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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Powercuts, construction,and general thoughts ..

It's been a while since I posted photos of my 'work in progress' house in Quatiz, so here are a few ..

this one is the ceiling under the awning of the roof at the front edge, almost done (it's actually totally ready today - photos are a few days old)

and the interior ceiling in the bedroom

a slightly lower shot showing the granite tiles ..

higher shot with more ceiling ..

this is the 'glass block wall' that separates the main bedroom from the living room, from the bedroom it's west facing, and it gets the sunset beautifully! (there is the large front door opposite)

the wooden ceiling frames

Since these photos were taken, all the granite tiling has been done, the ceiling frames and ceilings are done too, and there is a lot of little plastering going on. Next jobs are the front and rear fences (made of concrete, with wood gates, to resist seawater corrosion!) and tiling the terrace area. Plumbing in the bathroom is done, what's left is the tiling and putting everything together .. i'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

The french windows are a bit behind schedule - the carpenter is complaining he can't work because of the continuous powercuts, and I do not blame him. I am trying to get hold of a generator large enough to power his tools - the one we have at the site currently (and running almost all the time) is only a 1.5 kVA model, and can power the angle grinder, or the planer, or a couple of power drills, but that's all .. still it's a godsend and without work would have ground to a halt!

Today there was a very successful mass rally to show Marelco that the people of Marinduque are very unhappy with the crisis with electrical power. It has been suggested that Napocor resume where they left off in 2004 and take over power generation for this island - I think that would be a great solution as a national company like Napocor surely has the resources necessary to succeed where 3i Powergen, the private company meant to be supplying power to Marinduque but actually doing nothing, failed miserably. There is still no end in sight to get the actual problems solved, but the word around is that by the end of October power should be back to 'normal' (what 'normal' is here is debateable .. one powercut a month would be a great achievement! - but I think that's more than what is expected here!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fire in Gasan Public Market, Dili - Marinduque

gasan marinduque market fire

After a relatively early night enforced by yet another 'brown-out', I was woken up midnight-ish by what sounded like a very badly organised marching band .. it wasn't a dream - the sound didn't go away and after a while I decided to investigate.
Looking outside I could see a bright orange glow in the sky, and the tops of the tallest palmtrees were clearly illuminated. The Gasan Public Market had somehow caught fire.

I didn't have my camera handy (left it in Tabi) and the video camera only had enough power for a couple of shots, but here's one anyway.

The public market was totally destroyed - most of poblacion's populace was at the scene, together with fire engines from Gasan and even Buenavista. People could be seen desperately trying to salvage stock from the stores at the fringes of the fire. Incredibly even the central
fish/meat market area, which consists mostly of concrete tables seemed to be on fire.

It seems nobody was hurt, fire engines turned up promptly, and the fire did not spread beyond the central market area ie. the surrounding shops are unharmed. Let's hope the market can be rebuilt - it's my first destination every morning at 6am for a dalawang portion of lugaw.

I'll post more photos as soon as i'm properly online ..