The thumb on the hand of society

I can’t fully describe what has happened these last 3 days, but I wanted to write some of it down before I forget or it gets rolled in with other memories from our Philippino trip. We’re vacationing in the Philippines for a month for me to meet Marlen’s family and for us play eco-tourist around this beautiful country.

We arrived 3 nights ago connecting from Tokyo (which by the way has some surprising bathroom accommodations if you’re used to western facilities — a porcelin hole in the ground, noise machines for the easily embarrased, etc). Manila was quiet, thank goodness we arrived late at night. I had read on the plane the introduction to a guidebook we had, an excellent primer on understanding their culture. Our driver hadn’t yet eaten, so sure enough as the book predicted, the store we stopped at on the way to Morong served food into plastic bags. Apparently soft drinks are served similarly and with a straw, allowing the shopkeep to save the bottle and thus the deposit.

The suburbs and downtown Morong are perhaps 0.5km apart, easy walking distance. The temperature and pollution from passing tricycles make it tough enough, but the biggest challenge to walking anywhere is how social everyone is! I swear it took us 2.5 hours our first day, but it’s time well spent. Filippinos are incredibly friendly and each have huge personalities. It was new to me, I stand out like, well, a white guy in a throng of Asians. Kids were following me in the street, crowds gathered wherever we stopped, and almost everyone wanted to talk. I’m still stopped by the occasional person calling “Hey Joe!,” harkening back to the American GI Joes stationed here at bases in recent history. One lady we met was jokingly (or maybe not?) talking about her daughter and that I should introduce her to my brother back home. Honestly she was a nice person, but western society seems oddly novelty and revered to filippinos. Especially since the lack of money forces people to be friendly and charitable here in an everyday practical manner, far more than Canadians who may not even know who their neighbours are (and I’m guilty of this too). Our day finished with taking in the Miss Gay 2009 competition, featuring transvestites in a pagent-style competition. Most of the town came to watch, and it was as weird and funny as you might expect.

Yesterday I woke up to some of the kids here singing together in the front yard as they were playing. Later I saw a cockfighting arena in the next town over (Baras) and watched a few matches. I think the best way to desbribe it is with pictures and video, which I’ll upload soon.

I badly needed a haircut so we stopped by a barbershop downtown. The barber was the most detailed I’d ever seen, even using a razor blade to trim my hairline. However, we were seated right next to the door and I had nasty visions of someone bumping his elbow as they were coming or going, and me subsequently grasping my neck. Ahh, it’s best not to worry, heh. He charged what was around $1 for the haircut, so I gave him $2.

Oh, I’ve also seen fireflies, tried homebrewed coconut wine at the neighbours, and driven a Jeep along a rice field!

Today we leave for Bohol, and we negotiated a lower rate for a ride to the airport than last time. Airfare for the one hour flight is about $50 each, not bad. With the hot temperatures I hope (please oh please) that we can pack lightly enough!

I’ve gotta run for now, the roosters are waking up and because it’s Sunday the church bells have started up too. And all before 5:30am.

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