Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Greetings for 2011

I post here the same I posted on my Facebook account as my status:

Here's a toast to a fruitful year that was 2010, and time for recovery and reflection from the outcomes of 2009. Another toast to the hope the new year brings where new challenges await, and with God's grace we shall overcome and emerge better people.

And may I add, more posts for the new year arriving in less than an hour... =)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Football

The recent success of the Philippine football team, fondly called Azkals (asong kalye or mongrels), have sparked interest in the sport. It is supposed to be the most popular sport in the world and yet in the Philippines it is far behind basketball despite the latter giving not so encouraging results in major competitions notwithstanding our sending teams comprised of professional players. Perhaps we now have the opportunity to promote football to the level that our neighbors have embraced the sport and focus on the development of players to come up with competitive teams at present and in the future.

I've played football or, as we call it here, soccer since I learned the sport in Physical Education (PE) classes in grade school. At my school, the academic year was divided into quarters and each quarter, our PE focused on a particular sport. From grade school to high school the basic sports that we rotated among each quarter were basketball, volleyball, football and swimming. These were graded according to our knowledge of the rules (theoretical) and our performance (practical). I did quite well in all considering that I was usually playing with other kids who were more my level. The good ones played their own games and were usually the ones who got more attention from the coaches who were also trying to spot potential players for the varsity. Of course, our classes usually had core teams for the intramurals.

In 1999, I was still in Japan and had just recently successfully defended my dissertation behind closed doors in front of a panel of five that included 3 senior professors at my university. At the time, the eliminations were being held for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the group matches were hosted by Hongkong. The group included the Philippines and heavy favorite Japan, who along with South Korea had the best teams in Asia thanks to their local leagues and the emergence of several excellent players competing in Europe particularly in the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A. As usual, the football fans among my labmates tuned in to the live game and I joined them joking that Japan would surely beat the Philippine team considering the recent performance and Japan's campaign to host the next World Cup in 2002. The outcome was never in doubt and below is a link from YouTube showing how bad we were back then. I must admit I wasn't at all embarrassed knowing in advance how we would be performing. My labmates and I just laughed it off like a comedy show.





In the recent AFF Suzuki Cup, the Azkals finally showed their new found mettle and despite bowing out to favored Indonesia in the semi-finals, clearly surprised her Southeast Asian neighbors with their performance. It was a clear message that we would no longer be the whipping boys in this part of the world. The performance also showed our potential to improve more and perhaps become a decent enough team to compete for a spot in the World Cup Final. Partida pa nga as they say considering that this team received no support at all from the Philippine Football Federation, something that's about to change with FIFA's orders for an audit on the PFF's operations that was heavily subsidized by FIFA to the tune of 250,000 USD per year. Reports mention that since 2010 was a World Cup year, the assistance would actually total 500,000 USD for the development of football in this country. One can only hope that the money will be spent wisely in the near future and that the team, shown below against defending AFF champion Vietnam, would eventually establish itself as an Asian power in the sport.



I will look forward to a 2011 where Philippine football will have a most productive campaign. who knows? We might also just get the stadium needed to allow us to host football matches and cheer our own team as passionately as in other countries.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Used books and CDs

My brother gifted me with a copy of "The Dilbert Future" last Christmas. I was quite elated and again surprised that he got the copy from a used book shop. It was only last October that he got a hard-bound copy of "The Dilbert Principle" from the same book shop. It seems to me that he got some ability in finding such items like these books in a used book shop where it can be quite a challenge to scan many if not most of the books to find those of interest and worth buying. I must say that I also have this knack for scanning, searching and finding items and I have been able to hone the "skill" while I was studying in Japan.

The first time I tried and discovered this "talent" was during my first trip to Japan back in February 1996. I remember staying at the International House of Tokyo Tech and there was this small used books and CD shop near the university. A friend and I passed by this shop and he mentioned to me that it was in similar shops that he acquired music CDs. In fact, all of his CDs at the time were second-hand and were acquired cheap from such shops. But cheap doesn't mean poor condition for I learned that many of the Japanese who bought CDs usually sold the same to used CD shops to recover money (to purchase newer CDs) and to de-clutter their homes. In several chains, they even have a rating system for used CDs where "A" usually referred to a CD in almost mint condition and "C" may mean that the lyrics insert is no longer included in the package. One may also examine the disk to see whether there are scratches or other damages to the case. Anyhow, as my friend labored in scanning the shelves for CDs of is interest, I managed to spot 2 or 3 CDs including a Duran Duran album. These became my first CDs and I bought them despite not owning a CD player. So, they ended up being loaned to my friend at the time.

Through 3 years and the establishment of several haunts for used CDs, I was able to collect CDs on various genres including classical music, new wave and pop. Among my favorite shops were the Yamagiwa store in the Kannai district of Yokohama, the same store in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, and the Recofan stores near Yokohama Station and in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Of course, I did purchase new CDs but I was always selective of these purchases considering the wealth of used CDs in the shops at the time.

Recently, I have renewed my interest in used items but this was and will be limited to books. Several used book shops have sprouted in Metro Manila and so far, my luck has brought me a hard-bound first edition of The Silmarillion, several classics, a hard-bound edition of a civil engineering textbook , and hard to find chess books including one by the old master Reuben Fine. I look forward to more browsing as these used book shops bring in a treasure trove of books though I am also wary of some of these books bearing some damage or writing/scribbles from its previous owner(s). Perhaps I should focus on hunting for books on chess? I did lose a lot of my chess books in the past 15 years to bookworms and floods. It would be nice to reacquire some if not all of them. In fact, some of the old chess books happened to be given to me by a cousin who has already passed away. He will most certainly be the subject of a future posting.

Car maintenance

I spent the entire morning today having our car washed, and its oil and spark plugs changed. It's actually part of an annual routine prior to having the car registered but this year I had the oil and spark plugs changed more often than is necessary for a 3 year old car. The reason for this is quite simple - the car went under water last year due to the floods brought about by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) as September concluded in 2009. I had to exercise a little extra care for the engine, which miraculously survived the flood where even the computer box emerged undamaged as confirmed by 2 casas (Mazda Makati and Quezon Avenue).

We logged more than 15,600 kilometers over the last 11 months. Normally, this should not be more than 10,000 km but this year we only had one car as we never got another one to replace the still-in-limbo Crown that I hope will be up and running by January next year. It's been quite a challenge to find parts despite the great efforts of the mechanic handling the vehicle. I just hope all the effort and resources won't go to waste.

The staff over at Caltex Marcos Highway (across Robinsons Metro East) were their usual reliable selves when I had the car's engine and body washed, and the oil and spark plugs changed. They obviously knew what they were doing according to their particular expertise and I was very satisfied with the service provided. They were, as always, efficient and neat in their work. And it probably helped that I have been a customer at the shop since the mid 1990's when my father introduced me there as he was having our family's old Corona's engine tuned up.

I use fully synthetic oil for the car's engine. It is a little more expensive than the basic or regular oil available but based on experience it provides for the best performance and protection for the engine. For spark plugs, I already had these changed from the regular ones to the Bosch Super 4's although I also have used Bosch Platinums in the past. Also, based on experience the Super 4's have always provided me the best performance ever since I started using them for the Crown earlier this decade. Unlike the conventional spark plugs that have a single watchamacallit on its head, the Super 4's had 4. I've observed that carbonization is significantly slower and the ignition sounds so nicer when I used the Super 4's.

Of course, maintaining a recent model car is much easier and cheaper than maintaining an old vehicle. The rule is to try to bring a vehicle to as close as possible and practical to a level that will comply with current emission standards. That should cost a little more for older vehicles especially in the case of my old Crown, which happens to be 20 years old (its a 1990 model). The Clairvoyant's 3 year old Mazda 3 is definitely notches better than its predecessors (Familia and Astina) and we have been blessed with its good performance including its safety features. We just had to shell out for its repair after Ondoy and that included investing in a new audio system that already included GPS, and USB and iPod connectivity.

We will finish paying for the 3 in 2012 and until then, we will be taking good care of the car so that it will continue to provide us with the best performance it can. Meanwhile, we are again thinking about what vehicle to acquire given that we are now leaning towards getting a new vehicle by end of 2011 when we would have completed paying for our house - ahead of schedule.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Shopping - Now

Christmas shopping nowadays is both easy and difficult. People will say it is easy for people who have money. I agree with this perspective but I must also add that these days it is also easy for people who are on a budget since there are so many choices nowadays from where people can purchase gifts and others desirable for Christmas.

There is the online option for people who are comfortable with the internet. There are many ways to make payments for online purchases including using one's credit card, bank transfers and for the more experienced, PayPal. There are many online stores nowadays that include the formal stores by well known brands or vendors (Apple Store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and then there are the "resellers" or middlemen operating something like amateur stores that are advertised via word of mouth, Facebook, Twitter and other means. Of course, it goes without saying that one should always check whether something is legit or not. That way, one may not be swindled out of his/her hard-earned cash.

For those who want to shop the old-fashioned way, there are the many malls including the popular SM's, Robinsons', Ayalas and Gaisanos found in major cities around the country. Each mall would have its own attractions and each group would have their own promos and come-ons to attract customers. In fact, the competition these days is so tough that the large malls are practically beside each other (e.g., Megamal vs Galleria, SM City North EDSA vs Trinoma, etc.). There are still the old shopping centers that include the Araneta Center in Cubao, the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, and the Ayala Center in Makati. Here there are many options for shoppers with varying budgets. Greenhills, in particular, remains a very popular option for many people because of the variety of both items and prices offered there.

Then there are the more pedestrian (read: pang-masa) shopping places like Divisoria and Quiapo in Manila, and Baclaran in Pasay. These offer the cheaper merchandise including toys and other items often derided for being "made in China." Again, some caution must be taken since cheap is also often associated with lesser quality including some items that are alleged to be toxic. It would help if one should be meticulous enough to check the quality of items including verifying whether such items have the PS or other legitimate quality markings from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Shopping is indeed difficult if one does not have the funds but I believe it is also difficult because there are so many choices these days for the shopper. Also, it is always difficult if one does not stick to his/her budget like succumbing to temptations of purchasing more expensive items just because these are "branded" or maybe these are purchased from a major mall (note: the same item might be a little more expensive if purchased at Glorietta rather than at Gaisano). And this is just the same as the case as shopping in the "older" days when people had difficulties keeping within a budget. :)

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Shopping - Then

I've always enjoyed shopping for Christmas presents particularly if it happened to be mine. But kidding aside, as a kid back in the 1970's, I found Christmas shopping quite an interesting task as it meant we got to go to the department stores, usually in Cubao like COD and Farmers, and by the end of the day I would have new clothes and shoes reserved to be worn on Christmas Eve for the Mass and for Christmas day itself. Even my school shoes are usually bought at this time of year rather than before school opened in June so I get to wear a new pair when classes resumed in January.

I have fond memories of trips to Cubao where we did most of our shopping where I got to tag along. . I would always have happy thoughts associated with the COD department store, particularly its third floor where the toys section was located. To a toddler's eyes, an entire floor dedicated to toys would seem like a whole world of fun all around him and I guess that was how I felt back then, marveling at the selection even though I knew I couldn't have them all. I knew though that if we went there I was sure to get something for Christmas and I knew it would be at least one of the toys my parents asked me about while we were there. For refreshments, we usually went to Ali Mall where I was introduced to Shakey's Pizza and got to associate the parlor with the noisy band that played there. If we wanted lighter snacks there were the kiosks at most corners in the Araneta Center where we could get waffles or corndogs.

We always went shopping in the afternoon and concluded our sorties in the evening when the highlight of the day will be revealed. COD was famous for their mechanical diorama depicting Christmas themes. Every year, this display was awaited by people from all walks of life, who converged on every available space in front of the department store building. Traffic along the streets also stopped and at the time I remember you won't hear any complaints as even motorists took time out to watch the spectacle. Afterwards, people simply dispersed and drivers went their way, and peacefully. Of course, it was still Martial Law at the time but I'm sure people will look back to then and say that people were more disciplined and respectful at the time. The last time I checked, the same was still on display in its home for the past few year now - at the gate of the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan.

When I was a teenager and in high school, my parents still took me along for Christmas shopping although I was not that enthusiastic as when I was in grade school. SM was still a department store in Manila and had not yet established itself as a retail giant when I was growing up. They did start building their chain when I was in high school and I remember shopping at the SM Cubao where, as advertised, they got it all and at prices that seemed to all end with 95 centavos (e.g., PhP 29.95, 49.95, 99.95). I pretty much did my own Christmas shopping when I was a junior or senior in high school. My parents decided to give me my Christmas money to get me whatever I wanted knowing I had to keep within a budget plus maybe a few pesos saved from my allowances. I remember deciding not to go with the crowds and instead went to Cubao after Christmas when there were significantly less people and it was not a hassle to commute or go around.

While SM was on the rise, COD sadly was already in decline. Farmers eventually burned in a fire that led to its reconstruction and most stall and stores not returning. Ali Mall, which we also preferred for watching movies, was not able to keep up with times and was only finally overhauled and upgraded not five years ago. By the time I was at university, the first SM City in North EDSA was already completed and the doors opened to a new era of shopping.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Party time!

I've been raring to write about parties, particularly the kind we celebrate during this season of joy. December being the month when we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a month filled with activities. It does not help that amidst the Christmas and New Year preparations, we tend to mix it up with year-end reports, cramming for deadlines and other activities that contribute to each day becoming toxic.

The Clairvoyant has been nursing a cold the past 2 weeks and my immune system seems to have been able to resist the virus only until yesterday when the tell-tale symptoms of a cold started to manifest. Even as I write, I am actually clearing my throat and feeling the soreness despite drinking hot beverage to remedy the problem. It is actually a delaying tactic for I feel it is inevitable that I will be going down with a serious case of the colds. Vitamins can only help when it is not yet there but when it is, nutrients will help lessen the impacts of sickness.

Yet, we still go on like the Energizer bunny - participating in parties and other activities that we juggle with our workload. Christmas, after all, is a time to celebrate no matter if there are deadlines to beat or reports to be written and submitted. It is an excuse to give oneself a break and even lower one's guard in as far as schedules are concerned. For aren't we afraid of being called scrooges? Killjoys? I certainly am not one and I am very happy to see friends and colleagues with their families coming together to celebrate as one big happy family.

Party on!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Interviews

A lot of people have asked me how it felt when one is interviewed by media. It is not an easy thing and certainly not a comfortable experience considering that I must be wary of the statements that I make considering my position at the University and my being head of a research and training center. I must be well informed about the topic and usually require whoever was requesting an interview to provide the topic and perhaps guide questions in advance. This is to allow for some preparations especially to get sufficient data on things I may be asked.

Data should be current and reliable such that it will be factual, informative. After all, interviews are also opportunities to promote the advocacies of the Center as well as the Center itself. And the best way to do so is to project the Center as an institution of honor and excellence, in the tradition of the University it represents. I must also be mindful that we are actually part of the government and that we have many linkages with government agencies including those that have often been under attack for the mess we have to deal with in Philippine transport and traffic. Yet being part of the University and the academe in general, one must also maintain objectivity while being fair, not resorting to uncalled for criticisms or government bashing that has been the signature of some so-called experts in transport and traffic. Thus, it is also a tough balancing act as one is being called upon to comment and provide opinion on a variety of topics, mainly those that are the talk of the town like a recent road crash or a controversial traffic scheme being proposed.

Interviews, however, despite the required preparations are definitely enjoyable and, after one is shown on TV or printed in the newspaper, something one would be proud. This is especially true if the interview went well and one is not quoted out of context. Colleagues at the Center including previous heads have always nixed interviews because of their experience on TV, radio and print where careless (and maybe even reckless) reporters have quoted them out of context. I have had my share of similar experiences despite my preparation and I guess it is something one should expect if one grants one too many an interview. Based on this experience I have enlisted the help of my staff to screen those who are requesting for interviews including setting up a system where they have to write to the office (an email would be enough).

I have turned down many requests and my staff have done so, too. Mostly, these are ones that obviously are in conflict with my schedule (lectures, meetings and other appointments) or those that violate time I have reserved for myself and my family (i.e., no interviews after 6:00PM and definitely none on weekends). I have made very rare exceptions to these rules and then only when the topic is a hot issue and one that requires expert opinion from a scholarly perspective.

In future posts, I will try to write about specific experiences and some of my favorite interviews and interview topics.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 1

I was supposed to write a short piece to greet Tatay on his birthday. Somehow, I managed not to write the piece and so this post is a make-up of sorts.

Tatay turned 73 yesterday and we celebrated this last Sunday together with my Mama, siblings, nephew and niece. The Clairvoyant and I brought cake for the occasion and my sister helped my mother cook pasta and other weekend favorites that we all partook of during dinner. There was no wine or beer as my brother in law and I were driving and Tatay wasn't really into drinking even if it were on the occasion of his birthday.

I am very glad that my father is in very good health at 73 years old. He was a chain smoker and perhaps still is. At least, I try to assure myself, he doesn't go for the 2 packs per day of about 20 years ago and just enjoys an occasional cigarette these days. An effective deterrent seems to be his grandchildren, my niece and nephew, who dislike the smell of cigarette smoke (good thing!).

Here's a toast to continuing good health and more years to enjoy with family and friends! Happy birthday Tatay!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Juggling and gambling

I can't really remember the first time I heard about the story of the balls. However, I do remember the last two times I was reminded of it. The last time came by way of a friend posting about it on Facebook just about the time before something life-changing happened to another friend. Previous to that, I certainly remember a one-on-one I had with the immediate past Dean of the U.P. College of Engineering where towards the end of our meeting she asked me about life. She was serious when she related the story of the balls that we juggle in life. And she asked me at the end of the story how I was juggling these balls, adding that she thinks that I should take very good care of the the more important balls since she thinks I was and am working too hard.

The story of the balls have different variations but these mostly involve the number of balls involved in the story. In one variant there are five balls - family, friends, health, integrity and work. In another, there are only three balls loved ones, health and work. Family and friends are combined while integrity is not part of the equation (perhaps assumed to be part of all other balls?). In what appears to be the original version, integrity is replaced by spirit (or faith). Among these balls, work is supposed to be made of rubber. If you drop it, it will rebound or bounce back. All the other balls are made of glass. If you drop one, many or all, they may be permanently damaged or, more seriously, be shattered or lost.

I guess it is not important exactly how many balls we are juggling everyday. The message of the story is crystal clear in as far as what we should prioritize in life. We tend to justify working hard in order to earn a living, money that we intend to use to provide for our loved ones including funds to support health care. We tend to forget that in our eagerness to earn more to secure the future, we inadvertently endanger that same future as we relegate the other elements to the proverbial backseat and end up losing these "balls."

Yesterday, I was reminded of these balls when I visited a friend who had a heart attack in the morning and immediately underwent angioplasty to address a blocked artery. I looked at his wife and children and I am reminded that I too have loved ones who are much much more important and who deserves my time and my love more. Indeed life is fragile and we need to understand that this life actually consists of glass and rubber balls. Only, it is probably difficult to recognize which of the glass balls will be damaged or will shatter upon one or more impact. Thus, juggling these balls are quite similar to gambling and I dare say that we do gamble everyday with things we consider important but not necessarily recognize as priorities of others. Perhaps we can only pray and rely on our faith that by God's grace we may be able to go through life without having the glass balls fall and shatter.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Balikan

I've been on many trips, most of them to various cities around the Philippines. Many of these trips are of the official kind meaning they are associated with my line of work. Being in the field of transportation engineering requires a lot of travel and that means I have to be "on the road" more often than I want to. Typical trips last 2 to 3 days including some foreign trips where the budget is not enough to attend a conference or symposium in full. It is alright if the travel time is reasonable enough. A flight to Visayan destinations usually takes somewhere between 45 (Puerto Princesa or Roxas) to 60 (Cebu or Bohol) minutes while Mindanao destinations range from 1.5 hours (Cagayan De Oro) to 2 hours (Davao and General Santos). Regional international flights typically take 3 to 4 hours and I have taken many of these non-stop between Manila and cities like Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo.

I have also been on many road trips, mostly on the island of Luzon where I have had the experience of once doing something like city-hopping from Manila all the way to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the northern Philippines. Among the cities I've visited by land are Tuguegarao, Baguio, Olongapo, Tarlac, Batangas, Calamba, Lucena and Naga. In my childhood days, I remember going on trips to Sorsogon, to the hometown of my mother. Along the way, we passed by Legazpi City, Albay and I have faint memories of seeing Mayon Volcano on both clear and cloudy days. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to visit Mayon and take some photos at the ruins of Cagsawa.

These days, it seems that I am taking a lot of quick trips, balikan as they are termed in Filipino. Strictly speaking, balikan refers to a trip to and from another city of considerable distance from one's origin (e.g., Manila-Cebu-Manila or Manila-Subic-Manila) assuming this is possible because of the availability of flights or that the travel time via road transport is not considerably long (i.e., not exceeding 4 hours). This year alone, I have been to balikan trips to Cebu, Subic, Clark/Angeles, and tomorrow, General Santos. The more common arrangements are overnight trips. These at least allow me to relax a bit after a meeting or lecture and have a good night's sleep before returning to Manila the following day. Perhaps there will be more of the former and latter types of trips ahead for me as I continue juggling my schedule so that official trips don't get in the way of precious time I reserve for family.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020

Today we are holding a Road Safety Conference with the theme "Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020." The theme is consistent with a worldwide campaign led by the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and its partners that aims to curb the sharp increase in the incidence of road crashes. The program was actually launched last year at the Road Safety Forum held in October in Singapore and formalized with the first Transport Ministers' conference on road safety held in Moscow the following month of November.

The Road Safety Conference in the Philippines is organized by the Automobile Association Philippines and the National Center for Transportation Studies of UP, and is mainly sponsored by Toyota Motor Philippines as a major part of the latter's advocacy for road safety. Partners include SafeKids Philippines, Pilipinas Shell and 3M Philippines. This year, we are happy to have on board the fledgling GRSP Philippines (PGRSP) that is comprised of major companies dedicated in promoting road safety in the country.

The program includes 3 panel discussions with the first one tackling road safety legislation including the status of the Road Safety Bill filed in the last congress. The second panel discussion will feature the International Road Assessment Program (i-RAP) that will be implemented in the Philippines through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The assessment will involve an automated audit of more than 4,000 kilometers of roads throughout the country. These include roads classified under the Asian Highway (AH) network as well as the tollways of Luzon island. The third panel discussion will be on eco-safe driving. which is a practice that aims to promote both safety and energy efficiency by encouraging more relaxed driving while putting emphasis on regulating the driver's use of the gas pedal. The latter, in effect, allows the driver to manage the engine revolution so that upon acceleration and during cruising, the engine will only reach around 2,000 r/min maximum.

These are but among the many topics that are part of the bigger picture that is road safety. They are surely among the most interesting ones that are oriented toward actions necessary if we are to succeed in cutting down the steady rise in road crashes and save lives. The topics are also a welcome departure from past conferences where many presentations showed statistics and sought to establish context for road safety initiatives. That context is already well established and if one is not aware or has a clear understanding of the state of road safety, then perhaps that person is disconnected with what is happening around him.

This year's Road Safety Conference will be held at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is a whole day event that starts at 9:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Progress

I joined my college alma mater, the University of the Philippines, straight after completing graduate school back in 1995. I got an appointment as Assistant Professor in June that year based on my having a Master's degree and set out to teach both major and minor courses in Civil Engineering. I remember teaching Engineering Economy, Engineering Statistics and Transportation Engineering to undergraduate students during my first semester. I was also allowed to handle one graduate course during my first year and I remember this as one devoted to Traffic Flow Theory. Then as now, I was based at the National Center for Transportation Studies, where my Filipino and Japanese mentors also had their offices.

I filed for a study leave in 1996 to pursue a doctorate in Japan and got a first taste of life in Japan when I was recommended for a 35-day stint at Tokyo Institute of Technology with support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), months before I was to begin studies at the Yokohama National University. Upon completing my studies, successfully defending my dissertation in June 1999, I returned to UP in late September 1999. I was immediately promoted a few steps but still as Assistant Professor. Months later, however, I was given tenure by the UP upon the recommendation of the Department of Civil Engineering and the College of Engineering. I was to be Assistant Professor until December 2005, steadily rising among the ranks one or two steps at a time until I got a shot at crossing ranks.

I was appointed Associate Professor in January 2006 months prior to my nomination for the Director of the National Center for Transportation Studies. In November 2006, I was appointed Director of the NCTS and set out to continue with both teaching and research often juggling time with my administrative responsibilities. I was reappointed in 2009 for another 3-year term.

It was fortunate for many of us in the University that the centennial paved the way for a new charter as well as a 3-year period of subsequent promotions. It helped greatly that the College at this time instituted a merit-based promotion system that allowed me to claim significant points that led to a rapid progression in steps as Associate Professor.

Last Wednesday, I finally received my appointment from the UP Board of Regents as full Professor, effective June 2010. It is a fulfillment of a dream that started back when I decided to join the academe. It is a blessing from a most gracious and loving God that I offer back to Him for His greater glory. It is a gift that I share with my loved ones especially my parents, siblings and cousins who have been instrumental in my decisions back in the day. It is an accomplishment that I share with the Clairvoyant who has been so supportive of what we jokingly mention as our contribution to service to this country. And it is something I share with my friends, teachers/mentors, and colleagues, especially those closest to me whom I have had the pleasure of working since the dream started.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

DIY

The sprinkler for the car wipers didn't work one day for some reason. Among the most common if not the most common reasons for sprinklers not working is that the nozzles are clogged. Clogging can be caused by dust especially the fine ones that hit the car while one is driving. Clogging can also be caused by car wax, either the liquid that eventually dries upon application or the gooey kind that's usually popular with car buffs (pun intended). Perhaps in this case it might be wax inadvertently applied to the area or the same material in its dried form as it was being rubbed from the car to produce the desired shine. I would like to believe that there was nothing wrong with the sprinkler's motor because the thing was practically new considering we had the original one replaced after it was damaged when the car went under the flood waters of Ketsana. I also did a quick check and could hear the motor running when I engaged the sprinklers. But I wasn't sure if the sound was a good one as I am admittedly not an expert on these things, especially with regards to the Clairvoyant's car. I also didn't want to try troubleshooting as the outcomes may just be that - trouble. And we all know that a mistake may lead to a more expensive bill when you finally have it fixed by qualified technicians.

I decided to call the casa to schedule a check on the sprinkler and I went to the shop last Saturday, arriving quite early (just as the gate opened) only to find out that the guy who fielded my call didn't take down my details for an appointment that morning. I ended up waiting for my turn after the staff attended to those who had appointments. After about 40 minutes of patiently waiting, a person who looked like the manager or perhaps the owner of the dealership approached me and explained that they may not be able to check the car as all those who had appointments showed up. The guy was accommodating and assisted me in making another appointment. I appreciated this and the customer relations of this dealership was one of the reasons we transferred our car here.

Nevertheless, I was a little disappointed that the sprinkler was not fixed that day. It was quite an important part of the car especially these days when it rains almost everyday. Other times, it can be quite dry and the dust can accumulate on the windshield. The combination of dust and rain is most potent as dust plus rain (and dirty rain at that) turns to what appears like muck on your windshield a while after the rains stopped. You would need a good wiper wash delivered by your sprinkler for this stuff. Otherwise, you would have to pour clean water on the windshield as the wiper is engaged for a quick wash and it is not something you'd want to do almost everyday just before driving home from work.

As I had some time this morning before taking the dorgs to the vet, I decided to tinker with the nozzles and succeeded in detaching the hose in one (it was quite easy). I then engaged the sprinklers to see if the motor was able to pump the wash through the hose. It did and this was confirmation that there was nothing wrong with the sprinkler motor. I did the same for the other hose just to make sure my conclusion was correct and also to determine if both hoses were not clogged. With this initial success, I was encouraged to further troubleshooting, this time succeeding to detach the nozzles from the hood after carefully studying the set-up. With the hypothesis that these were clogged, I proceeded blowing into the nozzle and then jabbing the exit points with the smallest pin I could find in the house. I did this several times and finally decided to re-attach the nozzles and reconnect the hoses. The moment of truth finally arrived as I turned on the sprinklers and voila! The sprinkler worked perfectly. The accomplishment definitely made my day as being able to fix things are surefire ways to boost one's confidence. It might be a male-thing but its something that proves one can definitely "do it yourself" as long as you know what your doing and put some care into the work. Next up...the cabinet hinges!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

End of an era in Philippine FM radio

I just heard from a radio jock on 99.5RT that NU107.5 will be signing off for good tomorrow. It came as a surprise and a sad one that an icon for rock music on Philippine FM radio will be concluding its broadcast after so many years of airing various forms of rock. This was the FM station that introduced me to heavy metal and hard rock when I was hooked (and still am) on new wave and jazz.

NU107 went on air when I was attending university and I remember it becoming part of my preset stations on my Walkman as I liked their mix of rock that was never heard from the other stations. That time, LS97.1 was among the leaders when it came to airing music from the rock genre but most of the material were actually of the glam rock kind. I wanted to know more about the headbanging sounds of bands like Metallica for times when my usual dose of new wave, jazz (even new age) or classical just won't do.

Even today, NU107.5 is among the presets on my old Walkman and our car stereo. I must admit its been awhile since I've tuned in to the station though; a result of having the CD player fixed and me loading up on my 80's CDs (U2, House Martins, Spandau Ballet, Billy Idol, etc.). I can only hope that perhaps NU107.5 will be resurrected one day just like how 99.5RT had returned after years when it sounded like just one of those stations that you need not "memorize."

Here's a salute and a toast to NU107.5. Great job guys and gals! The memories live on!

"Wang-wang" of another kind

Ever since the current president of the Philippines mentioned his disapproval and disdain for the abusive use of sirens by unscrupulous individuals and organizations, there has noticeably been some "silence" in our streets. It used to be that vehicles with sirens muscled through heavy traffic to get ahead of everybody else, appearing as if their business was more important than all the rest. Never mind that those comprising the frustrated among those caught in the jam might be professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers whose times were much more valuable compared to say, a relative or a staff of a congressman using a siren on their way to the shopping mall. Never mind that among those who were wallowing in traffic were students - the very future of this country - who might already be late for their classes. Never mind, too, that other people happen to be workers or laborers whose times were critical because they might be getting their pay based on an hourly rate. Now, you only hear the sound of engines, tailpipes and the occasional horns mainly from those who are in a hurry or public transportation drivers trying to catch the attention of commuters waiting for a ride along the street.

However, I would like to talk about a "wang-wang" of another kind. And this one is of the good type. "Wang-wang ng Bayan" is a radio program that went on air 5 weeks ago. It is a talk show hosted by two good friends, Sheilah and Dayo, who graciously accepted the invitation to host the show. Following are more info about the program taken from its Facebook page:
"The title of the program is a play on the local term for the sirens used by ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles that were abused by politicians and people who thought of themselves as being more important than the average citizen. “Wang-wang” was specifically pointed out by the current President Noynoy Aquino in his inaugural speech as it became associated with abusive behaviour especially in traffic. In truth, “wang-wang” is an instrument for catching attention. And in this case attention is needed for us to be aware of and understand the current and enduring issues on transportation and traffic.
The objectives of the program are as follows:
1) Advocate – environmentally sustainable transport (EST) including road traffic safety, social equity, clean air, and other elements of EST
2) Clarify – issues pertaining to transport and traffic, focusing on current concerns in Philippine cities particularly in but not limited to Metropolitan Manila
3) Teach – the general public by providing current, relevant information concerning transportation and traffic systems, and sharing knowledge concerning transport and traffic"
So far, the program has tackled topics like traffic rules and regulations, u-turns, the odd-even scheme, pedestrian facilities, and motorcycles. Guests included the like of former LTO Chief and LTFRB Chair Bert Suansing, Traffic Engineer and UP Professor Ric Sigua, former MMDA traffic chief Ernie Camarillo, motorcycle riding instructor and expert Jake Swann. In its upcoming 6th episode, the show will have as guest current LTFRB Board Member Julius Garcia who will talk about public transport including challenges and current programs of the government.

It is through such a program that the academe could hopefully reach out (extend) to discuss and explain, or as their objectives state - ACT - about the relevant topics on transport and traffic in our country today. Truly, these are matters many of us need to be aware of and rightfully informed rather than misinformed. "Wang-wang ng Bayan" airs on DZUP 1602 AM radio every Wednesday from 1-2 PM (Philippine time). It is also available online via livestreaming.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lifeline

It's been 11 days since the Clairvoyant left for the US and Canada to participate in meetings of their firm in Chicago and visit her brother in Montreal. She was originally to fly to Chicago via Los Angeles but had to change her flight due to concerns regarding a local flag carrier's labor problems. Instead, she traveled via Incheon in Korea. It turned out to be cheaper and she was able to get a code share flight to and from Montreal. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that she won't be able to visit relatives in LA and go with them to Las Vegas. Our relatives have originally planned to vacation in Las Vegas with the Clairvoyant tagging along to finally see another city that doesn't sleep.

The Clairvoyant and I are not strangers to long distance communications. It was how we met in the first place and we know how to wield the tool that is the internet. More than 10 years ago, communications were via email, AOL Instant Messenger or internet relay chat (IRC). Then, there was also the option of snail mail although I remember I preferred using the post office's Express Mail Service (EMS) to send cards and what have you to the Clairvoyant. We didn't exchange photos as this was part of our informal, undeclared agreement on "just chatting and exchanging notes" about anything under the sun.

Our tools then were significantly and perhaps tens of times better than what people before the era of the internet had to go through in order to get in touch with loved ones. These days, the arsenal has expanded to include Skype and voice chats like the ones provided by Google and Yahoo. Even as I write, I am actually speaking with the Clairvoyant over Google's voice chat. If the Clairvoyant had a camera on her computer, we could also have a kind of video conferencing! Now that should be a great experience for loved ones separated by geography.

This experience will be what we will have to undergo and perhaps for a much longer period come January. The Clairvoyant will be based in Singapore from then as she will be transferring to their office in that country. The good news is that Singapore is wired and will surely have the communications facilities that would ensure an efficient lifeline. It helps that Manila and Singapore also share the same time zone. Maybe we'll just try to travel more with the Clairvoyant flying to Manila once a month and me doing the same. That will surely fill our passports with stamps, even if its just for Singapore and Manila. We're bracing ourselves for that eventuality.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Dilbert Principle and other "old" books

My brother gifted me with a hard-bound copy of The Dilbert Principle today. He found the copy at a used-book shop last week and promptly bought the copy. It was almost mint condition and I was surprised that a good copy was available from a used-book shop. Many books I've found there often have torn pages or many with scribbles. Some even have coffee stains. The soft-bound copies usually have worn covers and it is not uncommon to find spines that indicated the book has seen better days. The hard-bound copy will join my flood-damaged soft-bound copy of the same book that I bought when I was still in Japan.

I also like to browse merchandise at used-book shops. Mostly I try to find early editions of books I already have. So far, I've had some success because I've managed to get a First Edition copy of the Silmarillion, and a few chess books that I knew were quite expensive if bought brand new. One time, I bought a hard-bound copy of our preferred reference in our Structural Engineering classes back in the day when I was a senior at university. On a trip in the US, I grabbed a copy of a Gary Larson compilation. And in a small shop near our village, I was able to get a Vietnam War era Doonesbury comic book. While some maybe quick to dismiss this as just another comic book, it should be clarified here that Doonesbury is a terrific political strip that has taken up a lot of issues (politics usually among them) reflecting prevailing perceptions in the US.

Meanwhile, back to the Dilbert book. I collected the Dilbert books from when I was still a student in Japan. I became curious about Dilbert from the comic strips of the Saturday and Sunday editions of the Daily Yomiuri that I preferred over other broadsheets in Japan. Then there was a reference to Dilbert made by my high school buddy John, who was working in the US and probably had first-hand experiences of what Scott Adams wrote and illustrated about in his books.

I must admit that a lot of the material were creative hits on what seemed to me was a lack of common sense at office environments. What attracted me to the comic strip was that Dilbert and his colleagues who featured in most of the situations were engineers. So it appeared to me also that the comic strip was a tribute of sorts to engineers, who were also subject to the (humorous) incompetence of those around them. The only problem was that the engineers were not the decision-makers - the managers and the execs especially one "pointy-haired" boss frequently torment our gang of engineers with the seemingly endless moronic actions. Sounds familiar? Well, I won't go into the details and will leave the reader to be curious enough to maybe Google about Dilbert, and study and enjoy at the same time what Scott Adams has to say and advise us about the workplace. Incidentally, Dilbert books are classified under business books in Japanese book stores, particularly Tower Books and Yurindo, also frequent haunts of mine in the late 90's. But that's another story for another post.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Extraction

I had another tooth extracted this morning. But before anyone thinks I had one pulled out only recently, "recent" for me was January 2009. I remember blogging about it then as I had a great experience back then. It was good enough for me to write about past experiences not in detail but in general. Doc Toto changed all that last year and this morning was a repeat performance for a tooth that started bothering me during a trip to Iloilo last September. Hindi ako pinatulog the night before I was to deliver a presentation and it was the first time I had a tooth ache in more than a decade. I decided then that I had to have it extracted soon but after the semester was over.

The Clairvoyant had more recent procedures performed. The two most dreaded words associated with dental appointments are probably "root canal." Often, these words are used in sitcoms (part of slapstick comedy?) or stories where the teller appears to be relating a horrific experience similar to a road crash or tremendous turbulence while in-flight. Well, the root canal procedure went well and was practically pain-free, thanks to the skills of our dentist. I do hope, however, that I won't undergo something like that. I can just imagine the anticipation alone will cause me a lot of stress.

Well back to my morning appointment. I had a worn-out tooth extracted and had the rest of my teeth cleaned. The damaged tooth was practically similar to the other one last year only on the left side. Now I rest and recover and try to my best to maintain my dental health. Who knows, maybe I should consider braces?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Aunts and Uncle

I was able to scan more old photos recovered by Tatay from albums damaged by floods brought about by typhoon Ketsana last year. Among the photos are rare ones showing my father's mother (Lola) and sisters and another showing Tatay with one of his close cousins. The first photo was a little blurred so I decided to refine it a bit using my limited knowledge of Photoshop. The second one is quite clear and didn't need to be refined. Both photos were taken at our home in Cabatuan, Iloilo and shows the original house a couple of decades before it was damaged. The photos were probably taken in the mid 1970's.

From left: Nay Laling Asencio (cousin of Tatay), Lola Pinac (Rufina), Nay Paring (Amparo), Manong Joam, Nay Pilar, and Nay Nene (Enriqueta) - photo taken at our Cabatuan home sala.


Tatay and Tay Adoy in-front of our Cabatuan Home

Tay Adoy (Arcadio Regidor Llamas) was the brother of Tay Puren (Florentino R. Llamas), who was a Korean War veteran with the 10th Batallion Combat Team (BCT) . Tatay stayed with Tay Adoy, who owned a store, when he went to Manila to study in the late 1950's. Tay Adoy happened to be married to one Mama Basion (Salvacion Fajardo), who happened to be the sister of my mother. It happened that Mama was also living with her sister and brother-in-law when she was also studying in Manila. The rest, as they say, is history - and another story to tell in a future blog.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lola

I used to have the most extensive photo collection of my Lola, the mother of my father. That collection sank together with a lot of other photos, no thanks to typhoon Ketsana. Since then, I have tried to recover many photos from various sources. Among the photos I am searching for are those of my aunts and uncles but especially my grandparents. I m not sure if my cousins in Bicol have preserved some photos of my mother's parents. Perhaps these should be secured and scanned for future generations to refer to. Meanwhile, I have succeeded in getting at least one photo of my Lola.

I have very fond memories of her especially the adobo that she would cook for us before she went to Manila for her regular visits back when I was a toddler. Perhaps that memory of adobo was embedded in my mind because it was really so good (sorry Mama, iba talaga yata adobo ni Lola). It is all the more terrific when I am reminded that back in those days, my Lola preferred to take the ship from Iloilo to Manila - a direct trip but one that lasted somewhere between 20 to 26 hours depending on the ship and the travel conditions. The adobo, however, can survive such a trip since it is oil based. It is probably the most anticipated viand in my memory, my Lola never failing to bring adobo every time she visited us then.

The photo below was scanned from a cutout my father always kept in his wallet. That way, I think, he felt my Lola was always with him. I would probably do the same if I were to keep a memento of my parents with me wherever I went. But that's another story for another blog.

Rufina Paton Regidor


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vigilance

The first time I learned about the typhoon brewing in the western Pacific, I wasted no time in getting the information I needed to prepare for what sure is to be inclement weather early next week. Typhoon Megi was forecast to be a super typhoon based on the information on the Weather Underground site. No, I didn't bother looking at the PAGASA site despite recent news broadcasts where the leading networks routinely asked the local weather bureau about the reliability of their forecasts. Weather Underground was reliable enough for me considering its performance last year (though ironically it was after Ondoy when I discovered the site). Data from the site were derived from NASA, US, Japan and Taiwan. Incidentally, any typhoons right up in our backyard are also monitored by the Taiwanese and Japanese due to the typhoons' propensity to head north and ravage these countries.

Throughout this week, I was always updating myself about the whereabouts of the typhoon. Information on potential rainfall in the next 5 days is quite important and highlights the importance of PAGASA acquiring the doppler radars required to have a reliable estimate of how much water will be dumped on us by the typhoon. I am a little relieved that the typhoon is heading in the general direction of the northern tip of Luzon island. It is likely to hit Cagayan Province by midnight Sunday and cross that province and Ilocos Norte by Monday afternoon. However, due to the typhoon's strength, its clouds and rains are expected to affect Metro Manila.

I just hope, as I know millions of others do too, that the drainage systems will be able to handle the rains. On another note, I am not optimistic about the damage that will be brought about by the 100-160 kph winds the typhoon is packing. Rural areas are almost always ravaged by such strong winds and damage is inevitable. Hopefully, lives will not be lost and that systems are indeed in place to prevent such losses.

We don't want to experience another Ondoy. Let it be what experts claim to be - a 100 or even a 50-year event. We also hope that government indeed made the necessary preparations and is planning to upgrade the infrastructure in order to mitigate what has come to be known as "Ondoy"-like rainfall.

I'm keeping my finger crossed and my faith intact.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Connectivity (Again)

After recovering from problems concerning my internet connection via broadband, I was able to compare the performance of two of the main competitors. So far, the verdict is that my old broadband service has been the most consistent in terms of connectivity and speed. On connectivity, I have been able to connect quickly on the 3G/HSDPA network of my old service provider. Meanwhile, it has been an excruciating experience in as far as network connection and speed is concerned, where I am often able to connect on the slower GSM/GPRS network that practically limits my access to sites including Gmail, Facebook and this blog.

As a result, I am led to believe based on my experience that my old service still provides the best connectivity in as far as broadband is concerned. Next stop? Perhaps we should already have DSL in our home. That way, we'll have access to even higher speeds and be able to download goodies like recent episodes of TV series we missed because either we couldn't watch the local telecast or free TV don't feature the series.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Connectivity

I had some difficulties connecting to the internet from our home this past week. What used to be a reliable connection via Smart Bro turned into an excruciating experience that started when I was in Iloilo City to close a training program for MIGEDC. There was this "cannot connect to PPP server" message appearing every time I attended to connect. And this Thursday, after having enough of what I perceived was undeserved disservice I decided to call the Smart hotline to at least have a grasp of what has happened to my connection. I was not alone in this predicament as another colleague, who happened to live in Quezon City, experienced similar difficulties. The Clairvoyant also pitched in one night last week when her own Smart Bro unit could not connect, leaving her with no internet as she navigated through a conference call she took at home. She decided later to take her other conference calls scheduled almost every night in the past week at her office.

I was informed by the customer service person that there was nothing wrong with their 3G services. (Note: It's this 3G connection that is supposed to be the preferred one as it is capable of delivering up to 2Mbps connection speeds.) One conclusion and recommendation was for me to see if this condition continues in the next few days and if it happens in other locations. Another was for me to change my settings and to use the GPRS connection instead. I asked the person what speeds would this connection give me. He replied that this setting would provide a maximum 384 Kbps. Hmmm...that didn't seem to be what I signed up for when I purchased my broadband unit. But what the heck, maybe the connection will return one day and hopefully soon. Fortunately, it seems to have returned this afternoon (otherwise, I could not be writing this blog now).

Meanwhile, I decided to purchase another broadband unit, this time from arch-rival Globe. It was supposed to be a quick purchase, so appropriate to the quick decision I made. The Globe service center, however, made it another excruciating experience, one that was something for the books in terms of what should not be done when you have a lot of people queued up for purchases or payments. It was a classic lesson in queuing theory where the servers took so much time to process customers that many of those in queue decided to leave. We were among those who left empty handed. Fortunately, I spotted the mall booth selling prepaid units for Globe Tattoo. I got one although grudgingly (I wanted a postpaid unit with an unlimited plan.) and took it h0me where it gave me a decent connection this afternoon. So far, so good. I hope it provides me a good connection sometime later again when my Smart Bro doesn't deliver.

I decided though to use my Smart Bro for this connection and voila! I had my good connection again. I do hope it stays this way most of the time and that my back-up won't fail me, too. Otherwise, I might be forced to get another unit from another company. Indeed, perhaps we should get a DSL service for our house soon. That will assure us of the fastest and maybe most reliable service for our internet purposes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Continuing Recovery

Amidst the commemoration of what was the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy (International name Ketsana) and all the talk, the lip service being paid by politicians everywhere in Metro Manila, Rizal and Laguna, our family shared dinner while politely shrugging off what we preferred not to talk about over God's blessings yesterday evening. Me and my siblings were all too familiar with the routine and have heard it all promised only to be disappointed again and especially last year. Our first experience of floods was in the 1980's when the first of what came to be frequent floodings in our area was a chest high flood when I was in first or second year high school. These occurrences were blamed on creeks and streams covered by newer subdivisions in our area. Our village, after all, used to be surrounded by rice paddies that used to absorb the water. The excess were drained through a network of streams eventually leading to the Pasig River or to Laguna Bay. Many of these waterways were covered and were claimed to be replaced by canals and drainage systems constructed by developers. I just wonder if they really did their jobs by designing such drainage systems to be capable of carrying the waters from downpours they were supposed to have forecasted back then. But then I remember that environmental impact assessments weren't mandated back then and developers are not at all afraid of any sanctions or penalties for their poor designs. Come to think of it, that practice remains today unless there happen to be groups who would stand up for the communities affected.

The floodings stopped when the Manggahan Floodway was completed. Everyone rejoiced for the engineering solution, an ultimate one as proclaimed at the time, was realized. A few years later, however, the floods came back. These were not as serious as the previous ones and subsided faster than the floods in the 1980's. Still, there were the floods despite the floodway and they seem to be there to stay. And that was when it was finally decided to modify our house. I was in Japan by then (around 1997) and my brother was already a freshman in Los Banos. It was easier to have our house renovated in phases where our family didn't have to move out of the house entirely. The renovations was successful and our family got to sleep comfortably well. That is, until Ondoy came and shattered whatever sense of security we had for the last 10 years. Hopefully, Ondoy is indeed one of those once in 40 or 50 years type of events.

The evening ended on a happy note as is usual before we said goodbyes for the week and went back to our respective homes - my sister and her family now lives in Pasig with their two delightful children. We now live in Antipolo but not up in the mountain but in the plains below and adjacent to Cainta and Marikina. We all experienced Ondoy in what we now called home where we thought we'd be spared from the worst floods. We also hope that we won't experience something like it in the near future or ever.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catharsis

This time last year, the Clairvoyant and I were watching a movie on DVD in the comforts of our living room while not being mindful of the rains that poured outside. I had earlier awaken to see that there was a slight flooding on the road and immediately arranged the parking of our cars so that no vehicle will be on the curbside and in danger of being partially submerged. It was, after all, not an easy task to take a car for detailing particularly when the floor carpets are drenched. At the time, we also assumed (later to regret it) that the flood will be typical of the worst we've experienced in the village. That is, the waters will not reach our garage. Little did we know that it was already the manifestation of an inundation never before experience in Metro Manila and its adjoining areas. The Marikina Valley and Rizal towns in particular would be submerged in unprecedented water and mud.

That was last year and a year after we could only hope that a lot of the lessons learned in the deluge have resulted in better preparedness not just for rescues but for infrastructure as well. I am not comfortable knowing that heavy rains in the last few weeks have resulted in flash floods including in our village. A lot of cities and municipalities conspicuously have not addressed drainage or flood infrastructure concerns often seeming to dismiss Ondoy's rains and floods as things occurring only every 50 years. And many village associations choose to be in denial of the fact that Metro Manila's and other cities' drainage systems are inferior and unsuitable for rains to be expected from weather systems attributed to climate change. Such attitude and treatment is only an invitation to further disasters, many just waiting to happen.

And so here I am in another city that was ravaged by floods by another typhoon (Frank) and has learned its lessons well enough for the city to build a floodway and improve its drainage to prevent another disaster. Iloilo holds a special place in my heart most especially since it is a city I've visited so often during my childhood and it is in the province which I consider home. Cabatuan town, where the airport is located, is my father's hometown. And I have spent a lot of time there as a child and a teenager there during the summer break, with the occasional visits to the city with my cousins. Those summer vacations were always opportunities to recharge my batteries after a year in school and I enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and welcomed the sounds of the rural life including chickens serving as my alarm clock every morning, and crickets and geckos announcing bedtime at night.

It felt reassuring that the weather here in Iloilo was terrific the past few days. Never mind that there was not enough free time except maybe this morning to go around the city to take photos here and there. Perhaps I shall visit again soon but not on official business but for leisure. It's been a while since I last recharged my batteries here like when did in my younger years but I guess that will again have to wait for the right time. I will just have to be content that my visits here have provided me with the change in environment that I wanted to stave off the onset of burn-out that I have been feeling the last few days. A change in pace is always good and Iloilo never failed to provide me that break I needed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1 A.O. (After Ondoy)

It's been almost a year now since Ondoy ravaged what is commonly termed as Mega Manila, that is, Metro Manila and its effective influence area. The rain started pouring on a Friday (September 25) and didn't let up until the following day. We knew that there was a typhoon arriving early morning but the information only indicated the wind speed, which for most typhoons in the past was good enough for people to prepare themselves. After all, the most destructive typhoons in memory seem to be those that were categorized by Signals No. 3 or 4, including a recent one that brought down a lot of billboards. If there was one info that seemed not so important at the time for the general public it was the estimated rainfall from the typhoon. The local weather agency also did not bother so much as to inform the public of the potentials for inundation; partly because it had limited capabilities (i.e., no Doppler radars). Little did we know that it was the most critical information for that typhoon. Cities and the metropolitan development agency were caught flatfooted and the armed forces were exposed to tasks they were trained for but not in the scale of the devastation that started manifesting itself on September 26.

Today, I still get a bad feeling from looking at photos the Clairvoyant and I took during the rise and recession of flood waters. Then there were also photos showing our cars during the various stages of the flood. Deep inside, I still sense my own sadness for the loss of my car, which was the first big purchase for me not counting my contributions to our house in Cainta (the devastation there is much more hurtful considering memories lost and too difficult to recover).

I no longer depend on the forecasts of the local weather agency. In fact, right after the floods I was able to find a reliable source of information on weather including rainfall. The Weather Underground site provides up to date information that includes terrific visuals and forecasts of typhoon strengths and paths. It also provides daily and even hourly forecasts for weather conditions based on satellite data and info from local weather stations like Ateneo's Manila Observatory. It reminds me of the reliability of forecasts in Japan where the chance of rain and the estimated intensity has allowed me to plan ahead (umbrella? coat? water proof shoes?) when going outdoors for my commute or other trips.

Perhaps, after watching news features of cities having rescue units prepared for Ondoy-type typhoons, we should feel secure that there will be help or assistance ready in case of another similar situation. Cities and the national government claims to have spent a lot to build capabilities for dealing with the impacts of typhoons. However, what I am worried about is the inaction in dealing with the root of the problem of flooding. The root or roots after all are within all of us in social terms. We still continue to pollute our environment - filling up our waterways with garbage and other wastes. Esteros being transformed from their navigable state to something where we could practically walk on due to the density of flotsam. We still do very poorly on ensuring that the same waterways are freed from the constriction of squatters (I prefer to use the term for people settling in these areas rather than on idle lands) whose structures have effectively dammed critical rivers, streams and even floodways and have led to floods that were actually preventable.

Preventable, it is perhpas the mother of all key words when talking about disasters. Its one thing to mitigate impacts of disasters. It is another thing to prevent disasters from occurring. Earthquakes and typhoons are inevitable. They are not disasters per se. Disasters are what occurs due to years of neglect and indifference to the potential for disasters because of our actions and policies. Are we really prepared for another typhoon because we have trained rescue units or resources that can be tapped and deployed to mitigate impacts? Perhaps we should revisit preparedness by seeking out what can be done to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place. Then we won't have to rescue anyone, do we?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Recovery

Last week, my father traveled to his hometown of Cabatuan, Iloilo. My siblings and I sponsored the trip that coincided with the town fiesta last September 10. I was glad to see my father's eyes twinkle when I offered to pay for the round trip plane ticket and my siblings pitched in with pocket money. It was not as if he needed the money or couldn't travel because it was expensive. Plane fare, after all, was cheap these days given the competition among airlines led by Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (never mind the labor problems). He could go if he wanted to but I guess it was a form of lambing that he asked us if we could sponsor the trip. We obliged, noting that it had been almost a year since he last visited our aunts, his sisters. That last time was post-Ondoy when he was probably searching for answers to the disaster that befell us. It was not the best of times and the situation was complicated due to one aunt in Iloilo passing away just after Ondoy inundated our Cainta home. Perhaps it helped my father to return to a place that he associated with stability. After all, walking along familiar streets and meeting up with relatives and close friends are activities that are truly cathartic.

Last year, I remember writing about how it was like a healing experience for me to visit Singapore (twice and only a few weeks apart) after Ondoy. Perhaps I associated stability with my previous experience of living in a developed country (Note: I lived in Japan for 3 years while I pursued my doctorate.). Those couple of weeks in Singapore allowed me to make sense of things and recover my wits. It was critical for me to recover if I was to share my optimism and outlook with the Clairvoyant.

A pleasant surprise came out of my father's homecoming. I called him up on the eve of his return to Manila and discovered that he was browsing over old photos in my aunts' albums. He was with my aunts and two of my favorite cousins - Rebecca and Rhodora, who were a critical part of my growing up years and education (but that's another story). He mentioned that he remembered sending copies of photographs to Iloilo during our younger years. I also remembered sending not a few photos including evidence of my travels in Japan. That phone conversation led to a light bulb moment and I proceeded by asking my father to borrow the photos and bring them back to Manila. My objective was to scan these photos and recover whatever part of my past was recorded. Unfortunately, it was too late to determine if other albums with my cousins in another part of their town contained other photos (and I'm sure they had old photos including those of my uncles, aunts and cousins stashed away somewhere). These will have to be checked later. For the meantime, I am quite satisfied and very happy to get the photos.. In fact, I have scanned all the photos and will be posting a few in future blogs as I relive what I remember regarding the photos.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/11/01

I was in Japan at the time of the attack and didn't know about it until we came back to the international dormitory and saw the students gathering around the television at the lounge. There was a mixture of shocked silence and people on their cell phones speaking in their native languages to what appeared like family or close friends, reporting or relating what they were witnessing live on TV. At first, we had some difficulty taking in what was on TV but when the image of a plane crashing unto one of the twin towers appeared on TV it suddenly hit us that this was no fluke, no joke, and definitely not a disaster movie trailer.

The first thing that came to my mind was to call my family back in the Philippines. I was lucky that the lines were not that busy, considering that most of Japan and Asia probably have not learned of the attack on New York due to the difference in time zones. In fact, when I succeeded in contacting my family it was the sleepy voice of my father who greeted me and was quite surprised I called late in the night. I had to ask them to turn on the TV just so they can be updated of what was unfolding on the other side of the globe.

After watching the collapse of the twin towers, I decided to return to my room and continue watching the news from there. I was not totally in shock but started to think about the repercussions of the attack, including what could be, for me, the start of a global war that no one could imagine how it will end. After all, similar lesser events did start wars including the Great War (WW2 was an entirely different affair that probably was just a continuation of WW1). This was much more serious than a previous experience when Japan went on full alert after North Korea launched a missile past Japan and infiltrated Japanese seas in the late 90's.

It was a relief later that the war that was eventually waged was of limited scale and focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest, as they say, is history. I just hope that we will not experience another event of such evil, such horror in our lifetimes. Let us instead live according to principles and morals based on love and care for our fellowmen rather than on hate and greed, fighting for things that upon deeper examination are actually selfish and contrary to what we claim is taught by our religions.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Defining moments

The Philippine President stated in his press conference today that his administration will not be defined by the disastrous hostage crisis last August that claimed the lives of Chinese tourists. Unfortunately, with still less than one hundred days logged in since his inauguration, there seems to be no other major event that caught the attention of both Filipinos and foreigners, including that "major-major" event following the hostage drama where Ms Philippines was 4th Runner-up in the Ms Universe pageant. By event I refer to both accomplishments, incidents or even appointments from June 2010. The crisis seemed to be an abrupt end to what may have been an uneasy honeymoon period, wherein critics have raised questions about almost every move the administration was making including the appointments to sensitive positions of persons regarded as the "new" Kamag-anak, Inc. - Classmates, Inc.

Is it a case of malas (misfortune) or maybe the mishandling of the press? Is it an early indication of incompetence or unpreparedness for certain people in government? We can only hope that it is not and that it is more of an example of people being caught off-balance rather than being ill-prepared for such situations. Perhaps it is time to focus on other more important issues including one that was big enough to sway minds away from Ondoy due to the horror it generated - the Maguindanao Massacre. Solving this case and giving justice to the aggrieved will surely erase doubts about the competence and commitments of this administration.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shaving foam, gel, cream or oil?

Last Christmas, a friend gifted me with a pack of what looked like beauty products. It wasn't actually for me alone since some of the products in the package were obviously for women, hence, for the Clairvoyant. At least 3 products though were clearly usable for men and one was particularly useful for me. These three products were a shampoo/body wash, a facial wash, and shaving oil. The last was most useful for me as I had to shave every other day (unless I happened to want to grow a beard and moustache - mostly when I found the growth pantay and wanted to see again what I would look like with balbas and bigote).

I've heard about Human heart Nature from friends, particularly those who were into organic or environment-friendly body care products. The Clairvoyant has also mentioned that the products were available in a store in Serendra in Bonifacio Global City. She has passed by the store more than once but procrastinated on making any purchase, always thinking twice if she'd wanted to try some of the products. So it was a very welcome gift this package in Christmas that contained a sampling of Human heart Nature products.

I've practically tried all kinds of products to make the shaving experience an efficient and pleasant one. Since I've started shaving when I was a freshman at university, I've usually applied shaving cream or foam lent to me by father who taught me how to shave. The most popular brand then and now is Gillette, the same brand of my razors. The only thing with Gillette's cream or foam was the packaging. In the old days, the foam (which I preferred) was dispensed out of a large can. As I grew older and more aware of the environment, I became conscious of having to throw away large cans even if this was done every other month. Plastic tubes for shaving cream also wasn't so envi-friendly. But then I didn't like to use cream on my face as it felt oily and whenever I used cream, they have the habit of sticking to my razors and making them difficult to clean after every shave.

I first tried using cream again when the Clairvoyant bought a tube from a popular store selling products that did not employ animal testing. I quickly re-discovered why I stopped using cream in the first place, wasting maybe a couple of razors before I decided to give away the cream to my brother who seemed not to mind using it. Fortunately, I found that my preferred brand came up with a gel that turned into foam when it was rubbed on your face. The cans were significantly smaller than when they contained foam, obviously the outcome of a more innovative way of storing the product.

My preferred brand, though, became more expensive through the years and I couldn't bring my can on trips as I was afraid they'd be confiscated if I happened to forget to place them in my check-in baggage. So when I went on trips, I had to bring a new disposable razor - again usually from my preferred brand (though nowadays I happen to use another brand I discovered when I was studying in Japan). That way, I was sure I wouldn't get nicked by an old razor.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started using the shaving oil in the gift bag and found it also lubricated my razors that they became much easier to clean. The oil was also based on virgin coconut oil (another pleasant surprise as I didn't read the label when I started using the oil) and that scored a few points considering I supported the renaissance of products derived from coconuts. My use of the oil resulted in what I believe was the best shave I've had in years. In fact, it also moisturized my skin and had this nourishing effect on my face. I am quite happy with my shaving oil and I hope that they continue manufacturing this product so that there will be more smooth shaving days ahead.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Arrival of the 'ber' months

I checked my posts on Septembers past since I started blogging and saw that I never wrote about this month being the start of what is perhaps the longest Christmas season in the world. As far as I can remember, some radio stations start playing Christmas songs from the 1st day of the month. Certain radio stations play it as part of their regular programs, others to humor their listeners about the arrival of the 'ber' months.

The entry of the 'ber' months also signal the beginning of months when temperatures become more comfortable. Rains during August and September tend to cool the ground and the environment in general and as nights become noticeably longer, they also become noticeably cooler - often with a gentle breeze in areas where the urban heat has not affected climate. December through February are typically the coldest months in the Philippines, thanks to the cold winds coming from Siberia and other cold areas in the north.

Of course, last year September brought in Ondoy and Pepeng towards the end of the month, and expectations for Christmas quickly turned into feelings of despair. The joyous season eventually prevailed, seemingly showing that even powerful typhoons and their aftermaths aren't strong enough to overcome Christmas. This year, people are more watchful after the weather bureau declared the end of El Nino and the beginning of La Nina in September. Perhaps this watchfulness will be a saving grace for most or many, a watchfulness that will eventually transform into anticipation that is the hallmark of Advent. After all, it is always important to remember that Christmas is that joyful season when we remember and celebrate the birth of Our Lord.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flash Floods

Intense rainfall occurring within a short period of time will overwhelm most drainage systems, even filling up waterways, thereby resulting in flash floods that often lead to traffic congestion, and in some cases, death and destruction. Flash floods are temporary by definition and should last under an hour or a couple of hours if the drainage system happen to be clogged once the rains relent.

Two weeks ago, the Clairvoyant and I were lucky enough to reach home after almost 3 hours. We navigated efficiently enough to reach our home via familiar routes that were not as congested if we used the conventional route from the university to our village. It only took about 40 minutes on typical nights that the Clairvoyant fetched me from work to reach our village. That night, however, took more time for travel because of a flash flood along Marcos Highway, no thanks to clogged drainage systems and silted waterways in the area. Late in the afternoon then, heavy rain fell over an area roughly covering Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Rip-raps along a section of waterway in one Cainta subdivision collapsed after it was unable to resist the sudden and strong rush of water. Parts of that subdivision were immediately flooded, reminding residents of the not so distant experiences from Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. The same waterway was part of a network that included a branch in Kingsville Subdivision along Marcos Highway that caused flooding in that major road. Various first hand reports from friends state that people coming from workplaces in Makati, Ortigas and Quezon City drove for 3 to 5 hours, with many reaching their homes by early morning the following day.

Two nights ago, there were more flash floods all around Metro Manila. Some were of the terrifying kind - "lampas tao" (deeper than the height of a person) or "hanggang leeg" (neck deep). Others alarming - "hanggang baywang" (waste deep) or "hanggang/lampas tuhod" (knee deep). And most others were of the inconvenient but "more acceptable" kind - "hanggang talampakan" (ankle deep). Still, any kind of flash flooding produced trouble, mostly of the traffic congestion kind. I got home quickly, deciding to leave the office while it was still raining and before nightfall. The Clairvoyant was not so lucky as she was unable to leave her office due to a deadline she was trying to beat. Yet, she was still lucky enough as I was able to persuade her not to drive home. The traffic that night was hell and the flood waters rose in many areas including our village where if it not for our service vehicle being a Pajero, I could not have reached home with dry feet. It made no sense to drive home with a car that will be unable to manage the flooded streets when most of our neighbors were already taking their vehicles to higher ground. I saw the signs and my 26-year first-hand experience on floods kicked-in. The clairvoyant should not attempt to drive home.

The waterways and the drainage systems in most areas in the Marikina, Pasig, Cainta and Antipolo (maybe including Taytay, too) have not been touched since Ondoy's onslaught in late September 2009. Many residents of areas affected by Ondoy perhaps chose to assume that the typhoon was one of a kind and that the flood we experienced was one of those that scientists categorize as 40- or 50-year floods. Acceptance of such assumptions tend to mislead and lull people into a false sense of security - one that is in denial of the possibility that we have another disaster waiting to happen in the next few weeks when La Nina takes over from El Nino.

Much of the responsibility for these waterways are with the local governments of those cities and municipalities. Yet, the leaders of these LGUs seem to have very short memories and instead spent the summer (that long very dry season from January to June) doing nothing with regards to flood control. The murky waters of Ondoy in 2009 brought in so much mud (from both clay and silt) that I am very sure that most drainage systems' capacities have been significantly reduced. Moreover, waterways that used to be dredged on a regular basis were untouched despite local elections in May where flooding happened to be one of the major issues. It is the ineptitude of our so-called leaders that will result in another disaster come September or October, when our weathermen predict that more heavy rains will fall and when the typhoons start arriving. We can only hope that there won't be more of the 50-, 40-, 30-, 20-, 10- or even 5-year floods occurring then. Flash floods are welcome as long as they remain "flash."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Francis and Ferdinand

The topic is not about the person who is the subject of what is widely believed to be the even that triggered the Great War. It is certainly not about the popular rock band. It is, however, about 2 persons who to me are rock stars in their own ways - if we can call Men of God rockstars. Francis and Ferdinand are the names of two priests I have come to know via I believe that they are to be emulated by their brethren, particularly as they have consistently delivered inspired homilies whenever they celebrate the Holy Mass.

Fr. Ferdinand Santos is a secular priest who is also an academic, teaching at Providence College in the United States. Ferdie also happens to be a schoolmate of mine back in the day when we were studying at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. His father taught Christian Living in grade school. He graduated one batch ahead of me in high school and was recognized with the St. Francis of Assisi Award, the highest recognition our school gave to her graduates. I know that he entered the San Carlos Seminary after graduation but was also able to study at the Vatican under a full scholarship. I got reacquainted with Ferdie when he became chaplain of UP Diliman at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. After leaving the chaplaincy to return to the US, he eventually taught at Providence College, Rhode Island.

Fr. Francis Cruz is a Vincentian missionary currently assigned to China. Vincentian meant he was of the order of St. Vincent De Paul, the same order that administers Adamson University. I am familiar with the order because 3 cousins graduated from that university and I have memories of reading their school paper (Ozanam?) in my childhood. I came to learn from one of his homilies that he had a Jesuit education at Ateneo De Manila and eventually decided to become a missionary in part due to his desire to spread the Good News to those who have yet to receive it.

I remember hearing a noontime Mass at the UP Chapel where I was pleasantly surprised to see Ferdie as the celebrant. I immediately approached him after Mass and discovered that he was assigned to UP and was designated Chaplain for UP Diliman. Sunday Mass quickly became anticipated for Ferdie's brand of sermons. It was always organized, clear and direct to the point. Anecdotes were choice stories from his experience. And he never failed to emphasize the most important points in is homilies. The style is reminiscent of homilies delivered by Fr. Ed Tiamzon, who was our Rector at LSM (and the main celebrant in our wedding). Ferdie eventually left UP and the country to accept a teaching post in the US. He would, however, always take his summer break in the Philippines and would usually be back behind the altar at UP for the 9:00 AM Mass whenever he was around.

The Clairvoyant and I had the pleasure of "discovering" Fr. Francis when we resumed hearing Mass at UP Diliman. This was after we became tired of hearing uninspired and (apparently) poorly prepared homilies from the priests at our village chapel. This was many months after Ferdie left for the US and right after the Vincentians assumed the parish at UP Diliman. After the first time we heard him celebrate Mass, we became regulars of the 9:00 AM Sunday liturgy. We looked forward to his homilies where he never failed to deliver clear lessons and messages that served as fine starts for the week for us. After being assigned to China, he still returned during the summer (August) and celebrated Mass during his old 9:00 AM slot. Only two Sundays ago, we were happy to see his familiar face behind the altar.

I believe that both have contributed much to enriching our lives, providing the guidance many of us need these days whether in trying times or not. They are, after all, instruments of God in conveying His message to His people. Fr. Francis and Fr. Ferdie are very effective channels through whom God is able to reach out to remind us of how we should live our lives.

We are often told that speeches should not exceed 10 minutes for attention spans of audiences are usually short. Many priests, even bishops, make the mistake of failing to prepare for their homilies and assume that the congregation is a captive audience. I don't mind if it were Fr. Francis or Fr. Ferdinand since I am quite sure that they would be able to deliver homilies that are organized, insightful and interesting that one would not feel time passing as they spoke. But then again, they seldom exceed 10 minutes because they come prepared, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Class Photos

The destruction brought about by Typhoon Ondoy last year has left many people scarred for life. Much of these scars are not the physical kind that may have been inflicted by debris during the floods or acquired from wounds or scratches incurred during the clean-up and recovery from the onslaught. I would like to believe that such physical scars are nothing compared to psychological ones (probably even spiritual) that will take a lot of time to heal.

For me, the healing process started when I discovered old negatives of photos I took during my 3 years of studies in Japan (1996- 1999). I felt relieved and happy that physical manifestations of memories were not at all erased by the floods of Ondoy. I must admit that until now, I have reflected on what could have beens if I only made a call to remind people to take my old photo albums to a safer place. Those albums represented my childhood, my growing up years - happy memories with my lolas and lolos, nanays and tatays, manangs and manongs, our family, and of course, close friends. These were practically archives, most of which can no longer be recovered.

Part of those albums were class photos, particularly from my 11 years of grade school and high school at Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. I was never absent when a class photo was to be taken and I knew that in some other albums or collections of past classmates are similar photos. A pleasant surprise was waiting for me when I recently reviewed albums in my Facebook account and found that some former classmates scanned and posted some of their class photos on Facebook. For posterity and to continue the healing process I post below 4 class photos that is proof of my childhood and memories of LSM.


LSM SY1979-80, Grade 2-A (Adviser: Ms. Luningning Alap)
I'm 4th from left in the front row.


LSM SY 1980-81, Grade 3-E (Adviser: Mrs. Purita Umali)
I am 1st on the left, front row.
Mrs. Umali was also my Class Adviser when I was in LSM Prep (Section C). In my 11 years at LSM, I would have the same advisers in 4 levels - Mrs. Umali in Prep and Grade 3, and Mrs. Magno in Grades 4 and 6.


LSM SY 1984-85, I-St. Thomas (Adviser: Ms. Irma Canlas [later Mrs. Irma Agoncillo])
I am in the 2nd row, 4th from the right.
I always wondered why the school decided we have our photo taken with the new San Miguel headquarters as background. Perhaps the administrators were in awe of the architecture? At the time it was the most impressive building in the Ortigas area and it was imposing considering there were no other buildings of note except Philcomcen (with its tall tower on top of the building) and Meralco. No Megamall or Galleria yet, and I remember that EDSA Central was the nearest gimmick place at the time.


LSM SY1986-87, III-St. Lawrence (Adviser: Mr. Clarito Mamorno)
I am again in the 1st row, right smack in the middle.
I will always remember third year high as a time of ups and downs (or highs and lows) that I attribute to my free-wheeling style of studying at the time. I actually got a scare in some subjects I didn't prioritize, preferring to lock on my Chemistry and Math classes. It was around this time that I had decided I would be an engineer. Notable also in the photo is the presence of 3 American exchange students - Tom, Matthew Baker and that other guy who seems to be always absent from class.