Sunday, January 28, 2007

Grandfather, father and son.

My father was born in Buffalo,NY in 1924; he died in Atlanta, GA in 1967 when I was 15 years old.We lived far away from his place of birth and he rarely spoke about his childhood.I can look at family photos and I can imagine what his early life was like.Now,83 years after my father's birth,I have a 14 month old son.There are times when I look at my son and it is as if I am looking at my father as he might have been as a child.When we are very young we often see our fathers as supermen.... towers of strength.But, when I see him in my son, I can see how vulnerable my father was. There isn't anyone alive today that remembers my father as a baby.There isn't anyone left who can tell me about the baby in this photo.All I have is my imagination.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Foreign Encounters in Dumaguete

In an earlier post, I wrote of some of the misunderstandings and mistaken ideas some Americans have of Filipinos (and vice versa ). After reading a post from another blogger and her encounter with a foreigner in Dumaguete, I felt I should examine further the Filipino/ American relationship. I've seen how Americans act differently while abroad. In order to explain how differently (and maybe why) I want to first look at the way Filipinas act towards other Filipinas while they're here in the U.S.. My wife and I will occasionally meet a Filipina who is unknown to us. Usually when this happens, the two Filipinas will approach one another, chat for a bit and learn all about each other. Of course, there's no guarantee the two will become friends, but we have made some very dear and close friends from these accidental meetings. Other Filipinas we know here behave the same way.

Compare this to fellow Americans meeting in Philippines. The Americans I've met on a plane traveling to or from Philippines (or while waiting in a Manila airport) have been, for the most part, very friendly. It’s a different story meeting an American in the provinces. I've been snubbed more than once while on Siquijor or in Dumaguete. To be completely fair, it is often difficult to tell which snubbers are Americans and which ones are Australians or Europeans without hearing them speak.

On one particular trip, after having been ignored by foreigners for more than two weeks, I made it a point to speak to every white person I met - much to the great surprise to some.

Being white in Philippines is different than being white at home. While in Dumaguete, I've been approached in shops by total strangers with offers to sell property to me. I've been approached by countless beggars asking for a handout. I can see why some would simply "turn off" the outside world of strangers while there, but there is really no excuse for the rudeness of many of the foreigners. On the other hand, the obsequious behavior of some Filipinos towards foreigners can have a bizarre influence on the foreigner as well. Being treated like you can do no wrong can go to anyone’s head.

When the above photo was taken, I wanted to climb atop the lifeguard’s tower but, I was reluctant to do so because of a sign forbidding it. Our Filipina friend, who took the photo said,

“Don’t worry. No one will say anything to you. You’re a white guy.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tower of Babel

According to the website twenty-eight of the fifty U.S. states have passed "English as Official Language" legislation.There is considerable anxiety in parts of this country concerning the new-found prevalence of Spanish.Many Americans are upset by the notion of this country becoming bi-lingual.They claim that having two "official" languages will only lead to disunity.At first glance, it might seem that the situation on Philippines gives credence to that idea.There are eight major languages spoken in Philippines with countless numbers of dialects and variations.There has been a governmental movement towards making "Filipino" the standard.Critics of this say that "Filipino" is actually "Tagalog" and there is some resistance to the language from native speakers of the other seven.Unlike the Japan Archipelago, the Philippine Archipelago was never a "natural" country. The country of Japan is populated by a single ethic group speaking a common language.This is the complete opposite of the history of Philippines.The islands included in the Republic of Philippines are the remnants of a Spanish colony where a common language was not encouraged.Rather than being united by a common language,the unifying factor in Philippines is the Catholic faith shared by 80% of the population.This faith may work to keep the country together despite the linguistic and ethnic differences among the people.The U.S. will never know the advantage of having a unifying religion.There are a great many forces working to dissolve the country and I don't know if "English Only" can stop the tide.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Father and son share a cold.

My wife and I decided to put our 14 month old son into daycare 2 days a week so my wife could get in a full work-week.I can be Mr.Mom most days but not every week day.As soon as he was enrolled he caught a nasty cold from another child.As for the extra money my wife earned that week,well, after paying for the daycare, the visit to the Doctor's office and the meds.,it was not worth the aggravation.He was miserable for about a week and though he's better now, it's still hanging on in a mild form even now.
It wasn't long before I caught the cold from the baby.I know what he's been going thru and it's not pleasant.Sore throat-runny nose-stuffy nose-sneezing-headaches. It's amazing to me that he was not crabbier than he was. I feel absolutely horrid.It's nearly impossible to take care of him and work on the website and blogs too.I hope my wife doesn't come down with this too.I don't wish this on my worst enemy.I'm hoping to be up and about and wrestling with the boy soon.It's more of the type of father and son activity we should be doing.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I am continually amazed at the lack of understanding many of my fellow Americans have about life in other countries.When people discover that my wife is from Philippines, they often ask rather bizarre questions and/or make equally absurd statements.

Most do not an understanding of the difficulties or the time involved in bringing someone here from anywhere other than Western Europe. Most assume it is merely a matter of buying the ticket and bringing the person along with you.Most are astonished to learn that my wife did not immediately become a U.S. citizen upon our marriage.There's been more than a few that believed I would become a citizen of Philippines should we have decided to marry there rather than here.

Some have asked me about the availability of marijuana and other "recreational" drugs, as if there was some pot smoker's shangri la in another part of the world.These same folks are surprised when I explain that the U.S. is more tolerant of drug use than Catholic Philippines.

After sex and drugs,the next most popular topic is money.Everyone wants to know"how much is our money worth in their money?".Telling someone that a dollar is worth 48 (or 47 or 50 or whatever) Philippine pesos doesn't tell the whole story.It's difficult to explain that many Filipinos earn less than $5.00 a day but that $5.00 there does go a bit further than $5.00 here.

A good many Filipinos have misconceptions about life in the U.S. as well.Many believe we are all rich.Many believe everyone here has a fine house and the entire country looks like New York city or Los Angeles. It's more understanding why Filipinos might think that way, given their exposure to America movies.

I'm convinced that the majority of Americans would benefit-at least spiritually- from a visit to Philippines I can't imagine anyone taking for granted their life here after seeing the material poverty in that country.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A visit with a quackdoctor in Siquijor

It was December & I was staying with a friend in San Juan, Siquijor. My friend's two younger siblings-one boy and one girl-were enrolled in the Catholic High school in Siquijor town & it was the final school day before Christmas vacation.

My friend operated a small cafe in San Juan and I was there one afternoon......taking up space. When the younger sister arrived from school on the jeepney,it was obvious that she upset. I didn't immediately understand the nature of her problem as she spoke in Visayan. Of course, the younger sister could speak English well enough, but for such a personal, family matter, she was more comfortable speaking to her sister in their native language.

My friend explained the situation to me. The younger sister was complaining of a stomach ailment. A friend from school told her stomach ache was due to a spell having been put on her by an enemy. It was further explained to me that as soon as a quackdoctor was located, my friend would take her younger sister to have the curse removed.

My friends were originally from another island and although they had lived on Siquijor island for a few years, they needed the assistance of a local to find the shaman. With this local man driving my friend's jeep, I joined the two sisters on their journey. We drove to an area between Siquijor town and Larena.I wasn't familiar with this part of the island and it's unlikely that I'd be able to find this place again on my own.

The quackdoctor's house looked rather nice from the outside. It was a brick house of a style more common to California of the 1960's and not like any other I'd seen in Philippines. We did not enter the house;the old, grey-haired woman came outside. She lead us to an old shack behind the main house. The shack was slightly elevated with a pig sty underneath. The old woman and the younger sister climbed the stairs and went inside.I wanted to go inside as well, but was told that the floor of the elevated shack would not support my weight. So, the older sister and I sat outside on a wooden bench while our frightened driver kept his distance beside the jeep.

By the time the ritual had be performed and the curse removed, the sun had gone down and it had grown dark in that way it only does in rural Philippines.
We had not driven far from the quackdoctor's home when the jeep stopped.

Our driver had the hood up and in no time he was joined by the men who lived in the neighboring houses. I am useless as an auto mechanic and I sat patiently in the front passenger seat as the men worked on the problem. From what I gathered, a cable that attaches to the accelerator pedal had broken. The fact that there was not garage or auto parts store was not a problem for our rescuers. It would simply be a matter of getting enough shoe string to reach from the carburetor to the driver's seat. Our driver would be able to drive the jeep by pulling the string- rather than push the pedal- when he needed to "give it the gas". Soon, we were on our way back to San Juan, none the worse for wear.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Age of Aquariums

I can't say exactly where I read it but, someone once said that looking at fish in an aquarium can be a calming and relaxing pass time for most people. Feng shui also has positive things to say on the subject of having fish in your home. Although I've never put much stock in the theory of controlling chi, fish do seem to add something to a room's ambiance.

If these weren't reasons enough to have fish as pets, I should point out that fish neither bite nor bark. They do not scratch furniture, shed fur and as I far as I know, none have ever urinated on a laundry basket of clean clothes -still warm from the dryer- the way my sister's cat, Gus, has been known to do.

My first attempt at keeping fish was in the early 90's. I bought a 10 gallon tank and the small inexpensive critters I had seemed to do well. That is, at least until I moved in with Lucifer's younger sister. I hadn't been with her long when, one day while I was at work, she disposed of not only the fish but the aquarium as well. She did this without consulting me first. A wiser man than I would have taken this as an ill omen but, it would be a number of years before we went our separate ways.

It was not until 2001, after my first visit to Dumaguete and Siquijor, that I felt good enough about my surroundings to try once again to keep fish. Again, I bought a 10 gallon tank and a few cheap fish. These new fish seemed to be doing OK too, until I made my second trip to Dumaguete. A co-worker of mine volunteered to come over regularly during my absence to feed the fish.

Upon returning home, I found that a few of the fish had died -some had not been removed from the tank- I believe that the cause of death was over feeding (of course, no autopsy was performed so I can only guess). It was merely a matter of a few weeks before all the fish in the aquarium had left this veil of tears. The ecology of the aquarium had never gotten back to normal after my trip to Philippines and the death of those first fish. I kept the tank, though I knew I wouldn't be buying fish until my travels to Philippines were finished.

The tank remained empty until my wife finally moved here from Sibulan. Wanting to reestablish the tank, I bought 10 of the cheapest fish that Walmart sells. Nine died within a few days.
A week or so later, I bought 10 more of the cheap fish to go with the sole survivor of the first batch. I was told-by not a few people-that upon leaving Walmart, I should hold the plastic bag of live fish above my head. They said the scanning device that you walk thru leaving the store would somehow, damage the fishes' internal organs. I found this a bit hard to swallow but gave it a shot never-the -less.

These 10 fish soon joined there brethren in fish heaven. The only one to make it was the sole survivor from before. He was easy enough to identify by his size. Having made it thru two aquatic holocausts he became known to us as "Mr.Indestructible". Thinking that perhaps I'd been buying diseased fish, I went to an actual pet store and purchased 2 fish that were a little more expensive. All was well until my wife and I went on a mini vacation to visit friends in South Carolina. I saw little point in asking my co-worker to take care of the fish so I left them to their own devices while we went away for the week.

Opening the door upon our return, I was nearly knocked down by the smell. I immediately changed the filter and half the water and found 2 of the 3 fish were still living. I could see portions of fish skeleton laying on the bottom gravels. The two pet store fish had eaten Mr. Indestructible. These two managed to live together for about 6 months before one died.

For a month or so the last fish lived alone in the 10 gallon tank. My wife suggested that we put this one in the small fish bowl. I agreed. This last fish came to be called "Dorothy" after Elmo's goldfish in Sesame Street. My wife cleaned the aquarium and we placed Dorothy's fish bowl in the bathroom with the houseplants. I see now that it was appropriate that Dorothy be moved into the bathroom. She would not have far to go when the time came to flush her poor dead fish carcass down the toilet two days after the move.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Due to inattention....and a bad memory on my part, my Internet connection was off last night.Also, because of the same inattention and bad memory I was out of coffee that morning. A day without coffee and a night without Internet left me "Jonesin'" something awful.But, today I'm home with freshed brewed and highspeed Internet and all is right with the world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A good two days at Immigration

My wife is not an American citizen.She was born in Philippines and has been in the U.S.A. since April,2004.I've been dealing with the Immigration Service (USCIS) since early 2003.I can't even begin to say the number of times I've been on the phone with them.Likewise,I've been to three different USCIS offices in Atlanta countless times. Most of those visits could be called "neutral" at best, though I have had negative experiences there too.

My wife received her permanent resident card this past September.Someone in the USCIS location in California made an error in making the card by putting in the wrong birthdate.We had to send the card to Lee's Summit MO. so it could be made right.Without that "green card" she is unable to work or travel outside the country.

We made an appointment to see an Immigration officer yesterday AM.There is a public parking lot across the street from the Federal building where we managed to get a spot almost immediately upon entering.There were very few visitors ahead of us and we were able to talk to an especially helpful man right away.He told us that if we returned today with my wife's birth certificate he would stamp her passport so we'd have prove of her residence status until her corrected "green card" arrived.

He didn't make us wait in line.....we could see him as soon as we arrived.Now, she can work and we can go to Dumaguete to see our son's "Lola and Lolo".
We were even able to take advantage of an "early bird" discount at the parking lot this AM.(on the way home we cashed in a $2 winning scratch off ticket and won $28)

Over all,I'd say it's been a very nice day.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Red-headed stepchild tries to step out

If blogs were living beings with emotions and feelings then,I suppose this blog would feel like the red-headed stepchild of my Dumaguete blog.As I mentioned in my previous entry,although I have used this blog to write about my adventures in Dumaguete,I want to be able to write about other things.This blog has never been as popular as the website blog and it's ironic to see my "escape" entry making the relevant area on a Dumaguete blog search.Of course,with a title like "sorry all the clever names are taken" I guess it's not easy for the search engines to find a category for this.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

This entry isn't about Dumaguete

When I started the Dumaguete Website blog, I decided that I would try to limit the entries to things that dealt in someway with the website. I had things I wanted to write about concerning Dumaguete but, these were not related to my work on the website, so this blog was created, in part, to handle that. But sometimes I want to write about something other than Dumaguete and this blog can do serve that purpose as well.

Placing restrictions on the other blog has actually made it easier for me. There’s always something going on with the website so I can write something nearly every day. It’s a different story with this blog. The lack of boundaries and limits has made it more difficult. In a small way, it is analogous to comparing Mozart to Hip Hop. Classical music in Mozart’s day had a certain structure. By remaining within that structure, Mozart was able to explore a wide variety of musical ideas.
Conversely,there are no structural limits to Hip Hop….the “artists “ can do whatever they want. However, with it’s lack of structure, Hip Hop is boring and monotonous.

The entries came easy for me when they were limited to my experiences in Dumaguete. I want to branch out and it’s not so easy.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Thoughts on the food in Dumaguete

With such a wide variety of places to dine out in Dumaguete, I can't pretend to be an expert on all the restaurants, cafes and eateries in the city. I can, however, write about the few establishments with which I am familiar.

I've eaten at the Jollibee on Perdices a couple of times. They have a burger which is, surprisingly, comparable to a McDonald's Big Mac. The mango fried pie is pretty good,too. I've been to Chow King and I'd say the food is typical Chinese fast food. Cathy and I had a pizza from Shakey's delivered to our hotel room. It was some kind of pepperoni pizza with something crispy on top.......which turned out to be shredded potato.

Our food of choice was from D&C Manokan. I can remember the first time we had their chicken. When it arrived at the room, there were no forks or spoons included. I wasn't sure how we'd eat the rice. This was my first time eating rice with my fingers. Being a Southern boy, I'd eaten chicken with my fingers all my life so, that was no problem for me. As a matter of fact, I'll still eat rice with my fingers when I'm eating bony fish.

The Swiss steak from Don Atilano is wonderful.

I guess the most last effect of having eaten in Dumaguete is my new-found habit of eating everything with a spoon and fork-Philippine style.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Coffee, me or Dumaguete?

My original plan for today was to write an entry on the food in Dumaguete, but it's early Sunday morning and my thoughts run towards coffee.

Being a typical son of the South (as far as beverage choice goes) my 2 favorite drinks are coffee and iced tea. I had a pretty good idea before going to Philippines the first time that it would probably be difficult getting iced can't always find that here in the U.S..

I was proven right on that score. I thought it might be a different situation when it came to coffee. But, I'm sorry to say, Philippines (or at least the Visayas) is not a coffee lover's paradise. During my first two trips to Philippines, I spent a total of six weeks on the island of Siquijor without ever seeing (or tasting) brewed coffee. As far as I can remember, the only instant coffee I found was the 3-in-1 with creamer and sugar in the pouch with the coffee.


During that 6 weeks, I was forced to survive on hot tea ..... a poor substitute. The situation was a little bit better in Dumaguete. You can find brewed coffee in places like the food court in Lee Plaza or Dunkin' Donuts; the problem with that, however, is that I don’t wake up in the morning at Lee Plaza or Dunkin’ Donuts and the hotel where I normally stayed didn’t serve brewed coffee. So, when I woke every morning, my first cup of coffee was the instant coffee that came with the free hotel breakfast. At least I did have a choice over the 3-in-1.

During my last visit I was able to try brewed coffee from beans grown in Philippines. I wish I could say that it was delicious but, it spelled and tasted liked burnt wood. I love Dumaguete, but I would have to make an adjustment in my beverages of choice should I ever stay there very long.