28 January 2008

Where's the view at Manabu?

For our first ever trek for 2008, we chose Mt. Manabu located in Lipa, Batangas because, as our research revealed, Mt. Manabu is an easy climb and the view is astounding. Likewise, the camping is said to be quite spacious and - owing to lush vegetation and flowering shrubs and berries - the site looks like a park! Excited, we prepared for the trek.

Imagine our surprise when we woke up to an overcast, rainy Saturday morning! Undaunted, we headed off to Wendy's Buendia, the customary meeting place. We were to get a bus but given our number it would be more convenient to rent a van so at 3,500 pesos we were comfortably off to Batangas.

We arrived a couple of hours before lunchtime and it was still drizzling quite strongly. We imagined that we'd be the only ones doing the trek. Amazingly, we saw a group of campers cooking lunch at the stopover. As we started the trek in the drizzle, more trekkers - some with dogs - crossed our path.

taking a breather, the wet seat notwithstanding

Due to the weather, the regular 1.5-2 hour trek became around 3 hours. It was foggy, and we knew it will be dark soon and so we had dinner at 6. The cool weather made the cozy tents inviting and so we took our after-dinner rest, planning to wake up about an hour later. But the strong winds were soon upon us, whipping our tents hither and thither and making for a very cold night indeed. The neighborhood campers were undaunted as they progressed with their merrymaking.

But almost as sudden as the winds arrived, it abruptly stopped at 10. We went out and had some time for small talk before calling it a night.

The following day dawned foggy as well, so we prepared breakfast and soon were clearing the camp. And then the fog gradually lifted! As we descended the damp trail, the sun peeked every so often and the white mist revealed the scenery which could have been ours to marvel at the day before. Our descent reminded me of Narnia, when the White Witch's magic hold on the kingdom was weakening and the 100-year winter was coming to an end.

It was, overall, a nice trek. Relatively easy, in fact, inspite of the weather. We plan to come back and hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative.

There are a couple of houses you need to pass through. They have long benches for taking breaks.

a foggy afternoon
berries! we didn't dare eat these though. It'll be a very awkward place to have an upset stomach.

Photos from the descent...

at last! we can see the view!

this hut offered fresh coconuts.
one of the streams we crossed, allowing us to remove mud off our sandals and feet.
Some ropes along the path help traverse the more challenging areas.
Stopping over at a house, where an old man welcomed us and offered coffee and water.

There is a parking area where you can leave your car for a 100-peso overnight charge. There are also simple but clean toilets and bathing areas at less than 20 pesos per person.

This little fellow (a preying mantis) hitched on my backpack. I took a photo and the owner of the parking lot carefully picked it up and dropped it off the nearby vegetation.
Kwek-kwek and fishballs, anyone?

23 January 2008


Ever since our Aunt Linda taught us how to make paper cranes one grade school night by our double-deck, I have become fascinated with the art of paper folding. After the paper crane came boats which helped while the time away in the rainy afternoons. Puppets, planes, and lots more took form from plain scraps of paper.

I guess that fascination has never left me. My wife bought me a wonderful Origami book in the past Book Fair, and I bought art paper for just the stuff.

Last Christmas, the kids and I made butterflies and stars, the former adorning our walls and the latter making our window view colorful and bright. Then, I made a series of decorative balls which we hung by the doorway.
Last Christmas, I also asked from our Kris Kringle office some Origami books. It was obviously quite easy to identify who made that request, as evidenced by the scribbled messages on my request list: "Nick, is that you?" hahaha!

But my request was granted. Not just for one book, but for two! Thanks Janice and Dave!
Both books came from Fully Booked. This one also contains beautifully-patterned origami paper and a crane aside from the book! Wonderful present.
The models in this one looks more tricky to fold....

This is my simple pleasure.

I am actually on the lookout for photo frames that has enough space between the glass panel and the backboard for framing origami work. I have been unsuccessful so far. If you know where such frames are bought, I will appreciate a holler!

What about you? How do you origami?

16 January 2008

In search of a black Ford Expedition

Last week, Toni shared this story in the Blogkadahan mailing list. I was touched by the turn of events in the life of Mang Jaime, a taxi driver plying the streets of Manila. Read on, perhaps you can help too.

Here is the unedited article composed by PJ:

Hi friends,

Before I forget--happy New Year!
It's very seldom that I do this--send a mass email to practically everyone in my address book, the egroups I'm part of, etc. I just need to tell this story, and I hope you find the time to read it through until the end. It made such an impact on me that I was compelled to write it down, to do something--even if that something is just to forward this story to everyone I know. It was the only way I could think of to do anything remotely constructive to respond to Mang Jaime's story.
Thanks for your time, and your friendship.


7 January 2008
Just 20 minutes ago, I struck a conversation with the taxi driver whose unit I had flagged down at Gateway in Cubao. I was wondering why he wasn't too familiar with the roads of Metro Manila, and he kindly explained that he had only been in Metro Manila for a few months. He was from Davao City, he said—and I immediately jumped at the chance to practice my very rusty Bisaya.

Maybe it was the familiar language that spurred Manong Jaime to tell me his story. Maybe it was the mother tongue that so reminded him of home that made him comfortable enough to narrate the events of two months ago that, as he put it, made his Christmas the saddest he had ever experienced.

I thought it was just homesickness. From what he had said before that, I had learned that he had no relatives, no family in Manila—he left wife and children back home in Davao. At 71 years old, he heard the stories from taxi drivers fresh from their stints in Manila, claiming that they earned far better than what they made as taxi drivers back in Davao City. So he decided to give up his stable—albeit not very high-paying—job as a taxi driver in Davao and go to Manila, earn more for his family.
At the end of his story, Manong Jaime tells me in a mix of Tagalog and Bisaya—almost flippantly—"sana hindi ako naniwala sa mga hambog na iyon." Why? Not just because the reality of being a taxi driver in Metro Manila was a far cry from the stories those men had regaled their neighbors with. Not just because he struggled to even just meet the "boundary" charged by the company for his aging unit. Let me tell you why.
Last November 15, 2007, at around three a.m., Manong Jaime was in the Roxas Blvd. area, looking for his next fare. He was at an intersection. The light turned green, and he was easing his taxi unit across the intersection when a very fast SUV crashed into the side of his taxi. He later learned from witnesses—and there were many, as there was a police outpost at the intersection—that the taxi spun and hit a pole. The police rushed to get him to the hospital, while a concerned bystander with a motorbike tried to chase after the speeding black Ford Expedition. It was to no avail, though—the SUV was going too fast for the motorbike to catch up with it, and no one was able to even get a glimpse of the plate number. It was, simply, a hit and run.

Manong Jaime, in the meantime, was confined in the hospital from November 15 to December 5, slipping in and out of consciousness. When he was discharged, he had to pay a bill that totaled roughly PhP30,000, including all his medicines. He was able to obtain some support from DSWD that covered more than half his bill, and his employer gave him Php3,000. The rest, he had to scrape together by borrowing from the other taxi drivers that he worked with. No family member, not even his wife, could visit him during his hospital stay. He says that the policemen who helped him were frustrated and apologetic, telling him that "Tay, kung nakuha lang naming yung plate number nung Expedition, kami mismo pupuntang LTO para hahanapin yung nakabangga sa iyo. Kami mismo yung haharap sa kanya."

Now, even though his left foot is still swollen, he forces himself to drive. "Para lang naa ko makaon ug makapalit ko ug tambal," he says. Just so that I can eat and buy the medicines I need. "Mingaw na ko," he tells me. He is sad. He misses his wife and children. He wishes he had never come to Metro Manila.
Why am I writing this? Why am I telling his story? To some, it may not be any more different from any other sob story of a probinsyano discovering the sad truth about life in Manila.

But if it was "just another sob story," why do I feel so angry? Why do I feel like I want to get out of the house right now and hunt down every black Expedition in Metro Manila, until I find whoever it was who caused the hit and run accident? Why do I feel so frustrated? Why do I feel like I need to be the agent of justice for this man whom I barely know?

I'll have to admit that one reason for my emotional reaction is a bit selfish—it has to do with what I do. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I head to one of the top universities in the Philippines to teach philosophy. One of the things that I hope they learn from me is how every action we make has an effect on other people, whether we know it or not. The other thing I hope they learn is to respect and value every person, every unique individual alive. I worry a lot about whether or not they see the point.

After Manong Jaime's story, I half fear for my students. Would they have done the same, leaving whatever damage they inflicted in their wake? Or would they have done the right thing, would they have taken responsibility for whatever effects their actions had caused? Would they have helped Manong Jaime—or whoever other person was injured in the accident?

The other reason for my indignation is a bit harder to articulate. What repeats over and over in my head is: "I can't believe things like this still happen. I can't believe this injustice will just go silently away. I can't believe one person can treat another person, a fellow human being like that!" I silently curse the anonymous driver of the black Expedition.

I'm a bit embarrassed by my thoughts. Mang Jaime is far more charitable than I. He seems to have put himself in the shoes of the person driving the Expedition. "Siguro natatakot siyang mahuli ng pulis," he speculates. "O baka nakainom." There seems to be no hint of anger in Mang Jaime's voice, as far as I can tell.
I have to do something, I realize. But all I could do at that moment was give a little extra on top of what it read on the meter. Not much, really. I get off the cab, and start crying as soon as I shut the gate behind me. What must I do? What can I do?

8 January 2008
I still don't know the answer to my question, nor can I find any adequate way to conclude what I've written.

A few minutes after arriving home last night, I called my boyfriend and told him Mang Jaime's story. He, too, was indignant. He hit upon an idea, though. "If you really want to help, why don't you? Magkano ang isang tiket sa barko pauwi ng Davao? Baka pwede kang makatulong na bayaran yung utang niya o yung kailangan niyang bilhing gamot? Kaya nating makagawa ng paraan." And, I agree—there is a way that I can help, render charity by assisting him financially. After all, I jotted down his full name, took note of the plate number of his unit, the taxi company he works for—it would not be too hard to track him down. Maybe I will take the advice.

But that still leaves me dissatisfied. Somewhere, out there, on the streets of Metro Manila, someone did not take responsibility for his or her actions and is not being held to account for it. Someone did an injustice to another human being, and pretended it did not happen.

Maybe, you're thinking: So, you want justice, then? How's that going to happen? And In a sense, you have the right of it—our formal justice system operates at a snail's pace, overloaded by immense case loads. Being a vigilante is certainly not an option at all. How can justice be done? I don't know either.

But I'm hoping that, by writing this, I at least did something. Please pass this on—do something, too. Who knows—one day, this might show up in the inbox of an anonymous driver of a black Expedition that was speeding in the Roxas Ave. area, in the wee hours of 15 November 2007.


I wrote the source of the e-mail asking how I can help. I wanted to send money to her to forward to Mang Jaime, and I asked for contact information. Even just a little cash might go a long way if pooled from everybody. Recently, she sent this message written by PJ:

Dear Jason, Ynganne, and all my friends (and their friends) who responded, forwarded, and were touched by Manong Jaime's story:

Thank you all for the amazing response and outpouring of support for Manong Jaime. Thank you for spreading his story to everyone you know. His story has reached so many people who want to come to his aid, and many of you have told me that you can help financially, as well as help him get back home, and even finding a new job in Davao. I never expected any of this! The story has even reached one of the councilors of Davao City (I don't know, who, just got the word through Kapi) who wants to help as well.

The next step for us now is to find Manong Jaime, full name Jaime Elisondo (or Elizondo). The cab that he drives has plate number PVM 718, owned and operated by Angel John Taxi (Valenzuela). Kapi called the LTFRB, however, we can only get the exact address of the taxi company, Angel John, if we go to the LTFRB main office in East Avenue, QC. I'm appealing to any of you to please text me at [PJ's number] if you can go within the next to days. We really need to do this ASAP, the sooner, the better, but my work schedule (and Kapi's work schedule) prevent us from going to LTFRB during office hours.

We really need to get in touch with Manong Jaime as soon as we can so that we can talk to him and ask him what he needs help the most with--and, knowing that, we'll have concrete goals and amounts to come up with.

Let's make sure Manong Jaime's story doesn't end here!

Thank you all again for your support! This experience has really transformed the way I see people, and the power of just a single person.

- PJ Mariano

PS. The struggle for justice is also something that I'd like to continue for Manong Jaime, so please continue to tell his story--it WILL happen that the anonymous driver will read that story and have to face up to his responsibility, one way or another.


Frankly, I don't have time myself to contact LTFRB for the information as well. If you are able to, do let me know your findings. I hope that this story will reach the driver of that black Ford Explorer

10 January 2008

New Year Revelry

Before moving on to 2008, I would like to share some photos from our simple yet happy New Year celebrations!

We had family visit us on New Year's eve; here's Jo-Lo with cousins and Tita.
Brother-in-law Jojo with wife Arlene and kid JayJay spent the New Year's with us.
Jo-Lo had a grand time with the neighborhood kids.

We had fountains and some simple fireworks to liven up the night. Jo-Lo can't get enough of the fountains!
At the stroke of 12 midnight, everybody jumped! Then my wife welcomed the New Year with coins and sweets

The Chinese said seafood on the table is considered lucky this year. Who's to argue? So aside from the local favorites, we also served fish, shrimps and squid. It was one extraordinary media noche and we loved it!
Jo-Lo took this photo. He learns quickly in how to operate gadgets. I think he's taken after his dad.

Happy New Year! From Nick, Tina, and Jo-Lo

08 January 2008

an iPhone review

I admit it. I am a gadget freak. When the Matrix movie featured this Nokia phone with a sliding keypad cover, I got myself the closest thing: a Nokia 7110. And I had to wait for 3 months for my order to come in. When the first ever Nokia phone with polyphonic tones came out (the 7650), I lined up for one. When Siemens came up with a small phone that can display 7 lines of text, I got one for myself. And I also went through the gaming console phase.

Those were my gadget freak days. When I got married, priorities changed. I skipped PSP, the WII, the iPods. Rather than buying something for myself, I'd rather get something for my wife or son. And - dare I say it? - I was ready to settle for a phone with just SMS and call features!

And then came the online video of Steve Jobs' launching of the iPhone. I watched mesmerized. I simply got to have it! The last couple of months was enamoured with looking for an iPhone. I practically gave up on it and left the searching to my good buddy Harry.

And he finally found one! One morning he dropped it off my room. I took one look at it and felt that I really didn't want such a phone, even if it was going to be my holiday present for myself. But I decided to just take a little peep into what it can do...

Whoops, look at what we have here. I brought home the Powerbook! Hmm... let's see what will happen if I sync it with iTunes...

I spent the next few hours transferring photos, songs, and music videos, and configuring the device for my preferences. So much for losing my gadget freakness! I spent a couple of nights converting a couple of movie favorites into iPhone format. I was hooked.

So how is the iPhone like?
As an iPod, it's simply amazing. I love the coverflow which enables you to visually flick through your album and song selections. I love the huge screen and the crisp images! I love the music output.

As a WiFi device, I love it. The pages load and display nicely. Controls are so easy to use!

The camera captures really nice images even in low light conditions. Which I cant say the same for the Nokia N80, with its 3Mpixel camera. And you get the entire screen as your viewfinder when you take photos! Nice.

The interface is so simple you don't need a manual to familiarize yourself with it.

As a phone...
It's a cinch to make calls! And you get a full screen photo of the person you're talking to. And the screen turns off when you press it to your ear.

As an SMS device, that's where most of my expectations fall short. In a country where we send and receive SMS and MMS like we have meals 5 times a day, the features of the iPhone fall short. Imagine, you cannot forward messages! The horror! And you cannot send a single message to multiple recipients! Unspeakable!

Typing your messages also takes a lot of getting used to. Of course, we send more messages in Filipino than English but the dictionary kept substituting words. In fairness, the dictionary is also trying to learn some of the Filipino terms but typing can be frustrating sometimes. I thus try to send messages in English, which the dictionary is built for, and that's where I can see the dictionary working out. You don't have to accurately press on the right letters; the dictionary will help you get the right words in.

But still... I wonder why they didn't at least include message forwarding and sending to multiple recipients. It's as if the developers or the beta testers have never tried SMS and MMS before.


So right now, I find myself smiling when I use the iPod features and surf on it, but get frustrated at times when I send text messages. It's a love-hate relationship.

Jan 09 update:
A colleague who also has an iphone dropped by my place awhile ago. He took a look at my phone and wondered how come I did not have some features which his phone has. Such as sending to multiple recipients and forwarding messages. Whaaaaatttt! And installing games and applications. WHAAAATTTT!!! My phone is running version 1.1.1 and his is running version 1.1.2. So I thought it was a matter of upgrading the version. I googled for upgrade procedures and found this one at Finance Manila. But it called for a PC and I had a PowerPC Mac so while contemplating on that, I came across the fact that I had to have a file called Oktoprep in order to start the upgrade process. I didn't have this in my Installer section so I googled for this file and landed on tuaw.com which provided for an instant jailbreak procedure which will allow you to install applications on your iPhone! Nice! So I wifi'ed my way to jailbreakme.com and soon I was installing eBooks, Dictionaries, and games on the iPhone! And then my colleague also instructed me to install WeTool so I can forward messages and send to multiple recipients. I was able to go to the iPhonesTalk site and got the WeTool app. And now I can do the SMS functions I wanted to do! Wow! Thanks guys!

03 January 2008

Nasugbu, Batangas Getaway

My first post for the year! Yipee!

To start it off, allow me to greet you a Happy, happy New Year and here's to a 2008 full of new experiences and adventures!

And to give a quick update on my yearender to-do-list:
1. Watch a movie in iMax - done!
2. Watch a play - done!
3. Buy a new phone (to replace my office phone) - done!
4. Trek and spend the night under the stars - undone!
5. See my friends from Questor days and friends from my old neighborhood - 50% done!
6. Pay off my two credit cards - 50% done!
7. Start my food blog - 50% done!
8. Monetize my blog - I could use the money - undone!

I was only able to complete 45% of my tasks! Darn. I wasn't able to do items 7 and 8 because I was at home practically the entire holiday season and we don't have internet access (Jurassic!). My other credit card is still quite busy paying off important stuff, things that perhaps I may be able to share with you three to four months from now, and as for item 4... I really would have loved a pre-Christmas trek but what a hectic December it was! And then I went home for the holidays. Oh well.

We did, however have a wonderful trek last October which I was not able to blog about. It was really more of a vacation than a trek. Our vehicles practically escorted us to the beach front. We pitched tent by the beach, behind an open cottage. It was wonderful. The waters of the private beach is quite calm as it is in a secluded cove, with a couple of fisherfolk houses near the area. We spent the night under the stars, cooked wonderful meals, and thoroughly enjoyed the waters and the scenery. I hope we can go back. I hope everyone can have wonderful adventures in 2008!

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