Monday, February 28, 2005

MADRID Impressions

Madrid is indeed a beautiful city, very rich in passion, in architecture, as well as history. The only complaint I can think of is that the Spaniards were busy renovating many of their old buildings last weekend, which I suppose will keep them busy in the coming months, thus resulting to a less attractive panoramic view of the city, especially when taking fotos.

Most of the fotos below are also not in high quality representation. They were taken by an ordinary film camera where you print the fotos. I re-captured them using my new digital camera.

SHOPPING

Ah well, every woman’s favorite hobby I guess. I barely made Ph.D. in shopping last weekend since three days was not enough to indulge, thankfully haha. But, it was a relief though; I can finally enter any shop without having to worry about my size, unlike in the Netherlands everything is bigger and I am shorter. Annoying bigtime.

Me with the bear climbing the apple tree statue, Madrid's insignia. G and I in the busy calle of Puerto del Sol.

A spectacular showcase of Madrid is its main highway called Gran Via [Grand Road/Way]. The long Gran Via stretch is festooned with beautifully and elaborately designed edificios [buildings] with gold color accents, dating from the early 19th century.

From the corners of Metro Callao and Gran Via, streams the two busiest shopping streets in Madrid (sorry, forgot the street names!). They split up and exit towards Puerto del Sol, where the statue of the Bear climbing the apple tree is located (see foto above). People say that the bear is Madrid’s symbol?

For the connoisseur shopper, hold on to your high-heel shoes because there is another place for you: Calles Goya and Serrano, a chic shopping district filled with mid to upscale exclusive fashion boutiques, the place where Posh Beckham is often sighted. I only discovered this place on Saturday, after 5PM, so basically I only had 3 hours to wander around, let alone shop. Not enough. My friend G also live in this area, lucky her, I guess.


Left foto: by the Gran Via; middle foto: in El Rastro biggest flea market in Madrid; and right foto: very tired as this is late into night after a lovely dinner and some shopping.

Quick Facts: Most Madrideleno shop owners close their stores at 2PM for siesta. They re-open at 5PM until 8PM in the evening.

Well, these Spaniards really know how to live life huh; they happily indulge in afternoon siestas while the north Europeans toil away. I know siesta very well as it is a part of the old Philippine culture, but nowadays, this afternoon relaxing activity is simply out of the ordinary, after all, the Philippines have for decades adapted well into the 24-hour American labour mentality (which is a form of minor slavery according to the Europeans).

Another shopping place one should not miss in Madrid is the great “El Rastro” market, the biggest flea market in the city, but open only on Sundays.


Even though the whole place was jampacked, we have to snake through the crowds, our elbows together, my hands guarding my belt bag like my whole life was packed in there and G kept looking back telling me to be careful of pickpocketters, I still loved the chaotic experience and would surely go back if given the chance.

I bought a few items, something for the kitchen and for the living room.

GASTRONOMY

Mesones! Let's go Meson Hopping!


One of the best places to satisfy the discriminating palate is at the mayor mesones, located just right below the majestic Plaza Mayor. When you go down the exit stairs from the plaza, you will see a row of rustic looking stone taverns, or mesones as commonly called in Madrid.

Each meson tavern has its own distinct specialty. The general idea here is to hop from one meson to the other and tasting a little bit of each tavern’s specialty while enjoying some accordion music and jolly dancing.

First foto: the row of meson tavernas where we hopped for dinner and the second foto: the majestic Plaza Mayor (a must see) just right above the meson tavernas.

We first tried the tortilla tavern, which at first glance looked like a Mexican bodega because of its bright colors. When the tortillas arrived, I then realized for the first time that they were omelet. OK, they look like omelet. We rinsed the tortillas with some sangria. Now, that was nice.

Then a few minutes later, a charming and chubby Spaniard sat by the arched doorway and began playing the accordion. When he knew that G and I are from the Philippines, to my surprise he started singing some Tagalog songs. He sang Leron Leron Sinta, Bahay Kubo and darn, he even knew the lyrics of the Philippine’s National Anthem - Bayang Magiliw, lol! I thought it was so funny; I just laughed and laughed. This man was such a character!

Surprise! The Spaniard who can sing well in Tagalog!!!

Next stop was the fish meson, which was so and so. There was another Spaniard with an accordion in there as well, but he was such a boring and pitiable entertainer. We didn’t even noticed him playing until he started collecting money from us.

The third and last stop was the jamon meson. Ah, lip-smacking goodness jamons. I crave for anything spiced and cured you know. I just love Spanish meat tapas... chorizo, jamon iberico, jamon serrano, they make my taste buds churn, I want! Happy that the best food was indeed saved for last.

We also had some sort of free entertainment in the last tavern. There was a highly intoxicated Spaniard impersonating Julio Iglesias and was having a go at the microphone. He was a mess and he tortured our ears to oblivion.

More quick facts: The Spaniards eat late. They start around 10PM in Madrid and nightlife kicks off after midnight. Also, be sure to reserve if you are going to a popular restaurant because these feast loving Spaniards are always dining out.

Lunch is another story though. They start at 2PM and god knows when it ends, lol. G told me that in many restaurants, they still serve breakfast at 12-1PM. Not brunch people, but breakfast.


GOING AROUND

The Madrid Vision bus would be the best way to familiarize Madrid. It serves three routes: (1) Historical Madrid, (2) Modern Madrid, and (3) Monumental Madrid. (correction: they now only serve two routes --- Historical and Modern Madrid)

The Madrid Vision touristic bus.

Costs € 13 per person (2005) for a whole day tour, all for the three routes already and you can easily hop from one bus to another. The best way to view Madrid in panorama would be to sit on the top deck of the bus.

Highly recommended, but after 2 hours, it was way too cold up there. Summer would be different I am sure.


The Metro subway is another alternative to use for exploring Madrid. Efficient, clean and fast, but be careful of undesirable hands groping for your wallets, bags and you know what else. Yes there are sad people everywhere. Unfortunately.

RELAXATION & SIGHTSEEING

Plaza Mayor (see picture above in gastronomy) is a lovely place. It is the perfect spot (many people argue it’s a tourist trap?) to sit down and let time pass, perhaps over a book and a glass of wine, or just simply to people watch. Luckily, the afternoon that I was there, the wintry clouds cooperated, they were moving towards the another direction, leaving me with all the sun rays to enjoy.
I had a good time studying Madrid’s map while finishing easily two glasses of red wine.

Because a woman cannot be alone for 5 minutes in Spain, it happened. The waiter, who by the way doesn’t speak a word of English was flirting with me. Armed with my Cebuano learned Spanish words + self taught sign language, I tried hinting I am not interested. For a moment I thought he understood but he just kept repeating, Nombre? Numero? Telefono?


So the solution was to pay the bill and leave. ADIOS amigos =)

The side streets of Puerta del Sol are also good places to stroll and sight-see. One can start the journey from Gran Via going down to Sol. The streets are mostly flanked with busy shops and a chorus of rebajas (sale) signs seem to cover the whole stretch.


Puerta de Alcala... the white cars with the red stripe are Spanish cabs. And, Parque de Retiro, this man-made lake is just a portion of this humongous park.


First foto: the Crystal Palace inside Parque de Retiro; second foto: Cibeles fountain

Parque de Retiro, Madrid’s humongous man-made park and man’s grand display of artistic prowess. Many Madrileños hang-out here during the week and it can get busy during the weekends.


Locals say that the Retiro was originally built for the Spanish King Phillip IV and it was only opened to the general public sometime in the 1800’s. The park exudes a sphere of arrogance and royalty. One of the fine-looking showcases in the park is the Crystal Palace, its walls and ceilings are made of glass. Too bad, they didn’t allow taking of pictures inside.

I also love the many stunning outdoor fountains in Madrid. They make the city look so pretty and somewhat romantic.

SPEAK: INGLES (ENGLISH)?

A not-so-positive point of Madrid: it is quite rare to encounter a Spaniard who can converse in English, even in the hotels (the big ones are not a problem) and in the restaurants. I am sure this is not an issue in the business district because based in my experience, many of my Spanish business associates speak very good English but for the tourists, its a pain.

One thing for sure that I know, the men are a very assertive lot. I have been approached by a number of Spanish men and they are not always easy to get rid of as they tend to not believe the word NO. Sigh.


Words of survival in Madrid:

Tinto vino (Red wine)
Cambio (Change)
La Cuenta (I want to pay!)
Muchas gracias (Thank you)
No habla espanol! (I don’t speak Spanish!), the best answer to get rid of an irritating Spaniard following you, lol.

FASHION


Another seemingly important Madrid characteristic is the fashion sense of many women, they simply stand out. The Madrileños, both men and women, and in this case especially the older generation, they are very style conscious types.


Since I was not able to capture the senoras on camera, I hope this pretty black swan will suffice. Taken at the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park.

The women are regally poised, clad in intimidating fur coats (even for 10C), Gucci sunglasses, high heels and their crowning glory? Thick hair held up with ozone-layer-killer hairspray. OMG, they all look like twin sisters of the Dutch Queen Beatrix, ha-ha. To complete the whole glamour ensemble, a very tiny chihuahua walks behind as a living fashion accessory. I honestly think PC Hoofstraat in Amsterdam will be put to shame.

The men as well, they gather together over a cup of coffee during Sunday morning, neatly dressed in coat and tie. I initially wondered if they came from a church service or if there was a senior citizens business meeting going on in the cafe. Helaas no, they were just dressed like that, just like a normal day.

I guess being overdressed is being Madrid!
.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

MADRID here I come!

I am off to the south of Europe, to MADRID! I will be boarding the first flight out on Friday and will be in the city after 9AM.

It will be a 3 day getaway, I need it just to haul my mind somewhere elsewhere, away from the hot pressures at work, as well as I will be meeting a girl friend there.

I am so ooking forward to walking on the historical calles and plazas of the metropolis and enjoying the exciting nightlife. Girl friend also told me of this popular -Meson Hopping- which she said I shouldn’t miss. Its supposed to be a real local treat. I am all for it!

Plaza Mayor at dusk... definitely one of my stops.

I will be staying in the Chueca zone, known as the SOHO and alternative district of Madrid. The hotel has Art-Deco furnitures and early 20th century room designs. The price was not bad, not cheap but not expensive as well. I chose Chueca because it is ideally located, just 15 minutes walk to the center, the parks, the plazas and other historical monuments and galleries.

I will probably meet a business associate for coffee. He was actually surprised I will be staying in Chueca.

“Do you know what Chueca is?” He asked, in between laughs.

“Yes, it’s the SOHO and alternative district of the city. There are clubs, bars and restaurants!” I answered albeit innocently (lol).

“Well, yes that’s correct... but, do you know that it’s a gay/lesbian area?”

Okay, he must be one of those religious and spiritual type or have issues with gender dudes? Oh well, whatever.

I just wish the temperature in Madrid will be higher than 5C because I love walking around.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What did you eat for Breakfast?

I am not really a breakfast person, I mainly take coffee and I’m done already. There are times though that I have cravings on certain mornings, then I eat. I take either a saucijzen broodje (see foto below) or an appelflap (Apple turn-over).

Saucijzen broodje, the meat is like ground sausage wrapped in thin flaky bread. Typical Dutch.

Back in the Philippines, I also seldom eat breakfast. There was just very little time to do it. I lived alone, and the call-in maid I hired comes only during weekends to fix up the flat. In fact when she’s around I cook for her. I try to be nice because she is making my place livable again.


What Filipinos in Manila eat for breakfast:

Tapsilog for breakfast, the Tagalog way.


Taplisog, it means Tapa for tap (beef) – Sinangag for si (fried rice) – Itlog for log (egg). There are other variations of the tapa viand, could be pork, sausages, and fish. Yes, very Pinoy indeed!

Tapa King is the best food chain for Tapsilog and I always pick the Tapa Queen menu because its spicy.

What Filipinos in Cebu eat for breakfast:

Puto, mangga, sikwate for breakfast. Foto taken from wanderlustsha.com


And in Cebu where I grew up and was born, we would have the puto (sticky rice), ripe yellow mouth watering mangga (mango, see on the side bar my Cebu link, where I was born), and the sikwate (chocolate drink made from real grinded cocoa beans) for a hearty traditional breakfast. Yum, yum!

Many Cebuanos also eat this for afternoon snack. And i
f visiting Cebu, go to Cafe Laguna. They serve this at a reasonable price.

And here’s what the Dutch eat for breakfast:

Quite simple, them Dutch doesn’t want to be harassed in the early mornings, so they settle for a really quick cold bite. They take coffee after or later when they get to work, which by the way as per statistics, the average Dutch at work drinks between 4-8 cups of coffee during the day.

Bruin boterham met boter en kaas… en koude melk (Brown sliced bread –usually wheat- with butter and cheese… and cold milk). Now, this is echt typisch nederlands (really typical dutch)! They also eat fruits for breakfast, the most popular are apple, orange and banana.

While we are on this subject, would you believe that the Dutch eat the same thing during lunch too? Yeah, day in, day out. These clogheads never really pay any attention to their food. For many of them its all about survival, just something to fuel up their bodies. Thus perhaps the reason why they do not have any cuisine credits. And get this, they also drink milk during lunch? I have even seen opas (grandfather) and omas (grandmother) drink milk too.


I may sound strange but I have this myth sitting on my head that milk is only for the kids, or if not, for the women (for osteoporosis). But ever since I set foot in this country, I seem to be wrong.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

TEA: East meets West


TEA Time

Weekends for the Dutchman and I also means its our --- Tea Time.

In Europe, tea is observed as an afternoon ritual with a cookie to go with it. While in Asia, especially in the Chinese countries, people drink it all throughout the day.

I took the habit of tea drinking several years ago when tea shops started sprouting all over Manila - hot tea, cold tea, green tea, lemon tea, cherry tea, yeah any flavored tea you can see. Welcome Tea liberation!


Tea please... no sugar, no lemon, no milk, nothing please, just plain tea.

My favorite was Green Tea Rice retailed by this chic tea house (sorry, I am lousy with names) in the ground floor of the Pacific Star Building by Makati Avenue corner Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City.

I love its exotic taste and its aroma of slightly burnt rice.

So during weekends after dinner and while talking to the Dutchman (circa long distance relationship days), I always make sure to have a hot cup of this Green Tea Rice.

I only changed my tea schedule when I moved here in NL. Like I said earlier, tea drinking in Europe is voted for afternoons. I haven’t really asked why?

So this Sunday afternoon Dutchman and I had a Darjeeling treat. And yesterday Saturday was Earl Grey Classic day. I still miss the Green Tea Rice though.

TEA Memoirs

According to Chinese mythology, in 2737 BC, the Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, scholar and herbalist, was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water. A leaf from the tree dropped into the water and Shen Nung decided to try the brew. The tree was a wild tea tree.

And thus the birth of the beverage called tea. But how did it influence Europe?

The first mention of tea outside China and Japan is said to be by the Arabs in 850 AD and it was they who were reputed to have brought it to Europe via the Venetians circa 1559. However, it is the Portuguese and Dutch who claim the credit bringing tea and tea drinking to Europe.

Aha, the perpetrators, the colonizing sea-faring Europeans have struck gold with this tea business. It wasn’t all about the grand spice trade after all. The naive Filipinos thought that Ferdinand Magellan only brought the gospel of truth - Christianity. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


The Portuguese opened up the sea routes to China, some say as early as 1515. Jesuit priests traveling on the ships brought the tea drinking habit back to Portugal, while the sailors manning the ships encouraged the Dutch merchants to enter the trade. Subsequently a regular shipment of tea to ports in France, Holland and the Baltic coast was set up in 1610. England entered the trade via the East India Company, or the John Company as it was known, in the mid to late 17th Century.


An old Douwe Egberts Pickwick Tea can, manufactured in Utrecht, Netherlands for the English market.


Quotes are excerpts from here: Tea site.

“Did you know who was responsible in bringing this herbal plant to Europe?” I ask Dutchman.

“No, tell me...” [peeking from behind his laptop].

“Your forefathers.”

One thing lead to another; the next thing I saw was the Dutchman waving his hands up on the air. I chastised him because he is not supposed to be patriotic, lol.


More facts: King Charles II, while on exile in mainland Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, married a Portuguese, Catherine of Braganza, who was an avid tea drinker. Tea drinking during those times has just proliferated, mainly due to the flourishing trade with Asia. King Charles II and his wife were both known to be tea drinking practitioners. When the monarchy was re-established, the royal couple went back to England, bringing with them the tea activity. Nothing comes close to quick society acceptance than royal patronage. Nowadays, tea drinking is a fine English tradition. Nobility has fortified its existence.

Compared to the English, the unfussy and straightforward Dutch are less bothered and fixated to the mystery of the tea. The Dutch are after all just conventional tea drinkers, nothing fanciful and sophisticated like the English.

Tea drinking was brought to America by Peter Stuyvesant for the colonists in the Dutch settlement called New Amsterdam, better now known as New York.

So there, a little bit of tea history for this weekend.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Love & Music


OK so it’s Valentines Day tomorrow. And I know, am pretty sure, that those couples who believe in this day of hearts will be celebrating it this weekend. I would have loved to join this romantic display, after all I grew up with this cupid culture, though at certain moments, I have these rebellious pangs to boycott Valentines day. It can be too cliched, you know what I mean?

The plan was... well my plan that is, is to do a wandeling (a walk) in the forest or perhaps a park... or we go fietsen (biking) somewhere and maybe visit a castle nearby. I really had no thoughts of jumping the bandwagon of dreamy lovers dining in those restaurants. I wanted something out of the ordinary. But the weather killed it.

The Dutchman also does not believe in Valentine’s Day. “Its all about commercialism.” he says. “Its BS...”

I believe that’s the typical Dutch man saying talking. He is also older (30’s+) thus that probably explains why he doesn’t follow this romantic tradition. I was told that he never celebrated this? Uh-huh?

I found out that Valentines Day is just like any other ordinary day in NL. It is not celebrated, only the younger generation has started to adapt this mainly because of the commercial influence.


I have a story to tell. Late last year I was with my schoonmoeder (mother in law), we were driving to somewhere, and she noticed my smell and asked, “What perfume are you wearing, it smells really nice!”

Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden.” I replied “Dutchman gave it to me as a present last Valentines Day.”

“Oh really, I never received anything during Valentines Day, never… ” she said albeit quite surprised. Perhaps shocked would have been the appropriate word considering that his Dutch son, a supposedly non-practicing Valentines Day BS, was caught in the art of romantic giving. “ ...and also ML and AK (my sister in laws), they never received anything.” she added.

“You Dutch don’t celebrate it, right?” I asked.

“No we don’t... but the young people are starting to...” she answered.

Here in NL, many Dutchies, including my Dutchman do not revel in surprises. They want to know upfront what you want for your birthday or any special occasion for that matter. In a way there is no point of wrapping the gift because you already know whats inside -lol.


~*~

I have been musically tagged by Sachiko.

My debunked Top 10 list...

Hmm... right now, I have no clue. What I will do instead is list down the type of music I like:

- Alternative music, especially the 1980’s
- New Age music
- Trance music
- Pop Rock

What is the total amount of music files in my computer?

I used to download a lot of music with Kazaa Lite. Previously with Napster. Dutchman has installed Shareaza but it doesn’t seem to work, so I can’t download anything!

The last CD I bought:

-Gregorian Darkness- (bought December 2004 in Bohol, Philippines during our island getaway for Php 90, pirated though, ooops)

What was the last song I listened to before reading this message?

I never paid any attention, sorry.

Write down 5 songs that you listen a lot or mean a lot to you.

I am not a sentimental gal. I think I have overgrown every bit of mushy mushy stuff and all these attachment to things, events, and yes, even music.

At work, I get to listen to a lot of Trance and Pop Rock because my colleague across me is playing non-stop, ID&T, which I believe is now SLAM FM.

At home, the Dutchman is currently on an endless experiment of 1980’s revival music.

Night by night by night, he constantly plays the Best of Modern Talking album, that German duo who sang the popular song in 1985, ‘Brother Louie’. Their other equally popular songs are, ‘You’re my heart, you’re my soul’ and ‘Cheri Cheri Lady’. Anyone remember those?

Ack, sometimes I wish that he stops flippin’ those songs on the DVD player. He actually doesn’t like them, it’s supposed to be an insult to the music industry. He revels at the idea that bad taste has won, and has brought fame and riches to this couple. Modern Talking sold more than 60 million copies of their albums in the 80’s.

Who am I going to pass this to?

I don’t know, but I am going to ask this, “Who wants to be tagged?”

Friday, February 11, 2005

A Date on a Thursday Night in AMS


I always love the mystic allure of Amsterdam. Subdued and mysterious but full of sinful vivacity hehe.

Our customary rendezvous plek (place) is the Grand Cafe Heineken Hoek, a bar café restaurant by the corner of Leidseplein. The Dutchman was drinking a glass of beer when I arrived. He was looking very sharp in his crisp blue suit. Great timing, he was halfway through his drink, now we can go look for a nice place to have dinner.

We had Italian. Dutchman had spaghetti bolognese and I tried something with seafood. We left the restaurant with full stomachs.

Table Etiquette: Never say, “Ik ben vol!” (I am full). My in laws told me its not done, its bad manners. The best way to say is, “Ik heb genoeg.” (I have enough).

At around 8:00PM we were walking back to Leidseplein. We had tickets to to a comedy show in Boom Chicago.

Boom Chicago, a bar, a restaurant, and a theater rolled into one.
Thursday night was the -Best of Boom Chicago- act. The show was actually fun and the humor, very American. But most important of it all, everything was in English! I too get sick from trying to speak Dutch all the time. Take note - trying. My throat hurts from the gargoylic exercise.

Not only were these artists excellent with what they do for a living, that is being funny, they were also experts of IMPROV (Improvisation). It’s something along the lines of an impromptu skit on the stage. Well, I was so impressed but then again I never had any acting talent to begin with. To read more about improvisation, click HERE

Every scene was filled with so much fun and laughter, and the themes were political in nature, which can be quite controversial if you’re a staunch American, French, Jew, or Muslim.


Socio Etiquette: If you can’t beat them, join them... so do this for a laugh. When you meet a Dutch woman, ask her how to say, “Choose my side.” in Dutch. The answer should be, “Kies mijn kant.” Phonetically you will hear it this way, “Kiss mine cunt.” - lol.

Boom Chicago Theater in Leidseplein. You can have dinner whilst watching the show too.

Would be tourists, do not forget to drop by at this fabulous place. It’s worth the money, plus all those laughter can make you younger even for just a night. I would rate them 9 stars out of 10. Highly recommended.

Dutchman and I were so tired when we came home. It was almost midnight. How we bloody wish next day was a Saturday, but it wasn’t, it was a Friday.


Dammit.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Mobile Phone Rebellion


BRUSSEL - Per honderd inwoners van de Europese Unie zijn er bijna tachtig abonnementen of beltegoedcontracten voor mobiele telefoons. De meeste gsm'etjes zijn te vinden in Luxemburg, waar zelfs meer mobiele abonnementen of contracten zijn dan inwoners, Zweden en Italië.

BRUSSELS – For every one hundred inhabitants in the European Union, there are around eighty subscription or prepaid contracts of mobile telephones. The most GSM’s are found in Luxembourg, and Sweden and Italy are countries where there is more mobile subscription or prepaid contracts than its population.

“Nederland zit met 77,2 gsm's per honderd inwoners iets onder het gemiddelde. De opkomst van de mobiele telefoon is stormachtig geweest. In 1995 waren er in Europa nog maar vijf gsm's per honderd inwoners te vinden.”

The Netherlands is about 77.2 GMS’s per one hundred inhabitants, which is quite below the average. The introduction however of the mobile telephone was in the past riotous. In 1995 there are only five GSM’s to be found in Europe per one hundred inhabitants.


Article can be found HERE (in Dutch)

I am wondering though what would be the statistics for the Philippines?

I used to and still am a mobile telephone rebel. I had some sort of internal insubordination issue against the Philippine’s celfone culture.

It was sometime in 1995 when I had my first mobile telephone, an Ericsson with a flip-flop rotating antenna. It was cool to sport a mobile phone during those times when you are considered to be “in” and “wow” by the society just by posessing them. But after paying huge monthly subscription bills (back then you can imagine the sky rocket prices and there was no SMS yet), I realized my stupidity and dropped off the vanity. Ack, it was a personal mobile telephone after all. I was thus naïve… I went with the flow of technology without understanding its costly consequences.

Lesson learned: Never ever buy personal when your employer can buy it for you.


My second mobile telephone came in 1997 with subscription, given to me by the consulting firm I worked for. Better... but the darn thing was humongous and weighty. In fact its a good weapon for self defense.

Then Nokia (1998-99) came evangelizing in Asia, blitzing in every corner of the Asian continent their new colorful and miniature Nokia models. Everyone was at awe.

Should I get insecure with my massive handset?” I thought.

I then fixed my thoughts at the mammoth Philips mobile telephone sitting in my lap. This has always saved me. The thing was THE conversation piece and THE ice breaker on my client calls, especially when I am faced with a difficult poker faced customer. Flashing my mobile is sure enough to cause a commotion and the reaction varies from surprised to shock. People are always intrigued to see an almost pre-historic piece, haha. Well, I kinda loved the attention though.

Then the blessing in disguise arrived when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend. Since the mobile telephone, for certain reasons I do not want to expound reminded me of him, I decided to get rid of it. Ah, the joys of being an independent woman, some objects are just replaceable, hehe. Off he goes and hello to sleek brand spanking new Philips.

Here is a long kept secret that I have: I loathed joining the pack of obsessed Nokia-ers back home. I, as a concerned consumer, must after all help balance the GSM economy. Buying from the competition will help drive consumer prices down. But sadly sleek Philips survived only for a year because my sister threatened to steal it from me. I was compelled to give it to her.

And to resist the strong tide was inexorably futile, so I thought what the heck, its time to test the waters with Nokia. I then bought a Nokia3210. No nitpicking please, I know it’s nothing fancy. Brand new Nokia3210 was short lived too. Stupid me, I left it in Citibank’s cafeteria during lunch. Bless the soul who found it as he or she never returned it to me!

Now I was left with no mobile telephone and being in sales means this is just unacceptable. You must never be offline, you must at all times, be reachable.

I was actually starting to enjoy the peace but I must work so I bought a second hand Nokia3210 from guess where and who? Our department secretary, for a measly PHP 2,000. I actually liked the idea that I bought it cheap as it was used. I think I have become cheap like the Dutch.

I do admit, I plead guilty for being sometimes kuripot (thrifty) by Philippine standards. Appreciating French-Italian haute couture and Made in China mass tailoring is nothing new. To argue this point --- it’s not the accessory, mobile telephone or ensemble that makes the person, but the other way around. Don’t you just gloat when people stare at what you have thinking you bought it at a hefty price when in fact it was cheap? This to me is the idea of vanity.

On the other hand, the secretary herself bought a Nokia8210(?) that costs PHP 18,000. Whoa, that was her monthly salary already, good grief! LOL!

*Shakes head* Ik vraag me af... (It makes me wonder). Is this a
basic requirement? A fashion accessory? A status quo? Or perhaps a life support? ---I guess!

The 2nd hand Nokia3210 is still with me. It has survived Dutch immigration and currently sits in our vault (yeah well guarded, haha).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Music MY World


If I were to choose between watching TV and listening to Music, I would listen to Music and throw the TV out of the window.” A quote I made in circa 1980’s.

U2//VERTIGO//2005 Europe Tour, Uitverkocht! (Sold Out!)

6:30AM - Saturday in Utrecht, in one of the postkantoors (post offices), people waiting outside taking numbers for the long cue of the selling of the most sought after U2 concert tickets. Dutchman took a number - #40. Left and went back home since opening of the shop will be at 10:00AM.

9:30AM - The Dutchman was back in the post office while I was still in bed, hehe. Only to find out that his #40 does not anymore exist. They have re-numbered. Oh la la… The Dutchman was pissed!

And so, using his Dutch magic talisman, he went out to look for an easy prey, er help. Luckily, a young couple who held a re-numbered #38 accommodated his plea. They will buy tickets for him. Such an obliging couple indeed. The Dutchman heaved a sigh of relief.

U2, the most successful band in the 20th-21st century, ranking next to the legendary Beatles is still in 2005 going strong.

I discovered Bono and his gang during my teens, circa 1980’s through Y101 (a really cool FM radio station at that time in Cebu, Philippines) and my cousin, who has superb taste in music. My first U2 LP (long playing) album was the “Under a Blood Red Sky” with the controversial hit, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and my favorite, “New Years Day”.

So, now you see why Dutchman and I fell into place. We savor the same edge in music - alternative. And we are one of those intransigent U2 fans!

10:00AM - The post office opened. Surprise: The ticketing system has malfunctioned. Bloody good timing, the Dutchman is now pissing on his pants…

The sale of the U2 tickets is managed centrally via a database which controls and connects to all participating post offices across the Netherlands. These post offices acts as ticket retail outlets. To buy the concert tickets, the ticketing system in these outlets plucks out an available seat from the central database. It then prints out the ticket and you pay. A really handy system, it is.

But... the ticketing system in the post office where the Dutchman was… was having alcoholics anonymous withdrawal crisis. The worrywart is now in panic thinking that across this small trite country, other ticketing systems are busy plucking seats left and right from the central database. Each concert by the way allows approximately 50,000 seats.

The big question: Can the Dutchman still get a seat?

10:30AM - I followed Dutchman to the post office. The place was so crowded! An announcement: The FIRST concert is UITVERKOCHT! (Sold Out!) Whew, that was just 30 minutes since they opened and they have only served 8 clients? The Dutchman was fraught with much distress. Talk about hysterics! Luckily the ticketing system stopped coughing.

10:31AM - Tickets for the SECOND concert was open for selling. Since we had connived with the #38 young couple, we waited by the side... the Dutchman, attempting to follow the impossible Zen route.

11:00AM – The SECOND concert again UITVERKOCHT! (Sold Out!) The Dutchman, this time terribly flustered was pacing restlessly.

11:15AM“Number 38 please?!” shouted the ticketer. The post office has turned off the electronic numbering system since it was a chaos. Ah, alas! The #38 young couple whom we depended for our lives at that very moment finally had their turn!

11:30AM – Dutchman very much elated was calling on his mobile to a colleague (whom we are going with to the concert) about the good news. We left the post office with our smiles beaming from side to side. We have the U2 tickets in our hands! Whopeee!


The concert will be in July in the Amsterdam Ajax Arena. The FIRST show will be on the 13th, the SECOND act on the 14th (or 15th), and the THIRD, where we will be going to, is on the 16th.


All THREE concerts were SOLD OUT in a matter of 1.5 hours in The Netherlands. Each concert (of approx. 50,000 to 60,000 seats) were sold out 30 minutes after each other.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The BLUE POST


It comes and it goes… it slips every once in awhile into your mailbox and later into your bank account or purse. As soon as you see it, with just a slight exposure of its tip and even its shadow… you knew right away exactly who it was.

The Belastingdienst's (Dutch Tax Department) mail always comes in a Blue Post. It’s one way of stressing out a point, color coded mail. Haha Brilliant.

And so it is... The blue post strikes again. It has again reminded me of my duty as a certified taxpayer and resident of this flat country. I, the Dutched Pinay must file my income tax return (ITR) before the end of April 2005. Ah,… the ultimate trepidation of every clog head and tax-paying living resident in the Netherlands.

For the record, this is my 2nd year of ITR filing in my 2.5 collective years of stay in this country.

The Netherlands, known as one of the world’s best and legitimate income tax bandits, is very persuasive. Persuasive enough in keeping its populace under control, fraught and living in fear from the sharp and zealous eyes of the Belastingdienst (Tax Department). Wait, I shouldn’t say, one of the world’s best since there is nothing to rejoice in this, right? In reality it is downright absurdity, a blasphemy, especially from a viewpoint of someone coming from praetorian Philippines. ---It’s lesser money in the portomonee (purse). Wah!

DUTCH INCOME TAX TABLES for 2005 only

(above 65 years old has a different tax table)

Table 1: Taxable by 34.5%
Yearly Income of € 16.893 and below

Table 2: Taxable by 41.95%
Yearly Income starting € 16.894 to € 30.357

Table 3: Taxable by 42%
Yearly Income starting € 30.358 to € 51.762

Table 4: Taxable by 52%
Yearly Income starting € 51.763 and over

Forex: US$ 1.00 = € 0.77

Now you know why them, Dutch are so very tight down there…. in the purse!

This must be the mother of all culture shock sacrilege I experienced in Dutchland. I have never EVER paid so much money to a government! If only mutiny can be licensed… but it is not. Well back home in the Philippines the citizenry manipulate the ITR, so this is somewhat like a payback time for me. I need to get used to being honest with my taxes, lol.


The only pleasing thing in this Belastingdienst’s due diligence is the cool ITR online filing facility. You can say once and for all, “Goodbye postal system!”


I filed online last year and I will do it online again this year.

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