Monday, 31 March 2008

Because People Asked

First of all, a "shout-out" to my brother David. It's his birthday today.

(I can't believe I just posted a "shout-out"...well, neither can he!)

I'm looking out at all the smog covering the city. It really has an uneasy purplish-gray knife-and-fork consistency today.

So do some Manilans.

That's what I'm writing about today...some Manilans...because people asked me. I've received many mails, texts, and one-on-one requests to offer my musings on the current controversy that is rocking Manila. It is a controversy begun here on Blogger by an Australian, Brian Gorrell, who was swindled US$70,000 by his Filipino boyfriend, "DJ" Montano (Delfin Justiniano Ocampo Montano II to be precise).

You'll find his blog here.

Here is a quick rundown as found on Wikipedia:

Gorrell (a landscape designer) published his blog on March 4, 2008, using Blogger.com. He claimed that he had been sending money to his former boyfriend as a "silent investment" for a restaurant called Bonza in Makati City. He soon realized that the money was used to pay the ex's own debt. Gorrell then narrated that he confronted the former flame about the money at a hotel room in Makati, which resulted in a public altercation. He said he was charged with assault through the help of the ex's friends, but was later dismissed. The blogger then posted entries involving the "Gucci Gang"—consisting of prominent young Manila socialites who are close to Gorrell's former boyfriend including scions of political families and media personalities—accusing them of infidelity, cocaine abuse, cover-up, and crassness.

He stated that the blog was put up when he was told by Philippine lawyers that the soonest Gorrell could recover the money, totaling to US$70,000, is three years. The blogger also wrote that it also aimed to shame his former lover (as well as the Gucci Gang) into paying him back, and would erase the blog from the Internet once the debt is paid. Gorrell said he plans to use the money as treatment for his HIV. As of March 14, 2008, the blog has received 270,000 visits, amounting to 36,600 visits a day and each lasting an average of 52 minutes. Gorrell wrote that he has received over 3,000 e-mails since the blog opened, apart from hundreds of comments.

Legal action

Gorrell claimed that the Gucci Gang chose to attack him instead of paying the debt. On March 11, 2008, the blogger stated in his site that officials from the Philippine consulate in Sydney and Australian Federal Police took away his computer and questioned him. He wrote that he challenged the officials to check the blog's contents for accuracy. The former boyfriend and his family are exploring possible legal actions against Gorrell. He has also contacted the entertainment section staff of Philippine Daily Inquirer, which first published an article about the blog, saying "no comment" and that he would only issue an official statement if Gorrell filed a case "in the proper forum". Gorrell said in an interview that he was not inclined to do so as of the moment, stating that he has consulted three lawyers in Manila and all of them declined to take the case, citing conflict of interest. He also stated that he does not consider taking the case to the Philippines, saying that "the thought of spending years within the Philippine court system is not even an option for (him)".

Meanwhile, a lawyer of socialite and lifestyle columnist Celine Lopez (who was also mentioned in the blog) sent a letter to Gorrell, which states that "(she) is no longer in communication with (Mr. Former Boyfriend) and in as much as she wants to help (him) with (his) problem with the latter, (she) does not have the capacity to assist (him) as she was not privy to the transaction which only (him) and (his ex) can properly resolve". The letter also pointed out that Lopez and her friend Marco Antonio have been persistent in asking the former boyfriend to pay back the debt, but the latter would only provide "vague answers and a series of denials".

Gorell's blog shut-down and reopening

Gorrell closed his blog on March 12, 2008, after several readers commented on the site telling him to stop the "verbal violence" especially those who were not involved. The blogger, however, kept his first post published. He added that the blog "became bigger than (him)". Gorrell also greeted the Gucci Gang to have fun at their "anti-Brian blog" party that same night. However, the blog re-opened a day later with a series of new posts, although the "Comments" section remained disabled. He insisted that he has not been paid. On March 17, 2008, Gorrell published in his blog a receipt from Western Union money transfer as proof that he was sending money to the former boyfriend. He added that it was one of ten such documents in his possession.

Gossip and discussion topic

The blog and the people mentioned in it have become a major topic of gossip in Manila, and has also gotten people in local showbiz industry hooked. The local entertainment media first got hold of the blog on March 11, 2008, when Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article about it. The newspaper wrote that the blog (unnamed at that time, but provided keywords for googling) "made Gossip Girl looked like a Disney musical". Meanwhile, critics claimed that the series of events could be a gimmick to promote one of the Gucci Gang's nightclubs, which said to have held an "anti-Brian blog" party. Witnesses at the party commented on Brian's blog, saying that the club was a "drug den" with one of its high-profile owners as a "drug dealer". Gorrell's blog was also discussed in Media in Focus, a program in ABS-CBN News Channel on March 27, 2008. It was the first time the issue was brought up to mainstream television.

Legal and social issues

The blog raised questions about the extent of Philippine and Australian libel laws, with jurisdiction being the key issue. In the Philippines, a person may be accused of libel in any place reached by the publication where the alleged libel appeared. However, such law suffers from loopholes if the publication in question appears wherever Internet access is available. Laws of both countries differ on what statement can be defined as libelous. While Australian libel laws give greater weight to the veracity of the statements, its counterpart in the Philippines defines anything written with "malice afterthought" as libelous. This means that a simple mention of a name in a "malicious" article, no matter how true it is, can be cited for libel in the Philippines. The blog has also brought out issues of race, gender, and media responsibility particularly on how modern platforms and technological innovations have changed the landscape of journalism. Other vital issues such as freedom of the press and right to privacy were also discussed in the blog's comments section. Meanwhile, Bong Austero of Manila Standard Today stated that the issue has raised the need for "a more realistic appraisal of the authentic social value that these so-called 'socialites' provide", that there is "something not right in a setup where wealth and excessive lifestyles are flaunted and regularly splashed across the pages of newspapers as if they are the most natural things in the world while the majority (of Filipinos) live below the poverty line".

Randy Dellosa, resident psychologist of the Pinoy Big Brother series, weighed in on the Philippine entertainment industry's fascination with Gorrell's blog. According to Dellosa, the local show biz people are experiencing "scandal fatigue" within their own industry and that they "secretly aspire to become part of high society".

Criticisms on freedom of speech in blogging

Self-proclaimed "eventologist" Tim Yap, who has been mentioned in the blog, indirectly responded to the gossip on his weekly Philippine Star column, saying: "Freedom of speech is one thing, abuse of speech is another." Meanwhile, lifestyle columnist Malu Fernandez, herself a victim of a blog attack in 2007, questioned the extent of freedom of speech applied in blogging, stating the blog about the Gucci Gang as an example. She wrote that journalists like her do not hide behind an anonymous name, while lambasting those who "place vicious comments and slanderous statements in blogs yet sign their names as 'anonymous'", calling the act as "plain cowardice". Austero wrote in his column at Manila Standard Today that "the latest scandal validates the emerging power of blogging as medium of our times and consequently and necessarily opens, once again, discussion on the ethics of blogging". He also added that the Filipinos' "collective tolerance for dirt and sleaze has breached new levels".


Now, if all of that seems a bit like watching the second season of Gossip Girl before it has even happened, you're right.

As the Wikipedia entry notes, the so-called "high society" of Manila is furiously fighting anything that tarnishes their reputations, as if 95% of Manila gave a damn. These are people who have everything in a nation where the vast, vast, vast majority have nothing; and still they fear for something as flimsy as their reputation. They have exceeded "American" in their litigious response to anything said that paints them in unflattering terms.

DJ and the so-called "Gucci Gang" are selfish, spoiled, simple-minded, narcissistic, hollow shelled creatures.

Brian, while obviously the victim here, isn't much better himself.

As a story, it reads well and has great character development; though we can't quite feel for him as we should. Mark Twain said that in a story the reader should
feel a deep interest in the personages of (the author's) tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the (DJ + Brian) tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.


Twain was referring to Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer, but it could just as easily be this story, albeit reality, not fiction. Everyone drowning together would be a beautifully operatic tragic way to end it all.

The local media and "high society" members are seeing their reputations tarnished, many beyond repair in this scandal. The "it" club they frequent is well-known to be the place to go for drugs. Even in the US I already knew of the reputation one of the club owners has for being a dealer. It is all over the internet. But because of his wealth, nothing will ever become of it. At worst he'll pay off some officials to stay clean. Everyone in authority in the Philippines from the president down to the cop on the street can be bought.

Now, none of the people involved in Mr. Gorrell's blog do anything for anybody. They have no value to society at all, really. They, like the Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears of the world, are nothing more than fodder for tabloids, attention starved transparent cocoons filled with the purplish-gray smog I'm looking at out my window. They are those who really have no other talent than flaunting their parent's wealth. Their parents (who may have actually had to work for that money) are ultimately to blame for how their children came to be.

Some say these spoiled kids (whether it is here, the US, or elsewhere) are just victims of the media. Of course, since the media in any given country is controlled by parents, not kids, it is ultimately parental fault. Parents either allow their kids to be polluted with garbage like MTV's My Super Sweet 16 or worse, produce and air it. The current generation of twenty-somethings have grown up on this. Time magazine, in their Style & Design supplement, features the millennials, and how this generation "doesn't feel that it needs to 'earn' luxury. Yachts, vacation homes and tech gadgets are all on its proverbial 'to do' list."

Most Filipinos are looking down their noses at DJ, the Gucci Gang, and Manila's socialites. There is overwhelming support for Brian. I found this on Pay Up DJ:

But I do hope Mr. Gorrell gets his $70 grand back. He has effectively had his ex fired from his job at The Star and, at this point, DJ would have to change his name before anybody ever trusts him again. Though I'm sure he still has his friends who enjoy laughing with him and how he got all that money out of his Australian boyfriend.

But again, my take on it all would be something of a big yawn...if I weren't so afraid I'd choke inhaling the smog. In a quick sound byte: Filipinos love their drama!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Another Memo from the Columns

On 29 March 2008 the Philippines will join countries around the world as we literally "turn the lights out" for Earth Hour - an event that will fuel awareness on climate change and prove that when the people of the world work together, they can make a difference in the fight against global warming....We encourage everyone to voluntarily join by turning off their lights in your respective units for one (1) hour - from 8pm to 9pm on Saturday, 29 March 2008 to signal support for curbing global warming.


Hmmm...even before seeing televised footage of the massive chunk of ice (over six times the size of the island of Manhattan!) break off the polar ice cap a few days ago, I was plenty aware of global warming, as are locals here complaining it didn't used to get this hot, or at least not so soon, didn't last as long, etc.

Of course, what the memo does not say is what I find interesting.

We can turn our lights out for an hour, but during that time we may be in bed watching DVDs, the air conditioning running, the washing machine doing the laundry, cell phone charging...

...but we would be showing our support!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

1 Year!

Yes, it's been a year!

A year since I arrived in the Philippines. It sure doesn't seem like it has been that long. Not really having four distinct seasons, each with their own radical temperature range, sights, and smells has something to do with that, I'm sure. Although I am beginning to appreciate when it is NOT summer here!

Jay's been doing a good deal of melting lately. My body still hasn't, or can't, acclimate to the heat. Friends, family, and longtime readers may remember my saying that within my first month here my body opened up pores it didn't know it had and other such things.

Well, last week was Holy Week. For people who have forgotten what that is (like me), or just didn't know to begin with, it is the week before Easter. For those unaware of Easter, I've provided the Wikipedia link for you.

In the Philippines the entire country observes Holy Week whether they want to or not. Everything closes from Thursday through Easter Sunday, though some stores reopen on Easter.

No malls.

No movies.

No MRT or LRT for Manilans to shuttle about the metro. (Where would they go? Also the reason not all businesses reopen.)

Where is everyone?

Most either go home to the provinces or to the beach.

While the idea of Holy Week, according to the church , is a time to reflect and pray, that is hardly what the throngs of beach goers in places such as Puerto Galera are doing. Think Spring Break in Florida or Cancun! The only reflecting and praying going on there is the reflection droves of drunks see in the bathroom mirror as they pray they aren't vomiting up vital organs along with everything else. Even Atheists are brought close to God at times like those.

Other beach goers, while not praying, may be saying Oh God for other reasons I will leave up to your imaginations. Think Girls/Guys Gone Wild!

At the end of February, many people began asking us where we were going for Holy Week. Edson and I never even realized it was coming! I at least had an excuse. In the US, Holy Week is not observed like it is here, and I had only experienced my first Filipino Holy Week last year, just two weeks after my arrival. Edson's six years abroad made him forget it.

So we didn't plan to go anywhere. We stayed in Makati, living in the CBD. It may well have been quieter here than at the beaches, there was so little traffic. Our condo's swimming pool became our own resort; and as it was hot, we spent a good deal of time there each day.


I got to meet some of our neighbors there and spent many hours chatting with them, because I'm the social, er...white one of us!

Well, Easter came and we were awakened by our alarm at 4am (ugh) to attend Easter sunrise service with Edson's family at the Church of the Risen Lord on the University of the Philippines campus.


A wonderful brunch followed later at 11am, once the restaurants began to reopen. There, the manager of the restaurant asked how long I was visiting. To her surprise I replied I am living here. She asked if I liked the Philippines and I said I did. She followed that with "when are you leaving?", as if to be saying, "poor, dumb foreigner, you should go home".

I find I got that a lot, even from the neighbors at the pool. Everyone hopes I like the Philippines, but they all want to know when I am leaving. Inside, perhaps subconsciously they are thinking We hope you like it here, but we hope you don't stay. We made that mistake with the Spaniards. Now look where that got us: we all have Spanish surnames and we're Catholic.

Anyway, that was my week.



And now for something completely different. (I know, I should've put this in a different entry. But I was thinking about it and decided what the heck!

Last night, our good friend Darz pointed us to this YouTube dance mix of Janina San Miguel's Q&A from the pageant a couple weeks ago. After sitting at the computer reading long blog entries like this, you can get up and dance to it to get your circulation going again.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Power of Proofreading

Ah, if only Photoshop had spell check....

Yes, then others wouldn't have to endure.....CUOLD YUOR CAR BE PORTECTED? Be a Confident driver...Maybe its time to make safer choice, choose 1, choose car accessories for safer drive.

Indeed.

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

But wouldn't it be neat to have that force/deflector-field thing they have pictured around your car?

Captain Kirk wouldn't be the only one who could say, "shields up"!.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Toot!

I am, as they say, tooting my own horn today.

I just received the March issue of Slivers, the Philippines Premiere Construction Industry Magazine. They had me do the photography for two of the features. Here are the two shots they chose as teasers on the front cover as well as full-size spreads on the pages within.


So I've now become a published photographer.

The timing is opportune. My website, Jay Plogman Photography, is finally up and running as well!

www.jayplogman.com

So, to all readers in the Philippines: Check it out and forward it to all your friends and family!



What?

Yeah, that's the end.

Go!

Check it out!

Forward!

Forward! Forward! Forward!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Intra-melt-os

My bi-monthly trips to Immigration in Intramuros are almost always noteworthy. Usually I invite friends along to join in the journey. Aethan, Roy, Darz, and Yucel have accompanied me in the past. Since there is usually a few hours to kill waiting for the processing to be completed, it is more enjoyable to kill that time with someone than alone. I went again yesterday, alone, but didn't remain that way for long.

Because I got a late start I was prepared for a horrible experience like last time where, if you remember, I spent hours just waiting to hand officials my paperwork. All of that was completed within fifteen minutes yesterday, and most of that time was me just filling out the extension form.

So I crossed the street, had lunch, and meandered around the ruins of the Aduana, or customs house. Constructed by the Spanish in the 1820s, it was rebuilt in the 1870s after earthquake damage, but has remained in ruins since American bombing in WWII.




Because yesterday was not only the first day in over two weeks that wasn't overcast, it was also the hottest day so far this year (and today isn't looking any cooler), I didn't spend a great deal of time outside at the ruins as I was, as my mother and Edson would say, melting. It didn't help matters that the cab ride from Makati to Intramuros was like a sauna from hell. I think I lost six pounds on the trip. The a/c was on, but the coolant hadn't been checked in...well, who am I kidding?...it has probably never been checked!

Fortunately, they've built a Starbucks into the wall in Intramuros. I say fortunately for two reasons only:
1. It is just across the street from the ruins. (Aren't Starbucks locations "just across the street" from everything?)
2. Because it is built into the wall (read: 300 year-old massive stone construction) the air conditioning probably doesn't have to work all that hard, so it should be nice and cool.

Inside were a lot of familiar faces from the foreigners at Immigration, biding their time in the a/c while waiting for their visas to be processed as well. While I was waiting for my tea a fellow foreigner asked me if I too was waiting for the folks at Immigration to process my visa.

That's the only reason any foreigner is here...and, for that matter, probably the only reason this Starbucks exists, I said.

Now, I should pause here to note that, contrary to what people here expect, usually we foreigners don't spend a lot of time amongst ourselves. We tend to ignore each other exists, unless we work together, etc. We already know that for the most part, if we just hung around each other all the time, we'd just end up complaining a lot, and we'd never really have much of an experience of the people and places in which we are living/working. So we ignore each other. The next person who asks me to set them up on a date with "another foreigner friend" should read this. I don't have any! Well, I have one. One. But he's taken!

Anyway, the guy I was speaking with is Antonio Graceffo. We sat down and chatted for the next hour until his visa was ready. He's a writer who has done several books and countless articles, on his adventures in Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Cambodia. Now he's here working on yet another book. We had a great chat, exchanged business cards, I gave him my blog address (so he's probably reading this...haha), and he encouraged me to Google him. I did, and if you clicked on his name you probably have already figured that part out for yourself.

So, despite what I said above about foreigners not usually wanting to spend time together, our conversation was really enjoyable, so Edson and I will likely be meeting up with Antonio. That'll just mean people will see Edson with two foreigners. Wow! We'll almost be able to see the fire shoot from their eyes in envy!

Anyway, after he left to retrieve his passport I waited for a while more for mine, keeping myself busy observing the world around me...because that doesn't require a great deal of energy, which keeps me from melting.

It doesn't keep me from taking pictures, though!

Here are some from the waiting area of Immigration:

Charming, eh?

Once I had my passport back with my visa extended for another two months I hailed a cab, and guess what? It was a brand-new cab (new car smell) with lots of freon (or whatever they're using now) for the a/c! It was a delightfully chilly ride home!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Dumb and Dumber

While I often find eccentric little differences between Filipinos and others to blog about, today I'll note a similarity, albeit with a Filipino twist!

Since Sunday, March 9, all the Filipino communities around the globe have been abuzz over one news story. If you are Filipino, you already know what I'm going to be covering in this entry. Even Filipinos who have been living under moss-covered rocks know of this news. It is, after all, the Philippine national pastime. Much like baseball in the United States, soccer in Brazil or the Netherlands, rugby in Australia, hockey in Canada, and sumo in Japan is the beauty pageant to the Philippines!

If you aren't Filipino, you weren't expecting that, were you?!

Beauty pageants seem to be held everywhere across the Philippine archipelago. Schools, clubs, companies, organizations, barangays, cities, towns, and provinces (and regions within) all have their own beauty pageants. You name it, there's probably a Ms. Something or Other for it! And sometimes there's a Mr. Something or Other to go along with her.

But this isn't about beauty pageants.

Americans, who pretty much pushed pageants like Ms. America, Ms. World, and Ms. Universe to the height of popularity, have pretty much said a collective "who cares?" to them in the past couple decades. We're more concerned with who Britney Spears married this week, whether she was wearing panties when she did it, and when we can expect her to do something else to top Michael Jackson in making a spectacle of herself.

And that is where we come to the great similarity I teased you with at the top of this!

Spectacles.

Britney Spears is to Americans what Miss World Philippines 2008, Janina San Miguel is to the Philippines (this week).

She made news by royally flubbing her answer in the Q&A portion of the pageant. While Filipinos view it as a critique of her English grammar and pronunciation skills, I view it entirely differently.

The girl was a nervous wreck (although she exhibited great poise) and boy, will watching her make you laugh!

Just within a week, over 1.5 million people have viewed this clip on You Tube! Janina said she was so nervous she only heard a few words of the question, so really had no idea what she was saying.

If, mass-communication major (yeah, go figure) Janina seemed a little Gracie Allen-ish to you, don't be fooled. Gracie had a clearly-reasoned, well thought-out rationale for everything she did, as she would explain to husband George Burns in their weekly radio and television programs. She was never nervous.

Though she may be thought of as one of the original dumb blonds, and many may also want to put Janina into that category (maybe she really is blond?), here comes past American Idol contestant, Kelly Pickler, to prove they really do exist. And boy, do we love watching her make a spectacle of herself! Over 5 million people have watched this on You Tube:

So much for the American education system, huh? So sad it's funny! Saddest part is, she probably knows more about world geography than Bush. Actually, I think she's one of his speech writers.

Not to be outdone, Europeans have their own little songbird starlet on You Tube making a spectacle of herself here:

Now there's a problem speaking English!!

See?

The whole world can unite around one thing: we love to watch people make spectacles of themselves, especially on nationwide television! And if it isn't caught on TV, we'll put it up on You Tube so they may become a spectacle worldwide.

I've done my part to help. Hope you laughed as hard as I did!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Jeepneys


Well, isn't that purty?

Despite my hatred of riding in jeepneys, this is an awfully nice specimen!

I hate to ride in jeepneys because they are crowded, uncomfortable (even with few passengers), slow, open to all elements (including vehicular exhaust), dangerous to get in and out of (especially in the rain), and some of my friends have had their pockets sliced open by thieves to steal their wallets while riding. Also, most in Manila look nothing like the one above. Well, they could, if any of them ever got a coat of paint! You can see a lot of nicely detailed, beautifully painted jeepneys in the provinces though.

Most around here look more like this:

You can tell it has seen much better days...and those were long ago...like when Imelda Marcos was a youthful songbird.

Most around here seem to be extensions of the Catholic Church:

Gods Gift, Gift of God, God's Blessing, etc. adorn the top front of many a jeepney. They are dangerous vehicles with no safety features whatsoever...well, they have brakes. They kind of work. They are a rough ride, too; with their balding tires and leaf-spring suspensions. Between the danger and the rough ride, it may be important to have God on the front, sometimes there is Jesus, or Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on the sides either spelled out or their images airbrushed on the sides. Kind of a ready-made, long, holy hearse for a mass of commuters.

So I almost never ride in jeepneys. Never on my own, anyway. Never without coercion, usually from Edson.

In a strange way, it would be sort of fun to bring one like the one at the top back to the US. It would never be allowed on any road in any state, but it would sure attract attention, even if only a static display at a car show.

For more on jeepneys, click here.

Monday, 10 March 2008

J J & J

I should've known just from our initials things would work out the way they did for an overnight excursion to Tanza, Cavite.

A few friends and I had been wanting to get out of Dodge (metro Manila) for a few weeks. For me it was just to be out of the city. For them it was to get their pictures taken. I like taking pictures. Win. Win.

It started when my friend Allan (the bodybuilding nut) said he wanted new pictures done since he is much bigger now and also has a new look.

I guessed right off what the new look was: he shaved his head. Basically, anytime a guy tries to surprise you saying he has a new look, that's male lingo for shaved my head. Edson's brothers did the same thing. Gay or straight makes no difference. New look = no hair.

Anyway, he wanted pictures.

Next comes this guy I know by the name of Pery. He's leaving for Sweden in about a month and wants some nice shots to remember the Philippines. He even knows the perfect, cheap...er, inexpensive resort not too awfully far from metro Manila.

Then come our friends Jeremy and Johann, just about the sweetest, cutest couple of human beings on the planet...aside from Edson and myself, of course! (Hey! This is my blog. Go write your own if you want to describe yourself that way!) They are soon to celebrate their first anniversary together and wanted some nice "summer" pictures, as it is fast approaching here in the Philippines.

Well, Allan never could tell me that he was or wasn't going to join us, so that's the reason this blog entry isn't titled 3 Js and A.

The plan was for me to meet Jeremy at 7pm at the Ayala MRT bus station in Makati and we'd go together to meet Johann and Pery at SM Department Store in Bacoor.

At precisely 7pm, just as I am to meet Jeremy, my phone stopped working. I couldn't place any outgoing texts or calls. I couldn't even check my balance to see if I'd run out of credits. I ran to the nearest Mercury Drugstore (ironic?) to buy more credits, fearing I had ran out. The associate there was hitting all the right buttons to send credits to my phone, but it wasn't working.

In a panic I ran out of Mercury Drug and to a Globe Telecom counter the Mercury associate had pointed out to me. I bought a P500 load and tried to activate it, but the activation line also could not be reached!

My last text message to Jeremy was that I was eating at Pizza Hut Bistro in Glorietta Mall, so I went there figuring he would look for me there. He texted (I could still receive texts!) to let me know he was looking for the restaurant. So I was right!

We met, boarded a bus, and were on our way. About fifteen minutes into the trip I received three text messages telling me my load had been activated. That was followed minutes later by a call from Mercury Drug that I need to come back and pay for it.

Oops!

Unfortunately I was still unable to send texts or make calls! My phone would regain this ability about ten minutes before we arrived at SM Bacoor...over thirty minutes after leaving Makati!

I was supposed to notify Pery as soon as I left Makati that I was on my way. Calling him as soon as we disembarked found him still at home, thinking we'd bailed out on him without calling.

We met Johann at the entrance to SM and Pery showed up a half hour later. Another bus and a pedicab later, we found ourselves at Villa Excellance Beach Resort.

Pery unsuccessfully haggled about the price of the room but did manage to successfully embarrass the three of us in so doing.

It was 11pm, and nearing our cabin all we could hear was the unfortunate sounds of poorly-played, pre-recorded, 1970's through 90's tunes done on 1970's-era Hammond organ amid the squawkings of keyless as well as clueless vocalists on videoke.

Bad music and bad singing must, of course, be done at the highest volume imaginable. It scares away Martians and explains why there is no intelligent life remaining in the solar system.

Trying to sleep through it was not possible, unless you are Johann. He tried his best to drown it all out with his snoring, but to no avail.

At 5am Pery received a call that he needed to return home immediately to take his sister to the airport. She had a change in flights and the new one was to depart at 9am.

So with his departure, that left just the three of us, and another reason for the title of this entry. And the videoke idiots were still at it!

Most of the daylight hours were relatively un-noteworthy!

We did get some wonderful pictures of, as Edson calls them, the lovebirds.

The guys at the swimming pool seemed to take great interest in me when we went to the beach, unabashedly staring the whole time. (Yes, white people DO exist...not just on TV.)

As we walked along the beach, we noticed a trio of trannies striking poses, vying for our....oh, who am I kidding?...my attention.

Around 4pm we called it a wrap and headed home. Here's some of the scenes along the way.

Not exactly Makati, huh?

Finally, the scene in front of SM Bacoor.