Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tracy, CA and Cagayan de Oro, Mis. Or.

We now divide our time of the year between Tracy and Cagayan de Oro. In terms of living conditions, no two places could be as diverse, in my personal opinion. One is in the tropics and the other in a temperate zone. Thus, while Tracy may be heating up at this moment in the low 50’s, registering 80’s in Cagayan de Oro would be quite normal even during this time of the year.

The wife just flew back to Tracy, via San Francisco, and should be arriving any hour soon, while I had just bathed here in Cagayan de Oro after a sweaty jog around our park at past 7 this morning.

We have just recovered in the morning after from the noisy and raucous fireworks that brought the New Year in last night, but the wife will have arrived on the same day she left, New Year’s Eve, after logging in a total flight time of over 15 hours throwing in some waiting periods between flights. Credit that to the still-confusing (to some) datelines one crosses amid-flight.

To highlight a stark contrast, once the wife gets home to Tracy and prepares for bed early if the planned celebration is for the following day, a quick and complete change in attire and sleeping habits will immediately ensue. She will have to bundle up even inside the well-insulated house if the heater has not been turned on. And batten up under blanket and thick covers when getting to bed. Quite a drastic change from what she has gotten used to doing in the over 6 months she spent in Cagayan de Oro, where we are down to our shorts, or even naked from the waist up for me, when we prepare for bed even if the electric fan and air-con both do double duty to make the room comfortable. Only a very flimsy poplin blanket will provide cover should the air-con misfire from its med-cool setting.

But we have done this several times already.

Now to the geography of both places.

Tracy sits as part of the wide and fertile San Joaquin valley that stretches from northern California all the way to the central valleys in the south. It is one of several cities under the San Joaquin County. It was essentially a farming town before creeping housing developments started carving up the huge flatlands to perimeter-fenced housing tracts accommodating new residents spilling out from the crowded parts of the Bay Area.

Only the housing bust and global recession have frozen the almost unstoppable urbanization of Tracy. It now boasts of a population of about 80,000.

Our development sits closest to the western boundary of Tracy and from the ramps of Highway 205, which connects with Stockton and the Sacramento areas. The lot cuts are sizeable enough to allow for some miniature gardening in a number of streets. Thus, we have been able to plant some fruit trees and some flowering shrubs.

And one of our choicest advantages is that we can access the fabled Baghdad By The Bay, San Francisco, easily and within an hour going west.

On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro sits at the northern coast of the big island of Mindanao, land of promise and questionable security issues, in some parts of it anyway. No doubt from its vantage view, it is the premier city and is the unquestioned gateway to the rest of the island.

But it has own many redoubtable shortcomings – such as too many people, too many poor people, governments are ineffectual and lazy in serving constituents properly and adequately, its southernmost portions continue to be wracked with violent encounters with rebels and militias, between them and government forces, etc.

The city itself has a population maybe topping a million or a little less. Nobody really knows for sure. Many residents belong to the squatting class, people/families living on shanties built on either government lands or unused private lots, or even on shoulders or sidewalks of streets. It has a teeming population cramped within a relatively small city. Though it still has far-flung barrios, they call them barangays now, considered remote and rustic.

Our old house is inside a subdivision situated less then two kilometers from the heart of the city. One can literally walk from the house to the city’s premier plaza. Built in the 70’s, this squat one-storey and timber-frame building still reveals after some cosmetic work the cruel ravages of nature’s harsh tropical elements – like humidity, termites, and the blistering sun, etc. Now it has more concrete components than when it was first built – used to replace wooden panels, joists, and posts obliterated by fast-working and hardly detectable termites.

But we call it home, the first home that sheltered our emerging family then. And we also call our Tracy house home because it is in the place where we spent decades watching the kids grow and the grandkids added to the growing extended family.

This is called living bi-coastally. I think.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pigs Weren’t Flying!

Neither were these pigs issues of super-sized sows.

They materialized from a measured mixture of flour, sugar, water, yeast, eggs, etc. crafted to look like their real versions.

Pretty soon they will all look the same, the whitened ones following after the seared-brown ones after their little trip to the white-heat ovens.

For these, the taste will be like any bread one picks from one’s breakfast table. But they could be customized to the taste preferences of prospective consumers. With cheese fillings or ground meaty chicarones mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Or whatever one fancies.

Update: (01/01/10)

Over the few days leading to New Year’s Eve, we baked over 200 of these and they are all gone. One got as far as Manila, but could have ended in San Francisco.

Hello, PETA disciples, wouldn’t this be great for your cause? A way to curb the “slaughter” of these dear animals. Much like the Internet curbing the dead-tree media’s unnecessary use of a natural resource.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Loaves To Feed A Thousand

A local church aspires to feed loaves to a thousand children.

Miracles not necessarily required. Simply order and overnight, a thousand loaves are ready for delivery.

Note: The video traces visually the route that we take each day to get from the house to our little business in the old poblacion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All -Time Favorite Song(s)

For a change of mood, something quite light and fluffy.

Without question it would have to be for me an Elvis Presley creation, any which song recorded prior to the 60’s. For a man whose professional life spanned mere 20-some years, he was quite prolific recording about 700 songs. He also performed many songs live during his many concerts, which were subsequently recorded posthumously. Even his many out-takes and informal recordings found their way to commerce and sale success.

But what is being asked is the all-time favorite ONE song (of a male vocalist).

Okay, but I would qualify. For me, it would have to be an all-time favorite song for each of my all-time favorite singers. And I would have several, all coming from the 50’s and 60’s. Among them would be Marty Robbins, John Tillotson, Johnny Horton, Sonny James, Roy Hamilton, Ricky Nelson, Tommy Sands, Jimmy Clanton, and Gene Vincent. And a host of others.

Anyway for Elvis, it would be grudgingly the relatively unknown country song, Poor Boy, performed by Elvis in his first movie, Love Me Tender. I chose it not for its quality, lyrics, or any such musical measurement. I chose it only because as a kid I could not wrench myself away from listening to it every time it was played regardless of the place, time, or occasion. I listened to it maybe until ennui set it. Except it never came. And to this day, I continue to listen to it every time I get the chance. But to be fair, I listen to it with most of the old songs of Elvis, especially those recorded under the classic Sun Sessions.

For Marty Robbins I chose the very soulful song, Streets of Laredo. Marty’s poignant and plaintive voice fitted the song perfectly.

And for Johnny Tillotson, I chose Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On, for the same reason above. His very distinctive voice was just right for this song. And I would add, so would the Everly Bros’ haunting and perfectly blended duet combination.

For Sonny James, easily I chose A World of our Own.

And For Tommy Sands, hands down it is That’s All I Want From You. I searched far and wide for this song, for many years, until I found it at YouTube. In the meantime, in frustration consoled myself listening to the version of Jaye P. Morgan, who sang this song originally.

Same case with Ricky Nelson’s Half Breed. Found it after many tries. No wonder it was difficult to find, it had originally been included as one of a couple of selections in Ricky’s first movie with John Wayne, named Rio Bravo. But was cut from the final version, thus the song never got the promotion it needed. But when I heard it once, I was hooked.

Jimmy Clanton’s seeming hoarse voice was ideal for his rendition of Don’t You Know. He always sang sounding like he had a perpetual cold.

Roy Hamilton’s powerful voice delivered so effortlessly gave me lots of joy and inspiration listening to his You'll Never Walk Alone.

And of course, Gene Vincent with his BeBopALula, a classic on the slap-back echo method used in recording. Sam Phillips of Sun Records used it extensively during his sessions with early Elvis.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Man In The Middle

You see him in this busy intersection, and his similarly dressed partners in most other besieged cross streets in the city.

During most hours of the day, and especially as the traffic thickens during commute periods, he looms fearlessly in the middle of the road literally trying to bring a semblance of order to the otherwise otherworldly traffic mess that characterizes this city’s infrastructures. His arm motions are crisp and snappy as harried vehicles respond and whiz by barely missing him by inches.

He is a member of the unheralded group of traffic enforcers under the umbrella of the local RTA.

His faded green shirt labels his station in life and his weather-beaten features are written history of how difficult and hardy life is in the streets, especially in a torrid cauldron like equatorial Philippines where the hot sun beats mercilessly all day as swirling road dust garnishes one’s exposed features and clothes.

The RTA acronym stands for the city’s Roads and Traffic Administration. And it is to be differentiated from the police force which in tandem provides a visible presence in the chaotic streets. The former as one can readily deduce has a bare-minimum uniform and carries no side-arm, no hat, and so quite laidback and casual in dress and demeanor.

Somehow he gets certain things done. And as nighttime descends, some order is brought back to the streets. And just as quickly he disappears into the night, only to return another day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A River Runs Thru It

In one of its rare moments, old weather-beaten Cagayan River for once is showing this Sunday morning passably pristine waters as it lazily winds through from the ever-moist mountains to the warm welcoming arms of Macajalar Bay. This in spite of a hard but short burst of December rain yesterday afternoon.

For once gone is the now-expected dirty brown water with liberal dose of garbage and debris, which gloomy condition has currently characterized this once navigable waterway.

It is also heartening to see the parched riverbanks ceding to the rush of ample clear water on its journey to the sea. For now gone also is the picture of an angry river bursting with floodwaters gulping down any obstructing objects along its dreaded paths. For now one can conjure anew idyllic thoughts of a river where we in our youth used to spend hot summer afternoons immersed in its cool clear waters, in fun and frolic without a care of the world.

This river truly runs through the city, cutting it into east and west sections. A river richly fed by the waters originating from the generous bosoms of stately Kitanglad ranges in Bukidnon Province.

Like the rich and abundant island of Mindanao, it once held great promises of beauty and prosperity.

From all indications, both have veered far from the promises of their anointed futures, people choosing instead to heap undesirable developments on them pushing them both to the path of loss and disaster.

Can they recover and focus anew on edging toward their anointed futures?

A Way To Feed A Teeming Population

What about a bulk display of neatly stacked meat in a local mall meat market?

Early this weekend morning, we both hied away to a local mall for some grocery shopping. Being the proverbial extra body that just went along for the chore, actually the body that drove the car, I had ample opportunity to simply look around – much like a fly on the wall. And to snap the short attached video.

Before the onslaught of the typical weekend rush of humanity primed for weekend shopping, the wide-awake mall staff members in the meat market were chopping at the bits (pun intended) all ready to serve – with tons of freshly cut meat neatly stacked in their lines of open freezers filled to the brim.

With enough meat to whet the voracious appetite of an entire town! But definitely not the kind of displays one finds in a US grocery chain.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Perfect Line Fitness Gym in Cagayan de Oro

Get sweaty, lose pounds, and win back those curves!

Get down to the gym, at the corner of Velez and Tiano Bros. Sts., opposite Dynasty Court Hotel.

Get acquainted with Cindy Crawford and a trio of California girls. And of course, with your old vivacious selves.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pen Lettering In The Old Times

introduced us to calligraphy, or pen lettering, in our youth. It taught us Gothic, Roman, Old English, Text, Manuscript, together with pens and India ink. And gave us interminable pride in our improved penmanship and classy letter writing.

Today, the company is still at it, marketing the same products that we had learned to love and treasure.

From the personal ancient archive comes this basic lettering book that came with the pens and a supply of India ink, published in the 40’s.

And with the advent of computer technology, pen lettering has been relegated to the dustbin of things discarded or not taught extensively.

Even in our little hometown, movie and business ads are now done mostly in computer-made tarp billboards. Almost gone are the days of hand-painted signs with images.

Holdouts can still be seen around the city practicing their dying art in small, cramped and dilapidated quarters.

Their lights are dimming and pretty soon they will be extinguished.

And my favorite, Old English, will really look older.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Having read through the latest FICCO Newsletter, it can only be inspiring going through the lead article with its articulation of its clear and unmistakable twin messages. That this union can continue to grow only through its membership; and that these continuing hard times require extraordinary measures and efforts from both the organization’s hierarchy and the general membership.

Though implied but not expressly mentioned, one could also take pride in where real strength and stability lie in the organization – in the collective membership where individually, one member on average accounts only for 23,347 pesos in deposit. Meaning therefore that ownership and stakeholding are well distributed among the many members of the union, rather than ensconced in a small elite group accounting for a great majority of the ownership.

Having been a longstanding member through all these many years, one is also heartened by the two graph insets, tracing the growth of membership and total assets. When I left the city in 1980, indeed total membership counted in the single thousand, and assets were mostly in loans and cash in bank. But look at the very big and diverse picture now!

Truly this credit union is where many dispossessed people, people unable to be properly serviced by mainstream financial institutions, can go to seek relief for their many and multifaceted credit needs, rather than to the informal underground institutions which cater and prey on a people weakened by stubborn ignorance and very emaciated economic conditions.

It is an organization that will also aside from providing credit, teach one how to secure and manage debt, and to build a good credit record and history.

But beyond that, it is also the organization where one can truly learn to manage one’s family and business finances – in the areas of saving for the future, saving for business expansion, etc.

In short, it teaches the entire panoply of good and sound personal finance, which is the only basis for hoping and building for a better future, especially in a land filled with asset- and cash-strapped families.

It is therefore quite a damper listening to some current and prospective members recount their initial dealings with FICCO employees where emphasis is placed too much on first building a good credit history to aim for that Class A label. Thus, the recommendation is for members to start borrowing early even before being able to build a good deposit history, so they can become proud Class A members quickly.

Imagine for a moment what kind of a credit union it would be if the driving motive for becoming a member is so one can borrow, typically an amount way beyond what one has put in deposit?

The union would quickly run out of funds to lend, since loanable funds come essentially from members’ deposits.

For a union to continue to prosper there has to be a very delicate balance between those who borrow because they need to, and those who will deposit so they can build for their future and/or in anticipation of some future needs that will be financed or collateralized by their accumulated deposits.

There has to be enough numbers of the second kind, so that the union can continue to have sufficient funds to lend to those truly in need of credit.

In balance therefore, it should be easy to see why both kinds of members are exemplary members, and not that one is rated better than the other. Consider their symbiotic relationship, one cannot live without the other.

In fine, this is the simple and pure logic why financial institutions exist and survive. They pool the community’s savings which in turn will be lent out to those with legitimate needs but lack enough savings to profitably finance them.

All can be member depositors all the time, but not all can be member lenders all the time.

Think about that.