Lenten Season and Easter

Easter is almost here. Having grown up in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, I’m very aware of the significance of Easter holiday for Christians: the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, however, it is more associated with the Easter Bunny and chocolates (in the form of eggs mostly) which is a bit sad (but I’m sure the kids are quite happy).

Darrell Lea Fine Chocolates and their Chokkie Easter Eggs Galore

Now, let me point out the differences between how Lent is observed here and in the Philippines according to my experiences.

Here, they have Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) where they celebrate by serving out pancakes. I’m not sure if we actually practice a form of Shrove Tuesday back home but if we do then I stand corrected. Anyway, at this time, the bread they call the traditional hot cross bun begins to be sold in bakeries.

Unlike at home, Ash Wednesday doesn’t seem to be a very big deal here. Back home, a person is expected to have an ashen cross sign on one’s forehead by noon time, assuming that person is a Catholic, of course. Here, Ash Wednesday could pass you by like any other day. Ever since coming here, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend an Ash Wednesday mass. I should make up for this next year.

Back home, during the Lenten season, fastfood joints offer special non-meat products like Jollibee’s Chunky Tuna Sandwich or Wendy’s Shrimp Burger (as far as I recall). Here, there are no Lenten Season specials. But then again, there isn’t exactly a Jollibee or Wendy’s here either.

Here, instead of having the public holidays over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, they have it on Good Friday and Easter Monday. That’s right. Friday and Monday off. Easter Sunday is still Easter Sunday but the day after is called Easter Monday.

There are no nightly pasyon vigils, no bisita iglesia (though I can probably do this if I really want to) and no stations/way of the cross conducted on the streets. Although as a child I found these religious observances boring, I now find that I actually miss participating in these customs.

Well, that’s how it is living away from home and I’ll just have to get used to the differences.

Published in: on March 19, 2005 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Airshows down under

I’ve had the opportunity to see the Australian International airshow that’s on this week in Avalon. Now, I’m not really into airplanes so although I walked around the huge field where they’re holding the exhibit, I just admired the outer appearance of the aircrafts and didn’t bother looking at the names, models and specifications.

Cool planes galore! Click on the photo to see more.

Visitors from several countries were there to participate – yes, even the Philippines was represented. I was walking around one of the exhibition halls when I spotted the Philippine flag but it wasn’t until I was walking near a display of black hawks that I realised that there were Filipinos within the grounds. There in one spot is a Filipino soldier talking to two other men in Tagalog! It was all I could do to refrain from shouting Hoy, kabayan! (Hey, fellow countrymen!)

Anyway, despite my lack of enthusiasm, I enjoyed the flying displays. The aircrafts were made to do some low-level flying, flips and other tricks showcasing the individual capability and power of the planes.

If you’re within the vicinity of Melbourne and into airplanes, you could still catch the show till Sunday. A word of caution though, make sure you bring something to snack on unless you don’t mind eating some greasy (and might I add, very salty) fare. Even the sandwiches would benefit from a little less salt and there are no healthier options nearby.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring a pair of ear plugs as well. Your ears would thank you for it specially when those planes are flying low.

Published in: on March 18, 2005 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tuned In to Podcasts

Let me start by quoting the Wikipedia definition of a Podcast:

“Podcasting” is a web-based broadcast medium. Audio files (most commonly in MP3 format) are made available online in a way that allows software to automatically detect the availability of new files (generally via RSS), and download the files for listening at the user’s convenience.

The word “podcasting” is a portmanteau of the words iPod and broadcasting. A podcast is like an audio magazine subscription: a subscriber receives regular audio programs delivered via the internet, and can listen to them at their leisure.

So think of Podcasts as mp3-recorded blogs but the format is very similar to AM radio shows. I didn’t immediately buy into it as it would require you to download what could be massive mp3 files on a regular basis. One of the popular podcasts around has a 30 minute episode that is around 15 Mb on average. And the said podcast could have a new episode as often as once a day.

But fortunately, we now have broadband and I realised that we weren’t really utilising all of the bandwidth allocated to us by our Internet service provider. So, I tried out podcasting by downloading a podcast aggregator called Doppler. Next, I searched for podcasts I might be interested in. There are a number of podcast directories out there and according to Google rankings, iPodder.org seems to be the most popular one. I prefer these two directories though:

  • Podcast.net. I like this directory because each podcast would have details about the podcast as well as a list of all the episodes available under that podcast. There is also the ability to preview the episodes on the site itself. So, you have a better idea of what you’re getting even before adding it to your podcast aggregator.
  • PodcastAlley.com. Same as Podcast.net plus the ability to vote for your favourites. This means that there is ranking of podcasts involved and that also means that it could help you pick which podcasts are better (or at least more popular) than the others. However, I seem to like how Podcast.net categorises the listed podcasts. But that’s just my personal preference.

I’ve picked a few podcasts that I thought were a waste of my time and bandwidth. You’ll know these lemons when you hear them, I assure you.

I have found podcasts that I actually like, too. I’ll list some of them here:

  • Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code (Podcast RSS). A daily podcast about podcasting and a lot of other things. I think it may be the most popular podcast at the moment.
  • Catholic Insider (Podcast RSS). It’s by a Fr. Roderick Vonhogen of the Netherlands. It’s a podcast about his adventures as a priest while in Rome and in his archdiocese. Includes Catholic trivia and comments on the inner workings of the Catholic Church.
  • Digital Strips (Podcast RSS). News and reviews of webcomics and sometimes even interviews with people in the biz.
  • Meanwhile (Podcast RSS). Another podcast about comics and other things that are associated with comics. And by the way, one of the two hosts is T. Campbell who is my editor at Graphic Smash.
  • Slacker Astronomy (Podcast RSS). A very entertaining and funny way to learn about astronomy.
  • Wizard News Radio (Podcast RSS). News and goss about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and anything remotely associated with these two series.

That’s all I have for the moment. There are other podcasts I’m subscribed to but the ones listed above are my must-hear picks as of this time.

Published in: on March 18, 2005 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Commonly Confused Words Test

While reading my daily dose of New Links, I encountered The Commonly Confused Words Test.

Note that the author took into consideration British (and therefore, Australian) English in the test. It’s a test with 40 fill-in-the-blank questions with multiple-choice answers. It will mostly test you on your ability to differentiate between words like they’re/their/there and you’re/your.

I’ve always thought I have a fair grasp of English grammar and spelling except for the occasional boo-boos due to rushing or me being in a confused state. So, I took the test to see how I’ll do. Here is my test result:

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 77% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can’t find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don’t. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you’re not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

  • You scored higher than 65% on Beginner
  • You scored higher than 70% on Intermediate
  • You scored higher than 80% on Advanced
  • You scored higher than 66% on Expert

Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on Ok Cupid

Yay! I did very well. How about you?

Raquel: Here’s my result. Darn, should have really paid attention to the either/or choices; could have had a better result. Oh well… it’s good enough. 🙂

You scored 100% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 83% Expert!

Published in: on March 17, 2005 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

The complexities of health insurance

We received an advisory from our health insurance provider last week, informing us that there would be an increase in our monthly premium. From $99.30, it will be increased to $107.15, a 7.95% jump. Makes me wonder sometimes if health insurance is really worth having.

In our case, we first signed up for health insurance after we were slugged with the Medicare levy surcharge the previous year. Depending on your income, you may be liable to pay a 1% surcharge if you do not have private health insurance. This is in addition to the 1.5% Medicare levy paid by resident taxpayers to help fund the government health scheme, Medicare.

We thought the money we paid for the surcharge was money down the drain since we didn’t really get any benefit from it. It certainly felt like we were given the stick in this carrot-or-stick approach. And if you think that the carrot may not be a good enough reward for you to sign up for health insurance, there’s also the 30% rebate on private health premiums offered by the federal government to sweeten the deal.

As if that is not enough reason, we also learned about the Lifetime Health Cover initiative where people who delay taking out hospital cover will pay a 2% loading on top of their premium for every year they are aged over 30 when they first take out hospital cover! I was fast approaching my 30th birthday then so we had to quickly join a health fund to avoid this extra cost.

Taking all these into account, we could have chosen the most basic health cover just to avoid the Medicare levy surcharge. However, we reasoned that we might as well get a product that would suit our needs. We pored over the brochures from different providers, read the information on their websites, learned about excesses and co-payments and finally decided on a provider and got intermediate (comprehensive cover is way too expensive!) cover for both of us. End of story? No, not really.

We signed up for private cover in Canberra (ACT) then moved interstate to Melbourne (VIC) July last year so we had to inform the health care provider of our change of address. We were surprised to learn that the same coverage costs more here! Not sure as to why this is the case but I imagine it has something to do with differing costs of living between the states. As it is, here’s a comparison of the premiums for the same health cover for the various states within Australia.

State Premium
NT $89.95
TAS $93.15
WA $94.35
NSW/ACT $96.30
QLD $102.20
VIC $107.15
SA $109.20

Anyway, the impending increase in premiums have brought our attention to the need of re-evaluating our coverage again. Our present coverage has minimum benefits for obstetrics and as there is a one-year waiting period for this benefit to take effect, we might upgrade to a better plan now in preparation to starting a family soon. But then again, are we better off just staying with our current coverage and provider then opt to go to public hospitals for the other stuff? At this point I still don’t know, I’m going over the recommendations from a free service provided by iSelect but the different products from several providers are starting to look more and more the same as time goes by. Maybe inertia would win this battle after all.

Published in: on March 16, 2005 at 5:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Additions on Site

As is my wont, I looked at this site’s tracking statistics to find out how many people dropped by and where did they come from (referrer URLs). I then found a referral link from the Philippines.com.au forums.

It’s been a while since I’ve dropped by that forum. I was curious to see what link was there and I was led to this thread started by a poster (nickname is Bugsy) looking for a Pinoy/Pinay Blog in Australia.

Bugsy said:

wala bang internet site d2 sa Au na katulad ng format nito?

Life in New Zealand.. blog ng Pinay sa NZ.

This site contains good/bad experience of a new migrant in NZ.. ..
sharing a house.. homesickness….working.. etc…

Then it was suggested that the poster visit our site. Although our blog may not be as entertaining as KiwiPinay’s, I’ve always hoped that this blog may contain good information regarding Australia for my fellow country men wishing to migrate or visit.

Looking around the forums some more, I found enquiries regarding some places here in Victoria. I thought, hey, I’ve posted something about the Great Ocean Road in my blog. So I used the recently installed Google search for our blog to search for my Great Ocean Road post. To my surprise, I didn’t find it.

That’s when I realised that I actually posted it in my older blog, The Geejay Journal. I went over to my old blog and looked over the posts that were already there that pertains to our life in Australia. I then copied those posts and re-posted them in this blog.

I gave the re-posted blogs their same post date from the old blog. So if you’ll look at our archives, you’ll see that it no longer starts on December 2004 but September 2004.

Anyway, for those of you new here, you may want to read those old posts anyway. Almost everything from year 2004 was a re-posted blog entries from my old blog. It even included my account of our Philippines.com.au Melbourne Eyeball meeting.


Published in: on March 16, 2005 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Philippines 1955

When I was real young, around the late 1970’s, I had this idealised vision of the Philippines in the olden days. Probably, this personal version of my country was brought on about by the Amorsolo paintings (and similar) I saw as a kid, the kundiman music I sometimes hear at home, and the tales Tatay (what I call grandpa because that’s what Mom calls him) told me about that time of Philippine history he referred to as Liberation.

A while back, I received an email with clear photos taken in and around Manila circa 1950’s (maybe). Although I was born in 1974, looking at those photos triggered a sense of nostalgia and I don’t know why. It’s the same feeling I got when I look at old photos my parents and family when they were younger.

I’m just saying that I loved old photos like that. So when I discovered a creative commons (essentially free) movie file about the Philippines of the 1950’s available on the web, I quickly downloaded it.

Download video here.

“Pearl of the Orient” brought to you by your old friend (and good friend), Coca-cola.

It’s called “Pearl of the Orient” and it’s brought to you by our old friend (and good friend), Coca-Cola. Although it pretends to be a sort of documentary about the Philippines of the 1950’s, it is actually a propaganda film to boost Filipino consumer awareness of the product Coca-Cola.

Because of this, it is actually quite funny to watch. Specially with its claim of sugar being a nutricious component of the drink. And you’ll also notice the repetative claim that Coke has been with the Filipino since time began and so, “an old friend, is a good friend, someone once said.”

Tinikling in an idealistic old-day Filipino setting.

It started with a piece that seems to have been taken in a Nayong Pilipino type setting featuring tinikling dancers and people wearing idealistic country Filipino costumes. Even though it was an obvious play at a Filipino’s sense of patriotism, it was still amusing to watch.

I especially enjoy watching the parts where it shows parts of the Philippines of the 50’s. It gives me a glimpse of a land long since changed (for the worse in most cases). It gives me the same feeling I get from watching old Filipino black and white movies. Below are some stills from the actual short-film just to give you an idea of what to expect from it.

I assume somewhere in old Manila. I personally don’t recognise where.

Idealised sari-sari store.

Old Coca-cola truck. I’ve seen these in use even in the very early 80’s.

Welcome to Manila! Oh and by the way, Drink Coca-cola.

Nice day at the beach.

Kanto-basketball – as popular back in the 50’s as it is now.

Is that San Juan de Dios?

Peñafrancia Fluvial Festival, I think?

Singer with rondalla.

Where the heck is this swimming pool now?

There are various versions of the movie file to download depending on your connection. If you have a broadband connection, I recommend you download the DivX or MPEG4 version. The lower quality ones aren’t as enjoyable to watch because of the heavily digitised images.

Published in: on March 13, 2005 at 10:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Sugar High

Gabriel and I finally had the chance to visit the USA Foods store today. The store itself was easy to find, located just beside the train station in Bentleigh. When we got there, there was a short queue at the counter and a handful of people browsing the shelves.

The store itself was quite small, which was a bit disappointing. I was picturing something like the duty-free groceries in the Philippines housing numerous aisles of racks upon racks of American goods instead of a single room with racks against each wall. However, considering that it is the only store that we could find so far that sells American goods here, it’s good enough. We bought a box of Lucky Charms, small bag of Krakel miniatures, 3 Musketeers bar, small tub of Hershey’s Bites (my favorite!), bag of Combos and a bag of Hugs chocolates which totalled AUD27.65. Gabriel was hoping to get his hands on a box of Cap’n Crunch cereals but the store is fresh out of those and only has the peanut butter and raspberry (or was it strawberry?) flavoured ones. He had to settle for Lucky Charms instead.

Anyway, we headed straight to the Chadstone mall right after our trip to USA Foods. We passed by a Suga store which sells different kinds of lollies (candies). The lollies are made right in front of customers and passers by are free to watch. Today there were 2 guys laboriously working on a particularly big batch of green and white strips, patiently working on layers and layers of warm strips, cutting, rolling and stretching them until finally there were only thin sticks of candies that were cut down to bite-sized pieces. There was free tasting of the first stick. We took some and was amazed by the design. The lolly itself was also quite good, not too sweet and hard as I expected.

Suga lolly makers hard at work

We’ve seen a similar process when we were in Sovereign Hill in Ballarat but those were just simple hard lollies (like Lipps). The ones made by Suga have designs in them – stripes, swirls, spots and even names! You could even place orders for whole batches that feature your names and logos. Great for company or wedding give-aways.

Hmmm… I guess that would take care of our sweet tooth for quite a long while. Or so I hope!

A sample of Suga’s product.

Gabriel can’t resist the temptation of being in a store full of lollies. A bag like this one costs $4.95.

Published in: on March 12, 2005 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

PX Goods

Would you believe that there is no Hershey’s Kisses locally available here? In fact, there are no Hershey’s chocolate products. I couldn’t believe it during my first few weeks in Australia. You’ll have no choice but to settle for Cadbury instead which they seem to have in great abundance. Unless, of course, you seek out a PX goods store.

Well, okay. To be honest, I’m not really sure what the acronym PX stands for. All I know is that PX is the term we (as in people I know in the Philippines) use to describe items that were brought in from the Motherland – the United States of America. Sometimes, I believe, it also applied to items not just from the US but from any foreign nation.

Anyway, fortunately for us, there is an American in the office. I asked her if she knew of a place where we could possibly buy American goods. She pointed me to USA Foods 0n 11 Nicholson St, Bentleigh near the Bentleigh train station. So tomorrow, we’re going to stop by and buy stuff I wished Australia was selling locally.

Here is my list of to-buy items:

  • Cap’n Crunch. I loved this cereal back in the 80’s when my Tito Boy was still in the US sending us States-side goods.
  • Fig Newtons. I miss those.
  • Hershey’s. Of course! Shouldn’t buy a lot of these though as I shouldn’t be eating a lot of chocolate for fear of getting another dreaded kidney stone.
  • Kraft Mini Marshmallows. I can’t seem to find a decent equivalent of these mini marshmallows here.
  • Three Musketeers and Reeses. All right so I probably wouldn’t really be buying these but if it weren’t for that old kidney stone episode I would be buying these in a heart beat.
  • Goober Grape Peanut Butter. Again, due to kidney stone fear, I probably wouldn’t buy this goodie, too. Ugh.

While talking about acquiring foreign goods, I might as well talk about our want for Philippine products, too. We miss those things available back home which we took for granted when we were still there.

Fortunately, yet again, there is the good ol’ Google. With its help, we were able to find out that there is a Filipino store in Footscray, west of the city. Actually, we found there were three stores when we visited the first time.

From there, we were able to buy the following:

  • Lady’s Choice Chicken Spread. The mayonnaise here, in my opinion, doesn’t stand up to Lady’s Choice Mayonnaise. But we did find a close alternative. So instead of Lady’s Choice Mayo, we bought the Chicken Spread instead.
  • Pickle relish. For the tuna spread if we decide to make one. We can’t find here in Oz the exact type of pickle relish we love and enjoy back in the Philippines. They do have pickled gherkin relish which is pretty close but not the same.
  • Flat tops and Curly tops. I love those chockies back in college. Still love ’em today. But again, there’s the kidney stone problem.
  • Lucky Me La Paz Batchoy. Mmmmm.
  • Nagaraya. Mmmmm.
  • Knorr Chinese Soup. You know… “There are Chinese soups, and there are Chinese soups, but there is nothing like, Knorr real Chinese soup. Knorr is one-of-a-kind. Best Chinese soup you can find. Knorr is easy to cook. Just add one egg. Ping!” You know the rest.
  • Magnolia Nestle Ube Ice-cream. Yeah! The package didn’t actually say “Magnolia” though. What happened to them anyway? Still, it’s obvious from the packaging that it was Magnolia. And I still remember when it was still Magnolia/Nestle. Seems like they dropped “Magnolia” altogether.
  • Pulboron. Spelled as Polvoron in the packaging. Last time I saw that was when I bought pulboron in the US.
  • Yema. Mmmmm.

So, even though we are away from home (and the Motherland), the stuff we’ve grown to love in our childhood is still available here, even if they are a bit more expensive that local products.

That’s just the way it is.

Published in: on March 11, 2005 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remembering Canberra Year One

When I read Ka Uro’s February 28 blog post titled Life Abroad is not all Roses, this part reminded me of the time I was forced to move to Canberra way back in 2001:

Ang bansag nga namin sa kanya “Bulok”, kasi wala kang maririnig sa kanya kundi ang salitang “bulok”. “Bulok naman dito sa New Zealand, malungkot. Sa amin marami kang mahihiraman ng VCD, DVD, video games. Dito walang Jollibee, walang MegaMall, etc. etc. … bulok ang New Zealand.”

Like “Bulok’s” comments about New Zealand, I was thinking that there wasn’t much to Canberra during my first few weeks living there. I just came from living in Sydney for three months where it was all so metropolitan.

I was over three months without a client in Sydney at the time and most of my fellow Filipino acquaintances working for the same Australian IT consulting firm I belong to were sent packing back to the Philippines because they couldn’t get a client after three months. You can say that I really didn’t have a choice and I was reluctant to move to Canberra. I had myself thinking of intentionally doing bad in interviews I was going to have in Canberra. Of course I couldn’t do that. I tried my best with each interview.

I didn’t get the first couple of jobs I interviewed for. And when I thought I actually did bad in an interview (I was even convincing the manager that I wasn’t at all qualified for the ASP web developer position they had on offer), I got the job. I guess they were pretty desperate. I dunno. Anyway, it was just as well. I’d rather leave Sydney to go to Canberra than leave Australia altogether.

Since they were in a hurry for me to start working, I wasn’t able to bring all I had with me on my move to Canberra. I had to return to Sydney the next weekend to pack and bring over the rest of my stuff.

I arrived in Canberra on the evening of the day before I start working at the hospital via interstate train. My account manager picked me up at the train station at Kensington and drove me to the suburb of Phillip where I was to live.

During the ride, I couldn’t help but notice the gloominess of all that was around me. It wasn’t that late and it seemed that everybody was already asleep. I was also not used to seeing houses having all lights turned off during the night. Back in the Philippines, people tend to leave at least one light turned on (to ward off burglars I suppose). Right there and then, I realised how much I was going to miss Sydney. I thought then, there wasn’t anything in Canberra.

When I got to the apartment, I felt that it was in the middle of nowhere. It was a compound of townhouse apartments in the middle of the bush. That’s what I thought at the time, at least.

After a few days, I was able to get hold of a map of Canberra and its suburbs. I was able to explore the surrounding area. I realised that I needed a car but since I couldn’t afford one at the time (and I didn’t have an Australian drivers’ licence), I bought a bike instead. I was not pleased to discover that shops close a lot earlier in Canberra than in Sydney (which still has most shops closing early). There really wasn’t a lot of places to go to specially at night.

Raquel was still in the Philippines at the time and my friends were all in Sydney. It was pretty lonely and boring at the beginning. Later on, I found ways to pass the time with activities like starting my own webcomic Lovarian Adventures, watching a lot of DVD and videos, playing PC network games like Counter-strike and Unreal Tournament, and surfing the web.

I eventually got used to Canberra and its slowness of pace and tranquility and serenity. I actually began to like it. All those years I lived in Canberra, I kept on thinking about returning to a big city like Sydney. I missed city life with its crowded streets and late-closing shops and cool events.

Me with my drawing book on Commonwealth Ave Bridge above Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

Now that we’re here in Melbourne, Raquel and I realised that we in fact miss living in Canberra. We miss the fact that with a car, we can get almost anywhere around Canberra all within half-an-hour’s drive. We miss the wide open roads and space. We miss the peace and quiet. We miss the people who seem to be more friendly than those who live in either Sydney or Melbourne.

Maybe it’s just a case of the grass being greener but we now think that maybe when we retire, we could return to Canberra, our home away from home in Australia, to live the rest of our lives there.

Oh and before I end this, I just realised something. I originally came from the Philippines. In Canberra, I lived in the suburb of Phillip. And now In Melbourne, I live in the City of Port Phillip. Coincidence or something more mysterious?

Published in: on March 9, 2005 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment