Hi Ho Hi Ho It's off to Rizal I go!

PS. I'm off to Balibago, Rizal tomorrow, so no more incessant blogging from me for at least 72 hours. A chance for you to go outside and feel the wind on your face. Or if you're not in Scotland than the rain, I mean sun.

Saturday 27th June - Constructive Procrastination

I thought I would put my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to good use and have entered The Times Travel Photo Competition.

Nothing will come out of it I'm sure, but no harm in trying. Right?

Friday 26th June - Point and Shoot

The past few days I've been taking photographs like it's an OCD. Here's a handful:
Three generations enjoying a good cup of tea
Our next door neighbour, Mark

Some of the younger residents of Padilla Street

My cousins looking over Laguna de Bay

Why go to the shop when it can come to you?



My godson, Yhurie

Wednesday 24th June - Funny Advert

It's currently Signal 2 here in Manila. When Signal 2 is announced all pre-school, elementary and high school children do not have to go in.

So I'm stuck inside babysitting all my cousins. Fun Fun Fun.

Anyway, seeing as I'm cooped up for the foreseeable future I thought I would share this advert with you.

I see this on TV quite a lot, and every time I still find it amusing. You don't really need to know what she is saying as it's only her last words that prompt any sort of comical effect. That said, I'll translate it anyway in case you are hoping to learn a bit of Tagalog.
JR you are forgetting your Grandma!
Even your cousins in the States, whatever the case, have been able to forward videos on YouTube.
And you, I've even superpoked you on facebook and you don't even poke back!
You will only talk to me when you need something for the computer.
Now, I'm going to drop kick you!


Did I mention that we are also expecting there to be an earthquake?


It apparently is only Signal 1 in Manila (there are 3 Signals with the third being the strongest type of tropical cyclone).

Not only that, but the cyclone has not yet reached Manila, and won't till Wednesday or Thursday. Hm.

Tuesday 23rd June - And I thought THAT was a Storm

Earlier this week (or last? Days don't seem to really matter when one is on holiday) I said a storm had arrived and that due to excessive rain the canal (sewage system) had spilled over.

Well that was nothing.

There is a term amongst Filipinos, which loosely translated means "storm". (EDIT: I've just found out that it means tropical cyclone. Hm. Quite a difference to just "storm") Today I thought that I had experienced my first bagyo.

My cousin and I were playing Speed on the terrace when a boom of thunder echoed above us. We stayed outside for a bit (not realising that we had not seen the worst of it) till our ears started to hurt. I then went up to the third floor to see how bad it was, only to realise that it had not yet reached us, but was hanging over Laguna de Bay. Several lightning strikes later the rain started to pour down - hard and fast.
The looming clouds over Laguna de Bay
Suddenly the lights turned off (known as Brown Out here). I went back up to the third floor to take a few photographs, but was a bit spooked by how close the lightning strikes were that I swiftly returned downstairs.
I have to admit that I thought this "tropical storm" (CNN) was what is known as bagyo. I realise now that it was 'just a little bit of rain'.
I'm not too sure that I want to experience bagyo anymore.
The slow moving storm cloud

When it is raining hard in the Philippines, people leave their houses to have a 'shower'

All is calm...ish

Guns N (White) Roses

I was watching the news when it was reported that a six-year old boy had accidentally killed his father. The boy had been asked to fetch the father's gun from upstairs. When the boy came down and sat beside him on the sofa, he pulled the trigger not knowing that it was loaded. This unfortunate occurrence happened to have taken place on Father's Day.

It made me think about the knife culture back in the UK. I'm not sure as to which is worse, the offences here fuelled by legalised guns, or the killing of young people due to their ignorance regarding the dangers of knives. I think that to try and quantify either is an attempt to quantify evil, and as far as I'm concerned this is not feasible (in terms that will satisfy our understanding of it).

But what do I know?

Monday 22nd June - Taking a Walk

I was supposed to go and visit my local priest in order to enquire as to whether he would be free to conduct a house blessing. The guard on duty said that on Mondays there are no office hours. And there was me thinking that Sunday was the day of rest.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

So, instead of going straight home, I acquiesced in accompanying my cousin on a walk down C6. C6 is basically a long road (still under construction) that connects mainland Manila to Antipolo. It's a road that crosses Laguna de Bay and provides easy access to the Province (countryside). There are a few makeshift houses on the Bay with fishermen and local tradesmen living there.

C6 and Laguna de Bay in the background

We had only walked half an hour when we decided to turn back. Only a few minutes had passed when we were met by my uncle. He said that it was dangerous for me to be wandering around with my camera, even though I disagreed saying that there were no people about.

Well, at least I didn't have to walk back.

Sunday 21st June - Two Blessings in One

We went to a house in Las Piñas to celebrate a house blessing and a Baptism. The house was located in a sub-division, which is like a closed-off neighbourhood with its own schools, shops and even security. Think Desperate Housewives.

We didn't make it to the church (we were running a bit late - Filipino style) so went straight to the house instead. This particular day was swelteringly hot, and even with several fans set on maximum revolving speed, the atmosphere felt airless.

There is no such thing as eating a little bit of food (by choice) in Filipino culture, as proven by the fact that despite there being caterers with food to feed a hundred people, there was also food cooked by the owner of the house.

I don't have much else to say apart from that it was hot. Really hot. Oh and the food was very good.

Here are a few photos:

Baby Samantha was the one baptised. Is it just me, or does it look like that the wrong baby was given to the parents at the hospital? Or maybe even imported from another country?

The traditional throwing of money and sweets after the priest has blessed all the rooms of the house.

L-R: Second cousin Glydel, Kuya Noel, Jennifer, Tito Lover, Andre, Tita Jean.

Kuya Noel is 35.

You can tell by just looking at him I'm sure.

'They tried to make me go to Rehab'

Today we went to go and visit my second cousin in rehab. The journey took about four hours, travelling North of Manila to Magalang, Pampanga. The drive was a tiresome one with 7 children and 6 adults in one car. We even got lost once or twice (Filipinos don't really believe in using maps), consequently paying twice than what was required at the toll gate.

Upon arrival I noticed that rather than looking like a place where people try to break away from their alcohol and drug addictions, it looked like a resort. I wasn't able to take a photograph from within the camp, but I did take some on our way there. The mountain you see below is Mt. Arayat.

Who would have thought that I would be checked for AH1N1 (Swine Flu to us Westerners) at a rehab camp and not at the airport? Anyway, once we (including the 7 children) had entered the camp, we were greeted by my Kuya (a term used to address male relations older than oneself). For someone who had been taking drugs for 38 years and had only been admitted into rehab for 10 months, he looked quite well. He had put on weight from the last time I saw him (which was a year ago when he was leaning back over the ledge on the second floor), his eyes were a little bit more focused compared to the darting-dilated pupils I remember, and he could sustain a sentence without any added sound effects.

The children were asked to go and play whilst some frank discussion took place. The clichéd 'If you don't help yourself then I can't help you' monologue was recited by my gran, whilst the rest of us sat and listened.

We were then taken on a tour of the camp. Men and women are placed in different dormitories to the North and South, with a large basketball court separating the two. As if the scenery wasn't enough, there were cats, dogs and hybrids of chickens and ducks (I don't know what they are called, and no I am not joking). All this with Mt. Arayat looming beautifully over the camp. The only thing that was missing was a swimming pool.

After our tour, farewells were finally exchanged and 'take care's were dutifully returned. On the way out I could not help but notice that my Kuya looked somewhat resentful. His earlier remarks had been rather nihilistic and even though he only has two months till he is released, his face portrayed a sorrow and resentment only capable of someone who is harbouring a deep hunger - One for the outside world and its vices.

On a lighter note, I fondly recall something my five-year old cousin said on our way back home. What he said (to one of the children) was so silly that I cried with laughter:

Sino ka ba? (Who are you?)
Oh Stephanie, alam mo, once upon a time kinain ka. (Oh Stephanie, did you know, once upon a time...you were eaten)

Not laughing? I guess it was one of those 'you had to be there' moments.

Saturday 20th June - Philippines' REALLY Got Talent

This video is a year old but I saw a performance on a Filipino talk show just the other day and was surprised by how mature she sounded. Here it is:

She is only 17. What could you do when you were 17?

I had just about mastered imitating Stitch's voice (from the Disney film). What an achievement that was!

Friday 19th June - God Trumps Darwin

It's a wonder how quite a few people in the Philippines believe that the world was created in 6 days, especially considering that it is the third largest Catholic country in the world. Obviously my statement is just a generalisation based upon who I have asked and observations I happen to have made, but nonetheless.

The same goes for the theory of evolution.
Just the other day my cousin had an 'assignment' regarding the evolution of humans from apes. My aunt was beside him and I asked her - knowing that she is a Baptist - whether she believes it or not. She answered me with such conviction that I thought it best not to question her any further.

'Of course I don't believe in it. To say that it is true is to say that the Lord does not consider us to be special. To say that, is to say that we were apes!
It's written and that is why I believe it. Some other Christians choose what to believe but it is in the Bible and so I believe it to be true.'

So I thought to myself, 'What right do I have to say that she is wrong (according to what I believe)?'
It is not for me to judge whether she is right or wrong; at the same time I know it would be useless for her to try and persuade me (and the other way around) to believe otherwise. A quote found on Fr Erik's blog (consequently found on Father Z's blog) sums it up pretty well:

If you do not believe, then there cannot be dialogue, but only debate. The truths of our faith are not open to debate.--Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
(Posted by Fr. Erik Richtsteig Links to this post)

Each to their own I guess.

Thursday 18th June - Philippine's Got Talent

He wants to be like Michael Jackson. I think he's swiftly on his way to realising his dream, more so than he thinks.

First Day

My cousin's first day at school (or kinder as they call it here). Doesn't he look cute?


My cousin has been pestering me since I've been here to draw him something. I finally relented.


I know these images have been circulating for a while, but I thought I would post this seeing as I'm stuck inside because a storm is a comin'. And it made me smile.
Watch out. God is watching.

Monday 15th June - It's 30 for a Reason

This is in such bad taste that I'm positive I have added to my stay in Purgatory. It still made me laugh though.

Friday 12th June - Entertaining and Feeding the Five Thousand

Went out with the extended family today. To be precise, I went out with 35 other people. My cousins, second cousins, aunt, uncle...You get the picture. 20 of them were children, most of them rarely getting the chance to leave Lower Bicutan. You can imagine how enthusiastic they were to leave the Street for the day, other than to go to school. (If their family could afford to enrol them that is).

Our first stop was Manila Memorial. My gran wanted to visit the mausoleum of her sister, and with an entourage fit for the Pope it was quickly cleaned and cleared. No help was offered by the children, who were enjoying themselves cartwheeling across graves and dancing next to Jesus. Yes we were in a cemetery, but the visit was more of a jovial family gathering rather than one of sadness. That's not to say that no tears fell whilst we were there.

We then went off to eat at Max, which is pretty much the Filipino equivalent to Nandos. The lady's face, when she saw the children swarm through the door, was priceless. After an hour of gluttony and plate licking (not by me) we embarked on a 30 minute drive to Luneta Park. More food, the bouncing of balls, some fireworks and a train ride later we finally went home.

Shattered. Now. Bed. Ciao.

Thursday 11th June - Rice, Rice and More Rice

Helped with the rice business today. My sensitivity to trivial things such as dust meant I couldn't engage in any laborious work, so I was appointed 'cashier'. In my case, that meant sitting in the morning sun playing with the children until someone walked through the gate to buy some bigas (rice).

It may sound like fun and games but trying to give change to the customers unearthed my inability to count. If it wasn't for my uncle I probably would have given away half of the earnings. Not to mention my Taglish (Tagalog and English). At times I got so frustrated that I resigned to speaking English, which seemed to confuse me more than it confused the customers.

'Ilan po?' (How much would you like?)
'Lima lang' (Just five)
'Pa pir...p..pirma.....Can you just sign here, please?'

Wednesday 10th June - Arrival in Las Filipinas

Arrived in Manila earlier today. I can't really remember much from the flight(s) apart from the feeling of insomnia. One thing I do remember though was the horror on some of the faces when they were greeted on the aircraft by air hostesses bearing face masks.

'Good afternoon, just walk to the right to find your seat ma'am. Oh, the mask? It's nothing. Just health and safety. No need to worry, ma'am.'

If that wasn't bad enough some of my fellow passengers had them on too. Their reason - 'I'm just feeling a bit under the weather'. A bit? A bit, my bum.

We (my grandma and I) finally reached the house (after being stopped by the police), only to be set upon by my cousins. At four years old one tends to get excited easily and my cousins are no exception. They were so enthused by my arrival that I was set upon like a pride of lions to a gazelle. I was pinched and slapped, and even bitten. Really.