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.

Born in 1974?

Life is full of ups and downs. The trick is to enjoy the ups and have courage during the downs – Author Unknown

November 30, 2006 was one of the most exciting times of my life. And the week prior was just as eventful.

I have been writing my birthday as Nov 30, 1973. I just know the date. Lately, though, while processing my Transcript of Records from where I got my Bachelor’s Degree, I had a frustrating and confusing time at the registrar’s office. I learned that they’re reading—or rather interpreting—my birth year on the photocopy as 1972 instead of 1973.

Ti abi. How could this happen? I’ve been using 1973 in my passports, government issued IDs, and licenses, gun license included (I don’t know if it would have helped convincing them if I brought this one along). But it all fell on deaf ears. I was short of choking someone’s neck that day. Good thing, my good side prevailed (play Psycho movie music here).

I left school that day wondering if I would be turning 33 or 34 this year. So yesterday, I anxiously went to claim my birth certificate from our local NSO (National Statistics Office). And there it was, legibly typed written on my birth date space, is nineteen seventy-three. 1, 9, 7, and 3. I’m indeed a certified 33-year-old man.  Never before have I appreciated my age.


November 29th

Driving from Starbucks Shangri-La Makati, by the wee hours of the morning, I was made to decide which way would take me home. Going right of the intersection leads to the Skyway ramp while left is a road that looks a lot faster via Coastal Road. So left road it is.

It was wrong decision—I entered a one way street. Upon exiting the lane, I was apprehended by a policeman. His back-up also arrived and both implied that I could get an easier way out of my traffic violation. “Birthday mo na pala bukas…ang layo mo pa,” the apprehending officer said as he takes a look at my driver’s license. He obviously wants me to bribe.

I was in another dilemma. Part of me was anxious to get over it and be home but I’ve been a firm believer that bribing makes one become part of the problem rather than the solution. So I got my ticket and left the policemen with nothing but my driver’s license. I drove away disappointed but proud of what I did. It will cost me more, but at least I made my stand.


November 28th

This day was unique for the T3 folks—my wife’s group. Instead of the usual Japanese buffet at Saisaki, this time they turned Chinese. We had dinner at Tong Yang Hot Pot in SM Megamall and surprisingly, majority of the guys are newbie to this sort of dining.

Nevertheless, they enjoyed preparing their own hotpot and grilled foods. There were oysters, dimsums, tuna, salmon, chicken innards, and veggies just to name a few. The men’s favorite was of course present—free flowing San Miguel beer for only P50 ($1). (And if you’re wondering, yes I followed the one bottle per hour rule for drivers like me.)

My wife went creative too. She got me a cake delivered by the waiter right to our table as a repertoire of birthday songs played over the whole restaurant. And it was all for me, for my advanced birthday party.

After the belly busting dinner, a bowling match followed and to cap the night we went to Nipa Hut bar in Pasig where we met up with a couple of ex-Intellites. We also had a couple of sisigs and gambas. And what could be more perfect match to those killers than beers. Yes. Beers. One bottle per hour again. Hik.


November 27th

The longest day. Wifey and I together with friends played at Lotus Badminton Center Inc. for almost six hours with rest and lunch included. (If I remember it right, we started playing badminton three years ago and fairly enough, we have improved our game.)

We left the court by past 3 p.m. On our way to SM Dasmarinas I was pondering on pampering ourselves with much needed body massage and hot oil treatment and that’s when our car broke down.

Luckily I was able to park it at the mall and did the troubleshooting right there. It was a busted alternator again (I replaced it approximately six months ago). I had no other choice but to buy a 2nd hand part that cost the same as the painting my wife was planning to buy. Ti abi.

I went home tired and dirty instead of refreshed and shiny.


November 26th

As a Sunday routine, I bought my copy of the Philstar ( I was surprised upon reading that one of my favorite writer Max Soliven (also this paper’s Publisher) passed away last Friday, November 24th, while on his way home from Japan. Sanamagan.

I’ve admired him for his articles in By the Way. He wrote with courage and charisma and his style of writing almost never fails to amaze me. Well, that’s life I guess. Although I know that the list of writers with such caliber as Max are now dwindling in numbers, I just do hope that someone will come at par with the way he does. Wherever you are, may you rest in peace.

D-Day: Job Interview

“Those who failed to prepare, should be prepared to fail.”  By coincidence, these words popped out on the noontime TV game show that my wife was watching yesterday–a day after my doomed job interview.

The new job adventure started out of curiosity and boredom one good Sunday morning while browsing through the newspapers. The ad states: “40minutes pre-qualifying assessment.” It’s from a call center agency.

It was this year when I started hearing all about this job. Based on the news, it has been the hope of most people seeking local employment as they say that most Filipinos are still speaking fluent English than its Asian neighbors—at least for now.

But just like any other things, there is a good side and bad side of it. The good: it is high paying. The bad: it is routine, and so therefore I conclude as boring.

Being optimistic, however, the good part attracted me into it immediately even if I know deep inside that I am not the type of person who can handle phone calls easily, not to mention receiving complaints from the other end of the line. It would be like challenging me to answer my own complaints over the phone.

Anyway, on that lazy Sunday, I took the 40-minute assessment both over the phone and online. Proudly, I aced it. From that moment on, it felt like I could be on my way to a call center job. A couple of days later I received a call telling me of the scheduled interview—it’s a week later.

D-day came and, with my wife, I went on early to the place as instructed but things started getting topsy turvy.

Firstly, we took the wrong way. We were supposed to take the shorter route but got stuck in traffic thus missing the exit. Despite this, my spirit remained high.

Next, a traffic enforcer flagged us down and said that I just did a swerving violation. At this point I was praying to God to show me a sign that this job interview is still for me. Lo and behold, the enforcer gave me a verbal reprimand and let us go in a jiffy.

Soon after, we reached our destiny ahead of time–at least, we thought so. We were already sitting in a pizza restaurant and waiting for our orders, when my wife asked if I am sure that we are in the right place.

To confirm, I checked the notepad in my portfolio and scribbled on it is another address. Damn. I can almost remember the Amazing Race’s desperate scenes on TV. Once we got our orders, we had it packed to go and headed straight to the parking lot and to the right place. By this time, I was almost giving up.

But again, I prayed that if it this is for me, then I should expect to still arrive on time and luckily, there are still good people around who helped us find our way. My hopes got back up.

Thirty minutes ahead of the scheduled interview, we arrived at the office. I skipped lunch, had coffee and Smints instead.

My wife left me with seven other applicants (she waited and kept herself occupied in the mall). To my surprise,  I soon learned that there will be further exams prior to the interview proper. So with empty stomach but with full spirit, I took it.The timed exams were actually easy. Most of it were English proficiency and a little math.

The interview happened and then the unexpected question came. “How do you deal with difficult people?” If there was a camera inside that room, I knew, one would find me almost sweating just to answer it. It was not my forte. I wasn’t prepared to answer.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you” was the last line I heard. And I have read that whenever it is mentioned after an interview, one can actually expect no call at all. I blew it.

Although I still have my current job, this event tells me things I need to know. It’s been 10 years since I have applied for one and got accepted, and it may have given me the false confidence that I pass this one again. And I was wrong. Next time, I’ll come prepared.

Driving home, I ate the lunch I missed–the Charlie Chan pasta. I was disappointed but not really down. I still got my job, still got my wife. I was humbled.

My Blog Machine and I are Ill

Just lately, the blog machine is showing signs of illness. Just when I thought it would be doing its job effectively, it all of a sudden displayed a “throbbing” monitor. It would intermittently dim as if breathing heavily to keep up with what I am doing. It looks like I am just now waiting for it to die on me while writing a blog post. Whenever it will be, I can’t tell.

The monitor will have to go soon & a replacement is needed. CRT or LCD? I’m thinking now if by any chance my blog machine wants to sympathize with my recent headache attacks. Well, I wonder. If there is such thing as resistentialism, which is a belief that a thing is acting against one person, this one I don’t know how it is called.

A few weeks back (it’s been years actually) I had these strange headaches which would come out of nowhere. Being a paranoid myself, I have checked the Internet and the symptoms are that of stroke and migraine. I’ll gladly accept anytime that it’s the latter. Hopefully, the next few days, I’ll have the answer.

Memories from the Construction Site

Old walls down. Damaged concrete and dirt pile up. Rusty galvanized iron roofs ripped. Loud hammering from sun up until sun down. Dusty air and diggings here and there. Just total chaos and destruction, isn’t it?

Welcome to our house renovation, something that brings me back to my childhood days for a couple of reasons.

Sight and feel of the construction area

I could very well remember back in the days when I was yet a grade one elementary pupil. We used to live far from school and our parents decided that we transfer just near where my sister and I study. I can still vividly remember that since my father would supervise and sometimes help out in the construction of our new house, he built a temporary hut for him and his stuffs and tools right inside our 200 square meter lot. I loved eating in the hut even it has to be done by hand and while seated on the floor during the whole meal.

Every now and then after school hours, we’d drop by and play in the construction area. We would climb and roll down on the pile of sand; run along the ditches where concrete hollow blocks and posts are yet to be erected; play hide and seek in the unfinished rooms and do any other things which I soon learned later in life are very unsafe conditions. Likewise, the smell of anti termite solution, paint, saw dusts and wood shavings attract me—yes, I like all of it. Safety training at work would soon make me realize that these are considered harmful and wearing mask is required when working around them.

There also other things that never fail to amaze me: how the wooden scaffolds are built, and how the hose leveler works. During that time I couldn’t grasp the idea of how the workers refer to the water level as the correct level for doors, windows, walls and flooring. These to me are magic.

Made me appreciate how lucky we were

How young some of the laborers who work in our home project are, made me say that I was lucky. The man whom I got to do the job was Mang Narding. He has two sons whom I know are in their teens but are already working with him. I just hope that they’re in their legal age, or I’ll be guilty of violating the child welfare act. (Or I can just pretend that this is also their on-site exposure just like mine.)

When we were young my father works as a panday which means a carpenter just like Mang Narding. I realized that his job, with its meager pay, was just enough to support our family. But still, father didn’t require me to join him in his work even after high school. It has just dawned on me, how both of my parents strived hard to keep us going from elementary to college.

During our school years, I had to ask for my balon (school budget) daily because mother doesn’t want me to havemy allowance received on a weekly basis. Despite all that I was able to finishmy schooling and was able to work after four years of college education. Myyounger sister likewise graduated and we are now both working for one giant computer company but are assigned to different positions and countries.I’m still here in the Philippines, she’s in the US with her own family.

I hope and pray that Mang Narding’s sons will later discover that it’s not yet too late for them to continue their studies and hopefully, they’ll graduate and be able to help alleviate their parents’ situation and provide a decent life for their own family in the future.