31 December 2004

The PinoyBlog Christmas Party

It was a meeting of old friends.

Which is quite odd actually, considering that it's the first time most of us will be seeing each other. I was cautiously making my way inside Cabalen, scanning the room for familiar faces. And then I saw the PinoyBlog banner almost at the same time that Tito Rolly called out my name! And there they were: Tito Rolly, Jet and Jay, Doc Emer, BongK, Apol, Karla, Ajay, Yuga. I wasn't able to meet everyone then as I had to rush out and buy my gift for the kris kringle. Christmas rush time!

I met the others when I got back: there was the Sassy Lawyer and her family! Vixen, Julsitos, Joyce Jimenez ... have I mentioned before I'm really bad with names? 'Cause I can't remember the other names. But I think there was also a guy named crazylover, and a couple of other ladies I was not able to talk to. After dinner and gift-giving, everyone headed off for coffee at the Podium. We all just sat there, had coffee, and talked. It was like catching up with what's happened with us since we last saw each other ... in the net.

I learned some interesting things in the party. Unkyel Batjay is a leftie and commands presence in real life, Jet is a fun lady, Sassy is a loving mom, Doc Emer is one doctor with great humor, Tito Rolly is really like a tito (uncle), Bong K went to Jakarta, Ajay can be the life of the party, Karla has a quiet composure about her, Apol has a quiet composure about him, Julsitos will be at the hospital waiting for the people who can't learn from the mistakes of others in using firecrackers, Joyce is a sensible woman ... too bad I wasn't able to meet with everyone, as I am naturally not an outgoing person, but it definitely was a jolly bunch.

The group was a mix of happy chatter and laughter. And as they say, time flies when you're having fun. It was already past 12 midnight when the lights started to go off and the store crew commenced cleaning. It was time to go home.

Thank you all for the fun evening! I look forward to seeing you again. And did I mention Ms. Joyce Jimenez drove us home? Happy New Year!

[I'll post other photos later; slow connection today]

23 December 2004

Christmas Party Hats

We celebrated our company Christmas party a couple of nights ago. We had this Christmas Party hat contest with the following criteria: creativity 30%, happiness 15%, originality 30%, themeness 15%, and another item for 10% (which I forgot). The participants came out with nice designs. There were around 9 of them, which I think is an ok turnout, considering that we did not announce that the price is 2,000 pesos for each of the top 5. We thought it will be great for them to join not because of the prize money but for the fun of it.

The organizers also wore hats to promote the contest. I hope we do it again next year.

Merry Christmas to all!

19 December 2004

The Christmas rush is through ...

Now let me get this straight. It's the middle of December and I haven't completed my gifts list yet? As far as I can recall, I was in the same 'dilemma' last year. Or, is it because the list keeps getting longer and longer each year? Oh well. At least that's good news. Having more friends is way better than seeing your list get shorter and shorter. Come to think of it, that was my approach in explaining to my boss the increase in budget request for giveaways this year.

Tina's hometown friends visited us yesterday, the lively gals who were with us in the last Divi Challenge. And they helped wrap the rest of the gifts! I didn't realize there's still a lot to wrap! Now this is more like it. It reminded me of the time in Baguio when I used to buy gifts, secretly stash them in the house, wrap them when nobody else is around, and put these under the tree. My brothers and sisters would also do this, and soon there'd be a stash of wrapped surprises for everyone. We would occasionally visit the tree, choose a gift in random, then squeeze and shake it, feeling and listening intently for anything that will reveal the slumbering contents. Our older sister has become so adept at this that it only takes a while for her to satisfactorily declare, "a shirt!", or "a toy made of plastic parts!", then move on to the next bit of treasure.


When they were nearly done, they requested to go online and visit Unkyel Batjay's site which I showed them a couple of visits ago and they thoroughly enjoyed reading through most of the more recent posts. And soon enough they were giggling and laughing anew at the new posts. Unkyel Batjay truly deserves the Blogger of the Year award.


This morning, my wife asked me, "When are you going to buy the rest of the gifts?" Which made both of my eyebrows shoot through the air. "Who else doesn't have a gift?" "Well, there's still ... the names came out of her mouth but I can't seem to hear them. I had one overpowering song play in my head: "Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through ..."

The rush isn't through for me yet. On a positive note, a longer list means more friends ... anybody out there to help us wrap the gifts?

17 December 2004

We are not alone

A couple of years ago at around this time, I had a high fever. I bought groceries at The Landmark on a Monday evening, and had to haul a couple of heavy bags to the jeepney stop at Park Square 2. This was for a party at home that night. It was drizzling then, and I was tired and sweaty from the weight I was carrying. By the following morning, I was already running a fever.

I was so sick, I had to take a leave of absence the rest of the week. My temperature was running into the 38 - 40s, that by Thursday night, my friends brought me to the Hospital. And then the strangest thing happened. As I was sitting at the lobby waiting to have for my urine test, I felt better. So much better in fact that the doctor said I only have a slight fever and I was able to go home a little past twelve midnight.

When I got back to our apartment, my fever immediately ran into the 40s again. Weird, huh? I felt the fever gone when we were at the Hospital, but was back by the time I sat on our sofa.

The following day, my friends accompanied me to a faith healer a couple of blocks away from home. We entered the house, and I was greeted by a multitude of religious images of the Child Jesus and of Him on the cross, as well as those of the Virgin Mary.

An old man greeted us and my friends informed him of my health condition. He then took a basin with water, lit a candle, closed his eyes as he mumbled a prayer, and let the molten wax drop freely onto the basin. He then took a look at the images formed by the hardened wax and declared that we have other, unseen residents in the apartment.

The old man said that before man-made structures and streets lined our neighborhood, there was a wide expanse of marsh, where 'laman-lupa' (must be a form of dwarves) lived. When houses were constructed, they did not go away, but rather stayed with the humans. Our residents must have been angered by something I've done. We might have been turning up the music too loudly, or we ourselves were creating too much noise. Guilty as charged. I love playing my music loud, likewise when watching movies or playing video games.

He pointed at the wax figures again. He said there were at least two 'laman-lupa' who were angry. We were then advised to make an offering to appease them. Put a couple of hard-boiled eggs on a plate, set it on a place near a door, and inform our unseen residents that it was our peace offering, and hope that they would no longer afflict me with sickness.

By Saturday afternoon, I was feeling much better. By Monday the following week, I was able to go to work.

Just one of the many reasons why I believe we are not alone.

16 December 2004

Gamot ay siguradong laging bago

I have recently found myself a frequent customer of drugstores, purchasing medicine for my wife. But I just don't buy from any pharmacy that I pass by. I always go to a Mercury Drug Store, no matter how far it may be, no matter how many odd-named drugstores I pass by.

Wierd huh? Call me duped (not doped, mind you), but I go to Mercury Drug due to three reasons:
1. the stores are inviting, with a mixture of goods and snacks, toiletries, making it an ideal place to pick up stuff other than medicines.
2. I have this Suki Card which earns me points whenever I make a purchase. Points that I can use to 'convert' to cash and purchase something else.
3. Their slogan says "Gamot ay siguradong laging bago" (Medicines are always guaranteed new). So whenever I go out and buy these, whether prescribed or over the counter, I head on straight to Mercury Drug. Because who knows, other drugstore's medicine cabinets might have expired items in them!

Like I said, call me duped, call me paranoid, but Mercury Drug's got one marketing gimmick that works 100% right there. I was only able to realize this when I passed a couple of drugstores to get to theirs! Ten pieces Avamigran for migraine, please. And here's my Suki Card.

13 December 2004

The Magic 8 Ball does not lie.

My colleagues here in Marketing had a heyday with this Magic 8 Ball they purchased at National Book Store. How does it work? Simply ask a question, shake the ball, and the answer is revealed at the opposite side of the "8" tag. Hmmm ... how many sides does a ball have?

Answers to questions like "Shall I have a salary increase next year?", "Will [colleague's name] get married soon?", and "Will my boss give me a Christmas present?" were really very interesting. It ranged from a hazy "Ask again later", to a "Definitely not" or a solid "Yes".

We had quite a laugh with the Magic 8 Ball. We wished making corporate decisions was this fun! This nice novelty item can be yours for around 350 pesos at National Bookstore.

12 December 2004

We're not in Kansas anymore

Last night my wife and I, along with our good friends the Honeys went to OnStage at Greenbelt 1 in Makati to watch Repertory Philippines' The Wizard of Oz. It's only the second time I watched a play, the last one being Ms. Saigon years ago (which was a treat by an officemate who looked for a companion at the last minute).

My memory's a bit hazy about the story, having read it in my high school years, but I still have a good grasp of the overall story. The play started at 8. It was 2 hours long; I forgot that there was an intermission midway, so I wasn't able to inform my wife that there will actually be a 15-minute break, thus she missed some parts.

The play itself was wonderful. The first rendered song was "Somewhere over the rainbow", which set the overall mood of the play as whimsical and playful. The stage sets were a feast to the eyes, the costumes colorful and fun. The actors were also superb, and the songs jubilant. Too bad they don't allow the taking of photos, but you can see a couple of shots here.

At both sides of the stage were vertical lifts that transport the actors to the stage level from below. It was fun seeing Witch of the West appear and retreat using this lift, amidst flashing lights and smoke effects.

I remember vividly in my readings that Dorothy and companions get captured by monkeys with wings on their way to the Emerald City, that a dog named Toto was part of the cast, and that magic slippers played a big part in the story, but it was overall a fun night. The 500-peso ticket was well worth it (1,000 bucks gets you a set at the center area, we seated ourselves at the right section, third row from the stage).

The play will run til the third week of December, so if you are looking for an alternative form of entertainment, catch this or another play in your area. It's great fun!

09 December 2004

Experiencing The Net

I just had this flashback of The Net, a Sandra Bullock flick, where her identity gets stolen - literally - and gets entangled in a web of conspiracy and murder as she attempts to get her life back.

The story may seem farfetched, but it got me thinking what sort of information can be had about me from the Web. So I did a simple google search for "Nick Ballesteros". Whoa. My Blogger Profile is the top search result. From there you can view my blogger photo, age, where I am in the world, my zodiac sign, my list of blogs, interests, etc.

A yahoo! search for the same name does not reveal the Blog result (this can mean that yahoo! is indeed blocking or limiting search in Google products and services). The top results were about Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros, my famous golf namesakes. I always get asked by our visiting foreign business partners if I am related to this famous golfer Ballesteros guy. Sino ba sya? (who's he?) :-)

At number 6, though, is Baguio-Quezon, my other blog.

Interesting search results, especially since I was expecting more than one accurate hit. I actually have my name listed in around 5 other sites for photo sharing and internet community sites, as well as in a host of other places (alumni.net, etc), so I guess if you are really looking for someone in the Net, you are lucky if that person is actively blogging. Otherwise, it will take more than a search engine to find the information you want.

I hope this means my internet identity's safe... for the time being. whew!

At least, I also learned something new from this exercise. My good friend Dr. Watson is now version 1.5, and has expanded services to include website and link verification services. You can do a free diagnosis and syntax check of your site here. (I did a search for watson too, but the word came up with a general search result, which is just fine).

03 December 2004

Globe cares, MSN blogs, & the Last Song Syndrome

I received an SMS message from my mobile phone service provider, Globe Telecoms, with this message: "GLOBE CARES! Globe Telecom joins RED CROSS in helping typhoon victims by accepting your donations thru your Handyphone. Choose from these amounts: 5, 25, 50 or 100. Send your donations by texting .... and so on ..."

Question. If Globe really does care, why don't they at least put in an x amount for every x amount that their subscriber donates? I did a quick visit on their homepage, and I don't see anything related to this topic either.

Wala lang. I just thought it was a rather wierd way of showing you care: by letting others do it for you. But kudos to the Red Cross for this initiative. I'm not being self-righteous or something, but the manner it was written looked wrong. When I read it, I interpreted it as "Globe cares. I take credit for your donations." I'm ranting, so on to the next topic ...


Software Giant Microsoft is finally joining the Blogging community with MSN Spaces. I learned about this as I was blog hopping and discovered Taitapa - on the edge.

As the Sandman said, it's still on beta stage, but as it's Microsoft, they will certainly figure out ways to make it user-friendly. I am tempted to register just so I can get the name I want, but I am quite happy with Google's Blogger service, thank you.


Aside from the contagious Yawn Syndrome, there is also this undocumented-but-oftentimes-manifested Last Song Syndrome. It manifests itself when you're listening to a song which doesn't get finished and you end up continuing the song. I usually get this when I'm in a cab and when I get off, the last song would still be playing in my head and I end up singing til I get to the elevator.

Some people in our office do this for fun. They'd sing a couple of lines from a popular tune then stop. Somebody else is bound to pick up where they left off.


Just some thoughts as the business day ends. Happy weekend all!

02 December 2004

Weekend highs and lows

Aren't we a happy crowd?

We arrived from a two-hour Manila-Cavite trip as the advance party for our company's 3rd Invitational Golf Tournament to Microtel Inn, where we were spending the night. Oooh, spending the night in comfort? Really nice.

Night was already upon us when we checked in, but we still had lots to do. The ladies sorted out the bags, shirts, caps, and data sheets from our Sponsors while Francis, Anthony, Joey Boy, and headed for the golf course, where we has to set-up banners and more importantly, the demo for the Lightpointe Free Space Optics equipment.

We started at around 7:00, but were quite hungry already by 9 , so we had dinner at Microtel. After some time, we were back in the field. Whoops! The UPS was continually giving off alarm beeps! That was nearly midnight. Joey Boy had to make a series of calls to our engineers to help out in the diagnosis. By this time I was already dead tired, as we had been working for this event since a couple of days back, routinely going to the mall to buy and haul stuff, coordinating with the organizers, etc etc.

I dozed off by the lobby at 12 midnight, and was awake by 1:30AM. It was going to be my only sleep for that night. The others had gone off to the golf course for the other side of the installation.

By 3AM, light rain began to fall. We had to stop our work and take shelter. We were drenched in sweat, and getting rained on was a bad combination. Eventually, we had to give up and went out to have something warm to eat.

We were back in Microtel by 4AM. Not much chance for sleep now, as we had to be back there by 5. I made adjustments to the agenda and did last-minute printing while the others dozed off. By 4:30, we each took turns at the shower, and we were back to work at 5.

The guests started coming in, and it was a frenzy. We were running all over the place, coordinating this, running errands there. By 8AM, the Lightpointe demo worked! Sigh of relief from the guys. But our work was not yet done.

We were only able to relax when the last visitor left by 5:30PM. We ordered a can of beer each and wearily sat together while the others helped disassembling banners and hauled our things to the van.

We were all smiles when we arrived, not fully realizing the extent of work that needed to be done. And so there we were, adrenalin finally gone, our tired spirits wanting to take a break.

My boss approached us after the event and said, 'great job'. Somehow, things became better.


If there was one thing I learned here, it's that our Engineers are dedicated people, tirelessly making things work for the benefit of the entire organization. They definitely deserve whatever compensation the company can provide them. The event was also a re-affirmation of the bonds we have with each other, willing to extend a helping hand.

Now, if only I can reconcile these event expenses ...

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