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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Where's My Thank You Card, Makati?

On a particularly stressful day, I got out of the office to find that my car has been towed.

I was able to park right in front of our building entrance - luckily, or unfortunately, given the towing incident. I remember lining up the car quite gingerly into the designated parking slot, but because the car behind me was a 4WD, and took up some of my parking space, I had no choice but to to have the front part of the car gut out (nakausli in the vernacular) beyond the slot.

I was waiting for the Makati parking attendant to issue me my parking ticket (and s/he would have been able to tell me that a little portion of my car was over the drop-off/loading zone). When the attendant didn't show up (I parked just before 230pm), I decided I would pay my fee after two hours. (Every 2 hours of street parking in Makati is 40 pesos, a third hour and you have to add 50, or the lovely total of 90 pesos for 3 hours.)

I was appalled to find my car missing as soon as I got out of the office. There was a chalk inscription on the sidewalk (I was too annoyed to take a picture) saying "the owner of this vehicle, claim car at impounding, Amorsolo-De la Rosa".

I got to the impounding area and explained why I shouldn't have been towed - it wasn't my fault that the car behind me was taking up my "proper" space. "I want to contest this."

"Ok," said the traffic enforcer at the impounding hut. (Literally, they were holding office in a makeshift hut.) "But you still have to pay the fee even if you plan to contest it."

"Then what would be the point of contesting it, if I have to pay, anyway?" I asked - rhetorically, of course.

He let my dig slide right over....way over there. He scribbled furiously on some papers and said, "that's one thousand pesos. Take it or leave it, contest it or not."

"Don't I get a thank you card from Binay?" I responded.


"I am one of, if not the most anti-Binay people in Makati, yet here I am, being forced to give him again, where's my thank you card?"

The traffic enforcer pretends not to hear anything, and looks down, gazing his pants.

"Not even a calendar? Or keychain...nothing?"

He mumbles a thank you upon getting my cash, and I imagine him feeling victorious because he still has my money, whatever I say, against my will.

I've always liked living here. This is not one of those days.

*My ticket (from the picture) was issued by P/A Baylon (parking attendant), at 2:39 PM. It can't be a coincidence that I waited a good 3 minutes when I just parked - with no parking attendant around, at 2:30pm -  and 9 minutes later, when I had already gotten in the building, my car was towed ASAP...can it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Because She Has To Have The Last Word

Having finished my haircut, I was reminded by Art that we ran out of bread and that I should get replacement for it. "You can pass by Pan de Manila so we can also have some of their Coco Jam."


Luckily the mall I was in had a Pan de Manila branch, so I went in and headed straight for the Coco Jam. I placed it on the cashier's counter and went to choose the bread we would pair it with.

I noticed that the loaf I picked up didn't have an indication for the expiry date. I went for the loaf beside it, and it also didn't have one.

"Miss," I asked the cashier. "Kailan expiry nito?" (When does this expire)

She glanced over, looked at what I was holding, and said, "Kakagawa pa lang nyan, sir." (That's freshly baked, sir.)

"OK...pero kailan siya masisira?" (But when does it go bad?)

"Ay, sir, kakagawa pa lang nga niyan." (Like I said, it was just freshly baked/made.)

I wasn't sure if she was just ignoring the question, or if she was just lazy and didn't want to go the baker or back office to ask the information I wanted. "Alam ko na kakagawa lang niya, ang tinatanong ko, kailan masisira para alam namin kailan di na pwede kainin?" (I know it's freshly baked, my question was, when will it expire so we know when to throw it out?)

She looks at me with an exasperated smirk, and heads to the baking area. "Kuya! Sagutin mo nga tanong ng customer!" (Can you answer this customer's question!)

The baker comes out and I repeat the question. He goes over to where the breads are, looks at several loaves, and is just as surprised that there is no expiration date on any of them. He finally finds one in the middle of the bunch with an expiration label and hands it to me.

I say my thanks, and I headed to the counter, smug that I could drive home the point that the cashier wasn't helpful and needed someone else to do what appeared to me was her job.

She looks at me condescendingly as I approach her and beats me in having the last word: "Sabi ko sa inyo kakagawa lang ng tinapay, ayaw maniwala sa akin, kulit!" (I already told you, it was freshly baked, you didn't want to believe me! So noodgy!)

I rolled my eyes so hard, I saw the stores in the floor above us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

From Hallowed To Hollow

A manic Monday, indeed.


Yesterday's top news stories were focused on two items: the karaoke rendition of Sen. Revilla in his privilege speech (complete with an MTV-style recording), and the new career of Rep. Pacquiao as coach of a professional basketball team.


The general "mood" as measured in social media has been negative as far as these two items were concerned. More vitriol has been spewed in Revilla's direction, with several commenters noting that so much money has been spent for a senator to air his sentiments, and that it was clearly an insult to people's sensibilities - at least to those with a Facebook account - to think a song number would somehow earn him pity points vis a vis the charges he is facing from the Ombudsman.

The Pacquiao item registered a more lenient reaction, and based on unscientific observation, I'd say half disapproved of the Pambansang Kamao entering another field, with the other half calling the other side as afflicted with crab mentality, and just jealous that Manny gets to add another cap to wear while "you negative people are just feeling so superior in cyberspace while putting a national hero down!"

Let's lay it out plainly: obviously these two politicians enjoy overwhelming support from their constituents - the entire country for Revilla and Saranggani province for Pacquiao - or they wouldn't be where they are presently, on our payroll as public servants.

Reading these two news items repeatedly throughout all of yesterday, it occurred to me that both personalities are more similar than one would have guessed.

1. They were "superstars" in their fields before entering politics.

Sen. Bong Revilla is, of course, heir to the Agimat film franchise. His father was also an actor in the same role, and Bong's son has followed suit in the acting profession. (I am unaware though if Bong's son has the same pull to get a seat in the Senate.) He is considered attractive - even Sen. Miriam Santiago admits this - which is certainly a boon in a culture that prizes how we appear over how we truly are.

Manny Pacquiao needs no further introduction, as his fame has reached worldwide proportions. A classic rags-to-riches story, he overcame poverty and hardship with the sweat of his brow mixed with blood from the beatings he received; his trajectory from inexperienced pugilist to international sports icon is the stuff that local telenovelas take pleasure in repeating over and over. For decades.

Their supporters argue that they are both "supremely qualified" to be public officials. Whatever the case or persuasion, their stature in their initial professions would be immensely instrumental in securing for themselves elective positions.

2. They both view their public positions as a part time job, at best.

How else to explain the ability of Sen. Revilla to appear on a weekly television show, entitled Kap's Amazing Stories? Or to make an annual entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival? Clearly, Senate work must be a breeze given the fact that the senator finds it impossible to leave his "roots" in entertainment.

This is even more pronounced in Pacquiao's case, as he takes months off to practice for any upcoming bout. Last year, he had the dubious distinction of being the top lawmaker - in terms of number of absences. He has dabbled with the idea of doing pastoral/religious work, has TV specials, makes advertisements in all media, and goes around the world to promote his fights.

No wonder other lawmakers see no problem in doing the same: Sen. Chiz Escudero was seen as a co-anchor in a morning talk show a few months back and also had his face plastered over a commercial for a processed meats company. (The fact that it was election season then was purely coincidental, I'm guessing.)

Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez hosts a dancing show (as she has taken flamenco classes), and if I'm not mistaken, is part of a panel on a showbiz news show.

I received some criticisms for my article on Anne Curtis - some of them were quite constructive, for which I am thankful - but the one thing I can never fault Anne for is that she is wasting public funds. She can be a trapeze artist or molecular biologist, and if that is what she wants to do, that is her prerogative as a private individual.

But this is not the case with Revilla and Pacquiao.

I seem to remember that Revilla took one of the top spots - if not the topmost with the most number of votes - in the Senate race. And Pacquiao was practically a shoo-in as representative of his province. In short, they were overwhelmingly chosen and given votes of confidence, probably two of a very small group of politicians, in this country, that nobody can accuse of cheating their way to power.

Their cavalier attitude towards the positions they were elected into reflects quite clearly in light of yesterday's headlines.

Revilla bandied about a 'list' in his privilege speech - this being the season of lists - which turned out to be some diluted form of slumbook or yearbook dedications to his fellow senators. We did not hear him present factual evidence to disprove the accusations he is charged with. To end his speech on a sweet note, he played an AV presentation of what he said was an original song, and he didn't sing half-bad, although he has no chance of being another Lea Salonga as far as singing careers go.

Pacquiao probably never heard anyone criticize him for his legislative attendance last year, which explains why he readily accepted the new coaching job. Far be it from anyone of us to stand in Manny's way of being a jack of all trades, but public office - where public officials receive public money to do their job - is a full time job.

And before someone accuses me of just parading my opinion as a baseless claim, let's take a look at Republic Act No. 6713, section 7 (b) (2): "Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not engage in the private practice of their profession, unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions;"

If having 60 absences is not a "conflict" for a public official in the exercise of his official function, then we have no right firing private employees or expelling students who do a third of Manny's record number of absences while receiving a salary from all of us.

3. Politics is a family enterprise.

While Bong was giving his speech, you could see his wife, Rep. Lani Mercado Revilla, shedding tears and Bong's son looking pensive; incidentally, the latter is also the vice mayor of their home province.

Manny's wife and 2 brothers ran in the last elections, as well. Jinkee handily won as vice mayor, as did his brothers: one is a councilor, the other, chairman of a district.

In this, they learned from the oligarchs and long entrenched dynasties: once you have your foot in, make the public positions your personal property, and your hometowns your personal fiefdoms.

No wonder: no legislator wants to create an enabling law for the constitutional provision banning political dynasties.

4. Song, dance and sports are par for the (political) course.

Given the above, it was hardly surprising that Revilla resorted to a trick he must have perfected as an actor: get the sympathy of the public with a made-for-Senate/TV news composition.

I felt like I was watching some permutation of That's Entertainment. This is what passes for a "privilege speech."

Neither was I overly perturbed that Pacquiao had another sports venture in the works: we have validated him over and over as a boxing icon, allowing him to have a legislative post (and his vote was one that nearly derailed the RH Law) even while he pursues more heights in other fields of sport. (Sarcastic comments online were egging him to try Mixed Martial Arts or joining the Azkals next.)

As a child, my father used to regale me with stories of how respected our senators were. He worked in some (legal) cases with Sen. Jovito Salonga  and the awe and admiration he had for the senator was palpable. Their conversations - of which I was able to eavesdrop one - centered on helping the disadvantaged, and it was a burden the senator carried until the end.

Clearly, those days of the Senate are long gone. Yesterday's events just highlighted a saying I have always found to be true: empty drums make the loudest noise.

Of course, sometimes it comes in the form of a music video.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happiness For 388 Pesos (+10%)

On a rainy Thursday, my friends and I met up for lunch at the Tomas Morato branch of the famed Singaporean export, Boon Tong Kee, after being tempted by an online ad proclaiming their eat-all-you-can promotion, for only 388 pesos. (Add 10% for service charge.)

We're not entirely sure if this is part of their anniversary promotion, but if memory serves me right, we took part of a similar deal last year around August. (And it was close to 500 pesos then.)

In any case, we were glad that the stars of Boon Tong Kee are featured in the current lineup.

The Signature Boiled Chicken, the reason people come to Boon Tong Kee, was readily replenished when close to being totally devoured. I couldn't really get a "clean" shot because as soon as a fresh batch arrived, someone pounced on it.

Roasted Chicken, which was slightly drier but crispier. (Some people don't like this, but I do.)

Char Siew, or Roasted Pork, was quite a pleasant surprise. It may be too strong flavor wise to some, but my friend Liza found it delicious. As did I.

Stuffed Tofu, a dish that makes you feel virtuous, until you realize more than half of each triangle was meat. Good feeling gone - in exchange for a good tasting, uhm, vegetable.

What we came for: Coffee Pork Ribs. Why? Basta.

A new addition from last year's spread, their Sio Mai was not their strong suit. Especially with shops like Tim Ho Wan and Shi Lin here, a comparison would make this seem...let's just change the subject, shall we?

Birthday Noodles, which was wonderful texture wise. My friend Wins really loved the "topping".

How does Boon Tong Kee make their veggies so enticingly delicious? This French (?) String Bean is a prime example. My friend Malyn and I agreed: if this was representative of vegetarian dishes, we'd be vege-heads for life. Well, maybe.

Fish Fillet, which seemed bland after the previous dishes.

The dessert section consisted of 2 fruits, so we headed to Il Terrazzo just across the street for our coffee and sugar rush. But Boon Tong Kee's promotion will only be until tomorrow - yes, tomorrow (see and enlarge poster above) - so if you fancy Hainanese Chicken and Coffee Pork Ribs the way we do, head over to any of their branches to partake of this moderately priced form of happiness.