Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goldilocks for Expensive Expats: the "Golden Spot" for Foreigner's Living Costs?

Having had (and from what it is looks like, still having) many opportunities to live different countries where standards of living vis-a-vis their relative costs varies dramatically, the author has come to realize that the common perception that more developed countries = more expensive actually is just a misconception.  The belief that better the standard of living, the more it costs, from a comparative global perspective, seem to have little factual basis on the ground to support it.  The author's latest physical move help further validate the theory.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dubai: an Omen for the (Good Version of) Humanity in the Not-so-Distant Future

The author, like many people elsewhere, often daydreams about what the world in the future may look like.  And as a not-so-well-trained social scientist, he does have certain observational tools to help hi decode the general trends of where humanity is heading toward.  There is no definitive, absolute vision of future, of course.  There are simply too many factors that will derail any concrete details.  In the worst case scenario, Hollywood has already made countless predictions with apocalyptic sci-fi films.  Everything from nuclear holocaust to life-ending climate change to alien invasion is definitely possible.

Indian Bureaucracy for Better or Worse

It is funny how the greatest stories out of the author’s India trip have come out of flying in and out of the country itself.  After getting racially profiled on the way in as described in the previous post, now it is time to reflect on the exit…So the incident occurs at the immigration check at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, where the 6am line was the author, a white woman in front of him, and one operational immigration counter with an Indian family of three. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Putting Indian Soft Power at the Cusp of Globalization

Every time the author goes to see an Indian film, with its fanciful, high octane dance moves, he wonders why this particular genre, so prolific in absolute terms, have not made a bigger splash on the global stage.  Contrary to what many people say, many Bollywood films are not particularly plotted narrowly for the comprehension of only an Indian audience, and indeed have simple straightforward good-guy-vs-bad-guy story-lines that are so tantamount to Hollywood's success in places where knowledge of American culture and English language is still sorely lacking.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

India: a First Impression - Racial Profiling, Traffic, and Different Cities within a City

It was meal time on the (non-budget airlines) flight into Mumbai from Bangkok.  As per standard practice, the flight attendants went about up the aisle, asking "fish or chicken?" and handing out the appropriate meal as requested.  Then he came upon this particular traveler, who stared back at him, awaiting for him to pop the standard question.  He stared back blankly, and without a word, fixed a meal tray, and handed over.  "Here, Thai food."  He whispered, not expecting a comprehensible reply, moving on before the surprised author can say "thank you" in return.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wait, What is Winter Again? - A Random Thought on Economics of Everlasting Summer

When people are bored, they talk about the weather.  It is the conversation to end all conversations, a topic so bland that you will start to question your friendship with the person you are talking to.  Yet, few hours after transiting from Hong Kong to Bangkok, this traveler cannot stop reminding himself just how much "good weather" really means for traveling...and perhaps living in general.  Although plenty south already in a part of world where the word "snow" probably means climatic apocalypse in both metaphorical and practical terms, even slight temperature differences certainly do mean a lot.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Should We Speak Mandarin or English?" - A Confusion of Self-Identity

For a Chinese visitor to the supposedly Cantonese-only territories of Macau and Hong Kong, which of their supposed "second language" to use, as the author has been figuring out firsthand, a matter of trial and error, coupled with self-reflection on the identity of both the speaker and the audience.  For most people, the answer to the question raised in the title is more than obvious: if you don't speak Cantonese, just speak whichever one that you are able to, and can make the local Hong Konger or Macanese understand.  Simple enough.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Corruption as a Publicized Cause for Ending Political Rivalry

It has been more than a month since one of the largest typhoon swept across Philippines, destroying major towns along the way, and killing tens of thousands, with several times more still unaccounted for in remote, still unreachable villages.  Previously, discussions on the lack of political will to build adequate infrastructure, legitimatized by the democratically elected political dynasties building up local cults of personality among uneducated voters, only served to exacerbate the suffering.  But the intersection of systemic corruption and politics, interestingly enough, is now an Asia-wide issue.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How Ephemeral is Grandeur: There is No Timelessness in Any Kind of Wealth

The passing of Nelson Mandala surely brings about a slew of emotions from people across the world.  As a symbol of a Third World leader fighting against unjust and institutionalized discrimination on racial basis, his nonviolent resistance and quickness to forgive his enemies exemplify the humanitarian nature needed by so sorely lacking to bring about peaceful resolution of debilitating ethnic conflicts. Yet, while touring the former financial center of Manila, the author has come to realize just how quickly any positive recognition will pass, covered up by unresolved issues that will shift attentions elsewhere.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Persistent Cultural Heritage of Anti-Colonial Non-Alignment

For those interested in political history of the global South, Bandung, some three hours by train east of Indonesian capital of Jakarta, holds a very significant place.  As the host city of the 1955 Asia Africa Conference that brought together leaders of newly independent/established Third World countries ranging from Nasser in Egypt to Nehru of India to Sukarno from Indonesia.  The Conference brought together a coalition of these new countries on collective behavior with intensifying Cold War as the global backdrop.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Business Becomes Personal: the Mental Uncertainties of Unemployment

Its funny how human relationships can change so suddenly so fast in such dramatic ways.  A few days ago, the same group of people sat in a formal meeting in an office discussing conflicts of business interests, mutual improvements, and concerns on performances, and a few days later, you are sitting around the dinner table discussing life in general, pains of working and hating current jobs, and plans for the (decidedly personal) future.  The author has to thank unemployment for even the remote possibility of turning business clientele relationships into personal friendships.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Is Fostering Class Consciousness an Act of Unfettered Freedom of Speech or Institutional Over-confidence?

It is the author's solid belief that modern cinematography of the futuristic fiction genre is becoming increasingly a forum of political commentary, as demonstrated previously by the Purge, and now by the newly released second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.  In fact, the political commentary associated with this latest film was so obviously presented, so not at all subtly nuanced, and so blatantly naked that as a member of the audience in a rather upscale cinema, the author was feeling cold sweat running down his back thinking just how subversive and seditious its conveyed messages are.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dreams, False Cognates, and Plugging in Gaps of Reality

Two guys were sitting in a casual Japanese restaurants.  The waitress shows up at their table with their lunches in hand.  "Sorry, the soup from one set and the rice from the other will come later," she noted apologetically.  The two men did not seem to mind.  They carry on chatting and eating whatever that was already served at their table.  Almost done with their incomplete meals, and noting that the rice and soup have yet to arrive, they call over the waitress to ask.  Embarrassed about her memory loss, she quickly ran back to the kitchen and brought out rice and soup to the table.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Modern Capitalism vs. Buddhist Traditionalism in a Newly Opening Myanmar

There was a teenage girl, donning a trendy T-shirt, tight-fitting jeans, and high heels in the middle of the night market in a remote corner of Yangon outskirts.  As the people went about its narrow pedestrian-only alleyways buying vegetables and other daily needed goods, her team put up a small boom-box and lighting system in one of the more spacious intersections.  The boom-box started blasting the latest English club hits, the lights turned on to the small space on the streets in front of the boom-box.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Persistent Cult of Personality and Lack of Development

The author has not spared any harsh words when it comes to describing just how awful physical infrastructure is everywhere in the Philippines.  The lack of adequate roads and other transportation/communication networks present the country with a severe bottleneck in economic development, scaring off economic activities through prohibitively high logistics costs and lengthy time frame for getting goods and people from point A to B.  Yet we see little investment in the upgrading or maintenance of the already inadequate infrastructure, with even major highways filled with potholes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Complete Lack of Regional Community: Where is the "A" in ASEAN?

Back in the days of backpacking through the European continent during his graduate school days, the author had many doubts about the European Union's ability to forge a common identity for different races and nationalities who answer to different customs, languages, and religions.  Indeed, the thoughts ring even truer today in a continent where diverging economic fortunes among different member states are threatening to tear apart any sort of ideological cohesion based on the pure of "European-ness" that act as the spiritual glue of EU as a supranational concept.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What the Hell are All These People Doing Here on a Wednesday Morning?

It is 10:30am on one of the main thoroughfare of Metro Manila heading to the southern suburbs.  Except...the thoroughfare was no longer a thoroughfare for cars, but for seemingly endless amount of people and goods moving up and down the slim middle path still left over after informal shops and stands took over most of its two paved lanes.  Hawkers hawked and shoppers shopped, all the way down to the main church of the community at the end of the road, where repeated session of what seemed to be a widely celebrated phenomenon of "Wednesday Mass" is now in full swing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

the Ambiguity of Conscience and the Need for Preventive Justice

From almost the day a person is born, s/he goes through a relentless regimen of moral education that that gives her/him a set of guidelines on what is supposed to be the correct behaviors of a person that is integrated into the mainstream society as a law-abiding citizen.  While some of the teaching do lead to a certain degree of rebelliousness where indoctrination actually lead to unintended contradictory effects, the vast majority of people do seem to accept the most obvious of the guidelines (such as that murdering or theft are criminal and rightly punishable) without hesitance.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Exit from Rocket Internet: Reflecting on the Human Aspect

It has been nearly one and a half years since the author first took up those mysterious Skype calls (and then a dubious-looking employment offer) from Malaysia, and flew on a three-day notice from London to Kuala Lumpur.  And it has been nearly one year since taking up the post of Vice President of Operations at the Lazada Philippines office after another one-week notice to fly to Manila.  And as the employment contract finally draws to a close, perhaps it is a time to evaluate the whole journey before the last goodbyes.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Catholicism Going on the Defensive?

Surrounded by the elated parents, godparents, friends, and relatives, the priest in charge of the baptismal ceremony simply cannot hide his dismay throughout the whole fiasco.  Standing awkwardly to the side while the adults continue to take their turns having their pictures taken while cuddling the baby to be baptized, he calmly hid his annoyance at the continued delay to the ceremony that should have started almost have an hour ago.  the author, even as a devote atheist doubting the very meaning of organized religion, felt embarrassed by the lack of respect in a supposedly sacred occasion.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wondering What Goes through the Minds of a Working Lounge Girl

"Welcome! 오서오세요!! いらっしゃいませ!!!"  As soon as the author and his friends stepped inside the purposely dark-tinted and heavy metal doors of the karaoke lounges surrounding Malate's Remedios Circle, dozens of girls, dressed in various themed costumes for the night (ranging from schoolgirl to maids) surrounded them, putting on their best smiles in front of the potential customers lazily scanning each girl up and down before deciding to stay or go.  Outside, male representatives of each competing lounge shove pictures of their best girls in front of passersby, hoping to get more customers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

When Blogging Becomes a Nexus of Cyberspace and the Real World...

"You know, there are not that many Japanese people who come to the Philippines, and even among those few Japanese here, only the tiny minority is willing to explore different places and try new things.  I think, as member of this tiny minority, I have the duty and obligation to broadcast my experiences and newly gained knowledge via my blog."  This is perhaps the most genuinely and agreeably righteous comment the author has ever had the fortune to hear firsthand.  It is as if the comment suddenly opened up a whole new understanding of what blogging really means.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Economic Costs of Not Being Able to Say "No"

Let's start out with a bit of stereotyping: Asian culture is a culture that frowns upon outright, declared refusals.  Because people are taught, in schools, in homes, and social occasions, to focus on maintaining harmonious, non-intrusive, and non-confrontational relationships, people have tendency to say "maybe," "I will think about it," or even "yes" and they play along with the situation uncomfortably just to avoid awkward situations in which they have to openly reject the what they interpret as well-meaning offers made by others.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Unsustainable Nature of Aid-Giving Social Work

Out there in the rich world, despite all the ruckus about economic downturns and youth unemployment, there seems to be still a strong ideology of action-based do-gooders out there.  Young people in the so-called developed countries, disillusioned by what they feel as "corporate pragmatism" increasingly distanced from the "real world" of unending poverty, disease, and hopelessness in the so-called developing world, dreams about swashbuckling alternate lives saving people in the Earth's remote, underdeveloped corners from misery.  They, so they believe, can miraculously apply the experience of the rich world directly to the poor.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Meaning of Hosting Olympics: Why Istanbul Would Have been a Better Choice for 2020 than Tokyo

As a long-term resident in the city of Tokyo, the author has been often impressed by the city.  Its community spirit (despite being a faceless, almost uniformly dressed metropolis of 35 million) is well much present.  Despite massive government debts, no one has serious doubts about the country being able to construct the physical infrastructure and provide for the necessary human efforts to make the 2020 Olympics a big success.  As a previous host of Olympics and many more regular international events, Tokyo has the experience to make the Olympics a great one.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When Education ceases to be a Vehicle for Upward Mobility

Tucked in a densely forested northeastern corner of Quezon City lies University of Philippines-Silliman, the main (and the largest) campus of the UP system that is the cornerstone of the country’s publicly funded tertiary education system.  Every year, 2000 freshman from all over the country, selected based on scores on a tough and highly competitive entrance exam, enters the campus, receiving a heavily subsidized education courtesy of the Philippine government.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Profile of a Filipino Hotel

Surprisingly, the author has not had any chance to stay in a proper hotel in the Philippines before this weekend (the first few days stay in Manila in a converted condo does not count as there were not properly hotel amenities involved) So weirdly enough, the author was more or less really looking forward to staying in a rather posh (-looking, at least) place for his first overnight trip in the Philippines, coincidentally in Baguio, one of the long-time tourist capitals of the country.  As much as it is one hotel for one night, perhaps some observations about Filipino hotels can be made.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Learned Cynicism to Combat Learned Helplessness?

After experiencing both man-made and natural disasters year after year personally for the past few years (from earthquake in Japan to mudslide in Korea to rioting in the UK), the author has been growing more and more desensitized to the devastation brought out by these unfortunate turns of events.  But some observations of the Filipinos' reactions to the ongoing floods in and near their homes and workplaces, and the author is ashamed to say that his sense of cynicism to disasters from the past is not even close to being at the same level as the ones seen among the populace here in the past days.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Comparing Countries after Disasters Revisited: the Filipino Flood and the Japanese Quake

An old Chinese saying to wish newlyweds longevity in their marriages is "同享共福,同甘共苦," roughly meaning "enjoying all the fortunes together, suffering all the bitterness together."  Centuries of experiences show that while the first comes pretty for most, the latter almost inevitably lead to some sort to schism between the two halves of the couple, especially when the "bitterness" occurs after "fortunes."  People are fundamentally selfish, too willing to put the interests of others and the collective on the line so that they themselves can enjoy just a bit more.  The increases in divorces in recent years attest very much to this.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Learning to stare up from a Four-Inch Screen

Modern human beings live in the cyberspace, getting all the stimulation to get on with our lives, both desired and unwarranted, the needed and the unwanted, from the electronically led-up screens all around us.  Disseminating information to a broad audience no longer involved physically traveling to distant corners, seeking out like-minded individuals to preach novel ideologies, hoping that the few minutes of attention span may completely reorient a person’s dispositions on a certain topic.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

When You Put Your Heart to It...It's All about Economics

The basic principles of economics goes something like this: the greater the demand for something, the higher the price for that something will be.  More people will go produce that something because they know they can make good money of it, creating more competition for that something among the producers.  And when there is more competition, the producers will seek to create better version of that something faster and cheaper than others so that s/he can get a bigger share of the demand than others, and make more money.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Society Reborn...from a Catharsis Ridding Itself of All Negative Emotions and Physical Elements

The author is not a big movie-watcher, but he sees a extraordinary theme emanating from what critics would call an overly cliched plot-line and background, the them get stuck in his mind for days.  Recently, "the Purge" has been such a film.  The film takes place in a wealthy neighborhood in 2022 America, where government allegedly created a wealthy society of little crime and unemployment by permitting an annual 12-hour "no-sin" period when all crimes are legal.  The film tracks one such 12-hour period for one specific family to detail the moral and psychological meaning of such a law.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Does One Define a “Slum”?

A supermarket, a shopping mall, plenty of nice houses scattered around, and even a highly decorated, futuristic-looking church, the streetscape of so-called Manila’s largest urban slum is not what a casual visitor expects it to be.  Yet, the neighborhood of Tondo, lying right besides the industrial harbor in the northern half of City of Manila, has a far-reaching reputation that scares off well-off locals and attracts hordes of international NGOs, charity workers, and do-good volunteers.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Perception of Institutional Inequality vs Mental Conditioning for a "Skin-Deep" Emphasis

It is as if in a few days, America was back to the 1960s.  Never since the civil rights movement itself has death of an innocent young man led to so much social upheaval, and questioning of the inequalities that exists within the most fundamental part of the nation's legal system.  Everything in the legal process was up to a bit of reflective thinking.  From the jury's choice, the choice of lawyers, the background of the judges, to the presentation of the video evidences, analysts and amateurs fought to pick apart exactly what went wrong inside and outside that courtroom where the despicable decision was made.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Self-Preserving Isolation of the Filipino Wealthy

Like all great Filipino establishments, the subdivision does not look like at that much from the outside.  A high wall and a guard post, with a security guard lazily asking visitors for their IDs, separates the gated area from the traffic-clogged main road.  Yet, once past the lazy guard, it seems like a whole new world really does open up.  The constant honking of the outside suddenly becomes a distant memory.  large trees, shielding million-peso single houses on both sides, suddenly replaces the shantytowns that are prevalent on the main road outside the subdivision.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Media's Unintentional Fearmongering, Inspired by Plane Crashes...

The news of tragic accidents are always shocking, especially when it happens as rarely as plane crashes.  With solid statistics of safety, planes have surpassed cars, trains, and boats as the fast, safe way to quickly transport oneself from point A to B, even in short distances in which alternative means of travel are price competitive, and perhaps even faster and more convenient (especially given the recent toughness in airport security, combined with long lines and delays).  Even the wealthy are willing to pay a premium as well as the cost of losing coveted privacy, to get themselves to desired destinations onboard a plane.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Can Only Commercialization Save Humans from Destroying Nature?

The approach to the Taktak Waterfall was an extremely promising one.  A set of gentle, well-maintained concrete staircase, covered by lush green tropical foliage followed a large sign that welcomes to the "Hinulugang Taktak National Park."  As visitors descended the stairs, the sound of falling waters became louder and louder, and winds carried the moisture into the air, giving the entire park a moist coolness that was unlike any weather one would expect in a hot tropical summer.  But as one continue to follow the stairs down toward the origins of the falling water...something was amiss.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Power of “Hybrid” Familial Bond and the Chinese-Filipino

On many previous instances in this blog, the idea of familyas the center of Filipino life and identity has been visited andrevisited.  The lengths for which the concept of family matters here, in all matters from having large number of kids and cousins, to business connections and political patronage, are omnipresent and omnipotent.  In a place where social safety net is primitive and sense of trust in civic society is low, those family ties become necessary preconditions for many issues to be resolved.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

When the Monsoon Rain Brings Hopes of Social Development

The driver sighed a long dismayed sigh when he heard that the heavy rain has brought about the news of flood in northern Makati.  At least now he had an explanation for the heavy traffic on the mainthoroughfare heading north into the heart of Metro Manila.  The semi-closed highway, an extension of the main expressway going south into the satellite towns of southern Luzon, is the fastest, least trafficked way to cut through the dense city.  Yet on that rainy day, traffic jammed up all the way to its exit tool gates.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Communal Nature of a Filipino All-Nighter Revisited: Uncoordinated Coordination to Dream a Positive Corporate Dream

A corporate goodbye and welcome party seemed like an over-sized, yet subtly protocol-led version of the previous pool party described. Presence of similar activities means noting their socio-cultural significance will be redundant and thus omitted, but the different atmosphere and context for which it was held mean that the event, as a supposedly more casual yet dramatic extension of the regular workplace relationship espouses certain theories of how people of different levels and motivations may very much behave in coordination to satisfy their own self-interests.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Profile of a Seasonal Worker, Part II: the Battle for Hierarchy

How should one define the "high position" that one holds, in life, in a job, in any sort of community?  Is it the amount of money one earns, the amount of respect received from others, the amount of responsibility one takes on?  The answer is an all-encompassing one that mingles all three, but yet is none of them, strictly speaking.  To be precise, cash flow or that nice title on a business card, by itself, does not really mean much.  Instead, "high position" is always a comparative term, one that draws comfort from comparison, a thought that "ahh, I am doing good because I am better than X and Y."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Profile of a Seasonal Worker

From the first look, he did not seem all that welcoming.  Long nails, unwashed hair, dark skin that is perhaps a bit too dark to be considered purely natural, crooked teeth...he was not the ideal guide, or for that matter, a good example of an ordinary citizen in a cosmopolitan tourist town.  Yet, somehow, as the author spent more and more time with the diminutive 27-year-old man who was his two-day guide in Siem Reap and the Temple of Angkor, his life experiences and stories became, in many ways, the most interesting portion of his trip, much more so than imposing stone temples or fantastic local food.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Communal Nature of a Filipino All-Nighter

The so-called "villa" did not look like much from the outside.  The big sign "Villa Constantino Spa & Resort" had a big red arrow pointing down to a narrow, dark dirt road seemingly leading to a rather normal bedroom community of dense, one-story family houses.  But as so many other places in the Philippines, once inside, a whole new world opened up: three large pools and a children's pool were surrounded by a series of gazebos, open-door karaoke booths, and well-decorated two story buildings full of rented bedrooms.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is Democracy with Hierarchic, Familial Society a Real Democracy?

In the little town of Lucena two hours bus-ride south of Manila, there is a little park right on the main north-south boulevard running the length of the town.  Despite being just south of the commercial markets and malls, the park has a constantly solemn air, maintained by uniformed guards lazily watching the passers-by from their wooden rocking chairs under the big trees.  In the middle of the park is an imposing statue of Manuel L. Quezon, the first president of the Second Philippine Republic, after whom Quezon Province (for which Lucena is the capital) is named.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Unwisely Being Entangled in Office Communications that are, Well, not Purely Work-Related

There are (if you ask some people, outrageously ridiculous-sounding) researches that show a resounding statistics of 65-70% of people having some sort of relationships in their office that is at least somewhat beyond the confines of professional work-related exchanges.  But then again, if one spends majority of the day for 5-6 days a week for nearly every single week with the same group of people, it is almost inevitable that some form of amorous feelings develop over time.  As humans, most are not immune.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Inter-Community Suspicions and Occurrence of Disasters

At the bus terminal in downtown Olongapo City around 4pm, there was a massive line snaking out its front door and spilling onto the side streets.  The line was for purchasing bus tickets to Manila.  Dejected by the prospects of late arrival back home, the author nonetheless joined the end of the slow-moving line, hoping that his turn at the ticket window will come as quickly as possible.  Rules, when they do seem to exist, should be followed.  And with dozens of others anxiously inching forward in the still-hot afternoon sun, there was no reason the author should not.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Six More Months in Manila: a Time for Resolutions

This blog is big on personal resolutions, most of which, after even the most fleeting reviews of which shows that most never even come close to being fulfilled...or the efforts of working toward fulfilling them even being shown.  Instead of choosing to work toward something, the author instead focuses on grabbing whatever interesting that comes his way, hopping from one country to the other, one job to the other, one experience to the other, without seriously thinking of the consequences involved, or where such adventures will take the author next.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Putting a Price on the Bottomline of Human Morality in Manila's Sexual Entertainment Quarter

The entertainment strip of the town is always packed with people and lights.  Perhaps not crowded with visitors but always full of guys and gals of the nights peddling condoms, massages, and themselves.  Every joint has decorated heavy metal doors under their shiny neon lights advertising the best experiences and girls in the strip.  And it is into those heavy metal doors that the author, along with his friends, casually strolled in, full of smiles and expectations that a whole new world was behind the premise guarded by a perpetually serious security guard/bouncer.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"So...What Do You Do on the Weekends?"

First time playing host to a friend in Manila, the author was probably most stumped by this particular question.  After a day of giving the usual tour of the city, from the old walls of Intramuros, the hectic business activities of markets and shops around Chinatown and Quiapo Church, and ending the day with a dinner and few drinks in restaurants, bars, and clubs of Bonifacio Global City, Greenbelt, and Resorts World Manila, the author was genuinely out of ideas on what else can be done in the city limits of the Filipino metropolis.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Inherent Inequality of Expat-Local Workplace Relationship

After a night of unproductive carousal at the local nightclub, the author is starting to get the realization that perhaps developing more substantial (i.e. not strictly work-related) relationships with one's coworkers may be much more fulfilling than trying to carry on pointless conversation with a complete stranger in vain hope of finding some sort of common ground.  After all, in the case of coworkers, one can always fall back on talking about entertaining rumors and incidents of the workplaces, when attempts at conversations of other topics falls flat due to, say, lack of common interest or cultural differences.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Too Much Fatigue, Too Much Expectations, Too Much Money Spent...

The author has not gone out often, ever since the day he departed London and all its grad-school-justified alcoholic mayhem.  The high alcoholic prices in Malaysia only served to discourage going out even more, just as the work culture, with sweaty operations and tough hours, brought down spirits.  The situation only got worse in the Philippines, as work became six instead of five days a week, and more work-related worries (read: homework) made the prospect of going out even less.  The result is an all-round loss of any urge to seek those fun moments that lasts well into the wee hours of any day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Paying Respect to Independence of the "Invisible" Muslim Filipino

Back in December when the author first arrived in the Philippines, his spoke of Muslims in Malaysia at his first dinner with his real estate agent in the local shopping mall.  The first reaction of the real estate agent, a good Catholic Filipino, born and brought up in an exclusively Catholic environment, was to express his detestation of Muslim food.  "Those Muslims are so filthy...I cannot eat their food...I'm afraid I might get sick."  His straightforward condescension toward the country's Muslim minority (less than 5%, concentrated in the deep-south island of Mindanao) was simply shocking.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Physical Scars of American Imperialism

Walking around the half-empty and extremely sparely populated (by Filipino standards) Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) just north of Angeles City, the author was chased down by a pack of street kids asking for cash.  While the behavior itself is nothing out of ordinary here in the Philippines, something struck the author's psyche so much that he kept staring at the kids even as they ran away.  These kids, judging from their looks, very extremely dark...not dark as in dirty and unwashed, but genetically...and looking a little closer, some of the boys even had short curly hairs, not characteristics of Filipinos at all...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"May I Have Some Money for..."

Walking around the mall on a lazy afternoon, the author was suddenly tapped on the shoulder by a middle-aged Filipino man casually walking by.  "Hey, I remember seeing you at the hotel lobby," the man cheerfully recalled, noting the dual-purpose hotel-condominium complex that the author currently resides.  The author quickly noted that the man is the security guard as the complex, and struck up a casual chat on his way to the store.  The man noted that he was on his way to meet his family to celebrate his 5-year-old daughter's birthday.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Yearning for Political Communications in a Businessman's Mental Void

On a perfectly sunny day with a tinge of humidity reminiscent of the gradually nearing monsoon season of pouring rains, a coworker popped a casual question while we lounged around in the local Starbucks.  "What do you miss the most about the U.S.?"  Without thinking, the author just replied, "Umm, I do occasionally miss the snow on old buildings..."  As soon as the words are blurted out, the mind conjured up images of fresh white powders topping the spires of Yale's stone-clad campus.  But, quickly, "well, maybe for a day, but I do not think I can go back to the cold weather anymore,"  the author indignantly added.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Things that Can be Taken as Granted and the Things that Cannot

All the sudden, everything on the floor came to a stop.  All the usual sounds of pop music blasting, packing materials screeching, and scanners beeping were suddenly cut out from the heavy dusty air of the overworked, sweat-filled warehouse.  The chain was broken and the process was paralyzed.  It was a blackout, a complete outage of power within the whole compound.  But it was more than just a realization of over-dependence on electricity that came about, it was fear and stress that the orders that need to be sent out, with all the items already in the building, had to be halted.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Writing Worthy of Notice vs. Living Worthy of Notice

There was a time that the author felt that his world was perfectly aligned with the descriptions and the words spelled out on these posts, and that the posts themselves were a springboard and preparations for something greater in the direction of his life.  But as Chinese New Year's 2013 approaches, and the daily grind of work at a faraway corner of the world sinks into his psyche as a persistent reality rather than some sort of ephemeral adventure, for some reason, that notion of writing as a target of life is starting come into heavy doubt.

Monday, February 4, 2013

When a Business Exists to be More Than a Profit Generator

Once a friend asked a senior leader at Rocket Internet, "how did you manage to assemble such an elite team of ex-consultants from the most renowned firms and fresh grads from the most reputed universities to work in your ventures?"  The leader simply replied, "Money."  For the author, there was not a sadder moment since joining this global firm than upon hearing this little anecdote.  It is not only he who is not understood, but a whole group of people, that whole group of "ex-consultants from the most renowned firms and fresh grads from the most reputed universities" that was just ruthlessly labelled as "shallow" with one word.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Celebrating Chinese New Year's in the Philippines: a Political Interpretation

The Chinese New Year's decorations in the local mall in Makati becomes gaudier and gaudier every week the author goes for his weekly grocery shopping.  In the run-up to this year's official February 10th countdown when a new year begins on the lunar new year, the mall has introduced Qing-dynasty Manchu uniforms for its employees, 1960s Taiwanese romantic ballads for its repetitive theme music, and of course, bright red and golden signage for every floor and department to make sure any passers-by know exactly what this fuss is all about.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Instigator and Facilitator: the Emotional Distraught of a Mid-Level Manager

Among the intellectuals of the world, there has long been a consensus on the defining quality of individual success.  It is not measured by the amount of cash in one's bank account, the net worth of one's business, assets, and properties.  Instead, the key word is "power," the authority one has over other individuals and functioning of a community, and to a greater extent, society in general.  The ability to influence and to change the course of other's lives, in particular, can be seen an easy, albeit morally reprehensible, way to get one's hands on an almost unlimited flow of cash.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kinship-ing Your Way to Success: Decoding the "Asian Ways" of Filipino Society

"Hiya" "amor-propio" "compadre"...and series of local sociological concepts rolls off the pages of a cultural learning book detailing the tendencies of Filipino behaviors.  All of these, foreign-sounding at the first sight, after even the most brief of explanations, become terribly familiar for someone who has seen perhaps a bit too much of the collectivist values so ingrained within Asian societies.  It is as the author said so well in the prologue, Filipino society, despite its Western-looking facade of English use, Christian beliefs, and American cultural affinity due 400 years of Western colonization, is not at all a Western society at heart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Long-Distance Buses in the Philippines: the Chaos of Private Enterprise and Government Absence

The rusty old box on wheels "sped along" the Emilio Aguinaldo Highway south of Manila as fast as I could...which, unfortunately for the anxious traveler, was not that much.  Sitting on the long wooden chairs of the long-distance bus, the traveler kept staring out of the glass-less window to see just how long the traffic will continue to crawl forward.  The bus was moving so slowly on the two-lane "national highway" that the wind coming through the open windows cannot compensate for the heat of the early morning sun and the body fumes of the massive crowds squeezed into the already over-capacity bus.