Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

June 25, 2007


Filed under: General — lapulapu @ 2:31 pm

The next week or so I’ll be doing a little research project and probably won’t have time to post. My new camera died anyway. The Canon zoom lens and image stabilization system take nice shots even in shaky hands like mine, but maybe they don’t stand up so well to sand and salt spray. Who would have guessed.


June 21, 2007

I need a good sauce

Filed under: General — lapulapu @ 3:48 pm

Dumaguete Wiring


I cannot get a decent shave with cold water. My 5:00 shadow is a total eclipse.

The smell of burning rubbish.

Being surrounded by crowing cocks 18 hours per day. They are fairly quiet from about 9:00 at night to 3:00 a.m., so if you’re a foreigner in a typical rural village you’d better learn to sleep then. Filipinos seem not to hear them.

The piercing bark of a small dog tied to a coconut tree. People here are known to eat them sometimes, and there is one in particular that I would just love to prepare as a snack. When my mind wanders, which is most of the time, I find myself imagining him on a spit. I would stuff the cavity with onion and tomato. Hopefully they are just fattening him up.

Mosquitoes, though they are not as bad as I expected them to be, unless the bathroom has a dripping shower head.

Being asked to sing at karaoke, which I cannot do.

Listening to others sing at karaoke, which usually they cannot do.

Great investment ideas. (“I know a sure way to make a million in the Philippines. Start with two million!”)

The long con.


The fragrance of kalachuchi at night.

Watching my neighbors forage in the still evening sea, lighting their way by pushing ahead of them a tiny raft of candles.

So often being invited to join in when nearby Filipinos are eating and I am not, and the fact that they accept “yes” or “no” with equal grace.

Children splashing naked at the beach.

The soft sounds of Visayan.

The warmth and frequency of Filipino smiles.

Honor and delicadessa.


Wak wak (witches). They keep the number of Siquijor tourists in bounds.

Being looked after as though I were one of the family, and being given space because I am not.

The sun setting over the Mindanao Sea behind the dark Cuernos de Negros.

June 19, 2007

Dear Bob

Filed under: General — lapulapu @ 10:40 am

I hope you and yours are well and enjoying a fine Michigan summer.

Occasions such as this one call for pen and paper, but since the Philippine post relies largely on bamboo outriggers, trained dolphins, and fate, I am deferring to practicality.

My current island of residence, Siquijor, is famous for witchcraft, and it has hold on me for good. Unless Jill says that getting at my 403B will require a gun, next year will be my last at H. A few weeks ago I sent Fritz a draft of an ad for my replacement. He seemed to think it was fine. I believe the earliest deadline for running it in August is July 3.

Thursday I plan to make an expedition deep into the mountains in search of Juan Ponce. Though he is very old now, he is still acknowledged to be the most powerful sorcerer in the Philippines. My friends assure me that one of his temporary antidotes will allow me to make an escape back to the US for the next academic year, but the price may be high. Do you perhaps have a little Whalen or Kalthoff to spare?

See you in August.


June 13, 2007


Filed under: siquijor — lapulapu @ 10:13 pm

The Philippines has more than enough natural disasters to keep people on their toes. Like the culture, the Philippine plate is crunched between east and west, and earthquakes and the occasional volcanic eruption result. Typhoons are what worry people most, though, along with the floods and landslides that accompany them. Filipinos name typhoons alphabetically just as Americans do hurricanes, and they almost always run out of letters. Those things I expect.

I did not expect to see one of these.

Siquijor buhawi

Neither did the staff at the resort where I was staying in Siquijor. None of the girls had ever seen one before, but they knew instinctively what to do. All of them reached out and began making the scissors motion with their fingers, and the buhawi soon vanished.

I have to remember not to piss these girls off.

June 12, 2007

Family Values

Filed under: General — lapulapu @ 9:29 am

Magellan’s cross

Family is everything in the Philippines. It is normal for older children, particularly ate, the eldest female child, to sacrifice their youth for the sake of those younger still.

Carbon market kids, Cebu

I couldn’t even say how many Filipinas in their 20s I’ve spoken with who were working ten hours a day, six days a week, fifty-one weeks a year, earning a hundred dollars a month and sending half of their salary home to put siblings through school. It seems impossible until you learn how they manage.

Overlooking Carbon market, Cebu

Times Square, Cebu

Not long ago a friend and I were walking through the old, interesting part of Cebu when I remarked that a nearby hotel looked like a good deal at 500 pesos (about $11) per night. Her reply: “Still very expensive. That is what I pay for one month.” She shares a room with six others.

Carbon market cock

Some families here are doing quite nicely, though. A few dozen of them get to run the country, and according to the Asia Times, the top 15 control more than half of GDP. One family alone controls about a fifth of the market capitalization of the Philippine Stock Exchange, which is currently roaring thanks to a huge improvement in the fiscal situation following the implementation of a 12 percent national sales tax.

June 5, 2007

Seafood Pinoy

Filed under: siquijor — lapulapu @ 11:59 am

On my first motorcycle ride in Siquijor last year I had a flat within the first few kilometers. When I pulled off at Salag Do-Ong beach, the man in charge noticed my problem right away and called a couple of guys over to take care of it. While they hauled the wheel into town I had a nice chat with him and his wife and we have been friends ever since. They invite me to their home whenever I visit and are always the most gracious of hosts.

Talingting friends

A couple of days ago we spent an afternoon on their porch eating buko (young coconut) and drinking beer.


At low tide we went foraging. I was worse than worthless, but they found lots of sea urchins and “shells” (I would call them small clams) and something like a slug. I was amazed when my friend somehow cracked open the spiny urchins with one quick crunch of his teeth. We made a picnic on a mat of seaweed and ate the lot dipped in coconut vinegar infused with garlic and chili. Delicious.


Urchin inside
Only the flesh-colored part is eaten. This one doesn’t have much.

Coral Cay is a nice little resort on the southwest coast of Siquijor. The rainy season has come and temperatures are moderate, so a fan-only room is perfectly comfortable, especially with the pool to dip into if things get hot. Yesterday morning I took a kayak out to their little raft a couple of hundred meters offshore and had a swim before breakfast. The sea was calm, the water here is crystal clear, and much of the bottom is white sand, so visibility was excellent. Still, there were few fish to see. The corals for which the resort presumably is named were destroyed years ago. The service here is excellent, though, as I guess it should be since on a typical day I am the only guest and there are three waitresses on duty in the restaurant. The low season here is very low, for no good reason that I can see. It does rain most days but usually only for an hour or two. My biggest complaint is that overcast skies often spoil the sunset. Hard to get very worked up over that.

Negros from San Juan

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