Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why I Always Carry A Knife (or Three)

I had originally planned on posting a different topic, but there have been some recent events that pushed my scheduled topic up a bit... I wanted to talk about security here and the fact that I always have a knife on my person.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I am a "guns-rights advocate." I won't go into the ins and outs of my position on various related topics, but there it is.

Here in the Philippines, however, I am not permitted to carry (or even OWN) a gun. It's one of THREE things I can't do as a permanent resident: I can't be the primary owner (ownership of 50% or more) on a business or property, I can't own a firearm, and I can't vote in Philippine elections.

I have been informed by various people that there are loopholes around this (Jing can own and carry a gun as a Philippine citizen, and I can use it circumstantially in self-defense -- i.e. grab it out of her purse and discharge in an emergency), but to be honest I don't have that much faith in these self-proclaimed "experts" or in the legal system to protect me in that situation.

So I carry a knife. 

NOTE: I have no delusions of being John Rambo, killing bad guys indiscriminately and scowling through an hour and a half of action.

But the possibility of kidnapping / ransoming is real (albeit very unlikely in our area of the country). So I carry. To protect my family.

There have been several robberies (and one unsettling event) in our neighborhood as well as two gun related incidents in the past week close to home which have reinforced my belief in always having a knife on me. ("Fun" Fact: Jing was even in a hostage/armed robbery situation as a child)

  • NOT a Walk in the Park

The family takes walks at night through the neighborhood. "Family" being Jing, the boys, and Lolo and Lola (Jing's parents). We never really thought anything about it... sure, it's dark, but there are occasional lights so it's not super "dangerous." Plus we live in a gated community with security guards roving.

Recently, though, I was walking with the family (I only get to on certain nights because of my work schedule). We ended up passing a house that I noticed had faint light inside it... the only issue is that this house has been abandoned for OVER a year and a half. When "Lolo" shone his flashlight over once I got his attention, he saw someone running to hide from the light. We called security, of course. I had Jing move the boys well away from the house and Lolo kept his light on any possible exits while I prepped for the worst. 15 minutes later security arrives (they were two blocks away from where we were) .

Once there, security grabs their assault rifle (more on that later) and knocks on the gate, calling for someone to come out. He does that for ten minutes(!) until finally a male walks out. The male claims that he is a "caretaker" sent by the bank. However, he has no ID on him and did not check in with the office (how convenient). There was another male in there with him, and possibly more inside the house. The guard was "satisfied" by his answers and said everything was OK. Lolo said that they weren't supposed to be there because it was after hours and they weren't even registered, and we would be talking to the Association head in the morning because this is unacceptable practice.

"Mysteriously," the "caretakers" were not there the next day. The Association head said the bank was supposed to send a family, but we have seen that family since the incident and none of the males from that night are a part of it. I have since encouraged Jing to carry my police-grade pepper spray on the nights that I am not able to walk with them. Lolo is about 90% sure that the people in question are the same people that did some robberies several years ago, but still live in the complex.

As a result, the Homeowner's Association has asked all foreigners to "register" themselves (and their ACR cards) with the front office, but THAT'S not gonna happen... at least not for me. I'm a bit perturbed that they are using the foreigners as a scapegoat. All signs indicate that recent events were/are inside jobs (AKA the housekeeper took it but owners are too embarrassed to admit that they were stupid about handling their valuables -- or people know there is an abandoned house in the neighborhood they can use to scout potential marks). 

  • Jumping the Gun

The first gun related incident was at SM Sta. Rosa. Three people were killed in the incident. All the news said was that there was a shooting at the mall. Of course, the entire story wasn't available via the news, so second and third-hand (probably more like fourth or fifth-hand) information has come to light.

Originally, it was said that the guard was "playing" with his gun (trying to do tricks, etc). and someone grappled with him, took the gun, and shot him when he tried to get it back, then shot a responding PNP officer while the motorcycle was still in motion.

THEN the story was that they had restrained a male who was acting crazy and was waiting for the police to come take him into custody when the male snatch a gun from one of the nearby officers and opened fire, killing a guard and then a policeman.

NOW the story is that a scruffy-looking teenager had a knife on him. According to "sources," the guard wouldn't let him in while carrying the knife. The teenager became upset, stole the guard's gun, shot the guard, and then shot a policeman who was responding to the emergency call while he was still on (or dismounting from, depending on your source) his motorcycle. The teen was shot and killed by the second wave of police responders. People claim the teen was mentally ill / he was homeless.

All three scenarios are completely plausible here. Guards are not trained how to properly carry and handle guns. Most, if not all, of their training (if actions as a whole are any indication) is done in the classroom. I would be surprised if half of the people carrying around handguns/shotguns/assault rifles have ever actually shot a firearm. And the second and third versions sound like "PR" scenarios, to make the security company not so embarrassed (heaven forbid anyone here become hiya -- "ashamed" -- for doing a crappy job)!

I have lived here for a year and a half at this point. In that time, we have frequented both SM Sta. Rosa and WalterMart Carmona (below). Almost every time I have entered, I have had my USMC KABAR attached to my hip. I usually have a long shirt on which covers the handle, but the rest of the sheath hangs below my shirt and is visible (especially when I raise my hands for the "patdown" -- they just touch the small of your back, honestly). I also have on me a folding knife clipped to my pocket, easily seen to the most casual observer. I have yet to be turned away from the entrance (which makes it so surprising to me that the teenager allegedly was-- and makes me believe that version of the story is more of a "PR" effort).

Obviously, I'll never know what really happened, as the rumour mill is already in full swing and the story has surely been distorted several times by now.

  • Go On, Take the Money (Jewelry?) and Run

The other incident was at WalterMart in Carmona. An armed robbery happened (no shots fired). A man dug a tunnel overnight and snuck in with a gun and held up a jewelry store. Apparently, there was a lot of panic and people fleeing, and the guy cleaned out the store (they're still closed) but fortunately no one was injured.

  • Biting Dropping the Bullet

According to Tito, there was a hostage incident in our neighborhood a few years back with Aling Loling ("Miss Grandma"). She runs a sari-sari store in the neighborhood that the boys go to buy candies. Her son had a mental breakdown of some sort and had her grappled and was threatening to cut her throat with a knife. Security was called, of course, and Tito and some other residents were trying to calm him down to help Loling until security came. According to Tito, the security guard arrived but wouldn't make any attempt to help her, they just stood as far away as possible and watched the scene unfolding. 

At one point, someone was able to sneak in and distract the son long enough to get Loling out to safety, but then the son started slashing at people with the knife. Of course, everyone ran out of the house and the son followed. When the son exited the house to flee, the guard (FINALLY) decided to try to stop the situation. He raised his shotgun and cocked it as a warning...

...and the bullets fell out. Presumably because he had not properly loaded/chambered his ammunition.

The son ran away from the scene and seemed to get away. No shots fired, no one was injured.

They eventually subdued the son later (he ended up falling asleep under a tree somewhere else in the neighborhood) and ACTUAL police (who honestly are not much better than security at times) took him into custody. It turns out the knife he had wasn't a knife at all but just cardboard wrapped in tinfoil.


Incidents like these are the main reason I carry a combat knife. Though I will (hopefully) never need to use it, I don't want to need a knife in an emergency and not have it available. And I've learned that security and police forces here are not really trained past the classroom. Security will save its own hide before it considers helping me or my family. So I have my KABAR attached to my hip most of the time. Even at home/work.

...but honestly, my "folder" -- a dinky little "Navy Seal" knife -- gets far more use... almost on a daily basis, in fact. It's one of those crappy $5 dollar knives you see in BUDK and other publications. I'm actually not sure how I acquired it, because it's a  knife I would NEVER buy. I think a cousin visited our house in the US at one point and left it, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a terrible knife for self-defense. It's small, the handle is shoddy and plastic, and the blade is partially serrated (serrated blades have little practical use and have a high chance to get stuck in the ribcage in a self defense situation).

Unfortunately, my folder is showing its age. The clip is on its last leg, and I've noticed it doesn't stay in place as well as it used to. So I may be shopping for a new folder the next time we go to Divisoria.

...but until then, it'll be on my person, for those containers that need to be opened, cutting tags, shaving off some kindling to start the grill, cutting seams... whatever day-to-day "emergency" that arrives.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Funny, I Didn't Think I Was Either...

Even after our trip today to DFA, Jing and I are still not officially recognized as married in the PI... even though it's been five years since we were married and I already have my permanent residence through marriage to a Filipina citizen. I'll expand on that tomorrow probably, but I wanted to write the following snippet from today before I forgot:

While at the Department of Foreign Affairs to get passports taken care of, I was assigned to the role of "keeping the kids quiet" while Jing takes care of paperwork and talking to officials. I use the opportunity to practice my Tagalog with the kids.

After being there for a while, we end up sitting near a Filipina lady who has a 4-year old girl with her. The girl and Kuya begin to interact in that "shy 4 year old" way. I ask Kuya what her name is, but he is too shy to ask, so I ask her in Tagalog: "Ate, anong panggalin mo?"

The lady with her says "oh, she doesn't understand Tagalog. She lives in Paranaque." (Paranaque is part of the National Capitol Region)

I continue to use Tagalog with the boys, but then we switch to English when we want to speak with "Ate." Eventually our paperwork is processed and we move on.

Later, I overhear the lady telling the girl "Oh, you need to learn Tagalog."

The girl responds

"Why? I'm not poor."

....I knew there was a disconnect between NCR and the rest of the country and that the majority of "high society" there uses English as often as possible, but I didn't know it was THAT bad.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Year+ In Review

After almost a year away from this blog, I have finally returned. A lot has happened in the past year. We celebrated our first year of living in the Philippines, I've been promoted to a new position at my work, and I've also had the opportunity to get several acting jobs in my spare time. I've been in a TV series, filmed a movie (though my scene didn't make the final cut), and in an international TV commercial.

I wish I could say that I have been so busy with these extraneous hobbies that I haven't been able to post, but truth be told, I rarely find myself wanting to spend time on the computer after working on it for eight hours. I've even let my WoW subscription lapse (which is no small feat, for those of you who aren't familiar with my online gaming addiction). During the day, I maintain the company's social media presence, in addition to marketing/advertising online, and handle Search Engine optimization. It's a lot to handle at times. Even though my new work position leaves me worn out (and sometimes stressed), I really enjoy it and really see a lot of opportunity for growth professionally, personally, and also for the company as well. I'm excited, to say the least! Very much worth the effort!

I'm one year closer to Philippine Citizenship. It's still up in the air on whether I can still visit the States without resetting the timer (I'm supposed to be in the PI for 5 years before I can apply for citizenship since I'm married to a Filipina citizen). I've attempted to do research, but unfortunately each source says something different... and our local immigration office has not been helpful in the slightest (in fact, the lady told me I would never be eligible for citizenship, which I know is completely incorrect, so...) I have to fiuggre that out (as well as a couple other things) which may influence when we go back to the States. Our tentative plan is sometime in 2016, though we're not sure exactly when yet.

I'm more confident in my everyday interactions than I was a year ago. Unfortunately, my Tagalog has not improved as much as it should have in that span of time. The main reason is that I'm not using it nearly as often as I should have been. My work is "English Only" as it is based in the US, and I only go out to pick up groceries or exercise at the gym... both scenarios involve little real communication, and what communication does happen is the same conversation over and over, so not much room for improvement.

In an effort to improve my comprehension, I've started listening to a lot of Tagalog music. Jing occasionally helps me by "quizzing" me, though she still hasn't started speaking to me ONLY in Tagalog as requested. I think that's mainly because she gets too annoyed at me too quickly when she does.

I'm trying to think of major things that have happened that I haven't mentioned, and I suppose there are milestones to us that are "typical" (birthdays, holidays, etc), but not worth mentioning in depth at this point. We're all a year older, except Jing, who has informed me that she is still 29. I guess that'll be nice in 30 years when I am 61 and I'll still be married to a 29 year old.

The boys are bigger, of course. Kuya has started school and only has a few months left before summer break (they end the school year in April here). Ading has started trying to ride a bike (I need to install a rear brake on his bike, at the moment he just pedals backward really fast and doesn't go anywhere). Kuya has been out of diapers completely for a while (even while sleeping at night) and so now the process begins to try to get Ading out of them as well... though hopefully he'll be out of them by the time the next one comes along (hopefully a girl, whenever that is). I've gotten bigger, too. I've gained too much weight as a result of laziness/travelling and have started watching what I eat once again.

I think we have (more or less) gotten past the absurdity of living here. When we first arrived, it felt like every day Jing and I would have a discussion about how "ridiculous" things were... but now, it's just accepted as the norm (sure, we still get annoyed, and situations are often accompanied by the occasional eyeroll, but I think we've begun to become very "bahala na" (what will be, will be) about it. We still take funny pictures and make jokes about things (which I need to make a photo post about soon I suppose), but our "The Philippines is a crazy place" is punctuated by a period instead of an exclamation point at this point.

To make an overgeneralization; I've learned that people here are inconsiderate. They'll blatantly try to skip lines. the longer I've been here, the more I've noticed that people try to take advantage of the fact that I am a foreigner, and that perhaps I don't *really* know what's going on. It happens to me more than anyone else, so I've learned how to comment in Tagalog, pointing out that there is a line, and the "back of the line is there." When I start speaking Tagalog and pointing out that the person is being bwiset, security (which by the the way is a total joke and should have been enforcing it to begin with --- but I'll save that for another post) will step in and "encourage" them to move to the back of the line to avoid escalation. I think it's so prevalent in general because people here are so nakakahiya (embarrassed) to point out that someone is being rude that those people get away with it. When I first got here, I was doubly so, because I am very aware of my status as a foreigner and i didn't want to overstep any cultural boundaries. People still try to take advantage of me, but I am far more outspoken than I used to be about the matter, and I have the vocabulary to back it up now.

So a year and a half after we got here, I feel like we have the routine of living here down. In the end, I suppose it's just like moving anywhere in the world (with an added language barrier). Initially it's always tough, but as you get more familiar with things and settle into your role(s), things get easier and more comfortable. At this point, I don't see us moving back to the States, though I suppose it's always a possibility.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Photo Bomb

So let's pretend that I have been incredibly busy saving the world and thus unable to update this blog (even though in actuality it's just a matter of setting a time to sit down and type). In all honesty, with my new job being completely computer based, I'm less than motivated to spend additional time on the computer typing. As such, I've missed out on sharing a lot, so to try to bring things (somewhat) up to speed, I'm going to share some of the photos that have accumulated on my iPod during our tenure here and try to write a thing or two about each.

This is my shower.... it's called "tabo."
Cold water, unless you want to take the time to heat up some water and mix it in. (Usually I don't)
If you ever thought to yourself "Gee, I wish I could hear 'Gangam Style'  OVER and OVER
at incredibly loud levels," then we have the perfect gift for your three year old!
This is the Taal Volcano... 
It's an tiny active volcano (though dormant at the moment) in Tagaytay.
There are a lot of resorts nearby where you can stay for luxury -- we just took a picture.
Boy Scouts of the Philippines
Saw this on our way back from Tagaytay, if I remember correctly.
Villa Escudero
There's a huge collection of amazing Filipino historical items inside (AWESOME),
 but you're forbidden from taking any pictures (NOT AWESOME).
While at Villa Escudero, you can ride a cart pulled by a carabao (water buffalo).
One of Villa Escudero's major attractions is the fact that you can eat at the base of a waterfall.
Fish nibble at your toes while you nibble at the buffet!
(A little pricey, IMO, but I guess you're paying for the experience)
Tinuktudok (sweet rice in caramelized brown sugar)
There are a couple ways to make it (I actually prefer it rolled in sugar instead of fried).
When I had this in 2010, I couldn't say the name, so I called them "chicken nuggets,"

since that's what they reminded me of visually.
Sunset over the beach in Iba
Rice drying on the side of the road in Zambales.
(Once it dries they'll have to gather it and pick out the gravel from traffic)
Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay
Made me kinda wish I had pursued a career in marine biology like 8 year old me wanted.
Roller Coaster INSIDE a Festival Mall in Alabang
Jing's salary breakdown... notice "allowances" (untaxed compensation) for rice.
Also, you get a 13th month pay here, which is basically an additional month's salary in December as a "bonus" of sorts.
Saw this school soccer team practicing on one of our trips to visit family on a Saturday.
The coach was Caucasian, looked like he may have been early 20s.
Didn't get the opportunity to talk with him, though.
In the background is the school marching band practicing.
A "collection" letter from a "nagpapalimos" (street beggar kid). This letter says "I'm asking you for a little help. Thank you"The kids hop on the Jeepney, hand these letters out to everyone inside, and you're expected to put cash inside before they collect them again. She forgot to take one of her letters (it was empty), so I brought it home to snap a pic and share. I rarely carry any cash with me other than my "bayad" (Jeepney fare), because I'm a  prime target.
A hat for the "Los Angeles Lakes" and underwear made to be worn on "Tursday."
Some things are lost in translation, I suppose?
The traffic light broke on my way to the gym, so the Transit Officers (in red) pulled over a dumptruck
and used the truck bed as a ladder to fix the light. Using what you have on hand, indeed...
In the States, Cookie Crisp has a burglar dog as a mascot. Here, it's a panther in a tracksuit.
As far as I'm aware, the panther isn't a special animal here...
Maybe they just figure the police / government officials are big enough burglars here that they don't need one on cereal.
My Christmas present... A "G-siyak" watch. The REAL G-Shock will run you $200+ USD.
This one cost $250 PHP (a little over $6 USD)
I discovered coco jam, and my waistline grew three sizes that day.
My new favorite dish, "Bicol Express." My Tito Jun introduced it to me.
His is much better than this one from Inahaw Express.
Filipino mosquito repellent.
Global warming efforts are attempted here, but when you have fires going from sunup to sundown
progress on that front will be very slow...
The Santo Niño Parade near the city plaza.
The place was crazy crowded, this was the best picture I could get unfortunately.
School cultural event... A lot of schools gathered and did cultural dances.
I wish I could have gotten some video to post.
While at the mall for a pizza treat, there was a concert for Jireh Lim.
Much teen screaming and even my "Kano Perimeter" was pretty much useless against the crowd.
Mall of Asia... the 3rd largest mall IN THE WORLD

Hopefully I'll sit down and type a more in depth article or two over this coming weekend. Also, I've enabled Websense ads on the site to see about generating a little revenue (hopefully enough just to keep domain registration current), but we'll see... It should be up and running on the site soon, but if it is too distracting for the website, then I'll take it down.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Funny, it doesn't LOOK like Christmas...

It's been quite a while since I've updated the site, and a lot has happened since then!

The first thing(s) of note are that Jing and I are now both employed.... ironically, to US companies. Jing is a Customer Service Rep here in PI for ATT's accounts, and I started working from home as a virtual assistant, handling some of the financial aspects for client accounts for a company based in San Diego, California. Vacation time in a tropical climate is now officially over. So ironically, we moved thousands of miles away and ended up with American based jobs.

I guess the funny thing about getting a new job is how much you think about "Oh, when I get my first paycheck, I'm gonna do this or that or buy this or that." When in the Bay Area, it used to be "Oh let's go to this fancy restaurant," or "Let's go see this show/movie/performance." Here, our priorities have shifted a bit... with Jing's first check we looked forward to buying diapers. With mine? Well, I can't really think of anything that I'd want/need, especially after Christmas -- I got the two things that have piqued my interest in the past 4 months (more on that later).

For my readers in the States, concerning Jing's job: call center jobs are actually very lucrative in comparison to their American counterparts. In the States, call center agents are usually fresh high school and college grads, and the perception is that the position is (maybe) a rung above fast food working. Here in the Philippines, you're doing very well for yourself if you can get a job at a call center. It's one of the highest starting pay positions in the Philippines. The English proficiency required means you most likely already have some sort of degree (many nursing and medical school grads begin working in call centers before they find a nursing position abroad -- the US isn't known for importing call center agents).

"Kuya,"** our oldest son, will most likely start preschool in January. He's excited about it, but I don't think he really knows what he's in for.

All the kids here are on break until after the New year, so we have a few of the kids' cousins over pretty much every day, plus a neighbor kid who comes over and rides bikes. My nose bleeds from all the Tagalog being thrown out...

Speaking of which, my Tagalog has gotten worse. I haven't been practicing it very much at all lately (as I mentioned before, it's very possible to live here and not use Tagalog at all if you don't want to). I'm also becoming a little more "independent" and we now have an electric scooter that I use to go to and from places (which obviously cuts down on my "in-transit" conversations). Added to the mix the fact that since my mom has been here I can't really use Tagalog with her, so I've barely been using it at all... just the occasional phrase every now and then. This is something I plan to fix once the New Year rolls around.

Christmas has, of course, come and gone... though honestly it feels like we've been in the Christmas season since September! Christmas music started before we arrived in September and has been playing pretty much nonstop since November hit, so I'll admit I'm a little glad it's past. Radio is different here... there doesn't seem to be much censorship in the Philippines... for radio at least. You can Google some of the "TV scandals" for the Philippines (usually it's off color jokes or something similarly ridiculously minute), but as far as radio goes you can hear the "F-bomb" get dropped during your commute. It was pretty surreal to walk into a book store last week and hear "Merry Christmas to all, now you're all gonna die!" from Weird Al Yankovich's "The Night Santa Went Crazy."

Unlike our friends and family in the US, we didn't get any temperature drops... in fact, it seems to have gotten hotter and more humid in the past few weeks! I know a few of my friends have gotten snow. I don't know that I really miss snow... though I'm sure "Ading"*** (our youngest) would have loved playing in it. Maybe in a few years when we visit the States again... depends on the timing.

It was really nice to see all of our family (well, most of them) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Kuya was overly excited about getting Mentos (I really wish we had gotten a video of it). Jing got some clothes, Kuya and Ading got snacks and some toys we brought from the States when we moved, and I got a shirt and a G-Shock watch (knockoff). Haven't really seen anything here that I want. I guess my attitude has changed a bit since moving here. In the States it always felt like you were just working to get the next "want." The next iPhone, the next gadget, the next "big thing." Here, I haven't really seen anything that I felt was really a "want," and most of the needs, we already have.

However, during a trip to Divisorio back in October (think of an open air market with cheap/knockoff goods and brickabrack), I saw a shirt and a watch. I don't need a shirt, I have plenty, but I thought it would be funny for me to wear it, since everyone wants to use English with me.
The text doesn't translate directly, but basically it says something close to
"You're so fancy with your English, how about I kick you?"
As far as the watch (also pictured below), I already have a really nice watch that Jing gave me as a while ago, but it's very nice and I don't like to wear "flashy" stuff when I'm just out during the day -- I stick out a lot already. I mentioned to Jing that I wanted a cheap watch that I didn't care if it got stolen or broken. I don't like pulling out an iPhone or an iPod in a large crowd to check the time, either. Too much potential for mandu (pickpockets) to do the old "snatch and grab." The watch she got me was perfect.
G-Shock knockoff... it cost a little under $5 American.
The real thing can go for $100 to $300 USD, depending on style.
Otherwise, Christmas was very... sickly. I've been fighting a cold/flu/SOMETHING since the night of Christmas Eve, and the boys started sniffling Christmas night, so they probably got it too.. Ading is pretty miserable right now, and with him being a year old, it's tough for him to communicate and it's tough for us to get him to take medicine.

I guess the next thing coming up is the New Year, which is traditionally seen as an opportunity for "a new start." We've already taken advantage of a new start of sorts by moving here, so I guess I have a few personal goals for 2014, but aside from "update this blog more often," nothing major (or at least nothing I'm interested in sharing to the World Wide Web at this point).

I hope you all (or y'all, depending on where you're reading this from) had a great holiday, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year!!!

**"kuya" means "older brother" in Tagalog
*** "ading" is Ilocano (a Philippine dialect) for "younger sibling"

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm Big in the Philippines

I've come to the conclusion/realization that no matter how hard I try, I will never "blend in" to my new home.

Jing (my wife) is lucky. She blends in perfectly... in fact, she's earned the nickname "Kanto Girl" because of it. ("Kanto" means corner... which is where most of the street food -- AKA "turo-turo" or "point-point" -- is sold).

I can overcome the lanuage, I can learn proper social etiquette, I can learn to love all the street food here, but despite ALL OF THAT, I will ALWAYS stick out like... well, like a tall white guy in a room/street full of Filipinos.

I hit my head on awnings, chairs are usually too small for me, and even when getting my picture taken for "Biodata" (they require 2x2 photos to accompany your job application) I have to crouch down to get into the shot. I had to do the same for my driver's license and NBI clearance... the camera was aimed at my belly button! I barely fit into tricycles, and my head is practically glued to the roof of the Jeepney when I ride. Honestly, I'm surprised I don't have worse posture as a result of public transit.

Me Inside a Tricycle

I'm very aware of my presence... and I expect stares and comments when I walk to the Sari-Sari or am in public places. I'm called "Joe Kano" (a reference to the US military occupation during/following WW2). I'm the minority here, I get it.

You have to get used to being viewed like a sideshow attraction (luckily I used to be in the circus, so I'm accustomed to it!). Depending on where you live, seeing a white person is like seeing a unicorn! Obviously, Manila, Subic Bay, Baguio, and the "touristy" places are full of white people visiting from various countries, but once you get to more provincial areas, it becomes more and more of a novelty. I'll admit, I was on my way to a job interview the other day and saw a white person and thought to myself, "Whoa! What's a white guy doing here?!?!" My first few weeks in the Philippines I didn't see any other white people, and when we went to one of the more famous malls in Quezon City for 'Bert's environmental fundraiser event (See sidebar under "Filipeanut") I did my fair share of double takes! Where I live, white people aren't common at all.

So yes, I stick out.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this, of course.


1) The most notable advantage, I have what I'll term the "Kano Perimeter," (originally known as the "Gaijin Perimeter" courtesy of Az at People like me... from a distance. If I'm sitting in a Jeepney, the last two spots to fill up are the ones on either side of me. People love to talk to me, but touching? That's a different story (and you DO touch on the Jeepney. The drivers like to jam in as many people on the Jeepney as possible to get more more money out of the same amount of time. I've been in a Jeepney where there were 12 people on each side, though the seat is only meant to hold 8... I may have unwittingly sired a child or two as a result).

My Mom (visiting) and I on a Jeepney. As you can tell from our expressions,
she doesn't know it's about to get VERY crowded. I do.
2) People are intrigued by this foreign pale being towering over them, and Filipinos are (in my experience) very outgoing, so it's easy to find someone to talk to or help you (even if you don't actually want to talk). EVERYONE wants to know where you're from, "how do you find the Philippines," where you're going, are you married, and do you have kids? After answering those questions (bonus points if you can do it in Tagalog) then you've got a brand new kaibigan ("friend") to help you out.

3) I can easily see what's happening at the front of a crowd/line even if I'm at the very back.

4) No one asks to have my stuff, because it doesn't fit them. Nobody here wears size 14 shoes, so I have them all to myself. It's fortunate I brought plenty of shoes and flip flops with me, because none of the markets here have anything close to my size (we've even gone to the outlet facilities... to no avail).

5) People remember you. After travelling around for a while, people start to recognize me, because I do stick out. I'm probably the only white guy doing the things I do where I do them. I don't get patted down as often when I go to the stores, because they know who I am. Vendors remember me. Trike drivers come over to shoot the breeze with me in the mornings while I'm out walking. The people who beg on the street don't bother me as much (my heart bleeds for them and I really do wish I could help, but I still don't have a job and the only money I carry is my bayad ("payment") for the Jeepney. I explain this as kindly as I can, and they remember and the next day or next week they don't bother me as much. I used to get asked for money everyday. Now it's once a week, if that.)


1) The "Kano Perimeter" (patent pending) can be a disadvantage, too. I have to make sure to smile a lot. I've become very aware of my facial expressions, because I know if I have a neutral or grumpy face it can be very intimidating for people... especially kids. People get out of my way of me in general... If my expression doesn't look content, they do it in a hurry. It's like Godzilla walking into Tokyo.

2) Forget about being low profile. It's not going to happen. Everyone is going to look at you, and most people are going to try to talk to you. I don't always feel like practicing my Tagalog, but people are so friendly and outgoing, I feel bad about having those "isolationist" moments.

3) I am often at the back of crowds because Filipinos shove past me. I don't know why, but it's VERY common in my experience... McDonald's, grocery lines, Jollibee, DMV... Maybe they think I can't see them all the way "down there" as they sneak past? No clue. And I'm not gonna go all "Kano Smash!" on them. That would be bad form... so usually I just act polite and sulk inside my head, because I don't want to be Godzilla.

4) No one can have my stuff. I can't "hand me down" things very easily, because a lot of things won't fit relatives. Even the stuff that I don't use that much... most of it is too long in the legs or too thick in the chest or something. Things are small here. In the USA I wear size Medium pants/shirts. In the Philippines, I'm AT LEAST and XL (sometimes XXL). And shoes in my size are nonexistant.

5) People remember you. Some days, I don't feel like talking to or acknowledging every single person on the street as I'm walking at the plaza or going home from SoroSoro. But I don't want them to be offended or think I'm a stuck up foreigner or in a bad mood (see disadvantage #1), so I say hi and converse anyway. I figure there are worse things than conversations...

So there it is... despite all my efforts, I will always have the advantages (and disadvantages) of being "Big in the Philippines."

Ingat ka! ("Take Care!")


Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's All Good in the 'Hood

We're OK here in Binan. The typhoon was very noisy, flooded a few areas and knocked over some trees, but otherwise Binan is relatively untouched. The real trauma is down in the southern part of PI. Latest predictions to my knowledge have been more than 10,000 dead.

That's all for this post. Just wanted to let everyone know we're OK. Go hug someone you love while you can.