Melting away

I was back home in Manila just over a year ago around Christmas time. Now, I’m back here for more punishment. My memory of my previous stay was not the most pleasant. I was actually surprised at how much better it is to visit Manila outside of the Christmas season. Reasons? Less traffic, less crowding and less heat.

I couldn’t believe that it is less hotter here in September than it was the last time I was here in December two years past. I suppose it’s due to the rainy weather. It’s still rainy season, after all. Thankfully, it hasn’t actually rained much since we’ve arrived. I never had the need to bring out my umbrella from my bag.

Although it may be heaps cooler right now than previously, I still found myself sweating. A lot. Heaps! I couldn’t stop sweating the moment I step out into the open, beyond the range of cool air-conditioned air. Trying to keep myself dry with a help of a hand towel was like trying to bail out water from a sinking boat. I’m not sure where all that water is coming from, actually. It’s really a bit much.

When I’m finally back in the comfort of an air-conditioned area, it takes a while for me to stop perspiring. In the end, I still end up with a wet shirt, wet hair and sticky skin. Disgusting, I know. But that’s how it is since my arrival in Manila a few days ago.

Whenever I’m in shops, the security guards (for you non-Filipinos reading this, there are security personnel for mostly every shop) would look at me suspiciously. I don’t blame them. I look like I was guilty of something the way I was perspiring profusely.

Raquel found it funny that we came across some people who were wearing jumpers and jackets in this warm weather. It wasn’t even remotely cold outside! Even at night. I must have been away from Manila for far too long. I remember my previous American employers complaining about the same thing. And now we’re the ones doing the complaining.

I was hoping that these sweating episodes would last a maximum of four days. But it’s day six now and I’ve only started to adjust to the humidity and heat. That’s a bit of good news, I guess. I don’t feel the need to change my shirt yet.

In the meantime, I’ll probably continue to take refuge at air-conditioned malls and hotel lobbies until I finally stop melting in this humid place I call home. The only things that make this trip worthwhile was that I get to be with family, relatives and long-time friends again. And probably the chance to do some inexpensive book shopping. If not for these, I’d rather be back in good old Melbourne.

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Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Comments (6)  

Lax justice

One of the striking things I’ve noticed about Australia is that the punishment handed out to convicted persons seem to be very lenient as compared to that in Asia (from what I’ve read, at least). For example, in a lot of Southeast Asian countries, drug trafficking is punishable by death. Granted I’m against the death penalty but I think these people deserve very long prison sentences at the very least. Here, a head of a drug syndicate got jailed for just 17 years. That’s the head of the syndicate! Accomplices got between six to 12 years each.

I’m not sure about other Asian countries but in the Philippines, rape is considered a heinous crime and is again punishable by death. I’m reiterating that I’m against the death penalty so everytime I mention that a crime is punsihable by death, keep in mind that I’m not condoning it. My point is that it was considered so heinous that it deserved capital punishment.

But here, a 10 year old girl was gang raped by eight teenage males and one 26-year old male. The attackers were tried and were convicted. However, that won’t go into the teenagers’ criminal records. They even got suspended sentences! That meant no jail time for any of these offenders. Why? Because the judge thought that the little girl “probably agreed” to it! What the hell?! At least, Australians, for the most part, were just as outraged with the verdict as I was.

I’m not sure if longer prison sentences actually act as a deterent for would-be criminals, but I would like for the criminals to at least get the punishment they deserve.

Published in: on December 12, 2007 at 12:30 am  Comments (2)  

Scaremongering

I just want to keep this short. The Australian Federal election is less than a week from now and the major political parties are coming out in full force with their political campaign ads. And the Liberal Party’s TV ads annoy me to no end.

Not once did I hear from the Liberal Party’s TV ads what their party is going to do for the country if they get re-elected into parliament for another term. What is their platform? Well, you won’t know it from just watching their ads. Instead, you’ll only hear scaremongering and mud-slinging from the ads.

Imagine if companies advertise their products in such a way. McDonald’s ads will only show how Burger King’s burgers are less tasty than theirs. Bunnings Warehouse ads will only show how Mitre 10’s shops are lacking in selection and how much more expensive their stuff are. Toyota ads will only show how Mitsubishi cars are less reliable. And so on. Ads that don’t help sell a product but only exist to try to dissuade you from buying a competitor’s product.

It makes the Liberal Party look very desperate. It seems like they think that the only way they can win this election is by making sure nobody votes for the other party. They claimed that 70% of the Labor Party’s people were union officials like it will bring about communism into the country. The funny thing is that the figure they quoted wasn’t even correct. I’ve heard on radio that the number of former union officials were much lower than 70% and Peter Costello acknowledged this, yet they continued to run the ad that claimed 70%.

Here is that ad: Watch in YouTube
Here is the transcript from the radio programme: Read the Insiders transcript interview with Peter Costello

This is my first federal election. I previously didn’t care one way or the other which party becomes the ruling party. But with statements from current Prime Minister John Howard saying that climate change doesn’t mean the end of the world, I’d rather go with Labor just to see him out of Parliament. In fact, climate change does mean the end of the world! John Howard may be too old to witness it first hand but what about the younger generation, HUH?!

It doesn’t help that I just hate scaremongering tactics because people tend to fall for them, more often than not. I feel like these tactics take advantage of people who are less informed. It feels like cheating to me, is all.

Anyway, I just want to vent out. Vote for anybody but the Liberal party, for me.

Here are some more of the Liberal Party’s ads:
Under Labor, who will run the economy?
Unions to Take Control of our Economy

Contrast those with the Labor Party’s ads:
The difference between Kevin Rudd and Mr Howard
Kevin Rudd’s vision for Australia

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 10:01 pm  Comments (4)  

Environment and jobs

I try to avoid posting about politics in here as much as possible but a recent statement made by Prime Minister John Howard really troubled me. He said, “It’s a plan for reducing Australian jobs and not reducing Australian emissions.”

There are already a lot of arguments amade about how reduction of emissions meant those people who work for coal and oil would lose jobs and how introduction of alternate power sources will generate new jobs.

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this: If we don’t act now to save the planet we live in, everything else won’t matter as we would all be dead anyway. It should be a no-brainer. Saving the environment should be the top most priority. Our very lives (and our children’s) depend on it.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 12:39 pm  Comments (2)  

The curse of the mocha coffee cup

Mag Nation is fast becoming my favourite hang-out in the city during our hour-long lunch break thanks to the availability of the UK-made science-fiction and fantasy digital arts magazine, ImagineFX. I’ve gone back there almost every day this week just to browse through their issues of ImagineFX (which is perfectly Okay with the shop and, in fact, they encourage browsing).

There was a special issue of ImagineFX in the shop which was a compilation of the best bits of the first ten issues. If I remember correctly, the price tag says it’s worth $26 plus. It seems like a good bargain but I’m not too excited about spending more than 20 bucks for a magazine, even if it was a best-of issue. I held off buying it but I kept on coming back just to browse through the one and only copy in shop.

Then yesterday, I couldn’t find the special issue on their shelves. Someone must have finally bought it. Too bad, I thought. Maybe I should have bought it for myself when I had the chance. However, today, I got my chance. The magazine magically returned on the shelf but it looked a bit worn than I remembered it (probably my fault anyway) and the price tag was missing.

I went to the register counter with the magazine and asked, “Can you please tell me how much is this old magazine?” with emphasis on the word “old”. He consulted the PC by the counter then told me that the issue was now down to $19.95. Wow! It certainly pays to be patient sometimes.

Needless to say, I bought it. And when you buy a magazine at Mag Nation, you also get a coupon for a free coffee. Raquel and I wanted to use it right then and there. Last time I asked about the free coffee, the barista didn’t know what size is available for free with the voucher. Of course, I took advantage of this and ordered the large cup at the time. This time, the barista knows that I should only get a small cup. However, after I asked the barista real nicely if I can have a regular cup of mocha, he acceded to my request.

After that long digression, I finally come to the part of my story about the cursed coffee cup.

When the barista handed me my hot cup of mocha, I found the paper cup a bit too hot to hold. I asked if I could have serviettes (what Aussies call paper napkins here). They were all out so the barista offered to just put my cup in another paper cup to insulate my fingers from the heat. Sounded like a good idea.

After taking a few sips from the cup, Raquel and I decided it was time to return to our respective offices. As I crossed the street to get to the tram stop, then my cup that has a plastic lid on suddenly began spitting out the coffee from the tiny hole on the lid on to my coat’s right sleeve! Just great.

When I got to the tram stop, I placed the coffee cup and the magazine I bought on the tram shelter’s bench so I can take out my handkerchief and wipe the coffee off my coat. But as I was wiping my coat, I must have accidentally knocked the cup because it fell over and started to spill coffee on to my newly bought magazine! I immediately set the cup upright. Thankfully, the magazine was in a paper bag so it actually didn’t get wet. I had to chuck the paper bag though.

After catching the tram, I got off near my office. As I was walking towards our building, the coffee cup spat out more coffee but on to my slacks this time. Argh! I promptly wiped my pants dry and proceeded to get back to my desk.

As I was opening the door to my office floor, more coffee was spilled but I was able to avoid getting wet this time. The floor wasn’t as lucky.

By the time I got to my desk, there wasn’t really much coffee in my cup left. I’ve always been a klutz and I hate it. This must’ve been the worst case of clumsiness I’ve experienced to date. I strongly suspect that this series of unfortunate events was caused by having a second cup over the first one. Whenever I make a walking movement, the first cup could freely bob inside the second cup and make the coffee spill out.

Stupid coffee cups.

Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

All mixed up

To err is human and this saying has been brought home to us by two incidents in the past few weeks. The first one involved incorrect entries in the group certificates given to us by our employers. There was an entry in one column that was reported as a separate income but was actually already included in our gross income. This meant the amount of tax withheld from our salary each pay period was not nearly enough and that we would have to pay more tax. In fact, hubby and I have almost a grand tax payable when we filed our returns last month.

The good news about this PAYG amendment is that we probably would not have to pay as much tax as originally computed. The bad news is that if we decide to go back to the tax agents for them to take care of the amendments, we would have to pay $45 each for the appointment. This would also mean more documentation and the possibility of mistakes and confusion cropping up in the future. What a hassle! However, there’s really not much we can do except do the extra work ourselves. We decided we’d just print the amendment form from the tax office’s website, fill that out, attach the necessary documents and hope that everything goes well after that.

Another instance when someone else’s mistake created more work for us involved our health care claims history. I consulted with my osteopath a fortnight ago and had my claim for insurance coverage rejected by our health care provider. Both my osteopath and I were puzzled, I’ve only had five consultations with her previously and there’s no way I’ve already reached the claims limit for the year. Aside from that, there doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason why my claim should be declined. I SMSed hubby, who coincidentally also had an osteopathy consultation earlier that day, if his claim had also been declined. He said no, his claim went through without any problems.

First thing I did when I got back from the osteopath’s office was to check our health insurance account online. It was then that I discovered that my previous consultations with my osteopath have been entered into hubby’s name. Looking at our claims record, you’d think that hubby goes to two different osteopaths twice a week, most of them even occuring within a day of each other!

I quickly composed an email requesting an amendment of our claims history and asking for the reason why my claim was declined on that day. After several email exchanges, we found out that my osteopath had been incorrectly entering ‘1’ on the HICAPS system, thinking that I am the primary policy holder. In fact, she should have entered ‘2’ to indicate that the claim should be for me, the secondary policy holder. I had to ask my osteopath for a letter stating that it was me who consulted with her all along with a list of the consultation dates and send it to our provider.

As to the question of why my claim was rejected, it didn’t have anything to do with reaching the yearly maximum claim amount allowable at all. The claim was declined because they only allow one claim per person per day. Since hubby had already claimed for that day with his own osteopathy session and because my osteopath is trying to claim under his name as usual, the request for payment was declined. I was asked by the health care insurer to fill out a claim form, send them the receipt and post it all via snailmail to have my last claim honoured.

When I checked our online records today, the request for the amendment of the claims had gone through yesterday. All fine and dandy? Well, no, there was still one incorrect entry on the adjustment they made. Now they have charged hubby’s last osteopathy session to me and have totally ignored my separate claim for that same day. Argh, why is this so difficult!?!

All this grief just because someone else wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps I should send these people a bill for lost time and productivity and then maybe they’ll be more careful next time.

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Native Languages and Hijabs

One of the things I like about living in Melbourne is the free weekday afternoon newspaper, MX, available at all major train stations around the city. My favourite section is MX Talk where the readers get to have their say. I learned a lot about what my fellow Melburnian commuters think just by reading their printed letters and text messages.

Although I like the talkback section, it sometimes causes me great distress when I read stupid, ignorant and rude comments sent in by some readers. One of the things that always gets discussed on and off is the issue of people not talking in in public. There are some people who just can’t accept that there’ll be people in public who would speak to each other in their native tongue. I understand that this may seem rude if done while in the company of friends who do not speak the foreign language.

However, when I’m in public with my wife, I should be allowed to speak the language we’re most confortable with. It’s not that we don’t want to speak English or can’t speak English (we can, as evidenced by this very blog), it’s just that speaking in the language we grew up with is just a lot easier. We’re just talking to each other so why go over the hassle of translating everything we want to say in our heads before we actually speak out?

I bet that if these whingers take a trip to France, they’d be talking to other Aussies in English, whether or not they can speak French. I bet if they go to Bali for a summer holiday they’d speak English amongst themselves and not Bahasa Indonesia. I bet that even if they decide to live in Bali and master the language, they’d still talk in English when talking to other Aussies who may have similar Bahasa skills. It’s not that you can’t speak the second language, it’s just easier to speak with your first.

Of course, I totally agree that if a person intends to live in Oz for good, that person should learn the local tongue, if it’s in their means to do so. It just makes it easy for everyone if we can all communicate with each other using a common tongue.

Another hot issue in the talkbalk section right now is that there are people who want to ban muslim women from wearing a hajib, a sort of head scarf. According to the people calling for the ban, it’s a symbol of male oppression. The only problem is that there are women who prefer to continue wearing the hajib regardless. Maybe they want to keep on wearing it not because of any religious reasons at all. Maybe they just feel exposed without it.

I thought we live in a free country. If people want to start wearing daggy oversized shocking pink 80’s shirts again, I can’t stop them (even though I secretly wish that trend doesn’t come back). If some women want to wear turtle neck shirts instead of shirts with plunging necklines thereby showing much of their cleavages (which I think is quite popular here in Oz), I say let them. If nuns want can wear habits, women who prefer to wear hijabs should be just as allowed to do so.

Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm  Comments (9)  

Feet off the seats!

Time and time again, I keep seeing these inconsiderate people taking the seats with seats in front of them that are facing the opposite direction. The bad part is that these individuals use the opposing seats as surrogate foot stools. Don’t they realise just how potentially nasty the bottom of their shoes are? They don’t seem to care that the seats in front of them get soiled because of their disgusting feet. There are people who will be sitting in those seats eventually. Didn’t their parents teach them anything about cleanliness and hygiene?

There is even a hefty fine if these any of these individuals get caught by a train inspector with their feet on the seats. I guess that just goes to show how prevalent this awful practice is in trains. You can see the offenders suddenly dropping their feet down quickly to the floor whenever they think an inspector is approaching.

They should keep their feet down not because of any inspector. They should keep their feet off the seats out of common courtesy and manners. Apparently, these people just don’t care about that kind of thing. I don’t think that fines will stop these serial foot-on-seat offenders, though. They should’ve been taught when they were younger not to do this to begin with. Now, I fear, it may just be too late to correct these people of this unacceptable behaviour.

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment