Fifty yards away sits a small playground. It sports a swingset and a teeter-totter. Four small boys, two on each swing, sing to me from a distance…”We wish you Americano, we wish you Americano, we wish you Americano, and a Happy New Year!”
I was wondering how long it would take them to get to the “Americano” thing. Took the kids in Agoo about three days; seven days longer here at ten days. They are practicing for the big day. December 24th. That is the day we’ve been telling them to come and sing. They are eager. Very eager. And impatient. Carolers get a few pesos from any house that can afford it. They KNOW we can afford it, the ‘cano lives here. And ‘canos are rich (supposedly, I tell them otherwise). They’ve been coming by for days now, singing. But we know that they will come by every 10 minutes if we give money each time. So, “no money until December 24th.” But that is not a hard, fast rule. Last night brought a treat, we enjoyed it!
High school students. We were playing Skip-Bo in the kitchen and never heard them coming. They were being very quiet, on tip toe, then burst into song. Surprising both Praxy and myself. Their routine was well rehearsed and nearly flawless, a medley of Christmas carols with no breaks in between. Until I started snapping pictures. Two of the girls in front were embarrassed by the camera and kept covering their faces with their hands. This is the best picture. They finally recovered and finished up. Praxy gave them 5 pesos each. Following was two nieces and a nephew, the youngest about 3 or so. Praxy gave each of them a peso. The floodgates are now open. Kids will be here all the time until December 26th hoping for a reward for their singing.
I took off by myself yesterday for Salcedo to upload my blog. Praxy was under the weather with a head cold and didn’t fell like going anywhere. Electricity meant the internet services were now working. Yeah, right. By now, you have realized that didn’t happen. Typical for the Philippines. Never set yourself a schedule.
I caught a ride into Salcedo to Michaels internet café for 150 pesos from a local motorcycle owner. Steep price, but there is a monopoly. No jeepneys or any other type of transportation other than the 4am jeepney. Pay that or walk. I paid. Uneventful trip until we got there. The verdict? No internet. Lightning, or perhaps wind, had knocked the antenna askew, meaning there was no signal. Michael couldn’t break away to fix it as he had customers. Electricity means gaming, and every computer had a young boy on it playing that same game I saw in Mactan. The local network game (not online) that features ogres, fairies, wizards, trolls, dragons, etc shooting and killing each other. There must have been twenty kids going at it. This was the first income Michael had for days, nearly a week. He wasn’t about to break away and I didn’t blame him one little bit. 12 pesos per hour per little boy. Until their money runs out!
My driver offered to take me to Guiuan. It was a bit of a nerve-racking ride because of the weather. Rain. Lots of it. We had to stop twice. I don’t mind the rain, but the roads were covered with mud and slippery. I saw 4 wheeled rigs squirreling around and here I sat on a motorcycle with two bald tires. I rehearsed my crashing techniques from my racing days as we squished and squelched along, hoping my reflexes were still good enough to get my legs out from under the bike. Fortunately, my driver was very good and we got there safely. 17 kilometers to Guiuan from Salcedo and it took almost an hour.
Yup, internet. I paid 400 pesos (yowser!) and my driver took off back to Asgad. Leaving me to my own devices. No problem, I can handle it.
The internet in Guiuan totally sucks. Not going to try it again. I could Facebook and use gmail in html mode. Otherwise, everything was a struggle. No chance to upload anything like a blog. Checked news and sports the best I could, then weather. And, I found out why we had the nice cool weather and wind. A tropical storm center was about 100 miles or so south of us approaching Mindanao. It looked to be lined up to hit somewhere on a line between General Santos and Davao. And we were getting the northern outside edge of it here in Asgad and Guiuan. (Oh no, don’t let the power go out again!!)
I was able to let everyone know that we were fine. The earlier typhoon had done nothing to us other than knock the power out for five days. We were comfortable, Praxy was having a great time in her home town. She loves it here.
I got disgusted with the internet and gave up after an hour. My bad, I should have known it was abysmal as I was the only patron. Paid my 20 pesos and didn’t let the door hit me on the ass as I walked out.
Hungry, I explored downtown Guiuan to chose the best restaurant. Over to Prince and back, about 1/10 mile each way. I settled on Andoks and it was a good choice. The chicken is cooked over charcoal and they have a vinegar/red pepper sauce for the chicken that is tasty in the extreme. A soapao and Mountain Dew (yes, and it tastes better with no corn syrup) finished the meal. As I walked away, a beggar grabbed my chicken pieces and ate the greasy skin parts. Fine with me. Because…
I weighed myself at the local health clinic two days ago. I’ve lost 10 pounds. The heat and local diet kills my appetite. Plus, I find a lot of the local cuisine unappealing. I like the loss of weight for myself. Hoping to lose another 10 or so.
Sated, I walked over to a local hardware store and looked around. I’d forgotten my list and hoped I might remember something. I did, door hinges for the bathroom. They didn’t have one that would fit. Ratz. Couldn’t remember anything else.
Nothing left to do but go home. I wandered around the market and picked up some fresh mangos, then searched out a tricycle to take me back to Asgad. Found it, 35 pesos to Bogton, then catch a ride to Asgad. While waiting for more people, I spotted tangerines for sale and decided to get a fresh treat for my ailing wife (she loved ‘em).
Jammed into a tricycle. 7 of us for the 45 minute ride to Bogton intersection. This is the point where a road leads over the “Salcedo spine” to Asgad. For lack of a better name, I’ll call it that. Later, if I remember, I’ll go online and get the true geographical name.
The “spine” looks like an ancient, compacted, uplifted reef about 700 feet high in places. The cream colored rock is as hard as granite and there are cliffs on both sides. The spine stretches from Mercedes 10 miles or so north to a point west of Matarinao. Both ends plunge into the Pacific ocean with no way to get around the ends. There are two low passes. One just west of Asgad has a set of steps going almost due west to Salcedo. I’m sure it is still impassible from Yolanda’s destruction. Trees down on the stairs and footpath.
The other is a lower place that goes from Bogton to the ocean. There is an actual paved concrete road through it. Every single bit of commerce and transportation east of the spine funnels through this pass. Unfortunately there aren’t enough people over here to warrant scheduled transportation throughout the day. Total population over here might be 3,000. Seems like enough, but this area is quite impoverished.
Off the tricycle and I’m looking around getting my bearings. Hoping for a ride. No problem if you have the coin. A guy immediately approached me with a 100 peso offer to Asgad. As I knew that was the going price, I accepted. 15 minutes later, I was home.
Praxy was relieved to see me, but not worried. People around her were a bit concerned. But she knows I can find my way around.
Next trip to Guiuan, I leave the computer behind. I will then get busy with a bit of writing about Guiuan’s recovery from Yolanda/Haiyan. Accompanying pictures will give future tourists an idea of what to expect. For now, the travel blog is done and I will switch to some bits and pieces.
I got totally sidetracked about the beggar and wrote this. Realizing it didn’t fit in, I moved it down here.
People do not eat healthy in the Philippines, or at least most people don’t. The staples are a choice rice and fish –or- fish and rice. Depends on how you look at it. Fish: Small fish fried in lots of oil until it’s like jerky with tons of bones. I find it almost inedible. Hence, I’ve lost some weight. Rice: Plain white rice, not much nutrition but it keeps in the humid climate. Vegetables: No one eats vegetables other than starchy ones like taro, cassava, sweet potato, ube, or palawan. Some people eat leafy stuff that tastes a lot like swiss chard. It’s OK, but not for a steady diet as far as I’m concerned. Fruit: Bananas. They are everywhere. We get donations almost daily as they grow faster than people can eat them.
The diet thing is a shame. There are plenty of fresh, tasty vegetables sitting in the markets waiting to be enjoyed. Choices include green beans, okra, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, garlic, and starchy things like eggplant and squash.
All kinds of great choices as well. Mangos, papaya, tangerines, jack fruit (by Praxy’s left leg), rambutan, and apples are all readily available.
Diabetes is rampant in the Philippines and I’m guessing colon cancer isn’t too far behind. Just about every dish other than rice, fish, and starches has added sugar and few dishes have any fiber. 3-in-1 coffee is thick with sugar. Things like Spaghetti can be cloyingly sweet.
The southern tropical depression is bringing copious amounts of rain around here. I’m thinking we’ve had about 3 inches or so since last night. Every hour or so, another storm blows through with at least 1/4 of rain in…say…five minutes. It all runs across the ground and disappears. Not nearly enough rain for flooding. Any obstructions to the runoff are long gone down into the ocean. A side annoyance, crawling insects and arthropods are moving indoors to get away from the inundation. Grrr!
The other day I got to try a new shellfish thingie, Tarokug. As it’s appearance is rather off-putting so the locals didn’t think I’d be interested enough to try. Wrong!! I went back for a second helping. It looks like a giant pill bug all right, with no shell and suckers instead of legs. It tastes kind of like a mild clam and might be some sort of barnacle or limpet. A little rubbery but not tough. Yummy!
Our local street walker, Michael, took off yesterday. He was a good student in high school, then fell victim to a high fever. (Rheumatic fever? Scarlett fever?) It fried his brain, leaving him mentally disabled. Yesterday, while going to town, I noticed him on the road near Jagnaya. I informed his mother, she said he might be on his way to visit his father in MacArthur. Today, my sighting was confirmed. They found him 20 miles away just this side of MacArthur and brought him back home. His father and grand father live over that way and he just decided it was time for a visit. He always shows up somewhere when he gets hungry. As a bonus, some passerby gave him 20 pesos. He still has that money with him as he walks around the barrio today.
Next post will have some photos.
10:00am 12/19/2015 Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines