Tax time!

It’s tax time right now (here in Australia, as it is most everywhere else). Being currently strapped for cash, Gabriel and I were eager to finish our tax returns to get any refunds which may be due us. During the last couple of weeks, our PAYG summaries or group certificates started coming in both from previous employers as well as the current one. Financial institutions and our health insurance provider have also sent out the appropriate documentation so we thought we’d start our tax returns earlier this week.

In previous years, we’ve always sought the services of a tax agent in preparing our tax forms because we’re not yet familiar with the terminologies and workings of the Australian taxation system. Wary of making any mistakes, we reasoned that the $100 fee for the accountant’s services is worth it. Besides, that fee is a deductible item for the next financial year anyway and we made sure we understood each item so that we could opt to do our taxes ourselves in the future.

Well, that time has come, we just couldn’t be bothered to find an accountant in the city, book an appointment, get permission to leave the office then subsequently make up the time we’ve spent outside the office. After a rave review from a friend who has used e-Tax, the automated program from the Australian Tax Office (ATO), we thought we’d better give it a go. This friend said that the program is easy to use and that he was able to file his return quickly and get his refund after only a week!

The software installed without any major dramas and we were soon filling out the questionnaire type forms. Most times, filling out the fields in the return only entails copying down the right amount into the appropriate box in the form. Sums are automatically calculated by the program and there is plenty of documentation about items you may get confused – depreciation, for example. And if you think that you need more information than what the user documentation provides, publications and guides concerning a variety of tax related subjects are also provided on ATO’s site.

A couple of hours and several windows later, we were nearing the end of the questionnaire. Doing our taxes is not a difficult exercise after all! Happy ending? Well, not actually. Although the software proved to be a boon in helping us do our taxes, we actually owe the government taxes instead of the other way around! Perplexed, we tried goiing over each item and inspecting our group certificates. We just couldn’t believe that after giving the government hefty amounts each month, we are now being asked to pay some more! A few days later, we figured out what went wrong, it seems that losing the option to salary sacrifice has made a significant impact in our finances.

In a salary packaging agreement, an employee agrees to lower pay in exchange for a benefit of similar cost. In this kind of arrangement, the employee may pay less tax because he/she may be on a lower tax bracket. While working in a hospital in Canberra, I was able to avail of this salary packaging agreement for our home rental payments and it made a big difference in the amount of tax I had to pay. When I left the hospital, I found out how beneficial salary packaging is and that not all salary packaging agreements were created equal. As an example, when I applied in another public hospital here in Melbourne, I found out that rental payments aren’t included in the list of items that could be salary-packaged with them. The list shrank even more when I worked for a public university, they only offer salary packaging for such things as parking and gym/theatre memberships. Working in a private company, this option disappeared altogether although there are now plans to allow salary packaging for some work-related items such as the purchase of computers or electronic organisers.

Going back to our tax forms, we haven’t submitted it yet. Already strapped for cash, we can’t afford to pay the tax we still supposedly owe. I guess we’d have to save up for it somehow. No rush to file those returns now, we still have till October 31 to file and pay up anyway.

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Published in: on July 29, 2005 at 6:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ang Lumang Aklat

Although Raquel is supposed to be only a quarter Filipino (Ilocano), she’s more versed in Tagalog than I am. Often, if I hear a Tagalog word I’m not familiar with, I ask her and she translates the word for me into English. Pathetic, isn’t it?

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to speak in English more than Tagalog. I was also exposed to a lot of American children TV shows like Sesame Street and the Electric Company. Whereas with Raquel, she didn’t watch a lot of TV when she was growing up but she had these old Tagalog text books left behind by the owner of the house her family lived in.

She told me that it was the kind of Tagalog that’s not used colloquially anymore. Anyway, she claims she learnt most of the real obscure Tagalog words (by today’s standards at least) she knows from those books. I envied that she knew all these Tagalog words that I never even knew about — and I was supposed to be the Tagalog (person).

One time a few years ago while Raquel and I were having dinner with my family, my Mom mentioned in a sentence a Tagalog word I wasn’t at all familiar with (can’t remember what word it was now). It was like the first time I’ve heard of it. I guess Raquel noticed my glazy-eyed look and provided the English translation of the word. Ping! A light bulb turned on in my head.

“What? You didn’t know what ______ meant?” My Mom asked me incredulously.

“What do you mean, ‘What?'” I retorted. “You never taught me that word.” And I certainly didn’t remember being taught that word in school neither. If I didn’t learn it from school or from my parents, how was I supposed to know the word? Ah, well. It wasn’t a big deal but I felt silly not knowing words in my native tongue.

It was because of similar experiences that I became more motivated to acquaint myself with my native language. Sadly, when I tried looking in Philippine bookstores for books similar to those Raquel had, I was disappointed not to find anything.

And today, I did find such a book. Of all places, I didn’t expect to find it in a second-hand bookshop here in Melbourne, Australia. In case you’re interested, I bought it at City Basement Books along Elizabeth Street.


The book is titled “Ang BATANG MAGALANG at iba pang mga KUWENTO” (The RESPECTFUL CHILD and other [more?] STORIES) and written by Antonia Villanueva, Genoveva Edrosa and Antonio Mariano. I’m not sure what year it was published but it was copyrighted 1951. It’s a pretty old book.

It was in the Reference section of the book shop along with Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia language learning books. I immediately grabbed it and showed it to Raquel. She agreed that the language used in the book was similar in era to those she’d read in her youth. I was excited! And to make things even better, it’s only four dollars! Yes!

It has in the book 58 stories all written in 1950s Tagalog with each story followed by a study guide questionaire (Mga Tulong sa Pag-aaral) and glossary (Talasalitaan). Giving it a quick read, only now did I found out the meaning of the following words: tarangkahan (gate), magparikit (to build a fire), dapog (hearth) and ikinikiwang-kiwang (moving about) to name a few.

Pretty nerdy stuff, some of you would probably think. But that’s me. I always like learning more about languages, specially my own. I can’t wait to read more of it so I bought it. Four dollars? I think the book should be worth way more than that but I’m not really complaining. I’m just glad I found it.

Published in: on July 28, 2005 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tips for Pinoy Migrants to Australia Part 1

Ritz Arnan posted a message on our shoutbox recently that read:

(I) hope you could write more tips or ideas similar to your article “always be prepared“. How to survive the firts months or year in the Oz.

Hmm. What should a would-be lone migrant, like yourself, do when you arrive in Australia to help survive the first few months? Actually, another interesting question would be, what should you do even before you leave for Australia? I have some ideas, of course, but I could only make suggestions based on what I found helpful myself.

In this post, I’ll just provide suggestions on what you (whether it be Ritz or any other potential migrant) should do before leaving the Philippines that could help you along when you get here. Then, I’ll make another later post with my suggestions on what you may need to do after you arrive. This way, I could divide into two what could be a very long post.

Without further ado, here are some suggestions on what to do before you leave for Australia that will help you survive your first few months here in no particular order:

  • Get letters of recommendation from your past employers.
    Not only that, be sure to get their contact information so that you could provide it to Australian job interviewers if they ask you for references. So, it may also be a good idea to advise your past employers that they may receive an overseas call from these companies you’re applying for. Also, remind them to put in a good word for you, of course.

  • Research your destination.
    You could do this by getting those travel books about your destination. You know, those books with maps and lots of pretty pictures of the major cities of the subject country. Sometimes these books also list useful cultural local information as well as information on potential accomodation which you’ll be needing if you do not have any relatives or friends here.

    Alternatively, you can use the Internet to know more about your destination. In fact, a friend of mine who is fairly new here used the BCL Australia site to find out more about Melbourne and booked his hotel and airport-to-hotel pick-up through the site.

    Speaking of accomodation…

  • Search for potential accomodation.
    I already mentioned accomodation-seeking in the previous tip but let me say more about it here. This is very important for those of you who do not have anywhere to stay with when you get here. Your best bet, though more expensive, is to book a hotel for maybe a week while you look for a job and for a real apartment.

    I recommend you get those serviced apartment-type hotel rooms where it’s sort of like an apartment but paid by the day. It’s sometimes cheaper than standard hotel room and nicer, too. You can book a hotel room online at Accomodation Line.

    I have to stress that you should only stay in a hotel only because you need a place to stay when you get here. Once here, make it a priority to find a job first. You will find it difficult to rent an apartment of your own unless you already have a job.

    Alternatively, you can go to the Philippines.com.au forum I mentioned earlier and look for people there with an extra room willing to take you in for a short period of time.

    Speaking of the forum…

  • Visit the Philippines.com.au online forum.
    Get to know Aussie-Pinoys even before you step on Australian soil in this forum. There, you can ask anything about Australia and get answers from people who actually live here or had experienced migrating first-hand. Want to know something about Australia? Ask about it there by posting.
  • Bring a lot of clothes.
    Clothes here are a lot more expensive than in Manila so better stock up. As it could get real cold here, you may still need to buy winter clothes when you get here. Sweaters or jackets bought from home may not be sufficient to keep you warm here during the cold seasons. Still, it doesn’t hurt to bring a sweater, jacket and/or coat anyway specially if you’re not planning to come over in the summer months (December to February).
  • If you already own an unlocked GSM mobile phone (cellphone to you), bring it.
    Australia uses a GSM mobile network so your old GSM phone should work fine here. You’d probably still need to buy an socket converter for your phone battery charger at the airport when you get here though. If you don’t have a mobile already (which I strongly doubt), don’t buy one. You can just get one from here when you get here.
  • Get a credit card.
    Back home, getting one or two should not be too difficult. After all, if you qualified for an Australian PR visa, then most likely you’re pretty well off financially at this time. I had an AIG Visa credit card and a Citibank Mastercard when I left for Australia and I found those cards useful when I was seriously low on cash. Think of these credit cards as your back up in case you run out of cash during your first few months here. I’d recommend you get credit cards here, too, but upon your arrival, I doubt any bank will approve your credit card application.
  • Set up an International ATM account.
    You can open an ATM account with Citibank (which I and a friend of mine did) or any other bank that provides you with an ATM card that has the Cirrus logo on it. This way, you do not need to bring all your cash with you to Australia. You can just withdraw from your Philippine bank account from any ATM here that bears the MasterCard, Maestro and/or Cirrus logos whenever you need more cash. This also makes it easier for your relatives in the Philippines to help you out financially if you should need it by being able to deposit money into your bank account that you can withdraw from here.

    Remember though that there is an international withdrawal fee involved when you use your ATM card abroad so you should just draw from your account on emergency situations only. Ask the bank for the actual fees involved and any withdrawal limits.

  • Bring US Dollars.
    I think you could have Philippine Pesos converted to Australian Dollars once you’re here but you’d find it difficult to find an institution that does. So, save yourself some grief and just make sure you bring US Dollars here.

    There is no minimum “show money” required so you can bring how ever much you wish. Take into consideration the costs you’ll incur and just bring whatever is appropriate.

    Also, take note that if you bring over AU$10,000 worth of cash (in whatever currency), you should declare it with Customs. There shouldn’t be a problem with bringing over 10k but not declaring is a big offence.

    Speaking of Customs…

  • Do not bring food over.
    It’ll just be thrown away at the airport if you declare it. And if you don’t declare it, and you get caught, it’s a pretty big offence that could lead to severe penalties. Go to this Australian Customs Service page that list items that must be declared on arrival.
  • Do not bring pirated stuff over.
    You don’t want to get caught with those at either the Philippine or Australian airports.
  • Look for potential jobs and set up interviews a few weeks before your arrival here.
    For more info on job hunting, read Raquel’s post on Job Hunting in Australia.

    Because a friend of mine looked for potential jobs even before coming to Melbourne, he already had a few interviews lined up when he got here. After a week, he had an offer. After another week, he has a job.

  • Use Whereis.com to find your way around.
    I don’t think the maps that came with Australian travel books you’d get in the Philippines would be that comprehensive. So, if you need help finding out where some place is, whether it’s a location of a potential accomodation or a job interview, you can always refer to Whereis.com to find out where it is in Australia.
  • Bring your driver’s license if you have one.
    Hey, you never know when you need another identification card. Also, you can use your Philippine driver’s license (spelled licence here) to drive around Australia for the first three months, if I recall correctly. Just make sure you know the road rules here first before you take on the road.

Whew. That’s a long list of to-do’s for you. I’ll leave it at that for now.

I hope this current list of suggestions would be helpful. Next time, I’ll give you another personal list of suggestions which you might find useful on the first few weeks of your arrival to Australia.

Published in: on July 27, 2005 at 10:53 pm  Comments (12)  

The Polyglot Wanna-be that is Me

I’m not sure when the appeal of being able to speak, read and write different languages first appealed to me. Thinking back real hard, I could only guess that it was when we first visited my Dad who worked in Saudi Arabia during my summer vacation when I was very young in the early 80s.

He had this green paperback book on learning to read and write Arabic. I found it fascinating at the time that Arabs wrote from right to left but wrote numbers from left to right. I also learned to read Arabic numerals from that book which helped me a lot in determining how much a bill in Riyals I had in my hand. I didn’t really had a lot of interest in Arabic though so I didn’t pursued it further.

Then my Dad got transfered to work for the Sultan of Negara Brunei Darussalam in the mid-80s at his palace, the Istana Nurul Iman. So we started spending our summer vacations in Brunei instead.

This time, Dad had a black paperback Malay-English/English-Malay dictionary. What I found amazing this time was that we had lots of words in Tagalog that were very similar to Malay (or Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu) words. Here are Malay words that, although some of them may not be synonymous to Tagalog words, still have related meanings: Awas (to be cautious, reminded me of Iwas), Lima (Five), Enam (Six, like Anim), Anak (child), Kaya (wealthy, hence kekayaan means wealth), Payung (umbrella, like Payong), Kelambu (mosquito-net, like Kulambo), Masuk (to enter, like Pasok), Tolak (to push, like Tulak), Lelaki (male, like Lalaki), Langit (sky), Tengah Hari (midday, like Tanghali), Bulan (moon or month, like Buwan), Tahun (year, like Taon) or Buntut (bottom or buttocks, may not exactly mean tail like our Buntot).

It’s just amazing to me then how our Tagalog language evolved from that used by the Bruneians and Malaysians (and Indonesians). Where similar words meant different things but you can still imagine how the meaning may have evolved to mean something different. Take the Tagalog word Tanghali which means noon. In Malay, Tengah Hari makes perfect sense because it literally meant Middle Day. I can only guess that the word got corrupted into Tanghali but still retained its original meaning of midday.

Although I got curious with Arabic, I was more interested in learning Malay. I tried to learn it for a while but I never did get to use it a lot so I wasn’t really that motivated to master the language. Although I could understand some words here and there, I couldn’t really understand whole paragraphs of Malay. I could at least determine if somebody is speaking it even though I couldn’t comprehend him or her.

Later on, while in university, I wanted to learn how to speak Fukien (or Fookien, Fujian, Hokkien, Lan nang uwe) because of various reasons, mainly the following: (1) our university had a big Chinese-Pinoy population so being able to speak Fukien may be advantageous, (2) I’m still part Chinese myself (as my surname would attest) and being able to talk to my paternal relatives in Fukien appealed to me and, (3) my then girlfriend’s parents wanted a Chinese boy courting their daughter so I erroneously thought that being able to speak the language would help me become more Chinese.

As with my try at learning Malay, I didn’t get to apply what I’ve learned with Fukien that much. And since I really didn’t have any formal and consistent training in it, I only learned a little bit of the language and forgot most of it easily. Right now, Raquel occasionally says something in Fukien and I had to think long and hard before I could translate it. I had to ask her what some of the words she said meant. She would tell me, and added that she already taught me the said words before. Ah. Mea culpa (my fault, in Latin which I also got into later).

My interest then shifted to another East Asian language, Nihongo (Japanese language) specially after I grew very fond of Japanese anime (animation) and manga (comics) while still in University. So in 1995, if I recall correctly, I enrolled at the Nihongo language “school” provided for by the Japanese Embassy that was then located in Makati.

I actually did pretty well at the start of it. I memorized the hiragana and the katakana with not a lot of effort. It was also an advantage that I tried learning Fukien some years before then, making kanji, which was actually just Chinese characters used in Japan, easier to pick up. I was fourth in my class (according to the exams I took) but I didn’t finish the entire course. There was a reason that I’d rather not go into here.

In the late 90s, I was employed by Taiwanese-based IT company. Raquel and I were supposed to work in Taiwan. There, I was able to make use of some of the Fukien I learned from before because, apparently, the native Taiwanese language is quite similar to the Fukien used in the Philippines.

Still, Mandarin seemed to be in use more than Taiwanese, so I was highly motivated to learn Guoyu (Mandarin used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) that time around. I liked it that there were a lot of instruction books on how to speak, read and write Mandarin unlike with Fukien when I was studying it in the Philippines. Plus, I got to use the Mandarin I learned because most Taiwanese couldn’t speak or understand English (supposedly, 80% of them could, in fact, speak English, but we just couldn’t seem to find them).

After six months working in Taiwan, Trend Micro decided to just send us all back home to the Philippines to establish a new base of operations there. With that, my self-study of the Mandarin language ended. Now, I only know a smattering of words even though I could still construct sentences in that language (if I have a English-Chinese dictionary handy, that is).

Lately, I tried learning Spanish and Latin because I’d really love to be able to read old historical documents. A lot of historical documents about the Philippines during the Spanish era were written in Spanish including literature by Jose Rizal and other Filipino illustrados at the time. Reading the material translated and quoted out-of-context in English just doesn’t seem to be good enough. As for Latin, I just want to be able to understand old Church documents and prayers. There was a time (before the Second Vatican Council) when the Catholic church celebrated Mass in Latin instead of the local language. I just want to be able to understand a Latin Tridentine Mass if I went to one.

I really wanted to master Spanish, Mandarin (Putonghua or Guoyu, doesn’t matter to me), and Nihongo but I just don’t really have a lot of time in my hands to do so. I find each moderately useful even now so I really couldn’t decide which language to devote my time first. I even bought a very cheap second-hand English-Spanish dictionary ($3) and English-Japanese dictionary ($10) earlier today so I could brush up my Japanese and Spanish. There was a real cheap English-Chinese dictionary at the bookshop, too, but I still have one that I bought in Taiwan all those years ago.

Hmm. Maybe I should just give up on these other languages and just try mastering Australian-English instead and all its nuances.

Published in: on July 26, 2005 at 12:10 pm  Comments (3)  

Carobs

Over a year ago, I had to excruciatingly pass (yep, that’s the verb used) a kidney stone. My doctor recommended that I take in a lot of water from then on. She wanted me to drink three liters of water everyday to help keep my kidneys stone-free. That was supposed to be enough.

Being the pseudo-hypocondriac that I am, I researched kidney stones on the Internet to know more about the painful buggers. I found out that having one kidney stone episode greatly increases my chances of another painful episode! It was a horrific thought.

I’ve read kidney stone sufferers being told by their doctors to avoid high oxalate food. Apparently, oxalate helps in the formation of the dreaded kidney stones. One of these high-oxalate foods is a favorite of mine: chocolate! The anguish!

I found out that there was a chocolate substitute called carob that isn’t high in oxalate. That’s the good news. According to my friends, carob tasted nothing like chocolate. That’s the bad news.

Fortunately, when I gave carobs a go, I found that I loved them. The brand of carob I buy at least tasted good. It was almost like eating Ricoa’s Flat Tops minus the sugar (for these were No-Added Sugar Carobs or NAS Carobs). Then it happened. The grocery stopped supplying NAS Carobs like a year ago.

Then this weekend, I bought a bag of the non-NAS carobs of the same brand. I tried these carobs before but I found them too sweet. However, these new sugar-added carobs seem to be of a different mixture because they no longer tasted too sweet. They were just right. Yes!

I know the doctor didn’t real forbid me from eating chocolates or similarly oxalate-rich food but better safe than sorry. I still eat chocolates but in small amounts and only on occasion. But now that I have carobs that I like again, I could probably stand not having chocolates longer.

Published in: on July 23, 2005 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Am A Leaf On The Wind!

I recently wrote a blog post (I Aim to Misbehave! – July 15) regarding Raquel and me getting tickets to an advanced screening of the Serenity movie. That was last night and I’m still all excited about it.

Now, let me just gush a moment and say that the film was absolutely amazing! Much better than any of the Star Wars prequels, I dare say. There were some very sad moments but a lot of hilarious moments. There were certainly a lot of action whether it be space ship battles and chases or hand-to-hand combat. it’s got everything.

All thought it’s a bit darker than the original Firefly TV series, there were a lot of light moments, too, as evidenced by the frequent laughter of the movie audience from the comedic character interactions and funny dialogue.

I tried to write something like a review of the film but I ended up just leaving it out from this post because it would’ve been spoiler ridden. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t watched it yet (which would be a lot of people since it’s yet to be officially released this September). I’ll just say that I thoroughly recommend you to watch this film when it finally comes out at your favorite local cinemas.

Other than raving about the movie, I’d also like to recount what happened last night. Raquel and I arrived at the Jam Factory cinama at around half-past-eight. There were quite a number of people hanging around the lobby near the ticket box office wearing shirts with the Serenity logo or a drawing of the Serenity ship printed on them. Ah. Fellow browncoats! Raquel did point out that most of them were actually wearing black coats.

After getting our pre-booked tickets, we proceeded to cinema 3 where it’s going to be shown only to find out there was also a queue there. I wondered why the queue was moving slowly but discovered the reason soon enough.

The security for this film was very tight. Each one of us were asked by the security men if we had mobile phones, audio recorders, video recorders, mp3 players and other similar gadgetry on our person. Then we were asked to deposit the said gadgets into a sealed envelope that they would be keeping for the duration of the film. We were handed only a ticket stub that would prove which envelope belonged to which group of people.

After that, in case we were hiding undeclared gadgets, our bags were inspected. Lastly, right before entering the cinema entrance, we were given a metal detector body search. After all that, we were finally inside. Whew. They must be really worried of pirates. Can’t be too careful with the wide-spread film piracy business thriving these days.

I couldn’t remember the last time I was stripped of all my technological gadgets away from home. I feel so… bare. Because of the tight security, the film’s start had to be delayed by about thirty minutes and since I didn’t have my PDA with me, I had nothing to do but literally twiddle my fingers while waiting for everybody to get in their seats. They could’ve at least showed some previews of other films while waiting.

Soon, everybody was seated and a representative of Universal (or was it United International Pictures Australia?) gave an opening speech. They were supposed to play an audio recording made by Joss Whedon addressed to us fans who were there but the lady admitted that they weren’t tech-savvy enough to play it in the cinema. Fortunately, she had it transcribed so that she was able to tell us what Joss had said.

It was a funny speech and I would’ve loved to have a copy of it somehow but unfortunately, they’ve confiscated my PDA so I don’t have an audio recorder with me at the time and I didn’t have anywhere to write the key parts of Joss’s message. Darn! All I can remember now is a quote that goes something like this (not word-for-word, mind you):

“It’s a movie about the human condition… and big explosions! But if you need to tell someone about the movie, tell them about the big explosions because who really cares about the human condition? If you do get something in the movie about the human condition, keep that to yourself and just tell your friends about the big explosions.”

Right, so I’m telling you now, there were BIG explosions.

After the speech, the curtains were drawn and the film finally started. It opened with a short history of the setting followed by River’s escape from captivity (which we didn’t get to see in the Firefly series). Soon, we saw Serenity and her lovable crew. It was good to see all of them again. Raquel told me later that when the film started, she felt delighted. It was like seeing old friends again after being away for a long time. I felt the same way, too.

I realized that it was also more fun to watch a cult film with fellow fans. It was more enjoyable watching a film with other people who enjoyed it as much as you. They would laugh at the same funny stuff you were laughing at and they would feel grief over the same things as well.

I clapped and cheered along with everybody else when the movie ended. The movie certainly didn’t disappoint the Firefly fans and, according to some forum messages about the advance screening, even the non-fans were very pleased with the film. I hope that the movie sells come September so that we may be treated to sequels of the film or, even better, a new TV series. Here’s me hoping.

Published in: on July 22, 2005 at 12:11 pm  Comments (1)  

Final Round… Fight!

A couple of weeks ago, I was entirely addicted to the Playstation 2 (PS2) game, The God of War. I finished playing it in the normal heroic mode a while back but I wanted more so I started the game again but in god mode this time. The only reason I stopped playing it for over a week now was because the PAL version of the PS2 game Tekken 5 was at last released in Australia just several days ago. Tekken 5 was released as early as February of this year in the US. Lucky dogs.

Final Round… Fight!.
I wasn’t really a big fan of Tekken in the past. I played it a few times in the video arcade when I was still in the Philippines but it really didn’t caught my fancy. I was still more interested with 2D fighting games back then like the various incarnations of Street Fighter (Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha-Zero, Street Fighter Alpha-Zero 2!, etc…), Capcom Marvel Fighting games and Mortal Kombat.

When I moved to Australia, I had a friend who liked video games a lot that he owned the Sega Dreamcast when it came out, then a PS2 and then a Microsoft XBox. He liked fighting games, too, so we spent a lot of time playing more Street Fighter incarnations, Guilty Gear X and SNK vs Capcom. But with the next generation of gaming consoles, 3D fighting games were more appealing than in the good old days. So, we also played a lot of Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur II, Dead or Alive 2, Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken 4. Since he owned the game consoles, he got more practice than I did. The end result was that I lost more often than he did. But it was okay. I loved the competition anyway.

Then when Raquel moved to Australia a few years back, she brought her Playstation One (PSOne) with her. One of the games she had brought with her was Tekken 3. It was certainly older than the PS2 Tekken Tag Tournament or Tekken 4 but at least I finally had a chance to practice some of the moves and combos of Tekken characters that were also on the later Tekken games.

When I moved to Melbourne and bought my very own PS2 a few months back, I bought some of the fighting games I used to play back in Canberra: Dead or Alive, Tekken 4 and Soul Calibur II. I didn’t get Tekken Tag because I thought it was too old and I would have a tough time trading the game later. As it turns out, Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag were much better than Tekken 4 so I ended up returning Tekken 4 anyway. I decided not to get Tekken Tag after that because I was aware that Tekken 5 will be coming out soon and that it will be more like Tekken Tag than Tekken 4. As for Dead or Alive, I found the controls unappealing now so I returned that game, too.


I was left with Soul Calibur II which I really love since Soul Calibur came out for Dreamcast. I guess it also doesn’t hurt that the game has a Pinoy character called Talim (means blade, edge or sharpness in Tagalog) who uses two blades for weapons. Don’t believe she’s supposed to be Pinoy? Here are some of her moves: Tagga No Kamay (I guess the “no” here is the Japanese “of” so it should actually be Taga ng Kamay), Sunggab Throw, Swift Espada, Spinning Low Hiwa, Tuhod Slicer, Double Abaniko, Salisi Razor, Handa Blade, Twin Fang Sahig, Whirlwind Hambalos, Sipa Rising, Planchada Cyclone, Isa Hampas, etc. Can you imagine if it was an anime show and the fighter yells out the moves while performing it?

Anyway, I realised that although I would’ve liked to be able to play these fighting games with a real person, I still enjoyed playing through it at increasing levels of difficulty. That’s why I decided to still get Tekken 5 when it came out. I could just fight the AI-controlled characters and pretend their just end-bosses in a game like God of War.

So the past few days, I’ve been busy playing Tekken 5 whenever there is nothing better to watch on TV or DVD. This game has lots of modes and I’m still not through all of them. I guess that’s good. I’ll have my money’s worth and I’ll be kept busy while I’m waiting for the Soul Calibur II sequel, Soul Calibur III, to be released later this year.

Published in: on July 21, 2005 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

University Professor Dreams of a White Australia

Last Monday night (July 18), Ray Martin’s A Current Affair (ACA) program featured an in-studio interview with Andrew Fraser, a Department of Public Law associate professor at the Macquarie University in New South Wales (NSW). I didn’t know who Fraser was so I was just half-listening at the TV while Raquel and I prepared our dinner. Then, Ray mentioned who Fraser was and what he was on about. I was all ears afterwards.

I didn’t know at the time that just a couple of days ago, Fraser was the subject of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) titled Academic stirs fight over race. There is also an older article about Fraser titled Racist academic attacks Sudanese migrants in The Green Left Weekly. Here is a quote from the SMH article that basically summarised Fraser’s narrow views:

An associate professor in the Department of Public Law, Andrew Fraser, claims that African migration increases crime, says HSC results point to a rising ruling class of Asians and wants Australia to withdraw from refugee conventions to avoid becoming “a colony of the Third World”.

In the ACA interview, he expressed the same views he had when the earlier articles about him came out. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the segment so I couldn’t quote him verbatim but I believe I could still paraphrase his arguements here.

He claimed that there is a statistic that proves that a majority of crimes are done by black people. However, he was back on ACA for another interview yesterday (July 19) and there he admitted that he only found the statistic using Google and that the statistic applied to the United States and not Australia. But is this true, too, here in Australia? Probably not.

He also claimed that Africans have lower than average IQ. As supposed proof, he stipulated that the African nations are still uncivilised because they don’t have tall buildings. I didn’t realise that having tall buildings in one’s home country is a big determinant of one’s civility.

What Fraser wanted was an Australia where it’s inhabited mostly of supposed true-blue Australians. Funny, this coming from a Canadian migrant. When Ray Martin asked what Fraser considered a true-blue Australian, he replied that an Aussie should be white, has blonde hair and blue eyes. As Ray correctly pointed out, not all caucasian Aussies have blonde hair nor blue eyes. Of course, he really just meant white people when he said “true-blue Australian.”

That meant, he also didn’t want Asians in his adopted country because according to him Asians are too clever. Flattering and distasteful at the same time. I guess he just felt threatened by them (or I should say, us). Is it our fault that a lot of us Asians that migrated to Australia were required to have high education and qualifications before we could get accepted in this country? I can’t speak for other Asians but in our culture, having a very good education is highly valued. After all, you couldn’t even get a clerical job back in the Philippines unless you were a uni graduate.

I think his fears are shared by some caucasian Aussies who believe that the Asians seem to be stealing all the jobs from white Australians. It’s curious though that some of the jobs that are being given to new migrants are those that the average Aussie wouldn’t even want to apply for because of various reasons (too far away, too labour intensive, too menial, too may work days, graveyard shift, work on weekends or public holidays, etc). And some of these people are also complaining that Asians are getting jobs that they aren’t even remotely qualified for. If they were, then there wouldn’t be a demand for migrant workers for those specialised jobs.

Fraser continued that he believed in the reassertion of the White Australia Policy which was in effect from the 1890s to the 1950s. Under this unofficial policy, restrictions were placed on immigration of prohibited (read as non-white) immigrants and their possible removal from the country. I wonder how the Australia-born non-white Australians think about the possibility of them being considered second-class citizens in a country they thought of as their home their whole lives.

At the end of the Monday program, they started a poll asking ACA viewers whether they supported Professor Andrew Fraser’s ideas or not. Come Tuesday night, the result of the poll was very saddening with an 85% majority of viewers in agreement with Fraser’s views. I can only hope that the number isn’t representative of the whole Australian population. After all, not all Australians watch ACA and not everyone of them could’ve voted on the poll. Heck, I didn’t.

I wonder if any of my caucasian acquaintances secretly loathe my very presence here in Australia. Do 85% of them feel that way of me? I was a little relieved when after I’ve read an Australian forum that discussed the ACA segment where most of the posters were against Fraser’s viewpoint.

I still feel disappointed that there are still people out there who harbour views similar to that of the professor in this modern, progressive and enlightened day and age. Tonight, Fraser gets another interview at ACA’s competing program Today Tonight (TT) on Channel Seven. I just hope that all the air-time he is getting at the moment doesn’t start a promotion of racial divides in the future.

Addendum:
In order to avoid further heated discussions about this topic, I have removed the ability to make new comments on this post and hid the old comments. If you want to have your say on the matter, please go here instead. Thanks.

Published in: on July 20, 2005 at 12:01 pm  Comments Off on University Professor Dreams of a White Australia  

Cleo Rant

Warning: The following post contains spoilers for JJ Abrams’ TV series Lost, Season One. Continue reading at your own peril. You have been so warned.

I’m a huge fan of JJ Abram’s Lost TV Series and it’s shown here in Melbourne every 8:30 pm Thursday on Channel Seven. Right now, we are probably a few episodes short of the Season One finale according to my brother who had already watched all of the episodes.

Last Thursday (July 14), Raquel and I were watching the episode where Boone was in a critical physical condition after a crashed plane which he was in fell from where it was originally perched. Dr Jack was trying his best to save him but in the end Boone told Jack to just let him go. And with that, he’s gone.

I was hoping he would make it all through the episode but not Raquel. Why? Because she already knew Boone was going to freakin’ die! Why? Because the stupid July 2005 issue (meaning it came out even before July 1) of the Cleo Magazine (which, I may add, is an affiliate of Seven’s competing network, Channel Nine) posted this very short article within its pages which I quote here:

IAN SOMERHALDER: So hot, we can’t believe the producers of Lost killed him off…

Well, killed off his character, Boone, that is. Whatever. All we know is that Ian’s hunktastic face isn’t frequenting our screens on Thursday nights and we’re not happy. Why couldn’t it have been Hurley? Why, why, why?

Actually, the question is why, why, why are you complaining that Boone is no longer frequenting our screens when he only died just last week?! I’m sure the writer already watched all the episodes but he or she shouldn’t have ruined it for the rest of us who hasn’t yet. And I’m additionally annoyed that the writer is complaining that the character no longer appears on TV when clearly they weren’t even watching it on Australian TV!

Was this an intentional act by the magazine to ruin the show for many of its current viewers? I don’t know. If it was, shame on them. Nice one, Cleo. Intentional or not, thanks, Cleo, for ruining that episode for my wife.

Published in: on July 19, 2005 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sporty Weekend

Right now, my back is a bit stiff, my legs are aching, my right arm is in slight pain and the soles of my feet are on the verge of having cramps. I guess it’s because of the two consecutive days I spent pushing myself while playing sports this weekend. And yes, I’m not really much of a sports person so two days in a row of playing sports would easily take its toll on me. I had bowling on Friday night and badminton on Saturday afternoon. A friend of mine would argue though that bowling isn’t really a sport.

Like I said, last Friday night, I played a couple of games’ worth of bowling with friends at the usual hangout. Not as much strikes as previous games I’ve played but I managed to score above 100 at least. Yeah, I’m still an amateur so getting a score just over 100 still means a big deal to me.

At the bowling lane, we did an advance celebration of Raquel’s birthday. It was supposed to be for both Raquel and Irar but couldn’t make it so Raquel got all the glory and the left over cake. We were all rowdy that night even without the benefit of alcohol. But our rowdiness was surpassed by the group of school girls that played in the lanes beside us.

By the time our two games were up, my right arm and fingers were already a bit stiff. Not really a problem because I usually get to rest the next day. But not this past Saturday.

This Saturday afternoon, I played badminton with friends at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC). The designated schedule was for 1:30 to 3:30 but I was late and only got in around 2 pm.

Fortunately, Arn booked three badminton courts beforehand so we didn’t have to worry about not getting any courts when we got there. Also, Cel shelled out the cash needed to pay off the three courts for two hours in advance (at $96 total). I should also thank Cel that she had an extra badminton racket to lend me when I got there. I really should drop by Rebel Sport one of these days and buy my own equipment.

When I got there, I played a doubles game with Arn, Cel, and her brother N. Even though my body was a bit stiff from the bowling the night before and they weren’t keeping score, I gave that game everything I’ve got. I’ve been jumping around like a maniac chasing after the shuttlecock (the ball used in badminton).

Thirty minutes in, I stopped being over-zealous in hitting the shuttlecock. I just let Arn hit it if I thought it was going to land anywhere near him. I also thought about taking a rest from all the jumping and running about when S in the other court was looking for somebody to play against. And he wanted to keep score.

Excellent! That’s exactly how I wanted it to be. So I scooted over to his court and did my usual trash-talk which I intended only in jest of course. Like so: “You’re going down, boy!” or “I’ll let you score first then I’ll start scoring.” In retrospect, S is not really Pinoy but a fair dinkum Australian so I’m not sure if he took any of that seriously but I believe (and hope) that he understood that I was just kidding.

Anyway, all that psychological warfare with the trash-talk didn’t work at all as I ended up losing at 15-0! I was, what we would call in Tagalog, balagoong (Pronounced: Bah-Lah-Go-Ong) — a pathetic loser. I challenged him again. I said, “best two out of three!”

Oh, he was game, indeed. According to his Pinay wife, Al, and his brother, R, he scored like 45 points in a row now after S beat R at 15-0 and Al at 15-0. S probably figured he was on a roll. Unfortunately for me, he was right. I lost again at a slightly more respectable 15-2.

Even though I was all tired and getting weak, I couldn’t accept defeat so I challenged him one more time and he obliged. Although I lost yet again, I think I scored higher than 2 that time around. Can’t really remember the score now but I’m sure I still lost by a wide margin.

He wanted to take a rest afterwards and I figured, I should, too, since I was already tired even I started playing against S. But then, Al wanted to play and keep score but nobody was seemingly interested in playing against her. Well, I just couldn’t ignore the opportunity to play a scored match so instead of resting, I went back into court hoping to get even with S a bit by beating his wife. Unfortunately, I lost to her in the two games we played.

Ah, well. I really need to get some practice and build up my endurance before I could probably win against that couple. It was great! I like a good competition. Makes me want to better myself.

When the time ran out on the court rental at about 4 pm, most of my friends went their separate ways. Chinita, SS, Arn and I decided to take a look around MSAC first before heading for home. To my delight, they also have squash courts, basketball courts and swimming pools there (it was an Aquatic centre after all) with a water slide even. I’m all excited thinking about playing a bit of squash sometime or basketball or whatever.

As I’ve said, I never really was into sports and I never got into it when I was growing up even though my Dad was really pushing me and my brother into it. I just now realised that sports is more fun if you’re playing with and against friends. Anyway, I’m sure my Dad would be proud that his son is finally getting into sports.

Published in: on July 17, 2005 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment