Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Row Row Row Yar Boat

The flight to Cagayan de Oro was more than an hour long. I didn't, however, feel it because I was engrossed watching episode 21 of Desperate Housewives DivX rip in my LifeDrive. By the time the "next week on Desperate Housewives" teaser was on the screen, the pilot was just starting to flash the fasten-seatbelts sign, and the flight attendants were just doing their last round to ensure that all the seatbacks and tray tables were on their upright and stowed positions (ehehehe).

Everything was happening pronto--the descent, the landing, and our deplaning--except for one thing: Ella's luggage took forever to get spat from the plane and into the conveyor belt aka The Goody Carousel. Note to self: never check-in early, as cargoes, apparently, work on the last-in-first-out Accounting principle!

After setting up at the Cagayan office for the next day's seminar, Ella and I "footloosed" to--drumroll please--the mall (LimKetkai, to be exact). As we were really starved (for some reason, we lied to Noel, the branch manager, that we were full), we went on an almost wild-goose chase to find a good Cagayan-unique restaurant in that mall. We settled for dimsums, fresh lumpia and sarsaparilla from Goldilocks. Hehe. And then we went scratching around the mall for great bargains. I got me nothing. I was too busy looking for a frickin' Sun Cellular 24/7 Call and Text card (for my Yes Dir, reporting for duty poh! calls), but got nothing. Yes. Nothing of either the great bargains or the damned call card.

Noel arrived and fetched us to go have dinner. Since Ella and I have both eaten--on separate occasions, that is--at the Cagay-anon resto, which is where, supposedly, great food is served the Cagayan way, we decided to try something Manilaesque yet uniquely Cagayan. We went to B's-something Pizza...where we had, to my knowledge, the best pizza ever. I promised myself to bring home one or two pizzas to Manila...but of course, forgot to. Idiot.

The seminar was routine: 830am last-minute set-up, and greetings to the long-unseen colleagues from the branches, most of whose names I've already forgotten. The sessions were so engrossing that day that we finished Day 1's session at 330pm! By then, a proposal was brought up: what if we continued with the lessons/topics for day 2 and finish it on the very same day, instead of dispersing and then re-convening the next day; that way, they get to spend more time with their families on a Sunday. Upon getting a consensus (er, major agreement), we did finish days 1 and 2 in one day, finishing at a little after 7pm. By dinner time, there were already talks of plans for the next day, i.e. for us who had no families in the area (and Ella and I who are simply tourists for a full day and a half more!). We decided, right there and then, to try the whitewater rafting scene where Cagayan de Oro is famous for.

After a hurried shopping craze for slippers/sandals, t-shirt, and board shorts, and a quick call to the whitewater rafting operators in the area, we were all set. Were we excited? You bet your brown Pilipino arse we were.

At exactly 6am, I was already doing my morning crunches (thanks to my 8-Minute Abs video clip) and psyching myself up--like I needed any!--for our prolly-once-in-a-lifetime adventure that day. Having donned my bandana, slipped into my new slippers, and pulling out just enough cash (P1200 for the whitewater rafting fee, and about P500 extra money) from my wallet which I left in my overnight bag, we headed out the hotel to meet Noel in his car. We passed by McDonald's to grab some sausage and egg muffins and some coffee, and then headed for SM (yes, yet another ShoeMart mall in our weekly branch stints!) where the rafting organizers were going to pick us up. About fifteen minutes later, a jeepney loaded with people inside and about four red orange inflated rafts on top pulled over infront of us. Ted, the operator, greeted us, collected our money, and made us sign waiver forms (now THAT was one way to instill in us that, yes, there MAY be a possibility that we could die because of force majeure...and that that couldn't be their fault!). We left for the drop off point shortly.

A couple of veteran rafters greeted and interviewed us during the travel. One actually served as a tourist guide and was giving us a blow-by-blow of what landmarks (or even simple places) we were passing. One was also pre-orienting us and preconditioning us on what to expect. We were definitely excited we almost either shat or peed on our seats.

When we got to the drop off point, the organizers prepared the rafts as well as the rest of their paraphernalia. They gave us Dri-Bags to put our mobile phones, etc. that we were bringing onboard the rafts, so that they won't get wet or damaged. Noel supplied us with SPF 50 Nivea sunscreen, which we liberally applied all over our bodies. We geared up with the requisite vests, helmets, and our ownly weapon: our paddles. After a quick orientation while half-immersed in the water--Easy Paddle for a relaxed paddling, Hard Paddle for a more intense paddling, and Back Paddle for a reversed-direction paddling--we boarded our respective rafts; joining us were experienced paddlers Cernan, Poco and Stephen. At least we were certain that there were, at the very least, three people on the raft that DO know what they're doing! We held on to one of their most important orientation notes: if and when we fall in the water, we must not, under any circumstance, try to fight the current...or we could die hitting the rocks or drowning. Great. Our Father which art in heaven......

The first rapid, aptly called the Buena Mano, was a fun ride...and it gave us a feel of what to expect in the next 14 more. We gave each other "high fives" using the heads of our paddles each time we conquered one rapid. We likewise enjoyed the view, as we passed by enormous rock formations, caves, swamps, and snake-infested cliffs. We even alighted from our rafts twice or thrice to actually be inside the caves and take pictures.

At quarter of noon, we stopped over at one of the uninhabited field-like area with just a bamboo table and some chairs, so that we could have our lunch. The rest of our companions each have Tupperwares and stainless steel containers and Thermoses and water jugs, while the three of us only had our miserably flattened Sausage and Egg McMuffins and a liter of mineral water. The rest, being the hospitable, friendly and kind Cagayanons that they are, offered us a plate of rice and pork, which I did not decline. I was famished after all those paddling and being under the sweltering heat of the sun. We shared jokes and stories and expectations and Manileño-Cagayanon idiosyncrasies, and then headed back to our rafts to finish the rest of the five or six rapids.

After the second rapid of the afternoon, aptly called Kiss the Wall (which we later on called Kiss My Ass) because of the risk of hitting the wall if we did not synchronize our paddling efforts, we alighted and enjoyed a quick spelunking, trekking and swimming in a cave formation under a magnificent mountain of lush greens. The current was so strong it took no effort to get from where we jumped to about four feet downstream. We took some more pictures and then headed back to our rafts where we met other rafters from another rafting company. They looked bored to tears. Thankfully, our team was either laughing or singing or storytelling. It was loads of fun.

On our last rapids, Poco instructed us NOT to paddle too long. Instead, we were all told that after hitting the hardest rapids, we were to raise our paddles with our two hands--arms raised way above our heads--and smile at the camera right by the rocks...which we did. And after that, our P1200 adventure was mercifully concluded...or so we thought.

Approaching a tall rock formation jutting from out of nowhere in the waters, we were told that we had a "graduation ceremony"--that you couldn't really claim to have conquered the rapids if you haven't participated in this last activity. What was this activity, you ask? It's called the Leap of Faith.
One was to go up the top of the rock formation, say about five to six feet from the surface of the water (which was about, give or take, 40 to 50 feet deep, according to the locals) and then jump into the damned water with nothing but the vest which we have piously devoted our fragile lives to.

I was fearless...at first. I climbed so fast, like how I climbed a million and years in the pasts when I used to either rapell or free fall, and stayed at the top to relish my just concluded victory in conquering all 14 rapids. At the top, I felt powerful and strong and accomplished and dauntless...that was, until I looked down and saw the water menacingly calling me to my death. I decided to let the others jump ahead and psych myself up for the notorious leap of faith. I couldn't get my groove back. Ella decided it wasn't her time to die yet, so she climbed down faster than how she climbed to the top. After Noel jumped, it was my turn. I had a choice: to jump and get it over with (and conquer a major fear of drowning--which I acquired after having briefly drowned in 30 feet of open sea back in 1998), or turn back and get humiliated for being such a sissy.

I jumped. Both arms extended in an almost oblation-like fashion...which was apt because as I was about to jump, just when the tip of my toes were leaving the edge of the rocky hill, I offered a short prayer to Jesus Christ, asking him to comfort my soul if and when I die and to comfort even more those who I would leave behind. As I hit the water and descended two, three, four feet below in less than ten or so seconds (as my breathing started to turn into heaves, as my chest got "deflated" and started to get filled with water), I had a more terrifying fear: I wasn't ready to die, and I haven't fulfilled--hell, even discover!--my purpose in life. I needed to go back and finish my business.

I finally hit a point when my vest's buoyancy power clicked. Much slower than my rate of descent, I gradually ascended effortlessly. Slowly, slowly, until I saw a tiny speck of white light piercing its way through the murky waters that I was currently submerged in. And then, as my chest swelled into a mixture of emotions, I realized, just as the white light got bigger and bigger, more reckoning, that I was crying. I was back from the semi-dead...I had a second chance to fulfill my purpose.

I screamed and yelled and shouted and screamed some more when I reached the surface. I have now officially conquered not just the rapids--or my fear of drowning--but death itself.

After that long day, we headed to a spa and had a Swedish massage. And a full hour for just fricking 280 pesos. If we weren't on a schedule, I would've done a full-day massage and pedicure and facial and the works. But, ah, that's for another adventure.

Having done all that, now I'm ready for my next adventure: hot air balloon, and then bungee jumping. Stay tuned.

(O, Ella, link na! Hehehehehe..)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

This Is My Life...Drive

I am writing this blog entry on my new toy: my PalmOne LifeDrive PDA. Yes. I have completely foresaken my initial plan (er, dream?) of buying a Palm TX as replacement for my Palm Tungsten T2 of one year and three months.

As the month of May ushered in, everybody and their mothers in my company started getting orgasmically happy...thanks to the profit-sharing (aka mid-year bonus) that normally totals 2.5 to three times an employee's monthly salary (with the bitch of a substantial tax, mind you) almost coming into our payroll accounts. As a result, some of the employees--me included--already started purchasing expensive (some even exorbitant) items...which were, of course, already affordable to them, thanks to the profit sharing moolah.

Now, just so everything is in crystal clear perspective, I'll set the records straight: the minute the PalmOne LifeDrive came out in the market, I was smitten. I told myself that someday, I will own a brand-spanking new unit...that is, once it has already gotten SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than the THIRTY FOUR FRICKIN' THOUSAND PESOSESOSES price tag. I mean, what's not to love about the LD??! It's got four GIGABYTES of storage, baby! That means not having to buy or lag with me any more SD or MMC expansion cards, or having to worry about burning files that I need to transport from one PC to another into a "transition" CD-RW (because the LD acts like a USB Flash drive), or forcing myself to remember to synchronize with my laptop lest all my Palm data get erased (because it has a non-volatile memory that's not battery-dependent). And besides, it's just way TOO gorgeous--what with a silver-colored über manly chassis and hard buttons all over. I just HAD to have it. But that craving, perhaps, would have to take a backseat to another, say TX...until it becomes more affordable for my budget.

So, about three or four days before the big bucks came in, I gathered all my old Tungsten's peripherals because I was bidding it farewell and I'm letting someone else bid on it...on eBay. In full anticipation of a brand-spanking new PDA, I came a-strutting to MobileOne in Glorietta, the official dealer of Palm and Apple products. My rollercoaster excitement over getting a new LD notwithstanding, I made a wiser resolution. I did--you've gotta believe me when I say this, aight?--intend to buy the TX...for practical reasons. The TX costs only about P18600. And to be completely rational about the decision, I convinced myself that I didnt need the four frickin' gigabytes of hard drive in the LifeDrive. After all, SD and MMC cards are now made more affordable, thanks to CD-R King.

Upon arriving at MobileOne, however, I came across a flyer about their current promos. Turns out, I can buy either a TX or a LifeDrive using a deferred payment scheme...and on 0% interest for 12 months! That got me stumped for a decision. I automatically pulled out--how ironic was this--my old and trusty T2 and tinkered with the digits of the calculator. For about 400 pesos more per month, I will be able to afford a LifeDrive...and I get a free wireless keyboard and leather case to go with it (read: the TX doesn't come with anything for free). I was REALLY stumped so I told the sales clerk that I would need to sleep on it. It went home and literally slept ON it, i.e. by falling asleep on the flyer that I brought home, with the attached computation sheets.

The next day was a blur. Oh, that was prolly because it was a routinary training that my team had to do for the company, and prolly because my mind was really still hung up on the lack of a decision. Up until two minutes before I fished my HSBC credit card from my wallet and handed it to Maricel the sales clerk, I did not have a decision. But when my plastic buddy left my wallet, I have made a decision: fuck it, I'm buying the LD. And I salivated in a Pavlovian fashion as I await the completion of the transaction (and as Sam and Stephen, the technicians, readied the unit and plastered the scratch-proof protection film).

Five minutes later, the salivating stopped midway from my mouth and the white linoleum floor after I discovered what happened. Maricel, in her boombox-volumed voice shouted out, "Sir, declined!" My jaws dropped...as the rest of the other waiting customers' eyebrows raised into kingdom come. As if my tongue had a mind of its own, I blurted out, "What the fuck?? How did that happen?" And to add to the consternation, Maricel nonchalantly said, "Sir, baka kasi hindi kayo nagbabayad ng bill ninyo." I shot her a menacing look, pulled out my whip and castigated her until only her hair roots were unscathed and not bleeding. OK. That was just my thought balloon talking. Again, as if my tongue had a mind totally independent of my own sane and rational brain, I blurted out, "but I just paid TWENTY FOUR thousand pesos three days ago!" (which was what I really did to that month's bill...because I never believed in paying just the minimum payment, as that would just make my latter payments mushroom into a balloon payment). That sort'a worked, because the eyebrow raising kind of vaporized as fast as how it spread earlier like wildfire.

Turns out, inspite of my current and prompt payments, I was way over my credit limit of...well, let's just say A LOT. That was attributed to the fact that--which I conveniently forgot--I was also paying on installments a refrigerator, an airconditioner, a dvd player, ANOTHER [portable] dvd player, and an mp3 player. And since I never came across installment options or staggered payment schemes like this when I was in the US, I did not completely understand how the system worked. So, the idiot me just found out the hard way that that was how it works in the Philippines. Geesh.

And since I'm already hyped up about bringing home my new baby, I resorted to the unimaginable--or at least in my previously-known-as-sane life's context: I fished out my other credit cards and had Maricel divide the payable among them...and with the remainder (yes, there was still a hefty remainder after having carefully apportioned it already among the other plastics!) I had to pull out from my BPI ATM account. HAH! So do you now believe me when I tell you "what Ben wants, Ben gets..."??? ;-)

Almost thirty minutes later, harassed and staring blankly into my then-already-empty faux leather wallet, I stepped out of MobileOne, with my office bag and LifeDrive paper bag in tow...and with an ear-to-ear grin, with matching skipping and giddy-yapping my way to the vehicle terminal going home to the condo. And that night, I slept with a hard...steel material by my bedside.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of my Life. Please don't take him (I say "him" because it's way too pogi to be a "she") away from me...or I'd die (well, that's only because without a PDA/organizer, I'm better off dead anyway, because I can hardly remember a birthday, a contact information, or an appointment. Loser eh?).

Now, if you'd excuse me, me and my LifeDrive are going for a stroll in Wi-Fi park.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ano raw??! (Part Deux)

And the shutter goes to full throttle once again...

1. "Isa na lang, lalakad na...!"

2. Yes. One cannot have one too many cigarette butts.

3. The undisputed number one best-selling CD in the market...TCIII. Can I get a whoo-hoo?

4. Why do I have an ominous feeling this boy will grow up to be a bank robber...?

5. "Go ahead and leave me here at the airport, and let's see what Tatay has to say when you arrive in Cagayan alone..."

6. Watch this neighborhood flourish into an asado siopao factory...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Less Kuskos More Haplos

I was channel surfing one Wednesday, waiting for the elimination round of American Idol to begin at Star World, when I chanced upon the commercial of Vaseline shampoo. It was about how two lovely kids attempted to make their mother's day very special: what more than making her literally a queen, replete with a throne, a sash, and a crown. And the closing lines to their jingle was something like "Ikaw, nanay, you're the best. Salamat sa 'yo Nanay..."

Mothers as queens: what a very apt way of depicting what and how mothers are really supposed to be in our lives. And just like queens, they are not exactly the "rulers" of our homes, but our fathers...otherwise considered as the "kings". Just like queens, nevertheless, they are of high importance in the "royalty chain of command"...for without the Queen, the King is but a lonesome ruler of a land without anyone to stand by him.

In some homes, however, like mine, mothers are both the queen and the king. This is either due to her being a single parent (because the father left the family; or the mother decided it's best to leave the father out of the equation), or because the fathers are in far-off countries trying to earn a living for the whole family--something more lucrative or event decent compared to salaries earned in the homefront. In either case, the mothers juggle their time, energy, patience, wisdom, and love just to keep her family together. Sometimes--or in most cases, at all times--she becomes a glorified maid, yaya, alalay, nurse, cook, laundrywoman, plantsadora, teacher, friend and villain rolled into one frail but strong-willed person equipped with a huge heart, big enough to accommodate a continent of perky (or pesky) little todds.

Motherhood is such an underrated "profession" (or more aptly, "vocation"). Ask one million and one girls and you would be lucky if you got at least ten percent who would say that they'd want to become a mother. Mostly, they'd dream of becoming doctors, or lawyers, or ballerinas...hell, even Barbie or Wonder Woman; but never a mother.

This Mothers' Day, let us, for one minute, stop being such big asses, sit her down and tell her we love her to tears. Our mothers are God's gift to us. All the yells, slaps, raised eyebrows, and nagging all have some good ole' fashion reason...and they are, more often than not, for our own good.

And at this point, I'd like a shout-out, a holler, to my mother (who prolly wouldn't even get the chance to read this, being the non-techy person that she is!), Rosario Gomez Redulla, more popularly known as Charry (or Sayong, to the much older folks). She isn't a softy...she never was. She was a really tough cookie, brought up by an even tougher, to a point a harridan, mother (my Lola Justina--the classic Castillian Doña that sporadically shouts out "Sin Verguenza" or "Hijo de puta" to her "minions"). My mom is a no-nonesense woman: she knows what she wants, she endeavors to achieve it, she will not stop at anything, and will stand by it no matter what. She likewise knows what is best for the whole family, like a true queen looking over her domain.

She taught me the value of discipline and responsibility...that everything must be a careful product of our hardwork and enterprise. She taught us and nurtured in us the value of faith in God. She also taught us that dignity, the truth, and a good name are the few treasures that nobody can put a price on, nor can be taken away from us unless we passively let them.

She filled and nurtured not just our minds and spirits, but also our stomachs. My mother makes the best adobo, kare-kare, sinigang, and arroz valenciana. No feast will be complete without my mother's (and Aunt Lita's) dishes, which were all tediously prepared a day or two ahead. And although she (and all three of us in the family) has a really serious case of diabetes, she never fails to satisfy anyone who has a sweet tooth. Her leche flans, crema de fruta (which I have almost exactly copied now), and her recent addition, the cassava pudding, are instant hits. She would usually separate a small helping of the nearly-cooked dessert and would cook it in another container--without the sugar, so she could also enjoy the fruits of her labor. So when both batches are cooked, it would be such a delight to be eating every single piece, down to the last caramelized portions that are stuck to the edges of the pan or tray. Yum.

She is a looker. Of course, where else would she get her good looks but from me??? Hehehehe. And, yes, she nags, too. But had she kept quiet and not told us off for every offense when we were still young, we prolly wouldn't have become more discerning and wise.

Mommy, I wouldn't have been who I am right now if it wasn't for you. You have honed me into becoming the strong, creative, ambitious, and God-fearing man that I turned out to be today. Salamat po. You are my queen, God's gift to me.

I love you Mommy. I just thought I'd let you know that. Happy Mothers' Day po.