A Much Needed Breather…

Just over the past week, we made yet another trip to my wife’s home in San Antonio, Zambales. We have a bunch of reasons on why we wanted to make the trip – for one, our kid turned two the past month and we thought it was a good reason to see the grandparents. Another is that we just seriously need a vacation – the initial plan was to see the Montales folk every quarter or so, but seeing as how I was very busy the past few months, I could not make the time.

In any event, we pushed through this time around and we got to enjoy a few days of being almost off the grid – almost because in as much as there is no cable tv and the place is far removed from Imperial Manila, they have a much faster internet connection there.

We left Thursday morning at Jojo’s Hour (0300) because it was going to be Aska’s coding day and that would’ve killed off almost a day worth of peace and quiet if I stayed in Manila. I really love traveling during those wee hours of the morning, and while it is dark and fairly “dangerous” with many drivers becoming sleepy at the wheel, drunk or both, I see the lessened vehicle volume to be all the advantage I could ever need. Driving at night also seems to lend well to me seeing as how I stay awake on most nights due to work.

This time around, we were traveling with my sister-in-law and she elected to sit out back beside our kid, while my wife rode shotgun. That was the plan – in practice, all three are peacefully asleep, leaving me and Aska mentally alone to enjoy the peace and serenity of the open road.

For some odd reason though, I chose to pass through San Fernando, Pampanga going to Zambales. Our normal route always made use of the SCTEX, but I thought that it would be early morning anyways and I wanted to shave off an estimated 30 kilometers off the trip distance and save some gas whilst maintaining my average speed.

Or so I thought.

The roads from San Fernando going to Dinalupihan are at times so bad that even the WRC will never have their cars pass through there. Some parts have been dug up and some are in the process of being dug up. Some of the more “exciting” parts had asphalt still remaining but had big patches missing from the road. I thought it would be a cool idea to keep the speed high and avoid the holes as much as I could. The yellow foglamps certainly helped picked out the bad parts from a distance, but on the most, I lost precious trip time going to Dinalupihan. From there, I took the SCTEX again because I was thinking that I would lose even more time going through the Olongapo – Bugallon Road.

SBMA is of course a breeze, but the roads outside of Olongapo and into Subic itself presented yet another challenge. A long stretch of road was being dug up and left only one lane of traffic on each side to traverse the muddy and bumpy way for a good kilometer or so. Past that point, it was smooth sailing going to San Antonio.

I didn’t get to do very much while at the house, and that was exactly the point! I was able to sleep at will, eat, and just laze around the place. Of course, I did take some photos, occasionally went online to check on things and continue my progress on Real Racing 3.

When evening fell on the quiet town, I stumbled upon a food stand that sold fairly passable Shawarma. It was good enough for me to keep coming back almost every evening and it gave me an opportunity to marvel at the fact that the town was so sleepy that past seven pm on any given night, the main plaza is almost devoid of people. I really like that kind of feel that you can walk outside, bump into almost no one and yet feel safe.

I also made good on a self made promise to get Aska some new clip on mirrors. The mirrors on her were already shaking pretty bad and close to just giving out on me. I had a spare set that I got from a friend of mine, but I’m keeping those as mementos since that friend is already deceased. The auto supply store, Rex’s, lies the next town over and that particular errand gave me time to drive out and relax some more while behind the wheel. Surprisingly, the mirrors were sold to me for about half the price since I last inquired about them back in March. Even then, the mirrors were still cheaper than can be had in Imperial Manila. It doesn’t help that many sellers have jacked up prices to almost ridiculous levels, saying that they’re the only ones selling the stuff and therefore giving them an unassailable excuse to mark up.

I plan on coming back to get more parts that I want, and check other places that may have other pieces of interest. I’d since put the mirrors on because I couldn’t wait to get back to Manila to do the job. One of the mirror base plates though was not angled correctly, but there was nothing some hammering could not fix. I’m glad to report that the mirrors are now very stable and do not shake with the wind while traveling at speed.

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The cool evening breeze also allowed me to indulge with a flask of Johnny Walker Black, which as a friend of mine once told me, is noob level shit. But it’s my kind of shit and with some dark chocolate, it really is my shit. I was planning to get some pork to cook up a steak but laziness got the better of me. I also shared this relatively newfound thing with my sister-in-law, who thought it was weird but ok. I guess that’s really how it goes, and is an acquired taste given the Filipino context of drinking. I capped off each night with whiskey and listening to some jazz fusion.

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I “rediscovered” this gem while on vacation. I first heard of this album as a young kid back in the last 90’s from my friend’s step-dad, who many years later would be my godfather in marriage. Great guy and I actually thought of him while I eased

Of course, I took the opportunity to hone my motorcycle skills by riding around some. I was supposed to get radiator coolant and went through a couple of stores within the towns closest to where we were. Not surprisingly, no one sold coolant there because everyone thought water by itself is great. Many people there and elsewhere in the Philippines don’t believe in using radiator coolant – maybe I can cover that on a future entry. I also had a funny run-in with some lawmen manning a checkpoint but they let me off easy after they found out I was too much of a klutz with a bike to do anything dangerous with it.

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One thing I really regret on this trip was the fact that I left my D40 at home. See, this time around, I thought I’d travel light and wanted to depend on my Xperia XA1 Plus to do all the image capturing. It did its job really well, except it could not handle one thing – the night sky. On the third night, the sky cleared up so much that I saw the band of the Milky Way. No shit, I am not and cannot make it up. Of course, to the naked eye, it appears like nothing in photos you’d see. I very easily could’ve taken such images had I the camera with me. Next time, I won’t be so lazy as to actually leave a good camera behind. I marveled at the night sky as much as I could, or as I figured, until my neck hurt.

The drive home was fairly uneventful and with a heavy heart, we had to leave early Sunday morning. This time, I went through my normal route through SCTEX. Never mind the fact that it took an extra 30 kilometers to get home, but all of it was spent at speed so it wasn’t like I was losing time anyway. We are now stopping twice along NLEX because the kid has to eat, and we thought getting out to stretch would be nice. Previously, I had my wife and kid sleep and not stop because I wanted to spend as less time on the road as possible.

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No overheating problems, but I routinely pop the hood open during stops to help cool down the fluids faster. The only bad thing about this was people saw how filthy my engine bay was err still is.

In all, Aska performed admirably during the trip. I didn’t spend much time beyond the speed limit though because the front wheel bearings now seem to need replacing. Since I replaced the bearings in the back, there was much less noise back there and I could now hear the whine of the front bearings. I knew I should’ve taken care of those previously, but I guess I’ll just do them sometime on at home since those don’t need special tools to take out and install.

 

Until the next trip then!

 

 

 

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Zambales : The First Family Road Trip

I always seem to write about stuff long after they had happened, and this is just one of the countless instances of such.

 

A few weeks months back, our son celebrated his first birthday. Before any birthday celebration of course, we had to send out invites to people whom we wanted there. However, due to the restrictions on our work schedules, we were only able to hand out a few of the invites in person. Social media and various messaging apps took care of the rest.

We did make a very notable exception though – I wanted to hand out the invites in person to my in-laws who live out in the province. I thought it was an awesome idea for the three of us – my wife, son and I to take road trip together, and deliver the invites by ourselves.

The last time I went out there was when my wife and I had to pay a visit to do an errand related to our wedding back in March 2016. I’m glad to report that this time around, I didn’t have to fiddle with Aska so much to make sure she was going to make the trip in one piece. Actually, Aska isn’t the broken down car a lot of people might make her out to be. The reason I seem to have sudden bursts of car repair activity is more to give myself some peace of mind while driving. We’re talking about long stretches of open tollways with no way to actually get help once we’re on our way.

I did fix up a lot of things with Aska since the last time we went there – I replaced all the suspension bushings in the back so the car no longer dances around, I refilled the front oil shocks (because you know, poverty) so the whole car sits really well on the road now. I had the timing belt replaced along with the water pump because the old one looks just about ready to give anytime – of course, new hoses were also in order, along with replacing the little water bypass hose that was swollen badly. Aesthetically, she was the same car except I added on a pair of 7in round fog lights – because rally car.

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All I did was muster up the balls to drill through the fascia and bumper, and bolth them down. The electricals were installed by JC’s Auto Electrical when the car was rewired about a year and a half ago.

On the day we were about to leave though, I had to pass by JC’s Auto Electrical to check something out because I mysteriously lost all the lights save for the headlights. It turned out to be a quick fix because some of the terminals had some white corrosion on them. I also got them to make sure that the new fog lights worked because the switch didn’t seem to be working well.

 

Some things I didn’t quite have the time to fix though – my clutch is old, and the pressure plate is making it heavy to push down. You have to remember, this car is so old that it uses a clutch cable instead of a more modern clutch master cylinder. Funny thing was I had a new clutch kit ready to be put in, but I didn’t want to go out and get it replaced on such short notice – besides, slip wasn’t such an issue yet and I’ll be on the highway mostly anyways. Because the decision to do the trip was made on a whim, I didn’t get to replace the mechanical clutch fan – I was supposed to drop in a huge electric fan in its place. No overheat problems whatsoever since my thermostat is still good, and I installed a big 3 row radiator months before. Still have some oil leaking through the filter, which I suspect is happening due to the engine being in dire need of an overhaul. My old man re-clamped my muffler because the old supports tore off – surprisingly, it held out the whole way and were fixed in place by off the shelf stainless ring clamps.

As a whole though, our old girl was ready to take on the journey, which she did well, considering of course that she’s a daily driven 30 year old car. Most of the time was spent cruising at a steady 3000-4000 rpms on 4th gear, which meant I was going around 80-100 km/h at any given time, jumping up to 120 km/h or so if and when I wanted to pass vehicles. Now these speeds are just approximations, I may actually be going a wee bit less since I use R15/50/195 wheels instead of the stock R13/80/155.

 

The entire trip there took about six hours, which is pretty slow considering my wife and I once made the trip in about three hours. The reason for this was because I did not want to leave with the car looking really dirty, so I insisted we drop by Sushi Machine for a quick Aska bath before heading out. Traffic along EDSA going to Balintawak was terrible, we spent about two hours just crawling to the tollway. From Balintawak to our first stop at Petron Lakeshore took only about 45 minutes. We stopped for snacks because our kid needed to eat by then, and we needed to rest and stretch our legs for a bit.

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We left after about an hour, but upon entering SCTEX, it started to rain like mad – which was where my foggies came first got their test of fire. Previously, the square driving lights I used lit up the road ahead in a wide arc. These ones first a circular beam (well of course they do) on to the road, and then lighting up some of the surrounding areas as well. It was perfect! The asphalt roads became pitch black, but the yellow light helped show the way ahead.

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It took another 45 minutes from Lakeshore to SBMA, where we had to abide by their speed limit, and I took on some gas as well. From SBMA, it took about an hour and a half to San Antonio, which slowed down the pace as there was a lot of road work going on.

As soon as I came into the house, I wanted drop and sleep but the kid wanted to play with the grandparents, so we actually went to bed a little past midnight already.

 

The next couple of days was spent lounging in their house, me attempting to call the wrath of the rain gods by washing Aska (which was effective), attending the family church, having dinner with the in-laws (oh yeah, Coco Lime is lit) and making a last minute trip to a nearby beach because my supposed trip to Cabangan did not pull through.

 

The trip back was fairly the same as the one getting to their home, and we got stuck for close to an hour from the end of SCTEX going into NLEX. The traffic was bad, and I have no idea what was going on really.

 

This time around, I felt much more at ease with the place. It’s not that I had bad experiences previously, but our last trip was made in a hurry and the one before that was a back-n-forth deal. This time around, we stayed long enough for me to know some of the neighbors, and I was able to make acquaintances in their place and church. It was a fairly simple, uneventful but definitely awesome first family road trip and will definitely be followed by another one soon.

 

So up next on my to-do list with Aska would be to hopefully get new headers because, really, mine suck so bad. This time maybe I’ll settle for a re-installation of the stock muffler I have at home because my fart can is so loud inside that I cannot have the pleasure of talking with my wife*. I want to get the electric fans installed along with the thermoswitch. The a/c condenser really needs to go, and if all goes well, get some new tires so I can use the EX rims that a friend loaned to me. I’m also considering getting shorter shocks so I can lower the car a little more (to the annoyance of my wife) and maybe ghetto fab some roll center adjusters.

 

 

 

 

~

 


 

  • – since it took so long for me to publish this, I already went ahead and put back Aska’s stock-ish chambered muffler back in. Now it is possible to have conversations in the car.

Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy : Marriage and Family Life

Alright, so I sat myself down and figured I’d go write something to pass the time. As a lot of you readers know, I got married early last year and my son was born a few months afterwards.

Marriage, a big word. One that drops men to their knees (or knee, if you want to be technical about it) and is one of the word that separates “men” from “boys”.

Family is also a big word. It has terrified both men and women since forever due to the responsibilities it entails.

 

What do I think about these so far?

 


 

Marriage

 

As far as marriage goes, I’d be one to admit that ours is not a smooth road. I don’t think it will ever be for anyone, and those who say it won’t or can’t happen to them is either lying, or haven’t encountered the rough patches yet. I’m honest enough to tell you that while a lot of people (well those within our little community) who know of our love story will tell you that we’re like a dream-come-true, we still have a lot of things to grow into. Now growing into things doesn’t always mean everything will fit snugly into place. In the same way that kids get sick while growing their baby teeth, it’s pretty much the same as with us grown-ups who are growing into a new identity, like being a mom and dad, as well as being a husband and wife. There are times of course that friction happens, and I think this is a fact of life.

When two completely different people come together and decide to start a family, there will always be arguments. Brace yourselves people – being so close to each other all the time will make the wrong words hurt much more than say if you were still living apart. A bedroom isn’t going to be big enough for a long drawn conflict.

Long before we got married, we made an agreement on a few things, and we try to remain true to these things that we’d agreed about. One would be that it’s ok to argue, but we have to make up before long. That means that even if it was time for one of us to leave for work, we have to make sure we can look at each other squarely without feeling the need to wring each other’s necks, and to always kiss each other hello or goodbye. I have to admit though – almost two years into our marriage, I am still getting used to this kind of an arrangement.

You see, I’m the kind of guy who grew up with nary a touch from my parents. I kid you not, I feel uncomfortable (not so much nowadays) with a hand to my shoulder, or a pat on the back, or even my elbow brushing against anyone’s body parts. My wife is a very sweet lady and back when we were dating, I almost always kept away from her because of this. I mean sure, we can sit together, hold hands and all but hugging is such a chore for me, except this one time when I spontaneously did so out of gratitude.

One thing we’re still working on is the fact that my wife isn’t well versed with household chores, but we’re making steady progress however small it is.

What I totally love about her is how attentive she is to our child. I mean sure, she needs a lot of help with some of the stuff, but she keeps a detailed memory on what he’s had for shots, when the next shot is, any medicines that he may need and so on. She even knows what kind of medicines I need just based out of her memory. She’s also really attentive to any health issues, almost always prodding me to see a doctor when before it gets out of hand. Me being a douche only goes when it’s already fairly bad – as evidenced by this one time I put off seeing a doctor when my throat got swollen to the point I was having a hard time breathing. You see, I grew up almost having never to see a doctor and just totally dealing with things myself, because my parents also didn’t go see doctors. She on the other hand was fortunate enough to always be within easy reach of a doctor and seems to be quite used to seeing one. In a way, she’s helping me get over my apprehension of doctors and professional medical attention.

I absolutely love the fact that even though I get grumpy due to lack of sleep, she manages to flash me a smile. I have yet to learn how to do that because when I’m grumpy, I just want to be left alone. I also don’t tend to smile very much and while neither does she, a smile from her is almost always in order before leaving for work, or coming home.

While she doesn’t really cook very much, and I’m pretty much the main chef at home, it escapes me how she can make instant noodles tasty. That had always been beyond me and I can never make those Korean noodles taste as well if I had cooked it myself. One of the things we do almost constantly is for me to buy the noodles (with her funny description of it having a “Kanji” character and not much of a name, how I even found the noodles beats me) and she will get up from bed when I come home from work. She’ll cook the noodles, sprinkle whatever sort of magic ingredient she uses, and we’ll make small talk over the kitchen counter. See, these are some of the only times we spend alone together – being parents kind of takes away a lot of the alone-ness we were so used to having.

One thing I almost immediately was able to do, was to be able to introduce her to people as my wife. I mean, it was just so natural I almost never had to think about it. One of the things people may notice about me is my apparent lack of ability to introduce people to each other, be it friends meeting strangers or vice versa. But with her, I don’t know, magic I suppose.

 


 

Fatherhood

 

On to our little bundle of explosive potential energy.

So while I work at night, and my wife is off to work in the mornings, it is but natural for me to be the one tasked with looking over our kid on the most part. We don’t have a maid – well we kinda used to but she packed up and tapped out. It’s mostly fun and games for my kid and I – wake up in the morning and feed him breakfast. Then it’s mostly a quick trip to the other garage / ghetto shop / man cave where my father often spends the day. I’ll probably leave him there for a bit while I go prepare lunch. Play around some, maybe watch some TV, give him a bath, eat lunch then nap for the afternoon. It’s a repeating cycle and while honestly I’m mostly all tired and ready to sign off into oblivion, it’s a fun thing to do. Sometimes, I even juggle the laundry for good measure. My wife keeps wondering how I seem to be able to do all those at the same time. The short answer is I don’t – what a lot of people see as multi-tasking are actually carefully orchestrated moves done in sequence. I mean hell, I only have a pair of hands and feet.

Having a kid was, quite honestly, something I had not quite imagined.

Marriage? Sure thing. As early as three weeks into our then budding relationship, I had already told my (then) girlfriend that I was not into this to play games, I was serious about her and that I want to eventually marry her. How and why I thought of this – I have no idea. Love just happened I suppose, and no one had ever promised to wait for me, much less stay. The whole thing is so ghetto in a sense that I ditched the idea of a fancy proposal, and formally popped the question in a dark lit parking lot somewhere along a tollway far from Manila.

While the above paragraphs might give you the impression that I’m some kind of superdad and husband, I’m not and I don’t really think I am. For many years prior to getting married and being thoroughly surprised that we were going to be parents, I had not given thought about having kids of my own. I’m not very fond of children, although I would make an exception of my sister since she was really easy to take care of when we were kids. There was this one kid with whom I grew really fond of, but sadly I had to resign myself to the fact that I may never see her again since I had decided to ditch that portion of my life.

Now as an almost full time dad, I could say that while I miss gigging, learning and writing music, working on Aska, driving, doing Gunpla, drinking myself into near alcohol poisoning levels and so many other things, I think I’m slowly growing into this new mold of being a father. I’m sure my wife also misses so many things that she was into while she was still single, so I’m surely not alone in this venture.

Right now, I don’t have any set expectations for my son yet. Although I think I should say that I do, but it’s more of a general expectation for him to grow up into a fine man. I’d definitely show him the ropes as the time comes for each one to be learned. A lot of folks are saying the kid will be musically inclined seeing as how my wife is a good (even if she doesn’t think it) singer, and I’m a guitar player (mostly) in a band (/s). I don’t know,  but there’s definitely a lot more to learn about over the next few years.

 

 


 

What now?

 

I must admit that I still have so much to learn about all these things happening in life. There are times that I loose my almost Kolinahr-esque way of dealing with things. I’m quick to admit faults, but of course sometimes, a lot of things get in the way. In this regard, I’m glad to know that I’m still human and not Vulcan or something.

One thing is for sure though – I’ll hold up my end of the bargain to make sure that my wife was not wrong in telling me she wanted to stay, and probably try my hardest to be the best father to my son.

 

I guess those car and guitar repairs can wait for a bit while I figure it all out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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