Wednesday, 26 August 2009

On a dark desert highway...

OK, so today I went to Immigration to get something called an exit clearance certificate. This allows me to leave the Philippines. Without it, I'd be stopped at the airport and redirected to Immigration, which is about an hour to an hour and a half away to get one.

Needless to say, the person without one will miss their flight.

So I went today to get one.

The system for getting a visa renewal has been quite streamlined and now only takes one hour, so I was prepared for this to take about as long.

Silly me.

After being handed one piece of paperwork and filling it out I then had to have photocopies made from my passport, which is usual. Then I had to have 5 2x2 passport pictures taken. Fortunately they do it there and for just P100 ($2US). When I returned with that I was given three more sheets of paperwork to complete, including pasting of the 2x2 pictures and fingerprints all over each of the three forms plus an additional index card.

This all took an hour.

Then I submitted all my completed, photocopied, photographed, pasted, fingerprinted forms and was told I could return at five o'clock.

It was only eleven in the morning.

Six hours.

The cost: P500 for the express lane fee.

What's express about six hours?

Well, considering it does take the post office across the street two to three weeks to deliver our mail, perhaps six hours isn't all that bad.

But I had things to do. I couldn't wait six hours. And the thought of returning to pick something up at the precise time the offices are closing is just ridiculous.

So I didn't wait. I can return some other time.

But first I had to get all the black ink off my fingers. So I went to the men's room to wash it off only to find there's no soap in the men's room; not even a dispenser. There was however, plenty of stink from all the urine which covered quite a bit of the floor. That was lovely. Even worse is that the door sits propped fully open, so all passersby see and smell the stuff. (Keep in mind, this is a freshly-renovated building.)

I did the best I could to wash my hands. Like all other restrooms in the Philippines, there are no towels with which to dry your hands. There was also no electric hand dryer. So I left with semi-clean, wet hands, being careful where I stepped on the way out.

On the way home in the cab there was a tune running through my head. It's a tune I haven't heard in quite some time and it wasn't on the radio. It was the Eagle's Hotel California.It wasn't until it had been running around in my head that I realized the reason I was thinking of that song. It's lines in the lyrics:
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.

We'll see if I get out of here...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How to Speak / Interpret Filipino

Filipinos are often surprised that foreigners cannot speak Tagalog. It is often believed Tagalog is an easy language to learn. That could be true for the foreigner living in provinces here where little English is ever heard, but not in the metropolis of Manila where every third word in a Tagalog conversation is actually English. It is hard to isolate oneself from English if it is your native language and become immersed in Tagalog enough to get any real learning done.

Jokingly, one could simply mispronounce in stereotypical fashion some English words in ways that mimic the vernacular; such as switching the sounds for p and f in words. That's not what this post is about though.

This is more about how Filipinos use English to suit Filipino thought and/or customs.

Here's a few helpful phrases to keep in mind for anyone planning to come to the Philippines:

What you hear: I'll be there at 1:00.
What it means: I'll leave my house around 1:00.

What you hear: I lost my phone.
What it means: My phone was stolen.

What you hear: It's very traffic.
What it means: a. Traffic is heavy. b. I left late and I'm blaming traffic to cover my ass.

What you hear: For a while, sir/ma'am.
What it means: One moment, please.

What you hear: I will try to be there.
What it means: I will not be there.

I hope these are a big help for a new traveler or expat.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Babbling Boobs

Yes, Babbling Boobs!

No, this isn't about the usual babbling boobs - Sarah Palin and other politicians. This is about something a little different.

This is about the informative cartoon we received with our Meralco electric bill.

In it I found babbling boobs! Check it out:See?

She has talking tits! Well, maybe tit. Neither Edson nor I can spot the other.

Perhaps that's not a she at all. Could be a transvestite or transsexual. This is the Philippines, after all!

Note how the guy with the funny mustache points and laughs, liking the fact that they talk. Of course, at the top of the page he's seen checking out the lineman's ass...the same lineman who is later flirting with the, the cartoon.

I'm not going to bother with the talking house lizard. America has been long accustomed to a taking gecko (with British accent, of course) pitching Geico Insurance for over ten years. So talking lizards aren't so unusual, are they?

Bills aren't this much fun in the US, especially since all of mine had been taken care of on-line for so many years.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


Friday, August 21st, Edson and I headed off to the island of Corregidor. We'd talked about going to Corregidor for over a year, and now was finally the time to do it.

Corregidor today is a tourist location, but had been used by the Spanish and American colonists as a military fort, as the island effectively helps control traffic in and out of Manila Bay. Aside from a few newly-constructed buildings, the bombed-out remains and tunnels of the American fort are all that remain; a shrine to the tens of thousands of soldiers killed during WWII.

Here's the Middleside Barracks:Personnel of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment and the 91st Philippine Scout Coast Artillery Regiment were billeted in this barracks.

4 12-inch mortars like this one here make up Battery Way:Housing MacArthur's headquarters was the hurricane-proof Mile-Long Barracks, so named because if you were to run the length of each of its three 1,520 ft. storeys from top to bottom, you'd have run a mile:Beside the Mile-Long Barracks sits Cine Corregidor, a movie theater:The Pacific War Memorial was constructed between the ruins of the cinema and bachelor officer quarters. Part of the memorial includes the Eternal Flame of Freedom:One of the two 12-inch "disappearing" seacoast guns of Battery Crockett:You can read around the barrel that this 45 ton gun was manufactured by the Bethlehem Steel Company.

The scars of war show at Battery Crockett:Top view of the other of Battery Crockett's guns:
We did manage to choose a great day to visit Corregidor. Amidst all the scattered thunderstorms we've been having recently, we had a sunny day perfect for our outing.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tearing Down

For weeks we've watched as the Sime-Darby building across the street form us in Makati has been gutted, in preparation for its demolition. Everything form inside has been torn out and sent out for salvage. Walls, wiring, flooring, everything. The building is just a post-modern 1960s shell at this point...and less and less of a shell with each passing day!

A few days ago (my usual late posting) we were awoken by the sounds of mallets striking concrete. The crews who had gutted the building are now (even as I type this) destroying the concrete roof of the building, exposing the steel reinforcements for salvage. And they do this by hand.

Look:Note also the protective footwear some are wearing -- flip flops!

These guys have been out there bashing those mallets into the roof now for almost a week. Every day. Eight hours a day. That's endurance!

The only thing that might be worse than standing on top of the building you're tearing down one bash at a time in your flip flops might be that you are also essentially living in it at the same time.


These guys don't go home. They live on site until the job is done. After they finish work each day, they clean up, eat, and do their laundry, which hangs on lines below the building each night.

If you check this picture closely, on the left you can see a small wooden enclosure at the bottom of the building:There's a water line there. The guys use this for their laundry and shower.

I do find it odd that it is located directly below, and in plain sight of, our 28-storey condo tower, with 114 units looking right down upon it. That's not exactly a good guarantee of privacy, seeing how there's no roof or door on the thing.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Only In the Philippines!

I was in Antipolo doing a photo shoot at a friend's place Tuesday. On the way home that night, as we were making our way out of his neighborhood I noticed a sign by the side of the road. Nobody would ever believe me if I just said I saw what it read, so here's proof:Given that this park is located on a very dark street in a very sparsely populated and remote place, I'm betting this park, like so many others around the world, is where many have lost their virginity!

Yes, keep Virginity Park clean - help clean up all the used condoms and wrappers.

Faith In Transit

Buses in the Philippines come in several forms: new, old, second-hand imports (from China or Japan), air-conditioned (freezer on wheels), air-conditioned with video (watch Hollywood's worst B-movies on pirated DVDs while riding in a freezer on wheels), and non-air-conditioned (also non-upholstered wood slats for seats). But they all have one thing in common: most eschew some religious message somewhere in or on them.

Here's one of my favorites:Yes, you read correctly. That is The Shrine of Jesus.

I know some Christian and non-Christian religions are against iconography, but I never thought the Catholic church and its love of religious icons would go so far as to include stuffed animals and fuzzy dice! Bingo cards, maybe. This bus is like a church festival on wheels!

I also like this second bus:Great is thy Faithfulness: those are the last words you see if your brakes fail while driving behind this bus at high speed. (Well, that or How's My Driving?) Actually, that's there probably due to the fact the thing is so old, faith is the only thing going for it maintenance-wise.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A Nation Mourns

Today, former Philippine president Corazon Aquino was laid to rest beside her husband Ninoy Aquino.

The four-hour, over ten mile transferral procession of her body to Manila Cathedral passed through Makati Monday. Millions left their offices to bear witness, as many had done back in 1983 when her husband was laid to rest after he returned from exile to the Philippines and was assassinated as he deplaned. His assassination led to the eventual overthrow of the brutal regime of Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon's election to the presidency, which took a nationwide revolt to seat her in office.

As the mother of the Philippines as a nation of people free from martial law, she will always be seen as an icon of democracy.

Educate yourself further if you like. Here are my images from the procession. Click on each for nice detailed views.

The view from Ayala and Se. Gil. Puyat Avenues:People atop the People Support call center building. (Calls about your mobile phones and online travel sites are handled here.) Note Makati Med in the background. That is where Cory spent the last month of her life, before succumbing to colon cancer.Getting the best view from ground level:The lead vehicle in the procession, with flags of Ninoy on them:Cory's casket: