26 October 2004

Feels like a Friday today. Lots of work still left unfinished, but my boss permitted me to have a break from tomorrow til Halloween! Yipee! When I get back, I'm sure to have tons of paperwork on my table. Until then, I'll make the most of my vacation.

My wife said I should bring my laptop along so I can blog. I'll write about where we'll be!

25 October 2004

Ohayoo Gozaimasu!

Japanese pop culture has a huge influence in my life.

My childhood memories are filled with days watching Voltes V (let's ... volt ... innnn!), Daimos (Richaaaard! Erikaaa!), and the other 70s super robots. And when those were banned by then-President Marcos with a generous serving of Martial Law, we were treated to less hack-and-slash anime (Japanese animation) such as Ron-Ron the Flower Girl, Nobody's Child, and Candy Candy (girly stuff ^-^). Our school stuff proudly displayed these characters. And then we had Bioman, Ultraman, and other sentai shows in the 80s til the present.

And who doesn't know Godzilla?

It wasn't only TV shows that the Japanese has so influenced my life. In my college years I got infected with the green thumb my parents were naturally endowed with (my mother loved flowering plants, while my father favored vegetables). I helped out in taking care of my parents' small garden, and planted a few of my own, including a prickly pear cactus (which grew quite well and I remember this because I was a victim of its thorns). But what I really became passionate about was bonsai. They grew (or didn't grow; they're supposed to be miniatures!) quite well in the pleasant Baguio climate.

And when I became a taxpayer, I became transfixed with buying action figures of the anime kind. This went on for quite a while, to a point that I no longer have any decent place to display my purchases and are thus scattered everywhere.

I also like Japanese food. Sashimi, Sushi ... as long as they're not the adventurous kind. It's great to have Beef Misono or Shrimp Tempura instead of burgers for a change. Oishi!


These days, I have considerably mellowed down on my cravings. Save for the food. But every once in a while, I'd catch a glimpse of an anime series I really like and purchase a couple of memorabilia (like those from Gundam Wing Endless Waltz and, more recently, Zoids due to their excellent mecha designs). Yeah, that's every once in a while. Japanese video games are also top notch. I'm currently playing Final Fantasy X (for the second time, for the heck of getting the secret characters) on PS2.

Oh, by the way, Christmas is coming up, so I hope you now have ideas on what I like (hint! hint!). Arigato Gozaimasu!

22 October 2004

With all my heart

I woke up late this morning.

I have this "5 minutes! 5 minutes!" syndrome actually. When I first saw the clock registering 6:00AM, I said to myself, I still have an hour's worth of sleep! So sleep I did. And the second time I woke up, my wife was already getting out of bed. My Gulay! It's already 9:00!

Well, waking up late has its disadvantages, the most obvious one being very, very late for work. I cannot do anything more about it, so switch on the TV I did. National Geographic Channel. Wow, it's been quite a while since I last watched National Geographic.

The scientists were studying bears in hibernation. Interesting stuff. They were able to discoverwhat triggers hibernation. It is actually a molecule in the bloodstream which, when triggered, causes the heart to slow down dramatically and metabolism almost to a halt. They are now capable of synthesizing this molecule, and has been found to work for mice and monkeys. They hibernated even though they don't do this in their normal state.

To make the long story short, helpful applications have been found for this. In the show, they operated on a pig (the pig's heart is larger in size and is anatomically similar with human's). They removed the heart, inserted tubes into it, and let a transparent blood substitute (like water) flow through it. The synthesized hibernation substance was also mixed here. A little electric jolt and it pumped! It was weird to see the heart pumping like that outside a body.

With the hibernation substance, scientists can lengthen the life of organ donations as it is transported for use. Normally, after 6 hours, the organ will no longer be of any use to anyone. With this breakthrough, they can lengthen this time to 18 hours!

Another application: people who are also injured (such as in a battle) can also be put into hibernation so their chances of being saved as they are transported to a hospital becomes much greater. People on the operating table can also be put into hibernation mode, resulting in lesser loss of blood and higher chances of recovery.

And because the pig's heart is anatomically similar to humans', it is highly possible that this can be a substitute for the human heart. That will certainly give the phrase "I love you with all my heart" a whole new meaning.

So the question now is: Do you also have the "5 minute" syndrome like I have? And while pondering on that important question, maybe you can also add this question: has science gone too far?

21 October 2004

Conversations with a Taxi Driver

Taxi fare has increased last week from a flag-down rate of P25.00 to P30.00 and metering charge from P2.00 to P2.50.

Manong is from a local dialect in the northern region of the Philippines which basically means "big brother" but is generally used to address men older than you are.

This is my third time to ride a taxi ever since the fare increased. I basically wanted to know how much it will now cost me to hire one to go to work. So here goes the story.


Me: Manong, this is the third time I have taken a taxi, and so far all of them haven't had their meters adjusted yet.

Manong: There are lots of taxis here in Manila. More than 5,000 of them! The Land Transportation Office is prioritizing the big taxi companies, then us next.

Me: So how do you go about the fare increase?
Manong: Our boss said to wait it out for a few more days. There was an announcement
to have meters issuing receipts installed as well so instead of having to go to LTO twice, we'll just do it one time.

Me: But the receipt thing was announced months ago!

Manong: Yeah I heard there are still some issues about it. But that's our boss' stand.


Manong: You know what? It's the people who are well-off who find it difficult to part with extra cash on top of the metered payment. These people can afford to eat 4 to 5 meals a day and yet they are so stingy with giving tips to taxi drivers.

It's the average person who would usually leave us the change. For example, if the fare is 42 pesos, they give us 50. The rich people will take the change even if it's a measly 5 pesos.

Me: (must be why they're so rich)

Manong: Also the Chinese, Koreans, and the Americans. They will insist on paying the exact fare.

Me: I guess it's their culture.

Manong: You know this increase in fare? It's not really that significant. Only the fact that the value of the peso has really depreciated so much.

Before, the amount we pay for 5 liters of gasoline will now get us a little over 2 liters. That's how much the peso has depreciated.

Me, with forehead creased: Really manong? (I remembered the many times I can't bring my car because I had no money to pay for the gas and parking).

Yup. Look, when the flag-down rate was 25, many people generously give the loose change. Now that the rates are up, do you think people will still let go of the change? Nope. So roughly, things would still be the same in terms of the amount of money the driver makes.

However, the money that the driver brings home is now lesser. If he brings 700 pesos before, now he only has 400 pesos or lower. Why? Because it goes to gasoline and boundary ('quota' you give to the taxi owner).


And that, is the sad state of mathematics in the taxi industry.

20 October 2004

Dinner fun

My wife was not feeling well yesterday. It's not really that serious, but I didn't want to aggravate it, so I volunteered to do the groceries after work. So off I went to Landmark at 7PM. Wow, it's been quite a while since I did the groceries. I've forgotten certain sections. I remember vividly, however, where the chips and dips, ice cream and sandwich spreads can be found. Ah, my favorite spots! I had trouble locating, however, the canola oil, laundry soap, and the other things I was really supposed to buy. But since I was there already, I might as well add in my favorite spanish sardines and canned tuna :-).

I also bought cooked food for our dinner. It was already closing time when I checked out, so McDonalds and KFC were selling the remaining food on the counter. I wasn't going for that, so instead I settled for Binalot!

Binalot simply means "wrapped" in English. This meal is wrapped in a traditional, no-garbage, back-to-nature, organic packaging. Banana leaves! My wife was delighted when she saw our dinner. She said when she was in grade school in Quezon, they would wrap their baon with banana leaves. This was the practice too for folks in the provinces, especially those working the fields. Their wives would arrive during lunchtime, a woven basket in tow. Then the meal inside would be separately wrapped in banana leaves. They'd simply sit under the shade of trees eat with their hands. There's actually a restaurant here in Manila where utensils are not a necessity to have your meal. It's aptly named Kamayan, which means 'by hand.'

Unwrap the packaging and the fragrant waft of the heated banana leaves mingling with the food will greet your nostrils. Inside you get an abundant serving of rice, viand, a tomato, and half a red egg. The pickled garlic (it's colored red, used in Japanese shops) came from our ref :-). One meal costs an average of 65 pesos. Not bad for a full meal!

The one in the photo came with pork chop. The other two sets I bought was with adobo (pork cooked in soy sauce) and skinless longganisa (a form of sausage). Yum Yum!

19 October 2004

Putting order back into chaos

How long has it been since our general cleaning? A week?! Wow, that long, huh? Time for a major overhaul!

Ta-daaa! A few days' work and my desk is back to its usual orderly self!

18 October 2004

Sing that again?!

At a noontime TV game show awhile ago:
Host: "Sing 2 or more lines from the song "Last Christmas" by the 80's group Wham!"

Bzzzzzzzz! (contestant pounding on the buzzer)

Contestant: "I'm dreaming of a LAST CHRISTMAAAASSS ..."

Sweet and Spicy

Speaking of sweet things, I am fond of these spicy seafood thingies that can pass off as candy, appetizer, or it can also be eaten with rice. I bought three containers at 100 pesos last weekend. Shown in the photo is the spicy red herring (or tuyo in Filipino). I like the spicy squid better because of the taste of the squid mingling with the red thing that makes the treat spicy. This is acutally sold in sari-sari stores, with the itty-bitty squid meat skewered into a toothpick and everything is coated with that red stuff.

But there was no squid available, so I settled for this and a couple of anchovies. The taste? It's sweet and just mildly hot. Crunchy too! Great with vinegar (with some crushed garlic thrown in). My wife and a friend helped in consuming the anchovies while watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD last weekend. Yum yum!

15 October 2004

A sugary snippet

It's 2:51 PM and I haven't had my lunch yet. It's because I now eat rice meals for breakfast most of the time, and the serving is what my wife usually gives me for lunch too. So come lunchtime, I do not feel that hungry at all.

So about 25 minutes ago, I dropped by our pantry to make myself a nice cup of coffee and munch on the sugar-coated pretzels my wife packed up for my merienda (mid-afternoon snack). Ack! No sugar! No problemo. I dumped coffee, creamer, and whatever was left of the sugar into my cup of hot water and went back to my cubicle.

I was going to write invitations to potential guests for our Network Security Seminar, when an article on a wife-swapping Reality TV show caught my eye. Hmmmm.... that's interesting. I could use a break. So read, munch and slurp I did. The coffee was a bit bitter but it was ok.

I finally got down to the last of my sugar-coated pretzels and I felt a modest amount of sugar granules in the packet. So ends my breaktime. I tossed the packet into the trash and at the same time this flash of idea went off in my head. I needed that sugar for my coffee! Time seemed to go on slow-mo as I tried to catch the prized packet in mid-air, only to see itself fly past my outstretched hands into the yawning trash bin. 3 points.

Moral of the story ... I haven't got one yet ... but the coffee seemed to turn more bitter at the last gulp ...

14 October 2004

It's Christmas time in the city ...

It's the middle of October and Christmas is in full swing! Where else in the world is the Christmas season celebrated when the 'ber' months start? Only in the Philippines. Christmas carols are played as early as September, and decorations mingle with Halloween costumes come October.

We will bring out our Christmas tree this coming weekend. That tree has an amusing story. A couple of years ago, I shopped for a tree at Landmark. I saw this perfect tree for the living room at a little over 5 feet. But when I went back with a friend that weekend, the tree of that size was sold-out! We then settled for the next height, at around 7 feet. I guesstimated the living room can accomodate such a tree.

So imagine our perplexed looks when the tip of the tree touched the ceiling. It was a couple of inches higher than the ceiling. IT gave us no other place to put the tree under the staircase, and it has stayed there for the past couple of Christmases.

I don't mind having that humongous tree now. The nice part is, every year, I get to buy new trinkets to hang and it seems the tree can't get enough of it. With all the balls and thingamajigs that I have bought the past couple of years, it look like there's still room for more.

The photo above was taken last year in Baguio City. It is a nice time to be in Baguio, with its cool, crisp Christmas air and lights all over the place. I feel lucky to have spent a lot of Christmases in such a homey city.

13 October 2004

Working the assembly line

This is one of the busier activities that my team encounters in the last quarter of the year: Christmas giveaways! It might look like a lot of fun, but in reality, it's not a walk in the park. You have to think if it's something that the recipients (which are our clients) will like. And there are also certain classifications to the gifts. The request process for budget is also bloody (madugo!). Hehe. Hope my boss doesn't read this.

Anyways, when the gifts arrive, they aren't wrapped yet. So we convert our training room into an assembly line! Nagiging FW kami (Factory Worker) sa marketing department at may kasama kaming mga volunteers, ang aming mga lovable Marketing Assistants.

Actually medyo late na nga eh. These gifts should be ready for distribution by the last week of November. Hmmm... am I looking at another year of Christmas rushing? Ayoko na. When I did my Christmas rush last year, my credit card bills piled on top of each other. That is one trap I will never get myself into again.

11 October 2004

Bowling for fun

Our company had a bowling competition a couple of weeks back. I belonged to the "Prison Orange" team. So here I was in my first ever bowling tournament. My first set score was 98. The second set was a measly 87. I saw the trend and gave up my slot for somebody else for the 3rd set. Smart move: my replacement fared better than I did.

But we eventually lost the tournament and did not make it to the semi-finals. We had fun though. Isn't this what it's all about?

Huh? The price is 10 grand!?! This should have been announced earlier! Grrrrr

PS In case you didn't notice, I'm a leftie. 'La lang :-)

Is this my table?!

A funny thing (or not so funny if you think about it) happened Friday last week. My boss dropped by my cubicle to talk about a website he would like me to check. And then he went to the cubicle adjacent to me and began talking about the General Cleaning that will transpire the following day. Hmmm... I scanned my area and saw a battlefield. Was he perhaps within earshot of my place so I can take a hint? hehehe. He mentioned that all papers will be thrown out when general cleaning starts at noon.

So last Saturday, I braced myself and sorted out the voluminous papers that can be found in every corner of my desk. When I arrived this morning, I can't believe my eyes. Is this desk mine? Yup, it must be so, for I saw my humongous photo sitting near the monitor. The maintenance guys polished my desk and cabinets; it's so sparkling clean!

Compare this with my table before the clean up (click here and here).

Now, if only I can find the paperwork for the tasks I was doing the past couple of weeks ...

Pateros Catholic Church

Speaking of balut, we went to the home of this infamous delicacy last Sunday: Pateros! This was a visit to my wife's friend's kid's baptism. At the left side of the Church is an alleyway with chairs and an amusing signage.

We thought of buying balut to bring home but we were stopping by the mall afterwards and having these eggs accidentally crack wasn't a chance we were going to take. Heck, it that happened, where will we get salt to eat it with?

09 October 2004

Proudly Philippine Made

Last week there was a feature on local smiths in Pangasinan that does our country proud. Because the next time you see a movie with an epic battle involving swordfights and elaborate armoury, it may well be Proudly Philippine Made.

The weapons and armour used in Lord of the Rings, the sword of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Uma Thurman's sword in Kill Bill, the Excalibur in the King Arthur movie ... these were honed in the expert craftsmanship of Filipinos.

Speaking of Made in the Philippines, have you watched Cat in the Hat? There's this box that they bring in the house that's labeled as such. Another amusing movie fact: in 50 First Dates, there's this character who's name is Ula. Incidentally, he's half-Filipino and there was this old radio program called Ula: Ang Batang Gubat. The movie's character is just like a jungle man. Rob Schneider was one funny character in that movie.

Another earthquake?!

A few moments ago, we were watching Bubble Gang when our visitor Harry alerted us to something out of the ordinary: earthquake! I shut-off the appliances and we went out. The coconut trees were swaying, and you can feel the ground sway.

Later on we learned in the news that the epicenter was in Tagaytay with an intensity 5. Metro Manila felt an intensity 4 quake.

I hope this is not a warning of worse things to come ...

08 October 2004


bal´ut n. boiled duck's egg with partially developed embryo (a native delicacy).

This grossly yummy treat was featured in a Fear Factor episode. My, my. The contestants had a grand time downing the eggs. Mahirap talaga kumita ng pera! (It's difficult to earn money!)

They say you're not a Filipino if you do not eat balut. Hmmm. I only eat the yellow, soft part and the white, hard part. I leave the eating of the poor ugly duckling to my companions.

Since I eat only half of the balut, does that make me half-Filipino?

05 October 2004

Wonder Woman ... all the world is waiting for you

We just finished watching Disc2 of Wonder Woman. Laugh trip! No offense to Wonder Woman fans (we love the series too!), but the plots were really amusing. The setting is the cold war era, and the U.S. gets threats from Nazi Germany. What's funny is that in the two episodes whose stories are independent of each other, the Major always got caught by the enemy in circumstances that are so easy to avoid. And since Wonder Woman has lots of love for the major, she rescues him. Wonder Woman, unfortunately, also gets caught in both episodes. It's like the story writers were following only 1 formula for the plot!

The wacky part in episode 2 is, Wonder Woman is captured and brought to Germany. The Major goes to Germany courtesy of their underground movement to rescue her. But Wonder Woman escapes and flies back to the U.S. while the Major is caught by the thugs. So now she learns that the Major was a captive in Germany and she thus flies back to rescue him. Aarrgh.

Question: How did the Major become a war hero when he gets so easily captured? It really boggles the mind.

I guess it's a sign of the times. Audiences before were easy to please. The plots were simplistic. Today, computers and radical minds have changed the way even TV shows are made. One thing hasn't changed though. After over 20 years, Ms. Lynda Carter still captures the image of Wonder Woman as we know her.

And yep, I'll still buy the other episodes.

04 October 2004

Hearing mass in - - - by Fr. - - -

Here is a classic example of my forgetting names. My wife and I have been going to this particular Church in Makati for the 8PM Sunday mass most of the time, but I can't remember the name of the Church and the name of the priest! But I can remember vividly how the Torones back in senior high school tasted like! Yikes, meron kaya akong Alzheimer's? Kasi parang yung childhood memories lang naaalala ko! Waaaah!

Anyways, this particular priest always has something interesting up his sleeve to make the homily interesting. Last night he asked two kids to the front and did some small talk, as well as what they'd pray for. And he gave them treats afterwards. Then he talked about the homily in connection with his example. At another time he posted by the altar table a huge '1 + 1 = 3 ' sign to talk about the Holy Trinity.

This priest makes the homily interesting and we, in turn, don't mind at all going to the 8PM mass to hear mass. The 6:30 PM mass is in Filipino, which I find myself translating in English in my head so I can follow. This is so because back in grade school til college (at Saint Louis University), we heard mass in English.

In the Baguio Cathedral, there's also an Ilocano Service (Ilocano is the local dialect). I do not speak Ilocano (sheepish grin) even if I was born there and lived practically my entire life. And that. my friends, is another of my idiosynchronies.

I remember yesterday, the world was so young ...

 Posted by Hello

I was all smiles last night. Why? Because my wife and I bought something from our childhood: Wonder Woman!

Well, it's the VCD for Episodes 1 and 2 of the TV show actually. Readers from other countries might not be familiar with the VCD format; suffice to say that it's a precursor of the DVD.

When the opening song blared on the speakers and the cartoony stars splashed on the screen, I was transported back in time. It's one of the few shows we were able to watch in Channel 9 because it did not conflict with the Basketball schedule. The photo above was taken from here. Turn up your speaker volume if you want to hear one version of the show's theme song!

It's funny that I remember Wonder Woman having a sidekick (Wondergirl); I have such a poor memory that I only remember bits and pieces of things. I am also very poor at remembering names, so pasensya na po if ever I do forget yours when we meet. :-)

Anyways, ang ganda talaga ni Lynda Carter! She's really gorgeous, even with those exaggerately-huge spectacles on.

Watching Wonder Woman brought back memories of other things I was fond of when I was a kid. Eto po ang mga nami-miss ko:
1. Nintendo Game and Watch - yup, I grew up playing with this nifty electronic toy. Back when it was popular, you can rent one by the hour! We used to visit a house nearby, and they would have a tray with lots of Game n Watches. Simply pick out what you like and play the time away.
2. Dungeons and Dragons - the cartoon show. It was my introduction to the world of magic and RPG. Kasama na rin dito ang Macross.
3. Saturday Fun Machine - tambay sa bahay buong umaga ng Sabado sa harap ng TV!
4. Bioman and Kyodyne - tama ba yung spelling nung huli? I remember the latter because I was bedridden for quite some time and this show kept me company. They ate through a siphon that's attached to their stomach. Plus they have TV monitors showing their human faces when they get their mask off. Wierd huh?
5. Hiking - from our home near Burnham Park to Camp John Hay, Imelda Park (now Botanical Garden), Hyatt (now gone with the 1990 earthquake)... basta lakad kami ng lakad. I have grown so accustomed to walking that even today, I'd keep a steady pace and unknowingly outwalk my friends (maghintay ka naman!)
6. Torones - a small block of candy similar to Tootsie Roll that tastes like Peanut Butter. It was sooo popular in my high school days that we even had an unofficial Torones Club. Add to that the Haw Flakes, a sweet Chinese concoction that we shared a-la communion.
7. Just being in the 80's was one heck of a party!

Aaargh. I have to get out of this reverie. Trabaho muna! Back to work!
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