Buying a MacBook Pro in the Philippines

Earlier this week I learned that replacing a laptop is possibly more dangerous and crazy than it should be. And for the second time in a year I truly wasn’t comfortable in the Philippines. Luckily I came somewhat prepared.

macbookpro

The breakdown

I was cursing at the shitty wifi in our apartment. Frustratedly me and my girlfriend moved to a nearby restaurant to see if things were better there. And seemingly the wifi was just as crappy there as it was in the apartment. Which usually means the issue isn’t with the wifi networks but with my laptop. The wifi thing in my laptop has been acting up recently…

I shut down all my software, rebooted the laptop and reset the PRAM (A thing to reset system hardware on Macs) and it never booted again. Recovery mode still worked, but none of the tools in there would read my disk let alone recognize files on it.

Shit!

A long time coming if you think about it. I had to restart (or reload) the wifi driver several times a day for months to get a signal. The screen was so screwed up that even Apple acknowledged an issue and put a warranty program in place for extended screen repairs. Some kind of coating wearing off making it look horrible and reflective.

On top of that, the laptop regularly overheated when using basic applications like Mail or Calendar and generally it was just being a piece of crap in build quality. Unfortunately there is no good service and options in the Philippines for Mac users so I decided I’d just deal with it until I could justify buying a new laptop.

The power adapter was on the verge of dying too, somehow the outer insulation on the cable wore off and as a result cracked and ripped in several places. This exposed the inner shield and wiring making the whole thing weak and floppy.

So yea, what the f*ck Apple. Just over 15 months old – this must be the worst laptop I’ve had, ever. While it was supposed to be the best thing with a bunch of upgrades and fancy stuff. I mean, I only paid like $3200 for this laptop last year…

Apple Service Providers

Anyway, as you may know I’m in the Philippines. I travel around regularly and simply can’t do without a laptop. Recently I had asked around at official retailers and repair centers about how long it would take to get my screen replaced under warranty. Which according to the sales people and a shop manager would take about 2 months.

So that was not going to happen. The time they take to repair a laptop would cost me so much money in lost business and revenue I better just buy a new one. Which I planned to do next month when the new models become available and I would be in (or near) Manila. You know, a MacBook Pro with one those silly touch bars.

To fix a hard disk thing with a possibility to getting data back you need a working laptop. So you can run repair tools and make backups. Luckily in “nearby” Batangas they had a suitable replacement laptop in stock. Which I asked them to hold for me so me and my girlfriend could pick it up the next day. I now have a 13″ MacBook Pro of comparable hardware specs. Yay!

installing-macos-sierra

Buying the MacBook Pro

This is just a purchase in a store, right? In the safety of a mall, right? Don’t pay cash, use your credit card… Yea, that’s smart. What can possibly go wrong? Luckily nothing much went wrong. But it sure didn’t feel that way.

In the store, we went to the Power Mac Center, they were very professional and were fully informed of what was supposed to happen. We were sort of appointed one guy to help us out with the picking up of the reserved laptop and all was well and went smooth. And all was good until we left the store.

As soon as we went past the guard, heads turned everywhere. A white guy walking with a bag from the Apple Store and the top of a brown carton box visible. I hate that kind of curious attention. And while that probably was my imagination running a bit wild. We did attract a lot of unwanted attention.

Accessories resellers came out of their shops shouting at us to buy their stuff. All kinds of shoppers who were just walking around tried to sneak a peak at what’s in the bag. Leaving the store, after 20 meters I insisted we sit down somewhere so I could ditch the bag and outer box to make things less obvious.

Making our escape

When we sat down for lunch at McDonalds, still in the mall, a bunch of sleazy looking dudes stopped and sat down around the next table staring at me and what we were doing. Every time I glanced their way they would look away.

So I got out my knife, cut the label holding the serial number out of the outer box – That information while not very worthwhile for most people can be abused for unofficial repair shops to register repairs and get original parts from Apple for their shady businesses. Never leave your serial number lying around.

The rest of the box was just plain brown cardboard. We tore it apart, stuffed the pieces in the store bag and threw the bag in a bin. The white Apple box holding the actual laptop and accessories fit nicely in my laptop bag.

Now I was just the white guy with a full laptop-like bag. Still an obvious target, but a bit less so. No more heads turned. No more annoying stares – Or much less so. Now it was just a matter of reaching the port and catch a boat back to Puerto Galera.

When we left the McDonalds one of the guys gestured in our direction and another got up ‘together’ with us, to nonchalantly walk ahead of us constantly keeping an eye on us. We lost him in the department store (which has guards in every entrance) and left the mall via the side entrance heading for the port.

That may not sound super exciting and probably sounds paranoid. But I dare you to buy something fancy like a MacBook yourself and do it yourself. And the worst we got was inside the safety of a well known and respected mall.

Imagine what would happen to us if the common man on the street would spot that Apple store bag. Aside from being robbed, suddenly everyone is your friend or wants to make small talk asking who you are or where you’re going.

Seen it, done it. And that was while holding gadgets much less fancy than a $1800 dollar laptop. Welcome to the Philippines I guess…

The hype of Boracay Island

Before going to Puerto Galera we went to Boracay. The original plan was to be there for 2 weeks and get the full Boracay experience. You now, go on a boat ride, fall of a banana boat, drink a coconut. (Un)fortunately the hotel we booked screwed up our reservation. Which had us decide to seek another option and ultimately had us cut short our stay to eight days.

The new hotel was much more expensive and was nice looking. Roomy rooms, decent beds. Right next to the D-Mall (the main shopping area on the island) but other than that it wasn’t all that impressive for the price. Just the average normal hotel.

boracay-beach

And so was the rest of the island – Plain and average. Maybe because I’ve seen a lot of the rest of the Philippines and made a comparison that way. The first day or so had me baffled by the lack of shavers available on the island and the insane prices on stuff that costed less elsewhere in the Philippines. It’s like nobody ever shaves. Things like drinks, on average, were 10-20% more expensive and food in restaurants was pretty much double of anything I ever saw.

Overall we had a good time though. Once we explored around the island a bit and found some nice places to swim, relax and eat it was good fun. In the end we (Or I did anyway) enjoyed our stay. However we would more enjoy it were it not that the whole island is trying to empty your wallet as quickly as possible. Which obviously takes away a lot of the fun.

Having figured that out we mostly kept to ourselves, fended off the endless stream of vendors. And basically had a whole lot of shakes, ate snacks and swam in the infinitely clear waters in Station 2. Which was great. During the evenings we wandered around looking for a affordable restaurant and made do with things like McDonalds and fried chicken meals.

At around 5:30pm people run out to the beach in the hundreds, if not thousands, to capture the sunset. Which looks something like this.
boracay-sunset

Which may take a while to get without other people in your way.

Compared to the rest of the Philippines I really don’t get the hype and excitement around Boracay and I probably won’t go there again anytime soon. There are nice hotels and nicer beaches in Puerto Galera, Bohol and Bantayan Island for much much less money and overrated tourism. Certainly there are awesome white beaches elsewhere in the Philippines too. Which, next to sunsets, is really the only thing Boracay has to offer.

On to new adventures

I’ve left Dumaguete a while ago, back to do some travelling and enjoying the Philippines. My mom was looking to travel around a bit too. Mostly so she could see Boracay and get some beach time I think. She’s back in Siquijor island now for the next few months at least.

travelling-to-puerto-galera

Me and my girlfriend continued to Puerto Galera. Once we arrived there, immediately it felt familiar and nice. Sort of like coming home. For my girlfriend Apple it is the first time here. But she thinks she likes it. After a few days we decided we wanted to stay a few months and transferred from the hotel we were in to a nearby apartment and signed a lease for a bunch of months.

So this is kinda my backyard for the foreseeable time.
white-beach-puerto-galera

Looks nice I think :) Over the coming weeks I’ll be re-discovering Puerto Galera. Hopefully we will like it enough that we want to stay for a while and get settled in good. Make some plans for the future. Figure out if an idea I have to start a business here or near here is viable and work out some stuff for our daily lives.

See where we end up and what’s in store for us for the near and long term future :)