Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

May 19, 2007


Filed under: Manila — lapulapu @ 11:45 pm

Roxas Boulevard, the main freeway into Manila, was busy at 1:00 a.m.. The minivan in front of us cut off a motorcycle and came to a stop on a two-lane entrance ramp. When the hatch popped open people poured out into traffic; lots of people, like from one of those little cars in the circus. The Philippines I know and love.

The 26 hour trip went fine and after a quick shower I took a little stroll. Santa Monica Street was dark and smelled of urine, but it brought me to Pedro Gil, center of seedy nightlife in Ermita. I stopped in for dinner at a tiny little Indian/Pakistani joint called, I believe it was, “Stop In”. Big cities are not my favorites; I prefer quiet little villages on the beach. It is really nice, though, to order mutton curry at two in the morning, and for some reason I find it soothing to hear people around me speaking languages I don’t understand. It offers a sense of human contact without the information processing load.

Perdices Street Dumaguete

First on the agenda after traveling to Dumaguete was a seafood feast at one of my favorite restaurants, Lab As (“fresh”). A research colleague and I had bouillabaisse, a spectacular kinilaw (raw fish in vinegar, chiles, ginger, onion), and fish balls in onion and garlic, along with the usual rice and San Miguel Light beer. They were hosting a writer’s workshop that evening so we were regaled with poetry and folksy music. Our research is on relations between Christians and Muslims, which have gotten a little testy in the southern Philippines in recent centuries. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks trying to figure out how to approach that topic without getting myself into too much trouble. My colleague’s brother ran for mayor in last week’s election and his home was shot at only once, so I’m not too concerned.

Karaoke bars, on the other hand, can be truly dangerous and require wise policies.

Why Not? firearms policy

I was happy this one was in place when, my last night in town on a previous trip, a couple of girls forced me to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. It probably saved my life.

Yesterday morning began with a walk through barangay Lo-oc, near the pier in Dumaguete. (The barangay is the local political unit. This usage of the word, which refers to the type of boat the original settlers arrived in, was instituted by Marcos in preference to “barrio”.) Had a coke with my new friend William, who was intent on introducing me to the young lady peering shyly out from the store.

William Lo-oc Dumaguete

Thanks to the American influence Filipinos play more basketball than soccer. Practically every barangay has a court, which serves as a meeting place and often as a dance floor on Saturday night.

Lo-oc Basketball court

Nothing says “Supper time!” like sun-dried eel.

Eels Drying Sun dried eels

The asian economic miracle hasn’t quite reached Lo-oc yet.

“Welcome Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.”

Kabulakan, a flower festival, is underway in Dumaguete. Haven’t seen many flowers yet, but there was plenty of grilled meat in the park last night. Grilling is big in the Phils. Just one more reason I belong here.

Festival grill

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