Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rain and Peace

It rained yesterday. You could hear it coming from two opposite directions, one the roar of trillions of drops bearing down from the mountains, crashing into tree leaves like so many bomblets blasting new paths through the forest; the second the shriek from my wife caught a block away yakking with one of her friends.

My wife made like a purple streak, Olympic speed, across the field, through the gate and into shelter. The roar of the train hammering across our tin roof was deafening.

Fifteen minutes later the sun was cutting through the billowing grey-white clouds, heating the wet to a heavy blanket of humid suffocation

Everything is green here, until it reaches the ocean blue.

This is the Philippines.

The place where, if you get wet, you just dry out.

The place where green is for some reason missing from the flag.

The place where water and land meet to form a way of life different from the normal world. Where ambition fades like a flower smashed down by sunlight, and laze is the mood of the day.

I don't even own a jacket anymore. Dressing warmly means putting on a shirt with sleeves.

I'm down to my last pair of shoes, and when they go, it is flip-flops at the mall, the bank, the church. One half the reason is that they don’t make size 12 shoes in the Philippines. The other half is that I am not about to pop for Customs fees that are more than the cost of the shoes. The third half is that I am comfortable bare of toe. And at this stage of life, I am master of my own destiny.

We are nonsense, we people. I regret the lack of brown pigment in my skin, protection from the tropical sun that I wish I had whilst dodging the pointy parts of my wife's umbrella as she goes to ridiculous extents to stay pasty pale.

Fortunately, she fails, as the sun is everywhere, and she is a delightful rich brown, the color American women would die for, and which she hates.


Beauty is more than skin deep.

Fan palms that would cost $150 in the U.S. grow like weeds here; I have to take my machete to them to keep them from overrunning the paths. Spiders like to hang over the paths, too, about face level. Ferns emerge in the shady damp corners of the yard as if I had planted them there, lush and lovely. At $25  each in the US, I figure I have several thousand dollars worth of ferns laying about. The huge timber bamboo shimmer in the breeze, 50 tall feet of gentle rustle that psychologists have discovered brings peace and calm to people.


The stuff of houses and fences and furniture, and peace.

I wonder why the Chinese are so blasted pompous and dogmatic. Their bamboo must be defective.

I have come to like the Philippines a lot.

The place has grown on me.


  1. Why does it take a white american's take on Philippines makes me like Philippines? If this article were written verbatim by a brown-skin-punk'd nose english-snob Filipinos I WOULDN'T HAVE CARED! Why?

  2. I do not know, Attila. I'm still thinking. Gosh, I'm totally blank.

  3. Joe go physically to the bank to transact business? That's one of those things that I do not like about Philippines. I have to miss work to stand in line to withdraw or deposit money in the bank. Skip work to pay my utility bills.

    Transacting with the government is a one-day pack-adobo-and-rice affair.

    1. Mariano, I have an account at Landbank, which is 100% government owned. We are made to sit in proper order, then, as "next" is called, everyone stands, moves one chair, and sits back down. Imagine 20 people doing this, over and over again, until they get to the first chair. The Three Stooges never imagined anything more hilarious. It should be fast-filmed and put on You-Tube. It would get a gazillion hits in one hour. I would visit the bank to get big withdrawals to build my house. Thank God, the house is built now.

  4. I personally find the dark brown Filipina more attractive and I also like the ethnic look. I know that in general the Filipino man prefers light skinned mestizas. At least we are not competing for the same type of women. However this may cause many Filipinas to have insecurity and low self esteem about themselves if they are not white enough.

  5. Right on, Attila. I find brown skin Filipina beauties exotic more than the mestizos and mestizas or mixed-race. Of course, all skin colors are attractious. I am more in to exotic looks.

    Lookit Jinky. Jinky has become whiter than Michael Jackson.

  6. "Why" Because you don't trust Filipinos to care for your homeland?

    1. Aha! You got me thinking there, Joe. Because I do not trust Filipino columnists, journalists and writers writing feel-good articles about Philippines because I do not trust their ethical standards at all.

  7. I sometimes also feel that they take it too far with the feel good or be proud articles about Philippines. The last time I saw an advertisement about the caves in Palawan and one of the Filipino celebrity was quoted saying that I'm proud of the caves of Palawan.
    I never heard a European saying that I'm proud of caves or I'm proud of our Olympic or world champions etc.

    1. Overrating and hyping Philippines to foreigners might bring in the "wrong crowd". The haughty-snooty Park Place condo dwellers. They are the most listened to. The tastes of these Santa Monicaquesh types are beyond understanding of Harvard-Graduate Filipinos more so those Ateneo la Salle and UP graduates.

      If these snooty foreigners found out that Philippines is nothing more than overhyped Conde Nast and Susan Spano will take a listen. Write about it in their travel columns. And, who reads travel magazines and columns ? Of course the traveling crowds. And, they will never ever come to the Philippines except the low-budget back-packing adventurous types.

    2. Yeah, we tend to have something I like to call "Associative Pride".
      I don't totally get the reason why we feel that way but I think it's part of the culture we have while growing up.

      I remember my teachers telling us to be proud of some classmate's accomplishment. Not congratulate her but be proud of her, as if we did something to help her win that contest.

      I also observe that it's more prevalent in those people who are either insecure or have some sort of inferiority complex.

    3. AJ, "Associative Pride" Thanks for the explanation. That is something I had not quite grasped until now. I knew there was a difference, and the failure to congratulate is key to that.

  8. Aha! I'm glad i took your advice to check out this piece.

    It validates what I always tell myself whenever you say something particularly hurtful about my country; that it's coming from a good place, and that It's said out of concern and not scorn. That's what keeps me from giving it back to you and dishing out what the rest of the world thinks about Americans at the moment :)

    You are actually on the mark with most of your observations about our culture. But our difference is that I grew up in all of these. I know on a personal level many of the very people you describe. I also have enough appreciation of our country's history to know that we did not choose to be the way we are now. I believe I've already expounded on this in a previous post. Lest it be misinterpreted again as an attempt to justify and excuse wrongdoing, let me just make it clear that it's not. It's how someone with a social sciences background would approach a discussion on a perceived cultural/ behavioral flaw and how it might be addressed.

    So anyway, we all come with our own biases when we view those who are different from us. The Australians think Americans are rude and overweight. The Americans think the Australians are loud and often drunk. The British think everyone else is rude! The Chinese don't even care to know what rude looks like, they just distrust foreigners in general.

    We're an interesting lot, aren't we? So different from each other and yet so the same. We may not all like it when it rains but we'll all get wet just the same.

    1. I would hope that people overseas hold the U.S. in higher regard today than they did when G W Bush was out remaking the world in Dick Cheney's image.

      Well, Cha, yes, an outsider's view is rude, by being outspoken. Rather like President Aquino lambasting ABS-CBN at their anniversary dinner the other night. But it is a perspective which people can take as legitimate or not. If the subject were the United States, I could rip with the best of them, because the home front is drifting off in a rather bad way. But the subject is the Philippines, which I am simply trying to figure out.

      Yes indeed, we are an interesting lot. And sometimes we get very wet.

      Glad you have not pitched me into the incinerator.

  9. The U.S. is definitely seen in a much better light these days, of course. That is, until Mitt Romney opened his mouth in London. :))))

    1. Yes, I fear dear Mitt's ratings are about to tank. Americans don't like the economy, but they don't like ineptitude either. Romney has zero international experience and it showed. He believes Russia is the number one antagonist to the States, and probably would describe Australia as "a big island populated by convicts and athiests".

    2. That would still be better than Seinfeld's "Australia is like the anus of the world" :)

    3. I'm quite sure he meant position, not function. If not, he is (was) a big one himself, and quite funny, too, in a wholly irreverent way.


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