Earth Hour

Friday, May 25, 2007

US TRIP: Day Two in Hawaii

May 20, our second day in Hawaii. I woke up on a warm Honolulu morning. After a quick breakfast, we started on a very busy schedule.

We visited Pearl Harbor once again. Since we've already seen the USS Arizona Memorial when we first came in 2002, we skipped it this time and went to Ford Island which is connected to Pearl Harbor by a very long bridge. Private vehicles are not allowed on the island so we were brought there by a bus.

Ford Island was originally a plantation. It was acquaired by the American Military and used as a major air facility during the war. It figured prominently during the Pearl Harbor attack because of the number of ship moored there.

At present, it is home to the USS Missouri, the site of the Japanese surrender in World War II.

Big Mo or Mighty Mo as she is now called, was decommissioned in 1992. Its current position has a significance: its guns face the remnants of the USS Arizona guarding the remains of those who perished there so that they will rest in peace forever.

From the Mighty Mo, we took the bus once again to go to the Pacific Aviation Memorial. Upon arrival in the Museum’s lobby, we entered a 200-seat theater to view a 10-minute movie covering the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, including historic footage and accounts from servicemen who survived it.

Leaving the theater, we entered a corridor with photos, music and sound effects that made us experience what life was like in the islands before the attack in 1941.

The exhibit area features an authentic Japanese Zero, a light civilian plane that was shot during the attack, and also a P-40 fighter. There's also an exhibit that showed a Zero plana which crashed in one of the islands.

After the tour, we had lunch in the museum’s restaurant, “Lani Akea” (Blue Heaven). While waiting for the bus to come back, I bought a souvenir item, a shotglass.

We took the bus again and went back to the main island. This time, we visited the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. We were given an iPod-like device that guided as during our tour of this historic WWII submarine. The narration and dramatization helped us to imagine what life on board must have been like for Bowfin's crew.

After the tour of the submarine, we visited the Museum which houses an impressive collection of submarine-related artifacts such as submarine weapon systems, photographs, paintings, detailed submarine models related to the history of the U.S. Submarine Service.

Our tour ended here and we proceeded to the Aloha Auditorium where a weekly swap meet was taking place. This reminded me of a Filipino flea market called tiangge where goods are sold at really low prices. We bought some shirts and then went home to rest.

In the evening, we attended the birthday celebration of my brother-in-law's eldest brother. We also met my sister's in-laws during the party. Since the following day was Monday, the party also ended earlier.

US TRIP: Day One in Hawaii

I'm currently on vacation with my father here in the United States. We left the Philippines last May 19 on Philippine Airlines flight PR100. Our seats were upgraded to the Mabuhay Class so we travelled in comfort.

We landed in Honolulu at around 7:11 in the morning, some 35 minutes earlier than our expected time of arrival. It was still May 19. Passing through the immigration was easy, although I had to declare the food stuffs what we brought along as pasalubong (welcome gifts). After getting our baggages (which were taken out of the carousel by some porters without our knowing it), out we went to the warm but breezy Hawaii morning.

We didn't have to wait long before my sister and her husband arrived to pick us up. We went first to a Filipino store to buy some stuff for breakfast (pan de sal and taho) before proceeding to their house.

After a quick meal and a much needed shower (for me) off we went to Costco to buy my father's stuff, mainly chocolate, of course. We proceeded to the wet market in Chinatown to buy something for lunch, including clams!

A brief afternoon siesta after lunch and then off we went to Alamoana boulevard along Waikiki for a quick look and see.

We tried some chocolates from Godiva, bought slip-ons from Foot Locker and had dinner at Tony Roma's.

Since our orders took time to prepare, the manager offered us a 10 percent discount for the trouble. I ordered Tony's Sirloin Steak which was quite tender and juicy even when cooked well-done. However, the serving was so large I wasn't able to finish it.

After dinner we went straight back to my sister's place for a much needed sleep.

Friday, May 4, 2007

More Birthday Celebrations

My officemates surprised on my birthday last Monday. I don't usually go to work on my birthday but this year I had to go since I'll be using all my leave credits when I go on a three-week vacation this month.

When I got to the office, there was a small group who greeted me and they prepared some food to celebrate the day. There was the usual pancit, said to bring long life for the birthday celebrant. They also prepared my favorite barbeque and somebody brought in special cake! It's chiffon cake but the icing was made of sylvannas!

It was really a special treat since I didn't know about it. What a great way to turn 41.

GSIS Madness

Two days ago, I went to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Main Office to apply for a P10,000 cash advance loan. The GSIS came up with a new system they call GW@APS which, according to them, would make transactions easier with the use of Internet technologies. All a member with a GW@PS Card needs to do is swipe his card on a kiosk/computer terminal, use a forefinger print for identification and follow the instructions on the monitor to transact business. This system will make for a wireless, paperless transaction for the benefit of its members.

As a way to introduce the new system, the GSIS offered a cash advance loan of P10,000 to its members, payable in 2 years with very minimal interest. Since most of my officemates have availed of it, I decided to join the bandwagon and off I went to GSIS.

Although there's a center near my place of work, I decided to go all the way to the head office to avail of the loan. An officemate tipped us that fewer people go there so it's easier and faster to file the loan. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!

When I got there, I saw a short line heading for three kiosks. I said to myself that it's worth the trip and I'd probably spend only an hour or so for the whole thing. However, when I told the guard that I was applying for the cash advance loan, he pointed me to the left side of the building.

There was a short line and positioned myself at its end. I followed the direction of the line with my eyes and to my utter shock and disbelief, the line led to gigantic hall full of people sitted on rows upon rows of monobloc chairs!!!

I wanted to leave right then and there but the as the old saying goes, I already spent time and energy to get there, might as well bear it out.

I reached the last row of chairs after almost an hour standing in line, and listening to all possible reasons why one would apply for a loan such as this.

One lady needed it to pay for other bills. The man behind me would added the proceeds of his loan to the tuition fee of his daughter who's studying to be a nurse. Another lady had to send money to her relatives in the province. Others needed the money for some really important reason. Among these people, I must be the only one who had the flimsiest reason.

After another hour or so, we reached the middle row of the line. I looked back where we started and saw that the line was still as long as when I first arrived. It made me feel sad that so many people needed this money.

It was almost lunch time and the people in line didn't want to leave. They were afraid that their turn might come before they could finish eating. So most of us decided to forgo lunch that day. I already skipped my regular coffee break while standing in line!

Time seemed to move slow as we got nearer the kiosks. We have already shared stories about our previous experiences, good and bad, on applying for loans with GSIS and other lending agencies. I even found out about how some of my seatmates end up having loans without even applying for one because some unscrupulous person filed one on their behalf!

About three hours since I fell in line, the worst thing imaginable happened. The kiosks bogged down. All four of them simultaneously "hanged."

Almost immediately, the people who until that point patiently lined up for this turned into warfreaks. GSIS became the common enemy: it has become an inefficient, unsystematic and mismanaged organization that doesn't care much about its members and should therefore be overhauled. Others wanted to form another organization that will provide the same services and benefits as the GSIS.

Me, I was just waiting for the signal to attack so I could grab the ax in the fire cabinet and hack those kiosks to pieces.

It was not until another 30 minutes or so before the kiosks came back to life. A huge sigh of relief was heard across the hall. Some members went back to their usual chatter why I removed my sight from the ax.

All went well after that. My transaction was over in less than five minutes. Err... in less than 4 hours and 5 minutes. There was a lady there to assist those using the kiosk and to make it easier especially for those who are not tech savvy.

As I walk out the building, I wanted to pull my hair in disgust for having spent half a day for P10,000 that I don't even know what to do with. But then, thirsty and hungry, I had enough of torture for one day. Maybe next time, when I apply for another loan.