Llipat Ang Mga ito o Mawawala Ito!

PhilippinesFlag

For the next two months, I find myself visiting a land that’s both foreign and eerily familiar. It’s a country of absolute extremes: People either scurry at a frantic pace or lounge like a sun baked lizard. They live in opulence, enjoying the lifestyle of the privileged or exist in stressed destitution. The locales I’ve met thus far place extreme importance on family and offset their daily frustrations with the help of their beloved.

PIECEMEAL LOCOMOTION

Inhabitants get around via a system of semi-controlled chaos – by car, motorbike, three wheeled motorcycle (trike), jeepney, or a bastardized homemade jalopy. If you make it to your final destination, great! If you crash, well, hope you’re okay. That’s one of the feelings of a first-time foreigner when travelling in this country. My heart did miss a beat when I noticed our driver rubbing the rosary, cross, and picture of Jesus prior to our journey into the country’s major city.

As the two-hour journey proceeded via main thoroughfares, side streets, and ridiculously crowded intersections, I thought to myself, “Without knowing where I’m going, and how to precisely get there, there’s no way I could make my way through this death gauntlet!” Our vehicle must have made over one-hundred turns on the way to our destination.

HUB OF ASIA

The English translation of this article’s title is “Move It or Lose It!.” It fits a country that’s on the frantic move.

This country is known for inhabiting the number one boxer in the world, was a culture heavily influenced during the Spanish Inquisition, has a majority of the citizens devoted to Catholicism, is considered one of the travel hubs in Asia, and  has a variety of foods from China, Japan, and Malaysia. The dominate language is Tagalog.

You guess the country?

It’s the Philippines! Welcome to the land of a thousand islands (more than 7,000).

GOING LOCAL

At 6’3″, 215 lbs, when I walk into any locale in Pinoyville, all eyes are on me. I’ve never experienced this fascinating feeling of inquisitive intrigue as glaring eyes gaze upon the American “Joe.” I specifically asked my local friends to take me to places that aren’t touristy, that’ll  fill your senses with the local flavors, and are the places that the local people enjoy visiting.

Thus far in three days, they haven’t let me down. I’ve visited Manila, Pampanga, GuaGua, Bettes, Clark Airforce Base, San Fernando, and Angeles City.

The most surreal experience was during a visit to GuaGua. As I sat on an old plastic chair on the side of a street in the downtown center square, my friend told me about how the city has changed over the years – what the devastating ’91 eruption of Mount Pinatubo did to the city and how people act differently when compared to thirty years ago. Sitting there while three-wheeled tricycle motor bikes whizzed by, taking in the wafting smoke from a nearby street vendor cooking their rice desert, a large group of poor children running up to me, clamoring spoons to extract a few Pesos from “Joe,” I felt like I was part of a movie set. I mentioned to my friend that I could literally be sitting in a Director’s chair, calling action, and letting this all play out in front of me.

What an enormous contrast to life in the USA.

 

2 Responses So Far... Leave a Reply:

  1. Lawrence Tippany says:

    I haven’t visited the Philippines but have seen other parts of Asia including Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Japan. Comparing the U.S. cynicism with other less Asian cultures is a good point. You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore!