Thursday, May 28, 2009

Morning musings at the gas station

I just woke up from a nap at the gas station, finding that I've been asleep for the better part of 2 hours. A really good decision having stopped over here as I am now feeling refreshed and more confident about the drive home. And I have already put aside the fear of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning while the car's engine and A/C are on. (though I did crack open a window about an inch or so for good measure)

I decide to get coffee to complete my "morning" plus the half-pack of cigarettes that I usually get these days to control my "dosage". I have to tell you, getting these half-packs don't work when you get them twice a day. *sigh*

So why was I terribly sleepy this afternoon? I had a 9am meeting and to prepare I pored over a week's worth of reports from my staff and slept at 4am in the morning. Add to that the hour long journey plus an hour of morning ceremonies and that left me with little energy to sustain myself for a whole day's worth of work. This particular gas station is 13 kilometers away from the office, a 15 minute or so drive and throughout that stretch I had to turn up the radio so as not to fall asleep at the wheel. I just parked the car, made a makeshift pillow out of the passenger side headrest and dozed off. zzzzz

What woke me from my slumber was the bullhorn of a container truck that was passing by where I parked. It was 9pm by then and the truck ban had already been lifted. So that meant that the expressway had officially become a racetrack for these rolling behemoths, certainly not a place that I'd love to share my morning drive at. Anybody who's experienced being sandwiched between two trucks racing to the finish line will tell you that instant claustrophobia does exist. Which is why I am stuck here for another hour at least just to give these monsters a head start. Well at least the coffee's good and there's free wifi. A pleasant good morning to you all!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My opinion on the whole issue of taxing books

Been catching up on my reading these past few nights, I managed to avoid the idiot box now that half of my channels have gone kaput and have resorted to good old paper based entertainment. I have just finished "The Watchmen" (hmm... is there a 'the'?) and am now moving on to some short stories.

Back in high school, I used to read a book or two a month. Mostly the classics, Hemingway, Stephen King, the occasional Danielle Steele (understand that I didn't buy books, I depend on my sister for reading matter) and this has somehow expanded my horizons to different cultures and opinions, as well as given me different perspectives on the human drama. In fact, it was during this time that I dabbled in writing and this has definitely helped me develop my own style and more importantly an interest in jotting down my thoughts and daydreams.

Then I learn that there was a resolution or directive to impose taxes and duties on imported books? I imagined myself not getting hooked on reading during those years and I might have been a lot more narrow minded and devoid of creative thought today. Well of course, there's the television and though it does contribute in a way to developing one's intellect and critical thought, I have found that it doesn't help anyone's attention span. My theory is the Right-Here-Right-Now kids with low EQs would probably have developed more character if their parent's actually "parent-ed" rather than leaving their kids to drool over the boob tube the whole weekend. But that's another topic altogether.

Books are an all important tool for anyone's development and rather than limiting the inflow of fresh ideas and different points of view into our society, we should all the more embrace these if we as a people were to uplift our quality of life. I could go on all day about the benefits of making books more accessible to everyone but somehow I feel that everyone knows this already. Sure, what's a measly percentage taxed on something like a book, but bringing it on a larger scale I would hypothesize that this would discourage publishers and importers of books from bringing in new releases and consequently leave the whole country in the dark ages while everyone else zooms ahead to the future.

Yesterday, I read in the papers that this issue had reached the president and she has ordered the repeal of such an absurd and greedy directive. Have to applaud all the people who managed to air enough noise for some people up on their high chairs to actually gain some sense.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The thing about the trail...

While this is my second time to join the TNF100 trail race, some things just don’t get any easier the second time around. 36 hours after enduring the trails of the Sacobia River in Pampanga, I still have a lot of pain in every muscle and joint in my body. And that’s only the pansy 10 kilometer trail! Well, I still am a beginner so you’ll excuse me if I steer clear of more pain by way of the more gruesome 20 kilometer run, or commit myself to any suicidal tendencies with the almost unimaginable 100 kilometer odyssey.

Anyway, why do I subject myself to such misery high up in the mountain trails of Nasugbu, Batangas or the tortuous river crossings of the Sacobia? To be honest, at first I thought it was a mere walk in the park (quite literally, I’m afraid). I little under a year ago, my brod Jundel who works for TNF (Oh, that’s The North Face, by the way) told us of this race he was helping organize in Batangas. It seemed like any normal fun-run (10 and 20 kilometers) or ultra-marathon (any distance above 42 kilometers, is it?), except this one did not have the convenience nor the sure-footedness of a “road”. You ran up and down trails, makeshift paths through foliage, mud, rock and God knows what else.

Back then, I was trying out jogging to get myself in shape and 10 kilometers didn’t seem that hard. I said yes, of course and got myself a pair of TNF trail running shoes. Weeks prior to the race, my confidence was pretty high with my training getting more and more intense. This was going to be a breeze, I thought. Soon enough the day of my first trail run came, and those two plus hours, yes TWO PLUS HOURS of running/walking/crawling the trail seemed like days. I had made up the excuse of taking pictures throughout the race to explain my time, but the real reason I just stood there clicking away sure had a lot to do with my whole body becoming numb with pain.

Fast forward to yesterday morning, while lacing up the same pair TNF trail running shoes, my tummy was full of butterflies. How the heck am I getting myself through this? You see, unlike the usual marathons, trail running is peculiar because if you lose the willpower to continue, there is very little chance of a cab passing by to take you home. You stop, take a huge gulp of water and suddenly notice that all around you, there is little semblance of urban glam that you’re so used to. Plus you also run the risk of getting run over by other (more fit) runners, swallowed up by gigantic man-eating weeds and my personal favorite, getting mooed at by a stray cow, pretty “Jumanji”, huh? The only way to stop your race is to reach the finish line which was what you were trying to quit doing in the first place. There’s just no getting around it, I guess.

The inevitable time comes, I line up with other runners (victims?), and do this warm up ritual brought to us by the guys at Fitness First. Then they count down and before I knew what had happened, I was running involuntarily, actually fleeing the throng threatening to run me over from behind more than anything. The asphalt suddenly disappears from underneath my feet and in its place a dried up river bed? Where am I? I keep running though, and splash around streams, puddles and mud. Then I run out of breath and cramp up, so much for all that stretching. I walk it off, now way will I seem like the wimp that I really am! Too many cute girls on the trail… must keep moving…. must breathe… beam me up, Scottie!

I make it to the uphill climb, the blades of grass giving me “micro-cuts” and am starting to itch. My soggy socks are making this squishy noise that keeps bugging me and the sun is already heating up the early morning. I try to fool myself into thinking that I’m closer than I think to the finish line, then I reach the summit of the hill and it redefines my definition of “impending doom”.

Apparently, I did finish. All limbs still intact (though numb) and gaining an additional pound or two of mud, grime and foliage. I line up for pictures, the photographer says ‘smile!’ and I almost threw my shoes at him.

So to summarize, trail running is definitely a hellish version of the fun-run. Mention “trail running” and the words torture and pain come to mind. Weird thing is, I’m definitely coming back to get my ass kicked next year! Bring it on!


The author is a wimp. His idea of “pain” and “torture” are unlike normal people and views an ant-bite in pandemic proportions. His loose definition of “training” for the physical nature of trail running involves massive quantities of alcohol and the inhalation of whole tobacco plantations. Feel free to view his above post with mocking and ridicule, and save your pity and compassion for the people that he had pestered during the entirety of the trail run.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The mysterious tree of ripe mangoes

I've seen mango trees for most of my life, but yesterday is probably the first time that I saw a tree filled with ripe mangoes still in its branches. Even in mango orchards, I don't recall seeing the golden yellow fruit attached to it still. Even as a kid, we would never have the patience to wait for the fruit to turn yellow before plucking it down to earth. Yet there it was, begging for some kid to climb up its branches and pick out the sickeningly sweet delight with their sticky little fingers.

So where is this mango tree that I speak of? Right in one of my client's backyard. I asked the security guards why no one bothered to pick it. He said that his boss didn't give permission and they were too embarrassed to ask. A pity, I thought, that all these ripe fruits would go to waste. Being in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of a vast industrial park, there are no kids running around to take advantage of this bounty.

I was to meet with the boss in a few minutes for an appointment. We spoke about business, some small talk and then closing the deal with a handshake. Before I walked out the door, I asked him about the mango tree and all why no one bothered to pluck any of it. Apparently, they already have, the first batch of mangoes going to the staff. This second batch is still not that ripe, he explains, but as soon as it is he will ask the groundsmen to gather them up and distribute them to his people. I resisted the urge to have a taste there and then.

So alright, I'm not a real big fan of mangoes, but I would really love to pick them. As a kid, I took pleasure in climbing up to the "alatiris" and "santol" trees in our compound and picking the ripe ones out of the branches. The pleasure that I get out of 'raping' these trees for their fruits was even better than eating all those fruits themselves. Strange.


There was a big meeting at the office, apparently there is a crisis at work. Not enough sales supposedly. Gulp... don't I manage the sales department? So unsurprisingly all eyes were watching me fidget in my seat. I could only wonder what was going on behind their beady little eyes. Upper management asks for their understanding if they don't get the usual bonuses this year, nor the mid year pay that they had grown so accustomed to. Now I know how Alice felt when she shriveled down to pint sized proportions.

Okay, a moment please to defend myself? This is not my fault at all! Hahaha! Sure, they'll believe me, but it isn't really! I'll be the first to admit, I could be doing more than what I'm doing now, but sales are definitely not slipping compared to last year. If at all, they've pretty much stayed the same despite the global financial crisis. The only shortcoming that I will confess to is not having met my target SO FAR. Well, I've set a pretty high target for my team this year which explains the wide discrepancy between actual and forecasted sales. That's another matter entirely since overhead and capex weren't really adjusted according to the forecast anyway.

Stop staring at me! Okay, I'll be pretending to be out for a very important meeting right now and avoid the pitchforks... nuninuninu...

While driving to this imaginary appointment, my imaginary friend asks: "So what's wrong, anyway?" I look into his invisible eyes and tell him that nothing is wrong with sales. But should I also tell him the real story? That of where all the sales are going to? Maybe I shouldn't. After all, upper management is not pinning any blame on me, just gently poking me to pick up the slack as soon as possible. And I did agree to such a huge target, darn stupid pride!

Oh well, more work for me. Good thing is that approaching the half, business outlook is pretty darn good even for a recession. The team has been able to corral some pretty good contracts, and we've been growing our client list despite hard times. But I can't tell that to anyone unless the ink has set and dried and the receipts go flying out. Learned long ago never to count your chickens until they've hatched.


Did I tell you I've lost most of my cable channels thanks to SkyCable's reformatting? Can't complain, it's an illegal connection (shhh...) so I'm stuck with the few channels that I have. Kinda reminds me of the time when I didn't have cable. The positive side of it is that I get to read more often. In fact, my reading has sort of interrupted my writing, not entirely a bad thing since I usually find myself writing nonsense anyway. This reading phase may actually be good for the brain. hehehe.

The bad thing is that is went out right smack in the middle of the playoffs. Had been following the games through instead of watching the action as it unfolds (albeit on delayed telecast). The same goes with the current formula one season, how I miss the drone of the engines as they fly past the cameras. Incidentally, I don't think the Scuderia have much of a chance this year, rats.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Road trips galore! (and other nonsense)

So I woke up realizing that I had to drive a few hundred kilometers solo today. I could almost sense the dread of falling asleep at the wheel at 100kph. Well, I'm at the last 80 or so kilometers to home, so far so good I guess. As part of my Monday northern office routine, I drive solo to Pampanga (Clark) and/or Zambales (Subic)depending on what my itinerary is for work.

I must admit that I actually like this new work schedule of mine. There's nothing better to kick start your week like a good long drive! Today has been specially rewarding, I had just replaced the dilapidated rim (see earlier post) and was testing the roadworthiness of my new acquisition, a second hand SiR rim. It did well, meaning it did not explode into pieces leaving me dead along the SCTEx. So now my confidence in my banged up car is on the up and up again. Now, where to next?


You, my loyal readers (all 4 of you), may probably have noticed that there has been a steep drop in the volume of my posts on this particular blog. No, I did not suddenly wake up and have a life, rather it is actually the lack of it. There is not much to be writing about and even less time to write about nothing. Work has taken up a significant portion of my time and thoughts (my boss would of course deny this) and when I'm not working, I'm staring at the wall. I have suddenly found a certain peace in idleness and am exploring all of its different facets and qualities.

But why stop now? Why bother to post in this blog at this very moment? No reason in particular, just finished up a double cheeseburger sandwich and am in no mood to play chess right now. Yes, when my brain gets restless from staring at my blank wall, I play chess on the computer. A sort of exercise for it, and a great way to either boost or deflate my ego. Often it's the latter, though, so I have resolved to take a month long vacation from pushing these irritating pieces on the computer screen. Thus, I am back to blogging as a last resort.


In vanity, I tried to take pictures of myself while driving on the SCTEx. It is not such an easy task, traveling at a 100kph while smiling and looking at the camera. Fortunately, I did not hit anything and actually managed to get a few decent pictures. Am thinking of posting them as my latest profile picture on the many social networking sites that I subscribe to but am putting it off until I can 'photoshop' the pictures. I'd hate to see my big ol eyebags from taking up too much space on my face. Also did manage to snap a few pictures of the road and the hillsides all around it but have not yet found the time to scan through them. Why I took these pictures at the possible expense of my life, I couldn't quite explain as of yet. There was just the urge, and then the soft clicking sound of my camera-phone.


Last night, a buddy of mine and I were thinking up a new destination for a road trip. Heck, I couldn’t think of anything new that we could try. Without an SUV or at least an AUV, there are a limited number of routes that we could go to without causing too much hassle. I have a map of Luzon on my wall and I stared at it this morning, trying to figure out some route or destination. Turns out there was a lot of places that I haven’t explored with good roads but the fact that these places harbor ‘nice people around’ automatically crossed them out of the list. So were stuck again.

One possibility is Bolinao, on the tip of Pangasinan. It supposedly has a great beach as well as some attractions which include a lighthouse. The route is pretty simple, NLEX, SCTEx, Camiling, then up to Pangasinan through Alaminos and the northern towns. There is also the Zambales route which would take us through the entirety of this mountainous province, possible stopping at some of the attractions along the way.

Then I also looked at Tugegarao, now this is a 14 hour challenge through the shadows of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera ranges. We could stop over at Edu’s hometown of Gen. Tinio or Manny’s Bayombong for a night, then tackle the mountains going north.

Hmm, haven’t been further south than Legazpi, which makes Sorsogon an ideal candidate. 16 or so hours, I believe. I don’t necessarily have to see any whale sharks, just the fact that we drove, we came, we got drunk at Luzon’s southernmost tip is enough.


Speaking of getting drunk at road’s end, this has been the idea of most of my road trips with friends. Odd that having traveled a lot since college, I have very little photographs to show for it yet I remember how drunk I was each time.

One of my favorite anecdotes was the time that Dodie and I got drunk driving to Legazpi. This 16hour ordeal (Entirely sponsored by Dodie, by the way) included a lot of stopovers which made us thirsty, very thirsty, and so we entered a hotel there and drank ourselves to near death. A miracle that we still managed to get into the car, I drove (Dodie was dead tired of driving his car, by then) to where we could park in safety and doze off, and discovered this gate open to what seemed like a nice quiet garden. We stopped and slept, but soon woke to the nagging urge to hurl. So hurl we did, and pee, and hurl some more. Our favorite spot was this wall conveniently located on the passenger’s side of the car.

So in the morning we awoke, and our hangover was stymied by the sight of the Cagsawa bell tower, made famous by the postcards with the backdrop of the Mayon Volcano. How odd that we made this national treasure and monument our personal barf bag and urinal. We got out of there as fast as we could! (Well, after that last morning piss, of course)


Well anyway, its pretty dark out. Better get going. Still another 80 odd kilometers to home. The blank wall must be missing me already.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On the dangers of potholes

Was in a fairly good mood all day and decided to take a jog at UP. Got all my stuff ready and headed out just as the afternoon sun was about to sink lower into the horizon. About 2 kilometers into my drive, I suddenly saw this gigantic pothole directly in my path. Evasive maneuvers and hard braking didn't do much as I was shocked with the terrible thud that rocked the whole car. I almost cried...

I got to UP safely and unremarkably after that, but when I finally got out of the car to check on my tires, behold my rim looked like a tin can that was thrown on the pavement by a three year old. A wonder really how my tires managed to stay inflated after that but it was scary to think that I'd have to drive back home with 'that'!

All things considered, I believe that I am a fairly cautious driver and having fallen victim to this pothole suggests that a lot of other people must also have gone through the same experience. It's one thing that such a dangerous pothole can be seen on secondary and side streets, but this being EDSA, I think this problem should be addressed ASAP.

Well of course I didn't report it to the authorities. First of all, how do you? It's a Sunday and I don't think the DPWH (Dept of Public Works and Highways) is open. Second, I will never, ever talk to an MMDA or any other traffic enforcer unless they apprehend me. It's like trying to feed a rabid dog, I might even be accused of having created said pothole and be given a ticket or worse, thrown in jail. Maybe if they put a suggestion box somewhere along EDSA I might have the courage to drop a note.

So now with that damage to my rim, work is affected, public safety (never mind my own) is compromised and my ride doesn't look cool anymore! hahaha! Anyway, for those of you driving, try not to use EDSA. I know I won't.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sleepless nights are dangerous to your health

Lately I've been getting a lot less sleep than normal. Occurrences of me waking up at 2 in the morning and every hour thereafter is troubling and I'm often sleepy the whole day. It's quite inconvenient, specially since I have to drive an average of an hour to and from the office on the expressway. "Micronaps" are such a hassle when you're moving at 80-90kms per hour in a tin can.

I've been given several theories by people, the most plausible of which are insomnia, fatigue, stress, sleep apnea. My own theory is withdrawal from cigarettes, have been giving some effort to cutting back on smokes. I've been trying to get to the bottom of this inconvenience by figuring out what different things have I been doing at the start of the week, the same period that I've had this trouble. Despite having watched hours and hours of "House, MD", "CSI" and other shows of the investigative nature, I came up with nothing but crap and will just stick to letting things take their natural course.

Still feeling too lazy to see a doctor about it, I guess it isn't that serious. As usual, I only haul ass to the medical professionals when I see blood or really really REALLY feel ill. (really really feel ill is just not enough motivation)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

My Memories of the Video Vat

I remember the first time my dad took me to the "Video Vat", the video rental store along Boni Avenue. The place was packed with betamax cassette tapes stuffed in their pigeon holes all over the walls and scribbled on the front end of each were their titles. John (my dad) would take out one and slide over the cover to reveal significant details of the movie such as who's starring in it and who directed it.

Why did I remember this? Well, was watching AXN on cable and they were showing a trailer of this show starring 'academy award winning actor Timothy Hutton'. I don't know of any movies by this Timothy Hutton but his name sounded so familiar. I tried to recall where I had come across his name and surprisingly came to this memory of my first time in a rental store. Okay so maybe not exactly my first time, I think John got porn that time but in subsequent trips to the Video Vat, I was scanning the movie details when I chanced upon the name Timothy Hutton. I asked my dad who he was and he took a look at the tape and rented it out. Supposedly this guy is a good actor, but who is he?

Of course I googled him, and clicked on the rottentomatoes site. Turns out this Timothy Hutton guy (we'll refer to him as Tim from now on) has a tomatometer result of 40%. What the heck does that mean, I have no idea and was so lazy to check out how it works. Tim got a best supporting actor award for Ordinary People, which I have not heard of and supposedly worked alongside Johnny Depp in Secret Window. That pretty much ended my curiosity about Tim. Who cares?

So going back to the Video Vat, this is my perfect example of the corner mom&pop outfit which was gobbled up by the times. My dad being the movie fanatic (not only porn, mind you), he would take the trip to this place every two days and take out 3 movies at a time. He was one of many movie buffs who frequent the place and got to know the owner, the clerk, the other members and was privy to the secret viewing room out back where he checked out the owner's private stash or originals. In time, I became a member because I was the son of John, membership included kin, conveniently.

My membership being established, I too went to the place and took out episodes of that NBA roundup, Transformers, Voltes Five and so on. On some occasions, when the clerk was feeling a bit jolly, he would let me take out some of his recommended new releases for my dad and even that occasional porn though I never got to watch it anyway because the betamax machine was inconveniently located in the living room. Dare I say it, that place felt like a second home for John and I. (me?)

Around the time VHS took over the beta format, Video Vat changed ownership and moved to another location. It got a little inconvenient for a time but we still trooped there nonetheless. Turns out the new owner was one of the members and knew my dad well enough to have been invited to our house for some drinks. I recall that my dad also went to his house, me in tow to return some overdue movies. This guy's house smelled of spilt orange juice and I couldn't wait to get out of there and back to the comforting smell of cigarettes in my dad's Mitsubishi-Dodge Colt. The new owner inherited the old clerk, now pot-bellied and suddenly middle aged. I still spotted the regulars and the new layout of the shop was quite convenient, with 2 televisions plus a rewinder which meant that you could return the tapes unrewound. (A very big deal back then)

The entry of VCD's was the beginning of the end for the Video Vat. Piracy was in the early stages (Though I'm sure Video Vat and other rental stores didn't necessarily purchase the real thing, either) and they couldn't keep up with the times, I reckon. A few years into this revolutionary technology and the Video Vat went into history as a memory of the good old days of betamax and VHS. My dad and I once bumped into the owner at our regular barber shop and he had suddenly turned old and balding. The costs of buying up new VCD's, rent and the bigger rental chains had proved too much and he had to sell off the business. That was a sad day, indeed.

Nowadays, when I go to stalls selling pirated DVD's I'd feel amazed at how much technology has pretty much outdated the whole concept of the Video Vat. Though I frequent that one DVD stall and we know each other by face, the cozy atmosphere and the almost familial relationship is just not there. Gone are the index cards, the private viewing room, the overwhelming feel of pigeon holes and calling the clerk and owner "tito". We still have that betamax and VHS machine, gathering dust somewhere at my parent's house. Someday when these become objects of antiquity, I probably won't have the heart to sell them off together with all my memories of the Video Vat.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stupid Drunk

Out of money, hung over, clothes making a trail all the way to the bed and had to check if my car wasn't totaled - a classic! All the signs of being stupid drunk the evening prior. Luckily, I can still remember some details of the drive home such as the slow down at the Cubao underpass.

I need to check with some people, particularly Tatcee to check how stupid drunk I was last night. Quite prone to spewing out nonsense (such as this blog) and being a total jack ass when I've reached my alcohol saturation point. At this point, it would be moot but knowing that you will see these people at some other point in time brings out a panic over how dumb I was.

As is usually the case, hang overs make breakfast such a chore. Everything tastes funny and acrid and instant coffee just doesn't do a thing. I'm tempted to walk over to the coffee place to get a quick Americano but with my head reeling I know I just won't be able to make it. The first sip of instant coffee instantly raises my heartbeat and I have to "balance" it with a stick or two of cigarettes. Now were getting somewhere.

The realization that today is Friday pops up when I look at the calendar sitting on the table. Can't help but smile knowing that there's an extra day to go watch a movie or a dvd in peace. I just hate it when I try to cram everything in two days, leaving me not enough time to nurse a terrible hang over Saturday morning.

Well, here I am sitting on the couch with the television turned off, holding a book in my hand (not reading, though) and thinking of how stupid drunk I was last night.