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A NOSTSALGIC RUN IN ZAMBOANGA CITY, THE CITY OF MY CHILDHOOD -Part 3

I failed to publish this when I was supposed to i.e. October 2013. My childhood friend Oscar has since died – a few months after his brother Augusto did. Shortly after we met then (as I reported in this blog), Oca was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. We pray for him and all the faithful departed.

Melody Theater by Orlando Uy

Melody Theater by Orlando Uy

Passing through The Edwin Andrews Airbase brought back nostalgic memories of the quiet streets of Sta. Maria where I used to ply with my bike, stopping by the homes of Butch Natividad or Oca Covarrubias, or a nervous rush through Doña Vicenta Drive. The side streets of Sta. maria were normally deserted then and it was just perfect for lazy quiet bike runs.

By this time I was entering my third kilometer. Normally I drink my water on my third kilometer if I plan a run longer than 10 kilometers. And today was such a day. As I had met my dear classmate Oca Covarrubias the day before, I wanted to surprise him by dropping by and asking for water. Then I would have the chance to see him, his mother, and his brother Augusto who had a stroke recently.

I was in for a shock.

As I reached Oca’s house, I asked for him and looking at me painfully, the lady who was apparently a relative, asked me “hende ba tu si Guido?” I took off my sunglasses and said, “si, talli ba si Oca?” With a really heartbreaking look, she told me that Augusto, Oca’s younger brother had just expired a few minutes before I arrived. Stunned, I couldn’t move and say anything…until Oca came out confirming Augusto’s death.

Oca and I go back to grade school years. So inevitably we spent time with each other’s families. Although I hadn’t seen his family for decades, it was still a shock to me especially under the circumstances, learning of Augusto’s passing. I decided not to get inside the house anymore to let Oca and his mother grieve in private.

I ran on and as I was approaching the corner of Sta. Maria Road and Gov. Ramos, I saw the at the corner of my eye the former house of the Dugan family which was subsequently rented by the Escudero family. I remembered that not far along to the east was the former Greenfields Barbecue place. I could not let my thoughts stray too far away as the traffic at the corner was horrible!

After the corner I was trying to look for the house of the Camins family. I was even hoping to catch a glimpse of Junie or Mrs. Camins, my teacher. The scenery had changed and I was no longer sure about the houses. I avowed though that I will be back to drop by these houses and visit my old friends.

I now reached the old Climaco house and by that time I was looking for the old house with flowers which was featured in many postcards in my younger days. This was owned by someone I only remember by the name of “Ñor Teng” (although I am now informed it is owned by the late Carmen Lacandalo Basilio) I couldn’t find it! It must have been covered now with the concrete houses. I remember the house well because behind it was a hill that we used to climb and eventually led us to our house. I soon approached the property where our house was located (“Kilometro Quatro” we used to call it).

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Our house was no longer there. Instead it was an empty lot with a few trees. We used to have lanzones in that property and right at the back was a stream where we used to bathe and catch tilapia. A small brook meandered through our property and my mother built our dining room right above the brook making it one of the most refreshing place to have a meal. Our dining room was just screened from floor to ceiling and the wooden slat floors had a small gap allowing us to see the water below and hear the soothing sound of water as well.

I slowed a bit to look whether the Montojos were still around but I found the house quiet. So I ran further and went up on the left hand road at the fork at the bottom of “kilometro cinco.” I didn’t realize the uphill climb was not that bad at all.

I then ran through the Tañada swimming pool, and up the “Wee-wee” kiddie’s pool and I stopped for a while at the “natural” pool.

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From there it was a downhill run passing through the Limbaga shrine where I spent so many nights camping and attending campfires. Stories of half-man half-pigs filled my childhood days in those camping days and they did not leave me until I was much older. We also used to have the School-at-Camp where for a week the students from the Zamboanga State College (now WIMSU) Laboratory School would camp and commune with nature. This was also the chance for us to socialize with our female classmates and hopefully hold the hands of our crushes!

The picture above shows the venerable Charlie Escudero the all-time master of the Boy Scouts in Zamboanga City with my mother, Gloria, and some of her friends.

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The Tree House is till there today and I remember I used to bring food and ironed clothes to my cousin, Nang Menchie Marfori-Avanceña who lived in the tree house when she was awarded the “Miss Caltex” title years and years ago. My mother is in this phto with her friends.

I finished running when I reached the fork in “kilometro cinco” and by then I had done eight (8) kilometers.

Indeed, a nostalgic run through my childhood years. I wish to make another run some day but hopefully Zamboanga City will be cleaner by then.

TECHNOLOGY, THE STAR TOLLWAY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND DEVELOPMENT

TECHNOLOGY, THE STAR TOLLWAY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND DEVELOPMENT

It is indeed commendable that the Star Tollway managers are strictly implementing the 100 kph speed limit in that expressway. They have installed speed radars calibrated to catch cars on video at strategic places. They apprehend you at the toll exits where they politely tell you that the radar/video caught you over-speeding.

Having heard a lot of friends, including my son, who were apprehended, I was determined to make sure I will not go past 100 kph. However, I wondered, what happens when you do keep your speed limit and Star Tollway management still stops you? What happens when you surge past 100 kph for safety purposes e.g. overtaking a car that suddenly slows down in front of you with another car right behind you? I guess this is the reason other countries’ speed limits have a 10%-15% tolerance, Having driven in these countries all my life, I was never caught for over-speeding.

Going back to the Star Tollway, I wondered what proof would you have to counter their argument? I am sure they can show you their video and the latest calibration test, but not while you are sitting there on the road, arguing with the traffic enforcers. With the P3,000 fine PLUS the hassle of getting your license from the Lipa branch of the LTO, these are enough to entice one not to “over speed”. On the other hand, what if the radar was wrong? What if it was just a surge within tolerable or allowable limits? In other countries, there is a whole legal industry just dealing with traffic violation. So I guess violators in these countries have access to a rich jurisprudence to make sure their rights are protected. We don’t have the same benefit here, I imagine.

In my old SUV, I have a dashboard camera from which you can calculate your speed and location (it has a built-in GPS). The old SUV also has a secret tracker installed that allows me to track the SUV’s location using my mobile. I do not have this gadget in my new SUV. I have, in the past, used this dashboard camera against traffic cops who stopped me for red light violation. The video will clearly show whether one went through a red light or not.

These thoughts were in my mind as I was about to enter the Star Tollway from Batangas City. I decided to use my iPhone and the SUV’s Cruise Setting in a combination to protect myself in case I get apprehended. The Cruise Setting will show the speed at which I set the limit (in reality you can manipulate it up or down); the iPhone I used to capture the settings in a photo – it will show that my setting is indeed at the speed set to “cruising speed,” as well as indicate the time and location of the photo.

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I took a total of 3 photos of the settings maybe 5 -7 minutes apart, just for good measure. In my mind I was imagining an argument with the traffic cop and these pictures will just show him proofs of my concern about speeding. I highest speed I set the Cruise Setting was 97 kph:

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True enough, as soon as we exited the Calamba toll exit, there were two traffic cops who were waiting as I cleared the E-Pass barrier. As soon as he said I was caught by the camera overspending at 111 kph under the last bridge before the exit, I told myself, am I ready for you!

I got my iPhone 5s, showed them the pictures of the Cruise Settings and then explained to them how Cruise Setting works. I said I precisely went to this exercise because I felt I would be apprehended one of these days, and today could be the day. So they were taken aback; and I could see in the faces of the apprehending officers that they were not ready to face the situation. So they called in their chief, a lady.

So again I told her my story: I precisely took pictures of the Cruise Settings of my SUV to make sure I had proofs that I was conscious and abiding by the 100 kph rule. I told her that based on the experiences of my own son and friends, I felt I should protect myself against being told of breaking the law when in fact I did not. The lady chief did explain that the radar was recently calibrated and couldn’t have committed a mistake. On the other hand, I said I can download the data from the SUV computer and prove to her categorically that I couldn’t have been driving at 111 kph. The average must have been, mathematically, less than 97 kph because that was the upper limit I set. The photographs showed the speed and the time elapsed between the photographs; and knowing how Cruise Settings work, the speed couldn’t have veered much from the set limit. I told her I was willing to go to court and to have the court decide which data will hold water: their recently-calibrated radar, or my SUV’s computer system? If my SUV’s computer is telling me I am running 97 kph and their radar is telling me I am running at 111 kph, which information will be admissible in court? And if the SUV’s computer is wrong, will the driver of the SUV be responsible? What if the radar is wrong? What will happen to all of the past fines collected? An operative fact done in good faith?

What if I asked about the competency of the operator of the radar, or the basis upon which the radar was calibrated. These are just the many things I can ask about the radar according to one website that focuses on radar-related arrests:

1. Radar/laser device make, model, serial number, options, and age
2. The radar/laser device operator manual and specifications
3. Radar/laser device calibration certificates and calibration log sheets for the year before the violation (and months following if available)
4. All other maintenance and repair history of the radar/laser device
5. Failure and error rates of the radar/laser device
6. The officer’s certificate of competency
7. Records relating to the training received by the officer regarding the use of the radar/laser device including including dates, location, and instructor name and address
8. The training materials used by the officer when training on the radar/laser device
9. Date that the officer first used the radar/laser device
10. Information relating to the educational background of the radar operator to determine whether he or she possessed the requisite skill necessary to properly make detailed measurements based solely upon visual observation; this visual observation is commonly used to verify the accuracy a speed measurement device result
11. Radar only: National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Public Safety Radio Services license (this license is typically good for a few years; alternatively, if the unit is unlicensed, it was being operated unlawfully).
12. Radar only: Radar guns are calibrated using tuning forks, which themselves must be calibrated. In addition, therefore, the calibration records and log sheets associated with the tuning fork(s) used to calibrate the radar detector will be required.

In fact, are our laws on radar-related speeding offences in place? Do we have trained personnel and do we have an established calibrating process? On broader front, how updated are our laws on road construction? Are the expressways, in fact, calibrated for the speed limits we impose? It might be we have too high speed limits. I have always maintained that it is not safe to drive above 60 kph in any road in the Philippines. Pedestrian behaviour (like cutting wire fences in C5), road design, lighting standards, urban growth (town centres along the highway), and drivers’ skills, all point out to a personal conclusion that we cannot afford to drive, as a country, more than 60 kph.

It must have occurred to this lady chief, who was really smart, that these questions do need profound pondering by the authorities. And she sensed I was not letting her go away without a fight. Although I was polite, I was firm about my stand: I took pains to follow the law and I took the extra effort to prove I was following the law. Technology made that possible and I knew I had a strong case should she decide to go to court.

So she said: “111 kph isn’t really way off the limit, so I am letting you go. Just show me your license and you are free to go. Just be careful sir as anything more than that speed we will need to apprehend you next time.” The lower ranking enforcers were polite too and wished me a safe travel. The lady chief was also correct in that in other countries, a 10 mph (16 kph) or less speed over the limit in 55 mph (88 kph) to 75 mph (120 kph) is not considered, by law, a violation (check for example: (http://www.kansashighwaypatrol.org/faqs/violations.html).

It is indeed gratifying to know that we are now serious about enforcing our rules and regulations. And for this, Star Tollway has to be commended. In fact if the government is serious about curbing overspeeding, shouldn’t requiring speed governors on all vehicles be required? This will be especially helpful for buses who carry innocent passengers everyday.

However, on the other hand, that incident did provoke me to think how ordinary citizens can be protected against accusations against which they just do not have the means to prove their innocence. Maybe they do not have the resources to pay for information, or maybe that cannot afford to hire researchers, technology or maybe just a good lawyer. How many innocent men and women get convicted because they are poor? If their poverty is what prevents them from getting the protection they need against false accusations, shouldn’t the state help them have this access?

It might have been a simple traffic violation misunderstanding, but it begs the question whether our country is in fact ready for a simple traffic violation. And if this premise proves to be correct, we ponder then on how much more we need to work to bring prosperity and well-being to our countrymen.

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A screen shot of the StrongVPN Website

Our Streaming Hero: Strong VPN

A screen shot of the StrongVPN Website

A screen shot of the StrongVPN Website

An important system that is adjunct to my SONOS system is my virtual private network (VPN). My VPN has its IP address in the US so that it will allow my to stream Pandora, Sirius, Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify streaming services. These are the more popular and reliable steaming services these days and they all form part of my entertainment system.

A VPN literally creates a tunnel from my house to an IP address in the US. Think of it this way: my house is in Pasig but I have an underground tunnel in my basement which connects to a house in the US. This allows me to receive newspapers, mails, and whatever else I need in the US from my house there. Whoever delivers in the US need not bother about the tunnel. As for as he/she is concerned, the delivered address is in the US. Then the occupant of my house in the US then scurries through the tunnel and delivers the goods to my house in Pasig.

There are, I am sure, quite a number of VPN providers out there. And I am not sure who is the best out there. I am, however, very happy with my own provider, StrongVPN. The company has been around for sometime and they have two major advantages for me:

> First, their live chat is what they advertise: live, fast, and knowledgable.

> Second, they have a partner with Sabai Technology, a router provider that provides an operating system (OS) that has been optimized to run StrongVPN’s protocols. I have a Linksys E3000 router with a Sabai VPN accelerator.

With my StrongVPN system my Apple TV setup is now more powerful. I can access its Netflix and Hulu Plus services. Streaming video around the house is fast and digital music streamed through my SONOS is of very high quality. All these hardware, however, will be nothing unless your Internet provider is giving you the bandwidth you need.

And this will be for another topic: the quality of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the Philippines.