Lovarian Adventures Fourth Anniversary

That’s right. My webcomic Lovarian Adventures is four years old now. Actually, it was four years old yesterday (19 April).

A few months ago, I’ve joined a webcomic group called Graphic Smash where I was hoping to get some financial renumeration for all my efforts on the comics. However, that meant that the archives of the comics would only be accessible to paid subscribers. This meant that my old readers who have no way to pay for a subscription cannot read the old pages. This also meant that any new potential readers will only be able to read the newest page as the latest page is always free to view. But then, a new potential reader may not get hooked by just the latest page alone because the latest page will be out of context with the rest of the story.

That’s one of the reasons why I left Graphic Smash in addition to my realisation that I wouldn’t be able to produce new comic pages in a regular and consistent basis.

So, I was waiting for Graphic Smash to officially announce my webcomic’s departure from their group before I post a new comic page. I was also hoping that they would make the announcement before the anniversary date.

Ah, well. There’s a new page at my webcomic site for those interested.

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Published in: on April 20, 2005 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weather matters

I used to ignore weather reports, at least when I was still living in the Philippines. There are only 2 weather conditions in the Philippines anyway – rainy or sunny. The weather ranges from about mid-20s to high 30s (Celcius) and with the exception of stormy days, you could usually gauge the weather condition for the entire day just by looking at the sky in the morning. If the day starts out bright and warm, chances are, it would stay that way until you head home in the evening. On the other hand, if you feel that there’s a chill in the air and gray clouds are looming overhead, better bring your raincoat or umbrella as there would be a big chance of rain.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) gives out daily forcasts, just like any other weather prediction agencies throughout the world. Sad to say though that the predictions they give out are of the hit-and-miss kind, possibly because of the outdated equipment they use. I think I read somewhere that the location of the country and its configuration also has something to do with the accuracy of predicting the weather in that area. If this is true, just imagine the difficulty of trying to predict the weather patterns of a country consisting of 7,107 islands near the equator.

Wala na talagang pag-asa ang PAGASA,” (There’s just no hope for PAGASA) is the comment people would usually give whenever the agency announces a big storm coming and it turns out to be a very bright and sunny day. Worse still, PAGASA predicts a sunny day and yet you wake up to whistling wind, heavy downpour and flood everywhere.

Which is why when I got here in Australia, I mostly ignored the weather reports as well. I didn’t think it would matter and that the predictions would be hits-and-misses too. However after several occasions of spending the day sweating in my jumper or freezing in a thin T-shirt, I learned to pay closer attention to the weather forecasts. Temperature could range from a single digit to low 20s in autumn (specially in Canberra) or could change from sunny to cloudy, chilly, freezing and back to sunny again here in Melbourne. My rule of trying to gauge the weather from the temperature in the mornings doesn’t make sense anymore as the weather changes throughout the day. I’d have to rely on the Bureau of Meteorology just like everyone else, as their forecasts are fairly accurate and only deviates slightly, if at all.

Anyway, I’ve also learnt that trying to dress for a particular kind of weather doesn’t really work, my clothes would have to adapt to the weather. Nope, that does not mean going in search of a magic fabric that adapts to the changing temperature. It simply means that you have to learn how to layer. Sandos(singlets), T-shirts (2 or more) and polo shirts could be worn on top of one other with a jacket, cardigan or a coat. As the weather warms up, you could easily take off layers and stash them in your car or bag.

Tomorrow’s forcast is for a sunny day with a low of 7 and high of 22 degrees (Celcius). Still a good day to layer but I’ll most likely leave my brolly (umbrella) behind.

Published in: on April 20, 2005 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fitzroy Gardens

I recently wrote that we went to the State Library of Victoria yesterday and it seemed like we spent the whole Sunday afternoon there. Actually, we didn’t. Although we stopped by the State Library first for a few minutes, we did go to the Fitzroy Gardens just east of the Melbourne CBD right after.

First, here is a description of the Fitzroy Gardens as described by the Melbourne.com.au site:

The Fitzroy Gardens is one of Melbourne’s two best gardens (the other being the Royal Botanic Gardens). It is situated on the corner of Clarendon Street and Wellington Parade, and along with the Treasury Gardens adjoin the eastern perimeter of the CBD.

I just felt like going to a park yesterday so when we decided to go to the State Library in the city, I looked up the parks that are in Melbourne. The nearest largest park from where we’re planning to go to was Fitzroy Garden so that’s where we went.

We waited along La Trobe Street for a tram (tram 23, 24 or 34) that could take us to Victoria Parade. The idea was that from there, we could get off the corner of Lansdowne Street and just take a short walk south to the gardens.

The tram that came along, however, was the City Circle Tram. Now, for the benefit of those who aren’t from Melbourne, let me explain the City Circle Tram. Unlike all the other trams in Melbourne, the City Circle Tram is completely free so you can get on and off them with impunity. There is a tram approximately every 10 minutes. Another cool feature of riding this tram is that there is a voice recording that describes and explains the area being passed through by the tram. The downside though is the limited route they take. As the name of the tram suggests, the route is in a loop around the city’s edges. Still, it’s a pretty good free service if you intend to visit all the main tourist attractions within the city.

So we took the City Circle Tram and got off Spring Street instead as the tram doesn’t go to Victoria Parade. From Spring Street we walked through the Treasury Gardens and on to Fitzroy Gardens.It was a very pleasant walk in the park, really. The temperature was just about right and the towering trees were a beautiful sight.

When we got there, we consulted the map posted by the west entrance to see what other main attractions there were in the park. We proceeded to pass by most of them. To see our photos in the park, go here or click on the small photo above.

After wandering about in the gardens for almost an hour, we returned to the State Library of Victoria in the city where we spent the rest of our Sunday.

Published in: on April 18, 2005 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jobs for sale?

The story is eerily familiar – workers being recruited to work abroad, made to attend seminars, asked to pay “processing fees” and finally leaving the Philippines to seek their fortune in a foreign land. However instead of living happily ever after, their passports are taken away from them once they land at their destination and they’re made to slave away, not as nurses, but as toilet cleaners. An episode of The Correspondents(a public service-oriented show produced by ABS-CBN in the Philippines)?

Sadly, this story was shown on Seven’s Today Tonight here in Australia. The illegal recruiter featured was a certain Angelica from Angeles City, recruiting nurses to be sent here in Australia. The workers were promised a salary of at least $60,000 annually, free accommodation and transport. In exchange, they are made to pay $20 for an application form, attend a $60 seminar at Holiday Inn and made to pay a processing fee ranging from $11,000 to almost $30,000. When they got here, these nurses were made to work as toilet cleaners in nursing homes for up to 19 hours a day without pay, virtually trapped because their passports were confiscated by the recruiter. They were supposed to be paid $7.29 per hour but was just given $50 weekly as an allowance for food. To get an idea of how inadequate this amount is, click here.

As for the promised free accommodation, they were made to sleep 3-4 to a room with thin foam mattresses laid out on every available space on the floor. To add insult to injury, they were even made to pay $200 for this horrible accommodation.

The segment finished with the reporter saying that the illegal recruiter’s ability to sponsor visas has now been closed down. (But who’s to say that it won’t be reincarnated by a close friend or relative?) The report mentioned that she found loopholes in the immigration laws and abused them. As for the hapless nurses, they were able to find real nursing jobs after they applied in job placement agencies here – at least one bright spot in this cautionary tale.

It’s sad that Filipinos would do this to fellow Filipinos, live off the sweat of other people and act like they are doing these workers a huge favour. Be careful of people like these. If it sounds too good to be true (worse, when they start to ask for money), it might be a wise move to walk away. Consider your options, as applying for a migrant visa directly with the Australian immigration may be your safest and best bet.

Published in: on April 18, 2005 at 7:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

State Library of Victoria

Raquel and I have an affinity for libraries. Back in my university days, I usually hung out at the De La Salle University library. After university, I would frequently drop by the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati.

I would spend my free time in a library to read up on all my interests: sciences, European medieval and Renaissance history, Philippine history and mythology, theology, medieval architecture, creative writing, arts and computer science. And when I’m not reading up on those, I was drawing, writing or preparing a Dungeons and Dragons game for the next week’s session with my cousins and friends. I’m such a geek, I know. At least, the two libraries I went to were nice hang outs in the Summer as they were both air-conditioned. Anyway, while in Canberra, Raquel and I would frequent the local libraries there. Hey, they were loaning out the latest DVDs, videos and books for free, after all.

Fast-forward to the present. Although we go to two different libraries in Melbourne at a regular basis (the City Library and the St Kilda Library), none of them made me feel like I could spend the whole day there like the State Library of Victoria did. Well, okay, the Melbourne City Library was close but it had a smaller selection of books and it was more cramped.

On a weekday, we could probably spend it in the City Library because it was closer to our office, but on a weekend, the State Library is the clear winner. The City Library is open 8 am – 8 pm Mondays to Thursdays, 8 am – 6 pm Fridays, 10 am – 1 pm (only!) Saturdays and closed on Sundays. Compare that to the State Library that is open 10 am – 9 pm Mondays to Thursdays and 10 am to 6 pm Fridays to Sundays.

I guess what drew me to visit the library today was due to my feeling nostalgic with my grandfather’s recent death. I remembered that he picked me up from the university and I would wait for him in the university library. Then I thought, maybe Raquel and I could hang out in a library again one weekend. Then I remembered the last time we visited the State Library and we thought it was pretty huge with lots of vacant desks at the reading rooms so we decided to check it out again early today. I figured I could finish a page from my webcomic Lovarian Adventures in the reading room while we’re there.

We took the train (we didn’t want to be bothered with trying to find a cheap parking space for the car) and got off the Melbourne Central station (nearest to the State Library). There was a grass lawn in front of the library where people just lie around to relax. In one area by the grass, somebody had set up a loud speaker box, a podium and a blackboard. On the blackboard was written something like a speaker is allowed 30-minutes to express his views to the public there.

It was a pretty much a soapbox public forum type thing without an actual soap box. When I listened in, the speaker was talking about his views on Christianity and that he was an atheist. He was talking about how Christianity as we know it today was derived mainly from the teachings of St Paul and that the other versions of Christianity disappeared. Pretty interesting stuff although I already knew that. But there was this old lady who was obviously offended by the atheist and she was constantly interrupting him, berating him, telling him he was a blasphemer. The other people in the crowd chimed in their two cents worth saying she should allow him to finish and that she would get her 30-minute turn later. I didn’t really wait around for the outcome of their heated argument.

We went in the library and proceeded to what seemed like the main reading room in the ground floor (actually the second floor) but the guard by the reading room entrance stopped me because, apparently, my bag was bigger than the allowed dimensions. That certainly was a downer. I had to put my bag in a locker ($1 for 6 hours for the small locker, $2 for the bigger locker) and carry my drawing materials by hand. We discovered that the lockers were pretty convenient and that we can re-open and re-close it without having to shell out an addition $1 just as long as it is withing the paid six hours. I thought six hours should be more than enough time.

We didn’t immediately go to one of the desks in the main reading room. We looked around first at the surrounding rooms which included the Experimedia room which is just a room with Power Macs and large screen TVs you can play with for free. One of the rooms were for Art-related books while the other was for journals. Raquel told me that there was an exhibit in the fifth floor (The Changing Face of Victoria exhibit) so we decided to check that out first.

In the lift, we pressed button 5 also labeled as the floor with the exhibit. However, we then saw button 6 labeled as the floor to see the “Skylight in the Dome” area. So we pressed button 6 and decided to just step out on the sixth floor. Well, the Dome wasn’t much of a sight, really. It’s just a dome. We took a couple of snaps of it then walked down the stairs to the exhibit.

The exhibit was at least more interesting with its items, drawings and photos of early Melbourne. There was a section devoted to Australia’s famous bushranger and folk hero, Ned Kelly. The most common depiction of Ned Kelly in Oz is with him wearing his distinctive homemade armour. At the exhibit, I saw the real deal and there was even a video describing the armour’s history and how it comes together.

There were some ViewMaster-like viewfinders where you can see old black and white 3D photos of Victoria. Amazing stuff. It made me feel like I was there (if you can forget the fact that the photos weren’t in colour). There was also this interactive computer that allowed you to view a 360-degree view of Melbourne by rolling the trackball controls. Apparently, somebody from the 1800’s drew a 360-degree scene of Melbourne from one of vantage point in the city. This was before there were tall buildings in the city. So scrolling the image sideways makes you feel like you were standing in the same spot the artist was that drew the panoramic drawing. There was also a coloured painting done the same way but maybe a few years later on because there were noticeably more structures. Again, amazing stuff.

I was still enjoying the other items in the exhibit when the guard told us that the area was about to close. It was 5 pm already. We then just headed to the Cowen Art Gallery just outside the Redmond Barry reading room on the third floor (I think). After having looked at the different paintings at the gallery, we decided to take a look at the adjacent Redmond Barry reading room. That room was huge!

We were curious as to what type of books they had on offer there so we walked the room’s perimeter and browsed the books. After circling the room and the mezzanine floor above it, we decided to finally take a seat at one of the desks. I took out my pencils and started to draw. The lighting of the desk was acceptable and here in the library, I didn’t have a lot of distractions unlike in the apartment. I was able to finish a panel of the comic when I felt pain in my neck again. I should’ve adjusted the seat’s height first.

Ah well. The PA system announced that the library was about to close anyway. We picked up my bag from the locker and went home. I can image myself doing that again on another weekend. I could maybe, finally, be able to get some comics or writing done. And on a weekday, I could hang out in the City Library more. I already said I was a geek, didn’t I?

Published in: on April 17, 2005 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Migrating to Australia

The bag that houses my personal documents is getting noticeably fatter so I went through it with the intention of weeding out the unnecessary and outdated ones. Going through those papers is like going through time though and I got distracted when I chanced upon some of my documentation while I was going through the application process of migrating here over four years ago.

Looking at the timeline below, notice that the whole process took me nearly 1.5 years to complete. It doesn’t sound like much now but it sure felt like a lifetime while I was going through it. There was also this 8-month gap between my medical exam and receiving the letter informing me that my application has been approved. There is no correspondence whatsoever from the embassy during this time and I was getting impatient so I called up the embassy thrice, always getting the same answer – No decision on (my) application yet. Not terribly helpful nor informative but I suppose there’s not much else they could tell me about the progress of my application either.

Fast forward four years and here we are, with you reading this entry created by me here in Australia, home to me for almost three years now. It took awhile but as they say, all’s well that ends well. There’s currently a lot of noise about the need for more skilled migrants so hopefully this entry gives you a picture of how it could go. Remember though that this information is more than 4 years old now and it’s best to check the immigration website for the latest policies, fees/rates and timing.

Date Comment
Dec 20, 2000 Left for Australia on a tourist visa (for a vacation and to see how living in Australia would be like – Could I see myself living here long-term?)
Jan 03, 2001 Soul-searching done. Australia looked like a very good place to be so I took the first step towards applying for migration by submitting my documentation & fee to the Australian Computer Society(ACS) for Recognition of Prior Learning(RPL) assessment. The assessing body responsible for assessing your qualification depends on which industry you belong to so check the Australian immigration website for more information.
Feb 07, 2001 Date on letter received from ACS declaring my qualifications as suitable for migration
Feb 20, 2001 Acquired an Independent Skilled Migration application booklet from Australian embassy in Makati (Cost: P250)
Mar 15, 2001 Lodged migration application form with all necessary documentation to the Australian embassy in Makati (Cost: P27,900)
Mar 20, 2001 Date on letter received from embassy confirming receipt of my application. File reference number contained in this letter.
Jul 24, 2001 Date on letter received from embassy informing me to undergo medical examination. This letter also listed the documents I need to bring to the exam with me plus a document stating the guidelines for the medical exam and a list of clinics/doctors that are qualified to perform the exam.
Aug 13, 2001 Visa medical examination done at a clinic in Makati (Cost: P1,500)
Apr 24, 2002 Date on letter received from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs informing me that my visa has been granted on the condition that I land on Australia before Aug 11, 2002.
Jun 22, 2002 Attended a seminar conducted by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas in order to have a sticker pasted into my passport attesting that I have indeed attended this seminar. I was told by their office that I wouldn’t be allowed by the customs official at the Philippine airport to leave if I don’t have this sticker stuck in my passport. I was expecting this to be a waste of time and money but actually had fun chatting with the other immigrants heading for different parts of the world. The session also gives the attendees some tips on packing, what to expect and settling in a new country; overall a good experience.
Jul 19, 2002 Arrived at Sydney airport

 

Published in: on April 15, 2005 at 8:15 pm  Comments (5)  

Online medicine shopping, anyone?

I’ve heard of people shopping online for books, CDs, DVDs, bags, clothes and even electronic equipment like cameras and computers. However, I was intrigued when an officemate told me yesterday that he buys medicines online. He said buying medicine this way has saved him heaps even after taking into account the delivery charge.

A pack of lozenges I bought last week is listed at $4.99. I got the pack on special at $4.69. My Chemist‘s website lists it at $8.69, which I suspect is the regular price.

If you’re interested to know more about buying your over-the-counter and even prescription medicines online, check out, Pharmacy Direct website. Do some comparison shopping first before deciding to get your medicine this way. Also, google for other online chemists, I’ve found at least 2 other websites that offer this service. Also, it might be a good idea to buy in bulk and place an order with other members of the family or friends.

Published in: on April 14, 2005 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remit from Oz to Pinas

Back in Sydney, me and my friends send money to the Philippines through Pag-asa Express. Sorry, but I no longer have their contact details but you can always go to Chowking Filipino store in Westfield Shopping Centre in Parramatta to get the info from them.

When I moved to Canberra, I started remitting money to Las Pinas through Maynila Holdings but we generally refer to the company by the name of it’s owner/operator, Mang Cesar. If you’re in Canberra and you want to send a package or cash to the Philippines, you may want to ask him for more details by calling (02) 6290 1090 or 0408487379. You can tell him I directed you to him. From my experience, he’s pretty reliable. Even after moving to Melbourne, we kept sending remittance to Manila via Mang Cesar.

However, we’re thinking that it may be easier in the long run if we use a local remitting service but finding one was a bit difficult. That was, until we found Filipino shops in Footscray. Like Chowking in Sydney, they send remittance to Manila and they do it through a third party. In their case, they used Ordex.

They had a pamphlet for Ordex in the store and here is the info on the first page:

Your Melbourne-based all round door to door service provider

ORDEX
We Look After You

Balikbayan Boxes
Money Remittance
Gifts for all Occasions

For all your enquiries please call Alex or Meriam Ordona on:

(03) 9560 9110
(03) 9560 8131
0422 445 285

For Country Callers:
1300 884 982

In all three remitting services, the fee to send cash to Metro Manila is $8.00 and they could deposit the cash to a Philippine bank or deliver it door-to-door the next day.

Disclaimer: We are in no way associated with Ordex. As of this writing, we haven’t used Ordex’s services yet so I do not personally know the quality or reliability of their services. Use of their services is purely at your own discretion. Caveat emptor.

I have listed the above services for purely informational purposes to help give those Pinoys here in Melbourne or Canberra a lead on how to send money to the Philippines.

Published in: on April 13, 2005 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sumalangit Nawa ang Iyong Kaluluwa, Tatay

I posted a few days ago that Tatay was admitted to the ICU of Perpetual Help Medical Center due to pneumonia. A few minutes ago, Tatay died in the hospital. The details are still a bit sketchy as I cannot talk to my Mom over the phone properly. She’s so grief stricken that I couldn’t get any details from her.

I always thought he’d live forever. He was always so strong. Even though he was beyond 65 (at the time of my youth), he’d always be well groomed and would drive me to uni at De La Salle University in Taft Ave and back. He was witty. He liked to talk about his past as any grandparent probably would. I just wish that I had the opportunity to ask him more about his life.

Tatay, sumalangit nawa ang iyong kaluluwa. May you rest in peace.

Published in: on April 12, 2005 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

One groovy lolo

He was in front of the mirror trying to smooth his hair into place with some pomade, coaxing back a few stray strands with his hand. Beside the sink is a box of hair dye he has just used to transform his thinning silver hair back to black. Mang Teodoro was going out that day. He has already changed from his usual T-shirt, shorts and slippers into a striped polo shirt, slacks and brown top siders.

He greeted me warmly as Gj and I went into their house. He asked if we’ve already eaten and asked the househelp to give us something to eat. As the table was being set, he’d tell us of stories of years past when Coastal Road is still really beside the coast and Manila Bay is safe to swim in. He’d reminisce about his time as a government employee in Pasay when he met (then) Mayor Pablo Cuneta himself.

When he noticed that the table was ready, he said something witty (I can’t remember now to give an example), got his plastic envelope where he keeps his documents, waved and left us smiling.

“Ang groovy naman ng lolo mo (Your grandpa’s so groovy/cool),” I joked to Gj. I remember thinking to myself that I would like to age as gracefully as Lolo (Grandpa) Doro, still enjoying life and taking good care of himself even though he was pushing 75 then, if memory serves.

Last time I saw him was when we went home for our wedding almost 2 years ago. He wasn’t as strong as I remembered him to be. There was a touch of melancholy about him and the spring in his steps was noticeably missing. Then late last year, we learned that he couldn’t eat properly and was having trouble with his health. He was hospitalised last week due to pneumonia. He passed away just a few minutes ago.

It’s sad to think that I won’t be seeing him anymore. In my mind though, he’d always be the cool lolo with the carefully combed hair in the neatly pressed polo shirt, slacks and shoes.

Goodbye, Lolo Doro. Thanks for all the good memories.

Published in: on April 12, 2005 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment