It's time for me to move on from the Philippines. The past five months have been great, but summer is coming and I want to leave before it gets much hotter. I plan to go to China for a few months, then probably return here when the rainy season arrives with cooler temperatures.
My life in the Philippines
I've been living at the McSherry Pension House on Pelaez Street in Cebu City (the stylish concrete building in the center of the picture.) Rent is 6500 pesos a month ($116 US) for a fan room with private bathroom and kitchen privileges. Yeah, it's a dump but I'm happy, so there.
I cook a few meals at the McSherry, but mostly eat out, at a variety of local restaurants. It's basic Filipino food including rice, pork, chicken and vegetables.
Besides sleeping and eating, what have I been doing? Lots:
Ana Flores has been the most important person in my life here, and we've spent much time together. We traveled to Surigao, I've visited her and her family in Dalaguete/Mantalongon many times, and we see each other on her frequent trips to Cebu. My feelings for her are conflicted: I'm still pretty crazy about her, but I just don't want to get married. So our relationship is deadlocked. I'm encouraging her to find somebody else, a man who shares her desire to get married and start a family. She's pretty wonderful.
The computer has been my other close companion. My old laptop still chugs along but breaks down frequently. My buddy Gary Forbes loaned me a speedy Pentium 4 desktop which I've been using to make webpages and process photos from my handy little digital camera.
Recently I've been learning two new applications: Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Flash. Here are samples:
Chris Gathers Coconuts (Macromedia Flash)
Click the image to watch the Flash movie (you'll need the Flash Player installed on your computer to watch. If you don't already have it, get it for free here.) When you're done watching this incredible display of artistic genius (hah!), just close the browser window that gets opened.
One of my favorite activities continues to be
wandering around, gawking and talking with the locals. The Bisayan phrase for this is "soroy-soroy",
as in the following typical conversation:
Filipino: "Asa ka padalong?" ("Where are you going?", a common greeting)
Chris: "Soroy-soroy" ("Just wandering around.")
Filipino breaks into grin and thinks "That skinny old foreigner is wandering around looking at girls again...."
Books I've read so far:
|Bush’s Brain||James Moore & Wayne Slater||How Karl Rove made George W. Bush Presidential|
|In The Presence Of My Enemies||Gracia Burnham||Kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf|
|I Should Have Stayed Home||Roger Rapaport, editor||Worst trips of great travel writers|
|Invisible Man||Ralph Ellison||American classic|
|Noli Mi Tangere||Jose Rizal||The great Philippine novel|
|El Filibusterismo||Jose Rizal||His other novel|
|Islam – A Short History||Karen Armstrong||Excellent history|
|Eleanor & Franklin||Joseph P. Lash||Eleanor Roosevelt biography|
|Asia Hand||Christopher G. Moore||Bangkok murder mystery|
|Hot Money, Warm Bodies||Ellen Tordesillas & Greg Huthinson||Downfall of Philippine President Joseph Estrada|
I continue to wake up every day feeling that it's a privilege to live here. On the one hand, the country is a huge mess on so many levels: explosive population growth coupled with a rapidly degrading natural environment; a deterioriating national economy with little hope for improvement in any time frame; endemic corruption; and a dysfunctional social system that offers very limited opportunities for most Filipinos who choose to remain in the country.Yet, I just feel very sympathetic to the friendly inhabitants of this troubled place. And to be honest, as a foreigner I enjoy privileges not accorded to most Filipinos, which makes my life here very tolerable.
But as I said, summer is coming. It's already getting much hotter during the daytime, and there's little temperature relief at night. So far I've resisted the temptation to turn on the aircon in my room, managing to sleep well enough with just an electric fan. But within a few weeks it'll be too hot for easy sleep, and I hope to avoid the "living in an aircon bubble" syndrome, by leaving for awhile. I'll fly to Hong Kong, and then take buses and trains across southern China to Kunming in Yunnan Province. It'll be my first visit to that medium-sized city, a historic trading center and crossroads of several Chinese ethnic minorities. My Seattle friend Lenny Williams hooked me up with WenMei, a Chinese woman there who runs a translation service for Chinese product brochures. We've been E-mailing and she is offering to hire me for proofreading of the translations. Kunming is also the northern terminus of a narrow-gauge railway to Hanoi, so it should be a good base for exploratory trips to Vietnam. I'm looking forward to a few months there, and then hopefully coming back here to Cebu.
About the USA: I miss my mom, my friends, and the mountains. As everyone knows, America is the global superpower. It should be utilizing it's enormous human and capital resources to offer the world a visionary leadership in a time of global uncertainty and danger. Instead, the U.S. has chosen to rule the world with an iron fist, directed by a gang of cunning thugs who've mastered the mean-spirited politics of fear. I don't feel proud to be an American, and I'm relieved to not be living there.
Thanks to you my readers for all the positive comments and moral support. I plan to start a new website in the Middle Kingdom (China), so please watch for that coming up.