Sunday, November 30, 2008

Into the Twilight (Zone)

Think teen romance with an Anne Rice twist. That’s Twilight, the latest book-turned movie sensation to hit the world. Or so they say.

Amazingly, the juvenile flavor of Twilight doesn’t work against it. If it were not for the story’s high school back drop, one can fairly say that the teenybopper mist is barely there. We are, therefore, spared from the typical cheesy love story and the usual youth angst we are tired of seeing on the big screen, not to mention on the boob tube.

In its subtle way, Twilight is refreshing. It presents stereotypical characters who find themselves in situations outside what is normally expected for them.

The main character, Bella, who was used to not fitting in the “in” crowd suddenly becomes the community and school darling when she moves back with her dad in the small town where she grew up. It has been quite a while since Bella and her dad had spent time together after her parents’ divorce. But Bella and her dad are far from being estranged. They know that they have lost precious time together but they don’t hate each other for it. There really is no you-weren’t-around-so-don’t-stick-your-nose-in-my-life moment between the two.

In school, Bella, becomes the latest sparkling new toy everyone wants to a get hold of. But it is Edward, a member of the gorgeous freak clique, who catches Bella’s attention. And it is not exactly love at first sight.

During her first day in biology class, Bella was assigned to sit beside Edward who didn’t display the most welcoming decorum in the world. Aside from appearing like he was about to throw up at the sight (or scent) of Bella, Edward goes out of his way to demand that the school administrator transfer him to a different class—a request denied by the school. Bella isn’t about to take Edward’s blatant gestures of avoiding her passively. She was ready to confront him but then, Edward skips school for days.

Finally Edward shows up in biology class, now more friendly to Bella. They chat but they don’t get to know more about each other until the parking lot incident.

Bella was standing beside her pick-up truck, absorbed in listening to her i-pod while taking an occasional glimpse at Edward and his fellow pale adoptive siblings. A car goes out of control and heads toward her. In a blink of an eye, Edward is next to her, shielding her from the car with his with super speed and mighty strength. Bella is unscathed unlike the car driver.

On the other hand, Edward and his special charms get exposed, at least to Bella. He saves Bella some more yet advises her to stay away.

Bella does her homework. The girl knows that cluelessness is outdated. She figures out that Edward and his family are vampires. She’s not afraid and she promises to keep mum about it. Edward clarifies the type of vampire they were. Like vegetarians, he says simply because they choose not to eat humans. Despite their obvious differences and after pointing out that Bella’s scent specially stimulates Edward’s appetite for human blood, the two grow fond of each other. And just like that, Bella and Edward were an item. None of that will-they, won’t-they drama, thank God!

I especially like the meet-the-vampire-family scene. Edward’s cold-blooded family, the Cullens, were nice and warm to Bella. I have to say it was cute!

The conflict enters when tracker James, a variety of the more vicious vampire-kind, thinks of Bella as his next hunt. Protective Edward and his supportive family work together to save Bella and to slay James for good.

I shall leave what happens next up to you to find out. After all, I recommend this movie.

Twilight is light, in that one does not have to sit and watch characters spend too much time attending to their inner struggles which is always painful to do. For a change, we witness individuals who have managed to accept themselves despite their imperfections.

The story could have easily indulged in good old sickening drama given that the main character is a 17-year-old girl with divorced parents; who moves back in the small town she left when she was a kid; who falls for a guy who, other than being a vampire, is pretty much OK; and who’s on the verge of being a fanged hunter’s next meal. Of course, the other characters have very convenient issues with themselves, too. But we are spared from those. Instead we are given the luxury of a plot that is not very much character-based, but rather rests more on circumstances.

The actions in the story just happen and the characters know how to react. If the plot were a beat, it will go bam-bam-bam.

Suffice it to say, nothing about this movie is dragging. The white foundation on the vampires’ faces was a bit distracting but other than that, I find nothing more to contest.

Needless to say, I am in the Twilight zone.

Tinin-ninin-ninininin-ninininin…

* * *

Check out the trailer:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

I had the night off thanks to the good old American holiday called “Thanksgiving.” (Despite living miles away from Uncle Sam’s people, they have power over me now, and as a requisite, I abide by their holidays.)

I don’t know much about Thanksgiving other than it is spent during the last Thursday of November and that a lot of Turkey turns into every dinner table’s superstar during its celebration. I had to Google “Thanksgiving” in order to be reminded of what the essence of that day is for Americans, and apparently, for Canadians as well. I think I Google it every year but the facts never stick to me. Perhaps I really am no American!

But then, my brain’s refusal to absorb Thanksgiving facts is no reason for me not to indulge on my own thanksgiving dinner, especially since apart from the night off, I have one more thing to be grateful about: I got my first real paycheck after 6 months of financial lull. I found it best to treat my family with my latest hard-earned cash.

Tiendesitas seemed convenient. It had the perfect ambiance, it was relatively close, and I can afford the food and the trip. The last time I brought my family there was two years ago, after I got my 13th month pay. We had dinner and then rode the kalesa. Twice.

I hate to compare but Tiendesitas then was better. Perhaps because more of us were present then and none of were dead. This time, Nichi’s gone, my mom’s away, and my brother was late. I think I am being objective when I say that our table, with the bilao meal as center piece, was the most somber table that night. I notice those things and I feel pangs of sadness.

But I still am thankful for what remains of my family. They never cease to be special to me, after all.

* * *

I think it is interesting to note that on our way home, I felt compelled to mumble (or hum), “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.”



If you live around here, you will sing that song, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let’s Make a Brave Bunch of Kids Extra Happy this Christmas—Again!


Last year, we were able to make a little over 150 children extra happy by handing them Christmas gifts (containing a drawing book, coloring book, pencils, eraser, sharpener, box of crayons, and sticker sheets), painting their faces with fancy characters and figures, and giving out sculptured balloons—all of which were made possible by a number of generous hearts who supported our cause.

The 150+ warm smiles we saw were definitely well-deserved by the brave bunch of kids from the hematology department of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC). They are the 150+ (estimate count) extra special children, ages 2 to 12, who, at their tender age, are faced with life-threatening illnesses such as Leukemia, Thalassemia, and tumors.

This year, let’s give these children another set of gifts that will keep them busy while waiting to be treated at the PCMC-Out Patient Department (OPD), or while being homebound due to the sensitivity of their health. Our target gifts this time are children’s books which have the power to both entertain and enrich the young minds of the bravest kids on earth.

As of the moment, we are coordinating with publishers of contemporary Filipino children’s books to give us a generous discount on their merchandise in order to make it possible for us to acquire at least 150 books. (There is no word yet as to how much each book will cost.) Even then, we will greatly appreciate it if you will help us raise the sum that will allow us to purchase these books. (Any amount will do its magic to these kids.)

If you wish to give anything in kind (pencils, toys, etc.), we will appreciate it just the same and pack it with the books we are hoping to give away. We are sure that the children from the PCMC-Hema OPD will be glad and surprised to receive gifts they deserve yet never really expected.

We plan to purchase the books before December 15, wrap them on the third week of December (December 15-19), and distribute the gifts during the Christmas week (December 21-26). We hope that your contributions and donations will be in by then.

We are looking forward to your support. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

The family and friends of Nichi, a brave kid, turned angel


Interested parties may email me at battik14@yahoo.com. (Please indicate "Happy kids this Christmas" on the subject line so that I won't take your email as spam by mistake. Thanks!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A bit of Caramelo

I am proud to say that I have made progress with the thick book I’m reading and by “thick” I mean 439 intimidating pages.

I am done with more than half of it. So I’m thinking that I will be able to finish the book before the year ends, if not before the stroke of midnight at the last day of this year (granting I will not be working on New Year’s eve). Not bad for a slow reader such as myself.

At the risk of being sued for plagiarism or any copyright infringement case, I shall share a few paragraphs from the last chapter which I read. They fall on pages 262 to 263 on copies similar to what I have which was published by Vintage Books on September 2003.

Let’s just say I find the following parts poignant, texts that may hide some thoughts in it—debatable or otherwise. A course of habit, spotting poignant lines. Something I developed in my Masterpieces of World Literature class back in college where our instructor forces our minds to speak, even beyond any author’s voice.

So here goes an excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo:

—You’re selfish, you’ve always been selfish, the Grandmother says, banging both fists on her daughter’s body. Thunk, thunk, thunk. —You’ve always done what you wanted with your life, always, always, always. I hate you!

Stunned, Aunty runs into the bathroom and locks herself in, her body heaving into tears.

—Come out of there, you spoiled escuincla.

—No, I won’t. Never!

Never. Forever. Never. But life is short, and “never” long.

The Grandmother feels as if her daughter has stabbed her with a fork. Cruel daughter! Vice-ridden, selfish girl! Aunty feels as if her mother has knocked her out with hammers. Scandalous crazy old woman! After a while, Aunty can hear the Grandmother stomping over to her bedroom, the door slamming, keys turning in the tumbler, doors from the walnut-wood armoire creaking open, drawers shuffling, then the bed springs groaning like a sigh. Aunty had only wanted what the Grandmother had wanted. Love. Is that too much to ask one’s mother?

The grandmother throws herself on the bed and draws the caramelo rebozo over her face to still the pain behind her eyes. Ungrateful girl!

At the same time on opposite sides of the house they each swear never to talk to the other as long as they both live. But life is very short and anger long.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Comfort food of the day

Chocolate milkshake from McDonalds, and pizza, nachos and baked mac from Greenwich, that's what.

I guess I needed a whole lot of comforting, huh?

Friday, November 21, 2008

What a Day for a Daydream

If you’ve been awake since 12am and your waking hours in the morning are sure to be longer than at night, then wouldn’t you agree that it is a great day for daydreaming? For starters, you are conscious for most part of the day; thus allowing daydreams that run longer than Doctor Chivago, intermission included.

I am not too psyched with my present working schedule because I have a thing with connecting with the people around me who happen to be asleep when I am required to be awake, and who are awake when I am hopelessly forcing myself to lose consciousness. I cannot very well do that if we don’t see each other.

However, if there’s anything that attracts me to this new “challenge” which at the same time poses as my new personal “issue” (note that I am placing in quotation the words abused by my so-called Adarna—annoying!), it probably has got to be being blessed with the opportunity to have a glimpse at the Ortigas heavens at sunrise.

Even with the smog, I say it’s priceless.

It comes as a bonus that a darling-of-a-man (hmmm sounds kinda gay) is singing on my MP3 player.

Bring out the popcorn and let the daydreams roll!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Michael Johns Will Have To Do For Now

Michael Johns wasn't bad at all. To tell the truth, he was not my favorite during the 7th Season of American Idol. (Did I get the season right?) However I found the way he was voted out a bit premature. He could have shown more if he stayed longer, I guess.

I was vying for David Cook who did win. At the same time, I was cheering for Jason Castro who was soo cute. (Imagine me say this in a high school kind-of-way.) I learned that David is coming here this January. I would have made time to see him if I were in Singapore, but I am home now and I ain't going nowhere so I don't have any problem.

Jason Castro, on the other hand, is a different story. No word yet if he will fly here, but if he did, I will see him no matter what. And I'll make sure I will not be limited to staying at the sidelines. Hah! May gameplan na kami ni JO, ang fellow Jason Castro fan ko!

In the mean time, Michael Johns will have to do.

So I thought I had to see him tonight. And that I did. Actually, it was what kept me up while I was trapped in my hell hole sooo early this morning. Yes, I had to sacrifice some precious sleeping time but what the heck? I'd be sleepy just the same.

So here, indulge in some of the photos I managed to snap.

Michael Johns at Glorietta


The Clean Rockstar


Yeah!


Meeting a Pinoy fan


Kinilig ang sangkatauhan


Astig, may bouncer pa!


My paparazzi shot when he left the Glorietta Activity Center

Meme Ang Himig ng Adarna

Someone get me a knife. Quick!

Konti na lang talaga, maghihiwa na ako ng balat para lang hindi makatulog habang “inaawitan” ako ng tinatawag ko ngayong “Adarna.” Shet. Kaso I swore hindi na ako magpapaka-masochista pa mang muli. Kaya, ewan, bahala na. Baka mabalitaan ninyo na lang next time na naging bato na ako dahil naiputan ako ng Adarna.

Either that or ginilitan ko na lang ng leeg ang Adarna. Yikes! (Magpakamorbid ba?)

Hanga na ako ngayon sa mga hasler ng mga graveyards shifts. Ako, keri ko ang puyatan. At may three times ko nang nagawa ang walang tulugan ng 24 hours. However yung 2x doon, namatayan ako ng mga taong malapit sa akin. You can just imagine the adrenaline rush kaya daig ko pa ang nakatira sa pagka alive, alert, awake. Pero hindi ko kayang mag-stay awake kung humihiyaw na ang katawan ko ng, “Tyrene, meme na!”

Chances are may kaka-blag talaga dahil ang panuntunan ko sa buhay, “gutumin ninyo na ako, wag ninyo lang akong idedeprive ng sleep.” Mas matakaw ako sa tulog kesa sa pagkain. At mas hinahanap ko ang tulog kapag hindi ako pwedeng matulog. (Syempre masarap yung bawal!) Pasaway ako by nature.

Therefore, nanganganib akong mag “run, Forrest, run!” muli. I am trying to not spoil myself by conveniently resorting to that option pero kung ganitong nahihirapan naman ako, baka i-take ko na yung lifeline na pinauso ni Mr. Gump. Apo pa naman ako ni Narcissus. I love myself too much to expose myself to absurd forms of torture, minsan nga kahit reasonable, ayaw ko. So talagang tinalikuran ko na ang aking masochistang nakaraan. Charot!

Nga pala, naiisip ko na probably nung past life ko, lalaki akong may asawang über sa pagka-nagger. Kaya I repel anything that sounds like “a nagging wife.” I mean, pwede naman akong pagsabihan and I believe I take criticisms well. Kaso ayaw ko yung halos pukpukin ako sa paulit ulit na mga salitang gets ko naman na sa isang pasada. Kasi kung di ko naman na-gets, ako mismo ang magpapaulit. Kaya siguro kahit nice ang Adarna, I feel the urge to repel her.

Sa kakasalita niya, di ko mapigilang magdrift off at talagang nagshu-shutdown ang utak ko. Kahit gusto kong makinig, ang nagreregister na lang sa auditory nerve ko e dumadagundong na “blah, blah, blah” na talo pa ang Uggoy sa Duyan sa sedating effect nito. It helps na may Dr. Phil vibe siya kaya kahit I believe she means well, medyo irritating. Bad ko talaga!

Hindi ko maiwasang itanong, “ano na naman ba itong pinasok ko?”

Putek, walang panama ang kape sa antok ko, aggravated by the Adarna. Nagtataka lang ako kasi pwedeng magyosi break pero nap hindi. Therefore mas ethical and corporately sound ang lumabas ng building para humithit at bumuga ng nicotine at tar kesa sa mag-engage sa harmless power nap sa mismong seat at desk mo.

Asaan ang sound reasoning doon? At saka tama bang i-promote ang yosi? Mas mamatamisin ko na lang yatang maging bato kesa maging tambutso.

Hay naku, I am ranting kaya chances are di ninyo ako magegets.

Pagbigyan ninyo na. Kulang lang po sa tulog.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting more from a Bazaar


So I was sort of forced to help my mom out in her grand idea of a bazaar in the place that used to be my playground (cue Madonna’s I’ll Remember). I haven’t been doing anything productive lately so I did not dare to protest and acceded instead. I’m not new to bazaars or to selling. We used to do it a lot, especially at the time of the year when things go commercial and people are in the mood to spend. Besides, I love giving customers their change. I don’t know why, but I enjoy that.

This time around, however, we’re doing our bazaar in very familiar grounds where some people have either seen me in my diapers waiting in line to have my immunity shots with the company doctor, or in my swimsuit trying not to drown as I learn how to swim, or in my school uniform lying down on the sofa in my dad’s office while he waits for his break time before he brings home his ailing daughter. Having said these, it was pretty much nostalgic hanging around the place which, in a special way, had witnessed me growing up.

Then there’s the part where my frustrations in writing have leaked to these same people, especially those pieces and letters concerning Nichi which moved them, by the way, to help us get through the hospital finances we struggled with. You see, bayanihan is alive at this side of the world. Thank God for sending us His angels! Anyway, these people would then ask, “ikaw yung writer?” Although I can hardly justify myself as a writer because of the fact that I don’t write for a living, I feel flattered to answer yes to their question.

Our sales weren’t all too great to tell the truth. But I hardly fell asleep even during the so-called “dead hours.” Our fellow bazaaristas kept me up. I probably fed on their energies. It helped that the organizers put up a white screen where they projected movies like Ratatouille, the Sarah Geronimo and John Loyd Cruz movie, For the First Time, and The Dark Knight. It made the bazaar area more alive. I didn’t have to see the movies myself. The way the people reacted to these movies were enough to entertain me.

With this bazaar, I was also able to reunite with my high school (and grade school) classmates. Betsy who now manages her own bakeshop while baking and maintaining a column in a certain magazine, Stef who works with the Interactive department of the other leading TV network in the country, and Ida who’s now a wife, a mom (!) and a Manager in my Dad’s former office.

Of course it was also priceless, having the chance to spend more time with my mom and see her do what she loves to do: Talk. But sitting with her in our “stall” brought back good memories of the past where things seemed tough for us yet less complicated than today. For the record, I loved the simplicity of our moments together. It was refreshing.

You see, I didn’t have to buy anything in the bazaar I was telling you about. Yet I was lucky to have gotten more out of it than I anticipated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Return of the Comeback

As the story now goes, my return to my former office has been encouraged by a Christmas sale I could not refuse, mostly for entrepreneurial reasons. It was an opportunity practically screaming just to present itself. Who was I to refuse?

In the hopes of being the early bird that’ll catch the worm, I headed as early as I possibly could to my former office where I last set foot on five months ago. I cannot stifle the smile on my face on my way there. I guess, whether I admit it or not, I am psyched to see the people I’ve worked with for the past three years and ten months of my life. It was, after all, an undeniably nostalgic moment.

The way in which I arrived was a classic FDC late moment. The tricycle ride, which was one of the reasons why I used to hate to go to work, deprived me of a grand entrance. But I’ll leave ostentatious entrances to Batman.

My former manager was at the office entrance when I alighted the unglamorous tricycle. It was past 9 a.m. The scene was all too familiar.

“Ms. Malu, half day na po ako!” I greeted her who was, I think, surprised to see me—in the Philippines. (It was a company policy that if you time in after 9 a.m., you’ll be reduced to serving a half day at work. You will not be paid for your presence from 9:01-1:15.) She told me to start hunting inside the AVR, turned Hallmark warehouse exhibit, upon learning that I was there for the sale.

Interesting enough, this is my first time to become part of the Hallmark sale as an outsider. I never knew about the Hallmark sale and the treasures that lurked there prior to my being their employee. As a shopper, I came in early; competition have not yet began.

I haven’t been going around long when our brand officer, the future Mrs. (to be filled in with her fiancé’s family name which I missed—advance “best wishes,” again!) spotted me. She, too, was surprised I was home. (And here I thought everyone knew I was back.) She required me to go up (the department) after doing my shopping. I said, “Yes, of course, I will!”

I originally planned to say “hi” to everyone first but since I didn’t see the dashing Adonis when I arrived, I hesitated and postponed the trip upstairs for later. (Adonis is the name of our “studly” guard. No kidding.) I was afraid the new guard would ban me upstairs. You know me. Praning as always! Then again, my eyes were on the Hallmark stuff I was about to rummage given the head start I have against my fellow scavengers.

I didn’t notice that a big guy was standing next to me, watching me decide which gift bag passes my standards and which doesn’t. The big guy was no other than Kuya Bing, a giant one can easily mistake for a bully when he’s just occasionally crazy and funny. He saved my fingers from probable bloody cuts by teaching me the proper way of holding metal rulers and cutters during my early days at Filstar. Priceless! He was also my balloon sculpture master (actually he’s a balloon guru to a lot of people) and was generous enough to share his knowledge and lend his balloon tools for last year’s Project: Brave Kids party. For reasons I cannot explain, Kuya Bing is one of the few people who can make fun of my non-existent love life without pissing me off (or hurting my feelings). We both end up entertained by laughing at the nonsense we come up with regarding my MIA boyfriend.

Later, Ms. Isay, Ms Jean & Ms Donna came. It was really nice seeing them. I began to feel like I was no outsider. A shriek also helped in welcoming me back. When I turned around, it was Kuya Lody who, even without his eyeglasses on, was able to recognize me. I was hoping to approach him first and surprise him with a, “Miss, miss, magkano ito?” I guess my “skit” had just been preempted. Our resident home-y also said his groovy “hello!”

Then Shom came. Shom and I have worked together for only nine months. Amidst a few early adjustments, we hit it off and eventually became good friends. It helped that she fed me waffles every morning. Hehe. Seriously, she won me over by her painfully truthful ways, spiced up by her wife and mom insights on things. She was, as always, gracious to help me around the sale, “selling” me the goods she believed I should consider buying.

As soon as shopping was over, I went upstairs and did my rounds. First clique that greeted me were the mommies who, in their intrinsic mommy ways, were concerned about what’s been going on in my life for the past days. Next, I headed to the bosses, whom I filled in with what I’ve been doing since I got back, and to whom I showed the video of my lovely niece. Third stop was at the hobbits’ corner which was alarmingly silent (no snickering or boisterous laughter). I learned that their PSP units have been keeping them mum and in tears…adik! (Before I get them into trouble, allow me to clarify that it was break time when I caught them seriously absorbed with their games.) I went to my former lunch mates next. I seriously felt a needed get-together with those guys. I went one-on-one with my sort of two-time officemate and relayed to him what’s been up with our other office. Then I sat with the other office duo where our stories bordered on Cheche’s kids to the next American Idol to visit the Philippines. (Michael Johns, here we come!) Of course, I had to say my hello to the artists who played as my office Kuyas. A separate hi to Kuya Pat (special mention?) who showed me their latest drinking water model/ victim. Finally, I had a quick chat with my constant cheerer (the missus to the giant) who never came short in supporting me in whatever next crazy idea I had for “work.” (I am looking forward to a longer talk in December!)

My stops were spent with more than mere exchanges of pleasantries. It was mainly a quick update on life and those that came along with it. I hardly felt the five months I wasn’t around. For all its worth, I did miss being in those people’s company!

So I am about to start my second real job soon. I am not raising my hopes up too much in terms of the people I am bound to mingle with. I was lucky to have had my first set of officemates; it will be a lottery jackpot if I get people like them again. But who knows?

For this moment, I am just glad to have been back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last Sunday I Broke My Lucky Charm

The last time I was with my friends (which was a month ago), we set out to buy each other charm bracelets to hopefully turn our fortunes around—to shoo away bad luck for one of us, to bring good health to another, and attract a career for me.

But since we were not that lucky, we were not able to find a store that’ll sell us our target merchandise. See? We really need those lucky charms.

Last Saturday, in the midst of my OC attack, I found the Chinese glass phone trinket given to me by my college professor (or was he an instructor?) who was obsessed with Chinese culture. He was my “dad” at our class Kris Kringle. (I was Agent Sydney Bristow. My baby was Digna. Hehe.) He said the trinket will bring me luck.

Having that in mind, I placed the trinket at my right pocket and decided to attach it to my phone when I go downstairs. (My phone seldom goes with me when I’m at home. It is usually stationed beside Nichi’s photo downstairs, if not inside the study table in my room.)

I forgot about the trinket. The way I was reminded about it was, at the risk of sounding redundant, unlucky.

While relieving myself in the bathroom that afternoon, the trinket dropped on the tile floor just as I was pulling up my pants. There was a hole in my pocket and the trinket slipped.

The Chinese figure broke its neck; the string holder got detached. My lucky charm got maimed in seconds.

There goes my luck. I thought.

Then this day happened.

Hah!

***

Post Script:

I composed the draft for this piece using MS Word. I was about to hit the “save” button after entering the filename when my mom accidentally pulled the PC’s plug. MS word wasn’t able to recover the file upon re-starting because it was, well “corrupted.”

I had to retype the whole thing the way I remembered writing them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Banks: How They Sneak Charges Behind Your Back

I learned something new today. Unfortunately it is costing me Php500.09 which I have yet to earn. You can only imagine how painful it is to pay for that amount, knowing that I did not get anything out of it other than this article and a few wrinkles.

So let’s get down to business.

Credit card companies often tell us that they charge 3.5% monthly interest rate whenever we fail to make full payments of our month’s bill. Little do we know that banks do their magic when computing for the 3.5% they claim to charge—the figure, I believe, they come up with for press release.

I failed to pay in full my last set of purchases with a bank which if we were in Aristotle’s time will be called Polis-bank. But being the good payer I was, I paid my minimum amount due, even a few pesos over it, just to show I haven’t forgotten my responsibility even if I am a little short on cash these days. I was ready to take the consequence for not paying the full amount, the consequence I understand thanks to the sneaky press release.

But then here I am flabbergasted by the legal hanky panky going on in the credit card world.

The truth is, I didn’t have to posses my depleted mathematical prowess to compute 3.5% of last month’s total amount due. Php500.09 clearly is too much.

Unfortunately for my bank, I have all the time in the world to ask them my loads of questions. It didn’t help that I am in a state of semi-poverty, that every cent in my pocket and my bank, I make sure I account for. So I called them and requested that they walk me through how they arrived with Php500.09.

First explanation of the agent at the end of the line was the 3.5% they were referring to as the monthly interest rate is actually 3.5% of the total amount due for the month you were not able to pay in full. The partial amount you paid even if it is above the minimum amount due they set is included in the computation of the darn 3.5%.

Therefore, there is no point in doing partial payments when it is not subtracted from the total amount due before the account owner is penalized. If my total amount due was Php100.00 and the bank sets Php30.00 as my minimum amount due (there is no clear formula for setting the minimum amount due either. They say there is but I tried computing. Their press release formula in inconsistent with their actual figures), then if I pay Php50.00 and let the other Php50.00 pass, you’d expect I’d be charged with P1.75 (3.5% of the unpaid amount). But no! According to the first point raised by the agent I talked to, they compute it as 3.5% of Php100.00 (my total amount due for the banking cycle I supposedly screwed up). The finance charge will now be doubled and become Php3.50 instead of the expected Php1.75.

Given that principle, I computed 3.5% of my total amount due, regardless of the amount I was able to pay for the banking cycle I allegedly screwed up. Again, I didn’t have to be a math genius to realize that the Php500.09 they were charging me was still way beyond my 3.5%.

So I say, “huh, but the Php500.09 is NOT 3.5% of the amount previously billed on my name?”

The agent then says that actually their way of computing is more complicated than I think. She told me I can check out the back of my bank statement for the formula I was squeezing her for. I looked but it wasn’t there. I think you cannot blame me for smelling something fishy. She goes a bit defensive and insists I am lucky the bank did not add any late charge on my bill. Therefore if a client was devoid of luck, s/he will have to face the mysterious finance charge AND a late charge (the computation of which can be more mysterious, for all we know).

Objectively speaking, I am one of the calmest callers in the world even if irritated. I think I even had more patience than the agent I was talking to. In the most humble way, I requested her to breakdown to me the computation for the Php500.09 because I was about to pay for it, and it really didn’t feel right to pay for something I don’t understand.

She says she can fax it to me. I told her I didn’t have access to a fax machine. I asked her to email me instead. She said she can’t email me even if I get emails from them every month for promos my lifestyle cannot avail me. She says she can send it to me via snail mail. Great! My Php500.09 would be long gone by then being that last day of paying for this banking cycle is a good five days from now, and I have no plans of leaving any of the pesos I owed them pass. But I acceded. At least there is hope in shedding light to the finance charge mystery even if it'll come late.

Still, I can’t help but feel that banks do have a way of sneaking up on you, especially when you are too passive (or rich) to notice. I have yet to check my other banks for their policies. Consider it as my personal investigation.

And if by any chance I am in the wrong here, if assuming that the 3.5% monthly interest rate banks broadcast has a whole lot to do with computing for the finance charge is completely erratic, then I am less informed than I thought. To think I have been a credit card holder for almost four years now. And I read fine prints even if I suffer from myopia and I have to decipher paragraphs with a font size of 4. Actually fine prints are fishy.

A friendly advice, if you want to spare yourself from the same predicament I am in, make sure you pay every cent due you per month. That way banks can’t OVER charge you with something you did not spend.

An advice for the wise: Always check your bills. You’ll never know what unnecessary charges banks will bill you with. It happened to me once. The bank apologized and blamed their system for generating an amount from nowhere. They reversed the amount. I didn’t have to pay for it. But I might have paid for it if I way to carefree to check.

You see how unjust things are? If you screw up, you literally have to pay for it via the stinky charges. If the bank "slips," they say sorry and their absolution don't cost them a cent.

Hmm…Sneaky! Sneaky.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Noise-eee!

I live in what-could-be one of the nosiest neighborhoods in the Philippines. For the most part, the street in front of our house is to be blamed. Jeepneys and tricycles varoom and honk any time of the day, regardless if a resident in one of the houses they pass by is in badly need of peace and quiet. Then at night, heartless motorbike riders go speed-happy and rip the street with their machine’s thunder, a sound which I absolutely hate. Our wooden walls and jalousie windows do so little in insulating our home from unwanted noise. I can only thank God that I only have to deal with a one-way street; otherwise I’d be living in worse auditory hell.

A house or two away from us is a chapel with a sound system which produces excellently amplified sounds. So every time they hold a mass, we don’t have to step outside to hear the priest’s sermon. We just have to sit on the couch and listen. We can actually do away with Sunday TV mass if only there’s a Eucharistic celebration here every Sunday.

I have no problem with Church songs—I honestly like them. I sometimes catch myself unconsciously singing along with the churchgoers. The problem is when a musically challenged priest starts desecrating the notes. Suddenly the songs turn into noise.

I sometimes think that it is not all right for the chapel people to extend the sound they make way beyond the confines of their walls because, they will be risking bothering non-Catholics, let alone non-Christians, living nearby. I mean, hey, I’m just trying to think objectively. What we think of as holy will be rubbish to non-believers so we should spare them.

At the other direction, probably two to three houses away from us, is a videoke bar which stays open, I think, until 11pm, if not later. Their speakers are not as powerful as the chapel but the sound they make is more than felt. At one point I got sick of the most sang song in their playlist, Ella Mae Saison’s “Til My Heart Aches End.” I was tempted to get myself some earplugs. Now don’t get me started on the singing voice or lack thereof of their frustrated customers. I choose to ignore that.

Of course this piece would not be complete if I don’t mention the neighbors from hell who live in a flowery our-o-centric universe. They make noise day and night, night and day; and they don’t care if they bother the neighbors, as if the universe only revolved around them. You will cease to think that children make the sweetest noise when you hear “their” children wailing for hours. Sometimes, I can only mutter, “there goes the demon child again!” (After which I imagine the kid being exorcized.) When the children are not crying they make too much noise just by being excited and all which I can bear—to a certain extend, especially if nothing good is on TV.

The unforgivable part is the adults making the noise. A woman, who, I think, looks after the children, aggravates the kids’ noise by yelling at the kids which irritates me more than the “demon” children going nuts. (I don’t know who the woman is exactly because I rarely go outside and I, more often than not, don’t stare at our neighbors.) The younger members of their household sometimes play songs a little too loudly. I can let it pass but then, the songs border on being OK to being too juvenile, I can only wonder how old they are. Other times, I’d hear loud thumps, cars careening, gun shots, etc. because apparently they are watching a movie and they like to let the whole world know about it.

Brighter side: there are no real guns to worry about. The neighbor with real guns already moved years ago. No kidding.

Going back to the neighbors from hell, who are guilty of keeping us up and then waking us at around 2AM a few months ago, they must have thought, “oh, we’re not noisy enough, let’s push the thing we do best to the limit!” They are now keeping chicks that tweet beyond anyone’s control. I fear the day when those chicks grow up to be chickens or rooster who’d cock and crow as crazily as their masters . Until then, God help me!

In 1999, Matthew McConaughey was charged with a US$50 fine for violating Austin, Texas’ noise ordinance when he got carried away playing his bongos naked inside his home at a little past midnight. If we have that same ordinance in our place, the neighbors from hell will surely be bankrupt by now. That’ll teach them a lesson.

I would hate to sound like the grumpy neighbor because I’m not. I keep quite for as long as I can. But the thing is, I can only tolerate so much. Actually the chicks are the last straw. I honestly don’t know what to do when they start waking me up even before my alarm clock goes off.

As it is, I am having a hard time focusing on things because of the noise around me. I can literally barely hear my thoughts with all the sounds I have strain on a daily basis. And I can see it affects my family, too. We always have to up our TV’s volume to 20 if the show’s good or 25-30 if the show’s truly interesting. We can barely hear each other. We either have to ask the one talking to repeat what he just said or just nod and act like we heard something. And we cannot hear our callers, too. Imagine that! (Or then again, there's a probability that all of us are going deaf.)

One time, I called a friend on the phone. I had to ask her to repeat what she was saying several times before I’d get her message. The jeepneys and tricycles have their way of varooming at the most inopportune time, thereby blocking what could have been an intelligible sound at the other end of the line. Finally my friend asked me where I was. I knew she thought I was in a payphone in a sari-sari store at some street corner; whereas I was seated all by myself inside a room of the house which can be found at what-may-be one of the noisiest neighborhood in the Philippines.

Hay...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yentl…Lentil—What’s the Difference?

Yentl was on this afternoon at the MGM channel. I think few will know what the movie Yentl is all about or who Yentl is, for that matter.

The movie is a bit old. According to Wikipedia, Yentl premiered on November 16, 1983 (I was three years old then). It is a period film taking off at time most people would probably wish to forget, if not forgotten. Plus it is set in a boring town where people were too conservative, they almost dress alike, not to mention they themselves look almost alike. (Let it be said, however, that the film did well in its time, even winning an Academy Award for Best original score and a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.)

To sum up the story, the movie is about a girl named Yentl (played by Barbra Streisand) who—despite living in an old-fashioned Jewish town that believed that the main requirement for receiving education is testosterone, lots of it—was raised with books and the passion to learn, thanks to her dad who unfortunately dies at the early part of the movie leaving poor Yentl in the dark and forever sentenced to being the typical woman; ergo submissive, uneducated and voiceless. Being that “girl power” is unheard of in their time, Yentl uses “guy power” to pursue the education deprived of her on the grounds of having the “wrong” genitalia. She cuts her hair, binds her bumps and dresses up with her dad’s clothes. (Well, where else could she have gotten her guy wardrobe?) Then she heads off to a new town where no one would know that she is just pretending to be a boy. (If she grew mustache and beard, she’d be pretending to be a man. But her face was as smooth as a baby’s.) She meets the dashing Avigdor who, despite being smart and all, had no idea she was a girl. Perhaps Yentl, changing her name to the masculine name, Anshel, made it impossible for Avigdor to doubt Yentl/Anshel’s sex.

So Avigdor and Anshel get along and become the best of friends. So much so that when Avigdor’s engagement to Hadass (the only glamorous character in the movie) was dissolved by his supposed future father-in-law, he forces Anshel to marry Hadass for him. And since Anshel/Yentl has fallen head over mules in love with Avigdor, she does what Avigdor demmands and marries Hadass. (Not very smart of her.) Anyway Hadass is the typical woman—submissive, uneducated and voiceless—Yentl refused to be. It only took little effort for Anshel/Yentl to delay consummating her marriage with Hadass without having to admit that she (who was pretending to be a “he”) didn’t have the thing Avigdor and guys like him have. Finally, Anshel/Yentl comes up with a plan: take a long trip with Avigdor and confess her secret when they’re all alone. At first Avigdor thought Anshel was kidding, but then he/she unveils her bumps. Viola! Avigdor's Ex-fiancé’s husband is a girl! Now that explains why Avigdor himself felt a bit gay when his and Anshel’s eyes would meet while they go tickling each other in the school grounds. Avigdor and Yentl profess their love for each other and begin planning their future. But Yentl takes a step back when Avigdor suggests that Yentl grow her hair back and study inside the house with locked doors and closed shutters. She is not too keen on the idea of being domesticated and having limited access to learning. In the end, they agree to part ways and keep in touch. Yentl gives her blessing to Avigdor to go and pursue her wife, Hadass. By this time Hadass is no longer a hundred percent submissive, uneducated and voiceless (thanks to their tutorial sessions which they did instead of doing what newlyweds do), she can defend her love for Avigdor to her disapproving father. Avigdor and Hadass get together; they might have gotten married. Anyway Hadass’ marriage to Anshel was null and void on the grounds that her husband, Anshel, was a girl. Meanwhile, Yentl boards a ship to, I guess, the US where she can come out of her closet, be the woman she truly is and study like she hasn’t studied before.

Whew.

Yentl is the perfect movie to show girls who enjoy the privilege of going to school, especially those girls who have the luxury to attend good schools. It kind of reminds them that not all people are as lucky they are. My high school English teacher must have the exact thoughts when she forced us to watch this film. Thus explaining why I know Yentl.

I don’t know how I did with my compulsory reaction paper for this film, being that back in high school; I suck at writing—big time! But I know that even if I almost had a Barbra Streisand-overdose through Yentl, the movie's theme has seeped through my subconscious and presently plays a lot on my feminist view on things. Lucky for me and the rest of womankind, we live in a time when wanting more and attempting to spread one's wings is no longer considered taboo.

Barbra Streisand best exemplifies the essence of the film by being the director, producer, and (treatment) story writer, apart from being the star who plays 2 different characters—well one character with two names. Proved that just like Yentl, she can be a woman who does lots of substantial things. (Whether she's good at all the fields she pursues is yet another story.)

I have to admit however that my classmates and I were snickering when the closing credits rolled because of the number of times Streisand’s name appeared as part of the production, connoting “epal-ness.” (It’s like hearing: "Starring Ronnie Rickets, directed by Ron Rick." Nyek!)

Oh, one famous song that came out of Yentl is Papa. This I’m sure lots of people know.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bonggang Bongga si Obama!



Looks like the United States of America will be welcoming its first black president. This says a lot about the status of racial acceptance in the US--a good sign of maturity on the nation the world constantly looks up to.

I was personally vying for Obama, not that my opinion counts. For one, he looks sexier than McCain. (Don't you agree?) Hah! And of course I am all for the color. I believe it'll stir things up in the land which is supposed to be flowing with milk and honey (never mind the recession). I saw Obama delivering his speech in one of his last campaigns. A lot of conviction there. I imagine emotional American voters in tears while cheering for him. His campaign sortee pimps can easily relax.

Barack is all for America. He promises to improve on the US health care system, the flawed system we have seen in John Q. Now, Americans can get sick whenever they like. (Kidding.)

But then, the latest buzz says that Obama is against America's outsourcing of services from other countries like ours. Well, he, of course, thinks that his people should be prioritized in the US job market, the opposite of what outsourcing is all about. Until he does something about it, Pinoys in the Call Center industry can only cross their fingers. (My plea: Mr. Obama, please be kind. Don't take it (irate callers?) away from us. We have to feed our families, too.)

Former Pinoy Senator, Ernesto Maceda, however, assures the public that it'll be virtually impossible for US companies to do away with services outsourced in the Philippines. Afterall, we provide them with quality labor at a very low price. Well, I hope Maceda is right.

Besides, Barack ought to have a heart for people like us. I know Superman has.

I can't imagine how the soon-to-be-most powerful man in the United States and, maybe even, in the world is celebrating right now. His is sure to go down in history as one of the best wins in a presidential race.

Obama has less than two months to get his act together and be the president he promised to be.

Until then, we''ll just have to wait how he performs after he takes his oath of office as the president of the United States of America come January 20. 2009.

Can somebody do us all a favor and gag Valerie Concepcion?


For the good of people-kind, will someone please gag Valerie Concepcion?

I can't believe I did not include her in my list of annoying people on TV! I guess I didn't realize then how irritating this girl is until I got stuck into listening (I don't watch) to Wowowee, the TV show I abhor the most which my mom happens to watch religiously from the moment it starts to the next three to four hours or so.

If you have a migraine, better stay away from Valerie and the sounds she makes. If you're fine and you expose yourself to her, then you'll get a migraine. For your own sake, take my advise. Keep away from her!

It will take a mutated hearing system not to get annoyed with Valerie and the noise she makes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pepper Lesson From Padma Lakshmi


This afternoon, I chanced upon a show hosted by Padma Lakshmi (host of Top Chef) at Discovery Travel and Living.

Discovery Travel and Living is becoming one of my favorite channels. But watching their shows partly frustrates me. Because by seeing the places they go to and the food they prepare, I realize how many places I want to visit and how much food I have yet to taste. I could just drool with all the good things they “serve” in their shows!

On the other hand, I learn many things from Discovery Travel and Living. Here comes one of them. Thanks, in part, to Padma.

Black pepper was considered black gold early on in India. They are used to purchase goods and, sometimes, to offer to warmly welcomed guests.

The peppers we are familiar with actually come from pepper berries. Green pepper berries are sun-dried to achieve the black pepper we commonly use to season our food.

Meanwhile, white pepper is produced by soaking ripe pepper berries (the berries are red when ripe) in water until the skin loosens. The white seeds that are left are then sun-dried.

Black and white peppers have opposite effects on our tongue. The taste of black pepper lingers more at the tip of our tongue (the lower part) while the flavor of white pepper is perceived more by the back end of our tongue (the part closest to the throat). Thus explaining why white pepper seems to be milder than black pepper in terms of spiciness.

I bet you didn’t know that!


Learn more about peppers here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Post Halloween Post

I found this today.

video

Just thought it's worth sharing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy All Saints’ Day

Text ni Goy: Nagpunta b kau k Nichi? Ang weird ng undas! Parang Pasko.
Sagot ko: Kanya-kanya kmeng dalaw k Nichi e. Ung bestfriend daw ni Nichi e dumaan na kanina. Para ngang fiesta ang undas. Ang saya. Kaso pagkaharap mo n lapida ng loved-one mo, depressing.

Text ulit ni Goy:
Katakot isipin pg tau n ang nsa hukay. :-/…
Sagot ko ulit: …pag tayo n nasa hukay, sna uso p dn pagcelebrate ng undas para naman kht once a yr fiesta mode s mga “bahay” natn.


Siguro ito na nga ang time of the year kung saan pinakamaliwanag dahil sa mga kandilang nakatirik. At kagaya ng observation ni Goy, parang happy mood ang lahat.

(Photo c/o Soy)

Perhaps I have issues. Or then again, I may not be completely healed yet kaya may kurot ang undas para sa akin. Ganunpaman, gusto kong i-share ang All Saints day moments ko.







And by the way, we did visit Nichi as a family later this day.

si nichi


si ma


si soy


si dad


Kunwari spirit ako