Monday, March 26, 2007

The short and long road to getting a book

I first heard about the coffee table book, "Captured Culture: An Interpretative Portrait of Parañaque City" via the ABS-CBN News Channel. The project manager was telling program host Daphne Oseña all about it, that they only printed a thousand copies, and that it was being given for free by the Parañaque City Hall.

My mind, warped by horror stories of the bureaucracy, was already telling me, "Oh no, only a thousand copies, and you're not even a Parañaque resident!" But I told myself to give it a shot. I took note of the lady's name, and googled her. I found her name in the online community Takingitglobal.org, and sent her an email explaining that I wanted the book because I was writing short stories about Southern Manila for my graduate school thesis. She promptly replied.

She told me to write the Parañaque mayor about my request. I then googled the Parañaque City website, found a "Dear Mayor" email form, and sent them another request, explaining, again, that I needed it for my thesis. I received an email from the mayor's executive assistant the next day, telling me I'd be getting a copy of the book, and to just text him before I pick it up.

Last Friday, I braved a surprisingly easy commute I'd never taken before, despite having grown up in the area: I took a tricycle from Toyota Alabang (which is actually in Las Piñas) to McDonald's Sucat (along Sucat Road in Parañaque), paid the P38 fare, and asked the driver to tell me how to get to the City Hall.

"Manila City Hall?" he replied. I had to laugh. Even he did not have a concept of Parañaque City Hall.
"Parañaque lang po!" I said.
"Ah, sa munisipyo!" he said. Then he told me to cross the road, get on a jeep, tell the driver to drop me of at "Baliwan" (which I found funny, because baliw = crazy and baliwan can mean "where the crazy people are"), then get on a tricycle and tell the driver to drop me off at the munisipyo.

I did as told*, and thirty minutes later, I was on my way from the fourth floor of the Parañaque City Hall, clutching my copy. The elevator man told me that it was a very nice book. I nodded happily. I was extremely grateful to the local government of Parañaque City, especially to executive assistant Benjo Bernabe, and my mind was dancing with ideas for my thesis.

Still giddy (a word that aptly describes me these days), I decided to meet up with Emily at the Figaro branch outside their village, the one beside the Mitsubishi Las Piñas building. I figured that would give me time with her to also talk about my ALC experience. Feeling extra adventurous, I decided to explore Sucat more and find another way to get to her part of Las Piñas. I thought back to our trips to and from the airport by car, and chose the Evacom route. Surely there'd be a tricycle there, I told myself.

And I was right. Only, the tricycle would have to traverse a long, sleepy road lined with open grassy lots on which goats fed. And the fare was P50. I keep noting the fare because it also gives a hint as to the length of the tricycle trip, ergo the distance. The fare to the village entrance to my house is only P17.50.

Before getting on the tricycle, I asked the dispatcher how to get to Alabang-Zapote Road, and he told me to just get off at the entrance of Casimiro, another village. I'm not quite sure how long it really took me to get there, 30-45 minutes probably, because half the way, I was happy with my little suburban adventure, and the other half, I was just plain noontime sleepy, despite it being a little past three in the afternoon already. I chalk it up to the summer heat.

By the time I realized I had left the book inside the tricycle, the tricycle was already a speck of green dust in my vision. For at least five seconds, I debated with myself on whether to try to even retrieve the blasted book or not. I listened to my intuition. I then asked the people at the Casimiro tricycle station (their tricycles were either painted white or orange) where the green Evacom tricycles would go after delivering passengers there. I was told that they would have to go back to their own station.

And so that's where I went.

It was a good thing the Evacom dispatcher remembered me on the merit of my asking him how to get to the Alabang-Zapote road. He even remembered that I got on tricycle no. 29, and that the driver was Rico. Another man, an old, white-haired one, took pity on me and said he would ask around if anyone had seen Rico back. One driver replied, saying that he had seen Rico, but that Rico had picked up another Casimiro-bound passenger on the way. The general consensus was for me to sit at the tricycle station, because Rico was bound to turn up there eventually, as all Evacom tricycles are wont to do.

"Baka magkasalisi kayo," the dispatcher said.

I planted my butt on the station bench, and pulled out a book. I couldn't read much, though, because of the heat and noise, and because I kept my eye open for tricycle no. 29. The old man sat beside me and said, "You know, our tricycle drivers return things passengers leave behind, even cellphones, so don't worry. Just pray that a passenger won't take your book."

Strangely, I was certain the book would turn up. Or, I was making myself certain. I practiced the Law of Attraction, via thought and prayer. After half an hour of waiting, I got a text from Emily, asking me what time we would meet. I checked my watch. Then I both prayed and imagined that I would be getting the book by 5pm.

I was on the phone with Ray, who had called to comfort (and maybe scold) me about losing the book, when Rico approached me and said he had it with him. It was a few minutes before 5pm.

Before I left, the dispatcher asked me to write my name, address, and Rico's full name and tricycle number by way of recommending him for some award for his honesty. Props to the Evacom tricycles for this system. Obviously, it works to encourage drivers to return things.

And before I boarded yet another tricycle, I went to a nearby bakery, bought pan de sal and ensaimada, and went back to the station. I approached to old man, reported that I had my book back, and asked him to distribute the bread especially to the people who helped me. As my tricycle was leaving, a woman who had been privy to my little lost and found drama called out, "Don't forget your book, okay?"
I replied by grinning and tapping the book on my lap.

Back in Casimiro, as I paid the driver, he also checked my seat to see if I had left anything behind. Then he smiled at me, and said something like, "Just checking if you left anything." I laughed.

When my stories get published, I'm now dedicating it to Ray (for having always backed me), the Parañaque City Hall, and the tricycle drivers of Evacom.

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* The tricycles in "Baliwan," which I later realized to be "Valley One," where my MFA classmate Razel lives, have back-to-back seats. I used to enjoy riding in tricycles like this, and would choose to sit at the back. It's a testament to how little I know about my area that I'd always thought tricycles like these to be rare in Manila.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

UP Quill's Release


For the love of lit, wit, and everything writ. Has it really been ten years already?

Sitting Amok XVI

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Making decisions

After my trip to my former office the other day, I was both giddy and nervous. Giddy because I felt the love from former officemates, and nervous because I was again considering working full-time for them. A major factor here is the fact that I've never loved any company as much, despite my long list of trivial complaints about this or that.

Going back as a full-fledged adult pushing 30, and after the ALC at that, has made me realize how much a blessing it was to work for The Philippine STAR. And how selfish my complaints were. And how much I had not contributed to the company culture when I left.

But still, I was left wondering if I had said yes because of the "seminar high" the people at OCCI had warned us about, going as far as requiring us not to make any major decisions for 30 days.

And so, when I was starting to worry about working full-time again when I hadn't finished my thesis yet, I threw the decision to God. I was finding it difficult to decide between two good decisions (I know working at STAR is something I would love, but I would also very much love to have time to finish my thesis and do other more creative things). So I told God to take away the option that wasn't meant for me. And the very next day, he did.

Apparently, the opening my formers bosses wanted for me didn't materialize. When I was told this via Yahoo messenger, the feeling that swept through me was, "Well, maybe a better job position is coming." Or, I probably was meant for greater and more challenger things. I replied, half in jest, "Maybe there'll be an opening in the travel section." To which my boss replied, "We'll see." And a big smiley.

Back at OCCI

I was there again last night for the orientation to LEAP32. Some of my ALC51 batchmates were there, including Rolan, our leader. I was surprised to see him there, as he had said he wouldn't be able to make it. But I'm happy he was, because we're still planning for the 30-day reunion on April 24. Apparently, according to someone there who's already been through the trilogy, we should be there on the 24th, because there's a final module.

During the orientation, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say why we were there. Here's what I said: "Hi, I'm Althea, and I'm also with ALC51. I learned from the ALC that I had been saying no to many opportunities for growth in my life, and I'm here to say yes to LEAP."

I'm proud of what I said, because I didn't overthink it (as I tend to do), and I spoke from the heart, and it turned out pretty well.

Now, I have until March 29 to raise P17,000 to pay for the course. This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I feel like I've just woken up


From a really, really deep sleep. I took the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC) for four days last week, from Thursday to Sunday. And I thought the first seminar, the FLEX, which I took last month, had already woken me up!

I sometimes probably sound like a crazed fanatic--I don't know if I've scared people with my gushing--but the world has never been as clear as it is right now. And I can't help but recommend this journey to people I care about. Which, thanks to the ALC, includes everyone and his uncle. Haha.

ALC 51

I don't have any pictures yet, but during the course, I fell in love with 32 other people I'd known for only four days--plus a smaller number of people who staffed for us. I didn't have this experience during FLEX, despite having mingled some as well, because we didn't really have to work as a team. But the ALC was something else. I felt the energy running through all of us when, on the last day, we finally gelled.

The most important thing I learned during that course is that whatever it is you are complaining about, you contributed to it. And having contributed to it, you have the power to change it.

Old job? New job?

I dropped by my former office, The Philippine STAR, today. I brought my former boss flyers for the OCCI seminars, gave a couple of impassioned testimonials, and said hello to former officemates. I also went to explore employment possibilities, although there's still nothing on the table.

Jing and I reminisced back to those days when the four of us (Nathalie, Nina, Jing, and I) would walk to Lawton. I now realize I had a lovely time working for them primarily because I found three lifelong friends. Sometimes I'm surprised at how I've managed to keep in constant touch with these girls, when I barely remember most of the other people I've worked with.

I still chat with Nina on an almost regular basis (and we read each other's blogs; hi Nina!), I've managed to visit Nat a couple of times in Cebu, and, well, this year, I've seen Jing twice, and I'll be seeing her again on Thursday for another job opportunity.

Four years since

It's also my father's death anniversary today. It's an event of my life that I also associate with The Philippine STAR, because I was working overtime there when I got the phone call informing me that my father had had a heart attack. I quietly went to the end of the office, called my mother, texted Juan, called my best friend, and wiped away my tears to finish my article.

I had to put my section to bed (I believe it was Femme), and to muster up the strength, I asked Nat and Jing to accompany me downstairs to smoke, and that was where I told them, out in the street, in front of that small wooden kiosk that sold instant coffee, boiled eggs, and Skyflakes to the men working the graveyard shift at the printing press. I remember it was Jing who cried, not me.

I was just about done with the lead story when I felt that he was gone. I hadn't been told, but I felt his spirit slip away. I didn't tell anyone, but Nat and Jing told me to go home, offering to close my section. I splurged on a cab straight to my house--and it was during the ride that I got another long distance call that confirmed my father was gone.

It doesn't hurt as much anymore when I recall it, though. Apparently, it's true that the pain goes, and love stays. I still miss him--but in the loving kind of way.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Stepping out of a comfort zone


Almost a month ago, I wrote that I was looking for a Toastmasters Club near Las Piñas. I found two in Alabang, and was able to contact one. Last Thursday, Sherwil and I were guests at their meeting in Gloria Maris Alabang.

It was a very enjoyable yet educational experience. There were few members (three of them were just club-hopping; they were originally from Toastmasters Kimberly-Clark), and I found it initially strange that they were delivering speeches in a corner of a crowded restaurant, but I learned a lot in just two hours. It was evident from the way they spoke that the Toastmasters program had helped them a lot.

Sherwil and I were hesitant to speak at first, but they were very encouraging. We got to talk about ourselves a little and give our comments on one person's table topic speech. I'm very interested in joining, but I'd like to be a guest for a couple more meetings first.

I've always loved and hated public speaking. I hate the part where I have to think on my feet (I would think most writers do, because the self-editing doesn't have the buffer of time), but I would love to be able to develop that skill. I love the part where you have an audience and a message to deliver.

The General Evaluator present said that we were both very articulate. I didn't think so, but hey, any compliment's welcome. I'm looking forward to stepping out of this comfort zone!

Friday, March 9, 2007

When I get married, Part 1


This is going to be one of the ceremony songs!

But I want it done like it was in "Love Affair," with children singing.


'You're gonna love me!'

I used to play Sim City. This tickles me--and blows me away.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Cutting down on the information overload


I just hotsynced my old Palm with the files I have in my laptop. Ever since my mom gave me her old Palm, I've been using it to read articles I collect from online newsletters and, more recently, professional blogs. I have no other use for it, considering that I don't have much of a life to organize, but that singular purpose is enough for me to keep me using the Palm m130.

Under the category Self, I put articles on leadership, intention and manifestation, and any articles that would presumably make me a better person. Under Fiction, I put, well, fiction I've come across online. The oldest, I think, is the children's book Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The second oldest is Guts by Chuck Palahniuk. The newest is, I believe, the collection Anais Nin's Little Birds.

A couple of months ago, I discovered Bloglines, a free service that allows me to subscribe to the RSS and Atom feeds of websites and blogs, and I've transferred almost all my online reading there. It has saved me time (I only have to go to Bloglines to get my blog fix, and to think I follow close to thirty personal blogs, on top of all the professional ones I read). I like Bloglines because when I don't want to invest time in copying and pasting articles to hotsync them right away to my Palm, I can clip the articles for storage. Helps one to be productive, true?

Unfortunately, I last did that two months ago, and I just caught up now. And I'm now overloaded with all the reading I have to do--and the feeds just keep updating! I hadn't realized people do update their blogs, professional or otherwise, on a daily basis.

It's time for me to trim down my online readings--because I don't really get to read much of them as regularly as I want to anyway. It's difficult, especially for little obsessive-compulsive me, but I've decided to just click on every feed, scan them, and decide what to do with them on the spot: transfer them, or forget about them. No more, "I'll save this for later."

I've also deleted some of the feed subscriptions, especially the ones that don't really contribute to my, er, intellectual development. I've even unsubscribed my Daily Dilbert!

But *sheepish grin* I can't seem to get rid of any personal blogs, even those of people I'm no longer even really interested in--people who don't even know I'm reading their blogs!

Someday soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Missing mass last Monday

I totally forgot about it. After writing for my column and finishing up another article for Louie, I proceeded to plan a day out with Keona, her nanny, and my best friend Sherwil. Nothing special; just play with Keona and a movie after bringing her home.

I was just finishing up my seafood pasta at The French Baker in Southmall when I remembered I hadn't gone to mass yet. I checked my watch. It was already 6:30pm and the 6:15pm mass finishes anytime between 6:45pm to 7pm. It was too late for me to catch up.

I was bummed. Barely a week into my Lenten pledge, and I had already broken it.

But instead of beating myself up over it, like I normally do, I decided to forgive myself and renew my commitment to go to mass everyday for the duration of Lent. I guess the lessons to be learned here are, yes, commitment, discipline, and, most importantly, humility.

I'd been proud about keeping my Lenten pledges, but now I have a black mark on the record. Before, that would have been enough reason for me to say, "Oh, to hell with it!" and abandon everything, but with maturity, you learn to see a black mark for what it is: a black mark. It's not a sentence. It's a mistake you make, being human, and it's a mistake you only have to correct if you're serious about getting better.

Of course, it's a reminder that I do need to be more disciplined in the things I commit to do. Maybe if I had stuck to a more structured schedule, or maybe if I had listened to that nagging voice in my head to go to mass in the morning instead, so I wouldn't have to plan my day around the 6pm mass, having attended it already first thing in the morning, I wouldn't have forgotten about it. And I should have written it on the white board I have next to my bedroom door.

Later in the week, I talked to my other best friend Emily about it. She has her own Lenten pledges too, and one of them is to not drink Coke. And she also forgot about it. She said that one of the lessons here is humility--something I had already realized, as I apologized to God for breaking my promise. But she pointed out something else I hadn't thought about: that faltering in this Lenten promise makes you more understanding and accepting of others who falter too.

Lessons learned.