Monday, 28 January 2008

A "Dimly Lit" Update

Jot in Earle's Deli had a hard time with my name the other day.

Of course, he had the noise of six co-workers, a radio playing, and a table of eight Germans to contend with; but at least he had an interesting take on my name.

He heard Che, as in Che Guevara.

Cool! A little too ethnic for one so pale as myself, though.

Then he thought it was Shay.

That's either a girl's name or a type of locomotive.

Don't know how I feel about that one.

As one reader pointed out in my Dimly Lit post, the GBC at the burger place shouldn't have had a hard time with my name as it is a very common name in the Philippines, with several actors being named Jay as well.

But I feel for the guy at Earle's Deli.

His name (again) is Jot.

And I thought people have a tough time with mine!

I'm Nero With a Camera

Imagine yourself on the road in a vehicle and you hear sirens coming from behind. The sirens become louder as fire trucks approach you. All vehicles clear the road in orderly fashion by pulling as far to the right as possible and wait for the fire trucks to pass.

You are NOT imagining a scene in metro Manila.

This might happen in provincial cities and towns in the Philippines. If so, good for you who live there. Aside from the cleaner air, it is another thing for which to be thankful. Should your home or work catch fire, you have a more likely chance of the damage being contained.

Tonight I witnessed a fire that broke out just two (2) blocks from the Makati Central Fire Department just across the street from our building.

If you are reading this shortly after I post it, you are learning of this tragedy before anyone else anywhere. Doesn't that make you feel special?

Anyway, I was passing by my window when, out of the corner of my eye, the sight of flames leaping several stories into the night sky caught my attention. Then I heard a siren. The fire truck was on Ayala Avenue below my window. Cars from the side street were ignoring its flashing red and blue lights and wailing siren and continuing to merge into traffic in front of the cars already blocking the truck on Ayala.

I began snapping pictures and continued to do so for another ten minutes as the truck inched along in traffic.

There were no policemen present (though the police department sits next to the fire department on Ayala) to help usher the fire equipment through.

More sirens were heard as a couple more fire trucks tried to pass without success.

After those ten minutes the first truck had finally reached the fire, just two blocks away. The flames were a good bit stronger now than ten minutes earlier.

In all, over a dozen pieces of fire equipment consisting of pumpers and water trucks arrived on the scene from many stations. All had to endure drivers unwilling to pull aside, actively pulling out in front of, or blocking their way. The height and luminosity of the flames were apparent to all. Each driver had to know exactly what they were doing...blocking the ability of the fire fighters to respond to the emergency.

It has been said Filipinos suffer from a "crab mentality". That means they behave like crabs in a basket. One tries to climb out. As it makes progress towards the rim, the others grab for it and pull it down. In the end, none of them are able to climb out of the basket.

Drivers in metro Manila (and perhaps all across the Philippines. But I believe it is far worse here, and I'm hoping it is exclusive to Manila.) are so caught up in this mentality they won't let anyone in front of them or pass by them. Not even fire fighters trying to extinguish a fire just a block ahead.

There is no sense of working together.

No cooperation.

Simple-minded selfishness.

Pure greed.

And hypocritical.

I'm sure the fire fighters will remember God Loves and Jesus Saves. They must. It's all over the vehicles blocking their way to the fire. I just hope Jesus saved anyone who might have been in the building(s) as it/they burned.

The street system here also does little to facilitate rapid responses to emergencies. With many one-way streets, lovely boulevards with a line of trees down the center that divides traffic, and narrow roads with large numbers of vehicles "waiting" where they are not allowed to stop, it is virtually impossible for them to respond in time.

It reminds me of a friend who was stranded for several hours on the expressway as a large fire raged several kilometers ahead. With only one expressway, it virtually shut down all of metro Manila. We were in agreement that another blanket bombing of Manila like in WWII is in order so that it can be rebuilt in a logical, organized manner. (Georgians take note: much the same could be done with Atlanta, so people I know there say. Anyone want to play General Sherman?)

What the fire department here needs is what all the diplomats get: a security escort led by a half-dozen motorcycles that move quite swiftly through the streets here. The motorcycles always arrive well before the motorcade to have the intersections cleared.
The police could do this, but they're too busy ignoring the vehicles making illegal left turns at the intersection just below us.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Dimly Lit

Actual conversation just two hours ago between myself and the "girl behind the counter" at Brothers' Burger...

GBC: Good afternoon sir.

Me: I'll have the fish sandwich...and onion rings. You have onion rings today?

GBC: Yes sir. And your drink, sir?

Me: A Coke.

GBC: Coke in can?

Me: Yes.

GBC: OK sir, I'll repeat your order: That's one fish sandwich, french fries...

Me: No, onion rings.

GBC: ...onion rings and coke in can.

Me: Yes.

GBC: And your name, sir?

Me: Jay.

GBC: Jake?

Me: No, Jay.

GBC: James?

Me: (slowly) No, Jay. Like the tenth letter in the alphabet.

GBC: ...(puzzled look on her face)...Jame?

Me: (Now in my English as a Second Language teacher speed and tone of voice.) Jay. Just like in the alphabet. Letter J.

GBC writes J-a-n-e, not really questioning the obvious gender discrepancy. After all, there are many people here with names like Precious, Dingdong, and Luv. Not to mention the contracting of two names of opposing gender relation to create a whole new one, much like the media is referring to Bill and Hilary Clinton as "Billary" now.

Me: No. Just the tenth..letter..of..the..alphabet! A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I- J!

GBC: (Pointing to what she had written.) Yes.

Me: No. J! OK, or J - A - Y.

She did finally write that down.

Obviously she isn't the brightest light on her family's Christmas tree, but she isn't that much different from many Americans. Don't go thinking because I'm from the US that I'm not going to trash the severe deficiencies in reading, writing, and listening skills of Americans while I'm on such a topic!

For the purposes of this blog entry, I once had the fortune (*ahem*) to work with someone who was a bulb of similar wattage to the girl above.

He was on the telephone and having some trouble understanding what the man on the other end of the line was saying. Because he knew I was teaching English as a Second Language (yes, I really did) he wanted me to take the call. Apparently, because I had no trouble dealing with twenty-five students from eight nationalities in one class at a time, he expected me to be able to understand whatever accent or linguistic background was thrown at me.

So he asks me: Uh, Jay...uh...there's a guy on the line here...and he's having a tough time with English. I can't understand what he's trying to say and wonder if maybe you can help out here.

I agreed to take the call. When I picked up the phone the voice on the other end of the line was speaking in perfect English.

Not perfect American, perfect English!

For all I knew it was Prince Charles himself.

I felt my language, vocabulary, and pronunciation abilities drifting away in the comparison between us.

"Having a tough time with English?!", I yelled at my co-worker after finishing the call. "He is English!"

I think I might leave my gripes about spelling, grammar, and the use of punctuation for another post, unless I choose to just send that off to a publisher...'cause it's gonna be a long one, folks!

Meanwhile, until the next post: Take note of how brightly the bulbs around you shine. And remember, it takes 100 watts to read well.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Inspiring Others

In the last week I've been quite swamped by messages from readers. Apparently people are reading the stuff I write...yikes!

Back in mid-November, after figuring out how to do it, I added a counter to the site. Since then, it has recorded over one thousand hits. That's about one hundred fifty people each week.

Anyway, a lot of the messages had to do with people saying how much they enjoyed reading it, how they found it (other blogs have this one as a link, a friend told them about it, I begged them to read it), and how they are looking to me as a source of inspiration.


Well, a lot of it has to do with my relationship with Edson. To those for which that is true: I have news for you!

Last week was our sixth anniversary.

Yep. We met six years ago, on January 11th, 2002.

In metro Manila, where couples mark weeksaversaries and monthsaversaries (I'm not making those words up. That's just another part of Taglish.), that we are measuring ours in years is truly unusual.

People ask us about our secret. If I knew we had one, I'd share it, probably in hardback, and for a price.

They ask about our fights and how we manage through them. We'll let you know when we have one.

As I mentioned to someone yesterday, people always say that after years go by couples stop talking. It isn't because they don't have anything to say. It is that they can read each other's mind and don't need to say anything anymore! Edson and I frequently catch ourselves completing each other's sentences. Even when surprised, we often respond in unison (word-for-word).

Anyway, we traveled to Tagaytay last weekend to celebrate. That weekend, like the present, was a mix of rainy and sunny weather. It began as cool and rainy. You know, to keep our spirits up.

Lonely Planet
describes Tagaytay as:
Meandering along a ridge high above the gaping maw of the Taal Volcano...serves up jaw-dropping roadside views that will force you to stop...(it is) everything the capital is not: cool, clean, gorgeous, relaxing and oxygenated.

Add cool plus rain plus elevation and you get fog. So we weren't seeing much of the volcano, which sits inside Taal Lake.

That didn't stop it from playing a little game of peek-a-boo as the clouds and fog rolled off the ridge in irregular waves.

We settled in for the night at Sonya's Garden Bed & Breakfast. It is quite the "secret garden", being tucked away (away away!) from the road. It was lush and fragrant and full of patrons vocally surprised to see "look, a foreigner" had found it! I believe they were referring to me, and I didn't find it. I was taken there!

These images were, of course, taken on day two, when there was some sun:

Here is the entrance to the garden that led us back to our cottage, named "Parsley":

And the room itself:

(Yes, those are starched pillowcases.)

Breakfast the next morning was wonderful, complete with omelette, fried rice, fish, adobo, and mango (my favorite):

Fresh flowers on the table gave me an excuse to see how well the "flower" mode works on my compact digital camera:

(That's right. A simple little compact digital camera took those while I sat at my place at the table.)

After eating, we decided to walk the gardens, multitasking. Walk off the meal and see the gardens now that it wasn't raining.

And there we ended it, tired from our walk and ready to head back to the heat, congestion, pollution, and madness that is Manila...

...or were we?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

I Want This CD...

...and, like so many other things, it won't be available here in the Philippines.

I know. I know. I could just download it from Amazon or i-Tunes, but I like having something I can hold onto and a booklet to browse through, and NOT have to have my computer there to do it.

So I want the CD. Of course, the USB wristband with video, commentary, and interview would be cool as well.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Questions Only a Filipino Could Answer...

...or could they?

Why do Filipinos go to ethnic restaurants just to order the same tapa or fried chicken and sweet-sauced spaghetti they get everywhere else?

(Note that I grabbed this image of tapa from the Max's Fried Chicken restaurants website.)

Why is it that Filipinos know all the latest songs, lyrics, and the dance moves, but radio play lists haven't changed since the Marcos era, including Kenny Rogers' Through the Years and Mary MacGregor's Torn Between Two Lovers?

Am I the only one disturbed by the Placenta line of beauty products?

These are just some of the things I wonder about.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Oh! I Almost Forgot...How Idiots Enhanced My Quality of Life!

Our condominium complex was in the news!

A few days before Christmas there was a Christmas party held in our building in the events hall on the seventh floor, which sees many receptions, parties, etc.

Well, late in the evening (ie: like around 1 a.m.) in a big rush to leave, sixteen people crammed themselves into one of the elevators like sardines and headed down.

They didn't get far.

The elevator fits about nine average-size people. That's it. Any more, and you're getting to know your neighbor in a whole new way. Squeezing seven more in there, must have been no easy task, and certainly one they wish they hadn't undertaken when the elevator got stuck a few floors later!

Depending on what version of the story I've heard, they were jammed in there for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half. One of the guards told me the television news reported it as three hours! I didn't even know Rupert Murdock owned a Philippine television outlet! In all accounts, the news implied the condominium complex was at fault for not having personnel there to tell the idiots who jammed themselves into the elevator that they shouldn't.

This is beginning to sound SO American!

So that elevator was shut down for several days while workers repaired it and got it to function properly again.

Since the event, guards now do double-duty as elevator operators to ensure more groups, gaggles, schools, prides, packs, or flocks of, guests...don't jam themselves into them in their "rush" out of the building! Do note that their "rush" turned a twenty second elevator ride into a thirty-to-ninety minute ordeal!

By now the guards know which floor all the tenants live on and we don't need to tell them which floor we are headed for when we enter the building. I was getting so tired of all the effort it takes to push that button!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Holiday Memories...and Iowa?

A few Christmas and New Year's memories via text messages on my cell phone. Yes, memories from the cell phone. Filipinos don't send cards, they send texts. It's all you can do to send a regular text message on Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day because the lines are so jammed with people texting everyone in their contacts list!

Dis christmas, f ther's something better than sharing with others the best of what u have, it is sharing with others the best of who u are. MALIIGAYANG PASKO po!
-Paradigm Salon

Wishing u d best that next year has to offer, merry xmas from my heart. Hugs

Merry Christmas & Happy new year! Have a good ur holiday...with ur family also! *^^*

May d true reason of xmas continue 2 bles u n serve as ur guide in d yr 2 come. Have blessd xmas n a prosperous 2008!

Merry Christmas. You have been part of my life and made a difference on how I view life. Thank you...:) *hugs*

In this joyous season of merrymaking & endless parties, remember this: "Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator." Merry Christmas! (",)(^_^)

May you have the joyous Christmas, and wishing you the very best times ahead. Cheeers!

Merry Christmas. May this day bring you joy and wonderful surprises. ^_^

Don't you wish you were Santa...because he knows where all the naughty boys live. ^_^ HO HO HO! Merry Christmas;-)

Merry Christmas ^_^

hi! merry xmas jay and ed (cincinnati time). ^_^ i sent a msg last xmas but i dnt knw f it reachd u guys...jst 2 b sure dat i didnt fget my friends..its stil xmas in sme parts of d world. ^_^

Happy New Year! I wish you hapiness, health and wealth dis coming 2008! God bless you and ur family! Thank you and take care! ^_^

happy bday to edson!
-Roy and Nathan

Sin Ni Kwai Lok. Happy New Year. May this year be full of bounty and good health 4 u and ur family. Wishing all d luck and pr0sperity this yr.

Happy bday to edson! May u have a joyous new year guys. ^_^

As we end 2007, its a gud tym 2 luk bak n reflct on d yr dat was; b thankful 4 all d blessns n learn fr our faults 2 b strong in facn d challenges of 2008.

Happy New Year! I wish you happiness, health and wealth dis coming 2008! God bless you and ur family! Thank you and take care! ^_^

I wanted to send you something beautiful, attractive, funny and sexy but the postman told me to take the stamps off my ass and get the fuck out the postbox! Have an explosive evening and best wishes for 2008! Mwah!

As you can well imagine, spell check had quite a time with those! Ah, such is the nature of text messaging!

I remembered those today because we just received our first Christmas cards! Today. Today, January 4th.

The postmarks show them being sent on December 7th from Denver, CO, December 10th from Cincinnati, OH, and December 15th from Oakland, CA. That's just the states! One was marked December 20th from Lucena, a city just a six-hour drive away!

Oh well, just so they made it before Epiphany!

Let's see, what other fond memories?

Oh yes! I tried ostrich on Christmas Day. The taste is good, very similar to steak, but too chewy for my likes.

Edson's brother, Ed, took this great picture of us:

Overall, 2008 seems to be going along quite well. Only 361 more days before we can make any sort of final judgment call!

The only disturbing news has come from the US...the state of Iowa to be exact.

At a fund raising dinner in Iowa hosted by actor Chuck Norris, current front-runner (and I understand, winner of the Iowa caucus) Mike Huckabee was reported as follows:

As he often does, the former governor drew big laughs from the crowd when he told them to tell their neighbors who might caucus for one of his rivals that they do not want to miss the Orange Bowl, which is being played the same night as the caucuses.
“Shovel your snow into their driveway,” Huckabee joked. “Let the air out of their tires, disconnect their battery cable.”

Isn't that a little bit frat-boyish and immature? Of course, those qualities got Dubya elected, so I suppose that is what matters to Republicans now. And to think Huckabee's a Baptist minister! Jokingly or not, someone in his position should not be condoning that sort of behavior!

The day before, he appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and was surprised that people were picketing him in support of the writer's strike. He said he didn't know the writers hadn't reached an agreement with that show.

Didn't know?

Even Filipinos I've spoken with about current events know of the writer's strike in the US! Filipinos know what the state of the strike is, but someone running for president of the United States doesn't?!

Uh, sir? You're not qualified!!

Well, he might be qualified to be attorney general (see: Alberto Gonzalez).

"Didn't know", "Don't know", and "Don't remember" are almost campaign slogans for the Republicans at this point!

Also at the Norris fundraiser:

In a small departure from most of Huckabee’s campaign events, his wife, Janet, took the stage to address the crowd and introduce the band.

“I can’t wait to be your first lady because I think it is going to be too cool, and we are going to have too much fun,” Janet Huckabee said.

Too cool???!!!

Tell me that was a misplaced Britney Spears quote, and/or that the whole thing is just a bad dream!

Can you imagine a first lady speaking like that?!

"Um, like, yeah...being first lady is so totally cool! And the White House is, like, really awesome! And I get to meet some really cool people. They're from these, like, poor countries...where they, like, don't even have a Wal-Mart. And they have these really weird names...they're so hard to pr-...uh...say! It's all just so much fun, though."

A presidential candidate who doesn't know his domestic current events and an airhead wanna-be first lady.

America needs our prayers.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve is also Edson's birthday. One way of looking at this is that the whole world celebrates your day. Another is to say it isn't.

Let's face it, the only thing worse than having a birthday near a holiday is having a birthday on a holiday.

We spent the day having lunch at Outback and then dinner with Edson's family.

As you can see here, the night of the 31st in Makati was full of "shock and awe".

Fireworks and firecrackers spread throughout a city of tens of millions appears a bit like a war zone until the most magnificent ones light up the sky.

Down the street from us was the Makati New Year's Eve Countdown. How convenient to be just a six block walk from metro Manila's version of the Times Square Countdown! Thanks to Makati's Ayala Avenue being the Central Business District, traffic was non-existent most of the day. By eleven-thirty Edson, his brother Emil, and I could walk down the six blocks to the event, wait eight minutes for the stroke of midnight, enjoy the fireworks, and head back home.

Here's what we saw as we approached the event:

And now for some video footage of the fireworks:

Ask us how we liked the fireworks display: