May 23, 2008

My Lakbayan grade is C+!

I got this from Cath. ^ ^


My Lakbayan grade is C+! (Note: Mostly work-related trips)

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

May 22, 2008

Dreaming of bike lanes

With oil price on its relentless rise and the minimum jeepney fare now at Php8.00, it's sad to know that a perfectly functional bicycle is just gathering dust in the garage instead of being ridden to and from work, like what I used to do when I was still in Quezon City (Diliman, to be exact).

It's almost two years year since I moved to Makati City, and I still haven't figured out the safest bike route to QC, if such a thing exist in the first place.

Then again, maybe it's out there, if only I have the guts to take the bike out and brave the streets of Makati.

Presidential aspirant MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando was able to do it in Marikina. I wonder what's keeping MMDA from pushing through with the bicycle lanes for the rest of the metro? Real bicycle lanes, that is, and not like the ones in Quezon City and Manila -- a sign that says "bicycle lane" and white lines along the road do not really give cyclists much protection from other vehicles (a whole freakin' lot of them, with nasty drivers behind the wheel).

***

It was in Hanoi, Vietnam seven years ago where I saw how bicycles and motorcycles could be objects of beauty and romance in people's daily lives.

Hanoi streets are overflowing with bicycles and motorcycles. They are everywhere, and people use them in almost every imaginable way. Bikes in Hanoi are kings of the road! Four-wheel motor vehicles are the minority.

People there do not ride furiously like most cyclists and motorists do here in Metro Manila. They are relaxed, sometimes in deep thought, or casually talking with fellow bikers, or in heated arguments complete with shouting and hand gestures, or in tender conversation.

The last one was a joy to see: couples riding side by side, holding hands and moving in perfect sync. This would be probably be one of the most romantic sights I'll ever see (but sadly, I had no camera with me then, so no photos).

Biking in Metro Manila does not evoke images of romantic couples in tender moments. It conjures images of bloody riders laying on the curb. The evening news would attest to how dangerous the metro streets are for bikers.

Despite the poverty, sometimes I feel the Metro Manila streets have too many 4-wheel motor vehicles already. It seems we are so attached to the car culture that no other commodity could emphasize the gap between the rich and the poor more than the car. Not even the house.

Our own neighbor, for instance, has a Mitsubishi Delica and a 19-something Mitsubishi Lancer (plus two motorcycles), but no garage for all these.

I guess it follows that in the practice of market research in this country, the usual measures of socio-economic class put a heavy premium on the ownership of 4-wheel motor vehicles.

I hope structures like that of Hanoi's or any bicycle-friendly society materialize in Metro Manila. And when that day comes, I pray that I would still be fit to ride a bike.

May 16, 2008

Running on empty

I have an idea now of what it feels like to run low on fuel right smack in the middle of an expressway.

Your eyes strain to look as far ahead as possible for any sign of structure that resembles a gas station while praying hard that the next curve would bring you out of the lonely stretch of nothingness and back into civilization…

But the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) is as new as it gets – nothing but a lonely stretch of smooth, unadulterated concrete road. It could be a sort of heaven for speedsters who have plenty of fuel to burn.

But a speedster I am not, and plenty of fuel I don’t have.

And there’s not a single structure yet in SCTEX that resembles a gas station, and every curve seems to bring forth yet another expanse of that smooth, unadulterated concrete, stretching as far as the straining eyes can see.

Your eyes keep snatching panicked glances at the fuel gauge. You turn off the aircon and partly open the windows. But even in the rush of wind, cold sweat breaks out, and you start seeking comfort in the feel of your mobile phone in your pocket as the road signs flash the remaining distance in agonizingly long intervals…


Subic 53…


42…


23…


18…




It all started when an officemate told me that it takes only an hour and a half at most to reach Subic from the office if we take the SCTEx.

I should have asked what speed could make that kind of travel time.

And so when the office needed us to go to Subic yesterday, my colleague and I – both newbies to the SCTEx – confidently left the office an hour and a half before our appointment.

The foolishness of our decision dawned on me when I saw the distance we have to travel as we enter the expressway.

If we are to make it there on time, we have to be averaging at least 120 kph!

This got me worried. I haven’t pushed our old AUV to those speeds before, but it held together at 120kph. It did show signs of stress if I try bringing it to 130kph (this calls for a visit to the mechanic).

Nevertheless, it solved our need for speed.

Amid the flurry of activities at the office, however, I forgot to fill up on fuel. We’ve entered the expressway with barely half a tank!

I hope I would never have to experience that kind of feeling again.



8...


2...


Subic 500m…


Reduce speed… Stop at the tollway…


You start breathing normally again, whisper words of gratitude to your vehicle, and thank the high heavens for that 5-something liter of reserve fuel.


We were *cough cough* minutes late. But that’s because we got lost a bit in the streets of Subic.

In addition to the obvious ones, I learned a lesson that next time you ask for estimated length of travel time, make sure you’re not talking to a freakin’ race car driver. Haha! ^^

Anyway, it was a happy, busy, tiring day. Subic has changed (improved) a lot. I hope they maintain the discipline and the trees.


***

Speaking of race cars, Speed Racer was surprisingly entertaining. I guess it’s my natural reaction to works of the Wachowski Brothers.

May 14, 2008

Coping with a smile

Here's one of the most sought after commodities around here for the past quarter.

With prices of basic commodities on the rise, just how bleak is the people's economic well-being these days?

Updating our quarterly poverty report gave me that sinking feeling as the nation's poor went down another notch in lowering their living standards to cope up with these hard times.

And looks like things are expected to get even worse, as Dr. Benjamin Diokno points out.

But, of course, it's been in our collective genes to smile amid dire times. The month of May is fiesta season, and with help from these 2-kilo NFA rice packs, maybe there would be enough food to go around during the merriment.

Cheers!

May 08, 2008

Multiplying

Oh my! Yet another online account and site for me. I do hope Multiply's cross-posting features make this a little less complicated.

I've been thinking about having this account since my photo-savvy friends and officemates started uploading really, really, really, reeaaally good-looking photos here, but life kept moving on before I could.

Anyway, my cousin-in-law's arrival from abroad for her first major vacation off work inspired me to create this account.

So there. In just five minutes.

Cheers!

May 06, 2008

Iron Man

I've been waiting for this movie! I should write something about it.

Let's see...

Why oh why did he not smash to the ground when his flight system got all iced up?

That's about it.

Anyway, Downey's a great pick for Tony Stark. I don't know if he went after the role of Iron Man as earnestly as Nicholas Cage reportedly did for GhostRider, but I couldn't think of a better actor to play the genius visionary, ladies' man, and nutcase Stark.

Iron Man was one of the most influential comic characters of my childhood (wait, did I not say in my previous post that I was comatose?) simply because he's human (plus cool technology), and it took work and pain to be who he is (same reason why I like Batman, though this came much later, when gloom and secrecy began to sound so appealing to me).

The movie did a good job of showing all those work and pain, but never to a point where you start feeling sorry for all the bumps and bruises -- the movie's element of comedy made sure of that (the rocket boots testing part was the best).

I've been making a survey of those who've watched Iron Man. How many of you stayed on and watched until the end of the credits?

So far, 4 out of 4 did not.

Amazing.

(Promotional Iron Man photo from Wikipedia)

May 04, 2008

Summit of the roses

It has been in the works for the past six months, and finally pushed through when my sister and her family arrived from UK last month.

The family reunion was originally scheduled after my wedding in 2006, but my sister was four months pregnant then. A wise move, I guess. Given the agenda, this reunion needs us all to be physically and emotionally prepared.

I’ve steeled myself for this event. And true enough, the month of April saw me using up the most number of leave credits in just a month, and spending the most number of hours driving.

And that was just the “physical” part.

Anyway, we kick-started with the birthday celebration of my niece, Ally, at Jollibee Calamba.

Kids these days amaze me to no end, showing an EQ and IQ levels I never had when I was their age (I was in coma during my entire childhood, and regained consciousness only when I entered high school).

Ally has grown so much since she walked the aisle as our flower girl in our wedding. At four years old, speaking with a Liverpool accent (“Hullo Teehtow … Am fo’ yees old.”), she behaves like a little lady and is a very caring big sister to 19-month Ayla.

Ally did momentarily lose her lady-like demeanor and reverted to being a child when Jollibee the mascot walked into the party.

This phenomenal Pinoy icon has this uncanny way of getting into children’s hearts. Ally, usually very cautious and quiet with everyone, gave him a hug at first sight! Unbelievable! (I’ll never get that effect on kids. Haha!)

Adults can’t help loving the Jollibee, too, especially when he started shaking to the tune of The Papaya Song and Itaktak Mo. Whoever was inside the costume is extremely athletic and one hell of a dancer. This mascot did hand stands, backflips, and one-hand push-ups. Plus it dished out moves that reminded me of Streetboys and Sexbombs combined.

We thought of going to one of Batangas’ beaches, but decided it would be a tad too risky for Ayla and Ally. So we went to Villa Victorina, a subdivision in Lipa City that has a nice, private clubhouse.

Despite the sunblock, the UK-grown kids cooked nicely under the sun in just minutes. They loved every moment of it, and protested quietly when their parents fished them out the water. (Just silent tears, no wailing. How behaved can these kids get?) My sister can only sigh and wish they never have to go back to Liverpool.

Moments like this make me more appreciative of where I am. This country is still a beautiful place, if you just have the right frame of mind and perspective.

The highlights of the reunion for me was on the third week, when all five members of our little family sit together at the end of the day to discuss what needs to be done to redress pressing family issues – past, present, and future.

This was the first time the in-laws witnessed what my mother and I call the “summit of the roses”.

My brother-in-law observed how formal we address each other. I explained that this is how we really are all the time, having lived apart for most of our lives, and he’s about to see why we postponed the original schedule in 2006.

This was where emotional fortitude came into play.

I have been waiting for that meeting, for that moment. Finally, it was the moment when secrets were revealed by the right persons, and the burdens now be collectively borne by everyone.

While some issues were far from resolved, I left the meeting table feeling a bit lighter.


My sister and her husband took a little time off parenting and went to visit us in Makati, with the grandparents left behind in Calamba to babysit. We spent an evening at San Mig by the Bay at the Mall of Asia.

Being the farthest flung member of the family, my sister was still in disbelief over some of the things she learned during the “summit”, so I filled her in with more details over beer, sisig, and live band music at Padi’s Point.


My sister and her family are now back in Liverpool, and the rest of the family have, more or less, resumed normal lives – apart, as usual. No one knows yet when the next “summit” will be.

Ah… family. ^^