How to survive the Sinulog

By Leticia U. Suarez

YOU can survive anything if you can survive being packed in a crowd like sardines, and stand dehydration and hunger for six hours.

It is downright an exaggeration of the Sinulog mardi gras for the old hand, but neophytes, heed these suggestions.

* Wear all your fake jewelry; that way you won’t miss them too much when they go away with the snatcher.

But do remember to tape a triple thickness of masking tape around your neck so it doesn’t get nicked – nay, cut off (gulp) – when snatchers run away with your value-baubles.

* Bring food and water like there’s a shortage, or no tomorrow, whichever comes first.

Our enterprising brothers in the sidewalk business jack up consumables by as much as P5. That’s being kind; so you can imagine the mark-up when they go for the jugular.

* Padlock your pants pocket to discourage pickpockets, or better still – wear metal pants.

Now’s the time to bring out that antique armored suit you bought years ago, however, you’ll have to watch yourself. Someone might kidnap you as part of the antique.

* Bring cash, all your cash – all fake or toy bills, that is.

If you don’t have toy money, cut newspaper to the size of a 10-peso bill. Beef up your anemic wallet with the pseudo bills.

Hide your real cash in your shoes (wash shoes the day before) but don’t keep checking or else you will attract attention.

Argao’s IT-in-charge

What does the town of Argao get for one peso a year?

It pays for the services of a man responsible for the town’s new technology innovations–IT consultant Querubin Momongan.

Momongan is responsible for putting into place a proposal for a wireless fidelity (wi-fi) zone at the town square.

The full computerization of business processes in the municipal hall was implemented under his guidance and expertise.

Argao’s IT-in-charge also leads an ambitious undertaking to decentralize treasury operations to the barangays and provide Internet access to all schools, homes, and villages through the local broadband network (LBN) project.

Although he retired in 2003 after spending almost 24 years as a bank consultant abroad, Momongan said he came out of retirement last year when he was asked to help by Mayor Edsel Galeos, a close personal friend.

“He (mayor) is a very good friend of mine. He asked me to help so I helped,” he said.

Momongan explained he is trying to duplicate in Argao what he has learned abroad, given the budget constraints and other limitations of a third-class town.

“We are 15-20 years behind technology advancements” of a first world country like the United States, he added.

He said though that once the town implements its LBN project, it would be at par with other technology-savvy nations. That’s not bad for an idea that first cropped up over a bottle of wine, he added.

Momongan attributes to the mayor improvements seen in the past 10 months that have not been witnessed in the town for so many years.

“This is all because of him (mayor). He is strong-willed, goal-driven, charismatic, approachable. Wala siya’y minus (He has no bad trait),” Momongan said, by way of explaining his desire to continually introduce improvements to the town using new technology, for a salary of only one peso a year.

Wireless in Argao

MUNICIPAL WI-FI. I spent a day in Argao and was pleasantly surprised to find several dependable and free Wi-Fi hotspots. I was surprised because in Cebu City, free Wi-Fi access isn’t as widespread as they say it is in places such as Davao City. When I say free, I mean full Internet access without having to enter passwords or keys. At least full “http” access, I don’t mind not being able to use the other protocols.

Many shops, at least the last time I went warbiking or going around on a motorcycle to check for free Wi-Fi hotspots, just depend on zones ofPLDT and Globe for their customers’ wireless Internet access.

But not Argao.

The municipal government turned its beautiful plaza into a free Wi-Fi zone. There you are, surrounded by Spanish-era buildings, three cannons, beautiful masonry, and music that comes from cleverly hidden speakers, and you have free high-speed wireless Internet access.

I was told that the Wi-Fi zone was set up last year by Argao town officials. Now it isn’t, technically, municipal Wi-Fi—the term means the entire city or town is covered by wireless Internet signal—but it’s a start. Its munisipyo Wi-Fi.When I was at the plaza on a Saturday night, I saw one person park his multi-cab near the Argao town hall, take out his laptop and thenaccess the Internet. I opened my Asus Eee PC, which is such amarvelous piece of gadget, and checked my e-mail. The connection was relatively fast.

I wasn’t able to do speed tests, though, because I was supposed to beon a quick vacation—to “get away from it all” and my family was already on their way to the museum.

VOIP. I asked Ruel Rigor, who showed us around, on the extent of the Wi-Fi spot’s usage and he said only a few locals use it. The availability of free Wi-Fi in the town plaza is such a huge help for tourists and locals who need to access the Internet.

It also opens the possibility of using the signal in the plaza to make VOIP calls for free. If you have a Symbian-based phone, you can use Fring with Wi-Fi not only to chat with your friends, but also call themvia Skype or the application itself, if they’re also using it. The call is free because you’re connecting through Wi-Fi.

I was able to chat with some contacts using Fring, but none of my Skypecontacts were online when I was in the town center so I couldn’t testcalling with Fring.

OTHER SPOTS. Wi-Fi access isn’t just limited to the area near the Argao town hall. I was able to detect another Wi-Fi access point, albeit secured, a few meters away. The resort I stayed in near theMahayahay beach resort also offered uninterrupted free Wi-Fi access. The signal covers part of the public beach resort so you can probably get away with piggybacking near the beach, even at night.

I hope other local officials, especially in tourism areas, follow Argao’s Wi-Fi deployment. Heck, I hope more Cebu shops follow Looc Garden Resort and start offering free Wi-Fi to costumers.

The last time I was in a coffee shop in Ayala several months back, I was told to buy a card when I asked about Wi-Fi access. But things are starting to change. I’ve been told many coffee shops are starting to offer free Wi-Fi to costumers.

Asking the city where I live in, Lapu-Lapu, to follow the example of athird class municipality might be a pipe dream or a financial nightmare—remember how much Lapu-Lapu City Hall paid for computers it distributed to schools?

(Max Limpag maintains a blog at max.limpag.com)