Big Fire

I woke up today with fire trucks passing by at 10 minute intervals. At first I thought they were the police and some major crime is going on, maybe some hostage thing… Or maybe some big accident going on where ambulances were going back and forth bringing people to the hospital. Being the Filipino I am, I even felt like going there on my bicycle and figure out what is happening, the Filipino “Oshosho” thing where Filipinos mysteriously like watching danger enfold in front of them unmindful of the danger. But I am not in the crazy world of the Philippines, where the country is a circus.

So I decided to check the news instead. There was a big fire in the mountaneous areas of Rancho Penasquitos. It was hard to determine where it really was with the areal views of the fire, but as the helicopter cameras panned from side to side, checking the shapes of the mountains and taking note of the location of the focused residential areas, I fired up Google Earth and it was pretty easy to figure out where everything was.

In the middle of the mountains are walking paths that are regularly cleared by bouldozers for people that jog/walk/hike/bike in the area. These paths that I have personally jogged and biked through sometimes seemed to stop the fire from spreading further into other bushes.

The wind was making the fire continue and go on and was moving it towards the north and east at times. My location was at the southern part of the fire. And residents living at the houses where the fire was heading were asked by the police to evacuate and most were being brought to Mt. Carmel High School that is a close walking distance from where I am. If they were bringing people there, I guess we already in a safe location.

TV news says there are 3 planes and 5 helicopters dropping water and fire retardants. It is already 6:30pm. Still hearing all the fire trucks passing by every now and then. Low flying helicopters passing by every few minutes. The news says, the fire is not yet dead and may take about 2 more hours to consider the fire completely exterminated. The news says people at the relocation areas may be allowed to go home at about 9pm. And even if the fire it not yet completely dead, they say it looks like the worst is over.

This all happened in the middle of the mountains, not a sigle residential home got burned. This is not a big forest, but mainly full of shrubs and bushes. So if ever there were people in the middle of the mountains, it is not that hard of a terrain to get out or get lost. Some areas are just too steep to run down, because if you trip, you might tumble down the mountain just like how Jill did when following Jack when he fell down and broke his crown.

Teresa Heights Get-Together

I Went to the Santos’ yesterday who used to live on Silangan St. Teresa Heights. Were all other people from the same subdivision, Teresa Heights, Novaliches, Quezon City, Philippines who are in Southern California also went. Most of them are a generation ahead of me so they really know my Mom and my late Dad. Surprisingly, they also know my sister. Nyahahaha. Of course they knew me too, but I did not really hang out with them when we were all still in the Philippines.

Most of the guys, nagiinuman, except me since I never really drank any alcoholic beverage since birth. And most girls were inside doing some videoke and the usual chikahan. They then decided to do some Mahjong. I had no cash on me, but if I did, I think I would play.

I took some pictures. Check

e-Mandirigma Message – GMA RESIGN NOW!

Being a part of the e-Mandirigma mailing list, I received this email from Enteng Romano who was always an online visible figure in times when the country is in some crisis.

My fellow e-Mandirigmas,

Almost 60% of our countrymen believe GMA cheated in the last elections.

Yet, all we see is a lot of passionate and endless debates about confession, forgiveness, accountability, culpability, rule of law, moral ascendancy, lack of alternatives, and so on. And it will go on until one defining event similar to the non-opening of the envelope will spark another EDSA revolt. I fear that this time it may not be as bloodless, considering the hard lines people are taking. We are divided right down the middle.

Let us set aside for the moment GMA’s sincerity and the whole matter of forgiveness. It’s a complex exercise in theology and philosophy.

The moral view on the issue should be: “Now that GMA has admitted that she was the voice on the tape, it is time to dissect its contents to determine whether indeed it was a mere lapse of judgment, or there was actual cheating.” If there was cheating, then apology and forgiveness has no place – at least, at this time.

If you listen to the conversations or read the transcript of the tapes, you can only come to one conclusion. And if you consider the fact that GMA appointed Garcillano in spite of his notoriety as an “operator” (one who is known to engineer wide-scale cheating), you can only conclude that there was pre-meditated cheating. It is only those who do not want to see who cannot discern the obvious. And they will hide under the mantle of the rule of law, which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, to protect a lie.

And yet, many of us are paralyzed into inaction, simply because we do not like the alternatives being peddled by the opposition, or too scared to gamble with Noli. We are all too willing to condone GMA’s iniquity, hoping against hope that she can weather the turmoil. We would much rather have a cheat who has proven credentials in governance, than risk the stewardship of the nation in the hands of novices like Noli or Susan, or worse – in the hands of a plunderer like Erap.

But if we look back to the experience of EDSA 1 &2, we know that GMA will have to go. sooner or later. All the requisite ingredients for her government’s collapse are now in place. With or without our involvement, the protest actions will continue to escalate until GMA steps down. It’s only a question of when and how.

How will all this play out? Here are the possible scenarios:

Extra-constitutional means (extreme):

1. Opposition-led people power prevails. Installs Susan, Erap, or anyone who will emerge as unifying leader of the revolt, as president, totally ignoring the constitution. The rule of succession does not apply in a revolt. The victor dictates who rules.

2. Military intervention, led by Abat or some other groups. Military junta takes over.

Extra-constitutional means (moderate):

3. GMA heeds “Resign All” call (very unlikely). Multi-sectoral caretaker government takes over and hopefully calls election immediately.

4. GMA calls a snap election (unlikely, but an option when she becomes desperate. At least, she has a chance of staying in power if she wins). Key issues here are constitutionality of the exercise and composition of Comelec. If GMA wins, charges of cheating will not die down. Susan or Erap can win.

Constitutional means:

5. Congress files impeachment, and senate starts impeachment proceedings. If found guilty, Noli takes over. If not guilty, will depend on how the process is played out. may lead to escalation of protests, and ultimately another EDSA revolt.

6. GMA resigns (either on her own volition, or forced by growing clamor, not necessarily on the scale of a people power), Noli takes over.

I’m sure many of you will argue that there is another scenario which I am deliberately ignoring – that of GMA rising above the current crisis. And that if we will only forgive her, put this issue behind us, and direct our energies towards building the nation instead of contributing to instability through these protests, then we will emerge a strong republic as she has envisioned.

Unfortunately, I think it’s foolish to hope that people will rally behind a leader who has lost her moral ascendancy. We are fortunate that selfish ambitions from among the opposition ranks have prevented them from unifying behind a single leader who can inspire the masses to revolt. But if the current political instability lingers on, they just might come to their senses.

GMA will have to go or be booted out. The only question that remains is whether we will participate in shaping the post-GMA government or let the Erap-led opposition decide it for us by default.

What do we do then? If not GMA staying on, what is the best scenario we should advocate?

We obviously do not want an opposition-led revolt or a military junta taking control. A snap election or a transition caretaker government seems appealing, and are in fact being advocated by moderates. But there are many constitutional entanglements that will require a broad-based consensus. I doubt if we can ever get all the contending parties to agree.

The truth commission being advocated by civil society groups will only delay the inevitable. If GMA is absolved by the commission, do you honestly think the opposition will accept the verdict and begin to scale down their protest actions? If found guilty, is GMA committed to step down? And where can you find people who will form part of the commission that will be acceptable to both administration and opposition?

So, it’s either impeachment or outright resignation of GMA. But that means Noli de Castro will be our next president – a prospect that’s scary, at best, and repugnant to many.

But then again, consider this. At least, Noli is not tainted (I don’t know of any serious scandal thrown against him), he is not beholden to the opposition (so he does not need to give concessions to them), he is immensely popular with the masses (enough to counter Erap’s appeal and even Susan’s attempt at doing a Cory, and neutralize any post-GMA initiatives to incite the masses to revolt). It’s also the most expedient and constitutionally unassailable.

True, he lacks the credentials and the experience. But so did Cory when she took office. We can just pray that he has the right heart and enough sense to surround himself with able and competent men.

If we do nothing, the political situation will continue to be volatile and it may lead to other scenarios far worse than having Noli as president.

My fellow e-Mandirigmas, IT IS TIME TO ACT NOW!

Up till now, GMA believes that all these noise and protests are coming from her political opponents bent on destabilizing her government. It is time to show her that there are many of us who will not stand for wrongdoing of such a scale as electoral cheating, even if the alternative is worse than the status quo.

Today, eLagda, together with other sectors who are committed to stand for what is right, will launch a new website – to serve as the voice of the moral majority of the Filipino people. We ask GMA to RESIGN NOW and let the constitutional process of succession take effect. I invite you to be part of the moral majority in this effort.

I encourage you to do the following:

1. Visit the website and register as a petitioner or register your organization as a supporter of the petition

2. Refer the website to friends and relatives; there’s an easy way to do this at the website. You can even personalize the referral message.

3. Start a signature campaign in your school, office, or neighborhood. You can download the signature sheet, tally sheet, and FAQ sheet from the website.

4. Disseminate this email to all your friends, relatives, and egroups.

It is time to tell GMA:

“We listened to the tapes. We read the transcript. We believe it was more than just a lapse of judgment. You cheated. You have lost your moral ascendancy and capacity to govern, much less transform this nation into a strong republic. The only decent thing to do is to RESIGN NOW. This may yet be your biggest contribution in making this republic a strong one.”

The sooner GMA steps down, the faster we will be back to normalcy and the task of rebuilding the nation. Let us all do our share. Let us not allow the Erap-led opposition to determine the fate of this nation by default.

God bless and God save the republic.


Reading comprehension of a bunch of English words with no graphs and formulas is not my cup of tea. And this is a long read and I have a lot to do. Although I skimmed through this very quickly… ganito lang ang dating sa akin…

Sure GMA did good as president… but she did cheat and forgiving should not be an option of else parang sira na ang mga priciples ng buhay, and mali nasusunod.

Pero teka, sino naman papalit? Since GMA still looks ok, pero mali talaga ginawa nya eh. So mamimili kayo, ang opposition that is known to be corrupt and is using famous public figures with celebrity appeal so their whole group can get all the power they wanted and go on with their said wrong doings… or go for the former Newscaster that does not know much but newscasting and mag reklamo as he usually does on TV to clean up the place since he used to be with the media.

If you put the corrupt in power, they will be stealing money. If you put Noli in there, he may not know how to run a country, but at least he is not related to the opposition and is not known to steal money from the government. He is still known to have a heart of a good man. So Noli seems to be the better evil ‘ika nga.

As Enteng placed the scenarios that can happen, and the best way to put Noli up there is to have GMA resign, so automatic Noli steps up as President instead of having some revolt and placing the corrupt people as leaders of the country.

That is the result of my reading comprehesion of the above text. Not necessarily my beliefs, may be right, may be wrong… I don’t know, but I think this message had to get out to more people so I posted it on my blog.

Benj Arriola

Rest? Or No Rest?

The first half of 2005 was cool but busy. New hosting deals in the Philippines and US. Sponsoring the Philippines 1st Blogging Summit was worth it. I also have a new hosting client in Saudi Arabia and colleague John got a hosting deal for his uncle in Macau.

Welcome new web hosting clients: FilPGFamily, Lex Tandog, Pulped Fiction, Fight Club Martial Arts Training Ground, Alibi Productions, JPMP Enterprises, Mook Choi, Informatics Sampaloc.

Thanks to Plum Studio who has been putting in several hosting accounts, not just one, but hmmm how many websites do you have right now on my server? 4? 5? and you recommended me to someone that added 3 websites from him too? As part of my gratitude… I will advertise your site on my blog when it is 100% finished.

Thanks to the Kelly’s too. This Filipino family has already 5 hosting accounts on my server.

With some personal workstation PC problems that have partially delayed all sorts of stuff, and a vacation that I really needed, but shifted some working time, most of the work is done already. SEO of Martal Exterminators is done and Web Design and Development for the Association for Marketing Educators is also completed while I’m nearly done with Graveyard Chef.

The company operations is another thing… collecting all the bills, sending them, checking who paid, who didn’t, following up payment, follow up sales, helps with customer support, generate more sales leads, helping out in event sponsorship, sales presentations is not all an easy task. Thanks to the ever reliable Amor (whom I suspect is also working on the P&J website, hehehe, but it’s all fine, just do your job.) And thanks to the company manager and my lovely wife Marcia who does not only work for the company but also keeping things running well at home, monitoring all our personal bills, insurances, pension plans, trust funds, educational plans, credit card bills. And more importantly, taking care of the kids at home. (of course thanks to Janet and Harry who helps out at home too). Ever reliable Mommy whom I owe money with the unconditional-mommy-loan, 0% interest for life, no penalty fees.

Still a lot of work, and still no money. All goes to bills, bills and bills. I am working, my wife is working, my business is earning, but the bills are still a lot. When I was earning less, I had no money, when I am earning more, I still have no money? MLM/Networking people reading this blog, go away. I tried everything already. I helps but not this time. I have other plans in life than doing that again, but I am not saying it is not a good system, all I am saying that is not my plan in this stage of my life.

Now that my projects are nearly done… I thought of yeah, it is my time to rest again! And how do I do that? By attending Taekwondo classes, going to the gym and riding my BMX. That is the best rest I can get. But I think that is not going to happen yet.

New websites came in. Pritchon, Batang Sayantist. Two under negotiation, which is basically a closed deal by word of mouth, but for me, not until I see the money, then I say it is a closed deal. I got one more under review by the prospective client.

So I do not get rest after all, not yet. But I think it is still worth it. So I still get to rest. But it is all fine with me. Kaya ko ito, I’ve done worse things in the past, as in really no sleep, walking zombie and not earning sh*t. A bunch of sites full of freebies, working for nothing. So this time, everything should be a lot easier.

Losin’ Blogging Time Lately

– Chatted yesterday until 3am, but it paid off, closing two hosting deals. When people are in the impulse of buying go with the impulse, tomorrow, the impulse may be gone.
– Official New Client: Pulped Fiction
– Graveyard Chef in progress, Pritchon, waiting for materials.
– AME not doing out of production yet, delay of materials.
– Mansmith Corrections
– Hello clients, I love you all especially the following: ICI Sampaloc, AME, CCME, Simon, Batang Sayantist, Plum Studio, Fight Club Training Ground, Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, Sasad Marketing 😀 Hehe. It is already the 16th.
– Cool forum at Kangkong!
– I need sleep.
– Hello Treo! How do I use you? Big Manual. Close mind. Sleepy.
– I cannot handle another designing, if another is closed.we will outsource.But if graveyard is one the way out,i can still handle it.
– 1030pm. gtg. i only had 2 hrs sleep yesterday. ttyl….


Love you babe, jamie, ate dawnski, and si ate spiderman. 2log na ako.

US Citizenship and Naturalization

For many Filipinos, being in the United States is a great privilege. You cannot please everyone and there are also a few people not happy in the United States and opt to go back to the Philippines. But most like here mainly because of the financial benefits and what they can give to their family and loved ones.

I was a natural born American Citizen but grew up in the Philippines since the age of 5. For many years a lot of people kept telling me why am I in the Philippines? With what you know you can make a fortune in the United States. True or not, what I am earning here is nothing compare to what I was earning in the Philippines. And many of us still consider ourselves underpaid compared to the industry standards.

Last June 9, 2005, I had to drive my mom-in-law to her oath taking ceremony for her awarding of her US Citizenship together with my dad-in-law that was awarded his citizenship a little bit earlier. With all the online maps for the US, looking for the place was not hard at all.

As I was thinking that this thing is a ceremony in a small room with a handful of people, and I was so wrong. There was a very very very long line just getting into the Hall where the ceremony will be held. And I said to myself “What? A hall? How many people are here?”

As expected in this part of the country, you will hear the native Filipino language everywhere. And when we were allowed to enter, me and Papa, went up to the viewers area and the venue looked like a big college graduation to me. It was announce that there were 1,057 people who were there to be declared as US Citizens and that the current venue will be the last time the US Citizenship and Immigration Services will be using that venue and the following oath takings in the future will be at another venue. So that specific batch was called a special one. Aside from that, the Judge who officiated the oath taking was also his last year before he goes into retirement. They said that venue alone has already made 122,000+ US Citizens already ever since they have been using that venue.

The ceremony started with this musical sing and dance number by the Music in Motion Choir of one of the nearby high schools, which is their pride of being Nationally known in various choir competitions. I’m not a big fan of musical, theatrical arts, although I think I’ll enjoy watching ballet and symphony orchestras. So for me I first thought this thing would be boring.

As they performed, their songs progress into various tunes you recognize, common everyday songs of the past that caught my attention. They really did not have the original background music of the songs, but the choir’s voices was good enough. And even if the tunes were delivered in a somewhat happy tempo, upon listening to the lyrics, they have so much meaning into it. I cannot remember each specific song and lyrics but it was all about family, hard work, hope, living a better life. It reflected the main reason why all these 1000+ people were all there for. They worked soooo hard for where they are right now. Which reminds me of the many Filipinos that would go the extra mile just to get here, top doctors study nursing, which is just a few more units since that is more in demand here. Ordinary people or oven people with various successful professional careers go into caregiving. Teachers take their chances teaching here too. IT people apply directly online. Some try joining the US Navy. In some cases of a promised job there are placement fees, so expensive, they even sell their houses in the Philippines, which is considered a suicide move because if whatever happens fails, you have no more house to go back to.

And as the choir performed, I was panning the whole hall looking at all the 1000+ participants from all over the world, from left to right of the hall. And I started to feel the emotion these people have. The happiness they have with all the hard work they have gone through. The emotion started to build up but this choir was performing in a very happy mood that I think most people were not paying attention to the lyrics at all. I felt like tears wanted to roll down but I just closed my eyes and did not let that happen.

When that was done, there was a ceremony thanking all the volunteers of the event and who have been helping out throughout all the years at that venue. Many NGOs, school organizations and sections of the armed forces helping out from year to year. After that, was the time for the Judge to officiate the oath taking. He did express that what was happening is an official court hearing stating that all of them will be citizens of the country, but he still said that everybody should be lose and be happy since all screening was done already and all present will be declared as citizens.

With the emotional mood I had, so did this Judge, he gave his short life story and just could not hold his emotions. He told everyone how hard his parents worked just to get to America. Even if he was a natural born American citizen, he saw the progress of his parents from being immigrant aliens to US Citizens, and has witnessed how important that event was to them as a family. How everything will be easier. His voice was crackling up with a few tears running down. He is quite old already and his parent have already passed away. And as much as he was happy for his parents in the past, he was just as sincere in saying that he was really happy for everyone present at the ceremony.

This proceeded with a speech from a female school administrator that was basically there to acknowledge the presence of the choir that also served as an advertisement for the school which had various races present in their high school. And she herself could not hold her emotions as she recalled the day she also became a US Citizen. She was sitting in front and her students were also performing that time.

It was just a very emotional day, and it ended with the Judge calling out each country of the world in alphabetical order having the participants stand up if their native country is called out. It was a very long list as people clapped in the audience as well when their countries were called out. Majority of the countries had like about 1 to 5 people. A few were just barely more than 10 people. But as the list of countries went on… two countries were skipped. And when the Judge finished the list, he said “Did I miss anything?”

A shout from the audience came out, Philippines! and he then said “Did I hear Philippines? Ok Philippines, stand up.” And every Filipino cheered and clapped that it looked like 40% of them were Filipinos. As the Filipinos were clapping and cheering, continuous shouts of Mexico! Mehico! were heard. And when all Filipinos sat down, the judge said: “What’s that? Mexico? Ok Mexico!” And it was like 50% of the participants were all Mexicans.

There are so many Filipinos here in the US, it is like you did not leave the Philippines. During the whole ceremony, I can’t help but imagine the day like that, where it would be my family up there in the hall as I cheer for them.

Filing Taxes

The first time I needed to pay taxes when I was working for SGS Philippines. I was a quality analyst/chemist there and the HR was pretty cool in handling all the paper work for my taxes, all I needed to do is check it out and sign. I never really understood how to file taxes and the people at SGS was cool.

My second job was teaching college chemistry subjects at DLSU while taking up my master’s degree in Chemistry. When it was time for taxes, I just consulted my colleagues that have the same employee rank as me with the same salary, and copied their forms since our forms would be pretty much the same. And I ever really understood everything.

I then went into business. My first business was the now closed computer shop Click Me! Computer Sales and Rental Service. My clients needed official receipts and I to be official, you need to process this with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). After 3 months of running the business, I received a letter from the BIR stating that I have not been filing my taxes. And I need to appear at their office at a certain date and failure to do so, was some number of days imprisonment and a cash penalty.

I arrived at the BIR office with no one being accommodating, no one helping you, and everyone you ask, will point you to ask someone else. There was a general information table but there was seldom someone there. After doing nothing for about an hour, I finally saw someone on the information counter and started to ask about my taxes. The person was totally not accommodating, was not explaining things well. So basically I just ask what are the list of things I need to submit and I’ll just come back, and hoping I get to ask someone else I know who knows how to do all of this. My company ended up availing the services of an accounting firm. And even up to now, my company is still availing the services of an accounting firm.

In 2003, I taught various web related subjects, various computer graphic software usage and PC networking and troubleshooting. And Lheng who was of the accounting department, pretty much handled everything.

Now in the US, I was needed to file my Income Tax Return statements. There is a Federal and a State income tax. Federal is basically what everyone pays, and for the State is basically, the taxes you pay only in the state where you are. With my experience with taxes in the Philippines, it was always a pain filing anything tax related. So many fields to fill up on various forms. I was never able to do it alone. So at the back of my head, I had this feeling of dismay since I had to study how to file my taxes returns. And if I have some accounting firm do it, I was worried about the cost again.

Then here comes along the software H&R Block’s TaxCut. After opening the software for the first time, it just asked a bunch of questions. The questions had easy to find answers. Just answered everything, it was not a quick process, but it was easy.

From the answers you give, if fills up the required forms you need to submit. And once done, it prints out the official forms you will submit, fill up with the correct information and all you need to do is sign and mail. Now that is one major big difference on how I did things here and how I did it in the Philippines.

Setting Foot on US Ground

First thing I noticed was the sunlight. The sun was still up high and it was 8:00 pm. I’ve been living so long in an equatorial country like the Philippines, and observing the effect of the 23o angle of the axis of rotation of the earth was pretty cool. It is summer time and during these months of the year, the northern hemisphere is receiving a lot of sunlight, and the southern hemisphere should be winter time. In extreme polar regions, up north it is daytime everyday and down south, it is nighttime everyday.

Mama and Papa gave me a warm welcome. Uncle Totoy and Auntie was there and they were cool tool. As we hit the road, the roads were still clean, nearly white. Comparing it to the roads in the Philippines, if they reach one year or more, they start to get dirty, nearly black. Due to combustion exhaust probably. All roads were fast flowing and very wide. So there was no traffic as the traffic you experience in the Philippines. Flyovers are seldom since the volume of vehicles is in correct proportion with the road size, having nearly no traffic at all. I learned that there are also diesel vehicles but are seldom since gasoline stations with diesoline is also seldom. And the major cause of smoke belching in the Philippines is diesel engines not in tip-top shape.

Even aboard the plane, California seemed to have mountainous areas as well as planar areas. And on the road, you will always pass by a hill or two. Inhabited land grows certain shrubs and are a bit far apart, even grass is far apart and they look dry. Unlike in the Philippines, land with nothing is filled with the tall grass Talahib. Plants and trees were also hard to recognize what specie they were.

My global roaming Smart phone got a AT&T Wireless signal and as we kept moving, it occasionally changes to Cingular. Yahoo Messenger was still working well with my roaming phone. Each text message I sent back to the Philippines cost me P15, even for balance inquiry!

One probably reason why the all streets seemed clean is I noticed the soil, it looks sandy and sand is not that soluble in water to you don’t get much mud as you get in the Philippines. The mountainous area I saw over the plane really looks rock hard and topsoil is usually formed by erosion on higher areas that move soil down below. But the mountains here look like they do not have much soil to erode.

Although flies, mosquitoes, spiders and cockroaches seem a lot more seldom here, I’ve seen a few. Flies here are a bit gray with raisin-backs. In the Philippines, although I also see these flies there too, flies in the Philippines are generally smooth and black backs. I haven’t noticed the mosquitoes that much and when I saw one, Mama was trying to kill it right away. I saw a gray walking spider and was wondering what it was doing in the house since I didn’t notice much mosquitoes nor flies that it could eat. The cockroaches I’ve noticed are mostly small and I can’t see their wings and has transparent skin. Maybe I have yet to see the full grown cockroaches and notice the difference. But for sure the flies are different since flies in the Philippines start to die in air conditioned rooms.

Well that’s all for today, other observations on some other post. Got to go back to work.