Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Final Exit

Today is my last day at work with the USAID-Philippine Water Revolving Fund (PWRF) Support Program.

I have been with the program for almost 2 years. I started as a STTA (short-term technical assistant) in August to December 2009. Then the Program hired me as a regular consultant since then. I love working with the team, most especially my coaches Ms. Doreen and Ms. Alma. I will remember them and keep their influence in me forever.

The PWRF-SP family is always good at blowing a party. Of course, they won't let me leave without a despedida party on June 27. My 30-day resignation notice will end on June 30. The last week of June was basically cleaning my desk and turning over all my business stuffs, finished or unfinished. By June 29, I issued a personal advisory to everyone I worked with in the program. It read as follows:

Hello Everyone!
This is to inform you that starting July 1, 2011 I am no longer connected with USAID-Philippine Water Revolving Fund Support Program (PWRF-SP). I am therefore unauthorized to transact business to and from anyone involving the Program. Any transaction left for me shall be communicated directly to the office.
This advisory is effective immediately with finality.
I thank you all for sharing few years of your professional life with me. Hope to work with you again sooner or later.

My friends never failed to reply. It was a good feeling to receive wishes and blessings from them.

Am looking forward for your better and greener pastures in life. However that is your journey of making sweet redicules with each other and teaches on what to to do! Bye Chris for the nice thing you shared and did for us. I will not forget you until forever! MONING DIEZ of LGU Antequera, Bohol

huhuhuhuh... kakalungkot naman yan...

I'll be missing you. you're such a great friend seldom to find. goodluck to your new working environment.thanks for everything.Godbless. AIDING GALORIO of LGU Jagna, Bohol

Okey sir Cris. . .  Thank you for sharing your expertise to me. God bless you. MASA ARRIESGADO of CDA Cebu

Thanks! These are a lot of unfinished business(es) indeed. Maybe, we should not let you go (-:. It had been likewise a pleasure working with you. Wishing you lots of luck in your new endeavor. We will surely miss you but you will always remain our mentor in financial management and of course our dancing and singing instructor. Keep in touch. DOREEN ERFE of PWRF-SP

Thank you so much for your goodness and kindness to us. I really appreciate all your help. I am just sad you've found another job. Sorry for this late reply. Medyo daghan kog gi-asikaso deres munisipyo. I hope you'll find more happiness in your new-found workmates. We will cherish our partnership though it was just for a short period of time. You're one of the nicest guys we've worked with.  God bless you and your family. LEILA CAFÉ of LGU Alburquerque, Bohol

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Very Lucky Day!

I woke up late this morning and hence I headed for the office late. As a result, the traffic in Quezon City Circle and the stretch of East Avenue trapped me. Even though I paid for my whole way to Ortigas Center, I climbed down the bus along GMA-Timog Avenue to instead ride the MRT train. I believed this is the fastest way to reach the office before 10:00am.

True enough, I climbed down the MRT-Ortigas Station at 9:00am and walked my way brickly around Quadix and ADB Avenues. When I reached the Garnet Road, I noticed my sling-bodybag widely open and found my wallet and my two cellular phones gone. I went back traversing the avenues I have walked hoping that I accidentally opened the bag and the stuffs simply fell off. When I reached EDSA, I was truly convinced that I was pickpocketed.

I calmed myself down and prayed. I offered to God that everything happened for a reason, no matter how unfathomable. I headed back to the office to make a call for BDO bank to cut or freeze my AMEX credit card, send email-advisory to all my friends and colleagues about my stolen cellphones and to warn them of any treacherous activity using my contact numbers.

At 9:30 am, I hurriedly prepared and sent the following advisory:

I was pickpocketed, and I lost my wallet and 2 cellphones, this morning June 15, 2011 at 9:00 in the morning on my way to the office in Ortigas Center. Please be advised that you can no longer contact me through these numbers, 09233946847 (suncel) and 09276569620 (globe). I will release the information on my new contact mobile number soon. Don't worry, I am fine. I don't lose much except for the PRC and other important IDs. As to monies lost, it's bearable (550pesos and 40baht). Fortunately, I turned over to my sister my ATM card. Please include me in your prayers, that my wallet with all IDs in it will find its path back to me.

My friends and colleagues' sympathies came pouring in after a while, such as:

omg crissy.. good to know that you are safe and nothing much have taken from you... take care always (Kaye Zapanta)

will keep u in my prayers :-) (Aida C. Mendoza)

Hi, Cris. I'm sad to learn about this incident. I agree with you, the money can be replaced easily. But the IDs are more difficult to replace. Where specifically at Ortigas Center did this happen, and how? If we knew how this happened, we will be more cautious ourselves. Kind regards, Leila Elvas

Beware pf pickpocketers always. inform me your new no. asap. (Gerry Araneta)

Sir, ouch. I know how you feel. I was also pickpocketed before. 1 Cellphone nga lang sa akin dati. Anyway, keep safe always. Sayang, should i have known, pinalitan ko na lang sana ung baht mo sir, punta ko thailand next week for the Fifth Asia Pacific Urban Forum. Rest assured my prayers. Mapapalitan din yan sir. Tedious process nga lang ung sa IDs. Pero good thing, you can start all over again naman. Surely, you'll be back complete in no time. God bless. (ALDRIN M. AQUINO)

Cris,Our prayers are with you. I hope the IDs will be returned. Thanks for the info.(Patrick Mejia)

Good Morning  . . . Am sorry. . . We will pray for you and for your wallet to be back to you as it is hard to recontruct all those, time consuming. . . God bless. (Masa Arriesgado)

cris, Im so sorry with your mishap. Hope somebody with good heart send it back to you. God Bless you always. (Edmund Dantes)

Sis, So sorry to hear about what happened. but thankful you'r okay. don't worry whatever that's lost will be gained back tenfolds. buti nalang you're safe. Ingat palagi. (Ma. Joy R. Fortaleza)

My sister En kept on calling my globe phone number and told me that it was still ringing. It registered as missed call on my cellphone when the Robinsons Galleria's Security personnel confiscated it. An agent messaged my sister about the recovery of my stuffs, inclusive of 500 peso, 40 baht and 1500 dong bills, nokia 6300 and samsung corby phones, brown wallet with ID cards. She then called the security guard's office to confirm and messaged me through the Yahoo Messenger instructing me to immediately visit the said office.

I reached the basement of the Robinsons Galleria mall at once and found the culprit there. To my surprise, he is gay with greasy long hair, his black effeminate bag laid on a table inside-out, my stuffs included in the exhibit. Without second thought, I filed a complaint. Despite the gay culprits plea to forgive him and promise to never pickpocket again, I submitted and forwarded my complaint to the police. Unfortunately, my case is weak because I was not the supposed primary complainant. The recovery of my possessions is just a blessing in disguise and my recognition of the suspect is secondary, very circumstantial, plus the Libis Police Department has no jurisdiction over my plight which happened within the Pasig City area. I resorted to blottering the incidence and have the gay-culprit free from jail once more.

At 2:30pm, when I came back to the office I instantly write a follow-up advisory that goes:

Firstly, I would like to thank you all for your prayers. This is to inform you all that the culprit of my early morning mishap was caught by the Security Personnel of Robinsons Galleria and is now under police custody. I have recovered all the items stolen from me. God works in mysterious ways! That during the time that we offer our intention to Him, the pickpocketer searched for another prey and inside the mall he went and victimized another. The undercover security agents of the mall have witnessed the pickpocketing of a pouch containing P10,000 and so the culprit was arrested. When they searched him, they found my stuffs. So I hereby lift the earlier advisory. You can now contact me through the same mobile phone numbers. Let us be more careful this time, anywhere, everywhere. Never be complacent in associating with any person; in fact, my offender is a green-blooded creature (bakla!) as I am. Never leave your things unattended. Thank you again, my friends.

Thank you God for everything! All praises be with you always!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surigaonon Barkada in Bangkok

I always travel alone; seldom with friends. This bangkok trip is the second after Singapore in August last year that I went overseas on tour with friends. I tugged along Dupong (we travelled together in Hongkong, Macau, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur), Nang Lolong and Nanan.

I always travel with my own itinerary. This time however is different. Instead of me as the tour guide, we availed of an affordable tour package; a travel agency in Surigao has arranged for our hotel and food accomodations and some daytours.

Manila is our point of departure, so the three of them flew from Surigao a day before the trip. As a pre-celebration, we had a dinner at Big Buddha, Greenbelt 3 Makati sponsored by Mr. & Mrs Jun and Ruth Go. It was wild dinner party attended by other Surigaonon friends who married, worked and lived in Metro Manila - Patine, Ruby and Tonch, Nanan and Johnny, Nang Lolong, Dupong, Nang Jackie and me.

June 10, 2011

I reported for work until 4:30pm. I dropped by a barbershop on my way to the airport and have my hair cut. It was supposedly a traditional mojok but the young barber who tended me suggested a "layed" mojok instead.

On the night of our departure, the four of us agreed to meet at the airport; I came from the office with my backpack ready and the three arrived from their hotel. They brought with them some dinner for me, a box of pizza and ube-hopia. The flight was an hour delayed and so we landed at Bangkok at early dawn.
The very first convenience I experienced with package tour was that we were picked up by hotel transfer van. I am saved from the hanggling with taxicab drivers.
Since it was Saturday dawn, the heavy traffic welcomed us; it was around the highstreets of the city where most Friday night's gimmicks happened. Nevertheless, the so-slick and trendy Baiyoke Boutique Inn was so welcoming that we found ourselves at home right away. We dozed upon entering the rooms.

June 11, 2011

It was lovely to stay in bed but we were instructed to be ready by 8 o'clock in the morning. Even with few hours of sleep, we rose to get dressed and eat breakfast at the Hotel's restaurant at past 7am. David, our tour guide, approached our table at exactly 8am. Despite David's limited fluency in english language, we somehow were able to understand each other. Though there were times that it took us a while to decipher the message. I realized that Filipinos, as fluent as we can be in American English, need not mind completinga grammatically-correct sentence.

He led us to city tour, starting with Reclining Buddha then to Leaning Buddha. We stayed for a long time at the reclining buddha temple admiring the intricacy of the contructed temples in different styles, colors, sizes. We headed to Gem Factory and Leather Factory after. We simply point at various items, some we dared to hold or touch, but bought not even the synthetic items which are affordable. I personally visit Bangkok not to shop but to see the place. Whatever the sales people may comment, but we left them with zero sales and tired of tailing us to salestalk.

We completed the first leg of the tour at past 12 noon. David proposed to visit the Honey Factory after taking lunch, but we opted to canceled that tour. So we had buffet lunch at Bangkok Palace Hotel. This was the turning point of my concept of Bangkok Tour. It renewed my future purpose of coming back to Thailand; Bangkok specifically. The food were amazing! Deliciously wonderful! If you can imagine how my palate enjoyed everything Thai that I mouth, I bet you will be left drooling. In fact, I also toured around the whole buffet sets. I am not fond of hot and spicy foods, but Thai food is definitely and perfectly different. It took us more than an hour for lunch.

Now that the Honey Factory was cancelled, we went instead to MBK Mall and found it as one Greenhills' shopping center. We went back to hotel to recoup our lost sleep; rested from 3 to 7pm. Before David left us, we asked him to arrange our access to the Ladyboy Show in Bangkok. He picked us up at 9pm and ushered us to Asia Hotel for the Calypso Cabaret Bangkok scheduled at 9:45pm to witness the vaudaville performance of transvestites. Indeed a well-known ladyboy show, I found the whole repertiore very entertaining; all effeminate gays are lovely, dance flawlessly; male dancers however lacked the charms, don't have the best look as compared to lady-counterparts.

inside Calypso bar

around Asia Hotel lobby
June 12, 2011

The same buffet set welcomed us during the breakfast at 6am, but we never cared... yet. Maybe because we were in the hurry to beat the 7am pick up, as adviced by David. He warned us that somebody else will guide us in today's tour. Initially, I was disturbed by the several stops and van transfers. We passed through one place to be pinned with colored badges, then another stop for regrouping, and more. Well it was bearable anyway, that was their system of handling large number of tourists with varied interests. 

I was fortunate to find new friends to chat with while taking the 2-hour ride to Damnoen Floating Market. There was this Bahraini couple who are fond of white sand beaches. They loved Phuket, Thailand; I suddenly got interested of Phuket but I convinced them to visit Boracay in the Philippines as well. Upon arrival at the floating market, our guide recommended the canoe ride, a 40-minute ride along the canals within the central market. And we did find it enjoyable, entertaining. Despite the boats or canoes bumping each other packed with tourist-riders. Despite the rainshowers which made us parked from one shade to another; shade catered by floating market stalls. But of course, our stomachs ended up full due to uninterrupted buys of fruits and delicacies from crossing vendors here and there.  


After the canoe ride, we embarked in a speed boat which route was around the floating village. The morning tour ended past 12 noon. We climbed back up the van and headed to one floating restaurant (which name I forgot) for our lunch. This time, it was a set lunch, way too far from the Bangkok Palace Hotel's lunch accomodation. Afterwhich, we proceeded to Crocodile Farm to drop some tourists (the Ilonggo group) and to Rose Garden, our next destination. We found out, as most tourists do, that the garden did not live up to its name; with little roses, its major attractions were the Elephant Show and the Traditional Thai Village Cultural Show.

Dupong arranged a meeting with his neighbor, a couple who worked in one of the Bangkok's cosmetic surgery hospitals, in the afternoon but we got back to the hotel at 5pm. We never thought of a 2-day guided tour in the package we paid. And that the second day tour would extend until afternoon; thinking t'was just same as the first half-day. So we met the couple in the evening and treated us to a buffet dinner at Rama Rimfa restaurant located at the 77th floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. This hotel is the tallest tower in Bangkok adjacent to the inn we were staying. The eat-all-you-can-10-set buffet was sponsored by Mr and Mrs Petallo. I learned that the husband hailed from Mainit, Surigao del Norte and the wife from General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Dupong's hometown. I feasted and savored everything I find interestingly edible. When done, we climbed up the 85th floor to experience viewing Bangkok at night through the Revolving Roof Deck. I also learned that the viewing is free only for diners.

June 13, 2011

This is the last day of our trip and the same breakfast buffet set bored us. I proposed to visit Ayutthaya but decided to cancel and have it on the next visit to Bangkok. Instead we went shopping the whole morning for pasalubong and souvenirs. These shops crowded around the hotel we were checking in and hence accessible. Tired of, complete and satisfied with
the pasalubongs and souvenirs, and done with checking out, we visited malls in the afternoon, particularly the Discovery Siam Mall where Madam Tussauds was exhibited. We backed out because it was too pricey. Since we were scheduled to be picked up for the airport transfer at 7pm, we stayed the rest of the afternoon at Starbucks.

On our way back to the hotel, we were tricked by the taxi driver and billed at 300 baht for a very short distance he called short cut from the heavy traffic brought about by the rush hour. And so Dupong paid the amount despite our petitions. Lesson, make sure the meter is on before jumping in the taxi during rush hour or change a taxi.

The airport transfer pick up at 7pm was on time and our flight back to Manila was delayed, so we enjoyed taking pictures at the airport. Much to my disappointment, the pricey thai foods served in the airport restaurants are not delicious, too hot and spicey, never enjoyable.

And we arrived in Manila at 5:30 in the morning of June 14.

All in all, I enjoyed Bangkok, Thailand, from the tourist destinations to the foods and hotel accomodations. It was the real deal of what we called "value for money" that we paid our travel agency P8,000 in exchange for a better hotel and food accomodations and a 2-day tour.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Words of Gratitude

I already have served my resignation letter. I already have furnished copies to my colleagues in the program. I was grateful I have finally bid goodbye. However, the feeling of leaving got heavier when the words and messages keep pouring in.
Ms. Alma Porciuncula

Dear Cris, It is with a heavy heart that I bid you a temporary good-bye as a colleage in PWRFSP, although i do hope we will continue to see ecah other as friends. You have done great work (with little mentoring on my part) and put our utility reform effort in the LGU and Coop maps. We were lucky to have found you and luckier still that you stayed with us through the crucial periods of the utility reform effort. We would not have gone as far as we did without you. Thank you for the dedication and hard work. Good luck with your next adventure. I'd like to think you are on loan to them and that we could work again sometime in the future. God bless,
Alma (my chief)

Ms. Doreen Erfe
Dear Cris, It has been likewise a very informative and productive experience working with you in the Program. I learned a lot about accounting and dealing with the LGUs from you. I guess you were more the expert and mentor than our apprenctice in these areas (-: I appreciated the value of accounting and local governance as we pursued our activities together. I believe you are one indispendable and irreplaceable partner under Component 3. You have been a great friend and exercise buddy, too. I wish you good luck on your journey to another phase of your career. This will not be a farewell as our paths will surely cross again in future work. In the meantime, stay in touch, happy and of course, beautiful as ever... I will miss you dear.......take care.
Cheers, Doreen (my supervisor)

Engr. Ariel Lapus
Ariel (an engineer, our project specialist): "i-save mo ang sulat mo. baka magamit mo sa dswd pagbalik mo kung magresume na uli ang pwrf-sp..."
Ms. Marlene Tablante

Marlene (a fellow mindanaoan): "kalagot ka crissy oi!:-) on the other hand, I'm both happy and proud of you sis...............lahi gyud ang expert kay wala'y 'lull' period (in between projects or the gruesome job hunting or tiresome long wait according to you)............. pwrf is my 1st project, mora'g guol man kung pirming ingon ani.... goodbyes, hellos, goodbyes na pud, etc. etc.

Ms. Aida Mendoza

Audi and the chocolate kiss

Ms. Nenia and Ms. Aida taking the best pose

Engrs. Ariel and Rene in full attention

Ms Alma and Ms Doreen snoozing

Marlene and me

Thursday, June 2, 2011

There's No Easy Way to Say Goodbye

I stayed until evening in the office the day that I wrote my resignation. I waited for my boss to go home so that I can start writing the letter and slip it through her table. Since the letter is dated June 1, I can not serve it to her that night before the said date. I have been drawing up many ways of saying the word goodbye and on how to tell her personally. My colleagues have hints of my separation and they have been inquiring when will I tell my boss about it.

That's my chief, Ms. Alma, third in line from me at the front.
My boss and I were scheduled to travel together on June 1 to Bohol (Jagna and Alburquerque) for some business matters, so I made up my mind to tell her on our way back to Manila. I decided not to confront her before this date fearing that I might ruin her zeal of doing our business together. Well, I believe she's so professional to act such, but I just have to avoid such from happening. Who knows? That evening of May 31, she asked me what am I doing that I stayed late. I just reasoned that I have a meeting nearby that night and while waiting for my friend, I am doing office works instead.

Painstakingly, I was able to finish my letter at around 8pm and it said:

June 1, 2011

Alma Porciuncula
Chief of Party
Philippine Water Revolving Fund Support Program
2401 Prestige Tower, Ortigas Ave.,

Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Dear Ma’am Alma:

Words could not express how much I appreciate knowing you, working and learning many things with you. It is working with PWRF-SP that I have learned so many things, that I have grown in my profession too fast, and that I have accomplished valuable amounts of stuff I never thought I could. You and Ms Doreen among others have taught me a lot, personally and professionally. Of all the things I have said and done, for all the misgivings, please I am sorry. For all the things you have said and done for my sake, for your unconditional support, I can not thank you enough. The PWRF-SP is indeed a family of high-caliber and very wonderful people. I am so blest to be part of it.

I am never good at saying goodbye. I always deny the fact that everything has to end, even good things and great memories like ours in PWRF-SP. I fear project ending as much as I fear losing a job which for me is always equal to losing an income. As September or November 2011 near, I fear that waiting for it to come would mean hopeless unemployment or gruesome job-hunting or tiresome long-wait for new project that hires me. I don’t have savings, my parents totally depend on me; my siblings fortunately have income of their own but can not share my parents provision as much as I do. It is for this reason that I would like to say I am sorry that I will overtake the project ending by this resignation. May I also request that my last day of work would be June 30.

The DSWD-Millennium Challenge Account-Philippines’ Kalahi-CIDSS project has hired me as the Community Finance Analyst. The terms of reference interest me personally and professionally because it will put into use the knowledge I have had working with you and PWRF-SP. I hope to share the PWRF-SP utility reform initiatives as my first intervention with the community-based organizations to strengthen and sustain their water utility operations. The new project will start in June 2011, few months prior to PWRF-SP’s close. I want to take advantage of this break and so please allow me to take it. I wish I will enjoy the works with DSWD and MCAP as I enjoyed working with you.

Thank you so much for everything –- the rare opportunity to be you apprentice, the special chance to be you protégé, the big break (though short-lived) to be somebody of your caliber, the extraordinary phase in my life to be part of your and PWRF-SP family. I don’t want to think of this as parting but moving, not leaving but changing.

I wish you all the best. I do hope that our friendship lives on, that our paths cross again from time to time, that someday I can work with you again.

Very sincerely,
Crisanto B. Gastardo, Jr.
From the far left: Me, Ms. Doreen, Ms. Alma, Ms. Nenia, Ms. Aida, Engr. Ariel, Engr. Rene (standing at the back of Ariel), and Mr. Audi at the back in between the statues.