Some Things We are Leaving in Asgad

I haven’t been productive this morning.  At all.  I found a book in the latest box from Maryland, Boy’s Detective Stories.  In it, a short story written in 1906.  “The Thinking Machine: The Problem of cell 13.”  I first read that story from Scholastic Book Services in grade school, around fifth grade.  It’s about a highly intelligent man that is challenged to escape from a prison cell in one week’s time or less, with no time to prepare for incarceration.  I smiled the whole time I read it, for the first time in over 40 years.  It brought back pleasant memories.  I thought hard about the story less than 6 months ago and today I found it in the Philippines.

The author was drowned in the Titanic disaster, and several other Thinking Machine stories ready for print were lost on that horrible April night.  I wasn’t aware that this story was part of a group.  I’m now going to look for the whole book.  Ebay, here I come!

This might sound a bit like I’m “tooting my own horn”, but I think this could be important.  The people around here are coming to depend on us for help.  We are willing and have the resources to give aid and advice.  Something to think about if you are planning an extended visit to the Philippines or a move here.

Yesterday morning, the newlywed wife from next door showed up out front of our house.  Her husband had woke up Sunday morning to a terrible earache and could hardly function.  She had gone to the clinic, but they didn’t have anything or any medication to help.  “Do you have any painkiller or something else that might help?” was her plea.

It was natural that she would ask us.  We helped both her mother and father through a bout with the flu with Tylenol.

Even though we haven’t talked to him (he’s from Mindinao and doesn’t speak Waray or English), we were more than willing to help.  My dilemma: what do we give the man?   He needed to be back to work Monday morning sawing coconut lumber.

Antibiotics were out of the question unless the clinic recommended them.  I still have my two courses of ciprofloxacin from Can-Avid, but I wasn’t about to give them out.  Not that I’m stingy, it just didn’t seem to be the right way to go.  Maybe later, but not right away.

After some careful thinking about our stock of drugs, I settled on trying the nighttime cold medicine that we had purchased from Costco.  I hoped the antihistamine and decongestant, plus the painkiller in the pills might do the trick.  As he was in pain, the nighttime dose might let him get some sleep during the day.  The other ingredients might clear his head and relieve the pressure.  Since he was a big man, use two pills every six hours.

Sunday evening he came by and thanked Praxy personally.  It worked, and he only needed one dose.  He woke up refreshed and with no pain.  That’s the most he’s ever said to us, but I understand.  Language barrier.  Being there, doing that.

That’s the way it is around here.  People helping people.  I’m pretty sure some tasty tidbit will show up at our house today as a further gesture of thanks.

We went to a memorial yesterday as well.  Two years ago a man’s wife suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after typhoon Yolanda.  Lunch and beverages were served, and I spent a lot of time talking with the people that are starting the pig farm.

The business and brain end is coming from a man named Peing.  He wants to branch out and make things better for the community.  Cassava was his answer.  Expanding uses of the starchy root, perhaps making it into flour.

(Industrial business major from college speaking for a while) I’m not really hot on that idea and I let him know why.  Cassava grows abundantly here.  Any advantage Asgad gained could and would be quickly copied by everyone nearby.  Advantage lost.  Back to square one.

It’s very tasty, a cheap alternative to potatoes.  I suggested different ways to prepare it, my take on a breakfast skillet from the USA.  My latest concoction, garlic, onions, cassava, salt, pepper, chicken adobo, and an egg cracked over the top when it is near done.  Stir and eat.

But preparations have their limits and can be copied.  What else is there?  Something new.  An idea not from the past, the old overworked idea.  Something for the future, a new idea and a new start.  Then it hit me.  Praxy’s sunflowers.

They are growing phenomenally.


This is about two and one half weeks of growth.  Only three days to come out of the ground as the soil is plenty warm here year round.  So three weeks in.  Wow.  I would guess they will be ready to harvest in six weeks at this rate.  Not bad.

They are the giant variety.  The flowers can be eighteen inches across and produce over a thousand seeds each.  They are hardy, just keep the caterpillars off of them and water them in the dry season.  Preparation for consumption is pretty easy.  Soak them in salt water, then dry them.  I’m not sure if they need to be slightly baked.  Probably would have to be baked in this country because of the high humidity.   A quick trip across a wok would do it.

To eat them do what the baseball players do during a game.  Stuff a bunch in your mouth and shell them with your teeth.  Spit out the shells and enjoy.

Philippine ingenuity will figure out how to crack the seeds open for kernels as we know them in the USA.  There is plenty of man/woman power here, just set up a bunch of people assembly line style and go.  Cook them in oil and sell them on the street.

Too bad I don’t have some examples of prepared kernels with me.  I wasn’t expecting this at all.  Pretty decorative flowers possibly turning into a cash crop.  But there it is.  A “ground level” start to what has the potential to be a tremendous hit in this country.

I’ll check to see if there are any packages in Cebu to send over to Asgad for the locals to sample.  No way there will be anything like that around here.  I’ll have to look for an import store from the USA.

Peing was a little hesitant, but I think he’ll come around once these flowers in our back yard mature and he tastes the seeds.  A little experimentation will get the salt water and drying processes figured out.  I’m going to mail preparation techniques to Catharine from Cebu so she can pass the information on.  Again, communications suck out here in Eastern Samar.

But there is hope.  Dada (the overseer of the relocation projects along the coast) told me that Globe has installed a 4G line into Asgad.  I hope I run into him this week and see if that did indeed occur.  (1/20 8:45am.  I ran into him on the 19th in Guiuan.  He told me high speed internet is now a fact in Salcedo.  Makes his life a whole lot easier.  I also passed him on the way home from Guiuan on the highway.  I was on Frank’s motorcycle, he was on a hired tricycle.)

We also talked about the backpack sewing business.  It is languishing a bit because of poor sales.  Praxy and I let him know we didn’t think they were being aggressive enough at marketing their items. 

My suggestion was a going to Guiuan and trying a consignment program with one or more stores there.  The Prince mall or the Ovo store.  Both sell dry goods and groceries, plus school supplies.  The idea had never really occurred to them.  I guess they think that people will walk out to Asgad and buy here.  That’s not happening and I let him know that.

I tried to give him some tips on how to convince the stores.  If the price and quality is right, they might buy the backpacks rather than consign them.  The store would then shoulder the selling risk themselves.  Peing was excited, he and his group are going to try this after the pig pens are up and running.  I was rather surprised that they hadn’t already done it.  I tried to sound positive and encouraging.  Attitude is everything.

I also know from personal experience that success is a lot of times built on failure.  The adage “success is 10 percent inspiration and  90 percent perspiration” is truly in play.  I told them to keep trying move forward no matter what.  Bags, sunflowers, or pigs.  Doesn’t matter.  All will require a lot of effort.

We went for a walk this morning and found this little family.


Goats are not real common around here any more as most people don’t eat them.  No money here, but the cute factor had me snap this picture.  I find goat edible but a little too gamey.  It’s OK in a stew.  Goat cheese is something I can live without.

Business in the library has slowed down.  The novelty has worn off.  That’s fine with us.  The serious readers are still coming in.  College and high school students as well.

As mentioned before, the house is pretty much done for now.  It is comfortable, but by no means complete.

Dry season seems to have arrived early this year.  About six weeks early.  No rain for a week.  I find it much more comfortable with the lower humidity.  The temperature during the days seems to be about the same.  Cooler at night.  People are bundled up in the morning, some of them wear coats.

Praxy has been handing out seeds to anyone and everyone that wants them.  I know the flowers will be popular, but I wonder about the strange vegetables.  The cuisine seems to be very restricted here and people seem resistant to trying new foods and new ways of preparing them.  In other words, tradition here seems to be unchangeable. 

Go to Philippine restaurants throughout Eastern Samar and every one of them, outside of places run by foreigners, are selling pretty much the same thing.  All prepared the same way and all tasting about the same.  Lots of grease and sugar.  Displayed in glass cases. 

Households are the same.  The dishes are remarkably similar.  Go to a fiesta and you know instantly what you are getting and what it will taste like.

It’s no wonder I’ve lost so much weight.  I’ll try to leave that here as well!

Back to the title of this post.  I’m hoping that Praxy and I are making things better for the people in this area.  I’d like to think we are doing that.

1/18/2016  11:10am  Asgad, Salcedo, Eastern Samar


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.
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