Home owners

Today is settlement date for our first home and it’s funny that all we got was a call from the conveyancer telling us that everything has been settled and that she’ll be sending us the details through post. I half-expected the news to be accompanied with fireworks but of course, nothing of the sort happened. It’s just like an ordinary day and an ordinary phone call. In my head though, fireworks are still going off. Excuse me while I get it out of my system. Our very first home, woohoo! It may not be our dream home but at least it’s ours. Or at least it will be after about 30 years of paying back the bank.

Next up, planning the things to fix in the new house and getting them done, getting the utilities disconnected in the old place and connected in the new one, cleaning, packing, moving, cleaning out the old apartment, unpacking and shopping for things we’ll need in the new house. All that in the busiest month of the year and in the midst of attending Christmas celebrations and preparing for a short holiday to New Zealand.

Then, when all the dust has settled and the holidays are over would the dreaded first payment of our mortgage begin. In another first, this would be the biggest debt we’ve ever taken on and it’s a bit scary. Perhaps I’d be better off enjoying the moment a little bit more. So again, hurray!

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Published in: on November 30, 2005 at 1:00 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s Settled

Huzzah! Our conveyancer just told us that everything had been settled (today’s the settlement day) and that we are now the proper proud owners of a new house. We can call up the real-estate agent any time now to get the house keys from him and start moving in.

Now begins the tough part. Apart from the actual moving of our things from the old apartment, I have to arrange for the electric, gas and phone connections for the new house. I also needed to have transfered our Internet broadband to the new address. We have to arrange with the post office to redirect all our mail to the new address. We have to have the lighting (we are not satisfied with the current lighting in the house), electric outlets and telephone ports fixed up by a proper electrician.

What can we do? It’s something that always goes with having to move to a new place. I just can’t wait to get all the tedious work over with, move in and start living in our new home.

Published in: on November 30, 2005 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Philippine Fiesta 2005 in Melbourne

Raquel and I went to the weekend Philippine Fiesta 2005 last Sunday. It was the first time we’ve ever been to the annual Philippine Fiesta festivities held at Laverton (west of Melbourne) so we didn’t really know what to expect. Regardless, we went to meet up with the rest of the gang who were going and to see what the fuss was all about.

We drove to the event and discovered when we got there that unless we had a pre-paid car pass, we couldn’t park in the parking area of the event venue, The Philippine Community Centre. And the streets nearby were all filled with parked cars mostly illegally parked. We even saw traffic enforcers on the site placing parking violation tickets on the park cars’ windshield wipers. Luckily, we were able to find a quiet spot to park a couple of blocks away.

The “Fiesta” reminded me of school foundation day fairs we had in my youth. There were a lot of stalls, a giant slide and an octopus ride. Too bad there wasn’t a caterpillar ride. I miss those. There was also a stage at one side where they had an on-going programme of some people dancing and singing before the big-named Pinoy guest stars (Aga Mulach, Edu Manzano, Bayani Agbayani and Nikki Valdez) arrive in the afternoon.

The entrance fee was AU$7.00 per person. Along with a ticket to gain entrance was a raffle ticket (of course!) and fliers for services typically used by Pinoy expats: money transfer to the Philippines, sending packages to the Philippines and buying of Philippine imported goods.

We didn’t immediately saw where the other guys were so we strolled around the fair grounds and looked at all the stalls in the fiesta. There were lots of stalls that sold Pinoy dishes that I missed after being in Australia for two years without flying home. There were tapsilog, pork barbecue, toron (fried banana in thin edible wrap), halo-halo (desert with mixed sweet food stuff and crushed ice), pansit palabok (noodle dish), ube (yam), leche flan, chicharon (deep fried crunchy pig skin and fat), pisbol (fish balls on a skewer including the traditional sweet and/or hot sauce), tortang alimango (fried crab meat mixed with egg), and lots more fried food.

Unfortunately, Raquel and I had already stopped eating pork or beef (or any other mammalian meat) for health and other reasons. That meant that even though I was salivating for a plate of tapsilog (fried dried beef strips served with one fried egg and garlic fried rice — yeah fried fried fried!), I had to give it a miss. I had to settle for the chicksilog which was like the tapsilog except served with small chicken drumsticks instead of the beef tapa (we still eat poultry meat and seafood).

Also, even though we wanted to, we didn’t buy/eat barbecue, longanisa, chicharon (well, maybe not chicharon), and pansit palabok. Still, it’s good we were able to enjoy the halo-halo and toron.

The other stalls belonged to business that offered services like Western Union (for sending money home), TFC (The Filipino Channel – shows ABS-CBN programmes 24/7 via dish, I believe), Ayala Land (in case you were interested in investing in a condominium in the Philippines) to name a few.

After looking at the stalls, we decided to look for the nearest toilet in case we ever need it. Our search led us to the actual Philippine Community Centre building which reminds me of St Andrew’s School in Paranaque where I went. In the rooms that resembled classrooms were some exhibits on Philippine art and culture. After looking around, we found the toilets and another entrance to the whole compound (take note, as this foreshadows something that will happen later).

We returned to the main fair grounds and met up with the rest of the gang who were gathered around near the stalls that sold the tapsilog and halo-halo. There were a lot of picture taking of course. Since the group is steadily growing, it’s becoming harder and harder to fit everybody into one photo shot. Not to mention the ruckus we cause every time we tried to get everybody in a shot.

After some time, we moved to a semi-secluded area beside the Philippine Community Centre building where there were benches which were shaded by the trees. We continued our chatting there while we decided on whether or not to call it a day.

While we were basically messing around in our temporary tambayan (hang-out), we noticed a minor commotion at the alternative entrance I noted earlier. Mike shouted, “Si Aga!” in jest. And when we looked at the entrance, it was indeed Aga Mulach!

I have to embarrassingly admit that I took off immediately with my camera to get a shot of Aga. But it was more for my folks and family back home than for me. Really! You must believe me!

Ahem. Anyway, I whipped out my camera and took a quick shot at Aga as he walked to our general direction. In fact, to go to the backstage from the alternative entrance, the guests would have to pass right in front of the benches where we were stationed. So by the time my camera was ready to take another shot, Aga had already passed by me and all I could shoot was his back. Darn.

Fortunately, the others were similarly armed with cameras and they were able to take snapshots of everybody that passed. Lina was able to take a good shot of Edu. In fact, Edu even stopped to talk with Lina a bit while she was taking his photo. Alma on the other hand was able to take a good photo of Bayani. She was actually more interested in Bayani (a comedian) than Aga (who was considered a heart-throb). I was also able to take a picture of Nikki but I don’t really knew who she was so it wasn’t such a big deal to me.

They tell me that if I was watching TFC, I’d know who Nikki Valdez was. Ah, well. I admit that I’m really out of touch with Philippine pop culture nowadays. It makes me wonder if TFC’s $40+ monthly fee is worth it just to be able to keep up with what’s current in the Philippines. I’m more tempted to get cable for the Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network and CNN, to be honest. I’ll just decide on that at a later time.

Anyway, after our close encounter with the Pinoy celebrities, we went back out to the fair grounds and watched a little bit of the programme that had the celebrities on the stage. They were all very funny. I realised that I do miss that cheesy Pinoy brand of humour.

We didn’t wait for the show to end though. After a few minutes of watching and photo taking of the stage, we left for home. Our car was still where we left it, which was good. When we got home, I was so tired that I just laid straight on the couch. Tiring, sure. But at least it was all good fun.

Published in: on November 29, 2005 at 7:04 am  Leave a Comment  

My Recorder Obsession

A while back, I have posted about being preoccupied with my recorder, which is a flute-like musical instrument for those of you who didn’t know. And just to make sure you know exactly what I’m talking about, you can click on the thumbnail at the left to see my Yamaha YRS-302BII Soprano/Descant Recorder.

Now, that’s all cleared up, I can continue with my actual post. My recorder playing has turned from being a mere preoccupation to a sort of obsession. I’ve been all over the Internet finding any form of music that used recorders. Most free music to be had were early Medieval or Renaissance music. I’m not complaining, really, as I actually love everything Medieval or Renaissance: languages, culture, history, art, architecture and, of course, music.

There were also classical music that used recorders mainly from the composers Georg Philipp Telemann and Antonio Vivaldi. Fortunately for me, the local libraries have Audio CDs of classical music which used recorders so I borrowed all of them that I could get my hands on.

The recorder music I’ve acquired further inspired me to become a better recorder player. And so, I’ve been practicing for an average of one hour almost everyday to advance my level of competence with the instrument. I’m so itching to become very good with the recorder that I couldn’t wait.

Unfortunately, my desire to fast track my skill advancement sometimes leads to frustration. Last week, I realised that even with a better quality instrument, not all the notes could easily be produced on the recorder. My main weakness is producing the low C note in which I have to press on all the holes. Sounds easy but when I blow on the recorder, I got a squeakish sound instead of a full C note. This annoyed me a lot.

No matter how much I tried to cover all the holes, I must have been doing something wrong because I keep getting squeaks instead of the C note. I then conceded that I may need additional assistance from a teacher. Or maybe I just needed a better method book (a book of instruction on how to play an instrument).

It’s fortunate that one of the biggest music instrument shops in Melbourne, Allans Music, had its “Biggest Ever Sale” last weekend. I usually go to their Melbourne store but last Saturday, I decided to try their store over at Kew (east of Melbourne).

It was great! They seem to have a larger collection of music sheets and method books for recorders there (or at least they were better organised). They also had lots more brands and models of plastic recorders there than the Melbourne branch. I was tempted to buy another recorder, maybe an Alto. But I decided that I must master the Soprano recorder first before undertaking another version of the instrument.

Since they were on sale, lots of their wares were about 20% off. I’ve had always wanted to buy a music stand (that thing where I can put my music sheets to read while playing) and that day, I was able to get one that was less than $20. What a steal. I also bought two music books plus an instruction book by Walter Van Hauwe: The Modern Recorder Player Volume 1.

When I got home, I quickly read Van Hauwe’s book and found out how to properly hold a recorder. After that, I was able to play the dreaded low C note properly! Well, not 100% of the time, but often enough that it motivated me to continue playing.

As of this writing, I’m almost done with Stephen Goodyear’s The New Recorder Tutor Book One. I know I’m still far from being a maestro recorder player but I will certainly strive to be one.

Before I end this post, I’d like to point out some reasons as to why I want to play the recorder (as opposed to another instrument):

  1. It’s portable. The soprano recorder (and even the alto) is small enough to carry everywhere I go. The soprano recorder is like a foot long and could usually be separated into two or three smaller parts. When I feel like playing, I can just pull it out and quickly play some tunes.
  2. It doesn’t need much maintenance (the plastic recorders, at least, don’t). I can play it for as long and as often as I like and all I have to do to clean it is to wash it in water.
  3. It was easy to learn the first basic notes. When I learned the basic notes, I could already play some popular tunes. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and motivated me to go on learning the rest of the notes.
  4. It is a monophonic instrument. When I was learning the piano, I had to learn to read multiple notes and play them all at the same time. With the recorder, I only have to read an play one note at a time.

These are just a few of my reasons I’m into recorders right now. If you decide you want to take up the recorder, just pop by your nearest music instrument shop and buy a Yamaha YRS-302BII plastic recorder (like I did). It’s considered the best quality plastic recorder around (even better than some of the wooden recorders which is traditionally considered better than plastic). It’s only AU$38 so it’s not a big investment if you decide later that you don’t like it.

To end, here are some resources on the Web for the recorder:
The Recorder Home Page by Nicholas Lander
Free Recorder Lessons Online by Gene Casti
Courtly Music Unlimited – Advice for Beginning Recorder Players
Courtly Music Unlimited – Answers to Questions from Recorder Players
Antique Sound Workshop – FAQ and Guides for Recorders
Recorder Friends Yahoo Group
Recorder Yahoo Group

Published in: on November 28, 2005 at 10:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Comments Backlog

I made a big booboo. After a few heated exchanges with one of the commentors on the site, Raquel and I decided to turn on the Comments Moderation feature of our Blogging provider. That means, that whenever a new comment is posted on any of our blog posts, it gets queued up in the Awaiting Moderation section in the admin page.

The problem was that it didn’t send any emails to me that there were comments waiting for approval. This may entirely be my fault for not setting an auto-email notification for incoming comments.

But anyway, the end result was that, tonight, I just realised that there were 15 comments waiting approval and some of them for posts we wrote like several days ago!

So, I’m sorry for those of you who have posted a comment and never saw it show up underneath the blog post you were commenting on. I’ve just approved all 15 comments in the queue and will reply to them shortly.

In the meantime, I think we’ll just turn off the comment moderation feature and just delete the undesirable comments after it has been posted.

Again, we apologise for those of you who have commented.

Published in: on November 27, 2005 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pinoy Pulubi

While on the way back to the office from lunch, a shabby and unkempt middle-aged man from far across the other side of the sidewalk started hailing us. Well, we weren’t entirely sure if he was trying to get our attention until I realised, to our surprise, that he was speaking to us in Tagalog (Filipino).

He told us in Tagalog that he doesn’t have money for the train and he lives all the way to Geelong (imagine someone living in Laguna stuck in Manila). I wasn’t at all sure if he genuinely needed help or was he a fellow Filipino trying to make it as a beggar in the city. Since we were in a rush and I really didn’t have much money left in my wallet, I just gave him 20 cents from my pocket, told him that I was sorry for not being able to give him more and moved on.

It took me another minute or two to realise how he knew we were even Filipinos. Was he stalking us before he approached us? Raquel supposed that maybe since we look like Filipinos (naturally), he tried to talk to us in Tagalog, just in case.

If he was genuinely in need then he could just as easily ask assistance from the police or something. He wouldn’t be living alone in Melbourne for sure. He could try calling his friends and/or family to help him out. Well, if he was fair dinkum, then I hope that he was able to get help and got home safely.

Published in: on November 23, 2005 at 5:31 pm  Comments (4)  

Update on inspection

We wiped, scrubbed, vacuumed, mopped, polished all Sunday afternoon and Monday night in preparation for a property inspection yesterday. We really didn’t need to do a thorough cleaning of the whole apartment but wasn’t sure if the inspector would be fussy or not. In our previous experiences, they would normally have a checklist of items they’d inspect like walls, flyscreens, floor/carpet, range hood, etc. If they’re satisfied, they’d tick off the item but if they’re not, then they’d put in a comment as to why he/she wasn’t happy with the general state of the item – usually, this means we forgot to wipe the hood of the stove or they may be stubborn grease that still needs cleaning). As a tenant, you want all the items ticked on the first inspection since they would usually return for subsequent inspections to make sure that the problem has been remedied. This usually happens several days after the first inspection and although the items that have already been ticked off may not be checked, we usually make sure that everything’s clean to satisfy the inspector.

As you can guess, this could be a real hassle – I mean, we generally keep things tidy but who knows if the inspector would be satisfied with that or not. So, everytime we get a property inspection notice, we try to do an extraordinary job of cleaning everything to pass the inspection.

First thing we looked for after we came home from work yesterday is the checklist that inspectors usually leave on the dining table or kitchen counter. To our surprise, we only found a business card on the dining table. Gj theorised that we have passed the inspection and felt a bit cheated, all that hard work and not even a note with tick marks on it?

That was before I grabbed the card to have a closer look and noticed that there was writing on the other side. It said, “Property looks fantastic! Thanks.” That’s the card in the photo on top of the stove that Gj cleaned and polished until it literally shined. 🙂

Published in: on November 23, 2005 at 7:30 am  Comments (2)  

No to Death Penalty

The name Tuong Van Nguyen has become a household name in Australia these past few weeks. On December 2, he will be hanged in Singapore charged with smuggling drugs into the country. I don’t approve of what Nguyen did even if he only did it because he was forced into that situation to save his brother from a drug syndicate in Sydney. He knew what he was getting himself into, sure, but when he cooperated with the Australian and Singaporean authorities, you would’ve expected that they would have given him some form of leniency.

But, no.

The Singaporean government will still proceed with its mandatory death sentence for drug traffickers regardless of the amount of cooperation Nguyen offered or given his circumstance (helping out his brother out of a bind).

Now, I think illegal drugs are harmful and people who sell/push them should be rightly apprehended and punished. However, I don’t believe that the death sentence is an appropriate punishment for Nguyen’s crime. Actually, I don’t believe that the death sentence is an appropriate punishment for any crime (no matter how awful).

The chances of sending an innocent (or relatively innocent) person to his death are there, no matter how small. And if later on, it was discovered that the person was innocent after all, there is no going back.

Anyway, even though I think Nguyen deserved to be punished for his crime, I don’t believe that he should be executed for it. There must be some other way. I definitely feel for his family and friends. I hope that there is some loophole or whatever that could be exploited so that Nguyen’s life could be spared.

Nguyen’s lawyers and supporters are exploring every possible avenue to reduce his sentence and stay his execution. I wish them the best of luck. There’s still time. In the meantime, all anybody could do is pray and hope.

Published in: on November 22, 2005 at 12:13 pm  Comments (3)  

Spring Cleaning (too)

Note: I was just about to post this entry when I saw Gj’s take on our spring cleaning yesterday. Instead of letting a perfectly good post go to waste, I decided to just publish this anyway.

Weekends are meant to be spent doing all the fun things you could only think about doing during the week but doesn’t have time for. If we could have had our way, we should have spent last weekend in the sun with friends, or perhaps even indoors with Gj putting in practice time in learning his recorder while I read. Unfortunately, we did neither. We did the usual grocery shopping and bought a stepladder and tape measure at Bunnings on Saturday while we spring cleaned our apartment yesterday. With only a few weeks lease left in our current apartment, we would have preferred to just clean the apartment before the we leave but we got a notice for inspection last week before we even informed the agent of our intention to vacate within a few weeks time.

Rental properties usually undergo inspections to make sure that the tenants are taking care of the premises and that the appliances and fixtures are properly maintained. Inspection frequency is pretty arbitrary as this is the first inspection we’re going to have for our current apartment after more than a year of leasing it. That’s pretty good compared to the 3 inspections we had to undergo for our previous apartment in Canberra (once just after we moved in, another six months after that and then another one just before we moved out).

As an aside on these inspections, here’s my take on it. Looking at a property owner’s point of view, I could understand the need for these inspections. Surely, anyone who would have to shell out money for the maintenance of the building would have an interest in how the building is being used and maintained by the people renting it. What I don’t get is doing an inspection just after the tenant has moved in. Surely, they already know the state of the building and its facilities and the fixtures after the final inspection of the previous tenant, won’t they? As a tenant, I don’t appreciate the fact that I now have to worry about cleaning the stove and its normally oily/sticky hood when I haven’t even cooked one meal in the place because all my things are still in boxes! However, we would still be having our things in boxes this time around too because they never left their boxes since our move from Canberra over a year ago as the current place is simply to small to accomodate all of our things. Additionally, we’ve also started packing some of our things in preparation for the move to our new place.

Wonder what the real estate agent would make of it if we create a maze of boxes for him to navigate inside the apartment tomorrow? He probably won’t be very happy and all our window-cleaning, ceiling-sweeping and wiping would be all for naught if he gets frustrated and marks the inspection a failure. Better keep the boxes to the sides then.

Published in: on November 21, 2005 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spring Cleaning

My arms and shoulders were aching when I woke up this morning. The reason being was that Raquel and I were busy during the past weekend cleaning up the apartment. We got a message from the real estate agent that managed our apartment indicating that they would drop by tomorrow for a typical property inspection where the owner can determine if the current leasors are indeed maintaining the leased property.

We’ll be leaving the apartment behind in less than a month and there would again be a final inspection of the place at that time. I guess it’s okay that the regular inspection will happen tomorrow and not earlier. This way, we’ll know in advance of the final inspection we were able to clean the apartment enough for the owner. If so, then we don’t have to worry about cleaning the apartment too much come final inspection.

Yesterday, I tried desperately to clean the “rusty” stains from the stainless steel kitchen sink and stove top. Fortunately, I bought one of those steel polish creams and it worked on the sink and the stove. Still, I had to do a lot of hard scrubbing action to get the desired result. That’s why my shoulders are sore now, I suppose.

We weren’t able to finish all the cleaning last night as we were awfully tired by then. Tonight, we’ll have to continue the cleaning. I’m so not looking forward to it.

Published in: on November 21, 2005 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment