Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fourth Post

Strange Doin’s In Paradise

There was a christening of a beautiful 2 year old girl today. I missed the ceremony, but was nevertheless invited to the ensuing luncheon. Like most of the places I’ve been in the Philippines, I was the only Caucasian there. The person inviting me requested I wear long trousers and shoes in the second part of the invitation, which didn’t get to me until I was already at the restaurant with my hairy legs sticking out of my size 36 Good Will shorts and my feet somewhat comfortably encased in sandals.

The other people attending were all law enforcement types, primarily jailers. It struck me that everyone was open and friendly. They were a far cry from the sociopaths I’m acquainted with back in Santa Clara County. No alcohol, no glares, no cross words. An apparently gentle and amicable crew.

That was all well and good, but the strange part came next. I was asked to say grace for the meal; something I haven’t done in recent memory. I would be a poor guest if I declined, so I forged onward, hoping I could remember what I was supposed to say. Here I am, a renegade Southern Baptist who has not stepped inside a church of his faith since 1982 offering a prayer in a room full of devout Catholics.

I guess God wasn’t too upset with me; the building didn’t fall down and I have yet to receive a Cease and Desist Order from the Vatican . . . or Manila, for that matter.

The Kids

Children here are plentiful and run free playing and yelling the day long and into the early evening. They are a happy crew and when I pop out of my apartment they are there to greet me with cheery little voices. I stop and talk to them often, getting their names and asking what their interests are. Facts which promptly slip out of mind.

I’ve seldom seen a small child acting up, and when they do, parents offer the mildest of admonishments. They seem to be happy and well adjusted, but then, too, I haven’t seen any Dr. Spock on the bookshelves of the local print mongers. Wonder if there might possibly be a correlation between the lack of “modern” child rearing books and the fact everyone is so happy here.

Getting Around

The traffic here has to be seen to be believed. Jeepneys, tricycles, taxis, bicycles, personal vehicles, heavy haul commercial trucks, and pedestrians are on the roads from before dawn till well after sunset. No one practices lane discipline, observance of yellow lines seems to be optional, and if a vehicle operator stays in a straight line for more than 10 seconds it is at a crawl or because he can’t change lanes.

How they manage to do what they do without reducing the population considerably bears scrutiny. So far I’ve seen one child injured from dashing into traffic. That wasn’t the driver’s fault. The only other incident involved a Jeepney swapping mirrors with an a Suzuki pickup truck driven by an elderly man.

I’ll never forget the night I took a taxi from Capitol Square, Cebu, to Marina Mall, Lapu Lapu. The cabbie wanted a P20 spiff for the trip and I told him only if he got me there by 8:30. It was 8:34 when I gladly paid his fare plus the spiff. That was a ride right out of the chase scenes in action movies. Beats the dickens out of any theme park ride I was ever on. That driver was born to be a fighter pilot.

More Later

Friday, March 28, 2008

Third Post


They abound here. Food servers and chain store employees, as well as students wear them. Department stores hire only the comeliest young women who are fitted with very flattering matching tailored slacks or skirts – short skirts, I might add. While school girls wear more modest skirt lengths, there is never a doubt a of the femininity of the wearer or the designer’s intent.

I was coming back from breakfast early one morning when I saw a slender young woman walking ahead of me. She was wearing a pink top and a gray A line skirt of midi length which swung to and fro as walked along. She turned down a side street. When I got to the side street, I looked down it to see her and a dozen more young women in pink and gray swinging their hips as they walked toward their college. Whoever designed that uniform managed to hit a balance that was at once able to meet any standard of modesty in the Christian world, while at the same time emphasizing the fact a comely female was wearing it. Neat trick, that.

There are other uniforms that are not quite as becoming. There’s a guard in almost every door way of the newer businesses. Some are armed with S&W Model 10 .38 Specials, but some bank guards have 12 gauge Mossbergs with pistol grip in lieu of a butt stock suspended from a shoulder strap at near-tactical present. Other bank guards tote double slung M-16s.


These folks are rabid sports fans. I’ve not seen so much interest in inter-mural basketball since I landed in Indiana back 1960. The NBA has a following here as well. Boxing is big and Pinoys are justly proud of the fighters who have done well in Vegas. They all ask me if I lived close enough to Sin City to see the fights.

Another thing that is big here is cock fighting. I think anyone with a patch of land where a chicken can thrive is raising them. They start greeting the new day about 3:00 AM. Not a bad way to wake up, but their sense of timing sucks.

The subject of cock fighting came up in conversation the other day, and I stated that it is now outlawed in all 50 states. A genteel woman looked at me incredulously and asked, “They don’t like chicken fights?” I’m not sure she would have understood the SPCA. I just shrugged in response.


Buildings range from squatters’ shacks to millionaires’ mansions. Permanent structures tend to be made of poured concrete or cinder block in the case of single story dwellings. Corrugated galvanized steel roofs are predominant. During a hard rain, you can’t hear yourself think. There was a hard rain and I thought it would be nice to accompany it by playing Buddy Guy’s "It Feels Like Rain." Couldn’t hear it, even with my ear next to the speaker.

The major government buildings date back to the 1930s when the country was upgraded from colony to Commonwealth. They are magnificent structures built during FDR’s NRA. I can see the upper story of the Capitol of the province of Negros Occidental from my kitchen window. This is a satellite view of it
here using Google map. Notice the large park and lagoon in front of the building. I walk there in cool evenings. Speaking of which, it’s time to do.

More later.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Second Post

The Beat

The first thing that struck me when the jet lag finally subsided was the heat. Not a problem. I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. Reacclimating is only a matter of time. The second thing was The Beat. Every shop or store or restaurant in any mall has something on the PA with a throbbing beat that does nothing to quell the old libido. The sole exception happened in an upscale department store one day when one of the Archbishops was leading the prayer to the Virgin. Away from malls, 80s US pop – with a beat, of course – dominates the FM radios here in Bacolod.


The Visayans are predominantly Roman Catholic. There’s a sprinkling of LDS, Muslim and Protestant, but Catholics are in the large majority. God Bless Yous flow freely and most people attend Mass frequently. The hang-dog guilt that seems to flow in the Mother’s Milk of Western Catholics is notably lacking here. As a group, I’ve never seen happier people. If they are guilt-ridden, it sure doesn’t show. Religious Holidays are observed in a somewhat strange manner. I was in Cebu toward the end of Lent. Most businesses were closed Maundy Thursday and everything except the few businesses catering to Westerners were closed Good Friday, or Black Friday in local parlance. The kicker is that everything was back to normal Easter Sunday. Go figure.


I loaded a VOIP onto my laptop before I left the states and have been able to make calls to North America as if I were still in California. Beats the dickens out of the $0.20 per minute rate of most discount carriers for calls to or from the Philippines.

The favorite method of communication here is “texting.” It only costs P1 per message. I bought a used Motorola in the US that was difficult to use for extensive SMS. I did see where suitable refurbed Black Berrys are for sale for about $110.00 online. They’re desirable for the QWERTY keyboard and the quad band capability. Buying one there will save you a bunch of money. If you buy any mobile for use here, make sure that is unlocked. SIM cards for the Phils are available online at Ebay. The next most popular form of communication is the internet. Few Pinoys have a computer at home, but internet cafes abound. For P15 you can have an hour of computer time which includes internet access. That’s a whopping 37.5¢. I have yet to encounter someone who does not have a Yahoo Messenger account.

The funnest method of communication is person to person; Chikka-Chikka. That is market gossip and it gets carried to extremes. Being a guy who stands out in a crowd, particularly of five foot something Asians makes me a target extraordinaire. I feel like Tom Cruise when he shafted Nicole Kidman. Everybody’s talking. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just who my “companions” are. Don’t I wish.

More next time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Post

I’ve had several expats tell me this is paradise. Hence the title of the blog. Plan on seeing frequent posts until the new wears off.

The major attractions here are the weather, girl watching, the sea, and the low cost of living. The weather is hot and humid which makes girl watching all the better on account of the skimpy oufits worn. Filipinas have a natural hip swaying motion when walking that comes a bit shy of a sashay suitable for runway models. It is intriguing to watch as they walk past, particularly a pair of SYTs in short shorts at the mall.

The women

The women have a ready smile and a friendly manner and are very easy to talk to. Sometimes too easy. This is a very poor country and most people subsist just above poverty level. I haven’t counted the number of times a would-be friendly chat turned into a solicitation for commercial sex, in which I have no interest aside from curiosity. The pitch usually starts with an expressed need for money to pay the rent, buy a sick father medicine, etc. The asking prices have ranged from P500 to P2,000. That’s approximately $12.50 and $50.00 respectively. They usually start by asking for a loan, if you demure – and what idiot wouldn’t? – they will then offer to come to your place. I’ve lately dodged that part by claiming I am married to a woman much larger than myself who beats me.

One night a pair of girls didn’t bother with the preliminary. They caught my eye while I was sitting in a wifi hotspot coffee house and joined me at my table after a little flirtatious eye contact. They straight up offered the solicitation for a double header without any small talk or shilly shallying. That’s when I trotted out the notional large, mean hausdrache. Another variation I’ve used is the price haggle. Interesting specifics have emerged from such a dialog.

If you come here and decide to participate, please be super extra careful. The Philippine Republic comes down hard on anyone who has commercial sex with a person under the age of 18. There’s a variation on the badger game; big brother shows up in time to wilt your ardor with a pronouncement that it will take a lot of money to keep your indiscretion discreet. Believe me, you would rather contract all manner of STD than go to the Pinoy clink where you can languish for up to a year before your case is called up. When the local magistrates get through with you, home you go where you will face one of the DOJs crusading feminist prosecutors. No double jeopardy as we’re talking two counties here; you get a relatively short, absolutely miserable stretch in the RP, and a long one among kinks and child molesters after you get back home, AND the life-time stamp of “sex offender.”

In general, Filipinas are easy to meet and talk to if it is obvious you are a westerner. Despite the skimpy attire and the sexy walk they tend to be very modest and sometimes painfully shy. Caucasians my size, 6’/190 or 182/92, are something of an oddity here. I have made it a point of learning the local transportation system and often ride jeepneys at the cost of P7 versus as much as P80 for a taxi. I was coming home one evening when one of the shop girls sitting across from me continued to stare. I was feeling a tad uncomfortable and stuck my hand out to introduce myself. The poor girl was mortified and the other riders were highly amused.


The foodstuffs easy to buy and plentiful here are rice – a staple for nearly every Pilipino meal – fresh tropical fruit, hot weather vegetables (great okra, scrawny potatoes) hardy leaf vegetables, but crops requiring less robust weather are seldom seen. For example there’s no spinach and the only lettuce is imported for the fast food chains. I don’t think there is a soul in this country who can spell “asparagus.” There’s a good bit of imported foods from China and New Zealand.

One of my favorite foods while I lived in California was a blender mix of mango, bananas, and yogurt. Dairy products here don’t have the variety found in the states and large containers of plain yogurt just aren’t available.

I know yogurt is reasonably easy to make, but I don’t know how. Like any good byte-head, when I want to know something, I Google it. “recipe + yogurt” yielded a number of sites, the first of which is Inviting what?

Native Pinoy dining habits employ a fork and a table spoon or the meal is simply eaten with the hands. A lot of it is cooked over charcoal. I had a half chicken and rice with a family in a fast food restaurant catering to Filipinos. The rice is made up in huge stock pots and dipped out in 1 cup servings. It is often called sticky rice. Good name; it is a bland, glutinous mass. A sauce made up of juice from a lime-like fruit, mixed with soy sauce, and spiked with a bit of seriously hot pepper gives it character and authority. The chicken didn’t need any help; it was pretty good on its own.

Fast food here includes the usual suspects led by McDonalds, followed closely by KFC. There is a direct competitor to the former named Jollibee. Shakeys, Greenwich, DaVinci, and Yellow Cab are pizza houses. All offer a variation suitable to the taste and appetite of the locals. Portions are smaller, but then, too, prices are about a third of that in the states.

This morning my breakfast included hot tea, a mango, a couple of finger-sized bananas, half a small papaya, buttered bread and a glass of milk. I’m planning on an apple, cheese and cracker lunch.

The Sea

So far, the beaches I’ve seen are something of a disappointment. There is a 7 meter tide here. That’s 23 feet. What I have seen are steeply angled seawalls with a narrow band of sand before one reaches the water. I have, however been promised the real thing when I visit a friend’s resort on Siargao. See the promo here.
My brother came over for a diving vacation and found some great places which I haven’t had a chance to visit yet.