Capturing the "King of the Road" on cam

I have gone home to Manila four times now since I left in 2000 to make my life here in New York with Alan.  The first was in December 2002, May 2006, May 2008 and just a few weeks ago.  (May 2009).  It was an unplanned visit, true, and one heavy with emotion.  While we found cause to celebrate Nikky’s birthday (again), it was low key and very simple.  I had very few opportunities to meet up with friends, since I spent most of my free time by Dad’s bedside in the hospital.  I personally took care of him, relieving the evening caregiver, and going home to try and get some rest — day in and day out.

Rest was mostly trying to catch up with work here in New York.  As I told my boss when I hopped on the plane taking me home, work actually helped me to keep my inner balance through this very difficult time.

I had my trusty camera with me as always.  Everywhere I went.  I snapped up some pictures of Dad as he lay in bed in the hospital and finally sitting up in bed in his home on my last day there.  I didn’t take quite as many pictures of the family, though, but I did train my lens on something I have been long wanting to do from my second homecoming onwards — to take action shots of the so-called “King of the Road”: the Philippine Jeepney.

There was the problem of lugging a camera like mine around Manila’s streets, but somehow I  managed. In a sense, the SLR-like features made it natural bait for the snatchers, but its smaller than your usual SLR size made it easy for me to wrap it’s strap around one arm and cradle the body snugly in another hand. Many of my shots were taken inside vehicles with muddy windows — but I discovered that proper lighting or the proper focus and minimal manipulation to alter the contrast a little provided a good fix.  I even used my Blackberry camera to take a few shots that turned out rather well.  On my first of two Fridays there, my brother Abril and I went to the Shrine of Jesus the Nazarene in Quiapo and I found myself snapping away right where the jeepneys loaded and unloaded their passengers in front of the church.

I found myself immersed in such street scenes throughout my two and a half week stay in Manila.  There was so much more in the ordinary that beckoned to me.  While most of the denizens of Manila view the jeepneys as a source of pollution, I dare you to view the intricate and oftentimes artistic designs adorning these everyday vehicles that rule the roads of the metropolis.   What is ordinary to you is an extraordinary and truly “Pinoy” scene to me that I have been yearning to capture on pictures for quite a while now.  At a time when I couldn’t train my lens on people, I found myself aiming them on moving objects outside my window.

It was a challenge trying to anticipate the movement of my vehicle against the speeding jeepney in the next lane, and timing the delay between my finger hitting the button and the shutter opening to capture the picture.  Again, it was a numbers game.  While I deleted a ton of useless half and non-shots — I smiled at the treasure trove of photos I ended up with.  Very random shots, but precious shots of something truly Filipino to this New Yorker.  My blog header has seen various iterations displaying bits and pieces of my snapshots in 950×216 pixel format.  I have quite a few to work through.  Some I have already uploaded to my Flickr account. 

Perhaps this is the reason I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t even get to step into any coffee shop, restaurant or mall in Makati.  Or that I have yet to visit the elusive Trinoma which I passed briefly on the way home from Manaoag with Mom as our bus headed towards its terminal over at New York St. in Cubao.  Shopping was definitely not on my agenda — so I don’t have any buyer’s remorse or shop-til-you-drop stories to share.  I have my snapshots of the King — and interspersed between them are your everyday street scenes.  I have to go through them and weed out those that are beyond fixing and tuck them into my recycle bin. I am still deep into catching up and it will have to wait another day.

My brother, Abril, asked me what I was taking pictures of as he drove me through Avenida or Carriedo as it is now known.  I told him there is so much color out there that we can capture.  I won’t pretend to claim it’s art.  It’s just the shutterbug in me trying to put my world inside a frame to capture a thought or a feeling passing through my head.  As I often say, sometimes, I just get lucky — I capture a picture that makes me smile.  I needed that so badly that time I was there — and I got it from the King of the Road many times over.

The Kapamilya saga continues

So I finally got a response from one of the managers at ABS-CBN Interactive and got a promise of a license at around midnight last night.  It’s past noon today and of course I haven’t gotten the promised new license so I can continue viewing my shows.  I’m thinking the whole process will be triggered in Manila which means I have no hope of viewing my shows until closer to midnight tonight.  That’s a whole weekend blown away when I could’ve easily gone through a dozen episodes of any given show.

No sense crying over spilt milk. 

Monday is a holiday for me but I’m looking forward to spending the day with Angel and two of his cousins at the American Museum of Natural History

The snow that was forecast seems to have decided to go somewhere else.  I’m thankful for the sunshine despite the very cold temperatures.  At least you get the illusion of heat as you see the sun up so brightly.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed I will finally get the license issued so I can start watching those shows again.. I just feel tired after all the energy and emotion it took. I  was already drafting an e-mail to the head of ABS CBN Global and their Customer Relations and Fulfillment officer.  This whole experience just reaks of poor customer service which doesn’t bode well for a company which capitalizes on making it’s audience and customers “part of the family”. 

Kapamilya DAW Part II

It’s been more than 24 hours since I effectively lost access to my ABS CBN Now Premium Account.  This despite the fact that their autorenewal charged my account for the subscription amount last January 15, posting on the 17th.  I feel like I was cheated out of that money, and worse, even if they reinstate my account, I might have to beg for the change of my calendar month as I have already lost out on a day.  What’s worse, it was a weekend when I had so much time to devote to catching up on my favorite shows.

My requests and pleas have fallen on deaf ears.  Then I reminded myself why am I begging when I have every right to demand that the service they promised in return for my payment because I have already parted with my subscription fee.  I am more upset about the frustration of not being able to watch my show more than the nonchallance that their technical support team has demonstrated towards my complaint.  It’s like I’m being forced to renew my subscription when the truth of the matter is that I’ve paid.

And it’s like talking to a blank wall.  You don’t see any name attached to the e-mails asking you questions you had answered three or four e-mails back.  One time I asked for the name of a supervisor, no one had the guts to cough up a name I could actually address.  Talk about making one feel like family.. imagine if I were not a paying customer?  I would be lucky to receive a response.

"Kapamilya" DAW

It’s Martin Luther King Day on Monday and we’re off..  I welcome any and all holidays that give me an excuse to stay home.  It would’ve been doubly welcome had it not been for the fact that Alan is leaving on another business trip to Europe. I wish I could go with him, but it’s not as easy now that Angelo has to tag along (too expensive for a weekend trip!) and it wasn’t like before when I could leave him my Mom.  So I’m staying put.  I’m just going to use the next week and a half to do some organizing, redecorating, and just plain enjoying the time to bond with my little tyke.

I’m tired and exhausted because I’m dealing with ABS-CBN Interactive because of a glitch where they charged me for a subscription to download and view their shows, but somehow the payment did not reflect in their system.  So my subscription was cut just a few hours ago.. and to think I was just busy downloading episodes of the shows I watch up to 2pm earlier. 

Too long a story and mainit na ang ulo ko.  I tried approaching a former classmate who was kind enough to refer me to the head of the department in charge, and I still didn’t get anywhere.  Why would I insist on my privileges being restored for a measly $12.95 if I didn’t already pay that?  I just want to watch my shows.. I have been trading e-mails with them since 8pm and it’s almost midnight. 

It’s sad that the Kapuso network doesn’t offer the same service.  Since ABS-CBN enjoys a monopoly, those of us who have no other choice have to stick with them and sate our hunger for a taste of how things are back home despite the poor service.  I can’t do the cable subscription because I live in a Co-op and we are not allowed to put up dishes outside.  I just want to watch my shows!

If they don’t restore my license, even if the shows are on my hard drive, I cannot view them because they are “locked”.  Instead of going through some of the shows in the past 4 hours, I have had to deal with chicken and egg arguments about this whole situation.  Eh kung binabalik ba nila yung license ko, saka na sila magtalo-talo kung ano ang nangyari, tapos na ang hinagpis ko.  Instead, they want me to renew a subscription I’ve already renewed by that payment charged against my account… they want to get more information that I don’t have…

I feel like I am being taken advantage of.  That license is good for a specified period of time, and while I’d love to use every minute of it, I can only do so when I take a break, when the boys are sleeping, and after I go through the hassle of downloading the shows.  So now that I lost out on 4 hours of time I could’ve been viewing something, I have no way of getting those 4 hours back.

Hay, buhay!

Wishing Jan Kurt Nieto the best of luck!

Thanks to YouTube, I can watch clips of Philippine Idol online.  Unfortunately, I cannot vote.  I am aggressively campaigning for Jan and hope that the people I’ve written to vote for him.  I read that Mr. C (Ryan Cayabyab) was critical of his performance when he sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — so I’m keeping my fingers crossed he performs better this coming weekend.

While the audience chooses who gets to stay and indirectly, who gets eliminated, our experience here with American Idol is that the audiences actually pay attention to what the judges say, even if Simon Cowell keeps getting booed when he starts bearing down on the contestants.  I know Mr. C is no Simon Cowell, but I’m hoping, too, that Jan will be like Fantasia Barino who had her bad days but who ended up winning over the favorite, Latoya London.  Personally, I thought Latoya was a much better singer by leaps and bounds, but Fantasia had the personality to go with the voice.

As I told Lani in response to her comment below on my original post about My Philippine Idol: Jan Kurt Nieto, all of them are already stars in their own right.  To have bested the thousands who auditioned for this competition and landed where they are speaks of real talent. 

While we sit and judge the contestants performing in front of a live audience and knowing the rest of the country is tuned in ready to cast theri votes, these individuals are actually performing in the worst of circumstances — so if they actually don’t hit their notes and sound flat, if they lose their bearings and you hear them go off-key, then put yourself in their shoes and you might become more forgiving.

As I said, they’re getting there.. a song at a time.  Good luck, Jan!

Iba pa rin ang Goldilocks

Alan’s first assignment when he goes to their hotel in San Francisco is to make time for a trip to the nearest Goldilocks (which isn’t near at all).  I don’t make him buy a ton because I hate refrigerating the goodies and reheating them later because it’s never quite the same after 4 days.  (Not like the Muhlach ensaymada or the MegaMelt ensaymada which I can store in the fridge for up to two weeks.)  He brought home some ensaymadas, mamon, a mocha roll and macapuno tarts.  I told him to forego the pastillas which isn’t quite the same as the ones they serve up in Manila, and it was wishful thinking hoping he’d see some cheese tarts there.  =(

So I’m happy.  While we have our bakeshops here which produce pretty good ensaymada, it’s not quite the same.  I had my fill during my visit this summer back home — even venturing into their branch in SM Baguio to grab a snack when Nikky and I stopped by there.  One of the things I just can’t get over with — goodies like Goldilocks are just in a league of their own.

A Pinoy is a Pinoy, wherever he may be

It seems to me the best surprises here on my blog happen in the later part of my afternoon.  Yesterday, one of the first few people who strayed into my space and who took the effort to leave a comment stopped by after a long absence.  Thanks for stopping by, Darryl. 

Darryl was born in Manila but raised and educated here in the United States.  He came home to Manila recently after a previous visit 15 years ago, and he credits my own homecoming as an influence in his decision to make that trip, and he took his 10-year-old daughter with him, too.  I am honored.  Every trip to Manila is an emotional journey for me, more so because everything that makes up my life before Alan and Angel is there.  In most respects, I still consider Manila my home. 

And Darryl is right in saying how wonderful it feels to be with your own people.  For all the negative things happening in the country and the criticisms hurled against us as a people, there is a different kind of warmth and sense of home that blurs the lines and makes you feel like one with the rest of the Filipinos when you are actually on your home turf.

It is always nice to know that the people who stray into the blog do so because of their Pinoy roots.  I made a conscious effort to identify myself as Filipino from the very start, even naming my other blogs distinctly ”Pinoy” because I want to be identified as one.

Being Pinoy is not a matter of birthright, it’s a matter of identity of one’s choosing.  I know of Americans who consider themselves Pinoy even if they are clearly Caucasian.  I know of others who, like Darryl, no longer have personal histories with their country of origin, but who still identify themselves as Pinoy.  There are even those who were raised and born here who can speak the language as if they moved here just 10 years ago.  I see teeners riding the bus, speaking with a twang, answering in English to their Mom’s Tagalog, wearing Filipino identity symbols like a bead flag around their neck, or a sticker or patch on their knapsack.  They proudly proclaim their heritage even if you know that they are growing up as Americans.

While the color of your skin or your facial features may betray your being Filipino, I still say being a Filipino is a matter of choice for those of us here in the US.  There are those who have clearly shied away.  But that’s their choice.  This is mine.

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Lily's Peanut Butter Forever!

Alan went out with some friends last night and didn’t come home til very late, so he’s in the room snoozing, trying to catch up with sleep.  I managed to put Angel to bed to take his afternoon nap just a few minutes ago.  We haven’t had lunch (except Angel).. I decided to have a light snack of potato bread with Lily’s Peanut Butter.  While it is readily available from the Filipino stores here, I brought 2 containers of Lily’s Peanut butter from the last trip home, and I will take Lily’s over Jif, Skippy’s or any other brand here in the US, anytime!

I’m already on my second container because the first went the last time my mother-in-law cooked Kare-kare.  It’s one of my favorite comfort foods to have — gives you that warm feeling inside, brings back memories of childhood meriendas and school baon, and satisfies my sweet tooth.