Saturday, April 8, 2017

Oil Change Fiasco and Resolution


A few weeks ago, I found a coupon in my snail mail mailbox offering discounts for car services. One of them was an oil change for $14.95 plus a free tire rotation, which was a very good deal. Other coupons I’ve seen were offering it for $29.99. A few days later, I went to the shop and requested the oil change while I presented the coupon. The service advisor proceeded to tell me that I needed to fill out an application form for a new credit card and membership to Goodyear. I told him, I didn’t need any more credit cards so I walked out of the deal.

I went for a run and when I returned home, I decided to call the phone number listed on the coupon. The person who answered said she was new so she didn’t know the answer, and that someone who knew will call me back. A few minutes later, a gentleman who identified himself as the regional manager informed me that the service advisor was mistaken and that I wasn’t required to fill out an application. He said he would be happy to set up an appointment for me because they wanted to retain me as a customer. I told him I was no longer available that day and that I might return in a few days.

A few days later, I went back at 7:30 a.m. because the store’s website said that they were open at that time. It took another 30 minutes before somebody showed up to open the shop even though another guy who was apparently one of their mechanics was also waiting for the guy who had the keys. That was another strike against them.

After a few minutes of getting set up, they were finally ready to help me. The service advisor whom I talked with a few days earlier was the same person I talked with that day and I told him about my communication with the regional manager. He said he remembered me and that he was aware of it and he apologized for his mistake. I thought I heard him say that the oil change and tire rotation were going to be done for free, but being hard of hearing at times, I thought I just misheard him.

So I went for a run while the service was being done and near the end of the run, my cell phone rang and the call was from the shop. Unfortunately, I was not in a good signal area so call couldn’t connect. When I finished my run and went back to the shop, the advisor met me and talked about a list of repair recommendations. I pointed out to me what needed to be done, because apparently, they also did a complete inspection of the car.
Certified Tire Mechanic Recommendations:
Leaking cooling system hoses. Parts 69 + 8 + labor 70 = 147
Fuel filter = 94
Fuel system tune up = 150
Rear brakes = 60 + 110 = 170
Trailing arm bush broken. Parts 94 x2 = 188 + 420 (for what?) = 608
Grand Total = $1169

I declined their offer to have the repairs done then and there. They finished the paperwork, had me sign it, and I was soon out of there. But not before I learned that there really was no charge! It was their way of making up for the mistake they made a few days before. In customer service parlance, this is called a “service recovery”. So for that, good job Certified Tire Center! Incidentally, I had an oil change done there 2 years ago and I gave them 5 stars on their website for not giving any recommendations and just did the oil change I requested. This time though there was a little bit of gentle pressure to have the repairs done, which I of course declined. Because of their service recovery, I again gave them 5 stars on their website with a more detailed explanation on why. In the meantime, I shall be taking their recommendations to my own mechanic for him to check out to see if they were really warranted. If so, my mechanic charges lesser than the chain stores. But thanks for the free oil change, tire rotation, and overall inspection.

Two weeks hence, I opened up my car hood (I had to open the manual to find out, LOL!), inspected the fluid levels, which seemed ok, checked the hoses and belts, also ok, but of course with an untrained eye. I also looked up on the internet what a trailing arm bush is and how to repair it. The parts were much lesser than what the mechanic quoted and I’m sure my mechanic doesn’t charge $420 for the labor. I may wait until after I return from my vacation in June to have that done, and in the meantime, I hope my car doesn’t fall apart. Considering it is 19 years old, it hasn’t given me any major problems and I’ve been lucky so far.

I just finished pricing the car on the Kelly Blue Book website and it said that if I sell to a private party, I may be able to get $1633 for it because it’s in good condition. If I trade it in for a new car, I may get from $769 to $1164 for it. Oh my, those amounts are pretty close to what my repair costs would have been! However I cannot afford to buy a new car so repairs it is, and hopefully my mechanic doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.

 Follow up: I looked up the symptoms of a failing trailing arm bushing at this website and I have not detected any of them in my car, so it may be another upsell from the service advisor: https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/symptoms-of-bad-or-failing-trailing-arm-bushings

Sunday, February 12, 2017

GPS Watches Review: Soleus SG100 and Garmin Forerunner 25


          Comparisons between these two brands have been written about ad nauseam as evidenced by a Google search, however, allow me to put in my two cents' worth, if you please.
          In the middle of 2016, the rubberized button of my previous decade’s Garmin Forerunner finally melted to the point where I couldn’t turn it on anymore. So I researched and looked for a replacement GPS watch on the internet and came upon a brand called Soleus. I had seen the brand before and I think they even sold it in Kohl’s Department stores. They were cheap as far as GPS watches go and I found the most basic Soleus SG100 on Ebay for $35. $35???!!! I don’t run much anymore so I don’t need a device with fancy schmancy bells and whistles, just something to measure time, distance, and pace.
          When the product arrived, I set it up, had it connect to the GPS satellites, which it did within about 30 seconds, then read the instructions. I took it out for a run a few days later and it seemed to function pretty well. What I had a hard time remembering was how to save the workout and turn off the GPS. It was months later when I finally figured it out somewhat (press the buttons in a counter clockwise direction). For the first few runs, I trusted the device like I used to trust my old GPS watches, but one time I plugged in the numbers in an online pace calculator and the Soleus measured about 30 seconds slower on the pace. I did that several more times with similar results. I emailed Soleus customer service and the response I got was basically when I stop running and turn the timer off, the device will continue measuring another 1/10th of a mile, resulting in the discrepancy between watch measurement of pace and the online pace calculator. So after every use of the Soleus, I would recheck the pace online and log the online pace in my exercise log instead. So Soleus: low price, lousy pace calculator. I don’t know if their higher end devices are any better.
          I wasn’t planning on buying another GPS watch anytime soon, but somebody gave me a $10 Amazon gift card for Christmas so on to the website I went and found a Garmin 25 for about $93, so the gift card took care of the taxes and the shipping was free. When I received the device, I set it up as usual and found that it was more intuitive or maybe I was more intuitive to its functions. It even had a step counter and a sleep tracker to boot. And it was much less bulkier than my 2 previous Garmins and it connected to the satellites much quicker.
          I tested it on a run and it tracked distance and pace as expected and after comparing it to the online calculator, the results were exactly alike. At last! Charging it via the USB plug launched a setup screen, I downloaded the software and signed up on the Garmin Express website. On my initial login, the system updated the software and as a result, also deleted my first run. Fortunately I had already written it in my exercise log. Subsequent logins and even a change in computers automatically recorded my workouts.
          One day, I was going to do my workout on the recumbent bike and I had a thought. Since the Garmin had a step counter, why not strap it to my ankle and see if counts how many pedals I did. Indeed it did. It counted about 4000 steps on one leg so that probably means I did 8000 pedals in a 45 minute workout. I’ve been strapping the device to my ankle ever since while doing a recumbent bike, spin bike, stairmaster, or treadmill walk workout at home. I hope that’s not considered cheating because I’m still doing an activity after all.
          All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the Garmin because it meets my needs. I have no idea what to do with the Soleus though.
          Oh, I forgot. The Garmin has an interval run/walk timer while the Soleus does not.
Here's an update: I finally downloaded the Soleus Sync software, signed up with Strava, and uploaded my runs to that website. First, I didn't recognize the last 2 runs that were uploaded because I was already using the Garmin by then, and it was a faster pace than what I'm capable of. The rest of the log showed the elapsed time of my runs were always a few seconds shorter than my actual time. For example, an hour run showed 59:49 and a 50 minute run showed 49:54. So in addition to the inaccurate pace, the watch logged some ghost workouts, and inaccurate time as well. How does that happen? And did you notice the photo above? How can the Soleus say it's March 14th when it's just February 11th, and I hadn't made any adjustments to it since I last used it? So I guess, buyer beware and read those ad nauseam reviews first.

Monday, January 2, 2017

SEMI-RETIREMENT IN 2017?


HAPPY NEW YEAR and HAPPY NEW STATUS!!! After working since 1980 as a behavior specialist, behavior analyst, behavioral health worker, substance abuse technician, mental health worker, caregiver, and now a relief intake coordinator/behavioral health worker, I have decided to cut down on my work hours and try my hand at semi-retirement. Prior to that, I was a physical fitness instructor in the Philippines for 2 years. If anyone is counting, that would be 38 years of working full time except for a brief 6 month stint of being unemployed after being laid off in 2013.

Why just semi-retirement and not full retirement? Well, there's this thing called medical, dental, and vision insurance that I still need from something called a job, and I am reducing my work hours to the most minimum required to still obtain the insurance benefits, although I have to pay more for them. By the way, if it at all matters, I'm 59 and a half years old and 5 and a half years away from qualifying for Medicare.

Since November 2016, I had been considering cutting back on my work hours. Our full time schedule calls for three 12 hour shifts a week, and in the past 5 months, I particularly, had been assigned to work 2 nights a week on the psych units as a behavioral health worker with the patients, and 1 night a week as a relief intake coordinator in an office (which pays slightly more). I had been waiting to see how much of a pay increase I would get which I found out at the end of November. It was decent enough so I started calculating my monthly expenses against my possible income based on the lesser working hours, taking into account the taxes which would be taken out automatically from my paycheck. Based on this, I figured I might be able to survive with still a little leeway for unforeseen expenses, without dipping into my retirement nest egg.

Finally, a month ago, I emailed my Nurse Manager with a request to change my status from full time to part time, effective New Year's Day 2017. My last shift working full time was New Year's Eve.

I haven't figured out what to do with my free time between nights off yet and that's something I'll have to ponder. I've been having insomnia lately so maybe I'll be able to maintain better sleep patterns. Whatever happens in semi-retirement, it's going to be a new journey.
New Year's Eve at work

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Amazing New Tech Discoveries


          That doesn't mean I discovered the products, but rather I found out about them later than sooner because they have been around for a few years. Out of certain necessities, my discoveries are of FreedomPop cell phone service and the MagicJack Android app.
          For the past 15 to 20 years, I've used prepaid cell phone service from Virgin Mobile and AT&T with no data plan and each call and text message cost a few cents. Since I hardly use my cell phone for calling and messaging, it has worked well for me so far, specially that Virgin Mobile only cost me $20 every three months and AT&T, not much more at $25, as long as I didn't use all of those credits within the three months. I mostly use MajicJack on my home computer to make phone calls (more on this later).

          I signed up for Freedompop maybe last year or earlier this year but never used their service, but finally bought a refurbished phone from them about 2 months ago. However, after activating the phone, I just let it sit unused. Finally last week, after almost draining my credits with AT&T due to more text messages than usual, I tried the LG Volt 2 phone I bought from FreedomPop. By signing up for their service, I get 200 minutes of free calls a month, along with 500 free(!) text messages, and also for free - 500 megabytes of data on 4G LTE! I know, I know, those are paltry numbers for a lot of people who mainly use their cell phones for calls, messaging, the internet, and social media, but for me who uses wi-fi most of the time, those paltry numbers are more than enough. And did I already say that it's free? To save on data, I downloaded Facebook Lite and set it to only show low resolution photos which didn't seem to make too much difference to look at on a small phone as compared to  high resolution photos. What helps a lot is that the 4G LTE only kicks in when I'm out of wi-fi range (I wasn't aware of this before because I never had a data plan). I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to use all of the 500 megabytes of free data in a month, but it doesn't roll over to the next month, but that's ok because, didn't I already say it's free? Ha Ha Ha! Besides I don't intend to use that data to surf the internet, maybe just for social media and email. I used this free data a few days ago by checking in my location 3 times on Facebook while out for a run. So if anyone of you saw those check ins, that's the reason why. Not that I will, but if I wanted to, I can also now play Pokemon Go out of the confines of wi-fi, LOL! I read it only consumes about 10 megabytes per hour.


          Ok, so much for FreedomPop. Now my MagicJack which I've been using as my VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone for the last 5 years or so for only $20 a year for unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada. This the reason why I've saved so much by using my prepaid cell phone sparingly for calls.
          Last week, the MagicJack app on my computer stopped downloading my contact list, but I considered that a minor inconvenience. Then today, I couldn't connect to the service despite trying the usual solutions like restarting the app, disconnecting and reconnecting the dongle, or rebooting the computer. Awhile ago, I had seen that they had an Android app, but I never downloaded it. Since I couldn't connect to the service via computer, I decided to read more about the Android app. Turns out, if you are already a subscriber to MagicJack, you can use the Android app for no added cost to make calls via wi-fi. So I downloaded it and gave it a spin. Hmm, very interesting. I entered my username and password and it immediately identified me and my VoIP phone number. I made a phone call to another area code and to my surprise (I don't know why), it connected flawlessly. Yay! In case I can't connect via my PC ever again, at least I have a back up. Not only that, the Android app also allows me to send and receive free text messages as long as I'm on wi-fi of course. I also tested that by texting from my prepaid cell phone to the FreedomPop phone and vice versa. No problem.
          So I just finished testing something else just a few moments ago. I turned off the wi-fi on the phone with the MagicJack Android app to see what would happen if I sent a text message to it with the wi-fi off. Lo and behold, the message was waiting for me after I reconnected to the wi-fi!
          Small technological conveniences like these still keep amazing me. I can't wait for teleportation so I don't have to drive to and from work or fly to and from other places for vacation! Good times!

My Amazing New Tech Discoveries


          That doesn't mean I discovered the products, but rather I found out about them later than sooner because they have been around for a few years. Out of certain necessities, my discoveries are of FreedomPop cell phone service and the MagicJack Android app.
          For the past 15 to 20 years, I've used prepaid cell phone service from Virgin Mobile and AT&T with no data plan and each call and text message cost a few cents. Since I hardly use my cell phone for calling and messaging, it has worked well for me so far, specially that Virgin Mobile only cost me $20 every three months and AT&T, not much more at $25, as long as I didn't use all of those credits within the three months. I mostly use MajicJack on my home computer to make phone calls (more on this later).

          I signed up for Freedompop maybe last year or earlier this year but never used their service, but finally bought a refurbished phone from them about 2 months ago. However, after activating the phone, I just let it sit unused. Finally last week, after almost draining my credits with AT&T due to more text messages than usual, I tried the LG Volt 2 phone I bought from FreedomPop. By signing up for their service, I get 200 minutes of free calls a month, along with 500 free(!) text messages, and also for free - 500 megabytes of data on 4G LTE! I know, I know, those are paltry numbers for a lot of people who mainly use their cell phones for calls, messaging, the internet, and social media, but for me who uses wi-fi most of the time, those paltry numbers are more than enough. And did I already say that it's free? To save on data, I downloaded Facebook Lite and set it to only show low resolution photos which didn't seem to make too much difference to look at on a small phone as compared to  high resolution photos. What helps a lot is that the 4G LTE only kicks in when I'm out of wi-fi range (I wasn't aware of this before because I never had a data plan). I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to use all of the 500 megabytes of free data in a month, but it doesn't roll over to the next month, but that's ok because, didn't I already say it's free? Ha Ha Ha! Besides I don't intend to use that data to surf the internet, maybe just for social media and email. I used this free data a few days ago by checking in my location 3 times on Facebook while out for a run. So if anyone of you saw those check ins, that's the reason why. Not that I will, but if I wanted to, I can also now play Pokemon Go out of the confines of wi-fi, LOL! I read it only consumes about 10 megabytes per hour.


          Ok, so much for FreedomPop. Now my MagicJack which I've been using as my VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone for the last 5 years or so for only $20 a year for unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada. This the reason why I've saved so much by using my prepaid cell phone sparingly for calls.
          Last week, the MagicJack app on my computer stopped downloading my contact list, but I considered that a minor inconvenience. Then today, I couldn't connect to the service despite trying the usual solutions like restarting the app, disconnecting and reconnecting the dongle, or rebooting the computer. Awhile ago, I had seen that they had an Android app, but I never downloaded it. Since I couldn't connect to the service via computer, I decided to read more about the Android app. Turns out, if you are already a subscriber to MagicJack, you can use the Android app for no added cost to make calls via wi-fi. So I downloaded it and gave it a spin. Hmm, very interesting. I entered my username and password and it immediately identified me and my VoIP phone number. I made a phone call to another area code and to my surprise (I don't know why), it connected flawlessly. Yay! In case I can't connect via my PC ever again, at least I have a back up. Not only that, the Android app also allows me to send and receive free text messages as long as I'm on wi-fi of course. I also tested that by texting from my prepaid cell phone to the FreedomPop phone and vice versa. No problem.
          So I just finished testing something else just a few moments ago. I turned off the wi-fi on the phone with the MagicJack Android app to see what would happen if I sent a text message to it with the wi-fi off. Lo and behold, the message was waiting for me after I reconnected to the wi-fi!
          Small technological conveniences like these still keep amazing me. I can't wait for teleportation so I don't have to drive to and from work or fly to and from other places for vacation! Good times!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Blog About Running...Again

Long Beach City College - Veterans Memorial Stadium
About 3 weeks ago, I shared on social media that I did my longest run in years when I managed to finish an hour and 12 minutes which covered 6 miles and a pace of 12:01 minutes per mile. That was a proud moment for me since I haven't been able to run in recent years due to my permanent ankle injuries made worst by myalgia or pain on both my thighs caused by cholesterol medications. This often resulted in strained thigh muscles whenever I tried to run longer or if I increased my pace. My doctor has since discontinued my cholesterol medication for the past 3 months and prescribed the over the counter supplement called Omega 3-6-9 complex. We are going to re-evaluate this strategy on my next physical exam this coming October. As a result, my pain in my thighs have diminished. I can't do anything about the PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction) in my ankles because they are permanent injuries other than limiting my mileage and not try to push off my ankles to pick up the pace. Thus, I've had to make changes in my stride which makes it feel unnatural for me, namely, shortening it and keeping my feet lower to the ground to lessen the impact. Anyone who has run with me in the past know how noisy my natural stride is. Maybe nowadays they won't hear it as much due to the stride adjustment and the cushioned shoes. This has enabled me to run about twice a week the past couple of months with lots of recovery days in between runs. To take care of my thighs, I've been using a rolling pin to massage them and it seems to help.
Running at the Dominguez Gap
I haven't written about running in a while, years even maybe. Neither have I shared restarting it because I hate to jinx myself by getting reinjured and stopping again. But here I am writing about it and hoping that I can stay consistent without getting injured, even if it means just running twice a week.
I also reconnected with my former running partner Katherine, a neighbor whom I used to train for marathons with years ago. We have been running once a week from her house to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach City College. She would do repeats on the stadium steps while I jogged around the track, and the last time we were there, I managed to do 8 repetitions of walking up and down the steps. We were going to do the same thing today (June 23rd) but when we got there, a sign was posted saying that the stadium and track would be closed for maintenance and renovation for the next two months.

Katherine suggested that we run all the way to the Campfire Girls Lodge on the corner of Carson Street and Los Coyotes Diagonal. I said "what!?" my legs can't take me that far and still run back home! I said, why don't we try making it to the next intersection first (Clark Avenue) and then the next one, and the next one, then I'll tell her if I give up and ask to turn around. Well, we made it all the way to the lodge in 50 minutes so that meant that we had at least another 50 minutes of running to get back home, and I was already plodding before that. Remember, my longest run was an hour and 12 minutes and that really exhausted me. Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? With Katherine pulling me and me willing myself to reach the next intersection with hopes that we would hit a stop light, I kept plodding along which felt like I was running about a 12:30 per mile pace. A couple of weeks prior, I did a solo run which covered 5 miles at a pace of 11:31 and that was really pushing it based on my reduced stride and aerobic capacity.

I finally told Katherine that I was going to stop running when we reach an hour and a half then walk back the rest of the way, while she kept on running. When my watch ticked 1:30, I started walking and Katherine was nice enough to walk with me the rest of the way. After 12 minutes of walking, we made it back to her house. My goodness, that was only 2 minutes over our anticipated finishing time of 1:40! Did we manage a negative split up to the one hour and 30 minute mark despite what felt like a much slower pace going back home? Katherine said it was a 9 mile out and back course so I entered our time and distance on a running calculator and it spit out the results: 11:20 minutes per mile pace. What!? That even included the last 12 minutes of walking in the equation.

After the 1:12 run several weeks ago, my next goal would have been 1:15 or 1:20 to see if my legs hold up, so it was a shock to the system to go 1:30 suddenly. Hours after the run, my legs still feel ok although I expect them to be sore for a few days. I'll be doing the rolling pin massage as soon as I finish typing this. Wish me luck with hopes that I may be able to continue doing this exercise without further catastrophic injuries. This mainly means practicing self control because I tend to overdo it, hahaha!

BTW, Katherine can still probably push an 8:00 to 8:30 pace if she wanted to, so I was really thankful for her running ahead and pulling me all the way and talking to keep my mind off my heavy legs and heavy breathing :D

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trying The Most Affordable Amazon Fire Tablet


Well I bought this Amazon Fire tablet which is on sale at Best Buy this week (June 12 to 18, and also at Amazon.com) for $39.99 because my Windows 10 laptop could no longer connect to the wi-fi at work. Sure I could still connect with my Android phone, 2012 Nexus 7 tablet,  and 4 year old Asus Transformer, but the phone is too small to type with and the tablets aren't too responsive anymore or at all. For the price, what have I got to lose, right?
I've been using the Fire for a couple of days now and despite it having only 1 gigabyte of RAM and 8 GB of storage, the responsiveness is pretty amazing. Sure it lags sometimes when a lot of apps are open but that's easily taken cared of by closing some. The home page is cluttered with Amazon apps that I mostly won't ever use but they cannot be uninstalled. A little research on the web showed how you can just put what you don't need in a folder thus decreasing the clutter. You can also supposedly only download apps from Amazon but not from Google Play. Well back to the web we go and sure enough you can download the apk file of any Android app and install it by changing the settings to allow non-Amazon apps. I've downloaded the Chrome browser and Dropbox apps and they've been working well so far other than I have not been able to sync my Chrome bookmarks. Now my desktop looks more like a regular Android tablet. Of course with just 8 GB of storage, it limits how much I can download until I can add a micro SD card. I added an SD card later and it's ok for storing files and photos but if you move some apps there, they tend to lag more because Amazon recommends a Class 10 SD card whereas the one I got from Ebay last year is just a much slower Class 2. Typing with either 2 thumbs or one index finger is pretty slow and limiting if you are used to touch typing, but tolerable. That's why I prefer tablets with physical keyboards. This post is the first time I tried typing on it.
Nevertheless, for the price of $39.99, you can't beat it, specially if your main use is just for surfing the web, social networking, or reading ebooks. The battery life is quite good too and with the way the way I surf the web and use Facebook, the battery still had 43% of juice after about 8 hours.  Well, that's my nonprofessional review of the Amazon Fire tablet after just 2 days of use and so far I like it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Philippines Vacation - The Last Day in Tagaytay & The Flight Back Home





Tagaytay - Balay Dako Restaurant
My last full day in the Philippines was Sunday, March 31st. The family had planned on visiting Tagaytay and having lunch there, but due to Momsie Pilaring’s illness, there was a possibility of a cancellation. She didn’t like it very much when the doctor told her to rest at home. Nonetheless, Larry, Ninette, and I proceeded with the plans because we were meeting Ben, Elgee, and Uno there. Thankfully, there was not too much traffic that morning and we arrived at about 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. The family had mentioned a very good restaurant in the area called Balay Dako, which means big house in the Bisaya dialect. Apparently, the chef who owns the place is from one of the Visayas provinces. The place was packed as it was very popular with out of towners. There was a bit of a waiting period so some went to buy some goodies from the bake shop while others went up to the patio to take pictures. I went outside to explore and just as I reached the gate, I saw Ben, Elgee, and Uno driving in. They parked then went inside the restaurant to look for Larry and Ninette while I stepped out to the street to look around. The street was lined with restaurants since the location was a great viewing area for the dormant Taal Volcano. Is it really dormant? I’m not sure anymore.
Ninette & I with Taal Volcano in the background from Balay Dako Restaurant
After about a 45 minute wait, we were finally escorted to our table where the waiter took our orders. The specialty of the house is bulalo, which is essentially beef shank and marrow bones in broth, but in this case it is served sizzling and covered with some kind of mushroom sauce. We also ordered vegetarian kare kare. This usually comes with the same kind of beef parts as bulalo, but I guess since the bulalo already had a lot of meat, the kare kare became vegetarian. Who knows? I’m just guessing here. Anyway, when people talked about the sizzling bulalo, they made it sound like something out of this world and a new way of cooking it. It turns out that the sauce was the same kind and taste used for beef stroganoff. Well, my expectations were deflated, to say the least, but other than that, it tasted really good and the beef was very tender. With beef stroganoff that you eat in cafeterias all over the United States, sometimes the cubed beef is tough to chew. I know we ordered some other food but I can’t seem to remember it now. I’ll have to check out the photos we took to see what was on the table. Thanks to my sister in law Ninette, I found pics of the food we ate in her Facebook photos.
Sizzling bulalo - the specialty of Balay Dako (below are: kare kare without the baka, prawns, & BBQ chicken


After lunch the Bautista Family had to return home and meanwhile we drove to a Taal Vista Hotel to take some photos, then to a nun’s convent to visit the chapel and say some prayers. It appeared that the nuns were cloistered because I don’t remember seeing any. I walked around the place and they had statues around the compound depicting the Stations of the Cross. Nice touch.
Larry & I with Taal Volcano in the background taken from Taal Vista Hotel
Pretty soon we were heading back home and for about the first 45 minutes, it was uneventful. When we were about to exit the town of Carmona in Cavite towards the South Luzon Expressway, suddenly we were being pursued by a police motorcycle with two cops on it. They told us to pull over and told my brother he had run a red light. My brother said, he noticed the red blinking light and not understanding what it meant, just followed the cars ahead of him. Hmm, there seems to be no standard traffic signals in the Philippines which leaves you to guess hopefully correctly. Nonetheless, the police officer started to take out his tickets and told my brother that the standard fine for running a red light is 1,000 pesos, and get this, my brother had to come back the next day which was a Monday to pay the fine at the Carmona town hall since it was closed on Sunday. My brother pleaded that he had to work the next day and will be unable to come back, and can we just pay a reduced fine to the officer himself so the officer can pay it at the town hall. Apparently, this was double talk for bribery, which in most cases is acceptable in that country. So they negotiated for half of the quoted fine and I handed over 500 pesos to my brother and he surreptitiously slipped it on the palm of the officer. Having made the deal, the cop let us go, and for the first time in my life, I was complicit (or is it aiding and abetting?) in bribing the police. It is something that will never happen in the U.S. (for me anyway). Checking on the exchange rate today, that bribe of 500 pesos cost me a whopping $10.70!
Well, the inevitable happened when we reached the city. Traffic. We crawled slowly towards Ateneo De Manila where Ninette had to sign some papers before going home. It was already dark when we got there so a security guard escorted us to Ninette’s office. This was by the way one of my requests during my visit – to see her place of work. The others were to see Larry’s school which I accomplished on the day I was in Greenhills, and to visit the hospital where he had his kidney transplant, which we did when Pilaring had her check up.
On the way home from Ateneo, we stopped by a grocery store where be bought some durian ice cream which I had been craving for. Lacking the real fruit, the ice cream came a close second.
The next day at about 8 a.m. Larry drove me to the airport in a circuitous way through Manila because he said since I arrived, we always drove via Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue. Larry dropped me off at NAIA 1, we gave each other a tight hug, expressed our brotherly love for each other, and said our goodbyes.
I made my way to the China Southern Airlines queue and checked in. Since I hadn’t exercised that day yet, I went looking for a long hallway to walk in. My boarding area didn’t have a hallway so I had to ask a security guard for permission to walk in the only long hallway in the terminal. I completed my requisite 30 minutes walking up and down that hallway and soon entered the boarding area. After about 30 minutes, we boarded the plane and headed to Guangzhou where it was raining. We had to get off the plane in the rain to board some buses which drove us to the terminal. I was supposed to have a 7 hour layover so I put in another walking workout through the large terminal, which made up for the lost day I had on my way from L.A. to the Philippines. That darn layover was so long and if that wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t access the airport’s wi-fi. You needed a special login from the Chinese social media app called We Chat which I couldn’t download because I didn’t have access to the internet in the first place. I walked some more and  tried to take short naps to pass the time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the flight was delayed for an hour thus making it an 8 hour layover.
I got hungry while waiting so I finally gave in and entered one of the terminals' restaurants. I asked the server how much a certain noodle dish was in dollars and she said $14. Oh well, I didn’t have a choice but to order the food since I was starving. While I was eating, another man came in and asked if he could buy a cup of coffee so he could use the restaurant’s wi-fi. Guess how much that cup of coffee cost him? Yes, $14! Perhaps that was a fixed price for anything if you had to pay in dollars regardless of how much it cost in yuan or RMB.
After waiting another half hour in line, we finally boarded the plane for the long 14 hour flight. When I found my seat, I was appalled to see a couple with their baby who was already crying. OMG, it was going to be an excruciating 14 hours if that baby was going fuss the whole time. I readied my eye mask and my earplugs just in case. Well what do you know but that baby slept for about 11 or 12 hours while I probably slept intermittently about 7. Thank you for resting little one, and thanks for giving me some rest too.
My seatmate on the flight back home
We arrived in LAX about 8:30 p.m. and I had some leeway before the reserved shuttle bus stopped running at 11 p.m. Going through customs, I was surprised at the new computer terminals for U.S. citizens where you inserted your passport and the machine verified your identity. Then it spit out a printout of your face and some other data. Then we picked up out checked baggage from the carousel then headed out. There was one more stop to make before exiting the terminal. We passed by some uniformed officers where I noticed the passengers handing something to them. I asked the officer if he needed my luggage tag and he smirked and said he needed the printout of my face from the computer I inserted my passport earlier. I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to diminish your position as a Customs Officer. With that I went out to look for the shuttle bus pickup area. Since I wasn’t sure where it was, I called the company and was directed to the correct place. After a few minutes wait, 5 of us boarded the bus. Two were headed to the San Pedro cruise ship terminal, one to the border of San Pedro and Palos Verdes, and the other to Belmont Shore in Long Beach. If the plane flight wasn't long enough, I was dropped off last. I finally made it home just before midnight, thankful to be back in the good old U.S. of A.

Bonus photos: Top - Saying goodbye to Uno. Bottom - Visiting a gastrobar in Quezon City
Thanks again to Ninette for all the photos posted here. They all came from her Facebook page.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Philippines Vacation - Days 11, 12, and 13 (Rod Marfil, Tim Ho Wan, NKTI, Auntie Fermonaira, Auntie Faida, Tes Marfil

Dinner with Auntie Faida
Day 11 – Rodrigo Marfil then Dinner at Tim Ho Wan           
Thursday, Day 11 - The day after checking out the condo in Cubao, my brother Larry was off from work and he drove me around Quezon City to show me where places I knew used to be. He also took me to an area with high rise condos and shopping centers way past Ateneo de Manila University. The name of the location escapes me now. He brought me there because Ninette mentioned the previous night that some of her colleagues may be moving and selling their condos. Nice location but I had already made up my mind about not buying.
Rod Marfil at FilMar Auto Trends
We then visited one of our cousins- Rodrigo Marfil at his automotive repair shop. I didn’t recognize him at first because he had lost so much weight. Apparently, he got sick a few years back and never gained his normal weight back. Last time I saw him was in high school where he was the bass and snare drummer for the Notre Dame of Jolo Boy’s Department band. His claim to fame at the time was that he was never absent from school from elementary all through high school. After reminiscing briefly about our days in Jolo, we bid him goodbye. Interesting note: Rod and all of his brothers and sisters have been single all their lives.
Tim Ho Wan dimsum
Larry and Ninette had planned on doing some grocery shopping in Trinoma, another shopping center a few miles away. I thought we were going to do that, then go home to have dinner. I asked them if we could find a place for a snack between then and dinner but they said that we were going to have dinner at a place called Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin Star awardee. Larry went to do the grocery shopping while Ninette and I went to SM (Shoemart) so I could buy more pastillas to take back to the U.S. 
Afterwards, we proceeded to Tim Ho Wan and was seated shortly thereafter. While waiting for Larry, we checked out the menu and Ninette told me what their specialty was. The award they received was mainly due to their meat bun (bao or pao or siopao) which instead of having a soft covering, had a crusty one. Larry was stuck in the grocery store so we ordered ahead. Larry arrived a few minutes later. I had been hankering for congee for a while now, so I had that for starters. We ordered the meat buns, chicken feet, and others that I no longer remember. If I find the receipt later, I’ll just add it to the list. I had to agree that the crusty bun was very good and it was the first time I’ve tried what they call Adidas (the chicken feet). Well, that was indeed a great meal and while I’m no foodie, I think the Michelin star was well deserved. We brought home some of the meat buns for the others who weren’t able to join us.

Day 12 - NKTI & Lunch with Auntie Ferm
On Friday, day 12, we took Pilaring (Ninette’s mom) to see a doctor at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute for blood tests and an X-ray since she had been having an ongoing cough. NKTI was where Larry had his dialysis and kidney transplant 2 years ago. Ninette is his donor. While Pilaring’s tests were being done, I did my workout by walking along the perimeter of the hospital and even ventured out in the traffic of East Avenue. Then I went inside the hospital to look for Larry, Pilaring, and Vangie.
Lunch with Auntie Ferm and Alain
For lunch, we had arranged to meet with Auntie Fermonaira Carpizo Labiano at a Thai restaurant in SM Aura. Auntie Ferm is a retired nurse from Abu Dhabi who now lives near SM Aura. She is a very animated woman whose walk reminded me so much of her mom, Lola Taram. A few minutes later, one of her sons, Alain, arrived and joined us. Auntie Ferm seemed to know everyone in the mall and joked with the owner of the restaurant and the servers, and did the same when we later went for coffee at another restaurant. She cooked and brought us a special Tausug dish called pianggang which we took home afterwards. Thank you so much for the pianggang Auntie Ferm, as we rarely get the chance to eat it anymore.
After saying out goodbyes, we went to pick up Robynne from her school in Makati, then returned home.

Day 13 - Early Dinner with Auntie Faida
On Saturday, Day 13, I pretty much lost track of what I did in the morning, but in mid afternoon, Larry and I drove to Maharlika Village in Taguig to meet with Auntie Faida Carpizo, an older sister of Auntie Ferm. She was going to serve us more Tausug food along with another cousin, Tes Marfil who lived with her. She first served us daral for snacks and when Tes came later, she had the satti and pastil. They also had cucumbers and sambal, plus more pianggang cooked by Auntie Faida this time. Our cousin Farid, who owns the house came home shortly along with Alain whom we met the previous day. I haven’t seen Farid since he was a little boy and still living with his parents in Quezon City back in the early 70’s. With smiles all around, photos were taken and the food was enjoyed by all. Thanks for the feast, Auntie Faida, Tes, and Farid.
Satti, pianggang, pastil, and sambal

Meanwhile, Larry was getting phone calls from home about Pilaring having some sort of medical episode, so we had to leave Maharlika Village and head back to NKTI to meet with Ninette, Pilaring, Robynne, and Vangie at the doctor’s clinic. Pilaring’s lab results and X-ray indicated pneumonia so she was ordered to stay at home and rest. She was none too pleased with that since there were plans to go to Tagaytay the next day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Philippines Vacation – Day 10: Checking Out a Condo in Cubao & Grab Car Rides

One Bedroom Specifications
Studio Specifications
The day after my visit to U.P., I had made an appointment to meet with a real estate agent in Cubao. Since everyone at home was working that day, they suggested that I try Grab Taxi or Grab Car which is an Uber or Lyft type service. I opted for the Grab Car since they charge a flat rate instead of the Grab Taxi where the regular taxi meter is used. Since I wasn’t familiar with the streets in the Philippines anymore, it was in my best interest to have the flat rate in case I got an unscrupulous taxi driver who might drive me around in circles. I downloaded the app and ordered a car to my location, it gave me the driver’s name, license plate number, and cell phone number. As soon as he arrived, we were off to Cubao. Since I was about an hour early, it gave me a chance to explore the surroundings and try to get my bearings. Cubao was a frequent hangout when I was still studying in U.P. I walked around Araneta Center and SM (Shoe Mart) before I got a call from the real estate agent whom I arranged to meet in front of Rustan’s Department Store across from the Kia Theater. Two of them showed up and they were going to take me to see two buildings but I said one was enough. We took a taxi and I was shown the building which was still being constructed, then we went some other place to look at the floor models. There I saw a bare studio, dressed up studio, a one bedroom, and a combined one bedroom and studio option. Well, the studio was so tiny that if you were claustrophobic, you would not even consider it. The one bedroom was slightly larger but the bed and sofa still had to be positioned flush against the wall to create more space. The combined one bedroom and studio was only about 2/3 the size on my current 1 bedroom condo in Long Beach. I took pictures and videos but since it’s one dimensional, it’s hard to really discern the smallness of the units. Next I found out that the price quoted was only for the condo unit and didn’t include a parking space. The realtor said the parking space costs almost as much as the condo itself. Nevertheless, we went to the business office to look at available units and do calculations on costs and amortizations. I had to keep using my calculator to convert pesos into dollars. I told the realtor that I would consult with my family later that day and decide whether it was feasible for me to buy a condo in the Philippines or not.
video
Studio Condo - bare and staged

video
One Bedroom Condo - staged

The two realtors brought me back to where we started from and upon getting my bearings, I walked towards the construction area of the condo building. It was only about half a mile at most from the Araneta Center and was close to a supermarket, eateries, entertainment areas, and most importantly, a gym, not to mention not too far from Larry and Ninette’s home. Cubao also has nice sidewalks to walk on which was a plus. It was also very close to the light rail system. Suffice it to say, I really liked the area.
Amaia Skies construction site
Over the next few hours, I kept on walking around and went in and out of several stores and malls. At SM, I even found pastillas candy which I had planned to taking back to the U.S. for presents. In the end, I bought a few bags of those plus a wallet for myself. I fired up the Grab Car app again and a car picked me up in front of the Kia Theater and drove me back to U.P. Professors Subdivision. The cost of the ride back home was cheaper because it was not peak time.
Grab Car ride
That evening, I told Larry and Ninette about the condo and discussed the pros and cons of buying one. The condo company required a reservation fee of about $300 after which I was supposed to make a down payment within 30 days. If I failed to make a down payment, the $300 would be lost forever. In recent years, I’ve always been cash poor since most of my savings are in retirement plans in which if I withdrew money before I turned 59 and a half, I would be penalized by paying a surcharge. Not only that, whatever I withdrew would be taxed. I had given this information to the realtors earlier too. If I decided to buy, I would also need to give Larry my Special Power of Attorney so he can sign papers for me and make payments on my behalf. There was also an added pressure of time. The condo company said that on April 1st, which was only two days away, the prices of the condos and possibly some other fees would be going up and they said this occurs every quarter of the year.
After so much consideration and in spite of liking the location of the condo which was going to be ready by 2017, the negatives outweighed the positives. I could not get over the terrible traffic, the heat, the mostly bad sidewalks in most places, and the lack of a parking space with the condo price. The added pressure of having to decide within two days didn’t help either because I don’t like to make rash judgments like that specially that costs a lot of money. I don’t think the Philippines is a cheap place to live in anymore if you want to live in an urban area. I spend much less here in the U.S. than what I would in the Philippines if I retired there. I already had second thoughts about retiring there when I wrote about it a year or so ago. Perhaps, I, like a lot of people have taken living in the U.S. for granted until we experience living somewhere else. It has made me appreciate my humble abode in a not so very good part of town more, where the sidewalks are much better and the drivers are mostly more disciplined and follow lane lines.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Philippines Vacation Day 9 – A Visit to the University of the Philippines & Trying Red Horse


The University of the Philippines Oblation
Day 9 which was a Tuesday started out pretty quiet. I stayed home in the morning while Larry went to work, Ninette worked upstairs, and Robynne studied. After lunch, the helper – Vangie, had to go to Ateneo to pick something up for Ninette, so I joined her for a jeepney ride so she could show me where to get off so I could visit my Alma Mater – the University of the Philippines.
The previous entrance when I was still going to school there was beside Vinzons Hall. So when I went through the new entrance, I had get my bearings first. A lady walking beside me asked me where she could find a certain building. I apologized that I could not help her because I myself was no longer familiar with the place. So I started walking down the street (Osmena Avenue?) which I knew led to the tennis courts I used to play in as a member of the tennis team. I encountered some students doing some kind of experiment and a bunch of kids just walking about and one of them asked me for money. This street had a dedicated lane for runners, walkers, and cyclists, which was new to me.
Jeepney ride to U.P.
I proceeded to the tennis courts and looked around. A group of 3 guys were hanging out and talking. The clubhouse looked different and I didn’t recognize anyone there. Then I went looking for the College of Human Kinetics which used to be the Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation. They had moved the building at another location so I had to ask for directions. When I got there, I went to the gym floor. The setup of this old repurposed giant hangar hasn’t changed much except the concrete bleachers were gone. I didn’t see any teachers present so I went out and towards the rear of the building where I found the faculty offices. On one of the doors, I saw a familiar name and I asked one of the staff about her and was told that that person had retired. She used to play guard in the women’s basketball team. Not having recognized anyone, I left the college and walked towards the administration building where I asked a woman who appeared to be resting after a bike ride, to take my obligatory photo while in U.P., with the Oblation. With nothing else to do, I went back to the tennis courts where I met a man who gave me the impression that he was some kind of club pro or at least a club manager. He asked me if I played and I said I couldn’t anymore because I can no longer run due to leg problems. He remarked that I probably still had my stroke, which was true based on my previous Nintendo WII tennis game experience. Anyway, I told him about my playing days in U.P. and the people I used to know. Mind you, this was way back in the mid to late 70’s so he didn’t know the people I talked about.
Selfie with the Oblation
I begged my leave and walked back to the gym, saw a group of people playing soccer on the wood floor and a couple of girls who looked like they belonged to a varsity squad. Still not recognizing anyone, I left and went to Molave Residence Hall, a dormitory I lived in during my freshman year. When the security guard asked me if I needed some help, I told her I used to live there. I showed her a photo of my old I.D. and she said she thought it was a picture of my son. She was surprised when I told her it was me.
Molave Residence Hall
University of the Philippines I.D.
I soon left and found my way to the old shopping center where we used to go to have papers copied or mimeographed. The place is still pretty much the same except for the mimeograph machine. There were various places to eat and what looked like internet cafes as well as school supplies (the Blue Book!) and places that sold clothes. It was on one of those places I found a U.P. tank top which I bought. It felt ok when I tried it on over the clothes I was wearing but upon my return to the U.S., I found it to be scratchy. Anyway, it’s good to have some kind of souvenir since my varsity jacket was long gone.
University of the Philippines tanktop
Afterwards, Larry texted me that he was going to pick me up on his way home and to meet me between the U.P. Theater and the College of Music. While waiting, I noticed a lot of people exercising on that same street with the dedicated exercise lane. Larry picked me up and we drove home. I was spared a jeepney ride back home and the probability of getting lost.
Later that evening, I had a hankering for a beer and went to one of the sari-sari stores in the neighborhood. They had run out of San Miguel but had Red Horse which I had never tried before, so I bought one of those which came in a half liter (16.9 oz.) bottle. My first impression was that it tasted like malt liquor. Upon reading the label, I found out that it was brewed by San Miguel and had a higher alcohol content. Well, in combination with the volume and the alcohol content, it certainly gave me a huge buzz. That Red Horse sure had a strong kick. Soon after the buzz and dinner, it was beddie bye time. Regardless that things had changed tremendously and I didn’t know anyone anymore, it was nice to be able to revisit my past haunts during my college years.
Red Horse beer

Monday, April 25, 2016

Philippines Vacation - Day 8 – Monday in Greenhills, Xavier, & Rockwell

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor
Larry was still working for a couple of days before his schools' summer vacation began and he usually leaves home at about 4:30 a.m. to beat the traffic. I joined him Monday morning while he drove to Xavier High School in Greenhills. He showed me what building his office was in then drove me to Greenhills Shopping Center where I was going to spend my day before walking back to Xavier High School to meet up with him. I had to keep my eye on what streets I was on and where to turn to get back to Xavier from the shopping center.

Before dropping me off, Larry drove around the perimeter of the shopping center where a bunch of people came out every day to exercise. Then he left to go to work. I did some stretching then started a slow jog counter clockwise around the shopping center. To my right was a covered parking structure where music was playing and a couple of Zumba classes were going on. As I circled the area, I saw other runners, walkers, and run/walkers mostly going in the same direction as I was. After a couple of laps (which was approximately 1 kilometer in distance per lap or about 2/3 of a mile) I began to notice that despite of my slowness, I was proceeding at a steadier clip than most people and began to negative split each lap. I encouraged some kids who were running then slowing to a walk to go more slowly so they can run longer. I smiled at other exercisers and was enjoying the moment of being able to run on an even sidewalk and not have to dodge cars along the way.

I noticed a gentleman running at a steady pace which appeared to be the same as mine but he was running clockwise. So the next time I encountered him, I turned around, introduced myself and asked if I could run with him. He agreed and while we ran together I asked him if he was a marathoner because he appeared to have a very economical stride suited for long distance running. He replied that he used to do that in the past but not anymore. He then asked me how old I was and upon hearing that I was almost 59 years old, he looked surprised that I was still able to run the way I did and matched him stride for stride. But he was probably not more than 10 years younger than I am. So we ran and talked for a few more laps until on the last one, he did a sprint on a short straightaway that I didn’t match for fear of injuring myself. I increased my stride slightly until I caught up with him during his recovery jog. After his cool down jog, he had to go and I thanked him for letting me join him. I ran a few more laps until I reached 45 minutes (my goal for that day was just 30 minutes but because of the company, I was able to extend it), then walked for 15 more minutes.

While walking, I saw this pretty woman running but I had filled my running quota for the day and if I had done any more, I would have risked injuring my fragile ankles and legs. I bumped into that woman again later when she was done and as she walked back to her car with breakfast in hand, I asked her how many laps she did. She said “just 4”. I said that was better than most people, and it was then that I noticed her green eyes. I bid her a good day and went on my way. The green eyes? Well, they were probably contact lenses. It was fun interacting with other exercisers again. It what I mostly miss about not being able to run the way I used to.

Having started my workout at 6 a.m. and finishing at 7 a.m., it was another 3 hours before the shopping center opened. While I walked around, I saw a lot of security personnel in the area and they were conducting a hostage situation drill inside the still closed mall. Some pretended to be hostages hunched on the floor, others acted like they were injured, while others were rescuers carrying either another human being or a dummy from inside the mall to a triage area in the parking lot. In spite of the drill, the Zumba exercisers kept on dancing, the walkers kept on walking, and the joggers kept on jogging.
Greenhills Shopping Center swap meet
My legs got tired from exploring so I sat in one of the chairs in the taxi waiting area. Later on, I sent a text message to a real estate agent I had been in touch with for several months, to arrange for a meeting to look at some condos I was interested in. We agreed to meet on Wednesday in Cubao.
Before the mall opened, I noticed a badminton club on the third floor so I went up to check it out.  I used to play that sport competitively in my youth. There were a couple of middle aged guys and a couple of young guys playing, as well as a beginner’s class with about 5 students. I observed for a few minutes, then went back downstairs. Pretty soon the mall opened and was I glad to be finally indoors in the air conditioned building. The first floor had all sorts of merchandise and it reminded me of an indoor swap meet we have in Long Beach. In addition to jewelry, there were a lot of brand name merchandise like Under Armour, Nike, Birkenstocks, etc. When I did my calculation from pesos to dollars, they were remarkably cheap! Until I realized they were most likely fake. The second floor which Larry described to me earlier, was full of technical stuff like cell phones, cell phone accessories, tablets, etc. After experiencing the harrowing boat ride a few days before and almost getting my cell phone drenched in sea water, I bought myself a transparent waterproof case which cost about $6. I explored all the floors of the mall then went to a Smart phone store to have my cell phone checked out since I couldn’t get the 4G data to work. After a slight delay, the technician copied the Android settings from her own phone and my data plan started to work. I thanked the lady and gave her a fist bump before leaving.

I was getting peckish so I went around looking for a place to eat. There were plenty of course but I was looking for a congee place. Having found none, I found lomi (a type of thick noodle soup) in of all places, an eatery called Sizzler’s. Now, I don’t think it had any connections with the Sizzler’s in the U.S. but they also served steaks. So I ordered the noodles and while I was eating, Ninette texted me asking how my day was going and informing me that there was a bomb threat in her school – Ateneo De Manila. She was working from home of course. Anyway, there were not too many details yet since the situation was ongoing. She asked me to buy some bread floss from a shop called Bread Talk. Bread floss? She explained that Bread Talk was in a another building. When I paid for lunch, the waiter brought me my money back and informed me that a couple of my 20 peso bills were no longer in circulation. Those were the bills I got from the cashier at Solaire the day before! I paid with the proper bills then headed off to another building to look for the bakery that sold bread floss. It was in the building where the movie theaters were. That reminded me that I once took an ex girlfriend on a date in the old Greenhills Shopping center when the theaters were still located in a different area. Anyway, I went up to the third floor where the theaters were and found some benches to sit on while waiting for the time for me to walk to Xavier High School to meet my brother. When that time came, I went to the bread floss place and made my purchase. I thought it was a meat filled piece of bread but I later learned that the meat was actually the shavings of floss-like substance on top of the bread itself. That shows you how ignorant I am about these supposedly gourmet things.

So I walked back to Xavier on the usual irregular sidewalks with parked cars and having arrived a few minutes early, texted Larry that I’ll be waiting in the student drop off and pick up zone. He called security who escorted me to his work area. The faculty had an end of the school year party where they complimented each other, said goodbye to departing teachers, sang karaoke, and of course had some food which they invited me to partake. I respectfully declined since I felt I still had a bellyful of lomi. We excused ourselves shortly and Larry gave me a brief tour of the school. He would be transferring from the New Technology department back to his previous position of Athletic Director next school year.
Power Plant Mall in Rockwell Center
We left Xavier and headed to Ateneo Law School in the Rockwell area of Makati to pick up Robynne. While waiting for her, we walked around Power Plant Mall. Apparently this area was the location of a former power plant which I no longer remember. My goodness, I used to take jeepney rides there with another ex girlfriend whose family lived in that area in 1979! As I was to learn a few days later, my ex girlfriend’s mother still lives just one street away from the Power Plant Mall. When Robynne arrived, we went to an office supplies store where she had to buy some school stuff while I found myself buying 4 tri-color pens for about 16 cents each. Then it was time to hit traffic again on the way home. It was a full day for me. As you can see, it took 2 and a half pages to write about it.

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