Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Strange Company that PLDT Mob

PLDT the major Telco in the Philippines has been receiving some bad press of late. Over at the Sassy Lawyer’s Journal (see the link on the side bar) the Sassy Lawyer has been having a moan about the slow ASDL speed they are giving her and my web hosting service has been sending out emails stating that the lack of service their PLDT subscribers are experiencing isn’t their fault.

Fortunately I am not a PLDT subscriber, although that was through their efforts rather than mine. When I first arrived here and wanted to upgrade the telephone connection for the house to include an internet connection PLDT was the company I first approached. The existing pre-paid connection was with them and they are the biggest and were conducting a relatively aggressive marketing campaign for their internet services.

They told me that because a previous resident at the compound had skipped off owing them 6000 pesos they couldn’t convert the pre-paid connection into a post paid connection nor connect the internet until the out standing 6000 had been paid. My explanation that I was a new customer with no connection to the previous customer fell on deaf ears.

Left with no alternative, I wasn’t paying somebody else’s 6 grand bill, I went across the road to Globelines. Within a couple of weeks Globe had run a line down the street and we had our post paid telephone and an ADSL connection. The ongoing service has been good and in one instance outstanding. When we requested a new modem they had a technician on our door step within an hour of making the request.

Whenever I think of PLDT I still shake my head in disbelief. Not only are they still owed the 6000 pesos, which I figure they will never get, but they have missed out on the thirty odd thousand pesos I have shelled out over the last 10 months for my phone and net connections. Go figure?

Now, if I could only get an up to date telephone directory……………….

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kalentong St

This shot was taken from the back of a jeepney a couple of days ago. It is of Kalentong St on the out skirts of Mandaluyong in Metro Manila. For me it is the quintessential look of shopping strips in this city.
The more astute readers will have noticed a change in my pics that have been appearing here on The Expat and on its sister blog pissedpoet pics. The letter box or panoramic style of presentation has me in its thrall at the moment. No doubt this will change but not that I can see in the near future. I trust gentle reader you enjoy viewing this style as much as I enjoy making them.
If you see a pic here that you just can't live without they are available as fine art prints from and can be printed in sizes ranging from 10" on their longest side up to 40" on the longest side. Online ordering details and more information about them are available there.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Come Sit Awhile

I had the opportunity to visit the Diliman campus of The University of the Philippines last Tuesday. Let me state up front, I like universities, especially those with a pretty campus and the Diliman campus is pretty to say the least.

It very much has the feel of a park, a tranquil spot in the Hurley burley that is metro Manila. Although it is more than a park as it has an obvious life of its own. With some 20,000 students coming and going there is constant movement on its leafy streets. But there is also time to sit and think, to enjoy the beauty of ones surroundings.

One can’t help but notice that the layout of this campus has been designed with this in mind. Broad avenues with well developed trees provide shade from the tropical sun along with broad expanses of grassed areas that entice you to sit awhile.

It truly is a place where you can sit and hear yourself think if that is your disposition.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Food, Food, Glorious Food.

The kitchen had a very nice holiday last weekend, apart from breakfasts it was ignored.

On Friday we made a return visit to the Banana Leaf restaurant at the Power Plant Mall. My thoughts about this eatery can be seen in “Off the Banana Leaf” post. We were joined by friends visiting from Oz and in true Aussie fashion had a very enjoyable evening, in fact we were the last to leave. If we had stayed any longer I suspect we would have been locked in over night.

On Saturday the Best Beloveds boss treated the staff to lunch and your humble scribe was invited to tag along. Dampa Sa Libis is a fish market with a restaurant attached or a restaurant with a fish market attached, take your pick. Needless to say, you eye ball your meal in its natural state which is then whisked away to the kitchen. A short time later it appears on the table dressed up by the chef to tempt the taste buds.

Being more of a turf than a surf man I am not in a position to judge the quality. But, watching the gusto with which my companions attacked the crabs, prawns, fish and octopi it was obvious, even to my untrained eye, that there was very little to complain about the chef’s skill. I had a simple fish steak which although a tad dry was quite enjoyable and my companions were correct, it did taste a bit like chicken.

Sunday was the 9th day after the passing of my Best Beloved’s uncle and in keeping with tradition a food party was held in the compound. Ate Bebes’ house was the designated venue and a mountain of food was available. Thin noodle pancit, thick noodle palabok, bar be cue pork, pitsi pitsi, puto and cochinta was loaded onto the table and relatives from near and far came in waves during the day and into the evening.

Monday saw a return to a normal state of affairs although resolutions about dieting did seem to be placed high on the agenda.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Filipino Send Off

One of my best beloved’s uncles died last Friday and over the past few days the family has been holding a wake. Up to 4 generations have been gathering at the uncle’s house where he has been lying in state.

His coffin has the place of honour at the front of the compound, but such is the size of the gathering that marquees had been erected in the street outside the house. There family members congregate after paying their respects. Food and soft drinks are regularly dispensed, gossip is exchanged and games of chance are played.

On the evening I attended there were 2 games of poker being played by the adults, albeit for low stakes, and a game of bingo for the kids. Visiting relative’s cars blocked off access to street on either side of the marquees.

There was no animosity from neighbours at this restriction to free access to their homes. In fact, a group of neighbours manned the entrance to the street advising motorists to find an alternative route.

Friday, June 09, 2006

English - It's a Second Language

These thoughts came to me yesterday whilst talking with the doorman at the Globelines Business centre in Makati. I was asking about telephone directories and as he answered my enquiry in English I could see him translating in his head from Tagalog. It is a process I am very familiar with as I take my faltering steps in my adventure with this islands home grown language.

Across the archipelago there a several main indigenous languages and I suspect more dialects than you can poke a stick at. Here on the island of Luzon it is Tagalog, in Cebu it's Cebuano which has more in common with Visayes and the Mindanao region than with Luzon. The official national language is Pilipino, however I have rarely heard it spoken. English is the language of government and the judicial system.

English is also the language of the moneyed elite. As a professor from the University of the Philippines, when arrested by the police for his part in the demonstrations during February’s Sate of Emergency, is reported as reminding himself to speak in English with his captors. The implication being he would receive kinder treatment in their hands if they thought he was well connected and the best way to get that impression across was to avoid Tagalog.

But for the average Filipino, like the Globelines doorman, English is very much a second language. How this plays out in the burgeoning call center industry servicing the US market is an interesting question. Being a phone jockey isn’t the employment that attracts the finest minds.

Until I have learned to think in Tagalong my mastery of the language will be far from complete and I venture that the opposite is true.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Schools In

Once more across the 700 islands the streets of the baranays are safe once more. Well up till 2 in the afternoon.

Not only is it the start of the rainy season, but last Monday the new school year started. Around 6 am jeepneys and tricycles were awash with girls in their check skits and white blouses and boys in their dark pants and white shirts as these ‘eager” students head for first class of the day.

From 6.40am until 2pm the Philippine education system tries to instill the rudimentary skills of Filipino, English, science, social studies, and mathematics that will enable its charges to pursue a tertiary calling. For anyone who wants a half way decent job here a tertiary education is essential.

From now until April next year, except for a couple of weeks at Christmas and term breaks this will be the week day scenario. Once more the streets will be safe for vehicles, well at least for a few hours a day.

Edit: As Bob from Mindanao pointed out, there are over 7000 islands in the philippines, I stand corrected for that missed typo at the start of this post. BTW you can see his photo blog at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Off the Banana Leaf

Located in the basement restaurant area of the Power Plant Mall, the Banana Leaf is a very popular eatery. With an extensive menu that consists of a selection of Asian dishes from Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

At 7.30ish on a Friday evening, our party of 4 had to wait for 20 minutes for a table to become available. That they are able to seat a table 4 times in an evening would be doing their bottom line no harm at all.

As the name suggests, diners are given, instead of a plate, a square of banana leaf to eat from. Looking akin to a place mat, it took this Kano a couple of minutes to overcome the ingrained reticence to eating off the napery.

The food is served in individual bowls for each dish which we all shared. We started with Thai spring rolls which were of the large variety and very tasty if a little too oily for my taste or perhaps more correctly, my fingers. Perhaps a few more minutes draining after leaving the deep fry would have alleviated the problem.

The Nasi Goreng rice was delightful, so much so that a second serving was ordered, nicely sticky and coloured with saffron with an interesting assortment of additives that made it a pleasure to eat on its own or as an accompaniment for the other dishes. These included a pork Malay curry which had a good kick to it even if the meat was a little on the tough side. The chicken Hong Kong curry was milder but still flavoursome, the beef spare ribs in black bean sauce hit the spot even if a little light on with spare ribs. The highlight of the meal was the fried noodles with pork chop, the chop had been de-boned and sliced into bite size pieces, mixed with the noodles and their assorted flavourings to make a mouth watering treat.

The menu included a wide selection of soft drinks and a couple of the local brews. A wine list is also available with half a dozen whites and 7 reds. Six of the reds are merlots or merlot blends, which is not high on your scribe’s favourites list, and the one Cab Sav was out of stock.

Fortunately a couple of minutes walk away is a Rustan’s supermarket which sports a decent cellar. With corkage at 300 pesos a bottle of 6 year old French Bordeaux from there came in at around the same price as the listed wines and accompanied the meal very nicely.

All in all, it was an enjoyable repast. Good food, good company and good wine, what more can a person ask for?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Getting the Hang of Things

Had the occasion to catch a cab home from the Makati CBD yesterday. I usually ride the jeepneys, they are cheaper and a whole lot more fun. But being loaded down with packages, as I was, the thought of that lot on a crowded jeep was not inspiring.

As I stepped into the cab with my 6 bags of goodies, the lone Kano into the lions den, I swear I saw scenic route flit across the driver’s eyes. Advising the driver that the destination was in the vicinity of the Makati City Hall, which is due north from the CBD, gleaned a nod of recognition and verbal confirmation that JP Rizal was a good street to head for, off we went.

North into the traffic of Makati Ave, this is good I thought. At the second intersection we turned left into a south westerly direction, Ok missing the 24/7 heavy Makati Ave traffic is good. But after a couple more turns to the left the scenic route pesos came to mind.

A gentle reminder to the driver that if we continued in this direction we would end up at the wrong part of JP Rizal drew a mumbled comment about Makati Ave road works, but we did turn east. Shortly there after we started down the Zapote jeepney route from were I was able to direct the driver as to the best route to the house.

That I was able to give the latter directions in Tagalog helped although my first instructions were in English, my Tagalog wasn’t up to that one. Upon arrival at the house the driver’s English didn’t depart to some foreign land where change has never been heard of. He just started pulling it out from his stash, the fare was close to what it should have been and I was a happy camper, I let him keep the change.

He had tried it on, I had turned him round without any loss of face, I was happy and his smile when he drove away indicated he was happy with the extra pesos in his pocket.