God bless the MMDA (Twitter account handler)

There are a lot of things we can (and should) complain about the MMDA. But even the cynics would have to admit that their app and their Twitter account are a Godsend when dealing with the unpredictable chaos that is Metro Manila traffic.

They were indispensable to me and thousands of others on days like Monday, June 17, when a massive downpour turned EDSA into 23-kilometer parking lot. I was relying on their traffic updates before making my decision to go home. I wanted to wait out the rain and the traffic as I didn’t want to be stuck in my car for two to three hours. I start and end work much later than most people, so I had a few more hours to let traffic subside than most. However, by around midnight, I was desperate to get home, especially when I saw that the opposite direction has cleared up already.

I tweeted about my frustration, as one is wont to do when one is exhausted and alone in an empty office. Unexpectedly, I got a response from the MMDA and even more unexpectedly, I found it hilarious:

I don’t know if it was the exhaustion, but I laughed out loud when I read this. God bless the person who was manning the MMDA Twitter account that night. It would not have been easy dealing with the apocalyptic traffic conditions, responding to all the questions from desperate commuters until the morning hours of Tuesday and with some humor, too.

And I hope that whoever is manning the twitter account keeps his/her sense of humor. With the rainy season just getting started and the forecasts looking glum, we all need a bit of humor to make dealing with the traffic even infinitesimally easier.

Things not to tweet/post about during a storm

I get it. I really do. What else is social media for but to share your feelings with your friends on Facebook and complete strangers on Twitter. I do that, too. But the line must be drawn somewhere. And I’m not talking about the cheesy, lovey-dovey stuff about your significant other (although please, stop that too). No matter how happy and contented we may be feeling, we should be sensitive to those who may not be feeling the same way during a downpour (or any other calamity for that matter). But for those who need it to be spelled out for them, here you go, my list of things not to tweet and post about during a storm (apart from the obvious Boracay party Instagrams and donation shopping spree updates, of course):

  1. About how much you absolutely LOOOOOVE the rain – Yes, sleeping in when it’s raining is awesome. Settling in with a book and a cup of hot chocolate when it’s pouring out is great, too. You know what’s not? Being stuck in traffic for four hours because of flooding, or, worse: being driven out of your home and losing all your belongings, all because of the rains you loooooooove sooooooooo muuuuuuuuuuch. Shuuuuuuuut uuuuuuuuup.
  2. About how  you live so close to where you work – Trips that usually take 45 minutes to an hour turn into 4-hour-long nightmares whenever there is a significant and widespread downpour. We ALL know our lives would be easier if we lived closer to where we work. We don’t need you to rub it in and read about it while we’re checking Facebook to while away the hours in traffic.
  3. About how you zoomed by the traffic while riding the MRT – I used to take the MRT to work everyday so I know how good it feels to know to fly past the virtual parking lot that is EDSA. Since I drive to work now, I also know how it feels to be sitting in an unmoving car while the MRT roars past. It sucks. And it sucks more when an asshole is being all smug about passing by me on Twitter.

This post “savors strongly of bitterness” (plus points if you know where I cribbed that line from), I know. But that’s what sitting in unmoving traffic for three hours does to a person. A little understanding, a little sensitivity to the plight of thousands of us still in our offices and cars, will go some ways to making us feel better.

Well, not exactly “better,” but at least it will make us feel less like flying at you with rage and a lot of pointy objects.

Handcrafted

I am constantly amazed by people who do things I can never dream of doing. That group includes Formula 1 drivers, ballet dancers, Beyoncé, figure skaters, gymnasts and artists. The newest member of that group is my cousin Isabel, because she can make these:

tin cards

She makes and designs these cards with her own two hands. The fact that she can think these up is impressive enough. But she also cut these cards by hand. Each and every line and curve, circle and square.

tin cards 2

Distinctive, intricate and delicate, I can only imagine the care, patience and precision that go into making these. These cards would be perfect for that heartfelt thank you note. They would also make perfect gifts for that person who’s impossible to shop for. They’re actually pretty enough to frame.

Whatever I decide to do with mine, all I know is that these cards will be treasured and taken care of, like little works of art. Because that’s what they are. And I’m not just saying that because my cousin made them.

To order these cards at PHP 120 each,  you can email my cousin Isabel  at isabelsbayani@gmail.com

On paper and letter writing

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I express myself better in writing, but I love letters. I love receiving them, re-reading them, writing them. I even remember forcing someone (I won’t say who) to write me a letter way back when. Haha. Sadly, the last time I actually exchanged letters with anyone was probably in high school (I have a shoebox full of letters from my high school friends). Sure, I exchange emails with my friends, and I enjoy rereading them as much I do actual letters, but there is a different thrill to receiving something physically, to turning paper pages in your hand.

I guess I was feeling nostalgic  about those letter-writing days that when I had leftover gift certificates from work, I decided to spend them on monogrammed Crane & Co. notecards. I searched through all the boxes on the shelf to find the last “K” in stock, and even though I did not have the faintest idea what I would use them for, I bought the notecards.

My box of 10 Crane cards were still untouched when I heard about graphic designer Isabel Gatuslao‘s new line of stationery. I’m a fan of Isabel’s work. Having no artistic skill whatsoever to speak of, I enjoy reading about Isabel’s design process on her site. I got so excited about her stationery, that even while reading her blog entry about designing them, I could practically hear National Bookstore ringing up my purchase.

Untitled

So now I have two sets of beautiful and thick notecards. Now, who to write to? My problem is that, as evidenced by my still intact box of Crane cards, I’m reluctant to use them. I worry about them ending up in the trash after a quick once over. These are just too wonderful and, lesbi-honest, expensive to just be discarded. So obviously, my genius plan to prevent that from happening is to keep them unused in their boxes. Hahaha.

No, I have to get a grip, and get writing. I’ve realized that I’d rather have these end up discarded (but hopefully not right away) but read and received than gathering dust on my desk. They say you reap what you sow, so maybe if I start writing notes to my friends, maybe I’ll get some lovely responses back to start filling up another shoebox again.

 

Isabel Gatuslao Paper is available at the following National Bookstore outlets: Alabang, Glorietta, Greenbelt, Quezon Avenue, Shangri-La and Rockwell and in Powerbooks Alabang, Greenbelt, Shangri-La and Trinoma.

 

My favorite moment from the Olympics

The London 2012 Olympics have given us a lot of memorable moments already, and they’re not even done yet. Usain Bolt’s amazing performance on the track. The dramatic turnaround of Michael Phelps’ games. South Korean fencer Shin A-lam’s dramatic protest and subsequent defeat. Mckayla Maroney’s meme-launching facial expression after only winning the silver in the vault. There are countless other moments, good and bad, that have made these games memorable.

However, strangely enough, the images that struck a chord with me the most, the ones that I keep coming back to were not of sporting action. They don’t even feature athletes. Instead, they feature people in the stands, granted, they’re not your ordinary sports fans:

I know it may seem silly to some people how these are my favorite photos from the Olympics so far… but. BUT. These are just too friggin’ adorable. And endearing. And, also, poignant.

As with the wedding, seeing William and Kate so happy (and Harry, too) is always tinged by regret. Regret that his mother is not around to see this, how her son has grown, chosen right and seems to have what she never had in her own marriage.

But that’s just a tinge. Overall, I’m just so ridiculously and illogically happy for these two. There’s just something about these two, and how obviously crazy they are about each other, how happy they are in these pictures (celebrating a Team GB win in cycling), how unguarded they are in this moment (outside of the wedding, have you ever seen a picture of them holding hands?) that just make me so happy for them. You get a sense that they’ve gotten it right, these two, and that’s quite remarkable given, you know, his parents. The scrutiny they live under. And the fact that she’s been nicknamed Waity Katie and all that implies.

So yeah, call me weird, but this just might be my favorite moment from the Olympics. Probably followed by the rumored Spice Girls reunion performance in the closing ceremonies.

Photos via Go Fug Yourself. You can click on the pictures for direct individual sources.

An Open Letter to Ovation Productions

Dear Ovation,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for bringing over NKOTBSB for a concert in Manila. I’m a big Backstreet Boys fan, and anyone who brings them to our country can’t be all that bad in my book (even if I don’t really understand some of the people you bring over for concerts).

However, I do still have a few bones to pick with you.

First, the pricing of the regular lower box seats is particularly problematic. At PHP 7,920, they were only PHP 500 cheaper than Lower Box VIP. Probably anyone willing to pay PHP 7920 would be willing to spare the additional 500 bucks or even PHP 1000 (for Patron) for the better seats. Then the jump in the price between the upper and lower box tickets was too big. Upper box tickets cost less than half the lower box tickets at PHP 3,700. With the VIP and lower box tickets so closely priced, wouldn’t it have made sense to lower the price of the LB tickets, so as not to crowd out those who were willing to shell out between PHP 6,000-7,000? The result of this was that these fans had to settle for upper box tickets (therefore crowding out those whose budget was around the PHP4000 mark), and the arena ended up looking like this:

IMG_2666

Pretty full at the top, pretty pathetic at the bottom

And this was already after you did the second thing I want to talk to you about: selling the tickets at half-off. As a diehard fan who bought her ticket early, I think I speak on behalf of the other diehard fans when I say that this is unfair to us. We love these artists so much that we make sure we reserve and purchase seats early, the best ones we can afford, only to find out that we could’ve bought better tickets if only we waited.  It’s frustrating to find out that our VIP tickets are now more expensive than a half-off SVIP seat, or that we just needed to add PHP 800 to the purchase price of your upper box ticket to upgrade it to a half-off VIP seat. It’s heartbreaking to realize that fans who didn’t care enough to buy their tickets early now have better and CHEAPER seats than we do.

To add further insult, you go and oversell the General Admission tickets past capacity, resulting in people sitting on the steps, and standing behind the row of seats. To remedy the situation, you allegedly took the excess General Admission ticket holders and transferred them to Lower Box. LOWER BOX. People who likely paid PHP 500 had better seats than people who paid PHP 3700, and likely better seats than some people who paid the full PHP 7920.

How is that fair? How is that right? How is that not infuriating?

Wouldn’t it have been a fairer to move the rightful lower box ticket holders at the sides further front? Wouldn’t it have been more equitable to move some people from the upper box to lower box and then moved the GA viewers to the upper box seats?

I realize that I need to let this go, that there’s nothing I can do about what happened, despite how angry I am right now. The only thing I can hope for is that you change your tactics the next time so that this won’t happen again. How about pricing your tickets more reasonably the next time, so you won’t have to sell them half-off at the last minute, so that the eager, diehard fans don’t get screwed over? How about selling the right amount of tickets so that, again, the fans don’t get screwed over?

Because while it’s probably all about the money for you, for the fans, it’s about an experience of a lifetime, about dreams coming true, believe it or not. And really, as much as we shouldn’t let you, we can’t help but feel that you ruined it a bit for us.

Respectfully,

Me

PS: Please bring the Backstreet Boys back to the Philippines again. With KEVIN this time.

Why I love Chrissy Teigen

I’ve never been shy about my love for Chrissy Teigen on this blog. She’s hilarious, witty, smart and I have her love of cooking  to blame for my current obsession with making (not just eating) good food. I’ve always said that Chrissy was awesome, but when I say that now, I mean it beyond our mutual love for bacon and Ina Garten.

Chrissy sent out what was, to logical minds, a fairly harmless tweet implying that Chris Brown was lip synching during his Billboard Music Awards performance. What followed was something beyond what anyone, even those familiar with Team Breezy (and their willingness to get beat up by their idol), could’ve imagined. The worst of Chris Brown’s fans started sending vile, vulgar and disgusting tweets. They called her names (including calling her a “hoe”, as in the gardening tool), swore at her and even told her fiance John Legend that he needed to “put her on a leach” (this bunch ain’t winning a spelling bee anytime soon).

And whereas most of us would’ve just ignored the tweets or started spewing back the hate, this is how Chrissy decided to respond:

How Chrissy even replied to these trolls with humor and wit is beyond me. And she even tries to reason with them, writing:

“I am not picking on anyone or telling ANYONE to hate the dude. I like some of his music too. YOU can like it. You CAN. But WHY the insane hate and “team”?? Why can’t you just CHILL THE F**K OUT. I’ve had comments ranging from “kill yourself you stupid HO” to “gold digging c*nt” “get a f**king job”, etc. because I don’t like him? Seriously. This isn’t your f**king job. Stop being psychotic. Be strong women. Listen to opinions without spewing pure maliciousness. Don’t throw around the term ho, c*nt, slut. You’re women. WE ARE WOMEN. And don’t ever think a man can f**king control you. You guys are too young for this shit. Too f**king young. How you can even form these sentences at someone you don’t know makes me so sad.  John has gotten numerous comments about him needed to “leash” me or “control” me. FROM WOMEN. Please stop this. It’s so sad. What are you even doing this for? Some good music and dancing? Good God. DO BETTER. Ennnnnd.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Of course, it didn’t end there. The worst of the tweets were still to come in the form of death threats and wishes that Chrissy get raped and murdered. It’s gotten to the point that even Chris Brown had to ask his fans not to send the threats, although he asked them to stop because “It’s the wrong message! Ur turning haters into victims! And that only furthers their pointless existence!”. Chris has since deleted the tweet, being the upstanding gentleman that he is, but it is worth pointing out that he did not ask them to stop because, I don’t know, it’s wrong, hard stop (not just the “wrong message), twisted and crazy to threaten to kill someone over her opinion.

Even through the worst of the sick and disgusting comments, though, Chrissy has refused to be bullied into shutting up. Some people fault her for fueling the fire and responding to the tweets, and for even making the initial comment on Chris. Some say that she’s in the wrong for fighting back against teenaged children (because they ARE kids, and it’s heartbreaking). But I admire her for standing up for herself and sticking to her guns when every one else (including me) would’ve given up and moved on. It’s maddening, frustrating and exhausting to argue with people who are blinded by their rabid and inexplicable love (can you even call it love?) for an unrepentant woman-beater. But Chrissy does it anyway and in such a hilarious way, too because she wants “better for girls”.

And don’t we all. Even if they don’t seem to want if for themselves.

PS: I tried very hard for this NOT to be a commentary on Chris Brown himself, apart from that bit towards the end. But if your curious of what I really think of him anyway, I think these two posts from elsewhere in the internet will illustrate that: click here and here.

Customer service hell

Globe Telecom customer service is appalling. Period.

I hate to do this here but I’m too pissed to let this go. Grrrrrrrr. So, deep breath, and here we go.

This all started last week when I decided to UPGRADE my plan (i.e. give them more money). I made the phone call to their customer service hotline, spoke to an agent who then processed my request. I was then put on hold while she was processing the request and got cut off. The agent didn’t leave me with a reference number, so I had to call again and go through the entire process of going through their menu and explaining the whole thing to the second agent. But ok, fine.

The second agent then tells me that she can’t upgrade my plan until I pay my outstanding balance on my account (about 500 PHP). I asked her why the first agent didn’t require this of me, as she was already processing the request when I got cut off. The second agent was adamant that paying the balance was a requirement to the change of plan and that she couldn’t proceed with the change of plan until it was settled. Ok, fine.

Just for the heck of it, though, I called a third time, just to see if I the third agent will give me a third version of the story. And, well, whaddya know. The third agent now tells me that she cannot process the request because changes are not allowed +/- 4 days from your cut off date, and it was exactly 4 days before my cut-off. Again, I asked why none of the other previous agents mentioned this requirement (take note, this 3rd agent didn’t even mention my outstanding balance) . I would’ve been saved a lot of time and unnecessary aggravation if the 1st agent just told me to call back 4 days after my cut-off. But ok, fine.

I just then asked if it was possible to have my request on record early, and for them to just process it 4 days after my cut-off, as I didn’t want to call and go through the entire thing again for the FOURTH time. The agent said that this was possible, and that she will personally process my request on the proper date, without me having to call again.

The nagger in me decided to call and check on the 4th day after my cut-off, just to make sure that my request was going to be processed. Surprise, surprise, there was no record of my request (lesson learned: always get a reference number) to upgrade my plan. I had to make the request a FOURTH time. I asked about how I was going to be billed, since I was on my old plan for the first 4 days of my cycle, and will be on an unlimited plan for the rest. Apparently, they don’t pro-rate the unlimited plan regardless of when it’s activated because, according to the agent, it’s unlimited and you pay for it whether you use it or not. And my reply to that (in my head only of course, not to the agent) is “RIPOFF!” So basically, they’re saying, if you activate your unlimited plan on the last day of your cycle (or actually, 5 days before the end of your cycle given the stupid +/- 4 day rule) you have to pay the full unlimited plan cost, as if you were on it the entire month plus the prorated cost of your old plan, which might as well be the full month’s cost, give or take a couple of days. Again, ripoff. But I was going to be on the new plan by the 5th day anyway, so, ok. Fine.

I was told that there was a 24 hour monitoring period. Also, any calls or text I made that day were also going to be incremental charges, since my old plan was deactivated, and the unlimited plan wasn’t active yet, so I was to be “plan-less” for a day (annoying). I might also experience service interruption while my request was being processed. Fine. Fine. Fine.

And it’s like Globe wanted to test the extreme limits of my patience. My new plan wasn’t activated yet 24 hours after my request was processed. And as of now, I am still unable to send and receive text messages. I had to call Globe 4 times after the 24 hour hour window passed because I got cut off THREE times (seriously, what’s up with that? Why do consumers get cut off from the hotline, even when using a landline?) and was on hold for a minimum of 10 minutes each time before I got to talk to a customer service rep. And I swear, each time I had to key in my mobile, tell the CSR my mobile number again (what’s up with that, too? Why ask me to key my number to begin with if you’re going to ask for it anyway?), tell them my problem, give them the reference number which I’ve already memorized at that point… I really, really felt like hitting something. GRRRRRRRRRR.

The sad thing is, it’s not like I’m going to switch to another network, even if I wanted to. Applying for a new line is such a pain, probably 95% of my contacts are on Globe, my current mobile is locked with Globe and I hear the other network’s service is not exactly any better.

So yeah. I’m stuck (it seems like we all are) in customer service hell.

My ONE Christmas gift suggestion

About a month ago, I toyed with the idea of coming up with a Christmas gift guide. But I decided against it because (1) I didn’t think I was qualified to do one as I no longer shop as much as I used to (booooo…) and don’t really have a good idea of what is out there; (2) with my obsessive compulsive tendencies, it would take me forever to come up with one (I’d have to find the best pictures, get the right shopping info, etc.) and (3) I don’t want my friends and family finding out what I’m getting them beforehand.

But although I scrapped the idea of a gift guide, I am still making one Christmas gift suggestion: reusable shopping bags.

I’ve written about how I feel about plastic bags already, and there’s nothing like the shopping-crazy Christmas season to remind me of how important it is to reduce our plastic (plastic everything, not just bags) consumption. Every other shopper is laden with multiple bags (both paper & plastic), most of them filled with a tiny, tiny item that could’ve fit inside a handbag or another shopping bag they already have. And that makes me sad and furious at the same time.

So, partly for the environment and partly to lessen the risk of you being approached by me to berate you for your wasteful use of plastic bags, please do consider giving reusable shopping bags away for Christmas.

Beansprout bags would be my first choice for reusable bags. They’re from a local company (buy local!), relatively affordable and their bags are produced by a small community in Taytay, Rizal whose main source of income are these bags. Their extensive line of reusable bags also includes shoe bags and canvas totes with part of the proceeds from the latter going to Greenpeace Philippines. How’s that for a really green gift?

If you’re not in the Philippines, though, or if none of Beansprout’s prints tickle your fancy, then your next bet would be Envirosax. They were the first brand of reusable bags I’ve heard of and while they’re on the pricey side (relative to the Beansprouts), they are quite durable: apparently one can carry up to 44lbs or 20kgs. I haven’t put that claim to the test, but I’ll take their word for it. They come in adorable designs, too, and my particular favorite is the Sesame Street line. How could you possibly resort to flimsy, nondescript plastic bags if you can schlep your stuff in one of these?

But if you’d rather give your loved ones something more special, but still with the same environment-friendly idea, then you can always opt for the Jill Sander Market Totw. For about $140, you get to fashionably lug your groceries around in this bright orange acetate bag.

Incredulity aside though, it doesn’t matter if you choose to give away the ₱100 reusable bags they sell at the stall in the mall or the even more expensive silk-twill version of the Jil Sander one above. The point is that we should all do our part to reduce our plastic consumption and try to have others do the same. So give the gift of green this Christmas, and the earth and future generations will thank you for it.

Best app ever!

If you have an iPhone or an iTouch or an iPad, download this, quick!

This is seriously the funnest app ever. It’s basically Taboo for your iPhone/iTouch. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but wait ’til you start playing. If you get the right group of people to play (loud, good vocabulary, creative, wildly competitive) then you’re in for a fun and crazy time. My friends and I played this during a bus ride for a work trip, and half an hour in we were exhausted from laughing, swearing shouting and guessing. And we were all sober at the time, too. Which gives me an idea… Bleep as a drinking game!

I digress… So anyway, I would give you your money back if you didn’t have a fun time with Bleep, that’s how sure I am about this. But it’s a free app, anyway. Which gives you more reason to download it now! So go!