Return to Son-ok
November 9-10, 2010
Honey Mae was celebrating her 22nd birthday and invited me to come help her celebrate in Son-ok.
We broke up almost a year ago and it had been even longer than that since I last visited.
Son-ok is in Barangay Tuyom, in the town of Carcar, about an hour busride south down the coastal highway from Cebu City.
When I arrived, it was good to see that the Navasquez house is still standing. Bright pink paint, too.
I was happy to see that the sari-sari store, which I helped start, is still going.
Jocelyn Navasquez continues to manage the store. The family earns very little income from the sari-sari store, mostly because people just don't have any money to buy anything.
Honey Mae's sister April Rose helps their mom run the store.
The Navasquez Family.
It's about impossible to assemble everybody for a picture, but here are four of them at least. Left-to-right:
* Rodelio, Honeymae's dad, who drives the motorcycle for hire.
* Jocelyn, Honeymae's mom, who runs the sari-sari store.
* Honey Mae.
* Hesrael, Honeymae's brother, nineteen.
There are always plenty of standbys around, hoping for a handout (and scratching fleas all day.)
Even the neighbor's ducklings like to visit.
Honey Mae had been cooking most of the day and was laying out the spread for her birthday feast which would start in an hour. I stopped in downtown Carcar and bought the birthday cake.
As it got a little bit dark, the invited and non-invited guests began to hover, patiently waiting.
Finally, Honey Mae gave the signal to eat and the crowd instantly descended on the loaded table;
within moments the serving bowls were empty.
Here's one of Honey Mae's signature dishes, pork menudo.
I stayed overnight and next morning I wandered around the village. The basak (ricefields) are peaking right now, full of heavenly, emerald-green rice that will be ready for harvest in about a month.
The farmers are busy preparing other fields for planting. Mister Carabao here is taking a little siesta from his plowing duties to relax in the mud and get a break from the clouds of flies.
The Navasquez home has expanded since my last visit with addition of an enclosed CR (comfort room); the only house in their neighborhood with indoor pooping (but no running water, it has to be hand-carried from a nearby well.)
Honey Mae's parents, Jocelyn and Rodelio, have been married about 25 years.
The family still has the motorcycle I bought them in 2008. Honey Mae's dad Rodelio is now full time driver, ferrying customers during the day. It's a competitive business with many drivers hustling for the pool of available customers, and Rodelio said he typically brings home just 80 to 200 Pesos per day ($1.86 to $4.65 US) exclusive of fuel and maintenance costs on the bike.
Two mornings a week he still climbs coconut trees to harvest tuba palm wine, which he carries to the market on the bike for some extra income (he formerly harvested tuba six days a week, but the locals are so poor now that tuba consumption is way down.)
Rodelio used to be shy with me, he NEVER smiled when I was around, esp. when I used the camera. Now I can't get him to quit grinning, heh heh.
The big craze this year with the young men here is to have a lantaka, a home-made air-rifle that they use to shoot birds. I saw them all over Sun-ok, very popular, so it's not a safe time to be a bird in the Philippines (unless you're a fighting cock, in which case you will be pampered and fed like a king right up until the day when you get razor-sharp fighting blades strapped to your claws and you meet a similarly-equipped opponent in a slash-fest to the death.)
The family has a visitor every day, this pigeon which is owned by a neighbor. He spends his days hanging around with the chickens in the Navasquez yard.
He's not averse to being picked up, as long as its followed by a few grains of rooster food. I asked if this bird is at risk from the "lantaka boys", and he's apparently safe from being shot.
Everybody loves to hold the pigeon.
For lunch we bought some fresh fish that a local fisherman had just brought in from the beach. This little pile of fish cost P100 ($2.32 US).
I held my fingers near the fish so you can see how tiny they are; that's what's left in Philippine seas. The fish are rapidly disappearing, due to overfishing, habitat destruction (dynamite fishing) and global warming. Another couple years and they will all be the size of my baby finger I guess. Fish is the most important protein source in the Philippines (most people can't afford pork or chicken except on special occasions) so we can only speculate what poor Filipinos will be eating along with their rice in a few years.
(And I should also mention that the rice fields are being filled in for upper-class residential developments and shopping centers, so we can also speculate what poor Filipinos will be eating for carbohydrates.)
The farmers ate their lunch too: rice and vegetables (too poor to buy fish or meat.)
I asked Honey Mae and her parents about the economic situation in Son-ok: are most people getting richer, getting poorer, or staying the same? They all immediately responded: "going down." The consensus is that people are definitely poorer than even a few years ago: less money in their pockets, and the cost of everything has increased.
When I watched people at Honey Mae's birthday feast, it was obvious they hadn't eaten meat in awhile and this was their big chance so even without being invited they came over and filled their plates and sucked it down in a terrific hurry.
What will happen when things get even worse???
Honey Mae is 25 weeks pregnant. She's planning to be a single mom.
(*In case you're curious, it's not mine.)
I still care about Honey Mae, and I plan to be Uncle Chris when she gives birth in February.
Honey Mae the birthday girl.