Masskara: Against All Odds (Part I)

Masskara 2007, street dance

After 13 years of hiatus from celebrating my home city’s festival, I got the opportunity to be in one again. This time I’m married. So just this Wednesday, my wife and I finally made our planned celebration trip come true against all odds.

This year we made several online transaction blunders. The first one was when we bought the ticket for our F1 Sepang trip. I was so eager then to save on the tickets shipping charges that I smartly picked the option of claiming the tickets at the race circuit only to find out that the distribution is a month prior to the race. If only that’s a bus away would have made sense but then it’s somewhere in Malaysia. I learned my lessons.

Yet the excitement of buying online seems to have gotten the best of me twice in a row. It happened again when she saw a very good deal from Cebu Pacific in February. It’s an opportunity to pay only Php 1 ($45, tax not included) for a one-way plane ticket. So off we go again with the power of the mighty mouse. After several scrolls and double clicks, we grabbed a very good deal. Or so we thought.

A month and a half before the October event, I filed for a scheduled vacation leave and was proudly telling my colleagues about the cheap trip we’re about to have.

I was excitedly reading my e-ticket print-outs when I noticed the departure details:

                  Oct 18 2007 Bacolod

                  Oct 21 2007 Manila

Finding it hard to believe the reality and severity of the situation I re-opened the email notice from the airline and there it was. I made a mistake with the transaction again: Right departure date, wrong place. It’s the costliest mistake I did this year so far. The Sepang transaction was discovered a couple of minutes after confirmation so at least I just spent a couple of long distance calls and a good ticket agent was able to change the ticket details. This last one cost us Php 5000 which is like almost paying the regular fare.

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Perfect shirt at this moment.

Odds number two is not having a car on the day of our departure. No big deal really but just a bit uncomfortable as we’ve gotten used to driving until Park ‘N Fly. This one just required some change in mindset and some packing techniques–traveling light. But it could have been the cause of my lower back to ache while on the bus.

We finally arrived in Bacolod by lunch time after a smooth flight but with me having an awful lower back pain. So part of the itinerary that afternoon was to look for a manughilot. Luckily, we found one. It’s funny but the last thing on my mind during this vacation is to be massaged on a busy side walk somewhere in Bacolod.

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A massage somewhere along the streets in Bacolod.
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Pride No More

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Our pride, our Kia Pride.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” – Anonymous

“The power to surprise.” – Kia

Today we have to let go of our pride. Well at least just our 1998 GTX Kia Pride, anyway. After having it for 3 years, 10 months and 27 days we decided to let go of it for  reasons I hope I could write about it soon. Fingers crossed. Like any old car owner, we had our own share of ups and downs with it. It was a driving guinea pig for me and my wife.

Here are some of the things we both experienced and learned from our blue jalopy:

  1. We’ve had a couple of encounters with the “third” kind–the tricycles. The second one was the bloodiest and needless to say costliest. We’ve learned a couple of lessons from that experience. Lesson 1: check, check, & check before making a turn. Lesson 2: Power steering makes sense. Lesson 3: Professional drivers must accompany student drivers all the time. If it weren’t for this mistake, we could have claimed insurance. Lesson 4: Tricycles doesn’t have shatter proof windshields or seat belts even. Lesson 5: Have a decent clothing even on short trips. At least you look good while in the Emergency Room.
  2. I realized I need not have a Subaru, Citroen or a Ford Focus and neither should I be somewhere in a dirt nor a snow track to experience rally. I got that adrenaline rush with my wife on the wheel and just somewhere in Alabang when she banked hard at high speed. That one scared the sh*t out of me.
  3. My wife learned that Kia Prides are 4X4‘s in disguise when she made the front wheels climb up a parking wheel stop and if it weren’t for the tree in front of it, the rear wheels could have crossed it as well. At this point I’m starting to think she might do well not only in rally driving but 4X4 jungle challenges as well. Hmm.
  4. Anything could happen. Who would have thought that a house door panel will end up on top of a car? Not me but it did. A wooden door being sold just along the road side unfortunately got loose from the workers’ grip and slammed right in front of the passenger’s A pillar. Now, every time I hear the F1 racing’s host say ”…and Hamilton, shuts the door on Alonso…” I have some sort of idea how it feels.
  5. Cheap MP3 players could damage. Please email me for details (cpn05@yahoo.com) as this is a long story. I should have thrown it out the first time it skipped.
  6. And related to number 5, electrical smoke smells nasty and so it really pays to have a fire extinguisher inside your car.
  7. We once played Starksy and Hutch. We witnessed an accident involving a motorcycle rider who went under a dump truck. Upon seeing that there’s no way I can revive the victim, I decided to chase the erring driver. During the high-speed (as I’d like to believe, it makes a good blog post) chase I drove while my wife was on the phone calling the police. Despite the seriousness of the problem at that time, I actually imagined putting up a blinking police light (too much TV?) while initiating the chase. In the end the escaping driver was apprehended. Lesson learned: It does pay to have the police’s contact numbers in your cellphone. You never know when you need one.

Even with those (mis)misadventures, the comfort we had with this car still obviously outnumbered the discomfort, thanks to regular maintenance. We’ve been to places with it, at our own pace, and in our own time. It was even with us during most of our domestic and international travels, at least ust until Park N Fly.

So just this morning, I gave Wild dog its one last car wash with us, cleaned the interiors and readied every thing for the next owner. And a couple of car honks later it signaled its departure from our home. We will miss her.

Actions Vs Ideals

I was in a Leadership Enhancement Program yesterday and from start until the end of the whole session this notice was projected along with the MS Powerpoint presentations. “The lamp has reached the end of its usable life. Please replace the lamp.” Ti abi. Has our company ventured into subliminal conditioning? Is there a deeper meaning in that message? Well, it’s for us to find out I guess. Anyway, we had a rather interesting day.

During the first half we had a segment with an American and I was quite surprised when he frankly butted in when a participant was trying to highlight a point by saying “I think this is a cultural thing with us Filipinos.” The expat answered, “Actually, it’s not just you Filipinos who have this problem.”

What was being discussed then was about taking full responsibility when problems arise. I guess he hit the nail on the head with that answer. I learned from him that even other people from other culture in our multinational network would instinctively point their fingers to others to save face. The lack of ownership seems common. And that’s one of the reasons I’m always awed when Japanese (mostly during the feudal period) would commit harakiri when they know that they are a dishonor either to their family or organization. Bloody yet graceful exit. Come to think of it, isn’t it time we include a tantō inside our factory? I bet though that most likely it will stay pristine.

Another part of the program that amazes me most was when all of us were grouped into seven. Each team was to gather from each member his/her idea of a strong leader and then for each group to create a hypothetical person bearing those ideal characters.

After several minutes of brainstorming and discussion, the result was surprising. The common thing that most participants want is a leader who is a firm and tough individual. I almost blurted “but we have that one here in our organization!” It was a result both surprising and sad as it seems to show that we fail to match our acts to reach our ideals.

We want a leader who is firm and tough, yet we get offended when he takes over.

We want great roads and infrastructures, yet we don’t pay our taxes completely.

We want clean surrounding, yet we spit and throw our trashes anywhere.

We want road courtesy, yet we drive just like how the other damn drivers drive.

We want health, yet we fail to do something about it.

We want jobs, yet we don’t do it properly.

Everything we do on a daily basis, basic or complex, entails responsibility. Most of the time we need to make a conscious effort to do it well so that at the end of the day we get to go home, kiss our wife (and kids), have a beer, go to bed and be honest with ourselves that today we did something that matches the one we have been dreaming of to happen.

Wanted: Evil Employees

Out of boredom last week I convinced myself, though  carless, to try watching a movie alone as I haven’t done this for a long while. After a hearty lunch of Wendy’s Bacon Cheeseburger, which I noticed by the way that its bacons are getting shorter and shorter every time I buy one, I picked Resident Evil Apocalypse out of the other three movies in SM Dasma’s homey cinema to spend my day off.

In the movie, Alice is portrayed as just among several “Alices” bioengineered by the infamous Umbrella Corp whose employees are now living several hundred feet under a vast deserted dried land. On the surface are hundreds of undead aimlessly walking and waiting for any human they can bite and infect.

After appreciating the fact that the movie started with Alice (Milla Jovovich) laying butt-naked and wet in the shower, I sooner got bored with it. I always knew that I start to hate a movie when I catch myself in deep thought while watching it. Some people would consider it a good sign but not me. I watched The Bourne Ultimatum last time and I was just plainly immersed in it despite the Hollywood boo-boos, it entertained me nevertheless.

I drifted away from this Resident Evil movie when something about its hi-tech underground headquarters caught my attention. In there are blinking red, green and white consoles, most likely computers that would humble even today’s Quad Cores, and a totally clean meeting rooms and lab. So what’s wrong with it then? Let me tell you.

Did anyone ever wonder where the technicians, janitors, laundry personnel and chefs are in that setting? Do bad guys in that corporation still need these employees to keep their covert operations running on a day to day basis? And do these bad guys require evil-minded employees as well?

Just imagine finding these classified ads:

“Umbrella Corporation wants you:

Engineers. Qualification: Must possess a degree in BS Computer Engineering or equivalent. Experience with an evil empire preferred.

 Chefs. Qualification: Must have cooked for Bin Laden. He/she should expect finding mutant mice running around the kitchen (if the evil lab technicians had a snafu).

Janitors. Qualification: Had experienced cleaning lots of blood. May perform some jobs with morgue personnel. And other than general trash, he may have to deal with disposing dead bodies. May be assigned to dispose non-performing Alices (I’d like this job).

Laundry Personnel. Qualification: Experienced washing blood-stained tuxedos. Must be able to press it properly in preparation for a spic-and- span evil officer’s meeting.

Barbers. Qualification: Must have good control of scissors and blades. Possible promotion to hit squad personnel if cutting is found precise.”

I’m also wondering if Payroll and HR is appropriate. Hmm, an aggrieved evil employee? Not applicable I guess.

So there goes, whatever empire or corporation we are all in, it still needs the blue-collar employees. Every one is still essential to an organization–from the managers to the grass root level. These suave, clean-shaved evil guys who attend meetings in suit and tie won’t even exist without the low-level employees.

After all there’s a bright side to this disappointing movie. Now I’m inspired. It now appears that there are still lots of jobs around. Only if I can find that newspaper with Umbrella Corporation’s classified ads. Probably an evil newspaper boy is out with it.

 

Are you the Man of Steal?

(Blog originally intended for my alma mater’s blog site.)

I was thinking of a better title for this blog and I remember a high school classmate whom we tagged as “Man of Steal.” Not that he’s a professional thief, but it’s just that he had this annoying habit of not returning things he borrowed or worse, keeping small petty stuff that our classmates possessed and valued—such as David Pomeranz cassette tapes (yes tapes!), books, etc.

I’m quite sure we’ve had our share of petty thievery way, way back in the past. We’ve sneaked into our nanay‘s wallet to fund our Masskara escapades. We’ve kept extra resistors from the lab to support our home-made audio amplifiers and boosters. We’ve raided the stock room to pick extra welding rods for our bike’s frame. And we’ve, intentionally or unintentionally, grabbed one lumpia or burger from Claire without shedding a single centavo.

Those who are guilty, please raise your hands. Wait, I can’t type one-handed.

Mr. Genito’s reminder prior to our last OJT still stays fresh in my mind, ”INDI pagkuhaon maski bato sa inyo ulobrahan (DO NOT take even a single rock from within your company).” I will always remember that briefing every time I’d see gravel in the parking lot and would ask myself, ”Maski ini? (Even this?)”, ”Oo, maski ina! (Yes, even that!)”, my good side will respond immediately.

As the technology around us gets more advanced than it was before—and becomes affordable to almost everyone—another form of stealing gets so rampant and so common that one wouldn’t know that he has actually participated in it. Even those with the best of intentions, regardless of social status, religion, or profession are victims. Even friends.

This is film piracy. Once again I’m guilty as charged. But that was more than eight years ago. I remember the last bootleg copy I bought was Tom Hank’s Cast Away which I got from one of the malls in Alabang. That day, I also grabbed some beer, pulutan, and then went home so eager to watch it with my wife. Sadly, I almost crushed our VCD player in disgust when in the middle of the movie it started pixelating and ruined our night altogether. And that was it, I had enough.

I guess it was one of my wake-up calls to end the illicit practice once and for all. And as if trying to justify my life-changing decision, I read the papers, watched the news and attended company-supported training sessions related to this. It was then when I became more aware of things such as Intellectual Property and Copyright laws.

Of course, everyone knew how costly (some may find it even ridiculous and stupid) it is to stop buying pirated products nowadays. It’s the reason my Core 2 Duo still has the genuine Windows ‘98 OS in it and until now the dual core processor is concentrating its power on the free solitaire game—dasig gid eh (very quick), if you will ask.

Since then, my wife and I also started saving to buy the CDs and DVDs that we like. If the budget isn’t available we’d content ourselves to listening to our favorite music over the radio and watching movies on the cable channels or in the cinemas.

Although feeling good about doing the right thing, I’ve kept mum about it. Pushing this anti-piracy advocacy in front of most people I know would either get me booted out of my circle of friends or get raised eyebrows at the very least. (I even discovered that one high position expat got a whole shelf of “Quiapo” DVDs in his home. It’s disappointing and frustrating.)

Until now I still wonder if there will come a time when the government and other concerned organization will eradicate or significantly lessen this illegal trade that’s been killing almost the whole industry—even food, toys, books, textiles and other consumer products in the market are affected. Wishful thinking? If and when that time comes, I’ll be one proud man.

And by the way, if after reading this one might wonder if I’m the OMB chairman, Edu Manzano, I wish but I’m definitely not. I’m just one concerned individual hoping to influence at least one. Yes, at least one who might influence another.

So are you the Man of Steal or not?

Rio and Gino

 “The owner doesn’t pick the car, the car picks its owner” – Transformers, The Movie

This week Rio and Gino captured my attention. Rio is good. Gino is bad.

My recent promotion gave us hope to start considering a new car. So last week, despite my nagging headache and pouring monsoon rain, we dropped by the car showrooms near our place. I never knew that the idea of picking a prospective car would be more exciting than I imagined. Nope these are not Jeremy Clarkson’s favorites, but new cars nonetheless.

We dropped by Toyota first and inside I noticed that the saleslady was attractive…err, the cars I mean. Unfortunately, the car model we are looking for wasn’t on display as the sales agent said that we actually dropped by just a day ahead of its launching date. So instead we were given a catalog and an invitation for the next day’s unveiling event. (We weren’t able to attend it.)

Our next stop was Kia. From outside the glass door, I peered at the red shiny car but with my mind playing images of the Top Gear’s hosts sneering at it. Then someone from the poorly lit office led us in for us to take a closer look at the Korean underdog.

It was then that we were introduced to and greeted by Rio—Kia’s 2007 subcompact model. (I learned later that it is this year’s COTY for its category). Upon closer look and subsequent discussion with the sales agent we realized that it is within the price range of Toyota Vios’ base model. What make it standout from its Toyota counterpart are its features–power locks, windows and yes, the engine. Based on these, it seems like it could give the Japanese manufacturer a run for their money. Well, it looks like Kia’s “The Power to Surprise” tagline is proving itself true.

A couple of days after that, I received an unexpected invitation to test drive it. And of course, I’m not that foolish to let such opportunity slip away. I was so excited that I arranged for it to be done first thing on a Tuesday morning. On that day, I arrived on time for the test drive and learned that I’ll be driving a silver automatic Rio. Actually, any color will do for me, but the red one on display would have been better.

Since it was my first time to drive an automatic transmission car, I had a couple of minutes familiarizing myself with its gear shift and getting used to the weird feeling that one pedal is missing. The rest after that went smoothly. The car performed great on rough roads and executed an almost seamless acceleration. It was sweet.

The drive ended at their factory as the dealer was kind enough to let me see the other color schemes and likewise try out the manual models. I think they’re really considering me as a potential buyer. I hope the same way too. Fingers crossed.

***

If Rio completed my week, Gino ruined it. My wife and I went south the other night to de-stress ourselves, have a beer, a pizza, and a bit of bonding time away from work and our humid home.

In Tagaytay, we were able to fulfill our long-time curiosity to see and feel how it is to be inside Café Lupe–a bar just a couple of steps away from Starbucks Coffee. It wasn’t that bad, but I’d rather go next time to Cowboy Barn in Robinson’s Dasma. The ambiance there is better and the band we’ve seen so far didn’t disappoint us. But that’s another story.

After a couple of hours inside the bar we checked out the view outside. One thing that amazes me most of the time I’m there is that I rarely get bored looking at the Taal lake from that vantage point be it on a sunny day, gloomy day, starry and/or moonlit night. Any condition has its own fascination to offer. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

Unfortunately, these natural wonders are lately threatened by the irresponsible acts of man. Take for example Gino who happens to afford a Starbucks cappuccino but didn’t have the manners to throw his cup in a trash bin after enjoying his caffeine load. Grrr. Tado.

Well did I meet the man face to face? Nope. But the unlucky cup which my wife accidentally stepped upon while on threading on the gravel has his name written on it (too much CSI?). I’m now thinking, how many Ginos out there are making this irritating mistake? I know the answer and it’s a depressing thought.

If I’d be chosen to perform environmental vigilante jobs, I’d be happy to oblige and get those other Ginos out of this wonderful planet. (Evil smile). Dear lord, let there be more Rios and less Ginos, please.

Blog’s 1st Year

 

I can’t believe that a year has passed since I started writing and blogging. It was Aug 30, 2006 when I first got myself out of the couch, turned the TV off and approached my then lowly but dependable PC and started composing my Rockstar post. The result was actually surprising. I wrote one that actually made me pat myself on the back even with the uncertainty that grammatical errors could exist and await for one keen grammar Nazi’s eye or any smart elementary kid to take notice.

But there’s always something for encouragement to just do it. As if by coincidence our Daily Quote calendar has this for Aug 30: “A life spent making mistakes is not only honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing – George Bernard Shaw”. So timely, so appropriate. One more reason to make mistakes, or in this case, write blogs. I smiled and nodded when I read it. This calendar was given to me by my wife.

My wife. Two words that I’ve been including in most of my blogs either consciously or unconsciously . Well it’s no wonder, she’s the one who inspired and encouraged me to try writing. As far as I know, she is the leader of my few readers who visit my blogspot every now and then. My Technorati rank will attest to that – Rank: 3,915,745 . Ti abi.