An open letter to all car manufacturers

Dear car manufacturers,

Greetings from the Philippines! I’m one of those drivers whose daily commute has either brought me more wrinkles on my forehead (plus the accompanying white hairs) or, luckily, brilliant ideas about how I could help you decide on what to do for your next car models. I’m presenting here a list of those modifications that best fit the Filipinos’ driving styles and the country’s road conditions. Here are the parts that you should take out of the 2010 models as we really don’t find any use for each one:

Seat belts. We hate it. It restricts our movement and wrinkles our well-pressed working clothes. It also has this annoying vibrating sound whenever we pass by bumpy roads. Moreover, we use it only when we reach the toll gates or if we are apprehended by our professional policemen.

Side mirrors. The only people who find this useful are those outside our cars. It’s either they pick their noses when they pass by it or they pry it out for good just to be sold elsewhere and to unsuspecting buyers who may even be its original owner in the first place.

Rearview mirror. We drivers don’t care glancing at it every now and then when driving although our wives and kids love using it as a vanity mirror. (Well, in this case, retain it, but make it longer and wider so that my wife doesn’t have to lift her chin at a level where everyone outside will see her nose hairs.)

Turn lever and signal lights. This will result to a huge saving in cost and a significant weight reduction once pulled out. We change lanes here without even caring to switch it on accordingly. And while you’re at it, please take out the brake lights in the process. We don’t give a damn if its bulb is busted or not anyway. Lastly, do not forget to include the reverse lamp. At least, your designers will now have one less problem with the car’s rear part.

Speedometer. Other than being distracted by that illuminated needle or digital display, we don’t read it and if ever, we don’t understand it. Take it from our jeepney and bus drivers, they work every day and none of them ever look at it. Now, that’s one less dashboard instrument. Nice, right?

Of course, if I suggested removing the parts stated above, I would like, however, some additions or enhancements for the following:

Fenders & Bumpers. Back here, we need re-enforced versions of these as we need to compete with our beloved jeepney and bus drivers as they weave in and out in front of us. If you can add seven more layers to the paint, that will be a big plus.

Suspension. We need you to make those rally-grade suspensions built-in into our stock cars. With the way our beloved politicians and public officials build roads, we should expect more and more roads similar to what Neil Armstrong saw when he landed on the moon. Which reminds me, if you can manufacture one with several wheels like the lunar module, that might sell like hot cakes as well.

Brakes. We love stop-and-go traffic scheme. Yes, I know. You probably haven’t heard or even experienced such excellent idea. It’s hard to explain as even our traffic enforcers themselves are clueless of what they’re doing but they seem to enjoy it every time. We also love sudden stops whenever our jeepney and bus driver friends find it fit to make use of that tiny gap to change lane during bumper to bumper traffic. Of course, how can I forget our barefooted motorcycle drivers who find those narrow space a chance to practice their slalom skills. Now isn’t that compelling enough to improve the stopping distance of these current brakes?

Horn. This is actually my personal request. If you can put a lifetime warranty for my horn, then I’d be your customer forever. I love using my horn second to my brakes.

I’m presenting you an opportunity here. If you’ve made JDM or USDM cars before for the Japanese and American market, respectively, I guess this request to specially build one for the Philippine market, isn’t too hard to handle. You can then call it PDM – even if it might mean Poor Driving Manners. Consider this a win-win scenario even if it clearly looks more in favor for your business – you take out five (5) parts, you modify only four (4). Please contact me if you have questions about this proposal. I’d love to be of help if you need further explanations or in case you are wondering if I can actually suggest more things to be removed and modified. Let’s talk about it over the phone. You can call me even while I’m driving.

Best Regards,

 Cris

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (My side mirror was hit by another car on my way home. Perfect!)

Drive Like a Miser

It seems that gas price hike will be here for quite a long while for reasons that the average person like me would never really know. There are so many factors that affect oil prices and some of which could be the Middle East’s peace and order situation; the US recession which until now Dubya hasn’t directly accepted to be happening; China’s sudden automotive demands as most Chinese got tired of riding bikes that sooner or later obesity will be as common as dumplings in this part of the world; and locally, we can blame our government for deregulating the oil companies—but this is debatable.

So while we are busy thinking who’s supposed to be blamed other than ourselves, it may be just right for us to start looking at the mirror and check if we’ve done our part to alleviate the effect of this situation which is going way out of our control. Some self-awareness check will not only save our pockets and wallets but we also get to save our sanity and most importantly, our environment.

Today while lazily surfing the web, my mouse led me to Ecomodder.com which has an article about 104 hypermiling / ecodriving tips. Surprisingly, I’ve been doing most of their tips already. So here are my own top 10 tips that others may learn and use as well.

  1. Drive less. Avoid driving if you can. Just think about the heavy traffic you’d encounter on your way and this should already convince you stay put at home and do something more productive with lesser carbon footprint.
  2. Track your fuel consumption. Take a conscious effort to track your fuel mileage. Our Honda City’s digital Trip A and Trip B meter is a big help when it comes to this. By the way, please, track your consumption once you get home or has stopped somewhere. You don’t want to run over pedestrians or other cars while fiddling with your calculator.
  3. Leave early and don’t rush. It’s funny but I’ve been thinking of doing this. Having a car makes most of us think that we can hit the snooze alarm a couple of times in the morning with the assurance that we can beat time to work by driving like a crazy Takuma Sato. I later realized that beating the clock—and the red light—is a No-Win situation: you get irritated because you expect everyone to rush just like you do, and you get to pump unnecessary gas in the process.

    miser
    Not Takuma.
  4. Note your transition points. Ecomodder says ”If you regularly travel the same roads, make a conscious effort to note (memorize) the points along the way where transitions occur that maximize efficiency.” Planning would allow you to identify where to safely coast (if I remember it right, I read that it is illegal to coast in some states in the US), anticipate turns and brake points. Lesser braking, more savings.
  5. Avoid drive-thrus. This is to avoid idling. Save on gas. Save on fast foods.
  6. Windows up. This is a no-brainer in the Philippines as spitting in our country is not a crime. Do I need to explain further? Hahaha. Just my compelling reason for driving windows up. Seriously, it has something to do with aerodynamics (or wind drag) which has an effect on the gas mileage. And of course back to that spitting issue.
  7. Heavy traffic: play the accordion. Ecomodder says ”If faced with worst-case “stop & crawl” traffic conditions, leave as much space ahead of you as possible and continually “accordion” that space to keep your vehicle moving near a constant speed while the cars in front of you stop & start. Yes, some people will cut into the space you create ahead of you. Deal with it. Note that this may aggravate following drivers who can’t absorb the big picture, and that must be taken into account.” Well, I’ll try to deal with it. No promises though.
  8. Minimize use of air conditioning. Ecomodder says ”Air conditioning requires a lot of power. Use it sparingly.” Once again, AC on or off, don’t forget to keep those windows up. Believe me, you’ll thank me for this tip once you get to drive here in the Philippines.
  9. Be smooth. I think I qualify as one. Just don’t ask the jeepney drivers I’ve honked at which brings me to my top 10.

miser1

10. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Ecomodder says ”It [sic] easy to be competitive when Resist knee-jerk retaliation to other drivers’ aggressive actions. Don’t let other drivers lead you astray from your driving style.” Now this is more like a test of my character rather than a test to save gas. The pinoy Joneses are the hari ng kalsada (king of the roads) – your friendly jeepney/tricycle drivers. I guess I’ll be able to keep up with this tip if I leave home early to work.

There you go. Let’s save gas the rational way and please stop sending me emails to boycott the giant oil companies–it’s foolish, it’s temporary and it just won’t work.

reference: Ecomodder.com

Auto Financing, Anyone?

One of the benefits of killing time is that I get to sit in front of my PC, stare blankly at the glowing CRT and instinctively place both of my hands on the keyboard’s home keys. This is also one of those times when I dream I have my own treadmill and gym set which could be a healthier way to pass time. So while I’m not there yet, I let my typing fingers do the walking for now.

Just a few weeks ago while unconsciously surfing the net like a “career zombie” trying to find a plan B after our company pulls out of its Philippine operation, I chanced upon a sticky thread on one of my favorite automotive hangout. The thread’s title is “…is looking for new talent.” That intrigued me. I can drive, I can do two-point reverse maneuver, I can blindly pass through Daang Hari at night and I can grab the hand brakes while my wife does a sharp turn that feels like 80 kph. So what could be better than these?

I clicked to read on.

To my disappointment they’re not looking for dummy drivers. They’re looking for someone who can do automotive journalism—still some dummy of sort. And so I thought that while I still haven’t seen my career plan B yet, I might as well make this one my plan C. I sent a private message to one of the administrators.

Unfortunately, I received no acknowledgment since then. I actually returned to the thread to check if my foolish mind failed to see the exact date when it was posted. It was just recently. Damn.

Today, however, while checking my emails after graveyard duty, I saw one from the car forum. My mind woke up in an instant and once again I fantasized being inside a brand new Toyota Camry to do a review, inhaling deeply and sucking all the new car scent it could offer, fiddling nervously with its keys while contemplating on what it could offer as it zoom past Cavite’s potholed highway to test its wide wheelbase and torture its suspension. But reality sets in just as soon as it has left me.

A line on the email says, “Can you do an article on auto financing? Make an outline first, then we’ll start from there.” He must be kidding, his reply confused me.  Thank heavens, Yahoo! came in handy. I checked what the blog world has to offer regarding auto financing and I didn’t fully expect what I found because the search tags are similar to where I’m at right now—in  debt, needs financing.

And in my current state, if I were to write about auto financing, I would have some of these catchy copies:

  • “Just got promoted? Reward yourself with a brand new car!”
  • “Is your company’s inventory piling up? Is your company getting less attention? Did the CEO just recently focus investments to Vietnam? Is your stock price in a plateau state? If you answered yes to all, screw it, grab a lovely car!”
  • “Best deals in town are all over. From 5% off, all-in offers, 3 years + 1 warranty, etc. So if you have a proof of availability, and (a pause and drum rolls are highly recommended at this point) a severance package, now is the chance to own a brand new car!”

Wait, did I mention what my career plan A is? Well, it’s to bum around for months while looking for plan B to Z. Ti abi.

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.

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.

Driving with Wifey (My First Blog, Actually)

(I was browsing my multiply.com site and saw this one hidden. Then I remember, this is my first shot at doing a blog. Since I’ve also posted this in our company’s internal site, I deleted its name here. (hint: Only the paranoid survive). Some of the practices in this blog though may not be true anymore. Rest assured, I still respect the pedestrian lanes.)

I like walking around our company’s campus a lot. Why? Because it is here where most drivers abide by the speed limits placed on designated lanes. It is also where both drivers and passengers are strictly required to wear seat belts; and where motorists patiently wait for the pedestrians to safely cross the street before they proceed driving. In the Philippines, this is almost too ideal if not unreal.

Day in day out, this practice goes on inside this pedestrian-friendly campus. Lately though, I’ve observed that the gates seem to look like a pit lane’s entrance and exit. The former is where speeding employees would brake to follow minimum speed; the latter is where outgoing employees would rev their engines and hit the gas and dash to their destinations like F1 drivers. I even once wondered if these gates are warp zones that zap drivers into entirely different worlds.

Frankly, I was guilty of this act, too. I’ve been driving back and forth for almost one and a half year already. I admit I drove like hell outside the campus during the first year. It is a good thing that our company had this online Defensive Driving course which I took and passed. Still, I continue to drive aggressively but just more cautious than before—I would mentally count thousand one, thousand two, thousand three…to estimate my distance from the car in front of mine. At least.

Then time came for my wife to learn how to drive. I became her boot-camp coach whenever she drives us to and from work. However, despite my conscious effort to lecture her on the proper and safe way to drive, it was always a matter of time when we would end the driving sessions in frustration. This made me reflect and assess why.

Then it struck me. I have been a believer that good teachers make equally good students and it was through this series of driving that made me realize that I could be a (big) factor why wifey made me feel uneasy being strapped beside her as a passenger. It was a case of bad teacher, bad student. How can I expect her to follow what I am teaching if she does not see me doing most of it. Practice what you preach, right?

It is now almost two weeks already since I have been driving defensively. This time there is not much mad honking, lesser unnecessary overtaking, more consideration, and improved courtesy. For those who do not know yet, it feels good all the time.

And guess what? Just this weekend my wife was on the wheel from our home to our favorite hang-out, almost 20 kilometers away and she did perfectly well, almost perfect until it was time to park. But then again, nobody’s perfect. She’s currently grounded. Just kidding.

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 (www.philstar.com). 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.