31 December 2005

happy new year!

The holidays are over and it's back to our ordinary lives again.
I hope you don't miss the magic this time.
Have a great 2006, I know this year's going to be a blast!

29 December 2005

why criminals abound in the philippines

I always thought I was impervious to the inefficiencies of government offices. After all, I came from UP -- I've had 4 years experience waiting in insufferably long lines that I've managed to become numb to it all. Until I tried to get an NBI clearance. I'm so agitated I feel like I'm about to have a heart attack. I need to cuss. Maybe even throw things. Or ram a table down an NBI employee's throat.

December 22. 10am. I went to the NBI satellite office in Pasig, which was supposedly "equipped with a computer and could release clearances within 30 minutes." I paid, filled up the application form, smiled for the camera, and got fingerprinted... then the nightmare started.

The moment I queued at the releasing area, the girl at the counter looks at me and says, "Miss, diba kaka-picture lang sa iyo? Mamaya pa yan. Bumalik ka na lang ng 1pm."

What?!? It took less than a minute to type my name into the database and check if I had a 'hit' or not. But I'm nice and polite, so fine. I sit on a bench and wait, until I realize that the girl behind me in line was already able to claim her clearance.

So I go back to the girl at the counter. "Miss, bakit sha, nakuha na? E nauna pa to inapply?"

She takes a look at my receipt. "Santiago pala last name mo e. Bumalik ka na lang after three working days." Great. Three working days na ngayon, just because of my last name.

"E ano ngayon kung Santiago? Bakit, alphabetical ba pag-process niyan?"

"Common name kasi ang Santiago e." What the hell?!? After bugging her more, she finally checks the database (which, as I said, took less than a minute).

Unfortunately, I did have a hit. I figured it was because of my DOST scholarship, so I showed her a letter from DOST stating that I was allowed to obtain a clearance. She doesn't even glance at it. "Hindi pwede. Record check talaga to. Bumalik ka na lang after three working days."

Fine. Fine.

Dec 29. 10am. Today, no one is at the releasing counter, so I go inside the office to find an NBI employee. When someone finally attends to me, lo and behold: "Miss, quality control po. Kailangan niyo pumuntang main office sa Carriedo, iinterviewhin kayo dun."

"E wala naman po akong kaso a. Dahil lang sa DOST scholarship yan, may letter naman ako from DOST dito na pwede akong kumuha ng clearance."

"Wala pong nakalagay sa computer namin kung ano ung kaso e. Basta nakalagay lang, may hit. Sa Carriedo na po aayusin yan. Wala kaming authority dito sa Pasig mag-clear ng pangalan."

What?!? They ask me to wait for three days for record checking, only to tell me that they don't know what my case is?!? So what what the hell was the three-day record check for?

But again, they refuse to budge, so I have no choice but to go to Carriedo.

Dec 29. 2pm. After getting lost and stuck in heavy traffic, I finally arrive in Carriedo. My friend was right when he told me, "Mamamatay ka dun." The place was sensory overload -- stalls selling all sorts of things cramped the street, shouts of vendors, paputoks, and jeepneys filled the air, and both sweet and putrid aromas assailed your nostrils. All these were topped by the maddening crowd pushing you in every direction. I remember thinking, Oh my golly gosh. I think I really am going to die here.

The NBI Clearance Center was big enough to accomodate a large number of people, but was extremely understaffed. Only two of the ten or so counters at each processing step was open. We go up and down and up and down and up and down the office looking for the people who needed to work on my clearance. Almost every step of the way, I get told "Ay, bakit ganito to? Bumalik ka ulit dun, kailangan mo pa ng <insert name of requirement here>." Yes, today, I was the lucky person who would become NBI's ping-pong ball.

After more ping-pong trips, we end up at the Quality Control section where they conduct interviews for people with so-called "cases." Fortunately, my tito knew an interviewer who assisted us. They found my record (which clearly stated that the only "criminal" record I had was my DOST requirement to serve in the country). He took one look at the letter DOST provided, and approved my clearance for release.

At looooong last! I finally had an NBI clearance. So off I went to the LRT... then to the MRT... then to my office in Ortigas so that I could finally fax all my requirements to the immigration consultants for my business trip. That was when I realized something.

For a moment, my blood was boiling so hard my eyes couldn't focus. NBI's encoder had made not one, not two, not three... but four typos out of the five fields she had to type on my clearance. She not only mispelled my name, she also wrote an incorrect address and place of birth... and to top all the stupidity off: she writes February instead of May as my date of birth.

Freaking shit.

I never thought it was possible for a government agency to be more inefficient than they already are. How infuriatingly stupid can they get? Ang layo naman ng February sa May?!?!? Their section is called Quality Control, for god's sake. Dammit. Now I have to go back to Carriedo to have this fixed. I'm so pissed I'm close to murdering someone.

Our country is going to hell.

19 December 2005

ready when you are

The truth is, it made me cry.

It's not that I'm not happy for you. The news is wonderful -- someone deciding on something like that is always a good thing. Except with it came the knowledge that you were growing up. And that meant I was, too.

That scares me, because we're not in the same stage in life right now. Here you are all grown up and taking on the responsibilities of the real world... and I...

I am not ready.

I hope you are.

what does your handwriting say about you?

Handwriting Analysis

Mine says:

  • You plan ahead, and are interested in beauty, design, outward appearance, and symmetry.
  • You are a shy, idealistic person who does not find it easy to have relationships, especially intimate ones.
  • You are diplomatic, objective, and live in the present.
  • You are a talkative person, maybe even a busybody!
  • You enjoy life in your own way and do not depend on the opinions of others.


16 December 2005

count your blessings, not your gifts

come, they told me... pa ra pa pum pum...
Three in the morning.

Somewhere down the street, a neighbor is playing Christmas songs. On an ordinary day, someone playing music at such an ungodly hour would strike me as incredibly inconsiderate. Tonight, though, I find myself listening to the strums of The First Noel as they float lazily in the air. The voices are angelic, almost ethereal in its quality. I do not know my neighbors, but something in the way we are both listening to the music while the whole world sleeps feels like we're bound by some invisible thread.

I suppose that is the magic of Christmas, isn't it?

It's a time when we all take a break from our busy lives to appreciate the people around us. Sure, it's supposed to celebrate Christ's birth, but sometimes I think maybe God really planned Christmas so we'd have a reason to celebrate life itself. For a moment, each person you encounter is no longer a face in the crowd, but someone to reach out to.

It's time to slow down, look, and really see.

13 December 2005

of holidays and wishlists

The other day, someone asked me what was on my wishlist.

Strangely, nothing came to mind. Sure, I could use a new electric fan for the office, or maybe a map of Metro Manila with all those one-way streets and flyovers listed for the directionally-challenged me -- but nothing I couldn't live without.

That night, as I lay in bed racking my mind for a wishlist, I couldn't help but smile as a feeling of immense satisfaction came over me. Nothing feels better than realizing how very, very lucky you are.

And my only wish is that other people would be as lucky as I am this Christmas season, and the rest of their lives.


Okay, so I haven't exactly made the lives of those people asking me about my wishlist any easier.

As much as I would like to say that I've become one of those people who have sworn off material things for the rest of their existence, there really is nothing more thrilling than finding the perfect gift for someone and the presanticipation* of unwrapping a present that someone really thought of. After all, what's Christmas without the flurry of giving and receiving?

So, without further ado, here is my attempt at a wishlist, from the absurd managinip-ka-na-lang,-iha ones, to the cheap thrills of life:

an electric fan for the office
a trip to Paris (gorgeous Frenchman optional)
a plastic bin for my trolley, so that the blasted 14th floor rat/s will stop eating my food
a E-Z Map of Metro Manila (the one with all the one-way streets and flyovers listed) for the directionally-challenged me
a pint of BTIC's Kahlua Brownie & Haagen Dazs' Strawberry Pecan ice cream
Good Housekeeping's third cookbook (sold at stands carrying Summit Media magazines), because I want to be a domestic goddess.
a cure for eyebags and insomnia
the Starbucks holiday set containing peppermint chocolate/mocha mix, because I will miss peppermint mochas when the holidays are over.
flannel pjs, because it's so much fun to snuggle when it's cold
Ghirardeli Mint Chocolate bars
ice skating sessions at Megamall + people to go skating with (malapit na sa office e!)
Oracle DBA lessons. harharhar. I wish there was some kind of mind osmosis where you would wake up one day and know database administration already.

Oh, and I wish Canon would fix my camera already. It sucks not having a camera during the holiday season.

Happy Holidays, folks!

[n.] 1. the feeling of excitement you still get when opening a present, even if you know what the gift already is inside.

09 December 2005

december rain

i've been watching your world from afar
i've been trying to be where you are
and i've been secretly falling apart

The place is empty.

We sit out on the patio, surrounded by the clatter of tables being cleared and the obnoxious honking of buses from the highway nearby. You stare at the flurry of activity on the street, watching mutely as the rain turned the world gray.

"It's raining," you say. "In December."

I nod, as if I understand what you mean.

Your eyes follow the slow crawl of the cars in traffic, then the people crossing the street, umbrellas upturned toward the rain. You are still watching when you ask, "Have you ever gotten that feeling, where you could just put a gun to your head and shoot yourself, and it wouldn't matter?"

You turn to me now, and flash me a pained smile. "Last night, I had that feeling. And in one terrifying moment, I realized I could do it. I could end my life now. I'm worthless. Nothing seems to matter anymore. Everything is disposable.

"I'm scared, because I always thought it would take one extremely depressed, psychotic person to think this way. I'm supposed to be normal. I work, I laugh, I function as any normal person would. How could I possibly think like this?"

You stare at me now, searching my eyes for an answer.

I look away.

sometimes, the last thing you want comes in first
sometimes, the first thing you want never comes
and I know that waiting is all you can do
- Strange and Beautiful, Aqualung