There is Beauty in Trash Talk

The recent typhoon Mina (international name Nanmadol) has exposed once again the ever stinky truth our country has to face—waste management. In Baguio, several people, including innocent children, perished when heap of trash buried them after heavy rainfall triggered a landslide.

Sadly, this isn’t the first incident here in the Philippines wherein piles of garbage has caused death or injury. Several years ago the infamous Payatas tragedy took the lives of more than 200 people living near this open dumpsite. It was a wakeup call for those who survived and it sent an alarm to the government officials who acted, however late, to address this problem. Since then open dumpsites were outlawed. Or so we thought.

Now that this unfortunate news is all over the headlines, people begin to ask the same old questions. Who should be blamed for all these? The ordinary Juan De La Cruzes who on their way home would toss their fast food packaging anywhere they feel like it? The government officials who fail to implement the law? Or should this be again considered as an act of God—a reason that has been so overused by people who would try to cover their own insensitivities, carelessness or incompetence.

But while we try to find answers, for the nth time, to these seemingly hopeless questions, it is nice to know that there are still others whose minds are open and who still continue to seek solutions. For example, there is the beautiful and famous Anne Curtis Smith who openly declared on twitter (@annecurtissmith) her intent to use her popularity in an attempt to revive or improve the waste management awareness campaign. How far it will go, I don’t know but with her appeal and capability to influence others, I would like to believe that her advocacy will improve the way most of us take care of our environment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because I really wouldn’t want to see this happen again.

For now, indulge me. I can’t let this moment pass without letting the world know that I had a short discussion with this lovely actress.

Seconds of fame brought by mere mention of my name by Anne Curtis Smith.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Happy kind of sleepy.)

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Christmas In All Perspectives

Just as Christmas brings a lot of emotions, activities, gifts, spiritual enlightenment and almost all other sort of things that the past eleven months failed to have, I realized that it would be a pity if one just look at one aspect of this yuletide season. When we consider everything there’s always the chance to see both the good and bad. We’d appreciate the good, learn and move on from the bad.

The lyrics from the song Santa Claus is coming to town “He sees you when you’re sleepin‘, he knows when your awake, he knows if you been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake…” is a good reminder that December is the perfect time to check if we’ve been good or bad all right. Sadly, while some of us are reflecting if we have been good or bad, the latter still continues to be around during this time of the year and sadder than that, it may even occur in the midst of our holiday preparations despite good intentions.

Like some doctors say “I have a bad news and a good news, which one would you like to hear first?” I’d say, give me the bad news first.

Bad news

Road traffic. Everyone has experienced this I’m sure. Whether in a public transport or in the comforts air-conditioned car this scenario is inescapable—unless you’re one of those shameless politicians. It’s during this traffic jams that each driver’s (and some passengers) temperament and courtesy is tested. Often times this is when all yuletide cheers seem to just vanish into thin air. And more alarming lately are drunk driving incidents. These drivers for sure won’t get any more Jack Daniels from Santa.

Long queues. As if after driving from a long tiring trip to the mall isn’t enough, there are more jams waiting inside the shopping areas. Once again, this is when and where courtesies and patience are put to the test. Observing any long queue, one will most likely chance upon someone with Christmas gifts seen smiling at the end of the line but ends up like Grinches when they reach the cashier.

Trashes. I was so glad when I read from the Philippine Star about a reminder coming from Greenpeace (if I’m not mistaken) for everyone to put the environment in mind when planning for their respective Christmas parties. Remember: reuse and recycle. It also won’t hurt to use some common sense when disposing garbage properly. Let’s not piss Santa Claus so much that we’ll soon find our own trashes stuffed inside our yuletide socks instead of gifts.

Recession season. As the rest of the people are anticipating a merry Christmas and a happy new year, others are bracing for the impact of the economic slump which has affected the U. S. Its effect has rippled through the rest of the world already and one of the unavoidable outcomes is the number of layoffs by corporations from all industries. One of the giant employers affected by such is Intel and as a matter of fact several of my colleagues and friends will be jobless by next year (I myself almost lost my own but thankfully I made a U-turn after I applied and got hired for a vacant position). There’s nothing more I can do now but hope their transition and recovery would be quick.

Whew! The list can go on. Does this mean Santa will have lots of checking to do and will have lesser recipients this year? Anyway, I’m not wasting more precious time so this time let me tell the good news.

Good news

Time to give. This is I guess is the key to enjoy the Christmas season. Actually it’s the main reason why there’s Christmas to be celebrated after all. Remember the bible verse “For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son”? And do you still remember the Three Kings who endured a long and dangerous trip to pay baby Jesus a visit in the manger? These all show that the essence of this season is all about giving.  It’s all about sharing. No more, no less.

On my part, especially for this year’s holiday season, the presence of our baby boy must have an effect on how I give gifts. My long standing plan to go green by reusing what I have at home and to put some creativity to good use finally came true. Last year, I started saving the comic sections of the dailies as I see it as a good alternative for Christmas wrappers. I also pay extra attention to tips on TV, newspapers, or magazines that may put some personal touch to the way we give. And so this year, I have already given a couple that I’m proud of.

The first one was when I was cramming for gift ideas for my father’s 75th birthday. After combing SM Bacolod, back and forth, I bought a small cheap plastic Ace Hardware tool box, a silver ribbon and a birthday card from National Bookstore. At home, I wrote in the card and placed some “Ninoy” bills inside the tool box and sealed it off with a lovely ribbon with the help of my wife—presto, a unique gift indeed. Goodbye boring red envelope.

How to wrap a book, Book in a bottle
Book in bottle.

The second one was a gift for our team’s Christmas party. Wondering how I’d hide any hint that it is a book, I arrived at the idea of putting it inside an empty 6-liter PET bottle. Then I stuffed shredded newspapers and wrapped the clear bottle with another newspaper. In the end it appeared more like a bomb than a harmless gift. Well, at least she got what she put in her wish list.

Tonight, we’ll have our own simple exchange gift giving at home. It will be just my wife, our 8-month old boy and myself. I don’t know if they’d like what I did, but then again as the cliché goes, “it’s the thought that counts.” Hahaha. Looks like a good excuse for having crappy gifts and wraps.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Our first Christmas family pic
Our family is now complete.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

 

A Week of Interviews (Part 1)

It is a fact and a cliché that time flies so fast. And so today I was surprised to see that the last time I did a blog was on August 31 and fifteen days after that, I’m still wondering what I’ve been thru since then. Now I’m in the middle of the much awaited months for us Pinoys–the BER months. And being the 15th which is the payday for most employees, I can just imagine the throng of people in the mall, in the clubs, and those in the beer bars—all likely enjoying at least a couple of Christmassy tunes in the process.

In spite of losing track of my activities, the freshest memory that still lingers in my mind are the things that we did last week. In work terms, work week 37. Last week, my wife and I underwent a couple of separate exciting interviews amid my untimely colds that was made worse by the enduring rainy week. But having prepared for these interviews for so long, not to mention that the stakes are high, we proceeded undeterred.

The first one was in the US embassy in Manila. It was actually my wife’s idea to try our luck in getting a US Visa (tourist). Although, I’ve been thru this before for my week-long Wisconsin training trip, I was a bit pessimistic in acquiring a new one as I’ve seen a couple of times the disappointment it gave my parents upon every denial in their quest to visit my sister abroad. Lately though, according to wifey, a lot of her peers got theirs without much ado. And true indeed, after a couple of anxiety-filled hours inside the embassy, our visa application got approved as well. My wife went out of the hallway skipping like a kid promised with a weekend beach picnic. “I feel like I’ve just won the American Idol audition”, she quipped. Well, that probably puts me in William Hung’s shoes when he got the record deal. (What made it greater was that our Visa expires in 2018 but the news today regarding the end of validity of the green passport by 2010 looks trouble to me.)

One thing that my wife and I are totally in synch with is that both of us agree with rewarding ourselves with every success that we had; more often than not, we love food treats. And this time we dropped by MOA (Mall of Asia) looking for something new. Then we saw Cheesecake Etc. Inc. It is a small (approx. seats 10-15 person) restaurant but with cozy feel to it. Obviously, we ordered a couple of cheesecakes and coffee to match it. What we got were lovely shaped treats plus great plate decoration. Price was also fair. I recommend this place as an alternative to Starbucks.

Walle

After satisfying our sweet tooth, we headed to the cinemas just in time to catch the movie Wall-E. It was time to feed our craving for comic relief.

Like any other Disney movie we’ve seen, this movie didn’t fail us. The scenes in the movie despite being subtle and comical packs a serious message of what our (humans) future awaits if we lose the awareness on our environmental obligations. It also sends a strong warning to everyone who tends to entrust our lives to technology with the belief that it is there to give us convenience. Convenience that if not controlled will eventually produce more bad than good effects in the end. Does garbage problem and obesity sound familiar? If there’s an animated counterpart to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth movie, this is it. This is a must see movie for both young and old alike. (I love this one so much that I can’t wait to get its DVD.)

(to be contintued…)

 

Earth Hour 2008

I have just participated in the Earth Hour. From 8-9 PM our house was in total darkness with only the light from the street post beaming through the window. I was hesitant at first to turn the TV off as I was watching the show Shocking Video: Deadly Force (it always fascinates me to see cops emptying their guns on hooligans but that’s another story) but good thing it ended at exactly 8 PM. Seriously, I’d end watching it, finished or not finished just to do my share.

Since my wife was out, I was left out alone and was thinking what to do outside while killing time. So I tried sending an SMS to some of my friends reminding them to observe the lights out activity. Out of the 20 plus contacts five actually replied that they too have their lights off. Great. At least I’m not the only person looking up to the heavens and trying to appreciate its natural beauty (haven’t done that for a long time). I think I’m the only person in our neighborhood who observed Earth Hour 2008 so I find it nice to know that somewhere out there are some of my friends doing the same thing. I now wonder how many joined and how much energy was saved.

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.