Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Eighteen: Wrapping It All Up

This post contains the last of the pictures from my trip to the Philippines in which they tell a story that I thought about or found interesting. After today, it is back to pulling out posts and ideas from the world around me.

Filipinos are big on signs but also a poster child for why much of the U.S. has rules on what type of signs and where you can post them. In the Philippines there appears to be no such rules or at least none that are enforced. As a result there are signs everywhere, including this misspelled sign. There were also people smoking all around with no apparent consequences to their actions.

In past trips to the Philippines I had surmised that there were little in the way of road signs but on this trip I found out that I was wrong. They were there but mostly hidden from view. I saw many directional signs forming the side of some shack built near an intersection and using the sign as a wall of their building. Other times the signs were used as drying racks for crops or clothes. Still other times they were just behind planted vegetation. It makes getting around difficult if you aren't local. However if you need to stop and ask directions, people are more than glad to help you out.

At a road side pull off, I took this picture of a traditional nipa hut that had been put here as an attraction. Most of the time they are found in the rice paddies and were where families tending the fields traditionally lived. It kept them off the ground and dry and probably helped to catch a nice evening breeze to cool off.

While on our way back from the our northern beach vacation, we stopped in Batac City for some lunch and to visit the museum and mausoleum of Ferdinand Marcos, former president of the Philippines. The museum was very tabloidish in nature. Almost a fourth of the museum was dedicated to his eleven day romance of his future wife Imelda Marcos. The rest were obviously displays put up by his family meant to create a hero out of him. There was not a single display about the end of his presidency and being chased out of the country by his own people. 

Included in his tour was seeing his body preserved in an air-conditioned mausoleum next door. No pictures were allowed but if you do a google search, many can be found online. Nothing was presented or said about why he is being preserved for display but after I got back, a quick search showed that his body is actually in limbo. His wife Imelda (of the thousands of shoes fame) wants him buried in a cemetery reserved for country heroes in Manila and thus far the country has denied her.

This is a picture of a colorful Jeepney that pulled up to the curb. The Jeepney is the main form of transportation in the mountain city of Baguio but this one was a private one that could be rented out. I'm guessing the people renting it were at the nearby pony and horse ride attraction which my kids were partaking of while I was out by the road looking for pictures to take.

If there were a national sport in the Philippines and I'm guessing there isn't due to the country being too poor to spend money playing a sport, it would be basketball. I saw many homemade basketball setups like the one above throughout my journey. In the slums of Manila, I saw many impromptu courts set up for the kids to play with to pass the time away in the middle of roads. If a vehicle came, the kids shuffled off the court and the drivers drove around the hoops and then it was game on again.

I hope everyone enjoyed this series of posts on my trip to the Philippines. It is a country that fascinates me and which I hope to keep on visiting again as long as I'm able. It has many faults, just like my own country, and it has many beautiful things, just like my own country. For the first time, this trip felt like returning home for me. Before I have always felt like I was visiting but this time I felt like I was returning to a childhood home that I lived in for many years. It was a good feeling.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Seventeen: Views Through the Windshield

Because of extended periods of time riding in a van getting here and there, I had plenty of opportunity to take some pictures of things I saw along the road. Many didn't turn out due to the conditions and speeds involved but I did end up with a handful of pictures that I thought I should show here. This first one shows a fellow who rents out his boar to breed other pigs. His fee is his pick of one of the litter born three months, three weeks and three days later.

Recycling has become a big business in the Philippines and I saw plenty of these types of loads heading down the road to be redeemed for money. I think this fellow is hauling plastic.

When riding one of these tricycles as they are called, I am hard pressed to fit my tall frame inside much less fit other people inside with me. Here are eight people on this tricycle plus backpacks and a box and I'm sure they feel comfortable with the situation.

Here is a father taking his daughter to school and giving his young son a ride. Safety isn't a real big concern in the Philippines. Here in the States he would be lucky if he didn't get beat up by passersby in the streets for letting his kids ride like that.

Although it isn't rare, you still don't often seen females driving in the Philippines. The ones you do are mostly driving their own personal scooters like the one above. I found this one amusing however because she was wearing high heels while riding.

If you don't have transportation of your own or can't afford to hire someone, another option seems to be riding on top of other vehicles heading your way.

This is the best picture I have of a kuliglig outfitted for street travel.  In a previous post I showed one stirring up a rice patty for planting. When not in use for planting, they replace the reels with tires, hook a small cart to the back and use it for transportation. Due to their low gearing, a ride on one of them is about the same pace as an easy walk.

Not sure what this truck was hauling or its purpose but it reminded me of garbage trucks in the Philippines which look similar. I haven't seen any garbage trucks that lift cans or have hoppers where garbage men dump the refuse before it is packed into the main body of the truck. Instead their preferred method seems to be a couple men on the ground tossing it up into the back of the truck and another three or four pushing and stacking it so that more can be put on. I really feel for those men, especially the ones riding with the garbage in the truck because the smell is so powerful that I can smell them 100 feet behind riding in a sealed vehicle. I can't image how it would smell right on top of it and wrestling it around all day.

This is a picture of a rental van that we hired to take up to our beach stay. the driver said it was genuine anaconda skin. While it definitely appeared and felt to be real snake skin, I can't vouch for whether it was indeed anaconda. When you rent a van in the Philippines, you usually get a driver too and you have to provide the driver with room and board for the duration. It is nice to have a driver who can drop you off where ever you wanted and have the van cooled and ready to pick you up when you got back. Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to afford such a thing here in the States but in the Philippines, it is down right cheap.

Many of the main roads in the Philippines are four lanes but the 'slow' lane as we would call it here in the states is rarely used. Part of the problem is because like in the picture above, people use it to dry their rice crop, work on their vehicles, display their wares for sale or a myriad of other things. Another part of the problem is that you encounter situations like in this picture where a pole (at the far end of the rice drying on the right hand side) had been set in the road or because the road simply just ends without warning. As a result, everyone drives in the 'fast' lane which is anything but fast. You go as fast as the slowest vehicle which there are plenty of in the Philippines.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Sixteen: Beach Critters

While eating breakfast one morning brought to me by beach resort manager Ferdinand right to the chairs overlooking the ocean, I noticed this fellow on the ground at my feet. He didn't have the regulation size toothpick in him but was missing his head. I stuck the toothpick in so that I could get a closer look at him without touching him while I was eating breakfast and to give some scale to the beetle. It is most definitely the largest beetle I have ever seen.

Because very few houses in the Philippines are insulated and not very tight by American standards, just about every place I went was infested by ants. Fortunately they weren't the biting kind but they were everywhere. These ants disappeared behind the electrical switch plate and their freeway ran up to the ceiling, went all the way down the wall and disappeared in some door jam trim fifteen feet away.

We had some very loud crickets living in a crack between the toilet bowl and toilet tank in the bathroom. Their chirpings really echoed especially when surrounded by hard and smooth porcelain. But off and on I heard another high pitched noise that didn't sound like a cricket but was something I couldn't identify. At first it only happened once in a while but one afternoon it started getting more and more frequent. About the time I found that a lizard was responsible, I heard a return call on the opposite side of the room. Right before my eyes, the two lovers found each other right above my patio bamboo curtains and proceeded to do what lizards in love do. I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Fifteen: Life's a Beach

This is a closer view of the former mayor's house that had been turned into a beach resort.

The roof was made using traditional techniques. The purlins were made of anahaw which is also referred to as coconut wood though it is only a relative of the coconut tree. The leaves of actual coconut trees are bundled together and tied to the anahaw purlins in overlapping rows.

Especially along the coast, you often see the thick layers of coconut leaves that form the roof wrapped in netting to help protect it from the winds of passing tropical storms and typhoons.

Like just about everywhere you go in the Philippines, there are people who show up trying to sell you stuff. If you are white and American, you are particularly preyed upon. However it turned out these people selling trinkets were a little different than normal. These people are a product of a government program that takes local down and out people and teaches them how to make trinkets to sell for a living. They are given or subsidized some basic equipment and all money they make goes to their pockets. Among the trinkets they sold were necklaces and bracelets made out of pearls and local stones as well as a few things made out of kamagong wood. After I learned of their story, I parted with a few pesos for some trinkets to give to people back home in the States.

No beach resort would be a resort with out beach furniture. I spent quite a bit of time in some of these beach "chairs" and they were more comfortable than they looked.

I'm not sure what these blossoms are from but I do know that I almost got hit by them more than once, almost always early in the mornings. I assumed they were from coconut trees which were everywhere around the beach but when I got home and searched for them on the internet, they didn't look like coconut tree blossoms.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kamagong Journals Part Fourteen: Panoramic Landscapes

On this trip, for the first time in a decade, the stars aligned and my wife's family was all able to get time off at the same time. A lot of that is due to the school system of my brother-in-law's children which switched this year from the normal "summer" break schedule to the American version of it. Normally they have it earlier in the spring when my kids are still in school. To celebrate this fact, I treated the whole family to three days and two nights at a beach resort at the northernmost tip of the Luzon island. Though it was rainy season, we had three days of sunshine and mild weather with cleansing evening showers.

The resort, like many destinations, is the former residence of the local town mayor and we actually stayed in his house. Now that it is a resort, they built a duplicate house next door to increase the occupancy rates. The beach didn't have the bleach white sands that you find in central Philippines but it was pleasant just the same. The resort manager Ferdinand, named after the former president of the Philippines, ran a tight ship and made our stay enjoyable. He even had one of his workers chop me up some anahaw wood (a beautiful relative of the coconut tree) for me to take back home and to turn into some pens.

In the Philippines, when you go to the beach, you stake out your turf by sticking a stick in the sand and hanging up your clothes, towels, glasses, sandals, etc. Because we were the only people at the resort for the first two days of our stay at the resort, we had the beach to ourselves and a pack of local boys that spent most of their days swimming in the ocean.

Another view of Patapat bridge going around where the mountains meet the ocean in northern Philippines.