September 17, 2010

Nothing To Look Forward To

So it looks like we won't be coming home for Christmas. For the past two weeks, I have been losing sleep, poring over websites late into the night, looking for affordable plane fares to Manila. I always come up empty handed. If it's not a ticket that's sure to burn a deep hole in my pocket, then it's a flight that will make us take 10, or even 20 hour layovers in the airport. I don't want to say it's not worth it, whether money-, time-, or stress-wise, because going home for Christmas is definitely worth it, but there are limits. I mean, we can probably spend the holidays in London. I've checked the price of plane tickets and hotels in London, and we're bound to pay the same price as a two-week holiday in the UK as we would for a single plane fare to Manila. But then there's the nagging thought: Will it be as fun as spending Christmas in Manila, together with the rest of the family? My sister and her husband will be coming home for Christmas, so that would mean spending the holidays together as a unit, something which we haven't done for the previous three Chirstmases.

For now, I have to get that thought off my head. Even though it's barely end of September, I can already feel how lonely this Christmas is going to be.

April 08, 2010

The Magnificent Bastard

Spring is definitely here, with its fickle sunshine mornings and afternoond showers. Pretty soon, it's gonig to be summer. Time to look great, whether it's for a Sunday barbeque or just lounging about around the company coffee machine.

I've been looking for an alternative to GQ for tips on how to dress up, and came up with The Magnificent Bastard. Unlike GQ, which mostly gives advice on how to look polished, I go for the "slightly stressed" look. The Magnificent Bastard has a term for this: artful dishevelment. Cool, huh? This look involves small details as rolling up your sleeves above the elbows, which I haven't done for a very long time. Seems I've been stuck in that era where you just roll up your sleeves somewhere between elbow and wrist.

Now that I've got the sleeve-rolling business settled, time to learn how to tie a Windsor. Any suggestions which websites to visit?

February 19, 2010

Irresponsible, at the very least...

Outright moronic would best describe what four call center agents from Philippines-based Sitel did to the customers of their client, Telecom, a cellular communications provider based in New Zealand. Five Telecom customers reported receiving obscene messages from their provider. Further investigations showed that the messages came from Telecom's outsourced customer service provider Sitel.

What were those four people thinking? Other than the fact that they will surely lose their jobs, apparently, even the Philippine police are now involved in the investigations given the serious nature of the offense. Apart from that, I can just imagine the backlash on the Philippine community in New Zealand. I have some friends who moved to New Zealand and I have yet to hear from them how this has affected the Filipinos there. I hope there won't be any serious Pinoy-bashing that will happen as a result of this.

By far, seven internet sites are already carrying the news item. For sure, more will pick up on this. For more information, here are the sites:
Radio New Zealand
The Southland Times
Earth Times
Computer World
Newstalk ZB Auckland
New Zealand Herald
The National Business Review

February 10, 2010

Pompom, February 9, 2010

He would always be there, the first to greet me as I would come out of my car. He wasn't afraid to show how excited he was to see me, whether I was gone abroad for two and a half years, or I was just walking back from the sari-sari store. For some reason, he always wanted to follow everybody around the house, that is except when you go up the stairs. He was always afraid of heights, and never did learn how to properly walk down a flight of stairs. He would never get to learn that now, but that's alright. He's in a place now where he probably wouldn't want to get down from.

We love you Pom. Thank you for guarding us, thank you for guarding the house. Thank you for being the loyal friend and companion that anyone would love to have in a dog. We will really, really miss you.

October 05, 2009

If I Were A Rich Man

Becca's challege for today is to name five things you would do, if money was not an object.

1. Charity, charity, charity - The Philippines has been hit hard by calamity recently. Two very strong typhoons had passed through the country, one almost right on top of the other. The first one, storm system Ketsana, dumped almost 400mm of rain in Metro Manila in 6 hours. This is almost one month of rainfall in half a day, and caused massive flooding in areas in Metro Manila which normally never gets flooded. Damage has been estimated to run into hundereds of millions, nearly 300 people are dead, and thousands are forced to abandon their homes and are now living in relocation centers. The second storm system, Parma, hit northern and north-eastern Philippines, also causing massive floods in my father's province, Ilocos Norte. Because of another storm system lingering in the Asian area, Parma is continuing to linger in the Philippines, still dumping rain and preventing waters from subsiding in alreay flooded areas. These storms have put a massive strain on the government and private organizations' ability to deliver relief goods to affected people. The resources and infrastructure are not there. If I had the money, I would provide funding to the various charity organizations to make sure that people are fed; that relief centers are maintained (in some relief centers, it was reported that there were only one portable toilet to serve 3000 people!); and that those severely affected are given resources to start their lives anew.

2. My own jet - With a pilot at my beck and call, of course, since I do not know how to fly. My wife and I love going on trips, and having one will allow us to go whereever we want, whenever we want. No more searching in Momondo.com for the cheapest fares. Best of all, we can take our friends Ryan; and Alma and Bob and their family, on holidays.

3. A holiday home in Ascona - We've only been to Ascona once, but we immediately fell in love with the place. It has mild weather year-round, it has a lake, and it's close to Lugano, which has it's own airport, so that means jetting in and out should be no problem. There are a lot of really nice areas in Ticino, like Lugano, Locarno, and Bellinzona, but Ascona strikes me as something like a Swiss version of the French Riviera.

4. A lifetime lease with Ferrari - Why drive anything less than the best?

5. Anything my family wants - especially my Mom. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to buy whaterver your family wants, and not worry about the credit card bill later?

September 29, 2009

Politics in the Time of Disaster

First off, I would have to apologize to my English speaking readership. A lot of this post is written in Filipino, because this is a commentary on a friend's Multiply post. Just so to give you an idea what this is all about, this is a first-hand account of my friend who is a volunteer for the Philippine National Red Cross. He was in the middle of rescue and relief operations in one of the hardest hit areas affected by flooding from Typhoon Ondoy. Below is his narrative on what happened...

SHOW TIME

Ang lahat ay naghahanda na para tulungan ang lahat ng biktima na lalabas ng Vista Verde, mga alas dos ng madaling araw ng Lunes.
Kaming mga red cross volunteers, alam na namin ang gagawin namen.
Isulat ang pangalan, bigyan ng pagkain at stub at bigyan ng relief goods na may kasamang bigas, delata at tubig.
Ang daming ambulansya, militar, at media na nag-aabang sa labas, kasi halos bewang pa daw ang baha sa loob.

Mula sa loob ng subdivision, may papalabas na dalawang military trucks na puno daw ng tao.
Isa sa mga unang bumaba si Senador... video rolling... flash... flash... flash...
Buong akala namen na sobrang dami ng tao sa loob ng truck kasi malaking truck eto.
Pero mangilan-ngilan lang ang bumaba nito na biktima ng bagyong Ondoy.
Ang aking nakita lang ay ang isang lola at ina na may kargang baby na mga nasa isa or dalawang buwan pa lamang, na pinasok sa ambulansya para sa unang panlunas.
Pero pagkatapos ng mga ilang sandali bumaba din sila.
"Mag-ingat po kayo." ani ni Senador sabay tapik sa likod ng ina na may baby. flash... flash... flash...

ayun sa mga naririnig namen, tinipon daw muna lahat ng tao muna bago ilabas para kasabay si Senador paglabas! Ayun bidang-bida sya!

Sinabihan ako ng kasamahan ko na magbitbit daw ng relief goods at tinapay at isakay sa truck para ipasok sa loob.
Bitbit agad ako ng dalawang kahon ng tinapay.
Tinanong ako ni Senador, "Para san yan?"
"Ikarga po sa truck para sa loob." ang sagot ko sabay tungo si Senador.
Pagdating ko sa truck para iabot ang aking bitbit, tinanong ako ng militar kung para san eto.
Ang sabi ko para sa loob pero ang sabi sa akin, "Hindi na eto papasok sa loob".
Pano na ang ibang tao sa loob? May ibang tao pa na di pa makalabas ng bahay nila!
Binalik nalang namen ang dala namen sa sasakyan namen.
Utos pala eto ni Senador na ikarga ang relief goods sa truck pero hindi ipapasok sa loob. SUS!

Ilang sandali, umalis na rin si Senador kasabay ang lahat ng militar at ambulansya.
Naging tahimik ang labas ng Vista Verde, kaming mga Red Cross volunteers nalang ang naiwan kasama ang ibang tao na nakalabas sa subdivision.
Habang sumisikat na si haring araw, may mga ilang tao na ang lumalabas ng subdivision.
Ang ilan sa mga eto nangangailangan ng gamot at pang-unang lunas, lalo na ung amang may bitbit na anak na namumutla na.
Humihingi sa amen ng tulong, ngunit wala kaming maibigay dahil walang ambulansya na naka-antabay.
May isang lolo na gustong magpaBP, buti nalang isa sa kasamahan namen ay nurse at may dalang gamit, kaya nakuhanan eto ng BP.

Nasan na ang mga ambulansya na nag-aabang sa labas?

Ayun kasama ni Senador! Baket walang man lang naiwan para sa ibang tao?
Alam naman nilang madami pang stranded sa loob ng subdivision.
Hindi ba naisip ni Senador yun?


The senator was eventually identified as Richard Gordon, the Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross himself. Of course I couldn't confirm this myself, but if it came from someone who was personally there, and who had no reason to make a baseless accusation on the good Senator, then something smells. And it isn't the estero water that's still engulfing half of Metro Manila at the moment.

I just had to share this because a batchmate from Philippine Science High School posted an online call for volunteers on behalf of the Philippine Red Cross to help in the relief operations. Wag na lang, 'toy. I don't feel like making myself party to the hypocrisy of Philippine politics. In the face of disaster, some people are still putting their political ambitions ahead of providing help to those severely affected.

September 28, 2009

The Big Flood - Storm System Ondoy, Metro Manila


Ondoy Aftermath
Originally uploaded by John Javellana
Last Saturday, September 26, 2009, storm system Ondoy hit Metro Manila in the morning. Raining continuously for six hours, the storm dumped 455mm of rain. Typhoon Katrina, which hit the United States in 2005, was a baby compared to Ondoy. By the time the storm was over, eighty percent of Metro Manila was submerged in water, with some areas reporting flooding that was higher than man-height. As of today, between 100-120 people are believed dead, and hundreds more missing. Needless to say, more casualties are to be reported as the water recedes. Damage to agriculture alone was pegged at PHP500 million. Damage to other properties are believed to more than double this number.

How and why this happend, we will never really know. There are a lot of factors. The continuous torrent of rain; the insufficient drainage of water from the Metro's streets and highways; the clogged esteros. In the end, this will be another disaster in the long list of disasters, man-made or otherwise, to hit the Philippines. And sad to say, there's not a single note-worthy solution in sight.

Interestingly, here's an exerpt from Gloria Macagal-Arroyo's State of the Nation Address last July:

“As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must be prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not; the mapping of flood-and-landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved, with weather-tracking facilities in Subic, Tagaytay, Mactan, Mindanao, Pampanga.

“We have worked on flood control infrastructure like those for Pinatubo, Agno, Laoag, and Abucay, which will pump the run off waters from Quezon City and Tondo flooding Sampaloc. This will help relieve hundreds of hectares in this old city of its age-old woe.

“Patuloy naman yung sa CAMANAVA, dagdag sa Pinatubo, Iloilo, Pasig- Marikina, Bicol River Basin, at saka river basin ng Mindanao.”

Big words. And yet they remain just that. Words.

It is also maddening to know that since 2001, the Philippine Government has collected P56.5 billion from Road Taxes; but instead of channeling this money to improvement of road infrastructure, it has instead been allocated to other things, like funding for ASEAN summit in 2007. Once again, corrupt hands have been dipping at the cookie jar, funnelling away money for their own ends instead of pouring it into much needed better roads and highways.

Election time is around the corner, and for sure, this latest tragedy will be in everybody's minds as each candidate lays out his platform of government. I only hope that this time, the Filipino people will be wiser in choosing the right person to lead the country.

September 21, 2009

Five Favorite Drinks

After a weekend of brazen drunkenness, I think I see it fit that I start Monday with a meme from Becca about five of my favorite drinks.

1. Espresso - I've always loved coffee, but I've been experiencing somewhat of an espresso renaissance for the past year or so. Personally, I think of espresso as the purest form of coffee. It's intense, the flavors are complex, and it always comes out differently, regardless if you use the same machine and same grounds. I usually use my Jura machine for my morning fix, but whenever I have the time, I would use my Mokka maker which I bought from a small shop in Venice.

2. 7&7 - There are several recipe's for this quintessentially male drink, but I like mine with one part Seagram's whisky, two parts 7-Up, and plenty of ice. This drink was introduced to me by a friend from Arizona and I liked it ever since. Seagram's is difficult to get in normal liquor stores here in Switzerland so I try to get a bottle whenever I fly out of Zurich Airport. Also costs cheaper if you buy it from a Duty Free Store.

3. Homemade Orange and Carrot Juice - Oranges and carrots are quite expensive in Manila, but since these two are so good for the body, we bought our own juicer so we can make our own, preservative-free. We kept this habit even after we've moved to Switzerland. And it's so much better because oranges and carrots are so cheap here! A three kilo bag of oranges are about CHF4, and a two kilo bag of carrots are CHF3 in our local Migros store. These will yield about two liters of juice.

4. Caipirinha - Plenty of lime crushed with some sugar, a healthy splash of cachasa (native Brazilian liquor), and some soda water is all you need for this refreshing drink. Very nice to sip during hot summer nights when you go out clubbing with friends. There's a nice story how I learned about this drink: I met this girl a few years ago in a popular bar in Eastwood. I was hanging out by the bar and she came up and ordered Caipirinha. The bartender didn't know what it was, and asked me. I didn't know it either. So she had to explain how to make one. Of course most bars in the Philippines don't stock up on cachasa, so we had to make do with gin and vodka. Technically, when you use vodka on Caipirinha, you don't call it Caipirinha anymore, but Caipirovska..

5. Water - everybody should drink at least 8 glasses everyday.

September 16, 2009

Ticket

Are you the kind of person who gives names to inanimate things you own? Because we do. We give names to almost everything we have. By names, I mean REAL names. And the names would always be something that would best describe the moment when we bought or first saw the item. Take for example our SUV back in Manila. It was a black Kia Sportage that we bought back in 2007. The Sportage was just being reintroduced into the Philippine market at that time, so there weren't too much of it on the road back then. We named her "Inday". Why Inday, you ask? Because it was a colored black. And we had intended it to be a workhorse due to the fact that I'll be using it everyday to work from Quezon City to Paranaque. Pretty much like Inday the household help. At one time we had a standing coat hanger. This one, we called him Harry. For Harry Potter. This was because during the night, it's silhouette pretty much resembled a wizard wearing a flowing cape.

The practice continued even after we had moved to Switzerland. Our SUV was named Spidey, because when we first saw it in the showroom, we were accompanied by our friend Bob and his son Jordan. Jordan was wearing a Spiderman cap at that time. And when we bought our Lazyboy at a local secondhand shop, we named it 50/50 because when she asked me how much I liked the sofa, that's what I said.

Earlier this week, we had to pick up another single seater sofa that was being given away for free. The owner is also from our company, but he's giving away most of his furniture now because he's being relocated to our head office in Paris. So we signed up to get his Poang sofa, a really popular item in Ikea. I've been eyeing one for a long time already and getting this for free was really sweet. Anyway, we agreed to pick up the item in Ennetbaden, a small town about 20 minutes away from our place. I've only driven around Ennetbaden three or four times, and I've been warned about the narrow one-way streets and some "No Entry" areas. We were driving across a small bridge when suddenly we noticed something flash. We've been flashed! That means we entered a "No Entry" zone, and now we have to wait a week or so to find out how much we have to pay for the fine. We went on to get the sofa, which isn't going to be free anymore since I have to pay for the traffic violation. And what did we name the sofa? We named her "Ticket".

September 11, 2009

Food for Thought Friday

Can't think of anything to write about so I'll just take a random meme from the web.

Breakfast
What do you like most about this time of the year?

Call me weird but during this time of the year, I like the way the temperature varies during the day. Here in Switzerland, or at least in suburban Zurich, it gets really cold in the late evenings and early mornings. Really cold, but not freezing cold. Cold enough that you have to swear a fairly thick jacket during the morning commute. Before lunchtime, you start to peel down to your shirt and pullovers. But in the afternoons, it gets hot that you break into a good sweat in the offices. Well, at least in our offices, because we tout ourselves to be a "green" company, and green companies do not have airconditiong installed. By the time you go home in the afternoon, you're down to your shirt. The only hassle is you have to carry all of your outerwear and office gear.

Lunch
What has been your favorite age so far?

Tough question, because I can't remember any point in time which I can say I really didn't like. But if I were to pick any single age, that would be 21. I was young, fresh out of college. I had just landed a good job in a company that within weeks of getting hired was sending me to the US for a long term assignment.

Dinner
What was the funnest thing or best memory you made this summer?

This summer was really good because my mom visited us here in Switzerland, and so did my sister and brother-in-law who are based in Beijing. We travelled to Germany and France together. It was too bad that my brother was not able to join us. I've always loved having roadtrips with family.

Midnight Snack
What is your favorite thing to make for dinner?

Anything that requires firing up the barbeque to do some grilling.