The Great Northern Road Trip

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Pt1: The Road

Two weeks before Christmas, my dad wanted to escape the city. He asked what I thought of the family spending the holidays away from plastic trees and jingles on loop. He said he wanted to go on a road trip– from Manila all the way to Pagudpud in the North. He said he wanted to go fishing. He was real excited.

But more than eight hours driving through winding roads to go fishing on Christmas seemed a bit extreme to me. Why not take the bus or an airplane to Laoag and then hoof it to Pagudpud? I couldn’t understand his whim, but I was interested.

My dad insisted that we’d be more comfortable taking the car. And since I could drive now, we could take turns. Besides, driving meant being able to stop anywhere or take any detour we wanted to go.

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Red Dot Service Center can suck my metaphorical cock

I don’t usually do this, but it strikes me as a responsible customer’s obligation to inform the public of how much Red Dot service center sucks. I hope their technicians die trapped and screaming in a fire. I hope the people running that terrible business meet swift street justice, and I hope all their children never learn how to read.

First things first, some details so that people who try to look up Red Dot inevitably find my blog:

Red Dot Philippines
1817 España Blvd., corner Prudencio St.,
Sampaloc, Manila,
1008 Philippines
Telephone : 632-708-9282
Fax : 632-522-7079

Don’t bother calling their phone numbers though– no one will answer you.

Last year, I bought a point-and-click Kodak camera from Camera haus. It was a good camera with a year-long warranty. I took it to the beach, shot some shots, and some sea spray may have gotten into the sliding lens cover because the next thing I know, the lens cover won’t slide open. Super minor problem.

I called Camera haus asking what I should do. They recommend that I go to Red Dot in España boulevard, which is supposedly their accredited service center. As my warranty is still in effect, I didn’t have to pay for anything. So I went.

First red flag: you won’t know you’re at Red Dot until you ask the security guard standing outside and preventing people from just waltzing in. There are no signs, no indication that there’s any such business there. What kind of business doesn’t have a sign?

Next red flag: there are no windows and the glass door is blotted out from the inside. From outside the street, you can’t see what’s going on inside. The guard gave me a number and ushered me into the room.

Inside, it’s just a room. Bare white walls, and around 30 people sitting in plastic chairs, waiting for their turn to be entertained. Now, from the outside, you won’t have any idea how many people are suffering from terrible service. You won’t see ANY of the technicians. They’re in another room, hidden from the public, and no one but the staff can enter. You have to conduct your business with the single, overworked lady who took your gadget and complaint, gave you a receipt, and asked you to come back in a week.

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Waiting for fucking ever

From the get go, I had a bad feeling about the place. It looked like one of those shady, scummy agencies that made fake passports for a steep fee. But I stuck around, heaven knows why. The power of the warranty, maybe. Talking to the other customers, I found out that Red Dot is a centralized gadget service center for Coby, Olympus, Kodak, and a few other brands. They fix tablets, cameras, MP3 players, TVs, and so on. Also, it’s accredited by SM Megamall, if the poster inside the bleak room is to be trusted.

The wait was fucking agony. Maybe 3 hours until my number was called.

Anyway, I spoke to the lady, trying to explain my camera’s problem. She barely listened. I was explaining that maybe the technicians just needed to clean the lens cover. In my mind, that might only be maybe an hour’s work. She told me to fill up the form, give her the camera, and come back in a week. She gave me back the camera’s SD card and batteries and assured me that they’ll have my camera ready in a week.

That was on December 2.

Last night (January 6), I get a text that my camera was ready for pick up. Now, I have my suspicions because they gave me back the batteries and the camera only runs on lithium batteries– a detail I kept telling the lady, but she didn’t take note of it. My receipt simply read “lens problem” but that could be anything!

Today I went to pick up my camera. I was there by 11am. There was that usual crowd of 30+ people waiting to be entertained. I waited fucking patiently until around 2pm. When they called my name, they informed me that they didn’t have the parts needed to repair my camera, and that I should come back on January 21.

Motherfucker, you don’t even know what’s wrong with my camera. So I politely asked to just give me my camera back. Forget repairing it, I just want it back, please.

The lady hustles back inside the restricted area and doesn’t come back in an hour.

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The room where your gadgets disappear into and only the staff can enter.

By this point, I’ve wasted enough time. I demanded my camera back. Why was it taking so long to give me back my shit? They gave me excuses like they were filing the report on the computer, they were endorsing the item on their system, and some other bullshit. But I’m convinced that they’re either being willful assholes who refuse to respect their customers’ time and intelligence by stonewalling them outside the door, or they’ve misplaced my camera.

It wasn’t until 4:30pm and after I used my leverage as an employee of a TV station (ugh, I hated doing that) that I finally got my shit back. And guess what, they didn’t fix anything.

More than once, it crossed my mind to just leave that hellhole forever. Forget the camera, let them have it. But that would only be to their advantage. The bevy of people who were desperately waiting were only there because the warranty on their gadgets promised that they could have their items fixed for free– but here’s the kicker: more than once, I’ve heard a customer say that they gave their item months ago, some even waited for half a year. When they came back, the technicians informed them that their warranties have lapsed, so they’ll have to pay if they still want their gadget fixed. It’s a goddamn scam!

So here I am, writing an angry blog post and encouraging everyone to bring their business elsewhere– anywhere– but to Red Dot.

Don’t go there. Seriously. Let this goddamn business sink to the ground.

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Voluntary Social Exile

A moment of silence to those who never get a chance…

and to those who pass it up, I hope.
1486819_10151805255591759_498660816_nRight about now, our office is holding a network-wide Christmas party 2 weeks after actual Christmas. Gifts will be given, merriment will be had, food and drink will flow, and people will be gossiped about.

People like me, probably. I’ve decided to duck out at the last minute, with no warning nor apology, preferring instead of burrow in my blanket fortress and play Hitman: Blood Money until my thumbs hurt. I’ll show up when they need me to buckle down and work. But I can’t bring myself to surrender the peace in my head without a fight.

The loneliness can be enjoyable most times. Times like these, it’s the people absent at the dinner party who get talked about. Ah, well. It can be  a gift and a curse.

The main curse, in fact.

(dur hur hur)

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Geotagging the North

I was drinking with some friends one time…

“Hey,” another close friend asked me. This was a completely different time, in a scene that has almost no relation to this other story I’m telling. She asked me, “Hey, how come all your stories start with you drinking?”

I don’t know. I drink a lot, I guess. Not a lot, just often. And most good conversations happen over drinks. But not all my stories start with drinks, really. Sometimes, it starts with me walking around. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, I was drinking with some friends one time, and a dear friend was talking to me about geotagging. Metadata! You can’t just tell a story, or take a photo, or shoot a video, he said. You have to add geographical information to it. Where did it happen, and how does the location affect or add context to the story. In a convoluted way, the conversation evolved into geotagging memories.

He spoke to me about his memories of a bar in Malate, Manila. There, one drunken night a few years past, he stumbled in and pretended to be straight, danced with the working girls until morning light. More recently, he passed by said bar but it was abandoned and waiting to be torn down. The girls were nowhere to be found. Perhaps they moved to another bar, or went back to their respective provinces. Or reevaluated their life choices and went down another path.

All the same, in a handful of months, the bar would be gone, replaced with a similar (but wholly different) establishment. The place would remain, but the location will have been irrevocably changed.

That was the importance of renewing geotagged memories, he said.

DSCF0027Where am I going with this?

The simplest way I can explain geotagging is through those orange upside-down teardrop things found on Googlemaps when trying to look for a specific location. It let’s you know where you are, where you’re going, and maybe the simplest route to get there. The orange upside-down tear drop is like a digital flag of sorts, stabbed into the ground and jutting upward so as to seen easily.

Yeah, that’s it. Geotagging, in my understanding, is putting down a flag of a memory on newly-conquered land. I stood here. This happened here.

“Why are you taking photos of your feet?” my brother asked, baffled, as we walked around somewhere in the Northern regions of the Philippines. I’m geotagging memories, I thought. I stood here. This happened here.

I prefer this over taking selfies. Although the case for selfies is strong, it only ever takes in the image of the photographer and all the sights happening behind him. Not what he’s looking at, but where he’s been. And that rubs me wrong for some reason.

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So I took photos of my feet, as ridiculous as that may seem, to sort of document the terrain. This is what I walked on/ walked through. This is where I stood. I was here.

Wherever here was.

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