Thursday, May 26, 2016

We're coming back!

I haven't been to Marinduque for over 6 years now, since December 2009, and in that time I have missed the place every single day!

This is about to change .. flights have been purchased, a lot of my stuff has been packed and sent in balikbayan boxes .. in 2 months' time I'll be back 'home'.

I have heard from friends that nothing much has changed in the time I have been away - power is supposedly more stable than it was in 2009, the philippine peso is stronger now than then (by about 27% actually, compared to the €), dengue is even more common than before.

My first stay in Marinduque wasn't very well planned - the idea was to move to the Philippines and work out the details later, Marinduque was chosen simply because someone mentioned it in an expat blog and I liked the look of the place! This time I aim to be a bit better prepared.

I have sent over a Voltronic Axpert KS power controller .. this device connects to a battery bank and solar panels and should ensure I have proper stable power, year round, without depending too much on the 'new improved' Marelco. I also have warned my clients that this is a rather permanent move, so they should know what to expect. I'll need to get myself a car on arrival, buying a Philippines 2nd hand car is going to be quite an adventure first time round. I have no idea what to expect, the ones that I see on seem to all have very low mileage compared to what I would expect for a similar model car here in Europe. Very fishy!

The other issue I have given a lot of thought to is protection from tropical diseases, dengue in particular. We live rather far away from dense settlements so I am hoping there is less chance of encountering an infected mosquito however children do need to go to school and I will be travelling into Boac daily so the risk is still there. I have read up a lot and considering putting ovitraps around places where I will be staying often.

I also have this dream of providing training in programming and offering a couple of jobs on Marinduque - there is very little industry on the island and I am sure that Marinduque kids are as bright as those from anywhere else and are hampered by the lack of opportunities unless one moves to the mainland.

2 months to go .. I'm counting .. really excited to be back!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lightbulbs that work when the power is out? Perfect for Marinduque

A company called 'Lite-On' is about to release LED-based lightbulbs that look like a traditional incandescent lamp, but have batteries inside that allow them to light for a couple of hours after the power goes out .. sounds perfect for Marinduque doesn't it ?

In more real terms, the best solution I had found to keep my lights (and more importantly, fans) working during a powercut was a 4D truck battery (from the battery shop in Boac), a charger (that came from Raon) and a 'power inverter' (cheapest I could find was from here -> but they're also for sale in Boac, ask at the battery shop.. it's a guy called Eric who sells them. A charged battery will easily keep a fan, energy saving lamps and my laptop going for a day, and a pinch it runs my 32" LCD TV too which is not bad at all!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Congratulations to Congressman Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco!

My heartfelt congratulations to Lord Allan Velasco on his election to congress! I know all of Marinduque is behind me in hoping that Mr. Velasco will have the strength to promote Marinduque and bring the island forward!

On a sidenote, my congratulations go to President Benigno Aquino, the newly elected president of the Philippines. It feels like the Philippines is entering a new era, hopefully with increased transparency, clean politics, and a genuine effort for the common good. The Philippines needs to regain it's status as the most prosperous SE Asian economy, and may Marinduque regain it's position as the heart of the Philippines.

new Marinduque photos!

some new photos of my house in Marinduque .. apparently it's still standing!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I miss Marinduque!

Anyone who follows this blog will have noticed that I haven't posted anything for 3 months now, so here's an update. The reason for the lack of posting was primarily that I haven't been in Marinduque at all - We visited Malta (my home country) for a holiday and got held up here since Laila wasn't feeling very well. The good news we're having a new addition to the family soon :)

Today I got sent some photos of my house which is still in the process of being completed - We have slowed down work, especially on the finishing, since as I won't be using the place for a while it would be better go get to that stage closer to my return. I'm posting the photos with here.

I really miss Marinduque .. here in Malta it's just work, work, work and everything is so expensive! We don't have powercuts quite as often, the weather in winter is quite cold, I don't have my motorbike to drive around on, the Hotsprings are thousands of kilometres away..

ps. doesn't the staircase look cool ??

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Marinduque - Brown Out Capital of the Philippines!

Although compared to the day on / day off regime during the worst of Marinduque's powercut spell we're living in a brightly lighted heaven now, that isn't to say that there are no powercuts any more ... we had no powercuts yesterday, 2 powercuts (of a couple of hours each) the day before, and there's no power at the moment, for at least 90 minutes now ..

Still, compared to Brazil, Marinduquenos are amateurs!

Brazil Powercuts

in today's news .. a dam providing 17,000 MW, about 20% of the total power in Brazil went offline. The whole of Paraguay (the dam is on the border between Brazil and Paraguay) went off too, though not for as long as Brazil ..

Our lovely Marinduque runs on a puny 7 MW of power .. even my homeland, Malta, which has 1/3 the land area of Marinduque and twice the population, has over 700MW of power generation capability.

I keep on thinking that they can't get it right because they really don't want to!

The current rumours are that though Napocor is, for better or for worse, providing power, there is still no agreement signed between Marelco and Napocor - Marelco seem very intent on flogging their dead horse, the agreement made in 2004 with 3i Powergen .. and meanwhile, the people live in poverty.. so sad!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Smartbro is faster 9 times out of 10 .. not in Gasan!

I saw this advert on TV this week, and after patiently suffering horrendously slow Smart Bro connections for the past few months, it seemed really funny ..

I haven't had the temerity to run a speedtest, however in Gasan Smart Bro runs over a 2G network, achieving a blinding 50 kilobits / second .. that's worse than my dialup modem back in the 1990s. Coupled with modern websites, it just doesn't work .. GMail doesn't load except in the 'lite' version, and even that takes me 10 mins to log in & check my email. Facebook? forget it! Given 15 minutes of time I can just about load the Google Analytics page to check traffic on this blog.

Are any of you readers in the forgotten areas of the Philippines suffering from the internet divide? (between the haves and the have nots, that is) ..

PLDT told me a while ago that they should be launching ADSL service in Gasan come December, as with everything else in Marinduque i'm adopting a 'won't believe until I see it' and avoiding raising false hopes. It would be so nice to be back online at home!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

IHI for 2 pesos, DUMI for 5 pesos .. roll up guys!

some Santa Cruz funniness .. this sign is near a public latrine, for the non-tagalog speakers, it reads 'Piss' and 'Shit', at 2 pesos and 5 pesos respectively ..

here's a jeepney coming up to Santa Cruz public market ..

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our house in Gasan - building update..

At the moment work on the house seems to be progressing at a snail's pace - there's a lot being done, but finishing work is probably the most time-consuming work, and some jobs have been held up by miscalculations in materials, which must be shipped over from Lucena - a process which always takes a long time!

That said, the attic room is beginning to take shape - as the photos here show - the ceiling frame and panels are really complicated! Interior painting has been started too, and the bathroom tiling is mostly ready (though currently at a halt because the supplier in Lucena sent the wrong quantities of tiles).

We've had our well dug - it was quite a funny process - and very 'manual' in the filipino style - a pipe was given a pointed end, by cutting out sections with a hacksaw, beating it to a rough point, and welding the edges together. The area behind the tip was then made into a sort of rough filter, by punching holes through the pipe - not with a drill as one might expect, but by hammering a nail through the metal repeatedly! The pipe was then driven into the ground by force of lots of hammering and the occasional twist with a wrench. Incredibly water does come through, and at quite a good rate!

Also, last weekend a surveyor came over (he was meant to come the weekend before, but in the filipino idiom, didn't show up and switched off his mobile phone) and marked out the actual boundaries of the property, so now I can have a fence put up without borrowing bits of my neighbour's property..

Monday, November 2, 2009

An 'orchestral' brass band concert at Santa Cruz, Marinduque

Lately I have been missing my previous life in Europe - and what I really miss most is the cultural life - concerts, gigs, exhibitions of all sorts are always happening. Here in the Philippines, culture isn't a high priority, and once you're in Marinduque, that feeling is even more pronounced - you can't expect art galleries if there isn't even a cinema or a decent rock club! So, I was really surprised when my significant other told me she was invited to an orchestral concert last Friday, and doubly surprised when the concert turned out to be quite a decent and enjoyable event!

After a long drive we arrived at Santa Cruz - the concert was being held in a 'gym' there - it's probably the largest well lighted hall in the whole of Marinduque, so actually quite a good place. The concert was given by the Mogpog Brass Band (with 30 or more members, i'd say) led by their able conductor, together with a rock-band outfit - guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer. The bass drum guy from the brass band sang vocals on some song, and there was a woman with a really lovely voice .. the names escape me, as I didn't manage to get a copy of the programme .. if you are reading, send an email and i'll update my article!

The first part of the concert was a series of filipino band marches (which to me sounded quite similar to each other ..) followed by a number of american band marches (more of the same, but with the occasional extra flourish). The real performance was the second half of the concert - where a number of popular songs were rendered by the bands, most times with the vocalists - the first one was Evanescence's 'My Immortal', but the style went from samba to 80's (with songs like 'Gold'), all very well rendered!

The ongoing typhoon put a major damper on the proceedings round 9pm, when (in typical Marinduque style) power went out - however the conductor wrapped up the concert by bravely playing one last song in the dark, using only a torch!

So, a very enjoyable evening, and a big bravo to all those involved!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Power in Marinduque for 2 days in a row!

marelco cartoons

Yesterday the guys at Marelco amazed the residents of Gasan/Boac by not shutting off power at the customary 5pm shutoff time .. it's 9.51am the day after now, and we still have power! Seems Napocor have installed their new generator on schedule, and are again supplying enough power for the whole island. I've even heard that some residents have become allergic to electric light after 6pm and are actually keeping the lights off :)

I think Marelco is direly in need of a change in top management - they have failed Marinduque badly, and I think it's high time the people responsible resign. The sensible solution seems to be to close once and for all the failed 3i Powergen contract, and maybe sue them for damages, and hand the power generation duties back to Napocor, who seem to want the contract, and definitely have the means to supply power. I'd go as far as saying that the island urgently needs new administration in general - it's a small place, and still the top brass seems very distant from the daily life and needs of Marinduqenos. Maybe some fresh candidate, with some experience as a CEO could turn the island around.

My voice has no weight though, best I can do is wait and see what happens!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blaze Brute 150 motorcycle review - Marinduque biking

blaze brute 150
blaze brute 150
blaze brute 150

Here's a little review of a motorbike I bought to get myself mobile. Here in Marinduque, a bike is probably the best form of personal transport - it's economical and the roads are reasonably safe - nobody really goes fast and there isn't too much traffic. After shopping around a bit, I almost bought a Kawasaki Wind 125, a nice bike at 59,000php but finally settled on a Blaze Brute 150 for a few reasons - firstly the cheaper price (hard bargaining got it down to 45,000php), bigger engine (same BHP but at lower revs than the Kawasaki), electric start, and generally nicer (ie. more retro) styling. The only obvious minus compared to the Kawasaki was having a drum brake and not a disc brake in the front, but that's not really a problem.

The first bike was returned to the agent very quickly - it had a leaky fuel tank - fill it up with petrol, and it goes pouring onto the engine, not very safe. The agents here, Starbike, are really nice guys. They replaced my first bike with a totally new one, and have been very helpful in fixing all the gremlins in the 2nd one .. When it comes to gremlins, Blaze is king! On their website Blaze proclaim themselves to be a filipino company, and it shows. The bike is really chinese, but may be assembled in the philippines. The basic design is OK, the assembly is .. uhmm ... lacking! The total list of faults on my 2nd bike were : faulty starter switch, headlamp at the wrong angle (making it very dangerous at night), a wonky fuel gauge that would let you run out of petrol while merrily showing more than half a tank, a rev counter that jumps from 6000rpm to 10000rpm without any major change in engine speed or road speed, and just about everything was loose. In Starbike's defence, they have rectified all these problems (except the one with the rev counter, I didn't mention that one, and I think that having a bike without at least one gremlin will make it not filipino enough .. and also I have a feeling that if I fix that one, something else will come up ..).

With the problems fixed, the bike is actually quite nice to ride. Compared to the Kawasaki it's NOISY .. and it vibrates a lot. This is partially due to the bike's design - it seems it was designed for tricycles, so it has the following 'not so useful' features .. it's on 4 springs/shock absorbers at the rear, so it feels a bit like riding on a stone - i'm contemplating removing 2 of the shocks to afford a softer ride - and the rear sprocket wheel is enormous, with 52 teeth. On 5th gear (the bike has 5 gears, and quite a nice gearbox actually) it does 10km/hr for every 1000 rpm (that is until the rev-counter becomes wonky and you're doing 11,000rpm at 70km/hr). At normal cruising speed, 50-60km/hr here, the engine is trying to tear itself off its mounts. I'm trying to get myself a rear sprocket wheel with 42 teeth, to gear the whole thing a bit higher, but it's not a part you can buy off the shelf here in Marinduque, and the agent is quoting a 2 month delivery time. The noisiness is partly due to the engine being a bit rough, and also due to having a very small silencer. There are plus points though, the 150cc engine pulls like a beast, and because of the really low gearing, once you're in top gear there's hardly ever a reason to downshift (it can pick up again from 10km/hr in top gear with surprising power). Economy is not bad either - the tank is quite big - a full tank yesterday cost me 510 pesos, which at the current price is over 11 litres - and a full tank goes forever. I think it's doing about 50km/liter or maybe a bit less, but I haven't worked it out accurately yet. Compared to the underbones which seem to be the order of the day here it has a much more macho look .. it's a proper 'big' bike, quite heavy, and stable at speed (if you call 70km/hr speed, that is). I'm a big guy and I think on a little underbone i'd look a bit sissy. Also, it's built like a tank - strong and simple. Anything can be taken apart with a few spanners,and the construction of the bike seems like it's built to last.

There is precious little information about the Blaze Brute 150 on the internet - the company website seems to be partially complete (or partially incomplete, depending how you see it) and classifies the Brute as an underbone, which makes the rest of the technical information look suspicious.

Some additional info :
i've calculated the exact mileage the motorbike is giving me .. it's taken 10.11 litres of petrol for 347 Km, about 34.3 Km/litre. That's not very good, considering that most of my riding is done in very little traffic (this is Marinduque after all), and on paved roads which are mostly flat with very little hills here. My average riding speed is 50-60Km/hr, above 70Km/hr the engine of the bike is really stressed due to the mentioned very low gear ratios. I am hoping that once I get the rear sprocket changed mileage will improve, however finding a part is proving almost impossible - it's been ordered at the agent for close on 6 weeks now, and they have no idea when it will be delivered. 26-10-2009