Friday, September 03, 2010

My First Trip to the Philippines, Day 5

Day 5

Today was pretty uneventful. Boredom is really starting to set in a bit as there is absolutely nothing to do here. However, in the late afternoon/early evening I took a walk that turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had here so far. It was sort of a lazy day and I was getting a bit stir crazy so I decided to go out walking. The wife was taking a nap which worked out well because I was kind of hoping to get in some alone time at some point and this afforded me the perfect opportunity. I haven't had a second to myself since I've been here - there's always at least 3 or 4 other people around, usually more, and this isn't cool for me as I'm an independent person and I need some time to myself occasionally. Especially when I'm in a new environment; while it's nice to have someone to show you around, I've always found it more enjoyable to explore on my own and see what I find. There's more adventure in it I guess. I'm sure a lot of guys in my shoes would be a bit intimidated walking around an area like this on their own but not me. I feel pretty safe here. I only took a couple bucks for a bottle water or a beer so I wasn't worried about being robbed and anyway, it seems like 99% of the baranguay is related to the wife's family so I didn't think I'd have any problem. It turned out to be an interesting and fun time. I started out not knowing where I was headed but after a while I decided to just walk to the small house since I knew my way there and wouldn't get lost. I thought it'd be cool to surprise the family who were there, show them that I had no problem getting around by myself. On the way there I realized pretty quickly that walking around alone was a vastly different experience than walking around with the wife. When I'm with the wife, people just stare the whole time but never say a word. When I was alone, a lot of them will say hi and some even tried to talk to me. Some of the little kids are curious about this strange white person in their world and they asked me my name and where I'm from, then follow me around like I'm a celebrity. Occasionally I would pass by a house where a few men were drinking and they'd ask me to have a drink with them. One such house creeped me out a little; I passed a house with a little store out front and there were 7 or 8 scuzzy looking Filipinos in the area to the side drinking something and they seemed enamored of me when I walked by. I asked if they had mineral water and one guy sprang to his feet and said yes as he motioned for me to come inside and join them. I repeated my request - "Do you have mineral water for sale?" and he said yes, and motioned even harder for me to go inside and join them. Just then a woman appeared at the storefront so I asked her if she had mineral water. She said no, they didn't have mineral water for sale. I looked at the weird guy and he was still motioning for me to go inside but given that the girl said they didn't have mineral water for sale, I was a bit suspicious of him and declined. I just said "She said you don't have it..." and quickly walked away. The adventurous side of me really wanted to go inside but the cautious side said screw them so I kept walking. Just down the street from the small house there were 3 young people sitting outside a little storefront so I stopped and asked if they had mineral water and they did so I bought one. There was a young guy standing behind a small grill and another young guy and girl sitting on a bench next to him. The guy sitting was wearing an Orlando Magic jersey and asked me a few question in decent English while the girl just stared at me. The other guy came back with my water and asked if I wanted to have some barbeque with them. I looked down at what he was grilling and I swear to god, it was a small chicken head and two little chicken feet on wooden sticks. I didn't even know you could eat those things! Needless to say, I politely declined. They asked if it was my first time in the Philippines, I said yes and the guy at the grill smiled and said "Your wife's mother is my auntie!". Of course she is, I thought to myself. I thanked him for the water and bid them adieu. I got to the small house and her father's tricycle was outside but no sign of anybody so I went inside and walked to the back of the plot where I found the wife's youngest sister, Christina (I think she's 24). She seemed a bit surprised to see me but said hello, I asked where everybody was and she said they were at the other house without even looking at me. She asked me where the wife was and I told her she was taking a nap, then she walked right past me to the front of the place and started cleaning something like I wasn't even there. After a minute I kind of got the feeling she was really uncomfortable with me being there, especially without the wife, as if it wasn't proper or something so I said goodbye and decided to walk back. I'm really starting to get the feeling that her family isn't really taking to me as well as I'd hoped they would. I've been here 5 days now and most of them are still standoffish towards me, as if they're either afraid of me or just plain don't like me. I've gone out of my way to be as nice and friendly as I possibly can - which is no small feat for me - but I guess I'm just as charming as I thought I was. The wife says they're just shy but it seems more than that. I'm not overly worried about it to be honest because let's face it, after eight years of marriage and a couple of kids, it's not like I need to win their approval or anything, It'd just be nice if I felt a little more, I don't know..."accepted" I guess? Whatever. Nobody has been rude or anything like that so I'll take the wife's word for it, that they're just shy because they don't speak much English. The rest of my walk was pretty interesting. I got plenty of stares and a few times I walked by a group of locals who were engaged in some kind of activity and said activity would completely grind to a halt as I walked by and everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at the white man walking by. The funniest one was when I walked by a basketball court with a pickup game going on. As soon as one person spotted me, the game stopped and all the players stared as I walked by. For a second I thought about yelling "THREE SECOND VIOLATION!" but decided against it. On one road I walked down, a few of the young kids even made fun of me and I'll admit that there were a couple of times when I felt a bit uncomfortable and paid extra attention to the people around me but for the most part I loved every minute of it. There were two really funny moments. One was a tricycle that was packed with young kids, probably in their late teens/early 20's. They seemed fascinated by me and they ended up passing by me about 4 times and each time, two girls that were riding on the side gave me what I could only describe as catcalls. The first time it was innocuous stuff like "Hello, what's your name?" but by the 4th pass, it was stuff like "I love you! I love you!". I doubt I would have heard that if the wife was with me! The other funny thing that happened was on my way back, there were a group of young kids probably around the X Man's age (maybe between 5-9) who were playing and when they saw me they starting acting out all kinds of stereotypes that they'd heard about white men or Americans. One kid made guns with his hands and yelled "AMERICAN SOLDIER!" and made machine gun sounds. As I walked by a couple of them made really some sarcastic remarks in mocking tones, stuff like "What's up dude" and such which sounded really funny in their broken, Filipino English. Then, after I was past them, I heard one of them say, in a really mocking tone as only kids can do "Oooh, my body is soooo white!". All I could do was laugh, turn around and wave at them. Crazy Filipino kids, I probably made their whole year just by being there. As I approached the bridge, there were a few shady looking guys sitting at a makeshift table drinking. I said hello and they asked me to come have a drink with them so I happily obliged. They were drinking gin so I poured a glass and downed it in one gulp, feeling a little uneasy as they were just staring at me as if they were sizing me up. (Do they have cannibalism in the Philippines? I'm kidding, I'm kidding...) They poured me a glass of water, I drank it and said "Thank you gentlemen", then beat a hasty retreat so as not to overstay my welcome. When I got back to the bridge, the wife father was sitting there as if he was waiting for me. I actually think he was worried and planning on going out looking for me. At least now everybody knows that I'm not afraid of this place and that I can take care of myself. I can't understand why some people would be afraid of just going for a walk around here, it's just a foreign country like any other. People stare and it can get uncomfortable but they're just people like anywhere else. Besides, what better way to see the real Philippines than to just walk around by myself in the middle of nowhere?

I'm going to bed early tonight, gotta rest up for the huge pig roast tomorrow. 5 days down, not a snake in sight. I'm starting to get used to it here.

Click here for Day 6


Adelfa said...

Hello - yes, you can take your wife's word that her family is just shy around you. And I have yet to convince my husband of that too.

Anyway, I found your day one post really hilarious. You just described the place I grew up in perfectly!

MEA said...

Wow! I have been to Philippines 4 times now. My husband is filipino. Your experience is just like mine. Right down to the spiders. We ran a snake over with our motorcycle one night. On accident of course. I can say that being there 4 times and always in the same small town and at the same house, people still stare. I never get used to it. My husband says to ignore it, but it is very uncomfortable. Love your blog by the way.