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...


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

September 09, 2009

New Haircut

After seven months, I finally got my self a haircut yesterday. I think that was the longest period I ever went without having a haircut. If you would notice from my fairly recent photos in Flickr, I had my hair down to my nape at the back, and close to covering all of my face when i put it out in front. Quite nice, I should say, because my hair, unlike most other guys, is actually like that of a girl's. Really soft, really straight, and really shiny. Siguro kung kukuha ang Pantene ng lalaking hair model, pwede akong magprisinta eh. But all that is gone now. In place, I have my normal hairstyle. Razor cut at the sides and back, and short in front and on top. I now have to make sure I prep my hair with gel or wax in the morning before I leave home kasi pag natuyo nang walang gel, magmumukha akong bondying.

Ba't nga ba inabot nang pagkatagal bago ko naisipang magpagupit? Two reasons I guess. First is the language issue. How can I properly expain how I want it cut? All of my haircut experiences here have been okay naman. I can tell them how I want it done: machinenschnitt (then point to the sides and back) und schnitt kurz (pointing to the top). So far, that hasn't gotten me in trouble. But sometimes, when I notice something is off, like some strands and tufts sticking out in odd places, I don't know how to handle this anymore. I end up just letting it go and fixing whatever it is that needs to be fixed when I get home.

The second issue is cost. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to have a haircut here? The cheapest, and best!, haircut I had so far cost me CHF25. And the most expensive? Tumataginting na CHF60! That's PHP2800. Okay, so maybe that's less than some of you may spend in those posh Makati salons, but for me, that is a lot of money spent on a haircut. Good for me, the wife was able to scout a coiffure that charges CHF29 for my haircut. Actually, it turned out a little more than that: CHF2 for the gel (hehe, maarte ako eh) and CHF2 for the tip. I would definitely go back to that place. Ganda naman yung tabas nila eh, tsaka di na masama yung price.

September 01, 2009

Think About It

1. More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realise you're wrong.

3. Have you ever been walking down the street and realised that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

4. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

5. The letters T and G are very close to each other on a keyboard This recently became all too apparent to me and consequently I will never be ending a work email with the phrase "Regards" again.

6. Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

7. Do you remember when you were a kid; playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in the world did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or faq's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

8. There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

9. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realise I had no idea what was going on when I first saw it.

10. I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

11. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

12. I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

13. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text

14. Lol has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say"

15. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

16. Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

17. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

18. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a d1ck from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

19. Everytime I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

20. What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

21. While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

22. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

23. I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

24. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

25. Bad decisions make good stories.

26. Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB-gun that I always wanted.
546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

27. Is it just me or do high school girls get s1uttier & s1uttier every year?

28. Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

29. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

30. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

31. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

32. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

33. I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this.It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

34. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

35. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

36. I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my itunes.

37. Why is a school zone 40kph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...

38. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

39. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

40. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

41. The other night I ordered takeout, and when I looked in the bag, saw they had included four sets of plastic silverware. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself.
There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat b@stard before dinner.

42. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

43. I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

44. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.