Electricity. What Electricity ?

AE Staff Note: Charlie Chan is a long time Expat and friend of the site. He asked if he could write a column but said that it will not always be flattering to life in Angeles. We of course said yes…

So, here ya go. A different viewpoint on life in Angeles.

So, a quick trip to Singapore to firm up some business and I’m in love. No, not with a girl (I’m way too old for that as I have learned that the single life is the life for me) but with the country.

It was just a pure pleasure to be in a country where everything worked. The infrastructure, the electric system, the attitude of ‘customer is always right’ and just any other measure of a “decent” society which can be thought of all was perfect.

My business meeting for a new supplier was at 9am. I had arrived the night before (late as usual from Manila as there was some sort of delay as there always seems to be) but once landing was processed through immigration and customs faster than ever. The driver was right where he was supposed to be with sign in hand. The drive to the hotel was without incident. Check-in was smooth. And I was up in the room in record time.

I could only think of the last time I tried to check into a hotel in Manila and the huge delay in the mundane process of validating a credit card.

I seem to be rambling on and on about trivial matters but there is a point.

So, I’m back in the Philippines and working on the proposal I need to e-mail off now that some new supply lines are secured and parts in place. Can be a nice little venture I have set up for myself. Retirement will have to wait it seems as this deal was too sweet.

The words are rolling off my fingertips as fast as I can type. “This is almost too easy,” I am thinking to myself. And then it happened…

Brown out.

It was inevitable, wasn’t it? You get used to a country where things work and come back ‘home’ and are quickly reminded why this country will always be permanently stuck where it is.

People back home always ask me how far away is the Philippines which I always reply, “About 2000 miles and 75 years.”

So enraged I pick up the cell and call the electric company. I ask the maid if there were any brown outs (just why are they called ‘brown’ outs? It’s BLACK!) while I was away in Singapore during the typhoon that swept through while I was away.

I felt I was smart (or just lucky) to have missed all the rain, but karma has a funny way of catching up to a person, doesn’t it?

The maid replied ,”No sir… there is no power off while you away.” So I just sat there tapping my fingers trying to contact the electric company. It was 8am on the button on a Sunday morning so I knew this was not some random outage. It was planned.

It always pisses me off that there is a ‘scheduled’ power outage however the office is always closed when I call…

So I listen yet again to the recorded message stating they are closed and I wait for instructions. I know what to do but if you press early the system seems to lock up and you can’t get through. As my mind wanders with images of torture to the president of Angeles Electric I finally hear the, “….Please press six if it is an emergency…”

I press 6

The phone is ringing and then I can hear a pick up, and then a hang up.

I dial again.

Busy signal.

I dial again.

Ring…. Ring…. Ring…

“…Please press six if it is an emergency…”

My fingers mash into my cell keypad as I press in 6-6-6 as I’m sure that there is no coincidence that the electric hotline is the number of the beast.


“Yeah, I’m calling about the electric…”

“It is off.”

“Yeah, I know it’s off. Why?”


“Scheduled? What is scheduled? Your inconveniencing me?”

“Yes. It is scheduled brown out.”

“Scheduled by whom?”

…long pause…

“Power back 10am.”

“Where is this supposed ‘schedule’ posted?” I ask almost amused at this dialog. And why not? There is no power. What else do I have to do but try to distract myself from the heat slowly invading my house?


“I said, where is this schedule posted and how do I find out when these ‘scheduled’ brown outs are happening?”

…long pauae…

“Power back at 10am.”

“Sir. Is there someone there who speaks English? I asked where is the schedule?”

“We give to the Barangay Captain. Power back at 10am.”

“Excuse me?” I ask feeling myself sinking deeper into the quicksand that is customer service in this country.

“We give the schedule to the Barangay Captain. You go ask him.”

“So, let me get this straight,” I am sure I am being broadcast on some Filipino call in radio talk show on some private channel reserved for Filipino executives for the amusement of corporate leaders, “You schedule a brown out for maintenance or whatever and give the notice to the Barangay Captain.”

“Yes sir!” He says confidently sounding like he solved some major crisis thus earning his salary for the day.

“So you don’t post this schedule online or on TV or anything. You just give it to the Barangay Captain. So how do I know when a brown out is coming? I just go check there?”

“Yes sir.”

…long pause… This time on my end.

“When did you post these schedules?”

His turn….long pause…

“We give one day maybe two before brown out.”

“You’re kidding right? So you’re saying I need to check with the Barangay one or two days before the brown out to know that there is going to be a brown out?”

“Yes sir.”

“I don’t think you understood the question. You are saying that for me to know about a scheduled brown out I need to know the schedule FIRST so I can check the Barangay a day BEFORE the brown out to see the schedule I’m already supposed to somehow know has been posted?”

“Yes sir.”

“Who’s on First?”

…long pause…

“What sir?”

“Never mind. Well, you have been very helpful. I now know I need to check the Barangay every day to see if a schedule has been posted.”

“Company policy, sir.”

“So what does your office do? I mean my electric bill is more expensive now than my rent. But you say it is my responsibility to do your job and find out when I am going to get an interruption in service and have no power?”

“Power back at 10am.”

…I hang up, grab a Coke and sit in my own sweat dreaming of Singapore.

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