License Renewal in the Philippines (probinsyana edition)

Okay. My licenses and passport expire in the same year, so I sat down one afternoon and set to work learning how to renew them in this quarantine world. This post will be about the things I learned and tips I’d like to share with everyone. This will not be a walkthrough. Please read the government guidelines on the respective sites on your own. I will not be an enabler for laziness. This will mainly be about my experience as a current resident of Region IV-A (hence the probinsyana tag in the title) but most of the information here will be applicable to Metro Manila residents also.

For this calendar year 2021, I have to renew 3 government documents: passport, professional license, driver’s license, so this post will be about those three. I’ve also decided to add some information about getting your NBI clearance.

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What would you do if you could know the future?

This was part of my “script” for class recently. We were discussing Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” and the question of fate vs. free will.

I kind of just felt the need to share this.

(The numbers refer to page numbers in the handout I made for class. The handout contained a transcribed version of the story since photocopying the story for everyone would use more pages than I was allowed.)


Ted Chiang’s sci-fi novella “Story of Your Life” tackles an oft-discussed theme in literature and life: if fate/destiny exists, what does that mean for our free will?

Instead of a fantastical setting or an everyday character mulling over his choices in light of his destiny, we have our protagonist elevated in status and meeting aliens that prompt her to mull over this fate vs. free will conundrum. Dr. Louise Banks, a renowned linguist, is tasked to communicate with a pair of aliens—heptapods, they’re called, for their 7 legs—and determine why they have arrived on earth.

The story, through Louise, asks us a few questions when it comes to these two. “Was it actually possible to know the future?” (57) and “What would you do if you could know the future?” (movie) Fate implies the future, what happens to us.

Louise, upon the arrival of the heptapods, immediately is set to work trying to communicate with them. She determines that the fastest way to be able to communicate is through writing.

As she and other linguists studied the written language, or Heptapod B as she called it, she realized that the principle for their writing follows one of the variational principles of physics: Fermat’s principle, which explains light refraction. Her discussion with Gary leads her to realize that in order for light to be able to travel the fastest through any surface (as in through water, for example), the light ray would have to know exactly WHERE it is going to “land” BEFORE it can even start moving. It was the same way with Heptapod writing. The heptapods had to know the entire sentence before they even write it down. (53-54; 57)

On one hand we can do that also. We think of the sentence first in our heads and then we write it down, but the difference is that heptapods seem to be able to write as they think and know immediately where the sentence starts or ends and how the different strokes should be formed (because the strokes aren’t exclusive to one character; one stroke can be used for a number of semagrams in a sentence).

This opens up her mind to the heptapod way of thinking because language also affects the way we think. But it’s not just that she’s thinking in heptapod LANGUAGE. The heptapod way of thinking means that she’s also thinking teleologically, as in thinking about the purpose of her actions, which means she has to know the end goal of her action with certainty so that she could begin her action. Louise explains that heptapods “experienced all events at once, and perceived a purpose underlying them all. A minimizing, maximizing purpose.” (59) 

It becomes clear at this point that heptapods are able to know the future, and their present actions (in the way we humans understand time) are done in order to reach that certain future. 

The problem with this worldview is that we linear-thinking humans have problems accepting the fact that our future will not be all fun. Our future will also include difficult moments. Heptapods know and accept this. It is part and parcel of their lives already. We humans, though, want to make sure that all our “results” are positive.

This brings us to the question of fate and free will. If you could know the future, what would you do? Would you actively make it happen as the heptapods and Louise did in the story, or would you try to change it? What is the implication on free will? If you know already the future, why choose a differently? Louise says in page 65 that she and Burghart (another linguist who has also mastered Heptapod B and can also already see the future) seem to just be acting out a scene that they knew about ahead of everybody else. And as limited humans, we ask, “Why?” We don’t understand why they’re just playing something out that supposedly already Is. “Why do they act it out still? Why not change it?” And Louise throws the question back to us subtly, “But why change it?” Who’s to say that this path shown to us by the future isn’t the best path (Fermat’s principle)? Think of the Avengers: Endgame movie. Doctor Strange indicated that there was one timeline that would be good, but as the only one who saw that timeline, he knew he had to take steps to ensure that it would come true even though the steps would be painful. It’s kind of similar to Louise. Who are we to say that the death of her daughter, while definitely painful isn’t just part of a larger and better picture?

“Story of Your Life” asks us to examine the possibility of a reality where we know our purpose, our goal, our end—so to speak. As limited humans, we can only guess at our purpose in life, and a lot of us stumble through life not knowing what we were put here on earth for. When we make our decisions, we don’t know what the outcome will be, and it scares the living daylights out of us.

When we know our goal, does that not make our present more meaningful because we know where we will end up? And doesn’t that allow us to enjoy our present more? Louise says that there is an “urgency” to fulfill that future once you know it, and this urgency is what compels her to choose actions that would fulfill that future. As a result, she worries less about the future and spends more time in the present. She is made more aware of the present and is able to live each moment with a greater appreciation. Perhaps that is why she chooses to “make a baby” after Gary asks her.

Ultimately, knowing the future is currently an impossibility. There is no way for us to know the future with certainty, so we live as we do: we live one moment at a time, but with this text, we are reminded to not worry about the future too much lest it takes away from the present. 

A thought, a mark on this world

You can tell a person is older than she looks by her eyes. The weight of the tears she’s cried in the droop of her lids, the times she’s laughed etched in the crinkles around her eyes.

Or maybe it’s just been a tiring night, hence the tired slant. Or she was caught in a blissful moment, hence the crinkles.

Maybe I’ve just been looking much too closely at the mirror nowadays, trying to track how my age is showing when many have said it does not. Maybe I’m afraid of time running out.

***

This book I’m reading now has me thinking so much about time and age and authenticity and impressions. Addie’s desire to LIVE became a curse. She could live days beyond her due, but she would not be remembered, not allowed to leave her mark on the world, not allowed to tell her story. It makes me think of Achilles, who chose to die young yet be remembered for eternity. It makes me think of me, who is a nobody in the greater scheme of things, but hopes she is a somebody to anybody, someone more than just a passing memory, more than words on a blog, more than a name in someone’s past.

But what is greater than that? What do I want more than that? For to Addie, just being remembered is EVERYTHING already. And I suppose I should be grateful that my days might be finite, but I can say my name out loud and leave these words here and be remembered and therefore not be so alone.

And yet why do I still feel so?


The book I’m currently reading is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Back to reading

In this whole quarantine season, my sole saving grace is the written word. Law forbade me to leave the house except for essential errands, but books…

They allowed a way out.

Work has resumed. I’ve been working from home since the latter part of April, but I’m beginning to unravel at the seams. It is Sunday, 11pm, and I have just shut down my laptop. Work has taken over even my weekend nights. I used to keep at least one weekend free, but for some reason, there seem to be more work now. How did this happen?

The worst part is that I have lost my time to read. Every minute at “work” means a minute away from sustenance: food, rest, and books. I am dying.

Toxic positivity

Life is a pile of excrement. I’d like to think it’s a small pile in a field of flowers. There are more flowers than excrement.
 
The excrement makes for excellent fertilizer for the flowers right?
 
But sometimes as you’re wandering through the flowers, you step on a pile of excrement and the smell is too overwhelming that you can’t see the flowers for a while. All you can think of is getting rid of the dung on your shoes (I hope you were wearing some shoes). And you end up moving around, crushing flowers in the process, stomping and trying to scrape the foul-smelling thing under your feet (shoes).
 
Once you’re done, you look around and you realize you’ve crushed a lot of beautiful flowers in your wake. All because of a pile of excrement. And you feel HORRIBLE.
 
I’m here to tell you that this is how I feel. I don’t need people telling me “Oh that’s okay. The flowers will grow back anyway. Look at all the beautiful flowers that are still around.”
 
I want people to tell me:
 
I get you. Let’s do something about this so none of us step on dung anymore.
 
OR
 
Oh, dear, I’m sorry I left my dog’s dung there. I forgot to clean it up. I’m sorry it inconvenienced you. It won’t happen again.
 
(this post and extended metaphor made more sense in my head)
 

What to do

So… The electricity had been flickering on and off in Paseo since around 4pm when Jody and I arrived. It was alarming, but not scary. When we finally went to Amore La Cucina (near Payless at the back. GREAT PIZZA, guys) to celebrate a number of things, the lights went out for good. When we checked our messages, a number of our colleagues from villages in Cavite to Calamba to Sta. Rosa had reported that they lost their electricity already.

Everyone around me was still chill, but I was already beginning to panic internally. It was good that my friends were still relaxed; it kept ME calm… Or at least enough not to freak out. I just tried to remember how it was back in the 90s when blackouts were pretty much routine. We grew up entertaining ourselves with shadow puppets and stories and riddles and games, and it was honestly an amazing time to be a kid (maybe not as an adult haha).

The last few weeks have been full of uncertainty and fear, definitely, because Taal Volcano erupted and still hasn’t stopped emitting plumes of steam and ash. The memory of the ground tremors that night Taal erupted still unsettles me. It made me doubt how safe we are even if we were 30km away from the volcano.

At work today we all talked about what we’d do if we DID finally have classes on Monday. I honestly thought we weren’t ready to guarantee everyone’s safety, especially the young ones’. And now I realize we never really talked about what we’d do if we STILL didn’t have classes next week. What do we do?

Tonight’s blackout in some areas near Taal is making me worry. Is this a sign of more things to come? If they are, I hope it’s a harbinger of good rather than bad things.

New year chorva

[Chorva is a made up word that means something. I can’t explain right now.]

So it’s the new year and a new decade, and I’m still procrastinating and melodramaticizing everything. Might as well accept that’s who I am after 30 something years and just focus on just being a better person in other ways instead of fixing these.

The decade was crazy. Got sick at the start of the decade. Started a new-ish job in a new-ish place. Went on dates. Fell in love. Got my heart broken. Got disillusioned with work. Got disappointed in my country, friends, and colleagues. Travelled outside the country for the first time. Acted as a second mom to 11 teens for a month (it was both a crazy and a beautifully memorable experience). Tried new stuff. Failed at same stuff. Fought with a colleague in front of other colleagues (I don’t regret giving him a piece of my mind, but I regret the manner in which I did so). Taught computer classes even though I knew zilch. Had to learn computer stuff. Checked tons of papers. Learned how to drive. Learned how to drink beer. Gained weight. Finally started yoga, although very irregularly. Got into Kpop and Kdrama. Fantasized about living overseas. Fought with a cousin over politics. Got scared because we thought we’d lose papa.

All these are mild compared to what others may have gone through in their decade, but these experiences are mine, and well, that’s it. I just wanted to remember all these things that made me this jaded but still hopeful person I am today.

May this new year be full of clarity, action, and love. Happy new year, everyone!

3 dozen years

Once upon a time I told my college roommates that I didn’t want to have my debut (turning 18 in my country is a big thing; it’s called a debut /deh-boo/) because it meant turning one year closer to 20 which meant graduating and turning older.

I say that every year: I don’t want to get older. It takes me one year closer to the grave. It sounds like a very pessimistic point of view, and I don’t really know where I got that thought, but it’s there. Every single year I am greeted with birthday songs and I just stand (or sit) there smiling awkwardly and maybe clapping my hands along to the tune. Last year I actually shushed my students when they started singing.

I’d like to think that I’m beginning to change that point of view. I mean, I still do think birthdays take me an inch closer to my grave, but I’m going to try and see it not as a negative thing anymore. It’s taken me 36 years, but better late than never, right?

This year has been messy again. I’ve been doing gratitude posts more to try and remind me of the good in my life, and it’s been going swimmingly. There are still low points that I am ashamed of, but I’m taking those as learning experiences.

At the start of the year I decided that I’d be celebrating my birthday with a bang. I decided to travel. Except for last year’s work-related travel, I’ve never been outside the country. I wanted to change that. My friend and I have always wanted to travel to Europe–just the two of us–before we hit 35, but life and work and finances got in the way, so we didn’t. In January this year, we decided to finally go to Japan–a good compromise for us. It was perfect for me because anyone who’s known me knows that there are two places I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit: Greece and Japan.

As a kid who grew up with anime, I became fascinated with Japan. When we finally got cable TV, I couldn’t get enough of that strange Filipino woman interviewing Japanese people on the street about what they were doing (Eleanor Nishiumi, I love you) on the WINS channel. In college, I used up all my free electives on the Japanese language courses. I joined a Japanese language speech contest sponsored by an org in UP TWICE! And I won the second time! I even took the basic Japanese proficiency test and PASSED! I was THAT crazy for Japan. Really. I’ve wanted to come visit since Sailormoon came to my life.

15 years after graduating from college, and I FINALLY made my dream a reality. My family has been very supportive, and I LOVE them. My boss was disapproving (because I’d be taking a week off work) but understood my need to go (well, I hope she did haha).

I’m typing this entry in our hotel room in Kyoto, and well, I feel like crying. 🙂

Thank you, God. Thank you, universe. Thank you, family. Thank you, boss. Thank you, friends. Thank you, Irish my friend who’s with me on this trip.

Firsts

I realized something today as I sat in my car at the gas station near my village waiting for my dad to come with jumper cables because my car wouldn’t start.

I sat there thinking of posting about this on my social media (after I had finished panicking) when I suddenly got to thinking: why would people care? What makes me even want to share my life with people I’m not particularly close to? And then I realized… I just wanted to document this FIRST in my life. It was my first time to have my car die on me. It was my first time to have a car emergency and have no one near to help. It was just the gas station attendant there, and he didn’t have tools to help. It was my first time to have my credit card rejected (not because I had no funds, just to be clear, but because they suddenly only accepted Visa and Mastercard CC and mine wasn’t even though I had used that card in that station before multiple times). It was the first time (in a long time) to be laughed at and not be annoyed at being laughed at. Kuya attendant was amused, I guess, mainly because I wasn’t mad at the whole situation. I was too busy being pathetic and a stereotypical woman who had to call her dad for help.

You never run out of FIRSTS no matter how old you get, and I guess that is another thing that keeps mankind going–that sense of wonder, awe, surprise, love, hate, fear, and grief. All these FIRST time experiences keep life interesting and meaningful.

A dream

Last Sunday, my friend and I submitted our visa application documents to a Japan embassy-accredited agency because we plan on going this coming semestral break. The agency told us they’d submit Tuesday (which, as of this writing, is yesterday), and now I am feeling alternating feelings of dread and excitement.

I dread rejection because that means money down the drain. We already paid for our flight and hotels. On the flipside, I feel excitement if we get our visas because this will mean I get to live out one of my dreams which is to go to Japan and just… BE THERE.

My friend and I purposefully didn’t list down any theme parks because not so much because we didn’t have money for Harry Potter, but more because we both wanted to experience the culture and history of the land. I actually spent a LOT of time just watching various vlogs about Japan hidden tourist spots and street food and konbini food and Donki souvenir items so that I could prepare the itinerary. That itinerary had over 20 revisions because I had to find the right schedule to minimize costs. I’m glad my friend and I have the same desires for our trip, so she easily approved the itinerary I made.

I’m also back to brushing up on my Nihongo. The only things I remember from college Nihongo classes are the greetings, how to ask where the toilet/bus stop/train station is, and how to ask how much something is haha. We’ll survive, right? 😂

But yeah. In order to survive THERE, we’d need our visas first, so I ask you, dear God and universe, to please help make this dream of mine a reality. 🙏🏼

Half of the half day

Is essentially a fourth of a day, right?

I’m feeling peetty random today. My last class (due to the shortened periods we had) ended earlier than usual, so I thought I’d be able to get work done. However, things don’t usually go the way we want to.

I ended up doing work that were NOT my priority mainly because they could be accomplished in just a short time. Finishing checking, which was the priority, takes forever, and I didn’t have the focus nor temperament to give meaningful and fair feedback, so I skipped it for now.

Tomorrow I drive to the city. Not excited for the drive, but I AM excited to see friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Random bouts

I get random bouts of different emotions at random parts of the day or week. Today, for example, I was partly happy, anxious, lazy, annoyed, infuriated, and sad.

The one thing that has remained constant, though, and the one thing that has stayed with me every single day is sadness.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t find myself sad. Sure, I’d probably feel a spike of joy maybe after a fun class, but then it peters out to sadness.

My friends asked me if I were depressed, and I told them I didn’t think so since I was still a functioning adult, but I’m just annoyed I’m sad every day. I don’t even know why I’m sad sometimes. Well, okay, maybe this one is triggered by period concerns, but I also think the period just amplifies my sadness. Why can’t it amplify my joy instead?

WHY?