Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Eighth Post

It Takes Some Getting Used To, It Does.

A slow moving tropical depression inched its way through here dropping copious quantities of water. After giving the Visayans a goodly dousing it has moved off into the South China Sea where it graduated to the status of tropical storm and received its very own name; Storm Neoguri. It’s moving very slowly on a generally northwestward track which you can see

It is a gorgeous, sunny day. Hot, too, I might add. I thought it would be an excellent time to wash out four small towels I use in the kitchen and hang them on the line to dry. They’ve been hanging for nigh onto five hours and are still damp to the touch. I hadn’t reckoned with the post-storm humidity, you see. Now that there looks to be more thunderheads over the mountains to the east and I do hear thunder, the time has come to move them to the shower curtain rod in CR (what the locals call bathrooms).

I am constantly being surprised by this place. Sometimes pleasantly, sometimes otherwise. Take prices, for instance. If you’re not paying $4.00 a gallon for gas yet, you have little to complain of; It’s running the equivalent of $4.60 here and milk is a whopping $5.60. On the other hand, items produced here are ridiculously inexpensive.

We had a brownout today, and rather than swelter here, I walked across the street to the mall to window shop and keep cool. Hawaiian shirts manufactured here are about $5.00. Mangos grown here run P70 per kilo or 78¢ a pound. Papaya, pineapple, and bananas are even cheaper. Fish and oysters are harvested locally. Pork and chicken are plentiful and cheap.

Rice is a sticking point, however. Over the years the RP has become a net importer and the suppliers just jacked up the prices. There was a honking-of-horns protest downtown over the prices of rice and gasoline. Downtown is the seat of the provincial government, but it is hard to see what the Governor can do about the situation. Recently the Agriculture Minister was grilled on the matter by a BBC World News correspondent. The Minister appeared calm and poised, the reporter confrontational to the point of rudeness. The Minister pointed out the situation was inherited by the present administration and is being addressed by the addition of more cropland devoted to rice production. A reasonable answer in the face of a provocative manner.

Another surprise I found – in the sporting goods section of the department store, no less – were brass knuckles. There was an interesting variation along side the “dusters;” another weapon in same pattern but a different material – a beautifully polished hard wood.

Something else that I find a little odd are the personal questions that would be considered intrusive in the states and not asked. I’ve lost track of the number of young women who ask me if I’m alone; meaning do I have a partner. Since I don’t know to what the conversation might lead, lately I answer, “Yes I am. All by myself. No girl friend, no wife.” Then I ask, “Are you interested in the position?” The last three have professed a distinct lack of interest in a somewhat embarrassed manner. Which is just as well.

I made comment in the Sixth Post about all the different influences brought to the islands over the millennia. The archipelago is made up of 7,107 islands inhabited by 97 ethnic and cultural groups speaking 101 languages. Add to that diverse mix dabs of other cultures’ languages, foods, and customs and you have an inkling of how complex the sociology is here. The unifying factors are the Church and the English language. 87% are Catholics and more speak English than any other language.

The original languages have long since been corrupted by other languages. A friend who was seeking translation of a document from Tagalog to Ilonggo complained that it had been translated by a woman who was adept in the pure form of Ilonggo was incomprehensible to him. He is native Ilonggo and grew up with the language.

I’m amused by some conversations I overhear. People will be rattling away in Cebuano, Tagalog, or Ilonggo and phrases like, “Yes but,” “Como esta,” “Salaam.” work their way into the conversations. Guitar in the style of Mexican balladeers can be heard and chorizo is available in the markets. Some newspapers are printed in English and it is comical when the writer lapses into Pilipino for a few lines in the middle of the article.

Fun place, I think I’ll hang around for awhile.

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