Memories from the car clutter

 

Yesterday I finally had the time to vacuum the interior of the car. I’ve washed its exterior at least twice in a month but the hectic schedule and the crazy weather prevented me from taking the vacuum cleaner out of the house and into the car. Yesterday, everything was perfect: sun’s up, I woke up early, and nothing more to do but clean.

The interior, in my own standards, was in a total mess. The carpets had all sort of dirts – grass, dust, sand and gravel. On the leather seats were materials that the CSIs would love to have (the only missing are those that would glow under the black light). And in the trash bins were candy wrappers, crumpled toll gate tickets and wet wipes that have gone bone dry just short of being fossilized. It’s weird but over the loud and monotonous buzz of the vacuum cleaner I was reminiscing what we’ve recently been through with our grayish car – and most of the time, Marcus was with us.

 

 

One grumpy clutter monster.

One grumpy clutter monster - won't take a sit at his own seat and loves rearranging the stuff toys.

Mary, our car’s name, has sent us to several domestic destinations already within a month: a couple of places in (and back and forth trips) Batangas, Bacolod and Subic.

 

1. Munting Buhaning, Nasugbu 2. Balulan, Manapla, Neg. Occ. 3. Resort somewhere in Bitin Bay, Laguna 4. Subic Park Hotel

1. Munting Buhaning, Nasugbu 2. Balulan, Manapla, Neg. Occ. 3. Resort somewhere in Bitin Bay, Laguna 4. Subic Park Hotel

Although I wish I could have brought the car with us in Bacolod thru the RORO ferries, it was with us at least until Park N Fly where it stayed and accumulated dust because of the offsite (parked outside the covered area) parking during that time due to the peak vacation season.

Mary also endured the twists and turns and the continually changing lanes of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) due to the ongoing constructions. It likewise muscled its way up and down the undulating road going to Munting Buhangin beach in Nasugbu, Batangas. 

 

I cant resist but grab the cam and take this picture while driving.

I can't resist but grab the cam and take this picture of one portion of the SCTEX while driving.

And the recent long distance trip to Subic was tiring yet at the same time satisfying because of the perfect road conditions of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the newly opened Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the Americanized traffic standards of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) free port where I gladly complied and actually loved the “first to stop, first to go” or what I’ve known from training as the “first-at-the-intersection” rule.

Some of the Pictures taken in Subic.

Some of the Pictures taken in Subic.

It took me about 30 minutes just to put everything in order inside Mary. Now, Marcus’ stuff toys are standing upright; and the China-made Tigger is once again back hanging on the ceiling; the old gas station receipts have been removed and accounted for, and the dashboard dials are once again dust-free. The trusty Honda City is once again spic and span. It’s now covered and ready for the next driving days ahead – let me check though if our budget will allow.
 

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

 

 

  

 

 

 

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The anatomy of our monthly savings

 

Tonight I’m happy…somehow. I have just finished listing and computing our monthly expenses since it is already the last week of February. I’m not expecting anymore regular expenses as we have already bought our groceries and baby stuffs which usually share the largest slice of our expenses pie.

I have actually made a conscious effort to save since the early part of last year. The initial news about our company on April 2, 2008 and the other bad news that followed – including the admission of the then US president Bush about the recession taking place – made it more compelling for me to be thrifty enough. It’s also a good thing that the number of training that our company has arranged, and that I have attended, contributed to my knowledge on how to be in control of our finances. Although it may still not be half-perfect even at this time, at least our drive and urge to save is already there. We just have to start somewhere, somehow.

While there are five more days to go before this month ends, I already feel accomplished in terms of our budgeting. After I have transferred our expenses to the financial worksheet, I compared our current expenses with last month’s. I then marked those that have increased with red. And those that have decreased were marked green. In the end, and to my amazement, the greens significantly dominated the reds. Sweet.

So what was done right then? What have we done to successfully cut our expenses – some items were even cut in half. Let me share some tips.

Dilute, dilute, dilute. I apply this tip to all our cleaning agents for years already. The cleansers we use at home like the toilet liquid solutions and car shampoos are basically concentrated enough to be used in its pure form. Even the manufacturer’s recommended ratio is still strong for the intended tasks that it is a no-brainer that a saving can be achieved if you dilute it with more water.

Be brand-conscious. When I heard Mr. Bengco (of the Colayco foundation) talk about it during his recent seminar at our company, I couldn’t agree more since I’ve been doing it already. What I’m not aware though is by how much is actually saved when you know what you are buying. His example: the bath soap. In his presentation he showed one brand that cost a mere Php 9 (USD 0.2). The next foils showed several other brands that cost twice and even thrice the price just because it promises extra germ killing action, catchy fragrance…and everything there is a TV ads will do just to entice consumers like us. Right now, I try to settle for the ones in the mid-price range.

Buy two brands. This may sound confusing especially just after the previous tip but believe me this is what I’m doing. For almost a year already, I had two different deodorants (Disclaimer: not for the squeamish). I used one that has “superior” action every time I go to work or leave home. Then I use one with the “least superior” action if I know that I’ll be static at home and will be spending time as a couch potato and will just be home alone with the baby – at least he doesn’t know how to complain yet if the deodorant protection fails. Ewww, daddy!

Drive like your grandma. I have mentioned this in my blog – Being a Gas Miser and I cannot stress it enough that one’s driving habit does directly affect fuel consumption. This is where I often fail but I keep on reminding myself to be on track. Until now, I’m still at least within the 13-15 kilometer per liter expected range of our car. Now I’m wondering if I’ll be able to save gas if I stop blaring (if this doesn’t save gas, just at least my sanity) my horns every time I meet a jeepney with only one headlight on – I’ve heard that the reason why its drivers do it is because one headlight on saves gas than having two. Hmmm, sounds like an idea…Nah!

A Honda is a Honda. Well, at least that’s what I’m always telling myself whenever I’m on my Honda 100cc motorcycle instead of our Honda City. That’s because when it comes to saving gas the motorcycle wins, hands down. No contest. But when it comes to saving lives…errr, wrong discussion. Hahaha. Seriously speaking, I recommend this tip for those ready and responsible enough to drive a motorcycle. And if you’re not yet in that mind set, it’s still worth taking a ride in that one-eyed jeepney – I bet, your wife will be even happy about it.

Go slow with the fast foods. So far, this is the biggest savings we had for this month. It was cut by more than 50 percent and it’s a welcome development. One thing that helped us do it is by avoiding the malls. There’s something about the scent of the malls that attracts each individual (or even group) to go and line up in front of the fast food counters. It may be due to poor air circulation or a deliberate ploy to set the minds of the mall goers to go hungry and crave for pizza, burger or doughnuts (and coffee) in an instant. But if you can’t avoid it, and just like what I’m doing, try going there with a full stomach – i.e. take lunch at home. It works for me – I’m now eating Whoppers and half cup of sundae…and large Coke. Ti abi.

Last but not the least, the No rot rule. This is still in the works after I told my wife that we should avoid foods inside the refrigerator from spoiling. Believe it or not, I used to admire people whose ref is so full of foods that most of the times, some of it will rot and end up as trash. Back then, I see it as abundance. Now, it’s nothing but waste – both food and money. So far, I’ve been successful but that’s after I’ve monitored and eaten the leftovers and had my weight build up as a consequence. Ti abi. I think it’s just about time to apply then the “No rot, No fat rule”. That I guess is win-win.

During these times when everyone gets so tired of hearing about the recession (and the rest of the similar tags that’s associated with it), the need to save and finding ways to learn more how to do it is already a must. This is also when sharing what we know – no matter how trivial – and learning from what others already knew (and follow) will help each one of us survive the turbulent ride that the rest of the world experiences.

 

 

 

Mood: 4/10 Honks!

2009 Honda City

 

After all the speculations, spy shots, automotive forum excitement and anticipation, the new Honda City 2009 was finally introduced this week. Incidentally, this happens to be exactly a year after we bought our 2008 model. When I saw the pictures of the new City, I felt the same excitement I had last year while I was drooling over what then was considered as brand new. Now, somewhere out there I’m sure are thousands of anxious individuals who have spent several sleepless nights already thinking over and over again if this car is indeed a good buy.

Being one of those curious what the fuss is all about, I checked Honda’s website – and the City has indeed evolved a long way from its predecessors. In fact, if not for the emblem at the rear that says it’s a Honda City, this car may be mistaken as anything but a City. And this is where hot discussions and exchange of opinions comes in.

At first look, especially coming from a year-old owner of the 2008 City, it cannot be denied that I appreciate the fact that this new model appears to be sleeker on the outside and more spacious in the inside. Fans of the new Honda Accord who fall short of the budget to acquire it, will likely have some thinking to do now because the resemblance of this car is all over the City and for this same reason that I’m right now daydreaming about it.

But Honda City designers need not put their chin up high just yet. This is because once the 2009 City is viewed on its sides, the feeling of looking at something familiar yet “un-Honda” is there. It’s a shame but it’s as if some designer from Toyota had his hands on this project because the profile of the City shows hints from the 1st generation Vios – especially while looking at the tail light from the sides. And to verify if it’s just me and my untrained eye, I searched and found a discussion on this. Check out paultan.org. I rest my case.

Its an accord...?

It's an accord...?

...no, its a vios...

...no, it's a vios...

At the end of the day, after all has been said and done, two things will be sure: that someone coming right out of the Honda showroom will be another proud owner of the 2009 Honda City; the other, that there will be one envious driver tailing the brand new Honda City wondering when the recession will end and if dreams of salary increases will come true. Ti abi.

***

After a year of having the 2008 Honda City I’ve come to discover and experience more about it – both bad and good:

Bad

  • Some paints have chipped off from the door and trunk edges. And this is not due to bad driving (I swear). I actually saw this just a couple of months after we got it. The service personnel said that they’ll do a re-touch of it once they have the exact car color.
  • Upon closer inspection – normally done if I don’t have anything to do while waiting for wifey – I discovered that some panels do not align perfectly. Well, it’s not a Ferrari in the first place.
  • The left A-pillar does create a blind spot when turning.
  • The underside engine cover/splash guard got snagged after I parked where a big concrete chunk was hidden from view. I can’t believe at first that such thing could happen but after seeing several new cars with the same problem, I wonder if placing that part was a good design idea.
  • That my wife still won’t drive it. It’s not directly related but it’s still among the bad. Hahaha.

Good

  • Suspension is still remarkable. Most people would say that Honda suspension is indeed better than the rest. I couldn’t agree more.
  • Engine purrs silently. When stuck in traffic, I’d just know that I prematurely released the clutch and eventually cut-off the engine if I see that the yellow and red indicator lamps have lit up. This is because of the engine’s low noise in addition to the good interior noise isolation (or insulation).
  • Recently discovered out of curiosity that the rear ash tray can be taken out for cleaning. Good thing no one smokes while inside the car.
  • The “Baby on Board” sticker looks good on it. : )

 

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

 

Pictures credit: Honda website.

SNAFU to Clark’s Balloon Fest

“Very nice…High Five…” – Borat Sagdiyev

Having planned a road trip with wifey for quite some time even when we still have our trusty Kia Pride, the 12th PIHABF (Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta) came as the perfect time and reason. I filed for a 2-day vacation leave from work a month ahead in anticipation of this event. And just like ants preparing for a rainy day, my wife and I went shopping for clothing, food and storage (buying a Coleman cooler justified) a day before we set off.

Feb 10. Past 3 AM. After filling Mary’s boot with the things we need, we excitedly started our trip. The early morning drive went well as expected. Traffic was light from Cavite to the NLEX entrance and in the back of my mind I was already imagining picking a good parking spot and a good vantage point for us to witness the balloon flight before dawn. I fought the urge to floor the pedal so as not to exceed the 100 KPH limit. But at some point I noticed the speedometer pointing at the 120 scale yet the Honda City stayed stable despite it. Realizing the car’s capability, the temptation to go faster became so strong but my sanity and the presence of the speed limit marks along the highway kept me from doing so.

By the middle of the trip we decided to stop by Total gas station in San Simon to fill in some gas. That’s when the most unlikely thing happened. It was as if someone played a bad joke on us. While waiting for the attendant to fill the tank to the brim, my wife and I decided to step out of the car. I grabbed some water in the boot while she picked something in the gas station’s store. Unconsciously, we both locked the doors with the car key still inside. A minute after I shut the boot door and as I was lazily stretching myself I heard the car alarm’s beep followed by the sound of a latching door lock. Damn, for a moment I think I saw myself turned pale. I almost cried out in despair. We are locked out!

After hopelessly trying to wake myself up as if in a bad dream, I started considering some options and eagerly asked help from the gas attendants and other people who also stopped for gas. The inputs ranged from the ridiculous (yet the most direct) shattering of the glass window,  to the tiring and frustrating trip back going to Cavite (a 60 km ride back) to grab the spare key and to the most viable yet costly (Php 1000) option of hiring a locksmith to do the job. Also considered was taking chances if other Honda car keys will match. That one didn’t work, as expected. For the first time I hated Honda’s wave key and alarm feature.

The thought of missing the balloon fest (and ruining our trip) made me decide to seek the locksmith’s –who was referred to us by one of the gas boy – assistance so I called him up. I was greeted by man on the other end of the line sounding a bit irritated (I understand the feeling of being awakened early Sunday morning) yet he was kind enough to encourage me to keep on trying by opening it through the door handle using a stiff wire to reach into the lock. The mixture of desperation, thought of a Hazard Pay’s episode (Discovery TV show), a welding rod wire and persuasion from my wife seemed to work together after that conversation.

And after an hour of trial and error, the lock tab popped. To say I shouted for joy would be an understatement. Upon checking my watch, I learned that we’ve been locked out for almost 2 hours already. So without wasting another minute we continued our trip but only after dropping along their way home the two gas boys who stayed with us until their night shift ended. They were our cheering team during the whole ordeal. My wife and I exchanged congratulations several times on our way to Dau. We kidded ourselves as being able to be in cahoots as carjackers. Honda City owners beware.

We arrived in the Balloon fest area by past 7 AM, tired but glad we still made it. Parking far from the entrance gate didn’t matter anymore. Just being at the site bustling with people from various sex and ages gathered (or forced to, mostly by either husband or kids) with one interest – to watch an event featuring “everything that flies” – is satisfying enough.

continue…Balloon Fest’s Last Day.

Man is Never Contented

The first time I heard this cliché was way back when I was in elementary. I never knew then that its meaning will become clearer and clearer (not to mention more expensive) as I grow older. Back then it was just begging for He-Man action figures when I’ve got the small plastic toy soldiers. Wanting to have Legos when I’ve got freebie building blocks from sari-sari store junk foods packs. Dreaming of having BB aluminum slingshots when in fact I already have the bayabas(guava) wood piece. Imagining of having Tonka toys dragged around instead of the Milo cans transformed into trucks with wheels cut out from old smagol (slippers). All those wants and imaginations I never got.

So after more than 20 years that 4-word cliché keeps on circling my mind as if it has cache itself in one of the brain lobes and so ready to remind me any time I’m pulling away from reality.

The recent change from our stereotyped Kia Pride to the highly praised Honda brand (though only having the basic 1.3A City) gave me the feeling of a paradigm shift. I felt as if I just had exchanged my push cart to a Bugatti, just to exaggerate of course. But that was actually how it felt. No one can blame me for feeling this way as the change also involved from having our first car being second hand and having the second car already being a brand new.

If having the Kia Pride excitedly made me search the web for support groups then it’s no wonder if I’ve already spent some time browsing and lurking in Honda forums. This is for me to know what the other owners of the same model I have in their mind. I’m keeping a blind eye though on upgrades as I’m just more interested mostly in maintenance…for now.

And then reality struck. My precious Mary has its flaws and weaknesses too. Some of the owners find their City as having poor suspension, dashboards that are easily scratched, rusting hinges, poor gas mileage, rickety interiors and so forth. I did double check if I’m not reading my Kia Pride’s ex-forum. Well the URL has Honda in it. Hmmm.

As if awaken from a bad dream, these finding made me make up my pros and cons list I’ve seen so far.

Pros:

·         Power Steering.

·         Very silent engine. I find it necessary to honk every now and then to keep inattentive pedestrians from straying near Mary while I’m passing.

·         Spacious interior and boot.

·         4 cup holders. Who said you can’t drink and drive?

Cons:

·         Manual antenna. My Kia pride had power.  

·         Very tight boot and gas lever. Having a Rolex is a bad idea. But then again who has a genuine Rolex and a City.

·         Audio player is not MP3 capable. And there are only 2 speakers located in the front. I pity the rear passengers.

·         The side panels and ceiling are prone to dirt stains due to the fabric material.

And so it is proven once again that man is never contented, gid. Of course this is both a good and a bad thing. It becomes good when you aim for a better life but it becomes so bad when you keep on having more wants than needs. It becomes worse when you keep on staring at the seductive Toyota Camry (the web info shows that what I’m seeing are Hybrids. And this means that there are Hybrids now in Cavite?) while inside your new Honda City. Ti abi.

Enjoy it while it last Cris.

 

1 Week with Mary

It’s been a week since we got Mary and it was one whole week of a new experience.

Day 1. I got Mary after being covert for two days. Just like in the movies or TV shows, now I know how it feels like to show a brand new car key to a wife.

Day 2. Got no choice but to do a dreaded task – do paper works (car documentation) in a government office. This is where one has to endure long queues for almost a day and later on pay a ridiculous amount of tax. I’m tempted to write and question where these taxes go, but to be fair with Trece Marteres municipality it has improved a lot (at least from the outside) since my last visit. Now I was able to park Mary in a well designated parking lot and spent some time waiting on a bench on a brick-paved sidewalk.

Day 3. It rained. Her first acid rain bath. Hehehe. I was supposed to go back to Honda Alabang to give the papers I processed yesterday but Mary had to sidelined – Mas masarap matulog (It’s better sleeping) while it’s gloomy and raining outside.

By afternoon, my wife and I were able to go back to La Salette to attend an anticipated mass. The last time we were there we took the bus and ended having brunch in Tagaytay’s Pancake house. Not bad. But having Mary is better.

Day 4. Mary went to work with me for the 1st time.

Day 5. I woke up late from last night’s neighbors welcome party.  Do I need to mention I had a “couple” of beers? Anyway, it’s one of the benefits of having a car. At least I was able to make it to work without much ado.

After work, the secrecy I’m keeping of what the actual car I got was eventually blown when some of my colleagues coaxed me to take her for a ride. Funny but her first trip with them was going to a wake. Ti abi. A beginning and an End?

How did she perform on the rough asphalt road? Let me answer with what my colleague said, “parang nasa eroplano (just like in an airplane)” – she breezed through the uneven road.

Day 6. I went out of work late because of an unexpected serious discussion with one of my people. The least of my worries this time is missing the bus.

Day 7. My day-off after a tiring week at work and in our village (issues, issues, issues).

After breakfast came my 1st intimate session with Mary – her first car wash. I just realized that because of her size she’s harder to wash than our previous compact car – wilddog.

Then I went to Honda Alabang to submit the loan papers and to get Mary a remote alarm. While waiting for the installation to get done I was thinking – “What more if I was waiting in Prestige Cars customers lounge?” Don’t push it.

The alarm was fitted after almost 2 hours. It cost me Php 5.7K – a 0.9% cost for security. Not bad?

Before leaving I got a not so good news though – I still won’t have my license plates until at least February. I left Honda a bit depressed that I won’t be able to meet my sis at the airport next Tuesday. It was actually the reason why I chose my license plate number able to travel on Tuesdays. I’m hoping that we will see each other next time. And hopefully not after another sabbatical.

By lunch time I was on my way to Batangas to pick up wifey. Construction of the SLEX has gone until its end in Calamba. Hopefully once it gets done, I can compare it to Kuala Lumpur’s road. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but somewhere in my brain lobes shouts, “asa ka pa (dream on)!”

Well that was our 1 week together. Within that period, I feel like we’ve been through thick or thin already. I’m praying that with the coming days, months and years we’ll have, most of it will be fun. Take note of the words – I’m praying.

Mary’s in Town (or City?)

“Freedom!!!” – William Wallace, Braveheart

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it” – Ellen Goodman, RD Dec 2007 All In a Day’s Work

 

I’ve been holding on creating my first blog for this New Year, 2008. Why? Because I find my recent ones were leaning on my pessimistic side. And so for a couple of weeks I was like someone in rehab trying to control my urge to an addiction. I promised myself that I’ll start this year’s blog at least with some positivity in it. Well, I will try.

During the start of this work week – Sunday, I found a new way to entertain myself while in the bus to work. I shut the curtains, closed my eyes and tried guessing which part of the trip I’m currently at. Amazingly I’d rate myself 90% correct most of the time. So I find this “time killer” relieving that I was so enthused that I did it again on Monday.  But on Tuesday, I got an email message that meant I might not be doing it for long, thankfully? It says, “Please claim your guarantee letter”. Hmm, that one-liner worked like magic that day. It was like espresso in my blood. It got me excited.

That was the start of a covert operation that lasted for two days. The moment I got home and was greeted and asked by my wife if how was my day; I gave out only half-truth and half-lies. “It was another stressful day…I had a bad day”, I answered. I pictured myself as someone tied to a chair in gloomy room lit only by a swaying incandescent bulb but nevertheless not saying anything to my interrogators.  Deep inside, I was grinning hard like Joker in Batman.

The secret tasks include maintaining a poker face during our discussions; deleting any sent items on my cellphones and emails just in case she checks about anything regarding the car subject matter (I’ve emailed and texted a couple of people about this exciting update. Someone’s got to know); discreet bank account withdrawal. And of course, the execution of the main goal…getting the car.

D-day came. After waking up early (for my day-off) today, I got the perfect alibi – I’m going out for a birthday celebration of a colleague. I left home with my car documents stashed inside by backpack appearing to be just going for a casual beer party. Instead I was heading to Honda Cars Alabang.

I mentioned in my blog before that I’ve been there like a car buff’s ghost yearning for a subcompact sedan. Well that wish was granted at last. Just more than 4 hours after I arrived there and with several document signing and payments (there goes my savings!), I got out of the dealership with Mary, our lovely new Honda City. mary

Hurriedly yet safely, I drove and went back home. And to my surprise my wife still remained clueless when I arrived. She was thinking that the car was someone else’s. She can’t believe that it’s the car we’ve been waiting for. If I said I was grinning like Joker, I saw her grinned like Jim Carey in the movie, The Mask, when I confirmed that it’s ours. That broad. To say she was happy to see it, would be an understatement.

We gave Mary a quick trip together to Tagaytay, grabbed some Starbuck’s coffee and headed back home. That’s our way of breaking in the engine and the cup holders. Sweet.

Now this is New Year. Our New Year with Mary. Expect more blogs regarding her.

And by the way, ever wonder why we named it Mary? It was derived from my colleague’s name who is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Bawi na lang ako (I’ll make up for it) next time. But thanks for giving me a wonderful alibi.