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