Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for two years. 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; thanks to them for letting me describe here their trials, successes, heartaches, celebrations, passions, in order to give American readers an idea of Filipino life. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. I'll post at least once a week. Tap the lower floors above for earlier posts, and, as ever, click the pics to embiggen them!

Christmasy at Fred's.

You can reach me at boan.song@gmail.com 😀


Well, Hello There, 2020.

Happy New Year, everyone! James, James's friend Vin, Bernie, and I sat at a table with booze and barbecue, observing traffic and fireworks in the waning hours of 2019. One of the main fireworks distributors in the city sets up shop every year just down the street from the duplex, and spontaneous displays of pyrotechnics were abundant in the neighborhood. Spirits at the table were not especially high, what with the loss of Montero only a week ago; the keeping of a time-honored celebration seemed the beginning of a return to normal, though, and we took pleasure in one another's company.

Jheng had prepared the food ("pulutan": what one eats when one is drinking), but had gone to sleep before I arrived. She'll keep her job at the night market until the end of January, and currently sleeps a few hours in the early morning and a few hours in the evening. Mira, Marielle, Mich, and Luz dropped in now and then, and I poked my head into the other half of the duplex to wish Des and her friends a happy new year. About an hour before midnight I asked James to take me back to Fred's: was not used to staying up so late, and besides, I knew I had drunk my fill, and then some.

Hope, at the end of this year, has never before seemed more cherished or more ephemeral to me -- at least, I don't think it has. On the world stage, the U.S. and Iran. The U.S. and China. The U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. and Russia. The U.S. and Venezuela. Each case involves American-imposed sanctions with predictable outcomes, yet each set of sanctions appears justified -- well, for the most part. To keep a jihadi regime from acquiring nukes, to take nukes away from a totalitarian despot; to get a country that cheats us in business to stop cheating; to convince a country that stole a piece of another country to back down. It all seems reasonable. Venezuela, though, is a different story, and a familiar one, involving the U.S.'s penchant for squelching socialist governments when they arise in the hemisphere. A drop in oil prices led to Venezuela's economic stagnation; but U.S.-led sanctions, including an oil embargo, precipitated a crisis.

The frequency and strength of cyclones are rising due to the warming of the oceans. The death toll from Typhoon Ursula (above) is now 50. (Agence France-Presse)

Speaking of fossil fuels, when it comes to governmental response to climate change, we've reached the end of a "low, dishonest decade," to use an Auden phrase. It was widely acknowledged among national governments at the start of the decade that human-produced climate change was on its way to effecting catastrophic changes in agriculture and coastline, among other things. Much governmental wringing of hands, a few subsidies thrown at the outmarketed clean energy industry. Then the costs of clean energy started coming down, and countries all got together in 2016, the same year Americans put a climate change denier in the White House, and agreed on targets for the reduction of carbon emissions. A high-water mark (forgive the callous metaphor).   

Yet worldwide carbon emissions have increased each year since the agreement was signed. Okay, the increases are getting smaller, but emissions today are more than 4% higher than when the accord was agreed to. And scientists generally agree that we are rapidly approaching various tipping points.



Scientists and cartographers have put together some startling images of what the world would look like without the polar ice. Hey, we get a new Great Lake! http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/environment/waterworld.html

If that phony baloney is not out of the White House by Jan. 2021, and if the genuinely radical members of Congress, the deniers of science, are not largely curtailed in the coming election, I suppose the U.S. may have to watch these tipping points go by, all the while having known they would go by without prompt and determined action -- instead of taking a lead role in pulling humanity back from the brink. The stakes may be that high. One stupid election.

Well, that's some of what's on my mind in this new year, this new decade (don't start with that "the new decade begins with 21, not 20" -- we're in the 2020's now; good enough for me). Pretty glum thoughts, I know. But Auden couldn't be kept under by a global meltdown in his own life. He ends that poem, "September, 1939," not with words of optimism, but with words to which very many of us today would give assent, I think. Google it, if you will.



Godspeed, Montero

It is a rice-planting time, and, away from the city this morning, shimmering paddies dotted with white egrets lined the roads. I had hired Darwin, who is on the staff at Fred's but also a trike driver, and young Marielle had hitched a ride with us, sitting side-saddle behind Darwin. We were on our way to Kalikid Cemetery to say goodbye to Montero Garcia, Mama Luz's partner in life for sixteen years, in a graveside ceremony.

Uncle Montero's body had lain in its casket in Luz's living room for three days; now the hearse from St. Francis Funeral Parlor, festooned with flowers and playing on its sound system songs I suppose Montero had loved in life -- mainly love ballads sung by women -- was bringing the body to its final resting place. A number of tricycles, including Darwin's, as well as the jeepney of Luz's brother-in-law Bernie, made up the procession.

It was blessedly overcast, no strong sun beating down on the attendees and the workers arranging interment. Graveside, the coffin lid was raised a final time, and we filed past, some with final spoken messages for Montero.

Because of the periodic, drenching rains in the Philippines, the dead here are interred above ground in tiled or bare cement crypts (mausoleums for the wealthy), and cemeteries are built on elevated land. Kalikid Cemetery sits at the top of a small rise and is surrounded by orchards and vegetable farms; I noticed some fruit trees just budding (mango?) were growing in the cemetery itself. It will be a nice place for the family to visit on All Saints' Day, and other days.

I wish I'd known him better.  Jheng's children are still in San Jose City; they return after New Years. We'll take them to this place.


Shock and Sorrow

Montero Garcia, Mama Luz's partner, died suddenly at the duplex late Christmas night. Luz had gotten up to use the bathroom, and when she returned he was stretched out on the floor next to the bed. She couldn't wake him up. Michael and Mira's boyfriend Arvin, strong and young, were next door; they carried Uncle Montero to transportation and took him to the hospital, where doctors worked to resuscitate him, to no avail. They said he had died of a heart attack. He was 56 years old. Jheng took the earliest jeepney from SJC to us upon hearing the news.

I did not know him very well; Montero was a hauler who often was on the road. He was a quiet, kind man who would stretch out his hand with a smile when we did see each other. When at home, he had been helping Luz through her recent health problems.

Jheng, James, and Marielle all texted me in the morning. I went over later, after Montero had been returned from the funeral home to the duplex in a casket, stationed only a few feet away from where he had died the night before. So sudden and final and sad. Jheng was crying; Luz seemed stunned, but had the presence of mind to introduce me to Montero's older brother and the older brother's wife. I did my best to let Luz know how sorry and saddened I was. Jheng and I stood at the casket for several minutes, and then joined James, Mira, and Marielle at the back of the building. We chatted on and off, and spent a lot of time in somber silence.


Photo by Jheng.

Jheng is planning the funeral and leading the money-raising for it. I've decided to withhold the car payment until my January check arrives (my savings are in stocks). If Sir Sherwin penalizes me for a late payment, so be it. It was pushing noon, and Jheng seemed so worn down after a sleepless night: she didn't want to eat but agreed to try to get some sleep. I told Luz I would be back the following day. James drove me to Fred's.

It's been a day of intermittent downpours. Typhoon Ursula plowed through the Visayas -- most of the islands between Luzon and Mindanao -- on Christmas Day, and we are feeling its after-effects. It was not as powerful as Tisoy, but it killed at least ten Filipinos.  Since I was a teenager, what holds us to earth has seemed to me a tenuous thing. It must seem more tenuous to the so many Filipinos living a hardscrabble life, in a country where nature often is not a kind mother.


And So It Is Christmas . . .

Went downtown today to buy Michael's girls presents and to make a car payment. Before leaving I put a wad of purple P100 notes in my shirt pocket for mendicants I might encounter. There are not many beggars in Cab City, but in the weeks, and especially the week, before Christmas their numbers increase. Nearly all tired-looking women with children in tow, they stand at traffic stops and waylay the occupants of trikes. Today I parted with only P100; a lady had sent her little daughter among the stopped cars and trikes.

Yes, I went to make a payment for the car I still have not gotten back from the shop. There was a problem with the insurance claim, which turned a long process into something longer. Sir Sherwin at Pinoy World Assist was taking care of the insurance, and I'm still not sure what the exact problem was; was eager to get information from him as to when we'd get our wheels back. So I trudged up the three flights to his office, only to find the gate to the office locked. No one in sight.

I did find three nice-looking stuffed animals for the girls: a panda, a doggy, and a hedgehog.

Aaron and Lara with a little cousin at Larry and Lori's place in San Jose City. TV in the Philippines has two main offerings: screwball comedy and Sturm und Drang. The latter seems to be on behind the kiddos. Photo by ?

Jheng and the children are with Larry and Lori in San Jose City. Lacking the days off I had last year, lacking the equipment to cyber-tutor on the road, and lacking fast transport with which I could drop in on them for a day, I'm remaining in Cabanatuan. The folks at the duplex have invited me over for Christmas. And so I'll descend on them, armed with boxes of cookies, tootsie rolls, pizza gift cards, rum, whiskey, and stuffed animals: be forewarned, Javiers, Guevarras. Mama Luz and Auntie Des will serve up a memorable meal, and probably we'll sit down to a movie on Des's wide-screen. Should be a fine time.

Jheng returns the 27th, and we'll connive together over ways to turn up the heat on Sir Sherwin(!)

Family and friends Stateside and Phlipside,  Maligayang Pasco!


A Christmas Party and the Barangay System

The photo above finds me yesterday sitting at a table outside the Pancake House, waiting for a potato salad. I'd taken a trike to the SM Mall to renew a prescription at the Medical Center, get provisions, and buy cake ingredients for Jheng: 3 packets of crushed grahams, 3 cartons of Nestle All-Purpose Cream, ripe mangos. The cake will be her contribution to the Triskelion Christmas Party on Thursday.

I was to attend another Christmas party yesterday evening, the one held each year by the trike drivers' association whose stand is across the street from Fred's. This was no pot-luck affair; I had received one of their letters of solicitation two days before and had ponied up P500 (about 10 bucks). From their grateful patrons they receive each Christmas enough to purchase a huge spread of chicken and duck, many cases of beer, many bottles of whiskey, and the rental of a portable karaoke machine. Some time ago Kuya Bogs, the head of the drivers' association and the council captain of Barangay Bitas, had asked me to attend the party and raise cups with the drivers; I had said hell yes.


Not a great pic; the photographer was tipsy. With Kuya Bogs and the other drivers last night.

As the sun went down later in the day, I clearly heard Kuya's strong baritone, though my windows were closed and the air condioner was on. I'd listened to him sing before this; he's one of the two or three best singers I've encountered in the Philippines, and this is a place where a lot of singing goes on. Heading out, I picked up a plastic seat on Fred's front porch and carried it across the street, where the festivies were being held under one of those trike stand awnings that politicians provide to ballyhoo their names.

They graciously welcomed me. During the next two or so hours, I made new acquaintances, joined many toasts, turned the microphone down more than once, and talked with Kuya and others (using English as plain and vocabulary-light as I could make it) about topics of the day. Most but not all of the drivers are pro-Duterte but decry the tactics of the administration's drug war. They see in the president a strong leader with mainly good policies. We talked about the American president and my abhorrence of him. Most Filipinos, as well as these men, see Trump as a weak and vain man in a position of enormous power, and they wonder at how a person like Trump could gain loyalty from so many Americans. The trike drivers' little English, and my "littler" Tagalog, made deep political conversation quite futile, though, and many talk-threads petered out, giving way to the passing of beer and bird and microphone.

Barangay Bitas's "Covered Court" for basketball, volleyball, and community meetings, sporting the names of donors and politicians responsible for said structure.

Across the street from the court stands Bitas's barangay headquarters. ("Bahay Pamahalaan"="House of Government.")

In May, 2018, Kuya Bogs ("Kuya" means "older brother" in Tagalog; don't know his given name) was reelected to the captaincy of Bitas's barangay council. Beneath him on the council, also elected, are seven councilors and the chairman/woman of the Youth Council. A barangay is the smallest unit in the Philippine government: there are 89 barangays in Cabanatuan City, more than 43,000 barangays in the country. Across the nation barangays have an average population of about 2,500.

Among the services Kuya and his councilors provide are directing families in distress to appropriate governmental agencies -- in many cases driving people to those agencies and advocating on their behalf. Barangay headquarters is a place of conflict resolution between barangay citizens, a service of the councilors which in many cases obviates the need for costly legal representation in a slow-moving court system. The councilors are responsible for the upkeep and regulation of barangay public facilities, and the barangay captain, who can hire unarmed deputies, is empowed to enforce laws and, with citizen input, create barangay ordinances. Councilors intercede in cases of child abuse, drug abuse, and juvenile delinquency; contracts for work within a barangay are signed with councilor witnesses; people go to bgy. headquarters for copies of their birth certificates, proof of residence, and other documents. At least two councilors are on call around the clock to provide these and other services.

First-time barangay coucilors go on a retreat with other first-timers shortly after being elected to learn about their new responsibilities. My friend Larry -- Jheng's former father-in-law and the grandfather of her children -- was a dedicated barangay councilor in San Jose City for many years before being edged out (by 5 votes) in the last elections. Larry was told he lost because he refused to buy votes (furtive vote-buying does happen in the Philippines). He loves helping people and loves the barangay system; I hope he'll put forward his candidacy in the barangay elections of Dec. 2022!


https://www.philatlas.com/barangays.html http://www.chanrobles.com/localgov3.htm#.XfciyegzaUk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay


Cabanatuan's Night Market and the Southeast Asian Games

Photos of Cab City's night market by nammarjalino21.

The larger cities of the Philippines have night markets open all hours of the night. They are a popular destination for Filipinos because good deals on almost anything you can imagine buying can often be had there. I've not been to Cab City's night market when it was open (from dusk to dawn); the photos above come from someone's twitter account. Jheng began working a 2am-to-6:30 shift at Cabanatuan's night market a few nights ago, helping out a chicken and frozens foods vendor who is a friend of Mama Luz. The weeks leading up to Christmas are very busy times for night market vendors, and Jheng's stint will last only three weeks or so; as you might imagine, though, her sleep schedule has made this a puffy-eyed time for her.

I could have provided the extra cash she's making. But Jheng has shown me a number of times that she is an independent woman. And one should not gainsay an independent woman in this kind of matter.

The Southeast Asian Games, held every two years and hosted by the Philippines this year, are having their closing ceremony today -- and it's been fun these past two weeks watching some of the competition on TV! Typhoon Tisoy did cause the rescheduling of many events (the death toll of Tisoy seems to have stopped at 17, by the way), but the huge array of competitions, involving 56 different sports, was very smoothly run.

This was the 30th edition of the SEAG. Many sports of the Olympic program -- decathlon, marathon, swimming, basketball, to name a few -- are in the SEAG. Sports I never really considered sports -- chess, bridge (the card game), snooker -- are also in among the competitions. I found most interesting some of the the non-Olympic sports specific to the region, among them pentaque (a kind of bocce with small, heavy balls) and arnis (a martial art I had never seen before).

-- Sport Tempo


Sepak takraw is a gas to watch. Imagine a game of volleyball in which the use of hands or arms is not allowed, and you have an idea of this sport. Such acrobatics! Check out the match between the Philippines and Indonesia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncYAjhWsubs


The Philippines won the medals race -- for only the second time in the history of the games! The exploits of Filipino athletes have filled many a newspaper these days; national pride is riding high Phlipside, for sure.


-- Manila News Headlines


Tisoy Aftermath


Tuesday afternoon it rained in Cabanatuan, and the wind picked up, though Cabsy was never in the zone of damaging wind. I triked to the supermarket to pick up some groceries for Jane's family and goodies for the children, who had the day off from school. Aside from huge puddles in areas without drainage, which one expects to see here on rainy days, the city seemed undisturbed by the typhoon to its south; plenty of people were out and about.

In the southern part of the island it was a different story. The storm left a path of uprooted trees and flooded towns; and so far 13 deaths have been attributed to Tisoy. But typhoon preparation is much improved in this country since Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) took more than 6,000 lives in early November of 2014 (people were still discovering bodies in January). Building codes, response mobilization, and both evacuation centers and evacuation procedures have been modified an expanded. More than 225,000 souls were moved to evacuation centers ahead of this storm. Tisoy was no Yolanda, in terms of size and strength, but it's almost certain the changes made after the experience of Yolanda saved lives in Typhoon Tisoy.

An evacuation center.

--Rappler. Bicol two days ago.

--Rappler. The kind of mess people were left with yesterday.

Humanitarian assistance is well under way.


Tuesday, 12 pm

In Cabanatuan, the tops of trees are swaying under a gray and brooding sky, but we have not seen much in the way of rain. From Legazpi, Tisoy headed not to the northwest as anticipated but westward. The eye is directly south of us now, but about 180 miles away instead of the 80-90 miles predicted. Northern Mindoro is currently dealing with punishing rain and wind, and Manila is experiencing gusts approaching hurricane force, but Cabsy is pretty much in the clear. Maybe thunderstorms tonight, if Ventusky has it right.

No news yet from Legazpi and Naga.


Typhoon Tisoy

Mama Luz is nearing the end of an initial ten-day lineup of very strong meds designed to knock the tuberculosis on its keister. She throws up every day (the doctor had told her this would happen) and of course feels terrible. Soon she'll begin her first month of a regimen of more tolerable drugs; we all look forward to that.

Yes, a typhoon is on Luzon's doorstep. Typhoon Tisoy (international name: Kammuri) will make landfall this evening near the southern tip Luzon, an area known as the Bicol Region. The Ventusky model has the storm hanging out in Bicol for a few hours and then making its way northwestward toward Manila. Its eye will pass maybe 20 miles south of Manila before it churns out into the South China Sea.

The biggest threat of wind damage, flooding, and possible loss of life lies in Bicol, where Tisoy will be at its strongest. There the cities of Legazpi and Naga, each with a population of more than 200,000, are in the path of the storm and will experience several hours of winds gusting over 110-120 mph. Evacuations aided by the Philippine Army's 2nd Regiment began yesterday morning; as of yesterday afternoon, more than 3,000 people had been removed to evacuation centers.


Legazpi, a tourist destination and home to many expats, is situated near the stunning (and active) Mayon Volcano. (news.mb.com.ph)

Wouldn't you know, it's the Philippines' turn to host the Southeast Asian Games; opening ceremonies took place Saturday evening. The venues are all over central and southern Luzon, and this storm will definitely put a crimp into the first couple of days of competition.

Will post again tomorrow or Wednesday with news of Tisoy.


Mama Luz 2

She had had pain and a consistent cough pretty much since she recovered from the blood infection a few weeks ago. Knowing her mother's reluctance to see doctors, Jheng planned it carefully: she arranged an appointment with an internist for Luz, and did not let Luz know of it until the day of the appointment. Yesterday Luz underwent a large battery tests.

The visit.

Sad news on the diabetes front.

The first ten days of meds.

Mama Luz has diabetes; her number is now well over the threshold. She likely has a partially blocked artery, which is giving her palpitations. And she has active tuberculosis. The internist proposed getting the diabetes under control and seeing her through a six-month multi-drug regimen to kill the TB before treating the arteriosclerosis.

Likely, her compromised immune system, back when she had the blood infection, led to her contracting TB, or led to turning an already established latent TB into active TB. The meds Luz will be on for six months are very strong: her first dosing last night caused her to throw up. Her system will just have to get used to this latest assault. More than a year ago I helped her son James receive the six-month regimen when he became sick; now it is her turn.

Active TB can be passed on to another by one under treatment for up to 3 weeks after the medication regimen is begun. Jane is buying face masks for Luz today; also, the doctor prescribed an elixir that boosts the immune system for Jheng's three children. Everyone at the duplex will be breathing more comfortably when this three weeks has passed.

Annual tuberculosis incidence (per 100,000 population), by region — worldwide, 2017. CDC.gov.

In a recent video call, my sons and I were discussing disease in the Philippines (the boys are worry-warts regarding my own health here), when Jeff asked about the incidence of TB Phlipside. I didn't think it was beyond that of other Third World countries, I think I said. Well, since Mama Luz's diagnosis, I've done some digging, and now realize I was wrong: sorry, Jeff. The prevalence of TB in the Philippines surpasses the prevalence rate of any other Southeast Asian nation. Worldwide, only in South Africa and Lesotho is the disease more prevalent than it is here. Between 200,000 and 600,000 Filipinos are thought to have active TB, and many more than that have the latent variety.

"Worldwide, tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from a single infectious disease agent and the leading cause of death among persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection" (cdc.gov). This year, WHO has initiated a campaign called "It's Time" to eradicate tuberculosis from the planet by 2030. The Philippines' Secretary of Health Dr. Francisco Duque this year at a WHO symposium in New York committed to finding and treating all Filipinos with latent or active TB by 2022.

--WHO Philippines

That's a tall order. Currently, the country's public health care service, PhilHealth, offers only palliative remedies designed to drive the disease back to its latent phase and not to root the disease out. The cost for that 6-month regimen of "root it out" drugs is substantial -- Luz's treatment will cost close to $1,000 -- and while Secretary Duque may brim with optimism in New York, the government here would have to find well over $1B to screen the entire population and cure everyone with latent or active TB.  . . . . I'm not brimming with optimism.

But seventy to eighty Filipinos each day die of tuberculosis. The government must at least work short-term to find ways to drive that number down.

I'll keep you informed of Mama Luz's progress.






No Matter How Many Degrees You Have, Don't Forecast a Typhoon from 6 Days Out

Well, the typhoon that was moving up the east coast of Luzon (international name: Kalmaegi) stalled at the northern tip of the island and then retraced its path (unusual, for a cyclone in the northern hemisphere to move directly south). As it moved south over water it dissipated, but had enough energy to shunt to the north the developing storm that had a bead on Manila away from land.  The Ventusky forecast simulation did look nasty, but Manila's in the clear now.  . . . And that Ventusky gizmo has another typhoon directly east of here and moving directly west . . . 8 days out. Huh, we'll see about that.

Razors, cotton balls, deoderant, fish for the cats, juice: I was in need and so made a rainy-day solo trike trip to the mall a few hours ago. Jane is delivering letters of solicitation to various public officials to raise money for the Triskelions today; couldn't get the pleasure of her company. She loves this volunteer work, loves doing good for the community, but there have been times when she has been run ragged in her role. Her two-year term as provincial secretary will be coming to an end before long. I haven't yet asked her if she'll seek another term.

A pan pizza before shopping.

We're about to enter the third month of the Philippines' 3-month Christmas season: Fred's has its tree up, its manger scene prominently displayed on the reception counter; seasonal music, mainly Western but some Filipino, seems to be everywhere; shop assistants and the supermarket staff all sport Santa hats. It may take me another year or two to get me in the mood this early, folks --remembering the deracination I felt my first October/November here, though, I can safely say I'm no longer put off by the length of the run-up. Maligayang Pasko!

On the ride back to Fred's, took a drive-by shot of one of the handful of lapida (grave tablet) maker shops across from the Cabanatuan City Public Cemetery.

Yesterday President Duterte said publicly that there were no plans to revise the grain import tariff put in place last February, or to reimpose any of the pre-tariff restrictions on grain imports: not good news for the farmers of Nueva Ecija, some of whom will be facing bankruptcy in the near term. Strangely enough, the retail price of rice has not fallen with the price of unhusked palay; the PCC (Philippine Competition Commission) states the retail price should be 27 pesos/kilo -- more than two pounds of rice for 54 cents! -- but it has remained close to pre-February levels. Of course, an investigation is under way. . . .

Also, yesterday that pugnacious prez banned vaping country-wide: the selling of vaping materials, the import of vaping materials, the puffing itself. Guess that little shop down the street called Planet of the Vapes will be shutting its door for good.





Mid-November in the Tropics

I've lived most of my years in Massachusetts, teaching in Boston and in Leominster. Two times of the year I rarely appreciated there, climate-wise: November, when the crisp air and vibrant colors of October gave way to a gray, cold dankness; and mid-February to mid-March, when snow had outworn its welcome but kept coming, when a yearning for spring was something like a neural itch in my brain. (It's likely a Bay Stater reading this 30 or 50 years from now would muse over the changes -- I'm no denier, and doubt governments of the world, acting in accord, will be able to seriously mitigate climate change.) 

On Luzon, in the lower elevations, day temps now reach the high 80's to low 90's, and will reach the mid-80's, typically, in January and February. The real heat sets in in April. The rainy season is over now, though thunderstorms still occasionally bring afternoon entertainment. This year, typhoons have tracked north of the Philippines more often than they usually do; the typhoon season is not over, however! One is supposed to skirt the east coast of Luzon this weekend, while the Ventusky weather site has another hitting Manila, south of where we are, in the middle of next week.

2019 typhoons (so far).

Baguio? Jheng seems amenable to making the move, and after two years in Cabanatuan, I'm ready for a more temperate climate. Baguio's highest temp, ever, there in the mountains of the Central Cordillera, is 84F. Fireplaces in homes are common. There are reasons to stay for a while longer in Cabanatuan, however. It would be best not to disrupt the children's studies before the school year ends next April, for one thing. For another, I'd like to be around for the city government-mandated "shrinking" of the duplex building -- who knows, but my presence -- and Jheng's -- could be of some help. Also, Mama Luz has had some bad days recently; she's experiencing joint pain, which may or may not be related to her earlier blood infection. If it continues, we need to get her to a specialist.

Jheng in pensive mode. Photo by Aaron.

Jheng and I have agreed to marry "sometime next year." The pairing is unusual; a longish engagement seems a wise decision to both of us.

Update: next day.

The Ventusky map has still got it in for the folks in Manila: this is the next Thursday evening version of that map, which also puts Cabanatuan in the zone of drenching rains (more than 2 inches/3 hrs). It's a forecast from six days out, and I'd be surprised if they turn out to be accurate concerning landfall and timing. It's definitely a storm to keep track of, though.




Passing 10,000

I was going back over the material concerning the "transfer" of the Philippines from Spain to the U.S. 120-odd years ago, and malaise set in. Tinged with nausea. We went and did what we had been roundly criticizing the colonial powers of Europe for doing. And we used the talking points of those European powers to excuse ourselves. I can't write about this business now, don't have the fortitude for it. Might get back to it later.

There were critics of the American move back then, some of them fierce, like Mark Twain, who wrote:

"True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world. . . ."

Janiah defeating me in a memory game.

The "10,000" in the title of this posting refers to the number of "hits" the blog has received since it was begun in the middle of last June. Dividing the number of 10,070 on the counter today by the number of days active (490, give or take), I find that the blog receives an average of 20.5 visitors a day; this is gratifying, reader, more than enough to keep me pecking away.

Lara remained in San Jose City with her grandparents after All Saints' Day because of an opportunity there for her to receive free of charge the human papillomavirus vaccine, which guards against 4 strains of the virus that causes cervical cancer. It was a good find, because the vaccine normally costs more than P5,000 (about two weeks' pay for the average Filipino). Unfortunately, the agency making the offer to residents of SJC arrived in the city late, and now the anticipated two days of school absence for Lara has turned into a full week. She will have some catching up to do, for sure.

The Avanza has been shop-side for more than two weeks now, so this morning I sent a friendly email to Sir Sherwin asking after the car's status. Hopefully we'll have wheels again soon!

That's about it from Phlipside this posting. The day temps are still topping out at about 90F here: have read about morning frosts and the scent of wood smoke in the air from fb friends back in Massachusetts; and, yes, nostalgia seeped into this old noggin.




The Earth Is Moving South of Here

Photo sent by Jheng from San Jose City.

It's All Saints' Day; Jheng, her children, and her husband's family are camping out at the gravesite of Jheng's Larry, who died suddenly of a blood clot in his brain a little more than five years ago. They have brought food, cleaning equipment, flowers. I really like the idea of setting apart one day each year to remember, with dear ones, dear ones who have passed away. It's a renewal of the consciousness that these people are always with us: guiding us, celebrating with us, reflecting with us.

Five hundred years ago, Protestants saved some rites and customs of the Old Church. But by and large they dropped this holy-day with it attendant customs.

Philstar/John Unson

Three strong earthquakes have occurred on Mindanao, the large island at the southern end of the Philippines: a 6.3 on Oct. 16, a 6.6 on Oct. 29, and a 6.5 yesterday.  Three days ago, the 6.6 killed at least 8 and injured many more; yesterday's 6.5 did the damage seen above (fatalities have not yet been  reported).

Mindanao is a few hundred miles south of Cabanatuan on Luzon: no earth-shaking was felt here on any of the above dates. From its northern tip to its southern tip, though, this vast archipelago is vulnerable to seismic and volcanic activity. In this particular section of the Ring of Fire, a continental plate to the east of the islands is traveling west, and a continental plate to the west of the islands is traveling east. The result of this currently is a major strike-slip fault just to the west that is locked (not good), and continuous subduction to the east, as the Pacific Plate pushes the Philippine Plate under the Eurasian Plate.


Earth Observatory of Singapore

For the first time in my life I experienced a shaking of the ground back in April, just a day shy of my 61st birthday -- it's likely that I'll go through more such rumblings before shuffling off this mortal coil!


The Price of Palay

One of the rice fields on my way to the duplex.

The night before last Bernie, Jheng's uncle and a jeepney driver, was pulled over to the side of the road and beaten by two men in an act of road rage. Six of the family, including Jheng, took Bernie to a police station to file a report; they were at the police station for some time and got little sleep. I read about it yesterday morning in Jheng's text and decided to pick up some shortbread and malted milk cookies, bring them over to Bernie at the duplex, and commiserate with him. The three grown children of Bernie and Des -- Mich, Michael, and Mirasol -- were downstairs on that side of the duplex this Sunday afternoon, and told me their parents were upstairs sleeping. I left the goodies with them. Apparently Bernie was not too badly hurt.

On my way back to Fred's, I looked out over the rice fields and thought about the recent trouble of the farmers. Palay, or unhusked rice, is at its lowest price in 8 years. A kilo sells for P12 (about 24 cents) today; it sold for P20 a year ago. The government here recently removed all restrictions on rice imports, in exchange placing a 35% tariff on all imported grain. The tariff, however, did not offset the removal of restrictions, and palay prices took a nosedive. Rice farmers here in Nueva Ecija, the #1 rice-producing province in the country, are very angry.

An Australian I've chatted with, Rick, owns with his Filipina wife several acres of rice in Talavera, just north of Cab City. I ran into a British acquaintance, Eric, at the mall while I was picking up the shortbread and cookies for Bernie, and Eric told me that Rick and his wife were studying other crops that might be planted instead of rice. Producing the rice crop costs him more than the selling of the palay brings him, and the government is not yet making noises about readdressing its grain import policies.



Palay, bagged after being dried, at a government-sponsored cooperative on the Maharlika Highway in downtown Cabanatuan.


Lara w/ teacher and classmate.

Janiah at *kidzoona*.

Morning buddies.



My rotisserie chicken guy.

On the road with Mr. de Leon.

Lara and her halo halo.


Tagalog Musings

Mama Luz is feeling better. The aching no longer brings tears; she is still on her back much of the time, but she really does seem to be on a slow mend.

I get over to the duplex almost every day. Lacking a car, I use the method of transportation I used before I had wheels here: the trike. There is a trike stand just across the street from Fred's, and I know a few of the drivers there well. I celebrated with them at their Christmas party last year, visited a couple of their drinking parties this past year. They were happy for me when I got the car; now they are happy that I need their services again while the car's in the shop.

Trike drivers are the maverick cowboys of Cabanatuan. Listen, most people I've met and gotten to know in the Philippines have a job they landed through a connection within their extended family -- or gone to work in the family business. (The strictness of the rules against nepotism in the civil service here is necessary in a country where "nepotismo" in the private sector is common and accepted.) . . . Trike drivers, though, are solo artists of the open road, wily by nature and beholden to no one. They work their own hours; they know all the bypasses and shortcuts in the city; they can usually repair their own motorcycles and carriages. The hackney license they shell out P1000 a year for is their license to be free of connections, of obligations. (Yes, I'm attempting to romanticize them; they're great guys!)

On another note, my, ah, study of Tagalog has been less than exemplary, less than desultory, really. I have plenty of phrases, a few complete sentences, and these get me some grease with the locals, who then communicate with me in their superior English. "What's the use?" is really no good excuse for not putting an effort into at least becoming haltingly conversational in the language, however. Janiah's English is better than my Tagalog, at this point.

Tagalog (Ta-GA-log) is a strange but interesting language. Across the top in the graphic above, read "subject," "direct object," and "indirect object" instead of the gobbly-gook provided. Those are the pronouns, with the intro words -- ang, ng (pronounced "neng"), and sa -- for these various types of nouns. Note that "we" has inclusive and exclusive forms: one word when you include the listener in the "we" and one when you don't. The verbs of Tagalog have tenses and imperative forms, but apparently lack a subjunctive, and cannot be turned into participles (when the verb becomes an adjective) or gerunds (when the verb becomes a noun). Really, this language is easier than English or Chinese to learn.

But the sounds are pretty daunting. I'll try out a new sentence on a Filipino, feel I've hit every syllable of that sentence, then note bafflement in my listener. ("Oh, you are trying to speak Tagalog?") There are the inflections. Double vowels are not diphthongs; both vowels are pronounced. When "ng" appears at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it is pronounced as English speakers pronounce it at the end of a word, without any hard "g" sound. And it goes on.


Too many English teacher words above, I know. Admire for a moment this neighborhood goat.

English is a West Germanic language that has undergone several changes, and grown in vocabulary through a steady accretion of "loan words," over the centuries. Most English loan words come from medieval French, Latin, and Greek (sergeant, sincere, synthesis); but English is a glutton for new words, and it's borrowed from dozens of languages. Tagalog is a Malay language that has also changed over the centuries; its loan words, unsurprisingly, mainly come from the languages of the two colonial powers that have held sway over these islands -- Spanish and English.

Asul, biernes, edad, gobyerno, lapis, pamilya, sapatos, siyudad, unibersidad. If you have a year or two of Spanish under your belt, you can probably parse out these Tagalog words, especially if you take into account the fact that the Tagalog alphabet contains no "c," "f," "v," or "z." I've noticed, in my own poor perusings of the language, that at least two Spanish words seem to have been borrowed in an interestingly subversive way. "Seguro," Spanish for "sure," means unsure in Tagalog; and "derecho," "to the right" in Spanish, means straight ahead ("diretso"), in Tagalog.

Though it is the first language of only a quarter of the population (see my posting on languages in the Basement Archive), Tagalog is one of the two national languages of the Philippines. The other national language is English. Both languages are taught in the schools, and so three-quarters of the population is to some degree trilingual. (Lara, Janiah, and Aaron have Tagalog as a first language, so they will become merely bilingual.)

English words have worked their way into the Tagalog language, even in cases where there are non-loan words with the same meaning. But Filipinos have changed many of the words, often by cutting them off at the knees. For example, "Choco" is chocolate; "McDo's" is McDonald's; "aircon" is air conditioning; "unli" is unlimited; "resto" is retaurant.  . . . . In Cabanatuan, many restos offer unli rice.

I'll keep writing stuff down, but I doubt I'll ever go at Tagalog the way I went at Chinese. Most folks have (some) English here, and I seem to be past my hit-the-books days. Still, I hope to become haltingly (flailingly?) conversational in the language by the time I reach my mid 60's.



Mama Luz.

Four days after Luz Javier was taken by Jheng and me to the hospital, four days after she began dosing with several medications to beat back the blood infection she had contracted, her back and legs were still causing her a great deal of pain. Jheng took her to a massage shop for a professional rubbing over. It didn't help much, Jheng texted me last night. 

I awoke at 5:30 this morning, fired up the machine, and quickly noticed the message from Jheng: "Were here now at the hospital we rushed mama luz she's in chest pain." The time signature was 1:27 AM. It's 11:00 AM now; Jheng and her siblings are at home getting some sleep after a sleepless night. Luz could hardly breathe last night; word is she now breathes without discomfort, but she is to stay put in the hospital for the time being. There have been more tests, and changes in her medications may be in the offing.

And I'm without a car in an emergency. My agent took his sweet time arranging for repair of damage sustained months ago; it went to the shop the day before yesterday. (Jheng had warned me that once it went in, it could be weeks before we saw it again, so I wasn't exactly pushing hard for speedy action.) Mariel came by in a trike this morning to pick up money; Jheng was down to her last P200, what with the new testing for Luz. Hospitals Phlipside are strict in their billing practices. I remember the time not so many months ago when Jheng was raising money for the family of a Triskelion member who had died in a hospital; the hospital wouldn't give up the body to the family until the bill was fully paid.

On another sour note, the political situation back in America has many possible ways of going from very bad to worse, it seems. My sons think my alarm verges on paranoia, but I feel the run-up to the 2020 election, and the election itself, will be fraught with deceptions, strongarm tactics, "outside influence," and civil unrest.

It didn't take a special kind of demagogue to produce this moment in history; any kind of demagogue would do. Since Reagan the fault lines in American society have been growing ever more pronounced; the 2008 Recession sped up that pace. So now we have a president who won power, and who is maintaining power, by playing upon the divisions of a union at ebb tide, as a run-of-the-mill demagogue would. Our real misfortune, we may find out, is that our demagogue is not a pacifist; he is capable of inciting violence, and may become inclined to do so.

"The Second Coming" is 100 years old; written by W.B. Yeats in 1919, just after WWI, the poem presents a world in which "[t]he best lack all conviction, while the worst/[a]re full of passionate intensity." Today the worst have that same old passionate intensity. It remains to be seen if the best have enough conviction to right this mess.


Mama Luz

Photo by Jheng

Mama Luz, Jheng's mom, has septicemia -- a blood infection. We took her to the hospital this morning; she had been complaining of a "whole body ache," and was having trouble walking. After many tests, the diagnosis was made and many meds were prescribed; we picked them up at Mercury Drug on our way home. She is to have complete rest and is to return to the hospital if symptoms worsen; in addition, she is to return to the hospital after five days if she is not significantly better by then. This is a serious illness.

It is likely my days will be busier than usual during this time, and so I've shelved the entry concerning the U.S.'s decision to take over a country halfway around the world; it's a depressing entry to write, but one that I think is important, and I've put some study into the topic. Expect its appearance in the next week or two.


20 Minutes of High Anxiety

The scamp at Shakey's before . . . .

Jheng continues to help with Triskelion functions in the run-up to the Triskelions' 51st anniversary October 3 and 4. Today she is at the semifinals of a fund-raising basketball tournament; tomorrow she'll borrow the car to check out the venue for the provincial chapter's celebration in the town of Lupao. I've agreed to be a sponsor; Jheng said the chapter didn't have money for refreshments for marchers in the parade on Thursday, so I'm pushing their way the 50 bucks she said they needed.

Given all of Mama's busy-ness, I decided it was a good time to take the kiddos to their favorite place in the city, the SM Mall. Jheng's younger sister Marielle wanted to join us, and late Sunday morning I swung by in the Avanza to pick them up. We had a good lunch at Shakey's, the children had an hour of fun at *kidzoona*, (does one put a comma before or after an asterisk?) and I brought Marielle by the optometrist's to get her eyes checked (turns out she is farsighted; I got a good deal on glasses for her).

Marielle was in the supermarket shopping with Janiah; I was across from the supermarket with Lara and Aaron waiting for a bacon cheeseburger which we would bring back to the duplex for James. Lara reached for my ear and whispered to me that she needed to get more paper for school, so I handed her a P100 note, and she headed for the escalator, Aaron tagging along. Sundays are crowded days at the mall, and either on the escalator or in the large open space in front of National Bookstore, Aaron must have lost sight of Lara. About five minutes later Lara returned without Aaron, said she hadn't even known Aaron was following her. Marielle and Janiah were with us by then, and I thought, okay, he's still in the bookstore, probably engrossed in something he came upon.

Janiah and I went up to get him. He wasn't in the bookstore. And that's when anxiety set in, because it occurred to me that Aaron probably hadn't known where Lara was going. Janiah and I checked the park on the large second-level deck: no Aaron. Back on the first level we all cased the supermarket, thinking Aaron might have decided to join Marielle and Janiah there. No Aaron. Marielle was looking more and more alarmed and upset; I can't say I was taking this any more stoically than she.

Alone I walked toward the middle of the first level, searching the thighs of the crowds, about the level at which I would spot the head of the five year old. No Aaron. Back at the supermarket Marielle and the girls were gone: great, I thought. Now I've lost everyone. I stood outside the supermarket for about five minutes, and then Lara and Janiah ran up, Lara in tears. A lost boy was on the fourth level at the administrative office; Marielle had reported our situation to a mall cop, and the cop told her a boy had been found.

The girls raced ahead of me; I reached the fourth level and scanned the edges of its vast open area for an office. Just as I picked out the sign high above a door, I noticed my whole crew exiting the door, Aaron holding Marielle's hand. He had been found bawling outside of *kidzoona* on the third level! On the ride home I mentioned to Marielle in a low voice that ten-year-old Lara had been crying. She quickly told me that she had been crying too; walking up to that fourth-level office, she was half-sure she would encounter a strange boy, and the thought set tears flowing.

I gotta be a better lookout when it comes to the children, especially when it comes to inquisitive and incautious Aaron. Jheng was understanding when I texted with her later, which helped me with my unease.

In the courtyard at Fred's, a tamarind tree had to be taken down because of wind damage a few weeks ago, and now a resurrection is taking place below my window. Does the new growth die eventually, or does a healthy tree grow from the old stump? Of course I've considered metaphorical implications here; I'm an English teacher. The cats now number 11 or 12; if I'm in my room during an afternoon, I still get occasional visits from Boudicca. Have plenty of free time this week, which my students have off due to the celebrations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the founding of their nation.


Polio Redux

I'll be referring to Jane as "Jheng" in future posts. That is her nickname and the common moniker for her. I could do the same for other family members -- Janiah is Beibung, Aaron is Bo, Marielle is Chiopai . . . -- but don't wish to confuse the reader: they will retain their legal names.

Anyway, Jheng has been very busy recently with Triskelion functions (you can read a post on the Triskelions in the Basement Archive). A trip to the provincial prison with care packages for the inmates, a cleanup campaign in three Cabanatuan barangays, trips to government offices with letters of solicitation to raise funds: these are projects in which a provincial chapter secretary plays a vital role. The trip to the prison was two days ago and the cleanup campaign is tomorrow. As I peck this out on the computer, Jheng and a colleague are buying provisions for a boodle fight in order to feed the many Triskelions who will be involved in the cleanup tomorrow.

A boodle fight I attended soon after I arrived in 2017.

A "boodle fight" is a traditional Philippine way to feed a large group of people. Cutlery and plates are dispensed with. The food, usually barbecued meats and rice, is laid out on a table covered by banana leaves, and people stand shoulder to shoulder as they eat with their hands. The use of "fight" is in jest: boodle fights I've attended have been very friendly affairs.  . . . Jheng today will be buying food for a boodle fight much larger than the one pictured above: its trestle table will be perhaps 10 yards long!

Folks in the States, you're reading and listening to news of a president who appears to have tried to extort dirt on a political rival from a foreign head of state by threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in already promised funds: you have no shortage of woeful, mind-bending political news. In the Philippines a different kind of woeful news has been in the headlines for the last three days: nineteen years after the announcement of its eradication in the country, polio has returned. A three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy have the disease.

If you're a germaphobe, or even if you're just a little skittish about your own health, the Philippines is probably not for you. The cities are not the cleanest in the world, and the tropical climate allows infections to start easily and spread quickly. Moreover, a host of diseases that are rarely if ever seen in the U.S. have a pretty good hold here: dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, diphtheria, e coli. About 200 Filipinos, mainly uncareful children, die of rabies each year. But polio was one the government thought they had extinguished, snuffed, wiped out. 

Ironically, the polio vaccine itself, and inadequate practices concerning that vaccine, are the causes of these new cases. The World Health Organization in a report has described the etiology of this "other" polio:

"Vaccine-derived polioviruses are rarely occurring forms of the poliovirus that have genetically changed from the attenuated (weakened) virus contained in oral polio vaccine. They only occur when the vaccine virus is allowed to pass from person to person for a long time, which can only happen in places with limited immunization coverage and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Over time, as it is passed between unimmunized people, it can regain the ability to cause disease."


photo: Rappler

My friend James is living with the consequences of his exposure to polio as a child, and those two children, too, will live out their entire lives burdened by the consequences: polio is incurable. The two children live more than 100 kilometers apart, and that is a wake-up call, for the cases apparently did not derive from one carrier.

The Department of Health in the Philippines has launched a “Sabayang Patak kontra Polio” campaign in the Manila area to increase vaccination compliance, and in time the campaign will be nation-wide. Only with a high compliance rate will the factors which caused these two cases -- and perhaps more in the near future -- be eradicated.




They Want to Widen the Aurora Road

Well, reader, I misunderstood the issue that led to the taking down of Mama Luz's foyer. The city government wishes to widen the Aurora Road, and Mama Luz was informed that at least the foyer would have to go. It appears now that the government wants the front few feet of the entire duplex to be removed; this according to Jane. The living quarters are cramped enough now for the 12 people who live in the structure; this change, which the government has the power to enforce, would make life very uncomfortable for my friends.

Mama Luz, and probably Des and Bernie, will soon attend a meeting for Bantug Norte (their barangay) homeowners concerning the matter. After this meeting it will be clearer just what the city government wants, and when it wants to do it. Jane is not optimistic. You see, the two families are squatters; they built on public land. More on this later, I'm sure.

It has been soggy, soggy, soggy here: downpours every day. On Wednesday enough barangays were in varying states of flooding for a citywide no-school day to be called. I offered to take Jane, Marielle, and the kiddos out for lunch. Jane wanted to try the halo-halo place that the rest of us had gone to during the weekend, so we ordered an array of dishes there and were pleased to find out that their food is just as good as the creamy concoctions they whip up!

In national news, today, the 20th, is the 47th anniversary of the imposition of martial law upon the country by Ferdinand Marcos. Student leaders and faculty at the University of the Philippines -- #401 of the top 500 universities in the world, according to the London Times ranking --  have signed a resolution declaring all Marcoses persona non grata and want all UP campuses to be declared off-limits to the family that still wields political power in this country (one Marcos ran for vice-president in the last election, another is currently a Senator, a third is a provincial governor). In the 1970's and 80's, thugs connected to the Marcoses systemetically murdered leaders of the protest movement against martial law, and many of these people were UP students. To mark the anniversary, a large papier-mache image of the deceased Philippine strongman was created at the entrance to the main hall of UP's Diliman Campus. Gotta love the anti-fascist movement. Everywhere.

photo credit: Nino Jesus Orbeta


Jane's Family Just Grew A Whole Lot Bigger

Over the weekend, Jane took public transportation to Paranaque, a city in Metro Manila, to see her father -- I offered her the car, but she said she did not want to have to deal with Manila's traffic. I've mentioned in a previous post that Jane, James, and Marielle had recently reunited with the father who had left them when they were small; he settled down in Paranaque and started a new family many years ago.

On this trip, the father wanted to take her to the province of Rizal, east of Manila, to meet the family from which he had run away after a terrible fight with his father when he was just 14 years of age. He had never gotten back in touch with his family until just recently, if I'm not mistaken more recently than his reaching out to his Cabanatuan children; nostalgia certainly put a grip on him this past year. Anyway, he has eight brothers and sisters, each with his or her own family. And so Jane had a great deal of catching up to do with this platoon of uncles, aunts, cousins, and children of cousins whom she had never met before! She sent me pictures; everyone in them is smiling, I was relieved to see.

The church where Jane attended the christening of one of her "new relatives."

Jane with (I looked it up) a first cousin once removed.

It was a remarkable visit for Jane. While she was in Paranaque and Rizal, I stopped by the duplex and offered to take the children out for halo-halo, that cold Philippine treat; Marielle joined us. A little restaurant that specializes in halo-halo is less than a kilometer down the Aurora road from the duplex; we were stirring our concoctions together and munching on fries within minutes.

A thick, sweet syrup full of fruit in the halo-halo Aaron and I chose needs to be pulled up with one's spoon into the shaved ice/condensed milk center. What you see at the top are egg slices done adobo style and corn. Yes, corn. It was delish.

In other news, the conference platform Cathy found for me to tutor upon has proven less than adequate. There are sound issues, and students have been unceremoniously jettisoned from two sessions so far. Also, it is slow. Enterprising Chinese had pirated this platform from an American company, but had not done a very good job of pirating, it seems. Perhaps they just need time to get the bugs out; at any rate, Cathy is searching for a better platform, and google has helped me to provide her with some possibilities.

. . . And the small foyer I've always known to exist outside the entrance to Mama Luz's half of the duplex had to be dismantled yesterday; city officials had told her it was too close to the Aurora road, and if she didn't take it down government workers would be sent out to demolish it. It had been a convenient structure in many ways; footware was placed there, clothes were hung to dry there, and the foyer provided a place from which to sell to passersby protected from the rain. It will be missed, I'm sure!


Swamped and Happy




As one of the runoffs on the second-floor deck of the SM Mall indicates, downpours can be pretty dramatic on Luzon. A string of typhoons is moving westbound north of the island, barging into Taiwan, Japan, and the Chinese coast. They themselves are by and large not affecting us, but their counterclockwise spinning is pulling southern monsoon rains up into Luzon: for the past several days it has been very wet here. Parts of roadways are under several inches of water, the umbrella is essential gear, and Boudicca seems quite indignant at the crimp this is putting into her outdoor time.

Speaking of crimps, the Chinese government put a big one into the few hours of tutoring I do online each week. The U.S.-based platform that the Chengdu-based tutoring service uses was just placed off limits to the Chinese citizenry, and Cathy and I had to scramble to find a new and suitable and "Chinese allowed" conference platform (Cathy, who has a high-pressure, full-time corporate job, is the founder and runner of the service, as well as a good cyber-buddy of mine). Well Cathy found one that is based in China, and we kicked its tires last night in a trial run. Not bad, though the earlier platform had seemed to be faster at pulling up "share" material.

I'm guessing Cathy and I are part of the collateral damage caused by the trade war that Trump and his trade crony Peter Navarro are currently waging against China. China's own unfair trade practices must not escape blame -- though it should be remembered that China's piracy of American intellectual property mirrors America's own grifting off of Great Britain throughout the 19th century. But add to the piracy China's subsidizing of export goods, its forced labor camps, and its manipulation of the yuan. The playing field is not level.

What Trump and Navarro are doing is wrong-headed. The tit-for-tat amping of tariffs between the two countries will cost the average American household, according to JP Morgan, more than $1,000 a year; jobs on both sides are being lost, and a record number of American farmers are declaring bankruptcy; more startling, a global recession directly attributable to the trade war is looming, according to many economists. The U.S.'s hamfisted approach was formed without the consultation of America's allies; it was with the help of those allies that we had made some progress in curbing some of China's unfair practices under the Bush and Obama administrations. Trump's egotism and vanity seem more in play here than whatever level-headed problem-solving skills he may possess. Going toe-to-toe with the other big kid on the block will play well with his base -- until the economy takes a nosedive.


I'm kinda creepy-looking here, no? But love Mary Jane's expression.

On a quite different note: offhandedly, more than three weeks ago, I asked Jane if she would marry me. Two days ago she said she would. Now we find ourselves, in the rain, in a very different relation to each other. I know: the age difference, the language issue, the cultural divide, . . . the age difference. I'm patient; she too is patient. Both of us have lacked closeness with another for a long time. I think both of us yearn, in the words of Robert Creeley's "The Rain," to

[b]e wet

with a decent happiness.


May the rain be good to you, too.






Find earlier posts on the 1st Floor!