Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Fairy Alphabet

Ifinally found a copy of the "Fairy Alphabet" from Sesame Street which I loved when I was a child. I thought I would never see this again.

When in Oz...

Ærynn and I love to cook, and in order to cook, one must have ingredients. So, we didn't think that it would be difficult to find those ingredients. We are living in an English-speaking and yet multi-cultural country after all.

Until we discovered that there are just so many names for even common ingredients that we didn't know about until too late. For instance, we had to put up with thin soups and crumbly chicken before we realized what Aussies called corn starch—corn "flour".

Below is just a short list of other ingredients:
  • Bell pepper="Capsicum"
  • Egg plant="Aubergine"
  • Chicken="Chooks"
  • Sandwich="Sanger"

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A trip to the Melbourne Aquarium

For the longest time, I pestered Ærynn to take me to the Melbourne Aquarium. Finally, being financially independent myself, I took her instead. Here are our pics, on the Sunday before the Queen's birthday (12 June). There aren't much of them, since we still don't have a real digital camera and all these pictures have been taken with my mobile phone (which doesn't have that much memory, so we had to be picky with our shots).

Little Pasig in a corner of the Yarra on the way to the Aquarium

The Melbourne Aquarium, as it looks like when approached from the waterfront

"Here there be dragons"—a really nifty Sea Dragon was one of the creatures we first saw

The Melbourne Museum isn't just a place filled with tanks of water that happen to contain aquatic life-forms, there are permanent learning kiosks as well...

... this particular one shows you the different electrical charges certain fish and eels make compared to your own (which you determine by placing your hands on some electrical sensors shaped like palms)

This is just an example of a sort of "question-and-answer" type gadget; read the question/riddle/puzzle...

... and then flip to get the answer/solution. These are not the only gadgets around there; others are actually more ingenious, but these are the ones that fit on the view-finder.

Ærynn looking over a man-made billabong[1]. There were creatures living in it, too.

One of the main attractions of the Melbourne Aquarium—the "Shark Tank" (which actually has not only sharks but rays and other large sea-creaturs)

There were some signs that said that because of the curvature of the glass in the observation deck, the creatures would actually appear smaller than they really are. Later we got an idea of just how big when some divers were also in the tank to provide a comparison in actual size. That shark in the background was really huge! Crikey!

Ærynn took this picture as I stood on one of the observation decks.

This lady giving a little talk about sharks as divers prepared to get into the tank to feed the sharks and the rays.


... more jellyfish...

... and then this particularly magnificent one (tentacles as long as a person's height and that umbrella the size of a salad bowl).

But the most magnificent of them all is the display of a real (but dead) giant squid frozen in ice. I couldn't get a decent picture using my mobile phone, so I just downloaded this one from Wikipedia. To get an idea of the size of this small specimen: that entire block of ice is as long as a small car. Giant squid, by the way, have already been photograped alive in the wild.[2] [3] [4]

When in Oz...

There is a way to have a guided tour around Melbourne for free—ride the City Circle Tram. After we left the Aquarium, we decided to take a ride on this special tram (which, unlike the other modern trams, is one of the older ones made of wood, makes lots of noise, and has an automated voice script for each of the tram stops, explaining the sights) and we had a wonderful time. (We took the tram at night, so I'm showing another Wikipedia picture below.)

Now that the "holy grail" of finding a live giant squid is out of the way, I find out that there is an even larger squid out there. What does one call a squid even larger than the giant squid? "Colossal Squid."[5] [6] [7] Figures. I took this comparison chart from this squid article on BBC.

Monday, June 05, 2006

First Semester Now Over

'No more teachers, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks....' Yehey or as they say here - Yay! Just finished all the requirements of the first semester last Saturday. It wasn't so much the teacher that was impossible but my groupmates. All PR bureaucrats! Our final paper which was supposed to be a pared down summary of about 10 pages ended up being a giant thing at around 40 pages. Our presentation last Saturday which should have been 36 minutes long ended up being an hour long!

No more nights of group meetings where I didn't feel I could contribute. No more conversations after class about our papers. No more trying to think of paragraphs using "Comms language" which were nothing more than fluff. No more being shot down and criticised for my presentation style. No more five emails a day with 1 MB attachments of the latest draft.

Seriously, it was God's grace and my husband that sustained me.When in Oz...

Mom is spelled Mum. So of course, Mommy becomes Mummy which is funny.
I wanted to drop this subject so many times. But through the encouragement I received, I went on. There were nights when I would come home and just head straight for bed. So now, I'm looking forward to relaxing times until the last week of July when classes resume.

Next semester, I'll have to write a thesis proposal as the final output. I'm giving myself two weeks of rest before I start thinking of a topic or even a general area of interest for my thesis.

Gryphon's job is going well. Yay!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Foggy Day in Melbourne Town

One of the things that one doesn't get very often in the Philippines anymore is real fog.
View from our balcony on a normal day. . .View from our balcony on a normal day. . .
I used to experience fog in the Philippines when I was a young boy, during the early mornings in Baguio or in Cavite. It has been a long time since I actually had the pleasure of real fog.

But one of the glorious things I am experiencing now is real, almost tangible fog. Winter is setting in and it is getting cold, but fog does not usually form. However, over the last two weeks, there have been at least one day that there has been fog, and I find it wonderful.

Oh, I am aware that fog is dangerous and hazardous. Ærynn tells me that fog only seems wonderful if one isn't driving around in one's own car but instead riding a train to the city.
. . . the same view during a foggy day.. . . the same view during a foggy day.
I also know that it may not be very healthy to have too much fog. But it is still the most wonderful fog I ever experienced, not dissipating when one comes too close and with one's breath actually adding to it. Here, too, one's breath actually "smokes" even when one is merely talking. Still, I find the fog really nice.

There are times when I try to awaken the "creepiness" when I walk through the fog, because this is very much like the sort of atmospheric quality of the game and movie called "Silent Hill" but one thing that is absent in Silent Hill but present in Heidelberg are the noises and the colors. One cannot feel creepy. I feel, rather, that this is just one aspect of Lothlörien: dangerous but wonderful at the same time.

Silent Hill
I took all these pictures with my camera in my mobile phone when Ærynn and I were on our way to the train station to go to work. As she had mentioned in the previous entry, I now have a job. For the first week while we underwent what is known as "induction" I also got to ride the train in the morning and walk from the station to the street where the main office was. Incidentally, it was just a block away from where Ærynn worked, but we've only had lunch together once—we were that busy. A bit about the differences between what Pinoys and Aussies mean about induction. To the Pinoy, induction is a ceremony where some new manager or big-shot is welcomed to work. To the Aussie, it is at the very least a three-day orientation program (ours lasted about a week) that is meant to have us up and ready to work: we are introduced to everybody and their functions (no long and arduous trial-and-error methods of finding things out through assimilation), we are shown what our duties are, and we are given a trial run where we are allowed to make mistakes. How about that.

The bowling lane just on the
other side of our street
After the induction, I was given the option of working from home. There are, of course, several advantages, primary of which is that I don't have to wear my suit very often. It's not that I don't like wearing the suit because I am glad for the excuse to dress up. It's just that I only have one suit and I can't afford to have something happen to that suit. Suits here are expensive (costing around $200 to $500) and having the suits dry-cleaned (a must) is also expensive ($11, while a good meal already costs $6).

That's another reason why I am in no hurry to go to the city for work, much as I want to. We've so far been living off Ærynn's salaray and even if we aren't destitute, having another mouth to feed has reduced us to living hand-to-mouth. Of course, this is not as bad as living hand-to-mouth as it is back in the Philippines, but being able to cut corners until I start having a much more regular salary is a good idea. And one way to cut corners is to prepare lunches from home without having to spend on public transportation or on a restaurant. In fact, I even make lunches for Ærynn to take in the morning.

The Heidelberg train station across
the street enshrouded in mist
And so I work from home and, technically, we are allowed to keep our own hours. Practically, those of us who work from home need to keep basically the same hours as our office-bound brethren. For one thing, our team leader and Lead Instructional Designer, ð–, should always find a way to contact us and vice-versa. So we were instructed to install Skype into our computers so that we can always call each other if we need to. It was just like going to the office after all, except that I can be dressed in my flannel pyjamas and gusset slippers (which I was dressed in when we were having our weekly meeting via phone conference).

There are few things that I miss from the Philippines and which Australia does not have. One of the most important is true unlimited DSL Broadband. I believe a lot of people take it for granted that Pinoys pay a pittance for DSL service that allows unlimited downloads. In Australia, we are limited to a monthly allowance. The cheapest is around 300MB per month. If all you do is check your email, then 300 megabytes a month isn't all that bad.
The Hurstbridge to Flinders Street train
coming out of the mist
But if you chat and use VoIP, you are in big trouble. For the unfortunates, their ISP would start charging them for every extra megabyte they download above their monthly allowance. The fortunates (like us) merely have their download speeds limited, from 512Kbps to only 28Kbps and no extra charges. Of course, it means snail pace internet access slower than even the dial-up in the Philippines.

So, even when we now have Skype (for free calls over the internet to our family back in the Philippines) and even a web cam (given to us by GM from Fairview Park), we can't use it. We've used up all of our data allowance and the only time we can use it freely would be today, the first billing day of the month where everything is reset. At least Ærynn had enough foresight to get the package that allowed us to download 2 Gigabytes a month, but even that wasn't enough. We're thinking of upgrading our account to 7 GB a month, but at the cost of an extra $11 to the monthly bill. We will pace ourselves instead.
When in Oz...

Ærynn was asked how it felt like to be a "dink"—of course, she had no clue what that means. DINK, it appears, stands for "Double-income, no kids" and she was asked that because I already had a job too. Finding that out, Ærynn had to truthfully answer that she didn't feel like a dink yet, since my first paycheck comes a month later.
All in all, God has been faithful and active in our lives in such a powerful way. It sounds clichéd, I know. . . like the sort of things that false prophets (televangelists) get people to say on their TV shows to get even more people to give them more money. But God really has. I cannot say I didn't expect God helping and blessing us—it was as expected as when people who love us give us help. But it is as wonderful and tangible as the fog that was wafting around Heidelberg that morning. People were taking that fog for granted in the same way that a lot of people take God's blessings for granted, which isn't always a bad thing. What is a bad thing is when we stop being thankful for those blessings and, instead, feel that we are entitled to them. I know that I am not entitled to what God has given us now, but I am glad and thankful that He blessed us anyway.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday Reds

T his is what I wrote last night when I couldn't get online:

Gryphon applied for his first job in Australia last Wednesday. The role was for an Instructional Designer (designer of learning materials, usually for distance education). They interviewed him last Friday and that same afternoon they offered him a six-week job! They even told him that his American accent helped because the clients they design learning materials for are American companies. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! It can only be God's hand and the help of AMES. We made the right decision for Gryphon to enroll in the Skilled Professional Migrants' Program at AMES which has only been running for the past two years. They polished his resume and cover letter and helped him prepare for the interview.

Off he went Friday morning wearing a suit, the first time I ever saw him in one. At around five he called me up with the news and I was struck dumb. He actually got the position he was gunning for - a job that would combine his techie and teaching skills! Of course, he'll have to go back to school soon to acquire qualifications recognised by Oz. But tonight, he is excited and nervous and scared and constipated but oh so grateful!

Monday night:
Gryphon is currently snoring away all tired from his first day at work. He couldn't sleep last night and kept waking up in fits and starts. He even got up at 5:00am eventhough we normally get out of bed at 6:30am. I can understand the anxiety. I think most of us feel that way when confronted by huge change or opportunity. I know I felt that way as well... you feel that you might not have the right stuff. From our chats tonight, I can sense the tension he is feeling. Everyone else in the office is more experienced in this field, it's going to be a full-on job and they have a rigorous quality assurance process. But it is a challenge I know he wants to have and one he's willing to take. One that he has actually been spoiling for even when he was in the Philipines.When in Oz...

A common way of saying goodbye is "See you later!", normally abbreviated to "See yah." This doesn't mean that the person will see you later. In fact, I've had a customer service representative tell me this over the phone.

Tomorrow, he said that he'll bring fruit for lunch since everyone else brought one... the office acculturation is starting! He looked nice wearing a suit today (the same suit) and will definitely need more office clothes. They want him to go to the office in the city for his first two weeks. Then work from home but attend meetings in the city every Friday.

When it's Monday and you feel sad, you say you have the Monday blues. But today, Gryphon had an intense day - excitement, joy and fear all rolled into one - so I'll call it the Monday reds.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The First Floor

We finally have a computer! When we first transferred flats in March, I didn't think it would be such a big deal not having our own PC and we could hold off buying one but it was just difficult. Gryphon is a techie and he can't live without one. We got a monthly instalment deal and we're excited because it's got a TV tuner and we get to watch television in the comfort of our room. And it also gives us the chance to connect to family and friends via YM and Skype. Gryphon turns it on first thing in the morning to see what the temperature is and since yesterday, it has been a top of 13 degrees, signaling well and truly that it is winter. One blessing we received in connection with this is that our churchmates, the Sisons, donated their old white computer table that was destined for the scrap heap. So things worked out well.

Now that Gryphon is here, our weekends and holidays have been full. We spent Good Friday at the St Albans Uniting Church with the Filipino congregation (another hook-up courtesy of the Sisons). It was so much like being back home, just wonderful to meditate on Jesus's seven last words. Then we were able to meet up with Kuya Bener, Ate Candy and their family, former churchmates at the Kamuning First UMC. We were able to watch the video of their son's wedding while eating turon (fried banana in spring roll wrapper) and freshly cracked almonds.

St. Alban's
Uniting Church of Australia
We went driving afterwards and looked at lakes near their home and we reached the posh suburb of Williamstown. It was just wonderful fellowshiping with them and filling in the gaps of the years in between.

One Sunday we ate yumcha at a suburb called Sunshine with another couple. It was an adventure as we were served chicken feet and lots of dimsim with prawn (which Gryphon is unfortunately addicted to) but we managed because the food was great and it was good value as well. Then we looked at model homes in the new suburb of Point Cook. These were huge fully furnished homes that gave us ideas of how we would like our dream homes to look like. We definitely want a huge kitchen but not huge everything else as cleaning will be a nightmare.

Inside a display home
at Point Cook
It was great following after the other couple in their sports car because I kept up with their speed and found myself flying through the highway. Mind you, I had always been scared to go on the highway before this point. So that was a real learning experience in terms of driving.

Last Saturday, we hosted our Bible study group for the first time. There were about 10 people who came. We served them munchies, hot arroz caldo and chocolate chip cookies (my friend Luci's recipe). The discussion around the book of Ruth was inspired and our table spread was a hit! We bought some silverware (spoons, forks, teaspoons) and some placemats the day before. Then that day, we went to Preston market and bought the ingredients. Our friends loved the flat and the view because it's like Baguio.

Gryphon is currently taking classes for professional migrants to help them find work in Australia and to understand the culture. He's learning so many things and he comes home excited and full of hope. One thing he is learning to adjust to is the cold. We have bought an electric heater in our room and he puts on layers of clothing but I guess nothing really prepares you for the stinging cold wind.
When in Oz...

The first floor of a building is called the ground floor. The second floor is called the first floor. So right now we live in the first floor of a two-storey flat (maybe we live in the second storey). Go figure!

Other than that, we have been visiting one of my aunts a lot, scouting for a PC, going to the Immigration Museum to look at their Greek exhibit, buying things for the flat... and learning to live as husband and wife. There are times when I wake up and marvel that Gryphon is here, that we are finally together. Even now that we have only lived one and a half months together, I cannot imagine life without him. We are slowly climbing up and struggling and adjusting but always thankful that we have each other.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Grass is Green

It always comes as a shock and a revelation whenever one finds something new about oneself. Or rather, when one realizes that one actually has some attitudes that one never expected. I never expected that I would be one of those Pinoys that was subconsciously assuming that 'the grass is greener on the other side'. When I touched down here, I was smitten by the same sort of fever I once observed in Ærynn, the sort of fever that constantly 'realizes' just how much better Oz is over the Philippines.

I also realized that, inspite of all this, I am still very much a Pinoy. I still catch myself saying 'sana ganyan din sa atin,' as if 'atin' was still the Philippines. Ærynn is already well on her way down the road of becoming a Melbourne citizen (identifying with Melbourne whenever it is held in comparison with Sydney, for example) and feeling that Victoria is her state. I think I am fortunate that I don't feel terribly homesick or experiencing the debilitating type of culture shock (I mean, I still have it, but not to a debilitating degree) because I came here with a 'home' waiting for me. But, as I said, I am still so much the Pinoy in that I always wish and, indeed, insist that some of the wonderful things I find here should also be found in the Philippines. It was only a bit later that I realized that Oz and the Philippines maybe different, but not really 'worlds apart' different.

Take the self discipline, for instance. In the Pinas, I got used to long, unorderly queues to the MRT/LRT with security checking everything and almost everything banned on the train. The train stations are basically sealed off. But here security is so lax. It's relatively easy to board a train and step off without a ticket. I've even seen people bring along dogs, bicycles and into the trains. I've been told that times when security is heightened is when there are terror threats or big events like the last Commonwealth Games. But, in the main, it seems, Aussies are perfectly willing to obey rules without having to be told all the time by someone else. And so, no one eternally having to check your pockets and look into your bags.

Apparently a self-regulating country is a much free-er country than one that needs too much 'maintenance' and 'regulation.'

Yet, inspite of all the self-discipline, I am beginning to find that one of the things that Pinoys and Aussies will share is that there will be some people who are thoughtless and rude. Public transport passengers whinge (complain) through MX (a free afternoon newspaper) about the rudeness of people along their train line—people jostling old people aside, or not allowing passengers to get down first before boarding, among other complaints. When I read about that, I actually said aloud 'Ah. . . parang Pinas din pala.' I'm sure that there are certain places in Manila and Quezon City, or even the Philippines that have their well-mannered communities (up until the late 90's, I would have said Baguio City every time). But although Manila has a much denser population than Melbourne I found more polite, helpful people here than back there. Perhaps the added stress of living so closely to too many people is detrimental to manners.

So, whenever I hear an Aussie complain about Melbourne 'losing the Melbourne spirit that we had during the Commonwealth Games' (the spirit so akin to the mythical bayanihan spirit we Pinoys supposedly have) I smile inwardly a little bit. With Pinoy attitudes and manners still fresh in my mind, I still think that Aussies are better off. But that isn't very fair. It is, after all, a matter of relativity. Maybe someday, when I get to know Aussies better, maybe I, too, shall think that things can still be better.

One other thing that I didn't know that I didn't think I would see in Melbourne is poverty and unemployment. I mean, this is the country of opportunity! This is the country that actually gave me my Tax File Number, my Medicare number, and help in finding work within my first month here. I mean, there are actually systems already in place to help people like me find not just work but the sort of work that is suited to me. For free. While the universities in the Pinas would do its level best to make you go through the motions of education (not caring whether you actually learn skills or not as long as you end up with 'a degree'), they cast you adrift as soon as you graduate. Then you find that all those years of tuition was wasted on acquiring outdated skills or knowledge, that you have to undergo more training to make you fit for the workplace. So I am pleasantly surprised that the Aussies actually put a premium on what you are actually able to do.

Yet there still is poverty. There still is unemployment. Right here. Right now. Homeless people stand out anywhere, and especially here.

Still, it seems that Aussies accept that poverty and unemployment are a large enough problems in Oz that they created those very systems that are helping me now just to stem the tide. Apparently, even if we have a highly educated and literate society it doesn't necessarily mean an end to poverty (as Pinoy politicians believe with so much faith). I have been told, in fact, in one of those free employment seeking seminars that the phrase 'it isn't what you know but who you know' is as true in Oz as it is in the Philippines. What d'ya know? May palakasan pa rin.

The difference is that those who are unemployed here are those who haven't gone to 'Uni' (that is, the University, or college), or have very few skills, or started out too poor to go to school and get those skills or are migrants. On the occassion that they are Uni graduates and still unemployed, it's because the job market is saturated and therefore has become competitive. Which is all very nice and logical anyway. Of course, these may very well turn out to be generalisations and I may be proven wrong at a later date.

In the Pinas, however, where people claim University education as a right, and therefore all should have it, every job is saturated with people who are, in theory, over-qualified. High school students here can find jobs whereas in the Pinas if you are a high-school graduate you might as well be a 'no read, no write' person (which, I sadly observe, may not be very far from the truth) and no job other than the really low-paying ones are open to you.

But the Philippines does not hold the monopoly on the 'dumbing down' of education. Just this morning I was watching the Sunrise program on Seven (which is their version of Unang Hirit, which is coincidentally shown on GMA 7) and there was a report on the 'dumbing down' of English courses to make it easier for students to pass. Sounds familiar, since in the Philippines, it is being done for decades. The younger generation (apparently worldwide) are less able to read and write than their predecessors. It is a slow descent into entropy. So far, the Aussies are trying to fight it, as opposed to the Pinoy way of justifying it. At any rate, the Prime Minister (John Howard) seems to be demanding the inclusion of more classics on the reading list to improve matters (imagine Tita Glo, may she leave office, trying to convince the already lazy Pinoy students to read more books—it might be what finally topples her from power).

I also altruistically believed that teachers in Oz may be better off than teachers in the Philippines. Then I remembered this old article I wrote about an article written for The Age some time ago, and I'm not in such a hurry to become a teacher here after all.

As my wife Ærynn puts it, one only truly realizes that the Philippines is a 'third-world country' only when one is living in a more developed country. Yeah, humans are humans everywhere, and the same flaws in Pinoys can als be found When in Oz...

Whingers are those who whinge or complain too much (seems to have come from 'whine' but is pronounced to rhyme with 'hinge'). Looks like I've done a bit of whinging myself.
in Aussies, but here I find a basic truth resonating again and again but which people everywhere do not want to admit: there is more freedom when there are limits. Pinoys do whatever they want, and are allowed to do whatever they want because of widespread and endemic corruption down to the grass-roots level, and so they have to contend with security guards everywhere and not so efficient systems. It is what they have foisted on themselves and it is what they deserve. Aussies, too, are prone to the same follies, but they have a set of strict rules which actually gives greater freedom.

It is a major controversy now that the police are pushing to have the law changed that will allow parents to be held responsible for the wrong-doings of their errant children. If this becomes a reality soon, maybe Australia will become a better place to raise kids after all.

But, these are the words of one who's only been here less than a month, and I'm only calling it as I now see it. I shall keep watching, and we shall see. In the meantime, my grass is green.
Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side
And I paid a visit
(Well, it's possible I missed it)
It seemed different,
Yet exactly the same

'Til further notice,
I'm in-between
From where I'm standing,
My grass is green

(Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side)
(theme song from As Told by Ginger)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fish and Chips and the Big Smoke

Gryphon has been curious about fish and chips and so far he's seen a lot of shops selling this meal around Melbourne. It's composed of the side of the fish marinated and having some batter either deep fried or grilled and potato chips (fat versions of French fries). We had some last night and it was nice with some salad. But we wondered out loud how this dish became an icon in Britain (it was probably just imported to Australia).

I've had a full week's work this week and Gryphon has been so nice taking me to and from the train station. He's learned to get to the CBD (Central Business District) or "the City" for short via train. Last Sunday (his birthday), we went to the city to watch a movie (Tristan and Isolde) and bought a shower caddy. Afterwards, we walked along Swanston Street (the main city street) and took in the sights and sounds. Gryphon wondered at the many people walking the streets and how people actually felt safe just casually strolling around at night. That day, the temperature had dropped from 30 degrees to 10 degrees and we were both shocked at the sudden autumn weather. So we were clutching tightly at our jackets.

Gryphon was excited about our walk and marveled at the old sights such as St Paul's Cathedral and the Flinders Street Train Station which looked like a real old-time train station.
Flinders Street Train Station
However, right in front of these icons is the post-modern Federation Square. When we got beyond the square, we discovered the Yarra River boulevard. The night was quiet, the lights were romantic and the river was placid. It was a time for us to just reflect on how blessed we were. We found ourselves praying aloud for all our loved ones while sitting on one of the benches. We miss the families we left behind but glad that we have each other and the opportunity to experience all these sights and sounds.

Gryphon traveled again to the city last Wednesday so we can get his Medicare card (to enable him to get into the public health care system of Australia). On Thursday, he came with me during the morning and we had brekkie (breakfast) together. That inspired me for the whole day.When in Oz...

When people refer to "The Big Smoke" they aren't referring to a barbecue (which is popular in Australia). It actually refers to "The City".
Then he came for me after my night class. As both of us were feeling adventurous, we walked along the Southbank (other river bank) of the Yarra. It was so romantic. But we couldn't find a place to eat. Finally, we got some sandwiches at the train station and watched the pigeons feeding on bread being scattered by an old woman.

We will have a new feature in this blog entitled "When in Oz" giving tips and things we've learned from living here. So here's the first one, in a box on the right.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Burgundy Street

Gryphon Hall014.jpg
Originally uploaded by Gryphon Hall
This is Burgundy Street, supposedly the heart of historic Heidelberg. I had to walk down this street to purchase a few things we needed around the house. This was the first time I went downtown on my own without my wife accompanying me.

It was ok, I guess.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

No Longer Giddy... But Feeling Bliss

It has been a week now since my husband has come to Australia. That first day, it all seemed surreal seeing him at the airport and actually getting to talk to him and hug him. Then when we tried to have an afternoon nap, it was strange having someone else in the bed... and snoring loudly to boot.

That evening, we were able to go the Bible Study and then our flatmate's birthday the next day. And we have been going around trying to get things and buy things needed now that we are in our flat and now that Gryphon is in Oz. We are essentially newlyweds and it is bliss. I no longer have to go to shops alone, etc. Last Monday, we went to the groceries and it was so natural just buying food and toiletries with him. When I wake up, I usually find that he is hugging me and it is joy to just stay in that embrace.

Gryphon is experiencing Australia for the first time and seeing everything with fresh eyes. He kept on asking where all the people were. Coming from a city of 11 million (Manila) to a city of 3 million (Melbourne) which is also bigger in terms of area, it was strange to him to see few people along the streets. He also noticed the maple trees that line our street and kept on comparing this place to Baguio and Cavite. He even noticed that the stars are different.

I'm also happy because other people are happy for us. One officemate gave us champagne, another gave us Haigh's chocolate (really good), still another a bouquet of red roses and white orchids and my former manager even gave me a new blouse. Yesterday, we had lunch with a young Filipino couple and their two little girls... they were so welcoming towards him.

We opened a new joint bank account and Gryphon was amazed that the bank people were actually happy to have our business and took the time to know what we needed the bank account for. It was such a contrast to our earlier experiences with banks in the Philippines where the staff behaved like they were doing us a favour when we opened our bank accounts and we were intruding on their time.

Last night, my good lady friends Jo and Marc went with us to a wonderful award-winning Indian restaurant named Cafe Saffron (link 1 & link 2), the food was in a word - orgasmic! The owner noticed that we were having a difficult time ordering so he took our menus away from us, told us that he will "take care" of us and actually ordered the food. The entree was a spice-encrusted meat dish coupled with some crisp bread. Then the feast came comprised of their signature dishes. I cannot tell you the names of any of them but they were delicious. Made me rethink my total concept of Indian food as being weird smelly. These were just bursting with flavour. The manager even gave us complementary desserts which we all loved. Then we all went to our new flat and brought out Gryphon's birthday cake and he blew the candles. A (our flatmate) came home and we all had a great time - Jo and Marc gave Gryphon mugs, chocolate and candles and they even paid for the dinner! They left our place at 3 in the morning.

Anyway, have a lot of pressures at work and in school right now and it's really stressful but Gryphon takes me to the train station in the morning and when I come home, he's there patiently waiting at train station and we walk the five minutes to our flat. It's enough.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A New Honeymoon: The First Week

It has been an exciting week. Ærynn has convinced me to make regular posts on my first few days here; she notes that a lot of people eventually take everything lovely in Oz for granted and stop being thankful. She says, and I agree, that if there was some record of what, at first blush, seems real and good, it can stave off what the Commission on Filipinos Overseas told us was an epidemic amongst Pinoy migrants: clinical depression.

But first, a rundown on the past week:

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Only two more sleeps to go. Finding it hard to concentrate on work, school or anything else right now. Floating on air. Can't believe the moment is here. And our room is still a mess. Have class tonight so I can't clean up. There's always tomorrow night. I don't think I'll sleep. He arrives at 7:05am Saturday morning.

P.S. Jennie from work just handed me a lovely bottle of champagne (Seppelt Salinger Vintage 2002) this morning. It's on my desk with a nice cascading red ribbon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Three days left. . . be still my heart

Iam used to moving. I have been moving for as long as I can remember. I used to like to think of myself as an expert in moving. But there is a difference between walking a tightrope 3 feet off the ground and walking the same tightrope several stories up. I can say that I prepared for a move with no fear whatsoever just because of the very "correctability" of the move. I would move from Quezon City to Tarlac City to Novaliches in a heartbeat and not have any problems because of the very real fact that even if I screw it up or even if I left things behind,
This is my "countdown" to how many days I have left until
the flight, which, of course, will reflect that there are
no days left if I'm actually with her already.
I can always come back to either get my stuff, whether it were with my folks or in my former apartment.

But thanks to the sheer "uncorrectability" of the move to Oz is promising to be, I am (shamefully) at my wit's end. There's the weight restriction, for one. And then there's the stuff I'm not allowed to bring (my cherished heirloom sword). These are all severely limiting to someone who is sentimental and loves his stuff. I just extracted a promise from my mother to box up all the stuff I leave behind. For what? I'm not coming back for them, am I? The sort of rationalizations that play in my head is the possible scenarios of my kids poring over my old stuff and finding out what their old man is like. Possible, but probably improbable. Why am I like that? And why am I like that only when it is this particular move? I have gotten rid of stuff that had had "sentimental value" before with no ill effects; why now?

My wife asks me the same question everytime baggage of another kind would occassionally crop up in our conversation. It is so easy to leave hang-ups when the move seems to be "small-scale" but "large-scale" (perhaps I should have used the term "larger-scale" instead) moves show me clinging stubbornly and desperately to those same hang-ups? Why am I like that?

Fortunately, these same limitations may be the very things that will help me let go. Perhaps the very transitoryness of a Pastor's Kid's life has taught me to let go. Maybe what I felt was "small-scale" and "large-scale" is not so much a matter of degree but merely impression. When my hard disk crashed and I lost my portable camcorder, I was bothered but now I rarely miss them—I survived and went on.

Of course, when I talk about one particular emotion for the sake of the unity of a post there is a danger that the reader will assume that that is the only emotion I am feeling and not have an accurate picture of the "me-as-I-am". It isn't. What I've just written down is just the small, nagging itch amidst the torrent of joy and giddiness I am floating in with the thought that I shall be joining Ærynn soon. As I write this, the Daisy Chain above says "3 days until we are together." This is happiness. This is joy. After so many times of having to adjust the Daisy Chain, finally it is going to remain as it is and to let the countdown continue. This is happiness. This is joy. And maybe coming just as I am and leaving all those other things that seem to be so important right now doesn't even count as a price to pay to be with my wife.

And, maybe someday much later, I will have to think of leaving more behind to be in more glorified surroundings.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On The Move

I am pretty sure my bones, joints and previously un-used muscles will be aching tomorrow. Took the day off to start moving some of our stuff to the new flat. So today, did four trips - from one 2nd floor flat to another 2nd floor flat. Tomorrow will be the big day when we have two movers and a truck to help us. The plan is to go to my aunt's house and pick up some furniture and a fridge there and then to my flatmate's aunt's house to get furniture we purchased from her and some freebies thrown in.

Finally, they'll come to our flat and get all the big and heavy furniture and books. Then to the new place. It will be massive and we'll also have to clean up our old flat to get the bond back as well as get the carpet steam cleaned. But we have until Sunday to do that.

One thing that helped me with my solitary work today was being able to go around the new flat - I noticed that there are some things that need to be repaired like the broken toilet bowl and the skewed light fixtures. But there is a lot of shelf space in the kitchen and we'll now be able to see the cans and dry food that we actually have (right now, we put them in shelves that are high up). There are also more cabinets and things. And we'll have our own washing machine instead of waiting our turn in the communal laundry. Finally, we won't have to hear all the train announcements and hear the monthly "loud" cleaning up of the train station.

Talked to our phone and Internet provider and unfortunately, we'll only start having access on the 27th of March. So to those who sent emails, sorry I wasn't able to answer because of the craziness of this week. But once we have access to the Internet again, I'll definitely reply. Anyway, again, thanks for the great emails and the great wishes for our new life together.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Visa Cometh!

The happy day has come! After more than a year of tears and frustration and prayers - GRYPHON HAS HIS VISA! It arrived today and I was at the office when he told me. I gave a shriek loud enough to be heard in the whole department so now everyone at work knows the good news.

When Gryphon and I got married in January of 2005, we would never have envisioned that we would be apart for more than a few months. But there were many problems encountered along the way and by the time our anniversary arrived, he still had not been interviewed by the Australian embassy.

The next time we heard from the Embassy was February 20 when they told him that his application was now in the final stages of processing. But we didn't know exactly what that meant. Did it mean days, weeks or months of waiting? Everyday was literally an agony after this because although we had been disappointed many times, our hearts continued to hope.

When I was looking at the possible schedule for our (my flatmate and I) move to a bigger and better flat, I was telling Gryphon that I wish he could come to Australia after our big move on the 18th of March. So we actually wrote down the 26th of March in our calendars as his day of arrival. I guess it was to keep ourselves from being depressed (although it DID not work). That way, I said, he could be here a week before his birthday and a week after the busy move. Gryphon had told me dozens of times that thinking of celebrating another birthday apart just ripped his heart to shreds.

So you can imagine our joy and the overwhelming sensations we both felt today. Gryphon was dancing and laughing and crying and shouting all at the same time. I seriously loved every person I met today. I don't think I've hugged so many people in my life. We will finally live together as husband and wife and start on a life together. And believe me, this has been a long time coming - Gryphon was actually my boyfriend for about 7 years before we got married!

To everyone who has supported us and prayed with us throughout this drawn-out wait, thank you so very much. All praise to God from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In search of Battlestar Galactica

I may have several drafts of possible posts waiting to be finished, but I am too lazy right now to actually write something that makes sense. So, instead, I'm listing down a link to an interesting article I came across while I was trying to find out more about the new Battlestar Galactica. I hope that my wife and I would watch this series together someday.

You can also download (using BitTorrent, of course) the live presentation of "Piracy Is Good?", delivered by Mark Pesce on May 6th, 2005 at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. (200MB) Very, very interesting, to say the least.

Who would have guessed? They actually made a classic series better. I wish somebody someday can do the same for Mulawin and Encantadia.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Resolved: I shall be constructing an hPAA

This week has been unexpectedly busy for me. Since last week I had been involved in an internet debate and I have been having a rum time trying to organize my data. I have also been assigned to give the mid-week sermon last Wednesday (February 15), which meant even more organization of data. I have also had to give assistance to one of my brothers in researching a good enough PDA phone to replace his excellent but suddenly not as "useful" Nokia. Later in the week, I've had to visit the family of a poor guy who was murdered for his cellphone, and then make the tedious trip back to my former employer to get my back pay and put it in the bank.

My youngest brother had been taking his post-graduate studies finally this year and, I am happy to report, doing well. However, he is suddenly finding that having a job and studying in the evening is taxing and time-consuming. To cut a long story short: even if he has a PC at home and access to a laptop that his job is allowing him to use, he finds that both are still too inconvenient for him. He needs, for instance, access to several Bible versions and a few resources that would have had him lugging around big books, or else, copious notes. There are, of course, eBook versions of these that are normally readable on the PC or a laptop, but as I said these are very inconvenient to bring. The obvious solution is, of course, a PDA.

Since he cannot afford something brand new, he has had to trade in his Nokia and get something second-hand. If I might say so myself, the O2 XDA II PDA we got last Wednesday was a good bargain. It had the original box with complete original accessories with it, including the important installation CD. By the next day, I had already installed a lot of free resources (like several Bible versions, including one in Tagalog, and some other references) and he was able to copy his report (in MS Word Doc format) onto it for him to easily modify later for his class.

It took almost the entire day on Wednesday to find him a good bargain, and I had barely enough time to prepare my sermon. I wasn't in the mood to use the lectionary and I had wanted to give a sermon on "Love" since it was February after all. But I found that having too much to say is as much a disadvantage as having too little. In the end, I merely listed down some facts that I do know about love (including the four divisions that C.S. Lewis made) and several Bible verses about why we should love and what cold love is a symptom of. I used the "Compose" feature of Gmail to write my sermon so that I don't have to open MS Word or WordPerfect. I wrote only an almost bare outline and decided to wing it later than night.

In the end, if the congregation is to be believed, they thought it was the best sermon I have given yet (I've preached a total of two to this particular group of parishoners), and one of the pastors listening even told me that he was touched to the heart. It was a personal success for me, but I must admit that it almost ended in disaster.

If there is one thing that ties in all of these is that, despite having a PDA myself (an aging Palm m130) I am still having difficulty organizing data. Oh, I am very happy with my Palm device for data of a digital matter; but I mostly use it as a portable digital library of eBooks I have either obtained or digitized myself. I rarely use the "To Do" function. About the only other function that I extensively use is the "Calendar" function (as a glorified alarm clock to remind me of important events like birthdays and tv program schedules) and the "Address Book" function (for storing phone numbers and other details). But the one thing that I had hoped I could use it for, that of a personal database, is the one thing that I have not used it for lately.

It's not entirely my fault. I had in previous times used it as such, using Documents To Go as a digital "tickler" notebook. But I have since worn out the touch screen with my incessant note-taking that it is no longer reliable for that purpose. The touch screen works well enough for me to access my eLibrary, but little else.

I can, of course, purchase a folding keyboard, but that kinda defeats the purpose of it being a "portable" digital notebook. In the end, it spends more time sitting pretty in it's neophrene holster as a glorified digital Library and newspaper (using AvantGo, I'd been downloading the Daily Inquirer and other news sites) that I can read in the dark.

But with this on-g0ing online debate, I really need a notebook for taking notes and organizing my thoughts. I had always used tickler notebooks before, but inspite of their working well for its purpose, they aren't versatile enough.

Then, several things happened at once. I remembered that back in college we used notecards instead of notebooks (basically, they are index cards used for the purpose of taking quotations and properly referencing them). Before I started using my wife's m130, I always had a pack of them in my pocket for taking down notes. They were easy to organize, but also easy to lose track of.

Then, while reading about Internet Phenomena on Wikipedia, I came across this article on the Hipster PDA, and it seemed to be the answer I was looking for. I quote the entire article below:
The Hipster PDA is a paper-based personal organizer popularised, if not invented, by San Francisco writer Merlin Mann. Originally a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the increasing expense and complexity of personal digital assistants, the Hipster PDA (said to stand for 'Parietal Disgorgement Aid') simply comprises a sheaf of index cards
Hipster PDA
held together with a binder clip. Following widespread coverage in the media and blogs, the Hipster PDA (abbreviated 'hPDA') has become a popular personal management tool particularly with geeks and followers of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology and users of the Fisher Space Pen.

Advocates of the hPDA claim that it is a cheap, lightweight, free-form organiser which doesn't need batteries and is unlikely to be stolen. Critics cite the lack of integration with desktop PC productivity software and point out that there is no easy way to back up the often critical information stored in an hPDA.

Although it began as a joke, or perhaps a statement about technology fetishism, the Hipster PDA has rapidly gained a population of serious users, with hundreds posting pictures of their customised hPDAs on photo sharing sites and exchanging tips on Internet mailing lists. Enthusiasts also design and share index card-size printable templates for storing contacts, to-do lists, calendars, notes, project plans, and so on.

The Hipster PDA (perhaps so named because it is a pocket device, or as an allusion to hipster culture) has become something of an Internet phenomenon, gaining popularity primarily among young, technology-literate people especially IT workers. It represents a 'back-to-basics' or Zen attitude to personal management.
The answer has been obvious all along. In my most recent job, I had used index cards more often than tablets they gave us; I had even written my entire presentation on it. Of course, the term is a misnomer, since PDA stands for Personal Digital Assistant, but this "PDA" is not digital. It's analog. Of course, according to the article above and the site that "instructs" you how to "construct" one (43Folders), it's supposed to mean "Parietal Disgorgement Aid," whatever that means. I guess they need to keep the PDA acronym to preserve its "geek" factor; calling it merely a "sheaf of index cards" isn't cool.

I will be constructing one, because I need it (especially on that online debate on the mailing list), but I will be calling it hPAA, short for Hipster Personal Analogue Assistant. It will be pronounced as hi-pah (with the glottal stop) so that it can benefit from the assonance with iPAQ. In my mind are numerous "hacks" to make my hPAA more "gadget-like" (like constructing a cardboard wallet with pockets for Post-it flags and a pen), but I guess I'll try to keep it simple for now and use a binding clip in the meantime.

I must remind myself that I am construcing a hPAA not to play around with it, but to use it as a tool.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by this and I will give an update as to how it works. I can't wait to make one tomorrow!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fleeting Precious Things and Forlorn Hopes

One of the really good things about a really good book or a really good movie is that they have the potential to last. A movie I enjoyed when I was young I can reasonably hope would also be enjoyed by my progeny, if a copy of that movie still exists. A book is even easier—as long as I, myself, have a copy of a book that means a lot to me, the possibility of sharing it to my children in the future is a joy to me.

Still, there are certain things which are so precious and yet so fleeting that one can almost despair that anybody else can share it with you. People have felt this when there is a particular play or cantata or musical which was magical, but with a magic that lasts only through the night and only imperfectly in one's memories. So many people, for instance, point to Christopher Plummer's performance as Cyrano de Bergerac as his best performance in his entire career. I wouldn't know. I didn't watch it; and I will always have the feeling of having been excluded from such a wonderful experience.

Nevertheless, cantatas can be performed again. Plays have scripts that can be published and enjoyed. Musicals that one hasn't ever watched can be remade as films (the way the Broadway musical of the Phantom of the Opera has been) and be enjoyed by new generations. So, even here there is potentially some hope that one can feel that one isn't alone in enjoying these treasures, no matter how different they are.

The same cannot be said of computer games. One of the things that my wife and I shared even as best friends were computer games. Before even a hint of romance between us, we were already close trading secrets and strategies of the games of WarCraft and MYST. As we became closer and closer to each other, there was Final Fantasy VII. WarCraft and MYST both have novels written for them and complete histories that will satisfy the cravings of knowledge; but this is not the same as actually "living" the games. Of course, there still is a WarCraft game out there, and several MYST sequels, but as memorable as these games are to me, to my wife and countless others, they will be forgotten by the next generation. Not because they aren't worth remembering but because there is no way for them to exist once the technologies they are based on becomes obsolete. I find this very sad.

It is even worse with Final Fantasy VII. This game was designed for a console that is no longer being manufactured, and the discs that I saved for and bought are no longer in good condition, even if I am able to preserve the PSOne console for my children. Even when I tried downloading a PC version of it, hoping to relive some of the joy and happiness of playing it, it has problems even working on Windows XP. It is sad, because the story of Final Fantasy VII is one of the best that I have ever lived through. "Lived" because, unlike even the best books, role-playing games such as these allow you to actually live out the characters, even if the story-line is linear. Someday, I can hope to have my kids read Pride and Prejudice when they are old enough, probably watch a DVD of the BBC version; I cannot hope for the same with Final Fantasy VII. True, there is one anime "prequel" and a movie "sequel" to the games, but none of these hold any meaning apart from the game. These movies mean something because we played the game.

Sometimes I wish somebody would write a novel concerning the game, but I realize now that that is a fool's hope. The printed word vs the audio-visual journey are very different things. Notwithstanding issues of canon, putting "the game" down into words will kill the game. How does one translate all the possible materia combinations, the different strategies for defeating the Weapons, the side quests or even Chocobo raising, training and racing into the written word without making it long, tedious, boring and irrelevant?

Prequels and sequels are okay, like they did for the MYST franchise, but even the creators realized that they shouldn't novelize the actual games itself. It shouldn't be done for Final Fantasy VII either.

So, sometimes I wish that Square-Enix had the resources to "re-publish" their "titles" for each succeeding generation, or at least find some way to preserve it so that it can still be enjoyed. I know I am not alone in hoping that Square-Enix would "remake" Final Fantasies I-VII, at least, one last time for the Playstation 3. I know that, unlike good books, good games cannot be republished ad infinitum; but it still is a wish. Then maybe, as all forlorn hopes are, there is a potential for the joy of being in connection still with the next generation, a connection with something that had meant a lot to us while we, too, had been young.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Beds and Beef

Two of my friends are planning to move out of the family home. And as I plan to move in two or more months' time, we joined forces today. We went around the suburb they want to live in and looked at houses and units. We also looked at mattresses. It was great lying down on loads of mattresses and really finding out what sort of thing we wanted. There is a big range of beds and all that but we were able to settle on a mattress that was on sale and which was comfortable, had a bit of give and good quality wise. Have around three payments that I can make on it and it can be delivered later on. But I feel so joyful that one important part of my preparation for Gryphon's arrival is out of the way.

One of these two friends also dropped by for dinner last night and I made her my dad's favorite beef stew. She loved it and was asking for the recipe. It is a sentimental dish for my family as we have it nearly every Sunday and Gryphon always looked forward to having it. I thought it would be good for me to remember what's in it and how it was prepared it so I'm sharing it with all of you. The photo shows a previous attempt when I used bok choy instead of cabbage and did not put in sweet potatoes. The sweet potato helps make the soup thicker.


Approximately for three people
3 or 4 pieces of osso bucco (cut of beef that has some bone and marrow)
2 420ml cans of red kidney beans
ginger (peeled, cut into three sections)
onion (roughly chopped)
2 carrots (roughly chopped)
4 potatoes (quartered)
1-2 sweet potatoes (quartered)
cabbage (loose leaves)
black pepper
fish sauce

Put in your osso bucco and red kidney beans in a large pot. Then put in enough water to submerge the beef. Bring everything to a boil. Then lower the heat until it the whole thing is at a simmer. Skim off the scum that comes on top. Let it continue to simmer for an hour or so and in the meantime prepare all the other ingredients. When the meat is a bit soft, put in your ginger, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

When the carrots are a bit soft, put in your onions. Stir in your fish sauce and black pepper to taste. When the beef is soft, put in your cabbage and wait for the leaves to soften a bit. Then serve while still hot.

Sauce option: My dad often makes a sauce that can be drizzled on the meat when it's already on your plate. Mix a bit of fish sauce, lemon or calamansi and some Tabasco or chili. It brings a whole other level of taste to the dish.

Note: If you are using kidney beans that are not from a can, soak the beans in water overnight.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some Quiz results—wala lang

As Dumbledore, you are talented, intelligent and powerful! You may prefer to be in a leadership position, and always uphold what is right. You set trends with your crazy beard.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Waiting Game

I'ts official. I really am a Melbourne City girl now. Started my new job during the 2nd week of January and I'm in the heart of the city everyday. I'm still learning the role and it has an administration component. But it also involves proofreading, editing and putting things online - things I love doing. So I praise God because now I'm using what I learned before and learning some things about publishing in Australia on the side. I had no clue how to get a job like this one, I was led to it.

Gryphon and I had our first wedding anniversary last January 8. It's now been a year since we've seen each other. But things are starting to look up. He was originally slated to have his interview last December but was asked to put in an extra document. But it turned out to be better timing to have his interview on January 10 because the consul's only concern was my job and how I would support him. Gryphon was able to say that I already have a permanent post. And then it turned out that he actually had chicken pox and the boils came out the next day. Talk about timing!

The consul requested that I send a certificate of employment. It arrived this Monday and got to the Embassy today. So now, it's a waiting game. It will be a minimum of two months from now but we don't really know how long it will take. It is out of our hands. So we prepare and we hope and we pray. Can't wait to be enfolded in his embrace once again.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pacelbel's Canon in D—Rock Guitar version

Man! This guy is amazing! Makes Canon in D totally rock! Wow!

English Vocabulary in the Philippines—A Private Peeve

Iknow, on an intellectual level, that English, like any language anywhere in the world, will evolve somehow depending on the local situation. Elizabethan English is different from modern English in that regard. It is with that acceptance that I hope that Tagalog can also evolve someday into something more useful and convenient for communication and instruction.

Still, I find that there are certain idiosyncrasies in the Pinoy dialect of English that I find very annoying. It is not to say that I don't approve of local modifications, because I do. Locally coined words (the word "Tambayan" for instance) enrich the vocabulary. But there are times when words are added to the vocabulary based on mistakes. Some of these mistakes are unintentional, but in others they are not only intentional but deliberate. Over the years I have come across a lot of these, but I will only mention two right now.

Iam quite sure the local meaning for the word "salvage" did not exist until at the very earliest the 70's. I am sure because I still remember when the word "salvage" was still used in its original meaning of either "to save" or "to redeem" when I was in early grade school. I still remember when teachers and visiting nuns would talk about salvaging an unruly student. Things, of course, changed because of People's Journal.

Well, People's Journal didn't use the word "salvage" to mean brutally murdered initially. But during the early to mid 80's brutal murders happened frequently enough that it made the news. These bodies were often disposed of in garbage dumps or in the river Pasig. So, whenever these bodies were recovered, the headlines will, of course, say "Dead man/woman/etc. was salvaged last night from Pasig/Smoky Mountain/etc."—"salvaged" here meaning that it was fished out and recovered by authorities. People say the same things when they "salvage" useable junk.

Now, it seems natural that Pinoys would make the association between the word "salvage" with "brutal murder". . . it is natural (even considering the fact that English teachers nationwide should have nipped this one at the bud). What annoys me most is that, by and large, Pinoys have forgotten how and why this happened and insists on silly explanations.

A few years back a major daily attempted to explain why we have a different meaning for "salvage." I read it with eagerness. At last, I said to myself, somebody can set it straight. Instead, I had several different implausible theories, the most plausible of which is that "salvage" is just our corruption of the word "savage." I can still remember the approximate wording of the explanation: "In America, when somebody wants to murder someone, they usually say 'Savage him!' and Pinoys [supposedly] merely added the 'l'." There are a number of problems with this explanation, the most obvious of which is that I have never heard of any American expression like that. Savage him indeed; "savage" means something else entirely in the USA, if I am not mistaken.

In the meantime, Pinoys continue to use the word with the local meaning. And we sound idiotic as a result. Nowhere else in the world does the phrase "salvage victim" mean victim of brutal murder. Even though Pinoys have since been briefed on its true meaning, we still use it. So what? some ask. How would we feel if some other culture used the word "iniibig kita" to mean "I want to rape you"? Normal word coinage (even gay lingo) does not bother me because I see that as legitimate word evolution. If we all gave private local meanings to foreign words, why even learn the words in the first place?

This other instance is a constant, almost weekly annoyance. For years, the proper term for somebody celebrating one's birthday was birthday celebrant, and it still is. However, in the last decade, Pinoys have decided that the proper term now is birthday celebrator, and every time I hear it mentioned, I gnash my teeth.

Of course, the word "celebrator" does exist in the English Language. It means "one who celebrates" so it should make sense that that is the right term, but it isn't. The celebrant is the person who is the reason for the celebration, and the celebrators are those who celebrate with that person. For instance, in a birthday party, there is the celebrant (celebrants in the case of multiple births or those with the same birthday) and the rest of those who actually sing "Happy Birthday to You" (and take the pictures, eat the food, the cake and the ice cream) are the celebrators—the people who celebrate with the celebrant.

Let me use another example which Pinoys, thankfully, never made any mistake on. In any school contest, those actually competing in the contest are called participants. Of course, those students who are not competing but should still "participate" in the school activity by watching the school contest are called participators. See? Makes sense here in this sense, why not in the sense of "celebration."

Yet almost nobody I met who has heard this explanation would rather still call the celebrant a celebrator instead. One person once remarked to me "Well, the TV personalities use it. So do reporters. So, it must be the right usage." This annoys me the most.

This is just two of many instances. But what connects all these instances is one very Pinoy trait which fuels all of this: the anong-paki-'mo attitude. I know that there are lots of exceptions in our country, but the usual impression I get when Pinoys justify errors, mistakes, cheating and any other objectionable or annoying stuff, they would also snap something like "mind your own business." Because of that, too many Pinoys would rather be mediocre than take the steps to "salvage" themselves in the eyes of many.