A number of years ago, there was an interesting television program in the USA called, “In Search Of ….” Leonard Nimoy (the original Mr. Spock of “Star Trek” fame) narrated the weekly show that featured searches for anything from ancient peoples to UFO origins. It focused on items that were real, imaginary, or having questionable or doubtful existence. After a few days here in the province, I think I’ve discovered a new theme for that old show. It could be entitled, “In Search Of Reliable Internet Connectivity”!
(Note: Due to the nature of this adventure, cameras and photography of any type were prohibited for security reasons.)
For this search, all I have had to go on is rumor, suggestion, and one solid clue. Many friends, relatives and neighbors provide their input, but I fear the more important ones still need an accurate translation. I tried speaking my very limited Ilocano, and the others tried speaking English. (Just the search for the correct word or syntax can be exhausting.) I didn’t give up, however.
My solid clue, while a positive step toward that elusive connectivity, took time to unravel. I began to notice that it was everywhere. The tiangi (sari-sari) [small corner store] has signs displaying it. TV & radio commercials broadcast it to those who carefully listen. Most importantly, those “in the know” will whisper it to you if you only ask. It‘s just two words: SMART BRO.
This SMART BRO does exist – many have snared their piece of it and are enjoying reliable internet connectivity. Walking down a road, even in the more bucolic areas of the province, one can’t help but see the telltale antenna atop a guyed aluminum mast anchored to maybe one out of every twenty houses. One in twenty is good for those areas, considering that the more urban areas up the ratio by about fifteen to twenty times. I want my SMART BRO!
Casting fate aside, as well as that undecipherable data received from others, I started searching on my own. I looked at the sign at the tiangi across the street and noticed the letters PLDT in a prominent location. (This must be the next step in my search.) Near these, was the name Laoag – the name of the provincial capital. Ah ha! I must head for the fertile hunting grounds of Laoag. Hopping a convenient, shiny jeepney, I was off. I knew I must seek help with the code, so I needed to find an expert on everything – a Laoag tricycle driver.
Twenty-seven pesos later, I hopped off the jeepney and immediately went to the tricycle at the head of the line. “He must be the expert: he is first in line,” I thought. Gathering up my courage, I spoke the secret code to him, “PLDT.” His immediate response was to motion me into his sidecar with a “wen” (“o-o”) [“yes”], and off we went on a hair-raising ride. This code must be powerful. Neither stop signs nor traffic enforcement officers could stop this expert in getting me somewhere safe where I’d learn the code’s message.
We stopped after a while. Seven pesos bought his confidence as he pointed to a building and said, “Here, sir.” Sure enough, there on the building in large letters was PLDT. In addition, there were signs similar to those at the tiangi that blared, SMART BRO. “This must be the place,” I sighed in anticipation. Two shotgun-wielding security guards guarded the building. I knew I had to get by them to enter. As I approached, ready for any sudden situations, one guard opened the door for me with a, “Good Afternoon, sir.” The other guard asked me what I wanted.
Looking about the room, I noticed a desk surrounded by SMART BRO signs, pamphlets, and other paraphernalia. I told the second guard, “SMART BRO,” figuring that I’d skip that PLDT code and go right for the gold. With a couple of movements on a touch screen monitor, a small piece of paper was printed and handed to me. “Desk #12, sir,” and, with a wink he continued, “When your number is called.” I read the paper – it said, “Frontliner 1904, Desk #12.”
As I headed towards a waiting area, a video screen flashed, “Customer 1904, Desk #12,” and a voice repeated it, as if reading the screen, in perfect English. A number of people in the waiting area looked up, and then hung their heads dejectedly. Some looked as if they had been there quite a while. Here I am, seconds after coming through the front door, and I’m off to Desk #12. Those poor, dejected souls must not know the code.
A well-dressed man sitting behind Desk #12 stood, offered his hand to shake, and welcomed me to SMART BRO. This was it – I was going to get my piece of the action! After showing some identification, entering my name, address and phone number on what must have been some secret organization’s roster form, and paying the strange sum of 999 pesos (inverted 666?), the well-dressed man said I’d be contacted sometime within the next three business days for installation. Shown a different way out with another handshake, I departed. I had it, I think. I was walking away with just a receipt for that odd payment, nothing else. I must wait for that all-important contact.
On the jeepney trip back home, a text message came over my cell phone. It was from SMART BRO, himself. He said he would show up Sunday for installation. Not bad – shake hands on Friday afternoon, installation on Sunday. (I wonder if SMART BRO himself will show up.) The question of reliable internet connectivity will be answered this Sunday, one-way or another.
I’m certain I’m not a victim of a scam or some evildoing, but when working with powerful codes, one can’t be too careful. To play it safe, I entrusted a copy of this article with a local post office official, to mail to Mindanao Bob with instructions to publish it as an aide to help find me (or my remains), just in case no one ever hears from me again.
I sure hope that this article makes it via the internet rather than “snail mail.”