“A Day in the Life”


“Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up, I noticed I was late.

Found my coat and grabbed my hat, made the bus in seconds flat

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke, somebody spoke, and I went into a dream…

Aaaaaahhhahhahh…”

(McCartney)

As my longtime readers probably know, this blog is actually “letters” to my two sisters back at home.  Telling them what their crazy brother is up to when he disappears for months at a time.  Sometimes, I wonder as well.

Susie seems always curious about the ordinary.  The ordinary in this case, “What is a day like in a house in the Philippines?”  Everyone knows about the touristy stuff, or can look it up on line.  How about miles and hours off the nearest tourist track?

You just about can’t get more remote than Asgad.  It is almost four hours from the nearest major airport (and airline service) in Tacloban.   (Borongan has airline service once in a while.  It doesn’t last as there aren’t enough passengers to support it.  Guiuan?  Forget it!)  Over six hours to the nearest major ferry terminal in Ormoc.  While many people understand at least some English, few speak it fluently.  Everything is rural, and seems pastoral.

And…we haven’t had reliable electrical power for four days.  A typhoon hit north of here and while we were not directly affected at all, the indirect effects are with us 24/7.   I haven’t touched the computer and I can only write as long as the battery holds out.   An extended camping trip, something like the Idaho fish tagging mentioned in my blog.

I mentioned the Beatles classic as the day sometimes starts very early.  If you want to catch the jeepney School bus to town, you’d better be up at 4am.  That is when first one, then the other, passes by our house.  Miss it, and you are on your own.  We can ask friends for a motorcycle ride, but that is hit-or-miss.   We have relatives in town with a car, they will pick us up if they aren’t busy. 

Into town with the cooler for blocks of ice.  Two blocks last a little more than three days.  Also water jugs.  You can send in a list and they will deliver for a small fee.   Yesterday our lumber for bookshelves showed up on the top of a well loaded jeepney.  Not this one, but this is typical as we are one of the first stops.

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I liked this picture as a girl in a girl scout uniform is riding in the front on the roof, with two others on the roof as well.  Unusual, the ladies always seem to get a seat downstairs.  I’m guessing they were some of the last to board.  It was the roof or the hoof (flip-flop express).

If we aren’t going in, the jeepney usually wakes at least one of us.  They are noisy, with stinky exhaust fumes and people talking loudly as they load for the trip to Guiuan.  

Since we are without power, we don’t get up.  We lay around waiting for the sun to rise.  Sooner or later, unless the power returns, we will run out of battery power for flashlights.  Conservation is in order.  At sunup…

Put away the bed.  We have a bed that folds into a couch covered with mosquito netting for the nighttime.  Mosquitos are bad here in the evenings.   They require netting and a mosquito coil that burns bug repellant.  The coils are cheap and affordable, so many people use them at night.  A fan will keep the bugs away as well, but no fan until we get electrical power.  The fan sits forlornly in a corner waiting for power.  We are lighting mosquito coils in the morning as well.

About the time we get things straitened up, the next big event.  “OOIII, DOUGHNUTS!!”

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Five pesos brings a sugar covered REAL doughnut in a plastic bag.   Freshly baked and still warm.  I broke out my telephoto lens for a candid shot of the cute young salesgirl.

“OIII, PAN-DE-SAL!!!”

An eleven year old boy brings this favorite Philippine morning treat in a Styrofoam cooler.

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On lucky mornings, the rolls are almost too hot to touch as they are truly fresh out of the oven from Asgad proper.   A cup of coffee and some fresh fruit finish our breakfast.  A mango on this morning, others are rambultan (sp), papaya, bananas, etc.  The bananas and papaya are fresh off the trees around here.  We have both growing in our yard.  Other fruit has to be bought in Guiuan.

Next, domestic chores.  First off is sweeping the crawling varmints out the door.  Teensy weensy ants are the worst.  Praxy detests them and always tells them in Waray, “Out the door, visiting time has ended!”   We also have tons of rolly-polly pill bugs that come in at night.  If the lights were on the night before, dead flying insects all over the house.  It takes fifteen minutes to run them all out.   The geckos cannot keep up with the influx.

Our morning continues; refill the water barrels in the bathroom from the collection barrels on the rain spouts.

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The bucket brigade takes about twenty minutes or so.  Ladle by ladle into a small five gallon bucket.  Bucket after bucket handed through the back door so we don’t track dirt into the house, then poured into the two twenty gallon buckets in the bathroom.  I’m going to purchase a lid/seat for the toilet on my next trip to town.  This water is for showering, cleaning, and flushing.  Of course there is no running water.  I have plans for that, but it won’t happen until after we add the room on the back.  I will incorporate a small pump and an elevated water tank into the addition plans.  The new bathroom and kitchen areas will have gravity fed rain water.

And, as I gathered my thoughts for the next paragraph, Praxy came in the back door.  She exclaimed excitedly pointing upward “Oh, we have lights!!!”  Looking up, my “test” light over the table was back on!   YAY!!!  I still have a wet towel draped over my neck, but the moving air from the fan makes me much more comfortable.  It also removes the need for the mosquito coil.  Most important, the cool air will allow me to sleep better at night.  The night before was miserable.  Last night, not to bad.  But my tossing and turning to find a cool spot had turned our bottom sheet into a wad in between us.   Christmas songs are playing around town as the people can now run their stereos.  I feel like I got a Christmas gift. 

Cool air.

This is out of place, but I want to note this down.  I’ll find it later.  I’ve finalized my plans for the addition to the house, coming in about six years.   Three rooms that can be enclosed with plenty of screened windows.  A bedroom with an air conditioner.  Kitchen.  Bathroom.   Stairway to the open second floor.  Which will be covered so it can be enjoyed rain or shine.   On the top floor will be an elevated water tank.  We will gather water from the roof areas, then pump it up to the tank on the deck.  Using large pipe (at least 3/4 inch), we will plumb the bathroom and kitchen with rain water.  Bathroom will have sink, shower, and perhaps a real flush toilet.  Kitchen will have a faucet as well.  It will be low pressure, but high volume of water passage.  Not worried about hot water.  You don’t really need it here.  If you REALLY want some hot water, boil it on the stove.

Back to the day.  Now it is time for other chores.  Cleaning the yard, gardening, planting, etc.  As we work, people stop by.  After all, we are now part of the village. 

Someone shows up with a hunk of pork.  The neighbor behind us killed a pig this morning.  It was obvious, pigs don’t go quietly.   We’ve given caribou and pork to others, they reciprocate. 

Two relatives stumble by.  At 9:30am, they’re getting an early start on the Emperador brandy.  All smiles, they ask if we have a bottle.  Praxy tells them no, not at this time of the day.  Nonplussed, they leave with a smile and a wave.  Moving on to the next brandy possibility further down the road. 

A neighbor comes by, Praxy hires her to wash our clothes.  She works for an hour or so, puts them on the clothesline, and leaves.  30 minutes later, a rainstorm comes through.  Not the type we get in the US.  This is a deluge.  Maybe 1/2 inch of rain in 15 minutes.   Clean, dry clothes are a luxury during the rainy season, so I make an improvised clothesline in our living room.  (crap, power just went out)   And another in one of the windows.

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If the cloths stay wet too long, they sour and start stinking.  Problem solved.

The rainstorms are settling the sand in our sidewalk.

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Each storm moves a little more sand under each paver.  As the sand fills in, the stones quit rocking.  I sweep sand in the open cracks daily.  Looking better every day.

Coming back to the computer after this photo, I’m humming the “green green grasshopper of home”…

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about three inches long hanging out on the step off the front porch.  He thought he was cammoed, froze still.  I’d move closed and he’d very slowly shuffle his back legs, kind of like a disco move from the ‘80s.  Shake Your Booty.   Praxy got a kick out of it.  He’d try to hop and *snap*, then back into position, frozen still.  The tiles are too slippery for him to get traction.  Amusing.

Another neighbor stops by.  Praxy is planning a big Christmas party on the 25th.   The party planner/organizer needs money, they coordinate karaoke, cooking chores, and refreshments.  Sounds like I’ll need to buy a bunch of Emperador!

Getting close to lunch time.  One day when Praxy was in town, I improvised.

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This might be my lunch today as well.  Casava and onions, fried the same as potatoes and onions back home.  Topped with a packet of Hunt’s Pork-and-Beans.  These are no ordinary pork and beans.  Made in Quezon City, Manila, these have actual chunks of pork meat with tomato sauce, onions, and spices.  They taste much much better than anything like them in the states, either Hunt’s or Van Camp’s.  I’ll be bringing a bunch of those little packets back with me, we’ll have plenty of room in our suitcases.

Our drinking water runs low.  We send our three jugs across town to be refilled.  They show up 15 minutes later, filled to the brim with purified water.

In the afternoon, if the sun isn’t shining (I’m still dealing with a sunburn) we go for walks.  One day, we checked out Adam’s egg business.

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A couple hundred chickens.  And, what is called, the women’s livelyhood.

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Pigs.  They are bred, raised, and sold for profit.  The women that help out get some extra money.  This was sponsored by foreigners.

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Adam is planting rubber trees.  This could be lucrative.  We’ll see.

Or visit some relatives.

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Since the Emperador was out, they decided a couple of fighting chickens needed exercise.  Probably for my entertainment.

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They put little rubber covering pads on each cock’s spurs to keep them from hurting each other.  They fought until exhausted, only losing a feather or two.  Maybe a bruise from being pecked.  The brown one outlasted the lighter colored one for the win.  Fighting chickens are amazingly aggressive towards one another.  But people can handle them easily for the most part.  Presco had a very aggressive one that would peck people as well.  Unusual.

Evening rolls around with cooling temperatures.  Kids come out to play.  I liked this game.

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The kid’s answer to dodge ball in America.   Flip ball or dodge flop.  They call it “Dodge the Slipper” here. 

Closer to supper and getting hungry.  We have a wide variety.  But this is one of the special treats around here.

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Spiny lobsters, fresh from the ocean.  We were going for a walk and four doors down, this was going on.  I grabbed camera and cash.  1/2 kilo is just about right for us.  Price?  150 pesos for mediums.  A lobster dinner for two for $3.50usd!  This will be a once a week  indulgence for us.

Cooking can be a spectator sport here as well.

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(Power back on.  Yippee!!) This dinner of BBQed pork and fresh vegetables eyed enviously by hungry neighborhood boys.  The neighbors next door were cooking a birthday dinner and they were running late.  Starving of the partygoers were drawn by aromas from our pans.  10 minutes later, their dinner was served as well.

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Night falls and an old lady from up the street heads home from her farm.  She goes to the farm early in the morning and returns at dusk.

Dinnertime!

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Pork steak, cassava hash browns, and vegetables.  Gourmet dining by gas lamp.

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Flash photography gives light to our rooms, not doing justice to the darkness.   We got some D batteries for our Coleman lamp, so these lanterns are now not our only source of light other than flashlights.

Put out our bed and mosquito netting.  Only thing left is the cool bucket bath before bedtime.  This is one of my favorite times of day as I am actually cool for a short while.  Shaving with the chilly water is no problem here.  The humidity makes my beard soft.

Crawl into bed, the day is over.  Goodnight!

11:00am  12/17/2015  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines.

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About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
This entry was posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez. Bookmark the permalink.

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