Month of APRIL – 2013 This is one page per month devoted to the more personal experiences related to my life in the Philippines. Daily life and the strange adventures that come up every so often. 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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(in reverse chronological order.. that means, most recent stuff is here on top.
[04/27/2013] — It’s been 3 whole days.. no human contact. Well, not in person anyway. In fact, I’ve been so focused on my latest web project that I haven’t even bothered to take the lock/chain off the gate in three days. No telling what the local chisme is about me now here in the village. “What’s he DOING in there, locked up like that? It’s not.. natural. And why isn’t he married?!” Hmm, images of Dr. Moreau come to mind. But my new project is close to being ready, which you can sneek-peek here; www.writersonthestorm.net . I hope to have my own short stories and a novel up there in the coming weeks, chapter by chapter.
Meanwhile I’ve been breaking up my marathon hours on the net with some breaks either to cook up a nice meal or spend some time out on the patio to enjoy the afternoon or late nights. I stood out in the yard the other night under a full moon and.. there just aren’t words to describe how amazing that is here. It’s like a spotlight shining down, it’s so bright. There are distinct shadows it casts into the jungle and the ground takes on a sort of soft, blue haze. The air is warm, no breeze and only the sound of the crickets as the occasional firefly flits by a few feet away. It’s completely surreal.
Yesterday I was in the mood for a salad and I happened to have plenty here to make one. Now, since I’ve gotten here I haven’t had a ‘real’ salad. To me, a real salad is nothing less than something along the lines of a Cobb Salad. So I hard-boiled some eggs and got to constructing it with some lettuce, raisins, apple, tomatoes and anything else that seemed right for a salad. Although it wasn’t until I’d finished it that I remembered I had some honeyed-ham I could have diced up in there. Then it came time to open the Tuna can. I was really dreading this because my first can-opener I bought here literally snapped in half the second time I used it. Suggestion: Before you move to the Philippines.. bring your best can-opener with you. The ones here seem to really suck. Unless of course you buy a ‘normal’ quality one for about $25 here.
The last time I used my new can-opener, which is a bit more robust and cost a bit more (about $15).. it was a disaster. At first I thought it was built wrong, all it did was make a puncture and then slide off at each turn of the knob. Then the knob would unscrew itself as I turned it. Then I figured out it was made for a left-handed person. WTH?? By the time I got that damn can of tuna open there was tuna oil all over me, the opener, the cutting board and the whole time I’m dodging sharp metal edges it made to kinda-sorta open the can. In retrospect I think stabbing it with a screwdriver would have been more civilized.
So now, this time.. I really wanted tuna in my salad so I messed with it slowly and patiently only to realize that not only is it made for a left-handed person.. it’s made to cut the can from the side.. not from the top of the can. What kind of demented, dyselxic Asian engineer came up with this design? Did he design it in a house of mirrors or what? I got the can open without much hassle but now I had a can with a razor-sharp edge to it. Not digging this at all, but at least I could lift out my tuna with a fork to separate it from the oil and add it to my salad.
Now.. I don’t know if this is a thing back in the States but I never noticed it until I got here. A lot of the products that I’ve always bought either in a glass jar or a can.. here it is very often packaged in a plastic pouch/bag. When you think about it.. it makes total sense. It weighs less, for one thing so it cuts down on shipping costs. It has a flat bottom and displays easily enough on the shelf, doesn’t shatter or dent when it hits the floor. And it’s less expensive. I’ve seen the same product by the same manufacturer, one in the jar and one in the pouch and for the same amount of product.. the pouch version is cheaper. Somewhere somebody is not thinking this through. And best of all.. no can-opener needed!
So now I keep an eye out for everything from salad dressing to soy sauce, cooking oil or even Baygon refills in a plastic pouch. Makes my life a whole lot easier. Which is why I was especially glad to find Corned Beef in a pouch. All the goodness without the cursing and stress of using a can-opener that barely serves as a movie-prop. My favorite breakfast here in the Philippines is still the Corned Beef Breakfast. I start by making up some Garlic Rice. While that’s cooking I put some oil and freshly cut garlic (about 3 cloves) into the pan on medium heat. I then dice up a single potato into small pieces and add that to the garlic along with some salt and pepper. Now.. dice up some cabbage into 2″ sized squares and add that to the mix. I cook that with a lid for about ten minutes. When the rice is ready.. I add the rice to a large bowl.. place the corned beef mixture on top of the rice and then top that with two sunny-side-up eggs. A little soy sauce along the edges and damn.. that’s a good breakfast. I was out of potato and cabbage when I made this particular plate.. so I compensated by making a Smiley Face out of my breakfast instead.
Today I’m thinking rather than push and finish out the web-project, it might do me some good to take a walk to town for some exercise to get to the mall. ‘Iron Man 3’ just released and I’m thinking I’ll go see that. For just 100 pesos (about $2.25).. can’t beat that with a stick. I’ll have to readjust to being around people again. Once I see all the cute girls that will take me about 3 nanoseconds. But first I’ll wait til the heat of the day passes around 4pm. People here seem to have figured there’s no point warning me about walking alone into town anymore. Reminds me of that scene in, “American Werewolf in London” where the locals tell the tourist, “..and whatever you do.. don’t go out into the moors at night.” Come to think of it, there’s still the last remnants of a full moon here tonight.
[04/20/2013] — It’s 8:59pm and there’s a bright half-moon hanging directly overhead right now. I went out just beyond the edge of the front patio and a few seconds later some sort of large, flying creature went zooming by about 10 feet over my head. It moved too fast and smooth to be a bat. Was about 2-foot wingspan whatever it was. Definitely not a rooster. It circled another three times, each time catching me by surprise. I went in for the flashlight and waited again for it. Naturally, it didn’t return.
I don’t know if they have nighthawks around here, I’ll have to find out. It wasn’t a starling, I’ve seen those all over the place and they are much smaller. They roll and dive like bats but with a more linear movement. Bats fly in a zig-zag motion like they’re high on crack.
Today was very enjoyable. For one thing, when I first awoke around 7:30am I could already tell my cold/flu thing was pretty much over. I got a drink of water and.. went back to bed. I’d gone to bed early, around midnight and this 7am stuff is just not working. Not here. Around 9am I got up and remembered that today I’d be hitching a ride with the neighbor lady, Marilou, to town so I could get some groceries. I don’t like to inconvenience or change their schedule since they have a family so I just go whenever they are already going to town.
Part of what I loved about today was the exceptionally cool weather. It’s been HOT the last two weeks and as I looked out this morning it was gray clouds everywhere and the temp had dropped by at least 8 degrees. Add to that some sporadic rain through the afternoon and it was just fresh and cool all day long. After getting some things done online for a few hours Marilou pulled up outside the gate and off we went back to civilization. She suggested taking me to a different mall rather than the usual ICM (Island City Mall) and instead she dropped me off at the BQ Mall in downtown Tagbilaran.
She said she’d be back in a little over an hour so I could get some shopping done and went on her way. I looked around and.. this was different. The ICM mall is somewhat isolated from town with not much else in walking distance aside from the main bus/jeepney terminal across the street. There’s also a marketplace that sells fresh produce and meat there but apart from that, not much else out there. So I looked around the street-corner I happened to find myself at and what I saw were lots and lots of people moving about. I was definitely downtown.
But it was still nothing like Cebu. Much smaller and despite the hectic pace of people there on this Saturday afternoon it still seemed relaxing to me. I crossed the street and entered in. The ICM mall I usually frequent is more of an ‘upscale’ mall, designed similar to malls back in the States. Wide corridors, lots of room to move about. Nothing like that here at the BQ mall. Everything was ‘compressed’. Not a square foot of space wasted. Businesses operated every fifteen feet and all along every corridor and hallway. Very crowded.. I loved it already.
At the center was an open circle from which the mall radiated on each of it’s four floors. I went up to the second floor to look around a bit but had to get to the grocery store since I was on a time schedule. Making my way from one end of the store to the other I found what I was looking for and got about a week’s groceries. I couldn’t find the soup mix so I approached one of the grocery sales girls to ask. Oh.. my.. goodness!! She was SO cute. She asked me to follow her to the soup aisle and I was really taken by surprise. I see a lot of cute girls every time I’m in town but this one was.. ‘wow’. I’m still somewhat stupefied even hours later. And sweet as can be. Not stuck-up in any way. Just very cheerful and kind like she popped out of a Japanese Anime. With one of those hand gestures like you see the women use on game shows she presented the soup aisle to me and went immediately back to her workstation. I just stood there a moment somewhat stunned and finally snapped back to the business at hand; choosing a soup mix.
A bit later, with three full bags of groceries I made my way through the maze of the BQ mall. The whole time I kept looking for something that would tell me what ‘BQ’ stood for. I do know that there is a Burger King. But I have no recollection of a Burger Queen, although that certainly would make sense. A burger empire needs to have both a king and queen I suppose. The only other thought that came to mind was ‘Dairy Queen’. I’ve long suspected the BK guy had a thing for her. Maybe he has her out here in the Philippines on the side. I’ll figure out this BQ mystery soon enough. Mark my words.
I jumped back into Marilou’s mini-truck and as we made our way into traffic I took note of the main street around the mall. Lots and lots of shops, some nooks and crannies that I will absolutely have to return to explore on another day and plenty of interesting people doing their daily routine. Across the street from the BQ mall was another kinda-sorta-mall. It was more like a big building with a mish-mash of random businesses. I didn’t have time to go inside but I’ve been in similar ones before. Kinda ecclectic and random a place to browse around but I like them because you never know what product or service you might find there. Stuff like flashlights with Tazer prods built right into the handle. Just make sure you hold it right.
It was just about dark when I got home and still nice and cool. I made up some soup and some sandwiches since I don’t have a woman here to make me one. (just kidding. but no, really.. I like it when women make me a sandwich.. always tastes better.)
Clumsy-Cat just came by the door. He took off after wobbling around on the small bench in the patio.
Where was I? Oh yah, women.. sandwiches. I bought a huge newspaper, about the size of a Sunday edition for about 30cents at the store. Not so I can work on my Tagolog reading, but so I have plenty of kindling to start up a bonfire outside. It’s a perfect night for a bonfire. Best part of this whole day though.. no mosquitoes! I don’t know why they went into hiding and I don’t care. I haven’t had to swat one all day, haven’t even seen one. The place almost seems lonesome without them literally pestering me every hour. Almost. I hope they never return.
[04/16/2013] — It’s 4:22am and normally I’d be awake at this time because I’d stayed up beyond my usual 2am bedtime. But instead it’s that I just woke up after getting really exhausted around 6pm. For those who know me, going to bed right at sundown, or even before midnight for that matter, means something must be up. I had taken my second walk into town this week to get some things from the mall and I’m thinking someone in the crowd had the flu or a cold or something. I went to bed with a scratchy throat and unable to stay awake. I have some hot tea here with me now and after some rest I’m feeling better already.
Meanwhile it’s been a full plate of projects here in Bohol ever since I got settled in. Many of these ideas I had put off while in Mactan because I was preparing to leave and I’m the sort of person who just hates having a project stuck midstream. Drives me insane. So ever since I got settled in here I’ve been working on two new website ideas, a short story, a novel, reading some classic literature, shooting video and organizing the next (huge) batch of photos for an upcoming gallery here at the site. It’s a full day of photos I took at the Sinulog and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I hope to have that online in less than 48 hours.
What didn’t help is that lately here in the village there’s been some sort of maintenance (I’m guessing) on the electric system and the usual blackouts went from being an hour to pretty much half the day. When the electric goes down the water stops too since it’s pumped in. Fortunately I keep about 8 gallons in basins for showering just in case that happens. But everything changes in an instant here when the power goes out for an extended period.
If it happens in the daytime the first thing you notice is that the oscillating fan turns off and the silence of the jungle is restored. The place I have here is made of brick and is surrounded by trees so I haven’t even bothered to hook up my air-con since I got here over six weeks ago. The fan does a fine enough job circulating cool air around. But without it, it starts to warm up a little, not much but enough that I’d rather go out to the hammock in the front patio to do some reading rather than attempt projects on my laptop before the battery dies out.
So with all the extra blackouts here I’ve gotten caught up on some reading. I’ve always loved to read and now that I’m living the country life again it’s nice to get back in the habit. Since my cooking is done via an electric range, meals become simple stuff like sandwiches, crackers and fruit. Even though the humidity makes the 80*F weather seem hotter than it is, being in the shade on a hammock with a good book and a slight breeze is not a bad gig. You notice a lot of things around you as you look up over your book every so often to see salamanders, giant ants, butterflies, pepsin wasps (those things are huge), chickens, roosters, turkeys, dogs and ‘Clumsy-Cat’ as they all parade around spontaneously either in or just outside my property.
‘Clumsy-Cat’ is a tomcat that has recently begun to visit my yard during the afternoon. It’s not that I feed him, I think he’s just bored. Around here I’ve noticed that dogs and cats are extremely laid back. Not like the States where they are always chasing each other or barking at you. Here, dogs just kinda look at you at go back to sleep. Cats just sort of slink around in the heat and even seem to meow in slow motion. I haven’t seen a single dog chase a cat since I got here to the Philippines. Too damn hot for that nonsense. So there I was one day, reading from my hammock, when this cat slowly makes his way from the hot, corrugated tin roof down to the roof of my outdoor ‘dirty kitchen’ (which I’ve yet to use) and then he proceeded to sort of jump/fall his way from there to the fence and down to the ground into my yard. He’s not exactly what you’d call ‘graceful’ in his movements.
He wandered about a bit and for kicks he decided to jump on top of a makeshift table at the other side of the yard. It’s about a 3-foot jump and, well.. he screwed that up too. He jumped.. landed spread-eagle on the corrugated tin.. scrambled to climb the rest of the way.. slid down slowly cartoon-style and then wiped out on the dirt below. That’s when I decided to bestow upon him the moniker; Clumsy Cat. At night I can always tell when he’s on the roof. Most cats can walk on a roof as silent as a ninja. Not Clumsy Cat. He bangs around up there like a drunk sorting through a pile of bottles. I really think he has absolutely no idea what he’s supposed to be doing as a cat. He goes up there with no idea what his next move is. I suppose that’s why he’s the only cat I’ve kinda grown to tolerate. He reminds me a lot of myself.
As for reading, I began with Conrad’s, “Heart of Darkness‘ which takes place in the jungles of Africa. It was the inspiration for the film, ‘Apocalypse Now‘ for those of you who may not have known that. I’d read it in high school and wanted to reread it while on the way here. I’m about 80% finished with it. Just sort of slowly relishing it. Meanwhile I finished Hunter Thompson’s, “The Rum Diary” which takes place in Puerto Rico, another hot and humid locale in the tropics. I finished that while still on the isle of Mactan before coming to Bohol. When the blackouts started here I then picked up a childhood favorite of mine called, “The Cay“. It’s about a young boy and an old black man who become shipwrecked on an island. The boy goes blind and the old man has to prepare him for living long-term on the island. It’s a great book, a very good read.
After finishing that I then went to the National Bookstore at the mall in town for a new book. It’s a huge chain, much like the ones in the States. But their fiction section is a bit limited, although they say they can order whatever I want. I perused the shelves and decided I might as well finally get around to reading Salinger’s, “Catcher In The Rye“. I’d heard much ‘about’ it but didn’t know the plot so I read that last week. Personally, I was disappointed. The prose was consistent but the topic has more appeal to a teenager full of malaise and unjustified angst. And the ending was lame. Did not live up to the hype in the least as far as I’m concerned. So I returned to the bookstore and picked up another classic I’ve been neglecting too long, Fitzgerald’s, “The Great Gatsby“. Now.. even in the first three paragraphs I was impressed. This is a book. I can tell I’m going to enjoy this. So now, whenever my eyes can’t take the laptop screen anymore I’ll grab that along with a burning mosquito-coil and ease myself back into the hammock to continue with ‘Gatsby‘. Next on my list after this will be Kafka’s, “Metamorphosis“.. I’ve already spied it on the bookstore shelves.
Now, when the power goes out in the evening.. there are only two things to do really; Sleep.. or go outside and look at the stars. Sometimes I’d use the flashlight to read and that works okay enough. One of the times the power went out during the night, the neighbor invited me over to hang out. When I got there he had some candles going and using a double-boiler and a fire outside he had managed to make some loaves of fresh bread. He’s a chef at a local resort, has owned his own resto and is a darn good cook. We had some bread with his kids indoors and then sat out under the stars at the end of the road in front of his home. It was a full-moon that night, warm out and made for several hours of interesting conversation.
It’s 5:20am now. The sun is rising in the window behind me and the roosters in the area are going nuts, crowing about every 2 seconds. The neighbor down the road alone has at least 15 roosters he raises for Sabong. My throat doesn’t feel so sore now, the hot tea with sugar helped. Later today if it still bothers me I’ll make up some lemongrass tea like my Gramma in Texas used to make when I was a kid. I have more lemongrass growing outside my fence than you could shake a stick at. It’s also good for stuffing into a roasted chicken to add flavor. On a recent short hike in the area I came upon a wild pepper bush in a field. I plucked about half a dozen of the small peppers and used them later that night to make some Kung Pao Pork. Wow. Those little peppers really pack a punch even after lots of slow roasting. These one burn twice, if you know what I mean.
I’m planning to return to that bush later today to get some more peppers, both for cooking and to plant some in a pot I have hanging in the patio. I’m also of a mind to transplant the whole bush over if I can dig a hole deep enough into the coral base here in my yard. I also want to get a photo of this spider that lives right near there. It’s web is over six feet wide and the spider is about four inches wide. Even from thirty feet I saw him easily enough. I’m sure he’s still there so I’ll take my camera with me when it’s not so hot.
I can now tell that my throat feels better but I do have a runny nose and congestion. This sucks. I have so much to do today, no time for this sickness stuff. I’ll make up some oatmeal, take a short nap and shower then see how the day progresses.
Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
Author: Reekay V.
Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat and spent 1999 living in Vietnam.
Share with me my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Hopefully you find my observations helpful in your own adventures.