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Disconnected

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It started as a tiny niggle. The pocket Wi-Fi we’d purchased just wasn’t putting out the way it should. Then we noticed that our cell phones weren’t connecting. And finally came some devastating news; neither Globe nor Smart –the two major Internet providers in the Philippines – serviced our neighborhood because, well, there just weren’t enough customers to make it pay.

Suddenly the niggle had become a major toothache. More than that, it had evolved into the source of a deep existential angst that I never knew I had. No Internet? We’d be completely disconnected. Not only from friends and family but from the larger world outside. Without a signal, how would we manage to survive?

Tagalog Buddy

Like many of you, I am old enough to remember a time before the Internet existed. When communication was accomplished primarily by calling someone from a telephone connected to a phone line, sending a letter through the U.S. Postal Service or – just imagine! – talking face-to-face.

Wait, let me rephrase that; I don’t actually remember that time. I know I was there because I’ve seen pictures of myself allegedly taken during that era. And certainly, I’ve heard stories about how people – apparently including me –were somehow able to conduct their lives and survive.

In fact, I do remember the first time I ever heard of email. It was in the former newsroom of the old Los Angeles Times; one day a fellow reporter beckoned me and a few others to her desk. “Check this out,” she said, clearly excited, “you type a message to someone and they can see it on their computer!” We all stood around watching breathlessly as she demonstrated this newfangled gimmick. Wow, very cool, we all agreed, but what practical use did it have?

As I said, while I retain some vague visual and auditory impressions of the pre-Internet world I have no inkling as to how it actually felt to live in it. Frankly, it’s as if I wasn’t there at all. And now, perish the thought, I’m faced with the possibility of doing it all again.

Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t yet fully surrendered to the inevitability of traveling backward in time. We still have a few tricks up our sleeve, one of which we hope will work. After speaking with the representatives of Globe and Smart, we visited the offices of another company called PLDT. Yes, they told us, they do indeed offer Internet service in Punta Bilar, but only to businesses holding valid Mayor’s permits. But, wink wink, the salesman said, “let me see what I can do.”

We are still awaiting his call.

Then, just yesterday, a friend gave us a router attached to a powerful and very large antenna. If we can put the antenna high enough, he claims, it will pick up a signal from town. Tomorrow we plan to install the damn thing as high on our roof as it will go.

In the meantime, there are some short-term fixes. Ivy’s sister, who lives in the city, gets a pretty good signal at her house, though not the best I’ve ever seen. A few days ago, we called Globe to boost her service at our expense. And we’ve discovered a coffee shop in the local mall offering Wi-Fi that is indeed among the best that I’ve seen.

Suddenly we’re drinking lots of coffee

David Haldane

A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and radio broadcaster, David Haldane (website http://davidshaldane.com/) fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications, including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists (available at the link below), recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be in Surigao City where, at the tip of a peninsula jutting north called Punta Bilar, he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. They currently reside in a room on the lower floor while workers complete the rest of the house.

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Peter DevlinRob AshleyDavid HaldaneGordon Kay Recent comment authors
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Gordon Kay
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Gordon Kay

For all the things I love about living in the Philippines, cell phone coverage and internet availability and bandwidth are on the top of other list. If I remember correctly Vietnam as an example has six times the number of cellular towers. Too much coffee will keep you up at night and you’ll wish you had internet to pass the time, haha

David Haldane
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David Haldane

You got that right, Gordon! I am rationalizing by telling myself how much better life will be sans Internet. Yeah, right! Ivy and I are actually spending the night at a hotel in town, in part, because it has good Intrrnet.

Rob Ashley
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Rob Ashley

David: How frustrating but it seems like you have a few paths to connectivity. Keep us posted and I am sure you will be successful. Have you considered launching your own satellite? -Rob

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Thank you, Rob. At this point, launching my own satellite seems like pretty good idea. Where do I get the parts?

Peter Devlin
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Oh my!
Internet coverage here has been a love-hate relationship for me David. When it works it’s great, when it doesn’t, it becomes a major frustration. I’ve had the same ISP for 5 years now, and formerly had so many fights with them for loss of service/ outages. Their customer service was terrible. But things have changed. For the most part, connectivity is fine, even though slow sometimes, especially on Wifi. So overall, as a domestic user, I’m OK with how it’s going. Still hope for improvements though!

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Thanks for the encouragement, Peter. Our only hope may be to just write letters to the providers, and wait for them to expand their service. In the meantime, there’s always the coffee shop where I am now. It does make responding to comments here — or initiating my own — somewhat difficult, but I’ll keep trying.

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