Home Again

“Great things come in small packages” – anonymous

This afternoon I woke up from a long nap and being half awake half asleep, I strolled around the yard. Coming from a distance, I heard a familiar music playing that reminds me where I’m currently at.

The music was Life Dance followed by another which I’m quite sure I heard decades ago when both are still the in thing among the youngsters. I hate to admit it but I was one of the fans of these songs. My guilty pleasures, then and now. After catching myself pausing briefly to listen to the music which I know for a fact and based on experience, are all coming from a baylehan (dance/fiesta area) as we call it, I began to remember that prior to my mandatory siesta, we actually just had our son’s baptismal.

This event, thankfully, happened after one postponement due to a problem we encountered when we initially scheduled it in my wife’s place back in Batangas. This time, it was finally realized and despite bits of snags, upsets and confusions before and during the ceremony. Thirty minutes after the baptismal rites and photo ops, we ended at Imay’s restaurant where a simple yet fulfilling celebration with our closest family and neighbors took place.

I’m now still groggy and trying my best not to blame it either to the brandy I had nor the jet lag since we arrived yesterday lunch time. But deep inside I feel happy as after all the excitement from welcoming Marcus to the Christian world, I suddenly remember that also today is our father’s 75th and likewise my 35th birthday. Right now, I can’t think of a better way to be home again in Bacolod.

Baby window

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks!

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.

 

Masskara: Interesting New Things (Part 2 of 2)

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“So many beers, So little time.” – Me

Kari sa Bacolod, dala maskara.” — Masskara Festival

I never thought that coming back to Bacolod during the Masskara festival would bring such a new experience even for me. Regardless of our 3-day stay, the vacation was not only fun but educational as well. Sounds like something from Knowledge TV? Well, sort of. This trip made me learn new things.

A local song for the street dance? I don’t know if it’s just plain LSS or if it was forced deeper in my ear canals by the giant speakers located all over the Bacolod City plaza. But this year’s music I realized is Ilonggo but in modern version. It was all foreign festive or pop songs in past. I don’t know the origin of this local song but I know that we used to sing it way back in my elementary days: ”may ga-labaylabay na aso, utot ni Celso (A smoke passed by, it was Celso’s gas).” Don’t worry, that’s our wrecked lyrics. The original one is decent. Celso was a  classmate.

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Masskara is pronounced as MASSkara rather than massKARA. I must have been too focused in getting drunk when I was in college that I failed to learn about this simple fact. I even never knew that it was only 28 years ago when the first Masskara festival was celebrated which dawned on me that I may have indeed attended the 1st street parade. I still recall which street I was watching it and what mask my parents bought for me. I was a smiling devil then. Ti abi, a Christian in a devil’s mask.

The Club category street parade had several participants with its members on scooters. Gone are the days when BMX and mountain bikes can be seen parading and performing–or did we miss it? I like what it used to be as the sight of motorized vehicles dominating the parade is not only noisy but polluting as well.

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Bacolod now has its own SM mall. At last. Just barely a year old and built in the reclamation area, it is now home not only to mall goers but of course a job source for almost 6,000 Bacolod employees. This is only one of several new companies (another famous one is Teletech, a BPO company) that have started doing business there. Hopefully other manufacturing corporations get enticed as well. I might consider working there when that happens.

Lastly, and the most significant I’d say, I can now enjoy a shower at home without having to fetch water. For so many years the shower head in our bathroom serves as a mere decoration. We take a bath using kabo. Since we transferred sometime in 1980, on good days I’ll be pumping water from our well, on bad days I would have to fetch a couple of blocks from home. And the water fetching happens daily. No ifs or buts. This routine went on even until my last year at home before I worked in Manila. So before we left home for our trip back to Cavite, I enjoyed my shower just like those in soap commercials. Sorry Greenpeace, I cherished the moment.

So now, although I’m back working, back to reality, I’m now looking forward to being in Bacolod again for the Christmas season. I’m just hoping that next time my online reservations will be better, weather will be great, more polite taxi drivers, fewer litterbugs and that Cebu Pacific’s baggage receiving area will at least have a conveyor belt–automated or not. Ti abi.

***

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.

C++ for the Tipsy

I’ve read a couple of “for Dummies” book lately and it seems to work fine with me. The text and illustrations of this book series are so clear and good, than non-dummies will likely appreciate it as well — most probably as a reviewer, just like myself (big naughty smile).

Well, I was surfing through the web tonight while having my nightcap of cheap Tanduay 5 years rum (which my father didn’t finished during his visit here) and started to check on some C++ reviewers to kill time. As it has been more than a couple of hours since I had the alcohol, I have trouble understanding some of the syntax and commands when this light bulb of mine began to light up.

C++ for the Tipsy? Wouldn’t it be nice if some good authors come up with a “for the Tipsy” book series then sell or display it at liquor bar tables? The series can have some titles such as “Driving Home for the Tipsy”, “Road Ethics for the Tipsy”, “Assembling a PC for the Tipsy”, “Biking 101 for the Tipsy”, “Job Hunting for the Tipsy” and any other things one might think of while being tipsy. I had to recommend though that pages of these books should be waterproof as some don’t stop at just being tipsy. Go figure.

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.

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.