Everything is Broken

Random thoughts on a random day ….

I Read the News This Week Oh Boy

Manila’s MRT commuter rail line breaks down almost daily. This past Monday it was due to “tracks failure.” Meanwhile, there are reports that 48 new train cars ordered 4 years ago and built in China and yet to be deployed are defective and unusable – repairs slated to take three years.

A safety net at a construction site that wasn’t so safe.

Power failure at Rizal Hall when President Duterte was hosting a state banquet.

4,000 police will be guarding the area around the ASEAN summit this weekend. They forgot to order portapotties for them.

I Prefer Sri Racha Sauce

In an editorial in the New York Times this week, Filipino author Miguel Syjuco argues that, “Like most institutions in this country, the systems of law and order are thoroughly dysfunctional. The abuses can only ever be rectified by addressing each in turn. But what if the mechanisms to do that are so broken they’re nearly useless?”

In another editorial the same week, the Times’ Editorial Board calls for global condemnation of Duterte.

President Duterte responds by calling the Times “an asshole,” and adding, “”You better stop your publishing.”

Over the weekend Duterte gave a speech in which he said, “I will kill of those Abu Sayyafs and any of you who are around here, I’ll eat you … just give me vinegar and salt.”

Reporters Without Borders ranks the Philippines at 127 in its annual World Press Freedom index, an improvement over last year’s ranking of 136. The same week, President Duterte has threatened to block renewal of the ABS-CBN broadcast franchise when it comes up in 2020 – claiming they swindled him by not providing him with airtime that he paid for, though in the past he has also accused them of putting out slanted stories against him.

Democracy at Work

Nearly a year after the election, Bong Bong Marcos (son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos) continues to contest the Vice President election results. Two weeks ago he paid 36 million pesos – just the first installment, total amount due is over 66 million – for retrieval of election materials. VP Robredo has to pay 15 million for her counter protest.

The Glories of the Land Transportation Office

Earlier this week I went to the LTO to renew my Philippines drivers license. As a foreigner, I am not allowed to go to a branch office, I have to go to the main office in Quezon City. Once I arrive, I am handed a form and told to leave the LTO grounds and go to one of the many “medical clinics” nearby for a physical examination – paying the equivalent of US$3 for someone who might be a doctor to count how many arms and legs I have and ask me to read an eye chart.

Then I make my way back to the LTO, walking in the street to avoid a noisy demonstration from a couple of dozen jeepney drivers concerned that the government wants to phase out these vehicles – noisy, polluting, most likely uninsured and always likely to cause traffic and accidents.

I fill out the form. I get my picture taken and sign my name. I pay P652 (around US$13) for a five year renewal. And then I find out what I really already knew before I got there – the LTO is unable to supply me with a new drivers license – basically a laminated piece of paper, right? I’m given a paper license, with a stamp on it instructing me to send text messages asking when I can come back and get a real drivers license – which presumably could be months from now.

The LTO is also so far behind on another of their basic functions – issuing license plates to motor vehicles – that they recently declared standards for temporary cardboard license plates issued by car dealers.

Fun With Banks

Later that same day I went to the supermarket, a branch of one of the largest chains, Robinson. When it came time to pay, I handed the cashier my ATM card. She tried three different machines, all of which said “cannot communicate with bank.” They have an ATM there, a Robinsons Bank ATM (of course) so I figured I’d just get the cash from the machine. Same thing – entered pin, selected transaction, entered amount, waited, “cannot communicate with bank.” Finally had to pay with a credit card.

Got home and about an hour later I thought I should check the balances in my local bank accounts. Web site down for maintenance.

The Budget Airline That Acts Like a Budget Airline

Last night it took me two hours to book a plane ticket online from Cebu Pacific for my wife.

First of all, you always get redirected to their “beta” website, and I cannot figure out how they can justify defaulting to a beta for transactions like this.

And every time I use their site, same thing – enter departure city, destination city, departure date, return date, press “search” and the page always – ALWAYS – just refreshes and I have to start over.

Then I select the two flights. I select the various options for luggage, meals, seats, insurance. I enter my wife’s name, birthday, passport details and contact information. I click on “pay” and the web site goes down. No warning. No pop-up box. No maintenance page. Just a grey “cannot load the page.” Refreshes don’t work.

An hour later, try again. I do all the same stuff again, get to the same point, click on “pay” and an error page. Too many redirects. I try again on Firefox. Same error, too many redirects.

I contact Cebu Pacific via Twitter and amazingly get a fairly rapid response even though it’s past midnight. They suggest I download their mobile app and use that to book. I’d rather say fuck you and book with Cathay or even PAL at this point – but on checking their prices, I see that Cebu Pacific is about HK$600 cheaper.

So I download their mobile app. It’s for the iPhone. I have to use that 2X magnifying thing to use it on the iPad.

I search for flights. Select flights. Input my wife’s contact details. No meals. 20 kg luggage. No insurance. Then I get to seat selection, I try to select that I don’t want to prepay for seat selection – and a pop-up informs me that it can’t find any matching flights and returns me back to the starting line – where I have to search for flights, select flights, etc. etc. etc.

This time I go along with the seat selection and the transaction completes.

What should have been at most a 10 minute process took hours. I guess I’m supposed to be grateful that I was able to get it done at all.

No, it’s not all bad here. Far from it. Just my mood at the moment I guess.