Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Airplanes and Airports; Part Two.

In yesterday's post, I wrote that, this month, I'd flown on 8 different airplanes and passed through 6 different airport - twice. I also pointed out that, for the most part, the trip to Philippines was unremarkable and uneventful. It wasn't until the return trip, I wrote, that things became unpleasant.

Actually, the unpleasantness wasn't immediate, but rather came in degrees.

Whatever unpleasantness there may have been at the Dumaguete airport as we were leaving was not because of the airport, or Philippine Airlines, but rather the crying and unpleasantness of having to say goodbye to loved ones.

We arrived in Manila at the domestic Terminal 3. We'd need to transfer to Terminal 1 for the international flight. Oddly enough (or maybe not so odd) where the taxi from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 when we arrived was 330 Ph pesos - roughly $8 - the reverse taxi ride was quoted at more than 800 Ph pesos - $20 !

Fortunately, we were able to locate a shuttle. It was a slow go, but it only cost 20 pesos each for the three of us, and as we had a long overnight wait, slow going wasn't a problem.

The last flight out of Dumaguete brought us to Manila around 5:30 or 6:00PM. Our flight leaving for Japan wouldn't leave until 6:40 AM. A 12 hour layover can hardly be called pleasant, but it wasn't due to anything horrible at Terminal 1......it's just that, a 12 hour wait is a long, long, boring wait.

The worse thing about Terminal 1 is having to pay the terminal fee - 550 Ph pesos each - 1650 pesos! Nearly $40 bucks. At least the souvenirs were reasonable priced.

The 2 hour layover at Tokyo/Narita was an improvement. Heck, I could stand on my head for two hours.

On the flight from Japan to New York, I began the readjustment to the difference in time. It was tempting to sleep as much as possible, but I forced myself to stay awake according to an Eastern Time Zone schedule. Finding a few interesting movies on-board helped. (King Kong wasn't half bad.)

Unlike our experience on the way to Philippines, making our way through JFK on the trip home was a nightmare. All of Delta's flights are located together in a separate terminal - except for incoming international flights. After going through customs, we had to find our way to this elusive terminal with no idea how to get there; most of the folks employed at JFK are equally clueless as how to find it. Finding Skull Island in the above mentioned King Kong was easier.

We were lost - even went security twice - until we finally talked to a TSA agent who actually knew his ass from a hole in the ground - a rare animal, indeed.

Getting to Atlanta and leaving JFK behind was such a relief that I wasn't the least bit upset to find out in Atlanta that the folks in New York had put one of our bags on a later flight. Delta located said piece of luggage and delivered to our house the next morning.

It's Tuesday and I've pretty well adjusted to the time difference with little jet lag to speak of. It's back to our normal routine, where an 8 hour day at work can seem like a 13 hour plane ride from the U.S. to Japan.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Airplanes and Airports; Part One.

During the month of June, I've flown on 8 different airplanes and passed through 6 different airport - twice.

Needless to say, planes and airports seem to be stuck in my mind at present; I'm hoping that writing about these experiences will exorcise these thoughts.

We left for our trip to Philippines on June 5, heading first to Atlanta's Hartsfield/Jackson airport. Because going from Atlanta is our obvious choice, we were given 3 options.
1) Korean Airlines to Inchon, then Manila.
2) Flying to LA on a domestic airline (probably Delta) then Philippine Airlines to Manila.
Since our last trip to Philippines, Delta had taken over Northwest Airlines, so option
3) was to take Delta to Japan (with one US stop in-between) then continue Delta to Manila.

Option 3 was the only one that fit within our budget.

Hartsfield /Jackson was pretty much uneventful - basically, check in, wait board the plane, then off to:
JFK to change planes to Tokyo/Narita. Nothing much to say about the experience of going through JFK on the way out, except that the lunch we had at the airport was, naturally, over priced and while not horrible wasn't wonderful either.

Due the flight being delayed at JFK, our lay over in Japan was shortened considerably. We pretty much just deplaned, went through security, then back on the same flight to continue to Manila.

At the International terminal in Manila, we were met by friends after going through customs and  baggage claims. We would have to take a taxi to terminal 3 for our overnight wait for the flight to Dumaguete. One of our friends arranged and paid for the taxi - 330 Ph pesos (roughly $8). We had arrived in Manila around 9:00PM and our flight to Dumaguete wasn't scheduled to leave until 8:40 AM. Our friends in Manila stayed with us in terminal 3 until time for us to check in.
As it turned out, our flight was delayed until around noon.Our 12 hour lay over became a 15 hour layover. Ouch.

What can I say about the Dumaguete airport? The planes do not pull up to a gate. It's just like in the old movies; you deplane by way of steps pulled up to the aircraft and walk across the tarmac into the building. Once  inside, it was simple enough getting our checked bags and then into the van the family had arranged.

Thankfully, there wasn't much to complain about concerning the flight to the Philippines. OK, the flights were long, as were the lay overs; the food was mostly edible, some of the movies were better than others. Sleep didn't always come easily. All of that's to be expected.

It wasn't until the return trip, that things became unpleasant.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Leaving For The U.S..

As I write this, it is 6:45 AM, Friday in Sibulan ( 6:45 PM, Thurs. back in Georgia ). We'll be flying out of Dumaguete in approximately nine hours - if the plane actually leaves on time.

We'll have to spend the night in Manila; our flight for Japan leaves just before 8:00 AM, Saturday, Philippine time.

We're scheduled to leave Tokyo, Saturday afternoon at 3:10 Tokyo time.....we'll arrive in JFK Saturday afternoon at 3:05. Ain't time travel amazing?

This will be my last post until after we arrive home. It'll be late Saturday night in Atlanta when we arrive; I won't go back online until after Mass Sunday.

A few days ago, we went to St. Paul's University ( a Catholic school from elementary thru college ). That visit, along with an email from St.Mary's at home informing us of a large increase in tuition, has pretty much help me make up my mind about moving here.

I'll be writing more on that in the future, but it looks like June, 2015 will be the target date.

See ya'll Sunday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Early Morning in Sibulan.

According to an article in Wikipedia, Sibulan, Negros Oriental, Philippines, where I have been visiting my in-laws, has a population of just over 51,000 people.

The article does not say how that number would break down into total number of house - holds, but I'd say it would be reasonable to conclude that the number would be close to 10,000 individual households. Give or take, more or less.
I would also conclude that nearly every one of those individual households has a rooster.

It's 4:30 AM as I write this and I feel confident in saying that each and every one of those 10,000 roosters is crowing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Festival Update.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the star of our St. Anthony of Padua Feast Day was the Lechon Baboy.

I had taken photos, but was not able to post them at the time.

But, now, without further ado.........

The Lechon Baboy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pros and Cons.

Saturday morning, I experienced one of my least favorite things about life in Philippines; an electrical "brown-out". The power company had cut off all electrical power in Sibulan Saturday around 8:30. I'm not sure if Dumaguete went under a similar brown-out.

My sister-in-law told us that the outage would last until 5:00 PM. Fortunately for me, the power was restored much earlier than expected, 1:00 PM.

On the whole, I guess I do surprisingly well for an American without electricity; I'm no electricity addict. I can get along very well, thank you very much, without the electric lights, the T.V., radio and yes, even the Internet, but I can't withstand the sweltering heat without, at least, an electric fan.

Having grown up in Georgia during the late 1950's and early 1960's, I can channel my inner child in order to survive without air conditioning (at least for the few weeks I normally spend in Philippines).

My original plan for this blog post was to write on the brown-out and the heat, but the idea has evolved .I can take an early retirement sometime between late 2014 and early 2015. It won't be to my advantage to wait much longer than that. My wife would like for us to move here when I retire, but I'm not as sure about that as she. There are certainly things about life in Philippines which I love and appreciate, but like everything else, there are negatives.

On the positive side of moving here on a permanent basis is the fear I have of my son growing up in the U.S.  and developing into a typical American. In Philippines, there is a profound moral sense within the society, based on Catholic teachings, which is absent in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In spite of the fact that we may be active in our parish and that he attends a splendid Catholic school, the pull of moral relativism and downright depravity in American is too strong.

All the negative sides of living here are material. Could I really ever be comfortable living in a country where the plumbing is a century behind what I'm accustomed to? I've finally adapted to bathing without hot water, but without going into too much detail, I'm not a fan of the standard toilet in this country. The toilets may be better than what my grandparent may have had in the Southern United States during the Great Depression, but that's not saying much, is it?

The deal breaker for me - one way or the other - will be the quality of the education my son would receive here. Before we return to the States, we'll be dropping by St. Paul's ( a private Catholic school ) in Dumaguete. I should have most of my questions, in that regard, answered then and there.

Should we decide, ultimately, to move to Philippines when I retire, the move will not be immediate; the house and autos will need to be sold - hopefully, not at a loss. My wife would be more than happy to live in the house we built for her mama and papa. I'm not in total agreement with that; the house is fine......the improvements I'd want are easy enough. However, for my own tastes and sense of comfort, the house would be too small for the number of people who would be living here should we move in.

In the end, it will require a good deal of thought and a good deal of prayer before I know what our best choice might be.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day 2013.

The date settings on my Blogspot account are set for Eastern Standard Time in the U.S of A.. Be that as it may, I'm in Sibulan, Negros Oriental Philippines, where it is almost 11:30 AM, Sunday morning.

We've already attended Mass....our normal Mass time at home in Georgia is still 12 hours away. I've already given my impressions of Masses here in comparison to those in the United States; no need to rehash what I've written before.

I will make one observation, however. As in the U.S., the priest in Sibulan is assisted during Holy Communion by a number of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. To my best recollection, I can't recall ever seeing female EMHC in Philippines - I'm not saying they don't exist, I'm only saying I haven't seen any. Also, I'm tempted to think that the EMHC I have seen here may be Acolytes and not simply ordinary laymen. They're certainly dressed the part.

My question is; do these EMHC ever skip out on their assigned Sunday like the EMHC do at my parish at home? Do they just decide at the last minute to stay home, not even showing up for Mass? If they do choose to act like their American counterparts, would the priest here turn a blind eye the way the priests do at home?

I suspect he wouldn't.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dom and Emily.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post,the highlight of St. Anthony's feast day for me was my finally meeting, face to face, Dom Cimafranca and his charming wife, Emily. I became acquainted with Dom several years ago by way of his blog VillageIdiotSavant and over the years we've developed an on-line friendship.

Managing to take time off from his busy schedule teaching Computer Science and Creative Writing at Ateneo de Davao University, Dom and Emily flew into Dumaguete Tuesday. After connecting with Dom via cell phone, we arranged to meet outside St. Anthony's church in Sibulan on Thursday.

Back to Mama and Papa's house to enjoy the lechon baboy. After lunch, Cathy, J.P. and I joined the Cimafranca's on a little outing to see the sights in Dumaguete. Dom had the use of a car......certainly much better than depending on an "easy ride" or "tricycle" to get about,though I told Dom that I didn't think I was brave enough to try driving a car in Dumaguete.

When asked where we'd like to go first, Cathy and I said we wanted to see Robinson's Mall. It had been built since our last visit and our trip to Dumaguet would have been incomplete without our checking it out. Very impressive.

Then it was off to the Marine Museum to see the crocodiles, giant sea turtle and the museum's whale bone collection.

Lastly, Dom and Emily treated us to ice cream and coffee at a lovely little place called Gaby's Bistro. The photos of the various treats on the menu do not do them justice. J.P.'s ice cream, as you can see, was much too big - even for him.

Having read one or two of Dom's short stories on-line, I let him know that I was a fan. When we met, he gave to me a copy of his book of short stories, " An Unusual Treatment ". I hope the entire book becomes available on-line; Dom deserves a larger audience. I'll be loaning my copy to friends, but it can only go so far.

It's too early to be planning our next trip to Philippines......we haven't left yet. But, come next trip, I want to schedule a side trip to Davao to visit Dom and Emily, our new friends.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On St. Anthony's Feast Day.

Yesterday,Thursday,June 13 was the feast day of St.Anthony of Padua,the patron Saint of Sibulan,Negros Oriental Philippines.

They really take their festivals seriously here in Sibulan.

To start off our day, we were to attend a 5:00 AM thanksgiving mass at St.Anthony's Catholic church but a heavy rainstorm cancelled that - for us,at least. I'm not certain if we were getting the tail end of a typhoon,but it wouldn't surprise me.

Earlier, in preparation for the festival, on Wednesday, I accompanied Cathy's papa and two younger brothers to the old house in Tubtuban where Papa keeps his pigs. In a repeat of my visit six years ago, I helped, in a minor way,slaughter one of the two pigs that would be served up Thursday. thankfully, Cathy's cousin Rolly arrived to take over.

Thursday's star of the day was the lechon baboy - a whole pig,roasted outside on a bamboo spit. There are photos, taken with my 20th century SLR. It will be a few days before any of those photos will get posted online.

The highlight of Thursday,for me, at least, was my finally meeting face to face with Dom Cimafranca and his charming wife, Emily. I've been of fan of Dom's blog, Village Idiot Savant, for a number of years. Cathy, J.P. and I spent a few hours with the Cimafranca's in Dumaguete. I'll have more on that in a later post.

Later, Cathy, J.P. and I topped off the evening by walking to the church with Cathy's sisters and their children. There, we lit candles and prayed.

We returned home to house filled with visitors. As I said, they really take their festivals seriously here in Sibulan

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Upcoming Celebrations.

The date used for this blog is set for Eastern Standard Time (U.S.)
Be that as it may, as I write this, it is 7:50 AM, June 12,2013 here in Philippines.

 Philippine Independence Day.

Tomorrow, June,13 is the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua,the Patron Saint of Sibulan. I'm not at all certain what sort of celebration there will be here in Sibulan today, but I have been assured that tomorrow will be a big day.

Since arriving in Philippines, my blog posts have been written before hand on paper before signing on at the Internet cafe across the street from the in-laws house. I could use my wife's laptop - there's wi fi in the house, but I don't like typing out anything of great length on a laptop. Today, however, I'm typing on the fly,so to speak at the cafe.

I'm not planning on writing anything long and drawn out this morning.

I will eventually post any photos taken today or tomorrow. Don't expect them right away. I have an old fashioned SLR and the film will need to be developed first.

Until my next installment.........

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Time Out for a Book Review.

Days before leaving on our trip to Philippines, I made certain that my Amazon Kindle was fully charged and that there were plenty of e-books for me to read on that long,boring flight from JFK to Tokyo/ Narita.
Unfortunately, I was deprived of the use of my Kindle. We were traveling with three checked bags and three carry-on pieces. After everything was seemingly up to snuff and we were about to board the plane leaving Atlanta, we were informed that the overhead bins were completely full and any carry-on luggage that could not fit under the seat would have to be checked.

 Naturally, my carry on was too large.We were being told this at the last minute; I felt rushed and I wanted to be certain the really important items - passports, tickets, medicines - were put into Cathy's carry-on.In my haste, I left the Kindle in my former carry-on-now-checked bag and would not have access to it until we landed in Manila.

I've managed to find time to read while here in Sibulan. I've just finished one of the free e-books downloaded from Amazon:  The Rise of the Witch-The Witch Hunter Series Book 1,  by G. Stewart.
This book was made available at no charge in the hope that the reader would continue to follow the series.
The Rise of the Witch revolves around the appearance, near Endiburgh, of the ghost of a 17th century witch named Peigi Stuart.

Perhaps I'm an old fashioned grammar snob, but I was turned off by the writer's frequent ending of sentences with a preposition. I realize that ending a sentence correctly can be difficult and a sentence can become slightly convoluted when trying to say what you want to say without ending the sentence with "in" or "on". Sadly, G. Stuart makes it habit.

The book's plot quickly becomes convoluted as well. The idea proposed by the military to get rid of the witch with the use of a nuclear weapon was over the top, to say the least.

I don't think my giving away the ending will be a spoiler. I'm hoping that others won't waste their time, as I did, reading this e-book. After having gone on a rampage and killing a number of innocent people with abandon, Peigi Stuart is persuaded to return to the netherworld by simply meeting her 21st century descendant, Peggy Stuart.

The book ends with modern day  Peggy and her boyfriend Matt joining a  Secret Group of Witch Hunters, thereby allowing the series to continue.

The Rise of The Witch may not be the worst book ever written; I haven't read any of Stewart's other books, after all. I don't intend to find out if the rest of the series is this book's equal.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sunday at Church.

Given more than one option as to when and where we would attend mass Sunday, we decided on the Sunday, 8:30 mass here in Sibulan. Our other choices were going to 6:00 PM mass at St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Dumaguete or one of masses at St.Anthony of Padua in Sibulan at 6:00 or 8:30 AM or 5:30 PM.

Mama and Papa preferred the Mass in Dumaguete but Cathy and I were reluctant to ride to the city because to the horrendous traffic that I wrote of in an earlier post. Cathy wanted to attend the 5:30 PM mass but I doubted I’d be able to get out and about that late in the afternoon. After learning that the 8:30 Mass would be in English, the deal was sealed, even though, for me, the important thing is reception of the Eucharist – a Mass in Tagalog or Visayan would have been OK, as far as that goes.

St.Anthony’s church is relatively close  by, though not close enough to walk; we’d be going  by pedicab (AKA  "putt putt").  Readers from years back will recall that a motorbike with sidecar is called a tricycle. The "putt putt" is a sidecar powered by bicycle. We actually needed to hire two pedicabs – the total weight of me, my wife and son, plus the weight of my wife’s youngest sister would have been too much for one driver.  Each driver was paid 20 pesos (50 cents US) for the approximately 1 mile trip.

At 8:30 AM, it was already hot inside the church. The strategically placed oscillating fans and opened windows helped some, but our parish priest in Rome would not survive here. Father Patrick likes the AC running  full blast. Even in the hottest summer days, it's freezing in St.Mary's church.

The mass in Sibulan may have technically been in English, but following along wasn't easy for me. The liturgy and prayers were understandable but the readings weren't so, due to the lector's heavy accent. The priest's English was better but he liked to add Visayan to his homily, making it difficult for me to completely get his point.

The wafer used in the Eucharistic service was much smaller and thinner than the wafer used in the U.S.; it was nearly translucent in fact. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were used to help distribute the Blessed Sacrament, but the Precious Blood was not made available to the regular folk. I suppose the reason behind the absence of the blood, as well as the use of the small host was based on economic reasons - perfectly understanding and proper.

Michael Voris would probably be happy to know that the "sign of Peace" here was more restrained that it is in the U.S.. I didn't see anyone else shaking hands - just a simple head nod.

I couldn't help but notice the relatively large number of people who choose not to take Communion. In the U.S. everyone assumes he's "worthy" to take Communion, whether he is or not.

After mass, we hired two more pedicabs for the return trip to the house. It was, all in all a pleasant and  enjoyable experience.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Things Have Changed.

It’s been six years since our last visit to Philippines; it goes without saying that there have been changes over the past few years – some positive while some others, not so much.

J.P. has two additional cousins who hadn't been born our last time here and the two who we have seen before were almost unrecognizable – they’re no longer infants. His youngest aunt, who was only slightly older than he is now,  has grown into a tall, very pretty teen aged young lady.

Most of the family is living in the new house. There’s still more work to be done on the house, but it’s certainly an improvement over the old house.

As expected, not all of the changes that have occurred these past 6 years have been for the best. The traffic in Dumaguete is unbearable. It’s never been what you might call a pleasant experience, but the increased number of vehicles on the streets doesn't add anything to what was once a very charming city.

Worst of all the changes has been the tremendous increase in the price of everything. Some items, such has sacks of rice are still cheaper than in the U.S., but prices on some items are absolutely outrageous. The price of a 50 Kg sack of rice may be half that of the same bag in the U.S. – I purchased a can opener at Super Lee’s yesterday for more than 600 pesos, approx. $15 at the current rate. A can opener which, it turns out, I didn't even need in the first place.

Even as the price of everything has skyrocketed (showing the Philippine peso to have lost value) the value of the U.S. dollar has dropped even more. During my earlier visits, I could easily get 50 pesos per dollar but today the exchange rate is only 41 peso per dollar; a peso that has itself gone down. I don’t know how well other currencies are doing viz a viz the peso, but from what I can see, the global economy is still n a slump.
Some things here haven’t seemed to change. Tiny geckos, slightly longer than a man’s index finger still have reign over the people’s homes. Most of the Americans I know would freak at the thought of little lizards crawling about the house. They don’t, however, get in the way while they keep the number of insects in the home to a minimum.

J.P. seems to be taking everything in stride. He’s adapted to life here faster than I did my first visit. Technically speaking, of course, this isn't his first trip, but he remembers never at all from that visit).
Life in Philippines isn't easy. Most of my fellow Americans would absolutely dread being here. I’m sure I’m out of the ordinary, but I actually like it here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


We're finally arrived.

Actually, we've been here in Sibulan since yesterday afternoon. After a trip lasting 44 hours, I needed sleep before I could bring myself to go to an internet cafĂ©. Fortunately, one has opened across the street from the in-law’s since our last visit 6 years ago.

We left our house in Rome 4:00 AM EST this past Wednesday – Atlanta airport to JFK – JFK to Tokyo/ Narita, then on to Manila.

The overnight wait for the plane to Dumaguete was longer than expected. We arrived in Manila about 10:00 PM, local time. The flight to Dumaguete was originally scheduled to leave at 8:40 AM, but it was nearly noon before we left. Due to air traffic, a long overnight stay in the domestic airport was made even longer.

There’s more to say; I’ll be buying a writing tablet later today so I don’t have to waste internet time writing on the fly.

We're all safe and sound. We’re happy to see the family and of course, the feeling is reciprocated.
Consider this post the first installment of, I hope, many.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cheerios Ad Brings Out Racist Comments.

I first came across this story on The Blaze.com which linked to the original story on Adweek.

General Mills had posted a recent TV ad on Youtube and due to "strong racist backlash" was forced to disable comments on the video.

The ad in question depicts an interracial couple and their young daughter. Actually, the ad is really cute. I'm totally flabbergasted that anyone in this day and age would find this ad objectionable.

Neither Adweek nor The Blaze.com have disabled the comments on their respective sites so similar racist comments are on display. Many of the comments at The Blaze focus on the so-called horrors of Political Correctness, while some leaving comments at Adweek see this ad as part of a plan for racial genocide against the "White" race.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Getting packed for the trip to Philippines.

For myself, I could get by with simply a carry-on; a few pairs of shorts, a few shirts and underwear is all I need. With my wife, it's an entirely different story. Although we've already sent ahead balikbayan boxes with gifts for half of Sibulan, my wife still has more things to slug half-way across the planet.

Three people - three checked bags. If we were only going as far as Manila, there wouldn't be a problem; Delta allows 50lbs per person. The rub comes when we leave Manila on a domestic flight to Dumaguete. Air Philippines (not to be confused with Philippines Airlines) only allows 10kg checked baggage per person. That's less than half the amount Delta permits. Carry-on limit for domestic is 7kg per. My son and I can easily manage that amount.

I still have a few things to buy before we leave; camera batteries, new ball cap, 2 pair of shorts. No problem.

In looking over my emails, I see that Delta actually allows each person two 50lb checked bags. The difference between Delta and Air Philippine is even greater than I previously wrote.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Balikbayan Boxes.

Knowing we'd be traveling to Dumaguete next week, we shipped two balikbayan boxes on ahead. To the best of my recollectio, the boxes were sent in March. We received word from one of my wife's sisters that the boxes have already arrived.

Good. I was beginning to get worried that they might not get there in time. I don't actually know what's in the boxes, with the exception of two items. One is a deluxe air mattress. Anyone who has spend the night anywhere in the country knows why this was included. The second item on my list was a copy of a book I want to give to a friend there. I'm not exactly sure why I decided to include this in the balikbayan boxes rather than my carry-on baggage. After all, there was no reason why I shouldn't carry in with me, and besides, sending it the way I did, it might not have arrived by the time I was in the country.

All's well that ends well, I suppose.

The book?

 No Reason for Murder,  by Ayako Sono.