I'm just a small fish in a small corner of this big Laguna, and this is how I've been swimming it

17 November, 2011

Mirabilis 4 o'clock flower

     This flower smells so fragrant beginning in the early evening.  I have seen it growing wild along the road on the Tagaytay ridge. Last year, it suddenly appeared in our garden.  A lovely surprise.

    See my photo of the 4 o'clock flower here.

12 November, 2011

Stamps, the friendly Barangay Post Office, and going postal

     I still enjoy sending and receiving "snail" mail.  Luckily, I still have one (come to think of it just ONE) friend who regularly sends me something on my birthday every year, and on Christmas, even if she is Thai and doesn't really celebrate Christmas the way we do.  She is a stamp collector. Along with a pack of Nestle Thai iced milk tea powder sachets, a present such as bags shirts, or whatever she can send that doesn't cost more than 500 baht to send by mail, are sets of postage stamps. BEAUTIFUL Thai stamps.  Sadly, I am not into philately, though I admire and have cherished all the stamps she has sent me through the years.  I keep the envelopes too. I really have to set up some webpage and scan everything to show them!

     The very last time I had to pick up my parcel from Thailand at the MCPO (Makati City Post Office) on Buendia, I gave away a set of those stamps. Actually, I think it was the envelope I gave to the post man.  He was nice anyway, and remembered that I had been coming to pick up the same kind of parcel with gorgeous stamps inside.  Besides, he was a true collector and was shy to say so. Of course I could share.

     What saddens me is I have not been able to truly share, to return the favor, to my Thai friend.  I have sent her some of our stamps, I have even given her this book about Philippine stamps by the late Reynaldo G. Alejandro (may his soul rest in peace). But I cannot match the stamps she sends me.  Ours just pale, pale pale in comparison. I'm not too proud to send them.  Often, I read press releases about commemorative stamps I would like to own and send to her.  I have not been successful in purchasing any of these, as I could not travel to the main post office in Manila.

     At the MCPO, there is a department upstairs from which to purchase the stamps.  I did get to buy a few, but they did not have the stamps advertised.
It was always disappointing.  Even if the designs had potential or were significant to me, the printing was not as nice as my Thai ones.

     These photos are of the ones I received last month.  I have even better, more brilliant ones tucked away in a closet and bins...from 20 years of friendship.  As an aside, I made friends with her when she hosted me in her home as part of this Japanese-government sponsored program, The Ship for Southeast Asian Youth.  I was a participant during a time when we had no option but to send letters written on paper. There weren't even cellphones in 1991.  I am just so happy she continues to send me these. Oh, and she sent them right before the flooding got around her home in Bangkok, so I received them during.

    Anyway, I have listed my mailing address as one in Paranaque now, and not this one in Sta. Rosa.   I consider it 'safer' in a sense, because then I would not have to go to the bayan to pick up registered mail.  Also, I notice that I only saw the Philpost van twice in here, and that was on our first year. I even spoke to the mail men (because call me postal but I love the idea of mail, post, and stamps, really.), who said they actually deliver registered mail instead of waiting for us to pick them up.  I then learned where the nearest post office in Barangay Don Jose is.  It is just at gate 2 of the Laguna Technopark, at the pedestrian entrance.

   Once, I intentionally mailed something, for my toddler to experience the whole post office thing.  It turns out this little post office room is manned by one interesting lady, but then you can never tell if it's going to be open or shut for the day.  Or some days, half the day.  The friendly security guard will tell you the various reasons, too.  When we finally got lucky, we met the postal lady, who is interesting because of her accessories. She matches her outfits with bangles, necklaces and earrings of similar print/color.  On our first day, it was animal prints, and the other, wooden beads in summer limes and yellow to match her green outfit. I complimented her.

   So now my toddler has this impression that the lady who takes your letter to lola is fashion-conscious.  Really, the accessories did a lot to perk us up (and I'm sure her), in the little roomful of mail to sort.

   I still cannot obtain commemorative stamps from her though. I wanted the John Paul II one, but she said I would have to go to the main office in the bayan, or really, in Manila. My compliment got me a friendly response, but didn't get me the stamps.


09 November, 2011

Robinson's Supermarket Nuvali

     This is the view from the French Baker in Robinson's Supermarket Nuvali.  Honestly, I would have preferred having ACE closer to us than True Value, but then their aesthetics are still appreciated over Ace's. 

     True Value: I just wish the staff didn't just give me a blank look and do the blame thing when I simply suggested to correct the label on the huge Christmas tree for sale. It read "Dog Glass Fir" and I thought I was going to be helpful by spelling it out for them...as, you know, the man's name Douglas perhaps?  I'm not from North America so I really don't know what a real Douglas fir is, but there weren't any customers and I was in jobless-pakialamera mode. I was also pretty sure it wasnt "Dog Glass". I guess, also, the educator in me wanted children who might read it to learn the right name.

     Instead the customer service people were quick to 'blame' the guy quietly sorting the rest of the trimmings as the one who printed the label.  It was kind of embarrassing for him, I think, so I quickly slipped away after muttering to just fix the typo.  Honestly, I thought maybe the labels are based on supplier's labels; that maybe they're printed out for all branches out of some central inventory system.  So the guys had no clue what I was talking about.

     Why do we often have this kind of reaction---to say "ay, si ___ gumawa niyan eh".  Perhaps they were embarrassed too to have a customer point a simple thing (and insignificant, really, in my view) out. I hope it doesn't start from schooling...when rather than aid each other, and support each other, students mock each other for their mistakes or teachers ridicule rather than teach.  A simple thank you, ma'm, and taking down of the sign would have sufficed.  They could confer with the staff responsible for it in private. 


     Something really struck me about the shopping style in Paseo de Sta. Rosa, and moreso in SM Sta. Rosa in our first year.  Customers called the sales girls "ate! ate!" and not "miss" as I did all my life.  What was interesting was, I would study the customer calling "ate" and see that she, the customer was actually a middle-aged woman, and the sales girl inevitably not over 30.  If it happened to be a salesman, of course then the customer would say "kuya". Ate Tagalog for "older sister" and kuya for older brother. 

     I remember thinking, I must have missed a "Pinoy Big Brother" paradigm shift beginning from bedrest till birth and throughout my child's infancy.  Is this the norm in Metro Manila now too?  Then again, I do use the Ilonggo "manong" and "manang" frequently when addressing strangers like, the maintenance people, if I don't know them yet, or vendors on the street.  I use it only when they look older than me, though. I also never use "sister" or "sis".

    The most amusing thing about this "ate, kuya" phenomenon is that it was used to address my toddler...who was visibly the only child with me.  We walked into ACE Hardware, which usually has the sales associates lined up along the aisles, like in SM, greeting repeatedly.  So we walked in, and "hi, ate!"..."ate, anong gusto mo..." "ate ate ate!" . My kid was bewildered. I wondered if she thought she had a little sibling hidden somewhere.

    Seriously, it was quite an unusual thing for me, hearing strangers call the toddler customer "ate".  And I really feel like it is a new thing, or confined to the province.  I would appreciate you telling me when this started, and if it has been happening all over the country.  It's not a life-changing thing, it's just interesting.

    Then again, with the opening of more foreign brands shops in Paseo 4, 5 and Solenad 2, I noticed that calling the sales people "ate", and sales people calling US "ate" isn't the norm.  I do note, that the customer service training of these popular retail chains is even better than before. They do serve well.  And here in Sta. Rosa, the sales people are so friendly, many of them have struck up conversations with me.  It's probably due to my lugging the toddler around, but I find that the neighborhood really is friendly.  And for some reason, many of the service crews, waiters, and sales people are residents of Cabuyao, Laguna next door. That ought to be the subject of another post.

06 November, 2011

Shrike on sampayan

     One of the first friends to welcome us were of the feathery kind.  I have photos to dig up of the Sunbirds who regularly fed on the flowers two years ago, I have videos of yellow and black Orioles.  There are kingfishers on trees surrounding the pool.
     They must have moved to Nuvali.
     Even during their "season", this past year, they were not around as much. I do hope it has nothing to do with the new roads, the loss of tall grass habitat, more of our species.  Sadly, I think it does.

* sampayan is clothesline in Tagalog

Palochina in Binan

     I'm showing the bookshelf, not the books.  It is very simple, straightforward, made of palochina.  I don't know exactly what the name translates to, or if it is even supposed to be one or two words. Palo could mean like a strip of wood (please, somebody, help?), while china would mean that it is wood from China?

     Anyway, palochina used for furniture, usually beds, is sourced from shipping crates.  Carpenters source the crates from the port area in Manila, but I also heard they buy the crates in Santa Rosa. I just don't know where.  I am also not sure how sustainably-produced the wood is, but at least it is recycled from cargo.  These days, the price of palochina is up, owing to low supply of good quality crates.   I suppose it is also due to a decrease in imports?

    I remember palochina being something of a fad in the late '70s to early '80s, or at least I thought it might be when as a child I kept hearing about it from a neighbor in our middle class neighborhood.  She had a 'bar' made (a well-stocked liquor bar set with stools is, I reckon, another fad from the era. I don't think it's as standard an area as it was then. Correct me again here, please?) I digress.

    By the time I wanted furniture made myself, I turned to palochina, as it was affordable, had the Swedish pinewood appearance, and there was a community carpenter whose specialty was the palochina bed.  I had him make little stools for children.  Later I ordered a bed from one of the palochina guys along the Service Road toward Bicutan and across the United Paranaque Subdivision (United Hills).  I have since ordered store shelves and cabinets from a guy named Jose, who has since disappeared from Sucat Rd., and wardrobes from the group on Santolan Ave. across Camp Aguinaldo.  
This bookshelf above, is from my latest palochina carpenters in Binan, Laguna. 

   Trivia:  all these guys are from Isabela in the north. Just ask them. They are all cousins, they say, including the ones along Commonwealth Ave (are they still there?). They must have learned from one great master carpenter, then.  I tend to believe them, too, except maybe the latest, most professional one so far.  Why? Well, no matter how "industrial" your preferred design, meaning all straight lines, they will insist on adding their "curved" border.
    Honestly, I can't even remember whether I drew the curve for them to follow. Then again, I think my sample photo was from an IKEA catalogue and it didn't have the curve. At any rate, it has grown on me, and I concede that straight lines would make the piece too boring and box-like.  These guys, are after all, craftsmen. It's just that, if you aren't really going for the "country cottage" look, make sure you have your design clear. 

   Through the years, the varnish the carpenters use has evolved.  My first orders yellowed due to the finish, my sister's one order turned dirty because she refused varnish, hoping to keep a natural finish. Now, they have achieved the natural finish with a new kind of varnish.  The wood doesn't turn yellow.

   Since our previous bedroom furniture already consisted of palochina, I chose it again for the book and toy shelves. JOVIMAR Palochina along the national highway in Binan, toward SM Sta. Rosa and just before the fork to Sta. Rosa, is a good shop. They did not charge for delivery, either, and have their own van for it. 
   I have observed that many Korean families here (and there are many), opt for palochina tables and beds. Double deck beds made of palochina are popular in the country.  It is quite practical, inexpensive and clean-looking. I recommend Jovimar for their on-time and even early delivery, and for how they try their best to get the design right by thorough discussion.  Jovimar's number is 09263449312.  They don't need advertising, and I get nothing from them for this. They don't even know.  Wait, this again assumes someone's out there reading this. Let me know?

03 November, 2011

current weather in Santa Rosa, Laguna 4:40pm

     Gloomy, rainy, sleepy weather.

Monterey in the Market no more

     Before there was South Supermarket, residents from as 'far' as Laguna Bel-air went to get their meat here and from the Mahogany market in Tagaytay.  This is the meatshop at the Paseo Country Market. It opened the same year we moved here. We got our chicken here weekly, having friendly conversation with the owner's parents.  I heard they even won an award from SMC.  We were actually sad to stop going there in favor of the nearby supermarket (and because we stopped cooking beef and pork at home).  So when we saw this last month, we felt sadder still.  

    Where are you, St.Lucky Ventures?  The mananahi at the market said you are now in Laguna Bel-air.