Friday, December 08, 2006

On to the Land of the Dam

Working in an auditing firm leaves you little room for perks. However, these perks come in amazing forms. Most notable among these is the chance to travel and see different places.

Actually, I got the chance to travel during my stint as a trainee back in 2003. I was blessed enough to be assigned to the Hospitality Group of that particular firm. That is when hotel-hopping became a household name for me. I used this as a motivation to pursue a career in auditing.

When I came to my preferred firm, I chose to join the Tax Division for less work. I mean traveling wouldn’t be that enjoyable if you carry the stress of work along with you. Unfortunately, the law of audit economics applied: the lesser the duty, the lesser the need to travel.

It became a dog-eat-dog world for me because the opportunity to travel became very rare. I usually settled for nearby provinces (Cavite, Laguna) just so that I can jump aboard something that moves and hear the soothing sound of “Where to?” Never has it come to my attention that engagements such as those are cheap. Well, I discovered everything soon enough. The worst part is that there was no accommodation included in those engagements hence I traveled my ass back and forth for consecutive days just so I can finish before the deadline.

My friends got the chance to travel one by one: Joseph in Cagayan de Oro, Chie-Chie in Siargao, Robin in Naga City. Since I already tendered my resignation, I never though I would be given the chance to experience something I have always wanted. Last November 16, Fred informed me that we will be going to Pangasinan for an engagement with San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC).

Okay, Pangasinan it is.

At first I thought is as one of those cheap PEZA companies I have often visited in Laguna and Cavite. Oh man was I dead wrong! Allow me to share the details of my experience:

The team consisted of me, Eugene, Jonatz, and Jake. Fred also tagged along to accompany us during the first few days. On our first day we met Irwin, the driver assigned to us. This guy is flaky. He knows a lot of things from college whores to dead people walking. He also boasts of his ability to drive while watching porn.

During the ride, we kept ourselves busy listening to Eraserheads music. We kept still as Irwin flew from one town to another. We turned right just before we hit the lengthy bridge at Rosales, Pangasinan. That is how we arrived with Irwin’s alias, the 15-Minute Man! He raced our van about 12 kilometers towards the mountains in the span of 15 freakin’ minutes!!

The 15-Minute Man is awesome!!!

At the entrance of the compound, we were greeted by Ilocano security guards. Some of the guards were actually giving training lessons to camouflage-wearing men who actually look like CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Group Units I think…) ready for battle. I later discovered that these were actually ethnic people given jobs by the company after being driven out of their native homelands during the early phase of the dam’s construction. Security sure was strict.

The road to the site was rough. Simply put, the Company doesn’t want to shoulder any expenses for constructing roads since the place will eventually be turned over to NAPOCOR.

.. the country’s top debt bowl.

SRPC treats its guests well as we were welcomed to its grand villas. SRPC’s villas are just like that of Fontana’s, though much simpler for it caters more to the needs of the individual rather than that of a group. I was given a room extremely big for myself, plus a personal fridge to cap off any stress-filled nights of work. My team was practically drooling over the possibility of acquiring whores to accommodate more of their needs. I can’t blame them for fantasizing for the room was really huge though it’s not perfect since the cable TV just plainly sucked. We got more channels on free TV than from our resident reception.

Food was pound for pound!
That is in terms of points, not calories.
Prawns in sweet sauce, steaks galore, beef extraordinaire!
Name it, SRPC has it! Dining Extravagant!

What makes the meals extra special is its health factor. Veggies served were always in A1 form! Fresh from the Best! This is due to the fact that Benguet, our country’s primary vegetable factory, is just some miles away from Pangasinan.

Irwin also gave us some jackass tips in scoring drinks. He explained that drinking water instead of the juices served will get you a pile of canned juices at the end of the day (that sounds familiar, haha). We also got to hit on some Swiss Chocolates & Menthol Teas almost every morning.

Right outside the cafeteria is a swimming pool. The pool’s depth is around 7 feet. SRPC makes sure it gets cleaned and maintained properly. At the side of the pool, right besides the showers, is a gym complete with all the works. We got the chance to check everything out, from running thread mills to dumbbell raises & bench presses. SRPC also has a TV above the equipments so you can choose among five (unfortunately) cable channels. No wonder those SRPC waiters became so buffed!

That’s not all. Within the clubhouse is a bar and a pool hall. Happy hour excitement, you bet! Though the wines are strictly for SRPC people only, it was still amazing that the Company had a wine cellar about ten meters long furnished in good wood. This reminded me of those western cowboy movies were you get to pick up a fight with everyone. Haha!

The bar also featured a huge LCD Flat Screen TV with Dolby Surround! This is the ultimate dream for anyone who likes to play video games in their homes. You just can’t get through the hype with this. It was just so sad that SRPC employees use this only for KTV, downplaying the component’s potential. It is just more saddening that they prefer singing Rey Valera songs.

There were two pool tables for the enjoyment of everyone. Puyat branded pool tables compensated for the lack of cue sticks. We even recorded our game thru Jonatz’ camera phone!

Of course, while we dined, played pool, watched TV, swam, and did some working, Irwin resulted to being bored. That’s why every afternoon he brought us to nearby Urdaneta City just so he can get the boredom out of his system. He frequently told us of this strip club he patronizes. Fred even went bonkers when Irwin decided to watch Batista's sex video in full display of the motorists behind us while he drove our van. Talk about public scandal. Until now, I can still remember the smile in the faces of those tricycle drivers.

The week was everything but complete without a Saturday Night Party. We celebrated with SMB Lights to cap off a week’s hard work. Pulutan served were grilled milk fish and green mangoes with bagoong. Beside our table were SRPC guests, one of whom was a Filipino-American who definitely knew the art of flirting with strangers. Believe me that we never had any intention of gang-banging her whatsoever, though that will be such a celebrated achievement in our profession. I guess she was just an awesome hot alternative for the pretty SGV auditor we were eyeing throughout the duration of the engagement. Yep! There are pretty SGV auditors existing, although unrealistic as it may seem to be.

In the middle of our stay at SRPC, we cushioned ourselves from committing immoralities (aka Porn Marathon) by visiting the Manaoag Pilgrimage Site. I have always thought that it is very important for CPA’s to replenish themselves spiritually especially when they have lingering thoughts of murdering demanding bosses and unsupportive clients. I said my prayers and went to the candle stands to light my own. It was my first time to visit the pilgrimage site at dusk and I was awed to see how beautiful the candle lights cascaded through the darkening sky. The feeling was so soothing.

The most astonishing experience I had in SRPC was our dam visit. Dam! (pun intended) I really couldn’t describe the experience as a whole because I’m at a loss for engineering words to use. You can just visit this site when you get the chance.

We picked up one of the security guards to serve as our tourist guide. The security guard did well as a tour guide and impressed us with his knowledge of the dam’s functions and structure. According to him, the 200 meter high dam was man-made. I asserted this information eventually when I saw that the dam’s wall was purely gravel. As we reached the top of the dam, I regretted seating besides Irwin. The road above was so freaking narrow! On my right is a huge reservoir so deep that its waters supported the color of the bluest among blue. On my left side is a huge ravine. One wrong skid will effectively include us in the faithfully departed section.

Irwin parked the van right on top of the spillway. We were greeted by the security guard manning the station above the dam. I can’t imagine how the guard manages to stay composed in his job when there he was in a “no way out” situation. I wouldn’t even bear think how he copes up in a stormy night. Different chaotic scenarios, like earthquakes and landslides, flew into my mind. In an earthquake scene, Manong guard would be surfing the waves with boulders and rocks towards the ravine. Cool!

As we were busy taking pictures, our guide told us that we can catch giant Tilapias, which are estimated at a yard’s length, in the reservoir. He also told us that if we speedboat towards the shorelines, we may be lucky enough to be impaled by Ibalois with spears and arrows. I declined the speedboat thing.

I also saw this huge truck which was used to carry the huge gravels making up the dam. I once read about these trucks in Childcraft, which termed these as Land Movers, and I never thought I will ever see one. I was so amazed in discovering that its wheels are even taller than me.

The spillway part of the dam was way cooler. It reminded me of Tony Hawk’s Skating Game in the Playstation. I though about the spillway’s edges as merely railings for skating. It would be priceless to see someone go skate from the top of the dam and then catapult himself towards the plains. That would be ludicrous and extremely cool. Dam! (pun intended again) I miss my skateboard.

The whole SRPC engagement was a blast especially at the last day. Before we got out of SRPC’s checkpoint, we had the opportunity to have our picture taken besides SRPC’s helicopter. Everyone posed for his favorite helicopter position. Haha…

To kill time, we decided to visit Baguio before returning to Manila. Let me be clear that it was Irwin’s idea in the first place (he declared this eventually in his trip ticket). Anyways, we had a picnic at Camp John Hay’s grounds then made a trip to Baguio’s dry market to buy some pasalubong. We also got the chance to check out Ukay-ukays and Pirated DVDs (yes, I was actually excited.). Jonatz and I also checked our names featured in ACE Review Center’s List of CPA Board Passers. We had our snacks at nearby Burnham Park before we traveled to the Good Shepherd Seminary to buy some sweets. Irwin took our souvenir photo here while we were busy ogling at a gorgeous brunette.

On our way home, we dropped by the famous Isdaan Restaurant at Gerona, Tarlac. This food place is just along the highway, making it a great option for travelers to park and dine. The restaurant exhibits two giant Mayan sculptures at front so it’s definitely hard to miss. Dining tables are fixed in floating rafts. The pool below contains lots of Japanese Koi. Very cool indeed! These fishes were swimming in various formations, adding more glare to its colors. The continuous rocking of the raft made me dizzy so we transferred to the table near the Mayan fountains. We ordered Seafood Feast, which was a combination of prawns, squid, bass, catfish, and crabs arranged in a manner very common in Filipino Fiestas. We also got ourselves some grilled pork loins and some Sinigang sa Miso. Irwin got a massage as we waited for dinner. Isdaan’s musical group performed a rendition of Yeng Constantino’s Hawak Kamay before us. Jonatz recorded this on his camera phone. Isdaan also featured the “Tacsiyapo Wall.” I’m sure you have heard of this. This wall functions as an anger management therapy. You can hurl all sorts of things, from cups to plates, to the written targets on the wall such as your husband’s mistress, your debtors, and your in-laws. The items being hurled was priced from P5.00 to P1,250, which was the price of the TV set. I suggest that you carry your ass to this place if you really want to hurl a large TV set to your boss. The feeling would be priceless! “Crocodile Grill pala ha?!”

After dinner, we dropped Eugene at the San Fernando intersection. As we were traveling back to Manila, Irwin again lived up to his name as the fast 15-Minute Man. From San Fernando, we arrived in Manila in just 18 minutes. Irwin also had the guts of punking a taxi driver along EDSA. He swerved off the taxi and asked it to pullover, claiming he was an NBI Agent and that he was pissed when the taxi made a cut. Just when the taxi was pulling over to the horror of its passengers, Irwin stepped on the gas and ran off.

The 15-Minute Man struck again!

They dropped me at my pad a few minutes before midnight. Irwin, Jonatz, and Jake still went barhopping, from Jupiter in Makati to Cainta, Rizal to look for whores.

No doubt this was the best engagement (Thanks po Lord!) I ever had.. for now! After a week, we returned to SRPC for another round.