Thanks, Dad

Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday. Like in previous years, I’ve missed his birthday bash again this year, just like I missed Mom’s birthday bash last month. Living in another country does have its downside.

In the past, I just sent them money and I let them buy themselves their own gifts. This year, Raquel and I thought that maybe it would be nice to send them actual gifts for a change. Yes, something that is handpicked by us and bought in Australia.

Anyway, since I couldn’t physically be home for the party, I just called in and greeted him over his mobile. After talking to Dad, I went into a sort of melancholic mood. I remembered how big an influence he was in my life.

I don’t smoke nor drink alcohol because my Dad didn’t. Even when he was with his friends, a lot of them would be smoking and drinking while he would just drink one can of beer (two cans at most). I’m into drawing and comics and animation because he bought comics, watched cartoons with us and, if I recall correctly, he used to draw, too.

I learned different sports such as badminton, bowling, tennis and darts because he was into them. I took up Electronics and Communications Engineering in college because he had exposed me to a lot of electronics when I was growing up. I’m into computers and was programming at a young age because he gave me computers back in the 80’s. I’m into a lot of different types of music because so was he.

Simply put, I’m into a lot of things because he was into a lot of things and I’m not into some things because he wasn’t into those same things.

Apart from things I do and don’t do, Dad also influenced the way I mapped out my life. When I was still in Elementary school, I realised that we lived a comfortable life. We get to visit different countries during Summer break and I usually get what I asked from Dad. I even get what I didn’t ask from Dad and it was usually something really interesting (read as geeky). I understood that our comfortable life was all because Dad was working abroad. So, at a young age, I’ve planned out that I was going to be just like Dad. When I grow up, I, too, will work abroad like he did so that my family will live a comfortable life like I did when I was young.

I remembered that one time he came home from Brunei for a vacation and he took me on a commute to Binondo (part of China Town in Manila). I can’t recall the reason for the trip but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that on the trip he related to me about how difficult his life was when he was younger. Being an orphan, he didn’t easily get what he wanted while he was growing up unlike my brother and me. He had to work hard for everything he had ever gained.

He also told me that before he got accepted for a job in Saudi Arabia, he went to the church along Santa Cruz in Manila to ask God to help him get this job. And wouldn’t you know it? He did. That was the start of our comfortable life right there. Hard work and a little faith. That’s what’s needed, I said to myself.

Still on that trip, he told me that we had money saved up in the bank for our future. That meant that even if we didn’t work hard to be successful in life, we would still have money. He then posed a challenge for me which I took to heart. He asked me if I could make more money than he did at the age of 40? I told him, I would. And that challenge became a driving force for me to succeed. It was a goal I focused on.

On the way home, he also gave me an advice that I never forgot and helped me get to where I am now: grab an opportunity when it comes, for it may never come again. And that’s just what I did.

I don’t claim to be as financially successful as my Dad was at the time. All I’m saying is that I probably wouldn’t be the least bit successful if it wasn’t for my Dad.

Thanks, Dad. Thank you for all the lessons you’ve taught me in words and in deed.

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Published in: on February 16, 2006 at 1:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Retrieving Podcasts

In the rush to leave the house and get to the train station to catch the 8.26am train, I forgot my Sony Network Walkman NW-E507 on the kitchen counter. By the time I realised that I had left it behind, there was no more time to run back to the house and get it.

So, today, I didn’t get my morning dose of podcasts on the forty minute train ride to the city. I had to make do with reading the book I always carried around just in case I get the free time to read it (like this morning). I also had to endure the shrill noise coming from somebody’s earphones who had his iPod’s volume turned way up. I’ll bet good money he’ll be needing a hearing aid in a few years.

Apart from the train ride to and from work, I also listen to podcasts when I’m taking a breather from my work and even while I’m actually working. Well, except for the times when I really need to concentrate on a programming problem, then I put the MP3 on hold. But for the most part, I can easily do my programming chores while listening to podcast banter.

Now, if you are wondering what is this “podcast” thing I’m talking about, let me elaborate. Podcast, which was declared Word of the Year for 2005 by the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary, is essentially an audio voice recording saved in MP3 format for download on the Internet.

Podcasts could take the form of a spoken blog. Sometimes, if the podcaster is a bit more ambitious or creative, it takes the form of a radio show. In fact, some actual radio shows are also available as podcasts.

I was talking to my brother via Skype the other day and I asked him if he’s into podcasts. He said no. Even though he has an MP3 player, he wasn’t into it because he simply didn’t get what it is. So for his benefit and even for the benefit of others who, like him, do not know how to retrieve these so-called podcasts, I’ll try to explain how to get them.

At its simplest, you can simply go to the blog site (it’s usually a blog site) of the podcast you wanted to listen to and save the linked MP3 file of the latest blog entry. This MP3 file is the actual podcast. Once you’ve downloaded the MP3 file on to your computer, you can then upload that file on to your MP3 player. It’s that easy.

Remember, audio podcasts are usually in MP3 format so you do not need an iPod to listen to podcast. As long as your MP3 player can play MP3 files (it should!), then you can listen to podcasts.

Of course, it’s a big hassle to go to all of the podcast sites just to see if there are any new podcast episodes and download them. That’s where the podcast client software comes in.

You download a podcast client like Nimiq and install it. Once that’s done, go on over to a podcast directory site like Podcast Alley and choose from the podcasts you may want to listen to listed there. As of this writing, the number 1 in the Top 10 for February in Podcast Alley is MuggleCast, a podcast about Harry Potter.

To subscribe to MuggleCast, click on the MuggleCast link (which expands to reveal a summary of the podcast as well as three links at the bottom). Then, click on the Subscribe link. It takes you to a page where the URL for the podcast is listed. Copy that URL which, in this case, is “http://feeds.feedburner.com/mugglecast” (without the quotes).

Assuming you went with my recommendation and you installed the Nimiq podcast client, open Nimiq. Click the New Subscription button on the tool bar, paste the URL in the dialog box that will popup, then save it. Click the Start button on the toolbar to initiate the download of subscribed podcasts.

So, Nimiq will now download the latest MuggleCast podcast into your assigned podcast folder. And the next time you hit the Start button, it’ll download a new episode of the show if a new podcast was posted by the creators of MuggleCast. After downloading, you can copy the MP3 file onto your MP3 player and listen to it later.

If you are an iPod user, then downloading podcasts are a lot simpler because it’s been integrated with Apple’s iTunes software.

Now, if only my brother would read this.

Published in: on February 16, 2006 at 12:02 pm  Comments (2)  

Manila is Not in Indonesia

There’s a new men’s magazine in town from the makers of FHM. The name’s Zoo Weekly and their first issue came out today — for free! Yep. A girl dressed like she works at Hooters was handing them out at the Flinders Street station earlier today.

So, what’s the magazine like? Well, it’s kinda like another FHM really. Only, weekly. And lots of pictures of nearly naked women. And, yeah, the requisite articles and pictures on cars, jets, sports, gross topics and some geeky topics.

Well, on this issue, it also had something on the Bali Nine and their sentencing. It basically detailed the life of Australian Chris Parnell who was jailed for 20 years in Bali and how it was such a horrific ordeal that he wished he got the death sentence instead.

I thought the article was quite an unpleasant but surprisingly interesting revelation. It made me think about how scary it could be in prison, specially in a third world.

I then looked at the photos that accompanied the article. Then there’s one where it looked like a bunch of smiling Filipinos crammed together in jail. Now, that was weird. It must be some kind of mistake, I thought. The article was about the Indonesian prison of Bali.

I had to take a closer look then I read the caption: “Manila City jail: five times over its capacity”.

No wonder they looked like Filipinos. Heck, they were! Oh, I’m sure it’s very cramped in the Manila City Jail but there was nothing in the article about Manila at all, apart from the picture.

I only take issue because people reading the article might think that the Manila City Jail is in Bali, Indonesia when in fact it is not. Either the magazine accidentally used the photo thinking it’s actually in Indonesia or they intentionally wanted to pass it off as a photo of inmates in a Bali jail.

I just thought it was weird.

Published in: on February 14, 2006 at 9:35 pm  Comments (2)  

Valentine Gift

First, let me greet everybody reading our blog a Happy Valentine’s Day. Now that’s out of the way…

On Valentine’s Day, I usually buy Raquel a dozen or so flowers along with some chocolate. This year, I did something else. Instead of flowers, I bought her a gold necklace with a heart-shaped pendant.

And since she’s been asking me to write her a poem for the longest time, I wrote her one yesterday. Now, I haven’t written poetry since my university days and even then, I’m not sure I was ever good at it.

Still, I hope she’d like the end poem despite its lack of literary flair. And to make it a bit interesting, I decided to write it in song (based on an old love tune which I’m not going to name).

When the clock struck 12 midnight last night, I gave Raquel the necklace, played a tune from my PDA, cleared my voice and sang the song I wrote for her (albeit horribly sung — hey, I was nervous, okay?).

She seemed to have enjoyed it, but you better ask her if she actually did. I was glad she liked it. That made my night. Nothing pleases me more than to see her happy.

~ ~ ~

If you are interested in the poem/song I wrote for Raquel, you can read it below. I intended to include the guitar chords along with it but I was having problems trying to align the chords on top of the corresponding words. I originally planned on playing the guitar while singing it but since I have yet to buy one, I had to make do with a pre-recorded tune playing on my MP3 for my accompaniment.

O, Mahal Ko

Nung unang subok kong
kausapin ka,
wala man lang akong
kibong nakuha.
O, mahal ko.

Kahit di mo man ako
gustong makilala,
nagpursigi akong
mapa-ibig ka.
O, mahal ko.

Pag-ibig ko’y iyong-iyo.
Sa puso ko’y ikaw lamang.

Di naman nagtagal
ako’y sinagot mo.
Naging ika’y akin at
ako’y sa iyo.
O, mahal ko.

Napaibig akong una
sa iyong ganda.
Matapos kong makilala ka,
matalino pa pala
ang mahal ko.

Pag-ibig ko’y iyong-iyo.
Sa puso ko’y ikaw lamang.

Ngayong mag-asawa na
panghabang-buhay,
masaya ako’t kapiling ka
at iyan ang tunay.
O, mahal ko.

Wala na ngang ibang
iibigin.
Ikaw ang nag-iisang
gustong kapiling.
O, mahal ko.

Published in: on February 14, 2006 at 1:17 pm  Comments (7)  

No Mercy For Renae

Renae Lawrence along with eight other Australian citizens, collectively called as the Bali Nine here in Australia, were arrested in the airport of Bali, Indonesia on April 17 last year for attempting to smuggle heroin from Indonesia to Australia.

She cooperated with the authorities’ investigations. The prosecutors at her trial only asked for a 20 year sentence for her. And what did the judges gave her? A life imprisonment.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, the Lawrence was given a higher sentence than that asked by the prosecutors because the judges thought it was fair to give all the drug mules the same sentence.

That and this:

“(Anggia) Browne (Lawrence’s defence lawyer) said she believed the judges had decided on a harsher sentence than the one prosecutors had demanded because the families of the three other mules – Rush, Martin Stephens and Michael Czugaj – objected.”

Sounds like tall poppy syndrome hard at work.

Even though I do not condone drugs (in fact, I don’t even condone cigarette smoking nor alcohol drinking), I still believe that by assisting with the police investigation, Lawrence should have earned herself some redemption points. I think she deserves jail time for being a drug mule but I don’t think she deserved to be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Published in: on February 14, 2006 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Badminton Again

A while back, our friend Arnold started weekend badminton game sessions at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) for our Filipino group. I went to the first ever session but haven’t gone again since even though they now play at a regular weekend basis.

I really wanted to play again but Raquel and I have just been very busy with fixing up the house and catching up on other priority stuff. I kept telling Arn that I’ll probably show up next weekend and then the next and so on.

Last weekend, the MSAC became unavailable to casual badminton players because of the upcoming Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. So, as an alternate venue, Arn booked a couple of courts for 2 to 4pm at the Altona Badminton Centre located at Paisley Park, Mason Street, Altona North (Melway 55 D3), instead. With the venue being a lot closer to where I live (about 20 minutes’ drive away), it certainly made it an easy decision to play badminton that weekend.

I almost didn’t make it though. I had scheduled earlier to have a package picked up from our house in Werribee the same day but I wasn’t exactly sure when it was actually going to be picked up. So I just told Arn that I would text him if I would be playing or not. Fortunately, I got the package sent on its way before 1pm so I was still able to go.

I was out of practice and they were now following a new set of game rules so I felt like a total newbie. But it was okay. Everybody there was very friendly (it helped that I already knew most of them there). I also met new people there which is always a bonus.

As usual, I gave it my all, even to the point of looking ridiculous on the court. That’s how I usually play any game. I always like a good challenge. Unfortunately, in all the games I played in that day, I never won even once.

That’s okay though. I just deluded myself into thinking that the people I played against had all these weeks of practice playing and that I hadn’t played in a long time. If only I really believe it.

I know that the only way I’ll improve my game is to keep on going to these weekly game sessions. They tell me that they’ll be at it again next week. I’d love to go and play again. It’s fun and I get a good workout by the end of it. What’s not to like?

If you are a least bit interested in joining Arn’s weekly badminton games for Pinoys (mostly), you can let him know at the Philippines.com.au forum.

Published in: on February 13, 2006 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Padala from Melbourne

It’s my Dad’s birthday in a few days. Being in another country makes it difficult to buy gifts for friends and family on special occasions. I could probably buy a gift from a Philippine online shop and have the item sent to my Dad’s home address but somehow that feels a little impersonal.

Also, I think it would also make the gift I buy extra special and maybe even unique if it was bought from here in Australia. Even if the same item is available in the Philippines.

So I settled on the idea of sending a Padala — usually a box, also called a Balikbayan Box (translates as Homecomer’s Box), sent by a person from one country to his or her family in the Philippines. We could do it buy sending it via post but I don’t trust our postal service in the Philippines. I’m afraid it’ll just get lost or taken. Another (safer) option is sending the box through one of the major courier services but that would just be an expensive way to go.

Or just go with the third option.

From experience, in every foreign place I’ve been to where there is a sizable Filipino diaspora, there is always that enterprising Filipino who offers money remittance and parcel courier services. Usually, their fees are cheaper and delivery door-to-door is very fast and reliable.

So, I asked our friend Mike if he could recommend a Filipino packager (or should I say, packer?). He said he used Atzarah Air Cargo run by Nelson and Pearly in the past.

Here are their details if you happen to be a Filipino living in Melbourne thinking of sending something to the Philippines:

Atzarah Air Cargo
Contact: Nelson or Pearly
Phone: (03) 9306 1996
Mobile: 0409 706 331

Air Freight Rates:
Metro Manila: $3.70/kg (minimum of 15kg)
Handling Fee: $8

Weekly pickup. Delivery in 5 to 8 days. For more info or other rates, just call them up.

And if you are in Canberra, call Mang Cesar instead on his land line at (02) 6290 1090 or his mobile at 0408 487 379.

Anyway, I called up Nelson on Friday and arranged for my package to be picked up the next day (yesterday). They happen to do weekly pickups around the Western Melbourne suburbs on Saturdays. He told me that I could expect the package to get delivered at my Mom’s place by Thursday or Friday. It’ll be a little late for my Dad’s birthday but it’s still better late than never.

Published in: on February 12, 2006 at 1:15 pm  Comments (4)  

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

One of the things I hate about being away from the Philippines is that there is no easy way to get products I like that are exclusively sold there. When Raquel was still in the Philippines, I would ask her to buy me stuff and send it over to Australia via post. But ever since she moved here, I could only rely on my parents or my brother to do the buying and sending for me.

Sad to say, they are not that reliable when it comes to that. I would call them, text them and email them a list of items I’d like for them to buy and send over. They would acknowledge the request but it would soon be forgotten. Over the years, I’ve come to expect that my requests would eventually be forgotten. It’s a downer, really.

Just the other day, I read Bambi Harper’s Sense and Sensibility column on the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s website titled The ‘Ilustrado’ as Filipino where she talked about a new book written by Australian-based Filipino author Alfredo Roces.

The book is titled “Adios Patria Adorada: the Filipino as Ilustrado, the Ilustrado as Filipino” and was described by Harper in her column as follows:

“… whether the Ilustrados sincerely wanted independence for the good of the country or they wanted it so that they could take over the colonizer’s role. Did they collaborate first with the Spaniards, then with the Americans, then the Japanese and finally with the powers-that-be to fulfill this ambition? And is this the reason the country is in the mess it’s in now?”

I’ve always been intrigued by Philippine history and have bought several books on the subject and brought them with me to Australia. So after reading the column, I knew I wanted to own and read Roces’s book. But the only way to do that is to have somebody from the Philippines buy it for me and post it to me. Uh-oh, I thought. Given my family’s track record, I had to find another way to get my hands on this book.

So, I looked on the Internet if it was available to order online. It wasn’t, as far as I know. The websites for bookstores in the Philippines do not list the book as being available. The book’s publisher, DLSU Press, didn’t respond to my email regarding the availability and distribution of the book.

I told Raquel about the problem and she suggested that we ask her father to buy the book instead. I have really nothing to lose at that point. We texted her father the book details yesterday. Today, he went off to Manila to look for the book.

According to Harper, there were only 500 copies of the book! What were the publishers thinking?!

“De La Salle Press officials claim that they generally sell only 500 copies of their publications. Considering their student body, this is a rather depressing figure. But even worse is the thought that so few would have a chance to understand the Ilustrado and his real contribution to this country.”

Given that there were limited copies of the book, we doubt that it would be available in the regular book outlets so Raquel told her father to try going to La Salle on Taft Avenue, Manila first. When he got there, the security guard at the gate stopped him from entering the campus. The guard called somebody from the DLSU Press to talk to Raquel’s dad. Thankfully, Raquel’s dad was able to get a copy of the book from the DLSU Press staff for 420 Pesos.

Now, I have a copy of the book. Well, actually, Raquel’s father has the book but he texted us that he would send it via post soon. I couldn’t believe how quickly Raquel’s dad got the book for us. I really appreciate it! It now makes me think about the next time. Would I ask my brother to buy me something? Or do I just nicely ask Raquel’s father again instead?

Published in: on February 10, 2006 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Recommended TV Shows

I can’t think of anything to write about so, today, I’ll just list my current favourite TV shows on Australian free-to-air TV at the moment. If you aren’t the least bit interested to know what shows I like to watch, feel free to skip this post. I don’t mind.

Now, in alphabetical order, here is my list of faves along with a little personal commentary regarding each show:

Futurama, TEN, Tuesdays, 8pm AEDT
This is actually an old canceled sci-fi animated series (thanks a lot, Fox!) from the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening. It parodies a lot of sci-fi shows, of course, as well as pop culture. Even though I’ve actually watched all four seasons of this show on DVD already, TEN only recently picked up this series and I still love watching it all over again. Recommended for sci-fi fans and geeks in general.

Ghost Whisperer, Seven, Tuesdays, 7.30pm AEDT
The show stars Jennifer Love Hewitt as this person who sees ghosts. I know it may sound similar to Medium starring Patricia Arquette (which I used to watch, by the way), but I now prefer this series over the latter. Whereas Medium seems to concentrate on criminal cases, Ghost Whisperer does not. It’s more about the lead helping lost souls cross over. I like the concept. Okay, okay. So it also helped that Hewitt is in the lead role.

House, MD, TEN, Wednesdays, 8.30pm AEDT
Hugh Laurie is Dr Gregory House. An absolute bastard but a very skilled and talented doctor. When this started airing a while back, it was up against Seven’s Grey’s Anatomy which is also another series set in a hospital. However, House is more like CSI and GA, to me at least, is more like Melrose Place (as in prime-time soap opera). In House, the emphasis is on the illness, the persons affected by it and finding a cure for it. The patient’s illness is usually not immediately identifiable so they have to determine what illness the patient has first before they can even cure it. Although I definitely like this process of discovery they do every week, I have also grown to like the characters in the series. Even House.

Lost, Seven, Thursdays, 8.30pm AEDT
From the creator of Alias (another favourite of mine), JJ Abrams and David Lindelof, comes Lost. A story about the survivors of an airplane crash on a mysterious island. Sounds like a simple survival story, doesn’t it? Well, I like this show more for its supernatural and/or sci-fi elements. For example, there is this character named John Locke (played by Terry O’Quinn) who was actually a cripple before the plane crash. After the crash, mobility to his legs was restored mysteriously. Then there is also the mystery about the “others” on the island even though the island seems to be uninhabited. There are a lot of questions that go unanswered in Lost. And watching out for the answers in the next episodes is probably my biggest motivation to continue watching this show.

Mythbusters, SBS, Mondays, 7.30pm AEDT
Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage attempts to bust the popular myths and urban legends weekly in this educational show. Have you ever asked the following questions: If the elevator you’re riding snaps and falls, would you survive if you jump just before the elevator hits the ground? Would a cola drink really dissolve a tooth if the tooth is left to soak in cola overnight? Would you be drier if you ran in the rain rather than walked? Well, they did the experiments to find out once and for all if these myths are confirmed, plausible or busted.

NCIS, TEN, Wednesdays, 9.30pm AEDT
When they started showing this series on TEN a while back at CSI’s height of popularity in Australia, it was touted as being like CSI (shown on Nine) but their scope was world-wide rather than city-wide. Well, not really. NCIS stands for Navy Criminal Investigative Service. Sort of like the US Navy’s CSI. That also meant that they only handle cases that involved the US Navy. Even so, I like this series more for its quirky characters than for the cases they try to solve each week. But, even if the cases were limited to Navy-related ones, the cases were usually very interesting to follow.

Prison Break, Seven, Wednesdays, 8.30pm AEDT
A new series about a supposed innocent guy on death row and his smart brother who got himself into prison just so he can break him out. I like watching Michael Scofield’s (the smart brother) prison break plan unfold every week. Of course, you can only plan so much. Plans tend not to work out exactly as hoped. And therein lies the suspense for this show. Can they break out before the execution date? How are they going to break out? It’s a very exciting show.

Smallville, TEN, Thursdays, 7.30 pm AEDT
It’s basically the story of Clark Kent living in his hometown of Smallville before he became Superman. Actually, I’ve already watched on DVD the entire season being shown on TV at the moment. The reason for this was because Nine dropped the ball. Nine censored the violence out of the show most of the time and then stopped showing it completely. Since then, I’m always afraid for series shown on Nine. Anyway, fortunately, TEN picked up the series and started showing Season 3. But, the Season 3 DVD box-set has been out for a while now so the TV series has yet to catch up with the episodes they show in the US.

Supernatural, TEN, Mondays, 8.30pm AEDT
Brothers Dean and Sam Winchester travels from state to state (in the US) looking for their missing father while basically ghost-busting along the way. I like this show because the “villains” from the series seem like they came from the ghost stories and local legend discussions in the Hometown Tales podcast of which I am an avid listener. I’ve heard these supernatural stories before but what would it be like to actually fight the ghosts, monsters and demons featured in the said stories. Well, that’s what Supernatural is all about. So far, I’ve watched the brothers destroy a white-lady ghost, kill a wendigo, appease a vengeful water-spirit and exorcise a demon. I’ve always wanted to write a story like this but I’m more than happy to just continue watching this series instead.

Threshold, TEN, Canceled!
Rick Berman, a writer and a producer of the Star Trek franchise, created the series Threshold. Basically, it’s an alien invasion but not your typical type of invasion. The method of invasion is to infect everybody on Earth with a sort of virus that will mutate humans into the aliens themselves. So there are no actual aliens to destroy but they still need to stave off the “invasion”. The series is named after the protocol Threshold which is put into play in the unlikely possibility of an alien invasion. A great concept and a great story. Unfortunately, the series was canceled in the US even before it was able to build up steam. So in turn, the series was also canceled here in Australia a couple of weeks ago. I hope they bring it back but I won’t be holding my breath.

These are just some of my fave shows, actually. The others, I’m still waiting for the next season to start showing on Australian free-to-air stations. But I can’t rely on catching the TV ad that announces the return of a series so I signed up for YourTV.com.au‘s free service.

I just list the TV shows I watch and wanted to watch in the future in my Personal Guide page. I receive a daily email from YourTV that tells me what shows on my list will be on TV that night. Since I check my email daily anyway, I don’t miss a show I like. So, if you live in Australia and you don’t want to miss your favourite shows, I recommend you sign up.

Yeah, I know. I watch too much TV.

Published in: on February 10, 2006 at 8:30 am  Comments (2)  

That Curry Place Across the Street

When an officemate resigns, office tradition dictates that we eat out with him or her in that “curry place” across the street. It’s a popular Indian restaurant with the people at work. Legend has it that before my time, the people in the office would have lunch there every month.

Nowadays, everybody is just too busy to make it a regular thing so they only go there on special occasions. In my experience, that meant: whenever somebody decides to leave the company. And since an officemate recently resigned, we ended up eating at the curry place.

For those interested (and just so I can avoid writing down “curry place” again and again for the length of this essay), the name of the “curry place” is the Nirankar Indian Resturaunt which can be found at 7 Queen Street near the Flinders Street corner in Melbourne’s CBD. It’s quite spacious inside so it’s suitable for group lunch-outs. I must admit, too, that I found the food rather nice, even though I’m not really a big fan of Indian food.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have gone to today’s lunch-out at Nirankar if the officemate wasn’t a relatively close colleague of mine. I mean, the guy helped me out with my work in my first few weeks in the company.

From those of you from the Philippines, let me just clarify that the person leaving wasn’t expected to treat us out. Whenever there are these lunch-outs here in Australia, everybody is expected to pay for their own food or to pay for an equal share of the total spent for everybody’s food.

In this case, we had to pay an equal share of everybody’s food which came down to $30 each. To me, $30 for lunch is a bit expensive. To give you a point of reference, here are some sample lunch combos with its approximate cost: McDonald’s value meal – $6, large plate of Teriyaki Chicken with fried rice and drink – $9, Chicken Schnitzel Focaccia plus drink – $8, Fajita Burrito with chips (French Fries to the rest of you) and drink – $11, restaurant level dish plus rice and drink – $19. So, the thirty dollars would’ve been enough money to treat Raquel out for dinner in a decent restaurant — maybe even at Nirankar itself.

What happens usually at a Nirankar lunch-out, they would order multiple dishes which would be shared with everybody. My problem here is that I have basically stopped eating mammal-based meat since half-a-year ago. That meant I would only be able to eat the dishes where there is only chicken or vegetables. I considered just ordering my own dish but I was afraid to look like I was walang pakisama (could be translated to “lack of camaraderie-ness”). A bit of a no-no in Filipino culture. I don’t know how it is with Australians and I didn’t want to risk it.

So I ended up just eating the butter chicken dish mostly. I had to pass up the beef korma, beef vindaloo and the lamb do-piaza. Each dish ordered was divided and placed in small bowls so that everybody on the long table could have a taste of one particular dish. That meant I was only able to eat a little bit of the butter chicken. Fortunately, it was delicious. Unfortunately, I was only able to eat a small portion of it. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of meat for lunch, I compensated by eating a lot of the rice and the garlic naan bread.

A lot of the guys ordered some alcoholic beverage but since I don’t drink alcohol, I had to settle for a narrow glass of Diet Coke (which was less expensive though it didn’t matter because we had to divide the cost in the end anyway).

I have to admit that I wasn’t too satisfied with today’s lunch. Not because the food was bad. It was mostly because I felt I paid a lot and didn’t get a lot in return. It must just be the scrooge in me.

Anyway, I got something out of it. At least, I was able to sample the different sauces they had on offer (I just avoided eating the meat) and came to the conclusion that I like the butter sauce the best followed by the korma sauce. I also discovered that I like the naan bread which was something I wouldn’t have bought if it was just me.

Next time we go out for lunch at Nirankar, I’ll just have to be thick skinned and order a separate butter chicken with rice and naan for myself. It would be delicious and it would hopefully work out cheaper.

Published in: on February 9, 2006 at 1:30 pm  Comments (6)