Monday, June 20, 2016

SPIT-ting and LOL-ing Really Hard: #ImprovThursdays

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to SPIT (Silly People's Improv Theater). Six years later, the improv group has grown and moved from one "performance" venue to another, and my friend has probably become their biggest fan. When I say biggest, I do not mean it literally (maybe so) but I mean that he can't even remember how many times he's seen the show and he's become friends with the group. If only he's a little bit funny, they'd ask him to join, but he's not. HAHAHA! Why am I devoting my introduction to make fun of my friend? I DON'T KNOW TOO!!!

Spit at Commune

Since my first time, I've seen about 4 shows now. Every time I go, it's always an entertaining night. Two weeks ago, just out of the blue, I decided to join my friend and went to Commune in Makati to watch the show. 

An Improv Theater is an ambush type of comedy show. The core of each act is designed by the group, but the actual performance is carried out at random, often as suggested by the audience. It's not rehearsed, none of it is, but the actors train to be quick, witty and sharp. 

  • Quick. Improv Theater does not work with a script. There are several designed acts but not one
    of them is planned with an accompanying script because they rely on the audience of topics, keywords, situations and so forth. On the photo is my friend writing down an "advice his parents gave him". Before the show started, the team passed pieces of paper on which we were supposed to write an advice. This is one way they get input from guests. For this particular show, they used the written advice as "the voice of God" to direct a skit. 
  • Witty. Of course they cannot just be quick, they have to be funny too. I mean, it is a comedy show, and people who see them expect to laugh. So more than just knowing what to say in record time, they have to hit the funny bone and make people LOL or even better, ROFL. I laughed out loud many times that night. People on my table kept shaking their head in disbelief: "Ang bilis nila mag-isip!" (They think so fast!), because it is sometimes unbelievable how they're able to craft a punchline that fast. It's really amazing!
  • Sharp. More than just being funny, actors have to be relevant and they have to be understood. I mean, they may think they're funny but if they're only funny in their minds then that means they did not get the message across. You cannot use "inside jokes" because that will alienate the audience. In fact, you have to think about getting through to the audience and hitting them HARD. When I speak of being sharp, you need to be clear, relevant and voice projection should be superb. 

My Favorite Act

That night they did several skits. They did Jeopardy with impromptu categories and items; they did a talk show backwards; and they did the Angst Course--my favorite for the night. The Angst Course featured four actors and a supporting character who played "conductor". The four characters had to give life to a role/situation as suggested by the audience and it was funny because the pressure for the actors was crazy and yet they were able to think of something quick and to act on cue. 

You know what, I was in Drama Club in grade school, but that's very mediocre acting. I enjoyed it so much and I loved going to workshops but I don't think I'm good enough. I shattered all my talent when I auditioned for a St Paul play and blanked out in the middle of the monologue. That ended it for me. I'm usually very good with remembering lines, but I just lost it all. I stood there and then decided to excuse myself--I never recovered. So in high school and college, I seldom took big acting roles, but I enjoyed directing. I think I'm bossy enough to do a good job. 

Anyway, enough about me, you can catch SPIT through their Instagram: @spitmanila. They usually go around different venues, so you have to constantly visit them on Facebook for announcements. Try it if you haven't yet.  Tickets are usually sold at Php250 and it comes with one drink. Come on your own, and meet new people, but it's best if you bring more people so you do not LOOK SILLY LOL-ing on your OWN. Haha!

That's my table. We had fun loads of fun!

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Friday, June 17, 2016

SONG IN MY HEAD: Sit Still Look Pretty

I was brought up to be independent. As the eldest of four girls, my military father made sure his children were strong enough to fend for themselves. Modified versions of "damsels in distress", we do not exactly live our lives like MEN, but our parents made sure we were never helpless. We might not be completely strong and skilled, but we were taught to be quick with problem solving. Panic, you lose, you know? Well actually, you can panic---but then you have to know what to do next.

Growing up, my Papa also made sure we engaged in a lot of sports, so I did swimming and track. Then in high school, I was taught to fire guns and began to compete in women's leagues. Finally, as soon as we could secure a student's permit, we were taught how to drive and I drove myself to school in College.

This song, "Sit Still, Look Pretty" makes a stand for women who, even in this day, are objectified and pretty much limited in society. It stresses that we refuse to be treated like toys and trophy wives--we don't want to "sit still, look pretty", because why should we be diminished to some kind of display right? Women nowadays achieve career levels equivalent to men; we are educated to exhibit excellence and we are even better than them, sometimes (if not always). 

Sit Still, Look Pretty

Could dress up, to get love
But guess what?
I'm never gonna be that girl
Who's living in a Barbie world

Could wake up, in make up, and play dumb
Pretending that I need a boy
Who's gonna treat me like a toy

I know the other girlies wanna wear expensive things, and diamond rings
But I don't wanna be the puppet that you're playing on a string
This queen don't need a king

Oh I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no I'm never gonna be, cause I don't wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still look pretty

Mr. Right could be nice, for one night
But then he wanna take control
And I would rather fly solo
Then Snow White
She did right in her life
Had 7 men to do the chores
'Cause that's not what a lady's for

The only thing that a boy's gonna give a girl for free's captivity
And I might love me some vanilla but I'm not that sugar sweet
Call me HBIC

Oh I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty

You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no I'm never gonna be, 'cause I don't wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still look pretty

Sure I'm a pretty girl up in a pretty world
But they say pretty hurts
And I don't wanna sit still
I'm a pretty girl up in a pretty world
But no I won't sit still, look pretty

Oh I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no I'm never gonna be, cause I don't wanna be
Cause I don't wanna sit still look pretty

Oh I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah that is where I'm gonna be because I wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty
You get off on your 9 to 5
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives
But no I'm never gonna be cause I don't wanna be
No I don't wanna sit still, look pretty

Sit still, look pretty
Sit still, look pretty
Sit still, look pretty
Sit still, look pretty

Sitting Still and Looking Pretty

Someone once asked me: "What if someone asks you to give up your career and stay at home?" The immediate answer for this one is: "Hell no!", because you cannot tell me that all my effort was just for nothing. However, understand that I am a Christian and I would love to submit. This poses a big dilemma, so to properly answer this I would like to take you back to years ago, when I was still deciding on what to do for the rest of my life.

You see, I chose to be a dentist because I love the freedom that is tagged with one's life in private practice. I saw it with my uncle and aunt--was convinced long ago that I wanted the same life--so I pursued my love for Science by becoming a dentist. So nowadays I work six days a week (4 days in my practice; 2 days in Healthway). While that seems rather "busy", understand that there is a lot of downtime in between patients and when necessary, I can arrange appointments to make room for more important stuff. As a matter of fact, when we were in and out of the hospital for my dad, there were days when I'd come in just because I had to see a patient, and then I'd be back in the hospital. Basically, I chose to pursue Dentistry because in private practice, you are not a slave to your work.

So let's get back to the question. I still have the same answer, But I have a better version: "Hell no I won't give up my career, but I can set a very reasonable compromise." Right now I work six days a week, but I can easily cut it down, so that my assistant can cramp all my appointments in 2-3 days. You see, when I picked Dentistry I did not pick it because I wanted to be rich. I wanted a career that would promise a comfortable life, but I wanted a career that gave enough room for LIFE. That is life with family, friends and even for myself. That is the bottom-line.

Of Truths and Princesses

To ask a woman to sit still and look pretty, I think, is an insult. But I believe that women should be taken care of by men. We should be able to take care of ourselves, but we should also be cared for like princesses. I was having a conversation with my friend about her husband and she was complaining about him being insensitive to her needs--that on a trip she was ready to go on a hunger strike, but he refuses to stop for a meal. "C'mon man, feed the woman already!" Anyway I told her that's all familiar territory and I felt bad for her. I think that as much as women take care of men, their gender should do the same for us. Men are supposed to protect women, respect women, think of their welfare and constantly ask: "Are you okay?", even if we are trying our best to show that we are.

In another conversation dated years ago, I was with two girlfriends and two of us were convincing the other to remain as "dependent" on her boyfriend (now husband) as she can. We said, it's sometimes hard to be independent because men expect you to be capable of fending for yourself--all the time. I remember her saying: "I wish I didn't know how to drive and didn't have a car, so he would drop everything for me when I needed to go somewhere" and I agreed with her, but she was quick to recoil: "But then, why do I need him to drive for me? I am completely capable of driving myself. I don't really need a companion to do errands... but do you know what I mean?" And of course I did.

Now I'm contradicting myself. Haha! Actually, my friends and I (my high school girlfriends), we always fantasize about being princesses because we're all queens. A queen is a woman who has a lot of power but she's also the one who's in charge, in control and running things. We're good with that. We've been doing that all our lives. We are women who work and all that is easy, but we fantasize about being princesses. We want to be "pretty and useless". Queens rule--they have to run the castle and oversee things, but princesses do nothing, and we want that. We secretly want to "sit still and look pretty", of course not all the time because that would be such as boring life, but it would be nice on occasion. In other words, if I could have it my way, I wouldn't mind it if Dentistry becomes a hobby. Actually that would be the best thing--when I am able to work as a dentist and work for the fun of it, yes that would be amazing!

So just so I'm clear... no to being displayed and asked to sit still. But yes to being pretty and useless, like a Princess. Princesses have charity works and projects (just like hobbies) on the side to keep them busy.

Sorry Daya, I ruined your song...
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Monday, June 13, 2016

My Lovely Nobu Sunday Brunch Experience

During a Sunday brunch a few weeks ago I heard a story about a man whose existence very much defines the word: destiny. When things work against all odds and eventually finds its comfortable place in an envisioned world, it's kismet. 

Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, in an attempt to reach his stars left Tokyo to open a Japanese restaurant in Peru. He was twenty-four years old, burning with passion, he took this dream with him to Alaska USA only for it to be snatched brutally from his hands. His first restaurant in Alaska caught on fire and along with the raging flames, his dreams turned to dust. That would have been the end for most people, but Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa forced a reboot that eventually changed his life, when he opened "Matsuhisa" in 1987. There he meets Robert De Niro and they become friends--this friendship and long term courtship eventually blossomed into a formidable partnership. In 1994 the very first "Nobu" restaurant was opened; twenty-two years later, the name Nobu has widened its territorial reach to as much as 36 locations in thirty-one different cities all over the world.

The Orgasmic Sunday Brunch

A few Sundays ago I got invited to Sunday Brunch at Nobu. Lacking sleep from the previous night (I confess) I briefly saw a patient at Healthway Shangri La and decided that since I was already up and about, it is very counter productive to go home and nurse a headache by sleeping. I thought, I could catch up on sleep later, after the lovely feast, and oh what a delightful feast that was!

Located at Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams, Nobu offers a unique Sunday Brunch experience that is probably one of the most memorable buffet experiences for me. I can go on and on about this, but I figured to better convince you, I should count the many reasons:

The hours are very friendly

This is my first plate. After this, came many more. 
Nobu Sunday brunch comfortably sets their hours to guest from 11:30am to 3:00pm. For any diner, you want to be able to savor every bite and experience the variety that is available. I enjoyed just that. I was there 11 in the morning, right after my patient, and after taking a leisurely examination of all the plates and stations, I assembled my first plate. I went from plate one to my very last (dessert) in a very comfortable pace. I wasn't pressured because there was so much time and I was having so much fun.  

The sushi spread is bountiful and fresh

Hello Chef Aki! 

I love sushi. You should know I am late bloomer. I grew up to a family who often had battles over plates of sushi, and I never took part of it. And then one day, I do not remember when, I fell in love with it too. I can go through an entire plate of salmon and tuna sashimi--you can leave me and I will be alright. Make sure it's fresh and I'd be in heaven.

The Nobu selection was impressive. I had a lot of my usual favorites, but there was an interesting one that I tried because everyone at my table was raving about it: Tachiuo Sashimi (swordfish or espada) that was served, slightly smoked--Oh, I'm salivating just trying to remember it. The sushi spread at Nobu is bountiful and fresh. Did you see that humongous tuna that Chef Aki Kawai was cutting through? That's actually a young one. After his interesting demonstration he invited everyone to request for a specific portion in an amazing, "Ask and you shall receive" fashion.  

Their seafood choices are to die for

To die for, literally, because I am deathly allergic to seafood and would plunge to nothingness if I stubbornly insist on giving it a try. Actually, when the Shrimp in Garlic Sauce was served on our table, I wanted to forget about allergies (but of course I didn't) and enjoy it along with everyone else. The oysters, which I believe are sourced from France, was another table favorite. 

This is the problem with food allergies--you have to trust what people say. Anyway, whatever seafood I was able to taste (fish), I truly enjoyed. My favorite is the Jalapeno Sea Bass Jalapeno; but I also enjoyed the Salmon Karashi Su Miso and the Yellow Tail Jalapeno. 

The Teppanyaki section is so fun

It's a like street-style teppanyaki but on an upscale setting. Their spread features a variety of vegetables, meats and seafood. I was dying to get some chicken skin, because cmon, but I was unfortunate. The first time I went, they were doing some quick sanitizing on the grill, so I said I'd come back. When I did, they'd just ran out and were waiting for the refill, so I said I'd come back again. A few minutes later, I went back and I was told that it was "gone in 60 seconds". Haha! Poor me!

Their carving section is "ever-changing"

During my visit, the carving station served lechon. Like the rest of the food, Nobu's menu is constantly featuring something new. That day we were lucky to have lechon in the menu. And for my serving, I tried their special sauce because I figured I've always had my lechon traditionally, so I should try something new, and it did not disappoint.

Checkout the platter of lechon skin. It's so inviting, huh? I helped myself with a few... it was perfect. The skin was roasted to perfect crispiness and the meat was tender and oozing of flavor, you actually do not need the sauce.

The dessert table is a heavenly sight

No matter how full I am, I always make room for dessert. By the time that I was supposed to hit the dessert table, I was already ready to settle down, but it would be an insult to the beautiful spread if I didn't indulge in a plate or two. 

I, of course, tried the merengue and dipped it generously in green tea macha fondue. But my favorite is the lava cake, Actually, I didn't know there was lava cake. I was getting a scoop of ice cream and I was planning to top it with fruits and chocolate sauce, and the server asked: "Do you want it with lava cake?" and I, nodded, yes. Great decision--some people at my table learned that one bit from me, so off they went to the ice cream bar to devour the goodness for themselves. 

The dining area is cozy

There are four separate dining areas. From the entrance, you get well-lit couches that's just beside the bread/dessert spread. I'd say it's perfect for those wanting to savor the breakfast part of their brunch. As you go in, you get to the main dining area where several tables and couches are available, set perfectly to give guesys access to all sections. Tucked away on the side is a private room (where we were) and it's a good setting for a large group who would love to enjoy some privacy while dining. And if you want a bit of fresh air, you can go outside. 

The outdoor area is so hip and modern

If you do not want to stay indoors, you can choose to stay in the pods outside. I loved the look of the outdoors. It's so zen. It has a resort feel and I can imagine how beautiful this specific area is at night when the lights are on. 

I took a leisurely walk of the outdoor area with my cocktail. If it wasn't humid that day, it would be great to stay outdoors, in one of the pods. The couches are perfect for lounging, after you've enjoyed your meal, and have graduated to a cocktail binge. 

Overflowing beverage is the icing on the cake

Pepino Mocktail. This is the second drink that I ordered. More came after this. 

The magnificent Nobu Sunday Brunch is Php2880++ per person (inclusive of sodas, juices, mocktails coffee and tea), but for PHP4580++ you can enjoy brunch with free-flowing Moet & Chandon, cocktails, wine and beer. I maximized this by first ordering coffee, to wake my senses, then I ordered this lovely Pepino mocktail which is a refreshing mixture of lychee and cucumber. Further into the meal I decided to have more fun and ordered a Belinni and a Mimosa. I was ready to close the meal, so I ordered an Iced Mocha, but before we all closed brunch, a round of champagne was served--a perfect end to a perfect meal. 

How do you plan to spend the coming Sunday? Why not enjoy the Nobu Sunday Brunch at Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams? The overflowing selection of over 50 items is priced at Php2880++ (inclusive of sodas, juices, mocktails, coffee and tea) or Php4580++ (to enjoy free-flowing cocktails, wine, beer and champagne). It is 50% off for children ages 6-12 years old and free for children below 5 years old.

It's Father's Day next week. I'm sure my Papa would love it there... :)

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Dear PDiggy: About Your Press Conferences

From Day 1 of press conferences since you have become President-elect, I have watched eagerly. When you had that midnight presscon, I was about to sleep, but I stayed awake until two in the morning because I enjoy listening to you rant and ramble---it's so refreshing! It's so different from what we're all used to. It's so far from the scripted and manicured words I've been forced to listen to for  years. In school we're always required to watch the SONA and to write essays about it. I've never completed an entire SONA (I read excerpts) but I have watched every interview you have given. So I know and probably have memorized many of the things you've said. 

Photo from here

Anyway, I wrote to tell you some things. Oh yeah, I love to ramble too (like you) so this will be long. 

On Catcalling and Sexual Harassment

I watched the first presscon and I laughed when it happened because I remember you were in the middle of something and did not immediately register where the voice was coming from. 

Reporter: How do you deal with Cabinet Secretaries who are non-performing.
 Sir I'm here, will you be giving them a deadline? 

President Duterte: Papansin ka talaga sa akin ha?

(crowd laughs and teases) 

President Duterte (whistles)

(crowd laughs)

I laughed because it was funny, and everyone thought so too, but I also said in my mind: "Kulit nitong mokong na ito" (Oh this silly man is unbelievable!) and two days later this silliness blew up in your face. Tsk tsk tsk! I cannot defend you on this one. However funny and even though I know you meant no malice, you shouldn't have done that. I hate being catcalled. I absolutely hate it when men think it's a compliment but I understand where you're coming from. I am not going to defend you, but I wrote the script above because I believe that it is important that people view the entire EVENT in its COMPLETE CONTEXT. 

On the follow up press conference, this issue was brought up again and you rambled on with an excuse that I believe you shouldn't have done. It was a spur of the moment thing... it's hard to rationalize such events and when you begin to defend yourself, you give them even more room to criticize you. 

On Endorsing Journalist Killings

I agree with you when you categorized journalists into three types: the crusaders, who put importance in in their profession and the plight to tell the truth to the whole world; the mouthpiece of vested interest, who are paid to make businessmen and other important individuals look and sound good; and the low life journalists, whose greed is unlimited. 

Unlimited greed is scary. Anyway, here is the script of that section of your presscon:

Reporter: Sir what is your policy about the journalist killings that the Aquino government failed to act (on). Journalist killings? 

Rodrigo Duterte: Bakit may (inaudible) bago? Alam mo iha ganito yan... kung papatayin ka talaga, papatayin ka. There is no way to know that the next victim will be a journalist. Sa karamihan, pranka pranka, may nagawa yan. Kasi di ka naman talaga papatayin jan kung wala kang ginawa eh. Yung mga expose and bad words against us, wala yan, ako being a Mayor... pero karamihan nyan alam mo nabigyan na tapos, especially if you want to take sides, nabayaran mo na tapos you play, yan ang karamihan namamatay or tumatanggap na sa mga sugarol tapos bira bira pa rin. You really want the truth? Yun ang truth. There is still corruption in, sa inyong side. Marami yan hindi lang ang binibigyan yan hindi lang ang pulis. Binibigyan yan. Noon si Pala, binibigyan yan, kokolekta harap-harapan sasabihin: "kumulekta kami", tapos sa kabila (inaudible). Yon, that is the best example kung bakit namamatay itong mga journalists. Kaya pranka pranka, ganyan kayo. Karamihan ganon. Kasi kung journalist ka lang na tama walang gagalaw sa iyo. Especially if it is true, you cannot hide the truth by the way. Pero yung ganon na... ang example natin dito, kung taga rito ka man, yung si Pala. I do not diminish his memory but he was a ro--he was a rotten son of a bitch. (inaudible)

Reporter: But is that an excuse to kill him? President, I mean, just because the journalist is corrupt or whatever, is that--

Rodrigo Duterte: Well that is the reason. You're asking why? That is the reason. 

(I will stop here)

PDiggy, you shouldn't have answered WHY because the question was WHAT and that is where things went wrong. I do not see your answer as an endorsement of media killings, but your answer was not right. Someone from his side should have interrupted him. The reporter was trying to butt in, I kept hearing her say: "But what is..." and I am guessing she wanted to say: "But what is your policy against this?". But she never got the chance to ask it. Please learn how to listen. I know you love to talk, but you have to listen too. Because WHY is an "ESSAY" question and if that was the question then it merits a lecture, but it was not the case. 

During the campaign period I developed headaches with the amount of irresponsible and malicious journalism going around. I am sure your headache is of no comparison to mine and you probably hate them a little (or a lot), but let's learn from this. and take time to listen next time so you can answer properly. You said it: "Kapag Presidente ka na wala ka nang ginawang tama", so be wary. 

On Your Cabinet Choices

I have many DURO friends--that is Duterte voters who voted Robredo to serve with you. While there is clamor about you being noncommittal to giving a Cabinet post to the VP-elect, I respect your decision because I think I would do the same thing. Of course I am not the President but I know how it is to have people against me--especially those whose intentions are questionable. (Pause: This is not a personal attack on Robredo. I am referring to opposition party). My Leni voting friends (the ones I've spoken to) understand your position--and whether you establish future rapport with her or not, is really fine with me, but in the spirit of unity I hope that you do. Nevertheless, I love your honesty. Because we all know VP Binay wanted DILG but he got housing, so where is the dignity in that move, really?

I also do not have any problem with your Cabinet choices, for now. I have a geeky EXCEL file of my own research about them and although there are some questionable names, I will trust you with this because I know you know better. I like it when you said: "It is the President who is to blame" because we will really blame you if come July your cabinet fails to perform as expected. I do not believe in permanently tainted reputations. I believe in individual capacity and I believe that anyone can shine and perform well, if he works with a good leader. At the same time, I believe that people are corruptible so I don't want to judge them for what they have been linked to in the past. But promise us that you will not be lenient with errors. Promise me that unlike your predecessor you will not coddle your friends (mistakes and all). I did not watch PNoy's term closely because I did not really care much. But I have been watching you closely so you'll be hearing from me...

My Final Note: To The Opposition

Just so you know, I am fed up with the blame game of Facebook. The continuous call for the 16M  to speak up (one friend and his "commenters" even kept on saying 14M and I wanted to say, "No we were over 16 million--if you're going to act smart, get your facts straight"). It is annoying, I am telling you, because I did not spend the last 6 years screaming at PNoy voters and asking them to explain. In 2010 Dick Gordon lost, and I moved on with my life and entrusted the country to the new leader. 

In August 2010, the Luneta hostage drama happened and I remember watching everything with my dad. We were screaming. We were cursing. We were outraged. The media (for our entertainment benefit) was doing an awesome job of keeping everyone updated but we all know what role the media played that day. We all know what consequences we had to swallow because they were heavily reporting the details of that unfortunate incident. And finally, please do not forget that barely 2 months in his 6-year term, PNoy was "a phone call away" and as a result of that long drama, people died. I do not know and understand protocol, so I would not criticize. I just want you to take a walk back with me to August 2010.  

People on my Facebook scream and say: "Where are the 16M voters? Why are you mum on the issue?" Well, what exactly has he done--he hurt some people's feelings? Okay, I do not want to belittle the emotions of people, but since we are talking about feeling INSULTED and being painfully LACERATED, know that this thing you are doing is nothing short of the very same thing you are complaining about. Every time you laugh at us and maliciously say: "Your President", you rub in how STUPID you feel we all are. We are not mum and cowardly hiding. It is not my duty to appease your emotions. 

Photo from here

So PDiggy, rest assured I am still with you. In fact, I cannot wait for you to start working because I believe that this is where you will shine. WORK is what matters to me and I want to reiterate that I voted for you not because I thought you are "decent" but I did because you are a leader with, tried and tested, political will. When you assume office, please concentrate on your work. There will be detractors because that's a fact and you yourself said: "It's all part of the territory of politics". Do not mind them because they will not go away, but WORK because if you don't, then I WILL GET MAD. 


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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dear PDiggy: Yes Please, Tell The Telcos to Shape Up

Last week, one of the "Duterte" headlines talked about PDiggy calling on the two major telco companies to start shaping up--or else he'd open the country to foreign competitors. I smiled when I read that news story because something really needs to be done here. Internet connectivity in this country is abysmal and embarrassing. A foreigner friend I met in the mission makes fun of our connection saying: "It's like you're back in dial-up". We cannot live like this! It's really very embarrassing! My sister said when she was studying in France, a decade ago, she'd start downloading a movie before she gets into the shower and it's all done when she comes out (just a few minutes after). 

Anyway, a few days after I read that article, I saw these posts on my feed. It stresses the genuine need for some telco reform in the country--I was immediately transported to 2014 when I went through my most frustrating experience with PLDT. 


Checkout the hashtag. Now wait for my own narrative. 

More than the appalling condition of our internet connection, the customer service provided by these telcos also require some straightening. The photos above show complaints from two of my Facebook friends (posted on the same week). While reading through the comments, I remembered, I have a frustrating story too. And bear with me, it will be long, but I'd like to share it with you...

The PLDT Drama Adventure

When I moved clinics in 2014, I was set to move just a few buildings away so I inquired about retaining my landline. I called customer service and I was given instructions to visit any PLDT center to make a formal application, so I did just that. I was set to move in May, so I applied for the transfer in the middle of March and after the lengthy process, I was assured that my line will be ready for the transfer on April 30. Days prior to our moving day, I was calling PLDT on a daily basis, to ask about the technician, but they couldn't guarantee that one would arrive on time. PROBLEM #1: "You said everything was set for April 30? This building will be closed and I will have no access to it after today, send a technician to my clinic, NOW!"

A technician was eventually sent to me because I got really mad at some supervisor, but when we were facilitating the transfer, they found a problem with the type of application I filed and the existing line in my new building. The second problem was easier because I just had to buy wires (and other materials) to let the phone line crawl to my unit, but the first problem was asking that I visit the PLDT center again to reset my application. They even blamed me--and I said: PROBLEM #2: "Why is it my fault? There were two choices, I didn't know any of them. I told you what I needed, so without the technical know-how, I trusted that the procedure you suggested I apply for is the right one." 

I went back to the PLDT center in SM North and related my problem. I befriended an employee (got her contact number) and we fixed the re-application of my transfer. When I left, I was told that I needed to wait 2-3 weeks for a technician to visit the office. Meanwhile, the clinic was already operational in the new location, and I was making calls and sending emails on my mobile phone. It was fine--I didn't have to wait so long, but when 3 weeks came, I gave them a call and found out that PROBLEM #3: There was no application. I waited 3 weeks for nothing because their system could not find my request. And yes, at this point I was already tired of showing patience and understanding. I was more intent on showing anger, disappointment and irritation. All those emotions are best exhibited when you RAISE YOUR VOICE.  

I decided to visit my contact in the PLDT center at SM North and we repeated the whole process. While doing so, she discovered that the requests she was making (A) was not finding its way to their "service requests" (B), so it will never reach the technicians (C). In other words, any request we type in gets lost and never finds its way to the order list, so it's as if we didn't make it at all. I wanted to kill someone. PROBLEM #4: "Given the length of time I've spent waiting for this to happen, do I not deserve some special handling? Can't we eliminate STEP B and just contact a TECHNICIAN now?" You see, I don't get it. It's like, you want to modernize the way you operate, keeping things computerized, but it's not working properly. What's the whole point of stubbornly inputting these data and making me wait in vain, when you can call a technician now and make him come to the clinic? It's absurd, but what can I do? At one point I even said: "If I knew how to do this on my own, you know I'll just do it myself--BUT YOU SEE, you're the only one who can do it!!!"

Anyway, my contact from the PLDT center promised that she will do everything she can to make sure the request goes through. A few days later, when I called to inquire on the status of my application, the same problem came up. This is funny too because I've already reached a frustration level that is so hard to explain, that when I was relating the issue to the person I was on the call with, I said: PROBLEM #5: "You record my calls right? Can someone just listen to all the calls I've made since March because I's so exhausted. I've told this story so many times, I cannot tell it again." I felt defeated and hopeless. I even considered just cancelling my line--but it's so easy in theory (moving a few buildings) so I don't understand why it hasn't been done yet. At that point I already befriended a supervisor from the call center, so I that I would speak to HER ONLY. And when I got home after work, I posted on Facebook and pleaded to anyone from PLDT/SMART among my friends, to help me resolve my problem. 

Luckily, I had a high school batch mate who works in SMART. I shared my story and she said: "I'll see what I can do. I'll pull some strings" (music to my ears, a symphony of heavenly sounds, as a matter of fact). She discovered two things: the initial plan upgrade that I made was not reflected in my current application, causing the "bouncing back" of the requests; and the email exchange she had with PLDT about my case had this SUBJECT: VIP Follow Up!!! So apparently, I've managed to elevate my status to VIP client. Maybe they had a board meeting to listen to all my calls, just as I've asked them to do. Haha! I am not proud of this okay? I know I got to the VIP listing because I've become a RED ALERT complainant, so I'm sorry. By this time I have been waiting for TWO months already, so you cannot blame me anymore. 

At this point, I've managed to connect myself with a technician. I had him on standby--and we just had to wait for the proper service request to go through and as soon as it does, he will make things happen. My batch mate also provided me with direct access to the officer who was in charge of making the request happen. I filed the initial application, end of March; I transferred to the new clinic on April 30; I got to speak to my batch mate on June 13; and I finally got my landline on the 4th of JULY. How symbolic is that? That whole drama went on for 3 months. 

Oh But Wait, There's More

It was a great relief to finally have my line transferred to the new clinic. My Globe bill (for all the landline calls and data usage) escalated to Php5,000+ so I was truly grateful for the successful transfer. The clinic was running smoothly and many patients have found us with our landline fully functional again, but when the first BILL arrived, I found myself dialing 171 again to contest it. What luck huh?

The very first call center agent I spoke to was arrogant and useless (I'm sorry for that). When I presented my problem, she said: PROBLEM #6: "Ay ganon tlaga eh. Kailangan mo bayaran." (Oh that's how it is. You have to pay for it), so I explained the whole drama again and she just said the same thing. Now, why do I have to pay for service that I did not enjoy? Actually, why do I have to pay for their error? Any system check they make on my line will show ZERO activity for the two months that my line was cut, so I do not really have to explain myself. I even want to them to reimburse me for my excessive Globe bill, but that's just me being ridiculous. 

After that lengthy and pointless conversation, I had to put the phone down because I had to attend to a patient. I worked for a while and when I finished, I called PLDT again. This time the person on the other end of the line was very helpful. He explained that any bill adjustment will be done from a PLDT center so it is best that I file my complaint from there--and so I did. To resolve the issue, I had to pay for the full amount of the bill, but they made arrangements for this cost to be REFUNDED in the succeeding bills. That was good enough for me; and after all that, I went back to work and just felt so exhausted. I mean, I'm sure I am not the only person to go through this kind of issue. I battled with PLDT for months--reaching the conclusion of the never ending saga felt like some kind of victory. But is this really how it is?

Please PDiggy, Do Something

Good customer service should be automatic, I know this because as a dentist, I am more than just a healthcare provider. My service to patients sometimes go over and beyond oral care. Companies like PLDT and Globe ought to know that. More than just the quality of internet connectivity, telco companies have to improve the way they deal with customers' problems. Please stop being a money-making machine and start thinking about your paying customers for a change. We have patronized your services for years because there is really NO OTHER CHOICE, but if our country opens up to better options, I'd forget loyalty and jump ship immediately. So shape up...shape up, or else!

post signature P.S. Right after I wrote this, a news story came out about SMC selling their telco assets to the two leading networks. I don't know what will happen with this--or what it means for us, yet. We'll have to wait and see, I guess. Regardless, PDiggy, please do your thing. Thanks!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Will You Cross?

One step. Two steps.
Will I take the ominous walk through an unfamiliar bridge?
Will you?
It's an unstable and rotting structure
with truths masked
lies abounding
and there is a higher chance of you falling to oblivion
than ever making it to the other side.
But will you? 
Even if you are given no warranty,
no receipt of purchase
not a single fortifying evidence to make a claim?

One step forward. One step back.
It is a dizzying journey of uncertainty
I suffer of nausea from vertigo
and confusion,
so I need to let go.
I need to collect. I need to retreat. 
I need to go away.
Far away where the bridge is unseen
and not inviting me to cross

But I took one step and another 
moving towards the field of dreams
the comforting touch
the placating whisper
the uplifting urges that promised change
Every given day I take one step forward, one step back,
never going anywhere
That's the truth

So, will you cross?
Should I cross?
Should I leave?

post signature

Friday, May 27, 2016

So I've Started Boxing

I have always been with Gold's Gym, but when I relocated the clinic a few blocks away from my previous address, I left Gold's. The "walk" seemed too tasking for me, so I decided to enroll in a circuit gym just across the road where (unfortunately) I lost ZERO pounds. Hehe! They always say you have to find the perfect gym/exercise that works for you and the circuit gym wasn't for me, so when my contract expired June of 2015 I did not renew anymore. By that time, we were also going in and out of the hospital for Papa, so I didn't have time for the gym. 

Now, zero gym time and excessive binge-eating is never a good combination. You cannot tell me to stop eating, because that is just impossible. Actually, on my first day at the circuit gym, the trainer asked me: "What are your goals?" and I started blankly at him: "Huh?", so he explained his question: "What are your fitness goals? How much weight do you want to lose? Why are you here?", and I finally found the perfect answer: "Because I love to eat!" He laughed. I don't know why he was laughing because I was telling the truth. Eating is the "funnest" activity in the world and I need to go to the gym to continue eating all the food that I love. 

Xtreme Boxing Gym

When 2016 started, I decided it was time to go back to the gym. I also decided not to go back to the circuit gym anymore, but instead to enroll in the boxing gym 3 floors above my floor. 

Prior to enrolling, I had zero boxing experience apart from a single Muay Thai session at a friend's gym; and years of Les Mills Body Combat classes. Cardio work is nothing to me, I can do three hours of cardio workout, but I needed to get used to the entire program that they offer at Xtreme. 

Anyway, I've been doing it for almost 5 months now, and I like it. I love boxing and boxing at Xtreme because:

  • It is affordable. You have to understand that I am really very stingy, well in the reasonable
    way, that's why Gold's Gym was good for me because I think I was paying something like Php1,400 a month for 2-3 times weekly gym. The circuit gym was quite pricey, but I paid the annual fee to cut costs, but this boxing gym is just amazing. I earned membership for Php999 (Christmas promo) and it came with 3 free sessions. As a member, per session rate for non-peak is Php150 but I usually pay for the 3-session package priced at Php400. 
  • Trainers are experts. The coaches are either old fighers or coaches. I've been to several gyms and no offense, some trainers are just protein-packed. The coaches are ripped and they really know what they're doing. I am not saying that other trainers are not good; what I'm saying is that even though it is an affordable place, does not mean that it wont compare to more expensive places. 
  • Gym is not packed.
    The gym is small and not highly commercialized. This is good because it is seldom that I am competing with another student for the time and attention of the trainer. It is small, so I see a lot of familiar faces everyday. I avoid peak hours (after work) because I don't like working out with a crowd. I usually go in the middle of the day, when I don't have patients or when I finish early, so I sometimes have the gym to myself.  
  • It is very accessible. To get to my boxing gym I just have to take the elevator to get to the 6th floor. It is so accessible, I can go boxing in between patients, and go back down to see patients after working out. It like it because when I forget stuff, I just call Monique to deliver my slippers, towel, boxing gloves or bottle of Sting. I bring Beckham with me sometimes and he's a good boy... but when he's being bratty, I call Monique to pick him up. Hehe. Anyway, accessibility is very important for me because if it's not easy to go to, then I wouldn't want to go to the gym. Some people drive to the mall to get to their gym. I cannot do that. It needs to be where I am, walking distance, or I wont be going. 
  • It is fun. I really enjoy boxing. I enjoyed dancing/kick boxing classes in Gold's, but since
    I do not have easy access to it anymore, I've decided to try boxing. I was a little worried it wasn't for me, so I didn't get gloves right away, but I eventually did because after just a month I was sure I was going to do this for awhile. I spend about 2-3 hours in the gym. Depending on how much time I have I do 8-10 rounds of boxing, 3 rounds of speed ball/double end bag, 1-2 sets of 3 rounds of circuit, weight training and ab/core workout. Sometimes the program laid out for me is so hard, I give up, but I always enjoy the challenge and it's amazing. 
  • Results are fast. I gained a lot of weight in 2015. Inactivity is my biggest enemy, not food because you cannot blame the food, and I was such a lazy ass in 2015. Come January 2016, I told myself: "Crickette get your butt back to the gym" and I've already lost weight. I haven't been back to my target weight, but I'll get there. If I eat healthy food, maybe I'd be fit now, but sorry... I really can't. I've also gotten stronger. In the beginning I was weak, especially with weight training, but I can manage it better now. I expect to get better as I continue, but I'm taking things one day at a time. 
Boxing is fun. I've heard a lot of good things about it from people before, but I only heeded its call this year. I am glad I did. I still miss the gym and I miss dancing. Maybe sometimes I'll enroll in small dance classes, but for now I'm happy in my small gym and my PINK boxing gloves. 

Oh, I love it. It's so me!