Saturday, 6 February 2021

Pan De Loco and A Lesson In Real Customer Service

(Pan de coco with human hair)

I was having a nice morning having merienda when I realized it was human hair sticking out of the pan de coco that I bought from a local bakery whose name consists of a letter repeated four times.

Like what I did last year when I bought ensaimada that had a fly in it, I went back to the bakery to complain (read blog here).😑

Just as I expected from this bakery (which I think has the same owners/management as the ensaimada issue but different locations), they just offered another piece (Php 5/each), which I immediately refused as it probably contains another human hair.

But after I told the head tindera that they at least should apologize for feeding me with human hair, she readily gave one.

But it was too late. I told her they didn't know anything about real customer service, sanitation, and how to appreciate a customer who goes out of his way to point out lapses in their food preparation. Right there, I promised not to buy their pan de coco again. 

With my disappointment, I walked a few meters east to an area where vendors from Manapla sell their homemade delicacies.

Compared to the wealthier and educated businesspeople in the same area, these small vendors know better the term 'customer service'.

'Sabeth', a 70-ish vendor from Kilometer 39, gladly gave me an extra 'bot-ong' (steamed glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk) just because she was happy I bought 'bot-ong' and suman latik from her that morning.πŸ‘©

(Buying suman latik and 'bot-ong' from Sabeth)

Sabeth may not have a degree in business nor an experience in marketing or econometrics but she and her fellow street vendors can always teach us a thing or two about the real customer service and customer relations.😎

So, to all businesspeople, make sure the products you sell are what your customers expect them to be or even better. If you sell pan de coco, make sure it's stuffed only with sweetened coco and not human hair. Otherwise, it's pan de loco! 😑

And teach yourself and your crew the real customer service. Because you will lose not only customers, but respect as well.😎

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Travelblog Iloilo: The Jaro Cathedral and Nuestra SeΓ±ora de La Candelaria

It has always been our tradition to visit the Jaro Cathedral every time we are in Iloilo City (in the Philippines)

Pre-pandemic, we would cross the Iloilo Strait to Iloilo City from Bacolod City (in Negros Occidental, Philippines) because of the very popular Dinagyang Festival (read here) , the La Paz batchoy (read here), and of course, everyone's favorite, Roberto's siopao (read here)! πŸ˜ƒ

And if we happen to be there on a Sunday, joining Ilonggos at the mass in the Cathedral is one reason. Another reason is a very delicious one: Balasan bingka sold at the side entrance of the Jaro Cathedral (read blog here).

(The miraculous Nuestra Senora de 
La Candelaria statue and Child Jesus)

(She is the only Marian image in the Philippines crowned by a pope. The Virgin and the Child Jesus are adorned with gold and light blue vestments.

According to legend, the statue of the Virgin (now displayed at the Cathedral balcony) was only a foot-tall limestone found by fishermen floating along the Iloilo River in 1587. They were probably bewildered because limestone does not float. As they carried it, it was heavy but became lighter when they decided to bring it towards the Jaro church as instructed by the bishop that time.

The image of the Blessed Virgin carrying the Child Jesus is now encased with thick glass on the Cathedral's balcony where she and her Son look after Iloilo and its people day and night.

(The prayer room is full of orange candles
lighted by devotees as they whisper to the Virgin
their prayers of thanksgiving, devotion, and requests) 

She was crowned by Pope Saint John Paul II on February 21, 1981, and has been venerated by millions of devotees all these years, including me and my family.πŸ‘ͺ

On February 2, 2020, we were able to join the thousands of Ilonggos and the faithful from the neighboring provinces, who all lifted up their prayers of thanksgiving and supplications during the annual celebration of the feast of the Nuestra SeΓ±ora de La Candelaria, or Our Lady of the Candles.

                      (The Candelaria prayer)

(A very colorful stained glass window 
of Prophet Simon)

Every year, the color of candles of the Candelaria changes. It was orange in 2020; it is white/blue in 2021.

Although we will not be able to be there in Jaro, Iloilo City, this year, we join everyone in spirit as we all raise our lighted candles in prayer for Her intercession in these difficult times. πŸ™

(The Prayer Room)

          (The centuries-old Cathedral belfry)

(Devotees queuing to go up the Cathedral balcony)

Happy fiesta sang Nuestra SeΓ±ora de La Candelaria sa tanan nga taga-Jaro!😊

My mom at the 2020 Candelaria 
with her orange candles)

Note: Photos taken on February 2, 2020😎

Sunday, 31 January 2021

"We May Not Change The World In One Day" And A Tribute To The Volunteers And Private Donors Who Are Helping Victorias Flood Victims

It will be remembered as one devastating disaster and a bad wake-up call, not only to the people of Victorias, but also the people of the nearby municipality of E. B. Magalona, and cities of Talisay and Silay (in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines).

The floods of January 1 and January 8, 2021 (read blog here), are now part of its history to add to the big floods of January 1907, 1922, and November 1995 (read blog here)😱

  (Evacuees at the Our Lady of Victory parish refectory)
                     (Donations from Bosconians)

From the stories I heard from the 1995 flood victims, they still remembered the height of the waters and the damage it caused to their homes compared with the floods of January 1 and January 8, 2021. 

They also recalled the distance the floodwaters travelled into their neighborhoods, the height the flood waters reached the walls of their homes, and where they had to evacuate then.

(Volunteers from Bacolod City brought help 
            and distributed snacks to the evacuees)                                       
        (Distribution of donated goods at Barangay 1)

Although these tragedies bring out the best in humanity, misfortunes like these have also become opportunities for politicians to exploit. They just know how to make use of other people's misery for their own political propaganda.😑  

They either pass other people's donations as their own, or even join the distribution relief goods as if they were the ones who actually organized it. Some go as far as wading or swimming in the flood waters for a good photo-op.😝

                (Pre-loved clothes are appreciated)
(A mother and child walk through a muddy path 
that used to be neck-deep in flood waters 
with the help kind donors gave.) 

But for the kindhearted and sincere givers (of time, money, and goods), there is no need for them to write down their names on the packages or shout them out every time they bring their much-needed donations to the flooded neighborhoods.

For them, it is their responsibility to help. Period.😎

(Distributing donated goods at Sitio 
Litib-Litib of Barangay 3)
(Volunteers carry relief goods through 
the twice-flooded alleys)

This is why I pay tribute to the nameless individuals, volunteers, and families from Victorias, from other towns and cities of Negros island, from other provinces and countries, who have given their time, donated cash and goods, and even opened their homes, churches, and even garages to shelter and feed our fellow Victoriahanons.πŸ‘ͺ

(Youth volunteers deliver donations from the parishioners of Miranda, Pontevedra, and San Enrique)

        (Delivering donated goods to South Barrio)

But as these generous citizens are willing to help every time there is a tragedy, I'm wondering whether we are all just waiting for the next big flood and not acting to solve and minimize the impact on the way of life, livelihood and properties of these environmental disasters.

(Fr. Joriz Calsa, SDB of the Saint Joseph, the Worker parish receives donated rice at the Immaculate Conception Church at Canetown Subdivision)

I have always wondered whether our government simply relies on distributing relief goods every time this happens, and not actually having an action plan to solve the flooding?😠

What do you think?😭

(Distributing goods at Sitio Bugtong Lubi of Barangay 6)
            (Packing relief goods for distribution)

Taking a line from Michael Jackson's song, In Our Small Way (which aptly describes the generosity of the kind donors), "we may not change the world in one day" would probably also serve as a reminder that we have to change our ways in order to protect the environment and the future generations of this place.πŸ˜„

In the meantime, let's pray the next flood won't happen any time soon.πŸ™

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Fireworks And Floods: How Victorias Welcomed 2021

(Dazed residents watching 
their flooded homes from dry land)

Just as Victorias City (of Negros Occidental in the Philippines) was welcoming the Year 2021 with fireworks at 10PM of December 31, the waters were slowly overflowing from the two rivers, Malihaw and Magnanudthat cut through some of the city's barangays. 

During the day, one could see from the city center that the nearby mountains, where tributaries to the rivers originated, were covered with dark clouds that signified heavy downpours. Their slopes were drenched the whole day and were not able to absorb all the precipitation.

(A pig tied to a pole) 

(A resident wades through waist-deep 
waters of Barangay 1)

So by the time the residents were out on the streets that night, me included, to watch the fireworks on new year's eve, the barangays (city districts) located next to the rivers already started to experience the effects of their swelling. 

Estelita, a senior citizen living at Toreno Heights Subdivision in Barangay 9, which sits next to a river, told me that around 9PM, waters already reached her gates. But past midnight, it was inside her house, and by early morning, Noneco, the power company turned off the electric supply in the city to prevent electrocution from live sockets in homes or from live wires dangling around.

Soon after midnight, people had to frantically evacuate and move to higher grounds. They had to take shelter at the city's coliseum, cultural center, commercial center, barangay halls, and other places where they could spend the night with their children, frail senior citizens, family members with disabilities, and pets.

Some families who raised hogs in their own backyard piggeries were not able to save them. The lucky ones were dragged out to higher areas and tied to poles. 

When daylight came, the whole city woke up to people and children sleeping on the pavements, crowded evacuation centers, and with many more sleepless and still in shock as to what happened to them on the first day of the year.

(The Magnanud River overflows)

(A statue of the Blessed Virgin quietly 
sits in the middle of a flooded area)

As if the Year 2020 was not bad enough, here they were, hours after welcoming 2021, away from home, dazed, worried and nowhere to go.

Luckily, by midmorning, on January 1, a Friday, the waters receded and most of them were able to go home.

But then, just after a week, on the night of January 8, 2021, also a Friday, the same factors came together to cause another flooding. This time, the waters were higher and came earlier in the evening.

(Victoriahanons watch the raging waters from Magnanud Bridge)

(A man paddles his boat through the flooded neighborhood in Bangga Daan area)

The evacuations happened immediately because the flooding was much higher and faster. It was like the new year's flood was just a drill on how to prepare for a bigger flood.

The barangay hall near our place was already filling up with evacuees by 10PM, and we even welcomed a family into our home. This was a time for us who were not affected to extend help to those who were.😊

Again, by daybreak, at flooded neighborhoods, most of the men in the family were on the streets watching their flooded homes from afar, while other members were at barangay halls, other evacuation centers and even at friends' homes.

(A sow catches some lost sleep next to a 
bus terminal in the Bangga Daan area)

(Unfortunate fruit vendors from out-of-town 
watch an inundated fruit and vegetable 
market from higher grounds)

On that first flood on new year's day, I got up early to buy some bread for the evacuees at our barangay hall. Unfortunately, there was no bakery open as workers went home for the holidays. We only had some coffee packs and bottled water to give.

On the second flood, however, as bakeries were already in operation, I was able to buy packs of pan de sal, the only ones left at the bakery stalls, to give out. I gave a couple of packs to the family taking shelter at the pavement outside a store and some to the evacuees.😎

(This area of the fruit and vegetable market 
should have been crowded with vendors 
and customers as it was a Saturday)

(The cemetery is all covered with murky 
waters from the Magnanud River)

As the waters were higher this time, the electric company restored power in the evening when most of the flooding had receded. 

The earliest recorded flooding in Victorias was on January 9, 1907, and another one in 1922 (read blog here). The one in recent memory was in November 1995, about 25 years ago.

With a lot of factors contributing to this disaster, I think we should all be preparing for another one. I heard people saying that cutting of trees at the mountains and rampant quarrying of river banks contributed to the flood.😑

I guess poor waste management and lack of city planning should also be added to that.😑

It's not a matter of 'if'. It's a matter of 'when' another flood will ruin the locals' livelihood and properties. 

The city government should discuss with the people its plans of action to address the issues on how to prepare for these disasters and to minimize the impact on their way of life.

These are some of the photos I took.😒

(My bag full of packs of pan de sal for the evacuees)

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The Victorias Barter Community: Sharing Kindness While Bartering Trash and Treasures

Bartering is exchanging goods (or services) without using money. Before gold and other items used as currencies, bartering was the mode of commerce between peoples.😊

But these days, as more online communities devoted to bartering have been created on Facebook, it has become the easiest way of surrendering old items and things you want to give away in exchange for things that you need. 

In other words, "one person's trash is another person's treasure". πŸ˜„ 

But in this difficult year, everyone in our community has been affected by the pandemic and this Christmas season, many families will have less to celebrate about.

And in order to give these families a reason to smile about, the Victorias Barter Community, led by Ms. Nonalyn Librodo, chose 50 families, which were nominated by members, to receive Christmas packs that contain rice, Spam and other canned goods, coffee, bread and sandwich spread, and for those who have children, infant formula and diapers.

These goods were donated by some members of the Victorias Barter Community who simply wished to share.πŸ‘ͺπŸ’“

To deliver the gifts, a team of volunteer members went to visit the beneficiary families living in barangays close to the city center. They also went to the areas of Florencia, Gaston, Cubay, Hda. Nenang, Aji, Villa Victoria and Hacienda Carugiat, that were far from the city center.

The volunteers did not care about how far or how difficult it was to deliver the Christmas packs. 

This was about sharing, caring, and looking after the members of our community who need help the most.

More than just a vehicle for exchanging or bartering, these online communities should be an instrument for members to share with our brothers and sisters who have less, not only during the Christmas season but all year round.😍

The photographs on this blog were taken during the visits to some of the beneficiary families of the Victorias Barter Community's Christmas 2020 sharing.😎

"We don't care about being tired or how far we need to go in order to bring happiness to our brothers and sisters." - Victorias Barter Community

Ang ila mga yuhum nagdala guid kalipay sa mga naghalatag.πŸ’

Their smiles bring joy to those who shared.πŸ’–