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How to drive in one piece in Manila

In my previous blog post, I listed 5 tips on how to survive driving in Makati City. While these focus more on how to avoid law enforcement traps, another driving survival guide that’s worth blogging about is how to survive while driving along with Manila’s general driving public.

I’ve had my share of accidents and judgment errors while driving in and around Manila, and these are some of the more helpful points that I believe you should remember in order to avoid being cited more than just a traffic violation ticket.

So how does one survive Manila’s rough and tumble, drag racing, demolition derby attuned roads? Here’s how:

1. The Game of Chicken (or Why It’s Better to be a Chicken Than to be a Statistic)

There are a lot of reckless drivers and road hogs throughout the metropolis. And it is inevitable that you’ll end up playing a game of chicken with some stupid, zero skill driver at some point in time. Now if you’ve taken driver’s ed class or the Land Transportation Office (LTO) license exams, then you’ll probably know that the best way to deal with these kinds of drivers is to simply give way. There’s no point in risking your life, or your passengers’ lives for that matter to some idiot who probably doesn’t know his left from his right, let alone how to use the car brakes.

2. Size Matters (or Would You Want to Go Head On With A Bus?)

When driving in bus-filled roads, such as EDSA, it’s essential to note that “Size Matters”. Simply put: You should never piss off bus drivers, especially during peak traffic hours. If you do, then you’ll most likely end up in the sidewalk frantically trying to wrestle for control of your car while trying to evade incoming pedestrians just because the bus driver decided to play a game of chicken (see Tip #1 above)!

Just imagine the damage a fully-laden passenger bus can do to your car if you happen to be sideswiped by it. An ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure.

3. Lane Markings are Not Enough (or Whoah! Lay Off on the Gas Pedal Dude, This Ain’t No Drag Strip!)

Manila’s main roads have an unnatural tendency to go from being four lanes wide and all of a sudden narrowing down to two lanes. Imagine yourself cruising along at about a hundred kilometers per hour (60 mph) only to break and swerve real hard because of an unexpected road bottleneck up ahead! How government engineers planned the roads to be this way without having any foresight completely boggles the mind.

And so, it really pays if you always stay alert and watch out for the driving behavior of the cars in front of you. If you see them collectively break or swerve, then there’s probably a road anomaly up ahead. Again, you must remember Tips #1 and #2 above, because this is what will most likely happen in case of a “narrowing road” or “road bottleneck” scenario.

4. The Turn Signal Deficiency Syndrome (or “Did He Just Make a Lane Change Signal? No? BANG! I Though So!)

In my experience, approximately only 2 in every 10 Filipino drivers that I encounter on the road know how to make a turn signal prior to executing a turn or a lane change. And half of that, roughly 1 in 10, usually engage their turn signals a split second before doing the actual turn or lane change! I’ve mentioned this in a previous post.

This can be very frustrating for the educated and disciplined driver. Driver’s ed usually teach you to observe signal lights, as this is a clear indication of the expected path a car in front of you will take. With this driving aspect or discipline missing in most Manila drivers, then you’ll wind up observing Tips #1 and #2 above, again!

There are a lot of other driving nuisances that a driver can face while driving in Manila, or in the Philippines in general. But the four scenarios above are probably the most prevalent. But to sum it all up, the best tip that can be offered is that every driver should practice defensive driving. This is one driving technique that will make you an above average driver, no, a great driver.

Are there other driving pitfalls that should be included in this list? Please feel free to add to it.

How to make your vote count

When was the last time you exercised your right to suffrage?

The circus has come, as always, to banner the upcoming Philippine local elections this May of 2007. Although Philippine election laws prohibit running candidates from prematurely campaigning for their seat, Philippine television and other forms of mass media are making a heyday from the current deluge of “personal ads” of some political hopefuls.

It’s interesting to note that these ads have found ways to circumvent election campaign laws. And so, one cannot help but notice and admire the Filipino’s ingenuity, especially when it comes to figuring out, and taking advantage of, loopholes in the current electoral system. Ah yes, the world-renowned Filipino guile, creativity and wits of these so-called political geniuses are once again put to use.

Many Filipinos are turned off by the current state of the Philippine political and electoral system. This particularly holds true for voters who have used their voting brains on past elections only to find out that the outcome leads so much more to be desired. Unfortunately, the reality is that most voters don’t even use half a brain. These brain dead types of voters are easily sucked in by political machineries and star power syndromes. As a politician, you can buy votes, you can buy airtime, or you can even buy out the competition.

So how can one make a difference? Election campaign ads say “Your Vote Counts”, but does it really? Come on, let’s be real here. How will one vote stack up against the votes of an entire zombee-voter bloc? It won’t even make a dent on the “flying-voter” tab. In other words, your vote won’t be worth SH*T…. unless… you… do… something… about… it.

Remember these things:

1. Voting responsibly won’t make much of a difference, but actively campaigning for your candidate will!

Why? Once you drop your ballot, you’re done, there’s no turning back. It only counts as a single tally. But with some pre-campaigning of your own, it’s hard to see why you can’t influence even a single person to see things your way, especially with today’s technology. Your single vote tally could potentially end up influencing a million or so more.

2. Your vote wont ‘count’, if you let fools ‘count’ it for you.

It’s your right to vote, so make sure that your vote stays that way. Don’t let thieves make a fool out of you. Report any illegal post-election activities, or better yet, be a poll watcher. Even the best magician can’t work his magic if a lot of eyes cover every angle.

There are a lot of other ways to make a difference. You should always keep in mind that voting is not only a right, it’s a responsibility. So make it count. The future of our kids depend on it.

5 tips on how to survive driving in Makati City

Have you ever driven in the “country” that is Makati City?

Of the major cities in the Philippines, Makati has probably one of the most stringent traffic rules. A lot of drivers passing through this city’s streets have stories to share of finding themselves being at odds with the city’s (sometimes overzealous) traffic enforcers and ending up receiving a traffic citation ticket.

You can just imagine the headaches and hassles that Makati driving can bring to the life of a law abiding “Juan dela Cruz”.

Here are five driving tips that might save you from the long arm of the Makati law.

1. Know Where, When and How to Park.

Where? Streets that allow parking usually have parking slot pavement markings painted along its stretch. As a general rule, sidewalk curbs painted white are for general parking use, yellow curbs are usually reserved for business establishments, and red curbs are no-parking zones. Parking in front of fire hydrants is also a big no-no. Always check for Parking or No Parking signs or verify it with the city parking attendants.

When? Some streets allow extended parking only at certain times of the day. During business hours (usually from 7AM to 5PM), most street parking areas allow cars to be parked for a maximum of 3 hours. On the other hand, some streets offer free parking after 5PM. So it’s always good to check out the Parking Signs nearby.

How? There is a correct way to street park when parallel parking is allowed. Your car should generally face the same direction as that of the street lane’s traffic. If you’re caught parallel parking with your car facing traffic, then have some money ready because you’ll most likely end up claiming your towed car at the city pound (usually at Yakal Street).

To be on the safe side, it’s always best to park in a paid-parking lot.

2. Figure Out the “One Way” Labyrinth Riddle

This is what Makati is known for, the “One Way / Two Way” street riddle. Always read the street traffic direction signs usually found at both ends of a street, or at the corner of each intersection. Be aware that some streets permit two-way traffic on weekends or holidays.

3. Obey All Traffic Signs

If a sign says “No Right Turn on Red Signal” then do as it says. These are traffic “honey pots” where Makati’s MAPSA (the city’s traffic enforcement group) people make a heyday. You’ll find these traffic zealots usually ‘hiding’ around the corner, ready to spring to action to apprehend the unsuspecting driver.

4. Buckle Up. Seatbelts Save Lives (Among other things).

Buckling up not only saves lives, it also saves you from paying fines for not putting seat belts on. MAPSA people have eyes trained to watch for signs of ‘passenger seatbelt underutilization’.

5. Remember Your License Plate “Number or Color Code” Day.

This is one traffic rule that makes the city seem more like an autonomous country. Makati does not follow the usual National Capital Region (NCR) Vehicle Reduction Program schedule, otherwise known as the vehicle Number Coding Scheme.

Vehicles with plates ending in a certain number are not allowed on main roads on certain days. The number code days are:

Monday: Plates ending in 1 and 2
Tuesday: Plates ending in 3 and 4
Wednesday: Plates ending in 5 and 6
Thursday: Plates ending in 7 and 8
Friday: Plates ending in 9 and 0

Most NCR cities and municipalities enforce the ban on the following specified hours: 7AM to 10AM and from 3PM to 7PM. In Makati’s case, bans are enforced from 7AM to 7PM. So you better watch out.

The five survival tips above cover traffic regulations. How to survive while driving along with Manila’s general driving public is a different story.

Related Blog Entries:
7 Ways to Avoid Road Rage – Part 1
7 Ways to Avoid Road Rage – Part 2

Seth Dylan Philip S. Bacolod

Congratulations are in order for my younger brother, Jojo, and his better half, Idee. Jojo and Idee have finally entered the world of parenthood! They are proud parents (and I’m a proud uncle) of Seth Dylan Philip S. Bacolod (wow, it’s such a long name). Seth was born last January 28, via C-section, in Cebu City.

The brothers four now have a basketball team in their hands (plus one cheerleader). And here’s the lineup:

Center: Jervis
Power Forward: Melvin
Small Forward: Indigo “digoy”
Shooting Guard: CJ
Point Guard: Seth

Cheerleader: Purple

Here’s to Jojo, Idee and Seth! We love you! Best wishes and God bless….

My first meme – Four things

4 things meme….
From Chrissy at Life on Manitoulin

Four places I have worked:
1. Wallem Innovative Solutions
2. Total Information Management
3. Trend Micro
4. IBM Philippines

Four movies I would watch over and over:
1. Top Gun
2. Braveheart
3. Serendipity
5. Cutting Edge

Four of my favorite TV shows:
1. Supernatural
2. GMA News / ABS-CBN News
3. Discovery Channel: Myth Busters
4. Discovery Channel: American Chopper

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Cebu
2. Boracay Island
3. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
4. Davao

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Filipino Cuisine: Sinigang
2. Filipino Cuisine: Bistek Tagalog
3. Filipino Cuisine: Pinakbet
4. Sushi / Sashimi

Four things I like to do in my spare time:
1. Spend time with my family
2. Blog
3. Sleep
4. Eat

Once a Bosconian, always a Bosconian

January 31st marks the 119th death anniversary of Saint John Bosco, the “Father and Teacher of Youth” and the founder of the Salesian Society otherwise known as the Salesians of Don Bosco.

This day is special to me primarily because of my being a Bosconian, and proud of it. I’ve been one for the greater part of my life. I’ve spent most of my formative and schooling years studying at Don Bosco schools, with a few other schools mixed in between levels. I finished my grade school and high school years at Don Bosco Academy, in Pampanga. And I took up computer engineering at Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong City.

Come to think of it, most of my relatives are Bosconians (you never say one “was” a Bosconian, since once you get to be one, you always will be). The brothers four, (as me and my brothers are called), my uncles, cousins, and even Conne’s cousins, bear the same ‘mark’.

Having said that, you can bet all your marbles that my son CJ will probably end up being one too. Amen.

5 ‘toothy’ facts about sharks

Since I’m still waiting for Conne to arrive from her WIG Session meeting, here are five interesting tooth-related facts about sharks.

Do you know that:

1. New teeth are constantly being formed in rows in a shark’s jaw. Shark’s teeth are normally replaced every eight days.

2. Some species of sharks can shed as many as 30,000 teeth in their lifetime.

3. Whale Sharks have approximately 300 rows of teeth, with hundreds of tiny teeth in each row.

4. A significant physical trait that separates a modern shark from an ancient shark is the protrusile jaw, which gives the modern shark more biting force.

5. A shark’s skin is embedded with dermal denticles, which resemble teeth.

If you want to verify if these bits of information are true, please be my guest, ask your friendly neighborhood shark and let me know how it goes. ;-p

20 Shark Facts About Sharks

Office relocation – An IT guy’s perspective

DWH will be expanding its operations and will therefore be relocating its Philippine office in a couple of weeks. We’ve kept our hands quite busy with the office relocation project. We’ve currently leased two floors (3rd and 4th) from a building across the street from our current office location. And a lot of renovation activities are currently ongoing as of this writing. You can see from the 3rd floor snapshots taken from the relocation site last December 2006 that there has been a lot of renovation and civil works done.

We’ll be going for a hybrid network this time. It’ll be a mix of Wireless (or WiFi) and traditional ‘wired’ networking (10/100/1000BaseT).

One challenge we faced was to design and provide a scalable, reliable, fast and secure, yet cost effective (yes, there always has to be a hitch), networking environment. And since we plan to have a wireless environment, there were a lot of performance-related issues and security concerns that we had to factor in with our design.

Barring any unforeseen delays, we hope to relocate everyone by the 2nd week of February. So this means we have to get the data center, network, telephony and security infrastructures up and running without a hitch. Oh boy.