Earth Hour

Zero Hunger Challenge

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anay

They work in the dark, insidiously taking over your property.  By the time they're finished, you will be left with almost nothing.  They are small, but their numbers make up for their size.  I am talking about anay, white ants, or termites.

For the past two days, I had my house treated for these pests.  I never realized how bad the situation was until the pest control guy went up the ceiling and treated the area.  Termites fell like rain and died upon falling on the floor.  But the worst was yet to come, when the man walked a few steps to another area, he almost fell from the ceiling after his foot went through the material. He managed to tell us that the ceiling and its braces are almost completely eaten by the invaders.

My cabinets were also infested.  From the outside, they looked fine but when the pest control guy started knocking on the boards, they were hollow.  And when  the board was punched with an icepick, true enough, the termites have completely eaten the insides of the wood.  This was the case for most part of the house that was made of wood.  Everything looked pristine outside but inside, there was nothing.  It reminded me of wafers and ampaw.

I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it.  But my house is literally crumbling without me noticing it.  I could actually wake up one morning and find pieces or entire parts of the house falling on the floor.  What saved me from this catastrophe was I asked someone to estimate how much I would spend for the repairs of the house.  The person told me that before I have my house repaired, I should call the pest control company because he suspected that my house was infestested by termites.

The pest control company told me that it will take a day to complete the work.  However, the one day treatment extended to two days, every time the pest control leaves an area he'd tell me that he's never seen such infestation before.  The place was simply swarming with termites and I didn't know!  In fact, had I not called them to treat my house, I will have no house to speak of by next year.

Pray It Rains 2010

Today during Sunday Mass, the Catholic Faithful are asked to pray for rain.  This was the same action taken by the Church in 2007 when the country suffered from a long dry spell.

This year, the country is facing the prospect of drought and water shortages brought about by the El Niño weather phenomenon.  Although the weather bureau said that it is only categorized as "moderate to strong", the phenomenon would reduce rainfall by 40 to 60 percent.  

However, the country is already experiencing its effects.  Low levels of water have already caused power cuts in certain parts of the country.  Rice and corn production are also reduced with losses estimated in the millions.  The Agriculture department has already said that if the effects become more severe, the country could import additional rice supply amounting to 880 thousand tons.

That is why the good Cardinal Rosales of Manila wrote a special prayer called Oratio Imperata Ad Petendam Pluviam  to be recited after communion before the post communion prayer.  It asks God to send us rain and ease the drought.

The prayer goes:

God our loving Father, creator of our earth and of the universe, and all the wondrous elements of nature that sustain your living creatures, we humbly ask you to send us the rain that our country needs so badly at this time, to irrigate our fields, to stave off a power shortage, to provide water for our bodily health, and to refresh our parched lands. At your command the wind and the seas obey, raise your hand Almighty God to send us so that crisis may be averted.

Merciful and generous God, open our eyes to the richness and beauty of your creation and instill in us a deep love for this earth and all that is in and around it. Teach us to be wise stewards of your creation so that we may always use them responsibly and protect them from abuse and exploitation. At this time of crisis, dear Lord, move us to share more and to love more.

Loving God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you entrusted the Filipino people to the special care of Mary our Mother, listen to the prayers that we bring up to her, our Blessed Mother, to intercede for us, for the protection of our land and our people, whom she loves.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Lima, pray for us.
Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.

Cardinal Rosales also asked to include in the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful the supplication for rains.  He is the third prelate in the country to order the prayer after Cardinal Vidal of Cebu and Bishop Jumoad of Basilan.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami Alert (UPDATED: 28 February)

I was monitoring the developments in the intensity 8.8 earthquake in Chile when I got the news.  The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) issued a tsunami alert level 1 and warned that it could arrive in the eastern part of the country by 2:30 in the afternoon tomorrow, Sunday.

The earthquake in Chile happened earlier today and caused damages in life and property.  CNN reports that more than 100 people were dead due to the temblor.  Power and communications line in the capital city of Santiago are already out.

Tsunami Alert Level 1 does not necessarily mean that people should evacuate, the PHIVOLCS head explained in a newscast. It only cautions people to monitor their coasts for signs of unusual waves.  The agency also advises people in affected area to stay away from the shoreline.

The warning was made based on a past experience where tsunami reached the country 24 hours after a strong earthquake hit Chile in 1960.  Eyewitness account in the provinces of Samar and Surigao claimed that a wall of water as high as six meters hit their provinces.

Similar warnings were issued in other countries in the Pacific Rim.   The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued alerts  for parts of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and other Pacific islands.  Australia and Japan alerted their people for tsunami waves that could hit their respective countries by early tomorrow morning.

UPDATE (28 February)
At 3:15 PM today 28 February, PHIVOLCS cancelled the Tsunami Alert since it has not received any reports of unusual significant sea level changes within the projected arrival period of the tsunami waves.  It advised local government officials that if no other observations are made by 4:30 this afternoon, they can assume that the threat has passed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet My New Mac Mini

I bought a Mac Mini this week.  It is the smallest and most affordable desktop machine from Apple.  It is only 6.5 inches square, roughly the size of a CD case and two inches thick.  In fact, if not for its weight, I can assume that it's more of a portable than a desktop Mac.



This is the latest iteration of the Mac Mini.  It now has a superdrive and big HD drive.  Just like any Mac machine, I set it up so easily and within 20 minutes, I was surfing the Net and sending tweets about how I love it.

Although it has limited power than the Macbook Pro, I am still satisfied with my Mini since it meets my needs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Closing Time

We were at the SM North EDSA Mall tonight when it closed shop for the day.  We were at the hardware department looking for items for the house when it was announced that it's closing time.  We were given 15 minutes to finish our transaction but some of the employees started closing the display cabinets and some lights were already dimmed.

While waiting in line to pay for our items, my attention was caught by what was being announced through the PA System.  It goes something like this:

"Fellow employees, let us thank God for another day at work.  The management congratulates you for a job well done.  You have served our customers well. We hope you will do the same tomorrow ."  

I was surprised by this since it was the first time I heard it.  I've been at the the mall across the street during closing time but I never heard anything like that being said.  I don't know whether this is the mall's management's way of encouraging their employees to serve their customers well.  To me though, it sounded a bit Orwellian.

It reminded me of  Orwell's 1984 where big brother reminds the citizens of their service to the State.  It also sounded like that documentary I saw about Communist China where at certain times of the day, the workers were given a lecture on servitude.

As we finished paying for the goods we bought, the lady announcer asked their employees to remain in their posts and enjoined everyone to remember the Mall's Vision for Customer Service.  She then proceeded to recite it for everyone to hear.  After doing so, she then gave the names of the workers who have shown exemplary customer service during the day, 

I looked at the employees and instead of enthusiasm, I saw impatience in their faces.  It's almost 10 in the evening and obviously, everybody wanted to go home already.  If only they could make that woman announcer stop... 


Friday, February 19, 2010

Neil Gaiman in Manila This March

I can't help getting excited with the email I received last Thursday morning.  Neil Gaiman will be in Manila on March 17 to 18, 2010.  He'll be at  the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards Night on March 17 where, if I read it right, he will reveal the winners in the different categories.  He will also unveil the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Anthology, a collection of the winning entries of the same contest.  There will also be a raffle during the event where the winner will have a free dinner with Mr. Gaiman.

On March 18, he will have a book signing activity at the Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati.  To be part of this event, one must buy at least 2,000 pesos worth of Gaiman's book in a single receipt starting February 27.  The buyer will then be eligible to a pass that he or she will present during the book signing.  By the way, Gaiman will sign two books per person, yes only two books.

My office mate and I are thinking of going there to have our books signed. We were already making a list of books that we will buy when someone pointed out that March 18 is a work day. Bummer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

American Idol Season 9 Top 24

After screening thousands of young hopefuls, and sending home hundreds more during Hollywood week, the judges announced tonight the top 24 contestants for American Idol Season 9.  There were surprises, especially that one of those I expected to be in was not selected.

I am glad that the two men I am impressed with (Casey James and Andrew Garcia), as well as three girls I would want to vote for if I were allowed (Llli Scott, Haeley Vaughan and Siobhan Magnus) all made it to the top 24.  Of course Big Mike Lynche was also shortlisted though I came to know him more because of the birth of his baby on Group Day.

As usual, there were several contestants in this list who did not get good exposures during the winnowing process.  I hope their talents would help them remain in competition.  I really can't say much about John Park, Crystal Bowersox and Ashley Rodriguez because I don't remember seeing their performances during the auditions and the Hollywood week.  Perhaps because they were barely given airtime during the long elimination process.  Hopefully their lack of TV exposure won't harm them and make them exit the competition earlier than the rest of the 24.

Let's see how everybody would perform and how they would impress America.  It's ladies first again as the girls perform this coming Wednesday (Tuesday in the U.S.).  The boys follow suit on Thursday and we'd know who the first two contestants to leave on Friday,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Today, we Catholics begin the season of Lent.  As part of our faith, we hear mass and then allow the priest to mark us with ash to remind us of our past and our future: We came from dust and to dust we shall all go.  

This afternoon I attended the mass at our office.  In his homily, the priest reminded everyone the meaning of lent.  At the same time, he informed us of the new directive from the Church that the emphasis of lent this year is on charity and humility.  

 By the way, the priest who officiated the mass was so funny, he was almost irreverent especially during a mass marking the beginning of lent.  We were. after all. told in Catholic school that we should not have so much fun during lent.  Instead, we should emulate Jesus Christ who did nothing but pray during his 40 days in the desert.  

During his homily, the priest even made many of the attendees laugh at his jokes and silly comments, keeping everybody awake at the time when many of us would be taking our siesta. I just hope that his message, which was about getting rid of pride, got across everyone in attendance, especially to those who were laughing the loudest.

On my home, I saw the news on TV about the observance of Ash Wednesday in other parishes.  In his message, the Cardinal of Manila said that as an act of charity, those who can afford should practice fasting or abstinence and whatever we saved from doing so, we may donate to charities that feed malnourished kids.  A bright idea since it achieves two goals.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Really Red Day


Kung Hei Fat Choy! 恭喜發財

The lunar new year is being celebrated today in our part of the world but it is also Valentine's Day for  most of the world.  It's a double red day because the color is associated with love on this day of hearts and at the same time, the Chinese believe that having something red at the start of the new year brings luck for the rest of it.

Many of us mistake  Kung Hei Fat Choy as Chinese for "Happy New Year" but a friend who studied in Taiwan told me that it is actually a wish for someone to be prosperous in the new year.  Hopefully we would be prosperous this year, the year of the Tiger in Chinese Astrology. 

When I passed by the SM North mall this morning, there were dragon and lion dances.  The main building was filled with the sounds of drums, gongs and cymbals as the dancers prance around.  I even sniffed around to check if any incense was burning.  A Chinese friend once told me that lion dances are performed on special days for good luck, health, prosperity and blessings.  To make the lion even more powerful a ceremony is performed wherein a dot is placed on the lion to make it come to life.


I used to interchange the lion dance for the dragon dance (and vice versa)  because of their appearances.  This morning, I found out that the lion has only two dancers hidden behind the mask while the dragon has several people, more than ten men if I am not mistaken.  Anyway, I still had to go to my father's place for our usual Sunday lunch so I wasn't able to see the entire lion and dragon dances.

On my way out of the mall, I met the strangest thing ever.  There were these two guys dressed as mascots but instead of cute characters, they were dressed up as huge television sets and written across the screen was "Something Big Will Happen to Philippine Television".  Their costumes were actually the body/case of big screen CRT TVs that were the hit during the end part of the 90s.

I went back to Bulacan after having lunch at my father's place and I got there in time to see my friends leaving for a branch of the SM Mall in Baliuag.  Since it was still early, I decided to go with them and since it was a Sunday, there was very light traffic going there.

It was a different inside the mall though.  It was full of people, young and old.  I even saw a newborn baby there carried by his doting father.  All the restaurants were full and with waiting lines to boot.  We decided to go around the mall and checked our favorite shops.

We went to the electronics and I.T. sections since I am in the look out for a dual SIM phone. At present, I carry three phones everyday and a dual SIM phone would leave me with just two phones to lug daily.  I am looking at this locally branded units called the MyPhone.  It meets my first requirement (2 SIMs in one)  and it is also a QWERTY phone.  Aside from these, the  price is very low compared to other brands!  However, it doesn't have Wi-Fi capability which I don't have a need for at the moment because I already have a BlackBerry and a netbook.  We passed by the CD-R King store and got some DVD-Rs as well as a mouse for my netbook.

From here we went to Joey Pepperoni, a pizzeria and pasta eatery.  The place was also filled with people but we immediately seated and attended to by a smiling crew member.  We ordered for Pesto Pasta, Joey's Pepperoni pizza, and bottomless iced tea.

The iced tea was immediately served and my friend consumed the contents of his glass in one instant.  It was promptly filled by the servers.  We didn't have to wait really long for the pasta to be served.  The serving was very generous, luckily we ordered for just one because it was more than enough for us.


It has a lot of pesto sauce but the taste was not too over powering.  In fact, it was what I expected of a pesto pasta.  My friend found it strange though that the dish has potatoes and beans in it.  I told him that maybe it was to emphasize that it's a healthy snack and a vegetarian dish because it did not have any meat in it.  The pasta they used though was not good, it was like it was over-cooked and a little on the soggy side instead of being firm.

The pizza was fantastic.  It was almost covered entirely by pepperoni slices and the cheese was overflowing.  I like the crust since it is crunchy and soft at the same time.  I thought the sauce was a bit salty though although my friend said it was just alright.  I also tasted a little sweetness perhaps to meet the taste preference of some Filipinos.



But if it is sweetness they wanted, then Filipinos should get a load of the Sunkist Iced Tea served by this joint.  It was too sweet for my taste.  I even asked for some extra ice to dilute the solution further because it was so sweet.

Overall, I enjoyed the meal at Joey Pepperonis.  Aside from the good food, the service crew was also very attentive and fast in giving what their customers needed.  

We left the mall before sundown and more people were still coming in.  Many were couples who must be celebrating Valentine's Day in the mall.  Perhaps the other people were just trying to escape the heat of the afternoon.  Whatever their reasons, we all made the owners of the mall prosperous this start of the year of the Tiger.  Kung Hei Fat Choy indeed and have a romantic Valentine's Day too.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Misua: A Favorite Comfort Food

I wasn't feeling well the whole day today.  I don't know why but when I woke up this morning, my head was throbbing with pain.  I took some paracetamol and decided to go back to bed.  I woke up before noon and my headache was still there, and I already have a stuffy nose.

I asked our house help to cook some misua, a soup with pork, Chinese noodles and a vegetable called patola.  I don't know the exact English name for patola but its fruit slightly resembles a cucumber with ridges.  I think this is the same vegetable which, when fully matured,  is dried and turned into a cleaning sponge for bathing called loofa.

Anyway, misua along with rice porridge are two of my favorite comfort foods. I can still remember that when we were still small children, our mother would cook either misua or porridge whenever we have fever and have no appetite to eat.  Back then, mother would put dried shrimps called hibe instead of pork and patola to put a little flavor to the soup.  The belief then was not to give sick people oily food or they will throw up.

Later, I found out  that most of my friends and other people of my age were also given either misua or porridge when they were sick as children.  Perhaps this is why many of us, consider these two food as food for the infirm.

But I love  misua, especially when it is prepared with patola.  The vegetable adds a sweet flavor to the soup.  The secret of course is not to put too much water while cooking and let the juice of the fruit come out and mix with the broth.  I enjoy this soup especially on cold rainy nights and if there are still enough soup left, I still have it as breakfast the following day.

That is why when I was not feeling well today, I had several bowls of the soup throughout the day.  Every bowl made me feel better as the level of my headache and stuffy nose was relieved.  I think I will have another one before I go to sleep tonight.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Amici

My friend and I had a wonderful merienda at Amici in SM North EDSA Annex building. This Italian pizza and pasta eatery was used to be owned by the Salesian fathers at the Don Bosco Makati compound and it was then called Amici di Don Bosco (Friends of Don Bosco, in English).  



The ownership was transferred to a private firm in 2007 with the agreement that owners kept the things that worked well before. Food servings also remained generous.  The new Amici though looked more modern, spacious and bright.




This afternoon, we ordered the Pasta Pomodoro and Tutta Carne Pizza.We were first served the pizza, Amici's version of all meat pizza.  The thin crust was very crispy and the sauce just right.  The meat was just the right amount although those who are more acquainted with other "meat lover's" pizzas might get disappointed with the absence of the mini meat balls.  What I like about it was the generous amount of cheese that went into the pizza.



We were already half-way through our pizza when the pasta was served.  Once again, the serving was more than enough for the two of us and the sauce was really creamy and enough to cover all the pasta.  The sauce was not as tangy as those in other eateries and the basil was not overpowering either.  I think some additional Parmesan cheese would have made it better to my taste although my friend said that it was already okay since more cheese could make the dish a little salty.



The price for the  soda was  a little steep though.  Considering that the place is self-served, one 1.5 liter bottle of Coke Zero cost 80 pesos.  The only consolation we got was that we were allowed to use as much ice as we wanted.  Water was also served by the pitcher.


Overall, though, as I said at the start, we had a pleasant experience eating at Amici.  Perhaps next time we will try the Four Seasons or the Quattro Formaggi Pizza.  As the Italians say, "Buon appetito"!

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Alkansya

Hidden deep in my closet is my alkansya (piggy bank).  I can't call it a piggy bank because it does not look like a pig at all.  It looks more like a teddy bear although its Japanese manufacturer labeled it as a little dog.  It is made of blue transparent plastic so I could see my money filling the body of the little dog.   

Everyday, I set aside 5 and 10 peso coins I receive as change so I could put them in my alkansya.  Sometimes I put in as much as 100 pesos in one day.  But there are days when I could only manage to put in 15 pesos.  When I couldn't get any coins for change, I ask my officemates to trade in their coins  for my 20 or 50 peso bills so I could put them in my piggy bank later.

Although it is only around ten inches tall and maybe a circumference of around four inches  in its widest part, my alkansya can keep a decent amount of money.  In fact, when I opened it in December the total savings amounted to some three thousand pesos (roughly  US$64 at that time).  Not bad for a two-month savings effort.  It was enough to buy myself a nice Christmas gift.

I already started saving coins again in my little dog alkansya when the new year started.  It is now almost half full.  Not to worry because when my friends learned that I was saving 5 and 10 peso coins, some of them gave me  alkansya for a Christmas present last year.  Now I have more piggy banks to put my coins in.

It is disheartening to know however that our country has one of the lowest savings rate in the Southeast Asian region. A study showed that the average household saving rate was at 16.36% of annual gross domestic product.    In contrast, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan all have savings rates over 30%.  In fact our savings rate puts us in the same category as Bangladesh and Myanmar. 

Savings are also important to shore up the economy.  Perhaps we should teach and encourage future generations to save money.  Although some kids do save money they don't usually keep it in banks but use it to buy things they want.

I don't know what grade I was in then but when I was still in elementary school, our teacher gave our class  a project to make piggy banks out of cardboard boxes. Maybe it was also to teach us a lesson on saving our extra money.  My classmates and I tried to out do each other with the design of our piggy bank.  I don't remember what design I made.  After our recess break every school morning, we put 25 centavos in our piggy banks and then got excited when it began to get heavy.  

One Monday morning however, we found out that thieves got inside our classroom during the weekend and found our piggy banks.  Our savings were all gone and all that remained of our piggy banks were torn pieces of cardboards and paper that were scattered on the floor.    I remember we were all upset but not as upset as our teacher who cried because she felt sorry for all of us.  I can't recall if we made another piggy bank to replace what was lost after that incident.

Maybe that's the reason why I keep my alkansya deep inside my closet.  I am just making sure that no one gets to my coins before I do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Giant Squids and A Man Who Acts Like One


 I read a really strange news article when I went online this morning.  The report said that giant squids suddenly surfaced in waters off the coast of California.   In fact, the picture that accompanied the article was a scene straight out of Animal Planet.
According to a report by the AP, the squid also known as the Humboldt, weigh between 20 and 40 pounds, but some fishermen have caught  60-pound giants.  The report further stated that this animal can grow to as much as 100 pounds and up to 6 feet long.
The first thing that came into my mind were calamares.  Imagine how much of this stuff can be made out of these giants.  It would make a lot of beer drinkers very happy.
I just wonder if these creatures also squirt ink when agitated or cornered.  I know one giant squid who did just that when he tried to defend himself this afternoon.
The man was accused of unethical conduct for approving a road project that will benefit his businesses.  For days, he refused to answer the accusations hurled against him and just let his lackeys do the job for him.
When he finally spoke this afternoon, he denied everything  and instead called the hearing a political harassment because he was running for president of the country.  Well, he’s second in the running and if surveys are to be believed (they could sometimes be commissioned), he’s gaining ground against the front runner.
All through out his speech, he had his head bowed down, not looking straight at his accusers. After squirting ink, by saying that he is being pulled down by the Filipino’s crab mentality,  the man left his accusers and refused to answer questions.
Between him and the giant squid though, I’d pick the latter anytime.  At least I can make crispy fried squid out of them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Coming Soon: 3D TV

While High Definition TV (HDTV) has not even taken root in the Philippines, guess what those people behind TV technology are thinking of. Yes, a 3D TV!

In fact just this morning (Sunday afternoon and evening in other places) two events were beamed in 3D.  One was a football match between Manchester United and Arsenal in the United Kingdom (which was won by ManUtd by the way 3-1).  The other was the tribute to Michael Jackson segment of the 52nd Grammy Awards show which featured a 3D music video of MJ's "Earth Song".

The football match in UK was broadcast in specially equipped pubs but reports indicate that a 3D channel will soon be launched in the UK.  According to online reports, those lucky enough to watch the broadcast thought that the technology has a future in sports broadcasting, however it will take a little getting used to.  Some of the audience also noted that pubs should be more lenient with their customers who may leave their stores still wearing their 3D glasses.

Meanwhile, I wasn't able to get the full 3D experience of the Michael Jackson tribute because what was broadcast here was more of the performance of the artists who joined the singing of the Earth Song.  Reportedly, Target department store distributed 3D glasses weeks before the broadcast.  In fact some members of the audience were shown in  red and blue carton glasses used in the early days of 3D movies.

Speaking of movies, I must say that the 3D technology in movies are far ahead than that of TV. The movie AVATAR for example was an awesome experience.  I am afraid that I am getting addicted to those 3D movies because just last week I watched "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and now I am planning to watch Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" in 3D.

Back to our original topic, 3D TV, I don't have the technical knowledge about how this technology works but  it looks promising.  I personally think that  we might be needing bigger TVs to fully appreciate the technology.  Aside from that, we should all get used to watching TV wearing what look like dark sunglasses even at night.