Category: Humor

Happy national breakfast day!

national breakfast day at StarbucksThe event is McDonald’s, but for some reason branches in Baguio have not reached out to their customers earlier and openly hence the poor turn out. I got irritated when the crew who approached me trying to “sell” the PHP49 coupon of hash browns and coffee(?) couldn’t explain to me the mechanics well. I don’t get this grumpy easily but having fasted the night before and having let out blood first thing that morning probably had messed up my body chemistry. So I gave him back the coupons and told him and the cashier I bloody want BREAKFAST not a hash brown or a muffin. Somehow that got everybody behind the counter laughing – perhaps the way I spoke – which eased my conscience a bit.

Then afterward I had dessert at Starbucks, for the reason that McDo doesn’t have hot chocolate. So yeah- my side of the story on such a day. McDonalds (franchise owners) has to step up standardization of customers’ brand experience across the country. Staying true to it’s advertisements, the same level of quality in service and products regardless of location, in Jolo or in Makati City, should be in place.

I’ve been inside plenty of branches across the country and my experience of the brand in each was far from standard. Such impacts on the overall brand quality. The question in the mind of the customer is, what makes this or that branch stand out from the rest? if there are branches that meet the McDonalds standards, how come it’s not happening in all?

More than just an interpreter

​The funny scene in My Girl wherein Gong Chan (Lee Dong Wook) and his business partners are eating while Yoo Rin (Lee Da Hae), her stomach grumbling with hunger, was still focused on translating the conversation at table because her employer Gong Chan had not permitted her to eat along with them reminds me of a similar experience. Real time translation looks easy peasy but it’s actually not. If it does seem a breeze, you’re seeing the result of skills honed by years of experience.

At the time, I translated for a team of researchers from abroad who did a study among Filipino youth. The primary methodology was focus group discussions with groups of eight to ten young men and women not necessarily high school or college graduates who understandably prefer to use Tagalog. There were also a few intervewees from agencies who preferred to speak in the vernacular. Hence the need to translate responses in Tagalog to English and back.

The first FGD was a test, to give us a feel of how we sync with one another ie. myself and the researchers. Although we had been communicating through email about the work ahead, we only met for the first time in person on the day we started with the first FGD.

We got caught in EDSA’s infamous traffic. Riding from Makati City to Quezon City, we arrived at the venue a little past noon, or a total 3.5 hours! Welcome to the Philippines! Mabuhay! Boiling up in our throats, a string of expletives held in place by good manners and right conduct. After a profuse show of apologies to everyone who had been waiting, we immediately got down to work.

I didn’t know about my companions but I was hungry. Really hungry. In fact, my stomach growled. Breakfast – banana and coffee – was my last food intake. I was sure the guy researcher, seated beside me, also heard my innards which in the ensuing two-hour FGD didn’t let up. He is apparently the quintessential English gentleman and so I was sure he heard nothing of consequence. At the start of the second FGD though, he sat next to me again explaining, I need to hear you more clearly. The aircon’s busted, I think. Was he humoring me? But since we already had our lunch before then, I said yes, sure confident there was absolutely nothing to hear that time around.

On-the-job rapport with the researchers went pretty well. The pace of the discussions posed a bit of a challenge though. Participants speaking spontaneously in reaction to another’s statement is hard to manage without some rules set early on, as for instance, reacting or adding to another’s statement will be done only after the interpreter has already translated said statement.

Also, the importance of making translations as close as possible to what was originally said. This is a challenge when Tagalog words or phrases especially those touching on local culture and life do not have exact translation in English. Bayanihan, for instance. Technically-correct translation is, aid or assistance from neighbors and community residents. But, in the context of Filipino culture, bayanihan actually goes deeper than that. When encountering this, I forego further explaning to the researchers so as not to stall the flow of discussion, take mental note of the words, and when I’m alone with the team, in the car while wrestling traffic or at the hotel for debriefing, that’s the time I expound. As a researcher myself, I’m aware that interpretation of context, place, people, or history has significant impact on the research outcome. That’s one of the limitations faced by foreign researchers- they need adequate time to immerse in the local in order to understand it and tell of it with authority, or lacking that, learn from a reliable source.

There was just this one hitch during the field work. On the first day of scheduled FGDs, the same guy who may have heard my hunger pains disrupted me while I was translating his colleague’s query (spoken in English) for the participants. He told me about the need to translate as close as possible to original statements. I got irritated, that I was cut in the middle of translation, my head screaming at him like, go to hell! I am doing it, if you understand Tagalog. But, I guess, these things are forgiveable on first meetings when we were all feeling each other out, so instead I looked him in the eyes, nothing antagonistic by it, just to transmit the message that I did know he’s from Oxford but I’m the interpreter so cool it. I noted on the side the wonderful color of his eyes before returning my attention back to the group. He returned to recline in his chair beside me.

In group discussions, the interpreter, putting into play various skills, is in effect the one touching base with participants- asking the questions in a language they understand, making them feel at ease (by telling jokes, related stories, and the like) in order that they’ll respond well, being present to their responses to be able to translate these in good form, expounding on terminologies not readily understood, etc. In short, bridging worlds. That’s why in the movie we see Gong Chan’s business partners asking for repeat service from Yoo Rin who charmed them in ways other than merely rendering translation.


Now that India has got it’s tax reform by the ears, it’s extending the same interest toward the chambers. A new Kama Sutra position, in keeping with population challenges: the dishwasher position. Anyone? ​

Glad for weird

blessings quoteIn fact, I feel an equation happening at the edges of my mind. I was laughing saying this to a friend on the phone. I was back to form and had just described the pain in my head I’ve battled with for a week .

Like there was lightning inside my head. Like it was a maze of live wire, I said. I haven’t experienced anything like it.

Look up Tesla, he said.


T-e-s-l-a. He supposedly felt the same thing when he made his inventions. Lightning-like flashes inside his head.

I laughed out loud. You gotta be kidding me!

I’m serious, he said. Maybe you’re now a genius.

I laughed some more. That’s when I told him about the equation. Just for laughs. And then our talk segued to aliens.

I kind of believe in aliens now, he said.

I laughed. I didn’t know what to make of it.

But we remembered together a professor at UP Diliman who was among those who founded the national chapter of Raelian Movement, believers in E.T. and stuff. At first, my colleagues and I laughed at what the professor was telling us, the UFO revelations he had, but because he was kind of scientific about it all we took him more seriously although to me, then and now, the idea is preposterous. But I’m fascinated with their suppositions.

Weird stuff. But after so much pain I’m glad even for weird stuff.