Shopping in the Philippines Sucks

I’m really struggling with the Philippines at the moment.

You might ask me, “You’ve been living there for three years, you were traveling there regularly for almost 20 years before you moved there, why now?”

I know the answer to that. It’s because I haven’t left the Philippines in over three months. For most of my time based here, I was traveling an average of once a month. No more.

And since my return from 6 weeks in the U.S. last year, I’ve started doing something I hadn’t done before – commuting to an office 4 days per week. 6 miles, 10 kilometers, up to 2 hours each way.

As a result, lots of little things are starting to pile up and wear me down. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to next week, which I’m taking off, and for which I’m mostly planning to stay home.

One of those little things is how much shopping can actually suck here. I used to love shopping here because the shopping malls are so huge. But I didn’t “need” them then – they were a way to kill time when visiting here.

Now I have to face the fact that most shops appear to manage their supply chain as if it was 1968 instead of 2018.  And how imported goods are more expensive here than in Hong Kong. And how a lot of stuff that one could find in three seconds in Hong Kong can’t be found here at all. It’s a combination of ridiculously high customs fees on imported goods, VAT on all sales, and unreliable logistics companies. Major brands can’t be bothered to offer their higher end products here because they perceive there is no market for them – maybe they’re right.

Three months back I was looking for a simple USB cable that I knew every store in the Wanchai Computer Centre would have in stock. No one in the SM Mega Mall Cyber Mall had it. I could have ordered it online from Lazada and then wait three weeks for it to be shipped here.

When I wanted to buy a soundbar for the bedroom, I discovered that not one of the then-top-rated models was sold in this country. When I needed a new computer monitor, ditto. Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays are not sold here (I save a lot of money as a result).

Yesterday, there was this on Twitter:

Tom Colicchio, in case you don’t know the name, is a big name chef from NYC, with a chain of restaurants that mostly have “Craft” in the name. He’s also the head judge on Top Chef, a show I’m hopelessly addicted to.

Eric Ripert is a French chef living in the U.S. He’s the executive chef at Le Bernardin, one of the most famous restaurants in the world.

The waffle maker shown in the photo is a “smart” waffle maker from Breville. You pour in the batter, dial up what you want to make, and the appliance figures out when it’s finished on its own.

Not that I’m that big on waffles, but I was curious. Breville does distribute some of their products in the Philippines, so I checked it out and, not really surprised, they don’t offer it here.

So I looked a bit futher. The Breville BWM640XL, the four slice version, retails for US$350 and is selling on Amazon for US$218.

You can find it on Lazada, for prices ranging from US$540 to US$700. The smaller, two slice version, is being sold for US$420 and up.

Luckily I can live without having waffles at home, or if I had to have them, I could settle for a “dumb” waffle maker. And this country has a ton of problems far more serious than my being able to find decent home appliances. It’s just the whole principle of the thing that cheeses me off.


Philippines – Life in a Divided Subdivision

Some random thoughts on life in a divided subdivision ….

Another weekend where I did sweet f.a. – met a friend in the village on Friday night for a beer, on Saturday got out to the supermarket, had a slice of pizza, and otherwise stayed home in front of the computer and in front of the TV.

And while on the one hand that may sound boring as hell, after 2-1/2 hours per day on the weekdays fighting traffic to and from work, I’m generally not in the mood to get in the car on the weekends. I think about it, I look at Waze, I see how some place I might want to go to that’s 10 miles away will take an hour or more and I start to think, what’s the point? So I stay in my home in my village.

The village (or subdivision, as they call it here) that we live in is huge. How huge? I’m told it’s the second largest subdivision (a walled, gated residence village) in the metro area. It’s so large that it spreads across three cities, only one of which is actually part of Metro Manila (Pasig). There are more than 5,000 houses here, spread across 10 different phases, the oldest of which date back more than 25 years. Before this was a “village” I think it was mostly rice fields.

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Photo Gallery – Subculture at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque.  Here are photos of my good friends Subculture.

More photos after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Shotgun Combo and Leanne and Naara

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Photo Gallery – Shotgun Combo at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque.  Here are photos of Shotgun Combo.

More pictures after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Subculture and Leanne and Naara

Continue reading “Photo Gallery – Shotgun Combo at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival”

Photo Gallery – Leanne and Naara at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival

Last Saturday I went to the Pinoy Muna festival staged by Rakrakan. 120 bands, 6 stages at the Aseana City concert grounds in Paranaque. I arrived quite late and only took pictures of a few of the bands. Here are photos of pop duo Leanne and Naara.

More photos after the jump.

Other Pinoy Muna Festival photos – Shotgun Combo and Subculture

Continue reading “Photo Gallery – Leanne and Naara at Rakrakan Pinoy Muna Festival”

Pinoy Muna! Rakrakan Festival Rakista Radio Photo Preview

Last night I went to the Pinoy Muna! Festival at the Aseana City Concert Grounds in Paranaque. 6 stages, 120 bands.

Here’s a quick preview, two shots of the band Shotgun Combo, more to come ….

Side note: this was my first time shooting this type of event since getting the Fujifilm X-T2 last year.

On the one hand, walking around carrying a bag with a camera body and 4 lenses was much easier than last year when I was walking around a similar venue with Nikon equipment. I’m sure my bag this year weighed half as much as last year.

On the other hand, a lot more missed shots, a lot more of the camera hunting for (and not always finding) focus, and also wishing I had some different lenses (either different focal lengths or other zooms) in my bag, though I don’t do this often enough any more to justify spending money on more gear at the moment.

Anyway, it was a great event and I had a wonderful time. I need to get out more!

Philippines Government Teaches Popular Dim Sum Has Chinese Names

Whenever the news from the U.S. is too depressing, there’s always the news from the Philippines.

One needs to keep in mind that the Philippines recently placed third worst in a poll titled The Most Ignorant Countries in the World. This was a study in which people were asked about topics such as murder, terrorism, teenage pregnancy, health issues – not that they got the answers “wrong” but that their perceptions of prevalence of these issues was far removed from reality. There’s probably no direct link from that to this next bit, but somehow I think it’s not too far off.

On Friday, the news was that the Philippines government thought it necessary to inform the public that various Chinese dishes popular in the Philippines also have Chinese names and therefore the public should not be upset that China is giving Chinese names to places claimed by the Philippines.

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My Daily Life in Manila

Some of the comments I get are people saying that they enjoy my description of daily life as an expat in Manila, so I thought I’d write a little more about that. Warning: you may be bored.

Waking Up

I’ll usually wake up around 7 AM (even though my alarm is set for 8). I go downstairs and grab a can of Coke Zero out of the fridge (I rarely drink coffee), go back up to my lair (it can’t be a dungeon if it’s on the second floor, can it?), switch on the computer, light up a cigarette, and find out what the day has in store for me. Personal email (90% gets deleted without reading), news (depressing), stock prices (depressing), social media and finally business email. I’ll get washed and dressed (I don’t eat breakfast) and sync my phone to make sure I’ve got the latest episodes of the various podcasts I subscribe to (latest addiction: NPR’s TED Radio Hour – the episode from December 15th titled Going Undercover is killer).

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Jeez I Must Be Getting Old

I don’t mind telling you that I’m exhausted. Aside from the stress of starting a new job – which means learning not just people but also products, technology*, process specific to the company – there’s also the stress of commuting daily in Manila. I figure I’m spending 2-1/2 hours in the car per day, 4 days per week. Podcasts and audiobooks are helping me to feel productive during that time but it’s not exactly a civilized way to spend one’s life.

*technology – I think this is worth noting. At my last job, when the new owners said I would be included in the lay-offs, I asked why and the new CEO said to me, “Well, we’re going to move everything to Amazon Web Services and you don’t have any experience with that, do you?” And he sat back with a smug smile. I replied, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Do you seriously think Amazon has anything that I couldn’t learn inside of a week?” His smile went away; he had no response. And now I’m managing an environment that includes AWS, Docker, Kubernetes and all sorts of fun new tools that I didn’t have in my last place. (And also managing two other teams aside from the hosting team.)

Anyway, “excuses have their uses but now they’re all used up” – so no excuses for not posting in so long. I actually did start a post three weeks ago and haven’t had the time to catch my breath and finish it off. So here it is:

Sunday in the Philippines. And at the end of the day I turned to my wife and said, “I know we didn’t do much today, but it was pretty close to a perfect day for me.” So what did I do today?

Not really much. Got the car washed. A little shopping. Dinner and a movie – at home.

And I told my wife it was almost a perfect day. I told her we got to spend the day together. I felt like I accomplished stuff. I had some time along to do some of my crap. We got out of the house for a little bit. We didn’t spend much money. There was almost no traffic getting to or from the places we went to. And mostly the day was completely stress-free, something not to be undervalued given the pressure at work.

I mean, I think about my Sundays 10 or 15 years ago (and those of you who’ve known me a long time or been reading my stuff for a long time know what I mean) and I’m not sure if it’s a sign of growing old, of changing priorities, or of figuring out what’s really important.

Though inversely … while we were sitting at the car wash, I was flipping back and forth between Twitter, Instagram and WeChat. Different stuff. Some guy in China I met last year asking me for career advice. Reading some news about the government shutdown and came across an article about The Lost History of the Yiddish Typewriter  and an editorial in The Times titled They Were Bad. He May Be Worse. (No bonus points for guessing what that’s about.)

My wife looked over at me and said, “You’re always busy. How do you manage to stay so busy?”

It’s funny because lately I’m reaching the decision that being “always busy” is not a good thing. Because I rarely leave time to just sit and think. I mean, even now, as I’m sitting here writing this, it’s a distraction from just sitting and doing nothing except thinking. And I believe I’m worse off because of that. I need to be less busy.


Oh, Hai

Who knows where the time goes? I see my last post was on December 24th, so belated Happy New Year to all!

I finally got my car on the evening of December 27th. I’m really very pleased with it so far. It’s nice going back to a sedan after almost 3 years in an SUV, though it takes some time to get used to sitting lower. The car is filled with technology that many of you may take for granted but that I didn’t have in my last car – backup camera, remote start, some more buttons here and there. No ashtray in the car and so I’ve decided, based only partly on that, to not smoke in the car. I’ve even managed to stick to that when stuck in some pretty bad traffic. Podcasts are helping me keep my mind off both traffic and smoking.

One pain in the butt is that the car has Apple CarPlay, which is very nice, but not as nice as I was expecting, for two reasons:

1 – When playing music, the car’s screen just shows artist, song, album in text. I was hoping to see the album cover as well. Curiously, the artwork does appear, thumbnail size, in the “computer” section under the tach/speedometer, just not on the big screen.

2 – Waze will not display on the screen at all. Apparently Apple’s rules for CarPlay disallow any navigational apps except their own, humongously bad Apple Maps (which couldn’t find my office building even though it’s huge, not new, and on a main street in BGC). I can have the audio directions play through the car’s stereo but the app won’t display on the screen. (This is not an issue with Android but I’m not ready to switch to Android … yet. Let’s see what they do with the Galaxy S9 when it gets announced presumably next month.)

All of that aside, I’m now one month into the new job. I won’t lie – I’m pretty much exhausted by the time I get home every night and not feeling like doing much on the weekends other than lying around watching movies (so far this year Coco, The Beguiled, Lady Bird, I Tonya, The Disaster Artist and mother! for the second time) and TV (Black Mirror season 2, The End of the Fxxxing World). I assume things will even out once I get more used to the daily commute as well as all of the new stuff I’m dealing with at the office. I like my boss, I like the people I’m working with, there’s a ton of work but so far it’s all good.

So that’s about it for now. Nothing exciting going on. Work, sleep, work, sleep, the occasional nice meal or shot of whisky. I’ve been working on a post on my favorite music of 2017, not sure when I will be able to finish it. So for now, here’s a photo to share, took it on the way home a few days ago, I don’t think I’d mind if I could do this during my commute too ….