Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for over a year. My adoptive/adopted Filipino family, the Javier-Aldonza-Guevarra-Academia clan, as well as the kind staff at the hotel where I live, have been friends and helpmates to me during this time. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. This blog was originally set up to keep friends and loved ones back in the U.S. apprised of what I'm experiencing Phlipside. Some Filipino friends read it as well, and now that the blog is part of an expat blog network, I guess "friends who are not yet friends" are occasionally included in the readership! Will post at least once a week, and, as ever, click the pics to embiggen them.



Rachelle, Mirasol, Jane. Purty girls in my life.


Obiter Dicta


Year-round, it grows dark between 6 and 6:30.

In the birthday song, the celebrant's name is not included.Where I have normally sung the person's name, simply another "happy birthday" is sung.

One of my favorite dishes (sisig) is made with parts of a pig's head.

A popular way to show respect to a person whose hand you are shaking is to draw that person's hand to your bowed forehead.

Blinking lights on the road is not a signal of yielding but a notice that the driver is "coming through."

Fifteen flavors of spam are available; grocery stores carry most of them.

Sanitation workers ride high atop trash in dump trucks with music blaring. They sort the trash as it is collected.

Much courtesy is shown toward the aged and infirm.

The attitude toward litter is what one imagines that of American citizenry to have been before the flood of PSA's in the late '60's.

Justin Bieber is very popular.

Rice is eaten with breakfast, with lunch, with dinner.

The way to evade a court summons for a traffic violation is to discreetly relinquish a 500-peso note to the traffic officer.

Christmas party parlor game I participated in: teams of one woman/one man are belted with a string from which another string falls inches below the crotch; from the male dangles an eggplant and from the woman dangles a plastic baggie with an egg inside it; couples gyrate to enable the eggplant to break the egg; the first couple to break the egg wins. (Elsie, asst. manager at Fred's, and I did not win.)

Tagalog's subversive borrowings from Spanish: "derecho" means "straight ahead"; "seguro" means "unsure." 

I'm dreaming what may be the most vivid dreams of my life.






Midterms were held yesterday. Of the twelve Senate seats up for grabs, the opposition went 0-12; not one of the Otso Diretso candidates became a senator. Candidates allied with the Duterte administration, certainly for the Senate and seemingly, based on what I can find now, for the House, have won big. A couple of weeks ago, in the Cabanatuan barangay of Bitas, which I call home, three men and a woman were shot dead in the early morning by police in what the papers call a "buy-bust operation." "Buy-blow away" may be a more accurate term. According to police, during the transaction the suspects suddenly pulled weapons and fired "but missed." Police produced three pistols and ten sachets of shabu that were said to be found on the four dead people. This election, without a doubt, has strengthened the hand of National Police leaders, whose policies are killing so many drug suspects in the streets.



And Imee Marcos, daughter of Ferdinand and Imelda, has won a Senate seat, for God's sake. Her resume states, and she confirmed in an interview, that she graduated from Princeton. A spokesperson for Princeton has said she did not graduate, and a column in the campus newspaper states that she "flunked out." Well. PDP-Laban, ironically enough, is her political party. This party was founded in 1982 in protest against the martial law imposed by Imee's father, Ferdinand Marcos. Acknowledging the irony recently, Imee Marcos said, "God works in mysterious ways." The current chairman of the party is President Duterte, who is close to the Marcos family.

Seven youth leaders of the protest movement against martial law, back in the late '70's and early '80's, were killed by Marcos thugs; one of these was Archimedes Trajano. He had had the temerity to question Imee Marcos in 1977 at a public forum at the University of Manila as to why Marcos was qualified to be a youth representative to ASEAN. Trajano was forcibly removed from the forum by Marcos's bodyguards . . . and that was the last anyone saw of Trajano alive. Two days later his mauled and broken body was found on a street in Manila. There was evidence that Trajano had been tortured before he was killed.

A court in Honolulu (the Marcos family fled to Hawaii during the 1986 uprising) found that Imee had instigated the brutal murder in a wrongful death lawsuit, and ordered her to pay more than $4 million to the Trajano family. Though a Philippine court concurred with the Honolulu ruling, Imee's lawyers convinced that court in 2006 that an irregularity in the serving of a summons to Marcos abrogated that finding. Imee is a very wealthy woman, as all Marcos family members are, but the Trajano family has received nothing from Imee Marcos.


Jane sent to me from San Jose City, where she is registered to vote, this photo of her right forefinger. The silver nitrate in the ink applied to the finger of a voter ensures that the mark will be in evidence for days to come, which, in turn, ensures that no one will be voting "early and often." I've noticed, after last year's barangay elections and now this one, that many Filipinos bear the mark pridefully as a badge of their civic responsibility.  . . . And I wonder whether instituting this practice in the States might raise voter turnout there.

Jane has all three children with her, and I'm making the trip north tomorrow to drive them back to Cab City, along with all the belongings of Lara and Janiah. The two girls will be living here with their Mom and Aaron, I guess from now on. Aaron will start attending school in June, and he wants his sisters to be with him; this and other factors have brought about the change. It will be good to have the sisters in town; Jane visited them in SJC often, but, at least to this close observer, she was missing too much of their childhood.


A popular drink in the Philippines and one I recommend: lemonade blended with cucumber slices. Surprisingly refreshing!









Dengue, NE Pacific, and the Circumcision Decision


People living in the Philippines enter a lottery each year; the chances of hitting it are about about 1 in 2,000. "Winners" spend a week or so with high fever, dizziness, vomiting, and sometimes excruciating joint pain. Dengue, aka "break-bone fever," is a virus transmitted to humans by infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus female mosquitoes. Eighty percent of bitten people who are infected remain asymptomatic; the unlucky ones who become symptomatic, about 1 in 2,000 each year here, have a very bad time indeed. One of the daughters of the manager at Fred's contracted the dengue virus some time ago; she spent three days in a hospital and underwent blood tranfusions -- dengue can drastically lower platelet counts in its victims.

The mortality rate of those that contract the disease is less than 1%; that rate increases for those who contract the much less common dengue hemorrhagic fever, to 2-5% for those who receive treatment, and to about 50% for those who do not receive treatment.

The rains will not begin here for at least another month, but afternoon downpours are no longer uncommon (I snapped the above photo on my way to NE Pacific yesterday). The rain is truly needed by farmers in most of the Philippines after a very long dry spell, but the downpours leave areas of standing water, a fertile breeding environment for mosquitoes. PSAs and billboards have called upon barangay officials and the population at large to find ways to drain standing water, in order to TEPOK DENGUE -- fight dengue.



Several mentions of SM Mall in this blog should be joined by a mention of NE (Nueva Ecija) Pacific Mall at the southern edge of town. I go there occasionally for resupplying, though it has fewer shops and is farther away from me than SM (I don't know what SM stands for).  It was the first shopping mall to be built in Cabanatuan -- or Nueva Ecija Province, for that matter -- and it offers a nice contrast to the SM shopping experience. SM is a place of cavernous spaces, symmetry, and antiseptic cleanliness. NE is a complex, low-ceilinged warren of shops and restaurants with a supermarket at either end and booths set up in the middle of the wider hallways. Unlike SM, NE has a cluttered feel to it; it is clean, but not see-myself-in-the-polished-wall clean. People are closer together here, and occasional jostling is to be expected.

SM City . . .

and NE Pacific.

. . . For many years before the subjugation of the islands by Spain in the 16th century, Bornean Moslems had been trading with Filipinos, particularly in Luzon. They introduced several practices and ceremonies, including circumcision. Today nine out of ten Filipino men are circumcised, and the vast majority of them were circumcised between the ages of 10 and 12.

The practice, called tuli, is considered a rite of passage (one newspaper has called it a "writhe of passage") for preteen boys in the islands. It is performed this far along in life, Jane has told me, so that the child can have input into the decision as to whether or not he will be circumcised. Yet a great majority of boys do go under the knife: it is a cultural norm here.

-- EPA

Circumcision clinics are sponsored by PhilHealth -- and by various philanthropic groups for boys whose parents cannot afford the copay. The clinics are often held in school assembly areas or cafeterias, where the boys are snipped en masse. A local anesthetic is used, but of course there is discomfort during and after the procedure.

While I was at NE Pacific, Jane was in Manila buying supplies for an upcoming circumcision clinic sponsored by the Nueva Ecija Triskelions. Triskelion members who are doctors and nurses will be doing the cutting pro bono; the supplies and venue have been paid for with charitable donations the fraternity has raised.







"If There's No Fighting, We'll Come Back Next Tuesday"


My former wife and I (hi, Weiya!) had two sons who got along together remarkably well. From toddler age through high school, Bart and Jeff's squabbles were few and far between, and I don't think one ever raised his hand against the other. My own childhood with three brothers was less anomalous. I still have a small scar on a knuckle from when I chipped one brother's tooth.

Jane's three children -- Lara, 10; Janiah, 7; Aaron, 4 -- do get pretty feisty with each other. Janiah is a passionate powerhouse who can, and does, stand up to Lara. Janiah and Aaron are often at loggerheads. For all three, jealousy has a hair trigger when one encounters some small good fortune and another does not. They are by turns affectionate/comradely and antagonistic/I'm-gonna-get-you! towards one another. Nothing abnormal here, but their bickering can wear Jane down . . . and does.


For 9 or 10 weeks every April-June school break, the girls are back in Cabsy with Mom, and the three are together under one small roof. Today Jane and I took them to the SM Mall for lunch and some fun. (Jane and I, by the way, are not an "item," in case you've wondered; she is simply the lodestar in my Cabanatuan life, as well as a fine employee.) After seeing how crowded the Jollybee's was, we walked down to Burger King, where the girls and Aaron had chicken and rice. That's right, even American fast food places Phlipside have chicken and rice; Jane was surprised to find out that Burger King and MacDonald's don't have chicken and rice in the U.S. The rice comes wrapped in waxed paper, and it's piping hot.


The fun was had at "kidzoona," an "edutainment center" operated by a Japan-based company and found at malls in many Asian countries. Here, for about $4 out of a parent's wallet, a child for an hour can romp about in several venues, play with educational toys, become a cook or a grocer or a doctor . . . .  

Before heading home I picked up some canned mackerel, juice, and small goodies for the children at the supermarket. Aaron burst out crying once at lunch due to a perceived slight by Lara, and once on the promenade after Janiah did I'm not sure what. Which had Jane and I putting our heads together in the car. Jane asked them in Tagalog if they wanted to return to SM next week -- yay! Then Jane told them that I wouldn't take them if I heard from Jane there was fighting between them at home. Oh.

Add that one to your bag of pacification tools, Jane.



I'm Back


Okay, that's a relief. For the time being, if you wish to read previous posts, press "My Front Page" in the blue bar above. It's good to be back.

My learning curve for almost anything involving tech resembles the North Face of the Eiger. But I understand the "page issue" now, and will create new ones every 20 posts or so, just as the good fellow named Andres at SimpleSite showed me.  ...I know a smart woman who drove her first car for months and months and then started having trouble with it, because she hadn't known that oil changes are necessary. Am probably now feeling something akin to what she felt then.


There's an evening shot of Jane and Aaron at Subic Bay. We -- Jane, her children, brother James, sister Marielle, and I -- piled into the car on the 23rd and spent two nights at the Mangrove Resort Hotel right on the Bay. I turned 61 there, but a birthday wasn't the occasion of the visit; we all needed some relax-time and a change of scenery.


Subic Bay is a laid-back, touristy kind of place; some Filipinos were staying at the Mangrove, but folks from elsewhere -- Australians, Americans, Germans -- outnumbered them. Temperatures in Cabanatuan had been (and still are) topping out at 36-38 C, but Subic Bay was noticeably cooler with a refreshing sea breeze. The journey there was one of my better calls, but I'll have to be frugal over the next few weeks before my 11-day stay in the States in June.


The Bay is only 5 kms. from the epicenter of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that had struck the day before we traveled there. We felt no aftershocks while there, though according to the news there were some. On our way over we did see cracks in the highway -- surrounded by pylons and topped with signs containing large blue arrows pointing at them. Fifteen of the sixteen deaths attributed to the quake happened in Pampanga, 75 kms. from the epicenter, when a supermarket partially collapsed. Authorities are studying the building materials of the market to see if they were below standard.



High rises rocked in the 30+ second quake in Manila, about 50 kms. to the southeast of the epicenter -- there is a remarkable video of water jostled out of a penthouse pool and tumbling 50 odd storeys to the street below.  ....I was sitting where I am now at 5:11 pm on the 22nd, swayed back and forth with my pc, thought immediately, "this is an earthquake," then thought "61 freakin years old and this is my first earthquake." There was plenty of time to think during this. I thought about getting up and removing myself from the building, then thought better of it. Cabanatuan, 100 kms. from the epicenter, experienced a gentle, rolling motion. While I intuited gentle rolling could be followed by serious jolting, it did not seem as though this would be a dangerous earthquake for my location (indeed, I've encountered no reports of damage in the local news since the quake). I sat and wondered at the experience.


While we were at the Mangrove on Subic Bay another quake struck well south of us in the Visayas, on Samar. This was a 6.5 temblor which fortunately caused no deaths -- Samar is not as thickly populated as Luzon. 

If these quakes are just the beginning of a concatenation of seismic realignments Phlipside, you'll read about it here.


Looking forward to posting free of folderol. Thanks Andres.