Alexa, Skip 2020

We were up 30,000 mid-flight homeward bound when I realized there’s free onboard WiFi. I was still groggy after minutes from waking up. I was hungry, wishing I’d get another serving of PAL’s tasty beef stroganoff. But I was more eager to check what’s online. It’s been hours since I lost connection after entering the departure area back in LAX.

I wasn’t expecting much when I opened my Facebook and Messenger. To be honest, I was actually checking if more people liked my stunts at Tom Bradley Airport and indeed, notification showed there were more who were amused. I’m building a fan base. Indulge me.

Entertaining myself during the 11-hour layover at LAX.

“Bad news”, however, followed by “Taal erupted” greeted me when I checked on my wife. I thought at first it was a bad joke. There was never any hint in the past days that this could happen but my Facebook timeline soon revealed that this small volcano in the scenic Tagaytay just unleashed its pent up fury. The pictures were scary, horrifying, like right out of a disaster movie. It made me feel helpless. I was stuck on a 777, long way from home. I was thinking about Marcus.

Photo taken by wifey from our backyard showing a large plume of ash and smoke from Taal which is several kilometers away.

Our flight, consequently, was diverted. A friend said news back in the Philippines say we’ll be landing in Clark, Pampanga but an hour later the flight map on my seat TV displayed our destination is no longer Manila–we were heading Cebu.

Diverted to Cebu.

I can’t recall ever feeling so uncertain, so confused. When we landed in Mactan I was calm, I followed orders but can’t wait to get over it and just be home. It was my first time in Cebu but it would’ve been a pleasant experience if it was planned and obviously this one isn’t. That time I didn’t even have any idea how long we’d be at the airport.

Perspective from my own sleeping space on the floor.
Getting my ref magnet to show I was in Cebu.

Two free Jollibee chicken meals later and an hour or so later sleeping on the floor with other stranded passengers, we got the final good news. Manila has cleared its airport for inbound flights. We will be home.

It’s interesting how this decade started. A trip to Kansas was a nice way to welcome the year but I didn’t see this Taal factor coming. Nobody did. Alexa, skip 2020!

***

Never imagined we’d be talking to a speaker.

I got a lovely Christmas present in the form of an Amazon Echo 2nd Generation but we had difficulty making it work since December. We soon learned that this is a known issue if activated outside US. I was so desperate and almost accepted we have an expensive paper weight.

I watched several YouTube videos on how to hack it but none of those fixed the issue. I even thought of bringing the one-kilo plus speaker to Kansas to see if I can set it up there but better judgment stopped me. I always prefer travelling light.

When I returned home from the client’s boot camp, despite fear that anytime we’d vacate our house if Taal worsens, we tried our luck once more to communicate with Alexa. Luckily, my Facebook cry for help resulted to useful replies. One said she also has an Echo and that she was able to make it function. I was encouraged so I searched online once more and one site did the trick. Few minutes after I clicked the first hyperlink on Techie Gadgets’ article, we already started interacting with Alexa. So again, “Alexa, skip 2020?”

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Day 3 since Taal has been lowered to level 3 alert.)

People Who Choose to Serve in the Midst of Calamity

Last night I realized I was running low on gas so I stopped at a Caltex station few kilometers from home. The attendants were standing outside happily waving and directing me to a pump. When I rolled down my window I noticed that these guys are wearing masks, their uniforms obviously dusty, and the gas pumps covered with ash but still everything seemed routine, they never hesitated to serve. No complaints whatsoever. The crew who filled my tank even asked how I was doing.

This is customer service. This is business continuity. These guys could’ve just decided not to report to work anymore due to obvious reasons–there is ashfall all over and they’d be standing outside their entire shift. Yes, outside, exposed. Yet they reported and continued to work.

Hope this story would put an end to unfair biases I read recently. We should not imply that because other companies continue to remain operating despite the circumstances the bosses are heartless. That because another business allowed their staff not to work, they are already the best employers. That is just not how it works. So please, spare me the drama.

***

(Original FB post)

Didn’t expect that the original post (my personal Facebook page) will pick up and get shared. As of this writing it has reached 60 plus shares and 160 plus reactions. This beats my dance video. Hahaha.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks!!! (Almost 20 hours after I got home from an eventful return trip.)

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.