for a lonesome travel. it's safe anywhere you go, 24 hours a day. the public transportation system is easy to understand. everyone speaks english (although you understand only about 30% of what they say). this country is great for shopping or simply sight seeing. there's plenty of culture. the list goes on. it's a nice place to visit if you want to do some soul searching but you don't have the budget to go all the way to Europe.
the Wife and i promised eachother that we will one day travel alone (just me or just her) to another country. i haven't quite decided yet where i want to go (hmmm maybe i can backpack across europe?). i think the Wife will go to Hong Kong.
Tomorrow is officially my 4th month in SG. Oh how time flies when you're overworked...
Since I left the Philippines, I've had very little time to check my personal email. Most of my waking hours is spent at work, even when I'm at home (THE CURSE OF THE LAPTOP), so friends and officemates have been trying to contact me asking me how I'm doing here.
I've come up with set answers to all their how are you's:
"ito ang pinakamatinding pagsubok sa buhay ko"
"heto, lapit na mamatay"
"ang dami ko nang puhunang sakripisyo sa mundong ito, lalampas na ako sa langit"
In the last four months in my new office, I feel like I've done more work than in my previous company of 3 years. Each person in the team is doing about 3 persons' worth of work. Which explains the high turnover of people within the team.
Otherwise, life in SG is OK. Nice even. It's nice to live in a safe and clean environment. It's a mystery how this tiny country keeps everything in order.
Everything works like clockwork. The train arrives every 2 minutes from 730 to 830 am. After that it arrives every 3 minutes.
Trees that line the streets are planted a specific distance from one another, and the ground is always covered by perfectly trimmed grass.
There's rarely any clutter.
The air is fresh. Buses rarely ever spew black smoke. Everything is P E R F E C T.
Looking around SG is like walking into a friend's room that is neat and perfectly organized. You'd think "Oh how nice to stay in this kind of room, it's in a state of order that I could never ever achieve with my own place (or life)", but in the back of your mind, you know that to achieve this kind of order, the person must be a control freak/neurotic/bunch-of-frazzled nerves/crazy/he-must-be-unhappy/lonely/needs-to-loosen-up kind of person who's simply not normal.
This is how I view SG. It's not normal. It's too perfect. The news on TV and in the papers is always good news (or at least 95% of the time).
I miss the feeling of being unsafe sometimes. Like walking along a street with no lights and hoping no one is lurking around waiting to grab your new cellphone which you have to pay for 18 more months with Globe. Or leaving home your watch/jewelry because you plan to go to Quiapo to buy pirated DVDs, and hope there won't be a raid that day. Or texting your friend the plate number of the taxi you're riding so that if anything happens to you (e.g. you get raped and murdered), the policemen can have a "clue" as to who could have ever done such a terrible crime.
When I worked in Makati, I moved from one high profile building to the other, and everyday I prayed my building won't get bombed. When I was stationed at 6750, everytime gas prices shot up, we'd all have to pass through the basement going out to Glorietta to avoid the violent rallyists outside the building (because the Shell main office was also there). It got worse when we moved to the PSE Tower along Ayala, as this was always mentioned whenever the PNP uncovered some "plan" by "extremists" to bomb this or that.
It's funny how normal all these things were to me before. And for some sick and weird reason, I crave for some of that I-don't-feel-safe feeling.
I'm officially homesick.
While waiting in line at a grocery counter, I glanced at a magazine that had Beth Tamayo on the cover. She was posing beside her Chinese-looking hubby and their big Christmas tree. Under the tree were gifts in branded paper bags like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the like. I showed this to the Wife, and we both shrugged as if to say "How Nouveau!" The magazine was sealed so we didn't get to read the article (now who's cheap?).
A week later, when I went to the barber shop I saw the same magazine so I picked it up. The magazine featured Beth Tamayo's new house in Quezon City. It's a huge house, thanks to her millionaire husband. There was even a picture of the hubby's car, a new Mercedes Benz SL500(!). For those of you who don't know, this car costs upwards of P10,000,000.00. Yes, he drives a car that makes Tony Boy's BMW 5-series look normal.
In the article, Beth talks about her noche buena at home. She spends it alone with her hubby, and they have "the usual, spaghetti
, hamon excellente, and hotdogs
There's a lesson to this story and I think it's this: You can never buy class.
Speaking of food, I discovered 2 great food-buys from the holidays:
1) Oishi Cuckoo Bag - this one might make Beth Tamayo happy. For P86.00, you get a gift pack with a dozen Oishi-brand chips inside, and a bonus toy. It's a great combination of (dare I say) classic chips that we (my age group) used to enjoy, like Rinbee Cheese sticks, Oishi prawn crackers, Kirei, etc. The pack also includes Oishi's recent hits like Pillows, Ridges potato chips, and my favorite Creamy Garlic potato chips.
2) Lindt Swiss Thins - this was introduced to the Wife by c5
a few months back. The Wife has been raving about it since. It's a box of really thin chocolate squares. I guess it's more "pleasurable" to eat thin chocolate squares because it's less umay
. It's sooo good. A bit pricey for a small box (P250 at Rustan's grocery), but worth it. I'll try the dark one next time (70% cocoa, looks promising).
I hate the (lack of) movie choices during the Christmas break. All theaters are required to show nothing but the Manila Film Fest entries. All the theaters, even the ones that only ever show Hollywood blockbusters, are forced to screen these Bong Revilla and Eddie Garcia starers.
In the hopes of finding at least one good movie among the seven film fest entries, I searched for ANY good user reviews (from clickthecity.com), and here's what I found:
1) The 3 Enteng Kabisote-esque movies offer the usual Pinoy-quality special effects. That is, with a budget of P1,200 for computer animation. Here's one review for Bong Revilla's Exodus:
"Most Worst Film in MMFFP
hindi maganda ang special effects sayang ang pera mo buti na lang at may free enchanted kingdom ticket atsaka yung ibang chracter parang walang ginawa sa film katulad ni benjie paras wala siyang masyadong ginawa"
I have to agree with this guy. Why put a huge star like Benjie Paras in a movie and not give him enough lines? Or was he referring to action scenes? Whatever.
So, ok, Exodus sucks. Next...
2) The 2 horror flicks are not at par with Kris Aquino's Feng Shui, which Pinoy film buffs seem to use nowadays as THE yardstick for pinoy horror flicks (and I don't even like Feng Shui). Here's one review for Shake Rattle and Roll:
"A BiG DiSaPPoiNtMeNT....
after feng shui i tot, filipino movie makers wud impruv deyr film's quality especially on horror movies but i think its not.
i ThInK diz movie was supposed 2 scare d viewer but it did not happen as a matter of fact pipol was laughing.
i gave 1 star for the acting and story of the 3rd chapter.
Diz FiLm was NoT worth My purple & orange bucks even my friends dat i encourage 2 watch diz movie was blaming me.
diz is juz my opinion & if u want to take d risk den watch it."
Now, anyone who writes "this" as "diz" and "just" as "juz" has got to be lowest kind of jologs on this planet. The movie has got to suck big time because it didn't even please its intended market!
I do like the "not worth my purple and orange bucks" reference to the Peso. I think I'll start using that phrase whenever the Wife wants to buy something frivolous. (Not that I'm saying this happens often)
Anyway, back to the movies...
3) So the 3 adventure movies and 2 horror flicks are out, and that leaves me with either Zsa Zsa Padilla's "Ako Legal Wife" and Eddie Garcia's action movie (forgot the title).
Um, never mind, I'll just buy pirated DVDs in Metrowalk later. Transporter 2! Woohoo!
On the other hand, they give out free Enchanted Kingdom tickets when you watch Exodus? Hmm, maybe Simone might like that movie...
We just had our office Christmas party tonight (Christmas party #2 for me, 4 to go). Each project had to present a number depicting a certain decade (60's through 2000's -- how do you call the year 2000 onwards? When a few years ago you could say, "C'mon we're in the 90's!", now what do you say, "C'mon we're in the new millennium?" Sounds to Star Trek-ish). Anyway, we were the 90's group, and we presented a bunch of alternative Pinoy rock songs and wrapped it all up with Tropang Trumpo's Chicken Dance -- with the requisite Caronia song background. Although it was a competition, my group was not too competitive and decided to just have fun (in other words, we didn't win).
Having Christmas presentations/contests is such a Pinoy trait. Last week, when I went to Clinica Manila (Megamall) to claim my blood test results, I was confused by the nurses and med technicians putting up blankets to cover sections of the hallway. When I got to the lab, their door was closed and manned by some people, sort of guarding it from intruders. I soon realized they were dividing up sections of the clinic because they were about to practice their Christmas presentations. I figured the groupings were: X-ray people vs. Blood and stool people vs. Nurse staff, and so on. And since the nurse staff don't have a lab of their own, they have to close off a section of the hallway. Only in the Philippines!
While Christmas presentations are major fun (it's the one time of the year when the people who feel they're real calling is in showbiz can show off), they're extremely stressful. Gathering people to practice after office hours is such a pain, especially because each person has about 10 other Christmas gatherings to attend to. And all the time spent for practice worsens the effect of several holidays in December so that work piles up! Baah!
Note to self: Next year, I will be indifferent to all Christmas parties. I might attend but I won't volunteer to organize it or participate in any presentation. Maybe I'll pretend I'll be off to another country 2 weeks before Christmas so I can have a truly stress free holiday.
Yeah I'll do that!
I read in the bathroom daily. It's when I read my book or magazines. That's what I do while I get rid of my bodily wastes. This habit gets the Wife's ire because I end up staying in the bathroom for half an hour or so. That's why car magazines work best for me because the articles are always short. (I think car magazines are visual rather than literary materials, so I usually get the reading part over in a few minutes, then ogle at the pictures for a few more minutes).
The problem is when I run out of magazines or books to read. I can't do my thing if I'm not reading. I have instant constipation (no kidding!). So when I can't find anything to read, I grab hold of 3 or more shampoo and conditioner bottles, and read the back of their labels while I -um- you know. Imported shampoos and conditioners work best because they have longer write ups. Mostly because they list the ingredients in scientific names, even the simplest non-chemical ingredients. So the Wife's conditioner, for example, lists Rosemary as ROSMARINUS OFFICNALUS (or something like that), and Olive as OLEA PAPEsomething. Bottom line is, the more words to read, the better.
Is this weird? I think not. I bet a lot of people can't disembowel if they're not reading too.
But this is not as unusual as my aunt, my dad's sister. When I was small, I used to sleepover at my cousins' house a lot. One time I chanced upon my aunt in the bathroom. She was sitting on the toilet (of course), with a foldable table in front of her. She was playing cards. Except she wasn't strictly playing cards, she was trying to read her fortune. She's into the tarot cards/fortune telling thing. Interesting...
On the subject of bathroom behaviors: Whenever Mommy (my paternal grandma) walked into a smelly bathroom while someone was pooping, she'd say "Ang baho! Magpapurga ka na!" To her, smelly poop meant "you have worms."
And finally there's the Wife's 28 year old brother (a bum, until last month, when he was given a plot of land to "manage" in the province). I'll call him Baby Brother because he's Hypermom's apple of the eye (until now she calls him "Baby"). Anyway, Baby Brother does not know how to flush. I don't know why, but when he uses the bathroom, he refuses to flush. So good luck to the next person who will use the bathroom. And he does not rinse his toothbrush after brushing his teeth. He just brushes, then puts his toothbrush in the sink. Then Hypermom will eventually rinse it for him. Unfuckingbelievable!
Our Canon digicam is busted. It's gone blind. Fortunately when I brought it to the service center, at about the same time Canon announced a recall (on some A-series and Ixus V-series cams), so they'll repair ours for free. We saved P5,600+ in repair costs. Hurray!
So we had to make do with the Wife's mobile phone camera for our Boracay and Iloilo trip. I was expecting not-so-nice pictures from her 2 megapixel Sony Ericsson W800i, a.k.a Walkman Phone, but was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. See below:Boracay Sand:
Simone in a bikini:
Butterfly Farm in Iloilo:
Perfect pair: Batchoy and Coke
Aboard the Super Ferry at dusk:
I therefore predict the future: Digital point-and-shoot cameras will become obsolete. Canon, Olympus, Nikon and the rest had better start adding mobile phone capabilities to their cameras or else Nokia and Sony-Ericsson will take over the digital photo world. Heed my advice or go bust!
(By the way, since our digicam has been awaiting replacements parts in Canon for the longest time, they decided to loan
us another digital camera for free. I picked it up this morning, and it's a spanking new and higher model camera. So I have a new toy to play with, albeit temporarily. I love Canon).
Sometime last year, the Wife was hit by a need to be altruistic, and looked for charitable institutions she could help in her own little way. Since then she's been sending some kid to school --- some girl who lives in what sounds like a mountainous region in the far side of the Philippines, or maybe she's Malaysian, hell I'll never know --- with the help of World Vision. Every quarter, someone from World Vision sends the Wife a text message to remind her of her contribution. Someone then picks up the not-so-small-fortune from our house.
The Wife also got hold of 2 Bantay Bata cans to collect coins. About 2 months ago, one of the cans was about half-full and the Wife decided that it was worthy giving to Bantay Bata already. She gave them a call and someone from Bantay Bata picked up the half-filled can from our house.
How convenient is that? These charitable institutions make it easy for us to be good people nowadays.
But the Wife decided to keep the OTHER Bantay Bata can for herself. And notwithstanding the blatant Bantay Bata label on the can, she now calls it Simone's Disneyland Fund. She puts nothing but 5 and 10 peso coins in there, and this morning, she beamed "This can is almost full!"
Hong Kong here we come!
I'm back from a 6 day vacation in the Visayas: Boracay, Iloilo, and Roxas. The Wife, Simone and I were supposed to just spend time with the Wife's grandfather in Iloilo (Hypermom's pastor dad), but we decided to take a more scenic route instead of going straight to Iloilo. That is, make an overnight stopover in Boracay, and since there's absolutely nothing to do in Iloilo except eat seafood by the sea, we decided to make a side trip to nearby Roxas City (a.k.a Seafood Capital of the Philippines), to eat more seafood.
To save a few thousand pesos, we decided to take the boat to and from anywhere for the first time. So after daily trips near or on the sea, I am officially darker that my friend whom we call "Darkymark" (OK maybe not quite).
As the Wife and I masterfully planned, we ate nothing but seafood the whole time, save for the occasional batchoy binges or Inasal na Isol (pwet ng manok). Which explains why the Wife and I now feel like we've gained a few pounds in just a few days. The Wife insists that her pants are tighter around one of her thighs, though I seriously doubt women's thighs ENLARGE that fast and only one at a time.
Because the trip was such a brilliant plan, Hypermom decided to join us, as well as the Wife's other siblings (2 brothers and a sister). I haven't written about the Wife's 9 year old adopted brother yet, so for now I'll just say he's diagnosed with ADHD. So having Hypermom and Super-HyperBro along was, umm, sort of like reminiscing the World Youth Day celebration in Manila.
Tomorrow we're off to Pangasinan to celebrate the 92nd birthday of the Wife's grandmother. Pangasinan is of course the Bangus capital of the Philippines, so I'll be bringing along an empty icebox to stuff with boneless bangus on the way home. And some Alaminos longganisa and Parad (a unique cut of Pork spareribs found only in Pangasinan and Ilocos).
I'm so so glad I married the right woman.
I'm reading through this website about a guy's (bitter) view of his platonic friendships with women. It's an interesting read, hilarious even. Anyone who's ever been "stuck" in a platonic friendship can relate to this site (I say "stuck" in case you really want to be more that just friends, but can't because your friend doesn't feel the same way about you or you're plain too sissy to try anything). http://www.joelogon.com/platonic/
Which brings me to the story of how the Wife and I started out. We started out as friends. We worked in the same office, but didn't know each other personally until we were introduced by an officemate who was also her housemate.
We started going out as a big group, and the Wife and I hit it off instantly because we share a lot of things in common. I grew up in Bacolod, and her parents were from the region (the dad from Bacolod, and hypermom from Iloilo). She visited Bacolod often when she was a child and can speak Ilonggo. We grew up in homes that served the same food. So when she started talking about her family's callos, pata with beans, and lomo pali bato (pork, spleen, and kidney soup), she was pleasantly surprised that these were my favorite dishes as well. Our similar backgrounds triggered many conversations between us.
Pretty soon the Wife and I were bonding, and quickly moved from merely doing small talk to subtle flirting. The moment the Wife felt "something" was going on, she immediately told me that she was in a relationship (her boyfriend of 7 years, who at that time was on a month-long European tour with his family). The problem was, when she told me she wasn't available, I didn't hear her! I must have been distracted. So I had assumed she was single the whole time we were getting to know each other. By the time I realized that she wasn't (probably a week or two later), it was too late. I was already smitten.
I initially decided to back off. But I couldn't. The Wife and I had a connection that was -- forgive the cheesiness -- irresistible. And the fact that we were together on night shift at that time helped. We spent hours talking on extended cigarette breaks. One fateful day, a big typhoon hit Manila, and I took her in as a refugee (I lived alone). That was where I found out the Wife was slave to a good massage.
When her boyfriend arrived from his European tour, the Wife broke up with him. And then we became a couple about a month after that. The Wife made it clear to me though that she didn't break up with her ex because of me, but rather, because she realized that there are people like me, whom she can talk to and relate with. She realized that she didn't have to settle with someone who doesn't understand her or is on a different intellectual plain (whether above or below).
I guess the point of this story, in relation to Joe's platonic website above, is that the Wife and I could have ended up as platonic friends if we didn't play our cards right (so to speak). What we did right, I'm not exactly sure. I just know that I followed my feelings and didn't hold back. I was having a blast with this girl so why should I stop myself?
And the fact that I didn't hear her tell me that she wasn't single helped. Maybe if I wasn't distracted when she told me, I might have backed off earlier, and things might have turned out differently. Thank God I have semi-attention-deficiency problem.
The Wife and I celebrated our 4th anniversary last weekend so I planned a romantic weekend for the two of us. I even asked the Wife's sister to take care of Simone for the weekend (insert evil laughter here).
I reserved a room at the New World Hotel. A friend got me a good discount from his company (thank you!). For days, I had been imagining a weekend full of romance with the Wife: maybe swimming in the pool, candlelight dinner, a game of strip poker, *bleep*bleep* and more *bleep*.
But alas, one thing got in the way of making my fantasies come true --- the TV. If you live in a house where there's no cable (that's our house, we swore off TV for noble reasons), any chance to catch up with TV land is a joyous reunion of sorts. The moment we entered our room (around 1 pm), the Wife watched one tv show after another... until evening. She watched the showbiz talk shows in ABS and GMA, then watched the shows after that, then the Munting Bulilit singing contest (whatever that's called). We did have candlelight dinner at Bollywood in Greenbelt, but when we came back to our room, we watched Pinoy Big Brother (for the first time ever!), then the first 15 minutes of Volta. We didn't finish Volta because we couldn't, it's probably the worst Sci-Fi Filipino movie ever! Worse than Vic Sotto's Lastikman (which I'll get to later).
Pinoy showbiz talk shows are still as stupid as ever, only worse. They're the main reason why we decided not to get cable (we live in a building, so we don't get local channel reception, not even when we tried Ernie Baron's antenna). I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling disgusted with myself after watching The Buzz for an hour or two, what with Kris Aquino always diverting interviews to her own life. But last weekend's talkshows had portions that made me and the Wife burst out in laughter --- because of their utter stupidity. I'll give some examples here (but I don't remember the actors' names, since I don't know most of them anymore):
1) Voice over: "Si Wendel Ramos at (somebody) balak daw magbuo ng banda? Sila daw ay chuchuchu" (the voice over says about 50 more words). Then the camera focuses on Wendel Ramos, and all he says is "Um hindi naman, wala pa namam." (End of segment)
2) Voice over: "Si (somebody) at si (somebody) hiwalay na raw? Hindi na raw sila nagkikita chuchuchu..." Then they interview the guy involved.
Guy: "No, we haven't broken up. We just don't have time to see eachother or talk to eachother." (Are they married? hahaha)
Voice over: "Tinanong namin ang bestfriend niyang si (somebody) kung totoo ngang nag break na sila."
Bestfriend: "Um, wala akong alam e." (End of segment)
And this kind of stupid news goes on and on, both in ABS and GMA. It's true what some newspaper columnists say, there's a "bobocracy" going on with the network war.
But what irked the wife the most was this one shampoo TV commercial. Pantene's new commercial encourages girls to grow their hair long. The tagline is "Kapag mahaba ang buhok mo, iba ang tingin sayo ng mga lalake. Tingin nila sayo, para kang reyna!"
Send us back to the dark ages why don't you?
Baaah! I can't believe I'm wasting precious blog space on these frivolous things.
But let me end with Vic Sotto's Lastikman anyway. I saw a portion of this movie back when I still had cable at home. The scene: Lastikman (Vic) invades the bedroom of his leading lady. He's searching for something when the girl comes out of her bathroom. Because he doesn't have time to escape, Lastikman decides to disguise himself by becoming a chair (hey he's Lastikman, he can transform into anything plastic). The airhead-of-a-leading-lady doesn't notice the addition to her room furniture (it was zebra-colored!), and even sits on the chair while combing her freshly shampooed hair. When she stands up, the chair gets an erection. Yes, I am not kidding, a hump grew in the middle of the chair shaped like a banana. Hahhahaha. And this is a kiddie movie!
I grew up a very, very shy kid. I was the kind that wanted to blend in a crowd and hoped no one would ever notice. I could never do small talk with a stranger, especially an authority figure (save for my parents). When I tagged along with my mom and she was with friends in a restaurant for example, I sat in my chair quietly the whole time. And if someone talked to me (say mom's friend asks me "How are you?"), I'd either give a shy smile or just say 2 words at most.
Given this personality as a kid, any truly embarrassing situation gets completely blown out of proportion for me. The following 2 childhood stories stand out in my memory (both happened during my elementary years). These are not at par with the typical most-embarrassing stories other people may have (like having shorts pulled down in public, displaying the spiderman briefs underneath), but these two situations made me want to disintegrate into a billion dust particles and disappear forever.
In school, each class is required to sponsor a mass every other month. Our teacher would choose 1 lector (the automated answering machine for the priest), two "sacristans" (to assist the priest in doing the simplest tasks like picking up a cup), several "offerers" (to offer an assigned item like fruits, flowers, candles, wine, or host --- at your expense --- to give to the priest. Or maybe to God? Hmmm I don't know, that sounds so pagan), and four "collectors" (those who will collect alms for our well appointed church. ha!).
For some reason, I was always chosen to be an offerer. And usually I was assigned to offer the fruits. But that's good, because if you're assigned to offer the wine, it had to be a specific brand of priest-wine which can only be bought in some obscure chinese drug store (did I mention I studied in a Catholic Chinese school? But I'm not Chinese). If you're assigned to offer the host (oschas?), it can only be bought from the Carmelite nunnery which is faraway. How very small town right? Yes, that's Bacolod City for you.
So one time, I was again assigned to be an offerer. The night before the mass, my mom (a really wonderful woman except for this one time) decided I should just offer tomatoes instead. We just happened to have a lot of ripe tomatoes lying around the house, and she must have thought, "Why the hell not? They're technically fruit too!" I remember begging to her over dinner to just buy me a typical basket of fruits. But she wouldn't budge. She was convinced a basketful of ripe tomatoes will do.
I wanted to die right then and there.
The next day, to make my offering look more presentable, she decorated the tomatoes with some fresh pine tree leaves, picked from a tree right outside our house.
And so I went to mass, and I did the deed. I don't recall anyone making fun of me that time, but I do remember the walk-down-the-aisle, I was too drunk with embarrassment everything seemed fuzzy.
And my mom didn't stop there. She gave me instructions to retrieve her basket after the mass. The priest can have the tomatoes but not her basket! She told me, "After everyone has left, go back inside the church and look for the caretaker and ask for the basket."
I can't believe I didn't protest violently to all of these.
Every start of the year, our class voted for the classroom officers. These were typical positions like President, Vice president, Secretary, Treasurer, and other useless positions. Naturally the popular students got these plum positions; that is, the honor students and the athlete-yet-also-honor students. Naturally I was never a class officer.
But the voting was actually very democratic. The teacher announces the opening of a position for voting, and anyone can nominate someone else. This goes on until the teacher decides there are enough nominees. Then we vote by raising our hands.
I'm usually just apathetic to this whole process, where the winners are always going to be the same set of people who win every year.
But one time, a classmate named Lory Mae decided to nominate me. She was not even my close friend. I was just quietly sitting on my chair when Lory Mae raised her hand and decided to nominate me for treasurer. I gave her a "What the hell did you do that for" look but she just brushed me aside. I was in a state of shock.
Every nominee is guaranteed at least one vote, by whoever nominated him/her. This would be very humiliating though. So some people usually give 'pity' votes to the unpopular nominees.
When my teacher called out my name, I just wanted to duck and disappear. When I looked around, to my horror, not even Lory Mae voted for me. The bitch nominated me and didn't even vote for me! Oh my god, I was the epitome of loser-hood! The teacher, not absorbing quickly enough what was going on, called out my name several times, waiting for someone, anyone to vote. She finally gave a chuckle and proceeded to the next nominee.
I made history that day. In my entire stay in that Catholic Chinese school (all 12 years), never did I see anyone else garner 0 votes.
Today I went to the BIR again. I got the signatures of some officers. Hurray! I thought I was through!
Unfortunately, the papers will undergo yet another review. And again the people who were supposed to review my documents were either not there or too busy to finish it pronto.
Tomorrow I'm calling our broker and make him do the waiting this week. I'm just...tired. While last week it was interesting because I was observing how this bureau worked, today I felt like I was watching the same bad movie for the 5th time in a week.
Total waiting time today: 4 hours
Oh, here's the BIR's VISION, plastered on the wall near their waiting area. I'm copying it here verbatim (including punctuation marks):
"The BIR, the Philippines premier tax administration agency is a model in customer service, whose delivery systems and management practices are world class and whose people having been empowered to serve, are highly respected for their integrity and professionalism."
(When I get my energy back, I'm going to illustrate how this VISION is interpreted in real life)
I've been going to the BIR office everyday since Monday (Pasig Branch). We sold the last bit of property my dad and his siblings will ever fight for (a condo in Pasig, where I lived through all of my college years, up until last year with the Wife and Simone). I'm trying to fix a mistake done by our stupid broker's stupid assistant, who filled up the wrong application form when he filed for the capital gains tax. I decided to take matters into my hands so that my dad will stop bugging me to follow it up. It's the least I can do for living in that condo for free for so many years.
My mission is simple: fill up the correct BIR application form, then have several BIR folks check and sign it. Five days later, and about 16 hours worth of waiting (and chain smoking) in the BIR office, I'm down to my final signature, which I failed to get today, and hopefully will get on Monday.
Fortunately, I haven't been busy with work and I see the task as a welcome respite from my boring daily work routine. I saw it as an opportunity to mix among the masses and observe a world that is world's apart from the world I live in. That is, a world where inefficiency, unprofessionalism, inequity, and the like are expected and accepted. I am of course talking about government offices. Oh and UP administration offices too. Oh wait, that is technically a government office too. Anyway...
Everyday has been a waiting game for me. Waiting for the right BIR person to arrive and sign/approve my documents. BIR personnel do field work, understandably (to collect taxes I naively assume), so they are in and out of the office at any given time at any given day.
Actually, I realize that I don't have to do any legwork if only people within BIR talked to eachother and synergized (the term!). I mean I'm just moving the papers from one person to the next ON THE SAME FLOOR, who are 5 desks away from eachother, who aren't even separated by a wall. I go there, and ask for my document and ask for the next step, and the BIR person will point me to the person across the room. It would be easier for EVERYONE, them included, if they just agreed on a procedure and swapped documents themselves. I mean, really it's so simple! (Somebody give me an award for such a realization!) So all I have to do is go there to submit documents, and 5 days later, I just claim the completed, stamped and signed documents, and I'm set to go to the Registry of Deeds! (Lord help me, I expect the same scenario with the Registry of Deeds office).
But alas, no such thing happens in the BIR. So what you have is an office full of people walking around handing documents to BIR people on desks, and they check and sign and stamp them. And I don't mean these BIR people are lazy. On the contrary, my hats off to them for working continuously for hours, with nary a 10 minute break, because of the sheer volume of documents they have to go through everyday. Literally hundreds of people approach them to ask questions or show documents to be signed and so on.
(Thought bubble starts here) Hmmm... maybe if BIR personnel swapped documents themselves, they would end up walking around all the time... (Thought bubble ends here)
I therefore conclude, what the BIR offices need is a conveyor belt that runs through all their desks. All they have to do is put a document in the conveyor belt, then put a paperweight on top of it with a post-it that says, "For Ms. Denise, please stamp and sign." Then maybe the conveyor belt goes around and around, so that if Ms. Denise happens to be busy, she has another chance to grab the document the next time it comes around. Oh my god, that's the same technology they use in airports! The technology already exists! And oh my god again, a mini conveyor belt is in use in a japanese restaurant in Greenhills that has sushi and makis going around the whole resto (with color coded plates to determine price). It would be sooo easy to apply this technology in the BIR Pasig branch.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, these are the things I'm brilliantly capable of thinking for hours on end...
Two weeks ago, I brought my mom to Sonya's Garden. We sat beside a couple on a date. The guy, a middle-aged foreigner, looked bored with his date because she kept answering in 2 or 3-word phrases then proceeded to eat quietly. So he starts talking about movies, actors, etc...
Guy: "I think George Clooney did a good job in (something), but not in Ocean's 11 because..."
Girl interrupts: "I don't like George Clooney."
Guy: (Waits for an explanation but she continues eating instead, so he asks) "Um... why?"
Girl: "Because he's handsome."
Guy: (Waits for an explanation again but nothing comes) "Since when was that a bad thing?"
Girl: "Um... (makes a whimper then continues eating)".
Guy pauses to look at her (as if to think, "Am I with stupid?"). He decides to keep quiet and eat instead.
I wanted to go to their table and make the girl explain. hahaha
This morning, I was listening to the radio and this guy calls in to join a contest:
DJ: "Hi what's your name?"
Guy: "Rain." (Said with confidence)
DJ: "As in R-A-I-N?"
DJ: "Go away! Just kidding! So Rain, if you could choose your prize, what would you choose? A new Jaguar, 1,000,000 Pesos in cash, or a Caribbean cruise?"
Rain: "Umm...P1,000,000 in cash."
DJ: "Ok. Why?"
Rain: "So I can buy a branded car."
DJ: "So why not take the Jaguar instead?"
For some reason, I thought about my "mommy" this morning. I'm referring to my paternal grandmother, whom we (her apos) called "mommy".
Mommy was not your typical lola. She was not the gentle, laid back lola who whiled away her time cooking or playing solitaire. She was this strong, energetic, and very willful woman, who ruled the family until she passed away some 15 years ago. (Nowadays, she'd be referred to as a "control freak").
Mommy was a loud mouth. She had this shrilly loud voice that demanded authority (a trait that my father said she got from her Batangeña mother). She had a temperament that makes the Wife look meek (a temper that my father inherited, unfortunately). I remember she had a megaphone to use for her "trabahadors", though she really didn't need it.
She didn't have a problem saying "bad words" in front of her young apos. Whenever she got startled, she'd scream "Ay bilat ni (whoever was the female nearby)!" ("bilat" is a derogatory Ilonggo term for the female organ). So if she was beside the housemaid named Rosie and something startled her, she'd shout "Ay bilat ni Rosie!"
One time, while we were eating breakfast, she was scolding a housemaid who was asking permission to leave (to get married). She shouted at her "Bakit, nangangati ba ang puke mo?! Kakamutin ko!" I was probably 7 years old then.
She also had her weapons. Whenever she left the house, she'd always bring her revolver along. Every Sunday, before heading to church, she'd shout "Ang revolver ko!" And the housemaid would bring her gun so she can put it in her handbag. (The church was a 5 minute drive away). When her apos rode the back of the pick up to go anywhere (we kids loved riding the back of a pickup, and we always went along for short errands just for that reason), she'd make sure we brought along a metal pipe-like object, for us to hit people who might have undesirable intentions against us (she always reminded us to watch out for people with Indian targets -- a small metal arrow set off by a sling -- a common home made weapon back then). She also had a whip. A real "ikog pagi" (buntot pagi, the tail of a sting ray). She once whipped an adopted cousin (with that matching "whipping" sound). It instantly ripped the boy's shorts revealing his reddened buttocks (the poor boy was adopted by an aunt but wasn't treated like a real son. As a result -- I think -- he was very delinquent).
She made up for all these (I think, sorry mommy) by praying the Rosary everyday. And whenever her apos slept at her house, she'd require all of us to kneel down with her and pray the rosary aloud. In every Rosary session, she never failed to give a loud fart. Somewhere between the third and fourth glorious mysteries, she'd give a loud fart, then grumble something as if to show satisfaction. We had to stop ourselves from laughing lest we get pinched. That was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do as a child, say the Hail Mary after a loud fart without giggling.
She had a thing with naming everything. She had hundreds of fish "banyeras" (large metal pails used for carrying the bangus from her fish farm), each one painted with "RAMOS". Most things in her house were painted with "RAMOS", the pails, the "tabo" in the pails, etc. All her cars had "RAMOS" stickers at the back (she had at least 8 cars in the garage at any one time -- see my entry on "Judai" who was once part of her fleet). So much so that the security guard in my school always knew when our car had arrived to pick me up. She once gave me a pair of slippers, where she had written my initials on the top part. "K" on the left slipper peeking between my toes, and "R" on the right slipper. She once gave her apos plain t-shirts, then wrote our names on the left-side of the chest area. Wherever we went, it was like we had name tags on.
Oh but she loved her apos! She'd let us tag along wherever she went, even for mundane errands like going to the bank or doing groceries. She always had birthday and christmas gifts for us (a crisp P100 bill, always). When my sister entered college, she was so proud of her only apo to enter Ateneo that she gave her a credit card, for emergency purposes. My sister did use the card for emergency, like midnight-sale emergency (I wonder if she would have given me a credit card too if she lived long enough to see me enter the same school). In the last few weeks of her life, during a lucid interval when her cancer was getting worse, she saw me enter her hospital room and said to me, "Pangga, may gusto ka?" Then she reached under her pillow where she kept a wad of hundred peso bills. The woman never gave up her control.
Too bad she didn't live long enough to see Simone. They would have shared something in common --- their temperament.
This week I attended a Bioscan 'class' in Makati. It's one of the many free trainings or classes they give out in my office (something to help people love this company, usually not work related like learning new languages, sketching, painting, etc.).
The Bioscan (by Pharmanex) is a machine that reads the anti-oxidant level in your body. Your anti-oxidant level shows how healthy you are in fighting degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and so on. The machine applies a painless laserlight on your palm and gives your results after a few minutes.
As expected, my test result was in the 'red' zone, meaning I need to take in more anti-oxidants, and expose myself to less 'free radicals' (the bad guys: direct exposure to sunlight, food preservatives, smoking, stress, etc). Most people in Metro Manila fall in the red zone by the way.
After taking the test, an agent did a one-on-one on me to sell their health supplement products. They have an all-in-one supplement as well as specific anti-oxidant drugs for certain medical conditions (e.g., Omega-3 and Cortisone supplements for my hyper thyroidism).
When the agent prescribed substitute meds for my hyper thyroid problem, alarm bells sounded in my mind. This guy talking to me was not a doctor (he was an Accounting graduate from La Salle, sheesh!). And although he was somewhat familiar with my disease, he made a lot of erroneous statements (to wit: "You'll be taking Inderal for the rest of your life." NOT!)
The price is typical direct marketing prices, that is, uber expensive. If I followed the agent's "medical advice", I'd be shelling out P7,000++ a month for supplements.
But the last nail on (their) coffin was the order form. The header said in bold letters "NU SKIN". Yep, the multi-level-marketing, "bring in some guests and I'll pay you" NU SKIN company. The company that victimized thousands of unwitting people into attending their (recruitment) presentations.
Thanks but no thanks. I'm sticking to my P140-a-month Revicon and P150-for-3-months Rhea Vitamin C tablets.