Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the holidays are over

I can't seem to shake off the holiday laziness.

My wish is that someday, i never have to work as hard to enjoy the good life.

The last couple of months have been good, vacation-wise.

1. I "lived" in Baguio for a week. I need a home somewhere up there. I loved the fresh food, golf, and how everything was walkable.

I always woke up to fresh strawberry juice.

I took long walks, enjoyed the views, breathed fresh air.

2. And then there was Nueva Ecija for another two weeks.
Admittedly, I went only because I was too embarrassed to say "no" to MSP's family. There was nothing to see; it was just another province complete with carabaos and bad cable TV. But the holidays were just a bit more fun in that part of Luzon because of the BIG reunion.

I am an only child and my family is terrible at being a family, so I've never been to a clan party. It was new and kinda amusing.

When we're not in MSP's family's residence or resort, we would be in the "irrigation" river area, where we could sit on the benches for free, enjoy the cool wind, and eat mongo ice drops (six pesos each).

MSP's other tito also owns a riverfront property. It was nice there as well.

Le sigh.

I miss the slow life.

The only consolation is that next month, I'm off with the illuminati to Palawan. That should be a blast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

i think i did it

I was reviewing my old blog and found this entry, which I wrote in November 12, 2005 (more than three years ago). In it, I swore I would become what I have always feared I would become - an apathetic piece of shit. I sounded so sure then. Now, I don't know.

I have pasted the entry below.

* * * *

I knew I have turned apathetic when I began defying weather. Everyday I come home to an airconditioned house, drive an airconditioned car, work in an airconditioned office. I also choose not to see Manila’s ugliness. I pass by tree-lined streets, shop in malls that sell Lancel, drink coffee from Brazilian mugs. Even my cable television is filtered – I would watch Homes Across America instead of a documentary about Filipino families living in makeshift houses smaller than my bathroom.

All of my friends are this way, too. We – all fortunate enough to have decent paychecks in a country where the unemployed people outnumber cows in New Zealand – meet up in posh restaurants and talk about things except social realities. She wants a condo overlooking Makati; she wants the latest car with the side airbags; he wants new furniture. And we all can’t wait to get there.

I could feel guilty about the lifestyle we are leading, but then I realize: maybe we don’t have too much – others just have too little. This life we have is not excessive. It should be the standard.

It’s Catholicism’s fault for saying ‘blessed are the poor.’ Fuck poverty. It's disgusting and unacceptable and no amount of holiness can make it look good. Nobody wants to be poor, so can you blame third world intellectuals like us if we move heaven and earth to make sure we die rich?

Guilt is illegal, so suck it up and move on. Let's go on and become the people we hated back when we worshipped Karl Marx and believed in protectionism. Let's climb our way to the top of the food chain, that minuscule slice of the economic pie (with fancy caviar on top). Let's become painfully, ridiculously bourgeoisie.

And when someone criticizes us for wanting too much, let’s be the snotty scholars we always were and tell them what we have always told people who don’t get Umberto Eco: We don’t expect you to understand. You are too simple.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

saving money

I don't have resolutions. I just start things whenever I feel like it, January 1 or not. Like yoga. Moving more. Loving more. Not caring about things I have no control of. As Ennui puts it, "predisposing."

The year of the ox is supposed to be good for people who work hard. I have been working hard all my life. Maybe now is my year to cash in.

One-bag holiday

I spent the holidays living in a backpack up in the highlands, where it was cold and the coffee was very good. The trek up north was good for the soul, which is what an impulse vacation is supposed to be. I felt like I belonged there, with the walking trails, the cold weather, and the golf. Maybe I'll get another house there so I can run to it whenever city life gets tiring. Or maybe not. You only really need one home, according to Warren Buffet. Everything else you can rent and leave when you're sick of it.

Strange shopping

You know the Philippines is in recession because Bottega Veneta is on sale, and it is not alone. The whole Greenbelt strip seems desperate to sell its designer goods, actually. Prada, Tod's, Gucci - all of them have discreet "sale" signs on their racks.

Last year when stocks were soaring, I took advantage of this sale and got myself staples. This year, though, I just walked past everything. I held and smelled some Bottega bags, tried on some Ferragamo shoes, but walked away with nothing. Be recession-chic, I reasoned. Somehow, 50% off was not enough.

But 85% off? Now we're talking.

I never pay retail

Maybe it's my connoisseur nose, which can smell quality fabric / soft leather / good bread from a mile away. Perhaps it's the shopping gods. Or maybe it's just luck. Whatever the reason, I always find the best deals on real designer stuff. ALWAYS.

I know every outlet store in Hong Kong, for example. You name the fashion house, I know where you can get the goods for at least half the price. Prada, Dolce, McQueen - they ALL have store-owned outlets in Hong Kong, and I know where they are. They're easy to find.

But Manila is a different place. It's harder to shop here, what with all the awful knock-offs in Greenhills and the (sometimes) unreasonable mark-up on authentic goods in Greenbelt. I was ready to give up and just save up for another Hong Kong trip later this year, until I learned this trick:

To get the best deals on real, legitimate designer goods in Manila, you have to do two things: (a) get on the private sale list, and (b) befriend a sales associate.

And this was how, ladies and gays, I got three investment pieces to last a lifetime for less than $400 (or P20,000):

a. a red Valentino suit (85% off)
b. two classic Prada blouses - one white, one black (85% off)
c. a Henry Cotton's golf shirt (I like no-name brands these days / 50%off)

The source of all my loot is a low-key warehouse in Makati, brimming with European pieces from two seasons ago, most at 85% off. Two seasons ago?!?, the fashionable set must be furiously asking. I don't really care. The classics defy seasons, anyway. And I'm NOT a fashionista, so sue me.

Anyway, here's a WARNING: To those looking for "middle" fashion like Mango or Zara or Lacoste or Liz Claiborne, this is NOT the place for you. This warehouse carries only "higher" fashion like Cerruti, Cavalli, Valentino, etc. If you wear a lot of trends and polyester, you will HATE the place. But if you are ready for well-made clothes, gorgeous fabrics, and classic cuts, this warehouse is heaven.

The price point for goods in "the mecca" is still a bit higher than that of middle brands, FYI, so bring a bit more cash. To appreciate the place, you also have to be well-versed in more elite brands that are not necessarily known here in Manila. Do you know
Alberta Ferretti? Then you will like it there.

Saving money

My closet is full for now, and it's time to get off this shopping cloud and make/save money again. My company is set to launch several projects this quarter, and I am already stressed just thinking about how to manage them. It's the good kind of stress because it makes money, so I welcome it. I can't complain.

I have to refocus my energy. No more holiday mode. It's time to work again. Work, work, work. My deerskin wallet will rest until the next sale season.

Happy New Year!!!!