Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting a Driver's License: A Comedy of Errors

It's been four months since hubby bought me a car but I haven't really 'owned' it yet. You see, even with driving school education plus extra hours of driving lessons with my driver, I couldn't use it yet because I didn't have a driver's license.

I've heard of horror stories in getting a driver's license and know of countless people who have taken the 'easier way out' because of LTO's reported dismal licensing process. Here's an account of my experience:

1. Arrived at the LTO at 8:00 in the morning. Even before I could get out of the car, fixers were already 'greeting' me, like a pack of hungry wolves eager to attack their next prey. Caution: Do not let them bite you. 

2. I asked the guard stationed at the entrance as to the first step. He told me to get a medical exam and drug test first. Not knowing where the testing was, I asked him for directions. He called one of the fixers, a drab-looking, old woman, to take me to the testing center, which was right across the LTO.  I wondered whether the security guard was only trying to help me or is in cahoots with the fixer. That didn't seem right. 

3. The old woman led me to a small, dingy space with a tiny signboard that read 'LTO accredited physician'. There sat the doctor, who looked rather uncomfortable in her seat due to poor ventilation. It was still the old woman who measured my height and facilitated my Snellen eye test. How lovely. After paying Php100, the doctor accomplished the medical exam form without even asking me about my health issues or my medical history. A few scribbles, and then she handed me the form with the official receipt. On the form, the doctor indicated I was 54 kg. Well that was my weight before I got pregnant. Haha

3a. There, another woman whom I had mistaken for the doctor's secretary talked to me about getting a 'seamless transaction'. All I had to do was pay Php2800, which she secretly scribbled on a piece of paper. 'Ayaw kaguol ug sayop imo tubag sa written exam maam. Luto na na siya. Kaila man nako ang lecturer'. Oh wait, but I did study for the exam. Surely she didn't think I looked dumb and thought I was ill-prepared, did I? 

4. Adjacent to where I had my medical exam was the drug testing center, where I paid Php300. After submitting my urine sample and fingerprints, it took me about two hours to get my results. 

5. I went back to LTO to get my priority number. Transacting from one window to the next was relatively fast. After paying Php167.63 (application and computer fees), I was led to the lecture room cramped with examinees. The AC, which looked older than Bette Davis, was not even helping to cool the room at all. The written exams followed right after the lecture. Frankly, the  exam was too hard - too hard not to pass because the answers were just shown right in front of you. Haha!

6. I finished the exam just in time for lunch, after which we would come back for the results. After a quick bite at a nearby mall, I returned and waited for my name to be called for the practical exam. The ladies were first called in and led to a bus station right beside LTO. Because we didn't bring our own cars, we paid Php250 (with official receipt). After the LTO rep (whom I saw earlier transacting with the lady at the medical exam center) issued my receipt, I was told to go back to LTO for payment and releasing of my driver's license. The practical exam? It practically never happened. Haha again! 

7. After paying Php417.63 (license and computer fees), I waited a little more for my card to be released. Voila, I finally got my driver's license in shiny plastic. It took me about 6 hours to get everything done, and paid a total of Php1235.26 in standard fees. While waiting for my driver to pick me up, I thought to myself that if I had taken up on the lady's bribe, I would have paid four thousand bucks, and would only end up hurting not just my wallet, but my intelligence as well. 

Realization: Sadly, getting a driver's license here is a joke. You pay for something that's hardly ever there or even none at all. (think medical and practical exams). The process leans more towards granting you a driver's license just because you need it, and not because you earned it. (think medical, written and practical exams). The stark presence of fixers and their blatant ways, coupled by the seemingly embraced condonation and apathy purport a microcosm of something far worse than what is being observed. (think again medical, written, practical exams - the entire process, actually). 

I hurriedly left the LTO as soon as my driver arrived. Out of nowhere, a man approached me and asked 'Maam, magkuha ka non-prof? Tabangan tika maam, dili jud ka maglisod sa exam.'

Sighs. Tomorrow will be another day for that man.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Yaya meal, anyone?

Image source:

My helper is still down with fever and flu. Yesterday, I made sure our medicine kit had available paracetamol and flu tabs and told her to get more rest. 

My helper has been with me for some time now - my father took her in to help me go about my daily grind now that I am expecting. In the kitchen, she is not too familiar with the kind of dishes I prepare, but she can cook. What comfort it is to experience waking up in the morning and already have my breakfast prepared for me at the dining table. I've never enjoyed that since I started working and living alone, as my day would usually start skipping breakfast. 

I'm usually the one who plans out the meals for the day; sometimes I'd leave it up to her. She'd join me at the table whenever it was time to eat, and whatever was prepared, we would both partake. 

Balesin's 'yaya meals', as has been making rounds in the news lately, is something that leaves a bad taste not in the mouth, but in any thinking person's sensibilities. Balesin points that yayas 'want and love' their yaya meals, which consists of chicken or pork adobo with rice, as it is 'deliciously prepared' for them by their staff. 

Why, of course. If you were in an exclusive island club, you would expect your food to be 'deliciously prepared' regardless of what societal class you belong to. But Balesin, if your yaya meals are the rave of your members' yayas, why can't their amos have it also? Can they not want and love it too? Is there a demarcation between being served a 'deliciously prepared' and 'exclusively prepared for' meal? If there is such, I hope that does not discriminate, thus your verbiage of the yaya meals? I am confused.

Balesin also claims the 'yaya meals' option are for yayas of guests who opt not to pay for the full meal rates. Somewhat skewed a judgement, I must say, although I cannot pin Balesin to be entirely at fault. It is pathetic to think how some members can afford to pay so much to enjoy exclusive perks but settle for less for the very people who make their lives easier for them. 

Of course, one can argue that it is every employer's responsibility to provide a decent meal for his/her helper and that it does not always follow that whatever the employer eats, the helper shall have it too. Balesin's yaya meals option satisfies both. Why make a mountain out of a molehill?  What is disturbing, however, is that if it does not intend to discriminate, let alone denigrate, then why does it have to be called as such? Is coining it a yaya meal that necessary? 

The traditional notion of domestic service is about the helper's life revolving around the employer. I don't think that way. Both the helper and the employer should depend on each other. And from how I was brought up, our kasambahays are treated as part of the family. We give our kasambahays what is due and deserving of them, not because we see it as an option. 

Tonight, I am cooking pork giniling for dinner (because my helper does not know how to cook it to my liking yet). I shall teach her how to, and she shall eat it with me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Five things you should never say to a pregnant woman (like me)

Now on my third trimester. I am loving this bumpy ride! 

1. Your belly looks bigger than it seems. No pregnancy is ever the same. A woman can look heavily pregnant even in the earlier phase of her pregnancy or sport a tiny bump even if she's 8 & 1/2 months on the way. I've been getting a lot of the former, and although admittedly annoying at times, I just humor myself by telling them they're not used to seeing me big and bloated, ha! You see, I've been blessed with sexy curves before sporting this sexy bump, you know. :)

2. You can't eat/drink this. Too often, I get told I can't eat this or I can't drink that because 'it's not good for me or the baby'. You may mean well, thank you, but anything that I am and am not allowed to eat is between me and my doctor already. And yes, I can drink coffee, have some salted munchies and even eat ceviche (kinilaw), because believe me, I can.  

3. You can't do this/that. Just like being told what to and not to put in my mouth, I get annoyed being told what activities to stop doing just because I am pregnant. Again, there is nothing that concerns my pregnancy that I never consult my doctor about. So before telling me I can't wear makeup, join dance classes or commute via habal2, trust me, I've already asked my doctor these and I am perfectly okay to do so (with care and caution of course). 

4. What happened to you/your (insert part of the human body)? Since I got pregnant, my body has become a wonderland of changes. Rapid weight gain, dark lines along my distended belly; darker armpits, an unusually swollen nose; swollen legs and feet, you name it. It's actually not helping how you have to rub these things in my face, as if these are not obvious. Worse is when you smack it right to me as if these changes are happening to me because I am not taking care of myself.  Seriously. 

5. Was it planned? Whether it was unplanned, unwanted or by miracle of being conceived by the holy spirit, a baby is always a blessing. Wouldn't it have been a no-brainer enough when I announced with so much pride and joy that moment I found out I was pregnant and  enjoying this beautiful bumpy ride that is pregnancy? 

And for the record, yes, my husband and I did plan it. I planned my trip to Singapore on the week that I was most fertile; hubby booked the most romantic spot he could think of and we spent the best time as a married couple making room for our little one in our future plans. God answered our prayers and we couldn't be happier and more blessed.   

I am now on my third and final trimester, thankful to God that He has kept me safe and healthy in the past six pregnant months. I am continuously praying that the last phase of my pregnancy will be less hellish as the first trimester and just as great as the second. Most importantly, hubby and I are praying for my safe delivery soon. And if you're wondering what my baby's gender is, I guess that's something I'm not telling you...just yet. hehe 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here comes the rain again

I come home from work - tired, soaked in cold rain. I wanted to get home. I had to get home. The place I was waiting to get a ride home to was not too familiar and too cold to stay longer even. I had been shivering throughout the 2km ride, the driver braving the hard pour just to earn for the night. I am amused as to how he could drive still, although very carefully, with drops of rain hitting his eyes and never even rubbing them so he could see. I felt my eyes flush in pain, how could his not? 

He stopped one house before mine. He thanked me for giving him 20 bucks more. No, thank you for driving me home safely. 

I reached for the towel and texted him the usual Im-home-love (insert rain-was-mad-i-got-drenched), winding up like a needy cat. I washed the rain that might cause me the flu and made myself hot tea. There was no more water in the dispenser. Shoot. That burden of lifting that heavy 5-liter gallon onto the dispenser, and still not mastering the art of refilling it perfectly. About a gallon of water went slushing all over my kitchen. Change clothes, I was soaking wet again.   

At least the tea made me feel better. Looking at those swirls of hot air rising up into nothingness as i cupped the mug with my hands and sipping it's hot orange goodness made me feel warm, like having him to run hot bath for me, or him handing me that towel and cloak me warm, or him cuddling me cozy to sleep throughout this cold evening.

But he is far away. And he probably feels cold as I do now too. 

Sighs, rain. Why do you have to make lonely nights colder? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love in the time of disaster

Nanay and Tatay

Their house badly damaged, my grandparents moved to safer ground camping out in a makeshift tent in a remote barrio in Maribojoc. My grandmother has never left my 92 year-old grandfather's side, who is still recovering from a stroke. She has been sleeping on a wooden plank for several nights now; and when the rain would pour in the night, she would curl up her knees to keep her feet from getting wet.

When I visited them for the first time since the earthquake, I found they were not given their relief goods because 'they could no longer vote'. 

I'm casting aside my outrage at this utter disrespect to my grandparents, senior citizens who deserve to be given utmost attention and courtesy especially at this time of need. 

 But if there's one thing I realized, it is that true love will always stand the test of time that not even the most terrible of tremors can shake, much less destroy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Makeover Saturday

I confess I suck at putting on makeup. I get clueless finding out which brush goes with what and playing with different colors of an eyeshadow palette scares me. Maybe this is now an aftermath of my nonchalance with makeup back in my teenage years. While my girlfriends dusted their faces thick with foundation and colored their lips pink in college, I was happy au naturel.

When I started working, I was good with lip gloss and pressed powder only, and I still felt pretty anyway. It wasn't long before I was surrounded with colleagues who had kikay kits fat with all sorts of makeup items in different brands, shapes and colors. It didn't help too that I wasn't getting any younger at all.

But then, most of the time I find myself asking help from someone to do my makeup. Some things I'm just not good at, and I will probably have to deal with. 

One fine Saturday, I went to the mall to get a makeover with my dear friend Leah, my lifesaver whose makeup prowess never fails to work wonders on me. Barefaced and brimming with so much excitement, the makeup artist asked me what kind of look I wanted. I told her I wanted the 'day look', something I figured would be suitable in the office, specifically.


I sat there for what seemed like light years, the makeup artist keeping me from checking myself out in the mirror, to heighten the excitement. And then...

 I got the look I exactly wanted. I wish I didn't have to wash it off at the end of the day! haha

Here's my friend Leah, whose mestiza features make her freckles noticeable when she's barefaced.

After. FYI, she did her own makeup!

What I always tell myself ? You don't need to put on a lot of makeup to look beautiful - it should enhance what God-given beauty you have. And while it doesn't hurt to put on a little makeup to look beautiful, it's not the be-all and end-all to being one.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

When in Oslob

I've been experiencing eustress since the start of 2013, what with wedding preparations and house tripping schedules. I must have been too caught up with these two that I tend to forget to just relax and perhaps de-stress. 

My time and moolah still could not afford me to go to my next dream PH travel destination; but I did not bat eyelashes at the thought of getting up close and personal with the butanding. I had to make the seemingly torturous ordeal of waking up at two in the morning just to get to Oslob earlier than the other tourists.

Incredibly up and I beat the sun to it. haha
Yes, that big.
This is the closest I could get. Strictly no touching.

These gentle giants are beautiful, yes, even with cuts on their faces, perhaps because they get hit by paddles or propellers as they approach boats for food. I don't think feeding them is healthy, though, because isn't it marine wildlife's nature to hunt for food?

What also got my attention was that they were fed frozen, not fresh, shrimp. I'm not sure if the kind of food they're given bears any significance but then again, this feeding practice disrupts their natural behavior. 

The butanding, I found, was not what Oslob only had to offer. There was Tumalog falls too.

check out the rainbow!

Getting to and from Tumalog falls is not for the weak-legged (winks). Although the road is paved, you need to hike to get to the falls. The trail was steep, I worried I might roll over and fall into the ravine. The more challenging part was  hiking back up from the falls. I had to stop several times for air and rest my legs a bit. Boohoo to me.

And then there's more - Sumilon island. 

take the plunge
the crazy crew

Sumilon island is so beautiful I could live there. I've never really liked crowded beaches and I've always loved being secluded in an island, even for a just a day, away from the stresses and chaos of city life. I'm definitely going back to Sumilon; and by that time, I will have brought my husband to be. Honeymoon getaway, perhaps?

my moment
loving the water!
sunny smiles!

I would have missed out on all the fun and the beautiful sights in Oslob if I didn't force myself to get up from bed. Well, waking up unbelievably early wasn't such a bad idea after all.