Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free the baby Pawikans

"What will you name your turtle, Papa?, " Lucas asked as we drove to Bataan, excited about the prospect of participating in a Pawikan release activity in Anvaya Cove.

"I'm calling mine Pokerface, Iya's calling hers Jelly, Ate will call hers Pesto, and Mommy's will be called Wikan....what'll you call yours?"  I thought for a moment and said, "I'll call mine 'Goodbye.' "

The day of the release activity, we went to the beach and there was a small crowd, mostly seated waiting for the ceremony to start.  It was sunny but the oncoming summer's stifling heat had, thankfully, not yet arrived. There was a light westward breeze and a whisper of excitement in the air as Moms and Dads, kids of different ages eagerly awaited the arrival (or departure?) of the little turtles.  It was an event we thought might be educational and fun....and we were NOT disappointed.

After the customary greeting by the designated hostess for the event, the main speaker was introduced  - Mang Manolo Ibian, who was part of the Pawikan Sanctuary of Morong, Bataan.  He was a simple man, with a simple the turtles.

There are 5 varieties of turtles in the Region -  Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Olive Reedley and Loggerhead.  In Bataan, the Olive Reedley was the local species.  The egg laying season starts in November and ends in February.  Each turtle comes back to within 20 kms of the original beach from which they hatched and went out to sea.  Each female will lay about 100 to 150 eggs during the season and will not do it again until after 2 years.  Studies have shown the probability of turtle hatchling survival to full adulthood is 1 out of 100 owing to many natural predators as well as  one unnatural one...yes his name is Man.  

All this information can be found on the internet but what we found really educational and inspiring was the story of the men and women who volunteered their time and effort to ensure the continuity of the program and perhaps the species in this little corner of the world.

During the entire egg-laying season, volunteers walk along 7 kilometers of coastline twice a night, checking for nests.  When they find a nest, they have 2 hours to transport it to their protected sanctuary and 'plant' them in protected nests to develop.  After 2 hours, the turtle fetus begins to develop and locks in on the magnetic coordinates of the place to ensure they will know where to come home to lay eggs.  If the eggs are not 'settled' within 2 hours, the egg will likely abort.  

The volunteers make sure that half of the eggs are exposed to the sun and the others are protected by a layer of sand or are in the shade.  Apparently temperature dictates temperatures beget females and cooler climates beget males...hence the expression 'you're a cool-headed turtle boy.'

Over the past 10 years this particular pawikan sanctuary has been in existence, the volunteers have covered a distance equivalent to the distance from Manila to Sao Paolo, Brazil and have successfully released close to 57,000 turtle hatchlings.

So I thought about walking 14 kilometers a night for 4 months, sometimes finding eggs, many nights coming up empty handed but just the same, caring for the eggs and ensuring they are protected.   But why?  Well, why not?  What a life, what a calling.

The lecture finished with an open forum which Mang Manolo ably managed, answering questions with the relaxed and confident certainty of a man who has affirmed his place in Mother Nature's commando army.  Applause and congratulations were followed by careful instructions on how to hold the hatchlings (with the fingers on either side of the shell, firmly but carefully)...before gently putting them down on the sand, facing the horizon.

We all lined up behind the roped off area on the beach beyond which our little friends were to scurry across the sand and swim out to whatever or wherever their energy, the current, the wind would take them.  The little ones were in styrofoam ice chests....  ..the same kind, ironically, that fishermen used to store their fresh catch.  We took one turtle (turtlet? turtling?) each and, as instructed, held them gently and, for a few seconds, we all hoped for some maternal, paternal or fraternal imprint to register in the the tiny creature's brain before we were encouraged to put them gently down on the sand, facing the sea.

The hatchlings scurried out, at what appeared to be varying levels of excitement and enthusiasm.  On one end were the laid back dudes, enjoying the scenery, relishing the trip and on the other end, the Type A turtles...sprinting in a race to the water.

Everyone then began to individually encourage their little wards. Isca and the the kids were shouting out to their own little turtles..."Go Poker face!.....Let's do it, Wikan....Move it, Pesto....Move, Move, Jelly"

Me?  I was just saying..."Bye-bye, Goodbye, Goodbye,  Goodbye" until he reached the water.

He was a 'he'..I'm sure...  Cool, like his father.....and his father's father.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Starbucks, my name is XANDOR!!!

Flashback to the opening of the first Starbucks' store in 6750 Ayala.  The crowd had thinned by Day 4 and I decided to finally give it a try. Spanking new interiors greet me and the scent of coffee permeates the air.  

'Good afternoon, sir..welcome to Starbucks," chirped the barrista behind the counter.  'Good afternoon, yourself," I responded, surveying the menuboard for my caffeine fix of choice. 'I'll have a grande latte, please.'

'A grande latte..very good about a pastry to go with that, sir,' she said, in her memorized spiel. ' Not today, thanks,' I replied.'

'May I have your name for the cup, sir?' 

'Why not?,' I think to myself.

What followed was a back and forth dialogue which has been repeated perhaps hundreds of times in many different Starbucks branches across the Philippines.

'My name is Roddy.'




Didnt she hear me?...... 'Roddy.' 


What's wrong with this girl?......  'Roddy.' 


What the...bisaya?!!....... 'Roddy!' 


This is unbelievable!......'RODDY!' 


At this point, I crossed my arms, raised my eyebrows and in the deepest voice I could muster, I said, ' name is Batman...but don't tell anyone.'  

I eventually get my drink after we both have a laugh about it.  The barristas in this branch eventually get my name right...only because I would stop by everyday before going to work.

But as I said, the situation has repeated itself many, many other times.  I've come up with a variety of responses to this same situation which, at least, provide me some amusement and compensate me for the  mangling of my name.

In my best supervillain voice, I exclaim....'MY NAME IS XANDOR.....X-A-N-D-O-R!. ....XANDOR!!!    I think twice before adding a 'mwahahaha' in the end.


'Jose Rizal'



On one occassion, as I was waiting for my drink, the barrista shouted over the counter,  'Grande Mocha Frapuccino for....POGI!'  There was a middle-aged causcasian lady waiting beside me who, apparently understanding what the name meant, smiled and looked at me, 'yours?'  I smiled back and replied, 'you think so?'  We both had a good laugh but didn't hang around long enough to check who this mysterious person with a good-looking name was.  Maybe he waited 'til the coast was clear lest he be charged with false advertising.

I realized soon after it made more sense to order the drink under a simple pseudonym which was easy to understand and not likely to be misread, misheard or misspelled.

I settled on 'Bob.' Simple, short..3 letters..what could go wrong, right?  Wrong.

While this Starbucks-pseudonym worked most of the time, there were 2 occassions which made me question my judgement.

One was in Starbucks Tarlac...Hacienda Luisita..'Small name is Bob.' 

'Thank you sir'

A few minutes later the on deck barrista announced..'Small Americano for MAV!'

Hard to believe...misspelled, misheard and mispronounced the simple name of 'Bob'...not even one correct letter.  Besides, what the hell kind of name is 'Mav?'

The second incident was in my previous life -  a regional meeting where we had a senior executive visiting from headquarters.  I walk into the meeting with my daily grande americano, labelled with my Starbucks name on the side.  I sit down and in walks our bigshot guest, who sits down beside me and says...'Gee..thanks for getting me coffee, Roddy.'  Wouldn't you know it?..his name is Bob L.  There's a little giggle and then a pair of red faces try to tiptoe through the situation..

So..I stutter....'It's actually my coffee, Bob...even if it has your, I wasn't trying to be cute...did you want us to get you coffee?..because we can...'

On his side, the embarassed Bob also sort of trips all over himself..'Oops sorry I didn't realize and no, I didn't mean I expected you to get me coffee but if anyone's getting one, I wouldn't mind....'  

My Starbucks alter ego was put to rest that day.

Nowadays, I take pains to make sure they hear and write my name correctly or I just say my son's name...'Lucas.'  Now who can go wrong with 'Lucas,' right?  

I shouldn't speak so soon, I know.