Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hi all,

I have started a new blog where I will make posts as long as I am in the Philippines. You can find it at www.clintbwrites.blogspot.com Appropriately, it is titled Dispatches From Paradise

Friday, March 14, 2008

Don’t Ask What The Meat Is

I’ve been in the Philippines for a bit over a month, now. Life was getting a bit tedious in California, and it was time and past time for a change in my life.

The title of this blog suggests I am on the West Coast of the USA. Now I’m on the West Coast, but it is the island of Negros which is one of the Visayan Islands.

I’ve been out looking at rental property. I happened across a stunning three bedroom, 2 bath beauty on the second floor, which is desirable as the sea breeze obviates the use of A/C, or aircon in the local slang. A spacious, beautiful place inside a gated compound inside a gated community away from the noise, the dopers, and the hookers one encounters in the neighborhood of meaner accommodations.

The original asking price was P20,000 per month, but when the old woman who owns the property found out the lady I was with was Filipina, rather than Chinese, the price came down to 18K. For those of you headed for the currency converter, I’ll make it easy; at P40 to the dollar, that comes to $500 and $450 respectively. Still a bit much, but that place would go for ten times that in San Jose and the tenant would consider him/herself lucky, indeed.

The place I’m currently in is very spacious, but is on a noisy road in a bad neighborhood. My lady friend is a police officer assigned to the jail at Province headquarters of the Philippine National Police. A number of the scumbags hanging out around my place are former tenants at her facility and she feels a tad uncomfortable when she visits. Reason enough to pack my goodies and get on down the road.

I had one huge case of jet lag for the first few days I was here. After that passed, I moved a little closer to the action in Cebu. I tried one of the local restaurants and ordered what looked like a plate of shredded hamburger meat cooked with herbs and spices in a good looking sauce with an egg on top. Sizzling Sisig it is called. Sure enough the meal looked like the picture, with the steel platter it was on still cooking the egg. Everything is eaten with rice here. (Pilipino eateries don’t serve bread.) The meat was a bit chewy, but tasty, and I just had to ask what it was. I’m glad I asked after I finished. Turned out the entrée was pig’s brains.

One of the delightful things about the place is it’s abundance of fresh produce and fish. There’s an open air market about a half a klick from my apartment. One day Sweet Thing and I went shopping. Mangoes, papaya, melon, bananas, cantaloupe, jack fruit and the like are ready to eat with a washing and carving. It took a couple of days for my digestive track to adjust, but I am happy to report I’m a regular fella again.

The open air restaurant portion of the market enjoys a good reputation among Filipinos. I decided to try it. A very old, snaggle toothed woman asked me what I wanted. There was no menu, so I told her I wanted to eat. She asked me if I liked shrimp. Naturally I nodded enthusiastically. She led me next door where I picked out 10 medium sized fresh prawns and paid the fishmonger P75 for the bunch. The old lady whipped up an oil and peanut sauce that was to die for, cooking the shrimp in it. The cost for her cookery was another P50 and yet another P30 went for a bottle of ice tea to wash it down. P155 is a few cents under 4 bucks. Tell me where you can get that within walking distance of your place.

It is hot a muggy here except when the wind blows or it rains, which it does a lot of the time near the coast. I can see blue water from the window of my place, so sleeping without a mosquito net has yet to pose a problem. I probably should get to the doc and get some malaria immunization and will do that soon.

On another tack, the transportation system here has to be seen to be believed. A little background: At the end of WWII, US forces went home for the most part leaving scads of equipment behind. The jeep became the Philippine mode of urban transit. The little trucks were lengthened with a long bed added. A top was installed along with benches down both sides of the bed. The Jeepney was born. Jeep being the vehicle and a jitney was it’s use. Over the 60 odd years, few of the original vehicles reside this side of a junk yard, but other trucks have been adapted for the purpose. There are hordes of them storming around the streets of every good size town and city.

There are two other Filipino adapted to use vehicles. One is a motorcycle with a side car. I was one of five passengers in one. The seating was a bit cozy as I am 6’/190#. Not that I minded. My date that night was a strikingly beautiful 18 year old pop singer. The other vehicle is a bicycle with a side car. I’ve seen both vehicles used for passenger and light freight service.

The most popular vehicle here is a really cute little COE pick-up manufactured by Suzuki, those wonderful folks who brought us the Geo. I’ve seen the beds in all sorts of configurations.

I’ve run into quite a few middle aged and older expats from the world over. The consensus is that this is paradise. More about their reasons in a later installment.

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