Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Poops

Returning to the scatalogical origins of this blog, I have to report that I have come down with a case of the poops. Last night, I was doubly disgusted since I thought I was pooping blood. Turns out that the beets I had for dinner were probably the culprits there. Still, this morning I woke up very dizzy and spent most the day napping. After that, I finished Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, then debated whether I felt less dizzy standing up and walking slowly or lying down.

As I´m here at an internet cafe, I decided that I should walk around a bit. The room I´m staying in got a little crammped and the air felt a little stagnant, what with the musty smell of constant pooping and all. I noticed, finally though, that the air up here isn´t just thin, but it´s pretty polluted down near the city center and I was lucky to have taken walks during Christmas when no one was driving. The air here in Guápulo is a slight improvement, though there are a good number of cars that pass through here. Especially conspicuous are rows of cars from a nearby driving school that have their students practice stickshift hill driving here. And these are nasty-ass hills too, nothing like the ones in Providence that Brian had me drive a couple years back.

The past couple days I´d been taking the bus to parts far and wide. And by ¨far and wide¨I mean the closest supermarket (20 minutes away) and a pretty good bookstore near the U. Católica. Today I wanted to go to the Céntro Histórico here and see a couple of the big churches, but, well, let´s say that one can only hold it for so long.

In any case, I´m also hit with a case of the lonelies. Christmas didn´t do me in, but being sick really has. I was hoping I could get AIM Express to work on this comp, but to no avail, and very few internet cafés have Skype, preferring Windows Messenger or YM. If any of ya´ll want to pick up WM or YM for my sake, I will repay your used hard drive space with some artesania when I get back.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh Gosh, I Have to Pee

Just so ya´ll know, a Christmas post is coming -- I just had it typed up on my laptop and didn´t bring it with me today.

Anyway, I took the bus today from Guápulo to around FLACSO. Not counting the time it took to wait for the bus, it took a little more than 30 minutes to arrive at a corner somewhat close to the campus. So, for all intents and purposes, it´s really takes about the same amount of time to walk down as it does to take the bus. However, I´m significantly less tired, but I do have to pee. Unlike what the Ecuador guide book says, you actually pay when you get off the bus, not when you get on, FYI.

I´m going to try an alternate route back, using the Ecovia bus. I did, however, tell myself that I would do some ¨work¨related shopping for books today, as well as for a SIM card for a loaner phone I have and a radio or something to produce some useful ambient noise in my room. Also, I desperately need some change -- coins, that is -- since most transactions I´ve enaged in require much smaller bills than a $20 and there seems to be a very, very active $10 counterfeiting ring.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not down with the sickness

So I finally made it to Quito after making it to Cleveland and barely making my flight to Houston. Most of the trip down here I played with a baby by trading post-it notes with her. It was as enthralling for her as it was for me, seriously. Otherwise, I had fun with my acetazolamide tinglyness in my heels: that carbonic anhydrase inhibitor and its little games. Actually right now my forefeet are tingling. It's like my spider sense, but for things I had done in the past, namely, taking an acetazolamide.

Anyway, we got in really late -- around 11:20 -- or rather I didn´t get out of customs and luggage until then, and by then, my tita had left the airport. So, I wandered around pretty frustratedly as I called both my tita and back home, until finally I just hailed a cab and stayed the night in a hotel. As it turned out, the cabbie -- who was pretty nice otherwise -- gave me a counterfeit $10 bill. Remind me to buy a bill-checking pen.

I did finally meet up with my tita and we went to the supermarket first before heading to her house. When we got there, the Supermaxi was full of people buying food for Christmas -- a lot of freakin' food. Of course, that meant we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes until we reached a checkout stand. With all those people jockeying for position in line, it led to a couple flare-ups about where certain lines began, whether or not someone should tell the disabled person in front of them to "apurate" (the answer is "no"), etc. Of course, this didn´t happen to me, though I'm not sure if that'd necessarily be bad (in two-minute retrospect, yes).

Anyhoo, my tita's house is in Guápulo, a relatively out-of-the-way place up in the hills of Quito. Years before, she told me, it was full of artsy-types, and there are still a few around who do leatherwork, neat light sconces, and offer drum circles for people from ages 13 to 100 (that's what the sign said), but mostly it's cobblestone streets with no inherent logic to their layout. I walked around a bit, and I would call Guápulo "Valparaiso on methamphetamines," since it seems all you can do is either go up (hard) or down (also hard, on my knees, specifically). Still, I took lots of neat pictures because it has some great views of what Quito will eventually absorb into its ambit, but for now are wooded hills. Also, there's a pretty church just up the street from my tita's place.

Today, I took a taxi to FLACSO to sign my contract. Relatively uneventful trip, of course, until I found out I had a counterfeit $10. Oh, and then, I tried to take the stairs down from the 8th floor of the FLACSO main building. I got down three floors before I saw a sign, and since I was walking and reading it, it only dawned on me after a GIGANTIC ALARM (like fire alarm, but in an echo chamber) went off that if I took another step a gigantic alarm would go off. So I ran back up the stairs and luckily the alarm only went off for 10 or so seconds before it stopped. I see that FLACSO does not encourage heart health -- can't use the stairs and you'll get a heart attack if you do. But otherwise, the people were very, very nice and I got that task squared away before Christmas.

I'm still exploring options for places to stay, but without a map and a cellphone, I can't really do as much as I'd like. My tita is offering a room at her house, which she only rents to foreigners, though the problem is getting from Guápulo to downtown Quito requires a lot of patience since the buses don't like to come very often and the nearest major artery is a 20 minute walk uphill. I could continue to hail taxis, but they'll only come up if tourists want to see the church, so what happens when it rains?

And so here I am, somewhere in Quito, hoping to do some errands before I head back for almuerzo. I still need said map of this place and as it seems increasingly necessary, a cellphone as well. So far, my plan to not look like a backpacker has worked well enough that backpackers are asking me for directions. I wonder if anyone notices when I say "es que no soy de aquí".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let's Get There First

As much as I love Providence, I would not mind 50 degree weather with rain about now, which is what Quito is experiencing "atm." When I called Tita Marives earlier this week to tell her I'd be arriving much later than expected, she assumed it was because of the weather in Quito, but rather (or "sino que") it was the weather here in the less-than-tropical-and-worthy-of-understatement in iced-over Providence.

Tomorrow's flight itinerary gets me around the U.S. before another major winter storm pulls across the midwest and into Providence -- PVD to Cleveland, from Cleveland to Houston (where it's 70 degrees), and then from Houston to Quito in the far back corner of a very full plane. Just in case, I'm packing a change of clothes into my carryon since it seems that my luck is running low this week. If I do get stranded anywhere, please, forces of the universe, let it be in Houston.

In other news, I'm still sorta looking for a place to stay in Quito after my time with Tita Marives is over. It is within reason for me to pay "Providence" prices which would get me a palatial home, but I could aim low and pocket the extra money to make up for the ticket, or for a rainy day (which I guess will be nearly every day while I'm there). Still, the mitigating factor is that I can look at the classified ads in El Comercio as much as I want, but I'll never figure out where anything is without a decent map of the city. It looks like I'll be making a trip to the South American Explorers base in Quito to check out my options, too. Also, remind me to buy an umbrella with serious stability.

It looks like I'll have some guests while I'm there: my mom and Tita Beck are planning to visit me and Patrick wants to come too. From what I'm reading about Quito itself, apparently one can quickly exhaust the available things to do, but everything is new again when you bring guests around. And hopefully by the time I come, I'm not still floored by altitude sickness, which in Chile I recall them calling it "la puna." Whatever it is in Ecuadorian Spanish, I believe it will similarly describe a sucky condition.

But, I just need to get there first. Solo necesito llegar. I think. Well, at least I understand myself.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stuckness

There are those moments when you wonder if you should be doing something else besides blogging; imagine that the past few weeks were a bunch of those moments strung together into what regular people call "days" and arrayed into "weeks." If you really scrutinize my life between leaving Las Vegas and being here in Providence, there's been more psychic weight over what I should be doing versus what I have been doing. If marriage marks the beginning of someone becoming a productive and reproductive member of society, clearly me not being married suggests why I've done nothing and have fathered no children.

Today though, I tried to fly out of Providence and head, ultimately, to Quito, to begin leg #2 of my fieldwork. I was a bit anxious (and still am) about my Spanish, for while it's more than passable in conversation, it's not articulate enough (I guess I'd be the one being articulate) for academic discussions. Still, getting on the plane was the first step to allaying those fears, but as things usually go with this blog, I didn't get on the plane -- a winter storm cancelled all the flights leaving from Providence up to mine. Even then, if I had got to Atlanta to make my connection to Quito, the flight there was overbooked by 17 people, meaning since I travel on standby (and for peanuts), that I probably wouldn't have gotten on or even been able to have waited it out in a reasonable maount of time: flights to Quito from the ATL are overbooked up until Christmas day.

So, my friend Chris, who was nice enough to pick me up this morning, was nice enough to come back for me and we had brunch. My friend Jen, whom I guess I enjoy frustrating since I do it even unintentionally, exasperatedly suggested to me that I just pay for a new ticket to Quito, and after talking to my mom and checking out travelocity, I managed to get a $750 ticket from Providence (and Cleveland and Houston) to Quito on Tuesday. So, I'll get there after all.

Until then, I'm stuck here in Providence where I've forgotten what day of the week it is (it's Sunday, ed.) Last night, I made dinner and bought flowers to Jen and her roommate Coralia for putting up with me/ up for the past, well, three weeks, I guess, while I've played grasshopper to their ants and played City of Heroes and Geometry Wars while they've been alphabetizing bibliographies and studying for biostats. As last nights with friends go, it was nice, quiet, and if I may add, tasty what with my brie-and-apple chicken kicking palate ass. And you know it's serious when I juxtapose two totally different body parts like that, e.g. leg eyes or gut nails.

I guess I want to say I'm frustrated that I haven't left yet, but I'm satisfied that I haven't left since I'm nervous about doing research in a place where I don't have my family networks working their magic and that I can basically be a social parasite for free, just like Rizal poked fun of in the introduction to the Noli. I'm sure that once I get to Quito, things will be better than I expect and that somehow I'll collect all that I need to collect and more and I'll make some great friends and, if Muriel and Joan have their way, meet a nice girl and settle down.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Only in San Francisco

Sfgate.com puts out a 49ers blog wherein in recent days, talk has swirled about the possibility that the Niners front office will hire a GM. Of course, one suggestion leads to a bunch of other suggestions with tangential relevance to the GM issue. So, in a post titled "A Solution" Chronicle sportswriter Kevin Lynch suggests simplifying the offensive gameplan, much like how special teams coach Al Everest simplifies the special teams gameplan. Aside of course for the point that special teams are probably not something that lead themselves to complication, the post was met with pretty stringent criticism and the now-prominent calls to fire head coach Mike Nolan.

Of course, only in San Francisco would the comments to the post turn into a discussion about politics:

Poster oliveira said:

The Nolan regime resembles, on a much more minuscule scale, remembering that football is entertainment and not life and death, the Bush regime. It can't be fixed or changed-it needs to be removed and replaced with a competent and honest regime. Last year, neither offense nor defense played very well. This team plays in an awful division and last year is now considered a success only because this year is such an unmitigated disaster. Giving Nolan even 1 more year as head coach would be as crazy as allowing Bush to stay on for another term.


Prompting this response from miksurf:

Oliveira's Bush/Nolan analogy is spot on.

Name me one thing Bush did that is positive for the USA? He's killing people in a country that never attacked the USA because he wants control of their oil; and even Saddam gave us better prices than Bush's oil co. pals.

As far as Nolan is concerned, his achievements are pretty much non-existent as well.

A tiny handful of lucky wins.

He abuses the 49er fan base in the same way Bush abuses American patriotism; especially our military who have been compromised into fighting a war based on lies.

And since the NFL paid for huge ads supporting his candidacy, it is fair game to dis the fraudulent govt they promoted.

There is one difference though: Bush is going to burn in hell, while Nolan will just go back to being a DC, or hit the College ranks.

With a response from sophrosyne:

miksurf is right. Bush has weakened America's economy, its military, its international reputation and our security. Bush is at war against America just as Nolan is destroying the Niners universe.

Sorry, Osama won the war...hands down.

Now, my niners are pathetic and have given up on the season. It is just Arizona picking over the charred carcus.


Now Nipper found this politics talk all nonsense:

Yeah, bad boy/girl Sophrosyne/Shelby! You deserve a spanking. No politics. Nolan is going to be FIRED. He's good on defense but the pathetic offense has ruined his tenure. Only his wife and kids have any confidence in him now. "You're great, honey! Nice going Dad!" Too bad, the guy does look good out there in his suit. Still, looks don't cut it when you're team can't score.


But sophrosyne said:

I agree nipper..with your admission thta Nolan has failed totlaly. Bush is at war against America just as Nolan is at War against the greatness of the Niners. Both have left their "teams" weakened and laughed at. This girl knows nad [sic] speaks boldly. Always.

Then the rightists got a bit angry:

Leave the politics out of it, moonbats. Why is it that the Lefties insist on pushing the political agenda where it doesn't belong and on people who don't want to hear it? Get a clue, you are not that important, you self-righteous loudmouths, and no one wants to hear your inane and idiotic political babble. I'd like to see the blog author take some responsiblity here and keep people on topic or ban their IP addresses from posting. Now get back to football before I am forced to smack your leftist idiocy with facts and logic.

To which the response was, from oliveira:

... you ignorant wingbat. The Bush reference are used as an analogy to bottomless incompetence, not as a political discussion and debate. Surely even an idiot like you could comprehend that

Which led to:

The lefties said Bush was incompetent the last time he was up for a vote. Over 50% of American voters disagreed. Just becaues you think he is incompetent, oliveira, over half of the nation disagreed with your opinion. That is why if you start this, it won't stop. If you want to continue to be a looney, go to political blog. I don't want to hear the blathering from either side. I have my own political opinions, and you can't change them by proselytizing here.


And then:

Oliveira is right to speak up. He is manly and brave. Let us not let professional sports distract us from the wretched injustice and illegal invasions of other countries. Professional sports plays that role as nipper knows.


And it went on and on. After awhile I was wondering if oliveira and miksurf were just trolling, which is entirely possible in San Francisco too. Whatever it was, it was hi-larious.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Well, nothing too deep, as usual. Though in honor of our upcoming recession and of Black Friday, I present to you some dated economist jokes, courtesy of sfgate.com:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/23/DDR7TGV8Q.DTL

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stolen from Slate

Still here, but probably going somewhere soon. In the meantime, those of you who might be serial readers of this blog (other than me), here's a link stolen from Slate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjYv2YW6azE

Mike Huckabee, are you sad that no one's invited you to be on SNL? I guess you can't wait out the writers' strike, and with all that material already in the bank, I guess you've gotta use it before it gets stale. That being said, if someone comes up a sound edited version of that vid w/ the "live studio audience," then I think that person should win the Republican nomination.

Mmm San Francisco (Int'l Airport)

One of the things I forgot to do before I left home was to take a photo of the "Makati Chiropractic" sign in the shopping center near our house. I was gonna post it on here and caption it "It's like I never left!" I predicted true hilarity to ensue.

Sadly, it did not come to pass, and if I intended to both take a photo of Makati Chiropractic AND leave Pacifica for Las Vegas, I may not get either done. On time, at least. I'm here at SFO (Terminal 2, Gate 40, to be exact), hanging out and wasting $9 on a wireless connection to half-complain that my flight to Salt Lake City is delayed, meaning that I may have a much longer day in store than my previously-planned long-ass 5-hour trip across multiple states* just to eventually fly diagonally and to the left when I could have just flown diagonally and to the right. But such is the compromise of the discount traveler: we make trapezoids out of straight lines.

In other news, I finally got a response from FLACSO-Ecuador where I'm planning to associate myself during my time there. Sounds like most of my pre-planning is going well, though I still need to find a place to stay. The plan so far is to just look when I get there, but my family has been working their contacts in Quito (who knew?) and I may snag a place for $250 a month. We shall see. Also, I'm going to get my ass kicked by altitude sickness. It'll be great.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What's My Prize?

So I left the house finally and went to the gym, but before I did a couple errands: returned some shoes and bought some energy bars. It was that energy bar trip to Safeway that made me think about "gifting" myself something. So, I bought myself a little bag of soy sauce crackers for $2.79.

Some of you know my thing for soy sauce crackers. I have such a thing for them, the potential ecstasy that I will feel when I finally eat them has made me forget their name in Japanese. If I eat the entire bag, I will have added 330 calories to my system and 330 happy points to my happy meter. The soy sauce in these soy sauce crackers might be Kikoman. Or not. But they're distributed by the same company that distributes Kikoman.

I kinda miss the kabuki character that Hapi used to have on its snack bags. It was like, "hey, eat this and you'll be in a Japanese drama." And I was (clearly) like, yessss.* Now it just says "Tokyo Mix" as if it's some sort of DJ'ed, scratched up, dance song about how I'll melt a cracker in my mouth, then suck the soy sauce out of it and then eat it. Actually, no, it's not nearly that cool.

*By the way, after I got 15 games for my NES, I felt guilty asking for more. I did want to play Kabuki Quantum Fighter because I read about it in Nintendo Power -- the late 80s child's GQ. I did download it awhile back and it kinda sucked. Oh well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Well That Was Terrible

So I finished my grant app, probably thanks to a deadline extension. I was freaking out a bit earlier since it seems that my project uploaded four minutes after the deadline supposedly had expired, but I talked to Esther and calmed down a bit. That whole business took me nearly two weeks to do, and frankly I'm unhappy with my draft chapter, but heck, it's 22 pages down from a 400 (or so) page dissertation.

And so we enter that wonderful liminal period in an academic's life when nothing's due for awhile, but you know you could be writing something publishable or finally trying to decipher Habermas. And with that quietly rumbling in the back of your mind, you proceed to figure out how to relax after having stressed yourself out and nothing comes to mind except guilt. Guilty guilt. I sort of feel like if I decided to go at another paper right now, I'd probably be killing myself from the inside, much like the girl in the urban legend who overtanned before going to tennis camp and found out she was rotting from within. No better metaphor exists, not even in space.

And space has limitless potential!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

As If THIS will keep me awake

Grant app's due tomorrow at 6pm. So what am I doing? Still writing it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

B-Day, D-Day

So I turned 27 today. I constantly ate all day and I went out for a bit with Conn friends. I was going to blog a bit more about my grant deadline, but I'm falling asleep at the keyboard. More lates.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Philippines, Summarized

A LONG, WEIRD REST
A couple nights before I presented at the Third World Studies Center, I had an anxiety dream. I've had anxiety dreams before, usually of the event that's causing me so much anxiety. With a setup like that, you know what's coming... I dreamed that it was 2009 and behind a "stage," I was given the unenviable task of coordinating something for the Vox Cameli 10th anniversary concert. So ten years of Voxers were sitting on the floor and no one was listening. I kept trying to get everyone's attention, and while I was clearly the only one saying anything, I sorta felt like I wasn't actually conveying anything important to them. Some wiseass freshman spoke up and I think I wanted to kick him in the face.

The moral: Vox Cameli 10th Anniversary, Fall 2009.

The presentation went all right, despite my worries. I stayed up until about 4am the night before working on the powerpoint. I wanted to finish a 40-page paper to accompany it, but that plan got shot to hell once I realized how much data I ended up gathering over the course of four months. Still, I wore my new suit and people believed me. There were a good thirty or so people there, the majority from NGOs and civil society groups, which surprised me. Actually, I was more surprised when my tita's friend told me she heard about my presentation the night before. Apparently the reason why all those NGO people were there was that my abstract and bio got sent out to an NGO listserv, so apparently you had people from the Magsaysay Foundation to the Institute for Popular Democracy knowing at least that I was going to present.

Afterwards, I cleaned out my desk at the Center and said goodbye to the people who were there. I hadn't expected to make that my "last day" -- I guess the feeling was right, with me having "finished" my research and all. It was a good time, I have to say, minus all the crud I had to shuffle through with the library and I'll certainly miss everyone there.

As soon as I got home, I got out of my suit and I think I either took a nap or played DS. That evening, I went out with my cousins to a karaoke place where I couldn't sing a lick. I guess my voice was so tired from presenting and from having not slept that my George Michael sounded more like my Louie Armstrong.

The next evening, I met up with Cecile at Martini's at the Mandarin. Let's just say that I got there late. As we were dispersing, Cecile's friend and her cousin wanted to stay out and so I tagged along and we went to sing karaoke at a place in the relative Philippine sense was just around the corner from Rockwell. Compared to the night before, I was on my Lionel Richie, prompting Cecile's cousin to say, "it's like Piolo Pascual went to the States and came back!" (By the way, here's that dude singing bad Bon Jovi with another overhyped tarento, whom, I've been told, is not nearly as good-looking as I am).

Anyway, that weekend my family and I went to Punta Fuego for some resort time. When I told Cecile what my plans were, she said, "Oslec, you're not middle class."

"We just rent!" I said.

"Nope," she said. "Not middle class."

Turns out we don't just rent. Anyway, I spent the afternoon with my cousin and cousin-in-law pitching golf balls, one of which I shot into the street and nailed the shuttle. I had dinner by myself -- Mongolian bowl. After having eating Mongolian bowls at the UP canteen for, like, a good month, I expected the resort to at least approximate my experience, but I was sadly disappointed. My aunt warned me that the food was bad, and, well, I believed her. Of course, I still think since you select what you put in Mongolian bowls, I was culpable. I'll just say this: the Mongolian bowls at UP are about a $1.50, the Punto Fuego ones were like ten bucks.

I spent that evening playing SimCity DS, purposefully not checking the clock so I wouldn't know how late it was. I eventually decided to try to go to bed, so I went to the bathroom and brought my DS with me. It takes some skill to handle the stylus on the toilet and I think I must have been in the bathroom for 45 minutes zoning heavy residential areas. And also playing SimCity DS, if ya know what I mean.

The next day, I got up early to eat breakfast then went back to bed (read: played more SimCity DS). After I got up, I had a massage on my tita's dime, then ran to the pool so I could say I did something water-related at a beach resort that wasn't zoning water fountains in El Sapo City before checkout. The whole family got together after and we had churros and chocolate (melted chocolate, mind you, not the beverage). On the way back, I tried to play more SimCity, but nearly made myself sick in the car. What was the result of that weekend? 100,000 people in El Sapo City and a monthly income of $4000 by 1920.

Anyway, I'll fast-forward to my last night in the Philippines. After I got back from souvenir shopping with my cousins, I had a despedida dinner of champorado, sashimi, and cookies. I slept for a couple hours and then said goodbye to my tita, my dad, and my driver.

The Philippines was strange in that comforting way, like everything was familiar and rare at the same time. I certainly felt like I had "come home" when I was with my family. It was like I had never been away for, oh, almost twenty-five years -- I fell right into our routines, I knew everyone without actually growing up with them. And, it must be genetic: I ate as much as everyone every Sunday. We all talked about the infamous Tita Aya, we all made the kids do silly kid tricks for entertainment, and we enjoyed and all that good stuff. I think I managed to find humor from happiness, instead of irony; that's sort of amazing.

But just as amazing (and more strange) was me trying to navigate class. And by "navigate class" I mean learn what it's like to be good-looking, affluent, and intelligent. All at once. And you know I'm not being modest for a reason: it was an ego boost, and this blog is your daily fix of my ego. And it all simply proves what Rizal said: tortoises classify each other by their shells and that in the Philippines, he said, there are a lot of tortoises. I came home here to Pacifica and put on a pair of sweats and haven't fixed my hair for, what, a week? While I can act like a slob here, I always felt like I had to dress "appropriately" and not simply to look professional, but just to look put-together. Plus, all that sort of nuveau riche searching for the correct habitus could be laughed off with me being "foreign." Of course, I go back to Providence and dress up in the vain attempt (in more ways than one) that it'll get me laid (outside of TAing, you pervs). But in truth, being able to be just a little more confident was strange. Then again, maybe I'm just like the perfect hangar for all garments. Yes, that must be it.

Seriously though, it was such a strange and familiar place that I wanted to stay longer and my body told me the first fews days I was back here, "you're clearly not suited to being awake right now." Which is true, I should have been partying more in the Philippines. That last week of doing nothing much indulging put into perspective how much fieldwork I actually did. And it was A LOT. If, for four months I went out a total of about five times, you wonder what I did with the rest of that time. And if I think hard enough, I can't think of a day that I didn't spend partly at UP or Ateneo, then back home trying to figure out what I should look for the next day. So, four months came and went and I did a whole lot more work than I thought I did. And with only five days of enjoying myself, I thought I was entitled to a little more.

Research, family, ego boost. The benefits of a strong dollar (for a few months, at least). Lunch for $1.50 nearly every day. No rent. Little kids. And a "cop out" topic. Life was good in the Philippines, '07.

Well...

ANOTHER SHORT POST
But I promise I'll write more later on today. I finished what I will call my final final draft of my ACLS Proposal. I'm going to take a day to fool around before I organize my materials to produce a dissertation chapter. Can you imagine? I'm actually going to start writing something that's officially part of my dissertation; it boggles my mind.

In any case, I'll fill you in on the last couple weeks I had in the Philippines in a bit. Right now, I'm looking towards the future. To be exact, I'm looking at my 27th birthday on Thursday, which is the first birthday I've spent in the Bay Area since I left for college.

And ahora mismo I'm heading out.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

So...

So I guess I should update. I'll just say this for now: I'm back home in California and it's about 3am. I'm working on a grant proposal right now and I made a really neat chart, but I'm out of steam and have to turn in. More lates, yo.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Fun With Philippine English

First, a shoutout to Fred's mom who I think is cool for having been a contemporary of Madonna and Laura Branigan in New York in the early 80s. I think with her, I can now say that tens of people read my blog.

Second, let's continue my rant against the odder side of Philippine English. Today's victim: "titlemania." That's a term I made up for the Philippine tendency to make "official" what are really sort of (supposedly) popularly-derived superlatives, titles, etc. It's like professional wrestling, really, where wrestlers get some sort of gimmick name or title ("man of a thousand holds") and the announcers (and sometimes the wrestler) drill it in your head constantly. This is all part of the marketing for that wrestler of course, and part of the fun is how the storylines are set up so that the wrestler can "prove" he or she deserves the title. It's one thing "to be known as" or to have the moniker of, but only in the Philippines will people go the extra mile and make it like getting a diploma.

Take for instance, Larry Alcala, a prominent cartoonist here. He was actually bestowed the title "Dean of Philippine Cartoonists" by the Philippine Board of Books for Young People. I mean, the guy is a great cartoonist, but he's not the Duke of York and I know that the Philippine Board of Books for Young People isn't the Queen of England. Or, take for instance the new title given to Manny Paquiao: "Mother Nature's Crusader" given to him by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources. And, not so much because he's been crazy about recycling before, but because he's a good friend of the new department secretary. But, heck, he's got the title, and, considering that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace, maybe being Mother Nature's Crusader is just as good as being Super Featherweight champion of the world.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Two Worlds

Of course, what do I do when I'm not working? Wear expensive jeans and watch Animax. If some of you are unconvinced yet that the Philippines is a land of extremes, consider this week's episode of Mad Mad Fun, hosted by a certain Rhian Ramos, who, if I were five years younger and just as confident as I am now, would probably enjoy breakfast with me. In any case, Mad Mad Fun features a weekly band interview and performance (this week with Pedicab, you know, from a few Mondays ago?), along with a "challenge" segment where they put the band through some form of real or imaginary torture. It's looked pretty lame in the commercials, so I'd never purposefully watch the show, unless I feel like being a letch.

But Mad Mad Fun is like the Philippines on Great Gatsby-dosage rich pills. Because Rhian is mestiza and leggy as all-get-out, she's allowed to wear the world's shortest shorts, which the Catholic Church here (and certainly Catholic private schools) outlaw along with spaghetti strap tops and board shorts. Second, Pedicab's challenge this week was to eat as much food as possible and when a member stopped eating, Rhian would punch him in the stomach. Imagine this: a barely legal woman wearing nearly nothing on her legs compels a very nerdy band to stuff itself with sisig and bulalo, just so that she could punch the guys who give up in the stomach.

Let's be clear. She did not hold back: she really punched these guys. But, since I assume they wanted someone to throw up, no one did, so either they didn't eat enough halo-halo, she didn't punch hard enough, or they were trying to humor her (read: get in her barely visible pants). But still, what kind of show is this? "Eat all this food -- most of which is out of the daily diet of a vast majority of the people here -- then be induced to vomit by a gut punch by a damn sexy girl." Sign me up! What? No! Don't sign me up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Last-Minute Research

Between now and the time I leave, there will be many last minutes. During these last minutes, I will be conducting anywhere between frantic and desperate research, hoping to find the last possible nuggets of text that say "middle class." Tomorrow morning, I'm fitting in three hours of quick research because I saw an article on "Armchair Revolutionaries" in one news magazine from the 80s, and I'm deploying my RAs to do some last-minute combing through the 1990s to see if I can't get more mileage out of the middle class stuff from then.

I still have to keep writing this monster. Well, it's not a monster yet, it's still a... well... baby dragon.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Getting Up Early Suite

First, it all starts with going to bed early. Well, intending to go to bed early and then finally doing it at 11:30, which is like Christmas falling on the 1st of December for people in their mid-20s. Second, it involves getting up early -- at 6:30 -- and then deciding to get up later -- at 6:45 -- and in those fifteen minutes, you're not really sleeping; you're just expecting the alarm to go off again and you're just not gonna go back to sleep (well, at least).

So once you're up, you remember why you're getting up early (to go to the gym), and you know you're pushing it already. But you go through the motions anyway -- do some stretching while your shake is blending, get your stuff ready (well not really). And then, with 10 minutes left before your designated "point of no return," you decide to drink your shake while you check your e-mail. And then it's like what the Pinoys say: "patay!"

But you still don't have to be anywhere for an hour, and you figure, "heck, 30 minutes is a lot longer than 15 minutes" and you go back to sleep. And you know, you shouldn't have gotten up early today anyway.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hit in the Head, Stars in My Dreams

I'm watching the replay of the Pacquiao-Barrera fight, but I'm far more interested in the ads since they can split up the fight by rounds and then show an "American" amount of commercials between them. Sort of interesting to figure out who they suspect are watching the fight tonight, based on the ads, though I'm sure that a more dialed-in Filipino would know all this to be true already: lots of ads for souping-up your fighting cock, fertilizing your hogs, beer, painkillers, hotdogs (or rather hotdog balls), corned beef, iodine, cellphones, auto loans, Nike, and for LBC ("Hari ang Padala! or "The King of Delivery!"). Interestingly enough, I have not yet seen an ad for anti-dandruff shampoo, which, I argue, is like a national obsession.

Then there was a surreal commercial for some sort of ultra-flea repellant. It was done entirely in ancient CGI and featured a poodle, a rottweiler, and some other dog as contestants in a game show. The CGI host asked, "What kind of society is best for dogs?" The poodle, of course, answered, "High society?" but that was deemed incorrect by the CGI dog host. The rottweiler responded "Civil society?" but that was wrong too, and it elicited this response: "Civil society is for humans fighting for civil rights!" The correct answer was "Pet Society," which the winner grabbed with his mouth and ran off the computer-generated stage. I have to say: Salvador Dali? Mr. Sparkle?

... I just saw the end of the fight. Manny Pacquiao was giving what I'm sure was a pretty surreal interview for him -- well after getting nailed in the head so many times and because it was given by none other than A.C. Slater himself -- and all of a sudden, the Vice-President of the Philippines, Noli de Castro, appeared in the ring and spoke for a bit. Mario Lopez clearly did not expect that to happen, and said with a pretty surprised chuckle "well he's got some political power here" as he probably realized how surreal the whole deal was in actuality.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dora the Destroyer

OK, what do you think of when you see this:
If you said this man, then you're absolutely correct. Yes, because Manny Pacquiao is fighting a Mexican, the Rockwell Club has decided that Saturday will be una gran fiesta. They'll be showing the Pacquiao-Barrera fight at 8am live, and right afterwards, you can send your kids to "The City of Lost Toys" (La Ciudad de Juguetes Perdidos) where Dora and Diego will interrogate free will (it's at the end) in the "Tower of Knowledge". It's two 'Latin-American" parties (well one is technically a "quest") for the, well, hefty price of Php1000 for the fight and as you can see above, Php200 for the kids to learn how to say "I like boxing" in Spanish.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Impulse Buyer of Fruit


My second installment of my fellowship landed yesterday. Last Friday, my cousin and I were talking about incomes here in the Philippines, and apparently the money I get for my stipend would be something equivalent to a VP or other mid-level exec here. By my calculations, and with the help of Social Weather Stations and Ned Roberto, my monthly income partially qualifies me for classes A and B.

Of course, the ABCDE system works on the quality and construction of your house, as well as the presence of various household appliances. Since I'm only living in my aunt's apartment, I don't technically own any of these appliances, but she's got all that you'd need and some you probably won't (a water optimizer? A magnetic couch?). But as Ned Roberto suggests, ABCDE might indicate classes of consumers, but not their purchasing patterns per se. So, Dr. Ned, where am I?
Let's see about today. Today, I sat around in my underwear until about 6pm, talking to Fred about Vox stuff and looking up Asian-American films on wikipedia. I finally got enough energy to take a shower and go to the mall and trade in a jacket I bought yesterday for a larger size. Now, I think I swore awhile back that I'd never buy a jacket while I was here. Well, it looks like I'll have to accept discommendation or something. After that, I went downstairs and ate a gyro and falafel that were actually pretty good, as was the tzatliki. I ran into my cousin Michelle and her family, then decided to see what kind of purchases I would make, and thus tell me what class I might be in.

Turns out, I didn't buy anything. I'm still on the hunt for a pair of jeans that I can pass off for "work" situations, along with some sort of blazer, with the idea that those two things might be cheaper in the Philippines. Well, the problem is mostly that nothing fits me right here. So with nothing interesting me, I was heading out when I reminded myself to get some chips to go with the salsa I bought yesterday. I really wanted blue corn chips like I could get back at home, but sadly, there were none. So, giving up that idea, I tried shopping for anything else I might need.

The first thing that came to mind was fruit. I bought some longan bananas (I believe they're called, not those cavendish bananas that we have back at home), then some mad tiny Valencia oranges, and then it all went downhill -- I started buying whatever fruit came to mind. I bought four mangoes, I bought a pack of green grapes, and a container of strawberries (which is like buying caviar here). Then I thought, "shit, these would go great with corn flakes," and so I bought corn flakes.

At the checkout stand, I picked up a copy of Rogue Magazine (a suggestion of Cecile's. This site is the closest I could come to a link and I thought, "only a nerd would have thought to title the article like this"). I payed with my card and it caused some problems for the card reader, but I waited long enough for the checkout lady to tell everyone behind me to go to another line (great.)

Anyway, I am an impulse buyer of fruit. It is because I like fruit. And let me say, I think fruit transcends class. Well, not eating it, but liking it. And, if this is any indication of my class, I'm wearing that jacket I bought in an airconditioned room, eating a bowl of corn flakes with strawberries and mangoes in soy milk, all of which I payed for with a debit card from an account based overseas. To me, that sounds kinda lame. Shouldn't I be reading my Rogue Magazine at Starbucks, hoping to hit on female Ateneo Law students who've convinced their parents to rent them Rockwell apartments? We could talk about Quark Henares, talk about shoping for pants, how to eat fruits, then go back to her place to listen to some local indie all while she leans into my new jacket and tells me how soft it is, and then I could compliment her about one or many of her physical features.

Or I could sit here and blog about how much I love fruit and how to apply social science to the everyday, which, if you know me already, is probably what I'd be happy doing anyway. In the final analysis, it turns out I'm still "Class N" or "Nerd."

(Photo credit to Cecile. That's me on the floor of Cuisine last Monday)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bad AIM

My data collection has been going pretty rapidly with my two research assistants helping me out. I've been able to follow up leads (or rather, have them follow up leads) on citations and generate lists of new books and articles to check out, giving me time to actually read them instead of hunting them down with library bureaucrats playing bureaucrat games with me. Still, Faiva and I will still do some sleuthing at Ateneo and Jeofrey and I went to Social Weather Stations and gave their librarian the best time she's had in a while.

Still, I'm out there doing some hunting. Recently (as in today and yesterday), I've been leaving UP to head to AIM - the Asian Institute of Management -- here in Makati. I have a weird family relationship with AIM -- my uncle Mario I think got a degree from there and my dad's parent company donated a building to AIM (which consequently houses their main offices). The few times I've been there have been relaxed affairs, in a relative sense (meeting, memorial mass), so I didn't expect too much trouble visiting their bookstore to buy a couple books.

Well, here's where the fun started for me. Yesterday, I saunter up to the main entrance where I'm asked to surrender an ID (typical), then fill out a form declaring my intention and intended location (Ok...), and then have that form signed by someone to confirm I completed my task (whaaat?). I also kept asking to go to the bookstore, but at AIM there is no bookstore, it is a library. Well, because I roll with the punches before they become absurd King Hippo punches, I did that whole deal and got a book at the Visa (tm) Library.

Today, Jeofrey gave me a book to read that had a few citations that led me back to AIM. So, round two, I met with the guards, did the dance, went to the Visa (tm) Library, and found out a few... let's call them "blocking mechanisms" were in place. First, they quizzed me on who I was. As an outside researcher, I do not have access to the library proper -- to get access requires a letter of reference from your main school's librarian. "As it's hard to get a letter from the States..." the dude I was talking to (I think) commiserated. In addition, the research fee would be PhP150. Note that the UP fee is I believe 80 and Ateneo is 100, without any of this silly shit.

Second, they tried to help me out and we did a library search for the articles I wanted. Of course, nothing came up on the computer. I showed him the citations that clearly stated that AIM had published them, so he made me wait while he talked to the main librarian, who, by the way, was hidden upstairs in Visa (tm) Library heaven. When the dude came down, he reiterated that the articles were written by Ned Roberto and that they are case studies, but since they are case studies, (1) AIM cannot sell them to me, and (2) only faculty members at AIM can browse them. First of all, what the fuck kind of library has documents that only its faculty can browse? Second of all, what the FUCK kind of library has documents that only its faculty can browse?

So the recourse they gave me was to call secretary of Ned Roberto. Fine. So they called the secretary for me, but no one answered. "No one is answering sir," the dude said. Fine. So, instead of giving me the number to call in the future, they sent me to the front desk so I could inquire about the number from them. The front desk people were much more helpful -- apparently everyone was at a party, but I could call on Monday. They gave me the trunkline number and her extension.

Anyway, this all made it very clear to me which is the really exclusive school, especially if they're unwilling to share their research with their own students; that's just crazy. Ateneo, for all its not being LaSalle, is clearly more interested in fostering academic knowledge.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Looking for the Middle Class in Me (or on me)

Cecile finally came back to Manila and if you were to measure my trip by the number of times I went "out," I'd have only spent three or so days here.

I met up with Cecile and her cousin Rafa at Cuisine in "The Fort" at about 10. We chatted for a bit, drank a bit, met a bunch of Cecile's friends, were joined by a couple more of her cousins, then went next door to Embassy to see Pedicab. Pedicab was pretty neat -- your indie, techy-pop, Devo-kitsch (as Rafa pointed out) band. They didn't have half their members, though, because two were in China doing something else (clearly), and there seemed to be a little bit of rhythmic miscommunication between the singer, the drummer, and the synth player, and a few spots where the songs noticeably (to me) slowed down, or failed to definitively end. From what lyrics I could recall I quite enjoyed "let's go kill the DJ together/I'll use my lazer/You use your synthesizer."

Afterwards, we went back next door to Cuisine where we managed to get the best table in the house -- the second floor, looking straight into the entrance and down into the rest of the bar below. I promised Cecile I'd wear an ironic t-shirt for the occasion, and so armed with my "Middle Class" t-shirt, I went down into the bar and Cecile took a few shots of me from our vantage point. I promise I'll post here once she puts them up on Flickr or Facebook.

The t-shirt is not only funny because it's the best idea I've had since March, but because Cuisine on a Monday night (and probably most nights) is the hangout of the "TWEs" as Cecile called them, the Third World Elite: mostly kids in their mid-20s, "working" for the family business or who are gainfully employed but not because they have to be,"models" or "designers" all of whom can afford to take a Monday night to blow a Tuesday morning. Cuisine is also famous for being Ferdinand Marcos' grandson's favorite hangout (he was there), and not unrelatedly, a fun place to watch for celebrity fights (he wasn't in one this time). We only caught part of one fight, and a pretty lame one at that -- some guy started punching another dude then ran out of the club. I did manage, however, to catch a glimpse of the Philippine version of Ivanka Trump (or so Cecile says she's trying to become). She spent most of her time standing up and barely dancing. Also lame.

What did I learn? First, this is where the attractive rich girls are, since they're not and never have been in my building nor in the mall next to me. Second, no one there was jologs since (1) access to Cuisine/Embassy is limited for Jeepneys, requiring you to take a taxi or a private vehicle, and, according to Cecile (2) because if there were jologs there, they'd feel uncomfortable. Relatedly, at Cusine/Embassy, being baduy is "in" since you can pass it off as kitsch (something a jolog could not do). And furthermore, being disaffected (ironically or actually) is "in" as Cecile kept suggesting I could wear a barong. I did see a dude wearing two pieces of a three-piece suit; that was kinda cool. Finally, I should avoid Thursday (Hip-Hop) nights since it attracts skanky girls, though I would submit to two young ladies last night that they should consider wearing pants rather than the world's shortest dress or an oversized t-shirt. All in all, I would describe the crowd as such: RISD kids that have cleaned up a bit.

Afterwards, we went to Makati to have some sobering-up Japanese food and talked politics for a bit. I got home I think at around 3:30, very buzzed and drank as much water as I could before going to bed. I got up at around ten, I think, feeling like a million bucks, which experience has taught me meant that I was going to have a hangover in a few hours unless I drank more water and went back to sleep. So I did. I finally got up at 11:45 having totally wasted Tuesday morning, but made up for it by buying lip balm, nail clippers, and leave-"on" conditioner, then leafing through the archives at the Lopez Museum until 4:30.*

All this makes me think of a footnoted comment that Brian Owensby made in his book White Collar about middle-class political apathy in mid-20th century Brazil. Perhaps, as he suggested, we should throw the C. Wright Mills invective on the flaky middle-class out, and assume the possibility that not all life teleologically links up to politics, and that political action is rare and the mundane is, by definition, the typical. This, of course, doesn't absolve me from being lazy, but it does suggest why people at EDSA and EDSA 2 treated both, honestly, like picnic parties.

*They had archived a mask of Ninoy Aquino from one of the rallies in 1983/84. I almost put it on and ran around the library.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Family Avails of My Blog

So my cousin-in-law Joel told me today he enjoyed the communist karaoke post from a few weeks ago, bringing into sharp relief the fact that this blog has now gained an audience beyond ex-girlfriends, facebook stalkers and Patrick Davila. My aunts and my stepmom have been telling me how they've been entertained by my antics (as described here) and my one aunt insisted I blog about her travails packing for her trip to Europe (for the record, there were many travails).

I leave you with this: even nuns read this blog.

BUT TO NO AVAIL
In the Philippines, the Americans left behind English, basketball, and the world's least transparent democracy. While the last two things are weird enough as they are, Philippine English has been, to say the least, ticklishly frustrating for me. As we all know, English, as it's travelled around the world and been left behind as colonial baggage, has taken different forms, its content changed, its cadences, its pronunciations, etc. But coming from the greatest, and only non-accented state in the Union -- Northern California -- my sensitive ears are hella annoyed with some of the phrases here. And I say that in the most pretentious and imperialistic way possible.

Here, people use some of the most unnecessarily ornate constructions for things that, let's say, back home in the States, we could get across with an impersonal sentence fragment. Since I'm making gross generalizations, allow me to provide an emblematic example that will serve to prove my point by distracting you (humorously) from more intelligent arguments. In fact, besides listening to TV commercials emphasizing what I consider the "wrong" part of the phrase and thus convincing me not to watch the show (I'm looking at you, 2nd Avenue), there is only one, tiny aspect of Philippine English that annoys the fuck out of me: the verb "to avail", specifically the verb phrase "to avail oneself of something."

"To avail oneself of something" needs a whole lot of shit to get it work, which makes it a really horrible way of saying "you can (get)." First of all, to conjugate the bastard, you often have to use a proper noun or pronoun first, then change the "oneself" to match ("you can avail yourself"). That's already too many words, verging on hella words, if you ask me. To save yourself, you can just eschew the "oneself" and just go straight to what you'd be availing yourself of (e.g. "you can avail of a free drink"). Why not just say, "get a free drink" or even "free drink with purchase"?

Second, "to avail yourself" of something implies that its going towards satisfying some sort of strategic need. If I availed myself of a napkin, then ostensibly it's because I wanted to do something with it, like wipe my mouth, or even my ass, which might suggest some special circumstance in which a napkin was necessary versus, let's say, tissue paper.

Thirdly, "avail yourself" gives the impression that the person offering is at your mercy. Unless I'm being ironically deferential, I will never avail anyone of anything of mine. In fact, I want nothing more than to not avail of anything here in the Philippines, but I have no choice as I have to avail myself of everything.

Finally, why the fuck would anyone "avail oneself" of such mundane things as are captured in the Philippine usage of "to avail oneself"? Do you need to declare with such grandiosity that you can take advantage of an opportunity like a discount on a chicken sandwich or a free drink? Did the cashier know I was walking through a desert filled with steaks? While you can avail yourself of a presidential pardon, you can also avail yourself of a parking spot, making both pretty much the same, all other things equal.

And perhaps that's my point: if you can avail of things great and small, then what's the difference? How 'bout we just avail ourselves of miracles and just get the drinks for free? Or maybe we could avail ourselves of some well-placed escape routes as we recount -- with understatement -- how we avoided the approaching zombies? Or, I could just go and find people offering free things and declare "I would like to avail myself of your offer, sir!" I would feel stupid.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Of Burgis, Conyos, Jologs, and Bakyas

Fieldwork is almost like your first year of grad school: first you think you're on to something, and then you feel like you haven't figured anything out at all. I say "almost" because I'm You know me and this blog: rarely do I declare my victory over my imagined foes (exception), so you know this post is about me feeling like I'm stuck in the Manila traffic of classes and classification systems.

Cases in points (can you pluralize that shit?): "Burgis," "Conyos," "Jologs," and the "Bakya Crowd." As you can tell, none of those words is spelled "middle class." In fact, there's not even the letter "m" in that bunch, and no, an upside-down "w" in "crowd" does not count. The question, of course, is which one of these thingies "middle class" and if something is "burgis" or "jolog" can it still be "middle class"?

"Burgis" is an interesting one. According to this book, it's the middle class plus the upper class, who are both the villains and the saviors of Philippine history. They have been at once the educated class, the ruling elite, and the pretty boys and girls who bought Wrangler jeans when those were in (c. 1980). Doing some research on the term today produced some interesting results -- back in 1981, controvertial director Lino Brocka (he directed a film called "Kontrabertyal") brought forth the comedy "Burgis" starring then-teen heartthrob Gabby Concepcion (former husband of Sharon Cuneta). The plot involved Gabby Concepcion spending a lot of time shirtless as he navigated the always-laugh inducing world of higher education as a metaphor for the class divide. Two magazines targeting the young and upwardly-mobile reviewed "Burgis" -- the far more materialistic Parade loved it (Parade also taught its readers how to pronounce perfume brands in an earlier issue), the critical Who said it oversimplified class conflicts (as it advertised a Renault as the car for "the man who's moving up"). Either way, it would start a trend in filmmaking to take a social descriptor and turn it into a movie...

If you're being nitpicky, then "konyo" would describe the top of that burgis segment (what some people call the "AB Crowd" which requires its own post to explain). Like "mamon" and "puto," the Spaniard would find the term pretty hilarious since it's a catchall insult in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world ("mamon" being "boobs" and "puto" being a male whore). But konyos here are argued to be those folks who never ended up mingling with the natives when they came over from Spain, and as such, somehow manage to stay blonde after 500 years. A less restrictive definition suggests the konyo is reproduced in Manila's elite schools where people speak "Konyo English" or "Colegiala English," I guess the equivalent of our valley girl speak. Sadly, because my mother went to the archetypical konyo school -- Assumption -- not only is my tagalog limited to things dealing with the house, but my verb conjugations are all colegiala ("make linis your room!") and the interjection "eh". Of course, I don't speak "deep" konyo (which you can see ironic examples of here and here). Thankfully for me, no one ever uses this term for politics, so at best, konyo's a quick sentence and then it's handled. Personally, I'm quite disappointed with the konyos: living in my aunt's swanky apartment and hanging out at the mall, I've yet to see an attractive konyo woman, though that one old lady I almost hit on at that wake counts, I guess.

Next up are the jologs and the bakya crowd. "Bakya" is a wooden shoe, a clog that apparently was the standard footwear in the first half of the 20th century. According to this column, the term turned into a social distinction in the 60s when...

Movie-going in the 1950s and 1960s was determined by social class--the moneyed and the educated middle class watched movies in English in air-conditioned comfort, while the lowly classes who loved local films contented themselves with stuffy rundown facilities. As they made their way noisily up and down the wooden steps, the moviegoers' wooden sandals (bakya) created quite a racket, leading National Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana to thank the "bakya class" for providing a market for his films.


Thus was born "bakya" as a descriptor for all things or people in poor or lacking in taste. The thing is, the term "bakya" and "jolog" pretty much describe the same type of person, except that your parents would probably say "bakya" and you (assuming you're not that old) would say "jolog." "Jolog" has a somewhat undefined etymology, but this dude had too much time on his hands and wrote a wikipedia paper on the "jolog." "Jolog" it seems, parallels our "trailer trash" or "white trash" descriptor -- it seems (in the blogosphere at least) to describe particular tastes in music (your mainstream testosterone rock and rap) and styles of dress commensurate with said musical preferences (rock, rap). Jolog seems to have more of a "wannabe" connotation than bakya which might mean something is simply of the masses. Of course, I have to see the film "Jologs" which celebrated the jolog apparently, and perhaps its sligtly more gay (but not really) counterpart "Metlogs" (metrosexual jologs).

So where the fuck does "middle class" go? I guess that's the tack I should take: it's political, it's scientific, and it's a vague recollection of democracy and revolution. It's not nearly as fun, as any of those above terms, sadly.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Communist Karaoke

Recently, the Communist Party of the Philippines exiled chairman Jose Maria (JoMa) Sison was arrested in Utrecht, the Netherlands for ordering the killings of two former associates. JoMa is an interesting Communist leader in that he advocates for Protracted People's War in the countryside and for the analysis of the Philippines as "semi-feudal," but with the fax machine as his weapon of choice -- in 1992 he split his party with a fax message calling for "rectification," or as I call it a "faxtification."

Well you can add "karaoke machine" to that: JoMa's got an album. A few, actually. He sings his poetry, some revolutionary songs, and that's fine: he did win an Asian Spirit award or something back in '86 for his work. But the best part is that he sings some "popular songs" and by "popular" I don't mean proletariat (per se). Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you can hear him try his hand at "Besame Mucho," "Memories," and of course, "Mao's Way," all of which are destined to make it to a Magic Sing in the countryside real soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hey Jealousy 2007


Hey Jealousy 2007
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
Went out on the town last night with some cousins from here and from back home. We spent some time at a bar called Absynthe in Makati's Greenbelt area where they serve, unsurprisingly, absynthe for Php450 a shot. After my cousin Blake let himself into the DJ booth and "MC'ed," we moved on to Heckle and Jeckle, sort of an ex-paty bar near the Makati Red Light District.

The band at Heckle and Jeckle was playing laid-back versions of your favorite 90s alt rock. We were there late enough to catch the band getting drunk people to sing on stage to "compete" for "free tickets to Hong Kong." After a couple girls who were far more drunk than I was went up to sing, I took the stage and delivered Hey Jealousy 2007 which, let me just say, was pretty good for having a scratchy throat from screaming at people in the bar and a few drinks. It was so good that girls even came to talk to me. Real girls. And in the Philippines, that's actually an operative distinction.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Productivity in the Tropics

So I'm sure you've heard of what I call the "it's too hot to work" thesis that suggests countries in the tropics suffer from a lack of development since the climate is not conducive to exerting one's self. In the Philippines, the "it's too hot to work" thesis was in full operation during the American period where the more temperate mountain city of Baguio was seen to replenish the energies of American soldiers who had to toil in the lowlands. I'll spare you the details, but you can read about it in Warwick Anderson's Colonial Pathologies.

In any case, being on my own has -- at least for the past three days -- amplified my productivity. I've been going to UP a hour earlier, staying an hour later, and leafing through really dusty documents with a roll of tissue paper to sop up my allergy-induced archive snot (I will recount to you Jose Rizal's encounter with American tourists tomorrow). I've also been calling up people like crazy to set up interviews. Tomorrow, I'm going in again to do a few library searches for books I can't check out myself, but would look good on a wishlist.*

But today, I shoved all the old Rizal books to the side and konked out on my desk. Then, after I woke up, I shifted upright, put my feet up on a plastic chair and fell asleep again. And then, I went back to sleeping on my desk. I think I napped for about 20 minutes in total and while I was slightly embarrassed, everyone else in the office was asleep either at their desks or on the little couch we have in the research area. Those of you who know of my exploits in the SSRL (and Zimmer and 008) wouldn't find this little fit of narcolepsy out of the ordinary, but I consider it a prize for having read a bunch of Social Democratic Party documents and sneezing all morning.

But I have been making some significant headway this week with interviews, research, and clarity of thought that I think is the result of having been here for two months and finally getting a sense of how the history of the past thirty years played itself out and how people have tried to fight the Marcos and then cope with the very awkward democracy that followed. Part of doing fieldwork well, I guess, is staying awake. Part of the rewards for doing good fieldwork is a nice nap. And in the tropics, it's arguably more comfortable.**

CHICAGO AGAIN
As a nerd and an introvert, I'm inclined to engage in trivial pursuits that I think are best captured in the Chilean slang term for "nerd": "girasintornillo" literally someone who turns a screwdriver without a screw. My aunt's apartment is cavernous compared to where I was living on Ives Street last year and with only me here most of the time, I find myself plunking out the notes to Chicago's "Will You Still Love Me" on my aunt's piano so I can challenge myself to sing the song without straining myself. If you recall, after Peter Cetera left Chicago to start his solo career, Jason Scheff took over as bassist and singer in 1985 because, well, both of them sing like they have no balls. But, Jason has maybe a sliver of a ball because he doesn't sing like he's inhaled helium which equals me only having to hit an A above middle C in my chest voice and then "smoothly" singing the notes higher than that in falsetto.

If my aunt's neighbors remember anything from this month, it'll be the lyrics to "Will You Still Love Me." If I remember anything from my trip to the Philippines, it'll be how I sat on the toilet every morning trying to support my breathing while taking a crap, just to see if I can do it. And, of course, since I don't know how to support my breathing very well (but oh do I know how to take a crap), crap comes out of both ends of me. And there ends this entry's scatalogical metaphor.

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* My appointment at the Third World Studies Center hasn't been processed yet, but even as a fellow I'm not allowed to check books out at the library. At least I won't have to pay Php50 every time I go in.
** Though it's finally raining here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Roxy Contemplating Her 3rd Birthday


Roxy Contemplating
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
I'm all moved into my aunt's apartment at Rockwell in Makati. She'll be gone for about a month and so I'm to enjoy my "independent living" as she calls it. She'll only be back for two weeks after that, and then she'll be heading off to Italy for three weeks, so it looks like I'll be back here (or will I even leave at all?)

Anyway, today we celebrated my niece Roxy's 3rd birthday. Maybe since I haven't been to a little kid's birthday party for years, I don't know what's "in" anymore, but apparently you don't eat the cake after you blow out the candles, nor do you open presents in front of your friends. Roxy's sort of a funny kid too, very aloof at 3 years old. She took, well, a couple months or so to warm up to me, but now we're buds.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Number of Presidents Met: 1

I stayed at my grandma's house today, my last day before I move to my aunt's apartment in Makati for the duration of her time in Peru (about a month). I got up with every intention to blog about the past two weeks -- Baguio, basketball with my cousin, etc. -- but of course I decided to watch Animax and half-read Benedict Anderson's new book, Under Three Flags.

This afternoon I went to an art exhibition at St. Scholastica's Archive-Museum by Cory Aquino, former president of the Philippines. Quite a few "distinguished guests" were there: Cory, of course; her son Noynoy, a senator; Manila mayor Alfredo Lim; etc. (or in tagalog "atpb.") As usual, with this socialite shit I felt out of place and I was happy to be a fly on the wall, but it turns out that my aunt is good friends with Cory Aquino's first cousin, so she introduced me to Cory's daughter Ballsy (I kid you not), to Noynoy, and then to Cory herself.

I was able to tell Noynoy and Cory about my dissertation topic, broadly described as "middle class politics," to which both suggested there aren't any middle class politics. Cory's response was interesting. She talked about her husband's assassination and how he hardly knew that his death would bring thousands to the streets and catalyze a revolution. Similarly, she said that no one had told her she would become president, then added that she hoped she'd be remembered for having improved democracy (clearly) and stepping down when the time was right, she said with a bit of a knowing smile (jabbing at GMA). The people at EDSA, she said, weren't thinking about class, but they were acting spontaneously, acting in the name of all Filipinos. She then suggested I go to the Aquino Museum in Tarlac.

The concept of spontaneity seems to be cropping up a bit. I had it in my more complicated formulation of my hypothesis that got bogged down in too much temporal theory. I think I've settled, though, on the idea that events happen and people come to grips with their occurrence with theories, explanations, etc., of which middle class theories are one. It does jibe with my assertion that class does not inhere in anything -- economics, culture, etc. -- without interpretation and expression.

But anyway, granted that Cory and Noynoy had more important people to talk to and that we weren't in an interview setting, I was a little disappointed about their approach to the middle class. I guess I was expecting at least a little more abstract thinking about the topic, but I didn't expect them to deny the middle class had a role, even when the "best" analyses of the EDSAs pin the middle class squarely in the middle (ugh, terrible sentence) of those protests.

I talked to Sister MaryJohn Mazananas, the prioress of Saint Scholastica who was a rather radical nun during martial law, spending time with the NPA, trying to educate her fellow sisters, joining arms with the left in the streets, etc. She was pretty intense and she talked about how the Philippines is undergoing de facto martial law, what with the extrajudicial killings mostly against leftists and the new terror law.

So to conclude, I met a president, she was gracious, I was humbled, and nuns are pretty serious. Also, I ate a lot of sushi -- the best part of these society events.

TACOS
I want a taco. Hard-shell or soft, U.S. or Mexican, I just want a taco. I saw someone selling tacos on the Ateneo campus the other day, a student stand. It was a folding table with a few taco shells, still in the plastic. I think there was a small pot on the grass next to him, ostensibly filled with taco meat. He had clearly not sold anything in awhile, slumping in his folding chair, fanning himself. I thought the thing looked dubious, so I didn't indulge.

So tomorrow, I'm going on the prowl for a taco. A good taco. A good taco in the Philippines. I expect something good since there were links between Mexico and the Philippines during Spanish times, though I think the taco arrived here with the Americans. In any case, history will not matter: only tacos will matter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chicago...

So I'm living very comfortably here, except of course that the dollar is sliding pretty fast against the peso -- from around 46.50 when I arrived to 44.80 as of today -- so I gotta watch the money in my bank account and I'm going to sell my cash to my aunt who'll buy them at PhP45. My reckless spending will have to come to a screeching halt, unless you folks back home wanna stop fucking with the housing market, 'cuz that and all the OFWs sending remittances back are flooding this country with dollars.

In the meantime, I presented my research prospectus at the Third World Studies Center finally and it too theoretical. I definitely have a bit to learn, though when I talked to Prof. Cynthia Bautista today -- she's a noted sociologist here and student of Erik Olin Wright -- I felt a bit better about my work. She confirmed my hunch that I should look into the personal networks of the major social movement groups that are considered "middle class."

I also visited the National Statistical Office on Wednesday and Thurdsay. I have to say, that was the best-run government office I've ever been to. Despite the library being a little haphazard, the staff were so friendly and the typical bureaucratic power trip was nary to be experienced. I could spend all my time there, just looking up useless stats since it's (1) so comfortable to work there and (2) I can browse through the library without an intermediary getting in the way asking for ID for every book I take out.

In the meantime, I've been listening to Chicago on YouTube. Nothing better than singing cheesy love songs in the karaoke capital of the world. And if you think it's just me, as Jim Mahoney would say, "you'd be wrong." The singer is Sheryn Regis and I've got a Chicago crush on her.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Die Hard and Other Things

TODAY'S TAGALOG
Let the spell checking commence:

silip - to peek
singgit - when driving, to quickly occupy space by changing lanes; cut someone off

I saw Die Hard 4.0 today with my cousins. It was very explosion-y. I remember seeing Die Hard 3 maybe a good ten or twelve years ago on a friend's birthday when he treated like 20 of us to a showing of it at a local theater. Justin Long does not equal Samuel L. Jackson, though there was a great deal of snappy action movie comebacks in this one, my favorites, of course, dealing with Bruce Willis calling out the main villain for his Asian fetish.

Dandruff

I don't have dandruff. It seems, however, that the rest of the Philippines does, judging by the amount of dandruff shampoo advertisements on TV and on the radio. According to my aunt, the target of most of those commercials is the "masa" -- that rambunctious other in Philippine culture and society that stands as a flaky-shouldered antagonist to the middle class. Lots of the typical distinctions between rich and poor come out in these commercials: the kid with dandruff at a private school (you can marry up if you have a moisturized scalp!), the fear that dandruff is full of contagious germs, etc.

If only the masses could wear black, perhaps? Interestingly, one of the social movements here -- the one notorious for the Starbucks protest (scroll down) -- wears black. How can you protest impending authoritarianism when instead of pumping your fist or giving a thumbs-down, you're brushing off dandruff? Thus, of course, the "Black and White" movement seems to suggest that to be a political good-guy, you need to be free of flakes. As Barrington Moore meant to say, "no good hair, no democracy."

NEEEEERRRRRDDDDSSSS!!!
Because I can't take pictures in Power Plant, you would not be able to share with me the visual treat of what has been set up in the new "Anthropology" wing of the mall: a veritable hallway of nerdom. Apparently, some sort of black hole that doesn't let nerds escape has dumped its contents out: displays to explain cosplay (with some really nutso costumes); a display of Megatrons and Optimus Primes throughout the years (I did linger there, I admit); tables to play pen-and-paper role-playing games, and a "theater" that's always empty; ostensibly set up to show people the wonders of WoW.

People peek for second, but never really hang out there -- unless, of course, you're a nerd. There aren't too many people when I've passed by (after 8pm), but yesterday there were a few people playing a board game and others I think setting up their WoW characters. Now, once they set up City of Heroes, maybe I'll play along. Or maybe I'll tell them their display of Optimus Primes is missing Powermaster Optimus Prime. Or something.

In related news, CNN is running an episode of FutureSummit about virtual worlds. They have two audience venues -- one in Singapore, the other at Stanford. Funny, the Singapore crowd packed the venue while the Stanford one has like 7 people. Let's not reinforce any Asian stereotypes here, guys.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's in a Name?

First, props to Cecile "C. Diddy" for correcting my Tagalog: binatilyo, dalagita, kuribot. I know too much Spanish for my own good, I guess; though I've never had to spell anything in Tagalog yet.

Yesterday, I almost lost it at the UP Library because they kept making me pay to use the microfilm room and surprised me with the cost of copies. When I say "making me pay," it's not the money I'm complaining about per se (only about $7 in total), but the administrative rigamaroll to pay those $7 and what those $7 went to. First, because my appointment with the Third World Studies Center hasn't been confirmed officially, I have to make do with a visitor's library card. The card, while allowing me to use the facilities (on Wednesdays only), indicates to everyone that I must be charged PhP50 per hour for using the library facilities. I went in on Wednesday and had to pay the PhP50 up front, which meant that after having filled out my request slips, I had to go back upstairs and pay the cashier. Now, I came in at 11:30, so despite the fact that I didn't use up an hour, I still had to pay the entire cost.

Because the library closes for an hour for lunch, I came back at 1pm and worked again until about 2:30. This time, they made me pay AFTER I was done, PhP100. I initially thought this was because I was submitting a copy request for about 10 articles at PhP10 a page. Of course, when I went in the next day to pick up the copies, I found out that their machine can't fit a page on a sheet of paper or edit in such a way to fit the article on less pages, so I was charged PhP200 for the copy job.

Each of those times, I had to trapse back up to the cashier, pay, and exchange receipts. It's significantly less systematic than I assumed it'd be, especially at a library. On top of that, I realized that microfilm reading makes me dizzy. What a wimp I am.

In other news, names are fun, especially when they have something tangentally to do with sex. Here and here.

Learnin' Tagalog... Or Englog

Part of how I soothe my guilt for having a "driver" is, other than trying not to go anywhere, is to sit up front and talk to Jhomby about various things as we head to wherever it is we're going. My aunt suggests that I'm helping him with his English, but I've learned some Tagalog too. For instance, today we were talking about cars and we passed a BMW z3, a very weird sight on these crowded Manila roads. Cars like a z3 are for binatillos or bachelors. The female counterpart is a dalagueta (I think).

Of course, Jhomby also informs me about the seedier side of Makati so I guess I don't have to find out myself. For one, I'd advise you not to be so piss drunk you can't watch the meter in your cab. Being a former taxi driver himself, Jhomby explained how taxi drivers would overcharge drunk Americans in the Red Light District in Makati to take them back to their hotels (by just asking for more than the fare) and how, when idling in traffic, jiggling the gearshift makes the meter click. This is not as sly as more recent model taxis that have a switch on the driver's side door that they flick to add fare.

As Jhomby explained, most drivers have to meet a daily threshold (around PhP 1800), to which many drivers contribute their tips. Cheap passengers (kurebots sp?) make this harder, so drivers have to take a descarte (sp?).

Anyway, the moral of the story, Jhomby said, is to tip.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Few Things in a Row

So fieldwork is going, going, going. I'm reading a lot of secondary source stuff, but not from the library -- I've taken to just buying the books since I can only take out one book at a time and then not take it out of the library. Today, I looked up some newspaper articles that had "middle class" in the title line and made myself sick whirling through the microfiche. I've got a presentation of my research plan on Tuesday, so I feel good to have a few primary source documents that I can use as examples of what I'm looking for.

More fun, of course, is what happened a few days ago on the toilet. This is when I was still dealing with the liquidy goodness I brought back from Saragani, so I had to spend some time on the commode, mostly wondering why nothing was coming out and then when it did come out, why it was so... well... craptastic. Anyway, I was in my aunt's apartment when I had to go. Part of me was relieved (no pun intended) b/c her bathroom benefits a little from the air conditioning, so I could sit there for a bit and at least not be so hot.

I sat down on the toilet and tried to poop. The first thing I noticed was a tingling sensation around my sensitive areas, then a dull heat, like Vicks or menthol. The more I'd strain, it seemed, the more intense that menthol feeling up my butt would get. So I was torn, nothing was coming out (but there was certainly something unpleasant inside), but that menthol heat was starting to feel like burning. Ever put BenGay on your _____? Yeah, imagine that, but with diarrhea.

Eventually, I made a deal with myself: "if, in the next three minutes, nothing comes out, just get up." So I strained a bit more: just gas. So I got up, wiped a bit and then wondered what the fuck was in the water. Then I wondered, why I sat over that shit for so long. Turns out my aunt pours eucalyptus oil into the toilet bowl to freshen up the bathroom. So I get to experience new things here in the Philippines.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For the past four days, I’ve been eating Japanese food. Being related to a foodie makes a difference, plus a proliferation of Japanese restaurants in the Manila area helps a bit. Awhile back, my Tita Beck and I ate at this place at Power Plant and ordered their sashimi special – a whole mess of raw fish, crusteaceans, and cephalopods, served on a conch shell. We paid a bit – PhP 2500 – and were only partially impressed with the sashimi, especially since neither of us wanted to finish off the sea urchin or the octopus. The salmon, tuna, and yellowtail were a little fishier than I was used to, but they did have a lot of slices on there.

Yesterday, my Lola, my stepmom, my Tita Didi, and my little sister drove around Malate and Makati looking for an open Japanese restaurant. Earlier that day, I went down to the kitchen and fed myself and wondered why our usually full dining room was empty. Turns out I didn’t get the memo: my Lola hadn’t set anything out since we were going out to eat for lunch. Around 3ish we left the house and drove to Kamameshi House a few blocks away; turned out they were closed until 5:30. We then drove down Jupiter Street in Makati, but nary a Japanese restaurant was there and those other restaurants that were were closed too. We ended up in Fort Bonifacio, at this really overdone development called “Serendra,” where we ate at a “not really Japanese restaurant” as my aunt put it, Tatami. I ordered the cha soba: it had kinda thin noodles over a huge, huge ball of ice that really made it look like a lot of food. It did have the requisite quail egg and chives with the dipping sauce, and it was pretty refreshing.

The day before (after the Christina Aguilera concert, see below), my aunt, my sister and I went back to that place in Power Plant and got in at the last minute for the last order of the day. My aunt had the cha soba and she shared some with me, my first taste of it. I had the unaju (broiled eel) and it was served similarly to the unaju at Haruki in Providence: in a lauquer box, opened as they serve it, over rice.

And earlier that day, my aunt and I tried out the UCC – a Japanese coffee/restaurant chain – in the same neighborhood. My aunt didn’t think the coffee was all that, and the eggplant-chicken teriyaki sandwich I bought was really unwieldy and smothered in mayonnaise, but the green tea milkshake was very good.

The day before that, I ate at Zaifu in the mall. I had the nabeyaki udon and slurped that mofo down just like it was from Ran Zan back in Prov. I didn’t think it was better per se, but I wanted to see how the rich people would look at me if I enjoyed my food.

Which brings me back to today (or yesterday), when my aunt, my grandma and I finally made it to Kamameshi House and had a really great dinner for about $40 for all of us. We shared some questionable sushi, but some really good kamameshi rice (their specialty) and sukiyaki.

My aunt still assures me there’s better Japanese food. I feel a little guilty for her paying for most of these adventures, but she’s told me to treat her when she goes back to the states again. Still, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve learned from this Japanese food eating adventure. If telling the difference between two restaurant’s cha sobas is my new skill, I am eccentric indeed. If it’s that my family can go seek out Japanese food in the Philippines, then it’s that we can. If it’s that I’ve eaten at a lot of the “good” Japanese restaurants within 10 miles in four days, it must mean I’m turning Japanese or something.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wow, Lots of Stuff

So I spent nearly all of last week down in Sarangani Province in the Southern Philippines. I met up with Teal, Elli, Nikki and Cecile in Manila and we did some shopping (of course) in the mall near my aunt's place. I failed to find a pair of jeans, primarily because there's no quality control over garment manufacture here (mmm sweatshops) and because I guess no one is size 31.

Anyway, the next morning we left for Sarangani on a 7am flight. None of us slept the night before, so we were totally out of it on the plane and I think for the rest of the day. Over the course of that week, we didn't sleep spectacularly the rest of that week either (because of really cold aircon, karaoke, and an earthquake), but we had fun nonetheless.

There's a whole bunch of stuff to recount and sadly, I'm waaay too lazy to do it. Suffice it to say, you should look at my pictures on Flickr and, if you're my facebook friend, you can check out some less flattering (and more flattering) photos of me and my friends. Wow that sounds like a bad porn spam message.

The picture you see right now was taken after the inaguration (or as they call it here "oath-taking") of Cecile's brother Miguel "Migz" Dominguez as governor of Sarangani Province. I brought my barong to wear since it was a formal event, and apparently I looked so formal that I could run for congress. So, like any good politician, I capitalized on that moment of flattery for a photo-op.

Anyhizzoo, my aunt had internet installed in her apartment today, so now we have one of many series of tubes now flowing "internets" into my computer. That means I'll be able to distract myself more and also be in more constant contact with people back home as well. Also, you can see the view from here from my webcam and maybe I'll even dangle the webcam out of the window you can feel like you're falling. In any case, I'll be blogging more from now on.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rich, Poor, and a River


Rich, Poor, and a River
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
Here's a nice shot from my aunt's apartment. She's 16 stories up and you can see that this place really sticks out of the middle of lower-quality homes. If we had a view of the other side, you'd see Makati, the Philippines' business capital.

Philippines Day Thirteen

THE THIRD WORLD MALL
I bought a bunch of books yesterday and am spending most of the day reading them. I say "most of the day" since aside from my usual gym time, I spent trying to find a wireless connection for my laptop. Turns out I had been pirating the connection in the lobby of my aunt's building and whoever owns it put up a password. I then proceeded to locate the nearest other wireless signal, and it's here in the Starbucks in the mall next door. Of course, it's not that simple: it was a pay-per-use connection. Of course, it's still not that simple: I had to go up to the counter to buy minutes.

So with all that done, I came on to check on details of a trip that Elli, Nikki, and Teal are taking to Sarangani (or the primary source document), home to Cecile's governor brother, Miguel Dominguez. I'm tagging along and have to book a ticket for myself, while Cecile will handle the girls. So, she sent me an e-mail she had passed on to a travel agent and I got confused since there were no flight numbers. Turns out, there's only one flight to General Santos City from Manila on Tuesday. In any case, I'll be there until the 29th, meaning I'll have to skip a talk at UP on the Thai coup.

Anyway, why is this post called "Third World Mall"? Well, I was going to take pictures of this place, especially the catholic chapel inside it, but a security guard found me out and asked me to either get authorization from the mall administration or stop taking pictures. So, in a sign of good faith, I deleted the pictures I took in front of her. Still, I've never heard of a church-in-a-mall before and apparently the people who live in the residential towers nearby wanted a parish of their own, so they lobbied to have it built. The chapel's pretty tiny, so when I went to mass there last Saturday, we were spilling out into the mall itself. For the lucky few who made it inside, they could either (1) see the priest head on, (2) see the priest on a flatscreen TV (because they were positioned behind a pillar), or (3) see the priest on a large projector. See? The Catholic Church is moving along with the times.

But in a grander sense, Third World Malls like these are so unattainably high-end for the vast majority of the people here that either habitus or even force somehow prevents "undesirables" (i.e. the "masses") from even stepping foot inside. And, unlike Mall Arauco in Vina del Mar, the semi-gatedness of Rockwell "sanitizes" the area around it from the poor. I'll show you in pictures in a bit.