Friday, August 31, 2007

Dutch travel ban to the Philippines

Due to the heat (and maybe hate?) -- the rallies and protests in support of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, ex leader and founder of the CPP-NPA (in short ex-communist leader of the Philippines), who was exiled in the Netherlands and lived in Utrecht, and was arrested last Tuesday to face criminal charges of murders in the Philippines, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Dutch) has announced a travel ban for Dutch citizens traveling to the Philippines.

Snip in today’s (31 August) Spits, a local metro/train gratis publication in the Netherlands.

My first reaction was, “Huh, a travel ban?”

Dutchman’s reaction was, “Yeah!” and grinning so wide his eyes thinned that they looked like Chinese. Obviously he did not take his governments’ warning seriously.

Me again: Oh my dear lord - a travel ban!? LOL! And I will say it again, LOL!

If you don’t know what LOL means, it’s LAUGHING OUT LOUD.

The Dutchman could not stop grinning (mischievously).

Without having to sound like Miss South Carolina - Yes the Philippines is on the news map again. And no, the Philippines is no Iraq.

Of the almost 90 million residents, about 18 million of them in Manila, the .000019%* communist comrades of Joma who are camping outside the Dutch embassy in Manila and screaming non-stop for the release of their founder, are but a few fishes in the ocean.

If only they knew the real psyche of the Filipinos. They are cowards to violence. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joma’s followers will use some kind of borrowed people power, their own version of course.

But, I mean, wow... the .000019%* Filipino population constitutes a damn travel ban? What a feat! Congratulations!!!

Okay, it’s not really a travel ban notice per se, but the government has strongly advised Dutch citizens NOT to travel to the Philippines. In Philippine local lingo, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is OA – Overacting, lol.

You can find the official (English) press releases of the Dutch Ministry of Justice about the Jose Maria Sison case below.

Friday, 31 August 2007:

Philippine Communist Leader Remains in Custody

Tuesday, 28 August 2007:
Philippine Communist Leader Apprehended to Face a Murder Charge

Under Dutch law and jurisdiction, if an individual is indicted for plotting crimes in the Netherlands, even if the crime happened in another country (in this case the Philippines), arraignment will be in Dutch soil, thus Joma will be tried in Dutch courts in The Hague.

On the other hand, knowing how the justice system works here in the Netherlands – they will NEVER send back (extradition, and not just for the lack of laws on this between NL and PH) a political asylum seeker, even if he is a convicted criminal to his country of origin if this will cost him his life. The Netherlands also do NOT advocate death sentence. Human rights and equality is a very serious topic in this country, even for criminals.

Joma has been living in the Netherlands since 1987.

Other related news from the Philippines: Philippine Daily Inquirer Special Report: Joma Sison, Manila Standard Today - Netherlands shuts down embassy as precaution

News in the Netherlands (in Dutch): NRC - Onrust Filippijnen door aanhouding Sison, Volkskrant - NCPN eist vrijlating van JoMa Sison, AD - Oppositieleider in Utrecht opgepakt and articles in Telegraaf about the Sison case.

*this is by no means the correct figure but if you have common sense and enjoy a little bit of sarcasm you know what I mean.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The car salesman

This morning I went to the car dealer for my every 15,000 kilometer checkup. My appointment was 8AM and the route instructions I printed from the internet ( said it will take me approximately 12 minutes. With that in mind I left home 7:30AM.

I am not familiar with Overvecht where the car dealers are located, and where Utrecht CBR (where everyone takes the driving exam) is by the way too. To get there you have to comb through rows and blocks of residential houses that looked very much the same from each other. And for a 12-minute ride the route instruction was 2-pages long! Go straight, turn right, upon reaching rotunda 1 take the third exit, go straight, turn left, upon reaching rotunda 2 take the second exit, etcetera, you get the point. Well guess what, I got lost along the way!

A couple of times I had to stop and ask people on the streets for directions. There were road constructions too that totally mangled the route making me all the more confused. Then I found myself driving into Maarssen! Alarm bells were ringing loudly behind my ears when the clock hit 8:15AM and I still could not find the familiar highway (once I see this highway I would know how to get to the car dealer). I was in panic mode maximum overdrive state, lol. If there is one thing I hate with appointments, it is being late, and I already was.

I finally arrived at the car dealer 8:21AM -- 21 minutes late.

A bald but nice looking middle-aged tall guy greeted me outside when I jumped -literally, out of the car. He also just arrived. I told him (we spoke Dutch) I got lost along the way and I am late for my beurt [car checkup]. He said not to worry and ushered me to follow him inside where we were met by a woman who took care of my business.

While waiting, I sat in the lounge area where the coffee and tea machine is located. I had tea – something that I have recently (again) adapted in my all-day diet regime and sat down in this lazy boy chair. I opened my bag and took out my 1-piece brown wheat bread that I toasted at home before I left. Munched on it, sipped the tea, and picked up a magazine to read.

It was slightly before 9AM when employees, most of them car salesmen, started flowing into the shop. One after the other, they smiled and greeted me “Goede morgen” [Good morning] whilst fetching their first cup of coffee for the day. I noticed that all of them went first to the coffee machine to get a cup before entering their respective cubicles and rooms.

I recognized one of the sales managers as the sales man who sold me my car. He is in his late 40’s, has this friendly, smiley, and round shaped face, decent look, normal body built, and for a Dutch man, he is a tad smaller (Dutch men are tall, they usually start 180cm – about 6ft. and up). He greeted me with a “Goede morgen” in passing. I thought he did not recognize me so I went back burying myself in the magazine. I was reading an old issue of Linda Magazine that featured women who succumbed to the 21st century modern day miracles of medicine and technology - plastic surgery, for reasons other than sheer vanity. A fascinating topic indeed so you can imagine me being so deeply engrossed with it. I devoured all the stories with gusto -- a 24 year old woman had her oversized flapping ears cut and corrected; a 39 year old woman went from cup E to cup C; and a 35 year old woman had her crooked parrot-like nose chiseled even.

“Hoe is ‘t met jou?” [How’s it going with you?]

I looked up and saw the car salesman who sold me my car. His smile was so wide he reminded me of Bassie the clown, lol.

He moved closer, took a chair and sat down across the table from me. He first asked about the car if I was still happy with it, and what my experiences are, and if I have complaints. I spoke and he listened. We further talked about the other car models in the showroom. He said there are new ones on display. We also talked about which cars are saleable and the type of consumers-buyers that buy them. He asked about some personal stuff too. He still remembered that I live near the center where cars being broken into were a recurring problem in the area. I told him the malevolent juveniles have been apprehended by the police early this year. We talked about work. He pretty much remembered what I told him before. Wow, this old man has a great memory.

We went on with our merry and informative chatting when a woman in her late 30’s and her daughter walked into the shop looking for him. He excused himself and talked to the woman for a few minutes. The woman with her daughter went up to the showroom while he went back to where I was, sat down again on the chair and picked up the chat we had left. It was only after a few minutes had passed when he told me he needed to go and attend to the customer upstairs.

Later, he came back to the lounge with the woman and her daughter and offered them something to drink. It was great timing as my car was ready, so I stood up and followed the woman I met earlier to the counter to pay. The car salesman saw me leaving. Swiftly, he walked towards my direction, and extended his hand, “Bedankt, tot de volgende keer.” [Thanks, until next time.] I shook his hand, and said the same thing.

Driving to work I reflected on the car salesman. There is something about the man. He has the touch, this honest factor in him that is radiating, the calm demeanor that is affecting, and the I-am-with-you sympathetic charisma that puts you at ease.

In addition to that, as a sales person he does not make you, the customer, feel intimidated - like he knows best because he is the seller/dealer/supplier. He does not really push you.

When I bought my car a while back he gave me pros and cons to consider. When I said I am not ready to decide, he didn’t push me, instead he said, think it over and call me when you are ready. He let me decide with my own terms, and on my own time, which are very important to me. I am in the same profession and the last thing I would want when making decisions that entails a large financial investment is a nagging, impatient, and greedy sales person who wants to take my money away from me.

A month after I bought the car, he called to check how everything was. I was surprised – Is this normal? Do car sales people really check on their customers after the sale has been made to monitor if the car experience is as what was expected? Talk about real personal touch.

And today, he spent a good amount of time chatting with me even if he had another waiting customer.

I know many foreigners living and working in the Netherlands say that the Dutch are horrible when it comes to customer service, especially in restaurants and shops, which I agree. But, this car sales man has just shown me the customer experience I want and what I think every sales person should emulate (towards their customers - consumers in particular), even after the sale, and even if he knew he could not squeeze out any money from me anytime soon.

As a sales person myself, he taught me something valuable today.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dinner in Antwerp

Neighboring Belgium, the crossroads between North and South Europe has been receiving a lot of attention lately from the European press. The headlines: Flemish vs. Walloons. A linguist and sociologist would probably say that the rift between the 2 camps may misleadingly masquerade as cultural and political grievances and differences, but in reality, this is but a simple core language dynamics problem - Dutch vs. French.

My favorite Antwerp images: Dusk; You got mail; and Windows and busy women.

Nevertheless, this topic got me intrigued and interested. As a result of my inquisitiveness, I mused on and daydream about some Belgian ambience, a Belgian inspired weekend getaway would be nice. You know, just to have a feel of what’s going on down there. So, how about dinner in Antwerp?

Dutchman complained that Antwerp is too far but I quickly reminded him that it’s about the same drive going to Friesland, just that this is southbound. In the end he gave up and gave in to my wants. I WON AGAIN! lol

Okay, back to the Belgian program.

280 beer assortiments! Just cannot resist not to pose with them...

This is the lone old man drinking beer outside the bar on the trattoir. He is actually engaged in a discussion with the men inside the bar while preferring to sit outside. Next foto are the golden people.

What I had for dinner: (empty shells of) mussels. Charming cafes - the board says, the best place to eat?

And in Belgium, they do not accept €200 notes. In the Netherlands the highest bank note circulated and accepted by establishments is €50. Just shows you how thrifty and conscientious the Dutch are. Okay, re: grammar, something tells me the combination of “u” and “jullie” does not seem right here? Is this a Flemish rule?

More pictures here: Antwerp, Belgium

Trivia: Did you know that Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world?

This falling-out of the northern and southern camps subject matter has been quite knotty, deep-seated, and can probably be traced to eons and moons ago. The Flemish (Dutch speaking part), being the strong camp economically and the party carrying the brunt of Belgium’s financial duties has aired out their exigencies, i.e. more Flemish freedom, less Flemish money going to the Walloons (French speaking part), Dutch language as national language(?), these were just some of their demands. Of course, the Walloons won’t let any of this pass to law.

While everyone is at it, the consequence to this drama has been piling up on the political radar. A few days ago, the Belgian government failed to form the much needed and awaited coalition. This isn’t the second time as it has been 2 months already of battling this long standing pause for political reunification. Research and polls says that lately more and more Flemish appears to agree with exoneration and autonomy from the Walloons, rather, from Belgium. Are they filing a divorce soon!? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

They say it’s about time the king should intervene. But, the Royal Family is part of the problem too. The throne successor, Prince Filip, is under national criticism because of his impeccable (non-)Dutch skills. The image the prince publicly projects, says the press, is an inadequate unreliable prince. He could not even speak 2 intelligible Dutch words. Imagine the Flemish taxpayers choke up and burn in quiet rage. Well, not anymore. This, you can say is the best royal example of adding insult to injury.

Anyway, I am following the news. I am curious what will turn out with this clash of the Belgians series.

On other related local news -- about 2/3 of surveyed Dutch respondents support the fusion of the Flemish region into the Netherlands, and in lucid terms: Flemish region annexed to the Netherlands, while 3/4 have voted for a more intensive partnership.

ADDENDUM: Finally the videos!

These are the charming cafes facing the huge square called the Groenplaats. It is always busy in this area.

I am walking here with the camera beside the cathedral were many cafes and restaurants are huddled with each other. Then I emerged into a small square right in front of the cathedral.

This is the cathedral square, again full of open-air cafe terraces. The jazz player and his music perfected the nice ambience and the setting.

Walking towards the stadhuis [city hall], this is the box-like building with many flags, and having a glimpse of the Grote Markt square.

We had dinner in this Mexican restaurant across the stadhuis. We sat outside because the weather was nice, so I thought why not film the passersby with the stadhuis in the background.

The dinner went well. I had mussels (cooked in natural water version with celery) with kriek beer and Dutchman had mix grill (of meat).

Afterwards, we sat down in the cafe terrace by the Groenplaats square for coffee. The waiter argued with me that there is no double espresso but only mokka coffee. Huh - I didn’t know espresso was called mokka in Antwerp (or only in this particular cafe perhaps)?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Voorbij en welkom

Grilling days will soon be over.

Foto taken when Dutchman and I had barbeque with the Dutch parents in the garden. This is my plate.

A part of me feels saddened that summer has to end, but another part of me felt happy, eager, like I know for sure there’s going to be a new beginning of something wonderful.

If you’re keen enough, you might have already noticed that I have changed my blog banner. From “Expatriation” it is now ‘Expatriotism”. This word best describes my state of being in the Netherlands, well, at least 50%.

Goodbye Expatriation. Welcome Expatriotism.

The weekend looks promising. I am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A fleeting weekend in Utrecht

Why are weekends fleeting? Someone needs to get serious and start lobbying Parliament the new 3-day weekend rule. I could use some really.

Anyhow, just like the tone of my first paragraph, last weekend was a lazy one. There were a number of open action items in my agenda left undone, i.e., visit to a village; buy a pair of trainers; check out a castle. But since I was not feeling well and couldn’t move around much, I didn’t accomplish anything. However, I managed to successfully glue my bum into the seat I am now sitting on, with my laptop in front. Well, that was Sunday.

Saturday was another story. It was a bit active.

We were quite busy, which is a regular thing for us during Saturdays anyway. We did some household chores, went food shopping and more. Honestly, life would have been convenient in this part of the world if only shops open until 8 in the evening. Sigh – I know. I am wishing for the moon and the stars.

Nevertheless, living near to the town center has its advantages that I should be thankful for.

Vismarkt, one of the old quarters in Utrecht.

I made dinner early at around 6. For many Dutch households, 6PM is the normal time to gather as a family and eat dinner together. We had tortellini, vegetable mix, grilled chicken, and feta tomatoes. It wasn’t a heavy meal as each portion was small. Having eaten dinner earlier than usual, and seeing a promise of a dry evening, we decided to stretch our leg muscles and went for a walk - a walk to Utrecht center.

Empty streets and canals in Utrecht.

We had coffee in our usual café hangout, and I had my plentiful dosage of reading materials piled up before me on top of the small round table outside the café. It was a very nice evening, fresh, and more importantly, there is still light. From across where we were sitting, we could see the busy open-air terraces in the square, the silhouette reflections of the parasols on the ground, and the flickering of lighted candles on each table signaling the coming of dusk.

I switched my attention to the magazines in front of me. The headlines were: the nouveau rich in the Netherlands; showbiz gossips: Angelina Jolie has anorexia; KPN is again in the buying mode; the credit crunch in the stock market; and the new amazing diet discovery has finally arrived Holland - detoxykall.

After coffee we did a little bit of wandering in the center.

A typical thing I do when wandering around, well, we all do anyway, is inspecting nicely decorated shop windows. This particular shop window caught my curious eye:

They are not dildos. They are plastic banana containers called, Banana Guard.

I could hear many passersby hovering behind me and talking eagerly about the hanging, in different colors, plastic bananas. Aha – I chuckled, I definitely am not the only one fascinated by it - thank you dear god.

Merchandising lesson for the day: Bananas are great pulls for your shop window, lol.
Okay, realistically speaking, as a consumer, would you buy a box for your banana? I wouldn’t. Thus is my fascination for these interesting inventions.

Later, we ran into this cozy cafe-pub area just right after Vismarkt. We went in and had a drink.

The lights are beautiful on film. This area in town is suitable for the gen-xers crowd (30 and up).

Dutchman had the usual Dutch tap beer and I ordered a Blond Leffe. I think I am the only person in the bar who ordered a stronger than usual beer.

The Dutch are not haute beer drinkers. They prefer their homegrown plain Jane tap beers (Pils in Dutch): Amstel, Jupiler, Brand, Heineken, Grolsch -- these just don’t work for my tongue and throat anymore. They taste bland. After the Scotland trip, I think I have become a new-born beer woman, ha-ha.

Dutchman was teasing me for the rest of the evening. “Hey there, beer connoisseur...”

The walk home though was refreshing. We should do more walking.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Idyllic Giethoorn in the Netherlands

Finally uploaded my Giethoorn pictures! Giethoorn is an old canal village known also as the “Venice of the North” here in the Netherlands.

Giethoorn: Venice of the North

giethoorn netherlands

We didn’t really stayed long in Giethoorn because this was just a quick stop over. Our original agenda for the day was to go to Friesland in Wolvega to visit friends. It was the birthday of our friend’s youngest little son, Dutchman’s godson actually. Because this boy is free spirited, mischievious and exhibits a streak of notoriety, we gave him a nickname, “De jonge Holleeder”, lol (tip: google Holleeder).

Giethoorn is part of the province Overijssel just near the border of Friesland (in the north of the Netherlands) and the old canal village is situated in the northern part of the region. There are cycling, hiking and walking paths in the area but the best way to experience and appreciate this beautiful place is to rent a boat or canoe. Because we didn’t have much time on our hands and we still have to go to Wolvega later that afternoon, we forego the boat idea and decided to hit the walking paths instead.

giethoorn netherlands

Giethoorn: Goat’s horns

A little bit of Dutch vocabulary exercise, Giethoorn means: Goat horns. The locals in the past claimed to have found horns of wild goats in the area. This place was also once a moorland -- peaty soil that developed into little patches of islands surrounded with ditches that never got drained. Later on people started building their homes on these hardened land masses.

Many of the pretty and cute houses in the village are isolated in picturesque islets with lovely gardens teeming with beautiful flowers. Most of the times, the only way to get to the house is by boat or via a small wooden bridge. We chuckled on the idea of actually living in this place and thought about doing the weekly boodschappen (grocery/food shopping). The only way to carry your goods is by bike or boat. Now that sounds idyllic indeed! Not.

giethoorn netherlands
giethoorn netherlands

You can also imagine how complicated it is to move in here – carry all your furniture by boat, and do take note a small boat because the waterways are tight. They are not wide enough to even fit a 2-way canal traffic. Moreover, the distinctive cute bridges are low. But other than that, the place is absolutely marvelous!

Giethoorn official tourism page: VVV Giethoorn

I would love to come back here again, and when that time comes, hopefully I will be able to explore this idyllic village not on foot, but by boat.

Visit Period: August 2007
Destination: Giethoorn (Overijssel), The Netherlands

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Elite... my a$$!

I grew up with maids and my parents usually employ 2 or 3 when we were little kids. Having them at home and around me is as normal as brushing my teeth everyday and tying my shoe laces every morning before going to school. I even have a personal nanny who looked after me. There were a couple of them. A couple, yes, because no nanny could stand long with my stubborn bouts and mischievous acts. At a very young age, I developed quite a bad reputation in the town north of Cebu where my parents normally employ for house help – the little bitchy girl, beware of her.

In many developing countries where manual labor is cheap, its a customary thing for families from middle class and up to have 1, 2 or 3 maids living with them. The reason is quite simple really -- in the Philippines, there is no social system that supports child care and a labor system that encourages women to raise their children all by themselves. Working part-time in normal professional jobs, receiving child benefits, free healthcare, free or low cost quality education, etcetera (like here in the Netherlands) is unheard of. Thus in this part of the world, mom and dad have to work full-time, and in many cases, over-time.

I don’t think I grew up a bitch though, stubborn and opinionated perhaps.

Anyway, Dutchman and I were in Makati City (Manila, last July for our summer holiday) doing our last-minute shopping.

Dutchman needed new dark suits for work and he had this idea of buying them in Manila. Unfortunately most suits have thin texture as they are made for tropical climate. There were a few shops though that sell thick ones but it would be stupid to buy them in Asia when you could buy them in Europe for the same price, and moreover not having to risk it through customs and paying import tax.

Now, enough of this suit talk – after an hour of moving from one shop to another, and even though we were inside the air conditioned mall of Greenbelt, my throat dried up and was searching for fluids. A cold drink served with lots of ice would just be perfect! It was a very hot humid day outside after all, just like any other day in Manila, so the situation calls for it. Ah, a nice excuse indeed for some cold coffee reclusion just right outside the mall where I could see the green and white logo of Starbucks.

I ordered a cold latte and Dutchman a cappuccino. We sat down in these trendy bright colored Nordic-style inspired chairs facing the counter. The cold latte was gone in less than 2 minutes. Now that’s what I call real thirst!

Then, an ordinary looking woman in her 30’s wearing a short sporty style hair-cut and dressed in nothing fancy cotton t-shirt and light blue jeans passed by. Following her was a girl, probably between 18 and 21, pushing a baby prom. The girl was dressed in immaculate all-white. For the unsuspecting (such as the foreign tourists), she could easily pass for a nurse. In reality, she is a maid - in a uniform.

I have always thought employers who insist their domestic helpers dress up in uniforms (no matter how tasteful the uniforms are) and let them follow their royal lazy butts around in public are suffering severely from the following:

(a) Social status insecurity

(b) The need to prove something... eh, to who, for what purpose, why?

(c) Are obsessed with the modern day idea of slavery

(d) Have the unhealthy craving for public attention – look at me, I have a maid!

(e) Trying their best to amuse other people, like you and me.

For what it is worth, I’d like to believe its e. But, I am afraid I am very wrong.

The maid in white obediently moved to the corner of Starbucks pushing the prom as told by her lady employer. She sat down quietly in one of the stools, her eyes downcast, while her employer, the ordinary looking woman, went to the cashier to order.

Dutchman: “Did you just see that?”

Dutched Pinay: “Yes, the maid is dressed in a white uniform.”

Dutchman: “She (the employer) doesn’t look like the type who would have a maid in uniform following her around in public. She looks rather... very ordinary.”

Dutched Pinay: “I know.”

Dutchman: “This is just plain ridiculous to have a maid in a uniform following you around. This is like I am here (pointing up) and you are there (pointing down).”

Dutched Pinay: “Hah – do not underestimate the snobbish elite in the Philippines, or, *ehem* the wannabes in this country.”

I assumed (which I was right) that due to the scorching heat outside, she would order the same cold latte I had. Dutchman and I both thought (and concurred) the maid in white could also use some for herself. After all pushing the prom under the heat of the sun is not going to be an easy task.

Dutchman: “I want to see if she will order something for the maid too.”

Dutched Pinay: “I doubt it.”

Dutchman: “If she only orders for herself...”

Dutched Pinay: “Why, what are you going to do?”

Dutchman: “Well, then that is really bad of her as it will show her real character. She is only thinking of herself and not the maid who is pushing the baby carriage for her under this very hot humid weather.”

Dutched Pinay: “Well, let’s see.”

So, a few minutes passed --

Dutchman: “Gotcha! She just ordered for herself!!!”

Dutched Pinay: “I told you.”

Dutchman: *face full of disbelief* “How could she do that? How could she only order a drink for herself?”

Dutched Pinay: “Because she can.”

Dutchman: “Too bad we didn’t get to film her.”

Dutched Pinay: “Right. But I will write about her in my blog anyway because women like her should be ashamed of their haughty and selfish ways.”

Now that we have seen the heroic example above of this ordinary looking woman toting her personal maid in uniform in public, here are some engaging questions for us to ponder on:

(1) Should we fall down on our knees with awe because she is an elite - cream of the crop who had the moral fiber to parade her maid in public?

(2) Should we applaud her for buying a white uniform for her maid but deprived her a drink? You know, she could just even offer water if she thinks Starbucks was inappropriate for her maid.

(3) Should we put her up on a pedestal for her narcissim and fragile ego?

(4) Should we envy her that she can show off in public a live fashion-lifestyle accessory?

I have a funny feeling that this ordinary looking woman does not even know what she did, or did not do, was wrong.

Quite sad because many middle class, elite, and the wannabes in the Philippines treat their maids like this. They let them strut around in public in their white uniforms, sometimes blue, trailing behind like a deprived servant who picks up everything after them and must know her lowly and rightful place in the society.

In most cases, particularly in the Philippines (and in many parts of the developing world), this act actually commends respect for the employer. Which is very alarming, a sad, sad, sad state of mentality from certain privileged individuals who have no respect for human rights and equality. They have no remote idea that their absolute arrogance is laughable to others. They have no idea that they are -- Fools! Preposterous is it not? This is S-H-A-M-E really, just shameful.

Let me say though that there is nothing wrong with being a maid. There is nothing wrong with employing maids. Like I said, I grew up with them. Just treat them the way you want to treat a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance, i.e. you do not insist your daughter or friend wear a uniform at home, and you give them the same drink or food you serve for yourself.

Read also a similar entry I made in the past: How snooty are you?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Few days in Manila

We had a busy weekend. We went to Friesland to visit a friend and had a stopover in idyllic Giethoorn, dubbed by many as the Venice of the North. As I still need to upload the pictures online, I will have to post them later in this blog.

For now, I have pictures and short videos of Manila.

The still empty, still unused, and controversial airport: The NEW Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. If the government, the contractors, and the courts find amicable settlement with this without end fiasco, they would need to re-invest millions of pesos to cosmetically bring back this new unused airport into its ironically, new state. Right foto is the new airline price fighter of Asia (the Easyjet and Ryanair there): Philippines’ Cebu Pacific Air.

Manila touch base:


The overpopulated-congested Metro Manila from the plane. You can see Makati City skyline (Manila Central Business District) and its buildings shooting up to the skies from the distance. If I am not mistaken, the population of Metro Manila is close to 18 Million as we speak (for the whole country probably about 90 Million?), which is more than the total population of the Netherlands, about 16 Million.

Smooth landing after a turbulent flight! The little kids stopped crying mid-flight when the airplane rocked and dropped; they were scared of the turbulence. Due to hard winds and very cloudy skies, landing was not easy. The voice of the pilot croaked through the intercom announcing we will be delayed as we are number 10 on the queue list for landing and therefore must fly another 10 minutes. This of course did not help the already anxious passengers. That’s why some of them clapped when we finally hit ground, ha-ha!

Frankly speaking, it was quite hard to choose between having screaming kids on flight or turbulence.

Makati City in Metro Manila (the busines capital of the Philippines), taken near the entertainment and malls area. One of my plans was to take a nice skyline foto of the city in Ayala Avenue or Paseo de Roxas, or from on top of a tall building however we didn’t have much time to lose. Next foto is the old and uniquely designed open-air Catholic Chapel in Greenbelt, Makati.


Like the rest of the cities in South East Asia, the Philippines is not an exemption -- It is a city of malls. “Malling” is a real serious hobby and pastime in this country. Check the video above to see a sample of this interesting malling activity. This was taken in Makati City: Glorietta Mall.

For a short joyride, we took the Metro from Ayala to Ortigas. Foto above is the Metro in Ortigas and the colorful bright tail lights in EDSA highway. On the left foto is a campaign from the local tax department (BIR - Bureau of Internal Revenue) requesting consumers to always ASK for a RECEIPT when buying something.

Sadly, trust has a loooong way to go in the Philippines when graft & corruption is concerned.
Anyway, during the short metro ride, we encountered a man fervently sharing his faith. He preached (in Tagalog) fearlessly and forcefully the word of god while the metro bulleted its way above EDSA highway. He became hostile when someone from the back shouted “Shut up!”. In response, he fired back a very un-Christian rebuke. If this preacher’s objective was to proselyte strangers into his belief, church, religion, or whatever... then I must say that he failed miserably. I think he needs a cold shower. See video below:


A very packed Metro ride and the zealous preacher (who was screaming his tonsils out to the commuters).


This is by the Ortigas-SM Metro stop covered walk along EDSA highway. The traffic police officer said hello to us and told me I am lucky because I have a Dutchman (filming him) that is handsome, LOL!!! (if Dutchman is not called decent, he is handsome, hhmmm...)

Left foto: Beauty has become pretty much consumerised in Manila. Even in Metro stations, power bleaching and botox services are sold. Middle foto: I caught the security guard with his mouth open. Right: Me looking a little bit drunk (I’m not actually, Carlsberg beer tastes like flavoured water) in Café Havana Greenbelt.

Lastly, but surely not the least...


The taxi ride to the old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

We had a close encounter of missing our KLM flight back to Amsterdam because of the following:

1) The queue outside the airport entrance gate was amazingly horrendous!!! I muscled my way to the head security and pleaded to give us priority since our flight is leaving in 1.5 hours and we are still stuck outside. My charms worked, the head security signaled his men to give us way, lol. I know, I am stupid, I have totally forgotten how crazy old NAIA is.

2) Who would have expected airport terminal fee will increase? From P550 to P750 in 2 years time (a 36% increase! Wow, if only banks offer this too)?! We only have P1400 together left thus leaving us with P100 short. I went back to the lobby to try my bank and credit cards with the ATM but they all did not work. So I begged KLM to charge my credit card against cash. They charged me US$15 for P500. Too high but what can you do in cases of emergency?

3) After queuing up and paying the terminal fee, we moved to immigration, which is another horrendous experience. The line stood still for 30 minutes. Old NAIA is just too old and under capacity, and the Philippine government is busy having a feisty catfight with the contractors of the newly, er no, 4 years ago constructed (new NAIA) airport, which until now is empty, unused, and left to rot because of their self serving egos.

4) KLM was accommodating enough to wait for all of us poor stranded passengers at the queue. KLM personnel personally assisted us (I actually grabbed one of them) in the immigration queue -- they took our passports and personally handed them to the grumpy immigration consul for the exit stamp, thereafter, they smuggled us through and out of the nightmarish never-ending immigration queue.

5) Then we ran to our gate. The pilot stood tall at the door of the airplane eyeing us both up and down. He probably was thinking along these lines -– “Sooo, these are the idiots who ruined my flight schedule...” Well, 2 passengers down, there were still 9 left stuck in immigration after us, as told by the KLM personnel who smuggled us out of immigration.

I felt like a superwoman after. Dutchman never lifted a finger. Damsel in distress saving herself and the knight in shining armour.

More fotos of Manila can be found here: Manila, Philippines Fotos

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cebu (Sugbu)

I was born in Cebu City. I grew up in this island. But, just like any driven and enthusiastic young girl who looks at the world with the I-will-conquer-you! mentality, I left her at 22 to seek and carve a place for myself somewhere else. So for 15 years now, I have only been a regular visitor here.

Capitol, the white palace where the City of Cebu is being run. Next foto is a calesa (with a bush horse) and the water street vendor.

Omnipresent security guards, you cannot miss them! And Halo-Hallo, a popular Filipino dessert (or cold snack). Dutchman loved it -- we should not have shared this, we should have bought each our own Halo-Halo.

More local snacks (deep fried): Chorizo, Ngo Hiong, Tempura, and Squid/Fish balls.

During our stay in Cebu City, we didn’t get to go around much. I would have wanted to visit a couple of towns I had in mind (Carcar, Moalboal), but our time was spent mostly with family, which is the reason why we were in Cebu anyway.

Left: Street mango vendor - that mango she is preparing is for me. Middle: Skin whitening is (ridiculously) in! Right: An irony... No Blowing of Horn? Since when has this become a rule there? lol

Anywho, here are some of our Cebu City impressions:

1) We thought Cebu City was too dark in the evenings. The highway lamps do not give much light. Or, there should be more lamps.

2) Cebu City has no center. All points of interest are scattered all over the city. If you are a tourist, you would not know where to hang out or walk around.

3) I always get lost driving in Cebu. Every year there are new roads built and I always end up taking the wrong turn or driving into the wrong street and highway.

4) We had a little accident. I took the wrong turn and when I realized my mistake I drove to a side street so I can retrace my steps. While I was maneuvering to the side, the car got stuck with something hard underneath. As I said earlier, many of the streets in Cebu are not well lighted so I didn’t see there was something down there protruding. Anywho, Dutchman got out to help me and pushed the car. But helaas, it won’t budge! We tried a couple of times, still, nothing happened. A few bystanders and passersby saw our dilemma and quickly helped us. Five guys, including the Dutchman had to tilt the car to its side, lol. We found out that the culprit stuck under the car was wood. I am glad though that it was not stone otherwise it would have been a real problem.


Waiting at the stop light with the jeepneys. This is by the corner of SM Mall.

5) Traffic is chaotic in Cebu City but I quickly adapted! Like it has always been in my genes.

6) Most cars drive on the left lane! It drove me practically crazy. ARGHHH!!!

7) FREE PARKING anywhere in the city.

8) Have to be careful driving outside the city as dogs and cats squat freely on the streets. They think they live on the street. They really do.

9) There are always people walking about on the streets. Even at 2 in the morning! Dutchman kept asking me, “Where are these people going?” lol

10) In the evenings, some would cross the not well lighted streets nonchalantly like they are taking a leisure walk in a park. You need to be quick as a fox to step on your brakes!

11) Cebuanos are not born and bred partygoers. We circled the city a couple of times during midnight looking for a bar or a club to chill out, have drinks, listen to music, watch people, but only the sleazy ones are open. Someone told me that the trendy decent bars and clubs are only open towards the weekend?

12) Speaking of bars and clubs, its not easy finding which the cool bars and clubs are in town when you don’t know the place anymore.

13) I feasted on grilled seafood!

14) Dutchman on the other hand was hooked on ripe yellow mangoes. Mangoes in the morning. Mangoes in the evening.


Cebu Pacific Air (flight Cebu to Manila) taxiing for takeoff at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.


Click on the video to see the gorgeous turquoise blue and white beaches... and the exclusive resorts of Mactan Island in Cebu from above the plane.

15) Lechon Manok (rotisserie chicken) here, Lechon Manok there, Lechon Manok everywhere. The secret of Cebuanos why Lechon Manok in Cebu (and also the Lechon Baboy/Roasted pig) is very tasty is this - they pickle them, they inject spices and sauces into the meat.

16) Cebu City has been invaded by café – coffee shops. Literally.

17) Security guards rule in the Philippines (of course in Cebu too)! You can’t go past them inside the mall without being body checked. And they carry genuine guns. I wondered if they were loaded though.

18) Green mango street vendors are all over the city. I bought 2 pieces. I also bought the sautéed shrimp paste. Yummy! I was only able to finish 1 though.

19) In a department store, everyone suddenly stopped moving. Then I realized – ah, it’s the angelus! Catholic owned department stores still observe the angelus. At 6PM, everyone stops from what they are doing, both the employees and the shoppers, and recite the angelus prayer quietly. It is a world of its own.

20) The malls are always busy. Dutchman asked, “Why are people always shopping?” I told him they are not shopping. They are in the malls to eat, hang out, and cool off (from the scorching heat outside).

21) I will add more if I think of something.

Left: Me at a local fastfood - Goldilocks. Middle: Rizal Memorial Library Museum along Jones Avenue. Right: Red Horse beer! This beer can really kick. The SMBs (San Miguel Beer) are like flavoured water compared to this.

More pictures of Cebu here: Cebu City, Philippines Fotos

We would have stayed a couple of days longer but real life duties calls us back to the Netherlands, so we flew to Manila where KLM awaits to bring us back to Europe.

I told Dutchman that I could go back, rather we, could live in the Philippines anytime... but helaas, it is not an option. Maybe, just not for now...

Travel Period: July 2007
Destination: Cebu City (Cebu - Visayas Region), The Philippines

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