Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ADVENTURES SA KAWATANAN NG RENTAS INTERNAS ni Jol Ong

This was forwarded to me by a friend and I swear, regardless how long this one is it will really make you laugh. And I had to translate this in English for my friend who still has to recover from this one...ENJOY!
***************

Dear Joey,

Kumusta sir. Naalala mo pa si Mjolnir? Yung anak kong gustong pumasok sa McCann? May nakakatawang storiang nangyari sa kanya. Nang nangailangan si Jol ng TIN ay ginawa siyang pingpong ball ng BIR. So isinulat niya yung BIR experience niya tapos nilagay niya sa internet. Biglang kumalat. Last time I heard ay nasa L.A. na Anyway after 3 days sa internet ay nabasa ni BIR Commisioner Parayno yung story. Pinadalhan kaagad si Jol ng TIN card via mail. Ang bilis. Ang maganda pa nito ay nag-email kay Jol yesterday si Bart Guingona. Gusto raw nilang gawing play. Tuwang tuwa si Jol. Sabi ko nga ay ang agang dumating ng 15 minutes of fame niya.
Anyway here's his original story:

ADVENTURES SA KAWATANAN NG RENTAS INTERNAS ni Jol Ong

Okay. So natanggap na ako nung November sa NCCA bilang researcher. Contract employee lang. 3 months. May Yearbook project kasi sila at kailangan ng extrang tao. Okay lang ang bayad, kaso may 10% withholding tax, at siyempre, dapat may Tax Identification Number (TIN) ako. Sotinanong ko yung boss ko- "Sir, di po ba yung employer ang maglalakad ng TIN ng employee?" Sagot ni bosing- "Di ka kasi regular employee kaya ikaw ang maglakad ng TIN mo." Assurance nung assistant ni bosing- "Okay lang yan, one-time hassle lang yan." Ala ako problema. Sige, ako maglalakad ng TIN ko. Tutal, ano ba ang > worst case scenario? Mahabang pila? Red Tape? Naknamsiomai, sanay naman ako sa UP e-kuhaan ng classcards, pila sa registration, pila sa graduation, etc. Ako rin naman ang naglalakad ng registration ng beetle ko, at sa pagrerenew ko ng lisensya, so okay lang.

Sabi ni bosing, dun daw ako mag-apply ng TIN sa BIR Main, sa may QC, para mas konti ang pila! . May BIR din naman sa labas ng Intramuros, walking distance para sa mga sanay maglakad, pero mas konti raw ang tao sa Main.

So, sige, nagpaalam ako, isang araw mag-aabsent ako para lakarin yun. Dun ako sa Main, dahil malapit lang sa amin, tapos plano ko, dadaanan ko yung ilang research materials sa UP. Solve!

Pagdating ko sa BIR Main, nagulat nga ako dahil wala ngang katao-tao. Ni wala akong nakitang pila, maliban lang dun sa pila sa harap, dahil tsinecheck nung sekyu yung bag ng mga tao. Nung pagpasok ko, wala pala silang TIN forms. Wow. Naubusan ng TIN Forms ang BIR Main. Hanep.

Tinanong ako nung lalaki sa desk kung para saan yung TIN application ko; sabi ko, para sa work. Tinanong kung saan ako nagtatrabaho; sabi ko sa Intramuros.

"Dun ka mag-apply sa Intramuros." sabi nung lalaki.

"Di po ba puwede talaga rito?"

"Hinde, kasi sa Intramuros ka e, sila ang may hawak sa 'yo."

Okay lang, although medyo naburat ako sa efficiency nila. Ibig kong sabihin, wow, Main BIR sila tapos una, naubusan sila ng TIN Forms, pangalawa, ewan, ang
laki-laki ng saklaw nilang lugar, ang laki-laki ng mga building nila, tapos hindi nila ako ma-accomodate.


Taragis, e malamang sa kanila rin naman mauuwi yung records ko kung sa BIR Davao o BIR Batanes ako mag-apply, dahil tutal, Main sila e, di ba? So ala na akong magawa, ala rin silang TIN Forms, so useless din kung magprotesta pa ako dun. So pumunta na lang akong peyups (U.P.) for official business, for the first time. Hehehe!

Pagpasok ko sa work, sinubukan kong lakarin yung TIN application ko sa BIR sa labas ng Intramuros, yung malapit sa port area. Pag-akyat ko sa taas, hinanapan ako ng certificate of employment, at baranggay clearance. At dahil walang nagsabi sa akin na kailangan ko nun, lalo na yung lalaki sa BIR Main, wala akong bitbit na requirements.

Pagbalik ko sa opisina, inexplain ko sa bosing namin yung problema. Nakatingin sa akin yung bosing ko na parang nawe-weirdohan din at di maintindihan yung paghihigpit ng BIR. Lintek, sabi nga nung isang workmate ko, the fact na nag-apply na ako for TIN, dinedeclare ko na sa gobyerno na puwede na nilang kupitan, err, kaltasan ang maliit kong suweldo. Ako na nga ang magbibigay ng pera sa kanila, ako pa ang hinihigpitan. Tanginang gobyerno yan, kahit kailan talaga pahirap sa mga tao.

Anyway, pag-aaralan pa raw nila kung mabibigyan nila ako ng certificate of employment. Yung baranggay clearance, ako na ang maglalakad. Plano kong bumalik ulit sa BIR Main. Hindi ko na lang sasabihin na sa Maynila ako nagtatrabaho. Yung ninang ko na may business, binigyan ako ng TIN Forms. Form 1901, take note. Para sa mga regular employees. May pipirmahan sa likod ang employer ko. After nito, dumiretso ako sa baranggay hall namin para sa clearance. Hiningan ako ng CV para sa file. Medyo naiirita na ako sa puntong ito. Isipin mo naman kung gaano ka-hassle ang buong prosesong ito, para saan? Para gawin ko ang aking role bilang mabuting mamamayan sa pagbabayad ng tamang buwis. Anyway, tinanong ako nung babae sa baranggay hall kung may TIN daw ako. Napapalo ako sa noo ko.

Whoooooo!!! I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!!!!!

Okay! So may clearance na ako! Humingi na ako ng certificate of employment sa bosing ko, at pinapapirmahan ko na siya sa likod ng Form1901 ko. Kaso sabi niya, hindi raw puwede kasi wala ako sa roster of employees ng NCCA. Project employee lang ako e. So tinanong ko kung puwede ibalik yung mga kaltas sa akin, tutal ala naman akong TIN e, at ayaw akong bigyan ng BIR, kaya putangina sila, di ko bibigay pera ko sa gobyerno! Ang problema, hindi raw puwede yun. Tuloy-tuloy ang kaltas sa suweldo ko. Kapag hindi raw kasi kinaltasan, sila raw ang malilintikan kapag nag-check ng expenses ang NCCA, makikitang hindi binawasan ang suweldo ko. So tinawag ngayon yung isang accountant ng NCCA para tulungan kami sa aming munting problema. Hindi rin maintindihan nung accountant kung bakit hinihigpitan ako ng BIR. Putsa, ako na nga ang magbibigay ng pera sa gobyerno, may gana pa silang magpakipot. Sabi nung accountant, yung kinaltas sa akin, mapupunta pa rin sa gobyerno, may TIN man ako o wala, at hindi sa bulsa ng kung sinoman sa NCCA.Well, dadaan muna sa gobyerno, sa BIR, bago mauwi sa bulsa ng isang congressman, pero technically, alang problema dahil pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan pa rin ni satanas ang tuloy. Ang difference bale, kapag may TIN ako, dinedeclare ko lang na sa akin galing yung kakaning-ibon na baryang portion ng pang-tip ni Mr.Congressman sa pokpok niya sa Pegasus. Otherwise, mula kay Mr. Anonymous yung pang-tip niya. Advise sa akin, sabihin ko na lang na freelance writer ako. Tutal, may kaltas din naman daw kapag nag-freelance ka sa mga diyaryo. Tapos i-assert ko raw na ako na ang magbibigay ng pera sa kanilang mga letse sila kaya dapat bigyan pa nila ako ng libreng chocolait at biskwet out of gratitude mga hayop silang mga impakto sila.

Okay. So bumalik ulit ako sa BIR Main. As usual, ang pila lang ay yung sa harap, kung saan nagtse-check yung sekyu ng bomba sa mga bag ng mga tao. Anyway, babae na yung nasa desk ngayon. Pinakita ko na yung baranggay clearance ko, at yung accomplished Form 1901ko. Nung tinanong sa akin kung saan ako nagwowork, inexplain ko na freelance writer ako kaya wala akong regular employer, kaya walang nakapirma sa likod. Okay?

Okay... Hinde. sabi nung babae, since hindi ako regular employee, ibang form dapat ang finill-up-an ko. At bigla siyang naglabas ng Form1902 at binigay sa akin. Whew, kinabahan ako dun a. Yung Form 1902, sabi niya, ay para sa mga "mixed-income individuals," para sa mga taong hindi regular ang kita- professionals, businessmen, at sabi niya, freelance writers. Okay! Fill-up dito, fill-up dun, okay lang!!! Magkakaroon na ako sa wakas! Inaabot ko na sa babae yung Form 1902! Eto na...

"Ummm, okay na? Ngayon, punta kayo sa West Ave. Branch namin."

Nanlaki ang mata ko. Wow, nasira agad ang aking moment of triumph.

"Err! , hindi po ba puwede rito sa Main?"

"Hinde, kasi sa Project 6 ka nakatira. West Ave.Branch namin ang may hawak sa inyo."

Naramdaman ko, parang umiikot-ikot ang paligid ko. Parang gumagaan ang ulo ko, nanglalambot at naghihina ang tuhod ko. Bigla kong naramdaman ang isang matinding pangangailangan na i-headbutt ang kausap kong babae sa desk. Sa halip na isang headbutt, nagtanong na lang ako.

"Puwede po bang ibang tao na lang ang maglakad nito para sa akin?"

"Oo, gawa ka ng authorization letter..."

Ah! Para akong nabunutan ng tinik sa dibdib! Papalakad ko na lang ito sa nanay ko. hehehe. Paglabas ko, marami pa ring tsinecheckan ng bomba sa bag sa harap. Ngayon alam ko na kung bakit. Ako rin gusto ko rin silang bombahin.

Hindi ko pa rin mawari, nung araw na yun, kung ano pa talaga ang purpose ng BIR Main. Nakangsiomai, dun sa maliliit na branches nila, siksikan ang mga tao, milya-milya ang pila. Sa Main, ang lawak-lawak, pero di sila nag-a-accomodate ng applications! Sa kasamaang palad, hindi ako nakapagsulat ng authorization letter, at masyadong busy ang nanay ko para ilakad ang TIN ko. Anyway, sabi niya sa akin, may kaklase yung tita ko sa BIR West Ave. Kapag nagipit ako, hanapin ko na lang yun. Okey. Sige. Isa pa, may Form 1902 na ako, baranggay certificate, at yung excuse ng aking pagiging freelancer. Pila lang siguro ang problema, pero okay na. Putsa, dapat okay na. At nakarating din ako, isang araw, sa BIR West Ave. Sa second floor sila nag-oopisina sa isang building. Masikip yung elevator dahil sa dami ng tao. Narating ko na rin yung desk para sa TIN. Nung chineck nung babae dun yung papeles ko, hinanap nila yung pirma ng employer.

"Ay. Wala po. Freelance Writer po ako e."

Napatingin sa akin yung babae, tinitigan ako sa mata na wari'y tinitimbang ang mga salitang aking nasambit...

"Ano yung Freelance Writer?"

Napapalo ako ulit sa noo.

"Ma'am, freelancer po ako. wala po akong regular na sahod. Binabayaran ako per article na sinusulat ko. Hindi po ako regular employee kaya wala akong certificate of employment."

Nung makitang Form 1902 ang dala ko, sinabihan pa akong maling form ang bitbit ko, kaya inexplain ko pa na nanggaling na ako sa BIR Main na Form 1901 ang dala
ko dati pero sabi dun, mali raw ang 1901 para sa akin kaya binigyan ako ng 1902 dahil freelance writer ako, at inirefer ako sa branch nila. Nakatitig sa akin yung babae, ninamnam ang bawat salitang sinambit ko...


"Ano yung Freelance Writer?"

Okay! Kulang ka ba sa iodized salt?

Ipinaliwanag ko ulit kung ano ang freelance writer, at nakatingin pa rin siya sa akin na tila nambubullshit lang ako.

"Punta ka na lang sa Officer of the Day."

"Umm. Saan po yun?"

"Sa Seventh Floor."

1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10...
ayan...kumakalma na ko.

NAK-KANANGTOKWA!!!! ANG DAMING TAONG NAKAPILA SA ELEVATOR!!!

Alang choice, tumakbo ako paakyat sa hagdanan mula 2nd patungong 7th floor. Hingal na hingal ako nang lapitan ko ang Officer of the Day.

"Ma'am, pinaakyat po ako mula sa second floor..."

At ipinaliwanag ko yung nangyari, mula yung pagpunta ko sa BIR Main, hanggang sa pagpunta ko sa ibabakanina.

"Umm... at anong gusto mong gawin ko?"

Gumuho muli ang mundo ko, pero buti na lang may upuan sa likod ko. Ipinaliwanag ko ulit.

"Oo nga. Sa second floor ang application ng TIN. Bakit ka pinaakyat sa akin?"

Halos nagmamaka-awa na ako. "Ma'am, ala po ba talaga kayong magagawa?"

At inilahad ko ulit yung masasayang adventures ko sa BIR Main, sa BIR Port Area, sa BIR Main, at sa BIR nila. Awa ng diyos, may kinuhang chart yung ale, hinanap yung kategorya ko. Nung makuha yung code, sinulat niya sa isang espasyo sa 1902 ko, sabay tatak.

"Ayan. Okay na yan."

Napangiti ako. Sincere!!! Halos mapaihi na ako sa tuwa. Matatapos na!!! Kaso, putsa, ang daming taong naghihintay sa elevator. Walang choice, takbo ulit ako sa hagdanan pababa. Pagdating dun, lalaki na yung nakaupo sa desk. Pinakita ko ulit yung mga papeles ko.

"Saan ang Certificate of Employment mo?"

Nammannnnn!!!! Ano ba'to? Twilight Zone? Napasok ba ako sa isang loop?

"Bosing, hindi po ako regular employee e. Freelance writer po ako."

"Ano yun?"

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At ipinaliwanag ko ulit kung ano ang freelance writer, at ikinuwento ko yung episode kanina, at yung episode sa BIR Main, etc.

"Ito kasing Form na ito, itong 1902, para sa mga may negosyo ito e."

"E yan po ang binigay ng BIR Main sa akin, dahil hindi regular ang sahod ko!"

"May mayor's permit ka ba?"

Pikon na pikon na ako nun kaya hindi ako natawa, pero, talaga, grabe, comedy ito, men. Wow.

"Hindi ko po kailangan ng mayor's permit! Writer lang po ako!"

Ineksamin ulit nung lalaki yung papeles ko.

"Ummm, propesyunal ka ba?"

"Opo."

"Anong propesyon mo?"

"Writer po."

"May lisesnsya ka ba?"

Sa isip ko- "HU-WAAAAAAATTTTTT!!!????"

Kung kumain ako ng bulalo kanina, malamang na-stroke na ako ngayon.

"HINDI NYO PO KAILANGAN NG LISENSYA PARA MAGING WRITER!!!" Sabay follow-up ko ng "ANO BA KAYO? AKO NA MAGBABAYAD NG TAX SA INYO, PINAPAHIRAPAN NYO PA AKO!!!"

Deadma si lalaki. Nakatingin pa rin sa papeles ko, iniisip kung ano gagawin. Kung pinapunta pa niya ako ulit sa Officer of the Day, i-he-headbutt ko na'to talaga. Buti na lang-

"O sige, irereceive koang forms mo, pero ang alam ko dapat may kasamang papeles pa ito e. Pumila ka na lang dun..."

*haaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy.......*

Kaso, sobrang haba ng pila, at sa takbo ng mga pangayayari ngayon, ayoko nang maghintay ng isa't kalahating oras para lang mag-replay ng kuwentong kung ano ang freelance writer, at kung bakit hindi ako regular employee.

Lumabas ako, pumunta ako sa corridor. Pikon na pikon. Tinawagan ko nanay ko, tinanong ko yung pangalan ng kaibigan dati ng tita ko sa high school na nagtatrabaho ngayon dun. Okay, nakuha ko na yung pangalan. Balik ako dun, tinanong ko yung sekyu kung saan ang opisina nung babae.

"Sa seventh floor po."

Hindeeeeee!!!!!

Pero sige, para lang magkaroon ng bunga ang paghihirap ko ngayong araw na ito- may exodus ng tao sa harap ng elevator, kaya ayun, inipon ko ang natitira kong lakas at hininga, at aking tinakbo muli ang second to seventh floor sa hagdanan.

Pagdating sa taas, halos bumagsak sa lupa ang baga ko.Nagtanong-tanong ako ulit kung saan ang opisina nung bes-pren ng tita ko, hanggang sa mapunta na ako sa gitna ng opisina nila.

Sa wakas- "Ay! Diyan yung opisina nun, pasok ka diyan."

Yehey!!!
"Ha? Ay! On-leave siya ngayon. Babalik siya sa January 2."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hindi pa rin nauubos ang mga tao sa elevator, hindi ko maalala kung paano ko tinakbo pababa ang first floor. Pikon na pikon ako, grabe. Pag-uwi, nakaubos yata ako ng isang pitsel ng gulaman. Hinintay kong humupa ang tila-nuclear holocaust ng galit sa loob ng dibdib ko. Punyetang gobyerno ito!!! Letse!!! Hindi mahuli-huli yung mga tax evaders, hindi mabigyan-bigyan ng TIN yung mga nagmamagandang loob na magbayad ng buwis!!! Tangina, no wonder may lumolobo tayong mga deficit!!! Syet!!! Ano nangyari sa iodized salt campaign ni Ramos!!!

Nung gabi, tinawagan ko si TJ, yung kasama ko sa trabaho, at kinuwento ko lahat. Lagi ko kasing kinukuwento ang bawat installment ng aking BIR adventures, at tulad ng isang epiko, grabe ang climax nung hapon na yun. Syet. Hayop sa climax. Tinatawanan ko na lang, pero nung hapon na yun kaya ko sigurong mangagat ng leeg.

Tawa rin nang tawa si TJ, at ngayon, kuwento niya, tawa rin nang tawa yung mga pinagkuwentuhan niya. Pati yung mga tao sa tambayan namin, nung kinuwento ko, di rin makahinga sa katatawa.

Langya, baka maging urban legend pa ang buhay ko, in which case, sana puwede kong i-video lahat, at lalagyan ko ng sumpa- ala "The Ring", tapos papadalhan ko ng kopya yung mga tao sa BIR.

Naisip-isip ko na lang ngayon, paano nga kung kailangan mo ng lisensya para magsulat. Isang physical manifestation ng concept ng poetic license? haha! Kung sa driver's license, may mga restrictions tulad ng: "Vehicle up to 4500 KGS GVW" o kaya "Automatic clutch above 4500 KGS GVW", etc. paano kaya yung sa "Poetic License" o "Writing License?"

I.Restrictions

1. Haiku and short essays only

2. Essays up to 500 words and Freeverse up to 5 stanzas.

3. Essays above 500 words and Freeverse above 5 stanzas

4. Critical Essays, Short Fiction, Poetry,.etc.

Pero nag-digress na naman ako. Isang hapon, pagkatapos nung BIR episode, dumaan ako sa tambayan namin sa UP. Nung makita ako ng mga kasama ko - "Jol! Pumayat ka a! Grabe!" hehehe. Naalala ko yung jogging-jogging ko sa building, at yung stress, at napangiti ako. Isang mapait at matamis na ngiti. At kinuwento ko kung bakit ps: hanggang ngayon, wala pa akong TIN. Kuwento ni TJ,

si Santi Bose raw, namatay nang walang TIN,. . . . .nakakatakot!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Magical Sedona

Just as we had planned the night before, we were out of the house early in the morning and headed for the local Filipino restaurant for our breakfast before heading off to Sedona. My friend Lilet and her husband Glenn, their darling daughter Lauren and I packed the Nissan Xterra and were soon headed north for the mystical mountains of Arizona.

Lauren and I sat in the back of the vehicle and were, like how my mom would describe it: 'naghaharutan'. We were tickling and trying to outsmart each other (I lost). I love kids but Lauren is just too easy to adore that I just fell in love with her.

Lilet warned that Lauren has a tendency to get restless after about two hours of driving. I didn't realize that we were in sync. After a few miles she and I started asking "are we there yet?" to her parents' consternation.

After about two hours and a half, the red mountains came into view. We stopped at a viewpoint where the red landscape embraced us. But as we all got out of the Xterra, the blustery winds made me regret not having brought my coat with me. It was freezing!



We gamely posed for pictures however, souvinirs of my first visit to Arizona. And while trying to grasp sanity amidst $20 t-shirts, Glenn found a lonesome caterpillar crossing its way to the other side of the adobe gazebo. He gathered some twigs and picked it up while I cringe as he brought it back with him to the car. He then took an empty styrofoam cup and dropped the hairy crawling creature in it and presented it to Lauren as a present. In my head I had 'ew!', "EW!" and 'eeeeew!!!' screaming silently.




From the viewpoint, we drove further to the Chapel of the Holy Cross which sat at the top of the hills with a grand vista of the red mountains. The altar was beautifully design with glass that has an eagle's view of the valley below. The ambiance of the place was magical and sacred. Now I knew what Lilet meant when she told me that Sedona was mystical. As we stood outside the chapel, we tried to discern the shapes to which the mountains were named after. We were able to find the eagle's head. Others we totally missed included the teapot, snoopy and similar names.




On our way back to Phoenix, we stopped by Tlaquepaque where I was drawn to the many wind sculptures at the El Prado galleries. Like a child, I walked between what I called the wind scoops and got hypnotized by the sounds and the motion. I took pictures and videos of Lauren as she played with the magical contraptions that were like tiny windmills. Now I wished I had brought one back to New York, without really thinking about where I would install it (my fire escape???).

We gulped down our lunch and then took an off-road tour with the Xterra. It was an exciting ride in Glenn's All-Terrain-Vehicle that reminded me of rollercoaster rides at the peria in Cavite. Lauren and I screamed like girls at the back of the vehicle but I have never had so much fun in my life! I swear that ATV moved up and down the boulders of the Martian landscape without straining but still when you have a view of a descent where the truck is almost about to make a 180 degree drop the ground you'd have no other reaction but to scream and to scream loud!

We drove back to Phoenix in a hurry with hopes that we would make it in time for me to change to my gown and to Thereza's wedding at 5PM. We got caught in freeway traffic which had us home a little past 5PM so I had no time to get dolled up. I jumped into my gown and was retouching my make-up, brushing my hair and struggling with my strappy 3-inch heels in the car on the way to Mesa where the wedding was. Well, since they wanted to time the ceremony with the sunset, we made it just in time that we rushed to the platform area near the lake with the processional of the entourage.

It was a very very good day: magical and perfect.

Lauren's Capertiller

Lauren is Lilet's 7 year old girl wonder. She is eloquent, sweet, thoughtful and is the perfect mix of her parents' genes.

They drove to my uncle's house in Ahwatuhkee area of Phoenix to get me on Friday night. She jumped out of the truck and hugged me just like her mom, as though we have not seen each other for 20 years. She was almost immediately comfortable with me, even helping me strap my seatbelts when we got in her dad's truck. I callled her the 'seatbelt police'.

On the way to Sedona we told each other stories. She told me about her friend McKenzie who was not really her playmate but her REAL playmate's younger sister. She told me about school and about the trampoline at home. Somehow, without much effort she had me in no time promising to spend some time with her bouncing on the trampoline.

When her dad brought her back her 'capertiller' in a cup, she was very grateful and unlike some other kids her age who need to be prodded for a 'thank you', with her it was automatic and very generous. And so the rest of the ride and the rest of the morning, it was about the capertiller which had no name.



When she tried to hand me the cup I freaked out and told her I hated anything that had more than two legs and anything that crawled. "Do you like babies then?" she asked.

"Well babies aren't crawly things like that ew...capertiller. Of course I love babies!"

And then she explained to me that the capertiller was going to be a beautiful butterfly anyway and went on to educate me about metamorphosis. She was such a darling. And when she took an accidental sniff of the cup's contents and complained that her 'pet' was smelly, that totally grossed me out.

Of course, always trying to be helpful, I suggested to her that we should bring the capertiller to the tub when we got home and wash it with lots of suds. She was outraged, "he's going to drown!" but I shrugged my shoulders and noted that it would then be a fresh smelling capertiller. Maybe i should have also suggested we put it under the blow dryer :-).

When she wanted to take a picture of her pet I handed her the camera and told her to have fun with it as I wasn't taking any pictures of anything called 'higad' back home. Even the name alone sent chills up my spine and made the hair on my arms stand.

I asked what name she had given the creepy crawly. She was still undecided. Sedona? McKenzie?

I learned later on that when we returned to Phoenix, while I was at Thereza's wedding, Lauren agreed to put the unnamed capertiller outside in the backyard. She had put it on the lime tree and I hoped no black bird would make it his dinner. Then little Lauren would be able to witness metamorphosis as how she had described it to me from the changes in the life of an un-named caterpillar she called capertiller.

Phoenix Rising

The plane landed at Phoenix's airport a little past 10PM on Wednesday night, a few minutes delayed but nonetheless, I was pleased to be back to terra firma. On the final leg of my trip with a stopover in Atlanta, two elderly sisters sat behind me worked on a sudoku puzzle for four continuous hours. The man next to me rolled his eyes and we laughed at our common dilemma. He had threatened to get up to help the women with the puzzle to put an end our misery. I laughed. Then I realized I was flirting with the stranger.

I had bid the people at the office with a taunting, "see you in the spring" line. I packed tank tops and sundresses and woke up on Thursday morning to find myself in weather not much different than that I had left behind on the East Coast. It was cold and rain was in the forecast. I mentally wrote a note to myself: always bring more sweaters in the winter regardless where you are going.

The contrast of life in Manhattan and life in Phoenix quickly became apparent. As my aunt and I had breakfast in the kitchen, I saw a tiny hummingbird hovering over a bunch of red blooms in the garden. I didn't dare move, not even to run for my camera to capture the moment. This, I realized would be one of those mental pictures I would keep for life. My first hummingbird.

My uncle handed me the keys to their car, generously stating that I could have the vehicle for my use during my stay. Hehehe - much as I had a license, I had no idea where what was so I ran the risk of getting lost and running around in circles. Helpless without a handy subway system, I was doomed to a vacation locked indoors. My aunt wasn't working and so she volunteered to show me around the city.



Everywhere we went, the desertscape constantly reminded me that I was no longer in the midst of the skyscapers. Instead of glass and steel reaching for the heavens, everywhere I looked I saw Saguaros, the more common name for the fleshy and thorny cacti. Along the streets saguaros as tall as 30to 40 feet spouted from the ground and dotted the otherwise flat landscape along the streets and freeways. I noticed that even the trees were different from what I was familiar with in New York. I was in a different universe altogether.



I also discovered that there was a substantive Filipino community in the Phoenix area. Filipinos being the most migrant race has proven itself many times not just around the US but even when I travel abroad.

When my relatives first decided to move to Phoenix nearly 20 years ago, real estate was dirt cheap. They moved into a huge 5 bedroom home at a cost that they couldn't have gotten a two bedroom home back in New Jersey. The secret is out, however and since about 3 years ago, real estate prices have started to escalate.

Model homes, new developments of townhomes and luxury gated communities seemed everywhere and everyone I talked to claimed that the prices are mind blowing. Still, however, I am amazed that a five-bedroom home in this city with a swimming pool in the backyard has the same pricetag as a pre-war studio in midtown Manhattan.

The Italian will remind me not to compare any place I visit to Manhattan. He would always emphasize that each city, each place has its own beauty and uniqueness that makes it equally 'home' to others as how Manhattan is to me. And yet I couldn't help thinking what life would be like if I settled down and then moved to the suburbs. No subways and so a car would be a requirement to get everywhere. Malls that close at 6PM on Sundays. Everyone wearing jeans.

I banished the thought immediately. It was just too freaky....too insane...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My Life, My Card, My Version

Those American Express commercials are all over and creating my own version just got too irresistible after leafing through my latest issue of InStyle. Here is mine:

My name............................................................... Maria Victoria
childhood ambition..... to live as a foreigner
fondest memory......... all summers at my grandfather's house
soundtrack ................. Najee
retreat ........................ any beach, lake, river; I love water
wildest dream............. to be a modern-day gypsy
proudest moment....... too many - every milestone in my daughter's life makes me proud
biggest challenge......... balancing my checkbook
perfect day.................. Sundays at home with no plans other than sleep, read the Times and watch TV preferably spent with someone I love
alarm clock ................. I don't own one
indulgence................... shoes
last purchase..............
venti caffe mocha, with non-fat milk and no whipped cream
favorite movie............ Il Postino

inspiration.................. Nicole
My life........................ is not perfect but it's the best I have
My card..................... Mastercard....priceless! 8-)

see mylifemycard.com

The Cost of Love

Blogger's note: This article came out in the 23 February 2006 issue of NY Metro, page 13. Cute so I wanted to share...:

Forget about equality in the workplace - what about shopping?

DATING. If men were indeed from Mars, there is one heck of en exchange rate on Venus. While Men spend next to nothing and still land chics, women spend it all and then some to atract a male. Two Metro staffers compiled their monthy costs on what they spend to look good.

SHE PAYS:
"Secret Embrace" push-up bra, two pairs of very sexy seemless panties $ 68.00
Haircut and highlights by Miguel $ 250.00
Morning 'workouts' with Hans the trainer $ 175.00
Painful waxing for various body parts $ 125.00
500 thread count bedsheets $ 220.00
Bottle of French perfume made with water from the Dead Sea $ 145.00
Drunk text messages to ex so he won't hear you cry $ 1.65
Weekly visits with therapist to work on 'self-acceptance' $ 345.00

HE PAYS:
Three pack, Hanes tightey-whiteys $ 8.00
Haircut ($9 + $1 tip) 10.00
Free-weight dumbbells from garage sale $ 10.00
Nose-hair trimmer $ 14.00
FBI, Federal Booby Inspector T-shirt $ 12.00
Star Wars bed wheels on ebay (including shipping) $ 16.00
Sample Drakkar Noir taken from FHM magazine at barber shop $ 0.00
Cell phone minutes spent listening to mother tell you about your many shortcomings $ 15.00
Green Appletinis to disguise those shortcomings $ 70.00

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pinoy Blog Press

Pinoy Blog Press has listed my entry "20 Years After: A Reflection" in his blog under the category heading: Philippine State of Emergency: notable blog posts.

Another feather to my cap, and a pat on the back that I am still able to communicate my thoughts though my writing...[because sometimes it feels like I have lost the inspiration].

Maraming salamat po!


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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Always a Party

Tonight as I am hammering on my keyboard, I have six loud, rowdy people in my apartment watching the Oscar Awards ceremony. They only wanted me to host it and I found out about the party about an hour before they arrived because they wanted to know if there was parking in front of my building. They had brought with them beer, chips, lethal chicken wings from our favorite bar, fish and chips and KFC fried chicken.

These are my friends - all single and all constantly finding a reason to party. Why my apartment? I have the smallest TV screen in the whole of Manhattan but they know I would allow them passage and as long as they will clean up behind them, they are welcome any time. Seating is limited but they do not mind my floor because they know it is mopped regularly and they do not run the risk of a dust allergy attack.

When my lease ends I plan to move to another apartment probably less accessible to Metro buses and the Manhattan subway system.

Maybe I will move to Geneva.

Spirits

Hi, my name is Victoria and I am an alcoholic.

When I first came to New York, I did not drink, not even socially. I have always had an adverse reaction to even a drop of alcohol. During college when everyone I knew marched to Tia Maria for those pitchers of margarita and zombies and ended up drunk by 3PM, I stayed sober. My major side effect to alcohol? My face turns red, my eyes gets bloodshot and my ears warm up and nope, that is not a very pleasant sight specially for someone as vain as I. So my friends have been used to having me tag along drinking binges and readily acknowledge that I would just be all over the pica-picas (finger foods), sometimes offering rice to humiliate me - hehehe.

Today it dawned on me that my New York lifestyle has evolved and a bit of alcohol is now part of it. My friends are Brazilian and so I have become familiar with the ‘caipirinhas’, a delicious mix of lime slices lightly crushed with a little sugar then mixed with cachaca and then finished off with water and ice cubes. I love it so much that after returning from Rio de Janeiro for her wedding, my friend Aline brought me a small bottle of very potent cachaca. Mojitos on the other hand are made of sugar-crushed mint leaves and then mixed with rum and seltzer water and it is also a favorite – plus, it gives you fresh breath!

In the office we try to make sure we end the week in a more convivial manner after much bantering and fist fighting week-long. We would share among us some red and white wine, cheese, olives, chips, hummus and pita. We like chardonnay, shiraz, pinot noir, cabarnet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and some other imported inexpensive wines. My favorite has always been pinot grigio because of its fruity flavor. I used to prefer Riesling specially when paired with fish or any Asian cuisine but now I find it too sweet.

Only this week have I realized that I no longer react to alcohol the way I used to. I have built up a tolerance and can now integrate myself into the social drinking class. On Tuesday the M.O. and I went out to dinner with his college buddies and their wives and I had pinot noir with my steak, part of my Fat Tuesday ritual as I stay away from red meat for the rest of the Lent season. On Thursday, we had an “emergency wine and cheese” at work to rant about some frustrating result in the office and I started the evening with a glass of chardonnay. I then had dinner to celebrate the birthday of a friend at Lotus in the Meat Packing district where I enjoyed my black cod with a glass of pinot grigio. On Friday, my girlfriends and I had Argentine dinner at Novecento in Soho where I had two glasses of caipirinhas with my seafood linguine!

What I still haven’t developed a liking for is champagne (always gives me a headache) so I try to cheat and celebrate with sparkling white instead. When we celebrated New York’s Restaurant Week at a Scottish restaurant each part of the meal was washed down with a serving of scotch and I totally did not enjoy that. It sort of reminded me of the anti-asthma elixir I used to dread when I was younger.

Beer is something else I have not developed a taste for. Well, not totally since there are some which I find tolerable, mostly Irish beers (Guinness and Harp, specifically). But still, beer is something I would order only because I happen to be sitting in an Irish bar with my colleagues and they would roll their eyes at me if I ordered a soda. And besides, this Lent I have decided to give up all carbonated soda, including beer. So I am stuck with my grigio.

Can someone email me the number of the nearest AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) within the area code 10017?