Driving with Wifey (My First Blog, Actually)

(I was browsing my multiply.com site and saw this one hidden. Then I remember, this is my first shot at doing a blog. Since I’ve also posted this in our company’s internal site, I deleted its name here. (hint: Only the paranoid survive). Some of the practices in this blog though may not be true anymore. Rest assured, I still respect the pedestrian lanes.)

I like walking around our company’s campus a lot. Why? Because it is here where most drivers abide by the speed limits placed on designated lanes. It is also where both drivers and passengers are strictly required to wear seat belts; and where motorists patiently wait for the pedestrians to safely cross the street before they proceed driving. In the Philippines, this is almost too ideal if not unreal.

Day in day out, this practice goes on inside this pedestrian-friendly campus. Lately though, I’ve observed that the gates seem to look like a pit lane’s entrance and exit. The former is where speeding employees would brake to follow minimum speed; the latter is where outgoing employees would rev their engines and hit the gas and dash to their destinations like F1 drivers. I even once wondered if these gates are warp zones that zap drivers into entirely different worlds.

Frankly, I was guilty of this act, too. I’ve been driving back and forth for almost one and a half year already. I admit I drove like hell outside the campus during the first year. It is a good thing that our company had this online Defensive Driving course which I took and passed. Still, I continue to drive aggressively but just more cautious than before—I would mentally count thousand one, thousand two, thousand three…to estimate my distance from the car in front of mine. At least.

Then time came for my wife to learn how to drive. I became her boot-camp coach whenever she drives us to and from work. However, despite my conscious effort to lecture her on the proper and safe way to drive, it was always a matter of time when we would end the driving sessions in frustration. This made me reflect and assess why.

Then it struck me. I have been a believer that good teachers make equally good students and it was through this series of driving that made me realize that I could be a (big) factor why wifey made me feel uneasy being strapped beside her as a passenger. It was a case of bad teacher, bad student. How can I expect her to follow what I am teaching if she does not see me doing most of it. Practice what you preach, right?

It is now almost two weeks already since I have been driving defensively. This time there is not much mad honking, lesser unnecessary overtaking, more consideration, and improved courtesy. For those who do not know yet, it feels good all the time.

And guess what? Just this weekend my wife was on the wheel from our home to our favorite hang-out, almost 20 kilometers away and she did perfectly well, almost perfect until it was time to park. But then again, nobody’s perfect. She’s currently grounded. Just kidding.

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My Blog Machine 2.0

”Every new beginning comes from other beginning’s end…” Closing Time by Semisonic.

Finally, my old Blog Machine has to go. The five-year old Pentium III 800 MHz PC has to give up his throne in our bedroom and give way to what I will call my Blog Machine 2.0 powered with one of the latest Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13 GHz PC.

The old machine has been a part of our life since it was given to us for free. During its early days it has opened our eyes to the wonderful world of the Internet. It has helped us appreciate the then famous (or infamous) Napster. Despite enduring the dragging speed of dial-up connection, I endured nights of downloading of what I knew before as just free music (it’s now technically known as piracy). I still can recall one person begging me to keep my connection open just to download Midge Ure’s Dear God—which happens to be one of my favorite songs (hint: 80‘s fan).

Of course, the old Intel machine also introduced me to one of the wonders of Web 2.0—web blogging or just blog. As a frustrated writer, I finally found one medium to share my thoughts and practice my writing skills, if I may call it. It was through this old machine that I drafted and published my first blog.

As everything will come to an end, the old guy is laid to rest. Some of its parts were taken out (i.e., cannibalized) for the new guy. Some were given away, to maybe meet other old PCs that hopefully will start other people to learn the basics and be awed by the World Wide Web. If there’s a PC heaven, I know his soul will be there.

For the new guy, he still has got a lot to prove. It’s been with us for just two days but so far the promises of an Intel Dual Core processor haven’t failed and continue to amaze me with its power. I’ve already made it to download applications from the internet, rip music and capture videos from our Sony HandyCam—all of which were done simultaneously. The result was just great. No glitch. Yet. If only writing skills improve together with the upgrade of a PC.

Oh, before I forget. I’m now playing a new game in this PC. It’s the modern, action-packed and adrenaline-pumping graphics—-the unforgiving game of…Spider Solitaire. LOL. I’m growing old. Ti abi.

Internet for Oldies

This recent Christmas vacation, we introduced our parents to the modern world of computers. A week has passed and most days were spent on buying a new PC, setting up the connections and an almost never ending tutorial on how it will be used to connect to the internet.

I recall more than a couple of years ago when my wife and I gave my mother a cellphone for her to join the SMS fad. I can still picture her out laughing out loud upon discovering that she has just sent a text message to herself. Luckily, after some patient sessions with my wife (with the unnecessary texting even when they are a couple of feet apart) she learned the basics and was able to send us messages while we are at the airport on our way back by the end of our holiday vacation.

Now is her time to transition to the more complex World Wide Web.

Fortunately, with some organizational and training skills I acquired from work, I got to somehow manage and make the sessions less stressful by labeling almost every wire at the back panel, capturing actual hardware pictures and screenshots. All of which were then transferred to a Word document as a training material and printed and made available for her to refer to while doing the start-up from the very beginning–from plugging the AC cord, powering up the UPS, turning the CPU on, logging in to Windows XP and then connecting to the internet via dial up.

Once connected, more were asked. “What is an icon?” “What’s a double click?” “Why double click on some and single click on the others?” “What’s a domain?” “Why’s there an @ character?” “What’s a shortcut?” “Why’s the Window’s Start button got the Turn Off computer option?” “Why did the message turn to Read status?” And these, are just a few of the long list of questions that I never anticipated.

Despite the newbie encounters, I think my patience is paying off. Mother has already sent a couple of emails to my sister abroad and some family friends. She has already started surfing the web and has already filed and accessed her Favorites.

Even with such progress, today I checked some books in our local bookstore expecting to see some computer self-help book applicable for people like my mother. Well, I saw Basic C++, How to Upgrade your PC, Do-It-Yourself: Fixing a PC and other books with fundamentals written on it but which contain a lot of computer jargons that would only intimidate more rather than encourage my mother to continue using her new PC.

I came near a book from local authors  with the name “Internet Fundamentals” but that too lacks the basics on the PC’s operations. If I could have the chance to publish my own, I would have made some bucks out of it. It’s so frustrating, but so far I haven’t seen a book with a direct approach to Internet for Oldies. Hopefully, I’ll find one in Powerbooks once I get back to Manila.

I have few more days here in Bacolod. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching my father. Fingers crossed.

Reunions and Alcohol in Bacolod

“In vino veritas” – anonymous

Last time, I wrote about the degrading condition of Bacolod city with regards to some taxi drivers’ misdemeanor, dirty streets, traffic congestion and concrete roads that seem to get back to the ages where ruts are a norm. All these still seem true in every place I have been lately.

But I realized that there are reasons I still like to come here as often as time and money permit.  I keep on coming back for the people I have known for years—my parents and family, for my classmates, for friends, and for whoever are still here and haven’t left Bacolod to work or to stay abroad for good.

From the time we arrived from Manila and within just one week, the calls for reunion—or invitation to drink—poured in through SMS.

The first one was with my IP bros who were my classmates and friends in college. I was one of the founding members of this informal group. IP stands for Iota Pi or International Playboy. I was clueless though where we got this name. Or just like any rock bands today, it was taken on the spur of the moment from one of our misadventures courtesy of Red Horse or San Miguel beer, Toska Vodka, Ginebra Gin or a mixture of all of these.

Unlike our college years, this time we drank in moderation (ahem). We were just happy enough to spend some time reminiscing and checking what everyone’s been doing lately. Surprisingly, we also ended our session early. If this was more than 10 years ago, it would have been over not until the wee hours of the morning and we would be going home reeking of alcohol and some other smell that we get in along the way.

The second reunion was with batch ‘90 SJHS. I never expected that this year I’ll be attending a general homecoming instead of the usual annual batch reunion. With Melvin and his wife, we arrived at St. Joseph’s High School – La Salle by 2 p.m. despite the heavy downpour (it’s been raining for days since we arrived). From the moment we entered the gate, the familiar faces brought back memories and stirred some confusion. I recognized some names but forgot the faces and vice versa—knew the faces but forgot the names.

Registration was a breeze. Immediately after, we wasted no time and went to tour the school’s ground. Most of the buildings are still there while some of our 2nd and 4th year classrooms have been changed to a school chapel. What was once the pavilion and the canteen are now nowhere to be found as both have been merged into a bigger activity center called the Oscar Hilado Civic Center. Part of the football field has been consumed by this new building, too.

At the rear part of the campus, our Library, practical arts room (San Lorenzo Ruiz Building), and home economics buildings still stand. Some new structures already annexed the area beside the periphery fence.

Right behind the civic center is the new canteen where just for this event beers are sold. At last, after 20 years, this is my first time to drink booze legally inside the SJHS campus—we once smuggled alcohol during a recollection event. Ti abi.

Our batch’s attendance reached almost 20 when dinner was served. Our allocated table was filled with smiling faces, people exchanging news and pleasantries. The free dinner was also good. It was also worth noting that most of our teachers are still with SJHS. Some dropped by for this homecoming.

There’s Mr. Leon Sales whom I won’t forget for it is through him that I learned to touch-type fast enough to surprise most people. There’s Mr. Baldomero who was our 1st year moderator and who introduced us the yoyo called “El Diablo.” Ms. Logrunio, Ms. Lupo, Mr. Lariza and our “psychic” Filipino teacher, Mr. Mahigne were also present. Then there’s Mr. Dante Amaguin who arrived late but nonetheless still got our attention with his magic tricks. He was our 4th year class adviser.

I am so glad to be part of these series of reunions. It is always nice to see friends in good health, successful in their respective careers or just plainly contented to be still in our hometown and yet survive (I actually find them lucky and I even envy them).  Time always flies. So before I know it, I will be here again back for another reunion in Bacolod.

Three Reasons Foreigners Hate Bacolod

After spending our Christmas eve in Batangas with my in-laws, wifey and I woke up by 4 a.m. and went straight to Park ‘N Fly to leave our car while in Bacolod. We reached the airport earlier than the 2-hour check-in time but the lines going to different counters were already packed. Some lines even crisscrossed each other to the frustration of most people including myself.

While fidgeting I noticed that a number of foreign visitors (British, Americans, and other Asians) are going to places such as Kalibo, Cebu and Palawan but not one in Bacolod’s line. It made me wonder why. Soon I will have the answers.

Our 8:45 a.m. flight was delayed. If not for Delifrance’s Christmas ham clubhouse sandwich—surprisingly, it’s one of the best sandwich I have tasted—that I ate for breakfast, I would have been grouchy as I always am given the situation.

Then boarding time came after an hour. We had to walk from the departure area to our designated plane. It used to be a short one but it’s now some hundred meters walk—longer exposure to the glaring morning sun, to everyone’s dismay.

It’s a good thing that, except for not being seated near the window, we had a smooth flight. The ‘bring me’ games, just like in any other Cebu Pacific flight, and the items for sale, which are nice last minute gifts, made the trip interesting. Of course, the beautiful flight stewardesses made it even better.

Landing wasn’t bad either. At this point I was thinking that we can leave the airport in a jiffy after getting off the plane. But it didn’t happen. The ‘new and improved’ arrival area and baggage claim answered the questions why we haven’t got any foreigners on board.

In these times of innovative technology, one would be shocked to see how the bags are handled. After manually unloading the bags from the cart, these were either dragged or tossed to a barricaded area where one can easily claim it if, and only if, he’s lucky to get the attention of porters handling it. (Damn, I should stop watching the Discovery channel.) Wifey and I didn’t get lucky fast, we had to wait.

As it has been our practice to avoid the taxis right outside the airport terminal as they would normally overcharge, we walked out of the airport are to flag down cabs just along the highway. Unfortunately, two consecutive ones were grinches—or they could have thought of me just the same. I find it so shameful that I am being swindled by my kababayan just because I got bags, obviously coming from the airport. I can just imagine if it were Caucasians. I suspect that this is reason number two why foreigners aren’t queuing for Bacolod.

Pissed, I gave up hailing a cab. We decided to board a jeepney instead that would take us downtown. Along the way though I couldn’t help but notice the scattered garbage, the uncut grasses in the city plaza, and the stagnant sidewalk canals. This is not the Bacolod I used to know for years. What an un-welcoming sight. Reason number three.

From downtown, we finally got a good taxi driver. Well, at least my resolution—for some years already—not to generalize anything or anyone still works. Just some of them are bad, not all.

Eventually, we arrived home by 11 p.m. Tatay and nanay and some of my siblings were already there. As expected, a good lunch of sea foods was served. Tatay cooked sweet and sour fish and tanigue kinilaw—both dishes are his specialty—and prepared some fruits for dessert. It was one hearty lunch. Home sweet home, and it’s still Christmas day.

December Weddings

Today I almost missed attending a friend’s wedding (Villafuerte-Espinosa) due to sore throat. Since I’ve prepared for this day so I could see this normally rugged and casual guy march down the aisle in barong tagalog to meet his bride, I dragged my aching throat and drove my way to Tagaytay.

I arrived at the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church late, but not late enough to be included in the photo op (which I swear is the most stressful part of any wedding) with other friends and co-workers.  And as if by reflex, after the pictures have been taken, I with a couple of friends sped off to the reception area at Lake Garden Hotel and arrived there first. It dawned on me that I could win an Amazing Race series if all the pit stops are event reception centers. I’ve done this a couple of weddings already.

The tables and buffet meals were set overlooking the picturesque Taal Lake. The weather was good and the view of the volcano was a perfect background for the bride, groom and all the guests. It would have been more perfect if there was alcohol to warm up our body from the chilly atmosphere. But then again it wouldn’t have mattered as I got the damn sore throat.

I left early to catch up with my doctor’s appointment. We will drink to that someday. Congratulations Rommel and Betchay.

***

Another wedding I attended this month was my in-law’s 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration which my wife and relatives had been preparing for almost two years. Although the weather on December 9 was flip-flopping, the folks in Batangas got things going early. The bayanihan spirit, which is not uncommon in their place during events like this, kicked off in high gear.

The guys butchered the pig in the wee hours of the morning and prepared the pork parts and cuts for various recipes. The ladies, old and young alike, chopped and got the spices ready, while the others cooked. The smoke-filled kitchen was bustling with activity and the aroma of typical Batangueno food reaches every corner of the place.

Despite the threat of rain, the wedding started on time at the local chapel. The males donned barong tagalog, while the females wore golden yellow dress. The little girls (granddaughters) had butterfly wings on them.

After the ceremony and photo op, inay po and itay po rode back with us in our humble Kia Pride back to the reception area that was set at the common basketball court just outside their house—another typical Filipino setting.

Due to the inclement weather, the wedding entourage tables, set under a tarpaulin, got flooded still due to the uneven portion of the ground (a remnant of the last typhoon Milenyo) but it did not stop the festive mood. Some guys who are still in barong, neatly ironed pants and shiny shoes armed themselves with dust pans and broom sticks to clear the area so that guests may be seated.

The rest of the night stayed rainy. Everyone had to wade in inches of flood to get to their tables. Others had to take shelter under their own plates while lining at the buffet area. But as most people would believe, the rain is a sign of blessing. So be it.

It is a blessing indeed for a couple to reach 50 years together. It is a blessing for their children to have such parents; for their grandchildren to have been able to see and be with their lolo and lola; and for us in-laws to have someone who trusted us with their children whom we now have as our own spouses.

I have nothing but praises for my parents-in-law. For them to be with each other for this long is a feat by itself. It takes more than just patience, love and understanding to hold on to such relationship especially in the current times where loose morals, fast-pace life, consumerism and materialism prevail. It is always easy and sometimes mushy to say, but it’s a fact that God had to be in the center of one’s marriage to surpass every trial. No more, no less.

To everyone who had or is just about to have their wedding this December, my congratulations and best wishes to all of you. I’m sure your Christmas and New Year will never be cold.

Aging Anxieties

“How I was born, I do not remember. How I will die, I do not know” –Russian Proverb

My father and I celebrate our birthday always on the same date. Our ages are 40 years apart. And just recently, I turned 33.

My wife asked me one time, if how old my tatay will be this year. “Seventy-three,” I answered. “Do you think you’ll reach that age?” was her quick reply.

That one quick discussion made me think–and I assume she meant well. Would I still be alive 40 years from now? How would I look like by that time? In what condition would I be? Would I be financially stable by then? And a lot more questions I could possibly think of.

A decade back then, when I reached my early twenties I said to myself that I’d be happy to reach the age of 50. I used to fear the thought of getting old and helpless, I just don’t want myself to be in that situation.

But as I grew older, started to work and soon got married, I’ve come to appreciate life even more. Now the age goal has to be extended—as if I can do something about it. Every now and then, I would daydream about a laid-back, idyllic farm setting, my wife and I just lazily sitting outside while we watch the golden sun set over the horizon. Children and/or English bulldogs running around are always included, of course.

Sometimes though, these hopes of living longer would be snapped out each time that I would get sick. I’m often so paranoid that a little bit of headache would send me thinking of my mortality. Only the paranoid survive, right? Thankfully, I recovered and got medications for my “new” migraine. Now I can once again start dreaming of happy thoughts.

Whatever will be, will be or Que sera sera, as nanay would often sing. So true. Whether I like it or not, I’m indeed getting older. And one obvious fact would be the number of white hairs my wife has been plucking so eagerly from my head. On some days I would ask her to leave it alone as I would feel proud having those and see them in the mirror peeking out of the black ones which are still the majority for now. Until when it would be fully covered in white locks, I can only guess.

God willing, I will appreciate it a lot if the time comes that I would be 73 yet still be able to walk, to enjoy each day and still be together with my loving wife. And so, until that time comes, I’ll let my favorite daydreams continue.