Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for more than five years. My adoptive/adopted Filipino family the Torres, the Javier-Aldonza-Guevarra-Academia clan, the kind staff at the hotel across the street where I used to live, and the Raguindin family, under whose roof I now live, have been friends and helpmates to me during this time; thanks to them for letting me describe here their trials, successes, heartaches, celebrations, passions, so that American readers can get an idea of Filipino life. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. I post every four to ten days. Tap the lower floors above for earlier posts. I'm afraid this new platform does not enable readers to embiggen the photos; will try to make sure to post photos large enough not to require a magnifying glass.

You can reach Brad Smith at boan.song@gmail.com

Glenda pre-op.



The days are sunny and not overly hot in Cab City, this late September. For the past three or four afternoons cumulus clouds have started piling up by 4pm, and thunderstorms with frequent lightning and gusty winds have serenaded the city around dusk, thankfully without pranking us and shutting down power. There are two reasons why this country has many more storm-caused power outages than the U.S. has. Firstly, there are many more lightning storms here than over there (with the possible exception of Florida). Secondly, when lightning hits a wire and sends one or two million volts towards a transformer, here it has a better chance of blowing up the transformer than it has over there, because the circuit breakers used here are inferior to those used in the States. I read about this recently. Well, PAGASA has central Luzon pegged for another round of storms later today; candles in the bedside cupboard are at the ready!

Fully recovered from her operation, Glenda has spent the last week in Rizal. She went up to the homestead to care for Francis, who had come down with a bad cold. A few days later, with Francis chipper again, she stayed on to attend the birthday party of the son of an old classmate, and to help out selling portions of one of the family pigs, which Edmar had recently slaughtered. She is due back later today. In conversation with Aiza, a few days back, I praised the dinner dishes Glenda prepared. "Of course, of course her food is good," said Aiza. "She's Ilocano!" And so I learned that people from Glenda's ethnic group have a reputation for being good cooks.

Sinigang, pinakbet, adobo, menudo, tinola, kaldereta . . . .  If you are not living in the Philippines and these words mean little to you, punch them up in Goodle Image. I'd had these several times before meeting Glenda, mostly in restaurants; Glenda's Filipino dishes beat those of the restaurants, hands down. Tastier, heartier. And her fried chicken is among the best I've ever tasted!  . . . So I've watched her perform in the kitchen. She knows what to put in, when to put it in, and, once it's all simmering, how much time she has to enter the compound and have a tete-a-tete with Aiza or Donaiza; but it always seems that the end product must rely on more than these simple mechanics!

I can, and have for the past week, fend for myself in the kitchen. Can toss an omelet in the pan, cook hamburgers and sausages, create nicely grilled cheese sandwiches, even make a decent American chop suey. Can't help looking forward to Glenda's return, however.


Breathing Naturally . . .

. . . is what Glenda does now. She is five days post-op and the discomfort is gone, though a "heaviness," as she puts it, occasionally visits her. She has done excellently for someone who, before this experience, had never before been examined by a doctor, nevermind had an operation. She told me this just before our first visit to Dr. Claudio, and I was a little incredulous. Never? No, never. You delivered two babies; you had OB doctors caring for you? No Brad. How do you call it? Midwife? Dr. Claudio is a good first doctor to have: tall, personable, smart-looking in his rimless glasses, and just a little goofy. Likes black denim. A little goofy? I still see him dashing down to his car just before the operation because he had forgotten something; still see him holding up for me with a lop-sided smile two medicine phials full of those little white globules, now blood-spattered, while Glenda was being woken up on the table. I spent the first night with Glenda, and there was not much sleep for either of us: the little I got was on a padded bench maybe four and a half feet long.

The next morning Glenda's nephew Edmar showed up on his trike with his wife Novi (in earlier postings misspelled "Nobe"), little Joy-Joy, and Glenda's mom Bienbe. Novi with Joy in her arms was stopped at the door: babies were not allowed in the hospital. Jeesh! So Joy-Joy stayed outside with her father while Novi and Bienbe followed me up the stairs to Glenda. I'd asked for a private room after learning one was available -- one of a few factors that pushed the "package deal" closer to 100K than to 70K -- and Bienbe, Glenda, and 

and Novi chatted about the operation in Tagalog, me understanding a few snippets and throwing in a phrase or two edgewise. Novi was to stay with Glenda, who was still not eating solids, for the second night, and after a while Bienbe joined Edmar and Joy-Joy for the trip back to Rizal; I headed for the Raguindins and my bed.

The following morning Dr. Claudio had been paid his share but we hadn't yet seen the hospital bill. I had 47K in my pocket and wasn't sure it would be enough, so over the cell phone I asked Glenda and Novi to wait for the bill and let me know the amount as soon as they received it; if we needed more money, I would stop at an ATM on the way over. The cashier on the first floor well before noon was told to prepare the bill; at 2pm Glenda was told it would be soon. At 3:30pm, with the bill not yet delivered, I hopped in the car, stopped at the ATM and withdrew 20K, then made for the hospital. In the room they had not yet seen the bill. Novi and I went down to the glass-enclosed finance department, at which a lady behind the glass said there was one more thing to do. I keep my cool very well in aggravating situations, but felt that here, for only the third or fourth time in the nearly six years I've been in the Philippines, the "exasperated foreigner" routine could be used to advantage. "It's been hours and hours and hours!" I said in a raised voice, looking in turn at each of the three employees behind the glass. And it did the trick. Mollifyingly the woman told me to please have a seat and she would get right on it. Within fifteen minutes the bill was presented, 49K+, and I handed over a wad of fifty 1K notes. The money was counted, papers were stamped, and in no time we were all at the nurses' station waiting for a wheelchair. 


The "exasperated foreigner" routine rarely does anyone any good, which is why I only very rarely use it. It demeans people and is self-demeaning, too, methinks. At any rate, Glenda ate a good solid meal that evening, at home. Novi stayed with us that night and we took her back to Rizal the following morning, walking down the deeply rutted dirt drive to find Joy-Joy in a plastic childrens' pool buck-naked and gleefully pointing a garden hose this way and that. Thank you, Novi, for your help! Salamat, Novi, sa iyong tulong!

The large gravel lot bordered by acacia trees, and Wesleyan University Hostpital beyond it. At one end of the hospital, the gate to the university proper.


Driving Ms Glenda

That Good Witch of the West has had a lot to do in many different places recently, and I've been driving her here and there. Drove her to Paniqui, Tarlac Province, about an hour and a half from Cab City, last Monday, so that she could renew her passport. One cannot renew a Filipino passport online or via mail, and there are only three government offices on Luzon that issue and renew passports: the closest to us is in Paniqui. Always I'm up for driving roads as yet untraveled by me; we checked out Guimba, Pura, Ramos, listening to the music on my thumb drive: Procol Harum, the Pixies, the Pogues, some reggae-fied popular songs (I change up the selection often). The office was in a WalterMart, and, having arrived more than an hour early, we sat down to lunch at the Shakey's in the mall.

Have not yet found pizza better than the pizza at Shakey's in the Philippines; if you are a Filipino or Phlipside expat who knows of better, please let me know! The office opened a half hour late, but once the doors opened Glenda got through her fuss and bother in less than an hour. In the Philippines that's saying something.

Last Wednesday I drove Glenda to see the ENT guy who had treated my folliculitis, for the simple reason that Glenda has not been able to breathe through her nose since she had a bad case of sinusitis while working in Qatar. Hadn't even realized she couldn't breathe through her nose until recently, when we talked about her snoring at night. Her snoring is gentle, never loud enough to keep me awake; and she has informed me that I occasionally have conversations with someone in my sleep, so it was not out of complaint but out of concern that I brought it up. And she said she couldn't use the airway. The nose plays an immunological role in protecting us from airborne disease -- so long as we breathe through it. She agreed to see Dr. Claudius.

The doctor put his viewer up Glenda's nostrils, and far up the nasal passages, the computer screen showed, there were clusters of glossy-white, globular things. "Those are polyps," the doctor intoned. It was a severe enough case to require endoscopic surgery, a scraping of the sinuses, and would Glenda be up for such a procedure? She affirmed that she would. Dr. Claudius is affiliated with Wesleyan University Hospital here in Cabanatuan, so that is where the procedure will take place. The doctor said a "package deal" was available that would include a two-day stay for Glenda at the hospital, if Glenda had Philhealth insurance. Glenda did not have Philhealth, so one of our pre-op errands would be to get Glenda signed on. The package deal would come to 70,000 pesos, or a bit less than 1,500 American -- for something that costs $8,000 to $13,000 without hospitalization figured in, in the U.S., according to Dove Medical Press.

On the way home from the doctor's office we picked up pre-op

medications. There were tests to run, and the next morning we

went to St. Albert's Clinic for blood and urine tests. The waiting 

room was crowded and so I stayed in the car with the a/c on and

waited. And waited. Should have brought along a book! Well,

eventually she came back with the results, all within normal

parameters. Then it was off to Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial

Hospital for a chest x-ray; after considerable circling about,

finally found a parking space, and told Glenda I would wait in 

the car for her. After she left I was chased out of the space by

hospital security: "Employees only," they said. Great, and my

smartphone needed charging. Drove home and, texting there,

asked Glenda if she could take a trike home. Not a problem,

the Good Witch replied.

Next day, there was paperwork to procure, fill out, get notarized, and bring to a magistrate at Rizal City Hall, so that Glenda would be

able to sign on to the national health insurance plan (Philhealth). We went to Wesleyan University, where kind security guards pointed the way to the hospital, for the C-scan Dr. Claudius had signed Glenda up for, and I was relieved to find an enormous area for parking next to the hospital. Wouldn't need to take a trike to visit Glenda while she was hospitalized.

On Monday (tomorrow) I'll drive Ms Glenda to the Philhealth office at the NE Pacific Mall. If all goes smoothly there, Glenda will undergo her procedure Wednesday morning.


The Troubled Homeland: Some Quick Thoughts

First of the month. Brought rent money to Don-Don.  Drove to the duplex on the Aurora road and dropped off support for Jheng's family, tuition for Mariel. These cyclones coursing north of Luzon have been "enhancing the southwest monsoon," as the weather bureau puts it, and the rain in Cabanatuan has been pretty much constant for the last four or five days. On the west coast it's downright stormy, and I hope the Mangrove Hotel, at the foot of Subic Bay, is faring okay.

Early mornings I check in with American news on Youtube. Will have no truck with Fox, Newsmax, and the other outlets of "gonzo rightist propaganda." MSNBC and CNN seem too partisan for my taste, but I listen to Maddow, Hayes, Melber, Blitzer, Scarborough, also to Charlie Sykes on "The Bulwark," a sane podcast focused on the craziness of American politics today. Will America get through the 2024 elections intact? It seems that a sound drubbing of Trumpist candidates, and, as it seems more and more likely he will be the presidential nominee, Trump himself, would ensure the survival of the Union. But even if that should happen, what would Americans be left with? A one-party dominance of  the national executive and legislature, and a rightist Supreme Court out to quash all the initiatives of this party. It's not a pretty picture.

An uglier picture is the one portraying a holding pattern in the political scene after 2024. "Civil war" is a term the Freedom Caucus in the House bandies about frequently now; talking heads in TV- and podcast-land  discuss the possibility of such a war. What would it look like? It would not have many of the qualities of the civil war fought 160 years ago; that's for sure. Would it be a fight fought within a few (or many?) individual states between insurgents and resisters? Once all the states are irretrievably red or blue, does a nation-wide conflict ensue? What role, if any, would the national armed forces play in such a conflict? And how are secession and the creation of a new nation, or subjugation and reconciliation, whichever is the upshot of the conflict, worked out? 

Such questions chill my brain, as they probably do yours, if you're an American reader. What chills it more, though, is the consideration of another Trump presidency.  . . . Perish the thought, my dear grandmom would say. Things have a way of working themselves out, if you don't mind another cliche. Concerted violence needn't appear in the picture that does eventually emerge. I'll leave you with a coupla photos of our cats.


Transportation for Francis; Mario's BP Takes a Nice Downhill Slide

The southwest monsoon is still in play and is doing an admirable job of sheering cyclones -- typhoons and wannabe-typhoons -- off to the north. This monsoon is a band of super-moist air that originates in the waters below Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia; it can bring to the Philippines days of a rain that stops only for short intervals, or it can bring days of solid overcast with an occasional shower. Oddly, the current monsoon, while it has brought very high humidity to the islands, has not brought continuous rain or overcast. The sunny afternoons are oppressive -- but on some days, starting at about 3pm, heavy thunderstorms march across Luzon. The doppler right now indicates a big one is approaching Cab City from the west (hope I can stay online).

Yesterday Glenda and I traveled to Barangay Agbannawag, Rizal, the barangay of the Torres homestead and the barangay of Glenda's husband, to pick up Francis at his father's place, which is only a couple of blocks from the homestead by the rice fields. He has taken up with another woman; he and Glenda have not spoken for a very long time, and I get the idea that I may never meet him. Checked in on the pigs at the homestead, noticed that the new brood of chicks seemed to be doing fine; Glenda texted to Francis to come on over. While we waited for Francis, Glenda came out of the house with a dish of frog legs adobo with chili sauce. Had never before eaten frog, but I was game. A little oily, but really delicious!

Francis came. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Cabanatuan, intending the following morning to take Glenda's son to Cab City bike shops and help him pick out a ride. The Agbannawag elementary school is some distance from his father's place; in addition to the cred with his friends a bicycle would bring, the bike would also save Francis's father the service fees of trike rides to and from school. Well, the first shop we went to this morning had a very good selection of bikes for preteeners, and Francis had little problem choosing one; with bike helmet, basket, and padlock, it came to a little less than $100 American. I liked the price.

Francis rode it up and down the street outside the Raguindins this afternoon, and gave some friends he has made here a chance to ride it themselves. We'll bring him and the bike back to Agbannawag, Rizal tomorrow.

Glenda and I light out for Rizal whenever the occasion suggests it; as I've written, it's about 45 minutes away -- up the Maharlika to Talavera, then a straight shot up the Rizal road through Llanera to Rizal. The occasion more than suggested it four days ago. On that day, Glenda's father Mario was having trouble breathing, was stiff all over and suffering from headaches. He takes medicine for high blood pressure, but the sphygmomanometer his daughters in Manila had sent him was reading 175/120 on that day; he obviously needed to see a doctor. We drove up and took him to his clinic in the business section of Rizal, where the doc confirmed the high bp reading, decided to change Mario's meds, and signed Mario up for an EKG and x-rays the following day. We got the new meds, and Glenda provided her father with money for the tests. Forty-eight hours later the stiffness and headaches had disappeared and the bp machine read 120/80! That was not a one-off reading, too. The tests came back satisfactory, and Mario is up and about now, feeling a whole lot better, to the relief of many people.

Business district, Rizal.

For earlier posts, tap "10" in the blue bar at the top of the page!