September 29, 2006

Millenium Disaster

Typhoon Milenyo wrecked the apartment 36 hours ago. Meralco continued it.

2 hours ago:

I went to Robinson's Ermita to get some candles for the apartment since it has been two consecutive nights of blackout. Due to water conservation, I had dinner at KFC accompanied with a cardio book brushing on my readings on the effects of Lidocaine and Amiodarone on tachyarrhythmias. Robinson's was humid and hot inside, their airconditioning system was blowing warm stale air. My face was wet with sweat as I ate my dinner. While doing so, I cursed Meralco that all their callcenter employees and repair crew shall contract venereal diseases in the next week.

4 hours ago:

Nana banged on my door in sheer panic. When asked what was troubling her, she hurriedly told me she needed to buy ice. she did and when she came back, we hauled all our meat goods and perishables from the fridge and placed them into styrofoam ice boxes. I don't know how long the ice will last but I hope it will keep the goods fresh till the next day. I called Meralco earlier and accosted their call center whether the company will reimburse me for the value of my spoiled goods. Knowing that Meralco employs lemmings to take in calls, I got the usual pre-fabricated answer. They do not know when the power will be restored, they couldn't coordinate or even expedite the rescue crews or even verify if they are indeed on the field and not eating hopia all day long.

7 hours ago:

The firetruck of the Tondo Fire Brigade came to the alley beside our building to deliver water to the Chinese residents living nearby. I guess it was not only us who were affected by Meralco's slow and inept repair service. It was also a good thing that the faucet down at the garage was working, so we did not have a great need to haul water up from the street. Yet.

12 hours ago:

I went out to look for breakfast. The scene outside was pitiful. Trees were uprooted and lines fell down like black cobwebs. There was a scarcity of jeepneys plying the roads today, and many people were outside sweeping the debris, leaves and mud from the streets.

I spotted an open Jollibee which unfortunately had their airconditioning system set to a bare minimum. It was a cruel stituation whereby the heat of the kitchen plus the outside humidity created my breakfast into a bath-worthy event. Before venturing off that morning, Nana offered to cook oatmeal for me but I told her not to bother because we might not have enough water to wash the utensils later. She was placated and proceeded to "toast" her pan-de-sal on top of the wok!

24 hours ago:

It was our 2nd night to be bathed in the suffocating glow of seven votive candles and three candlesticks. The candles were losing their power as the wicks were busily siphoning the wax upward into oblivion. I became impatient. I hardly slept that night becuase I waited for the electricity to be restored. The street across us had their electricity restored already, so I thought ours would be next. After several fitful hours of waiting, I fell asleep.

36 hours ago:

The first day of the blackout was frustrating. Water has stopped flowing and we were forced to collect water into buckets. Mine was still full since the typhoon started, so I was able to bathe, albeit grudgingly. The heat of the sun was becoming quite unbearable, the air was still, making the afternoon stifling. Perishables inside the ref was still hard and cold, so we crossed our fingers that this will last until the end. Candles were prepared for the night, and it was fortunate that there were votive candles stored inside the pantry. That night the apartment looked like the nave of a cathedral with its candles placed everwhere making the mood into a reverential dungeon.

I called Meralco and gave them a piece of my mind. I think they blocked my number after that. hehehehe.... Still, what could these call center employees do? Nothing. And according to King Lear (in his famous rebuff to Cordelia), "from nothing shall come forth nothing." I guess all we can do is wait.

September 13, 2006

A Long Overdue Booktag

Dr. Emer tagged me weeks ago and initially, I was stumped on how to do this. So here goes:

Books that changed your life? - Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang- This small book from National opened my eyes to the forgotten Holocaust in Japanese-occupied China. It's full of harrowing details, photos of mutilated victims and atrocities of the worst kind. It made me realize that man is capable of inflicting the worst evil towards his brethren.; One Hundred Years of Solitude by G. G. Marquez opened the doors for me in discovering the wonders of the modern Classics. Because of him, I was encouraged to read Orwell, Maugham, Dostoyevsky, etc, where their works speak volumes of man's struggle against oppression, and whose words are blended so masterfully that you immediately swoon at each line. It made me see that there is life past Paolo Cuelho's The Alchemist & Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

Books you have read more than once? - Shogun by James Clavell (The best epic on feudal Japan! The characters simply jump right out of the book.)

Books you would want on a desert island? Perfume by Patrick Suskind

One book that made you laugh? The Decameron by Boccaccio (A very funny, irreverent and sexually charged compendium of medieval lore. Think: Benny Hill Show circa 1450), Short Stories of Saki by Hector Hugh Munro (Best way to sum it up is this: Fawlty Towers circa 1900.)

One book that made you cry? - Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Personal reasons. This book will become a classic in the next decade, just like To Kill A Mockingbird.)

One book you wish you had written? - Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

One book you wish had never been written? - Veronika Decides to Die by Paolo Cuelho (Chick-lit for those who want to commit suicide.)

One book you are currently reading? - A Plague Upon Humanity by Daniel Barenblatt. (The hidden history of Japan's human experimentation camps called Unit 731 and how the U.S. absolved all those charged in the Tokyo Tribunals just so they can utilize the data gathered by those murderous Japanese scientists. FYI: The US used the same biowarfare against the Chinese & North Koreans in the Korean war- the same methods as those made by Unit 731.)

One book you have been meaning to read? -Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (This should be a required reading in High School!!)

Next people to tag: Pia, Terai, Jake, Cel

September 04, 2006

A Bank Manager Called Amanita

Usually, I think of bank managers as people who have reached that level of responsibility and maturity wherein they can think out of the box as opposed to other bank employees and security guards wherein their decisions are based solely on their Manual of Standard Operating Procedures. From past observations, bank managers are there to smoothen out transactions and make the daily grind more efficient. This is natural to many, but this afternoon I had the privilege to experience the most inept and inflexible of all managers.

1:30 p.m.

I went to PCIB bank at the Roxas Blvd.- Ermita branch for the procurement of my sister’s (Thank you!) remittance. This branch I really love because they are efficient in processing my cash, making the experience very agreeable. Unfortunately, they just had a computer upgrade so they could not process remittances but gave me a transaction form to fill up which I can give to other branches.

I remembered that there was another branch at Pedro Gil & Mabini, fronting the new Hyatt hotel, so I hurried there immediately.

2:00 p.m.

I was directed to the manager’s desk where upon I sat down holding my completed form. I was informed that the manager was out so I had to wait for a while. Fine. After five minutes, this lady with Chinese features appeared looking very harassed. Let us hide her name as Amanita Chewbacca. Amanita flitted here and there looking for a printer to finish her “urgent” transaction. Only after which she attended to our needs; “our” means me and a man with an elbow contracture who was withdrawing what seems to be a bundle of $100 bills. With such an amount, it was surprising to see the bank’s head honcho and Amanita verrrry deferential to this customer.

After the rich customer left the bank, Ms. Amanita had the stupi… I meant, the “audacity” to persuade me not to pursue my transaction because according to her, it’s a Monday, so there are tons of transactions and it would be “verrrry difficult” to get through. What she means is that she’s not interested in entertaining me. She then suggested that if I will leave my form, I can get my cash the next day. WTF? She means to tell me that I just wasted my time waiting there for nothing? How impertinent of her to suggest that my time is not valuable. Of course, stubborn as I was I did not heed her suggestion and instead smiled at her and told her, “It’s fine. I can wait.”

I think she became exasperated because she proceeded then to call the PCIB call center. Fine. The quicker I can get out of this bank, the better. I thought we could connect immediately but no, the line just looped and looped with “Please hold on, our lines will be available soon” voice with no end in sight. She asked me to hold the phone and wait for an answer.

“Just press ‘2’ until someone answers you. Then you give it to me,” she said. I complied thinking at least this way I can increase her efficiency.

After several minutes, Amanita’s big honcho went to our desk and complained that the bank has only one line and that there might be transactions that can’t get through. In simpler terms, she wanted me to drop my queue, and wait for the sky to fall. I am not sure this is a bank’s SOP to cut-off transactions because it was difficult to reach their call center. So, we stalled perhaps ten minutes until the coast was clear. Then, she tried again to connect. Suffice to say that in the end, she was able to talk to a call center representative.

Here’s the kicker: After less than a minute on the phone, she told me that she cannot do my transaction. WTF? I waited here for nearly an hour and that’s all she can say? She told me that my name on the form did not match the name on the computer. For instance, if the name on my form was “Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus”, the call center told Amanita that the name on theirs was “Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Wolfgang.” Because of that clerical error, Amanita Chewbacca denied me of my remittance. I really wondered if she took (or even passed) Logic 101 in college for any college graduate would agree:

1. That a customer who holds a unique transaction number means that no two persons with different names can hold the same number;
2. That a customer who had a matched “secret word” means that he/she is privy to that transaction with the sender;
3. That my name was just repeated at the end means that it was near impossible that I was not the same person indicated in the computer.

But since Ms. Amanita has an IQ equal to that of a sea cucumber, she cannot fathom the logic. She may be right and strict with the name game, but any person can see that she was very inflexible and incorrigible. Usually, I do not complain with that rudimentary kind of logic in circumstances that needed my correct name, such as board exam applications, visa applications, or legal proceedings. But with a simple case of getting remittances, she had gone overboard.

In a stroke of utter brilliance, Ms. Amanita Chewbacca gave me these options: a) to produce another identification card showing I was “Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Wolfgang”, and b) to call the recipient to amend my name. The first choice was plain dumb. I don’t know how she was able to think of such a dumb idea. What you sow, you reap I guess. And her second option entails more wasted time and circumlocutory red tape. I do not have the patience for that.

This reflects badly on Ms. Amanita because her brain (which is presumably clogged with fat from her thighs) tells her that customers’ time is not a valuable commodity. It also shows that she’s so bereft of imagination that she can’t think of anymore ways to find a solution to such a logical problem. She’s like a frog that immediately stops jumping because a high wall is placed in front of her. It’s infuriating that someone in that position can be so narrow-sighted and unimaginative. I don’t think she deserves to be in that job.

She could just convince the call center that I was the same one on the latter’s computer and go ahead with the transaction. But no, she just reclined in her chair and repeatedly said, “I cannot do anything. You need to have that name amended.”

Sensing how futile this has become, I stood up, collected my things, and curtly thanked her for wasting my time and added that perhaps other PCIB managers have more imagination than her in conducting transactions like this.

3:00 p.m.

In a huff, I went out of that branch while cursing that poor excuse of a manager. Good thing the bank’s security guard heard my plight and directed me to another branch at Robinson’s mall. Full of trepidation, I entered the third branch thinking another mentally imbalanced manager will find ways not to do her job. I was wrong. I should have gone here instead of that awful Mabini branch.

I sat down again at the manager’s desk with my completed form in hand. She was a bit busy explaining to a MidEastern man something about his remittances not appearing on paper. After she had settled that, she took one look at my form and logged in into her computer. She punched in my name and in a matter of seconds, approved my transaction without reserve or suspicion. This cool manager took my identification cards and had it photocopied and subsequently I was directed to the teller where I can get my cash. Talk about efficiency! I noticed that in the printed form she attached to mine, the same "repeated name” was shown, but since she has an IQ befit of capable bank managers, she must have concluded that it was just clerical error. It was a clear sign that she was USING HER HEAD unlike the former manager. This was the way the 1st branch would deal with me. Seeing that it was next to impossible to have different persons having the same transaction number, my “suki” manager would go right ahead and approve the transaction. Perhaps, if I was a VIP client with wads of $100 bills, then such awful managers will do everything to have my remittance cleared.

Moral of the Story: Be kind to animals.

September 02, 2006

Pirate's Lair 2006

a=a=anime, m=music, s=software
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Two years fast forward from my last entry about the pirate's lair of Quiapo, an update is expectedly needed. There were lots of expansions up to the periphery of the original buildings. DVD quality is going to the rats. Why? They get from China and not from Malaysia. They get those 100-in-1 dvds which degrade the quality. I still prefer the 1 title = 1 dvd since they have the possibility of retaining all those wonderful special features.

The map above indicates the location (yellow) of the pirate stalls and the letters are as follows: a = anime, m = music, s = software.

Entrance Points:
1. From the Quiapo Church (and South-bound commutes), enter the Lacson underpass and cross the street to Hidalgo exit point. Use map indicated above.

Arlegui entrance point
2. From the North-bound commutes, jump off at the street where you see a green-tarpaulin signage saying "Hortaleza Vaciador," a local beauty supplies shop. This street perpendicular to Quezon boulevard is Arlegui street. Go straight and use the map above as indicated.

What to Bring:
* Cash - lots of it! Going back is a pain in the neck, so if you find a title that you've been dying to watch, get it!
* Messenger bag - backpacks are sitting ducks for pickpocketers, so having this will ensure the safety of your belongings
* Wear simple clothes. The stench of "Eau de Corps" (More like Eau de Corpse) compounded by the aroma of dried puke, expired cooking oil, mildew and piss is enough for you to wear only shorts and T-shirt.

What NOT to Bring:
* Credit cards - Everything is cash-only basis.
* Expensive cellphones - Snatchers abound. Still, it's an irony to see Muslim DVD traders owning phones more sophisticated than yours.

Most of the sellers are MUSLIMS! So, if you value your life, do not crack any Anti-Moslem jokes. But you can ask them why Allah chose Isa (Jesus) to come down here during the Day of Judgement and not their beloved Mohammed, and listen to their wonderful and defensive answers. Or you can ask them if whether they prostrate themselves five times a day towards Mekkah right there in the black-colored concrete alleyways with their heads bowed on the filthy floor.

*Caveat: It is unevitable that some touts will accost you along one of the DVD streets enticing you to buy their Adult dvds. You can see them standing on the street with nothing to do but harrass people with their sales pitch. My advice is: DON'T GO. They will lead you the the darkest recesses of this bungalow marketplace where they will trap you in buying their wares. They will "implicitly" threaten you with violence if you do not buy a single one of their overpriced dvds. They don't give discounts because they know you are at their mercy. A college friend of mine who frequented this Muslim quarter ended up running for his life when they forced him to buy their dvds. These shady sellers force you to buy so they can get a commision for leading you to their lair.

All sectors of Filipino society patronize the pirate's lair. From students from MLQU, to priests from San Sebastian Church, to nurses & doctors, to SM employees, to rich SOBs riding their FORD F150, to barong-clad personnel from MalacaƱang, to DVD resellers coming from the provinces, to Caucasian and Korean tourists in shorts and puka-shell necklaces. No one is exempted.

1. Malaysia - they provide the best quality DVDs with their shiny laminated insert and the golden hue of the discs. DVDs from this Truly Asian nation is truly fantastic.
2. China - they are characterized by their silver discs, the Chinese characters, the atrocious synopsis and their subtitles done in perfect pidgin English.
3. Philippines - they have golden discs with golden designs (unlike the malaysians) and their title inserts looked as if a high school dropout photoshopped the screenshots and voila! Also, other manufacturers burn films into blank dvd disks just like burning a vcd in your computer. In this case, it's a hit and miss.

Products Sold:
1. Unreleased Hollywood films
a. copied from a promotional disc
b. copied inside a theater
2. Released Hollywood films (copied from the original DVD)
3. Classics (Hitchcock, Kurosawa, war movies, etc.)
4. Arthouse films (infrequent, scarce supply, rare titles) ex. Criterion collection
5. Asian foreign films (Korean, Japanese)
6. Asian Telenovelas (Boxed sets)
7. Tagalog films - DVD burned
8. Sitcoms, US drama series, Documentaries (Boxed sets)
9. Adult Features

*MP3s & CDs - usually great copies and cheap at P25 a disc
1. Oldies
2. Jazz
3. Rock & Pop
4. OPMs

1. DVD copies
2. Videoke
3. Adult Features

1. Games
2. Installers
3. Anti-Virus Programs

There are lots of places to start. And you have to be discriminating with your choice of DVDs. Just don't take it as it is because if something is wrong with it, it can be very difficult to return it back for exchange. There are rows and rows of DVDs and with luck, you can stumble on rare titles (like the works of Kurosawa and Tinto Brass), or better copies of unreleased films. The DVDs are stack on shelves upon shelves extending from the floor to the ceiling. When they say DVD copy, it means it was copied from the original, but when they say "Clear copy," it means it's not worth buying the disc yet.
1. Check for the titles.
To know whether a title is copied from an original DVD:
* Check the quality of the DVD insert. If it looks like similar to the released DVD and not like a photoshopped title where the words are misspelled and the description is inaccurate, then it must be from an original copy.

* Check the spine. If there's a code like "DVD-349" or "MCD-582", most often than not, it's copied from an original disc.

2. Check for scratches and defects on the shiny side of the DVD.
* If there are scratches, it would be difficult to return.
* Make sure that the film can play in your player. Certain players do not accept PAL format, so be wary of European art films who have PAL stamped at the back.

3. Have you choice be tested on their DVD player.
* Don't take no for an answer! Threaten them that you'll buy from the next stall. If they will assure you that the title in hand is a DVD copy, then you either take their word for it or you ask them "nicely" if they have a blood-relative nearby who can test it for you.

* A P5-10 discount must be asked.
* Current Prices range from P35-55 nowadays.

5. Make sure they stamp/mark the DVD title insert, so if you return them, you can argue that it was from their store that you've bought the disk from because if not, they can play that Shylock argument that you "might have bought it from other stalls."

What to Do During Raids:
* Go onto the street & act non-chalantly
* Enter the nearest convenience store or fastfood joint and loiter inside
* Shout hysterically in Arabic that you have a bomb strapped inside your shirt.

* The Real Deal:

Today, raids are RARE in Quiapo. However, if Edu and his
cohorts have a scheduled raid, more or less, the sellers have already been
tipped off and are extremely vigilant during that particular day. You can see
them talking about the impending raid, having boxes readied, and their supplies
are not 100% displayed. Besides, if a raid ensues, the news spreads like
wildfire and within a span of five minutes, all of the shops are closed. Just
make sure to get out of the DVD alley lest you will be locked inside with the
Muslim traders.