from the commuter

The photos which I took myself are random images of commuting and life. Enjoy the ride!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fair fare hike?

no caption to add

The day has finally come when the authorities announced the peso increase to the seven-peso minimum fare. It didn't come as a surprise; the increase is a trend as with other commodities. Starting Wednesday, every Juan and Juana is shelling out a peso more to every short-distance jeepney ride in the whole Philippines!

The increase, the authorities said, is "to help jeepney drivers and operators cope with the rising commosity prices."

My blog post on fare hike ends here because this blog post is purely for information only, and, besides, no negative thoughts can change this news at this point. In a democratic country like ours, acceptance is an admirable trait. So, I'll do just that as I did earlier.

Who is one-peso richer? Who is one-peso poorer?
When I announced in the faculty room of the increase, just a few minutes after had broken the news , one well-off car-owning faculty member said, " Pabayaan n'yo na. Piso lang 'yan."

Something told me she was right, and something told me not to say anything more.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Traffic-free Ortigas

A day after a bomb exploded on a bus along EDSA in Buendia, taking the life of five of its passengers, I took a bus ride to Manila. I wasn't hesitant to take the bus because I felt that a bomb explosion taking place a day after a bomb incident was not very likely. It created fear, however. At the bus terminal, I particularly chose to sit in front near the door, thinking  that it was the safest place to be in. My place gave me a better view of the passengers coming in. Staring at people's faces is a rude thing that I do, but this time, doing it was more for vigilance than anything. I looked at their bags, too. I knew I was not being paranoid. Or was I? Fear, as I mentioned, got the better of me. I observed the bus conductor if he was checking not only the tickets but the baggage as well. In brief, I was particularly worried for dear life.

Law-abiding pedestrians
The incident in EDSA was purely evil, a work of terror, and they successfully instilled fear. It might take a few days until this cautious attitude would wear off. No person deserved to live in fear, and no person deserved to die due to a devil's work. I'd like my next bus or jeepney ride to fear-free. Good that I had a good friend sitting and chatting beside me as we traveled the whole stretch of Alabang-Zapote Road to the equally-busy Taft Avenue in Manila.

At Robinson's Manila, the sight of many foreigners, white men mostly, with local ladies was a comforting picture to an already bad image the country had been getting (I am not hinting that sex trade might be our saving grace in luring international tourism, though.).

What transpired at Rob-Manila was the usual Filipino malling experience that included watching a movie, eating some fastfood and doing a lot of window shopping.

I made it safely back home after an hour of FX travel. That was my Happy Teachers' Day Celebration.

Monday, January 24, 2011

On carnapping and car ownership


 News nowadays makes it appear that owning a car in the country holds big risks. The news on carnapping and the killing that goes with it could send shivers to any car owner. In light of the recent crimes involving cars, a cop even suggested not to buy cars. I will be heeding that suggestion for now as financial limitation sounds to be a 'poor' reason for not having one. hehe. But I'll surely get my hands on my own automobile once PCSO has drawn my lucky combination.

As of presstime, the law agency is declaring the recent killing of two car dealers as nearly 'SOLVED.' The heinous act committed onto those two could really make people demand for the death penalty. I won't even think of being thankful for not owning a car, for no person, car-owner or not, not even an animal, should be subjected to any form of monstrosity.

Carnapping has been a lucrative job in the country since the time when demand for cheap cars rose. Everybody wants to have a piece of luxury in a country where luxury is god. Admittedy, I am part of that 'everybody,' and I also share in the rest of the population's interest in cheap cars because no teaching job could ever afford me a brand new one. Like most people, I'll probably settle for a pre-owned car, preferably a car whose owner I know. So, if you are reading this, and you a have car that you want to sell, introduce yourself to me and we will talk in five years, ok?

Kidding aside, anyone can be a victim of crime. There really is no way of saying when tragedy strikes, in the same way with luck. Much as I would like to hit it big with lotto, I know that it will never happen. It starts with betting, you know, which is something I don't do. Vigilance has to start somewhere else, too.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


"Magkano sa Fourth Estate (a short-distance ride)?" a pretty lady asked.

"Mura lang ako maningil. Siete lang po," the driver said.

There. I'm back home!

The world of work awaits me after that brief Vietnam vacation. Back to work as they say. It's going to be a school teacher life for the remaining three months of the school year. I am looking forward to the months after that. I don't know what to expect, really. I think it's best that way, when  you don't set a lot of expectations. I tell myself to just enjoy the ride.

But how can one literally enjoy the ride when fare and toll hikes seem to be taking much of news airtime? It will come, I know. And when it does, I shall realize the worth of every peso all the more. If and when that happens, I hope to be in a job where I earn more. I don't think I'll be saying, "Keep the change" anytime soon; I don't think I ever did.

There are times when you want to escape, but you simply couldn't. Walang pamasahe e.

Streets of Ho Chi Minh
A slightly similar sight in Vietnam

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Surviving Vietnam

At our drop-off point

Inside the tourist bus

When I started seeing Manila's beautiful lights against the dark skies as we descended into NAIA, I knew that Vietnam would be well remembered. It is very tourist friendly and there really is a great effort to make Ho Chi Minh City an ideal tourist destination.  No wonder why Vietnam is surpassing the Philippines in foreign arrivals. I am hopeful that time will come when we get to enjoy the same kind of tourism Vietnam and Thailand are experiencing.

For now, I shall bask in my memory of Vietnam and the impressions it has left me.

At the pre-departure airport in Vietnam

My tourist adventure gave me a cumulative time of 12 hours aboard tourist buses. Caucasians who probably earn ten or twenty times more than I do share in my discomfort and delight as we travel through the Vietnam countryside on the bus. Rich and poor tourists had the same glimpse of the plains, rivers,  rice fields and plantations of the country.  The tourist bus, I feel, in this case, is a great equalizer. To experience Vietnam in the same way as the rest was comforting. The tour we had made us taste the same food and eat at the same place. We were, after all, tourists in the same country. The difference in our experience would be is when we retire to our standard accomodation while they rest in their 'starred-hotels.' I didn't mind what our hotel was; Filipinos wherever they may be do know how to party. We were able to jell well with the crowd as we drank our Heineken on the sidewalk while seated on small chairs. Apparently, this is how local folks in Vietnam drink; the drinking session ends at 12 mindnight, though, when the streets are deserted. It worked for us because we began each day in Vietnam at 8 in the morning. Staying out late at night  might just be problematic.

Another good thing happens aboard tourist buses is the opportunity to sell our country to other tourists. We were four in the group, and we befriended a Czech tourist. Just being our-friendly-selves, I believed, we were able to show him how fun our country is. The Philippines has so much to offer; it's just probably the publicity, the negative and the lack of it, that seems to be hampering tourism growth to its fullest potential. We will never know if the Czech guy will ever make it to our shores, but we do know that we made him see how nice and friendly of a people we are.

A Cebu Pacific flight attendant

We landed at NAIA bringing with us immense appreciation for a country who only few decades ago was ravaged in civil and military strife and yet was transformed to become a beauty that it was. Vietnam holds so much promise, and I can't wait to see it again. But by the time I get ready for my next international travel, I will have saved a lot more. Just before leaving the country, I had to shell out P1,600+ on travel tax and P750 on terminal fees. For me, this was without a doubt costly. The fees collected at the airport from an average Filipino traveler can be very discouraging. I feel that our country should encourage traveling and not the other way around.

A Vietnamese temple

Monday, January 10, 2011

When you cannot speak, point!

The tourist boat
Mekong River. This was just a famous river detailed in school books until today when I got to personally experience it for myself. There was no where that the day tour could cover the whole river; in fact, we just had a tiny bit of it and its tributaries. I'm no geography expert but I gathered this information for I tried to listen intently to the local tour guide who spoke in his best English. The river reminded me of our very own Pasig River, though.

The Mekong River

What was amazing was that it was so long that industries seemed to have sprouted along it.We were brought to a honey factory, coconut candy factory and rice-products shops. Floating markets were there, too, although we did not get to see much since it was noon when we got there. The market activities peak in the early morning, we have been told.  The stops that we had in these places were marketing strategies to buy their products. Too bad, I had my eyes on "Saigon Square" which is their version of Greenhills Shopping Center. The goods here are just way cheaper than in Manila. Later, we will be heading there and we will see if it's not a disappointment. But from the looks of it, disappointment seems to be a foreign word to me now like all the words in Vietnamese.

Anyway, they were making plenty of money off tourists for taking the "adventure-seekers" to the brown and murky waters of Vietnam. But it was a pleasant experience. For a river who has breathed life into much of Southeast Asia, it's just proper that due recognition and visit should be given to it.

Later, as it is a little past twelve now, we should be going to the famed Cu chi tunnels. We will all do this without our expat host since he has work. We'll see how pointing to maps and addresses will work for us, commuters, later.

I'm off to bed now. Good night!

A law enforcer in Ho Chi Minh

Sunday, January 9, 2011

OK pho sa Vietnam!

Aboard Cebu Pacific to Vietnam

Well, I ended up sitting with my travel mates in the airplane. I learned later on that the passport number was not needed in the online check-in. The plane to Ho Chi Minh was not full. It was 1:30 am when we arrived. In Vietnam, we were greeted by a beautiful airport terminal.This was already starting to be a good sign.

It is my first time to be in a different timezone. I did not change the time in my watch anymore. I'd just have to do a one hour subtraction, something I can very well do. We were met at the airport by a Filipino expat in Vietnam who got us a Toyota Innova for a taxi. The commuter is doing his thing in a foreign land.

With just few hours of sleep, we were treated to authentic pho! Great! This was just what I needed to get this day rolling. After that pho treat at Pho 24 at the tourist district (District 1) of Vietnam, we explored the city center by foot. The enormous number of caucasians made my Asian tourist identity more pronounced. Vietnam, apparently, is getting a large chunk of tourists from the US, France and other western countries.

We did the usual tourist activities in the city center for the most part of the day. To cap my first day  was a dinner at Vietnam House. I took pride in having dined at the same restaurant where the late President Cory Aquino  had dined in 2003. Her photo and that of US President Bush where the only two pictures prominently showed as the restaurant's famous guests. She must have had a great time there also after tasting all those authentic Vietnamese food. 

I shall retire for the night and will wake up to new day in Vietnam tomorrow. It's going to be exciting because I shall be exploring the Mekong Delta! With that in store, I will soon be writing my first ever water-journey experience, I hope. I can't wait. Good night!
There were too many motor bikes!
Welcome to Vietnam!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Just less than a week after I took a Cebu Pacific flight to Manila from Zamboanga, I'm taking the same carrier tomorrow, January 7, this time, to Vietnam! It's going to be my first in Vietnam! I don't know what to expect, really. I'm just happy that I'm adding a stamp to my colorless passport. hehe. I dread the expenses, though. The holidays have just ended, and holidays usually render me penniless. Sigh. I should have prepared more for this. Depending on the kindness of strangers and non-strangers does not exactly appeal to me. I could hope, though, that Vietnam is not as expensive as Singapore. Nevertheless, money should not be a deterrent in having fun wherever one is! Who am I kidding? hehe.

I haven't even stepped inside the airport, yet I am already faced with a minor problem. Cebu Pacific has this online check-in thing and my friend is supposed to do that for us. Guess who left his passport at home? The passport number is important for the online check-in. No one is home and I can't leave work! Bummer! I know that online check-ins are supposed to make traveling more convenient. This part of any airplane experience poses to be problematic to some travelers; I am not spared. I remember last year during the presidential elections, I went to Zamboanga to vote. Yes, I wanted to be a part of the historic automated elections! I checked-in a little late at the Philippine Airlines counter. I pleaded to let me in, but they weren't very friendly. Since it was long weekend, flights were all fully-booked. I resorted to transferring to the Mabuhay class! I had to shell out three thousand pesos to upgrade my Fiesta class ticket! I did that all for the love of Noynoy Aquino!

Anyway, it was a thrill to be in first class of a flight. I was separated from the common folks! hehe. I was offered a complete meal by the ever-friendly flight attendant who kept on asking if I wanted anything else. I did want one thing, though, but I couldn't tell her. How do you tell an attendant that a foreign-looking passenger across my seat had a smelly feet because his feet were exposed? I didn't pay P6,000 for a stench like that. But my Asian sensibility told me to keep mum about it. Besides, what could be done about it? Can they tell a person to put on his shoes because his feet stink? I really wouldn't know what they would do. So, I endured an hour and a half of first class foot aroma!

Oh well, I have digressed. As of presstime, no one is home to give me my passport number. I'll have to personally check-in tomorrow, and enter Vietnam airspace seated away from my friends. I shall learn from this.
Will I see these sights in Vietnam also? These are photos taken in Zamboanga.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holidays and plane rides

Common early morning airport scene
 I have lost count as to the number of times I boarded a domestic flight. In my younger and poorer years, taking the plane was an event reserved for the privileged few. Cebu Pacific came and every Juan started flying. My recollection of my early flight experiences was filled with eagerness. A plane ride for me now is still met with excitement, but it has also evolved into one introspective journey. You see, I fly home to Zamboanga, my hometown , usually alone. I can’t seem to get tired watching my city’s landscape from that small airplane window as we land. How I love it when the flight attendant announces “Kakalapag lang natin sa paliparang pandaigdig ng Zamboanga. Manatiling nakaupo hanggang ang babalang sinturong pangkaligtasan ay naiangat na” or something like that. Then, I’d hear a Nokia message alert tone immediately after. Welcome to Zamboanga! The moment the plane touches ground, I can't wait to get my bag from the airport's single baggage carousel.

I go home during long breaks, special occasions and holidays. Every homecoming is wonderful. Every member of my family is there. Of the brood of five, I seem to be the only one determined to live away from my folks. The result is enthusiasm every time I take a plane ride home. However, the same cannot be said as I board the plane back to Manila. Every visit back home means play while Manila always means work.

Every December is faced with anticipation since I book my holiday tickets months in advance making sure of a seat and a cheaper fare. I see Zamboanga as my home still despite having lived in Manila for more than ten years. I have been living in my own unit for close to three years now, yet I cannot claim it as home. Although I complain about my lack of privacy when my relatives are around, it's only when they are with me that I get to feel a semblance of home in my small abode. I'll have to start making my 30-square meter palace my home, with or without family. I am not supposed to subject myself to melancholia and nostalgia every time I am away from my family.

My mom was suggesting that they spend next Christmas with me in Manila. I think that's a good idea.

Pre-departure scene

My nieces

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New !

Christmas Day Mass at Fort Pilar, Zamboanga

Something great happened towards the end of 2010. I received the good news about my three-year attempt at a job I had been eyeing. 

I will finally be changing my work address in a few months’ time, thus, new route and more new stories.

But the road to this job has been nothing but difficult. Three years is not exactly a short time. The wait, however, is worth everything. 

A merry Christmas indeed!
I started taking the Foreign Service Officer Examination in 2007,  the year I became a regular employee at the school I was teaching in. My father introduced me to a possible career in foreign service; he had a brief stint at the Philippine Consulate in Manado, Indonesia. He supplied me with stories of diplomatic life. I was attracted to the perks! Initially that was what got me interested; I was thinking of formal dinners and meeting important people. I’d fit in there, I told myself. I took the exam only to fail it. The exam confirmed my academic capacity. It was ambitious of me to have taken it. My failing the University of the Philippines College Admission Test in high school should have reminded me.   The next year, I took the test again. I got nothing to lose. The exam then was free. More prepared this time, I successfully made it to the pre-qualifying exam, which was the first in a four-step examination. That year I  went on to passing the next step which was the three-day written exam, qualifying me to take the oral exam, another three-day ordeal. I failed that oral exam. My answers were probably  wrong or the examiners did not see in me the makings of a diplomat. Yes, it was painful and frustrating, but it was a short-lived frustration. The good Lord had always armed me with optimism and an accepting mind. He had better plans for me. 

I think the better plan came the next year when I was invited to re-take the oral part of the exam in 2009. It’s in the exam rules that an examinee can re-take an exam within the period of the pre-qualifying exam’s three-year validity. I read like crazy and started seeing the importance of diplomacy. Weeks after I sat for the orals, I received the news that I was eligible to take the last part of the process – the psychological exam in the summer of 2010.  This was not an ordinary test; in fact, I think this is the most difficult test of all. It was like taking the three earlier tests all in one day, and many examinees failed this last stretch.

To make the long story short, on December 22, 2010, I received the good news at the time when my mother lost her twin sister. My Tita Lilang cannot be replaced, but the news of my acceptance in the department surely cheered my mother up.

Now, I shall wait for President Noynoy's signature to officially start my career in the foreign service.

I'm just happy. I really am.