• Canada connections


    IT is public knowledge that you need connections to get anywhere in the Philippines – career-wise, that is.

    Getting to your destination by LRT or public transportation is another thing.

    The country’s culture of patronage politics that engenders political dynasties provides the connection between the power source, the distributors and ultimately the public.

    To level the playing field, a resourceful, regular Juan or Juana must design and generate his and her own power source. As a necessary evil, a hybrid generator getting a certain amount of power from the official source combined with batteries, solar, wind and hydroelectric power might work: It would require a lot of work.

    And a whole lot of compromises along the power grid.

    I am in Vancouver at the time of writing and need to send my column. I need connections. I can use my Philippine SIM card and incur roaming charges or rely on the hybrid offer from a Canadian telecomm with a local telecomm provider at a flat rate of only P599 a day (roughly $14 Canadian) but only for data roaming. No calls or texts.

    Since I will be staying in Canada and the US for nine days, the PH-Canadian telecomm power combo would charge me a total of P5,391. At the current exchange rate of P34.94 to Canadian $1, I would be bilked $154.32.

    Pre-paid internet connection in the Philippines costs only P50 and at least a thousand-peso worth of patience. Remember the country has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world, just a rank above bottom dweller Afghanistan.

    “Pathetic,” Senator Chiz Escudero laments; and that’s coming from his heart.

    An alternative is to get a local pre-paid Canadian SIM card (e.g., Telus, Bell or Rogers) valid for 30 days or a week, depending on the plan. Since I will stay here only for two days, proceed to California and Texas then back to Canada, I would need a SIM card that I can use for both countries.

    Because the US and Canada share the longest international border in the world, longer than that of Mexico to the south, it seems logical that a telecomm company (big players or start-ups) would offer such a plan.

    Turned out to be true.

    I found a deal inside Lansdowne Center, just a stone’s throw from Richmond Centre, the biggest mall in this city next to Vancouver. A $45 Canadian SIM card would get me unlimited US and Canada-wide calls, unlimited international text and unlimited 5GB at full speed!

    A no-brainer deal –so I bought the card.

    Whenever on a business trip to British Columbia (Western Canadian province which has the most temperate winter and cooler summer months than most) I stay in a hotel close to the airport then take either the bus or Sky train to the city.

    This time I had to meet up with Ms. Tomoe (“Toh-moi”) Aoyagi, Manager, International Marketing, Department of International Education of Langara College. Langara was (according to Google map) only 10 to 15 minutes from Travelodge Vancouver Airport Hotel at St. Edwards Drive. It was – but it cost me $20 Canadian. More than I would pay for a bus or train.

    The alternative is a bus ride to Cambie station where you exit to 49th Street—and voila!—Langara College campus is just a block down. However, there is a 10-minute wait and ride from the hotel to the station, then a five minute wait for the train, another 10 minute ride to Cambie station then a 20 to 30 minute walk to the college campus.

    $20 then seems the logical and viable option. No sweat.

    My meeting with Ms.Tomoe was at 10 am. I got up at 7 a.m. Vancouver time (as I was able to get a shut-eye at 4 a.m. due to a mild jet lag). I wanted to be there early.

    Got off the cab in front of Langara College, walked towards Building A (where the International Recruitment Office is) and since it was a few minutes before 9 a.m. followed my nose toward the cafeteria which turned out to be on the same floor, just a few meters from the building entrance.

    Most colleges have a Tim Horton (Canada’s Starbucks equivalent) on campus and the Langara concessionaire did not have sandwiches: only coffee and baked goods. A caffeine addict and a sucker for sugar rush, I was home.

    Then I got the shock of my life.

    I need connections. I have my laptop, tablet and cell phone all tethered to my Philippine mobile wi-fi. For my gadgets to work, I have to pay the price of compromise.

    The Philippines is 16 hours ahead of the West Coast (where British Columbia is) so it would be late Thursday night (Manila time) and late noon Friday to get my column in.

    Heck. I will just wait till I get back to Travelodge. Wi-fi is free, fast and convenient. I have till Wednesday night (Vancouver time) to more than beat the deadline.

    Yup. You have to be connected anywhere in this planet to get ahead – or at least keep pace. But I do not need a politician father or a congresswoman mother to get my message across.

    The way 2016 is shaping up, it would not be surprising to have a Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Kris Aquino president and vice-president tandem.

    Noynoy may be turning a new leaf but Ninoy would be turning in his grave.

    There had been straws thrown in the wind by supporters of the Presidential sister – “o, di baaaa?” And Congresswoman Imelda thinks Bong Bong would be a shoo-in candidate, big enough to fill both Ferdinand and Imelda’s shoes.

    Maybe the current state of despair, anger, feeling of helplessness exacerbated by poverty and corruption (which should have been significantly reduced to justify the people’s genuine support for the anointed) has not reached a critical mass.

    Or maybe – just maybe – Filipinos could still surprise us and use the ultimate surge of People Power?


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