Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Buying ice cream at the Dumaguete airport

One of my wife's uncle is an OFW working in Dubai. I met him when I went to fetch Cathy in April 2004. He had been able to return home to Dumaguete for a month's leave. When I arrived, his month was nearly over.....he'd be leaving while Cathy and I were still there. Of course, when the time came for him to return to Dubai, we all went to see him off at the airport.

His children were there, as were several nieces and nephews. Upon seeing this ice cream vendor at the airport, I couldn't resist taking his photo and buying ice cream for all the children. After all the children had picked out what they wanted, I discovered that the vendor could not change a 1000 peso note. I was buying the ice cream on impulse....I hadn't planned on it, otherwise I would have broken the 1000 ahead of time. I knew from experience that it's often difficult for the smaller shops and vendors to have that much money on hand. One thousand pesos is roughly $20.00; that may not be such a big deal for your average American merchant, but many Filipinos don't earn that amount of money in a week.

I could tell by the expression on the face of Cathy's aunt that she was upset with me. She thought she was going to have to pay for the ice cream, but fortunately, the vendor was able to find a place to change the thousand.

The day was saved.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 6

Cathy's visa had been approved and so on Good Friday, April 9th 2004,I left the U.S. heading for Dumaguete to "fetch" her.It was Easter Sunday in Philippines when I arrived.I was met at the airport by Cathy and her family.I went to the Gazebo hotel ,freshened up and went back to the church in Sibulan to attend the afternoon Mass.
I only had a week vacation scheduled and we'd be leaving for the U.S. the next Friday.The Monday after Easter that year was April birthday. We had a big party lined up. It was part birthday celebration,part engagement party and part going-away party.I believe the entire barangay of Tubtubon was at the party.A few photos taken at the party can be found here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Comment on a Dumaguete blog

In a blog by villageidiotsavant Dominique wrote at length about the Philippine practice of the Misa del Gallo ...the custom of attending pre-dawn Masses in preparation for Christmas. Prior to meeting my wife,I spent two Christmas seasons in Philippines but,unfortunately,my friends there did not introduce this to me.The thought of attending Masses at 4 or 5 AM for nine days would be something I would have loved doing.We don't have this in the Catholic churches in my part of the U.S. (I can't say if it's available in other U.S. cities) and that's a shame.I like the idea of an entire community being taken over by the celebration of religion on such a grand scale.
I hope to be able to go back to Philippines during Holy Week for this reason.
This feeling of "community" isn't likely to happen in the U.S.......too many different Religious Traditions.No one would agree on what to do and we aren't really as tolerant of other Religions as we say.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thoughts on poverty in Dumaguete

There are times when I see photos from Philippines- or read stories from there- that I become almost overwhelmed by sadness. I am very sensitive to the problem of poverty in the country.

An example of one recent story that upset me can be found on Poverty News Blog It tells of the growing number of women turning to prostitution to support their families. This is a tragedy beyond words. I can't imagine the feelings of despair these woman must have.

Being married to a Filipina, I come in contact with several American men who have a Filipina wife.Sometimes, because of social events, I find myself in the company of some that I would not otherwise associate with.There was one particular American here that was looking for partners to join him in buying a bar in Philippines.He let it be known that there was a lot of money to be made because of the women who worked there.Most of the Americans who knew this man told me that he was just one who liked to talk and I shouldn't be upset, but I was greatly insulted by his proposition.The idea that someone would take advantage of someone so improvised is disgusting to me.

Of course,not everyone born into this kind of poverty is going to take the same route. There are countless numbers of highly religious and moral people in Philippines.Still, it is also a tragedy that too many are forced into becoming overseas workers in order to help their families.It is unfortunate that there has to be so many working in the Middle East separated from their loved ones.

I wish I knew the answer.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 5

Leaving the Dumaguete airport in July 2003 was a very different experience from my two previous flights out.On my first trip I went to the airport alone;on the second trip, I was accompanied only by the lady from Siquijor.
Cathy was different.When she saw me off from the airport,she brought family members and friends.I felt like part of the family.These people care about me.
Most of those people are still in Philippines and we aren't able to see them.Three of our friends from Negros are in the U.S. and we try to get together whenever possible.
This lifestyle of staying close to friends and family is something I cherish in is sadly lacking here in America.I believe it is so alien to the American culture that most don't realize it's missing.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Dumaguete misadventure.

Cathy, Ludy and I climbed into the van and headed for the hotel where Cathy had reserved a room for me. They had made plans for a group of us to go to the beach the next day, but my first day would be spend at the hotel getting over the stress of the flight.

The room was on the second floor and there was a door which opened up to a balcony that overlooked the street. I had quite a few visitors that day and we took our meals at one of the tables on the balcony. Someone.......not sure who.....put the security latch on the room's front door and accidentally locked the back door that lead out onto the balcony. In other words, we were locked out of the room at one point. I had the key to the front door but, it would not open due to the latch. I went to the front desk and was told that there was no key to the back door and they would have to remove the front door off it's hinges in order for us to get inside. I was sorry that the hotel workers had to go to so much trouble considering that I had already planned to transfer to a different hotel when we returned from the beach.

The next morning,everyone in the group met at the hotel and the driver took us all to Bais. After a wonderful day,we went back to Dumaguete. We had ordered food at the beach resort and there was left over food which I took to the new hotel room. I can't recall all the dishes we had left but I do remember the left-over fish soup. I wasn't 100% satisfied with the new room and after spending the night I told them I wanted a new room. They gave me a new one but, I think they may have misunderstood my motives. Having slept in the room, I did not notice the over powering smell of fish soup. After I had moved everything into the new room I walked by the first room and it was then that the smell of fish really hit me.

If this had happened to me at a motel in the U.S. I know the staff would have given me a hard time over the stench, but, in Dumaguete nothing was said. I'm sure they were over-looking the problem because I was a foreigner (with money).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 4

No question about it;I believe that God has given each one of us free will.However, I also believe that from time to time the Holy Spirit will "nudge" us in a direction we should go, but would otherwise have not considered.This is the case with my earlier visits to Philippines.My experiences with the lady from Siquijor had not turned out as I thought they would.Overall,I would say that it was a tragic and often times heartbreaking experience.Never the less I came to believe, after it was over,that God had meant for me to go to Dumaguete. I felt that it was my destiny and I knew that I'd be going back someday.
The vacation policy of my employer at the time meant that the best time for me to travel to Philippines was during the Christmas season.I was expecting to return in Decemeber of 2003 and upon the advice of a friend began looking into online pen pals.I would concentrate strictly on Filipinas in that area....I would not travel hither and yon thru out the country.I found quite a few charming ladies in the area but eventually came to find one in particular to be very special to me.
I was still planning to go to Philippines in December when my friend (with the girlfriend in Bais) went there in April 2003.I gave him copies of Cathy's photos and her cell phone number so he and his girlfriend could meet her in Dumaguete.They met, and the four of us are still friends today.
Unexpectedly,in May of 2003, the company I worked for made some changes with the vacation schedule and instead of December I found myself going to Philippines in late June of 2003.
Tickets were bought;plans were made.Cathy was to meet me when I arrived at the airport in Dumaguete.Of course,my friend's girlfriend Ludy wanted to meet me as well and she was there to greet me when I got off the plane.Cathy was not.Ludy either called or sent a text message to Cathy;I don't recall which.Cathy had over-slept and her papa was bringing to the airport on his motorcycle.She was there shortly......wet hair and all.
They had arranged for a van to take me to the hotel.We were going to the beach the following day and this same van driver would be picking us up.One of the things I loved about my first days with Cathy was her willingness to have me meet her friends and relatives.She wanted everyone to meet me and that made me very happy.
Now,I know why God had brought me to Dumaguete.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 3

My friend from Siquijor was at the airport waiting for me when I arrived. She had hired a porter to fetch my bags . This was completely unnecessary as I only had 2 carry-on bags. But, then again, she was always one to "put on airs". I think she may have felt herself superior to the average Filipino and hiring "servants" was something she did on a regular basis.

She had already gotten us a room at La Residencia Al Mar and we'd spend the night in Dumaguete before going to Siquijor the next morning. We spent a good portion of that evening shopping at Super Lee's.

Looking back,I'd say that a good portion of our time together had been spent shopping. We left the hotel the next morning before the sun rose .... we'd be going to Larena, Siquijor rather than Siquijor,Siquijor and the boat left very early.

I won't go into the problems we had, but we began arguing before the week was out. I soon regretted having not gotten the cell phone number of a man I met on my flight to Dumaguete. I sent an email to a friend in the States who knew someone in Bais. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a dead end. It looked as if I would spend my remaining two weeks in Philippines without anyone to turn to.

Thanks to the efforts of my friend's parents, we were (somewhat) reconciled before Christmas Eve. In a surprising turn of events, she returned with me to Dumaguete before my flight out. This time, she would accompany me the airport. As it turned out, this was to be the last time we saw each other. When I left Dumaguete that day, I believed everything was OK between us. Not so.

I cannot say that I wish we had never met.......I would never had gone to Dumaguete had it not been for her. Had I never gone to Dumaguete I would never had met the woman who was to become my wife and the mother of my child.

Even tragic events can turn around and bring good things if you have faith in God's will.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 2

I learned a few valuable lessons on my first trip to Philippines that would be of use to me on later visits. I had taken Northwest Airlines on my first trip. I suppose they are a fine airline but, I'll never use them if I travel in the winter. When you leave Atlanta on Northwest you have to change planes in Detroit; not a good idea in December when Detroit can be covered in snow.

This happened on my first trip and my flight was delayed in Detroit for more than 12 hours. My second trip to Philippines was in December 2002 and I decided to go via Philippine Airlines by way of L.A ...... not likely to snow there.

It was around 5 AM when I landed in Manila; it was too late to take the AM flight to Dumaguete. I had to sit in the Domestic airport until about 3 PM. While sitting there, I met a Filipino who had also just arrived from L.A. He was going home to Dumaguete. He had seen me on the Philippine Airlines flight but, I hadn't noticed him.

We had a long wait so he had time to tell me his life story. He had been lucky enough to join the U.S.Navy because of a treaty between Philippines and the United States that required the U.S. to accept a certain number of Philippines citizens into the Navy. While in the Navy, he married a Filipina and they both became U.S. citizens. Their two children were born in Hawaii and were citizens by birth. He was no longer in the Navy. He and his wife had been able to build a very nice house in Sibulan. His wife and children were already living there while he had stayed in San Diego,trying to make money.

He was headed back to Philippines to live. He said he still had a certain amount of time to take advantage of the G.I.Bill which would pay for his schooling. He was planning on going to nursing school in Bacolod.(I didn't understand why he would not go to nursing school in Dumaguete since his home was in Sibulan).

When he landed in Manila, he was met by several members of his wife's family. They had more or less forced him to deliver several items to Dumaguete for them and now he was going to have to pay Air Philippine for excess baggage. He said that he could avoid having to pay the fee if I would claim part of the load as mine. I was not inclined to do that for a total stranger. I had no idea what he was carrying and I was not about to pretend his bags were mine.

When we boarded our plane for Dumaguete, he sat in the seat in front of me so he could finish his conversation. I learned that his home was within walking distance of the airport......his house could be seen from the air as we approached. He offered his cell phone number in case I needed his help for any reason. I declined the offer but, before this visit was over, I would regret my decision.

I was met at the airport by the person I had come to see. We would have a huge argument while I was there and I would have given anything to have had that man's cell phone number.

In the long term,things turned out for the best. But,I feel that God must have had a purpose in having me meet this fellow at the airport. Perhaps I'll see him in the future and learn what it is.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Dumaguete Airport: Part 1

I've been to the airport in Dumaguete on eight different occasions; 3 times having arrived there by plane from Manila, 4 times leaving Dumaguete to fly to Manila and once to see off a friend.
The difference between the number of arrivals versus departures goes back to my first trip to Philippines in December 2000. This was before I met my wife; I was visiting someone who lives on the island of Siquijor. I had flown from Manila to Cagayan deOro to meet this person's family and had traveled to Dumaguete by boat. You can't get to Siquijor without going thru Dumaguete. My original plan was to return to Cagayan de Oro for the return flight to Manila but as it turned out, it made more sense for me to fly back to Manila from the airport in Dumaguete .

It should have been a warning to me of things to come when my companion would not accompany me to the airport. We left Siquijor the night before my flight was due to leave for Manila and we stayed over-night at the OK Pension House. The flight did not leave until around 3:00 PM but my companion wanted to return to Siquijor on the earliest boat. She told me that I only had to step outside the hotel when I was ready to leave and stop a tricycle driver who could take me to the airport. She told me that I would have to negotiate the price but I should not pay more than 5o pesos.

At that time,I did not know how far away I was from the airport but, I felt like it would have been worth much more than $1.00 for me to get there in one piece.

I checked out of the hotel around noon. I hailed a driver who promptly refused to take me to the airport. I stopped a second driver who likewise refused. Saying a few words that I won't repeat here, I asked the driver how I was supposed to get to the airport if no one would take me. I spoke the magic words "special trip" which meant that I was willing to pay extra for the ride. He asked me how much I would pay and I replied, "50 pesos". He thought for a moment before agreeing to take me.

As we crossed into Sibulan, my driver pulls over to converse with a group of tricycle drivers who were parked on the side of the road. This being my first trip to the airport, I did not know at the time that I was now very near there. I did not know why my driver pulled over and I had no clue what was being said though I was pretty sure from their body language that I was the topic of their conversation. My driver reaches into his wallet and gives 10 pesos to one of the other drivers and we were off again to the airport. I was so happy to have arrived at my destination that I not only paid my driver the 50 pesos we agreed upon, but I reimbursed him the 10 pesos as well.

When I boarded the plane for Manila, the stewardess offered me a Philippine newspaper to read. It was then that I learned that while I spent my last night in Dumaguete there had been a terrorist bombing in Manila. It would be another year before we learned of Abu Sayyaf or Al Quida.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Not prepared

This blog is to take the place of a just-deleted blog,which was deleted because I felt the title was no longer appropriate.The title used my surname and now that my Dumaguete blog is getting some attention, I no longer wanted my name out like that.
My profile photo was originally from an entry in the now deleted blog.I wanted to keep that photo but I thought that it would be deleted when the blog was gone.I was going to put the photo here and write something about that. However, when I deleted the blog,I did not lose the profile photo. Now, I come completely unprepared .
To get my thinking processes going, I entered the word"unprepared" into the Google search engine and looked through the images that word brought up.I thought I would find an interesting image and would write about it.I looked through 27 pages of images before finding the one on the left.The motto is Latin for "never unprepared".
Unfortunately, I cannot claim this as mine. My life is "unpreparedness" personified.
A more appropriate Latin motto for me would be "Persevera Deoque confide"...... "Persevere and trust in God".