Notes from the Outside World: I have become the “aleng pinagtatanungan sa pila.”

So, yesterday and today I went out (a rather rare thing, on a weekday) to get government stuff: a barangay certificate of residence, an NBI clearance and a police clearance. I’ve been prepping to get a passport, and since my appointment is sometime next next week, I decided to move my lazy ass to finally get things in order.

Here are a few notes:

  • Barangay Old Balara is extremely efficient. Reception offered to give me a barangay ID in addition to the certificate. I got a 2 certs and a barangay ID in less than an hour.
  • It is also a Pokemon Go gym.
  • Barangay captain is a little chatty and asked me if I was going abroad for work. (No.)
  • The NBI Clearance online appointment system is convenient; the payment system, not so much.
  • You skip around 3 steps (filling out forms, paying, etc) but you still have to queue for biometrics.
  • The queue was a giant Trip to Jerusalem game. At least we all got to sit.
  • After 30 minutes, my seatmate (a kid who – gauging by the envelope he was carrying – was getting ready for the great wide world of gainful employment) turns to me and asks me if he could get his NBI clearance the same day. I launch into an explanation of the dreaded HIT.
  • I tell him I always have had a HIT, and to not worry about it.
  • A woman walks by the line holding a plastic cup of kwek kwek. WHERE DID YOU GET THAT.
  • Another thirty minutes in, and NBI personnel helpfully explains to the class: what each line is for, what should have been done before queuing, what are HITs, if you’re here for releasing you don’t need to be in line, etc. “If you have questions raise your hand.”
  • The girl to my right turns to me, in what seemed like a mix of panic and horror, and asks “Pag releasing na lang po ba di na kailangang pumila?” She explains that she had been asked by somebody else to pick up the offending clearance and had been in line for as long as I have.
  • I tell her, gently, that she needs to go to the release window. No more lines. Men sitting behind us laugh.
  • After she leaves, the child dude beside me chats me up again. What do you do for a living, how much do you make?
  • Usually, I don’t like answering these questions, especially when posed by strangers but I tell him anyway. The kid looked genuinely mystified. How does one become “home-based”? I didn’t tell him this, but I wanted to: You will need a unique skill set that people are willing to pay you for.
  • He volunteers that he’s preparing to be a seaman (second mate) and he has a medical exam to get to after the NBI thing. In Kalaw. Yes. Manila.
  • I wished him luck. Travelling from Quezon City to Manila is murder.
  • It was my turn. Man behind Window 6 takes my picture, fingerprints, and signature.
  • The computer takes a few seconds to process, and the screen flashes: WITH HIT in big block, flashing red letters. Yeap.
  • Man behind Window 6 takes out his stamp pad, takes the photocopy of my license, and jots on a date.
  • The Police Clearance place at Quezon City Hall is directly beside the NBI Clearance place.
  • There are 4 windows. 1 for forms, 2 for checking the forms, 3 for payment, 4 for yet-another-payment. Tarpaulins announce how much each type of police clearance costs. For Travel/Passport: 200 + 150.
  • I was filling out my form when the girl beside me asks how much she will need to pay. I ask her what her purpose was, glance at the tarp, and tell her. 250 pesos.
  • She rummages around in her tiny purse. “I don’t have enough,” she mumbles. Her loose change sat on the battered table, and yes I counted, and yes, it wasn’t enough.
  • She asks if there was a Cebuana (Lhuillier) nearby, and I tell her there must be. This is near Kalayaan after all.
  • As I was about to tell her to ask the policemen nearby, I see that she had already left.
  • After the 4 windows, I was ushered into a room with screens facing outwards. Technically not windows, but more like computer stations.
  • Dude behind one of the stations motions at me, takes all the forms/photocopies/receipts, and encodes my information. He misspells Terraces, but not my name, which is nice.
  • Next station, a bespectacled girl takes my pic, my fingerprint, and my signature. She tells me to wait and points at the door past the island of biometrics stations.
  • Old lady opens the door for me, and I emerge directly behind the NBI place. Benches are set under the shade of a giant balete tree. I wait.
  • Two kids beside me get their clearances and sit back down to check it. One tells the other, “Mukha kang kalbo.” I fight the giggles down.
  • My turn, kuya pronounces my name beautifully. I thank him and study my ID. I didn’t look bald, but like most government issued IDs, I looked like I was ready to commit something illegal. Like estafa.
  • To leave, I pass by the NBI Clearance center. There is an empty kwek kwek stall along the wall to the right. Demmit.

Reanimating the Dead

Dr. Frankenstein used some highly questionable science and a bolt of lightning to reanimate what ultimately was a creature made out of dead body bits. This month was pretty much the same for me, except with less science and more dead bits.

This site, for one thing. My bolt of lightning wasn’t quite as flashy (heh), it came in the form of an email from my domain registrar reminding me of impending expiration. I thought it out, did I want to renew? I realized that my posts for 2015 tallied to a grand total of zero.

Several questions came to the fore: Why am I still on Blogger again? Why haven’t I ported this to WP?

Website tech stuff is like riding a bike… over molten lava. Pushed domain to my main registrar (which is simple, but still took me a week to find what I’ve been doing wrong), changed nameservers, and added domain on cPanel. I could write a how-to, but then, there already are many good ones out there.

The thing I did discover is that cPanel doesn’t have Fantastico anymore. It has been replaced with an awesomely named Installatron, which does as it says in the tin: it installs stuff.

So here we are, in its new WP CMS, saved from undeath. Or so I think.

Another project that I have been putting off is Car-car, my 1972 Volkswagen Beetle.

1972 Volkswagen Beetle
Yes, this.

Yes, that.

I’ve had it repainted and it is now a little brighter orange (that in itself is another post for another non-highblood day). A new battery, some gas, new valve covers and gaskets, and some brake fluid later, it’s alive. Again.

We convoyed it and I kept staring at it through the side mirrors, thinking, “God, it’s still alive.”

Forty-three years old, victimized by my own bad decisions, and it’s still alive.

That's a good boy.
That’s a good boy.

To make up for a couple of years of neglect, I had a new wiring harness put in, along with a old/new fuse box, an ignition coil, an air filter, relays, switches, and fuses, among other things.

Cue the good doctor:

On Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Lorna

I went to the Lorna screening at Fairview Terraces1, fully intending to write a review about it. About halfway through though, I realized I can’t. It hit too close to home.

Lorna is a sincere story about a 60-year old woman looking for love. Thwarted, it seems, at every turn, she tells her son, “Okay lang. Okay lang.”

Heartbreaks are bullet wounds, because yeah, same thing.

The cat scene made me cry, unabashedly I must admit, because that speech about not looking left and right before crossing the street, “ang tanga tanga mo… parang ako,” is a metaphor of which my mother would have approved.

Even the casual outing, the offhand “Soulitarian” mirrors what I did to my mother one morning over coffee and cigarettes.

We, my Nanay and I, have this half-joke in which she asks me, “So when are you going to write my story?”

My recent answer to this was “It’s ongoing. I already have a working title, Bad Taste.”

The next time, I’m afraid I’ll have to say, “Sorry Nay, nasulat na ni Sigrid Andrea Bernardo.”

Pero, rock and roll lang, Nay.

1. How we got to said mall was another adventure altogether.

How I got the Xiaomi Mi 3

7AM. I woke up, which is impressive because I typically work at night and am therefore not awake before noon.

8AM. I was online, checking the Mi Philippines Facebook page and reading the comments. Sizing up the competition, so to speak.

10AM. I’m excited. I’m checking out the Mi website, Lazada, and Facebook for updates. There were reports of an exploit, allowing people to purchase the Mi 3 before the 12noon go time. I decide to stay put – knowing that they would be within their rights to cancel my order if I didn’t follow the rules.

11AM. I’m starting to get hungry – and worse still, my hands are sweating. I start counting down the minutes before 12noon.

12noon. I refresh the Mi Philippines website as instructed, click through to Lazada, and go on to purchase the phone. From my order sheet, I had a phone secured by 12:01.

1:35PM. I’m still waiting for a confirmation email.

1:45-ish. The Xiaomi Mi 3 is sold out. (I kept checking to see just how long it would take.)

3:00PM. I still haven’t received an email or text confirmation from Lazada so I called up their customer service hotline to ask whether or not my order came through. I was told that yes, it did and that Lazada Express was the courier used. I was also told to expect it around Saturday. They were extremely accommodating.

4:30PM. I received a call from (what I’m assuming as) Lazada’s fulfillment center. I was asked if I could receive the delivery today. I asked, “Today?” “Yes ma’am,” said the lady on the line. “Today.” I wondered whether it was a mistake, but she had said that a. it was for the Xiaomi Mi 3 I purchased this very afternoon.

6:30ish. I received the delivery, paid the courier, and was holding the phone – barely 7 hours after I ordered it online. I knew Lazada was probably eager to impress their new partner, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT fast.

I’ve been playing around with it since, and I am very impressed with the Mi 3. I’ll come up with a full review one of these days – in the meantime though, I’ll be somewhere else, playing with the new phone.

The Mid-Range Phone Dilemma

How is the Asus smartphone faring in the Philippine market? Not so well, primarily because, hey, they haven’t quite started yet.

Personally, I’ve been following news about their Zenfone line since it was announced at the last CES. Then the unthinkable happened. Absolutely nothing. At least not until April, when they officially announced/released the phones in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia — there was however no sign of it in the Philippine market despite being a Southeast Asian country, apart from a little teaser-ish survey about smartphones that has since been removed from their Facebook page. There is considerable interest, as there was a time when every other post on their wall involved the Zenfone. (They instead kept pushing their newly refreshed phablet, the Asus Fonepad 7.)

In May, PH tech sites reported that though there isn’t a set release date yet, we should expect the Zenfone line to debut in these parts in June. It is June, and no news yet.

I want the Zenfone 5. I’ve wanted it since its debut in China, and I’ve been tempted a couple of times to buy one (two, actually) online and have it shipped or to have an overseas-based friend to buy one for me.

But now I’m torn. I’ve been waiting for the Zenfone 5, but Xiaomi, a Chinese consumer electronics company, has just opened their PH website and their own PH Facebook page. While waiting for the Zenfone, I had stumbled upon the Xiaomi Mi3’s positive reviews. It’s often compared to the Zenfone 5 since they’re in the same size division and the same general price range, give or take a few thousand pesos.

The Xiaomi line (from Xiaomi’s Facebook page)

Compared to the Zenfone, the Mi3 has a higher screen 1080p resolution, a faster 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, more RAM, and a bigger 3050 mAh li-ion battery. Reviews say that the OS can be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat. The higher specced Zenfone 5 (A500CG), the one with a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom Z2580 CPU and 2 GB of RAM, is more comparable but it probably won’t land here any time soon, considering Asus’ seeming disinterest on this part of the Pacific.

Anyway, I’d forgive the Mi3’s lack of an SD card slot if they price it reasonably (it’s actually a flagship phone, but the lower spectrum model is arguably mid-range). According to Xiaomi, they’re going to release their products here one by one. So again, the question goes back to, “When?” I’ve been holding out getting a new (mid-range) phone since the start of this year.

No one seems to want my money.

The Outcasts of Jupiter!

Back in 2007, while working at the place where I met the most awesome people in the world, I met Shobo Coker (I called him Chris or Coker. He still insists on He-man). At the time, he was the managing editor and therefore my boss. Unlike most expats at the place though, he was friendly, if a bit shy. We became friends over coffee, talking about comic books, 90s cartoons, toys, and video games.

Over the years (Seven years? Can you believe that!), we talked about our various projects – Jonah Jupiter for him, and various work-in-progresses for me. We were both stuck – because you know, pursuing your dreams always coincides with the need to pay for rent (sing with me, BUT THE LEGEND OF THE RENT WAS WAY HARDCORE!) and the need to eat regularly.

Earlier this year though, Coker had launched a project in collaboration with his two equally awesome siblings, Shof and Funlola, called the Coker Coop. They were going to make a comic set in the Jonahverse, and I watched their progress unfold on their blog,, and on their Facebook page,

And – drum roll please – they’ve launched a KickStarter for the Outcasts of Jupiter!!!

Personally, I’m a little jealous (because my own projects are still up there in the ether mixing in with soul-sucking responsibilities and brain-withering technical papers), but I am mostly proud of Coker. And of course, I’d like to see the book in print (and a shirt too!) so I urge you and the other peeps stuck in a creative black hole to support this project because anything this mind-meltingly awesome needs to see print.

(Watch the video on the KickStarter to see Rita, the T-Rex.)

The Better-Late-Than-Never Obligatory Valentine’s Day Post

My idea of romance, and the mythical happily-ever-after, was admittedly gleaned from years of watching rom-coms and Disney movies. Just now (really, as in just now), as I was cooking dinner and an Angelu de Leon and Bobby Andrews flick was playing in the background, I realized that my idea of grand romantic gestures had changed. I’m not sure when this happened, but I’m glad it did.

In movies, romance is when you stand at your girlfriend’s circular driveway, boombox in hand, with In Your Eyes blasting at full volume. Romance is coming back to the castle despite the angry mob armed with farm implements. Romance is when you make a deal with the evil sea witch – nevermind that it could spell trouble for your daddy’s under-the-sea kingdom. Romance is agreeing to meet again in six months at a train station, and leave posters with your contact numbers when she doesn’t show up in said train station six months later… Then writing an entire book about that one night, in the hopes of finding her again.

The exception, I think is Up‘s first few, tear-soaked minutes. There are no sweeping declarations of love – just an unspoken promise of an adventure together. It took me so long to realize that that was what I wanted, an adventure with my best friend, but I guess like this post, it’s something that’s better late than never.

You know, romance is when you go out on an early Sunday evening to drop off the laundry and do groceries. Romance is lying down on equal sections of couch, spending an afternoon lazing around, watching TV. Romance is having dinner at home, talking about anything, everything, and nothing.1 I guess that’s what other people would call boring – there are probably tens of thousands of Cosmo articles about ‘spicing things up’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day though, that’s what I want – that comfortable silence while sitting in traffic, holding hands and playing a game with plate numbers. That Friday night spent at home, sitting on the couch completely exhausted from the work week, watching Master Showman and howling in laughter at the complete absurdity of it all.2

That promise that all dragons – real and imaginary – will be slain together, and that promise that whatever happens, we will work things out.

1. Love is having a bad bout of gastritis, your partner going to the store to get you bottles of Gatorade, and telling you that you’re pretty despite the fact that your bowels have gone into the future, trying to shit food you haven’t eaten yet, and you therefore have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes.

2. There was a Korean boy band who was lipsyncing so badly, I wasn’t sure they really knew the lyrics to their song. This spectacle was closely followed by a scantily-clad girl band with a name straight out of the kabaret. Then there was a boy band-ish group of gay dudes (gay boy band? That seems little redundant, I don’t know why) who sung about Blind Items. If there is such a thing as “mindless entertainment” this was it. I could feel the brain cells shriveling up and dying.