Of the New iPhones and Local Telecoms

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Blurbs

Apple as expected unveiled new models of its lucrative phones this week. I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of raves and rants by now.

I’m still sporting an iPhone 6 Plus. Had it for a little over two years, and it shows its age in some games. While the 128 Gb capacity has served me well, the processor is choking in some apps and games. Even the iPhone SE (my company phone) runs circles around it in terms of performance.

The phone comes with a data contract that ends in February next year; I am in no hurry to upgrade. This is just as well. As much as I want to have the latest and the greatest that I can and willing to afford, I am underwhelmed by the iPhone X.

The main beef I have are price and the removal of Touch ID.

Apple products in the Philippines already sell for far more money than they do in the United States, exceeding the $1000 barrier that those in the US are currently having a hard time wrapping their heads upon. But now that they are on the thousand dollar levels even state-side, it’s gotta take an arm and a leg to buy them locally.

The convenience of TouchID is such that I immediately miss it on my other devices – an iPad mini 2 and an old Lumia 640.

Now, that convenience is completely removed, and in its place is a new Face ID technology that Apple is heavy handedly pushing, just as it did with the removal of the headphone jack. It might turn out to be just as convenient; but right now I’m skeptical. I’ll reevaluate my view come February, the X doesn’t come out until late this year anyway.

With my Smart contract ending February, I need to make another decision as well. Stay with a shitty coverage provider who is so slow to act and whose service consistently degrades over time in my home area, or move to another historically shitty provider? Well Globe at least now offers LTE here, whereas Smart only provides 3G which I suspect has reached its capacity in the area as its intermittent and unreliable, sometimes even at dawn when it’s supposed to have low traffic.

I can go for a third option. Ditch the contract and go back to prepaid. We’ll see.

Update, 2017 December 27

Smart has upped its game and significantly improved cell service. It finally rolled out LTE and despite some hiccups now and then, coverage is satisfactory most of the time. In contrast, Globe’s signal has been intermittent. LTE is spotty at best, and is like the unicorn now. Even on the rare occasions when the phone displays LTE, the connection goes to 3G or drops entirely as soon as you do anything that requires connection. It cycles between the RATs and No Signal so frequently the battery suffers, and you’re lucky if the page loads at all, even if you manage to get continuous data signal (3G likely).

I commend President Duterte’s administration. It has been working nonstop to deliver its promises. His proposal to institute a national emergency hotline is one thing that we should be looking forward to; however, the implementation reeks of capitalization.

A national emergency hotline is not a new thing. The Philippines actually has an existing system – Patrol 117 – manned by the Department of Interior and Local Government. Reports suggest that the hotline’s majority of calls received are prank calls. Come August, 117 will redirect to 911, and will go through a transition period.

Yet I can’t completely celebrate this move. Not when it’s charged the same rate as a regular call and on top of that, the duopoly telcos have already announced a premium of P5 pesos, purportedly to discourage prank callers. Of course the telcos are only too happy to make the charges; they can (and actually do) point to the government’s suggestion to charge the premium, but still.

What this means is that in case of a legitimate emergency, you had better hope you have enough load credits for a call, plus the five pesos on top, or else forget about asking for help. To me, a system that is supposedly put in place to assist during emergency should be easily available; the last thing on people’s mind during an emergency should be where to top up to make an emergency call. It’s just pouring salt to the wound.

I don’t buy that penalizing everyone will actually discourage prank callers. Like the issue on piracy, the ones that are being hurt by these draconian schemes are the legitimate users (callers in this case).

I urge the President, the NTC, and the DILG to think this through. What good is an emergency hotline if people can’t readily reach it. Access to help during an emergency shouldn’t come with a price tag.


Lest it be said that I merely complain without offering a solution, here’s one: Blacklist the mobile number used for every prank call. I don’t mean just on the hotline. The telcos can and should block that subscriber’s SIM card permanently rendering it unusable. If you want to go for the extreme, you can blacklist the handset as well. If that doesn’t discourage them, nothing will. Penalize the pranksters, don’t make life harder for everyone else.

I buy stuff online. On Amazon, I buy CDs and e-books. You can actually buy a lot of items directly on amazon.com and have them shipped to the Philippines if you’re willing to pay shipping, custom and importation fees and deal with the hassle of our local customs and post offices. The fees could rack up to a sizeable amount though, which is why I’ve limited my purchases of physical items to CDs mostly, as they only get charged the shipping fee and no more.

In comes Lazada, which operates in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and of course, the Philippines.

The Site

In the Philippines, shoppers can browse through http://www.lazada.com.ph/ or use the mobile app that is available on iOS and Android devices. There are categories that you can select from or if you have a particular item in mind, a search box is prominently displayed for accessibility and convenience.

The Shopping Experience

For my shopping needs, though, I find the selection inadequate or even completely lacking. For instance, there are no one-sixth scale toys to be found for sale. But I admit that’s a niche item. But search for “Superman” and the selection isn’t that great, either.

Still, for most, the selections are plenty enough. There’s apparel, shoes, electronics, home appliances and more.

The great thing about Lazada is the generally lower price. You’ll often find discounts and promotions for various items.

The bad thing is that for some that claim the price is discounted, the original price appears to be inflated. So if you just look at the discount rate, and have no idea how much that item actually retails on other shops, you might end up actually paying more for it. Take this listing for an iPhone 5s for example. Wow, a 46% discount! Sarcastic smile

Ordering, Payment and Delivery

Ordering is simple and straightforward. You shop around, add items to your cart and then checkout when you’re done.

Payment can be made a variety of ways – credit card, bank payment, thru PayPal or even cash on delivery. Not all items, especially those that are imported, allow CoD unfortunately. For those that do allow it, I highly recommend paying with cash over paying via credit card. If you pay thru credit card (or any pre payment scheme) and you happen to be not around when they deliver, they require that you provide the recipient a letter of authority with photocopies of your (and your authorized recipient’s) proofs of identity. But with CoD, even if you’re not there, you just leave the payment, no other questions asked. I understand it’s for security purposes, but it really is a pain in the neck for the customer.

Delivery is where they truly shine, since they have their own network delivery system called Lazada Express (LAX). Next day delivery is not off the table if the item is available and you live in the city. Delivery in provinces may take longer but only by a few days.

Customer Service

I haven’t really needed to contact customer service so I don’t have much to say in this area. But they do notify you via e-mail and text messages the status right up to the actual delivery of the package. So no complaint from me here.


Go ahead and shop at Lazada. Just be on the lookout for sketchy deals and discounts. Look at the item reviews if available. And when in doubt, we are still surrounded by (a lot of) physical malls, so shop around. The walk may also do you good.

Aquino’s Social Insecurity System

Posted: January 24, 2016 in Politics, Society

I’m an employee. I work, I pay taxes, and I pay my dues. Before my salary even gets to me, deductibles have already been taken. Among these deductibles is my, along with my company’s, contribution to the SSS fund.

The controversy stems from the unpopular decision of Aquino to veto a law that aims to increase the SSS pension by Php 2000 (~ $42), from an embarrassing Php 1200 (~$25).

His justification? Giving the increase will bankrupt the institution. Let that sink in for a moment.

This president denied social justice to current and future pensioners, playing the “threat of bankruptcy” card to justify his actions. How soon will the bankruptcy happen should the bill have not been vetoed? Some report 2027, some 2029. In other words, the current funds are enough to sustain the increase for well more than a decade.

You are telling me then, Mr. Aquino, that within that time, the Philippine government and the heads of this agency (who get millions compared to the P1200 a retiree gets) cannot come up with a viable plan to replenish the funds? That they cannot work on a more efficient collection system, which if they only did, would even mean current employees won’t have to shoulder the increase? You are willing to spend P78 billion on the BBL but retirees don’t deserve a decent pension, even though the law actually have safeguards in place in case of an actual bankruptcy? The SSS is set up precisely to give workers financial security in old age, yet you deny these same hardworking people a dignified life after retirement.

Your excuse is unacceptable. It is cheap fear-mongering, and it encourages the laziness, indifference, inaction and incompetence typical of people you appoint in your government.

Shame on you!

Read this post.


And watch this video, “Teditorial: The Gall.”

2015 in review

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Blurbs

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s Halloween, and so ghostly and horrific stories abound. This year, let’s join in on the fun.

Filipinos have a wealth of our own when it comes to beings of the nether realm. Let’s reintroduce some of them.


Taken from the root word tanggal (to remove, to detach), the manananggal is a being often depicted as a woman who is able detach the upper torso from the rest of her body. The torso sprouts giant bat-like wings that lets it fly to stalk unwitting victims throughout the night. Meanwhile, the lower portion is left vulnerable, so the manananggal is said to find a secluded place, often deep within the woods, where it can be sure no one would unwittingly wander about while the upper body is away hunting. The manananggal is said to devour and drink the blood of its victims. It is weak against garlic and will perish in sunlight if it doesn’t get to its other half by sunrise. The easiest way to defeat it is to find its lower half, pour in salt, ash, or garlic over the area where it separated its parts so that it cannot rejoin itself, and ultimately perish when the sun rises.


The Aswang is hard to describe, particularly because it is depicted differently in different regions across the archipelago. Most commonly, it’s said that it’s a vampire-like monster, sometimes  able to take the form of an animal, and fond of eating unborn babies. During the day, they are as normal as the next person. In the dead of the night, it will climb rooftops where a pregnant woman lives, dangle its tongue that elongates, akin to an insect’s proboscis, to suck in the fetus out of the sleeping mother’s womb. It is said that it makes a ticking sound, hence, this particular aswang is known locally as a Tik-tik.

Fun fact, the popular Grimm TV series has featured Aswang in one episode.


The Kapre is a giant being who lives in trees and likes to sit atop its branches at night smoking his equally big tabako (cigar or tobacco). The trees it picks are usually big – acacia or balete (banyan), but even lesser trees such as the kaimito (star apple) can serve as its dwelling. The creature is said to be bulky or muscular, clad in the traditional bahag and its body dark-skinned and hairy.

Unlike other creatures, Kapres are not typically harmful, though they are usually fond of pranking travelers. And many a story tells of Kapres falling for human maidens, following them around even if they relocate, promising riches beyond belief.

I know two people who swear they’ve had first-hand encounters with this creature. One, a girl who was sent on an errand at dusk, saw the ember of something burning at a yonder tree. Thinking it strange, she stood by observing what it was, only to be gripped with terror when she finally saw what’s holding the thing that is glowing. The other, a farmer on his way after a long day at the farm. Riding atop his carabao in a dark road, he noticed the animal is becoming agitated as they were approaching a kaimito tree by the roadside. The farmer saw something glow atop the tree, but paid no mind to it. Smack! He felt a giant hand hit him by his back causing him to fall off. It was then he saw the giant, rearing for another blow. Keeping his calm and his wits, he told the creature to have pity on him as he’s been working hard throughout the day and is only passing by, eager to come home to his wife. He apologized if he had offended the creature and supplicated to let him go on his way. The giant did.


If you’re travelling in the woods and you hear a baby crying, chances are you are being tricked by one of these creatures. The tiyanak likes to take the form of a helpless baby in order for them to attract their victims’ attention. The traveler will hear a baby’s cry and taking pity, will take it with them. Once brought home, it will sneakily attack the members of the household, sneakily killing and devouring – only revealing its true self when it’s too late for the victims.

Christians believe the tiyanak is what happens to a baby who has died before it was christened.

White Lady

The ghost of a woman who is often the victim of a gruesome crime that resulted to her untimely death, the White Lady is a popular myth everywhere in the country. White Lady encounters, despite the scary experience of meeting a ghost, are usually non-fatal. However, accidents do happen especially when it decides to show itself to drivers on a darkened road.


In Greek Mythology, there is the Minotaur, a half—man, half-bull creature. In Philippine folklore, a similar creature exists, with a horse replacing the bull part.

The Tikbalang is a magical creature, and many believe that its whiskers can serve as anting-anting (talisman) that brings the bearer luck. The creature lives in forests, and likes playing with people by confusing them and getting them lost. They say you can counteract the disorientation by wearing your shirt inside-out, or politely asking the unseen creatures to let you pass without harm (“tabi-tabi po”). Other versions depict them as evil, able to kill people with their hooved feet, especially when antagonized.


Posted: October 12, 2015 in Blurbs

Ghost stories frightened me as a child. Storied accounts of ghostly experiences, exchanged in candle-lit nights at a time when electricity was as reliable as a drunk contractor, would switch my mind’s imagination into hyper mode.  I’d lie awake in bed, and the eerie sounds that nighttime lends to even the most innocent of events, such as the rustle of the wind against the leaves of the tree outside, or of the soft hoot of a nesting bird, or a creak of the wooden panels, would jack up the monsters in my mind, until sheer exhaustion sets in. 

Today, those monsters no longer dwell in my head – long vanished with the realization that comes with growing up. Those beasts that my youthful mind conjured in the dead of night that had so frightened me back then, they’d tremble at the face of the real monsters that have revealed themselves in my adult life. 

These monsters are the ones I should be vigilant about. Made of flesh and bones, with corrupted minds and motivations I shall perhaps never understand, they are infinitely more terrifying than whatever an overactive imagination of a child can dream of, for they are real, alive and breathing, and therefore can inflict real pain and suffering. That’s what makes them not just frightening, but outright dangerous.

Battling these monsters is a taxing endeavor. But know this, no monster is going to bring me to my knees, mark my word!