PLDT – Why Do You Make Me Hate You So Much?

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks and I’ve been meaning to write an update but I’ve just been that busy. I was in Hong Kong for 8 days and meant to write something about that but the time has eluded me. Also the company I work for has been bought and it’s not immediately clear what that means for my future.

Anyway, last month, I was a little bit late in paying bills – sheer laziness, no other reason. I paid my monthly PLDT bill a couple of days after the due date. But here’s the thing – it was due on a Thursday, I paid it on Saturday, the payment registered on their system on Monday, and then they still cut my service on Tuesday because essentially their systems are so fucking shitmongous that they couldn’t cross-process the information on time.

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A Slow Week – Champix Moods – And What Lenses to Buy?

I never really took any vacation last year. At least not the “going to a resort” or “going to a great city” kind. I took off a week when my mother first came to Manila in March – and then bookended the year by taking off a week in December to deal with her death. I’m taking off all of next week, and while I’d rather be spending that time in Bangkok or Penang or Vietnam, I’ll be in Hong Kong (for reasons that I won’t go into). It will at least function as a vacation – I won’t be going into the office, I’ll be staying at a nicer hotel than the one my company puts me in for business trips, I’ll see lots of friends and eat lots of good food … and I’ll buy a new camera.

So I’m expecting a pretty good week. And as a result this week feels as if it’s taking forever. How can it only be Wednesday when every morning I wake up convinced that it’s Friday?

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Some Days Are Good Enough

It is 5:39 AM as I start writing this post. I’ve been up since 3 AM. There are several reasons for this.

I’ve started taking a medication called Champix, which is supposed to help one quit smoking by somehow reducing the, um, enjoyment one gets from a cigarette and from nicotine. Actually I’d started taking it in November but went off it when my mother died. I’d felt it starting to work and always intended to give it another try and started with it again last week. One of the common side effects is insomnia, which I’ve got. Another is very vivid dreams, which I’ve got. One rare side effect apparently is suicidal thoughts, which so far I don’t have.

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A Few Good Days

I need distractions. I’m so horrified by the events in the U.S. during the past ten days but I don’t know what to say about them, what to add to the discussion. I need distractions.

Friends from Hong Kong (American husband, Filipino wife) have a house in Angeles. We drove up there for the weekend. The drive itself is quite okay – well it’s roughly 60 miles but takes almost 2-1/2 hours if you drive straight through. The NLEX highway has plenty of American-style rest stops – the larger ones not only have gas stations but also have 15 or 20 fast food chains. The ones on the drive south also feature outlet stores from Nike, Adidas and others, crafts shops, even a shop selling ATV’s.

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Manila – It’s the Little Things

Yeah. More bitching and moaning. But a lot of you seem to enjoy it!

When you are a foreign resident here, you are required to show up in person at the Bureau of Immigration every January to prove you are still alive and in the Philippines. You can fill out the relevant form for this online but you are still required to make an appearance. I get the feeling it is one of those “we make you do it because we can” things.

The main office of the BI is in Intramuros. It is just 14 miles from where I live but it takes longer to drive there than it does to fly from Manila to Hong Kong. The BI website lists an office in Makati. I tried to contact that office based upon the information available on their web site – I tried calling but the “main number” rings over to a fax machine and an email I sent to them was returned as undeliverable. This is a common factor with Philippines government web sites – unreliable, confusing and/or missing information.

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A Week In Hong Kong

I’ve just returned home after a week in Hong Kong.

The end of this month marks two years since I made the move to Manila. People always ask me if I miss Hong Kong and I do, to some extent, but in the past two years I’ve gotten back there at least once every 2 or 3 months, usually just for 3 or 4 days at a time, so it always feels a bit hectic, trying to fit in all the things I want to do.

This trip ended up being 8 days and spanning a weekend. I was there alone as my wife had several important things to take care of back home and, perhaps surprising to most of you, I did my best to stay out of trouble during the trip.

My company puts me into a small hotel on Lockhart Road smack in the middle of the bar area but also just a 2 minute walk to the office. The hotel is relatively new and the rooms are crazy small. How small? There’s a closet with four hangers but no other place to put your clothes other than living out of a suitcase or stacking them on the floor of the closet. There is one chair, an uncomfortable and unpadded wooden chair by the desk, though in some rooms the desk is so close to the bed that there’s no way to pull the chair out.

The entire hotel is non-smoking, which means every hour I’m standing in front of the hotel having a cigarette and watching what’s happening along Lockhart Road. Standing there I seem to be a magnet for all of the ladyboys and mainland Chinese streetwalkers – it’s not difficult to say no.

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The End of Another Year, Good Fucking Riddance

I’m not superstitious but I think we like to hold onto superstitions, even if we don’t entirely believe in them, because they can provide some degree of hope or comfort.

So over the summer I decided that I must have done something terribly wrong in 2009 that led to 7 years of bad luck, because if I was indeed cursed for stepping on a crack or pissing off an ex-girlfriend then 2016 would be the end of those 7 years, wouldn’t it? I marked the start of 7 bad years from the time that I was included in Warner Bros’s global IT lay-off, which was then followed by a series of bad jobs and a few other incidents that I prefer not to relive.

So if true, that would be comforting, wouldn’t it? Because by my reckoning those 7 years were coming to an end.

But if I was having 7 years of bad luck, the 7th year came to a close and the bad luck seemed to continue – my mother died, Trump was elected and a few other things I won’t mention but a little bit of this and a whole lot of that.  Stress levels increased, hair on top of my head decreased.

But if I really want to dig into it, I can’t say that the past 7 years were all bad, can I? After all, I got married three years ago, our relationship grows stronger every year, we’re living in a house we love, the bills are all paid every month and we go to sleep in a bedroom the size of most Hong Kong apartments in a king size bed with full stomachs. We have our health, mostly. We have our friends and family – and my family, whom I’ve always kept at a literal and metaphorical distance, was so amazingly supportive when my mother died, so helpful to me when dealing with her funeral and all of the other things one has to do in that kind of situation.

We mark the beginning of a new year with optimism for the year ahead. I am not feeling very optimistic about the world in 2017. Not at all. And yet I retain some degree of optimism for myself.

I don’t believe in destiny or fate (I believe in karma but I don’t think there’s anything supernatural or spiritual to it) and I believe we make our own luck. If I have not been “lucky” in past years, the fault is nobody else’s but mine.

With that in mind, my resolution for 2017 is to think about those things that have impeded me in the past and what I need to change in myself in order to change my luck. My plan for 2017 is to lose these blues I found and go down to Lucky Town.

I had some victory that was just failure in deceit
Now the joke’s coming up through the soles of my feet
I been a long time walking on fortune’s cane
Tonight I’m stepping lightly and I’m feeling no pain

Well here’s to your good looks baby now here’s to my health
Here’s to the loaded places that we take ourselves
When it comes to luck you make your own
Tonight I have dirt on my hands but I’m building me a new home

Down in Lucky Town
Down in Lucky Town
I’m gonna lose these blues I’ve found
Down in Lucky Town

Used Stuff I’m Selling (Manila Only)

Several used items I’m selling off. Ads are on OLX and Facebook and thought I might post here as well, with the caveat being that I’m not really wanting to ship anything so this is for meet-ups in the Manila area. Prices are negotiable. Everything is in very good to excellent condition.

GoPro Camera and headphones being sold because they are not used, Kindle being sold because it was one of three that my mother had (long story), other items for what should be obvious reasons.

(Aside – people have a weird way of haggling here. This has happened to me often enough that I suppose it is the regular way of doing things in this country. Example: I say “asking price P20,000.” No one says “would you take 16,000”? Everyone says “what’s your last price”? If I respond, “It’s negotiable, make an offer,” that is almost always met with silence.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in any of this stuff, leave a comment with your contact details (I won’t publish the comment) or send an email to hongkietown at gmail dot com

Thanks for taking a look!

GoPro Hero4 Silver Edition with MicroSD card & other accessories

Asking P13,500. Includes 64 gig SanDisk Micro SD card, 2 extra Wasabi batteries and charger, GoPro floating handle, Polar Pro strap mount, black cover, and all original accessories.

Bowers & Wilkins P3 Headphones

Asking P5,000, includes carrying case, iPhone cable

Sennheiser Momentum Around-the-Ear Headphones, Brown

Asking P4,000. Includes carrying case, iPhone cable, regular cable

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b Noise-Cancelling Headphones


Asking P3,000. Includes carrying case, 2 plug adapters

Amazon Kindle 4 (WiFi) with leather cover

Asking P2,000

Deluxe Comfort Transport Wheelchair

Asking P13,000. Purchased new in March, used probably once a week for six months.

Commode Chair

Asking P2,000. Used for two months, thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, looks new.


Thanks Everyone

I’m back in Manila now after 10 days in New York. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to leave messages of support here, on Facebook and on Twitter, in email, on the phone, in person.

I left New York on Saturday morning. I’d accomplished all I needed to do on the trip so at least I could leave feeling that it was productive. Aside from taking care of my mother’s affairs and settling her accounts and several family get-togethers, I had time for a mini high school reunion dinner and even a dinner with the guy who was my best friend back in elementary school. I had a chance to speak with many of my mother’s neighbors and friends and even many of her building’s maintenance crew stopped by to offer their condolences. She touched a lot of lives.

I had a really hard time closing the door on my mother’s apartment for the last time. I took one last walk from room to room, ostensibly to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind – although aside from various things I might have liked to bring with me (three suitcases and a backpack were already full), there’s the memories of all the time I spent there, but of course I carry those with me. I stood in the doorway, looked in, finally managed to get that door closed somehow.

Driving across the Whitestone Bridge to the airport, I glanced to the right. You get an amazing view of the NYC skyline from there. I wondered to myself if that would be the last time I would see that view. I don’t know the answer to that.

At the airport, checking email, I got the news that a friend of mine had died, just 61 years old, cancer – I’d probably known him for close to 30 years. 15 years ago he lived not that far from the World Trade Center and he had been classified a “residential victim” by the World Trade Center Health Program. He was a brilliant and funny guy who worked for Microsoft, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AT&T and even LucasFilm – we all knew him as “Mr. Movie House” because he seemingly knew everything about every movie theater everywhere and he had gotten me into the LucasFilm Theater Alignment Program, which was a hell of a lot of fun. Not exactly the kind of news I was in the mood to read.

I managed one movie on the plane (the new version of The Magnificent Seven – meh) and one book (Robbie Robertson’s Testimony – highly recommended). My wife was waiting for me at the airport with a big smile and an even bigger hug (needed both of those). Got home, walked past my mom’s room, did not go in but silently said, “Hi mom, I’m back.”

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Your support has helped me a lot.