February 21, 2008

UP Centennial questionnaire - extended (from Mike)

The other day I tagged along my boss to assist in his presentation at the UP College of Business Administration. The scenery along the Academic Oval brought back memories, and at that moment I wished I wasn’t just passing by.

Since it’s UP centennial celebration spirit everywhere, I grabbed this from Mike. I first saw this questionnaire from Rubs.

Here goes…

UP Centennial questionnaire - extended (from Mike)

Student number?
91-****

College?
College of Mass Communication. Kung nasa Engg daw ang mga guwapo, nasa CMC naman daw ang mga magaganda! Hwehe!

Ano ang course mo?
Bachelor of Arts in Communication: Communication Research.

Nag-shift ka ba o na-kick out?
Neither. Nagplano ako mag-shift sa either Engg or Archi nung second year ko pero hindi natuloy.

Saan ka kumuha ng UPCAT?
Sa auditorium ng UP Visayas Iloilo Campus. A few chairs away from me seated the girl who later became my dormmate, collegemate, classmate, orgmate, friend, girlfriend, and wife.

Favorite GE (General Education) classes?
Integrated Comm. 1-2. So fun and so stress-free -- swak na swak sa isang probinsyanong aswang este freshman na gaya ko.

Favorite PE?
Advance Swimming. Co-ed na kasi (hehe!). Plus, dito ko natutunan ang lahat ng alam ko sa survival swimming.

Saan ka nag-aabang ng hot girls sa UP?
CMC skywalk, Molave Residence Hall, Kamia and Sampaguita Residence Halls

Favorite Professors?
Prof. Elena Pernia, Prof. Jose Lacson, Prof. Florinda Mateo, and Prof. Aleli Quirante. My mentors for applied research.

Least favorite GE (General Education) class?
Humanities 1. Tinamaan ng kulog ang Brothers Karamasov na yan!

Did you sign up for Saturday classes?
Math 11 and PI 100 yata.

Nakapag-field trip ka ba?
Sa cultural sites ng Laguna at Antipolo, noong Humanities 2.

Naging CS ka na ba or US sa UP?
Undergrad, no. Grad studies, yes, once.

What Organization/Fraternity/Sorority were you a member of?
CommResSoc (Communication Research Society), Tong-Ill Moo Do (UP TMD), and UP Hub-eag.

Saan ka tumatambay palagi?
CMC CommResSoc tambayan, Molave ping-pong and TV areas (pag tinatamad lumabas), Acad Oval (jogging time), at Main Libe steps or Main Libe Social Sciences section (group meetings etc time).

Dorm, Boarding house, o Bahay?
Dorms. First year in Kalayaan, tapos palipat-lipat ng Molave and Yakal from second to fourth year. Pero kahit dormer ako, palagi pa rin akong late sa classes.

Kung walang UPCAT test at malaya kang nakapili ng kurso mo sa UP, ano yun?
Computer Science.

Sino ang pinaka-una mong nakilala sa UP?
Si Vincent Villanueva, sa Kalayaan Residence Hall noong Day One ko sa UP.

First play na napanood mo sa UP?
Largo Desolato, sa Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall. Required kasi para sa isang review paper.

Saan ka madalas mag-lunch?
Molave Residence Dining Hall at kina Manang Mallari sa Area 2.

Name the 5 most conyo orgs in UP.
I can’t operationalize the term yet.

Name 5 of the coolest orgs/frats/soro in UP.
I find Samaskom cool, as well as UP Rep. The other three would be the ones I joined. Hehe.

May frat/soro bang nag-recruit sa yo?
Tatlong frat, pero wala akong sinalihan.

Masaya ba sa UP?
Extremely.

Nakasama ka na ba sa rally?
Once, in the University-led rally at the Senate, protesting against tuition fee increase.

Ilang beses ka bumoto sa Student Council?
Once lang yata, noong tumakbo for USC Chairperson si Renato Reyes. Hindi siya ang binoto ko.

Pinangarap mo rin bang mag-laude nung freshman ka?
Yes. Libre mangarap.

Kanino ka pinaka-patay sa UP?
My ex-girlfriend (now my wife).

Kung di ka UP, anong school ka?
AMA Computer University, kung tumatanggap sila ng late applicants -- UP lang kasi kinuhanan ko ng exam.

***EXTENDED VERSION***

First Year Block
J-4

Very First Subject
Integrated Comm 1-2

Favorite Elective
Applied Anthropology. We get to do lots of field work. Ang saya makitulog sa iba’t ibang bahay.

Pinaka-terror na teacher
In terms of fear effect, I say Prof. Winnie Monsod. She could spot an inattentive or sleepy student in a class of over a hundred, and she can humiliate that student with the most biting comment. But she is definitely one of the best.

Most Favorite Major Subject
CommRes 130 (?) yata, or Project planning, development, monitoring and evaluation under Dr. Quirante. It’s the subject that brought me to Mt. Banahaw for one of my most enlightening spiritual and social experiences.

Least Favorite Major Subject
Parang wala. Naks!

Favorite UP Tradition
UP Fair at Samaskom's Live Aids.

UP Tradition(s) Missed
UP Fair (sniff!)

Most Memorable Thing You Did Just For Bonus Points
Noong MS11 ko, every weekend, kailangan namin mag-contribute ng isang "original" joke sa logbook ng Infantry Batallion para may merits kami. Corny kasi yung jokes ng Kapitan namin at that time, kaya nanghihingi siya ng jokes sa mga kadete.

Pinakamasarap na Pisbol
The one near the DMST complex and old Post Office.

Pinakamurang pamasahe ng IKOT
P1.25

Pinakapayborit na Merienda
Isaw ni Mang Larry sa tabi ng Kalayaan Residence Hall.

Umulan ba nung University Graduation mo?
Nope.

February 15, 2008

A trip to Hungduan, Ifugao

The timing was impeccable: the Techies sorely needed an outlet, and Vlad have just the right answer at the right moment.

The Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SitMo) isn't your typical vacation tour program. It has an advocacy, and it didn’t take long for us to decide that here’s something worth roughing it up with nature over the weekend.

And so the six of us Techies, with four of our friends, signed up for the February 9-10 Tunod ad Hungduan tour in Hapao, Hungduan, Ifugao.

We met with the rest of the Tunod participants at the Autobus terminal along Espana Avenue, Manila in Friday, 9pm. There were over 50 of us, consisting of bank employees, staffs of political institutions, a family, media practitioners, college students, their teachers, private persons, and (ehem) social research specialists.

A very diverse group, I must say, which became more lively when a separate group from Baguio later on merged with us in Banaue.

Autobus number 702 left the Manila terminal at around 10pm. This bus has one of the coldest airconditioning I've ever experienced. (I discovered later that provincial buses like this one has a separate engine for its airconditioning. This must explain why the main engine had no problem negotiating the uphill drive even when the aircon is at full blast.)

Throughout the 8-hour trip, amid chattering teeth, I wondered to no end why the bus’ thermostat had to be so cold. I realized the wisdom of it all when we got off at Banaue – the ultra-cold aircon helped acclimatize my body to the temperature of Ifugao.

Brilliant.

The instant coffee, longganisa, scrambled egg, and native Ipugo rice served at the Halfway Lodge and Restaurant in Banaue tasted so good. We were given a few minutes to rest and freshen up before the two-hour trip to the municipality of Hungduan, so I had my first taste of Ifugao cold shower (there’s a heater, but I doubt if it’s working at all then).

Before leaving Halfway Lodge, the SitMo team gave a general briefing about the entire tour, divided the participants into smaller tour groups, and gave tips on moving along the terraces’ dikes, some of which reach up to five-storeys high.

I found the last one very useful -- my life would later on depend on it.

Vlad, Ahmed, Mike and I wanted to ride on the jeepney rooftop not because we were being pasaway, but only because the jeepney was already crowded inside. The hopes of enjoying the cool air and scenery were just secondary.

We ended up riding with one of the SitMo coordinators, Charles, in the SitMo Fuego pick-up truck. We had a few shots of vodka along the way. As courtesy we offered Charles a shot of vodka, which of course he cheerfully declined. Like most men in Ifugao, he is more than happy chewing his betel nut and lime powder wrapped in a kind of leaf (I forgot what it is called).

We were treated to a lunch that featured the best of native Ifugao-style cooking at Barangay Hapao, Hungduan. The Vice-Mayor of Hungduan was also there to welcome the participants.

I'm usually not fond of pork and chicken, but I enjoyed the food throughout the two-day tour-visit, even if it was a bit monotonous (mainly chicken and pork always cooked in the same traditional way). Sunday morning breakfast was the only time we had fish, and I was appreciative of this because fish, even the tuyo (dried fish), gets very expensive this far up the mountains.

After lunch, we changed to our planting attire and set off to our designated rice paddy in the terraces.

We then learned the true meaning of the song, "Magtanim ay 'di biro." For hours we transplanted the rice seedlings under the guidance and assistance of local farmers and their children. We then took a dip at the nearby river to wash off.




Our planting was far from perfect -- the lines were crooked, the spaces uneven, and several times throughout the whole process we trapped each other by planting around ourselves. Crazy.

But we're proud of our rice paddy, and everyone was hoping the seedlings would survive, however crude our handiwork.

That night, the SitMo coordinators, in cooperation with the Hapao cultural dance troupe and Hapao elementary school students, treated us to an evening of cultural shows. They showed us how to wear the traditional Ifugao garments and the basics of Ifugao planting ritual dance.

The evening became especially memorable for me because this was where I lost my wedding ring (my numb finger never felt it come off). The missing wedding ring incident briefly turned into a lively topic of conversation between our tour coordinators and me. “How are you going to tell your wife about this?” was their favorite question. Haha!

As of blog time, the SitMo team still have no updates about my missing wedding ring.

Sigh.

We stayed at a local house that also doubles as an eatery and sari-sari store. Homestays such as this one are really practical for visitors, either for overnight or long-term accommodation.

On Sunday morning we had an hour-long hike to the hot springs of Barangay Hapao. The route consists mainly of narrow footpaths and dikes across vast rice paddies. Some of these dikes have a vertical drop of over five storeys high.

Now, here’s where my problem began.

Since day one, I had no difficulty walking along these dikes, though at some point, due to fatigue, I get a bit disoriented when the dike reaches a certain height. I calculated that my fear of heights gets triggered when the vertical drop exceeds three storeys high.

I was doing just fine that morning, walking past one dike after the other with minimal concern by focusing my attention on the scenery and talking to the nearest person.


My glitch began when we reached what I believe is the highest and most ill-constructed (because the stone steps are too narrow and loosely packed, unlike the photo shown at the left) dike we encountered. About a fourth way along this dike, Lynn slipped and fell knee-deep into the rice paddy, the other side of which would be the five-storey high drop. It took a while for Aileen and Mike to help her regain footing, but by the time the three of them proceeded along the dike, I was already stiff with fear.

It was the worst time for my fear to kick in – I was barely halfway along the dike, with still about twenty meters of narrow and loose stone steps ahead. My group had already moved on, I was left alone along the dike, with the other group lagging far behind. My balance was so messed-up and my knees so weak I could hardly stand. When I stood up, I couldn’t take more than two steps without falling into the rice paddy.

So I had no choice but to wade through the rice paddy to get across that darn dike. (I am so sorry for all the rice seedlings I stepped on. I hope the farmers could still fix them).

The hot spring was a soothing balm to my wracked nerves and punctured pride -- I never thought my fear of heights could be so debilitating. I saw later that there’s another visitor who fell victim to that treacherous dike – she showed up at the hot spring with her short pants partly-covered in mud. Mercifully, we don’t have to pass that darn dike when we go back to base.

But still, some of the dikes are way too high for my comfort, and despite the relaxing time at the hot springs, I couldn’t regain the confidence and frame of mind I had before. I tried every tip I heard during the pre-tour briefing: "...put your weight away from the drop side, look five steps ahead, don’t look at your feet, and, most of all, never look down..." Our guide Nancy kept poking fun at the way I tense up and wobble every time we pass by a sheer drop, but she was kind enough to keep on talking to distract me from freezing in fear.

I was thanking the high heavens when we finally cleared the dikes and reached solid mountain grounds.

The entire group paid a courtesy visit to the Hungduan Municipal Hall, where we had our lunch and were awarded a certificate for participating in SitMo.

On our way home, the aircon of Autobus number 702 didn’t feel as cold it was before. It must be the effect of the rice wine we had along the way. Got home at 3 a.m., Monday.

I’ll tell Joan about the wedding ring when she wakes up. I’m just glad I’m home.

***

Mic uploaded some of his snapshots of this trip (Tunod ad Hungduan Tour February 9-10, 2008 (mic), so did our trigger-happy co-participants Mai (tunod ad hungduan, hapao, hungduan ifugao) and Che (Tunod Ad Hungduan 2008). The Tunod 2008 Yahoogroup also has select photos here.

Lovely photos, guys.

***
I got sick after our Ifugao adventure, and spent most of the day watching the Senate hearing of the NBN-ZTE controversy on TV. The investigation has taken more interest on the alleged "kidnapping" of Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., the star witness of the investigation.

At one point, the Senate President raised his resentment with what he thought was an anti-Senate stance of the police, and even that of the witness', as manifested by his utter fear of testifying before the Senate.

The Senate President assured everyone in the chamber and the televiewers that the Senate doesn't mean anyone harm. "Hindi kami mamamatay-tao," he says.

Okay, so the Senate is not into killing anyone who testifies. But looking at Engr. Lozada, crying on national TV, I wonder what will be left of him and his family after this is all over.

I pray for him and his family.

***
Happy Valentine to all!

February 08, 2008

Online presence

I searched my name through Google and found only five hits, two of which from sources outside of my own organization.

It's no suprise. Ninety-nine percent of the reports I write, sent regularly at least once a week to a network of media and academic institutions, are never by-lined.

Anyway, I guess the satisfaction lies with seeing any of the reports make it to the pages of the major dailies.

***

Speaking of online presence, based on the very first screenshot of my main character (dated August 14, 2007), turns out I've been playing Perfect World (PW) for half a year now, making it my second longest-played online game.

Ragnarok Online (RO) holds my personal record -- over three (?) years.

I don't think I could stick to any game that long anymore. After the RO magic, all the online games I've played barely lasted months. The motivation -- which, in my case, is never about reaching God-like levels in-game but more of appreciating the game's storyline, mechanics and the community -- simply doesn't last.


***

My head still reel from the revelations of the newest witness in the Senate's investigation of the NBN-ZTE controversy. I never thought alleged kickbacks from projects such as this one could be so ridiculously big.

Over a hundred million dollars going to just one person!

Imagine what this amount could do if put to good use.

February 05, 2008

Huling hirit sa 2007

The last moments of 2007...

My New Year countdown started as early as September 2007, when Joan and I booked our round-trip tickets for Roxas City on December 23 and return flight to Manila via Kalibo on January 2.

Two reasons for this earlier-than-usual travel preparations: 1) we would be spending the holidays in two provinces, and 2) the New Year celebration would be somewhat special because of this.

But like most carefully planned activities, something went wrong with this one.

On December 10, I committed (or rather, condemned) myself and over ten of my officemates to a stressful holiday season by saying "yes" to a project that has to be completed before the year ends.

And so my flight got moved to December 28 and we worked for the most part of Christmas season, pausing only for the office party and Christmas day itself.

Ah the wonders of work. It leaves you with no time to feel sad or sorry about yourself. It simply speeds up time and before you know it, Christmas has passed.

Thanks to my officemates, the project was finished by the time I checked-in Cebu Pacific Airlines' 11 am flight for Roxas City.

Relief...

Spending time with Joan's family always reminds me of how different our two homes are. One is a haven of peace, quietly buzzing with clockwork precision, while the other a hub of lively chaos. Theirs is a place where spaces are defined and governed with rules, while ours seem to have opened its doors to the rest of the community, with my sanctuary reduced to a single room. Each home exudes a totally different energy and inspiration.

We went home to Batan, Aklan in December 29 -- in time to be in the middle of the frenzy of preparation for Father's Day 2008.

This is it... one year of preparation for a 3-day celebration. My uncle, the 2007 Father of the Year, was a picture of excitement and exhaustion. This is his dream. Behind the fatigue, it was clear that he and his family were having the time of their lives.

It was refreshing to see Father's Day in Batan as something more than just music, food, and fanfare. There were outreach activities for the children and poor folks of Batan, and there were even talks about forming a foundation to grant scholarships to poor but deserving students. I am very thankful for all the efforts to put more relevance to this festivity, and I pray all their plans push through.

The Father's Day celebration culminated on the night of New Year's eve. My uncle and his family did a wonderful work of bringing back the traditional feel of the event.
It was the biggest family gathering I've ever attended. I have never seen so many of my relatives gathered in one place. It was a happy, eerie feeling to again be around with people who have been part of my childhood.
Joan's presence completed the magic of it all. When the church bells struck twelve, we were dancing and hugging everyone under the fireworks, while my celebrity cousin Jeff Bolivar of Soapdish serenaded the townfolks.
It was the first time Joan hugged that many people on New Year.
Happy new year! (And happy Year of the Rat!)