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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tron: Legacy

I wasn't able to see the original Tron movie when it first came out in the 80s.  My friends who watched it were all so excited about it that I was left so curious of the movie.  It wasn't after a decade or so later that I finally saw it on TV.  By then, the technology used for the film looked dated but the concept of the film remained fresh and futuristic.  I understood why my then teenage friends were so excited about Tron and at the time, I was already using a computer and I could only  imagine how it would be like to get inside the grid and battle those rogue programs.

So I was very interested when I found out that the Disney people decided to come out with a sequel to Tron.  This time I will watch it in the movie house, in IMAX 3D and on the first day screening.

The new film began some years after the end of the first movie.  Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is now the CEO of EMCON and he has developed the perfect grid.  He also has a son, Sam to whom he confessed his latest project he called a "miracle".  Then he disappeared.  

Years later, his son (Garett Hedlund) grew up as the majority shareholder of EMCON but has become so disconnected with his father's business because it has turned greedy.  A "page"to his father's friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner, the original Tron) brought him back to Flynn's Arcade.  There he discovered the secret room and the console where he repeated a command that brought him to the grid.

Once inside the cyberworld, Sam was outfitted and provided with a data disc.  When he asked what he should do, the leader of the outfitters advised him to survive.  Sam was eventually selected to compete in the games.  He met Clu, a program created by his father to help him create the grid.  But instead Clu took over him and l now wanted to conquer the real world.  Fortunately for humankind, Clu has no means to do this. 

Sam was rescued by a program named Quorra who brought him to his the older Flynn.  He tried to convince his father to leave the place but the old man would not budge.  He was afraid that Clu might find him and get his data disc which contained the secrets of the grid and how to go to the "other side".  This made Sam more determined to bring his father back to his world, but he was running out of time because the portal he used was slowly closing and the only way to get there is to get through Clu and his army.

The movie is a visual treat.  It movie made good use of the film making technology at hand to make the grid more spectacular and detailed this time.  The lightcycle race scene was truly awesome on IMAX 3D. The music of Daft Punk complemented the visuals of the film.

The problem I have with this movie is the story, and that's a big problem.  In the original movie, the objective of the main characters was to stop Dillinger from destroying the computer world with his program.  In Tron Legacy, the objective was to destroy the computer world.  There was too much concentration on the efforts of Sam to bring his father out of the computer world and it is because of this that the movie faltered.  There came point that the melodrama was too much to bear.

Also, watching the whole movie gave me a sense of "I think I've seen this scene before in another movie."  Like that famous club scene where Sam meets up with Castor/Zuse (Michael Sheen).  It was so reminiscent of the part were Neo met up with that guy who was holding the keymaker in Matrix 2.  Daft Punk made a cameo role as the DJs but they eerily looked like the twin ghosts in the Matrix.  Other movies come into mind, like Kevin Flynn with all his Zen moments and hooded garments looked like a Jedi.  And of course the ending, it will either remind you of Obi Wan's sacrifice in Star Wars or that of Bruce Willis's character in "Armageddon."  

Towards the end of the movie, I wanted to say the exact words of Kevin Flynn when he realized who Rinzler was.  I didn't get the exact words but it was something like, "Tron, what has become of you?" 

CYMA at Trinoma Mall

We finally had a chance to try the Greek specialty restaurant, CYMA last week when my brother celebrated his birthday.  We had lunch at the Trinoma Branch of this Greek restaurant last Sunday.  My sister-in-law and I have already decided on what to order even before we went there so there was no problem on what to get once we got there.

We got one serving of their Hummus and pita bread.  I have tried hummus before but the one from Cyma was really nice. It was a really nice way to start our adventure to Greek cuisine.  I just wish that they have more pita bread per serving since theirs were really soft and really good.



For the main entree, I ordered one of Cyma's specialties, lamb chops.  I asked for the shoulder loin chops  grilled medium-rare.  I also opted for the Greek roasted potatoes instead of the rice stuffed bell peppers.  I actually prepared my self for the peculiar taste of lamb (ango in Tagalog), so was curious why my chops didn't come with the usual mint sauce.  No need for mint because the meat actually tasted fantastic, aside from being juicy and tender.  I would get another of this when I come back to Cyma.



My sister in law ordered the Pork Tenderloin Souvlaki  (Greek Kebabs).  The skewered pork came with vegetables and a generous serving of pita bread.  I tasted some of it and I promised myself that I will get some of those too when I come back.  The meat was so tender, juicy, and seasoned so well but not over powering.  It's good that there was enough pita bread that we used to finish off the hummus we ordered earlier.


My brother ordered the Greek beef stew, ribs stifado.  What I like about the dish, aside from the really soft beef, was the sauce!  I could put it on top of a cup of rice and I would be a very happy eater.  For our father, we ordered another Cyma specialty, the Psari Fournou.  It's salmon baked in parchment paper with lots of dill, fennel and I suspect a generous amount of olive oil. I also love this dish and would get it on another visit to the place.



For dessert we went for one of the more popular of Cyma's offerings, the  Flaming mangoes.  It is not a flambe but before the server puts it in your table, they will set it on fire and the restaurant crew will cheer OPA! in unison.  Unfortunately, that day they only have one order left so we had to choose another dessert.  We chose the Skolatina which was recommended by our server.  We really don't know what we're getting but we were all happy with it.  It's a molten chocolate cake with chestnut sauce and vanilla ice cream on the side.  I have to admit that I liked this one better than the Flaming Mangoes.  I don't know maybe because the mangoes were on the sour side.



I am sure by now that you know how I truly enjoyed the food at Cyma.  But I am also happy to tell you that the price is very affordable.  For the service and the good food, it's also worth it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I finally watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 yesterday one week after its local release.  It wasn't my intention to miss the opening weekend but I got sick so I wasn't I able to go to the movie house.  One of the advantages of watching it late though is the crowd has relatively thinned and there's no need to fall in line just to get to tickets.

This is of course the second to the last movie about the boy who lived, based on the final book in the Harry Potter series.  Although I was excited to see how the movie treated the original material, I deliberately downgraded my expectations this time because I was disappointed in the last two installments.  That is why I am glad to find out that among the 6 movies produced so far, this one stayed closest to the book.  Nevertheless, there were still some materials that were left out, although it was referred to in passing.

In Deathly Hallows Part 1, we follow Harry's search for the remaining horcruxes and witness the return to power of Voldemort and his death eaters.  It began with an ominous statement from the Minister of Magic himself and this set the tone of the whole movie.  We see the three young protagonists dealing with more adult problems now, including the possibility of death.  In fact, somebody close to them died in the early part of the story and another one died in the end.  The final scene seems to be a warning to everyone that the next chapter will be even darker.

Some of my friends who obviously did not read the book asked me why there were so many new characters in this movie.  I explained that these characters will be, hopefully, explained more in the second part.  Others pointed out that the middle part, when Harry, Hermione and Ron went into exile, dragged and slowed down the movie. I also wondered why the director decided to stretch this part when there were other parts of the book that were interesting, including the family background of Dumbledore.  

I read somewhere that the entire series took 10 years to complete.  No wonder some of the characters already looked too old.  Alan Rickman looked so old in the few scenes he was in.  The three main characters, especially Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry Potter, already looked old to be 17 years old.

Nevertheless I truly enjoyed the movie.  For one, the special effects in this one are far more superior than in the earlier films.  This installment already covered almost two-thirds of the book.  If the next one will also stay close to the original material, then it will be even more exciting.  There will be a half blind dragon, a return to Hogwarts and a battle scene that will include centaurs, house elves, giants and lots of wizards and witches.  It would be fun and I can't wait.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Favorite Apps

In one of our discussions, one of my fellow Mac fans asked us what iPad or iPhone Apps are our favorites and can't live without.  I told him I have a number of favorite apps but not necessarily I can't live without.  I downloaded some apps from the Apps Store to my iPad and use some of them more often than the others.

One of these is Pulse, a news aggregator developed by two Stanford students.  It combines the convenience of RSS feeds with the engaging interface of a web browser.  What I like about this app is that I can choose which news provider to subscribe to and place them in a grid.  I can access them anytime I want and get updated on current and tech news without leaving the app.

For making on the spot reports and other documents, I use Pages.  It is almost the same as the desktop version except that when sent through email, you will have to convert your work into a document that Pages could read.  Otherwise, it's the only app I need to make documents.

I use iBooks and Kindle for iPad alternately to read my e-books because I have books on both formats.  My only issue about reading on an iPad is eyestrain.  Yes, even with the adjustable brightness, I cannot read as much as I would with paper book.  This is one reason why I am contemplating on buying a Kindle.

Another favorite is Magic Piano. I can actually make music with this app even if I don't know how to play the instrument.  All I did was turn on one of it's auto modes and voila! I can play music from it's songbook by just following the falling dots on the screen.

If I have time to waste, which is very seldom, I play games on my iPad.  The big screen on this baby could sometimes make me waste more time than I should.

There's Angry Birds, the insanely addicting game that involves slinging birds to beat the green pigs that stole their eggs.  The game is so wicked because its levels become more and more challenging as you progress.

Also wicked is Zynga's Scramble. It looks easy because you only need to make words from random letters on a 4x4 board.  Try playing the online mode and compete with other players around the globe. The next thing you knew, hours have passed and the deadline you're trying to meet has come closer.

These are the apps that I use most of the time.  There are others on my iPad that are also worth mentioning and I would discuss on another post.

Monday, November 22, 2010

His Holiness Justifies the Condom

In some extreme cases, that is.

Pope Benedict XVI said that condom use may be justified in "certain cases", such as with a male prostitute who would want to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS.  The Pontiff made the remark in an interview published in the official Vatican newspaper in relation to a new book called "Light of the World."

Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs Of The TimesThe leader of the Catholic Church, to which I belong of course, further said that where the intention to reduce the risk of infection, "it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality."  But His Holiness is quick to add that the Church does not see the use of condoms as a moral solution and "it is not the proper way to deal with the horrors of HIV infection."

The remarks, as expected, created quite a stir among Catholics who are for and against the use of condoms.  Pro-contraception and reproductive health advocates see this as a softening of the stand of the Pope on the use of artificial methods of contraception.  One legislator even announced that the Pope's statement will "undermine the hardline stand of the Catholic Church on the Reproductive Health Bill."  Although I would like that to happen, personally I do not share his enthusiasm because the Pope was not very clear if reproductive health is one of those "certain cases".  

The head of the Catholic Bishops' group in the country was also quick to say that the Pope's message does not change the church view on the use of artificial means of contraception.  He said that the Church will continue to condemn the use of condom as a contraceptive but will take a different mind set when it is used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Interestingly, the Pope used a male prostitute as an example.  So, does that mean that it is still morally wrong for a man to wear a condom if he engages in sex with a female prostitute, even if he does so to avoid getting sick?  The UN agency working on AIDS welcomed Pope Benedict's remarks but noted that while most cases of HIV infection were sexually transmitted, only 4 to 10 percent result from sex between men.  

Nevertheless, the remarks are significant especially since they came from the same man who said just a year ago that condoms not only do not inhibit the spread of HIV infection but even aggravate it.  It is indeed a complete departure from his previous stand on the matter.  To me, by discussing AIDS and the use of condoms, Pope Benedict XVI has finally stepped into the 21st century where the epidemic continue to kill millions.  Whether it signals an enlightened view on the use of artificial contraceptives is still debatable.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

KFC Double Down Sandwich

I finally had the chance to taste the new offering from KFC called the Double Down. It's a sandwich with two boneless chicken filets, bacon, cheese and mayo. The ad says, "it's too meaty, there is no room for a bun!"



One look at the sandwich and I knew it would be the last time I'll order one. It was too oily that the paper covering the sandwich was drenched with it. You need a lot of tissue paper or else your hands will be oily too by the time you finish eating.

I took one bite and I found reason number 2 to avoid this. It's too salty for my taste. I looked for the nutrition information of the Double Down at the KFC website and found that it contained 1380 mg sodium. That is more than half the 2300 mg ideal daily requirement for adults like me.

Then there is the fat content, which is a whopping 32 g or 40 percent of the recommended 80 mg daily fat intake of adults.  No wonder I felt a little light headed after finishing the sandwich.  

The sandwich is also available in combo with a regular mashed potato and drinks (PhP135 or around US$3).  Some people I know eat it with rice as ulam (viand) and swear it's good.

I will avoid this one for health reasons.  I only wanted to see why it is always out of stock in most of the city's KFC outlets.  One has to try things at least once and with the KFC Double Down, that's enough for me.  If you ask me, my advise will have to be: eat at your own risk.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Heroes in Debt

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a story on the Emirates 24/7 website which said that among expatriates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Filipinos are the most indebted. Our countrymen account for 27 percent of personal loans in that country, followed by the Indians and Pakistanis.

For years, we have credited them for propping up our economy through their remittances even in the midst of the global financial crisis.  We could only guess that one of the reasons our kababayans (countrymen) had to take personal loans was to send the money to their relatives here.  The sad truth is, many of them go abroad to do just that, send money to the family they left behind here.

It is also sad to note that even before they leave for their work abroad, many of our overseas workers are already heavily in debt.  We have read and heard a lot of stories about families borrowing money even with usurious interest rates just to send the father or mother abroad.  Some even go to the extent of using their properties as collateral for a loan to raise the amount needed for various fees just to get an overseas job for a family member.  

We could only hope that their relatives and our government realize the sacrifice these workers had to go through just to send those precious dollars here. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Smart Bro Pocket WiFi

Smart Bro recently launched its Pocket WiFi, a 3G+WiFi router that allows up to 5 persons to connect at one time.  This is  Smart's answer to Globe's MyFi which was released in July.

This new service is available on postpaid for now at PhP495  for 50 hours per month.  Add another PhP150 for the device for the 24 months lock-in period.  So that means you should fork out a total of PhP645 for 24 months and should you exceed the 50 hour limit, you will be charged  Php10 for every 30 minutes.

Smart promises a connection speed of up to 2Mbps and a nationwide coverage, unlike the SmartBro Share-It which is area specific.  That means, you can create your own hotspot wherever you are in the country.

I'm a SmartBro user whenever I go out of town but I use the USB dongle.  I could easily connect wherever there is a Smart cellular coverage and the speed is good enough.  In fact I used it during my trips to Pagudpud and Bohol and I couldn't complain with the connection I got on both occasions .  If the same is true with this service, then it's worth trying.  The only thing that's holding me back is the 50 hour limit per month.  Yes, it's handy when I am out of town on a short period of time but when I am on vacation or something, I could easily use that up within a week.  Why Smart did not offer an unlimited plan is a mystery.  A little birdie told me though that Smart may have placed the time limit because   this new service might compete directly with their other products, like Smart Share It which has a Plan999 unlimited connection.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christmas at SM City Baliwag on November 6!



SM City Baliwag joins the simultaneous launch of "Joyful Christmas 2010" at all SM Malls on Novermber 6, 2010.

SM City Baliwag will be Santa's Toy Room.  Everyone is invited to take a peek inside Santa’s Toy Factory where toys and gifts for good boys and girls are kept before they are given away.  You can lounge in Santa’s favorite chair and take your pick among the gifts you want to receive!


So come and join the launch from 4 in the afternoon onwards.  

To get everyone in the right mood, here's the teaser jingle from SM.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Small Reunion with the dead

We were at the cemetery yesterday to observe Todos los Santos or All Saints Day.  It is the tradition in our country to visit the final resting place of our dead relatives on this day.  Why we do it on November 1 and not on November 2 which is the All Souls Day is a mystery to me.  

Anyway, this annual tradition is one big party for many Filipino families.  It serves as a mini reunion for most families and a time to catch up with each other's activities.   It is also the time to reminisce about the dead and at the same time introduce the dead to members of the family who were too young to remember them or were not yet born then.  The living bring food and non-alcoholic drinks, which they will partake on the spot.  The whole scene takes on a fiesta atmosphere, all that's missing is a marching band.

This year was not different except that there were fewer people who came to the cemetery.  It was not as crowded as the years before.  Maybe because it was raining the whole early morning yesterday.  Luckily it stopped when the sun peered out of the dark clouds.

Another reason could be one that has changed Filipino families in a big way: immigration.  In our family for example, most of our relatives who used to come every year are now living overseas and thus could not come here anymore. 

There was a slight drizzle when we got to the cemetery yesterday.  Two of my cousins were already there and they've already lighted candles and placed flowers on the tombs of their parents.  My father, brother, sister-in-law and I  who remained also lighted some candles for our grandparents.  We all remembered that before, there were so many of us who would come there and it was a huge reunion.  This time there were only six of us.  

We spent about two hours there and had to leave because it was getting dark again and the rain could fall again.   My cousins opted to stay until the candles we lighted are spent.   

People continue to stream into the cemetery as we left.  Most of them carrying candles and flowers for their departed love ones.  Some even brought along small kids perhaps to ensure that this tradition will not be forgotten.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goodbye Sony Walkman Cassette Player

Sony Corporation announced last week that it has already stopped production of the iconic Sony Walkman Cassette Player and the lot that rolled out of their factory in Japan last April were the final batch.

The Walkman first came out in July 1979 and revolutionized the way we listen to our music.  I was still in high school then and we were still using vinyl records played in large bulky stereo systems to listen to our favorite tunes.  The first time I saw an actual unit was before I graduated from high school when a classmate brought one to school.  We were all excited to try the player and he gave all of us to try it.  The first song I heard on a Walkman was "Boat on the River" by Styx.

It wasn't until I was in college that I finally owned a Walkman. By then, it has become more common and smaller.  A housemate had one that was only slightly bigger than the case of the cassette tape.  It was also during that time that we started producing "mix tapes" that we share among ourselves.  A housemate who had a good system in their house would gather all our tapes and choose the best cuts.  He would give each of us a tape of the music he has selected and we would play them as we go about our usual activities.

When I started working, the Walkman proved to be indispensable during my trip to and from work.  I put on my headphone, pump up the volume and I am by myself.  We also used it in our work to record and transcribe meetings, lectures and seminars proceedings.  At about the same time, a new technology was also slowly encroaching in the market of the cassette tape.  The era of the compact disc has began.  I would say that this was the beginning of the end of the cassette tape and the Walkman.  In fact, a few years later I bought my own CD Walkman and never went back to the cassette tape.

Digital music also gave rise to the MP3 format and the cassette tape was almost completely pushed out of the shelves.  It was just a matter of time before someone would come up with an idea for a gadget to play MP3s and revolutionize the way we listen to our music yet another time.  In 2001, a company in Cupertino unleashed the iPod to the world and the final nail to the coffin of the cassette player was placed forever.

But that's how it is with technology.  It is always changing.  Someone always has something that will change our lifestyle and the way we do things.  

Sony said that their factories in China will continue to produce Walkman Cassette Players for their markets in Asia and the Middle East.  The name Walkman will also live on through their digital players, although these gadgets wasn't able to dominate the scene the way their older sibling did for decades.

Sony Walkman Cassette Player, dead at 31.  Thanks for all the musical fun and the memories.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mother shakes baby to death when he interrupted her Farmville game

A 22-year old mother in Florida pleaded guilty last Wednesday to murder for shaking her three month old son to death after his crying interrupted her Farmville game. 

The young woman told investigators that she was annoyed when her son started crying while she was playing the game.  She then shook her baby, "smoked a cigarette to compose her self", and shook her baby again.  She added that the baby might have hit his head somewhere during the shaking. 

At first, I thought this was one of those bogus stories circulating the Web recently.  But then even reputable news sites started reporting on it and the story took on a tragic, sad note.  Imagine a baby killed by his own mother because he needed her care and attention, but mom cannot be disturbed because she's busy plowing her virtual fields.


I also play Farmville on Facebook.  It's a game which allows anyone to become a farmer online and use his network of Facebook friends to grow crops, raise animals and manufacture farm goods.  If one has a lot of time to spare, it's a good game to while away a lazy weekend.  The game does not involve killing anything, not even insects or pests, that's why it is so disturbing to read news about a mother shaking her own kid to death while she's playing the game.

The news articles are not clear on the state of mind of the mother though.  Is she suffering from post partum depression like Andrea Yates?  Maybe she's a single parent since the articles didn't say anything about the kid's father.  Or maybe she's just a down and out individual who considers harvesting bushels of carrots and wheat a major accomplishment.  I am not trying to defend her but any of these things could have contributed for her to commit  the crime or to her "addiction" to Farmville.

Before we put the blame on Farmville or its producer Zynga or even the Internet for their involvement in the crime, let us remember that a player can always stand up and leave his computer anytime he wanted to.  All he needs to do is shut down his computer and forget about his farm.  Losing a field full of ripe blueberries is not the end of everything.

Friday, October 29, 2010

No Need to Take Out 11-inch MacBook Air at Security Check in US Airports

from apple.com

Here's another reason to get a Macbook Air: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US said that the 11-inch MacBook Air need not be removed from bags at airport security checkpoints.

The TSA told CNN that the device got the special exemption because it is "smaller than the average-sized laptop" just like a netbook.  OK, do I hear Steve Jobs screaming "The MacBook Air is NOT a netbook!". Of course it isn't.  We all know that internally, I mean, the technical specifications of the MBA are far superior than any netbook out there.  However, the security people in the US are more concerned of the size of the gizmo than its power.  The iPad gets similar privilege from the TSA so let's just say that the 11-inch MBA belongs to the same category as the iPad per TSA standards.

There's no word though whether the 13-inch model gets the same exemption.    TSA requires that bigger portables be screened separately because they are harder to see in a bag with other contents. Although it has the same internal components as its smaller sibling, it is about the same size as most notebooks computers. This could result to the 13-inch MBA not getting the same special entitlement.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Barnes & Noble introduces the NookColor

photo from barnesandnoble.com

Barnes and Noble has just introduced the second generation of Nook, its e-reader.  Now named NookColor, it is as you might have guessed a colored e-reader plus more!

According to a statement of Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch, the NookColor combines "the functionality and convenience of a seven-inch portable wireless tablet with the reader centricity of a dedicated e-reader."

The Nookcolor runs on Android OS and has built in support for social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter.  It has a 7-inch colored LCD capacitive touch screen that can display video.  The tablet/e-reader also has 8GB of internal memory that can be expanded up to 32GB with a microSD card.  It can also connect through wifi.  

The device will be available on November 19 with a tag price of US$249.  That makes it cheaper than the low-end iPad by more than US$100 but almost twice as expensive than the Kindle.  

This led us to conclude that the NookColor will not go after the Amazon Kindle or even the Sony Reader.  Instead, it has trained its sight on the leader of the pack, iPad.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia

We went to the SM Mall of Asia yesterday to have lunch and at the same time do some malling.  It was a pleasant surprise to see the mall with very few people at noon time.  We decided to eat at Racks and it took us a while to get seated.

We decided to have the Family platter and clam chowder.  While waiting for our orders to arrive, we spotted something new being served at the other table.  We asked the server what it was and learned its name: Onion Brick.  We told the server to add it in our orders.

First to arrive was the Clam Chowder which was creamy but a little salty.  It came with a toasted bread but the chowder was still salty.  I have to add that you can ask the server to split the soup so you can share it with another person.



Then we were served the Onion Brick.  I actually didn't expect much from this one thinking that it would be like the other onion rings and onion loaf in the market which have the overpowering taste of fresh onion.  This Onion Brick though was different.  There was enough breading to make it crunchy in and out,  and the onions used were sweet and not too spicy.  Surprisingly, it wasn't too oily even though it was deep fried.  Well, I believe it's deep fried because it was shaped like the deep fryer ladle and besides, how can something be so crispy if it wasn't deep fried.


The entree, the Family Platter, consisted of flame broiled baby back ribs, beef ribs and chicken.  It also came with a pitcher of drink and two side dishes; we chose mashed potatoes and coleslaw.  What I like about this platter is we don't need to think a very long time to decide what to get.  Everybody gets to taste what Racks has to offer in just one order.  I also like that the meat are always tender and not dry.


After lunch, we went to the used-books store named BookSale.  The books here are cheap and unlike other stores where the books are almost flayed and smelly, their stocks are almost new and well taken care of.  I also like the branch here because it is roomy and brightly lit.  Unlike in some of its branches, you will not bump into other customers while checking a book at BookSale MOA.

By the way, we also noticed that the area around MOA has changed a lot.  For one, there were so many construction going on that the place has began to look a bit crowded.  We realized that it has been a while since we last went to the mall.  Maybe we should check again sooner next time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maintenance of Parents

Senator Manuel Lapid recently filed a bill that will enable poor parents to ask the court to require their children to financially support them.  The measure named "Maintenance of Parents Act of 2010" mandates the government to provide legal assistance to the elderly who wants to demand assistance from their relatives.  They will be assisted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in filing the petition and will be provided with legal assistance and representation in court by the Public Attorneys Office.

In the bill's explanatory note, Lapid said that the onset of rapid urbanization and commercialization have brought about factors that contributed to the erosion of Filipino family values.  Incidence of parents being neglected and abandoned by their children have also become common.  

The bill provides that the petition should show that the elderly member is aged, sickly or disable, and incapable of taking care of himself.  In ruling on the petition, the court should also take into account the financial capability of the children and their obligation to maintain their own family.

But seriously, do we really need a bill for this?  Respect for the elderly member of the family is deeply ingrained in the Filipino mind.  

A visiting Irish priest once observed how we treat our elderly.  Old parents are welcomed in every home.  They have special places in the dining table,  Even young kids are trained early to give respect to lolo and lola, and treat them with the way they would treat mommy and daddy.  How he wished that other nations could do the same to their elderly.

Last time I looked, these traits are still being practiced by Filipino families, at least those I know of.  Or  maybe the elderly people Senator Lapid is referring to are those who come from really poor families or those from the rural areas where poverty is prevalent.  But still these families continue to support each other and make adjustments to make their ends meet.

I have observed however that while we Filipinos truly love and respect our older members of our family, many of us do not spread this to those who are not our relatives.  How many times have I seen older men and women standing in public utility vehicles while younger and able-bodied people occupy the seats allotted to them.  I admit that I also tend to be impatient with older people who take a long time in using an ATM or other electronic device.  

Hopefully we as people will continue to respect the elderly and that we will not need a law that would mandate us to be more respectful of older people.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Coming in Summer 2011: Mac OS X Lion

It wasn't only the MacBook Air that Steve Jobs announced in yesterday's Back to the Mac event.  The main subject, in fact, was the next iteration of the Mac OS X operating system, Lion.  If the pundits are to be believed, this will be the last of the big cats and they saved the last for the king of the jungle.

Steve Jobs said that in his keynote address that "Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac users will really like."

Some of the features of the upcoming operating system include:
  • The Mac App Store works the same way as the App Store and you may purchase applications using your iTunes Account.  It promises to revolutionize the way we Mac users install our software and more.  Applications may be installed in every Mac a user owns and then updated regularly.  Jobs announced that the Mac App Store will be available within 90 days.
  • The Launchpad gives instant access to all your apps with just a click on its icon on the dock.  Open windows fade away and apps are displayed in full screen just like in the iPad.  A swipe will show multiple pages of apps and these may be arranged according to the user's preference.
  • The Mission Control gives us a bird's eye view of what is happening in our Mac.  It works almost like the Expose and Dashboard combined with Spaces thrown in.  With a swipe gesture, the user will see all open windows grouped by apps, other full screen apps as well as other Spaces.
Lion will also employ the multi-touch experience of the iPad.  Instead of the screen, however, we will use the trackpad to pinch and swipe.  The applications will also open in full screen, just like in the iPad.  User could pinch to adjust the size of the display.

Indeed, Apple brings back to the Mac the technology it has developed for its iPod, iPhone and iPad through the Mac OS X Lion.  I'll surely upgrade once it is available.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stormy Weather

The weather bureau warned us that it will be a strong howler and boy it was.  I wasn't able to go to work today because of the floods caused by heavy rains brought by Typhoon Juan (International code: Megi).  It rained the whole night accompanied by strong winds.  In the silence of the early morning hours, I could hear the winds howling and the windows shuddered.  I looked out the window and saw that the water in the streets was already high.  I went back to bed and slept.

It continued to rain the whole morning, but it was intermittent.  It was as if the rain was going around in circles, heavy rains one moment, then nothing and then heavy rains again.  With nothing else to do at home, I stayed the whole day on the Internet.  I monitored news about the typhoon and learned that it has left the country.   The rains were just part of its tail-end but they still pack a wallop.

The rains stopped falling at midday but the winds continued to buffet the trees in the garden.  It would have been nice to take a walk if not for the flood waters that haven't gone down.  I took a short siesta after lunch and it felt good lying on a cool bed, with the pillows and the blanket equally cold.  I live in a tropical country with plenty of muggy days so it really feels nice to lie on a cool bed every once in a while.  In fact we have an expression for that, masarap mamuluktot sa kama habang umuulan (it's good to curl up in bed while it rains).

It was still heavy overcast when I got up from my siesta.  The wind has ceased a bit and it wasn't making the moaning sounds anymore.  It was like that until about four in the afternoon when the skies turned dark again.  It was scarier this time because lightning started to strike one after the other.  

After about thirty minutes, it started to rain again and our water service was cut off.  I immediately prepared our flashlights/torches and candles in case we get a power outage.  The rain fell heavily for about an hour and then it subsided.  It started to fall in torrents again after about thirty minutes and it was during this time that we lost our electricity.  

Funny thing is, I enjoyed the darkness that surrounded me.  All I could hear were the rain falling everywhere and the winds hissing as it hit the rainwater.  Instead of getting scared or stressed by it, I felt relaxed and comfortable.  The power outage didn't last long, though.  The lights went on again after about an hour.

Sadly, in spite the preparations of government for this howler, it still caused lost of human life, and a lot of damages in property and agriculture.  I read the news that at least two persons were dead and hundreds of families are staying in relocation sites.  Rice crops amounting to PhP1.5 billion were also damaged by flooding brought about by the typhoon.

As I write this, torrential rains continue to pour even as Typhoon Juan makes it way to China.   We still don't have our water supply back but there was enough water from the rains that we can use if we needed it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pinoy Quirk 3: Screaming on the Mobile Phone

I commute to and from work daily.  Everyday, I encounter all sorts of people but the kind that really amuse me and sometimes irritate me are those who use their mobile phone inside the vehicle and talk in very loud voices.  

Some of you may have encountered them already.  Their phone rings, they answer and start blabbing at the top of their voices.   I don't understand why they have to speak  loudly when the phone could easily pick up even their normal voice.  Unless of course the other  person is deaf or is hard at hearing.  It is as if they don't even care if the person next to them could hear what they were talking about. 

They amuse me sometimes especially when the conversation contains tidbits like their problems or issues with their family or friends.  They lay out their lives for everyone to hear like it was some badly written telenovela.  I remember one commute where a middle-aged woman talked on the phone about a sister-in-law who owed her money.  She told the party on the other line how the sister-in-law couldn't pay her.  The woman talked almost throughout the duration of our commute, her story took several twists and turns, and the volume of her voice never diminished.  I didn't want to listen to her but she was so loud, I could still hear her even when I put on my iPod.  Me and the other passengers became captive audience of her story that she should have kept among her family.

On another instance, there was a man who kept on calling people in his office, telling them the  combination of the lock to a vault or a door.  We heard his instructions like "Turn left to number 2, then number 5. Turn right to number 4, then zero." He got angrier and angrier because nobody seemed to get the combination right.  When one conversation ended, he would call another officemate and complain how "dumb" the last one he talked to was.  

What is irritating though are passengers who make an unnecessary call: the kind that could wait until they got home.  There once was this girl seated beside me who wanted to plan a birthday party while inside the bus.  I don't know what the person on the other line told her but she ended the call with "Okay, let's decide when I get there."  Then she went silent.

But I get even more irritated with people who not only talk loudly but even turn on the speaker of their phones.  Like that mother who called her daughter and scolded the girl who started whining in the most annoying voice I ever heard.   The other passengers also looked at her direction but she couldn't care less. I think it's the most stupid thing to do not only because we could hear the entire conversation, but because it disturbed the other passengers.  

Really, what were they thinking?  Don't they care about their privacy?

There are times when I just want a quite commute, especially before or after a busy day.  All I want during a commute is to silently watch the other cars that pass by the bus in the highway. I know that   I cannot get that a hundred percent of the time in a public vehicle.  But I hope people who use their mobile phones in public conveyances would also give their fellow passengers a little courtesy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday in Quezon City: LCP Flea Market, Kanin Club, UP Technohub

I have heard of the weekend market at the Lung Center of the Philippines compound before but didn't have the chance to go there until today.  I went there with my family to check out what a lot of our friends are raving about.  Our father read something about the cooked food that are sold in the market  so we decided we could have our lunch there.

The market occupied a large part of the hospital grounds.  There were stalls selling fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables.  Some stalls were also selling fresh fish and other sea food.  But we were interested with the available cooked meals and there were plenty to choose from.  There were the regular Filipino food as well as regional specialties. .My sister in law and I wanted to buy some roasted calf but since we arrived late, the portions were not to our liking.

In the end we decided to have lunch somewhere else and we went to the UP Technohub.  Our destination was the Kanin Club.  I have eaten there a number of times with friends and office mates so in a way I am more familiar with what they offer. 

I was already forewarned by my office mates that the place is usually busy on Sundays that's why I wasn't surprise to see a long list of customers waiting to get seated.  We were number 7 and we waited for something like 30 or so minutes.  We already made our orders while waiting so when we got to our table, the food was immediately served.

For our soup, we ordered the hototay.  This is the first time I tried Kanin Club's version of one of my favorite Chinese soups.  Sorry to say, I am not impressed by their take on it.  The soup is so-so and the ingredients were mostly squid.  Maybe because my benchmark for this soup was the one we used to have when I was a kid; the hototay soup from Ho Wa, a Chinese panciteria in Quiapo that has seen better times and is now closed.

We also ordered the aligue rice which was steamed rice sauteed in aligue or crab fat.  At first I was hesitant to try it because of fear that it might trigger an allergic reaction.  Upon tasting the rice, I realized that there was not enough crab fat to give me an allergic attack so I went on to eat it.  The rice went well with the dishes we asked for.



Our father wanted to try the  kare-kare so we got one.  Their version is closer to what I am more familiar with, they used ox tripe and beef.  I like that the meat is tender, even the tripe was easy to chew and swallow.  The sauce is a little sweeter than our version of  kare-kare though but I am still very satisfied with this dish.

We  ordered one of my favorites, the crispy dinuguan.  I like this one so much because they use pork and not the pig's intestines.  The meat is usually fried until it's very crispy.  I always order this when we eat at Kanin Club.



My brother also asked for the Tilapiang Binukadkad.  It's deep fried tilapia that was cut open so the flesh is separated from the bones and opened like a flower petal.  Dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, the dish complemented the others.


For dessert, we had turon ala mode.  I like the turon and for me it was already alright  even without the ice cream.  One order was enough for all of us but we asked for two so we ended up really really full.



I must also add that Kanin Club has a great view of the arboretum maintained by the University of the Philippines.  The sight of the green trees made eating there such a relaxing experience.  Another thing was the music, which were old kundiman and Filipino folk songs.

On our way out, we passed by an Apple Reseller in Technohub.  The store is called Switch.  The staff was gracious enough to assist us with our questions.  We were told that they already have the new iPod models but they still have the previous models on display, which are already being sold at a discount.

It was another busy Sunday but I enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Others

This happened yesterday morning in our office.  I was drinking my early morning coffee while having a small talk with my seat mate when one of our male clerks entered our cubicle and checked whether the boss was already in.  When he didn't see him, the clerk looked at us and hastily left the cubicle.  

It should have ended there because the clerk usually does that.  However, when I went to get some water from the dispenser, I looked at our attendance logbook and saw that the same male clerk called in sick for the day.

I called the attention of our secretary and asked her why the clerk was marked on leave when I just saw him that morning.  The surprised secretary told me that the clerk called in sick earlier and was never in the office the whole morning.

Our conversation caught the attention of our other office mates and some started making signs of the cross on my forehead and lips.  They were worried that what I experienced could be a premonition or that something bad has happened to the male clerk.  I jokingly told them that I don't believe it was the spirit of our officemate but it could be his doppelgänger. 

Some members of our staff, however, are convinced that we share our offices with "other" beings and began telling their experiences.  Although some can be explained scientifically, others are just as mind boggling as the one I had yesterday. 

I wanted to tell myself that I could be mistaken but I just cannot dismiss what I saw.  It was the male clerk and he even looked at our direction so I cannot be mistaken.  In fact, that wasn't my first encounter with the "other" occupants of our office.

It happened on the day a super typhoon hit Manila without warning, causing a massive blackout in the city.  Since I couldn't get any information, I called the office to check if there was work that day.   A female office mate answered the phone but I didn't talk to her anymore because it was enough to tell me that we have work that day.  However, on my way to the office, I was told that the management declared it a holiday since there was no electricity.

When we returned to work the following week. my office mates talked about what happened before work was canceled that day.  They said that it was too dark inside the office and nobody wanted to enter.    I told them that one of them did and answered the phone.  They said it was impossible for that person to answer the phone because she didn't report for work.  I went to the person and asked her if she really didn't go to the office that day.  She answered that she couldn't leave her house that day because the roads around her village was strewn with debris from fallen trees.

There are other occurrences in the office that convince me and my work mates that we are not alone in our office.  Hopefully, there will be peaceful co-existence between us even though they choose to make their presence felt every now and then.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Unending War: Cats vs Dogs

I often wake up at night because of the incessant barking of my dogs.  Sometimes they sound so angry and threatening, at times they sound so frustrated like they cannot get their quarry.  I checked on them several times and found out that they were after a stray cat.
The feline intruder would often get away from them but sometimes he chooses to stay at a spot where the dogs can see him but not reach him.  It was as if he wanted to tease the angry dogs who were after him.  There was even a time when the cat chose to hiss and snarl back at the barking dogs while safely perched on his spot.

This never ending animosity between these two animals has fascinated us for ages. In fact we have so many expressions referring to this war.  In the Philippines, when two people do not get along well and fight constantly, we say "para silang aso't pusa" (they are like dogs and cats).  Of course there is that English expression "raining like cats and dogs" to describe a really heavy downpour.

But where did this hate between each other really come from?  Like anything that old folks could not explain, we have a fable for this.  I read it from a book when I was in grade school  As far as I can remember, this is how the story goes.

Long ago, the cat and the dog were the best of friends.  They were also the most trusted pets of a king.  He trusted them so much that he made them go to bring something to a woman he was wooing in a neighboring kingdom: a ring.  

The king's minister placed the ring on the paw of the dog and sent off the animals.  But there was a terrible storm the night before that the animals had to cross a flooded river.  Now, the cat can't swim but the dog can.  So the cat said to the dog, "Why don't you let me ride on your back so we can both the cross the river?"

The dog hesitated for a while but then he said," Very well, take the ring and place it in your mouth.  Be careful not to lose it or the king will be very mad at us."  

The cat jumped on the back of the dog and they crossed the river. Upon reaching the other side though, the dog slipped and the cat almost fell in the water.  The cat, in his surprise, screamed "watch out" and doing so, the ring fell from his mouth and dropped in the water.


The dog tried to look for the ring but he couldn't find it anymore.  Perhaps the flood brought it along in its current.  And so woefully, the two  animals went back to the king to tell him what happened.  

In front of their master, the dog blamed the cat for dropping the ring in the river.  But the cat blamed the dog, insisting that if he had been very careful, he wouldn't have opened his mouth and dropped the ring.

The king was really mad and threw both of his favored pets out of his kingdom.  The dog was so angry with the cat that he wanted to kill him.  Sensing the danger, the cat ran up a tree and stayed there, hissing and snarling at the dog who was barking endlessly at him, blaming him for losing the special position they have in the palace.


And it goes on to this day.  As it seems, my dogs and the cat who come to visit them every night continue to blame each other for the loss of the  king's ring and the loss of their favored status. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Revisiting My Old Friend, Quiapo

On my way home from a seminar, I passed by a place I frequently go to before. The name of the place is almost synonymous to that of Manila.  Say the name and the listener will readily conjure an image of market stalls, streets crowded with people, in other words,  a bedlam.  I am talking about Quiapo, the old downtown situated smack in the middle of Manila.

Quiapo is also home to perhaps one of the most revered icons in the Philippines, the Black Nazarene. The church where it is at is right in the center of the district.  One could not come to Quiapo and not visit the Poong Nazareno to say even just a little prayer. That was my purpose that afternoon, to say thanks to Him for helping my father recover from his recent health problems.

Aside from the noise of the traffic outside, it was relatively silent inside the church.  I sat a few seats from the back of the church, giving me a good view of the altar.  At the centermost altar, the image of the dark Christ on his knees and carrying the cross rose above us all.

After saying my prayers I silently sat on the pew but then I started looking around the church.    At two in the afternoon on an ordinary weekday,  there were still a lot people inside the church.  Most of them have their head bowed in prayer. I could just guess what they were praying for.  Perhaps the young girl in school uniform was asking for assistance in her assignment or exams.  The young couple in front of me could be praying for a baby or a job, and the elderly woman on the opposite pew may be just like me, praying for good health.

I was about to leave the church when I was attracted by two elderly ladies walking on their knees towards the altar while praying the Rosary.  I watched them for another few minutes because it's been a while since I last saw something like it, may be decades. It was an old practice of people showing penance and subservience to the will of the Lord.  I was mildly surprised that in an age where people attend mass in malls or over the Internet, such piety still exists.  

On my way out of the church, I saw those women who, for a fee, would pray the entire Rosary for anyone who needs a prayer but is too busy to do so.  It is something I do not agree with and I really wonder why the church officials in Quiapo would even allow such practice inside their domain.

Once outside the church, I was instantly drawn to one particular street in the area: Villalobos.  This narrow street is usually filled with vendors selling all kinds of stuff.  If you're looking for low priced vegetables and other food stuff, you can find it here.  Some of the hawkers sell their wares in containers called bilao in the middle of the street, while others have semi-permanent stalls made of wood.  Farther down the street were stores selling kitchen tools such as pots and pans.

That afternoon I went looking for smoked fish or tinapa but I was told that it was still too warily and the delivery has not arrived yet.  I decided to walk down the street to see if I could get something else.  There were fruits like mangoes, papaya, melons that were priced lower than in supermarkets.  The smell of good stuff mixed with the odor of fresh fish and other fresh things.  

As I walked farther, I saw some shellfish I liked a lot.  I was about to buy some when the vendors started bundling their wares and running in all directions.  It turned out that a group of policemen arrived to clear the streets of illegal vendors.  I think some of the vendors were informed in advance of the raid because they left even before the police arrived Those who were caught had their stuff confiscated and hauled to a waiting van.  In minutes, the street was clear except for those who have permanent stalls.

I finally decided to leave and walked towards where the jeepney wait for passengers.  I passed by old stores where we used to buy stuff like clothes and shoes.  Some of the stores were already closed while the others were converted into something else.  That's how my afternoon in Quiapo ended and somehow it was like visiting a friend who has aged a bit but the rest remained the same.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pinoy Quirk 2: Eat all you can... and cannot

I attended two seminars this week which had a mix of local and foreign participants. In both occasions, we were given free buffet lunch.  Both meals were good but I witnessed another strange behaviour among my fellow participants.

The first instance happened in an inter-agency forum I attended.  While waiting in line for my turn to get my food from the buffet table, I noticed that some of the Filipino participants were taking so much time getting their food.  Three women seemed to be discussing what to get for lunch.  I just watched them as they continue their little chit chat while putting food in their plates.

When the women turned to go back to their seats my eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw their plates.  Each plate was so full, I swear the food in there was good enough for two people each.  Not only that, one of the plates have noodles hanging along the brim.  It was an embarrassing sight and mind you, the women are not the type that you would expect to behave that way. 

I looked around and discovered that several participants also filled their plates so much that one cannot blame someone who sees it and wonders whether there would be famine the following day.  The foreign participants, on the other hand, have just enough or even little food in their plates.

I thought that behaviour was only peculiar to that group but the same thing happened in the next seminar I attended.  This time, a group of men in their 40s was ahead of me in the line to the buffet table.  The men were talking about the topic of the last speaker but as they talked, they were busy piling food onto their plates.  By the time they finished, their plates were brimming and they put the food one on top of the other I swear it looked like a pile of leftovers.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with our French Language instructor.  He told us that he often wondered how we Filipinos are able to enjoy the taste of what we are eating because we often mix our food when we eat.  He told us that we should eat food one at a time.  Like don't eat fried chicken with spaghetti because you won't be able to enjoy the taste of each food.

I didn't see whether both groups ate everything they put in their plates because if they didn't, it would have been really stupid.

This leads us to another strange thing I observed about Filipinos eating in a buffet.  Some of us have the tendency to try everything on the buffet table even if it is the strangest looking food ever.  Well, it's okay to try everything once but there are really some of us who would get so much of the food and when they realized they don't like it, they just stop eating it and leave the food in their plates.  Such practice definitely leads to a lot of wastage so no wonder restaurants who offer buffet meals often have a "no left over policy"; leave something on your plate and you will pay a higher price.

This leaves me thinking about the admonition we often get when we were kids whenever we leave something on our plates, especially rice. 

The old folks would tell us that if we didn't eat everything in our plates and we die, St. Peter will stop us at the gates of Heaven and ask us to pick one by one the grains of rice we left on our plates.  Another version of this was that we would stay in Purgatory for years equivalent to the total number of rice grains we left on our plates.

With what is happening now, perhaps none of us learned from this lesson or we simply stopped believing in old folks' tales.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Tokyo

My brother and sister-in-law recently introduced me to a nice place in Makati City called "Little Tokyo".  It was called that way because within it is a cluster of Japanese food shops.  The shops were designed like the ones I've seen on cable TV.  Even the signages were in Japanese.

We had our lunch in a shop called "Hana".  From the little Japanese I understand, I know that hana means flower.  The interior of the place was also decorated with Japanese things.  The menu was in Japanese but the attendant who were Filipinos, were there to interpret what was in the list.  I ordered Gyudon to see how their version is different from those sold in local "Japanese" food shops.  My sister in law also asked for Takoyaki Balls, a popular snack made of rice batter and octopus strips.

We waited for our food while watching what was on TV, which was a news broadcast from Japan.  We couldn't understand anything that was said, of course but the visuals show a fire in an apartment complex.

Our order came after a few minutes.  The gyudon was really good.  The meat was very tender and the sauce was just right: not very sweet and not salty.  If you ask me if it is better than the others, I would readily say.  I think the ingredients used made all the difference.  



The takoyaki balls were also very good.  In fact, I have an aversion for this snack because on several occasions that I tried it in the malls, I always get disappointed because the balls were bland and the octopus strips were really tough.  The ones we tried in Hana were tasty and the octopus juicy and soft.




I was quite satisfied with my first dining experience at Little Tokyo.  There are other shops to try so maybe I could ask my brother and his wife that we go back sometime and try what the other shops have to offer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smelling Memories

I'm not sure if some of you also experience this, but certain smells do bring back memories to me.  Some strong smells remind me of events, other subtle smells just places or people.   There are other scents that even evoke childhood memories.

The smell of fried eggs in the morning sometimes reminds me of the vacation we spent in Mindanao, when I was just 6 years old. I remember waking up early in the morning and seeing the farm animals, which were so novel to me then.  I swear that sometimes I could recall even the odor of the carabao that was being brought to pasture.

When I pass by old houses made of wood, the smell they emit reminds me of the one where my father grew up. It was an old house that has long been demolished to give way to a concrete structure.  I have fond memories of the birthday parties and reunions celebrated in that old house.  Even the aroma of ground coffee beans make me remember that house because my father's grandfather used to sell ground coffee in his store.  If anybody asks me, I can still draw from memory how that house looked like inside.

Whenever I go out of town, especially in rural areas, the scent of grass in the morning brings back memories of my college days.  The university I went to was at the foot of a mountain so mornings there greeted us with the smell of grass damp with morning dew.  Sometimes, that scent even makes me smile.

The fragrance of perfume also makes me remember places, events and people. One particular perfume often brings back high school memories.  Perhaps because that perfume was so popular when I was in high school.  I don't remember the name of that particular product but it was fruity and sweet.

Who would ever thought that the nose could be such a great recorder of memories.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Amazing Peso

This morning, I have 2000 pesos in my wallet. By this evening, I only have 1200 pesos. In less than 12 hours, the amount of cash I have in hand was reduced to almost half. I spent it on only two things, food and water.

Our money is so amazing. It is so easy to spend. I am so impressed at how easy my 500 peso bill was reduced to coins. I bought food stuff for lunch and some bananas, it was down to just 350 pesos. The house help told me that we had to buy rice. I told her to get 5 kilos so it will last until the weekend, the remaining amount went down to 150 pesos. We also had to restock our drinking water and the money left in my hand amounted to 30 pesos, in 10 peso coins.

This whole scenario happened in less than an hour. That means, in less than an hour I spent 470 pesos for my upkeep.

The story of the amazing peso does not end here. By afternoon, we had to buy food for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. Total cost for everything: 300 pesos.

If you think that I buy expensive foodstuff, you're wrong. Most of the food I asked the house helper to buy were vegetables and fish. The only fruits I bought were the bananas I mentioned earlier on.

My friends and I would sometimes joke among ourselves that the 100 peso bill is the new 10 pesos. One could hardly buy anything substantial for 100 pesos. I use to spend less than 50 pesos per day for my lunch. Now I pay more than 100 pesos per day. I still eat the same kind of food, nothing fancy just the regular food we Filipinos eat.

Our 100 pesos is not enough for even the value meals of fastfood chains. It used to be enough for two persons, but now it is only enough for one value meal.

What's even more amazing with our money is that it is so easy to disappear but very hard to find and earn. Right now the average minimum wage is 275 pesos. So imagine how a minimum wage earner can balance his pay with his expenses. Go figure!

Monday, June 14, 2010

When Mother Nature has a Bad Day

There's no doubt about it, Mother Nature was having a bad day yesterday and she made us know about it.

The whole day was so humid.  We were in Tiendesitas yesterday and I never felt so uncomfortable.  There was sweat on my forehead and arms and I was thirsty the whole time even just after taking a drink of water.  It was like the heat was coming from inside my body.

It was so uncomfortable that I could not enjoy the all breed dog show that was going on in the area.  I feel sorry for those pooches for being subjected to the harsh weather we had yesterday.

On my way back to Bulacan, the  skies over Bocaue started to darken and at 5 in the afternoon, it looked like it was already early evening.  Just as I stepped off the bus, it started to rain.  It was that big, fat rain that could drench you in seconds.  I hurriedly took a tricycle to bring me home as water was starting to fill the streets.

Rain fell from the sky and it was accompanied by bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.  It lasted for more than an hour and when it stopped, it stopped suddenly like a faucet turned off.  In a matter of minutes, the chorus of frogs croaking filled the air.  Then it started to get warm again.

It was like being hit by a double whammy.  Warm and humid in the daytime, and torrential rains in the afternoon.  I hope it Mother Nature doesn't have another tantrum and it doesn't get that bad again today or tomorrow, which is the start of the new school year.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Thank God It's Over!

The winners of the last elections were finally proclaimed last Wednesday and now all of us could finally take a sigh of relief. The last eight months were excruciatingly mad; there were mudslinging, accusations, and even violence. It was as if all of us were dragged into a telenovela with a totally convoluted plot.

Last Wednesday's proclamation may be considered as the grand finale of those tumultuous months. Consider yourself lucky if you chose to stay home or in your office and watch the proceedings in comfort. The Session Hall of the House of Representatives where the event took place was in total chaos. Decorum and protocol were dispensed with as supporters of the winning candidates came in droves.


I don't know if it can be considered as a good start but the two groups engaged in a cheering contest. There were no insults or disparaging remarks but it seemed that the order was the louder the better. I don't understand why they have to resort to this since both there principals were already winners and honestly, it was too juvenile.  Good thing that they were seated on the opposite sides of the hall, away from each other.


Many supporters of the winning Presidential candidate considered themselves important people so they wanted a seat in the first gallery.  What happened was plastic chairs were lined up in the Session Hall floor which, ordinarily, was a total no-no.  It came to a point that we could not identify anymore who among the people there were members of Congress and just guests.

Some members of the committee that canvassed the election results were given a few minutes to speak.  Surprisingly, the crowd went silent except at times that they had to applaud the one speaking but everybody was still subdued.  It was like this until one Senator started saying nasty things about the running mate of the winning Presidential candidate.  Those on the side of the winning candidate was cheering and clapping, but those on the side of the losing candidate appeared to have clenched their teeth and seething.  The speech was totally uncalled for, maybe the Senator was just too bitter that his son and daughter both lost in the two consecutive Senatorial race and there'll be no one to replace him in the Senate.

When it was time for the members of both Houses of Congress to approve the Canvass Report, the crowd went wild, drowning whatever the Senate President and Speaker of the House were saying.  The cheering erupted like someone scored a triple shot in a highly contested basket ball game.

And when the winners were finally called to the rostrum for the proclamation ceremonies, the whole place was justa bedlam of catcalls, screams and all the kind of noise a human can make when he or she is in a state of ecstasy.  Nobody could hear anymore what was being said infront of us.  All I was able to see was the leaders of Congress raising the hands of the winners.



It was all over in a few minutes.  Everybody went out of the Session Hall still buzzing with the excitement of what has just happened.  The crowd continued to distance themselves from each other.  I don't know where they all went but after just over an hour, the halls were empty again, except for the cleaners.

As we put those months behind us, many of us look forward to better days. The just proclaimed winners will be taking office at the end of this month and every one who gave them this position will be watching them.  Me, I will see if the incoming President would be true to his words - no corruption.