Red Diaries: Baguio!

Monday, January 05, 2015

It's a bit amazing how I've managed to travel to so many countries of the world and still have never gone to Baguio in my 30 years existence. Well, once, but I was barely a year old then so I don't remember anything about it, so it doesn't count - which also applies to a lot of places where I just got wallplaster drunk and promptly lost all my related memories. The main reason why I never got back to baguio after that, not counting a possible persona-non-grata status I do not know of, is that everytime somebody in my family suggests going to baguio (i.e. me) somebody else (i.e. mom)  will always suggest going to Tagaytay instead which is kinda like Baguio, only instead of going north you go south and instead of seeing Igorots, you see lots of people offering inexplicable boatrides to Taal lake.

So anyhoo, my in-laws decided to take me with them to Baguio along with my 1yo kid and my wife. I said "oh wow. This is finally it." I took it as a chance to improve my scope of travel in the Philippines, which up until that trip marked the most northern place I've travelled to as Clark Pampanga (relatively speaking it’s far north already. Why else would you be seeing so many white people there?)

This also counted as the longest road trip I've embarked on since that one time we crossed Saudi Arabia from Dhahran to Jeddah (which is like driving from Ilocos to Zamboanga) across cities, deserts, and unsanitary truck stops. Even so, the road trip was just as hard with all the crying, pooping, and vomiting involved – and that’s just us parents. Don't get me wrong, my baby was perfectly behaved at the start of the trip up until she got bored   -   which was around the time we started the car engine in the garage. After that she kind of treated the car as her personal jungle gym and constantly relocated herself into various locations in the vehicle causing varying levels of discomfort to the rest of the passengers. I would not have been surprised if at some point we found her playing inside the exhaust manifold.

And almost  every single person in Manila woke up one Christmas and said "hmm I think I'll go to Baguio" more than  of the entire population density of our capital shifted to Baguio practically overnight and threatened to capsize the island of Luzon. Suffice to say, traffic was horrendous. It took us almost 10 hours to get to Baguio - which is almost the same travel time as going from Makati to Libis on a weeknight (que horror)!

Still, I finally got to Baguio. And it's just as I imagined. (Like Tagaytay but with less Taal boat signs)

The first night I was able to go to Burnham Park because our Hotel was strategically located beside it, which was awesome. Burnham Park looked to me like what Rizal Park could've been had we not allowed it to be destroyed by commercial establishments, asphalt, and copious amounts of low-cost hookers. I particularly loved the lake in the middle of it all, where one can for a small amount of money, rent a boat to row back and forth on - or for free- sit down on one of the benches and watch people who have never done boating in their lives become uncomfortable after five minutes of rowing. 

The next day we went to the Strawberry farm which isn't so much of a farm as it is a market place since they were selling everything from corn to broom sticks to shawarma. And no, it wasn't strawberry shawarma either. Yeah, I was disappointed too.

After that we also went to Mines view park where one can admire the scenic beautify of people admiring the scenic beauty of the Cordillera Mountains. As a bonus trivia, if you squint really hard you can probably see communist insurgents waving back at you and asking you to join their cause (don't. it's a tourist trap)

I got to eat corn and roasted squid which was very delicious. Since we're far from the ocean, I assumed the squid is  native to the mountains, using its tentacles to swing from tree to tree, caught using barbecue sticks hurled at it by fierce hunters. It also might be useful to mention now that I don't do background research writing these articles (you’re not my teacher don't judge)

We also stopped by one of the greatest testaments to Filipino culture - SM Baguio and ate at the world famous Mann Hann. And no, it's not the same as the one in SM MoA. The spicy squid, for one, is made of mountain squid.

Seriously though, we're practically the only people who would probably go "This is such a wonderful place. The air is clean, the food is awesome, the view is exhilarating. But you know what's missing? Astrovision, Buko Joe, and a stuffy foodcourt."

Later that night, I raided the ukay ukay shops. Tourists from Manila seem to go gaga for these second-hand thrift shops that contain stuff they love to ignore back in Manila and there was more than one instance that I found the shops in Manila selling the same thing for cheaper. I don't know. It must be the cold weather.

I also went back to Burnham Park, this time alone - which changed the game entirely. In the span of 15 minutes, three dudes approached me asking if I'm interested in a) chicks b) full body massage c) full body massage with chicks. I think I spent more time shooing them off than soaking up the scenery. Operative term being "shooing" because I don't really want to be stranded in Baguio left only with a questionably integrity.

Also dropped by the night market, which is basically the ukay ukay shops that already closed for the day moving their stuff in the middle of the street and selling them for basically the same prices as earlier that day. The tourists love it. I don't know. It must be the weather.

Before going back to Manila the following day we got to visit the local palenke, by which I mean the seemingly-local palenke clearly intended for tourists from Manila. Because unless the entire population of Baguio has clearly switched to a Strawberry-Ube-Walis Tambo diet, that market was not exactly selling anything else you need to survive. Where are, for example, CDR-KING power banks?

I got me a boatload of strawberries which until today, more than a week after the trip, I'm still struggling to finish. If ever somebody stabs me with a knife, I swear I'll probably bleed strawberry mush instead of blood. It's practically the same color so I don't really mind.

We also stopped by the Pink Sisters convent, which contrary to popular belief, is actually more of peach than Pink. Also, apparently they're not the same nuns who make child-labor flavoured ube delicacies. I got confused. They didn’t mind. They probably get that a lot.

The trip down was pretty much uneventful, which left me room for introspection. Sometimes it takes a trip to another place in the same country to change your perspective on things.

Like a renewed love for nature.

The value of family bonding.

And how Baguio Oil is a big lie.

Atop Giants

Thursday, November 13, 2014

(this was my final speech for ToastMasters' Competent Communicator course, delivered last March)

Good evening, fellow toastmasters, guests. I stand before you here today for my final speech project, to deliver something inspiring. This is by far the most difficult topic for me. Most speakers would draw from their personal lives, and admirably so, would inspire with their experiences. I admittedly have none of that.
You see, I was born to a well-to-do family. I was never left wanting. I was never hungry. Or poor. Or alone. I studied and graduated in reputable schools. No honors. No vices. I studied a lot but I slacked off even more. I went to work doing what I did best. I worked hard and played harder. And now here I am. Boring you all.

Yes, I was born five meters from the finish line and all I needed was to take the final few steps and succeed. I thought there's absolutely nothing inspiring about that. Until I realized something. Inspiration is not always an experience. Sometimes it is a spectacle. So tonight, I'll just talk to you about WHY I was in fact born so close to success. 

My parents. 

My father and mother arguably had similar beginnings. My father, a fisherman in his youth, and my mother, a baker's daughter. They both worked their way towards their education and founded our family on nothing but the degrees on their back, the wits about their heads and the sweat of hard work and dedication.  I have always admired that. But what made me admire them more went beyond just being able to provide for our family. 

I'd like to share just one story. One that happened when I was five and we were still living in Saudi Arabia. A Filipino couple stayed in our house for a few weeks. I remember they were a charming couple. We later brought them to another city we never heard of them again.  No big deal right?

I later learned of the story more after I grew up. As it turns out, these couple were runaways. One night my dad was in a phone call center when the two approached him and asked him for shelter. Sheltering runaways was illegal, but my dad took them in anyway. Complete strangers. At the risk of endangering us. 

The couple ran away because they were being maltreated. And at the time the only way you could get safe passage back to the Philippines was to stay in the Philippine Embassy at the kingdom's capital - a good 400 km away. So we hid them for a week in our house. My parents fed, sheltered, and comforted them and when the opportunity came that would give my dad an official reason to travel to the far city so we had the right cover, we took them with us to Riyadh. 

Throughout the ordeal we kids were brought along. The police became less suspicious when kids were around. Less paperwork was checked. I remember there was a certain degree of foreboding and danger in my parents' faces throughout the trip. It was the fear of getting caught, apprehended, and have our entire family jailed for helping the couple escape.

As if by the work of God's hand, there were no checkpoints that day. There were a few close calls but we managed to bring them to the Embassy. Many tears were shed and hearts grew light and heavy at the same time. We had done it. And we had done it for nothing in return.

When I later asked why. Why the risk. Why the selflessness. Was it God? Was it instinct? What would drive my parents to risk it all for two strangers we've never met? To this my mother answered, and I will never forget it until today. "Because it is the right thing to do."

It's not enough that my parents had provided for all our needs despite starting from scratch. Through this story, through many other stories, they taught us values by example. They taught us that some things go beyond our basic instincts and comfort zones. Things like principles, morality. The reason why I became what I am today is because I had such great parents. Selfless, principled, and compassionate. I have a kid now. Possibly more one day. I will never have the awesome stories my father had as a fisherman, a dockworker, a construction worker, or an amazing crosscountry escape. But I shall try my best to become the paragon standing beside my children. 

Life never deals equal amounts of fairness.  My life so far was never designed to be inspiring and that's okay. I stand now before you, not as a testament to my own story but as a witness to the greatness of other people. Of my parents. And now that I am one myself, I realize that success is ultimately measured by the legacy that we leave behind. We are all born into this world standing on top of giants. It is therefore our duty, one day to grow up to become giants in our own right for the next generation. 

As the greatest human beings we can be. 

As parents. 

Good evening.

Resolutions 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another year done, another list unfulfilled. We try, but it's hard. This was my list from last year:

1. Write screenplay for at least two short films
2. Publish at least 10 articles for the InTouch magazine while doing edits. 
4. Check prospects for another job. 
4. Continue the stuff above that I did not completely abandon (book, running, swimming, standup)

I missed almost everything on my 2013 list but that's okay. It's amazing how much stuff you don't never plan, but turn up anyway for the betterment of everybody. This year:

I got married. And this time it's no longer an online game marriage.

I went back to the US. I returned from the US.

I joined Inforum. I drank the free beer.

I rode all the rollercoasters I missed the last time I was in Orlando.

I drank butterbeer.

I returned to doing amateur standup comedy. I still suck at it, but hey, free beer every now and then.

I now have a baby. She drinks a lot but beer's off the menu.

I joined Toastmasters. I learned there's not much toasting beer there, but it's all good.

And the Martians have been thwarted for another year (If you think I'm making this part up, look outside and see if there are any flying saucers. No? You can thank me later.)

It's been a very good year.

Next year, I want to:

1. Finish the godawfully delayed book that I've been trying to publish for almost a presidental term's length already.

2. Host an event.

3. Join the Toastmaster's speech competitions.

3b. If possible actually win something.

4. Create that 10 minute killer set for Standup Comedy

5. Raise baby into the awesomest 1yo kid and beyond.

6. But first, baby cosplay (because she wont remember jack)

7. Go back to running/swimming. Finish Zombies Run!

Good bloody luck to everybody. Myself included. More of myself actually.


What's been up?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In case anybody asks what the hell happened to this blog and why I have not updated anything remotely original for the longest time, I'm proud to say that I have a bucket-full of excuses for you to choose from.

I am guest writing at Agila News at the moment. You can check the links out for my articles. It's still the same Public Static content, just more news-y.

I also got married. I now have a kid. Yes, I did both at the same time, in parallel. Man was meant to multitask. Specialization is for insects.

I'm also doing standup comedy regularly now. So if you want to hear old jokes from this blog rehashed for oral delivery, you can go watch during my sets in Chihuahua GB2 and Tomato Kick Katipunan (sometimes).

There's also Toastmasters, which I'm proud to say I'm almost done with the first set of speeches. You can message me if you're interested to join in the fun.

Meanwhile, my twitter @redkinoko is still active and dapper as fuck. Follow me if you like silly oneliner jokes that are 160 characters or less (because I'm mostly lazy now. Well, lazier-ER)

That said, thanks for dropping by. I'll try to resume my blog articles in a while.

Ony The Best

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's times like this when I'd like to believe in the selfless brotherhood, the camaraderie between strangers, the love that unites peoples, and the heart that gives unconditionally. I'd like to believe in the joy that can only be brought by giving, the sorrow that drives to help, the empathy of the human spirit. I'd like to believe in humanity. In hope. In that I am not alone in thinking this.

I'd like to remember this moment, not as that one moment where a storm destroyed records, communities, and lives, but that one moment we as a people were able to put aside our differences, ignore our bickerings for a moment, and ultimately find a common cause on the most basic levels of morality to help out every way we can. I'd like to remember this moment and feel pride, not simply because we did something good, but because we did something beyond what's expected of us.

Count the blessings that you have this year, then make change for the less fortunate. It's been a bountiful year for everybody. I know it has been for me. I'd take a look at the wall posts, the instragram pictures, the tweets - the past - and know how kind life has been. Unfortunately it's not the case for everybody. There's a cry from the less fortunate.  Let goodness beget more. There's always something you can give. And there's always something only you can give.  Let's share what we can. Let's do what we can. Let's be the best we can be at life's worst. That one day when we look back at this moment, we'll be able to smile and we'll be able to say

"We shined together in our darkest of times".

Toastmasters Competent Communicator Speech #5 : Videoke Culture

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The following article is a transcript of my recent Toastmasters speeches. They're not meant to be read in written form, so a lot of context may be lost in the process. Also, proofreading. LOL.

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I'll be talking about the cultural impact of Videoke, which I'm sure Filipinos love on a genetic level and that this song will contain singing. The bad news is that I will be singing. That said, Good evening, Fellow toastmasters and guests.

We're the only country that uses the term Videoke. Did you know that?  Videoke, or Karaoke as it was originally called, was first popularized in Japan, which is their biggest contribution to the world next to fuel efficient cars, instant noodles, and pokemon. Karaoke in Japanese is from  is roughly translated to "Please don't sing My Way". 

There's still some debate as to who invented the Karaoke, through the best way to put it is that it was invented in parallel in Japan by Daisuke Inoue in Japan and Roberto Del Rosario in the Philippines at about the same time. That's how much we love karaoke. We know it's already going to be invented, but we'll invent our own just to make sure. The invention is largely influenced by minus-one recordings that were again, popularized by Filipino performers in Japan. So if there's any country that really really wants Videoke to come into existence it's US.

Crying the Pork Away

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's so easy to complain, isn't it? Heck, nowadays you don't even have to voice out to complain anymore. A few clicks, a few button presses and you're already complaining using the voice of some other person in the internet. In the digital age we thought we could finally have absolute freedom of opinions. What we actually got was the absolute freedom to repost other people's opinions. In that light,  it's never been easier to complain and it's now even easier to be angry, stay angry.

But is anger, complaint, and discontent all there is to fixing things?

When one of the organizers of the rally today was asked of what can be done in lieu of the pork, she couldn't say anything remotely practical and said "well, we're not the experts".

No one is.

But if you're going to be responsible enough to carry a protest you should be responsible enough to try and understand the situation as well. Not one or the other. They have to go hand in hand. How else would you know something is being done?  Solving a problem as an adult isn't just about complaining. It's about understanding the picture and pointing out where it can be fixed. There's a difference between "I WANT MY CANDY" and "You have candy, and I deserve it because." It's called maturity. Maturity in complaints means knowing what can be done and acting on it rather than just waiting for somebody else to hear you.

So here's a bigger picture.

Not THE big picture, just a bigger one.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, the pork needs to go. The fund disbursement roles should change hands from legislative to executive branch (which, yes, includes the office of the president). But until that role actually changes hands, removing the PDAF at once means a lot of people who have good reasons and are depending on them will be left hanging. Scholars. Sick people. True charities. Yes, they exist. Nobody ever mentions them because nothing's interesting about them, other than they are in need of assistance.

You cannot just tell these people "Tough shit, you've been sucking from a particularly corrupt, deprecated teat. Better start looking somewhere else." There is nowhere else. Believe it or not, the PDAF is one of the fastest ways one can get financial aid when you're part of the marginalized and outside Metro Manila (where there's PAGCOR, bigger charity groups). Ask anybody who was in actual need and benefitted from it. I'd like to bet half of the people in the rally today have never seen it in action. Sure it's not incorruptible (hell no). Sure, it doesn't serve a lot of people. Sure it reeks of feudalism. But I can assure you, it does work when you're tens of thousands of pesos short of getting that kidney transplant for your father.

You cannot say "Well they should itemize this in the budget!". That's the whole point of PDAF. The fund originally existed for priority issues  that fell outside the items mentioned in the budget. How can you anticipate Lolo Lando's kidney failing during budget deliberation? Storms? Dengue Outbreaks? Famines? Visits of the Lopezes?

You cannot also say "Well we're the ones paying taxes so we should be the ones benefiting, not them!" News flash. Taxation serves three purposes. Running government services, economical control, and  redistribution of wealth. While running public healthcare, charity services, and emergency response falls to the first part, when things are not running as efficiently as they should, a special avenue needs to be made available to fix where the seams aren't perfect. PDAF belongs to the third, and it aims to provide for those special exceptions that the first component cannot address.

Don't get me wrong. There is an issue at hand. The PDAF is not working as intended and this has to be addressed, yes. But will we be be able to address it now and solve the problem forever? Good bloody luck with that. Because as long as there is a need and the people see the last viable solution in PDAF, there will still be calls for its return in one form or the other. And for so long as it exists, the problem stands. A gradual transition from dependence in pork to smaller priority funds on executive bodies and working oversight is the only way this can get fixed without long term repercussions.

Abolishing pork is a goal, not a solution. The solution is actually a longer and gruelling process of reform that requires gargantuan political will and ever present vigilance from the populace. But of course that's too daunting and far too complex to place in a banner and gain traction in this age where the average attention span is often no longer than two clicks or 140 characters.

It's hard. And the first thing you can do to actually make it work is to get over the idea of simplicity. It never is. It's called daang matuwid, not daang madali.

Because complaining is easy.

Understanding, understandably, never is.  

Plot Fridays : Dambana

Friday, July 19, 2013

2015 - The Philippine envoy to China is assassinated en route to a three-party talk. 24 hours later, an anoymous warning is plastered online via various hacked government websites of nuclear counterstrike. Three days later, a major Chinese city is devastated by a dirty bomb explosion. China demands justice and reparation for the action by presenting a five point unconditional ultimatum. The Philippines clears itself of any links to the terrorist act and refuses all but one demand.

Citing its defense doctrine, China declares war and moves in to execute their Battle Plan Orange, beginning a successful invasion and proxy occupation of Manila and outlying regions. Against all expectations, no UN coalition is formed to intervene. Abandoned and abruptly pushed back to the far hinterlands, resistances form amongst the displaced Filipinos.

One group of resistance gain notoriety among the invading forces calling themselves the Los Bravos. They get a mission from contacts of Americans covert operatives to rescue the imprisoned Vice President. Things get awry, and they end up running away from a dedicated group of elite forces with a dying Vice President in tow. Along the way they learn the uncomfortable truth behind the assassination and the terrorist act that began it all. Eventually, they realize that they have with them the one key piece of information to turn the tides of liberation.

That is, of course, provided they survive to tell the tale.

Twitter One-liner Roundup (Sept 2012 - July 2013) @redkinoko

Friday, July 12, 2013

There's something special about assknobs who've never worked a day in their lives rant about squatters being lazy and self-entitled.

1. Legalize porn 2. Set unrealistic expectations for an entire generation of boys 3. Population ↓ 4. Tissue and lotion industry ↑

My concept of a low cost 3D printer involves a wad of clay, a schematic printout, and copious amounts of whiskey.

Casper was a 2-hour long movie about what it feels like to be dead and still friendzoned.

Something's wrong with our generation if we have to go online before we can learn if somebody is a person of prayer.

Word of the day: Gallivanting. In Tagalog, "nangangahoy".

Drunk playing billiards sans a shirt at 9 in the morning. It's amazing how my ideas of being successful and being a failure are the same.

Why does Team Bon Chon Of The Game sound more of an affront than a corporate award?

New term of the day: #kiligtae as in "sa sobrang kilig... " Usage: "Dumaan si Dong kanina, walang Tshirt. Ayun, kiligtae naman si Maria."

Remember before the 2008 financial crisis, the biggest problem that we had deal with as a country was Hale's music? #wehaditgood

I wish I could rename my city Mon. Then I can skip the first day of the week on the grounds that it's Mon Day. #okaythatmadesenseinmydream

Release a bunch of plastic toys and nobody cares. Tell them it's collectible and everybody starts losing their minds.

People complaining about pictures of two hot chicks kissing in support of basic rights proves people will complain about just about anything

Massive Facebook Oneliner Roundup (Sept 2012 - July 2013)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Let's take a moment to thank the fact that Facebook did not exist before we got our act together and started behaving like perfectly normal human adults. For the most part, anyway.

Last of Us is awesome, not just because you get to play old Gerard Butler with a young Ellen Page sidekick but because of the attention spent in the details. If some dude from the game dev team spent time making sure the direction of flowing tears shifts when a person changes the angle of his/her head, you know damn well they're pulling no stops.

Fast and the Furious IS Twilight for men. There's them cheesy lines that would pass easily as highschool pulp and instead of vampires and werewolves, there's cars and unbelievably sexy race chicks. At the middle of it all is a heavily built up guy with black hair and a sparkly white dude blasting through one ridiculous plot device after another.

Crack Nancy Binay jokes one day, defend Jessica Soho the next.

PSA: Dear froshies, avoid clumping together and blocking entrances/tight hallways/entire road lanes whenever you feel the urge to convene on where to eat. The answer is nowhere because the new school motto is Religio/Mores/Kayo Bahala. Carrion of froshies that get stuck and starve to death is a major cause of human traffic and late book returns. Upper classmen in a hurry to fail their next class do not like to get delayed. Thank you.

House Parati-yon-absent , House Lannis-terrible-job, House Targarabekaramiwork, House Greyjoybeenanamankinakinkokanina George R R Anting. #earlycornfridays

"Started from the bottom now we here." - Tetris.


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