Monday, 25 October 2010

Creepy Stories

Next week, we will celebrate the All Saint's Day. The night before that is the Halloween. We Filipinos are accustomed to horror stories especially before the Halloween. TV news, talk shows, movies, documentaries, all feature different ghost stories from the known witnesses, usually about white, black and red ladies, kapre, manananggal, tiyanak, tikbalang, and many others from the Philippine folklore. Way back in elementary and high school days, me and my younger cousins used to wait for Noli de Castro's Magandang Gabi Bayan (now defunct) features about ghosts stories and experiences. It had been a tradition of that documentary show to feature horrible and scary ghosts stories from the people who experience them (coincide with the scarier re-enactments)during Halloween. Later on, we won't be able to sleep with the light turned off, or even go out of the house at night without companion. Hehehe!

I myself love to listen to creepy stories, eventhough I sometimes imagine them when I am alone. Actually I thought that you are not a Filipino if you don't know a single ghost story that your friend, relatives, etc. had experienced. Well, we also have some stories to tell about ghost experiences, mostly happened during our stay in my cousin's house.

We used to live in my cousin's house for nine months, we moved there in October 2004. My cousin was a former councilor of Naic, and after his political career ended, he decided to move to the United States with his wife and two kids. Their house was empty for three years. We actually had a hard time cleaning the floor and walls because they were too dirty. In the first month of our stay, it was quiet, no strange feelings, no ghostly apparitions, no nothing.

After the Halloween, I just came from work one night. My shift in the office started at 2 PM and ended at 10 PM, I usually arrived home at 11 PM. My sister and cousin liked to sleep in the living room for they were more comfortable there. That time, they were still awoke and watching TV. Passing a small corridor directly to the kitchen, I went there to eat. The bathroom is located right beside the kitchen. In that house, silence was defeaning, especially at night. Our neighbor was like 40 feet away from us, the other neighbor has a very high concrete fence dividing their lot and my cousin's. Suddenly, I heard a sound of a crying lady, not sure if it was coming from the bathroom or underground because the sound was fainted. I hurriedly went to my sister and looked if it was coming from the TV, but they were watching a comedy show, and the sound was just minimal. I went back to the kitchen, still hearing the strange sound. I went to my parents' room and woke them up. That was the time when the sound died down. They were all scared.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

My Best Times of the Day

I like 5:00 to 6:30 in the morning. That's the time when my father's rooster crows, the birds are awake and start singing. Go to the open door or peep on the open window and feel the cool mist in the still air especially during December. Feel the moisture and coldness of the air, refresh your mind as you squint to see the first light of the day over the horizon. Pour a cup of steaming brewed coffee and sit on the back deck in your comfortable pajamas. Being as still as possible, the cold making your feet tingle.
Sometimes we walk with my family to the farm and rice fields, we buy hot pandesal, bibingka, and lugaw at the roadside. Wow! I love it!

Another best time of the day in Naic where I live is at dusk. The light turns to the soft orange, burnishing everything a beautiful gold. The mountains to the west turn into black. Then, just a short time, the vibrancy leaves and the sky turns the softest, velvetiest deep blue you can imagine, and the stars start to shine. Everything looks beautiful in the dusky light. Even the dust rising around their feet glows. You can see some barrio folks cooking foods for their dinner on a three-stoned stove and firewoods. When I was a child, I used to hear some lady vendors carrying bilao on their head shouting "tinapa, dinaing!". Most of all, it's my favorite time of day to ride on my bicycle going to the farm.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

I'm coming home again......

My hometown is a rural area in Cavite, there is where I grew up. Naic is located near the Manila Bay, situated 46 kilometers away from Manila. The majority of land area is agricultural, it consists of rice, and vegetable fields. Once you enter vicinity of Naic, you will first see the scenic century old ploughed rice fields, planted with hays gently swaying by the breeze, plus the nice view of the legendary Mount Buntis in the horizon. The roads are lined with trees, occasional houses and ornamental plants. One can still see the humble bahay-kubos , a sign of simplicity in living. The center of the town is the Poblacion, patterned from the Spanish model town centers where the town plaza, former market site, former municipal hall and a two hundred year old town church are located. The narrow streets there are lined with ancestral and modern houses with Spanish, Filipino, and American architectures.
Our house is located near the river, where the townsfolk used to wash their clothes decades ago, but it is still clean now. On the other side of the river are farms and rice fields plus a soothing view of the mountain.

What is my favorite thing about living in a rural area?

There is lack of crime, quietness, the sun setting off in the distance over the land (not buildings), I like hearing the crickets at night, seeing all the stars shining brightly in the sky. Your neighbors are more friendly than in the city,
neighboring farmers and their families were the most helpful people I've known in my life. I like animals roaming free. I love listening to the sounds of nature, seeing the scenes of nature. I love hearing the roosters crow. No pollution.

We used to live a simple life there.

I have been living and working in Metro Manila since 2007 to earn good bucks. Everything is accessible here, companies, universities, shopping malls, business establishments, embassies, gyms, convenience stores, stadiums, etc. I have no choice but to live in this noisy, congested, polluted, and expensive city. Morever, people don't care about others.

Sometimes, I think of going back and live a simple life in our hometown. I believe that time will come, when myself, and my future family will enjoy the simple living in my hometown. To me, nothing is better than living in a rural community, where everyone knows your name, your family and your values.

I was watching American Idol when I heard Camille Velasco, a Filipino-American finalist singing the song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” originally sang by Elton John. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. I found a connection to this song, this is written by Bernie Taupin.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

When are you gonna come down
When are you going to land
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man
You know you can't hold me forever
I didn't sign up with you
I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing the blues

So goodbye yellow brick road
Where the dogs of society howl
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough

Back to the howling old owl in the woods
Hunting the horny back toad
Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again
Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground
[repeat chorus]


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Life in a Call Center

I worked in an export processing zone in Cavite for almost four years. In those entire years, I barely bought the things (ex.gadgets) that I wanted. I used to take home 6,000 peso amount of salary that time, I think there are really much reasons why multinational companies should go to provinces like Cavite and Bulacan. That amount of salary partly supported our family debts, my sister's university studies, my everyday allowance, our foods, and other petty expenses. Well, I was kinda happy because I still have a job, however, I've never been satisfied because that kind of living was quite far from what I aspired after graduating from the university. Sa madaling salita, isang kahig isang tuka pa rin ang buhay namin sa Cavite. Sino nga ba naman ang matutuwa kapag wala ka man lamang nabili na Greenwich pizza o Crispy crème donuts sa sweldo mo?.
During that time, the call center industry was booming, many call center companies sprouted like mushrooms all over Metro Manila and in some provinces (of course, mas mataas and sweldo sa Metro Manila). Thinking that my English was just barok, I studied in a call center school. Then, I applied to different call centers in Mandaluyong and Makati, and luckily, I was hired. So, I felt proud to myself, to think that only small percentage of applicants can pass the call center screening. After several weeks, I started my job as a technical support representative. I passed the English, product, and tech trainings. So, after three months of intensive and brain damaging trainings, I started to take calls.
In my first months of employment, I was happy because I was able to get quite reasonable amount of salary every month that I never got when working in Cavite. 'Yun nga lang madalas puyat dahil sa graveyard shift. I also had a lot of friends especially in our team. Take note, our team was always number 1, always the best performing team in the entire tech department.
Sa call center ko rin nakita ang iba't ibang ugali ng mga tao, superiors and subordinates. There are nice and friendly, smart and not so smart, introverts and extroverts, smokers and non smokers, hypocrites and orocans, at marami pang iba. Meron na mabait kapag nagpeperform ka sa job, pero ipahihiya ka na kapag nagkakamali ka sa kalaunan. In my one year and nine month (to be exact) stay in the call center, I witnessed, and somehow experienced how these supervisors and managers handled people. Some managers and supervisors are understanding. On the other hand, some did not care about their employees, kaylangan itaas ang stats at mag OT lagi kahit wala ka nang tulog. After 8 hours of work, you have to stay in the company for uptrainings, endless pep talks, QA feedbacks (bugbog ka sa criticisms)and a lot more. Yung mga performing agents lang ang kilala nila, kapag sumasablay ka, bahala ka sa buhay mo. Some supervisors don't mind kung ipahiya ka nila sa harapan ng mga co-workers mo, mahilig silang sumigaw, which for me, is an act of unprofessionalism. Sa isang call center, ang mababang stats ay pwedeng itaas, subalit ang kahihiyan ng isang tao ay hindi.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The 2010 Barangay Elections

This coming October 25 will be the Barangay elections. Of course, many people will again go to the streets and exercise their rights as independent Filipino citizens. As I heard from the radio, this election will not be automated unlike the national elections last May. Well, I think it will be more comfortable for the voters to wait even for several hours to vote since the October weather is somewhat more convenient than the humid and sticky May weather (with the phenomenal El Nino phenomenon).
Barangay is the smallest unit of government. Usually small sized, it is headed by the Barangay Captain together with his allies, the ever-loyal councilors and the tanods. So,the barangay captain “works” in cahoots with them. My question is, “Do we really need them? (aside from approving barangay clearance)”. I can never see the traces, nor hear the echoes of even a single project accomplished by this small-sized government. Nasaan na ang mga pondo na ibinibigay sa kanila ng lokal na pamahalaan? Isa pa ang mga opisyal ng sangguniang kabataan, mayroon ba silang ginagawa? Maraming mga opisyal ng barangay na may mabubuting hangarin para sa bayan. Naluklok sila na may hangaring makatulong sa mga mamamayan ng kani kanilang mga barangay na hindi naghihintay ng anumang malaking kapalit o kabayaran. Subalit sa kabilang banda, mas maraming mga opisyal ang naghihintay lamang ng pagsahod mula sa gobyerno, na ang tanging nasa isip ay magkapera at kumabig ng kumabig mula sa kaban ng bayan. Anong klaseng mga tao sila?
Do we really need too much officials in our barangays o nagsasayang lamang tayo ng pera ng taumbayan? May isang senador na nagsabi na buwagin na ang barangay government, magtalaga na lamang ang mga alkalde ng isang kinatawan para sa isang barangay upang makatipid ang mga Pilipino. I am strongly agree with his statement.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Remembering Our “Undas” in Naic

“Undas” is a regular Philippine holiday which is celebrated every November 1st. On the eve of Undas, we celebrate Halloween. My parents told me that when they were young, some townsfolk participate in “pangangaluluwa”, a Philippine version of “trick or treat”. In many provinces, 'kakanin' or rice cakes are popular munchers among old and young. In “pangangaluluwa”, the participants knock to every door and ask for some rice cakes. I'm sad that that Filipino tradition is not being practiced anymore.
When my grandmother was still strong, she used to make 'suman' for us every 'Undas' (she is still strong in her age of 81 anyway) in their old house. Propped on a plate with muscovado and shredded young coconut, it was the most delicious rice cake that we ever tasted.
Usually on October 30 and 31, me and my cousins march to the cemetery, it is just walking distance from our house. Armed with broom, dustpan, paint, pail, and 'tabo',we clean the tomb of our dead relatives. It is also the time when our relatives from Paranaque and Olongapo arrive. On November 1, we all go to the cemetery carrying candles in different color, sizes, and designs, flowers, and Philippine flag for my veteran “lolo's” tomb.