Stories from the Philippines!

Street Level Living Philippines

Posted on June 21, 2010. Filed under: Stories from the Philippines! | Tags: , , , |

Street Level Living

Reality is something we Westerners dodge.

We fight reality for the illusion that is comfort, that is distraction. We are addicted to comfort and distraction to the point that we are shocked when reality comes up to rear it’s “ugly” head.

You may wonder what I am talking about when I mention illusion and distraction but we are sorrounded by it and have been so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize we are blind to the reality of life.

I go back into the magic screen in my mind and re-live some memories of “street level” living in the Philippines.

I find myself on the side of a crowded highway having just stepped off the Jeepney. Waiting with countless poor and yet smiling faces that I have bonded with in this short stream of consciousness that is, and will ever be a part of my life. I travel with the locals on their most popular mode of transportation. The Jeepney is a Filipino Icon in that it efficiently transports people day in and day out to their desired destinations for such a small amount of Pesos. You see in most parts of the Philippines it is unnecessary to even have a car. To the American it is a forein concept indeed to be without one!

The excitement of being on literally the “other side of the world” in a strange land riding in this tin can on wheels with people you don’t know is a thrill and gritty slice of realness that can only be experienced first hand. We waited on the dirty shoulder of the road near a clumsily put together Jeepney stand. Small thin brown skinned people will stare at you, when you catch their glance they will smile sweetly and acknowledge you as if you were “somebody” just because you are a westerner. The Filipino people are so accepting and accommodating that you never feel like you are away from home. You might actually, like me, feel like you are truly home for the very first time.

It is a beautiful contrast (the Philippine experience). Waiting at the side of the road amidst a sea of traffic that is seemingly reckless but somehow perfectly in harmony at the same time. The smell of diesel smoke and the noise of the street will assault you while the grace and peacefulness of the Filipino people make you feel totally at ease.

We waited for a little while for another Jeepney to safely take us to the other side of the six lanes of traffic so we could do some shopping in one of the most modern malls that you will ever see!
We finally boarded hunched over entering through the back, ever clinging to the small handrail that is firmly bolted to the roof of the vehicle. Walking gently so as to not step on the feet of fellow travellers as we endeavor to find a seat on the narrow benches on either side. When seated it is a nice visual to behold. Mothers and daughters going to the store. Young women donning immaculately kept nurses’s uniforms going home from training for the day. Smiling children on their Father’s laps and those who can sleep sitting up are all along for the ride. Happy teenagers riding with their friends having an innocent good time.

When we arrive at the Mall (SM) as they call it. We get off the Jeepney and hurry to the comfort of the Mall.

I don’t know why I wrote this. Sometimes I just sit down at my laptop and want to translate memory to page. I want to convey the experience, the color, sites sounds and smells that are all a part of the experience.
I love the Philippines and miss it so much. There are so many stories, so many experiences and memories that always make me drift back. They always make me homesick for the Philippines.
I go back into the magic screen in my mind and re-live some memories of “street level” living in the Philippines.

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Manny the Man Pacquiao

Posted on May 2, 2010. Filed under: Stories from the Philippines! | Tags: , , , |

1000 of My Closest Filipino Friends

1000 of My Closest Filipino Friends

Filipinos love their boxing, and with good reason, Manny Pacquiao. I have watched him on PPV a few times. Whenever he is fighting we have many friends get together here in Missouri and watch the fights. We have a great small community of Filipino friends here and they love to have a good time!

This is a little story about one time I got to see Manny fight under different circumstances!

The fight is today! Manny Pacquiao vs Ricky Hatton!

Sunday morning, warm and humid. Sun is shining, breakfast is ready. Fresh whole fish frying in the skillet, rice and eggs cooking in the kitchen. Steaming Pandesal waiting to be enjoyed on the table. It is 7:00 a.m. A wonderful start to an exciting day! The family is gathered in the kitchen, Nanay (Mother) is attending to the meal while neighbor children, friends and family are eating and eagerly awaiting the day’s event. The Manny Pacquiao fight!

It is definitely not just another day. Everyone is poised to go to the town square basketball court where they will be showing the event. Churches will be showing the match. In the Philippines this is no ordinary day! Manny Pacquiao is the country’s hero! The pride of the Philippines! He will go up against Ricky Hatton from Las Vegas today! Almost every town has a basketball court in the Philippines and Pavia is no exception. It is an arena free of charge where the locals come and play everyday to enjoy the most popular sport. Clad in shorts, shirts optional and flip-flops local groups compete for glory on the concrete arena to secure immortality among friends and relatives.

We arrive at about 9:00 a.m. to the arena and take our place on the concrete bleachers. It is Fiesta week in Pavia so there are still the local floats from the town sitting idle from the previous days festivities. The court is completely covered with full metal roof and chain link fencing surrounds the place. I notice a small projection machine in the center to broadcast the fight. A large screen has been procured by the town to watch the fight. As we are watching the pre-fight commentaries I notice that the picture is not very clear due to the sunlight. Soon young men begin to take woven mats and secure them to the fence areas to darken the small stadium. What great ingenuity! By the time they get done the picture is very clear!

The bleachers fill, and plastic chairs are placed on the floor, you know the kind you would by at Wal-Mart that you might set out for company in the back yard. These stackable chairs are a staple in the Philippines. Soon I am the only Caucasian in the place with 1000 of my closest Filipino friends! The expectant mood was palpable, the crowd was excited. Various vendors were making their way through the crowd selling items from small towels to wipe the sweat from your face to peanuts and snack food items. It was definitely a community event!

We all watched the preliminary fights with some interest. The real electricity was being reserved for the main event! When Manny was announced and made his march to the ring, sonic waves of emotion ricocheted through the gathering that could only be described as Filipino National hopes and dreams mixed with a little Pentecostal revival! Filipinos are very proud of their country, but they don’t get the lime light the way other countries do. This fight and Manny himself are one way to get a little respect from the rest of the world.

I won’t giver you the color commentary on the fight (you just had to be there). Suffice to say he won with typical Manny style! At one point he punched so hard that Ricky Hatton slid about 6 feet on the ground after being knocked down.

What I took away from this is the richness of the cultural fiber of the Philippines! It’s difficult to put into words, but here in America we don’t have the sense of community that they do there. I know we are a great nation but there is something missing. We have become the great melting pot of the world it’s true, however in the process we have lost our cultural roots! The memory of that day will live with me forever. Just to witness the smiles on the faces and the fists in the air! The collective shouts of victory filled the air and I was indeed blessed to be a part of it. Oh, Yeah! The fresh Mango shakes were not too bad either!

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Kape Anyone?

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: Stories from the Philippines! | Tags: , , , |

I was stirred to consciousness at 5:30 a.m. You know that fog you wake up sometimes when you are mildly confused as to what day it is? Maybe you thought it was a workday and it just happened to be Saturday. I was in a small concrete room, on the floor, on a thin foam rubber mat. A fan whined nearby giving some comfort from the humid air. There were bars on the window from my second story confines.
I could hear strange voices and the sound of footsteps outside my door! Was I in prison? Heck no! It was my first morning visiting my wife’s family in the Philippines.

When I stepped out the door I was greeted by her uncle Augusto. He is a morning person and a happy Filipino having his first American guest. He said “Good Morning, would you like some Kape?”. I said sure not really knowing what it was but hoping it was just coffee. I went outside on the porch and quickly got ready for the day, a quick shave, washed my face from a small sink they have outside all the while being greeted by stares from various rooters who were on the job waking their owners! In a short while her uncle returned with a cup in his hand.
I can remember negotiating the stairs that led to the ground floor sipping on this hot beverage thinking to myself “this isn’t coffee, it’s more like hot chocolate”. He led me to the dining room, a small area about 6’x6′ with a handmade table with an oilcloth table cloth. He offered me a small bread or roll called “Pandesal” and we went to the street.
The Kape was sweet and warm, the bread was hot with melted margarine. The street was filling up in this sleepy little village as people stirred out of their homes. I had stumbled on one of this towns local traditions or routines. It seems at least for a little while in the morning people will come out early and chat with their neighbors in the street. They have polite conversation with each other collectively greeting the new day. One can see the small uniformed children rushing around, laughing and boarding their transportation on their way to school.
We tarried outside for maybe 15 minutes. I met smiling neighbors petted a small dog, and waved at cheerful children as they made their way to school! All in all, not a bad way to start the day!

What can I take away from this experience? Hmmm, maybe it’s cool to slow down a little and enjoy people and the time we have here. I think we, as Americans live our lives at twice the sound of Stupid!! Hey, we grew up here, this is what we know. I would offer that we should take a little time to examine our daily routine. Is this how you really want to live? As I get older the weeks fly past faster than ever. I remember like 5 minutes ago it was Sunday night and I was dreading Monday! It is now Friday and the week was spent like a Black Friday outing!
If you were to plan the perfect day what would it look like? It is time we live life on purpose instead of drifting downstream without a rudder hoping against hope that someone will throw us a lifeline. I hate to break it to you but your the captain here, it’s up to you to do something! I often think of planning the perfect day. How would it appear? Just list some things you want to get done everyday, not at to do list but a priority list. What is important to you? What are the things you know you should take time to do but are putting off?

Make your list, do your list and repeat! Just take time to live on purpose!

Kape ingredients: Don’t laugh when you read this, just try it once. One tablespoon Nescafe Clasico, two tablespoons brown sugar, two tablespoons CoffeeMate! There you have it.

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I love the smell of Pollution in the morning!

Posted on December 5, 2009. Filed under: Stories from the Philippines! | Tags: , , , , , |

I cannot explain the way you feel when you get off of an airplane after you have travelled for 30 hours. I do know how I felt the last time I visited the Philippines. Standing in line at 4 different international airports, being hassled from the time you arrive at your first to when you get to your destination! Then you realize, “Hey I paid good money for this!”

This was my second trip. When you are beyond tired sometimes I believe you find yourself in a different state of consciousness. The feeling I had after I knew all the security checks were over, baggage collected and customs had cleared us was one of relief and expectation! We were to meet a friend of ours, a first time face to face with a woman we had met online (another story for another day!) Ninoy Aquino, the Philippines largest airport. We were about to make our exit.
We made our toward the doors leading out with luggage in tow. Leaving the comfort of the airport we felt the first blast of our new uniquely Filipino environment!
The smell of the city hit us like an unfortunate fall, the kind that happens so fast by the time that you are on the ground you have to ask yourself “What just happened?”. The realization quickened our minds and senses to the reality that we were finally back in the Philippines! We labored down the ramp through the hoping to see the woman that was to meet us. This time when I breathed my first of the Philippine air I knew I was once again home in a strange country that I have learned to love! We gazed for a few moments across the road where all the people gathered to welcome visitors and family members. We searched for the new friend we were about to meet, at once she appeared from the crowd in typical filipina fashion, with a big smile and a welcoming wave! This was the beginning of my second adventure to this strange but fascinating homeland of my wife.
Why did I post this? I’m not even quite sure at the moment. The title suggests a silly premise. The point is not the smell of an emerging nation but memory that it invoked. I guess what I am trying to convey is that all that is known, learned, and experienced by a person is not the sum total of reality. Whoever you are, wherever you are, however your grew up shaped the person you became. Your environment, your parents, your peers, shaped how you view the world and what you consider to be the truth about the world you live in.
My greatest desire is to help people. Truth is one of life’s greatest gifts. Look around at your very familiar surroundings. I want to enable folks just like you to uncover the fact that your personal reality, your personal flavor of the truth is not the final authority. There is a vast sea of humanity located in different countries, cities and neighborhoods. They wake up everyday just like you and have hope for a better existence just like you. Beautiful cultures with different points of view and experiences that have the right to not only exist but to thrive just as we do!
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