Month of MAY- 2013 This is one page per month devoted to the more personal experiences related to my life in the Philippines. I’ll toss in some photos & video links as needed for emphasis so.. no telling what you’ll encounter here.
— Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
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[05/31/2013] — (3:06am) Well, it’s been a busy day and it looks like it’ll be an even busier extended weekend coming up. I’ll be Cebu-bound for a few days to meet up with a reader (David) from Ireland and also catch up with a few other people in the Mactan/Cebu area I haven’t seen since moving to Bohol back in March. Also looking forward to taking David out for a night at Chicago Joe’s after all these hours spent tapping away at the keyboard here in the jungle. Should be fun and it’s been months since I was last there.
Meanwhile, back in the jungle.. I think I’ve walked to town and back almost every other day for the last 2 weeks. Getting some good exercise and seeing some awesome lightning at night on the way home. I’ve been carrying a wooden stick/baton with me for the night walks. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet. And ever since the neighbor kids started pulling bamboo off my gate, now the local dogs are visiting my yard every morning out of sheer curiosity. I looked out the window to see five of them sniffing around. I went out and calmly, but firmly, explained that they were welcome to browse around but I didn’t want them tearing stuff up or crapping in the yard. Later that day one of them decided to wander into the house through the open front door to see what was going on. He’s just a four month old puppy so I didn’t get too upset with him. But I’m not looking to have a dog so, I told him he needed to go and he promptly headed back out without giving me any hassle about it.
The chickens seemed to have passed the word along that it’s okay to visit my place. Throughout the day they take shifts sifting through the leaves looking for bugs and cobras. Again, I don’t mind.. saves me the expense of buying and feeding my own chickens. And once again I got a ride into town from a passing neighbor. Except this time he took a different route through the jungle roads to get to town, which brought us out near the bus terminal, just across the street from mall. Difference is that on this route we passed through some houses I’d only seen maybe once or twice before. After a productive day at the net cafe, I walked outside into the dark as I usually do for my walk home. I figured I’d try the new route to get home since I pretty much knew the way watching when we came in.
But after getting near the terminal and coming to a fork in the road.. I looked to my left and what I saw was a sketchy area of town followed by a long string of houses where I didn’t know anybody there. To my right was the usual jungle road which is unlit and pretty much not a soul out there.. just trees and sky. After a bit of deliberation I decided I’d be safer taking the usual forest route rather than take my chances where there were a bunch of humans. I enjoyed the lightning show as I walked home in the dark, moonless night and got home without incident.
But as I walked home tonight I began to reflect upon the fact that it’s now been 10 months that I’ve been in-country. In about six weeks it will have been a full year that I’ve been here so that gave me some things to think about. For one thing, the last ten months has gone by so fast that I feel like I’ve only been here maybe 2 or 3 months. Time seems to slow down here.. until you look at a calendar. I thought about the various lessons I’ve learned while here and how it’s kinda re-shaped my perspective on life as a whole. The people I’ve met and spent time getting to know has been interesting. It’s as if some layers of life were stripped away and, here, you deal with life in a very raw and realistic manner. It’s a life completely detached from any routine I had back in the States. It really is, as I’m oft to say to others.. “a whole other world here”.
I thought about some of the things I’ve seen here. Living conditions I’d heard about, but here are a regular part of daily life for many. As I passed a dark street a few blocks from the mall tonight, I saw two kids less than six years old just keeping themselves busy on a slab of concrete while their parents got some sleep on a pile of cardboard a few feet away. I’ve seen families that live in a shelter along the outskirts of the city which only had a roof and a single wall along the back. Not even four walls to call home. The only consolation is that it never gets cold here. More often than not there is nearby such places a small fire of burning leaves to ward off the mosquitoes during the night.
I’ve seen a lot of genuine joy and hope in people here despite such conditions. You can hear them singing in their Nipa huts and see the excitement in their faces when they meet each other by happenstance in public. Not everyone, though. Some, they look as if they’ve seen too much of life in their old age and they just sort of observe silently the world rushing around them.
All my life I’ve had the same question running through my mind that I’ve wanted an answer to and it was this; “Why do people do what they do?” Whoever they are. Men, women, priests, prostitutes, zealots, murderers, politicians, scientists, philosophers, inventors. It’s a never-ending puzzle that just constantly fascinates me and living here in the Philippines has had my mind working double-time with everything I see.
I thought about how the paradigm of male/female relationships here are so different from back in the States. Back home, it was the most normal thing to have female friends. Platonic (99% of the time) and just good buddies to hang out with for a meal, movie or short road trip. But here I’ve only known one young woman who fits that bill, and she’s a rare exception here. For the most part, there simply is no such thing as male foreigners and female Filipinas being ‘just friends’. The factors in play almost always push it into a predetermined syndrome where the issue of a life-mate is the only thing on the table. Women here want security and foreigners here want love, sex or both. The idea of being ‘just friends’ does not fit into this predetermined exploration to answer the question, “Are you available to be my soul-mate?” Things move quickly when it comes to dating and getting to discussing the ‘big’ issues here. Just ‘hanging out’ as friends, no thought is given to that here.. it’s an alien concept. It’s all about ‘dating’ and getting married. That takes some getting used to when you’re a guy like me who is accustomed to female company without all the issues of marriage popping up within 72 hours of meeting for the first time.
But this much I do know.. I know I made the right choice in coming here. I know I’ve enjoyed every day and night here, no matter how foreign it was to all I’d ever known. I know I want to stay. I also know that despite all the things I’ve seen so far, I am much happier here than I’ve been in a long, long time.
[05/21/2013] — (12:55am) It’s been awhile since my last entry, about 3 weeks. Between rarely knowing what day it is, let alone the date.. and some random event changing my daily intentions, time has just been flying here. I’m still here in Bohol and I’m still loving the jungle life. Every so often I pretend I’m stranded alone on this island and have it all to myself. Most times it’s very quiet here, just the sound of bugs and some distant thunder from the frequent storms that pass by for an hour or so. It’s interesting to be in the baking heat during the morning and then suddenly around noon, it’s overcast and pounding down rain only to be back to a nice sunset at the end of the day. Speaking of thunder.. a huge blast of thunder just shattered the evening silence. Sounded like a giant boulder rolling slowly out of the sky. Wow. Thunder just keeps on hitting and hitting. Might lose power (again) tonight. But I have candles and flashlights ready.
I love my life here, despite it being a bit different than the usual expat experience. Many expats come here, meet a lovely Filipina and next thing you know they’re married with a baby on the way after their first year here. That’s cool and all, but that’s not why I personally came here. Yah, it started with a Filipina but I told her from the get-go that my “No Babies” clause was non-negotiable. After much honest conversation.. she and I have a better arrangement now. For the time being, she needs to live her married life to her husband and I need to live as a Single guy until circumstances change in our favor. As the Rolling Stones put it so succinctly, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes.. you get what you need.“
Speaking of getting what you need, it turns out there’s no immediate need to get my own chickens for entertainment in the yard. I mentioned getting some in my video tour of the area here a while ago, but since then the neighbor chickens and Turkey-Lurkey have been jumping the bamboo fence on a daily basis to hang out at my place. In fact, I just checked outside to see the lightning and it looks like Turkey-Lurkey decided to spend the night. It’s all good with me because the chickens scratch through the leaves to get the bugs and eat up the rotted fruit that falls from the Tambis tree in my yard. Tambis is that Rose-Apple fruit I may have mentioned before. It tastes kinda like a pear with no sugar, sorta like Jicama and the local kids are just nuts for it.
Every day I feel more at home here. I don’t have a mental ‘home’ anywhere else in my mind. I know that I’m welcome to visit my folks back home anytime, but the house here in Bohol is essentially my ‘base’ home for the next few years, if all goes well. Little by little I’ve been meeting more of the neighbors here locally. They are kinda scattered around the jungle so the one place I run into them is either on the road or at the larger sari-sari store where ‘Nin’, an older woman has a nice patio with about 14 chairs she makes available for people to congregate. (Rain just started pounding down now. Wow.. really coming down hard.)
I bought nylon nets for the two basketball hoops the kids use here, just in front of the sari-sari store and apparently that helped my reputation a little. As I’ve mentioned, people have been wondering ‘how’ or ‘why’ a relatively young expat/foreigner is choosing to live alone, unmarried with no live-in mistress out in the jungle. When they couldn’t figure it out, the rumors started. The latest one I got via a neighbor who told it to my landlady who passed it on to me is that I’m hiding out from the authorities, a fugitive from the law. Then the locals found out I knocked a guy unconscious in Cebu (in self-defense) a few days ago. My guess is that by next month they’ll have it figured I killed a guy back in the States. As long as they don’t congregate at midnight with torches and pitchforks outside my gate.. they can think what they want. Rick Blaine didn’t seem too concerned with sharing his reasons for not returning to America, neither will I.
I’m also expanding my mobility, despite no vehicle. Walking to town and going to the ICM mall was for starters. Now that I’m in shape and comfortable with that, I have begun to take the jeepney to the BQ mall a few times. It only costs me 8 pesos (about 17 cents) to get from ICM to the center of town so.. not a bad deal. And the jeepneys are lined up right outside the mall so.. easy-cheesey. I also found out the other day, while hanging out with the local men at Nin’s patio the other night during a power blackout last week.. that I can catch a jeepney from the mall to Alona Beach for just 30 pesos each way. That’s like, 75 cents each way to get to a beach the tourists have to fly across the globe to reach. Again, not a bad gig so I see more beach bumming in my near future. I also want to take some random day and just jump on a jeepney and go to the northern end of the island. Loon and central Tagbilaran seem to be about the biggest ‘metropolis’ (if you can call it that) the island has so I want to check it out. One issue though is that the jeepneys here don’t seem to return from Alona after 6pm so, I either have to return by then, ride a hubble-hubble (motorcycle) or spend the night. Loon is probably filled with cheap places to stay, but most of Alona is priced-up due to the heavy tourist draw it gets. But even so, cheaper than getting a hotel in Southern California.
Coming up in a few weeks I plan to make perhaps a 2-day stay either in Cebu or Mactan. A reader of the blog here, from Ireland, wants to meet up. It’s also been more than 2 months since I’ve been back to Mactan so I’d like to visit with Kristine for some lunch and get caught up. I might even end up at Chicago Joe’s, no real itinerary planned.. just gonna get there and make it up as I go. That usually works best rather than making some elaborate plans. It’ll be good to see Kristine. She’s different from every other Filipina I’ve met. She’s not interested in a relationship, is laid back, chill and easy to talk to. Around here, that’s a nice break from all the game-playing that seems to go on with random, new Filipinas you meet here and there. In the States I had several female-friends I could just chillax with, no expectations. Here, that’s almost impossible to find so.. definitely gotta catch up with her when I get to Mactan.
Meanwhile, in town I’m slowly meeting some of the same people who work there. I usually go out of my way to keep a low profile because I know foreigners are kinda under the microscope as it is. Always someone watching it seems. You kinda gotta get used to losing what privacy you had back home. I never was a really big privacy nut until I got here. But I did meet Frank, many of you expats visiting Bohol have probably met him too. He’s the owner of Frankie’s Cafe in the ICM. He’s a friendly guy who serves up American, Italian & Mediterranean food at some fairly decent prices considering it’s a mall. Some good sandwiches, pancakes, pizza.. good old comfort food from back home.
‘Frankies Cafe‘ has this whole Frank Sinatra motif going. The employees are kinda dressed Sinatra style with vests and a grey Sinatra-style hat. Frank is a friendly guy, came to visit me at my table my first time there. Also stopped by to talk to me about some questions I had about places to visit in town.
Aside from Frank, I kinda-sorta met this security-guard girl who works at the mall. I’d noticed her back in March and took notice of her every time I go there. It’s because she looks like she could be Kristine’s twin that somewhat intrigues me. From a distance you almost couldn’t tell them apart. Same personality as well. But I always figured she was working so I never bothered her. People get in trouble easily here if perceived to be goofing off while working. But I always opt to let her frisk me when I enter the mall. (and yes, I’ve entered the mall repeatedly on the same day.. I’m such an idiot, I know.) But last week for the first time she gave me a nod and smile from a distance through the crowd. I returned later that day but she’d already finished her shift and left.
However, the other day I was sitting in Jolllibee.. just minding my own business, really, when I looked up and noticed she was taking her lunch behind a desk just outside the Jollibee window. Again, I’m mostly intrigued than anything else. I stopped by and made about the most stumbling explanation as I gave her my number and left. She sent me a few texts later in the day, mostly out of curiosity I think as there was no rapport between us at all. It’s not like I’m looking for a date or anything.. I just can’t get over how she could be Kristine’s stunt-double. Haven’t heard from her since so, that’s probably the end of that with Neome, the security-guard girl.
Now.. the girl that works at the cinema; oh-my-gosh. That girl, she’s about 21 and just gorgeous. Seriously. I see lots of ‘pretty’ and ‘cute’ women around here daily but this one should be modeling or acting, or both. She’s just.. an elegant knockout. The kind of woman who literally stops you in your tracks. Beautiful, yet humble. Sometimes she’s behind the ticket counter, other times at the door as you enter the theater. I have no idea what her name is and, honestly, right now I’m just not looking to start anything. I have my reasons and the whole ‘no-baby’ clause is a big part of it. I mean, let’s face it.. what young woman isn’t going to want a baby at some point? Right now I’m feeling kinda fatalistic to be honest about any ‘real’ relationship on a serious level. And this girl is the sort of girl you’d have to go in ready to do whatever it takes to marry the girl. She’s what we call ‘a keeper’. And I don’t want to be the guy who messes up her bliss so, I just smile as she takes my ticket and off I go into the movies.
One thing I do know is this; when I do get married I want to just get married and make that woman happy the rest of her/my life together. The way I figure it, here in the Philippines there are SO many women available that if you still gotta go sample around.. then don’t bother getting married. While I’m still Single, I’ll keep my options open. I’ll do what single-guys do in the Philippines. I don’t know that any guy really gets it “out of their system“, ever. But I do think a man reaches a time in his life when he says, “Okay.. I’ve run free as a stallion in the wild plenty enough, time to settle down and really love a woman the right way.” I’m not quite at that point to make that commitment yet. Especially in a country that doesn’t allow for divorce. But I’m also in a bit of a quandary due to my ‘no-baby’ clause. I know plenty of guys here marry young Filipinas with kids, or have kids in the later part of their lives. That’s wonderful, but it’s not what I want to do. Just a personal choice of mine. But it obviously comes with a bit of a problem since most (all?) young women here will WANT that baby at some point. And that’s usually the beginning of the end, the way I see it.
So.. for now I’m just kinda taking stock, being a bit reflective and deciding my next move. I haven’t quite figured out all the angles yet for my situation, but I’m working on it. Like I said, I’m kinda just figuring this out as I go along.
Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Share with me here my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Dating, vlogging, cooking, traveling and sharing the information with you needed to make your own plans for living as a full-time expat in Southeast Asia.