Monday, September 10, 2012

The Squatcaster: Bending the Fender Bender Obsession

Yes, I have been lazier than a sloth and have increased the amount of lard growing in me that my ten stubby fingers can't even type organized thought - but this post ends that. The first time I picked up a guitar has turned into a fading memory. That specific moment has eluded me but as far as I can remember, I was still uncircumcised when I played my first chord pattern (it was a mere D-A-G-A; one of the easiest to memorize). Its kinda sad that I actually forgot the brand of my first guitar (all that I remember is that it was made in Japan and Ibanez oversaw it's quality control)... it was a classical instrument given to me by the former King of the House.

"Sweetpea" as I used to call it, was a wedding gift for my Dad which makes it a year older than me. It had a hard case, a patterned strap, and sounded really great. It served me for many years until its demise sometime back sometime between 2008 and 2009. Interesting fact: I've never owned a brand-new guitar. All of my guitars, up to now, are second-hand.

Meet "Apple" (she was named after her brand "Applause" by Ovation). A former colleague sold her to me for almost half the price back in 2008. She was a little over 1 year-old when the former owner decided to sell her to pay up for a loan (the money was used to purchase a new electric guitar... forgot the brand). It was during around that time when another colleague was selling a Yamaha acoustic guitar (didn't get that 'cause the offer was a little steep for a second-hand guitar). I'm proud to say that Apple has been with me for a few years now and saw me through a few minor gigs. 

I've been playing the guitar for more than 2 decades now and it never occurred to me to own an electric guitar. I can play decently but I've always been fascinated with people who can scale and shred (John Frusciante, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani - damn, that's a lot of J's). Hence, that became my frustration which led to the decision to not buy an electric guitar... until recently.

A month ago, Dennis (my doctor and best friend) told me that her sister's 18th birthday is coming up and that we were going to play - full band. I believe this is the reason why the sudden the sudden urge and obsession to own a Fender Stratocaster (yes, I want a sunburst or arctic white one). I couldn't stop thinking and talking about it for days... a guy from our IT department (who currently owns a second-hand, classic Fender Telecaster) even scouted second hand ones for me... I just didn't have cash :-( 

However, the beautiful and smart Gagamgirl was kind enough to lend me (not cash, hehehe) her brother's old guitar. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "The Squatcaster" \m/


I'm not sure which local guitar company made this (I'm thinking Fernando) but this guitar is a treasure! The Squatcaster (short for Squatter Caster) maybe a relic but it has a solid body and awesome pick-ups. Just like the electric guitars made back in the early 90s, its also heavily built. What's so special about it is that 3 people learned how to play the guitar using with it - and, The Squatcaster has become a "first guitar" (yep, this is her brother's first), the second time around (this is my first electric guitar). I didn't waste time and headed straight to a music shop to have it fixed. It cost me around 2.5K to have the tuning pegs, strings, and 5-way switch replaced (plus cleaning and labor). I've used it for practice a couple of times now and it sounds amazing! I'm really grateful that Gagamgirl let me borrow SC... for now, I'll hone my skills and be worthy of owning an original Strat.

I guess that owning a vintage, Stratocaster can wait... money will be set aside for that as it'll be an heirloom piece. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

LP: Las Piñas and Lots of Pollution

So I was on my way to meet up with Stephie earlier this evening... left the house around quarter to eight to wait for one of those buses that went straight to Alabang (she was with Pat at The Pancake house in Molito) but none came - so I decided to take my usual ride: a south-bound jeep. The rain clouds were finally gone and the street scenes were back to normal. Now this should sound good but there's one thing that I hated about "normal" along the Alabang-Zapote road: sluggish traffic (was on the road so I had no time to upload the pics from my phone). 

Well, it would have been tolerable as I was used to the slow procession of vehicles along that tight, two-lane road but what really got into my nerves was the pollution. The since the traffic was slow, I had endure about 30 minutes of unpleasant, uncomfortable breathing (yesterday's smell of flood was a little bit better: no traffic = smell evasion). I got off on my stop feeling dirty and exhausted.

According to a document released by, Las Piñas is one of the cities within the National Capital Region that has a high population with high pollution exposure.

I've lived in this city for almost my entire life and I know that the major source of air pollution doesn't come from factories or industrial facilities - but from a high concentration of vehicles that make their way each day through long and tight roads. It wasn't always like this here. Back in the day (let's say more than a decade ago - alright, that reveals my age but no comments please hehehe), there were a lot less vehicles, villages and "Friendship Routes" weren't open yet, and SM Southmall was still an empty land mass. 

I remember a time when LP (before it became a city) was the "Cleanest" and "Greenest" municipality (there's no comparison on how I breathed easier then). Perhaps the transformation it needed towards becoming a full-fledged city brought about this "affliction." One of the major turning points could be attributed to opening of the so-called the city's "Friendship Route" which opened up several villages as shortcuts and access roads for motorists from Cavite. While it became easier for private vehicles to navigate within the southwestern part of the city, the main road that connects Cavite and Las Piñas created a choke point as it intersects the Alabang-Zapote road (believe me, get past this and SM to ATC will be a little bit more bearable).

Oh well, I'm not usually the "concerned citizen" type but perhaps I can speak for all those who pass by this road everyday - and please, don't even get me started on the other Baclaran-bound route.

I now ask myself why I'm writing about this... perhaps my usual Twitter rants aren't enough to get me anywhere. Admittedly, complaints without foresight and resolution are useless... so here are some ideas that all of us need to take seriously:

Enforce the "Clean Air" Act - with a little more push from our friendly enforcers, I guess a strong reminder for our motorists would be a good start. 

Obey Traffic Laws - come on, admit it... as much as I hate to say this, we as a nation lack the necessary discipline to maintain smooth traffic flow. Another thing that I hate to say is a huge bulk of LP traffic is caused by public utility vehicles. These "Kings of the Road" sometimes have no regard for traffic rules that they can just choose to stop anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers. Areas like SM Southmall, Pilar, and T.S. Cruz, are usually hotspots for the said vehicles. They're like moths to a flame any given day. Perhaps the government can declare Martial Law on the road... I wouldn't mind walking a little further for proper bus/jeep stops for a ride for as long as these vehicles don't cause a bottleneck.

Revolutionize the Philippine Public Transportation System - most of our Southeast Asian neighbors have gained a wide lead when it comes to public transportation. Organized bus routes, modern train/railway stations... I could just pull my hair out of envy (try going around Bangkok and use their MRT system and experience how easy it is to go 'round and about). I'm no visionary nor am I an architect or an engineer but perhaps we can start by fully organizing bus and jeepney routes. Replacing or upgrading our "jeeps" may seem far-fetched but a regulated number of them on the road (with drivers paid a monthly wage, working on 8 hour shifts a day) can be a good start.

Sometimes its not bad to think hard about ideas that can help a lot of people. In fact, it's not a waste of time. Despite all of what we've done and what we've been through, I still have faith in our people... in our nation. I may not live long enough to see it but I hope that my future children and their progeny would reap the benefits of our ideas today.

How about you? What do you think? Let the world know by typing them here :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

View From My Window: Return to Homebase

Here are some views from an office window to a passenger/commuter's way home. Gagamgirl was kind enough to let me ride with her. Passing by Sky Way, one can notice that the hint of sunlight that was there less than an hour ago, are fading.

It wasn't drizzling yet but it was a sure sign the sun won't be peeping in this morning. As we sped along this boon of a road we pondered how lucky we were to be on this place and time and how those Sky Way Patrol with radars got into their places (they might have been dropped off way early in the morning as the speeding cars could not have let them pass). 

My normal commute routine after being dropped off along the Alabang-Zapote road is to either ride a jeep or try my luck for passing buses. I decided to try the former since it was still cool and cloudy. I wanted to show what Las Piñas morning traffic looks like but this was the only view that I captured from my vandalized jeepney window:

I usually don't do this (meaning taking my phone out taking pictures and all) but I'm kinda guilty of not having any original content for a while... so for the sake of doing something new, here we are. Of course, I just can't take pictures with a lot of people around (but perhaps I will soon) so here's another angle from a commuter's point of view:

The image doesn't clearly show it but the driver was eyeing me through his rear-view mirror. He could have thought "Ay, cheap! Hindi DSLR!" A gadget from Canon or Nikon would have been awesome but a 5MP camera phone ain't that bad. 

The sun was a no-show and true enough, the rain clouds went on overtime with drizzles just as I got off the colored stainless wonder. The BFRV village entrance used to be clean and orderly. I'm not saying that it's a mess but it has seen better days. The tricycle ride home wasn't that interesting but here's a memorable sight for me:

To all of you who frequent LP or BF Resort, you know this place. Seeing the "No Classes" signboards outside the school's largest gate brought back memories... the cool air, the smell of rain, the gray skies, that triumphant feeling knowing that this smirking little boy will spend the whole day either watching TV or pressing [R], Up, Up on his SNES controller to see Scorpion burn Liu Kang or Johnny Cage to ashes.

So after less than an hour of travelling, here I am with a view from my room window. The trimmed mango tree allowed a partial view of the sky. Clouds are starting to part and the hints of sunlight are back. [Selfish Mode: ON] I don't want the sun to break through those clouds. I've endured the summer months of canned heat and sleepless afternoons. Being a daysleeper has its disadvantages so please, please, please, don't mess up this sleepworthy weather. 

View From My Window: Return of the Rain Clouds

So this is the view from my office window. Latest weather reports say that yesterday's rain clouds are coming back - and I was like "so what now, they're on overtime?" I'm a self-confessed slacker but knowing that the weather for the past few days has battered Metro Manila with heavy rains doesn't sit well with me at all. Gagamgirl told me last night on our way to work that the this week's weather brought about more rainfall than Ondoy did back in 2009. These photos were taken about half an hour ago - and luckily, there's a glimpse of sunlight as a write. 

I don't know what else to think but I have to agree that we, as a nation, have not learned from our mistakes. The last 72 hours' rainfall was not even caused by a typhoon... so what about the real deal?