Monday, September 28, 2009

Ondoy's Attack

On Friday night J and I were still planning to party on Saturday night somewhere in Ortigas. I picked J up from the office and went home as it started raining. No biggie. It always rains. When we got home (at the condo in Taguig) the winds started blowing really hard. Whenever it does, it made a howling sound as it passed through metals of the balconies. Pepper, on the other hand, looked so wary. Even when it's time to sleep, he wouldn't, and would just be close by. I fell asleep with my arm dangling from the bed just so he'd feel like he's beside somebody.

Saturday morning. Still raining. The balcony's so wet now, I got the feeling it must be flooding already. I tiptoed on the balcony to check if my car is still parked outside our building--or if it was already submerged somehow. Elmo (my car) is still okay. No signs of flood. But a lot of cars had already illegally parked. I knew something was wrong. We switch on the tube and tuned in to the news... Horrible.

We start calling people from Navotas. As I expected the phoneline was dead. I called up my mom and got a hold of her. They sounded so calm. They have electricity. Almost all of them are home, and the flood--like most high tide days--were just knee deep and didn't even reach our backyard. Hmm. Tolerable. Thankful.

Seaoil Merville calls up to stop operations. It was waist-deep already.

SMS started pouring in. I knew people must be worried about the flood capital Malabon-Navotas, seeing the one-storey flood in Pasig, Marikina and Rizal. I assure people we're okay. Then I started wondering, and worrying, about people I know who live/have their families in the said areas. Some of my friends are not in the Philippines and I'm sure they're worried sick about their family.

This post goes out to MM, who was in Manila but their home was flooded in QC. I'm glad you're okay now. And to Lyka and Precious, who are both away from home while in Japan and Korea, respectively, and whose family are still in danger. I am texting every hotline I see on the news to report your area. I know how it must feel being so helpless so far away.

And to everybody whose houses, cars and businesses (like in our case) was damaged by the floods, let us be thankful we are still alive. And let us pray for those who weren't able to make it, or are still waiting for help to arrive.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Passport Renewal

When I was still flying, I would shudder at the thought of renewing my passport in a few year's time. I was using my very first passport then, the one I applied for through a travel agency. I still had to go to DFA though for the personal appearance. I remember so vividly the queues under the scorching sun, the fixers who take advantage of people who know less of the processes, the owners of the photo studio who trick you into having your photo retaken and the general fear of pickpockets in such a crowded area.

Researching on it, I realized I could do it hassle-free through a travel agency again. But since they recently approved the machine readable passports (MRPs) one must still go for a personal appearance for renewal from the old school passport. Darn it.

A few weeks back, we chanced upon a Cebu Pacific seat sale and booked roundtrip tickets to Singapore. Grabbing the chance, I urged J to renew our passports together since I happen to have read through email that starting next year MRPs are required to travel. Be it true or not, my passport would still expire January of next year so it would be inevitable to have it renewed (and converted to MRP). CJ gave in and browsed through sites to gather more info on how to go about it.

Finally, we signed up for Passport Direct by Pilipinas Teleserv Inc. ( for the renewal. The service worth P1,300 offered document pick-up, filing, scheduling for appearance appointment and delivery of passport. Though it may sound so worry-free I still was expecting the worst since I learned that some "appointments" don't actually mean a thing. *ahem US visa application* Sign up and pick up was a breeze if not for one thing: our dog chewed on my passport minutes before the pick up guy came.

The next day a Passport Direct agent called up to give me a heads up on possible delays caused by torn pages of my passport. There was nothing I could do but sigh and hope the filing goes through smoothly. Luckily after a working day we were informed about or appearance schedule day, so again I prepared for the worst.

We woke up at 5am and parked around DFA at 7:30. Hand in hand, we started walking along Libertad street from Roxas bou. One by one fixers started swarming telling you to do this and that, get this and that. We didn't stop walking and when we finally got near the gate I saw plastic chairs for people waiting for their turn. I uh-oh-ed for a moment til we noticed a guy wearing a Pilipinas Teleserv uniform holding out a placard to catch the attention of any Teleserv clients. We approached him and in we go, passing everybody else on queue. We were assisted all the way by these uniformed guys and they even have benches especially reserved for their clients (we had to wait coz the office starts at 8am). By 8:15 we were already back in our car wondering how to waste an entire day J filed a leave for.. :) I am so recommending this service to anyone especially my flight attendant friends!