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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Are All Philippine Banks As Incompetent as BPI?

BPI. Bank of the Philippine Islands. They’re the only bank I deal with here, as they’re the ones with my mortgage. They make dealing with HSBC back in Hong Kong seem like nirvana by comparison.

Go into any branch any time of day for any transaction that requires a teller and you are guaranteed to be there for an hour. Their ATM machines are filthy and prone to outages.

I’m up late tonight and want to pay bills online but I can’t because their website is down. You can get to the home page but you can’t log in.

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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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Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1

January 14, 2017 – 100 bands, 5 stages for the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) Against Drugs Festival produced by Rakrakan. The 5 themed stages were Move, Indie, Groove, Mosh and Slam. (I won’t comment on the “Against Drugs” bit.)

My friends Tribo Subculture were one of the bands appearing on the Slam stage and they arranged an all-access pass for me.  The festival kicked off around noon but I didn’t get there until around 10 PM or so, which gave me time to shoot some of the bands, wander around the crowd a bit, get some food, gaze at the “merch”, and of course enjoy the music that I heard.

I’m told that last year they had 24,000 people there and this year it was up to 35,000. Well, advance ticket prices were just P500 (that’s around US$10) and draft Red Horse Beer was just P50, so why wouldn’t you go if you could? The crowd was remarkably peaceful and friendly and I thought it was a great event.

I’m still working my way through the photos I shot but here are some of my favorites so far:

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Manila – The Insanity of the Pasig City TPMO

Here’s an example of one of the unexpected drawbacks of living in Manila, the kind of thing you might not anticipate before you move here but that can have a noticeable impact on your quality of life.

In this instance, one might think that if one buys a car and gets insurance for that car and has a proper drivers license, one can just get in that car and drive as one wishes. But in Manila? Not so much.

I live in what is called a “subdivision” – in this case a private community surrounded by a wall with entry/exit gates manned by private security guards. The one I live in is called Greenwoods Executive Village. This is one of the largest villages of its kind in Manila. There are thousands of houses here, spread across ten different phases. No one seems to know for certain how many houses are here or what the population is. (Some have joked that the population is 25,000 out of which 24,000 are construction workers. After 25 years there are still plenty of vacant plots here and new houses are going up daily.)

The village is so big that it spreads across three different cities – Pasig, Cainta and Taytay. (The latter two are not considered part of Metro Manila, they are in the province of Rizal.) The main entrance to the village is in Pasig but the bulk of the residents live in Cainta or Taytay – very few live in Pasig or pay taxes there or vote for Pasig officials – but most of the traffic coming to and from the village routes through Pasig.

Pasig traffic is controlled by the TPMO – Traffic and Parking Management Office. The head of the TPMO is an appointed, not an elected official, one Alberto Dulay Sr. The members of the TPMO are referred to as “traffic enforcers” or “blue boys.” Pasig City has had 4 mayors in the past 24 years and they all have the same last name – Eusebio.

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Distractions

Mom is home from the hospital. There is still a long ordeal ahead. At least my wife and I finally don’t have to go to the hospital every day (something we did for 18 days) and can do some stuff for us, getting out briefly on both Saturday and Sunday.  Which was nice.

Saturday we just went out for a walk along Bonfacio High Street. The TLC channel had some huge event going on, celebrity guest that “Cake Boss” guy, not a thing for us. We had lunch at Pink’s, a franchise of the legendary Hollywood hot dog joint, brought to Manila by the folks behind Wildflour. My second time there. I stuck with “the Hollywood Legend” (your basic chili dog), my wife had the “Don’t Mess With Texas” (bacon, cheese, cole slaw, barbecue sauce). We agreed it’s quite okay but still prefer Lazy Bastard.

Sunday we splurged a bit and went to Salvatore Cuomo, the Manila outpost of an Italian restaurant from Japan, and as odd as that concept might seem, it was absolutely fabulous start to finish. Here’s their custom-built pizza oven:

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And here’s the pizza we had:

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A four cheese pizza onto which the server drizzled a small amount of honey – the right flour, the right kind of pizza oven, this may now be my favorite pizza in Manila. I also couldn’t resist their platter of salami, parma ham and mortadella and full marks go to their spaghetti with salmon, mushrooms and olive oil (which also included cherry tomatoes, olives and capers). Knock them down a notch for being a stand-alone restaurant that for some reason did not have a functioning toilet. Nevertheless, we will return. We were there mid-afternoon, were told at night reservations are an absolute must.

Another sort of distraction, looking at this web site that lists every show at the Fillmore East in NYC and trying to remember which shows I went to. I can’t pin down the exact shows (bands often played there 2 or 3 days in a row, 2 shows per night) but …

June 5 & 6, 1969 – The Who, Chuck Berry, Albert King

October 20-25, 1969 – The Who

February 6 & 7, 1970 – Delaney & Bonnie and Friends with Eric Clapton, Seals and Crofts, Wilbert Harrison

May 8 & 9, 1970 – Mothers of Invention, Insect Trust, Sea Train

May 15, 1970 – Grateful Dead, New Riders

July 9-12, 1970 – Grateful Dead, New Riders

September 17-20, 1970 – Grateful Dead, New Riders

(I probably didn’t go to all of those but can’t remember the exact shows I attended)

November 25-28, 1970 – Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells

April 16 &17, 1970 – John Mayall, Boz Scaggs, Randall’s Island

April 25-29, 1970 – Grateful Dead, New Riders

May 20, 1970 – Leon Russell, Taj Mahal, Donny Hathaway

June 5-6, 1970 – Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Hampton Grease Band, Head Over Heels

Suffice to say that for every show I did go to, there were 5 more that I wish I’d gone to. Allman Brothers, Hendrix, Floyd, CSNY. How did I miss a night that had Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac and King Crimson?  Big Brother, Tim Buckley and Albert King? Neil Young, Steve Miller and Miles Davis? The Kinks and the Bonzo Dog Band?

The above prompted by seeing on Facebook that my piano teacher Barry Goldberg’s band The Rides (with Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd) is doing some gigs next year with Buddy Guy, and then checking the dates for the one and only time I saw Buddy Guy live.

Other distractions, looking at the mega-box sets coming out in time for Christmas.

Bob Dylan – The 1966 Live Recordings

36 disc boxed set of every recorded show from his 1966 tours of US, UK and Australia. Pretty much the same set list night after night. A relative bargain at US$106, but not so essential. All this stuff has been available on bootlegs for ages but probably/hopefully the audio will be noticeably upgraded.

Pink Floyd – The Early Years 1965-1972

Okay, fasten your seat belts. 11 CDs, 8 Blu-Rays, 9 DVD’s, 5 7-inch singles. “7 individual book-style volumes, featuring much previously unreleased material. The Early Years box set contains unreleased tracks, BBC Radio Sessions, remixes, outtakes and alternative versions over an incredible 11 hours, 45 mins of audio (made up of 130+ tracks) and live and TV performance in over 14 hours of audio-visual material. The content includes over 20 unreleased songs, more than 7 hours of previously unreleased live audio and over 5 hours of rare concert footage, along with 5 meticulously produced 7″ singles in replica sleeves, collectible memorabilia, feature films and new sound mixes. Previously unreleased tracks include 1967’s Vegetable Man and In The Beechwoods, which have been mixed for the first time, specially for this release.”

The price for all this goodness? US$571. I will have to take a pass. Even though this for me covers the Pink Floyd that matters to me. For me the Pink Floyd albums that matter are the live disc from Ummagumma, Meddle, Dark Side, Wish You Were Here. Then Piper and Saucerful. And then everything else (yes, including The Wall).

There’s also yet another reissue of The Band’s The Last Waltz (CD/blu-ray boxed set) and a 5 CD super deluxe version of The Who’s My Generation.

The Rolling Stones are flooding the market – following their recent mammoth Rolling Stones In Mono box (which sounds really great) there’s a new studio album (all blues covers) and the Havana Moon CD/blu-ray box of their recent show in Cuba. I’ve lost track of how many live albums/videos the Stones have released in the past ten years but this new one does have this:

(Watch it to the end – it’s worth it. Or if you’re really impatient skip ahead to 5:12 and watch to the end.)

In terms of TV, aside from The Walking Dead (season 7 episode 1 was so gruesome and sadistic that it took me 2 weeks to watch the entire thing, and I’m someone who is not put off by gore in film and tv), there is Westworld and John Oliver, of course. But also The Good Place (something I should really hate but don’t) and Pamela Adlon’s Better Things (stunning and original) and I’ve only just discovered Black Mirror which is amazing.

And we actually made it out to the movies to see Dr. Strange, and I’m glad I did.

And if all continues well, I’ll be in Hong Kong next week for a few days.

 

 

 

I Saw Duterte Speak

My company is a member of the Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The PCCI held their annual conference this week. Our CEO couldn’t attend and so I was “asked” to attend in his place. And then I heard that Philippines President Duterte was one of the scheduled speakers. But I couldn’t find  the schedule online anywhere to know when he was speaking, who else would be speaking, what topics would be covered, etc.

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I arrived at the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay early enough on Wednesday to hear the speech from VP Leni Robredo. Sitting all the way in the back of this airplane-hanger-size ballroom, the acoustics were horrible and it was difficult to make out a lot of what she was saying but it appeared to be a standard “we’re great and we’re gonna be greater” speech, with some focus on spreading growth to the poorer people in the provinces. No one could argue with that. The teleprompter was placed in an awkward position that had her constantly looking off to the side and she also kept nodding her head up and down as she spoke – someone needs to tell her not to do that.

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