[Calif., USA – April 16th, 2012] Click here for ‘Part 1’..
You’re a ‘light sleeper’ who can’t stand the neighbor’s cat meowing on the fence? Then you’ll just love the four roosters who wander by your window to practice their cock-a-doodle-doing at 4am, or 10am, or 3pm. And once one gets started, it can easily become an impromptu cock-crowing contest. (Thank God, I’m a deep sleeper.)
And then my Filipino friends and ex-pats told me about ‘the traffic’. Here in the States, to us ‘traffic’ means sitting on the freeway at 20 mph or sludging our way through the inner-city. Multiple, reliable sources all tell me.. “prepare yourself for Filipino traffic”. Apparently, the first rule about driving in the Philippines is, “There are no rules.” I don’t mean this in a metaphorical manner.. I mean this in a Literal manner.. there are.. NO Rules of traffic. Maybe they are written in the archives collecting dust in some city office somewhere. But on the streets.. it’s simply “do what you must” and hope you survive.
In the US we drive on the right-hand side. In the UK, they drive on the left-hand side. In the Philippines, they drive on the left, the right and down the middle. Seriously. And those ‘red-yellow-green’ lights? Meaningless and often non-existent. The person going through the intersection has the right of way. Motorcycles are the big thing over there since they can dart in and out quickly. Only problem is they don’t hold up too well when impacting with a massive Jeepney bus. So you climb into the cab, side-car, Jeepney or whatever and people there have actually written it’s often best to just close your eyes until you stop. They’re used to it. But for us, it’s insanity.
I have driven in the chaotic cities, highways and dirt roads from Tijuana to Tecate to the booneys of Chapatulpec in Mexico. My girlfriend has been to Tijuana and says it is far more civilized on Tijuana streets because at least they use the lights and lines on the road. Not so in the Philippines.
Personally, after having quite a few Filipino dishes.. I love about 98% of what I’ve been exposed to. Fantastic foods, so delicious! If you love fish, they got fish.. lots of fish. Lots.. and lots.. and lots of fish. Crab dishes, shrimps, lobsters, chicken, duck, goat intestines, balut, blood soup.. a very wide variety of dishes to pick from. At the big Super Malls (SM) you can get franchised food, similar to Burger King, only their big franchise is ‘Jolly Bee’. There are also Mom-n-Pop restaurants here and there in the city or beach resorts. Me.. after my years wandering Tijuana and Rosarito, I just love “street food”. Maybe not always the safest thing to do.. but I just can’t turn down a grilled kabob of.. well, some kind of meat on a stick. Fresh-cut fruit, coconuts, seafood.. it’s all there on the street waiting for me. Just don’t expect it to be all clean and tidy like the county fair. You’ll have to use your own judgment as to how clean they seem to do their food prep.. and even then, it’s something of a sliding scale.
The Weather —
As a kid I spent every summer visiting my relatives in Corpus Christi, Texas. For those of you who have never been there, in the summer it’s like the Death Valley heat and Florida humidity had a love child and called it Corpus Christi, Texas. Imagine 102*F heat with 80% humidity. Yah. Well, thank goodness I have that to compare to because in the Philippines it’s a steady average of 85*F with a humidity averaging 80%.. plus or minus about 15% on heat and humidity depending on the season and typhoon activity.
Now, personally I’m kinda glad it’s gonna be humid there. For one thing, it keeps the place from getting flooded with tourists. For another, I need to lose some weight and that heat is bound to curb my appetite, not to mention all the calories spent trying to stay cool. They say your body ‘acclimates’ to any severe weather change after 3 months. But mentally, I think some people just never get over it. So the weather can make or break ‘paradise’ all by itself.
The Critters —
Loud-mouthed roosters who can’t tell time are actually the least of your worries in paradise. Like they say, “It’s the little things that get you.” I was relieved to discover that there is an almost non-existent record of violent shark-to-human incidents. One shark, the whale-shark is totally harmless and tours will take you out to swim with them for a few bucks. The other shark (can’t remember the name at this moment) tends to stay about 20 feet below the surface, isn’t very big and is only an occasional minor issue for scuba-divers. Crocodiles had me worried until I found that they tend to stay in the few swampy areas along the jungle, not on the crystal clear beaches.
But expect mosquitoes. I hear it’s worse in some places than others. They breed in still water, so probably not as prevalent in the city. I’ll find out when I get there. But I’ve been told that in Mindanao they have lots of them. And then.. cockroaches. Big-ass, New York looking roaches.. and they FLY! Now, anyplace can get roaches, but again.. most likely found where trash is dumped in the neighborhood (or from the neighbor’s fence) is where they’ll breed in the greatest numbers. But you may not even notice the mosquitoes or roaches if it’s the rats that freak you out.
Yep.. rats love paradise too. Secure brick homes are better insulated from rats, but not impenetrable. Wooden homes.. forgettaboutit, they chew through the floor for breakfast. And not tiny, cute, little ‘mice’ like Stuart Little. No. These are big, lumbering, fearless rats that cats will not mess with. Want to get rid of rats? I’ve been told, “Get a small dog, the cats are too scared.” Again, keep your home clean and things will probably be fine regarding both the roaches and rats. But when in town or on a rural road, know that you’re in their territory.
‘Paradise’ comes with beautiful beaches, balmy weather, hammocks swinging from palm trees and little monkeys chattering in the trees. But paradise is not perfect. Not by a long shot. You’ll find similar unpleasantness in Hawaii and many Latin American or Asian locales. The initial photos you’ll see make for great screen-saver images of ‘paradise’.. but keep in mind that ‘daily life’ is going on behind the scenes.
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.
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