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During the fourday workweek the government has adopted as energy conservation measure, I am out of the house before 7 in the morning. In these past two months, I travel to work with a blank stare without any care to the world. There was even a time when I was caught between a brutal tongue-lashing of a Muslim couple in my jeepney (public transport) ride to where the office shuttle picks me up, not actually minding if they decide to kill each other right there and then.

Given this rather somnambulant state, it was too late when I discovered I didn’t have loose change for my jeep fare this morning. The smallest I had was a hundred bucks and it was too late to retreat. There was only one other person in the jeep, a pregnant young woman, and so I asked the driver whether he has change for my money this early in the day while handing the 100 bill to him. He took my money then asked whether I had some change (which obviously I didn’t have) and where I will get down. This went on for a few minutes until the pregnant lady took coins out of her purse and actually paid for my own fare. I was protesting the whole time saying it wasn’t necessary and all I got from her was a smile.

I felt really embarrassed. Here I am, in my early morning apathetic self, unable to pay for my own fare and allowed a lady who will soon face responsibilities I know I can’t at this time to give me a free ride. But at the same time, I was elated at this random act of kindness I was privileged to experience. It perked me up more than the mug of coffee I had when I woke up. I was deeply touched and it made me feel like I have to do something to pay it forward. I even thought of getting her number to pay her back some time soon. But I decided against that worrying that she might think not only am I penniless, I’m also sick in the head.

It was even more amazing that she looked like she did the most ordinary thing in the world. I was thanking her profusely and she was just smiling all the time, not exactly basking on the glory of preventing a girl from being thrown out of a moving vehicle.

It was just P5.50 but it IS P5.50. If not for her my day would have been all screwed up because I wouldn’t have made it to the office on time. I would have to walk all the way back to the house because for sure, no store would have change for P100 before 7 in the morning. And because of this, as certain as the sunrise, I’ll be cranky as hell for getting tired so early in the day and for my stupidity that I could have avoided. And she saved me from all this. What an angel.


Losing it

I’d like to give a rundown of what I enjoyed eating the past weeks. I know, food again, but food is the only thing now that keeps my mind off work. And I have to admit, work is driving me crazy these past days and I don’t want to write about that and I think it’s enough that I’ve been yakking about it to my boyfriend, co-workers and yes even to my mom. To calm my nerves allow me to give you this virtual treat.

In celebration of her birthday, Ms. Berns Romulo (who I found out has discovered my blog, hi Ms. Berns!) brought to the office chap chai, spring rolls and ceasar’s salad bites. The chap chai, the Korean glass noodles with shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds and other veggies was filling but not too heavy. The ceasar’s salad bites are like small bread bowls topped with perfectly dressed salad. For dessert we had white chocolate cake and refrigerator cake. What is impressive about all this is that everything was prepared by just one person and no, it wasn’t Ms. Berns (hehe). Whoever she is, I think she’s a real domestic goddess.

When the town fiesta was celebrated in Sta. Ana last May 12, my mom prepared a Chinese Feast. We had yang chow, shanghai, pata tim, hainanese chicken and beef hofan. For dessert my mom made black almond jelly with lychee.

After enjoying hours at the spa last May 14 with my sisters and cousins (my cousin in law Kaye thanked us with gift certificates for stressing us all for her wedding), we had a late dinner at Queens along Jupiter. Queens serves authentic Indian cuisine. Everything was great. The mutton curry was tender and the sauce can be viand all by itself. We especially enjoyed the papadam, it’s like tortilla, with the pickled onions. The seafood goreng (rice) was also very satisfying.

Last Friday, I had dinner at Bellini’s with my favorite people (read: sisters, cousins, boyfriend). I’m beginning to love all their pizza but quattro formaggio still tops my list. It is the place to go for thin-crust pizza and heavenly Italian desserts. The orange cake is a must-try as well as the spinach ravioli and ozo bucco. The first time I went there I didn’t enjoy the risotto that much but I later learned that that is how risotto should be, al dente. Bellini’s is certainly Cubao’s best-kept secret.

Between these, I also managed to visit the trade show at the World Trade Center. I love going to food expos, I think this is pretty clear by now.


Don Juan's centenary

Last year, upon realizing that my lolo daddy (maternal grandfather) is turning 100 this year, my mom and her sisters got all excited and decided that they should host a party. His birthday is May 3 and the menu was planned as early as February. There will be salad with vinaigrette or ceasar’s dressing, bouillabaisse, bihon, baked macaroni, guiso, baked chicken, beef with broccoli and lechon. Dessert will be fresh fruits and pastries my cousin bakes. My aunts who were based abroad and who were here just last Christmas are coming home again in time for the celebration on May 7.

They had a hard time coming up with a guest list because naturally, lolo daddy didn’t have much friends left. Originally they wanted to have shirts made for all of us to wear. Fortunately, it didn’t push thru but all seven of them wore the same shirt in different colors. My cousin also planned to come up with a presentation of the best and worst pictures of all the grandchildren. Fortunately again, it didn’t push thru. Since no waiters will be available for the party, my mom (the family’s culinary expert) assigned us, the children, to man the buffet.

Guests came as early as 5pm and the microphone was never free since 6pm. After the party we were full and exhausted and my cousin (my mom’s godchild and successor) estimated that based on the softdrinks consumed and utensils used, there were around 250 people fed, ourselves included.

For sure, lolo daddy would have been happy if he was around.

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The time stated in the invitation is actually 5pm. Don’t ask me why.

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On the salad bar but sweating like a pig. The guy on the right is not a waiter, it’s my brother in his CCA uniform.

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Waiting for the pay…which never came.

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Poor ate val.

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Auntie Epang, the long-time yaya of the daughters of Don Juan. Dont' fret, she's retired.

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom!


It's about time

My fearless take is that firms can increase the minimum wage at a higher amount. Last Labor Day, the President directed the regional wage boards to meet and make the necessary adjustments in wages. In the Philippines, the minimum wage is determined and fixed by a regional wage board composed of representatives from government, business and labor. And so the President is sort of hands-off.

The call for increase in minimum wage can not be announced in a better time given the rocket-speed increase in the prices of oil and the resulting rise in inflation rate. With the approval of VAT increase just around the corner, we’re sure to lose our hard-earned peso faster than we can say “whew!” at the end of the day.

NEDA (the economic planning team) released a simulation study which shows the increase in inflation and unemployment rates and decrease in GDP growth for an increase in wage of P30, P78 and P125 (these are the petitioned increases). Of course all showed inflation, unemployment and growth rates this country can not afford given the inflation, unemployment and growth rates we currently have. Per NEDA also, for as long as the increase in wage as percent of the current minimum wage is more than the inflation rate, it is not safe. Given the 8% inflation rate now, even the P30 (10% of minimum wage) is not safe.

Employers, as expected, argue that wage increase is bad for business. It will force some firms to close or retrench and it is inflationary. First, data show that only 0.2% of firms that folded cite increase in wages as reason. Most cite organizational and financial difficulty. Second, 91% of establishments are micro-enterprises with less than 10 employees making them exempted from paying minimum wage. Third, minimum wage earners is some 10% of the total number of employed persons and labor cost is just 11% of the entire production cost. That can’t be inflationary.

This point I got from my mom, what is inflationary are the eye-popping consultancy fees and managerial packages businesses give.

Hopefully, the regional wage boards will be guided by their conscience.