Death Race: A Film By Filipinos

The other night my beloved wifey and I watched the last full show of the film Death Race (Starring Jason Statham as Jensen Ames) – because Wall-E isn’t showing anymore. And while on my way to meet up with her at the mall, I was thinking of the title which by itself is a no brainer. As it aptly implies, I presume that it’s just all about death and race. No more. No less. But wait…there’s more.

The moment the film started rolling, it immediately captured my attention with some of the words it presented on the silver screen and with some questions running on my mind along with it:

·         2012 in America. Will we be there by this time?

·         Unemployment. Will we be included?

·         Death. Entertainment?

·         Race. Will we be watching another live F1 soon? And when?

My wife, as I expected, started giving her naughty remarks (I always know that it is meant to intentionally annoy me) while I was starting to sink in to the story. But instead of hushing her, I myself made my own mumbled remarks in agreement. And as if those keywords aren’t enough to keep us related to the opening part of the film with its resemblance to our pending future, the opening scene also shows the main character getting laid off from his job in the metal factory. There’s chaos in the line of workers waiting for their turn to get their last pay. At this point, I was beginning to feel uneasy and I was somewhat praying to get over with the factory scene and show the death race itself.

A few frames more, the factory setting ended, thankfully. I did not mind when the succeeding scenes became tragic with Jensen drugged by someone in a ski mask and eventually becoming unconscious just to wake up with police and their hand guns sticking inches away from his face while trying to make sense what he’s doing with a knife in his hand and his dead wife beside him. Needless to say, that landed him in prison.

His role in the prison called Terminal Island became apparent when he was offered to participate in the famous Death Race since his record shows that he was a famous car racer years before. His acceptance of the part will be his way out of the prison facility with the condition that he will win the race. (Sadly, I didn’t catch in the film the reason why he indeed the said career and instead endured working inside the hot metal factory).

So just like any sane man offered to race for freedom, Jensen accepted. And this is where I started to enjoy the film. The main death race had several inmates as drivers and with their own armored, gun-mounted, and extra modified cars. Among them of course is Jensen who had to wear a mask in order to pretend as Frankenstein who was actually the famous death racer who perished in the opening scene but without the fans’ knowledge. The race is viewed online by fans numbering in millions with each paying at least $99 per view while the death racers outrun and “outgun” each other.

While I consider this as a B-movie, I actually applaud whoever was behind it. I’m now beginning to imagine that the people who conceptualized this movie are a team composed of Dana White’s men, ex-FIA officials, troubled American school kids, Twisted Metal (PS1 game) programmers and last but not the least – Filipino drivers.

Why? Because I find this movie a mixture of UFC fighters who are driving F1 cars with trigger-happy American school kids handling the Gatling gun’s remote button. Furthermore, the Filipinos here are divided into two sub-teams. First are those Jeepney drivers who loves to mount anything (such as horse figures, shiny CDs, LEDs, more LEDS, horns, antennas. Just to name a few.) on their jeeps – they are the designers of the Death Race cars. The other Filipinos are those who designed the weapon activation systems – which I wish I’m one of them as sometimes…just sometimes (wink wink), I wish I had those buttons inside my Mary.

Surprising as it may seem, I recommend this movie to let out some steam without doing any harm to the stubborn driver in front of you while stuck in traffic. Road rage alert. Watch out for bald male driver fumbling with the cigarette lighter.

Being a Gas Miser

It seems that gas price hike will be here for quite a while for reasons that the average person like me will never really know. Factors such as the Middle East’s peace and order situation; the US recession which until now Dubya haven’t directly accepted to be happening; China’s sudden demand for automotive as most Chinese got tired of riding bikes – it’s a pity but sooner or later obesity will be as common as dumplings in China; locally, we can blame our government for deregulating the oil companies – but this is debatable. These are just a few of things that caused the soaring oil prices.

So while we are busy thinking and picking who’s supposed to be blamed other than ourselves, it may be just right for us to start looking at the mirror and check if we’ve done our part to alleviate the effect of this situation which is way out of our control. Not only that we get to save our pockets and wallets, we also get to save our sanity and most importantly, our environment.

And so today, as I’m lazily surfing the web, my mouse led me to Ecomodder.com which has this article, “104 hypermiling / ecodriving tips …” And guess what? I’ve been doing most of their tips already. And so I grabbed my own top 10 so that others may learn as well.

1) Drive less. Avoid driving if you can. Just think about the heavy traffic you’ll encounter on your way and this will help convince you.

2) Track your fuel consumption. Take a conscious effort to track your fuel mileage. Our Honda City’s digital Trip A and Trip B meter is a big help when it comes to this. By the way, please, track your consumption when you get home. You don’t want to run over pedestrians or other cars while fiddling with your calculator.

3) Leave early and don’t rush. It’s funny but I’ve been thinking of doing this yet. Having a car makes most of us think that we can hit the snooze alarm a couple of times in the morning with the assurance that we can beat time to work by driving like a crazy Takuma Sato. But this shouldn’t be the case I realize just now. This is a No-Win situation: You get irritated because you expect everyone to rush just like you do, and you get to pump unnecessary gas in the process.

 

4) Note your transition points. Ecomodder says, “If you regularly travel the same roads, make a conscious effort to note (memorize) the points along the way where transitions occur that maximize efficiency”. By doing so, you can actually plan where to safely coast (if I remember it right, I read that it is illegal to coast in some states in the US), anticipate turns and brake points.

5) Avoid drive-thrus. This is to avoid idling. Save on gas. Save on fast foods.

6) Windows up. This is a no-brainer in the Philippines. Here spitting is not a crime. Do I need to explain further? Hahaha. Just my reason for driving windows up, but it has something to do with aerodynamics/wind drag which has an effect on the gas mileage; and of course back to the spitting thing.

7) Heavy traffic: play the accordion. Ecomodder says, “If faced with worst-case “stop & crawl” traffic conditions, leave as much space ahead of you as possible and continually “accordion” that space to keep your vehicle moving near a constant speed while the cars in front of you stop & start.   

Yes, some people will cut into the space you create ahead of you. Deal with it. 

Note that this may aggravate following drivers who can’t absorb the big picture, and that must be taken into account.” Well, I’ll try to deal with it. No promises though.

 

8 ) Minimize air conditioning use. Ecomodder says, “Air conditioning requires a lot of power. Use it sparingly”. Once again, AC on or off, don’t forget to keep those windows up. Believe me; you’ll thank me for this tip once you get to drive here in the Philippines.
 
9) Be smooth. I think I qualify as one. Just don’t ask the jeepney drivers I’ve honked at which brings me to my top 10.

 

10) Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Ecomodder says, “It [sic] easy to be competitive when driving. Resist knee-jerk retaliation to other drivers’ aggressive actions. Don’t let other drivers lead you astray from your driving style.” Now this is more like a test of my character rather than a test to save gas. The pinoy Joneses are the hari ng kalsada (king of the roads) – your “friendly” jeepney/tricycle drivers. I guess I’ll be able to keep up with this tip if I leave home early to work.

 

There you go. Let’s save gas the rational way and please stop sending me emails to boycott the giant oil companies – it’s foolish, it’s temporary and it just won’t work.

reference: Ecomodder.com

 

I (Still) Don’t Get It

“An empty mind is a devil’s workshop”

Frankly speaking, having without a car made me a bit uneasy especially now that the Christmas season is coming in, and fast! I missed a lot without it.

I missed going to the malls with my wife on our own time and not worrying if we’re going to squeeze our butts in just to get seated in the jeepney for being the last two to get in. I missed the gift buying activity we’ve been regularly doing and not wondering how and where we’d be able to place all the shopping bags. I missed going home late coming from a good (esp. scary) movie. I missed getting stuck in traffic with me on the wheel and not having to think if my nose has clogged due to smog, smoke & dust – whichever comes first or all of it combined.  I missed waking up a bit late and not worrying that I’ll miss the bus to work. I just missed the freedom it gave me.

To shake off this feeling of self pity, I tried keeping my mind busy while being a passenger in one of the buses, jeepneys or cars of friends. And that did me good somehow. My thoughts wandered more (no defensive driving to worry about). I became observant of other things I can’t see or think of while driving. I became keen with what is outside the vehicle’s window.

And those wild brainstorming got me into things that until now make me say, “I don’t get it”.

I don’t get it why charity parties intended to benefit the hungry street children are in lavish settings with abundant overpriced food and attended normally by “botoxed” personalities. Can’t these people just give right away to charity? Or they really need the TV and photo coverage for that?

I don’t get it why a billboard at a sidewalk going to Tagaytay says, “Inteligent Auto Paint Shop”. Hopefully the owner has a good explanation for this, or else, better they forget having customers in there.

I don’t get it why the employees of “Coolmaster Airconditioing Expert” (in front of the car I’m in while on our way to a Christmas party) are out in the open at the back of a wobbly pick-up truck enduring the noontime heat.

I don’t get it why a municipal vehicle with the words “Responsableng Taong Bayan (Responsible people of the community)” is illegally park on one side of Muntinlupa’s road.

I don’t get it why when a majority is anticipating to travel by air during this Christmas season is also the time when Discovery Channel and National Geographic shows programs such as Air Crash Investigation, Air Disasters, etc. Either someone from those shows hate Christmas travel or owns a stock in the shipping industry. And by the way, out of curiosity I tried to search in Wikipedia and I’m glad with the result – December is not the highest among the statistics. At least not among the top three and that’s a relief, well, sort of.

aircraft incidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*extracted these data and tabulated using excel’s countif formula.
*sorted from lowest (April) to highest (November).

 

 

Lastly, I don’t get it why the brandy I’ve been drinking (since I bought it) kept me awake instead of falling asleep. I guess it’s about time I check the fine print on its label. I’d be damned if it contains caffeine. But then again my subconscious must be working on something else (and wants me to stay up late). Something I might be thinking about more with Christmas day only 3 days to go. Whatever that is, let it come by…I’d love to write about it soon.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone…especially to you wifey. I really miss you!!

 

(I just noticed the most frequent word I mentioned in my blogs are either wife, beer or liquor. I think it’s about time i change my blog name.hehehe)

  

 

Step in their shoes

We call them stupid, litterbugs, lazy, morons, dumb, a**hole and any other profanity that may not be even found in the dictionary. Sometimes we call them just insensitive. But aren’t we?

This week is one of the stressful weeks for me. Stress that comes from all sort of factors that even I wonder if I should be caring about it in the first place.

There’s the pressure from work that is a mixture of delivery and people management.  People who seems not to work and doesn’t understand what is expected from them.

There’s the tricycle driver who drives like as if there’s no tomorrow and would be so willing to include you in their death wish.

There’s the jeepney driver who would intentionally park in front of a No Park Zone to spend time to wait for passengers despite knowingly causing a traffic jam right behind them.  And the irony of it all is that it is in front of a traffic police or enforcer who looks like they have a worst case of cataract that blinds them of the on-going violation in front of them.

There’s the homeowners who refuse to pay their dues because they feel they’re not obligated to do so and who would sometimes reason out that they have problems with their finances but you’d find them smoking packs of cigarettes a day and would see their house lit brightly from Christmas lights and decors.

There’s the loan processor who doesn’t seem to extend a bit of customer care by giving advice to the applicant that his car loan application is sitting stagnant in his inbox for quite some time due to the lack of one simple signature.

And there are the street scavengers who would open up garbage bags and throw away its content in search of recyclables and never even caring to fix it back creating an eye sore in the end.

Sheesh.  The list could go on.

So today, while on a day-off I keep reflecting what must have gone wrong for me to suffer such stress. I can’t find any reason except that I too have been busy or that I could have been too self-centered or that I lack the empathy.

Most likely it’s my lack of empathy. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as, “noun, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Ouch! I never knew Merriam-Webster could inflict such pain with its definition. I only experience such guilt during mass’ homilies. Understanding. Being aware of. Being sensitive to. Such words kept playing in mind just as caffeine would do to my bloodstream. It kept me awake, restless and uneasy.

Well, I have come up to some realization on my “stress list” above.

Just imagine not having eaten for quite a while and the only hope you’ve got is to pick and sell items at the junk shop in order for you to take your first meal after a couple of days. And with the other man inside the bus hating you just because you to failed to keep the street clean.

Imagine if you have to juggle payroll, separation payments and loan applications. Some wants their last pay and another one badly wants a new car.

Imagine if you have got a “really” sick kid at home and the only way to buy those medicines is to work double time by either driving a tricycle or a jeepney and optimize its capacity even with the risk of getting apprehended by a police officer. And one of your passengers is just thinking of traffic laws and having to get to the mall to kill time.

Sometimes the world would be such better place if we stop thinking just all about us. Sometimes we need to understand why people acted the way they do. With this we might be able to extend our help or at least lessen a bit of our expectations and in effect lessen the stresses in our lives. Sometimes we just have to step in their shoes.

P.S. I just can’t find any reason why a homeowner won’t pay their dues when in fact they are getting the benefits of the village funds. Ti abi.       

Tis The Season to be Jolly

“Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself” – Enigma. Return to Innocence

The ‘ber’ months must have some effect on everyone if not to the Filipinos alone. Once the very 1st day of September sets it everything seems to intensify or gets exaggerated. As if some switch gets turned on right after the midnight of August 31.

Different ages react differently to this transition. For most adult this is the start of expenses pouring in. Everything seems gets listed in the “needs” section of the budget list. The “wants” list more often becomes empty – blame it on consumerism? For most children however, this is the season to be Jolly, period.

I can still remember my excitement – when l was kid – every time when the calendar reaches September. As if the calendar page between August and September is a musical card that plays a song when opened, “…Santa Claus is coming to town…” And unknown to me then, this Santa Claus are those adult that gets weary and anxious when these ‘ber’ months sets it. They are either our parents or our “unlucky” ninongs and ninangs (godparents). After 20 years, I’m now one of them.

It was as if just a couple days ago when someone reminded me to start buying gifts to avoid the shopping rush. In fact that was months ago. Just like any broken vinyl record this irritatingly skips and repeats. Sadly the holiday rush doesn’t skip. It just repeats. The farthest I can remember panicking at this level is since I started having my own pay check. (Now I’m confused if having a paycheck should either get celebrated or cursed.) My wife and I normally kid each other usually around every January to start buying Christmas trees and gifts by this time. But before I know it, the ‘ber’ months are in, again. Now I’m behind 2 months already. It’s now November.

The mall sales now get more frequent than before. The bonuses are coming in (or shall I say passing through). The yuletide songs are as common as jeepney noise. The dreaded traffic gets worst. The horrifying thought of the inaanaks (godchildren) knocking at the front door getting realized as December nears. It’s funny but when someone says now “Christmas is just around the corner”, this is now like a windtalker’s code that someone is out to get you.

Hey, did I just realize I’m now a Grinch? During this season most adults are, I guess. Well it must be the cycle of life I guess. Some call it karma. The act gets repeated but the recipients change. If before I was thankfully receiving crisp bills, now I’m…I’m not giving one. Beside, the crisp bills now are of less value. Now that’s justified (miser smile).

Every time I’m in this situation I think of an old Filipino song (by Asin) with the following lyrics:

Itanong mo sa mga bata (Ask the children)
Ano ang kanilang nakikita (What they see)
Sa buhay na hawak nila (At the life they have)
Masdan mo ang mga bata (Observe the children)
Sila ang tunay na pinagpala (They are the lucky ones)
Kaya dapat nating pahalagahan (We should appreciate them)
Dapat din kayang kainggitan? (Shouldn’t we envy them)

Although this is not a Christmas song, this clearly describes and shows how having the innocence just like the small ones becomes a very big deal. More often, taking the simple meaning of an event or season is what matters most. Children love summer for the vacation. Children love Christmas for Santa Claus. If they love it for Christ’s birth, the better of course. But that’s where our adult explanation comes into play (and it’s another long story or blog).

So if only most adults, including me, can see this significance just as it is (even just during December), then I think this is when we can wholeheartedly join the children in saying, “Tis the season to be jolly”.

The Ship is Sinking…

After almost a week of rainfall (due to tropical storm Chedeng) I was amazed to see the sun shine yesterday. So instead of settling on my seat and trying to get some sleep while on the bus to work, I opened the curtains and tried to savor the afternoon sun beams.

I was anticipating an interesting ride all the way and was already imagining a beautiful sun setting on the horizon turning its color from golden to red-orange. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Even if it did, I didn’t notice it anyway.

My daydream unfortunately turned neither to fantasy nor romantic. The sun beams instead opened my eyes to a depressing sight just a couple of meters from departure at the bus stop until I eventually got to work.

It was actually not the first time that I’ve been pondering on the state of our country every time I’m on my way to work. But yesterday I had a handful. Sadly, a handful of bad observations that made me ask the endless why.

At the first intersection the green lights turned to red. I saw the pedestrian overpass’ construction is almost coming to its completion. And just while I was about to ask the cliché, “Will it ever be used?” a familiar ambulance siren grabbed my attention. Well, someone must be hurt. “God bless him”, I softly uttered (as I usually do every time I hear one coming). The wish though was done too soon. It wasn’t an ambulance but it was coming from scooter driver who sped by and turned left ignoring the red light and the police nearby. What’s more depressing, the police didn’t even made a fuss about it. Not even a radio call for help or assistance to apprehend the erring driver. But then again, he may not even have a radio (or the balls to do so) on hand – ill equipped that is.

A couple of kilometers after the trip resumed, a colorful bunch of things came into view outside my window. I would really have wished it were blooming flowers but again, in reality it’s not. It was a pile of plastic bags & trashes irresponsibly tossed (and accumulated) on one corner of the road. Is poverty a good reason for this insensitive act? I just don’t think so.

I thought I was uncontrollably shaking my head in disgust when I realized it was actually the bus bouncing and weaving left and right of the road to avoid the potholes. Damn. One week of rain made all these? Blame it on the rain then? Milli Vanilli could have done that but not me. I’ve been honestly paying taxes and I know where and when (not before and during the election) some of it should be spent. Most likely somewhere out there, another politician and/or contractor must be happily drinking booze and probably counting their kickback. Screw the road. Cheers!

As if all those weren’t enough, we got stuck in traffic. Another intersection may be? Breathe in, breathe out. Stay calm. But it’s not. Just outside I saw several public jeepneys on the opposite lane idling and vying for passengers unmindful of the long queue of other vehicles behind them. So why is our lane stuck too? That’s because another mindless driver from that queue felt smart enough to counter flow. And surprisingly he isn’t a jeepney driver. He’s driving a shining Honda. He’s smartly dressed. I rest my case.

If it weren’t for the seatbelt and the person beside me the preceding event would have sent me into a yoga stance right then and there. Now where is my golden sun? It’s getting dark outside. Figuratively and literally.

The sky outside was overcast when we reached the front gate of our company’s campus. Despite the poor lighting the worsening condition of the facilities didn’t escape my eye. (In photography, enthusiasts use filters and lenses to capture what they want to achieve. My eye and mind yesterday was like that. Only I didn’t do that on purpose. It was as if I have a “bad” filter that was meant to see…well, “bad” things.) Paints are peeling off, roofs are rusting, and the once regularly well-trimmed lawn has weeds coming out from everywhere.

The people themselves changed a lot since then. I can count the people who got off the bus with enthusiasm to work for yet another day. The contractors around are working with incomplete PPEs. And a lot of bad sentiments are present anywhere I go. Something is just so wrong. Something must be done.

I got into some discussion with my co-workers about this and there was one phrase mentioned that struck me the most. “The boat is sinking”. Probably it is. Sadly, I’m in it.

I’m sending an SOS.