2008: Year of Change?

I’m currently hooked on Dan Brown’s books. During my December vacation I borrowed a book from a colleague and brought it with me in Bacolod. On my rest times I would read The Da Vinci Code– while under some sort of scrutiny of my pious mother. On our way back home to Dasma after the holidays we rented an airport taxi service that made me finish the book while inside the cozy Toyota Innova. (It cost us only Php 1.3K. Very cheap compared to availing Park n Fly’s service.)

Now I borrowed another, Angels & Demons, and I’m almost halfway since I started it just this Wednesday. Other than the conspiracy theories that seem to have captured my attention and wonder about its possibility, one line from the book got me to start thinking.

Olivetti looked at the camerlengo dead in the eye. “The prayer of St. Francis, signore. Do you recall it?”

The young priest spoke the single line with pain in his voice, “God, grant me strength to accept those things I cannot change.” – pp. 169.

This made me pause and reflect on the changes I’ve observed since last month. I could relate to these lines with what has happened lately. Hint: employment.

December, third week. Our company’s shuttle bus provider for more than ten years was changed. For the better? Go figure.

December 31. Just as the year ends also comes the closure of our favorite restaurant–Saisaki ATC. No more sashimi. No more sukiyaki. I went back to the place on Jan 10 and to see it silent with doors locked and tables turned was a sad sight. Where have  its crews gone?

January. Video City, a video rental store near our place closed. Most likely another victim of the proliferation of pirated CDs. ACA Video Dasma branch closed during the peak of piracy and seeing a second one caving in is depressing.

January 18. The state of the old Bacolod airport is uncertain with the opening of Silay Airport. I don’t know if Bacolod City’s officials are still considering retaining the old one or if they would totally phase it out. With the recent experience I had both during arrival and departure–mostly due to deceitful porters and taxi drivers–I couldn’t agree more if they pick the latter option. But then jobs of the innocent and honest employees are at stake. Hopefully they’ll be re-assigned.

We are just starting the year and I hate to think about the things to come. I’m still trying to keep a positive attitude about what the future holds and whatever it will be, I’m hoping that we would be ready by then. Que sera sera, as my mother used to say.

 

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Car’s One Week Log

It’s been a week since we got Mary and it was one whole week of a new experience.

Day 1. I got Mary after being covert for two days. Just like in the movies or TV shows. Now I know how it feels like to show a brand new car key to a wife.

Day 2. Got no choice but to do the dreaded task–paper works for the car in a government office. This is where one has to endure long queues for almost a day and later on pay a ridiculous amount of tax. To be fair with Trece Marteres municipality it has improved a lot, at least from the outside, since my last visit. I was able to park Mary in a well designated parking lot and spent some time waiting on a bench on a brick-paved sidewalk.

Day 3. It rained. It’s her first acid rain bath. I was supposed to go back to Honda Alabang to give the papers I processed yesterday but it can wait. Mas masarap matulog while it’s gloomy and raining outside.

By afternoon, my wife and I were able to go back to La Salette to attend an anticipated mass. The last time we were there we took the bus and ended having brunch in Tagaytay’s Pancake house. Not bad. But having Mary is better.

Day 4. Mary went to work with me for the 1st time. Now it knows where the funds to pay her are coming from.

Day 5. I woke up late from a neighbor’s welcome party. Do I need to mention I had a couple of beers that night? Anyway, it’s one of the benefits of having a car. I made it to work without much ado.

After work, the secrecy I’m keeping about the actual car that I got was eventually blown when some of my colleagues coaxed me to take her for a ride. Funny but her first trip with them was going to a wake. Ti abi. A beginning and an End?

How did she perform on the rough asphalt road? Let me answer with what my colleague said. ”Parang nasa eroplano (just like on an airplane).”

Day 6. Left work late because of an unexpected serious discussion with one of my people. The least of my worries this time is missing the shuttle bus.

honda-city-back
Nice rear.

Day 7. My day-off after a tiring week at work and in our village (issues, issues, issues).

After breakfast came my 1st intimate session with Mary–her first car wash. I just realized that because of her size she’s harder to wash than our previous compact Kia.

Shiny and clean, I went to Honda Alabang to submit the loan papers and to get Mary a remote alarm. The dealership’s lounge was good but what more if I was waiting in Prestige Cars’? Don’t push it.

The alarm was fitted after almost two hours. It cost me Php 5.7K—a 0.9% cost for security. Not bad.

I got a not so good news before leaving though. I still won’t have my license plates until at least February. I left Honda a bit depressed that I won’t be able to meet my sis at the airport next Tuesday. It was actually the reason why I chose my license plate number to travel on Tuesdays. I’m hoping that we will see each other next time and hopefully not after another sabbatical.

By lunch time I was on my way to Batangas to pick up wifey. Construction of the SLEX has gone until its end in Calamba. Hopefully, once it gets done it would be comparable with Kuala Lumpur’s road. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but somewhere in my brain lobes shouts ”asa ka pa.

Well that was our one week together. I feel like we’ve been through thick or thin already. I’m praying that in the coming days, months and years we’ll have, most of it will be fun. Take note of the words I’m praying.

Mary

“Freedom!!!” – William Wallace, Braveheart

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” – Ellen Goodman, RD Dec 2007 All In a Day’s Work

I’ve been holding on creating my first blog for this New Year, 2008, just because I find my recent ones were leaning on my pessimistic side. And so for a couple of weeks I was like someone in rehab trying to control my urge to an addiction. I promised myself that I’ll start this year’s blog at least with some positivity in it. Well, I will try.

During the start of this work week—Sunday–I found a new way to entertain myself while on the bus to work: I shut the curtains, close my eyes and guess which part of the trip I’m currently at. Amazingly, I rate myself 90% correct most of the time I’d take a look out of the window. I did it again on Monday with the same accuracy. But on Tuesday, I got an email that implies I might not be doing it for long. Thankfully? The email says “Please claim your guarantee letter.” Hmm. The one-liner worked like magic that day. It was like espresso.

That was the start of a covert operation that lasted for two days. Every time I got home and asked by my wife how my day went, I answered half-truths and half lies. “It was another stressful day…I had a bad day.” I’d picture myself as someone tied to a chair in musky room lit only by a swaying incandescent bulb but never saying anything to my interrogators. Deep inside, I was grinning hard like Joker in Batman ever ready with a plan. The secret tasks include maintaining a poker face during our discussions; deleting any sent items on my cellphones and emails just in case she checks about anything regarding the subject matter.

***

D-day came.

After waking up early today, I got the perfect alibi–I’m going out for a birthday celebration of a colleague. I left home with my car documents stashed inside by backpack appearing to be just going for a casual beer party. Instead I was heading to Honda Cars Alabang.

I mentioned in my blog before that I’ve been there like a car buff’s ghost yearning for a subcompact sedan. Well that wish is granted at last. Just more than four hours after I arrived there and with several documents signed and payments (there goes my savings!) I got out of the dealership with Mary, our lovely new Honda City.

Hurriedly yet safely, I drove and went back home. To my surprise my wife still remains clueless when I arrived. She was thinking that the car was someone else’s. She can’t believe that it’s the car we’ve been waiting for. If I said I was grinning like Joker, I saw her grin like Jim Carey in The Mask when I confirmed that it’s ours. Yes, that broad. To say she was happy to see it would be an understatement.

We gave Mary a quick trip together to Tagaytay, grabbed some Starbucks coffee and headed back home. That’s our way of breaking in the engine and the cup holders. Sweet.

Now this is New Year. Our New Year with Mary.

And by the way, ever wondered why we named it Mary? The name is from my colleague who is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Bawi na lang ako next time. But thanks for giving me the perfect alibi.

honda-city
Worth the wait.

At Work On Christmas

I’m now officially one of the Grinches. After 13 years of landing a job, last night was the first time I reported to work on a Christmas Eve. Normally during this time of the year, I’d either be in Bacolod or Batangas celebrating Christmas with my family. But change would happen and this year that big change came. My new job function left me no choice but to stand by it and be at work. Technically, to be a role model. Ahem.

So yesterday afternoon I had mixed emotions coming to work. I was excited for this first time event in my profession; and at the same time I was uneasy and sad that I’d be celebrating my Christmas eve without my wife or family with me but with my peers and people instead.

When I arrived at our plant I was surprised that it was relatively festive. The sight of employees with bags of gifts added to the holiday atmosphere. The smiles and greetings were unwavering and infectious. Whatever the reasons for the jolly characters were, I knew I’m surrounded by good aura for the rest of the graveyard shift.

Everything went the usual way just like any ordinary day when work kicked in. I was actually thinking I could be a nurse, a pilot, a fireman, a security guard or a doctor on call or any other personnel who is expected to work even during the holidays. I felt like I’m not missing a big event or a love one anymore. Well, not yet.

Break time came and a special dinner for all the manufacturing employees was served. The special meal was accented even more by a special dinner table setting. We’d be eating with candlelight. So by this time I was becoming even more convinced that working that night won’t be a big beal. I was even starting to enjoy it. The presence of the lechon worked like a charm.

Right after dinner, I was back on my desk doing routine tasks when I heard someone mentioned, ”Sir Christmas na po (Sir it’s Christmas already).” That’s when I glanced at the wall clock to see that it has just struck midnight. The greetings around the production line competed with the humming equipment and audible alarms. I returned the merry wishes but caught myself faking a smile. I suddenly felt sad. I felt a lump in my throat. I tried to contain myself. In a snap of a finger I missed everyone at home.

Probably this experience will stay with me until the next year. The feeling of having to choose between work and being with my loved ones would be a big dilemma. Something’s got to give. And whoever said before that “Work is just a slice of life, it’s not the whole pizza” is mostly someone who can afford to sacrifice that slice. Unfortunately I don’t have the pleasure of doing so. When that day comes I’d be the happiest.

 

Car-less Guy’s Random Thoughts

“An empty mind is a devil’s workshop” — Anonymous

Frankly, having without a car made me a bit uneasy especially now that the Christmas season is coming in fast. I miss going to the malls with my wife not worrying if we’re going to squeeze our butts in just to get seated in the jeepney for being the last two to get in. I miss the gift-buying activity not wondering how and where we’d place all the shopping bags. I miss going home late coming from a good movie. I miss getting stuck in traffic with me on the wheel and not having to think if my nose has clogged due to smog, smoke and dust whichever comes first or all of it combined. I miss waking up a bit late and not worrying that I’ll miss the bus to work. I miss the freedom a car gives me.

To shake off self pity I tried keeping my mind busy while being a passenger on a bus, in a jeepney or a friend’s car. With defensive driving out of my worries, my thoughts have wandered more. I became observant of other things I can’t see or think of while behind the wheel. I became more keen with what is outside the vehicle’s window. During these unproductive moments random thoughts settle in my head.

Why would charity parties intended to benefit the hungry street children are in lavish settings with overpriced food and normally attended by botoxed personalities. Can’t these people just give right away to charity? Or do they really need the TV and photo coverage to make it happen?

Why does a billboard going to Tagaytay show Inteligent Auto Paint Shop. Does its owner have good explanation behind the name? Is it humor, a play on words, an honest mistake, or an uninteligent slip?

Why would management of Coolmaster Airconditioing Expert allow its employees to be packed out in the open at the back of a wobbly pickup truck under a high noon heat. (We were on our way to a Christmas party and the sight of it drained away my holiday mood.)

Why would an official municipal vehicle with the words Responsableng Taong Bayan (responsible people of the community) illegally park along  Muntinlupa‘s road.

Why is it when majority is anticipating to travel by air during this Christmas season is also when Discovery Channel and National Geographic show programs such as Air Crash Investigation and Air Disasters. Either people from these shows hate Christmas travel or own a stock in the shipping industry. Out of curiosity searched Wikipedia and the result? December is not the highest among the statistics. At least not among the top three. (Data were extracted and tabulated using excel’s countif formula and sorted from lowest to highest.) Whew!

aircraft20incidents_zpsg6ujg5xr

Lastly, I don’t get it why the brandy I’ve been drinking since I bought it has kept me awake. I guess it’s about time I check the fine print on its label. I’d be damned if it contains caffeine. But then again my subconscious must be working on something else and wants me to stay up late. Something I should be thinking more with Christmas day only three days to go.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone especially to you wifey. I really miss you!!

Golf for Me?

I couldn’t agree more when DJ Mo Twister asked the question on radio if golfers should be considered athletes. I hate the game just the same. Who in his right mind would hit a small white ball to make it fly so far away and just to follow it where it falls right after and to repeat the whole process over and over again. Yes, golfers alone.

I’d like to make a point with a list why  I dislike this game.

  1. Golf for me is just a rich man’s pastime. The equipment set can be a minimum wage earner’s one month pay.
  2. I agree that golf courses are an environmental wreck. Don’t be fooled by the greenery and lakes around it. As far as I know, it takes more water just to maintain the grasses.
  3. I have this prejudice that most golfers are snobs.
  4. I find it boring.

But tonight I caught myself staring at the ongoing PGA tour. If it’s a rerun, I don’t care. It now appears once again that never generalize still proves to be right.

Just outside the badminton court where we frequent recently is a golf driving range. So while cooling down right after an intense racket game the whacking sound of the iron hitting the balls got my attention. I looked closer at what was happening and for some reason it was somewhat hypnotic.

What fascinated me firstly was how the white dimpled balls can go and accelerate higher as if something was pulling it upwards and drop it as far as 200 meters. The form likewise looks intriguing as the instructor keeps on telling his student to always do a follow through right after every hit.

I’ve seen golf games on TV before but this time I discovered it more technical. The way a player swings the iron; the design and technology behind the equipment; the way each golf club affects the flight and range of the ball; and of course the design of each golf course. Now I wonder if the day would come when I’d be able to whack at least one golf ball in the driving range. Remember? Rich man’s game. Wake up.

By the way, I was drinking brandy while watching the tour on TV. So I don’t know if it must be the alcohol or the idea of whacking something that got me to appreciate the game in the first place. Whatever it is, I’m starting to love this game.

Step In Their Shoes

 We call them stupid, litterbugs, lazy, morons, dumb, a**hole and any other names that may not be even found in the dictionary. Sometimes we call them just insensitive. But aren’t we? This week is one of the stressful weeks for me. Stress that comes from all sort of factors that even I wonder if I should be caring about it in the first place.

There’s the pressure from work that is a mixture of delivery and people management. People who seem not to work and don’t understand what is expected from them.

There’s the tricycle driver who drives like as if there’s no tomorrow and would be so willing to include you in their death wish.

There’s the jeepney driver who would intentionally park in front of a No Park Zone to spend time to wait for passengers despite knowingly causing a traffic jam right behind them. And the irony of it all is that it is in front of a traffic police or enforcer who looks like they have the worst case of cataract that blinds them of an ongoing violation.

There’s the homeowner who refuses to pay his dues because he feels that he is not obligated to do so and who would sometimes reason out that he has problems with finances but you’d find him smoking packs of cigarettes a day and would see his house lit brightly with Christmas lights and decors.

There’s the loan processor who doesn’t seem to extend a bit of customer care by giving advice to the applicant that his car loan application is sitting stagnant in his inbox for quite some time due to the lack of one simple signature.

And there are the street scavengers who would open up garbage bags and throw away its content in search of recyclables and never even caring to fix it back thus creating an eye sore in the process.

Sheesh. The list goes on.

So today, while on a day off I keep reflecting what must have gone wrong for me to suffer such stress. I can’t find any reason except that I too have been busy or that I could have been too self-centered or that I just lack  empathy.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as”noun, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Ouch! I never knew Merriam-Webster could inflict such slap in the face. I only experience such guilt during mass’ homilies. Understanding. Being aware of. Being sensitive to. Such words played in mind just as caffeine would do to my bloodstream. It kept me awake, restless and uneasy.

Well, I have come up to some realization on my stress list. There must be a reason for each.

Just imagine not having eaten for quite a while and the only hope you’ve got is to pick and sell items at the junk shop in order for you to take your first meal after a couple of days. And with the other man inside the bus hating you just because you to failed to keep the street clean.

Imagine if you have to juggle payroll, separation payments and loan applications. Some want their last pay and another one badly wants a new car.

Imagine if you have got a really sick kid at home and the only way to buy those medicines is to work double time by either driving a tricycle or a jeepney and optimize its capacity even with the risk of getting apprehended by a police officer. And one of your passengers is just thinking of traffic laws and having to get to the mall to kill time.

Sometimes the world would be such better place if we stop thinking just all about us. Sometimes we need to understand why people act the way they do. With this we might be able to extend our help or at least lessen a bit of our expectations and in effect lessen the stresses in our lives. Sometimes we just have to step in their shoes.

****

P.S. I just can’t find any reason why a homeowner won’t pay their dues when in fact they are getting the benefits of the village funds. Ti abi.