Monday, April 30, 2007

McDonald's in Philippines

Is there anything more typically "American" than McDonald's? The franchise seems to optimize the impression many foreigners have of us.Still,it's an odd "disconnect" for me to see a McDonald's in Dumaguete.It seems out of place to me.

Most visitors to the fast food restaurant there probably don't realise that the menu has been altered to suit the tastes and habits of the average Filipino.Of course,there's still the Big Mac and french fries, but in Dumaguete, they serve a "Burger McDo" which cannot be found in the American locations.It's about the size of the burger on the dollar menu here,but it seems to me the beef is more tender in the McDo and the sauce is different from anything we have in the U.S..

In Philippines,the menu includes a burger that has a type of rice cake for a bun rather than the traditional bread bun.I'm not sure how popular it is and while it may taste OK (or not) I didn't feel the urge to try one.

Whenever I see this photo of the Mickey D's in Dumaguete,I'm reminded of a story of someone I know and his experience with a McDonald's in Cebu.I can write about it because I know it is not likely he will ever read this blog.
He had come to Cebu on a matter concerning his Filipina wife's family and was staying alone at a resort.In spite of the fact that his wife is Filipina,he does not like Filipino food.He'd never eat bulad and although I've known him for more than three years, I don't believe I've ever seen him eat rice.

He was in Cebu for, maybe, three weeks and ate most of his meals at the McDonald's located near the resort.He didn't seem to care for much on their menu either....eating only the fillet of fish sandwich whenever he went.
After a few days,the manager of the restaurant asked him how long he was planning on staying in Cebu;the manager told him that they had never sold so many fillet of fish sandwiches and he wasn't sure how many to order from the supplier.

As for me,I'd much rather avoid the fast-food;I'll eat the rice and fish my wife's mother cooked.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Future Bloggers

The boy on the right in this photo is my son,J.P.. The other boy is my son's cousin, Phillip. This photo was taken recently at their grandparents' home in Sibulan.

This is a typical situation for J.P.. He is always trying to get to the PC at home. He sees my wife and I spending so much time on the computer.....he's simply imitating his parents.

My wife's mother was once employed by an entity in Sibulan.....not quite sure if it was government run or private....that loaned money to the folks in the area. The entity was unable to collect the money it had loaned out and so, subsequently, went out of business. As way of paying off the unemployed workers, the company allowed them to take whatever furniture or equipment was left in the office. This PC (and another) were among the items that my wife's mother brought home. Neither PC works. My wife and I tried to get them working while we were visiting, but to no avail.

The point of this little story is to bring up the question of foreign investments in Philippines. The entity for which my mother -in -law worked had no way of legally obtaining the money defaulted by the borrowers. What foreigner is willing to invest if there is no guarantee they will ever see a return? Another obstacle to progress in Philippines is the law that prevents foreigners from buying property in the country. I am not an expert on Philippine law, by any means. But, it seems to me that laws such as these, which were intended to prevent exploitation of the local population have stifled progress by discouraging investment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The cost of living

Whenever I talk about Philippines to Americans, many of them seem to be fascinated by the cost of things in other countries. Americans believe that everything is cheaper overseas. It fits into their idea that we Americans are getting the short end of the stick. They love to believe they we are being taken advantage of by the powers that be.

They often ask me how much gasoline costs in Philippines. For a long time, I was unable to answer that question. I had never paid for gas I had no idea of the cost. This last trip, I made a point of finding out. In Dumaguete, the price of gas is 38 pesos per liter. After converting pesos into Dollars and liters into gallons, it comes out as $3.06 per gallon. Hardly cheap. As I write this, gas here in Georgia is $2.80 per gallon. In real dollars it costs less in the U.S.. When you take into consideration the length of time it takes to earn that amount of money in each country the difference is even more startling.

An American will work maybe 10 or 15 minutes to earn enough to pay for that gallon of gas. Some will work even less. No one will have to work 30 minutes. Compare to how long it will take the average Filipino to earn the more than 140 pesos. Many would have to work all day to earn that much.

Any wonder why there are so many motorcycles on this photo?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Post Patrol photos

Not far from where I live is the small town of Centre, Alabama. The town has a local paper that is primarily filled with advertisements. The Cherokee County Post, as it is known, also has a contest where readers send in photos of themselves holding a copy of the paper while they are away on vacation. I don't know the criteria used to determine the winner but, the prize for the best photo is $1000. In 2003, when I went to visit Cathy in Philippines I carried along a copy of the Post. A photo was taken of me, Cathy and several of her friends as I held the paper. When I returned home, I sent in the photo and it was printed in the Post. I sent several copies of the paper to Philippines......enough for everyone in the photograph.

That photo did not win the contest.

I wanted to give it another try. I planned to bring along a copy with us to Dumaguete, but when we got there, I discovered that we hadn't brought one with us.

I was pretty sure that Cathy's mother would have kept at least one copy of all I'd sent before. Turns out she never gave anyone else a copy.......she had all the copies.
As you can see, I brought one of the papers into town and took this photo of JP and Cathy standing across from Super Lee's on Perdices. I sent a copy of the photo, via email, to the paper yesterday.

The other copies came into good use as well. Cathy used them to wrap the bulad we packed away to bring with us to the U.S. .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Manipulating images

It's easy enough to make resolutions. I can tell myself that I'll do what needs to be done to get something into this blog every day. To me,the most difficult thing in writing isn't necessarily finding the words so much as it is finding a proper subject.

While in Dumaguete, I made a point of getting lots of photos.....mainly to have something for the web site. It occurred to me that I could use this catalog of recent photos to provide me with subjects for my writing. I can merely look at a photo, allow the photo to refresh my memory of some incident surrounding the circumstances of when and why and how the photo came to be.The idea worked well enough on my last entry, but the process is not as easy as I once thought it would be.

I have a few photos of St. Catherine's Cathedral in Dumaguete -both of the inside and outside views. I've been trying to come up with a different background for the website and I think a photo of this very important landmark would be the perfect choice. The problem is, if the photo is used, as is, it will over power the foreground. It makes reading the content of the web page nearly impossible. I want to find some way of manipulating the image in a way that looks good. None of the photo editing software I have will allow me to do exactly what I want to do with this photo.

The answer seems to be in buying additional software.Money doesn't grow on trees, however. Then there's the chore of learning how to use the particular software once you have it. If you don't know how to use the software before hand you can't always be certain it will do what you want, anyway. That's always the problem with being a perfectionist who wants to do it all. I want to do the writing, the photography and the design myself. There's so much to learn to get one thing much more so to do it all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chasing piglets in Tubtubon

Every morning, while we were staying with my in-laws in Tubtubon, I would carry my infant son behind the house to see the farm animals. He was particularly found of visiting the piglets. Although penned up now, when we first arrived the piglets had been allowed to roam about the yard, going where they will. The photos shows J.P. chasing the piglets as they came near him.

I love the time spent with my son, but I must admit it can be taxing. An 18 month old child needs constant supervision;something which is easier to accomplish in Philippines than in U.S. Here in America,we do not have the same family support system. In Philippines, you have an endless supply of relatives to help with taking care of the children. We no longer have large families here. The so-called "baby boomers" had an unnatural fear of children......we had unlimited access to contraceptives and we aborted millions of the unborn. When I was a child, a childless couple was seen as an oddity. Almost everyone I grew up with had 2 or 3 siblings. It certainly isn't that way any more.

Children are now seen as a burden-as a cause of poverty. Americans today have sacrificed family life for a life obsessed with the love of material possessions.
It's true that the average American have material riches of which the average Filipino can only dream. But we are poorer with our lack of familial closeness.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Cook

While in Dumaguete and Sibulan, I wanted to document my stay,but, the difficulties involved in getting to a PC made it impossible to get it all down in the blog during the three weeks I was there. Now that I'm home, I'll continue to write about my observations of Negros Oriental.
This is a photo of the cook from my birthday party, along with his daughter and his helper. It was taken just after they'd finished their work and were headed home. The cook is the one wearing the cap.

I was told that only relatives would be attending the party and I wasn't sure about how much to spend on drinks. We bought 3 cases of bottled soft drinks, 1 case of San Miguel beer and a few bottles of Tanduay Rhum. If I'd known there would have been so many people at the party I would have ordered more beer. I'm not the beer drinker I once was, but, I do like to have a few on special occasions. We ran out. I've been to Philippines several times but this was the first time I was ever tempted to try the Tanduay. The taste wasn't so bad if you watered it down a bit and added calamansi to it. When we ran out of the Tanduay, my brother-in-law and one of his friends bought more. No need to tell you that I had quite the hangover the day after my birthday party.
I did manage to feel well enough later in the day to go with my wife to Sibulan for a mini-festival- of sorts that goes on at the church on the thirteenth of each month in honor of the town's patron saint - Saint Anthony of Padua.

All along the road leading up to the town there where people selling candles which were to be lit at the church. My wife wanted to wait until we arrived at the church before getting the candles so we could buy them from the nuns there. There is an area outside the church building....though still on church grounds.....where there is located a concrete trough where the candles are set. The heat given off by all the candles burning was quite remarkable. Multiply the town's Catholic population by 10 candles each and you can get some idea. After the candles were lit, we went inside the church for prayers. Afterwards, we met family members gathered in the town park.
I mention this all because, not only does the cook from the party work in the cafeteria at Silliman University, but, he was also the driver of the tricycle that took us to the church that evening. You do what you need to do to earn a living.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Anyone reading this will be, of course,reading it on a PC monitor or, perhaps,a printed version taken from a computer. As I write this first draft, I am not seated at a PC; I have no Internet access. I have pen in hand and I'm putting this down on paper which has become soft due to the humidity.

It's nearly 7:00 AM and I'm sitting on a bench, on a farm located in the Barangay of Tubtubon, in the municipality of Sibulan,Negros Oriental in central Philippines. To say the farm is isolated would not be an overstatement. This farm, like the surrounding farms, cannot be reached by car or tricycle. A road isn't far off but, to get here you must travel by motorcycle or walk.

What strikes me as odd....and the reason I felt a need to pick up this pen, is that it is so incredibly noisy here. There are the usual noises you'd find on a farm; chickens roam around, clucking. There's the occasional barking dog. There are pigs on this farm though not nearly as many as on the next farm who can also be heard squealing for their breakfast. There are four roosters -raised to be fighters. I imagine every house in the Barangay has, at least, an equal number. Each one crowing back and forth.

These sounds are to be expected on a farm. Nothing unusual in that. No, it's the additional, unnecessary noises that strike me as being out of place. During waking hours, there is the constant din of music blaring from radios and CD players.

I can almost understand a person's wish to use music to transport themselves to another time and can be a great escape mechanism. But,here,on these isolated farms, you cannot escape the music.

Filipinos love American music. You are surrounded by it. It's not only contemporary music but music coming from every decade since the 1950's. Some is done by the original artist though some is performed by a Filipino imitator. The popularity of karaoke is unlike anything an American will see at home.

Like marketers in the U.S., stores owners here have learned the value of entertain shoppers with music coming over the intercom system. I'd never paid very much attention to the background music until, one day while grocery shopping, I noticed the music had stopped and I could hear praying instead. Everyone in the store -both the workers and the shoppers - had paused to pray along in silence.

After this, I started paying closer attention to the sounds coming over the loud speakers in the department stores. I noticed something completely out of place. In two different stores I heard the music suddenly change from "oldies" to a kind of rap or hip hop. I'm not familiar enough with that genre to say the names of the groups or even if the performer was American or a Filipino imitator. I listened to the lyrics. Singing in English, the singer was spewing forth the most vile, obscene and vulgar language imaginable. I'm not going to repeat the lyrics here. Let me say that the music could never had been played in a department store in the U.S..

Filipinos pride themselves as a nation of English speakers and most understand a bit. After hearing this music, I'd have to think that most do not understand as much as they believe.
I doubt that any store owner that would play recordings of Hail Marys over the intercom would knowingly play this sort of music if he really understood what the singer was singing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Using the Internet in Dumaguete

I've been doing my best to keep the entries in this blog up-to-date, but it's not been easy. If I were at home, I'd have access to my PC and the Internet any time the urge struck to blog. Not so in Dumaguete. I don't have access to a PC at my in-law's house, so I have to go to either Sibulan or Dumaguete to an Internet cafe. Sibulan is closer to their place, but usually we have things to do in Dumaguete so going to a cafe there makes more sense for us.

Still, it's difficult. It's a short walk to the road from the house, then a tricycle to the highway. When we get to the highway, it's either another tricycle or an "easy ride" into the city.
We've got an almost endless supply of Internet cafes we can use......I could not begin to visit each one without a better source of transportation. As mentioned in an earlier post, I've used one or another of the Scooby's locations. I had a problem earlier getting to my website from Scooby's but as far as I can tell, it's no longer a problem.

Up the block from the Scooby's at Chow King is another cafe I've used but I've forgotten the name. That's just as well because, I had a hard time using Firefox there and I felt like their prices were a bit high.

I've used the Cafe Atrium ( AKA Business Atrium ) a few times. I'm there now, as a matter of fact. I like the screen resolution settings here better that those anywhere else, so far.

The Cafe Atrium is owned and operated by an American living here in Dumaguete. From what I understand, he has a number of other irons in the seems you have to do that here in order to make it.

We'll be returning home soon and I don't know how many more blog entries I'll have before we arrive home. This one could be the last one written in Dumaguete. I might be able to fit in one more.......but, who can say?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mass at St. Catherine's Cathedral in Dumaguete

One of the many things on my "to do list" on this trip to Dumaguete , was to get photos -inside and out- of St. Catherine's Cathedral.It took more than one visit to the Cathedral to accomplish this.I was able to get photos of the outside, easy enough, but when I wanted to go inside for photos there was a funeral Mass going on at the time so, out of respect, I decided to come back later.When I did manage to return, there was another funeral Mass so I thought it best to return another day.I was, finally able to get inside photos - as this photo will attest.

Whenever I'm here, I usually attend Mass at the church in Sibulan where my wife's family goes.I thought it would be nice to attend a Mass in the cathedral but I wasn't expecting to. This past Sunday, Cathy and I took her parents and youngest sister out to Greenwich for pizza.For some unexplained reason, we had not gone to Mass that morning and it was mentioned that there would be a Mass at St. Catherine's not long after we finished eating.I was more than willing to go.
Like the church in Sibulan, Mass in the cathedral was Standing room only. And hot.

The highlight of the Mass, in my view, was the singing by a small choral group accompanied by a single acoustic guitar.Several lovely songs were sung but I must be honest, I did not understand a word.But, fortunately,song lyrics do not have to be understood for the music to be appreciated.......that's one of the beauties of good music.

Changing Dollars to Pesos in Dumaguete

During my first visit to Dumaguete seven years ago,when I needed to exchange U.S. Dollars for Philippine Pesos, my friend directed me to a company on San Jose Street across from Lee Plaza called Forex. Being a creature of habit, that would always be my location of choice whenever I needed Pesos from then on out.
I soon discovered a problem with that habit, however. During normal business days, Forex is opened Monday to Friday. No money exchange on the weekend. You also have to take into account that normal business days in Philippines are not always in line with normal business days elsewhere.

One December afternoon, I was running low on Pesos and couldn't depend on Forex due to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Jose Rizal's birthday. I was in desperate need for another option.My friend then told me about the money changers.
On the corner of Legaspi St. and Perdices you'll find them.......or rather, they'll find you. They will approach any foreigner on the chance the foreigner might need Pesos. The street corner is very near to St. Catherine's Cathedral. There's a MacDonald's on the corner now (it had not been there when I first visited).

It works like this:

The man will ask you the type of currency you wish to exchange and in what amount and denomination. He pulls out his calculator, tells you the exchange rate and the amount you will receive for your Dollars. A one hundred Dollar bill will net you a better rate than five Twenties, for example. If you agree to the exchange,the man will produce the Pesos, give them to you to hold (and count). If the count is right, then you give him the U.S.Dollars.

Surprisingly, the rate is not so very different from the "official" rate offered by companies like Forex. The difference may amount to only a few pesos; certainly, not much of a profit. I could never understand how these guys could be making any real money.

Recently, I needed to send money via Western Union to a family member in Mindanao and had to use the street exchange in order to have enough cash. It was on that occasion that I read a notice at Western Union about money laundering. That was when it hit me.....OK, these guys are laundering the money. I can only imagine where the money comes from. I'm not quite sure of the legality of this type of money changing, but it is done fairly well out in the open. If it is illegal, the police are turning a blind eye to it all.

More on the traffic in Dumaguete

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry,when it comes to driving in Dumaguete,the primary rule seems to be "every man for himself". I've gotten used to the fact that crossing the street here is unlike anywhere else I've ever take your chances. There are no stop signs or traffic lights. You cross the street while traffic is moving and you hope the oncoming driver will stop (or slow down) for you. It's always best to cross when others are attempting to cross. Maybe there is safety in numbers. Given a choice,I'd rather cross at an least the drivers are forced to slow down to keep from crashing into other tricycles.

I feel more comfortable crossing one way streets like Perdices. You only have to look in one direction as you dash across.

I thought that I had seen everything when it comes to driving here, but yesterday evening,after buying a few groceries,we left the super market at Lee Plaza to take a tricycle to the terminal and I witnessed something I thought I would never see in this city. Behind us, I saw a Dumaguete traffic control officer (yes, they do exist) giving a ticket to a tricycle driver. This was not the first time I'd seen a traffic officer but it was the first time I'd ever seen one do anything. The most puzzling thing to me is just what the driver's offense could have been. How can someone break a traffic regulation in a city that doesn't seem to have any such regulations?

Perhaps the ticket wasn't for a driving offense,per se. I think, maybe the driver did not have the proper tag or permit. Like everywhere else in the world, Dumaguete has it's share of government officials looking to make a dollar (or peso, in this case). The traffic police may not be able to stop the insane driving,but they might be able to enforce a tag or license regulation. As it's often said - if you want to know why something is the way it is, you only have to follow the money.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 living is the life for me.

This entry may not be suitable reading for everyone. It details of the killing of the pig eaten at my birthday celebration.

I awoke early on the morning of my birthday. It was only 5:20 AM by the time I had finished my morning prayer and meditation.Cathy's papa was already awake as well. He had started fires for boiling water in the dirty kitchen and outside by the side of the house. My brother in law Eugene hadn't arrived yet and Alex was still asleep. Papa was ready to slaughter the pig that would be the main course of my birthday party.

When Eugene arrived, he climbed into the concrete stall that housed the pig. Papa was soon inside and they tossed the pig over the wall onto the ground. Alex was out of bed now and the three of them managed to tie the pig's legs. Papa was instructing the younger men but I don't speak Bisayan so I could only stand by and watch.

On the side of the house, there is a mango tree which, due to a typhoon early in it's life, grows in a misshapen, lopsided position. Papa was able to form a table of sorts on the branches on this nearly fallen tree by tying two bamboo poles between them.

Papa and Eugene carried the tied-up pig by the hind feet and ears to the mango tree. Alex held a stick in the pig's mouth-to keep it from thrashing it's head about, I imagine. Papa gave Eugene instructions on how to cut the throat of the pig. It didn't take long.

When the pig was dead, Alex began pouring scalding water onto the hair while Eugene and Papa scraped off the hair;at first using a knife and piece of flattened metal. After most of the hair was removed, they began using razors to scrape off the final bits.

Papa pulled down some large leaves from a banana tree to cover the table in the dirty kitchen then they placed the pig carcass on the table. Papa was nearly finished removing the offal by the time the cook arrived. He would butcher the pig to suit the menu he had planned for that evening. The cook works in the cafeteria of Silliman University and is considered to be an excellent cook.

At first, it seemed to me that the amount of food seemed less than what it should be, considering the size of the pig. I found out later that most of the finer cuts of meat would not be served at the party.....they would be saved for us to eat the next day.

It was a typical, Filipino party.....Lots of people, Tanduay and karaoke. Fortunately, there was nowhere I had to be the next day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Banned from Scooby's

On my arrival in Dumaguete, one of the first things I did,once I was situated, rested and recovered from the jet lag, was to locate an Internet cafe.Being a typical American, I opted for the most convenient way. I'd planned on spending time on Perdices St. shopping at Super Lee's and taking photos of "down town" so the easiest way was to use the Scooby's next to Chow King. Rather than checking out several Internet cafes as I should have done, I always returned to the same place whenever I needed to go online.

I have to admit, the cafe is nice enough.It's clean, air-conditioned and you can get food downstairs if you get hungry surfing the web.

Now, however much I may have liked the place at first, it looks as if my days at Scooby's have come to an end. I'm inclined to use Mozilla Firefox as my browser of choice. One afternoon while online, I had the idea to go the "Tools" section in the browser and change the homepage for that particular PC to my website. The idea seemed so good that I decided to do the same on three different computers in the cafe.

On the Monday following Easter, I returned to Scooby's to check my email and do a bit of blogging. Much to my surprise, when I tried to open my website, I could only get an "website under construction" page.My first thought was that there was some kind of problem with my web server. It just so happened that a friend in the US was online at the same time and I asked him to view the website from his location. Everything was OK from there.

I tried Internet Explorer. Same result. I tied another PC. No change. It came to me that, perhaps, the management of Scooby's had blocked the website because of my having altered the browser settings earlier.

To see if this might be it, I walked down to Business Atrium on Silliman Ave. I had no problem what so ever getting to the site from there PCs. I wanted further proof so I went around the corner to a different Scooby's location to find that I could not access the site there. Obviously, I was right. Scooby's had blocked access to the website from their servers.

Oh well.

I've always been one to "make lemonade whenever I'm given lemons". While I'm in Dumaguete I'll go to different Internet cafes and feature these cafes on the website when I return home.

Green Acres is the place to be.........

English is a 2ND language for my wife. Although her English is quite good, there are times when she may not chose the correct word for the idea she's trying to put across. This happened early Tuesday morning while we were having breakfast.

There was quite a commotion outside behind the house. The pig were squealing loudly and even the dog and roosters were in some sort of stress. My wife told me that Papa was circumcising the piglets. My first thought was that,perhaps,if what she said were true, then it might be possible to make pork Kosher.

After I had explained the difference between the definitions of circumcision and castration she admitted that her choice of words had not been the right one.

Out of basic curiosity, I had to go outside to witness the job for myself. My brother-in-law, Eugene was seated, holding the poor piglet upside down and gripping tightly it's four feet. Papa was seated directly across from Eugene with a third chair next to him. His "surgical" equipment-scissors, needle and thread, a hypodermic needle and bottles of something or other-lay on the chair.

I asked Cathy how many of the eight piglets were male. Just three, she said. It wouldn't been long, I thought, until there would be three fewer males in the group.

Having spent my years living in the city or the suburbs, I haven't had a good deal of experience with farm animals. I once worked for an egg farm so I've killed a few chickens; but, nothing larger than that. Thursday morning, Papa and Eugene will slaughter the middle pig for my birthday party. I'm planning on watching. I figure if I'm willing to eat the animal I should, at least, know more about the process of putting it on the table.

Monday, April 9, 2007

From Good Friday to Easter

The number of people attending the Good Friday Mass was by far a good deal more than the number attending the Mass on Holy Thursday. To say it was "standing room only" would be an understatement. As full as the church was, there was an even greater number of people assembled outside listening to the Mass over the loud speaker.

When the time came for the veneration of the cross, those already inside remained seated until after those outside made their way to the front of the church to kiss the black cross held by the priest and his attendants. It surprised me that the cross was only a simple one and did not have a corpus like the one used in our parish back home. The crowd was so large that the veneration took more than an hour.Fortunately, there was a Eucharistic minister and alter boy at the front entrance during Holy Communion so it did not take as long for us to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

Near the entrance, on the left side of the church as you face towards the door, there was a statue of the Blessed Mother, dressed in black, obviously in mourning. Directly across from this statue was a glass coffin in which a statue representing the crucified Christ lay. After Mass, the two statue were brought outside the church and a procession was formed to take the two statues to different locations until Easter Sunday morning when they will be re-united.

My wife's sister, her husband and baby arrived from Dipolog Saturday night, along with a cousin staying with them who takes care of the baby. It was very late when they arrived which meant we were unable to go to bed early enough to wake at 3:00 A.M.. As much as I wanted to see the ceremony in the park, I could not bring myself to get up in time.

My wife and I took J.P. to the 8:30 A.M. Easter Mass. We would be returning to the church at 11:00 o'clock to be a part of our nephew's Baptism.
I am very happy to say that Cathy and I have the privilege of being the baby's Godparents.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Holy Thursday and Good Friday

We arrived in the church in Sibulan an hour early on the afternoon of Holy Thurs.There had been some sort of mix-up as to when the Mass was to start but it turned out OK for me because I was able to meditate while we waited on the Mass to begin. We have a room to ourselves at Mama and Papa's place and I always wake up early; so, it's always quiet enough for me to do my morning meditation but, I've not been able to do the afternoon one due to the number of family members roaming about the house.

Just after I finished my meditation, a documentary film started showing inside the church. I did not get the artist's name but he did a "Last Supper" painting with Filipino street children replacing the 12 apostles. In this film, the artist told the story of each of the children in his painting. It was a touching and moving story.

J.P. was very restless. He was crying during the Mass so most of my time was spent outside trying to quiet him. It was, of course, better for me to take care of him rather than Cathy because I don't understand enough Visayan to follow the words of the Mass properly. I was not able to witness the washing of feet but I did manage to receive Holy Communion.

On the morning of Good Friday, Cathy and I awoke early to attend the Via Crucis. Cathy's sister, Susan had arrived at the house with her three year old son. Mama and Papa would babysit the two grandsons while Cathy, Susan younger sister Mikki and I went off to the church in Sibulan. We weren't able to catch a ride with a tricycle until we had walked more than a mile to the main highway leading into town. The walk was good preparation for what would be in store for us.

The Via Crucis had already started by the time we arrived at the church;but, because of the direction the procession would be going, we were able to join in at the second station. At the front of the procession was a group of men who would be taking turns carrying the cross. The priest was upfront as well, along with other religious. The priest carried with him a small radio microphone to transmit his words to a van following behind. There were loud speakers atop the van that were reminiscent of the type I've seen in old movies from the 1940s.

After completing a station, the group would proceed along the main highway to the next one while taped music (or a Rosary) played over the speakers.

At the beginning, it seemed to me that the crowd numbered in the hundreds but would reach into the thousands by the end.

I can't say for certain just how far we walked but, I estimate that the distance between stations was between 1/2 to 3/4 mile. We walked for more than three hours. For most of the Via Crucis, the radio reception from the microphone was so poor than it was impossible for me to keep up with what the priest was saying or even keep track of the station number at any particular time.
I was tired, of course, but my legs are strong so there wasn't any pain to speak of in my legs or feet.
Some time around the tenth station I noticed that my hands had become quite swollen and were causing a great deal of pain. I believe this pain in my hands was a gift from the Holy Spirit, allowing me to feel, in a small way, some of the pain Christ had felt with the nails in his hands. Cathy thought the swelling may have come from the way I carried my arms during the walk; her aunt thought that, perhaps, it was an allergic reaction to the dust. There had been a light rain so dust was not a problem that morning.

Though not the most logical explanation, my idea of what was happening at the time still makes the most sense to me.

Mama and Papa's place

In many ways, Mama and Papa's place is typical of farms all over the world with the goats, chickens and pigs. There are two dogs laying about though I'm not quite certain that both belong there.

One of the pigs is still small.....not quite ready for slaughter. The larger sow just had piglets maybe two or three weeks ago. The third pig is fairly large and is destined to be the main course of my upcoming birthday party.

Some of the chickens are free to wander about but there are a few that are set apart in a small chicken house. These, I understand, are for breeding the game cocks Papa will sell. He already has three or four game roosters that he hopes to sell for 2000 pesos each.

There are a few mango trees on the property. Right now the trees are covered in flowers; we've arrived too early for the fruit. The same goes for the bananas. The fruit is still too green to pick. The calamansi and the coconuts are a different story. I've already picked a few of the calamansi to put into my iced tea. I've watched Papa climb the tree to cut down a few coconuts but mostly, when he climbs the coconut tree it's to collect the bamboo containers of "tuba".

These bamboo containers collect the sap that drips from the coconut tree in much the same way that syrup is collected from maple trees in the States. He takes the tuba to a work area behind the house where it is strained and put into plastic jugs. From what I understand it takes only a few hours for the tuba to ferment and just a few days to produce vinegar. I haven't sampled much of this homemade wine but I've been told that it takes about a gallon to get a person drunk. Papa doesn't lack for customers so I'm sure very little has the chance to turn to vinegar.

It takes quite a bit of work to produce vegetables on the farm. He has a small patch of kamote tops. The plant is a variety of sweet potato but it's grown for the leaves and not the tuber the way we grow some varieties of turnips for the greens and not the turnip. Before we left the US Cathy and I bought an assortment of garden seeds for Papa to try. We brought three varieties of squash as well as okra, bell pepper, hot pepper, cantaloupe and watermelon.

I woke up early on the morning of Holy Thursday to see Papa preparing the plot for the yellow squash. I finished my coffee and went over to help. We had a hoe for removing the grass, a shovel and a third tool - the name of which I have no clue. This tool may have had another purpose unrelated to gardening for all I know. It's a metal pole; maybe 5 feet in length with an 1 1/2 inch diameter. The pole was somewhat flattened on one end. We used this tool for breaking the ground after the grass was removed. Then we'd use the shovel to make mounds into which we'd plant the seeds. Before breakfast we had done three rows of mounds....eight mounds per row. We planted three seeds per mound for a total of 74 squash plants if all the seeds germinate. That's sure to be more than enough squash for the family.

We still have about two more weeks before we leave for the U.S.. I'll know before we go how many plants came up but I would be here for the end result. I hope that the plot produces a lot of squash. It took a lot of work and I don't want to think our work was in vain.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Ubiquitous Tricycle

Where would Dumaguete be without the ubiquitous tricycle ? It would be an exaggeration to say that there are no automobiles in Dumaguete but they are as rare as hen's teeth. Motorcycles are everywhere but for the most part the average person relies on the motorcycle with a side-car called a tricycle. It's a loud and bumpy ride.

As for the traffic laws....the law of the land seems to be "every man for himself". When approaching an intersection it's the bravest driver that proceeds first. If there's a traffic light in all of Dumaguete, I have yet to see it and it seems as if you take your life into your hands when crossing the street.

I have no idea how a driver can possibly earn a living. The fare is either 6 or 7 peso per person (I can never remember how much) and the price of gasoline is comparable to the cost in the USA.

Because I don't live here year round, I can look on all of this as a romantic,exotic adventure. I don't know if I'd have the same high regard for this sort of transportation if Dumaguete was my permanent address.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Arrival in Dumaguete

After a very stressful time waiting on J.P.'s passport to arrive, we were finally able to leave on time for Dumaguete on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. We arrived, safe and sound, Monday 7:30 AM Philippine time (Sunday 7:30 PM). I won't try and go into too many details about the flight over.....15 hours, non-stop from Atlanta to Seoul, South Korea then after a three hour lay-over a four hour flight to Manila. We had to wait for the 6:30 AM flight to Dumaguete. As an aside to my friends coming to Dumaguete; Air Philippine is no longer in the "Old Domestic" airport. They've transferred to Terminal Two with Philippines Airlines.

There was one surprise at Immigration in Manila. Normally, as a foreigner, I receive a 21 day Visa and have to pay a tax for any additional time. However, this time,perhaps because I am married to a Philippine citizen, J.P. and I both were given "Balik Bayan" visas....good for one year. I told the Immigration officer that that was very nice but I couldn't stay here that long because of work.

We were met at the airport in Dumaguete by two of my wife's sister who had hired a tricycle driver to take us to Mama and Papa's place. We had some many pieces of luggage that the tricycle couldn't travel very fast. We can only get so close to Mama and Papa's place and had to hand carry the bags the last leg.

Not long after breakfast, Cathy and I and the baby were finally able to lay down a bit. It was the first time in more than 30 hours that Cathy and I could lay down. J.P. was able to get a little sleep on the plane but Cathy and I were not so lucky.

It was after 3PM when we awoke. I wanted to hurry into town before the Forex money exchange office closed. To our surprise, we did not make it in time and had to find a money changer on the street. I was leery of them the first time I used their services a few years ago but now it's not so hard to do.

This A.M., Cathy's brother, Jesse Boy, brought me into the city. Again Forex was closed.....I guess it will be closed for all of Holy Week.So it was back to the money changers, than to Western Union to send money to another sister in law for the travel expenses for her and husband and baby to come to Dumaguete from Dipolog. Jesse Boy and I made our way to Super Lee Plaza to buy a cook stove for Mama. He headed back home with the stove and money for rice and he'll fetch me later. It would be impossible for me to find my way back home again. I've been to Dumaguete often enough to know my way to Sibulan but I'd never be able to find the house from the Highway.

I'm at Scooby's now .... I'll send a few emails then go out for some photos before meeting Jesse Boy at Dunkin' Donuts. I'm not sure if I'll be able to upload any photos for the blog while I'm here but I'll try, next time.