It’s finally happened, one of our Gatesian dreams of long-ago to have a computer on every desktop in our home, workgrouped, and with Internet access.

We hadn’t realized it until now. We have our old computer, which we had lugged all the way from Manila when we moved here to Iligan, a battered AMD Duron K6 that has definitely seen better days. We all call it Tootit, Maui’s baby word for computer, he who practically grew up in front of one. Of course, Tootit sits in Maui’s room. Sometime last year my husband brought home his office desktop and began telecommuting. We named his computer Moby, after the whale, a pun on the name of the NGO he works for. Moby sits in our bedroom. When they moved offices and downsized their staff, a left-over computer was hauled over to the house for safekeeping. We dumped it in the guestroom and named it Ahab.

The latest addition to this jumble of boxes is the Toshiba laptop my husband brought home just last week, assigned to him by the office, to assist in his mobile manner of management. This motley crew is plugged in to each other and the DSL via an ancient 5-port base10 hub and vines of cat5 wire. I hooked up my old argus digicam on Ahab so I could webcam my relatives scattered all over the archipelago, and it hit me… the house has turned into an Internet cafe!

This is typically Iligan. This is probably the southern city which boasts of the most number of Internet cafes per city block. There must be more computers per person in Iligan than there are in Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City. Walk through downtown Iligan and you will see that Internet cafes pepper the sidewalk like the ubiquitous mushroom. Diri sa Iligan, naa ray mangihi sa sidewalk turukan na dayon ug internet cafe murag ohong.

My husband and I thought such a setup would benefit the kids, especially our binatilyo. He wouldn’t have to go out to a internet/gaming cafe to get his kicks and licks. He wouldn’t even have to go to the school library to do research when he can Google at the click of a mousebutton. His baby sister thinks the computer is a fascinating machine that can function as a giant photo album (of course that’s her latest picture as wallpaper), a substitute t.v., a music box, a coloring book, a radio.

At first it seemed that we finally had the ideal setup. With Moby in our bedroom, I can surf and mind the baby at the same time. With the laptop downstairs near the big windows, my husband can smoke AND surf. We always know where Kuya is, and Maia’s go-to-sleep mp3 collection can be played anywhere we may be in the house.

But then our young man has turned into a mushroom immobile in front of his computer. His sister knows that the Lilo & Stitch DVD will play on anything that has a video screen. Hubby’s nicotine intake is on the rise again, and there are dishes unwashed in the sink. We had to admit something positive must be done about the situation when the call to dinner has taken on the form of

C:\net send workgroup tama na yan, kakain na!

Faced with the possibility that we may never talk to each other again except via Instant Messaging, my husband and I decided to institute some reforms.

1. All bedroom doors should be kept wide open during business hours. This is so that the call to meals can be made vocally at an appropriate volume, from the foot of the stairs. Tama na yan, kakain naaaaa!!!
2. There is to be an hour-long break in between two-hour stretches of computer time. Rest your tired eyes, go watch something on tv instead.
3. Physical activity takes precedence over virtual activity. Kicking a ball around in the driveway is preferable to playing FIFA 2005. Baril-barilan is encouraged over Counterstrike: Condition Zero.

This situation is not going to be permanent though, which is why we plan to milk it for whatever it’s worth. Cakeboxes of blank cd’s await the burning of games, mp3s and other sundries downloaded. Blogs are redesigned and updated to one’s heart’s content. When we revert to pre-netcafe existence, we may revive the old family one-liner, which we realize we miss:

“When’s my turn?”

A computer on every desktop

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