Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The Long and Winding Line

Edson and I looked out our window July 15th to see this scene at the Fire Station below:

We had no idea what was going on. The line was there the day before as well. And the day before that.

"What could they be giving away?" we thought. Was a free clinic set up at our Fire Department? What could attract such a line of people day in and day out? It never seemed to let up or grow shorter. And the line would begin early in the morning, even before 5AM. Whatever it was had to be really good.

On our way down to brunch we asked the attendant in the lobby if he knew what was going on across the street.

"Voter registration", he replied.

Now doesn't that beat all? People leave their homes when it is still dark, line up and camp out, sweat and fan themselves in the intense heat of the sun so they can register to vote!

If we had to do it that way in the United States, the only registered voters would be the ones who were also running for office! Nobody'd ever be elected to anything because every race would end in a tie.

Americans, look on this and appreciate what you DON'T have to go through to register to vote. And if you are registered, did you even bother to vote in the last election?

Reminiscing

If you aren’t an American over the age of thirty, you probably won’t appreciate this so much; but for those who are, check this out:

Look at that.

Yes, that’s right. A McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie.

What?

A little closer?

Sure…..here ya go:

Yeah. It has been a long time, hasn’t it? But you remember how they tasted, don’t you? Much better than the baked pies they serve up now, wasn’t it?

Well, not to make this sound like it’s all good news…they shrunk them! The pie you are salivating over is only about 2/3 the size it used to be. But it only costs Php20…that’s roughly 50 cents.

For all of you Americans under 30: If you haven’t been to a McDonald’s outside the US to experience one of these, you simply won’t understand. Go. Do it now. Hurry. Then you can leave a comment here thanking me for introducing this treat to you. Of course, at the same time you’ll be cursing me for the very same thing, because now you’ll be craving one….just like those over 30 have been for over 15 years now. Yes, it’s been that long!

You could always move.

The McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie Locator site http://www.ccytsao.com/friedapplepie.htm (Don’t you appreciate all the research I go through for you?) can direct you to your nearest McDonald’s serving up the beloved pastry. There aren’t many locations in the US as you will see from the list, but if you miss them enough, maybe this will become your dining guide on your next vacation in the US or abroad.

And no. I did not move to the Philippines for McDonald’s pies! Let’s just get that cleared-up right now….

Friday, 27 July 2007

My Increased Market Value

I used to go to bars and clubs and nobody ever noticed me. That was when I was in the US. Here in the Philippines, no matter where I go, I am much more popular.

I’m told I am “exotic”.

Yeah, right.

I am “hot”.

Of course I am! It’s 90 degrees and humid!

What?

Oh……as in “sexy”?

Huh?

Do I look different now than I did this morning when I last saw myself?

Last week one of Edson’s officemates was speechless when he introduced me to her.

Then I got it.

White=Exotic. White=Hot.

It also explains why there are a lot of guys here who would be considered “less-than-desirable” back in the states who have guys or girls fawning all over them. Some Filipinos are simply looking for a sugar daddy, so the whole looks thing isn’t important to them. Apparently, that may be just one of the things people think as they see Edson and I walking through the malls, etc. Only they notice I am too close in age to Edson to be his daddy. We do get the looks; that’s for sure! It is also something friends of mine will notice when we walk together. People look at us then too.

Sometimes I like to stare back at them. Sometimes I pretend to not notice them. Some days I really don’t notice at all. That’s usually when Edson or a friend does. It’s when I’m alone that I notice it most. Last week a guy eating at Oliver’s Sandwich Shop in Glorietta spotted me and tapped his two other guy friends on the shoulders to spin around and they all just stared at me as I walked past. Yeah, I realize that sounds like something that only happens in movies or Doublemint Gum commercials, but it really did happen. Another guy, as he was getting on at the bottom of an escalator, saw me getting on at the top of the other. He stared at me the entire way. He even watched me as I walked away from the escalator once it had descended.

Sometimes I’ve thought there must be food on my clothes, ketchup on my lip, or I’ve forgotten to wear matching shoes… I check, but all is in order. It must be something else…

Maybe they think they know me?

No. After all, all white people look the same. I’ll be waiting to meet someone for an appointment and they’ll text me, saying they are there, and where am I? The only other white guy is a full 50 pounds heavier than I am, sporting a thick black beard, and balding. We’re both white, so it’s easy to mistake us.

I also don’t think I look like a famous celebrity. I have no delusion of being a famous celebrity. And how many people could there be reading this blog and recognize me from that itty-bitty picture? I even checked to verify that I bear no resemblance to anyone famous. Checks with MyHeritage.com , analogia.lycos.co, and even aol’s celebrity look-alike softwares came up with a mixed-bag of results.

MyHeritage.com claimed I bore a 55% resemblance to Susan Sontag. She’s dead and I seriously doubt any of her fans, friends or relatives will ever mistake me for her. They also claim I bear a 45% resemblance to Gianni Versace, Ernest Hemmingway, and former (also dead) Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic, among other lesser-known (or completely unknown to me) people.

Analogia.lycos.co matched me to British TV presenter Michael Barrymore, actor/comedian Michael Palin, and actor/filmmaker Kevin Spacey. I looked and looked and looked and am certain their software was smoking something to have matched me up to the pictures I saw of those guys!

AOL seemed the best. They matched me up with Metallica’s James Hetfield. It’s a stretch, but I can almost see that. There are similarities in our eyes and facial structures.

But they also matched me to actor Terrence Howard! You can see why I am befuddled on this one.

And this one: Chris Cooper.

Lastly, they matched me to actor/singer Ben Jelen.

I’ve never heard of him, but he is HOT! I don’t see much of a likeness between us, but I’m more than happy to be thought of looking as good as that guy, especially since he still appears to be in his 20’s and I’m just past that. Har-har-har!

So, having researched that, I can say that no one should be mistaking me for a celebrity, unless they have been smoking some of those funny cigarettes or are in severe need of an optician.

So, it’s back to being hot because I’m white.

Edson’s afraid this will all go to my head. I don’t think so. Although I may encounter my own form of Attention-Deficit Disorder once back in the states! What would a doctor prescribe? Certainly not Ritalin! Perhaps YouTube and a camcorder? Group therapy sessions with former celebrities? At the clinic, would I have to room with Kato Kaelin? Would it be helping or hurting William Hung when we bound and gagged him to keep him from singing before, during, or after each session? Would I ever get an opportunity to speak? There’s a pretty long (and ever-growing) line of reality TV has-beens out there!

Well, until then I can pretty much say that if Filipinos had the money, I could be doing quite the business if I wanted to sell myself! I have all the advertising exposure I need: I’m white, and white=exotic=hot.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Big in the Philippines

This really scared me the other day on my way through Gateway.

Yeah.

Terrifying, isn’t it?! I mean I realize I’m not that tall and all and seem to fit in pretty well size –wise here in the Philippines, but if this poster is life-size, Engelbert Humperdinck is, like, over 3-stories tall.

Haha, right? Yeah, pretty lame…

But think about this: last time I heard about this guy it was in the 1970s. Where’s he been all these years? I checked him out online, and apparently he's been making albums and performing. Anyway, it is his 40th Anniversary and he’s going to be in concert here at the Araneta Center in August. I saw tickets on sale for the show for as much as Php5,000 (roughly $100 USD!).

$100?!

In the Philippines?!

For Engelbert Humperdinck?!

Put in a different light: A part-time faculty member at the University of the Philippines is paid a meager Php7,000 per month! And they want Php5,000 for a ticket!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Jesus Didn't Drive (or "Drivers, Leave Your Catholicism at Home")

By now you all know of my fondness for the drivers in the Philippines. It took another step in the wrong direction the other day.

Our condominium complex sits at the corner of the major intersection of Ayala Avenue and Sen. Gil. Puyat Avenue (Buendia is the old name which everyone knows and uses and I will continue with that because I don't like having to type out the new one.) Anyway, it is one of the few intersections governed by a traffic light in metro Manila. Traffic lights are relatively common here in Makati, but in the rest of the metro area it is every driver for themself. It is in the spirit of the latter in which most drivers drive. It is also one of many intersections here where no left turns are allowed. Period. Doesn't matter which street you're on, you can't turn left onto the other. That's the rule. Signs are posted. Police ticket offenders. Just keep making rights until you go all the way around the block and you'll have effectively turned left in the end.

Being a major intersection, there are also crosswalks with walk lights present. I almost mis-typed that as "walk lights pleasant" which would not only have resulted in an incompleted sentence but also an untruth. The walk lights are anything but pleasant. The green 'walk' signal has turned to the red 'don't walk' once the average person has made it halfway across the street.

Anyway, the whole no left turn thing the other night seemed to be too much of a bother for three drivers. Three pedestrians (myself amongst them) who were halfway across the street (we'd made it as far as the safety island at this point) on what had begun as a green walk light suddenly found a bus pass in front of us headed from Ayala left down Buendia towards the bay.

"@#%* Idiot!" we all thought (at least I did), taking a cautionary look to our right before continuing onwards. Well, the next thing we know, a bus and a taxi decided to do the same thing the first bus did...and at high speed...while we were in the crosswalk! (Whose light had turned red as soon as we stepped off the safety island!) There was a great amount of dramatic breaking on the part of the bus but not enough that it could be stopped as we ran out of the way. Really, what we should have done is all just stand there in front of the stopped bus and waited. Waited while it blocked part of the intersection. Waited for a police officer to come from the Makati Central Police Station just two blocks away to issue a citation.

Wouldn't you just love to do that? Just stand there and block a bus driver (or any driver!) who recklessly ignored the rules like that? Blocking all the other traffic, so that the passengers of the bus as well as countless other motorists would be fuming with anger towards the bus driver?! I realize it's all a bit overdramatic, like "Tank Man", the unknown man who stood before

the tank in the streets of Beijing during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. He was probably jailed and/or executed shortly thereafter. We'll never know. After all, the massacre never happened, so he probably never existed.

Anyway, this all brings me to this conclusion, because I know you are wondering how all this ties into the title of this entry, right?! (Scroll up. I'll wait....) My conclusion is that aside from being amongst the worst-behaved drivers in the world, Filipino drivers are a bit like conservative Christian, right-wing evangelists and politicians. Their faith is for show only. They shouldn't have to practice what they preach so long as people keep sending them money so they can enjoy the pleasures of a massage with 'happy ending' from a muscled masseur after having just delivered a sermon on the horrors of homosexuality and promiscuity. Filipino drivers ornament their vehicles with sayings, including quotes from the Bible, "Jesus Alone Saves", "God Bless Us", "God's Blessing", etc. Yet they seem to have no problem in mowing down pedestrians, disobeying the rules of law, intentionally cutting off other motorists, etc.

It may be a visit to the Philippines by someone in the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people, or Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the office that has prompted a sort of '10 Commandments' of driving, issued on June 19th. It warns about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out "primitive" behavior in motorists, including "impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code." It urges motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray when behind the wheel. (PRAY when behind the wheel?! I've seen drivers who can barely DRIVE when behind the wheel!! As a passenger, I've often prayed before getting in the car with certain drivers, but have been too distracted once on the road to do much real prayer. Usually all I could come up with was a series of "Oh God!", "Oh My God!", and "Oh Jesus!" due to the fear factor of being in the same vehicle with such unskilled drivers.)

So I figure you can either bless yourself and say the rosary while driving, as the Cardinal recommends or just be a decent human being to other motorists and pedestrians in the case you aren't Catholic/Christian. Either way, you wouldn't last a second in Manila...nor would the person you ran over while you were on a "Hail Mary".

Friday, 13 July 2007

More Roadside Views

Here's some more of the quick grabs I got while waiting in traffic from yesterday's post.




Of course, this one is especially interesting to me because as a foreigner my doctor told me never, never, NEVER eat food from the street vendors! (He also told me not to have sex with the natives, but was about 5 years late in telling me so!) Street food looks yummy and smells better than what you'll find anywhere else. What a shame....



And here's a shot of all that traffic I spoke of:



An interesting thing I've noticed here is that the lines on the pavement are really just there as ornamental suggestions to the drivers. You know, sort of saying to them, "We'd like to think of this as a 4-lane highway, but feel free to occupy 2 or more lanes at your discretion, Mr. Bus Driver and for an indefinite period of time until you've managed to coax as many would-be riders into your vehicle as you see fit." Also, "Pay no attention to the line of 47 other buses and jeepneys honking their horns behind you or the other automobiles stuck all around you like flies on flypaper. Do remember only to pull away once there are pedestrians in front of your vehicle, and drive however quickly or slowly you like, applying your brake with full-force as often as possible. Everyone enjoys the billowing black clouds of smoke your exhaust gives off. It adds a nice touch to the dull gray sky it has already created over Manila. But hey, I'm just a road. What else do I have to do besides look at the undersides of cars and trucks all day? The smog is like my sunglasses, man."

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Typical Roadside Views

Here are some shots I took while on the road from Makati to our friend Kit's Camp Explore in the mountains of Antipolo. About halfway through the journey from Cubao to the camp, you encounter a congested clutter of small shops and all traffic grinds to a halt. Being stuck there each time just inching along for a good 5-10 minutes gave me time this time to whip out the camera and grab a few shots for you lucky readers!

Here's a bunch of people crammed into a jeepney.


And here are several shots of people at the small shops or street vendors.


Thursday, 5 July 2007

Are We There Yet???

I used to be a real stickler for being punctual. I always was on-time or early. Then I came to the Philippines, where everything (crowds, traffic, lines, cab drivers unwilling to take you where you want to go, weather...) will conspire against you...and noone else will be on time either.

On-time here is something we'll call "Filipino Time". This could be anywhere from 15-20 minutes late...and you'd still be "on time". 30 minutes late is a little late; almost a sort of Filipino "fashionably late".

How to prepare? Well, consider a cab ride the other day: 7 miles in total length; it took 40 minutes. On the EDSA Expressway.

That's right; expressway. One must not confuse the "express" in "expressway" with anything having any connotation to speed. Here, "express" clearly is intended to mean "show"; as in "express yourself". And so the drivers do. They express themselves through honking and yelling, cutting each other off, and taking up 2 lanes of traffic. They also ornament and detail their cars, jeepneys, and buses with all sorts of stickers, emblems, painted murals, etc.

They're expressing themsleves...

...in a way....

...on the "expressway".

What else did I have to think about for 40 minutes??????

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Clear Day in Makati



It's Amazing!

It's Incredible!

It's only the second time I've been able to see this far since we moved in back in mid-May!

Enjoy this view, folks. I don't get to see this far very often.

"On a clear day you can see forever...."