Daet, Camarines Norte

As I’ve mentioned before, Daet is a small town. When I was there, I was mentally comparing it to the UP Diliman campus. Main reason being, we had a tendency to walk everywhere we went. Just like in UP, everything was literally within “walking distance” – the beach, the church, the cemetary, etc. So in my mind, the UP Diliman campus and Daet, Camarines Norte occupy roughly the same area, even though technically, one is a university campus and the other a full-sized town. (On a tangent, the transportation within Daet is strictly limited to tricycles only, which would imply it being logically smaller than UPD, which has jeepneys.)

So, anyway, there was a lot of walking going on. We walked everywhere. Ocassionally, I would get to walk with my father. My dad, he’s basically a nice guy. It’s always nice to see that while we’re walking around town, he has to stop and chat with somebody in every other store. Daet has lots of these little stores, side-by-side in the residential areas: hardware stores, bakeries, general merchandise, etc. And my dad seems to know someone and has to exchange tales of how things have been going, hey-have-you-met-my-son-can-you-find-him-a-girlfriend, that sort of thing.

Now, maybe this sort of thing isn’t that irregular, why do I bother talking about it? After all, my father grew up in this town, it’s to be expected that he knows people all over the place, right? Not to me. I mean, growing up I knew a small part of Quezon City, but I was never that chummy with that many people. I guess it’s just a small town thing that never fails to amaze me: Everybody seems to know everybody else.

Another thing about my dad that occasionally surprises me: he’s a story-teller. Like I said, whenever he meets one of these everyday people-on-the-street types, he spends a few minutes chatting with them. Those few minutes are invariably filled with some short story (only occasionally mildly exaggerated) about how his sons have jobs now, how things were when he worked overseas, what happened to his long-lost cousins, etc. When I watch him talking like this to long-lost friends and the occasional relative-whose-name-I-should-probably remember, I am quite a bit envious. I want to be like that, I want to be able to spout out interesting anecdotes on demand, I want to be able to grab people’s attentions with my words.

Unfortunately, unlike my dad, I don’t have much life experience to speak about. I haven’t been to that many places, haven’t done that many interesting things. I guess I really need to get out more…

Posting From the Boondocks

Well, not really, seeing as how there aren’t really any mountains anywhere near here. I’m in Daet, Camarines Norte, if that means anything to you. It’s great to be back here — apparently the last time I was here was in 1996.

Some things have changed, but mostly things are still the same. There’s some sort of minimall now, and a Shakey’s, and a Jollibee. 😛 And there’s internet! I’m posting right now from a dingy internet cafe near my grandmother’s house. The mouse is horrible, and I had to put up with using IE for a while. I got fed up quickly though, and just went ahead and downloaded and installed Firefox on two of their machines. Hehe, I’ll leave them open when I leave, hopefully I can convert someone. 😀

I’m actually here out of necessity – work necessity that is. I forgot to pass a couple of fspecs before I had to run for the bus yesterday, so I whipped up some quick specs here and sent em over to China. That’s the beauty of the internet age, I guess. I can pick up my work whenever I want, and be working with people from 3 different countries while waking up late in some desolate corner of a third-world country. 😀

I like it here in Daet, despite the lack of some modern conveniences. (The toilet here does not flush…I have to get a bucket of water and flush stuff myself.) Ironically, I was just lying around sleeping and reading the Cryptonomicon the whole morning. Ironic, because when I was a kid, I seem to recall that I didn’t particularly like coming here, ‘coz I’d be all bored out of my wits. This time though, I actually did come here to bum around. 😀

Getting Away From It All

I need to escape from this madness, this constant flow of unfinished tasks. I am leaving for the land of my ancestors, returning to my roots, seeking the tranquility that has eluded me these weeks past. For seven long years have I not ventured there, and yet now I find myself seeking its warm comforts. What will I find when I return to those shores? Will it be the same simple, quite town I once knew? Or has it changed and grown, to become a bustling metropolis? Will this short rest bring me answers, to the questions that plague my heart and mind?

(I’m going to Bicol for a few days. Cheers.)

So I Went to HK…

As I’ve mentioned before, I was sent to HK a couple of weeks back, for the rollout of a project I’ve been involved with for about a year and a half. I’m not sure if it’s right for me to be talking about the project here, so I won’t delve into any specifics. I will however, bore you all with stories from my first trip anywhere remotely far from home.

First, the plane trip. Economy class (excuse me, fiesta class) on a PAL Airbus from NAIA2 to HK International on Thursday night. Food was okay, I’ve had worse, not really enough to turn me off airline food. The PAL flight attendants, as I later discussed with a male coworker, were quite not-young and, well, not-hot. Heh, probably unfair but you get a certain expectation from media, you know? The flight was short (less than two hours) and uneventful, no dizziness or pukathons for me, thanks, unlike when I take the eight-hour bus ride to Bicol. This may seem boring to seasoned fliers, but I liked that little map that told me at what location we were currently flying over. Neat!

As an engineering type, I also took notice of the plane itself. Is it normal that airplanes routinely jiggle and vibrate as the plane taxis? I understand that it’s unavoidable as things like cars and trains do the same; but shouldn’t things be a bit tighter on a plane? Still, didn’t really bother me.

Upon landing, I got a glimpse of HK International Airport. I had heard it was huge, but didn’t get to look around much as I was greeted at the boarding gate by two of the HK staff. Nice people, one of them bought me dinner at McDonald’s although I told them I had already had the airline food. Afterwards, they took mo to The Peak, apparently a famous spot for tourists in Hong Kong. It’s a mall-type thing on top of a rather high mountain. From the observation deck, you could see most of Hong Kong. From there I could see that Hong Kong was a very urbanized area, a lot more than Metro Manila.

After spending some time there, they drive me to the Staff Quarters near the HK office, where one of our RP staff has been staying for a month. The RP guy greets me, shows me upstairs, shows me the ropes, and I get some sleep.

The office building is right next to the block where the staff quarters was, barely a five-minute walk. I spent most of my time in HK between the office and the staff quarters. Truth be told, the trip wasn’t really very exciting, as there was a lot of work to be done and not much time to goof around. I’ll just note some things particularly interesting about being in a foreign country:

People speaking in an unintelligible language all the time. Probably the biggest hurdle to anything, it took surprisingly little getting used to the fact that I couldn’t communicate perfectly with anyone, and with some people, not at all. On some occasions, I had to buy food or drinks through pointing and using hand signs to find out how much stuff was. When walking on the street, I’d turn my head whenever I hear someone speaking English, because it was quite unusual. Also, when dining out with the HK staff, I’d have to rely on them to order for me, since I can’t read the menus. Which brings me to…

Foreign food. Anyone who knows me knows I’m quite a picky eater. I don’t take to new foods very easily. But it’s hard to refuse when you’re a guest, so I got to taste more new stuff in my five and a half days in HK than I have for maybe the past three years. It’s ok, I don’t mind, even the veggies. The biggest problem was the fact that I have no idea how to use chopsticks, and almost every meal needs the use of chopsticks. At one point, I had to badger my co-RP staff to help me get food using the serving chopsticks. While I was there, I had some Taiwanese, Thai food, and of course, Chinese. Lots of Chinese. Oh, and an interesting side note: apparently foreign McDonald’s have no McSpaghetti.

Religious issues. I was unable to hear Mass on Sunday. We had to work most of the day, but I got off around 4PM. I asked one of the HK guys for directions to a Church (we were in Kowloon, I believe), but when I explained that I was Catholic, he didn’t know what the term meant. (This is of course ridiculous to a Filipino; everbody knows what a Katoliko is!) After saying that my faith is similar to another RP staff who he had also met before, he gave me some instructions on where to find a Church. I walked around a bit, following his directions. Which eventually lead me to a Mosque. Ooookay. So I walked around some more (quite a bit actually, went up and down the same road couple of times), I found a place called “St Andrews Church”, I guessed this was the place he was talking about. I walked in and asked around, found out they had a Mass around 6PM. So I waited for a bit. Around 5:45 I picked up a flier and noticed that it was in fact an Anglican Church (Is it a Protestant thing? Or something else? I’m not entirely sure), and I it’s not the same so I went out looking again. I saw another Church, this time it was Lutheran. Around 6:30PM, I gave up, bought some dinner at McDonald’s and took a taxi home. The next day one of the HK staff who said he was Christian told me there was a Catholic Church beside the Mosque…apparently it was a small one so I failed to notice it. From our discussion, I think there’s quite a distinction here between “Christians” and “Catholics”; which is weird since I’m fairly sure Catholics are Christian. Anyway, I was wondering why it was so hard to find a Church in a place where…

There are so many Filipinos. You can see ’em everywhere, as you walk along the main streets. Mostly tourists and domestic helpers, I believe. I could hear Tagalog being spoken on the street more often than English. Of course, maybe I should’ve asked one of them where I could go to Church…

Taxis are discplined. This is of course, shocking to any Filipino! A sticker on the inside of every taxi tells you the rules: They can’t turn down fares, they have to issue a receipt when asked, they must follow seatbelt laws, etc. Every taxi is equipped with a receipt machine, and every one of ’em is bright red so they’re easy to spot. Overall, while I still experienced traffic jams over there, their traffic situation is still hella lot better than ours.

What else can I say? As I said, I didn’t have much free time. They were kind enough to give me half the day off on Tuesday afternoon (my flight home was Tuesday evening), and they recommended some places I could go visit. So I went to Quarry Bay, about 2 MTR stations away from the office. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, though, so I ended up mostly wandering aimlessly, not buying anything ‘cept for some food and drinks. I actually managed to walk all the way back to the office, and just decided to buy some chocolates from a supermarket to bring home.

On the flight home, PAL switched me to a much smaller plane, which sucked. 🙁 I got to see more of HK Airport, and let me say…it’s frickin’ huge. I told the guys who brought me to the airport that NAIA2 is like a fourth of HK airport, but now I think it’s more like a sixth. I’m told they even have some sort of moving platform thing for people whose gates are so frickin’ far. It took 30 minutes for our plane to taxi, that should say something.

Anyway, got home around 11:30, bought some more goodies at the duty-free shop. Took a taxi home, arrived safe and sound. Told stories for an hour or so, then … zzzzzz.

Roy goes to HK

Yup. This week, for the first time ever, I’m leaving the country, and flying down to HK to provide support for the rollout of the project I’ve been with for the past year and a half. First time to leave the country, and I’m gonna be flying alone to a country where people speak a language I can recognize but not understand. I’m understandably a bit freaked out; who wouldn’t be, right? But everything will be fine, I guess.