Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

August 24, 2009

Porkchops BID

Filed under: Cebu — Donald @ 12:01 pm

“Chong Hua”, I said to the driver.

“Jaguar?”, he replied.

It was 7:00 a.m., I was trying to get to the hospital, and he was ready to take me to an expensive strip joint.

Since I haven’t been feeling well the past few weeks it seemed like a good time to get a physical. I’d been planning one anyway, just so a doc here would have records on me. Chong Hua has the best reputation in the region and offers “executive checkup” packages at reasonable prices. I wasn’t too sure about the treadmill stress test, since I’d been completely inactive for the past month and one of my ankles isn’t so flexible anymore, but the only problem came in the 11th minute, when my heart rate still wasn’t as high as for some reason they thought it should be. The lady doc and nurse tried to move things along by getting me to talk about marriage. They were more than a little surprised when doing that made my pulse slow noticeably. A few minutes at higher speed and incline did the trick. Newton up, Cupid down.

The Doppler Echocardiogram above proves definitively that I do have a heart, though. As I understand it, the colored spots even indicate a flicker of life. Prognosis: unknown.

Two days of searching found only that my blood counts are all low, presumably due to the virus that gave me a fever last month. The Filipino doctor didn’t seem concerned, suggesting only that I rest, drink plenty of fluids, and maybe add a multiple vitamin with iron. Oh, and eat more meat. What a country.

October 10, 2008

Going South

Filed under: Cebu — Donald @ 1:25 pm

Self Portrait

After leaving Cebu city I scouted the southwest coast of the island for places to live; south to avoid direct hits by the frequent typhoons, west for sunset views. Cebu is one of the most developed provinces in the country, so it holds for me the attraction of a reliable electrical supply. The beaches in the southwest are few and mostly rocky, but still there are some pleasant spots.

Southwest Cebu Shoreline


The only good sand I found was at the famous White Beach in Moalboal.

White Beach, Moalboal

Ginatilan is a particularly nice town. The market lies behind a Spanish wall.

Ginatilan Gate

The little park by the light tower would be pleasant except that it lacks shade, rendering it uninhabitable for most of the day. That is a bizarrely common characteristic of Filipino public spaces.

Ginatilan Park

In Malabuyoc I came across this gentleman playing a harp he had made. Cebu is famous for musical instruments.

Malabuyoc harpist

Another onlooker invited me to his home for lunch and we have become friends. In the provinces many people retain traditional Filipino values such as hospitality, values from which those in the cities have largely been liberated.

My lunch on another occasion was grits (“maize rice”) from this pot.

Grits pot

Now I’m in Dumaguete, one of my old haunts and a very nice town. Plenty of shade along the boulevard here. In my never-ending attempt to drive down expenses I tried out the Vintage Inn near the market.

Vintage Inn Fan Room Window

The view through the window didn’t bother me much, but the fact that the concrete walls kept my room sweltering did. Fan-only joints are best made from bamboo. Nothing like that is available in Dumaguete, so I decided to give myself a little vacation and checked into the new Ildesefa Suites Inn.

Idesefia Suites Inn

Even my cratering budget can handle a long weekend at fourteen bucks a night from time to time. International travel is a different story. My return ticket expired on Wednesday and I renewed my Philippine visa on Thursday. Kita ta unya, amigos. (See you later. Much, much later.)

September 30, 2008


Filed under: Cebu — Donald @ 11:46 am


My trip to the Lingap Center, a children’s home, began with a long taxi ride to the southern terminal in Cebu during the morning rush. The weather was good, so the next leg of the trip, two hours on a second class bus with no window glass, was very pleasant.


The driver said he knew the Center and would drop me nearby. His friend sitting alongside was getting off at the same spot and would guide me the rest of the way. After walking up a long hill well off of the highway we arrived, not at Lingap, but at his home. He gave tours of the area and would be happy to show me around after he ate. “You wait”, he said, disappearing into the house.

When I got back to the highway I found a tricycle driver who would take me the rest of the way.

“How much?”

Pause… squint… “Nine pesos” (18 cents). The look was bad but the price was about right, so I got in the sidecar. We just sat there.

“When do we go?”

“We wait more passenger. Need three.” Ok, that’s a common practice and fair enough.

A middle aged woman and a young mother with her small child joined us. One sat in the back compartment of the sidecar and the other sat on the seat behind the driver. He still did not take off, which told me what the deal now would be. I’d seen it many times. We would wait until we got as many people onto the tricycle as humanly possible at 9 pesos a head or I would be charged an exorbitant fee for a “special ride.”

“You said three. Let’s go.”

“You pay, we go now. Fifty pesos.”

“No. Nine.”

We waited and eventually another woman with her child arrived. He told her to sit with me. The sidecars in Toledo have by far the smallest seats I have seen in the Philippines. My little compartment was less than two feet wide, two feet deep, and four feet tall.


“You pay for two. Eighteen.”

“Not possible for two here.”

“You pay eighteen.”

“Nine for me and nine for the crocodiles?”

Eventually the woman and child and I all squeezed in together like a circus act. Normally the driver would be laughing his ass off at this point, but the look on my face kept the smile off of his. By the time we arrived at the Center I was not in the right frame of mind to be surrounded by 82 kids. They were still at school, though, and a nice chat with the staff calmed me right down.

Lingap, founded by an American who lives near the place I used to work, takes in street children in the Toledo area of Cebu. Most of them are from families so poor that the children must basically support themselves. Instead of going to school they scavenge for food and things they can sell as scrap. By doing this they earn about 15 pesos (30 cents) per day. Some sleep on the street. Some are orphans. Some eventually drift into worse and more profitable ways of making a living.

Toledo street kids


Most are referred to Lingap by social services. Others are drawn in by an outreach program. Every afternoon staff members go to the plaza and teach the children there as best they can. To entice them they offer snacks when the lessons are complete. The children are encouraged to come and live in the Center and attend school, but many will not, usually because they do not want to give up their income.


Lingap provides the kids who do come a very nice place to live, the attention of great houseparents and social workers, tutoring in the evening, and even private school tuition for those who excel academically.


Our lunch was typical Filipino fare; lots of rice, some adobo (a small piece of very fatty pork cooked in soy sauce and garlic), and a banana.


The kids help to prepare the food, they wash their own dishes and clothes, and they help to keep the center clean. All in all they seem to do well.


After lunch they sang some songs for me.


September 26, 2008

My Side of the Tracks

Filed under: Cebu — Donald @ 7:42 pm

My new neighbor

“Where you going?”, the taxi driver asked.

“Kukuk’s Nest.”

“Why you staying there?” (incredulously).

“It is the cheapest place in Cebu.”

“Yes. It is a cowboy hotel.”

That’s about right, if you switch out the horses for motorcycles. Kukuk’s Nest, in heart of the Philippines’ second-largest city, is the most interesting pension I’ve found since I mistakenly booked a room in a Tijuana brothel a few years back. A Filipina friend was mortified when I told her that guys with tattoos sit around shirtless in the 24 hour outdoor bar, which is often filled with smoke from the neighboring chicken grill.

Kukuk’s tat guy

Kukuks bar

(Next to the grill is a tat parlor. Unlike in the US, where every 12 year old girl has a hissing cobra stamped on her ass, tattoos are still rare in the Philippines.)

The place is decorated with some pretty crazy pieces, a mix of contemporary and cubist and Gauguinesque.

Kukuk’s “fish”

Despite obvious challenges, the resident artist does good stuff.

Kukuk’s Artist

Filipino, Indonesian, and Thai food from the kitchen is tasty, the beer is very cold, and instead of the usual pop treacle they play Neil Young. My fan-only room is in a big old house out back.

Kukuk’s Nest House

Kukuk’s Double Room

In fact, it is only the second cheapest in town. The smaller one was booked.

May 28, 2007


Filed under: Cebu — lapulapu @ 2:33 pm

Carbon market is the largest in Cebu and it was hopping on Saturday morning.

Carbon Market Street Scene

Rain the night before had left the ground looking a bit like used motor oil.

Carbon market muck

The staples of the Filipino diet are dried fish, usually prepared by frying, and rice. Filipinos also do a lot of grilling.

Dried fish at Carbon market

Grilled fish at Carbon market

Chili peppers (sili) are not as widely used as I wish they were, but they’re available. The tiny limes are called calamansi.

Sili at Carbon market

These string beans were at least half a meter long.

Giant string beans

Seaweed washes in and is collected off the beach.


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