Archive for June, 2008


Another ferry tragedy, another preventable disaster.  What puzzles me most about this – and other weather-related ocean vessel disasters – is that we are a tropical island nation, yet a lot of these still happen.  We should know about the ocean and about storms.  But that’s just it, we SHOULD, but DO we really?  Or do we ignore what we know for income’s sake?  Or is it really just plain and simple ignorance?

With the number of storms – and their different, sometimes erratic behaviors – that buffet us year after year, common citizens and weather and maritime authorities alike SHOULD know by now that no matter how hard you try to predict its path, there is always a chance that it would change course at the last second.  (Not even factoring in the worn-out joke on Pagasa’s weather predictions)  Just last year, there was a typhoon that suddenly came back just when we thought it was all the way out.

So it doesn’t make sense that the MV Princess of the Stars was allowed to sail just because the typhoon was not predicted to directly cross its path.  The mere fact that a typhoon from the Visayas (where the ship was headed) was on its way to Luzon (where it was coming from) should have been enough reason to cancel the trip.  The airlines already did; did the maritime authorities really think that ships are more invincible than airplanes, and that the water is safer than the air?  Did they really think that a typhoon’s path is cast in stone?

And now it’s on with the finger-pointing, the craziest of which is Sulpicio Lines blaming Pagasa.  It is not the responsibility of weather authorities to allow or cancel trips.  It is still the discretion of Sulpicio Lines and the Coast Guard.

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On a more personal note:  One of the hardest hit areas of Typhoon Frank is my beloved Panay Island, especially Iloilo.  A cousin who lived there is in Australia now, so there’s no immediate cause for concern, but my heart still goes out to my fellow Ilonggos severely affected by the typhoon.  Closer to home, our street in Pan-ay, Capiz got flooded – something that rarely ever happens.  As of the last time we were in touch with my aunt and cousin, which was a few days ago, there was still no electricity at home.  They’re all right though, and the house is fine so there’s no cause for worry.  But still saying a prayer for all the lives and souls of victims…

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Magilas Trail

We took an alternate route back to Manila from Baguio last Sunday – the Magilas Trail in Pangasinan, which starts at Binalonan and ends at Rosales.  This bypasses some other towns and Urdaneta City, where traffic is usually heavy, and shaves off around 30 minutes from the travel time.  It is a nice, well-paved road lined with rice fields.  However, it is only open until 5.30pm, probably because it is not yet fully equipped for night travelers.

A tip:  If you really need to go to the bathroom and you see a right-hand corner (Manila-bound) with a Petron sign, turn immediately so you can use their bathroom.  The next decent bathroom is still miles and miles away – in Rosales already in fact, just as you exit Magilas Trail.

Through fog, wind and rain

I had one of the most harrowing rides of my life yesterday.  Me and my friends were on our way down to Manila from our weekend in Baguio and we met Typhoon Frank head-on, getting the full strength of it somewhere in La Union.

Most of us woke up that morning to text messages from concerned family members, informing us of the Signal Number 3 in Manila, and of the typhoon heading our way.  We went on with our itinerary, ending with a trip to the market and lunch at Camp John Hay, but with the typhoon still in mind.  We really just wanted to go home, and our main concern was to go down the mountain before it hits there.

We weren’t able to leave Baguio as early as we would have wanted since it wasn’t easy to move fast with two very young kids (a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old) in tow.  By the time we finished lunch at around 2.30pm, the rain and the fog have already started.  We went down via Marcos Highway.  It was near-zero visibility.  We drove through the fog and rain with occasional strong winds.  At one point, we saw a portion of the road on the other side littered with soil from a mini-landslide.

We were able to breathe a sigh of relief when we reached level ground and the weather seemed relatively calmer, but it was a short-lived respite.  The wind and rain suddenly picked up again, much stronger than before, and we were like “Oh sh*t, this is it!”  It was almost like Typhoon Milenyo more than a year ago.  We drove on since it would have been even more dangerous to stop in a very open area.  We gauged the situation and decided that if things didn’t improve by the time we reached the first town/city center, we would stop to look for either a hotel or an enclosed area to park and wait out the storm.  Fortunately, the conditions improved after about 30 minutes and before we reached a town proper.  It was pretty much uneventful from then on, except for a funny turn that involved an urgent need for a bathroom but missing the turn that would have led us to the nearest one.

The heaviest rain fell right as we entered North Luzon Expressway.  We could only see the cars ahead because of the hazard lights, otherwise, it would’ve been total darkness.  There were no lights in some portions of the Expressway.  It was a slow drive from Pampanga to Bulacan, where the weather finally settled down to steady, moderate rain and minimal wind.

This trip back to Manila was an adrenaline rush in a perverse sort of way.  There was an element of danger, but oddly enough, I was never truly scared.  Maybe it was because we were one another’s safety nets.  We were in a two-car convoy, so we were each other’s “emergency vehicle and emergency crew”.

It seems like almost every trip I’ve had this year has had something unusual – all caused by the weather!  As they say in the vernacular, “walang pinipili“.  It didn’t matter even when we traveled during times when the weather was supposed to be at its best; something still went wrong with it.

One a more serious note: It is also a fact that typhoons are getting stronger – and developing more often.  Environmental alarm bells should already be ringing steadily, but those who sound them are more often than not looked upon as fools and silly alarmists.  But who’ll be the fools in the end?

And for a touch of vanity…

No official confirmation from Guiness yet, but still…

First, I must confess to having a sheltered life that has somehow isolated me from the harsher realities faced by other Filipinos, especially those in rural areas.  I know the general facts of their way and quality of life, but not really the nitty-gritty of it.  Once in a while, I would get snippets and glimpses of it though, the most recent of which was just a couple of weeks ago.

We received financial settlement from a court case, and since it’s not hard-earned money, we decided to give part of it to people who would benefit more.  My friend’s dad suggested that we use it to supply rice to disadvantaged families in Mindoro (where their family has a farm).  At first, I thought it was merely to help out with the rice problem.  It turned out that it has a deeper importance.  According to my friend, they use food there to make the children go to school.  However, public school funds could not cover both rice and viand.  (Let’s not even think yet WHY they do not have the funds.)  Therefore, they usually just provide the viand and it is up to the students to bring rice – and the schools cannot even guarantee regular supply of the viand.

So, this can only mean that if there is no food, then the students do not go to school.  It seems that they go to school primarily so they’ll have something to eat, with learning as a side dish.  If the schools do not have enough funds for food supplies and if the parents cannot give their children food to bring to school or money to buy it, then they don’t go to school.  A very sad situation.

This then brings us to eternal “the chicken or the egg” question.  Is lack of education the root of poverty, or does it really begin with poverty being the cause of lack of education?  It’s just going in circles.  The only thing clear is that something has to be done and someone or some group must have the will, fortitude and integrity to wade through the mess and sort it out.  I wonder if the assigned ones are up to it, and if there would be those who would willingly volunteer with the purest of intentions and would actually have significant accomplishments.

Just my two cents’ worth of what the most urgent problems are that need to be solved so our country can finally truly begin the climb out of the deep Third-World hole:  Education and Poverty.  One really can’t be solved without the other.

Today is the exact day of the University of the Philippines’ centennial.  I’m glad that I might be able to participate in the Centennial activities for the rest of the year because of my job.  I’m not going to divulge anything more, except that I’m excited.

I’ve already said everything in my 100 Years of UP post so let me just post the lyrics of UP Naming Mahal for all alumni who might have forgotten it already or, like myself (blush), never quite fully learned the lyrics.

UP Naming Mahal

U.P. naming mahal, pamantasang hirang
Ang tinig namin, sana’y inyong dinggin
Malayong lupain, amin mang marating
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin
Di rin magbabago ang damdamin.
Luntian at pula, sagisag magpakailanman
Ating pagdiwang, bulwagan ng dangal
Humayo’t itanghal, giting at tapang
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan
Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan.

Soundtrack Mode

I’ve been listening to two songs over and over these past few days, and both are from soundtracks. Eyes by Rogue Wave from Heroes and The Call by Regina Spektor from Prince Caspian.

Eyes

Missed the last train home.
Birds pass by to tell me that I’m not alone.

Well I’m pushing myself to finish this part,
I can handle a lot,
But one thing I’m missing is in your eyes.

In your eyes

Have you seen this film?
It reminds me of walking through the avenues.

Washing my hands of attachments yeah,
land on the ground,
one thing I’m missing, is in your eyes.
(Cause I find love),

In your eyes.

The Call

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
Til it was a battle cry

I’ll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because everything’s changing
Doesn’t mean it’s never
Been this way before

All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You’ll come back
When it’s over
No need to say goodbye

Now we’re back to the beginning
It’s just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can’t feel it too
Doesn’t mean that you have to forget

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
Til they’re before your eyes

You’ll come back
When they call you
No need to say goodbye

For the first time in a while, I’ll have the weekend free…I think. I’m off to Gateway with Anna this evening, but after that, I’m a free agent for the rest of the weekend. Well, it’s my dad’s birthday tomorrow, but I still don’t know what the plan is. There’s also a vague plan to watch Kung Fu Panda with my friends, but I haven’t heard from them about it, and I actually don’t feel like going out this weekend. Resting for the Baguio trip, haha! A veg out-weekend is starting to look very appealing to me right now.

Or maybe start writing again…now that my muse appears to be in the vicinity. And yes, he is male and even has a name in my head – Carlos.  This Enigma in the office building somehow inspired me, giving me lots of stories in my head, some of which germinated in “what-if” sessions with Tricia.  We have this fun game of inventing lives for familiar faces and interesting characters in the building – which usually turns out to be complete opposites of their real lives once we got to know snippets of those.

The Enigma is just so intriguing and appears to have a complex character that I just have to plumb its depths, if only in fictional stories.  I have a feeling though that his character can never be fully unlocked until…

Here I go again with my thing for trying out new or majorly updated apps.  And this time, I must say that the Mac user in me loved the Firefox 3 beta right off the bat.  The updated interface now looks like a native Mac app.  I’m still on Tiger, but I think it would look even better with Leopard, since it matches Leopard’s darker theme.  Plus, I love the Growl support!  Too most of my add-ons are not yet compatible with this version.  I’ll miss StumbleUpon until they update it for compatibility with Firefox 3.

Here’s a screenshot:

It still doesn’t open as fast as Camino does, but it loads pages fast!  I think I’m going back to Firefox for the new and enhanced features, as well as the integrated interface.  I just might be part of those helping Firefox set a Guiness World Record for most number of downloads on Release Day. 😉

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