Monday, July 30, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 4

We didn't hit the pool today since it was raining hard. Also, if we took any more wet laundry along, we might have to pay extra for baggage on our airfare. I think the hotel had a laundry service, but we never really bothered with those -- in hindsight, it would have been easier if we did. I checked the prices and they're quite reasonable, actually.

We still had a lot of extra provisions in the refrigerator and it was already Friday, so we had a light breakfast of some yogurt and empanada (a type of small meat bun with the bread fried around the edges to make it crisp). We'd actually brought the empanada along as a gift for some of the people we'd be meeting in Manila and my mother brought a ton of it along. It's a Filipino tradition called "Pasalubong," which would literally translate to "for encountering." Basically, the gift is something you bring with you for meeting someone -- and it's usually a delicacy or some kind of novelty item/souvenir that's unique to your particular place.

Anyway, we stayed in the hotel room for most of the morning and then left to try and find a place to eat lunch somewhere out in one of the three adjacent malls. We'd be meeting my aunt who lives all the way to the North (we were at the Southern point of Manila) later.

We went to Glorietta first and tried to find a slightly pricey restaurant called Heaven & Eggs that we really liked before. Google couldn't find the place in Glorietta and the next one was a good 6 km away. Unfortunately, upon asking the Concierge, it seems the branch in Glorietta closed down quite some time ago -- which is a trend that I'd noticed since day one. A lot of the shops in Glorietta had closed down. 

Anyway, we walked over to the computer hardware stores section of Glorietta because I needed a new power brick for one of our laptops left back home. I brought the power adapter along so they'd know what type of replacement power brick to give us. There actually was one, but my mother declined to buy it and told me that we should shop around a bit first since the shop was almost just next door to us. We could always come back to it later. Good point.

After that, we walked around Glorietta and Greenbelt a bit more looking for a place to eat lunch. Since we didn't really find any to our liking, we opted to just eat lunch at the Subway that was next to our hotel.

We went back to our hotel after lunch and then rested up for a good while. Our goal was to get to the MRT station which was attached to SM Ayala before 4:00 PM, which is when the rush hour starts. My mother figured that since we were in Manila anyway, we might as well try the MRT once. The last time we did, it was extremely hot with almost zero air conditioning and extremely overcrowded. Still, it was the fastest way to get to North Station and the two malls there, Trinoma and SM North Edsa.

Anyway, we left the hotel by 3 pm and walked our way to North Station. My mother being a senior citizen, procuring tickets was a breeze. After a 10-minute wait, the Northbound train arrived. It was slightly crowded already, but there was room for my mother to sit. Actually, she could have sat at the ladies-only car, but then we'd have to be separated and she has poor sense of direction and gets stressed pretty easily nowadays.

We arrived at Trinoma at about 4:30 PM. We wouldn't be meeting my Aunt until she got off work and made her way to SM North by about 6:00-6:30 PM. Thus, we killed some time by walking around Trinoma.

The Trinoma is a pretty large mall -- probably much bigger than anything we have at Iloilo City except for SM City. Anyway, it had that usual three-pronged structure that seemed to be a general attribute of Ayala-owned malls. Three wings with multiple floors jutting out to each side and meeting at the center in some kind of public area. It was fairly crowded when we got there, but thankfully, the mall has a lot of empty walking space for its patrons. We stopped by a Daiso store because I wanted to see if they still carried some of those 1/6 doll outfits that they used to sell. Elly Doll clothes. Unfortunately, they didn't. My mother bought a laundry bag though.

With that small errand done, we traversed the footbridge that took us straight to the 2nd floor of one of SM City North Edsa's wings, the North Link. This mall is actually the 2nd biggest mall in the Philippines second only to SM Megamall. Facts aside though, it can seem like SM Mall of Asia and SM Megamall are so much bigger because of the way they are structured. SM North Edsa is a pretty old mall and there's not a lot of breathing/walking space since they filled it with shops everywhere. It has newer wings on its left and right sides with 4-5 floors each -- and these were planned out much better than the original mall.

So anyway, I found an art store called The Craft Central and managed to buy a few pieces of 4x6" watercolor paper. I saw that they were actually putting up some of the completed works on display and selling them for about 100 php each inside of the store. Looking at the pieces on display, I couldn't help but think, "wow, I can actually do better than most of these." Also, I thought, "why are they selling these original pieces so cheap?" I mean, these were full pieces done traditionally. Digital art at all levels usually sell for about $15-20 for a full-body pic with full coloring and shading -- and that's not even counting the background.

From the North Link, we walked past the "City Center" to the left wing, The Annex in order to see if they sold a power brick for my laptop there. I'm pretty familiar with this place because I used to live inside the UP University Hotel and it was just a good 4-6 kilometers away from SM North. You could take a Jeepney from there which goes straight to the mall and back. After a good bit of walking, we finally found a shop that sells the power brick. My mother, the master haggler, managed to bring the price down quite a bit. That's the thing with some of the shops here -- unless they put up a specific fixed retail price, you can actually haggle it down if it seems too expensive for you.

We stopped at one of the areas in the left wing that had some benches and texted my aunt to meet us there. It actually took us about 15-20 minutes to just walk from the North Link to The Annex. That gives you an idea of just how massive this mall is. At this point, I decided to break out my Bento Picasso watercolor set from yesterday and the 4x6" watercolor paper that I'd bought recently. I worked on a new piece featuring Nagi with her hair down and wearing a hat. After about 30 minutes, my aunt arrived. It was about 7:00 and just about right to have dinner.

After walking around for a while, we settled down inside a cafe & grill called "Blake's Wings and Steaks" that was right next to the movie theaters at the center of the mall. Dinner was pretty nice. I had some ribs with mashed potatoes and we ordered a large salad for sharing. I also managed to complete the Nagi painting while waiting for our food.
The acrylic stand I brought for her broke a bit... good thing I could still repurpose it to support her leg.

My aunt mentioned that the girl next to me (our table was at a long bench that accommodated other customers) was looking at what I was doing. Of course, I didn't mind stuff like that. It's pretty normal when you do a lot of plen-air painting for people to look.

What surprised me though is that when she left, she took the time to tell me "alam mo, ang ganda ng ginagawa mo." (You know what? What you're doing is really beautiful." I smiled and thanked her for the compliment. Really, this kind of spontaneous, sincere compliment is just the best kind of reward for us artists -- whether it's visual art or writing.

My mother also noted that the girl was pretty. Hmm... hadn't noticed that one. Anyway, she was obviously taken since she was dining with her boyfriend and I'm obviously not interested because I have NAGI! :).

Anyway, we had a really filling and fulfilling dinner -- and yes, for me, it was thanks to that one single compliment. It really made my day. After walking around the mall randomly while talking a little bit more, it was time to go home and part with my aunt. I had her choose one of my larger 8x10" paintings as parting gift. I was expecting her to choose one of my more mundane paintings like the landscapes or that hand holding a crab thing, but she actually chose the Nagi painting with her hair down and wearing a pink jacket -- I guess Nagi has a universal appeal, huh? Of course, I'm always reluctant to part with any of my Nagi paintings -- and this one was particularly special because I really liked the way she looked here. Still, if it was what my aunt sincerely wanted, I was more than happy to part with it. I knew she'd take good care of it.

Nagi's hair is one of her best assets~

We took a grab car back to the hotel this time. It'd be a lot longer than the MRT ride, but it's also much more comfortable.

 We arrived at the hotel at about 8:30 PM. Since it was the weekend, the malls would be closing by 10:00 PM, so after dropping our stuff of inside our room, we decided to do a little bit more window shopping around Greenbelt. They seriously had some high end stores here -- especially the watch and clothing stores. I'd actually heard from some relatives abroad that the brand name stores in this area sold some items much cheaper than for what you could get the same items for in the US. Not sure how accurate that information is however.

After a brief walk, it was back to the hotel to get some sleep. We'd be meeting some of my mother's former classmates tomorrow. It seems a whole lot of them went to Manila to live and work. 

With that said, this entry for our fourth day in Manila ends here. See you next time for Day five~

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Tokyo Finds Bento Picasso Watercolor Set Review + Painting Maho Hiyajo

This review was delayed quite a bit due to me reformatting my SD card and accidentally deleting all my previous footage. Apologies for the shaky cam. I really need to find a stable place to mount my phone.

Summary of the review: Good pigmentation, slightly chalky, no lightfast rating so it's probably student-grade, no water brush -- but over-all, pretty easy to use, very portable and the colors look nice.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hayate Reflections: Rape Prevention Tips From Nagi Sanzenin

Today, let us talk about a topic of monumental importance for all women – and men as well, to some extent, I suppose.
And of course, that topic would be: how to avoid rape. Naturally, we’ll be using Nagi Sanzenin – specifically, 16 year-old Nagi from the end of the series as an example. Anyway, let’s keep it short and sweet today and get right on it.

The Scenario

Just in case you didn’t realize it yet, this will be a spoiler for the final chapter, but if you’re watching this video then you probably don’t even need this warning in the first place – thus, we continue.

So the scenario here is that it’s Christmas Eve and Nagi is by herself in Loser Park thinking about who else? Hayate, of course. She’s reflecting on her personal growth and how far she’s come without him in the past two years.

Suddenly, two men with obviously ill intentions approach her. Now it might be a bit of stretch to say that these two goofballs were thinking of raping her, but they were definitely up to no good.

Anyway, one of them tries to grab her by the arm and then…
This happens.

There, attempted rape averted – or at least she preempted whatever it was they were planning to do. These two turned out to be a bunch of cowards after all, but in any case, despite wearing a short skirt and being in a rather isolated place at night, she managed to fend off some would-be attackers. So just how did she do it?

Having A Weapon

Well, first of all, she had a weapon handy – which would be her Lacrosse Stick inside its case. Just to give you an idea, according to Wikipedia, modern Lacrosse sticks have shafts made of hollow metal such as titanium, scandium, aluminum, or alloys. Now some of these metals are known to be notoriously soft, but given the shape of the stick, it’s still potent enough to be wielded as a makeshift weapon – especially someone unarmed. Anyway, the point here is that she had something right by her side that she could use as a weapon.


The second point here would be assertion. Nagi took the initiative once she observed that things were getting out of hand. She immediately took action as soon as one of the men who had approached her invaded her personal space and got too close. She did two things: First of all, she shouted in a loud, assertive voice and commanded them not to touch her. Secondly, she immediately took hold of her weapon and aimed it at her would-be attacker’s neck with every intention to use it – as you can see in this panel… also, beautiful, isn’t she?

But What If The Men Were More Aggressive?

Yes, indeed. What if the men had been more aggressive? Would Nagi’s weapon and her own skill with it have been sufficient enough to ensure that she isn’t put at a disadvantage had the men continued to advance on her? Who knows? It’s a pretty hypothetical scenario – but in any case, Nagi had one more ace up her sleeve.

Situational Awareness

She chose a relatively well-lighted and public place to sit by even though Loser Park was mostly abandoned. Therefore, she placed herself in a position wherein she could easily draw attention to herself and the would-be attackers just in case she couldn’t handle things. Also, she was aware of one key element in this situation…

That’s right, she was aware that there was some blue-haired guy who was in love with her and who was ready to leap out of the bushes to her rescue at any time just in case she couldn’t handle it…

And that my friends, is how to avoid rape – as demonstrated by Nagi Sanzenin.
This has been Hayate Reflections and this is lordcloudx out. See you next week!

Fanart Corner

Been trying to familiarize myself with my White Nights watercolor set recently. I'm just about used to how pigmented the paint is with even just a slight dab. This is my first time drawing Nagi in her summer uniform. She looks cute as always, of course.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 3

The third day of the trip was pretty much a free day as well. We weren't scheduled to meet anyone until later in the week. Anyway, we had a lot of food in the mini-refrigerator (that I forgot to mention the hotel had). Therefore, we had breakfast just inside the room. After that, we got ready to go swimming again.

The weather was a bit cloudy this time. Also, there were no other people in the pool -- but that was fine. It's a really small swimming pool anyway. Naturally, this was a chance to take a pic of Nagi in another one of her swimsuits as well.
Nagi is cute and sexy as usual today

We spent just about an hour in the pool and then went back to the hotel room to get changed and hit another one of the nearby shopping malls. By the way, I got my shirt wet when I jumped into the pool and forgot to take it off, so I had to get inside the elevator with just a towel around me. An older guy who got inside the elevator looked pretty surprised to see me like that. Anyway, he was pretty polite about it and asked me how the water was. I told him it was pretty good, but the chlorine was kinda strong.

With that episode aside, this time, we were going to the Power Plant mall, which was actually just a few blocks away. Still, because of the big buildings and the confusing layout of the streets in Makati, it was better to use a Grab Car again to get there. This would be the first time my mother saw this place. It was her idea to visit it.

The Power Plant was pretty much the same as ever since I'd last been there about 5-6 years ago. It's pretty much a one-strip mall with its own movie theater and indoor parking -- pretty much a necessity since it was located right in the middle of the city. The basement area is where most of the restuarants are located. The ground floor has some miscellaneous shops along with a supermarket. The second floor is where the clothing, bag, and shoe stores are, and the third floor has novelty shops, art shops, computer hardware stores, toy stores, and the movie theaters.

My mother bought some clothes and a bag on sale at Topshop and bought me a new pair of shoes at Topman as well. Meanwhile, I bought a few barbie clothes for Nagi at a Toys R' Us. Yup, Toys R' Us is still alive here in the Philippines -- for now.

After that, we decided to go to another mall -- SM Aura. It was also just a short ride away. I did make a blunder, though. I just went with the GPS suggestion for our location when I booked the Grab Car and it turns out the location was on the opposite side of the mall. Fortunately, our driver figured it out and drove over to our location instead. I apologized for the mistake and he was pretty cool about it. 

SM Aura is also a bit of a one-strip mall, but a bit larger than the Power Plant -- or at least it seems that way. We entered the building via the Elevator areas, which took us straight to the top floor of the mall. We had to navigate our way past the chapel and inside the actual mall area -- which was pretty simple. Thankfully, there are signs everywhere in Manila and people don't blindly assume that you know your way around -- quite a contrast from Iloilo City. While I'm at it, I might as well tell you. Probably, because Iloilo City is such a small place, people here expect you to know what you are supposed to do without any instructions no matter where you go -- enrollment at a school, bank, government services. There are no visible signs because people always assume that everyone else is familiar with how things work in Iloilo City -- and if you don't, it's your fault. We're pretty insular that way.

Anyway, back to SM Aura, we made our way to the food hall and yeah, we were pretty much familiar with this place as well. We had some lunch there and a dessert of crepes. After which, we planned to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp. The movie theatre was just right next to the food hall, which was pretty convenient. Also, I was surprised to see that you could choose your own seats when buying tickets. In Iloilo, there's no seat selector option because the Movie Theatres are huge -- about the size of a medium-sized auditorium, probably able to host at least 100-150 people at once. In contrast, the cinema inside of SM Aura had a seating capacity of about 60 -- which was actually a nice experience since everyone could get a good viewing angle on the movie. I chose our seats to be close to the far side from the single entrance/exit because I expected people to swarm in at the center -- I was right. In any case, the viewing angle was still pretty good since the projection screen was curved like those newer TVs.

The movie itself was pretty nice. It was action-packed and thus, never boring all throughout and it even had a tie-in to Avengers Infinity War.

It was about 4:30-5:00 PM by the time the movie was over. We saw that there was a National Bookstore branch in the mall so we checked it out for those Liquitex paints, but they didn't have any. We went over to an adjacent mall just across the road from SM Aura after that -- Market! Market! I liked to visit the department store inside of this place every time I'm in Manila -- we didn't do that this time, though. My mother doesn't think much of the place -- especially the crowd. Market! Market! Has a circular, three pronged structure with a fountain in the middle and three wings that jut out on each of its sides -- or at least I think there are three wings -- might be more.  Anyway, this structure seems to be common for Ayala malls -- which Market! Market! is. We checked out the National Bookstore branch there and struck out on the Liquitex paints -- again. Of course, at this point, we'd checked just about everywhere and were ready to give up on those paints.

Having nothing more to do in Market! Market! we walked over to Serendra Plaza, a commercial complex which sort of works like an outside mall -- and which was also just across Market! Market!

There, we saw a place called "Art Bar," an art specialty store. Finally, they had those elusive Liquitex Heavy Body paints.

After that, we walked over to the big Fully-Booked branch in one of the buildings in Serendra. There, I finally found the Bento Picasso watercolor set. Basically, it's a student grade watercolor set by Tokyo Finds that comes recommended by this channel:

I've been using it for a little while and it seems about on par in terms of quality and ease of use to the Sakura Koi field sketch set. It's a little bit cheaper too -- so it's a good alternative. I think the quality of the paints is somewhere in-between Sakura Koi and Prang. I'm doing a review of it in a bit -- once I set up my cellphone to record me painting (I deleted my previous footage by accident via memory card reformat). Look forward to the review!

So after Fully-Booked, we booked a Grab Car to get back to our Hotel. It was about a 30 minute ride due to traffic, but we still arrived at about 7:30 PM. We had dinner at the Glorietta food court again. With dinner done, we walked over to SM Ayala's supermarket to buy some cultured milk and some fruits for my mother and then it was back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we'd be meeting my aunt, but I'd basically bought everything I wanted to buy in Manila at this point: Some new clothes for Nagi, White Nights Watercolor Set, Tokyo Finds Bento Picasso Watercolor Set (bought by my mother for me).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 2

I think I woke up at about 7:00 AM. One thing that I like to do when I'm in a hotel is to just leave the TV on all night at low volume for background noise. I dunno, it just helps me to sleep better, like the sound of falling rain. Speaking of which, there's actually a rainfall sounds app that I use on my phone.
The hotel left a small memo pad with a pencil in our room, so...

Anyway, I stayed in bed for a bit longer until my mother decided that she wanted to get into a little Zumba session. There was actually enough space inside the room, so I set up the laptop to stream a Zumba session from youtube and hooked it up to the room's TV via HDMI port.

After that, it was time for breakfast. We went downstairs to see which restaurants were open. Luckily, there was one called "The Pancake House" just across the street. There were actually two branches of this restaurant back in Iloilo, but they closed down for some reason. I think it's because their prices aren't exactly very competitive. Ilonggos prefer cheap, quality food over food that's been expensively priced to make them seem premium -- anyway, that's just an opinion. Could have been mismanagement or something else entirely.

In any case, we always liked their food, so breakfast was pretty good. I had waffles with some bacon and eggs and I think my mother had the same. After that, we went back to our hotel room and got ready to hit the pool. We called in the front desk via a public area phone at the roof deck where the pool was located. After a short wait, the guard with the keys to the pool area arrived. There weren't many rules, but there was no lifeguard either. There were two people already in the pool. I got in first to test the height of the water since my mother couldn't swim and I could barely swim as well. It went up to about my chin area, so I figured it was probably about 5" ft. I'm 5'7" (around 170-ish CM), so I informed my mother of this so she could just cling to the sides of the pool. 

At that moment, a rather big kid about 8-9 years old decided to jump into the pool -- I guess he wasn't prepared for how cold the water was because he started crying for help soon afterwards. He was right in the middle of the water. Good thing the pool was pretty small. One of the people in the pool, a guy about 20-30-ish, started swimming towards him right away. I waded over to the kid as well. The guy managed to reach him before his head went under and I arrived just half a second later and latched onto one of his arms. We assisted him in getting to the side of the pool.

His mother, who had been panicking at the side of the pool thanked us. It seems the kid could actually swim but his mother couldn't. It was probably as a I suspected, the pool water was a bit cold and took him by surprise. This reminded me of my 9 year-old niece who is a much, much better swimmer than me. I don't think I could imagine her ever being in that situation, drowning and gasping for air unless she had cramps or something.
The video is vertical coz my mother took it, obviously.

Anyway, we spent about 2-3 hours in the pool give or take. I took the opportunity to try out a few swimming techniques. For the life of me, I'll never learn how to breathe using the freestyle stroke -- or any other stroke that requires you to pull your head out of the water to take in air. I just can't time it right -- hmm... maybe if I had more time and privacy to experiment, I might just get it. Meanwhile, I can do this... which I also learned from watching my niece. She does this sometimes. Starts with a freestyle stroke and then rolls over on her back completely to do a backstroke or just rest. Eh, in any case, I doubt I'll drown in deep water as long as I know how to relax and float... I guess that's good enough for now.
Hmm.. maybe I should have taken those bangles off. She looks great either way~

Also, this was a good time to try out the school swimsuit (すく水) that I made for Nagi. It suits you, Nagi!

So after drying off, it was back to our hotel room to change and then we made our way to the Greenbelt Mall for lunch. Good thing we spent such a long time in the pool. Greenbelt doesn't open until 11 AM. After walking around for a bit and not finding any restaurant to our liking (there are tons of them lined up all over the Greenbelt Mall), we settled for a simple meal at Wendy's.

After that, it was back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and rest. Swimming around in the pool all day was a bit tiring. By 3:30 PM, we were well-rested, so we decided to visit Megamall for today since there was no itinerary anyway. Megamall is currently the biggest mall in the Philippines, by the way.

We booked a GRAB car again to take us there. By the way, we used to use UBER, but complications happened and UBER was shut down by the government for some kinda legality or whatever.

Funny thing I noticed is that our taxi driver had mounted an ABS-CBN TV Plus digital TV receiver to the heads-up display unit of his car, so he was actually watching TV while driving... hehe -- can't say I blame him. I mean, we do the same in our car -- except I use pre-recorded videos from a USB stick.

So we arrived at SM Megamall by about 4:00 PM. It was the same as ever except I noticed that some new shops had opened and quite a few had closed down ever since we were last here just a year ago. I guess this is a sign of our bustling economy! CHANGE IS COMING and all that~

Heh... sarcasm aside, we went hunting for those coveted Liquitex paints again. I asked Google and it seems there was a Deovir art supply store at the top floor of one of the buildings. We located it easily enough and asked about the Liquitex heavy body acrylic paints that my mother's co-teacher/friend wanted. Unfortunately, they didn't carry that particular brand of paint. My mother set off to leave at once, but I asked her to wait. I asked them what kind of artist grade watercolors they had and they presented me with a White Nights set... exactly what I'd been looking for. Actually, I already checked their website way before coming here, so I knew they had this particular set :D.

So yeah, bought it for 1018 PHP (12 palette field sketch version) and I was pretty happy~

After leaving the store, we decided to check out the National Bookstore branch in Megamall if they had any of those elusive Liquitex acrylics. It took us some time to find the store because it was hidden in one of the alleys in the mall and the directions from the digital map made no sense whatsoever.

Also, they didn't have any more of the particular colors that my mother's friend wanted.

So we didn't have any more itineraries after that and just leisurely walked around inside the mall. My mother bought a pair of shoes from a Payless Shoe Source store at some point.

By 5:30, we decided to go to SM Mall of Asia (abbreviated locally as SM MOA. You pronounce the letters S and M and then the MOA phonetically as "MOWA.") We went to the least populated entrance/exit point by the Fashion Hall of the mall and booked a GRAB car again. Yup, GRAB would be our main means of transportation from here. It's worth noting that we could actually have made it to this place a bit faster via MRT, but then we'd have to deal with the crowds and the asthmatic airconditioning system of the MRT box cars nowadays. I swear, the MRT was still a pretty decent experience despite rush hour back when I was living here.

Traffic was kinda heavy so it was already getting about 7:00 by the time we arrived. My mother suggested that we go to Ramen Nagi for dinner since a lot of people recommended it and it had the same name as my Nagi. Of course, this was an opportunity for another picture. I also scribbled Nagi onto the paper place mat while waiting~
Good use of some quality blank space~

One thing I found really annoying was that in order to accommodate a lot of customers at once, they had table sharing. Like, you had to share a table with two other people if there were only two of you. Yeah, yeah, I know it's part of authentic Japanese culture... but you know what? I don't really like Japanese culture in the first place.
Nagi inside of  Ramen Nagi
Anyway, to make matters worse, there was an annoying couple in the table adjacent to us separated by a thin divider. I say they were annoying because they kept staring at us, particularly at my mother and using hand signals and body language to surreptitiously communicate -- while still staring directly at us. I wasn't very comfortable with this and neither was my mother who was just about ready to explode.

It could have been any number of things such as the jewels my mother was wearing or perhaps it was the fact that we were using Hiligaynon to communicate -- still, I don't think it was the Hiligyanon. I did experience how people from Manila would often look down on people who spoke anything other than Tagalog as "probinsyanos or probinsayanas" (People from the provinces. We have gender-specific nouns.) long ago, but this was more than 2 decades ago back when Manila wasn't such a hub of different people from the Philippines. Nowdays, the stigma of "people who are probinsyanos are backwards" is no longer prevalent and most people from Manila don't really care what kind of language you speak as long as you can converse in Tagalog. So anyway, I'm betting it was just my mother's appearance with all of her jewels. Well, we were just touring the malls most of the time and using a car-sharing service to get around the high-end areas of Manila, so it was hardly dangerous.

Well, with that experience aside, it was time to go back home after dinner -- and also after swearing that we'd never set foot in that place again. The ramen bowl was super expensive for an average Filipino's standards at PHP 390 a bowl, and you had to deal with the annoying table-sharing for that "authentic Japanese culture" feel. Blech~ I know what Nagi would say: "Hayate, there are too many people here. Let's go home!"

It was still a bit early when we got back to the hotel at 8:30, so we took a short walk around Greenbelt Mall for some window shopping before walking back to our hotel.

That concludes day 2. See you next time for day 3 of our trip.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 1

Unlike my previous trips this year, this one was purely a leisure trip. We were at Manila from July 3-8. My mother and I had booked this flight earlier in the year all the way back in February in order to take advantage of the low-prices on the ticket fare.

You know, it's worth noting that people in Manila speak Tagalog, while we Ilonggos speak a different language altogether called "Hiligaynon." There are some words shared in-between the two languages, but otherwise, they are actually completely different. Still, most Filipinos, know how to converse in Tagalog because the national language, "Filipino" is actually just glorified Tagalog and it's taught as a mandatory subject in school from Primary to Tertiary levels. Furthermore, Tagalog is used in national television including all local TV shows, soap operas, and Filipino movies. Anyway, many ilonggos, usually from generations before Millennials actually have a hard time actually speaking in Tagalog with a conversational accent. Of course, I'm an adaptable early Milennial, so this doesn't include me :D.

We decided to leave the car at home and just take a taxi to the airport. We had about two hours before the flight when we checked in at the airport. We had a light breakfast at a restaurant in the waiting area. My mother knew the attendant who checked us into our flight so she put us at the very front seats so it'd be nice and comfy.

The flight was pretty uneventful except for our seatmate who was snoring quite loudly -- or at least loud enough to annoy my mother.

After securing our luggage of three trolley type hard plastic cases, we used GRAB to book a ride to our hotel, Prince Plaza II Condotel in Makati. We were delighted to know that the hotel was really just a 2-3 minute walk away from the main Greenbelt Mall area. Of course, it was a bit annoying because we arrived at around 12:40 and front desk told us that check in would be at 2 PM. We left our luggage in their care and decide to go and grab lunch.

I lived in Manila for two whole months during the bar exams and while I can't say I'm very familiar with the roads since I took the MRT 90% of the time, I did know my way around the malls in Makati. Anyway, my mother wanted to eat at the Glorietta food court, so we walked all the way over there passing through an overpass lined with shops called "The Link" and a department store called "The Landmark," which links up directly to Glorietta.

Anyway, after a passable lunch at the food court, we took a short walk around Glorietta to find an ATM machine and then went straight back to our hotel to check into our room... which came with a few complications.
Not bad at all.
There were delays for some reason and front desk kept us in the lobby until 4 PM. At this point, my mother was visibly annoyed at this development. Fortunately, the room was pretty nice. It was clean parquet flooring with a throw rug, ample space, two beds, one dresser table, one dining table, a safe, a closet, 42" TV, strong wifi with a private router for our room, decently soundproofed walls, and surprisingly, it also had a cupboard and a kitchen counter with a sink and  a stove -- not that we ever planned to do any cooking while we were here. Also, I noticed that there was a Subway fastfood restaurant just next to the lobby of the hotel. 

There was also a pool which we planned to check out the next day. 

We were both a bit tired from the plane trip and all the delays so we slept a bit until 6 PM. 
I took Nagi with me, of course.
Later, we looked for some acrylic paints for a co-teacher of my mother's over at National Bookstore. There was one at Greenbelt mall, which is the high end mall, and another at Glorietta, which is the more mid-range, everybody's mall.

Unfortunately, after visiting booth shops, they only had one of the four types of paints he requested. I asked them what type of watercolor paints they had and the clerk showed me a Winsor&Newton pocket field sketch set. I was tempted to buy it, but checking online revealed that it was a student grade set. I already had plans to buy a Bento Picasso student grade set and a more expensive St. Petersburg White Nights set during the trip, so I declined.

After that, my mother wanted to shop for some provisions, so we went over to SM Ayala, which is connected directly to Glorietta. There was a mini food court next to the supermarket as well, so we had dinner there -- and it was surprisingly good.. After that, it was time to head back to the hotel and get rested up for tomorrow. The malls were already closed though, so we couldn't go through them anymore to get to our hotel. We had to walk around The Landmark building and then get our bearings from there. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to find our way back to the hotel because it was directly underneath the series of overpasses that connect the different Ayala, Makati area malls together.

It was still a bit early, so I had time to do a little bit of watercolor painting before bed. That concludes day 1. See ya next time for day 2.

This was a request from my mother. The silhouette is hers.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hayate Reflections: What I Don't Like About Nagi

I do not think that Nagi Sanzenin is a perfect character. Far from it, in fact. After all, as much as I am an idealist, I am also a realist – and it is all too obvious that as a person, Nagi is not perfect and that she was never meant to be in the first place.

With that said, because I love her, she is perfect in all her imperfections for me. Still, there is one aspect of her that I find disagreeable – as it was portrayed in the manga and this would be.

Actually, since I’m sure a lot of you out there just don’t like Nagi in general, I’ll let you take a guess. What do you think I don’t like about here? Ready? Go…
Ok, I’m back, so what do you think? Is it…

A.      Because she’s an immature spoiled brat?

Well of course not. This is one of her perfect imperfections (as the song goes). She was indeed quite a spoiled brat at the start of the series and perhaps for a good majority of it… but you know what? For me, this is a part of what makes her character so likeable. Part of her spoiled brat persona was brought on by how sheltered her life had been under Maria’s care and thus, she grew up naïve to a lot of things about the world.

Which brings me to my next point. You see, I don’t believe that she was ever truly immature. The reason that she gives off the impression of being immature is because she had no way of knowing how a lot of things work. For example, she was never made to take any responsibility for her actions. She wouldn’t even be allowed to take public transportation on her own. She had hardly ever been to a shopping mall. Most of all, she had very limited interaction with other kids except others who were pretty much super rich spoiled brats by themselves – even Wataru is no exception, since he was made out to be pretty much of a brat himself at the start of the series.

In short, she had no way of knowing a lot of the things that would have made her seem more mature – but when she assimilated all the knowledge and experiences that had been denied to her after she lost her mansion, she was pretty much just as capable, if not more capable than the average 13 year old girl her age.

So if it’s not about her being a spoiled brat… then is it because…

B.      She’s clingy and possessive of Hayate?

Well yes, even near the finale, that possessiveness was there. Even the wish she made for a world where Hayate loves her could be interpreted to be possessive – but nope, this isn’t what I dislike about her.
You see, I agree with her. I believe that you can’t be totally selfless when it comes to love. While thinking of the other person’s happiness as well, I believe it is also equally important to look out for yourself and your own happiness. What Nagi was showing with her possessiveness of Hayate was strength of character. She was showing us that she wasn’t going to lose him if she could help it because she loves him and she believed for quite some time that he loved her back as well. After all, Hayate was always at fault for inadvertently giving her all the wrong signals. I know that some of you pin the blame on Nagi for misinterpreting these signals, but I think that’s total BS. Nagi already has strong feelings for Hayate, it’s only natural that she would interpret the strong signals Hayate gives her in her favor.
So if it’s not about her possessiveness… could it be because…

C.      She’s a tsundere?

Nope, you’d be dead wrong here. I don’t dislike tsunderes and as a tsundere, Nagi isn’t even all that violent towards Hayate about it. The only parts wherein she’s shown to have violent reactions come mostly from the non-canon parts of season 1 of the anime. So should I hate her for stuff she never did? That’s kinda silly, don’t you think?
Ok, so did you guess anything else? Well… whatever. I’m pretty sure that you’ll never guess what aspect of Nagi I sort of dislike anyway, so I might as well tell you:

It’s because she gave away her cats: Tama and Shiranui. I mean, it felt a bit off considering that her cats had always been a part of her family. (Yes, I know that Tama is a white tiger… he’s a big talking cat, so there!) So I felt that it was a bit disappointing that she didn’t find a way to keep them with her somehow.  It felt a bit wrong for me – especially considering how loyal Tama had always been to her. Also, Tama even speculated that she might leave him behind one day for Hayate… which sort of happened since she did get together with Hayate in the end… but this was two years later. It almost felt like betrayal… almost.

With that said, I don’t really blame Nagi that much for this. In fact, I’d say it’s more about the author, Kenjiro Hata, pandering to the audience. Tama and Shiranui probably weren’t very popular with the readers, which is why their roles gradually disappeared until they just became an afterthought in the ending. It’s not even fully-explained why they ended up in Sakuya and Isumi’s care. It all felt so random. 

Anyway, given how vague their fates were portrayed to be, it’d be easy to speculate a number of positive scenarios as well. Like, maybe Nagi just didn’t have the resources to give her cats the happy life they deserved if they had stayed together with her, so she gave them away to her rich friend whom she knew would take good care of them.

In the end, that’s really the only thing I can find disagreeable about Nagi’s characterization. Of course, I’m sure that you haters out there can enumerate a lot more – so please, go ahead and do share them amongst yourselves – in your own time. Meanwhile, leave me out of it.

This has been Hayate Reflections and this is lordcloudx out.

Fanart Corner

Acrylic on Paper... name a brighter smile... you can't!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hayate Reflections: What Nagi's Victory Meant For Me

The world is empty… shallow… devoid of depth… would be my perspective right now if one thing had not happened on April 12, 2017 in our time – and of course, this would be Nagi Sanzenin’s total victory. Not only in securing the so-called Hayate bowl and being actually the one whom Hayate chose to be his true romantic partner at the end of the series. Certainly, it’s an open-ended type of ending with nothing really concrete said, but the implication is strong and quite clear – so let’s not argue about that. If you don’t like it, you’ve lost so stay salty forever~

But hey, I’m not here to talk about how salty you should be today. Today, I want to talk about what Nagi’s victory meant personally for me – and that’s just what we’re going to do.

So first of all, let’s talk a little bit about me. I believe that the best way that I can describe myself would be – an empty shell of a person. I am basically someone with no big dreams and no strong desires in life – and as such, I am also someone who does not fear death. That’s right, I’m not afraid of dying. Of course, I’m not suicidal and I don’t want anyone to kill me – that is a different story altogether. What I mean to say is that if I learned of my impending unavoidable death, such as perhaps through a terminal illness of some sort, then I wouldn’t really care that much about it. Certainly, it would force me to think about a few things and what I should do with the rest of my time in existence, but well… it’s really not something that I fear nor even a thought that really saddens. If there is one word that would describe me – it would be apathetic. Basically, I just don’t care.

Of course, I wasn’t always like this – and if you feel that you are like me, I’m certain that at one point, you weren’t always like this as well. This is my story.
Back when I first started working, I had a pretty meager entry-level salary (and I still do right now), but what I earned was more than enough to support myself. Over the course of just two years, I’d actually saved up a considerable amount of money and my savings just kept growing. This was a real morale booster for me since I started working just after I failed the Philippine Bar Exams.  The justices who checked my papers gave me a 71 and a 72 respectively on two questions which were pegged as “a test of English skills.” Naturally, I realized that the bar exams was total BS right away after this and I lost any desire to try again.

In any case, something happened around 5-6 years ago, which was neither my doing nor within anything I could control. As a result, it led to me partially shouldering a very small percentage of a debt that was never my own. Still, even if it was a small percentage, one unexpected expense led to the other and before I knew it, my personal savings had dwindled down to the price of a Nintendo Switch – and I have been struggling to keep it just a fraction above that level ever since. Now if I wanted to, I could probably get a second job and raise my income a bit – at the expense of my leisure time. However, since I’m still alive right now and still without any personal debts of my own, I have chosen not to. I mean, after all, the original problem wasn’t mine. Why should I have to work an extra job or two for it?

It was probably this event that caused me to lose my taste for life. Over the years, I have become jaded and apathetic and I really don’t see my personal situation improving or degrading in the near future – and as long as the status quo is maintained, I’ve given up any long-term plans. There was a time when I thought I could make my first million (worth about the price of a new entry-level car in my area for context) within five years – of course, this much is no longer possible.
Partially, this is why I turned to escapism. It was around 2013 when I discovered that I could really empathize a lot with Nagi Sanzenin in Hayate no Gotoku! It was around this time when the mangaka arc was wrapping up and the things that Nagi were experiencing really felt similar to my own experiences.

Chiharu’s Interference

In the long-run Chiharu’s interference for Nagi’s sake turned out to be for the best. Still, when I saw how high-handed she was in allowing Nagi to suffer for the purposes of her own growth, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I have personally had several experiences myself with such types of people who think they know better and who insist that you must suffer in order to grow as a person. Who knows? Perhaps those people were correct as well, but I know one thing is for sure, unlike Chiharu who was actually looking out for Nagi after all, these people were only feeding their own egos by advising someone whom they believe is below them – it’s just human nature, really.

Being Alone

Nagi’s greatest fear was always that she would be left alone and that Maria and Hayate would leave her one day. While this did come true eventually, she was more than well-equipped at that time to handle it.

However, during the mangaka arc, she was also left  alone to fend for herself in a way. During the mangaka contest, Chiharu prevented Maria from consoling her when she had all but given up. She felt desperate because she was running into one roadblock after another and Ruka was threatening to take Hayate away from her.
The worst part is that Hayate, clueless as ever, chose this time to ask for permission from Nagi to be together with Ruka and to help her out with her own problems. Think about it, the person you love is asking for your permission to be with someone else during one of the lowest most desperate points of your life. I’m pretty sure that this would be enough to cause severe emotional trauma even for a fully-grown adult – but remember that Nagi was just barely 13 and a half years old when this happened to her.
I felt a great empathy towards Nagi and her plight– and it was most definitely around this time that I really started to fall in love with her character. In hindsight, I was probably projecting a lot of my own experiences onto her – which is quite different from a lot of people who say that they can relate a lot with Hayate. This is probably also the reason why I am a Nagi shipper. At the end of the day, it is Nagi who resonates the most with me as a character and therefore, it is only natural that I would wish for her happiness – together with Hayate.

She Handled It Beautifully

And yet, despite being pushed  to desperation and actually suffering several emotional breakdowns in the process, Nagi did not give in to the desperation. She kept pushing on and despite having lost basically everything considering the super billionaire lifestyle she was living before, she persevered and finally achieved something of her own – which was to create a manga that people actually liked to read. I won’t say that she won an actual victory over Ruka, who actually allowed her to take the win, but I will say that what opened Ruka’s eyes to allow Nagi to win would be Nagi’s moral victory over Ruka. Unlike Ruka, Nagi was doing it for herself and for the right reasons. Despite having Hayate in the back of her mind as well, when it was time to start selling her manga at the convention, she was genuinely enjoying herself and she had actually written a story straight from the heart. In short, she had poured her soul into the task of drawing and selling her manga.

And of course, this was really the turning point for Nagi. This was really the part of the manga when she had actually “won” as an individual, as a character, as a truly worthy co-main heroine and romantic partner for Hayate.

While there were still many subplots to wrap up and a lot more drama to unfold between the butler and mistress pair, it was at this point when for her part, Nagi had achieved victory.

What It Means For Me

Nagi’s victory meant everything to me. At a point in my life when I was merely an empty shell of a person, I found someone whose experiences connected to me on a deeply emotional and I would say even spiritual level. As someone who views himself as a person who has basically lost at life with no dreams of his own, I found solace in watching someone else claim the type of victory that life had denied me.

Now I understand that the internet is a crazy place and of course, some clueless, insensitive individual will eventually read this and be like “ho hum, what a bunch of melodrama over nothing,” but just know that everything I said here comes sincerely from the heart.
This is lordcloudx and this has been Hayate Reflections. See you next week!

Fanart Corner

Testing out different watercolor sets this week. Two are from Student Grade sets (Bento Picasso and Sakura Koi) and one is an artist grade set (White Nights).  All of these were painted on a 4x6" piece of watercolor paper.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Earthquake in Davao -- A Short Story

An Earthquake in Davao (Inspired by an older Filipino classic)
Story and Art by lordcloudx

It was only halfway through March, but the humid temperature was already reaching hellish levels in the fair city of Davao, Philippines. In a tropical country, the heat is often compounded by moisture and humidity, making it extremely uncomfortable unless you have a job that allows you to sit all day inside an air-conditioned room.  

Unfortunately for Attorney Farah Duarte-Isidro, the split-type air-conditioning unit inside of her otherwise lavishly adorned office was currently out of commission. It was a fairly new unit and still well within the five-year manufacturer’s warranty. Of course, it had been three days since the service center had informed her that her unit was on queue for repairs because of the busy work load of its authorized service repair technicians.

Still, the sweltering heat was of secondary importance for the 34 year-old budding lawyer. The truth is that she had a lot of things going on in the back of her mind. In a few months time, the local elections would be under way and she had a lot of ground to cover if she was going to secure and entrench her position as the next mayor of Davao City. Over the past few months, aside from regular business meetings with her brand managers, she also had to make public appearances at all kinds of major as well as minor events in the city from the opening of new business buildings and shopping malls to every funeral parlor in town.  

Fortunately, Attorney Duarte was not new to the limelight which was part and parcel of political life in the Philippines. After all her father and her father’s father before her were once mayors of Davao City as well. It was almost a given that the next in line in the Duarte bloodline would eventually become mayor as well. It was not a political dynasty by any means. Each and every Duarte who came into power did so on their own merits and not because of their family’s political affiliations.

With that aside, the good lawyer was currently taking a much-deserved break by browsing social media on her office desktop. A sly smirk crept across her face as she scrolled through the trending posts on political issues in the Philippines.

Anonymous 1: President Duarte is a madman! His idea of solving poverty is to kill the poor. No poor = no poverty.

Anonymous 2: You’re the madman. Why don’t you be the president if you’re so smart? Our great benefactor Duarte only wants the best for all of us. The reason that so many people are getting killed is because they can’t even follow the rule of law. It’s simple. You break the law, you deserve to die. I for one am happy that there’s a few less stupid people in the world – including you. I hope you and your family get murdered in cold blood too.

Anonymous 3: I don’t know about you guys, but Duarte’s tax reforms are having a definite effect and I don’t like it. I work the graveyard shift in a call center and I used to enjoy hanging out with my buddies at this local diner on the weekends. I can’t do that anymore ever since the huge inflation caused by his new tax laws.

Anonymous 2: You’re an idiot! Duarte’s tax laws follow the example set by Singapore. You’re only seeing the short-term effects right now, but you’ll be singing a different tune 3-4  years from now when the Philippines is super-clean with a booming economy. You can take Davao as an example. We Davaoenos’ know for certain the good work that Mayor Duarte did in his time. The old guy cleaned up drugs and crime in the entire city by himself. Look at where we are now.


Despite having a state-of-the-art Smartphone, Attorney Duarte was a woman of rather conservative tastes who still used a standard ringer.   A cursory glance revealed that it was someone she knew very well. She quickly swiped her finger to answer.
“Hello dear. How’s your day going? I’m still a bit busy at the office, but I am taking a little break right now. Did you want to talk?”

The voice of her husband, Nestor Isidro answered:

“Oh, not at all, honey. Just calling to remind you that we have a family date at the amusement park today after work. It’s Felicia’s birthday, remember?”

“Ah, certainly. She’d never forgive me if I missed that one. I’ll see you then.”
After the call was ended, Attorney Duarte’s fingers traveled to the 10x12” picture frame that she kept by her desk. It was a family picture of herself next to her husband, Nestor and their daughter, Felicia, who was just eight years old when it was taken.

Her eyes were transfixed on her daughter. She was a lovely young thing. She had thin lips similar to her father, but the chinky, but intelligent brown eyes were unmistakably that of a true-blooded Duarte.  She had a chubby face back then, but of course, this was four years ago.  Felicia was 12 years old now and her face was beginning to taper and not only was she taller, the shapely, palpable changes in her spoke of the voluptuous beauty that she would become in her teenage years.

“I’ll certainly have to warn her about how to deal with potential suitors pretty soon,” Attorney Duarte remarked to herself.

She was a caring and pragmatic mother who viewed her public life as a Duarte as equally important as her private life with her family.

Still, she was quite glad that for all the physical changes that her daughter was going through, Felicia was still pretty much a child at heart. She had asked to have her party at the Dleonor Water Park in Davao del Sur a month before. She really loved the water slides there the last time the family had a get-together at that place. 

She was also really thrilled because her elusive  Grandfather, President Antonio “Anton” Duarte had actually been around at that time.  Farah recalled their conversation:

“Well, of course. You’re now too much of a smart-ass. You even spoke up against my policies on national TV. Do you know how much damage control my spokesperson had to do to play that off as a family feud?”

“Dad, you know very well that I have my rights too. I just don’t agree with your drastic tax reforms and you wouldn’t listen to me in person. That was a last resort , if any. And anyway, you won. Also, what’s this I hear about charges of political killings being filed against you.”

“Bah! Mere rumors, I tell you. Don’t even listen to a word the biased media here in the Philippines tell you. If you don’t hear it come from my official sources, it’s rubbish!”

“I sure hope so. You know I can’t condone taking lives in the name of politics.”

“And neither can I, my dear daughter. You definitely take after me. Still, I truly believe that these tax reforms are for the good of the people of my country. In fact, I have the full support of the senate and a majority of the house to continue with further implementation of my three-point plan. Also, I’ve pinpointed the top seven troublemakers in congress from the opposition. Don’t worry, they’ll be cleanly removed from power soon enough. As for the taxes, they will make the prices skyrocket for a while, but just you wait and see. Once things normalize, the Philippines will be just like – no, more of a haven than Singapore ever was. … in any case. How is your campaign going?”

Farah’s face lightened up. She knew that there were many nasty rumors floating around about her father and she did disagree with his tax reform policies, but over-all, she understood that he was simply a good man, a pure-hearted man with a sharp tongue – but one that this country required in order to impose some much-needed discipline upon the masses. It was like Plato’s republic. Some people are just born leaders and she and her father – however much they disagreed with each other, were cut from the same mold – people designated under the stars to lead.

“Well, Dad. There’s actually not much opposition ever since I announced my candidacy. Even my main rival, Mr. Francisco Depedro has conceded that he has very little chance. He’s actually a pretty charming fellow. We met at the grand re-opening of the NCCC Mall just last December. He told me in private that he’d really like me to win, but there are people who have made investments in his name so he has to keep his game face on and pretend to be a bit hostile in public. Anyway, I would say that it’s pretty smooth sailing so far, but it is eating in a bit too much into my own private schedule. “

“Indeed… politics is a dirty business and not for the faint of heart, but you are a Duarte. You were made for this sort of stuff.”

“That much we can agree on, Dad.”

“Huh? Why are you and grandpa arguing so much?” A third, innocent little voice entered the conversation.

“We’re not arguing, Felicia. We’re just having a really exciting talk. Also, how many times have I told you not to interrupt when adults are talking, huh?”

“Hmph! Your mother is such a spoilsport, isn’t she, Felicia? What do you think about this Water Park? Are you enjoying it so far?”

“Oh yes, Grandpa! I really love it here! This is paradise! I could spend 99 years in here and never get bored. Oh and… and mom! Can I have my birthday party in here?”

Farah hung her head low in thought for a moment and then she turned and smiled sweetly at her daughter.

“I’ll tell you what, dear. Since you’re turning 12 now, you need to learn to be responsible. Why don’t you try earning the money for your birthday party here by yourself?”

“Huh? But like how, Mom? Do you want me to go to work at the office like you and dad do?”

“No, of course not. You’re too young for that… but… you could have a garage sale. You do have lots of extra clothes don’t you? I’m sure a lot of other parents with young children would love to buy some of the clothes that you no longer use. Also, those Lalaloopsies dolls and dollhouses that you don’t even play with anymore – I’m sure they’ll make some other little girls very happy.”

“Wow! That sounds like a great idea, mom! You’re a genius! You really know everything, don’t you?”

Felicia turned out to be a natural hostess. She started out a bit awkward at first and didn’t know exactly how to deal with the influx of customers, but after some coaching from her Dad, she was moving around and assisting potential clients much better than your average department store shop attendant. What is more, she really enjoyed the experience of earning her own money to finance her birthday party.

“And today is that day… my how time flies.”


The ringing of her phone jostled Attorney Duarte out of her memories and back to her desk.


“Attorney? It’s Frank . Just calling in to remind you that you have a business meeting with the City Development Planning Council after lunch. They want your input on turning the Port Area into a shopping mall. An investor from Iloilo is extremely interested in the project.”

Frank De La Cruz was Farah Duarte’s secretary, driver and all-around assistant. One could be forgiven for thinking of him as nothing more than a lackey, but that assumption is totally false. Frank was a magna cum laude graduate of UP Diliman and aside from winning various scholastic contests during his time, he was an amateur wrestling champion who had even been scouted by the URCC and ONEFC at one point. While having a nerdy look with his naturally curly hair and wearing very thick glasses, Frank was the epitome of the modern renaissance man, one who was competent and even excelled in a variety of fields. Farah personally scouted him out when she saw one of his amateur wrestling matches on TV and the commentators mentioned he was a scholar from UP.

In any case, it was a bit like pulling teeth getting Frank to agree to become her personal assistant, but Farah persevered and in the end, she got what she wanted – at the price of 250,000 pesos a week in salary with bonuses and benefits. Certainly an attractive offer and much more than the 13,000 pesos that an average white collar worker receives, but for Farah, Frank’s services had become invaluable over the years and she certainly did not regret a single centavo of what she paid him.

As an assistant, Frank had a curt, almost disrespectful nature when he spoke and although he was silent most of the time, he never held his tongue back if he thought he was in the right. In fact, Farah could not recall the last time she had won an argument with him, but he was also very professional. If there is one thing that Farah really admired in her assistant, it would be his ability to get the job done – competence.

“Ok, Frank. I’ll be right down and we can grab a bite by Mang Inasal on the way. I know you must be hungry.”

“Mang Inasal, is it? I’m actually cutting down on carbs, so no unli-rice for me, but sure thing. You’re the boss.”
“Be right down. Get the car ready.”


It took Frank no more than five minutes to get the car ready downstairs, much faster than the fifteen minutes it actually took Attorney Duarte to finally leave her office. Farah used a White 2008 Nissan Sentra as her main mode of transportation.

Of course, the family had a larger car for long overnight trips, but the trusty pearl-white sedan had been a gift from her father and she had maintained it meticulously with her own hands – even going so far as to read every inch of the instruction manual from cover to cover and ask for tips from the local greasemonkeys at the Nissan Service center on proper car maintenance.

Farah herself was quite confident that she could handle a few simple breakdowns or two. Of course, she didn’t even need to do that much. Frank would handle everything just fine on his own in case they did have a breakdown. Aside from being a Political Science major, he had several TESDA certifications in almost everything from repairing cellphones and electrical wiring in buildings to plumbing, welding, and of course, fixing cars. It goes without saying that Farah had complete trust in Frank and his capabilities.

The nearest Mang Inasal was only 30 minutes away under light traffic conditions. Farah checked her scheduler app and saw that she had plenty of time. The meeting was still at 2:00 PM and it was just about 11:30 AM.
“So, Frank. How are your law studies going? I’m not keeping you too busy to study, am I?”

“No, not at all, Attorney. Also, it seems that your father has made some arrangements for the next year’s bar exams. I think we can expect a sudden influx of new lawyers by then.”

“Ugh… there goes my Dad again. Always doing something unnecessary.”
“’Unnecessary’ Attorney?”

“Well… sure. I mean, what do you think about his so-called arrangements, Frank? You’re a smart guy. I mean, of course you are. Don’t you think he’s demeaning the profession that way?”

“Can I be honest with you?”

“Of course…”

Farah Duarte braced herself. When Frank asked to be honest, it usually meant he would be very brutally frank – pun intended, and downright savage.

“I think that for the bar exams, the system was already broken from the start – what? With UP and Ateneo always dominating the top positions even though the curriculum is supposedly the same nationwide for all law schools. So I think that your father breaking the already broken system doesn’t do any harm. There was no integrity in the bar to speak of in the first place. All that talk about law being the noblest profession is just reassurance by those who have been through the hell of law school in order to justify their suffering.”
“Um… you’re serious aren’t you?”

Frank looked back at her from the driver’s seat with an almost piercing glare in his eyes.

“Yup, you’re serious, alright. And keep your eyes on the road. I trust you, but I doubt you have eyes in the back of your head.”

“Frank, do you… have a problem with the way my Dad handles his government?”

“In the first place, Attorney. It’s not his government. It’s a representative entity that belongs to the people of the Philippines and not just President Duarte. Secondly, no… if he thinks that raising taxes and nearly causing an economic collapse in order to fund long-term government expenditures is a positive development, then who am I, a mere political science graduate to argue? Of course, my position might change after I get my Attorney to my name. That’s why for now, I fully support his plan to allow more new lawyers in the integrated bar.”

“Yeah but…”

“Ah, we’re here, Attorney.”

“Wait a minute, I had something else to say… ugh, forget it.”

In her head, Farah Duarte was imagining her fist connecting with Frank’s arrogant nose, but even in her head, her assistant effortlessly deflected the blow and walked past her like it was nothing.

The Mang Inasal restaurant was jam-packed with customers at lunch time. Fortunately, the manager immediately recognized Farah Duarte and insisted on having the secluded area usually reserved for private parties opened up just for her.

Just then, Farah spotted three young individuals who were at a loss because there were no empty tables left in the restaurant. Farah waved and motioned for them to join her in her special table.

A scrawny, pimply faced young man was the first of the trio to greet her.
“Thanks, miss. We just arrived from the airport. We’re really famished and this was the closest restaurant. We should have known it’d be full at this hour.”

One of his companions elbowed him gently at the waist.

“Joseph, you doofus! Show some respect, don’t you know who this is?”

“Eh, what? Is she some kind of celebrity?”

The third individual, a quiet looking guy with scruffy hair that partially covered his eyes spoke up.

“Hmm… at the very least, she’s popular. You’re  Attorney Farah Duarte, aren’t you? The daughter of President Anton Duarte?”

Farah smiled and nodded in approval.

“Who-whoa! So sorry, about that Miss… umm.. Attorney. Forgive my rudeness!”

She held her hands up to calm the young man down.

“Relax, relax. It’s not a mortal sin not to know me. Anyway, I like having some company for lunch… well, there’s my assistant Frank who is ordering for me over there but that guy is like a robot, I tell you; totally devoid of emotions.”

Farah motioned at her assistant waiting in the queue. Frank nodded in affirmation.

“Anyway, guys. Lunch is on me today. I hope you guys don’t mind the PM 1 set. I just had Frank order for three more people.”

“Thank you very much, Ma’am. We’ll gratefully accept your offer,” the scruffy looking kid said immediately.”

“I’ll introduce us, Attorney. That guy with the funky hair is Simon, the one to my right is Joseph, and I’m Ronald. We all work at a call center in Manila. We’re just in Davao for a short vacation. We took our paid vacation leaves together. ”

“I see. I think you’ll have a lot of fun in Davao. In fact, I think I know a few places that young people like you might enjoy. Anyway, let’s get to know each other better over lunch. Tell me more about yourselves, boys.”

“Oh, excuse me.” 
Frank joined the table with a polite bow at everyone. He took a seat adjacent to Simon.

Ronald was the first to reply. It seemed to be a given that he was the spokesperson of the group.

“Well, the interesting thing is that we’re all professionals, actually. We were all nurses at the same hospital before working at the call center.”

“That’s interesting, Ronald. So what made you choose the call center over being a nurse?”

“Right, well… there’s the fixed working hours, the more comfortable work environment and…”

“Let’s cut to the chase and in a hurry shall we?” Suddenly, Simon, the kid with the “funky” hair spoke up.

“The real reason is because we couldn’t stand the so-called professional work ethics required of us as medical personnel.”

“Simon, are you going to tell them about that…?” Joseph interrupted.

“Interesting,” said Frank with one of his eyebrows raised up.

“We once worked on a patient together. When the family called us up to their deluxe room, the patient was unconscious. His respirator had been removed and he wasn’t breathing at all. I personally did a check of all his vital signs and they came up negative. For all intents and purposes, he was dead. We knew he was dead. We’d seen it before… but his relatives were watching us, hoping we could do something. So, we went by the book. We followed professional protocol and took turns performing CPR on the patient. At that point, we all understood that he was dead and there was no reviving him… but we kept doing it. We went through 20 CPR cycles before the attending physician arrived.”

“Oh my… was it the Physician’s fault?”

“With all due respect, Ma’am. Dr. Robles is a professional, so it wasn’t her fault. No one is really to blame… except maybe the hospital that assigns a single doctor to more than fifty patients. The reality is that our government hospitals are short of both nurses and doctors.”

“But, there’s a huge demand worldwide for Filipino nurses.”

“Exactly! That’s why most nurses would prefer to work abroad. The only reason that most of us work in hospitals here is to gain the necessary 2-year work experience to work in a hospital offshore.”

“So what happened to the patient?”

“Dr. Robles certified his death and we were basically off the hook. The only reason we kept trying to revive him was so that we don’t get blamed for the patient’s death out of a technicality. The local radio stations would have had a field day over that. We all decided to quit the job shortly after that. It was just too much stress. Also, Dr. Robles no longer practices. She actually joined the same call center as us a few months later. She said that she couldn’t stand the hypocrisy required of the medical profession. Even if it really is your fault, you have to make up some excuse so that it wasn’t – otherwise, you get blamed for malpractice. Of course, as long as you’re smart enough to fool your clients with medical jargon, it’s not a problem – but Dr. Robles is a person of conscience.”

“Wow, you seem to think really highly of this Dr. Robles.”

Ronald and Joseph smirked in unison.

“He should, Attorney. She’s his girlfriend,” said Ronald.

Simon’s cheeks reddened a bit.

“Well… at least you boys found your niche at the call center, right?”

“Hmm… I suppose,” Simon paused for a while and scratched his chin, “but it’s been getting a bit hard recently.”

“What? Why is that?”

“It’s the taxes and new curfew laws. We actually work the graveyard shift at the call center, and well, it leaves us mentally and physically exhausted. So we try to recharge during the weekends at a local diner and basically spend it drinking the night away. We usually finish by around 2-3 AM, which is out of the question now since the curfew law requires all business establishments to stop serving alcohol after 12:00 and anyone caught with alcohol on their tables can be arrested too. The new taxes make most of our hangout places a bit too expensive for our budget as well. Ronald over there has to pay for the schooling of his three siblings on his own. He has a sister who is a nurse abroad, but she has a family there too, so she can’t help out much. Joseph is in debt because of a business investment he made that went bad. And me, well… you could say that I’m paying for a debt that wasn’t my own to begin with out of my own pocket.”

“Everyone’s circumstances are different,” Frank said in a low voice.

“Bingo, um… Sir Frank was it?”

Frank nodded.

“But, you guys are here on vacation, right? That means you have some extra cash.”

“Actually, Simon here managed to have our boss write it off as a business trip, so the company’s paying for it. Pocket money, plane trip, hotel, basically everything.” Ronald answered.

“Hoho, I never pegged you to be that sly, Simon.”

“Heh, thanks… you’d be surprised at what a lot of people are capable of, ma’am.”

“With that aside, I think you should just bear with the taxes for a little while. Spend a little bit less and in 2-3 years, you’ll see some definite results.”

“Hmm… if you’re talking about President Duarte’s promise of an economic boom in 2-3 years… I just don’t know about that. It’s not a guarantee, is it?”

“What do you mean, Simon?”

“I think what he is trying to say, Attorney, is that there’s no reassurance of any positive results after 2-3 years and if it doesn’t work, your father can simply ask for an extension of 2 years, 3 years, who knows? 99 years on his plans? Meanwhile, the people are actually dealing with the effects of the tax reforms right now.” Frank intervened.

A deafening silence followed, which was only broken by the meals being served a few moments later.

Everyone then took to conversation by themselves. Joseph and Ronald continued conversing with Farah about their plans over their vacation trip with the Attorney sharing her knowledge about her beloved city with them. Meanwhile, Frank and Simon talked about political issues, which somehow drifted off into philosophy and even the plausibility of reverse time travel through multiple parallel worldines.

Sometime after everyone had eaten their fill, Farah noticed large ripples forming at the center of her water glass.

“It’s an Earthquake,” Frank noted, “Seems to be a strong one too. Everyone under the table, quickly. It’s hardwood, so it should protect us just in case.”

“Everyone! It’s an earthquake, under the tables and kitchen counters, quickly!” Farah Duarte’s natural leadership instincts that had been honed since she was but a little girl kicked in. She knew that this was the time for her to be looking out for her people.”

“Understood! Everyone do as she says!” The manager barked the orders to his staff as well as to all the customers inside the restaurant.
“You get under the table too, ma’am.” Simon urged her.

Farah took a quick look around and upon seeing that everyone else was safe, she also took her place underneath the table.

The tremors were strong and shook quite a few glasses off the tables causing them to shatter upon impact with the ground. This elicited some screams from the female patrons. The chandeliers swayed back and forth in every direction, very much like a swing on a children’s playground that had gone out of control.

Fortunately, it only lasted for about two minutes before things started to settle down.

It took about 20 minutes for Attorney. Duarte and her assistant to go around the entire restaurant and ensure that everyone was safe, including a few bystanders on the outside tables. Fortunately, there were no injuries except for one little boy who had bumped his head under the table.

“Sorry that had to happen during your vacation, boys. I have to go and check the entire city now for any casualties… Frank, cancel that meeting.”
Frank nodded in affirmation.

Afterwards, the boys thanked Attorney. Duarte for her hospitality and bid her and Frank farewell.

“We’re going straight to our hotel room to rest up for a bit. That was a little too exciting for our first day in Davao,” Ronald remarked.
Farah pulled up her smartphone.


“Hello, Nestor? Are you okay? What about, Felicia?”

“We’re fine, dear. How about you? You’re not injured are you? We were in the mansion when it all happened. Your grandmother’s antique vase was the only casualty.”

“Oh pish-tush. I never cared for that old thing anyway, Nestor. I’m going to check around the city for any casualties. I need to be there if something big has occurred. Hopefully, nothing serious happened. Tell Felicia to wait for me. We may still be able to make that trip to the Water Park. I checked on twitter and they say they’re functioning normally. No damage and no need to close down the park for the day.”

“She’ll be delighted to hear that… hey, Felicia!”

“Mommy! We’re definitely going to the Water Park today, ok? Ok? I saved up for it all by myself, you know!”

“Haha! Certainly, honey. Wait for mommy to come home, ok? I love you. Take care of yourself and I’ll see you in a few hours.
“Ok Mommy, see you.”


With the call ended, Farah breathed in deep and then she turned to Frank.

“Shall we go? We’ve got a busy day ahead of us.”

Frank nodded in affirmation.

The day actually proved to be mostly uneventful. There were some mild aftershocks from the Earthquake but nothing particularly worthy of note. The local radio station stated that it was a magnitude 4.7 earthquake. Some street signs had been broken and several cars had crashed into each other, but fortunately, only their bumpers were damaged. There were also a few cracks along the major highways so some roads had to be closed down. For the most part, it was business as usual in Davao City. The Davaoenos are a hardy lot after all and a tiny earthquake was no excuse for anyone not to be doing their job. Farah felt a sense of pride as she thought about how resilient her people were.

The only casualty was a senior citizen who had died of heart attack from panicking when the major tremor occurred. Farah paid the family a visit and expressed her condolences. Even though they were obviously impoverished still living in a makeshift house made out of scrap materials, the family offered her some food and drink, as is the custom for Filipino families, but she had to politely refuse since she was still full from lunch.

 When they left, Frank slipped five thousand pesos into the pocket of the eldest son. It wasn’t a bribe, by any means. Such things were considered standard operating procedure as far as Philippine politics is concerned.

By 4:00 PM, they had finished touring the most noteworthy places where the quake might have caused damage. She sent a text message to Nestor, but there was no response.

Farah decided to call it a day early. She dismissed Frank at this point and drove the rest of the way home by herself.

“I bet Felicia will be overjoyed to see me home early. That girl… she’s growing up so fast. Not too soon, sweetie. Mommy and Daddy still want to spend a lot more time with you,” she thought to herself.

It was upon arriving at the gates that she noticed that something was amiss. The gates were left hanging wide open. The Isidro family did not employ any security guards. They hardly needed any because Davao City was such a peaceful place. They did have cctv cameras all over the premises and a burglar alarm at night, but that was the extent of their home security system.

“Perhaps Nestor forgot to close it earlier.”

She parked her car in the garage and it was then that Frank’s parting words from earlier crept into her mind.

“Attorney, it’s a bit out of my job description to be saying this, but you should carry a gun with you. You never know when you might need it in your line of work.”

Foreboding thoughts gripped Farah Duarte-Isidro at that moment. She realized that she hadn’t made contact with her family for the last few hours. Her fears were multiplied when she approached the doorway. The door was hanging open and the knob had been wrenched off.

She tiptoed across the hallway, there dirty shoeprints all over the carpeted flooring. With fear and emptiness in her heart, she crept across the halls leading to the kitchen and dining area.

It was there that she saw it. A circular crimson, darkness, splotches of red on the table, across the floor and into the microwave oven.

“AHHH… AH… “ She wanted to scream but all that would leave her throat was a pained gurgle, almost a primordial snorting sound like a primate would make.”
“N-ne..nestor? Wake up.. Nestor? Nestor?” She nudged the limp body laid out on the chair by the dining table.

No response.


With the energy completely drained from her body, and with time seemingly moving in slow motion, it took what seemed like an eternity for Farah to answer her phone.

It was Frank’s voice.

“Hello! Hello! Attorney? Is this you? I’ve been trying to call you for the last half hour but the hospital had a signal blocker in the emergency room. I had to run all the way up to the top floor. Are you ok? I’m sorry for your loss, but… I’m calling to tell you that I’m at the Davao Doctor’s Hospital. There was a wound to the chest, but the bullet passed through. She’s safe, Farah. Felicia is safe.”


And then the call was ended. The earthquake in Davao was over, but the results of the aftershocks shall remain forever.



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