Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tantong at 67!

We owe it from God! Bigtime!

The four children of Crisanto Gastardo, Sr. decided to savor his second life by blowing parties especially during his natal day. In behalf of our two elder brothers working abroad, my Sister En, her husband Jun, and I went home for the purpose. We arrived at our parents residence two days ahead of Papa Tantong's birthday on October 25 to afford enough time for the preparations.

We initially thought of celebrating the day away from home, in a hotel or resort in other town, just like our Mama Dulcing's last July. Our first choice was the Laguna Dream Resort in a far barangay within Surigao City but due to present day insurgence we canceled it. The second option was to check in in one noted hotel in the City, the Gateway Hotel. Due to proximity to our home residence, we opted not to. So we ended at choosing the nearest beach resort in nearby town, the Rose Beach in Ipil.

We successfully gathered our immediate families and relatives. The whole 4-hour celebration was filled with food and drinks. Some are drunk including my beloved nephew, Entoy. The most entertaining part was the dance exhibited by our little nephews.

October 26, the following day, the day of our return trip, was also my Sister En's birthday. We pre-celebrated her nativity at our father's beach party.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Personal Interests in Work are Travels

It may be obvious that I applied for a job in DSWD's KALAHI-CIDSS for the following reasons:
a. higher pay
b. longer term
c. new experience
d. attractive addition to my resume

Higher Pay

I actually mean higher net pay. Withholding taxes on my salary in my previous employer, which was based on purely compensation income, hurt me so bad. As I am single and my total professional fee is kinda large that my taxable income falls under the 30% withholding rate, a one-third cut from my pay is significantly affectively huge. In my current work with DSWD's project, my pay is subject to a profession tax of 10% plus 3% final tax; this is a 50% cut from my prior periods' withholing taxes. Indeed, it affords me a sigh of relief. My present pay though is a bit lower than before, as it is an entry rate with a promise of increase upon contract renewal, but the total net pay is much higher.

Longer Term

The project I am presently in is programmed to last for 5 years. And as far as I can tell, most projects has the option of 2-year extension. So this means that I have work or I can linger for the rest of the project life. While the project I just resigned is closing this November 2011, with a bleak assurance of 1-year extension. There is a proposed followup project but the date of start is yet unknown. I really do love working there with my previous employer, notwithstanding the withholding taxes issue. And while waiting for the good news of next phase, I guess I can live and work with DSWD at a comparable rate.

New Experience

The project is about community empowerment, based on the CDD (community driven development) principle. My first project was somewhat community based also but not as grounded, wide and varied as this. It was more of natural resources management, basically coastal and upland resources. While this project I am working now is about everything the community prioritizes as needs. Moreover, it covers many areas in luzon and visayas. This is definitely a new experience.

Attractive Addition to Resume

The fact that the funder is MCC, the employment record is and would be attractive. This is an attractive experience to quote in my resume. Been with USAID project immediately prior to this project, and to be working with MCC is another privilege.

So, what is hidden therefore?
What is implicit in my intention of transferring to KC-MCC is the incidental and compulsory travels. I love traveling around the Philippine archipelago. I missed my years with an ADB project implemented by the DAR where I was able to reach as far north as Aparri in Cagayan Valley and as far south as Bongao in Tawi-tawi.

Now with DSWD's KC project, I expect to travel around Luzon and Visayas. I am thrilled to think of reaching the whole of north luzon provinces, such as Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, and Mountain Province. Also in south luzon, like the islands of Masbate, Marinduque and Romblon. In visayas, new areas would lead me to Negros Oriental, Guimaras, and Siquijor. All these places are new to me.

My travels with KC started with Quezon Province and then to various workshops around the country. Been to Camiguin for MFA training in regions 10 & CARAGA, to Bohol for another training in regions 5, 6 and 7, to Ormoc for MFA training in region 8, to Zamboanga for another training in regions 9, 11 and 12, and to Iloilo City for the last set of MFA training in region 6.

At the Meralco Management & Leadership Development Center (MMLDC)



At Estrella de Mendoza Resort at Laiya, San Juan, Batangas

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When I was in Iloilo...

A week of fortunate and unfortunate events:

Monday and Tuesday:

I was trapped inside the hotel, the Grand Tower Suites, for two days, from September 26 to 27, due to rampaging Typhoon Pedring. While standing beside the function room's window, I heard the violent wind whistling, dragging along with it heavy rains. Since the Typhoon Frank, I knew better than roam around Iloilo city fearing that it might flood, so much so that the city is situated below the sea level. This information I gathered from one of my co-lecturer in Iloilo workshop that week.

We just flew in that gloomy monday morning; with me were participants coming from Region 4A. However, half of our expected participants will be coming from the Bicol region. They were supposed to fly that same morning from Legazpi City to Manila and connect to flight from Manila to Iloilo but all flights that day were canceled due to the storm, along with the picket in PAL's NAIA Terminal 2 that partly caused PAL flights cancellation. I never thought Typhoon Pedring is that powerful until the rainwater sipped in the my room and soaked my bag of clothes that I put beside my bed. Actually it's my bad, I did not put my bag on the right rack.

Fortunately the Bicol participants were rebooked and accomodated for the following day's flight. Despite the same gloomy and windy weather, the storm signal in their origin was lifted. They finally arrived at the hotel tuesday afternoon. They relayed fearsome stories about experiencing wild air turbulence. I just hope it was not traumatic for first flyers.


And the sun peeked in the clouds and gave us, especially me, opportunity to enjoy Iloilo city. I went out at lunchtime to meet and have chitchats with my ARCP friends and colleageus, Maan Baribar and Chuchi Arroyo. We worked together for about 5 years long under the Department of Agrarian Reform, and therefore we missed each other. Thus it took us more than 3 hours of kumustahan, kwentuhan. This get-together party ended at Cafe Laguna ordering a high tea snack combo, nibbling Ilonggo's delicacies. The problem-solving workshop that afternoon has concluded just in time of my arrival back at the function room.

I skipped the buffet dinner that night when Doc Gary picked me up at 6pm. Dr. Gary Rufon is my longtime friend, a surgeon-consultant at St. Therese Hospital in Iloilo. We started as textmates, a compliment of the defunct guys4men website, met twice during my stint with ARCP when I used to travel in Iloilo then, until I lost contact of him when my cellphone was snatched in Philcoa area on my way to DAR office one morning. Then one day before this trip, I noticed his cellphone number in my old nokia phone; I messaged him immediately to confirm if it is still active. He replied and asked me to a meeting at St. Therese Hospital where he worked. I was initially informed that the meeting over dinner would tackle about "Financial Decisions for Newbies". Wow, it sounded bigtime... I thought I will be speaking in a crowd about financial options, financial institutions, and successful financial decisions. I surely am knowledgeable about the first two except for the last which I surely lacked. When I slid on the passenger seat at the front in his toyota corolla, I clarified from Doc Gary my supposed role as a speaker. I felt relieved to know that I will instead help him find solutions for their hospital canteen. His experience as BOD Chairman in one hospital cooperative encouraged him to create a small group in the currect hospital to invest and start a canteen, which is actually a grocery store because they do not cater foods/meals in boxes or trays. They have been operating for 2 months now and he liked me to provide good inputs on financial reportorial documentation. The group of originators gathered around me and asked me more about elevating their status to a cooperative. I did discuss on this possibility, the basic requirements, and of course the simple how-tos of documenting the canteen's operation while processing the coop registration. The dinner of Mang Inasal, grilled chicken part and a cup of rice, was served which made me regret forgoing the buffet dinner at the hotel, so complete of soup, tracers, main course of fish and meat, and desserts. Nevertheless, I enthusiastically coached them on basic bookkeeping, the completion of cashbook and inventory logbook. The meeting adjourned at past 9pm with a consolation tour around Jaro before going back to the hotel.

I have one more invitation for the night, which I declined, a dinner with my newfound friends, a group of young adults from Iloilo that I knew of when I was in Bangkok along with my friends, Dupong, Nang Lolong and Nanan. I called them Bangkok's Lakwatsero group. So Grace wished me luck and hoped that we can have dinner some other time. I assured her that I will surely be back.


I have been craving to watch a movie in Iloilo. I braved the heavy rain on monday hoping to catch the last full show of Abduction, starring my crush, the hunk Taylor Lautner. But I arrived at SM Cinema 1-hour late. I did try to squeeze in in my daily line of activities the plan to watch a movie, either that of Taylor or the 3D concert of one of my favorite musical TV series, Glee. Thursday arrived and I knew I don't have time for a movie because it was the workshop's Night Socials.

As always, I appeared to be the ultimate entertainer. I sang female songs, first was Don't Cry Out Loud rendering Rachel Anne Go's version. The crowd hollered and requested for another song which led to scream Time Will Reveal by DeBarge. I also grind on the dance floor until 12 midnight when I bid goodnight to everyone. I have to retire a little early for I needed to rise early the following day.


I woke up early that morning expecting Doc Gary to fetch me at the hotel lobby. I requested him to drive me to Miag-ao, Iloilo in exchange for the favor of gracing their wednesday meeting. We drove for 2 hours and to my astonishment, the famous baroque church of Miagao stood marvelous. It was such an attraction so much so that I was the first tourist to reach that day, took great undisturbed pictures of the church inside and out. I offered a short prayer of thanksgiving then we drove back to the city, passing and taking pictures of other old churches along the road, the Guimbal and Tigbauan Churches.

It seemed a Visita Iglesia for me that day because the host region, Field Office 6, sponsored a city tour that afternoon. Included in the arranged tour, with eloquent tour guide at that, were the churches of Jaro and Molo. I actually learned many things about the history of Iloilo that tour through that energetic guide. The young participants coined an anecdote about his expression, like " to your right and to your left was the first attraction in the Philippines... outside Manila area," and everyone laughed out loud.

While I was trying to contact my high school classmate and bestfriend, Dave Villarosa, who as far as I knew worked as a teacher at San Jose High School, I have had a very full week. I was not able to reach him. This I miss in my week when I was in Iloilo.