Friday, January 30, 2009

Inspiring Confidence?

Or confidence builder?

Last June, I wrote about a quirky situation right in our own subdivision. What might be called a bit of irony?

Another one appears a likely candidate. Rack this one up as another possible entrant in our Ironies circular file, if ever we will have one.

Pictured below is the humble structure of our subdivision’s homeowners association. It serves both as office, storage house, and then some. Like some spaces being rented out to enterprising homeowners selling refreshments and knick-knacks. It is quietly and unobtrusively nestled under the now wooded park, tucked neatly in one of its corners. It appears cozy, comfortable, and safe.
Now in our subdivision a pivotal if not the primary concern of the association is security – keeping residents safe, streets lighted properly, and so forth. Security guards are stationed in the active gates 24-7, or until they are closed. There are I believe three of these, and possibly two more that have been rendered unusable for vehicular traffic. One has been fenced off with a high hollow block fence and the other with a barbed wire fence in disrepair and no bridge over the gaping drainage canal of the national highway.

And indeed the association does a pretty decent job in providing security guards. Though more could be done in regulating access and egress of outsiders and their vehicles. And overall lighting needs critical upgrades.

But what gets the goat is this situation.

An office secured like a prison or a fortress? Four locking devices are visible from outside – two padlocks, a door knob, and a padlocked heavy duty deadbolt. And of course, the windows framed with heavy metal grilles.

And this is the office or clubhouse? Pray tell what valuables may be kept in there. Residents' information? Collectibles? Some table and filing cabinets?

Now does this inspire confidence among the residents that they are indeed kept safe by their sentinels? The sentinels themselves appear leery or fearful about security within the premises? or maybe simply overprotective?

Alien Alert

Lately I have been receiving electronically strange pictures with cryptic messages seeming to originate from some alien who appears to be coming from beyond our galaxy, the Milky Way.

He, she, or it appears to be using a very powerful telescope or ultra-magnifying instrument that can cut through all the miasma of interminable space and zero in on details of the earth’s surface or sub-surface, like active ugly fissures underneath our thin crust or smoldering magma flexing to burst out.

And from his lofty perch beyond our little microcosm he appears to be highly evolved and in use of technology that we can only dream about.

This morning though as I was jogging around our little park for my regular constitutional I chanced upon certain portions of the concrete road that defines the park’s boundaries and noticed certain familiarities. Like the typical concrete joints and cracks, signs of an aging roadway traversed by man and his vehicles and showing the deleterious effects of nature’s erosion on a man-made structure.

Quite a role reversal. Instead of obtrusive man trampling upon and violating the pristine offerings of nature, it is now nature acting upon the structures that man has superimposed on its works.

Anyway, it appears our overly solicitous alien with his and his instrument’s overarching capabilities focused too minutely or microscopically as to miss the forest for the trees as they say. And worse, he or his instrument may have been playing tricks on the colors of the pictures taken. Like inverting the colors?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

For A Change: Government Works!

In the old homeland, bureaucratic red tape is the norm, siring corruption in its many manifestations as its runaway stepchild. The truism is that nothing works right in government. If one wants something done requiring government participation or intervention the usual route is to “bribe” the first government bureaucrat on sight to get results that would approximate anything decently passable. And this red tape cascades from top level responsibilities of government institutions down to such petty stuff as registering your business, filing tax returns or pay fees, or yes, getting a driver’s license.

But not anymore. At least for the last process mentioned above – getting a driver’s license.

I had heard mentioned before by friends the unbelievable wonders that had transpired in the usually tedious and corruption-wracked processes involved with the land transportation agency, from securing driver’s licenses to registration of motor vehicles. As a young kid dealing with this agency, then called the MVO (Motor Vehicles Office) to get my first license, I had my first learning exposure to the petty corruption associated with certain government agencies. It was my first brush with this ugly monster that is now an acceptable reality in the country, from the petty to the huge and sublimely gross. Enough to merit global notice and tag it as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

Any juvenile discussion we had then brought to center attention this derided agency, coupled with the allied corruption exhibited by some policemen who made life miserable for some of us kids honing our driving skills on the comparatively empty streets of our little town.

Thus, it was with almost unbelievable glee and surprise when this time around as a returning compatriot, I found myself going through the process of securing a local license for my extended stays, and being treated with such unexpected dispatch and ease. Almost like I had gone to heaven to do an earthly chore.

First, a little background explanation for the kind of procedure that I had to go through in “re-newing” a local license that had expired almost 30 years ago. I had initially thought that all it needed was to present the old license, get lectured for my neglect in its timely renewal, pay a fine, and then the typical long wait for the renewed license. Quite simple though maybe drawn-out time-wise. But I thought wrong.

This time the agency (now called LTO – Land Transportation Office) has a very accessible sub-office right within the most popular mall in the city. So one’s weekday leisurely visits to the mall can now also involve going to that office and asking questions about driver’s licenses.

After explaining my most unique situation, I was told in no mean terms that no, I could not renew the old license since it has been over 10 years ago that it expired. That I would have to go through the whole process of securing a license, much like the young greenhorn I was when I first secured my license, going through the layered process of first securing a student’s permit. That sunk me deeply inside. Imagine going through the whole excruciating process – studying, taking an oral exam, actual driving test, etc. Once in a lifetime should be more than enough for such torture.

But a ray of blissful light. Unless, I had a valid foreign license. Voila! And that I had, a US California license that was not expiring till the end of this new year. This would involve a conversion of the foreign license into a local license.

And this would require the following documentation to be submitted. Not really, just Xeroxed copies of the originals. My foreign license, my foreign passport and the page where the latest port of entry stamp is found. But first I had to pass must-have drug and medical tests. And by the way, a one-stop shop sits next to this sub-office where urine can be tested on site and a resident doctor can provide for instant cursory medical examination. In less than 30 minutes, I was out of there beaming, with a negative drug test and a clean bill of health certification in my possession. It helped that I am in good shape (ahem!) and I do not take narcotics other than those present in prescribed medication.

The following day armed with all the other requirements (Xeroxed copies) I was on my way to the main office located in the western edge of the city, promptly at 8am, the appointed hour I was told that government offices open for business. I was wrong a second time.

Some government employees use a good part of that first hour bantering with fellow employees, or for the ladies making their faces up, or for latecomers buffer time to arrive for work. Anyway my cynical self had planned for a long waiting period.

Surprise of surprises, I was out of there with my spanking new license in less than an hour, of course, counting from the time the first window opened. Aside from the documents submitted and the fees paid, no further questions were required or asked. And was poorer only by 1500 pesos for the entire experience.

Kudos to the new expeditious processing at LTO!

A couple of minor dampers really.

Plastered and writ large among the many notices on the walls of the agency was the bold warning that clients should not engage the services of fixers in conducting their business. But lo and behold, a young diminutive person (wearing some plastic employee badge dangling in his neck) and clearly from his speech a member of our favorite local minority glared at me upon my arrival close to one of the unattended windows and with a hand motion asked for the documents I was going to submit. Looked at them, hesitated, and then in a low voice away from the earshot of the slowly gathering crowd asked if I needed to have this expedited. Sensing a con, I parried with the innocuous statement that I needed anyway to speak to the lady at the window about something else. That ended the episode and as I curiously peered at the moving figure, I noticed that he had moved on to another part of the compound, closer to the gate and parking lot. Maybe, looking for another kill?

The other one, even more minor. I would have been issued the permanent plastic laminated license, except that their machine broke and I will have to contend with holding on to a temporary license good for six months until the machine is repaired.

Oh well, one cannot really expect everything to go smoothly. The facility and speed in the issuance of the license was miracle enough.

And I count my blessings as they come my way.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Palin Finally Takes on Media

In a very dispassionate way, though at least one time showing some uninvited emotion, erstwhile GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin answers some of media's blistering take-downs of her, her family, her administration, and her entire candidacy.

I say she speaks very eloquently in a very disarmingly simple and unaffected way.

God bless you, Sarah!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pastry Bliss

Enjoy a bit of local pastry bliss, albeit deceptively fattening and cholesterol-laden.

For for a pittance ranging from three pesos to ten pesos a piece/slice, one can savor the guilty pleasures of snacking with delicious pastries.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Nature Strikes Back

A local eco-system long ignored and grossly violated reacted quickly and without notice. Unleashing flashfloods fueled by torrential rains, and as some feared coupled with the deadly effects of a waterspout crashing into denuded mountainous areas close to the city.

The usually lazy river traversing through the city becomes a roaring and rushing blur of dirty brown water, curdling and ripping through everything standing on its way and angrily catapulting flailing catches into the sea.

And the hapless human victims are those who live close to its banks, including those squatting on government lands technically part of the riverbanks. And worse for those who had allocated for themselves the underside of bridges and anywhere close to them that provided shelter and privacy. These areas for the meantime are no more, but merely annexed parts of an overgrown river.

The rustic scenes pictorialized in a previous blog entry have turned watery and ugly, with the makeshift structures mostly underwater and their occupants scampering to higher ground with their meager belongings on their backs.

After revisiting the same areas, here are the results of the flooding and the devastation wrought as seen in pictures.