Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Data Consumption in the Philippines and the Smart LTE

As the months progress, I'm beginning to learn more and more about the Philippines. Though I was born and raised here, being away for almost 8 years contributed to my ignorance and unfamiliarity of some of the things that are, to some, considered common sense.

One of the things I am beginning to understand is the amount of cellular data that I consume. In the US, I could get away with a data limit of 500mb, though there was a time when I consumed more than 700mb of data. This usually happened when I did a fair amount of driving and when the wife and I did some traveling. Whenever these things happen, I had to rely on my network, AT&T, to get connected to twitter, Facebook, and more.

But on a regular basis, I barely reach 500mb. This is because the places I usually go to have decent wifi so I didn't see the need to depend on my cellular network for connectivity.

What were the different places that I frequented?

As the spouse of a graduate student in Princeton University and a postdoc at the University of Chicago, I got some spousal benefits. Things like my own university ID enabling me to enter the university library and borrow books, access to the university network and even attend some university lectures. Because of my ability to access the university network, I don't need to rely on my cellular network as much.

(Here, I couldn't even enter the campus where the wife is a university faculty and researcher without giving up an ID in the university gate - much less the university library - a problem if ever I need to exit through a different gate...) 

The same is true for the public libraries in Princeton and Chicago. In both places, wifi is fast and I was able to download movies from iTunes in any of those locations (Chicago, being a big city, has several public libraries in the downtown area alone!) Here, I have yet to visit a public library... I don't even know the police station nearest our apartment is...

Another of my haunts is Starbucks. Of course...

In the US, all Starbucks stores provide free wifi. Here in the Philippines, they do not. I do not know the rationale for this, though my theory is, they don't want people lingering extended hours in their stores. Wait a minute... They still do! So maybe the primary reason why Starbucks does not put up wifi hotspots is they are trying to save money.

In some coffee places in the US, wifi pass codes are provided whenever you purchase anything from the store. Usually, the wifi access is good for two hours, a fair-enough compromise I believe. In my other favorite coffee shop here in the Philippines, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, you will need to buy a rewards card first (yes, you buy rewards cards here in the Philippines). Then, if you purchase anything from the store, you present your rewards card and then you ask for the password. I wish they would disregard the rewards card altogether and just give the wifi password to patrons.

On our second year in Chicago, the city started providing wifi hotspots in public places, like parks. So, if you are relaxing on one of the park benches one autumn afternoon, you can read your book and still be able to connect to the web.

In Metro Manila, I still have to spend more than 10 minutes on a public park. There are not a lot of outdoor places here, maybe because of the heat, and what we have instead are shopping malls. Lots of shopping malls...

Well, at least there are free wifi hotspots in shopping malls, though one mall in particular asks to sign in with your Facebook account. I dreaded doing that... And yes, the speed at malls is serviceable at best. Don't hold your breath downloading a movie much less a 35mb app update.

The proliferation of wifi hotspots in the US is the primary reason why I was able to resist the iPhone for so long. (My only other iPhone was the iPhone 4, though I had three iPod Touches since the 2nd iteration.)

The lack of free wifi hotspots here in the Philippines even forced the wife to get her own iPhone: now she is a proud owner of an iPhone 5c with data plan of course.

And how much data do I use here in the Philippines?

I measured my data usage on a per day basis. It turn out that I can consume up to 2 gigabytes of data on any given month! Even my tweetbot usage amounts to 80mb per day! This is all because of the lack of free wifi hotspots here in public places.

And this is where Smart LTE comes in.

With the network, I can enjoy unlimited LTE at speeds that goes to as high as 13mbps! And I am greatly in luck because I get close to at least half the top speed where I usually frequent. And being on an unlimited prepaid plan, I don't need to worry that my speed will be throttled, nor would I need to be conscious that my money load will suddenly go to zero.

So, despite the lack of free wifi hotspots, I am able to enjoy tweeting, watching streaming videos, uploading photos, instagraming, and more because of my unlimited LTE, albeit at a cost.

Well, it is something that I am willing to pay just to be always connected.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

.@Reina_Reyes and #TheShyPhotographer at the First Pacific LeadershipAcademy (FPLA) Executive Talks

The wife was invited to be a panelist at the FPLA Executive Talks and I tagged along as her plus 1. It was an event to celebrate the birthday of one of the biggest name in the Philippines, Manny V. Pangilinan.

The first part of the program was the Conversations on Thought Leadership, hosted by the lovely couple Patricia and Vince Hizon. 

The participants for this segment were the solo artist Ryan Sy, the soprano Rachelle Gerodias, the voice artist Pocholo Gonzales, an ER doctor Dan Luchangco, the conductor Olivier Ochanine, the astrophysicist (the wife) Reinabelle Reyes, and the pianist Cecile Licad.

The talk consisted of the speakers' roots, how their choices evolved and their outlooks in life, among others. They even talked about how they keep their bodies healthy for each of the professions that they practice.

Getting insights from the experiences of the speakers can prove to be invaluable life lessons especially to the younger members of the crowd.

After the intermission, the attendees were treated to some world-class music ranging from pop to classical to operatic music. Performers were the pop artist Ryan Sy, the classical string quintet the Quintetto Felix, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, an opera performance by Rachelle Gerodias and a piano performance by Cecile Licad.

Needless to say I, and I am sure the rest of the crowd also, was transported to another dimension because of the sublime music.

It was a great opportunity to listen to the experiences of the panelists, to listen to wonderful musical performances, and to meet such wonderful people.

Photos made with the Canon Powershot G15 (Reviews Part 1 and Part 2) and iPhone 5s.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Surprising Fashion Statement in Metro Manila

When the wife and I came back from the US, the temperature in Metro Manila was in the mid-teens (60F). I greatly enjoyed that since I really, really love the cold. (As a matter of fact, I love winter!)

One of the first thing I noticed was there were some people wearing winter hats (or beanie) and scarves. I thought, "well, it is cold for the Metro" so I didn't think much of it then.

But now that it has warmed up, I am still surprised to see people still wearing winter hats, or what's locally called as bonnets, and scarves! In 35C temperatures with a heat index of 40C! (95F and 104F respectively.)

So the thing that entered my mind was, "Why?!?"

I don't know if this is a new fashion statement or what not, but this is certainly mind-boggling to me! I even saw one wearing both a scarf and a beanie but who was sweating profusely. He kept wiping his sweat with his hanky, something that is usually in Filipino's pockets.

It left me wondering why bother wearing those two things if he was so hot! And why not use his scarf to wipe his sweat? It was already drenched anyway.

Another thing, I see men wear beanies while women wear scarves, though there was a time when I saw a man wear both...

The ironic thing is, in my combined 7 and a half years of living in Princeton, New Jersey and Chicago, I, and most people living in those two places, do not even wear these things in early fall and late spring! 

A friend of mine suggested that it may be because of the Korean-novellas (Korean TV soap) that influenced this fashion trend. I can understand people wearing those in Korea where they have winter season, but I still don't get why people wear it here.

And these things are sold everywhere!

Which brings me to another ironic thing... When the wife and I went to San Francisco, CA, we were met with the unpleasant surprise of the cold "summer" days there. Coming from a Chicago heat wave (100F ~ 38C), we thought that San Francisco would also be hot. Hey it was summer then! So, we went there with only a light sweater with us, something that will keep us warm on the plane.

It turned out San Francisco summer is anything but...

We tried to buy a scarf and a beanie but the store clerk said it's not sold that time of year because it's "summer".

"Summer!", I said, "It's in the low-50s outside!" "Yes," the store clerk said, "Summer." (50F is 10C).

So, scarves and beanies are sold in the Philippines where it's in the low- to upper-80's majority of the year, but it's not sold in San Francisco during the summer season even if they only have two summer days in a year! Ok, I exaggerate, they have three summer days (I define summer as temps in the 80s. 80F is 27C)

I am a child of the 80s when big hair, big shoulder pads and loose pants were in vogue. Back then, leg warmers were also very popular among women.

So, are scarves and bonnets today's leg warmers?!?

Photos taken with the Olloclip and my favorite iOS camera app, Hipstamatic:


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