Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Divided Line

When I first landed in the Philippines on that very hot and humid day in 2010, it was a culmination of my dreams that came true after 5 years after communicating with people from there.  Everyone that I came in contact with tells me how great the country is and there is no place like home. I had some reservations on that because I am in the USA and is a foreigner; people look at you at a entirely different way. When the trip was coming close, I was scared. Here I am going into a country that I enjoy talk to online (I still do) and now here I am. I don’t know how to react.  It was an eye opener.

When I first started talking to a Filipina, I felt more connected talking to women than men. Strange as it is but I needed conversation. I was not really looking for a wife or a girlfriend. I was more curious and wanted to learn about something different. One of the first that I talked to said, “When are you going to come here?” I go, “What?” I never really thought going there. All of this was going on the first week of chatting. After our talks were getting serious I felt over the head. I was thinking “This woman is fun, sweet and caring” and that prompted me to learn more about the country and the culture. Looking back on it, I am shaking my head now. Not good to get your feelings over your head and everything is so great but I was young at the time and I haven’t experienced this before.

Over the years, I was still communicating and over time through a lot of social networking sites just for a friend. I am seeing a lot of Filipinas use social networking sites for relationships and now it is in large numbers. Some are desperate and some just wanted something to get out of their situation. Some write their number to text them. They post a really sexy photo just to get the guys attention of how inviting she is. They would do anything just to get a husband and to get out of the country. I had a bad chat from one that was forcing me to find a guy for her. I am married I told her and I could not guaranteed that since finding someone is very hard.  What were the first words that came up my head: needy, desperate, and conceited.

I know that not all Filipinas are not like that all. What are Filipina women are mostly thinking when they do that and how do some Foreigners react to that and vice versa? It was at that moment that I was thinking, what are some misconceptions they have with each other? It was a idea that I have been thinking writing about for a while since that last chat. Knowing it will be too long to write about it so write about it in sections. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Alone at the SM.

All through my trip, we were always busy. There was something going on due to my wardrobe and dress for the wedding day. There was one time when my wife had to get her hair done. Normally that would take a very long time and take most of the day. So one day my wife gets her hair done and I am around the SM Mall, alone.  She said “Are you going to be okay?” Yes. Even though I am comfortable in malls when I am home, but here in the Philippines, I was worried. Of course, I am here in the Philippines and enjoy it every day but being alone in the mall, I will get attention.

With the laptop as my friend for the time being, I stopped at every coffee shop and just took my time. I would look at my Facebook account and communicate in that way. Lunchtime, I stopped at Greenwich Pizza for pasta. The bill was 135PHP. After lunch, I was off to another coffee shop. This was on the second floor overlooking the mountains of Baguio. It was my second hot coca and my laptop was almost out of power. I found a seat with an outlet to charge it back up. Not much outlets are here at the mall. You would have to find anything since I always have a habit to keep my laptop plugged in which I found out now is not good for the battery.

I was just enjoying my drink and looking through until something happened that I was caught off guard. A group of people sitting not far from me, one of them a woman struck up a conversation with me and asked me if I can look at her laptop. I declined at first and then after thinking about it, why not. I asked her if I can look at it. Apparently she said that she can’t access the internet. I tried for a couple of times. The battery is low and it seems there was not a Wi-Fi setting on her laptop. Apparently, one of the people saw me alone and they knew I was a foreigner and this woman is using her laptop as a way to communicate with me. In the mist of all of this, the worker at the coffee shop came up to me and asked me to remove the power from the laptop. I have two things going on and it felt like a culture shock. I told the person that I will. I felt I was not welcomed anymore at that place. I told the woman that I can’t get it to work and you don’t have a Wi-Fi card. I finished my cup and then I said bye to the group and took the mug back to the worker. I apologized and I was off my way.

I normally don’t know how to react to under those circumstances however it was a learning experience. I believe when you are a foreigner and you are in the Philippines, you are perceived to be something that you are not. That is something that I am thinking of writing next since I have been seeing a lot of it online. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Typical night out

During the first 2 weeks before the wedding ceremony, I have been running around to different locations to get ready for the wedding. Now time to relax and that means going out. A typical night will be at Dencio's for beer and grub. That is the only place in the SM where we hang out before the mall closes at 9PM.

We mostly get appetizers and beer. Plenty of beer. Beer is very cheap so it was one of the first I had a lot. Mostly it was San Miguel Beer but there were a couple of times it was Red Horse. Red Horse is a very strong beer that took me a while to get used to. We talked all the way when the mall closed, then took a taxi to go somewhere else. We would go to a pool hall, play pool and eat and drink more. Just let it all hang out. My wife's friends and cousin would be with us. Most of the questions to me was about music and life in the USA. If they are talking in their dialect, I would listen the best that I can.

Baguio nightlife is well known for their coffee houses and bars that hold shows nightly. Mostly acoustic music. We didn't have any time to enjoy it as we could and although I wished to see more of those shows. Maybe the next time, I will see more of those shows. A typical night will end at 1 to 2 am in the morning and everybody will go their separate ways until next week where we all meet again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SM City and Wal-Mart are not too different.

When I first landed in the Philippines in June of 2010, I really didn't know what to expect. I knew Manila and every town was crowded and traffic is a nightmare but what I didn't expect is the amount of malls especially the SM city malls. I have knew of the malls that a lot of people frequent because of the shopping and the air conditioning since not a lot of people have air conditioning in their homes. However lately, I heard more of these malls are starting to pop up. On the way to Baguio, I see a lot of them. North EDSA (which is the biggest on the Philippines), Pampanga, Tarlac, and Rosales. Some of these happen even in the remote of places in the provinces.

SM City Mall in Rosales
Right now there are 48 of these supermalls in the Philippines including 4 in China. One blogger popped up a question if the SM malls are good for the towns when it comes to jobs, or does it damage the charm of the town or the city? This pretty much is the same question when it comes to Wal-Mart in the states. We have a lot of Wal-Mart's and some of them are converting them into Supercenters, but they are mostly in the suburbs. There is one Wal-Mart in the Chicago limits and the company wants to build more but is causing controversy because Chicago has a lot of small businesses that it thrives on. Same with Baguio. There are lot of shops along Session Road and just noticed that more people flocked to the mall. Is this good? Well I have nothing against wrong against SM City and Wal-Mart when it comes to it. Both companies are a money making machine they have to do what to do. I heard and read that they are going to build another SM Megamall in Cebu. Cebu has one and Cebu is not like Manilla in any ways but they are planning a bigger mall that it will be become the 4th largest mall in the Philippines over the SM Mall Of Asia. Cebu? Really? So another question comes up, will it kill the charm that Cebu has or will it bring more jobs the city and the people need? That is a ongoing debate but it will be interested to see where it goes from here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The SM City Experience

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I have been to a lot of shopping malls back home and I was thinking the same thing when I got to the Philippines. In Chicago, we have one of the biggest malls in the USA, but when I went to the Mall of Asia (check previous entry), all those things I thought I knew went out the window. I was at the SM City Baguio for all the times that I was there. It was crowded every day. Families, groups of people, teenagers and kids roam through the mall every day. People would come to eat, shop, or hang around after school. It is more like of a family experience. In the states, you would shop, get something to eat and then leave but not hang around for the whole time. That is one difference I see that makes the malls in the Philippines different from anything else I went to. I was mostly at the SM City in Baguio to get anything to eat, shop or take a break away from our quarters. With the wedding a couple of weeks away, it was getting into a routine.

The SM City in Baguio is not the biggest one in the world or in the Philippines but it was mostly unique since Baguio is on a high elevation and a mountainous area. This is the only mall that doesn't have Air conditioning and the third floor has plenty of light that makes unique to the other SM City malls. This is one of my favorite places to go.

On the top floor overlooking the fence, you can see Baguio and all it's beauty. It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and the one that really sets your mind into somewhere else. 
The mall has everything. Everything with the wedding we got it here. Photography, barongs, clothes, shoes and everything that you can imagine that you don't really get at the malls back in the states. That is one thing I really enjoy when I am in the Philippines is the malls and there is nothing like it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A typical day

After all that travelling with very little rest, I somehow woke at 10AM getting 6 hours of sleep.  I felt tired and exhausted but one thought in my mind said "It is a new day." Looking out at the window of our quarters, I see other buildings around me with the sun shining. In Baguio, it is not really humid so it is all comfortable. I just look around of where I was at and said, "I really can't believe that I am here."

Our typical morning would be the same through the whole trip. I would normally wake up at 6 to 7AM, putting on the morning shows. It is all in Taglog but that is okay. I just wanted to watch and observe. I usually have a bowl of cereal and just feeling the weather and the feeling of it all. I would watch The Price Is Right and then Showtime after that. Showtime was a brand new show that I was starting to get into at the time.  I would watch it every morning and I do enjoy the programming. They make sure the audience is well entertained and it is like a celebration. After Showtime, there is Wowowee which is the most popular show. Everybody back home is taking to me about saying how much they love the show. I have been a fan of the show but I noticed it is noticeably different than I used to. It is loosing some lustre and it was not the same but it was still very popular. After those shows are over, we go straight to the SM Mall or go anywhere around Baguio. After Noon, the travels that we took through was the most memorable for me. More stories to come.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Will we ever get there?

When we left the Mall Of Asia around 8:30 PM, we are on our way to Baguio. Apparently it had been fixed so getting out of the mall and actually getting around Manila was a challenge in itself. People were going home and still there was traffic, everywhere! We have all of our suitcases and and 5 people jammed in the van. We hit Roxas Blvd and seeing all the lights from one side to the other all in the row. I felt I was in a different place . All of us were exhausted and it was beginning to show. We have a 6 hour drive so the question of the night was, will we ever get there? We stopped at a service station and the driver was taking a while that it felt like hours. Then all of a sudden, the hood was open and he was cooling the radiator so it wouldn't overheat. This might be a long night.

We are on our way and after sometime, were were on the NLEX. The expressways are very similar. They have ramps to get on other roads and they do have rest stops along the way. The speed limit is 100kph and they are strictly enforced. I don't remember the driver even going past 100kph. During the whole time, the driver didn't say anything to us for the whole way. Apparently the day that we had was very exhausting. At one rest stop, he bought medication so he can still be alert and wake up. Now that is the time where I was afraid. A thought came into my had that said "We got to trust the driver." Once we got on the Subic-Clark expressway, it was smooth sailing.

We took a couple of other roads and went through the provinces. You see shops along the streets and everything was dead. I did see a couple of businesses still open but it is a Sunday. During that whole length I was dozing on and off. I did take a nap and hear the radio full of news and love songs so it was relaxing. Every time we get into a new town, I see the Jolibee, Chow King and all other fast food fares. There was a lot of construction too so we would veer off the main road into a temp road. No high tech construction machines here.

There are two ways to get to Baguio. We can take Marcos Highway or Kennon Road. Kennon was more direct and you will see the scenic better. Marcos Highway goes out of the way but it is a safe bet. The driver chose Kennon Road and from there were were on a ride for our life. This road is really hilly and curvy. We are going up on the mountain to get to the top. In my dozed state, we came to a construction area. We veered steeply down and we went across a stream. It was bumpy and scary all at the same time. Even worse off, all the driving up that hill and the weight really put a stress on the engine. Every once in a while, we pull to the side and the driver puts water in the radiator to cool it. This was happening every time we go up a hill or driving through a curve. It felt like hours just by going through this. We were very close to the city and the water was almost gone. Will we ever get there? Somehow by luck, we stop over at a auto repair store and they had a hose. This driver was spraying water all you can. There was another driver next to us and he was doing the same thing. It all felt surreal all at the same time.

We were finally on our way and we finally hit Baguio. We saw the Lions head and we decided to stop off. We were all exhausted and tired. We are finally here and the picture that we took really shows how we all felt at that time. It was 3:15AM in the morning by the time we took photos. We were both exhaused, perspiring and anxious to get to our quarters.

At the Lion's International monument in Baguio. We were exhausted and it shows.

We finally headed to our quarters in Baguio and the guard was waiting for us. The driver parked in the garage and the challenge was to bring all of our luggage. There was no elevator or anything so we have to go up 4 flights of stairs.  The guard out front with his rifle in hand, help us with all our luggage. When all of it was done, we are finally here. After a 18 hour flight, going through customs with immigration problems, 3 hours waiting out in the humidity at NAIA, 5 hours at the MOA and a 7 hour drive to Baguio, all I can do is just fall on the bed and said "Thank god I am here but what a memorable first day!." My adventure continues.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sea Of People

On the way from NAIA, I was in the front seat of the taxi. Looking around I see a mixture of slums and small stores along the side of the street. This is not America. I was just in awe of people and how they living. I feel bad because I felt they deserve something better. We stopped at a stoplight and a little boy was knocking on the window. My mom was shocked and she asked my wife. She felt really bad for those people have to beg just to get by in life.

The Globe at the Mall Of Asia from one of the entrances
A lot of people were outside on this sunny day in Pasay City. I was not sure when were are going at this time. I didn't want to think too much during my stay knowing it would not do me good. Out of NAIA, we hit a couple of streets and back to the EDSA where it ends. Welcome to the Mall Of Asia. I knew what I might be getting into since a lot of people been telling me this mall is huge. I never expect what I saw. Security at the entrances and a sea of people. Everywhere! I couldn't believe it. I was bumping into everyone due to my big skeletion frame. Could you say Tabachingching?

Looking around, they do have a lot of stores that we have here in America. Same as with food. Jolibee comes to mind and it was packed so we couldn't eat there. We stopped at restaurant on one end of the mall (I forgot the name already). My mom just had soup since she was nervous what to eat. The restaurant was packed and I was just being observent of what was going around me. Teenagers with their cameras, a big group of people, a family get-togethers where what I was noticing. Being here not only means to eat, it is to get together with friends and family.

After lunch we stopped at the other end of the mall to get food. I used to work at a grocery store so I thought it would be interesting. Everything was crammed. People are in aisles getting the products of what to get. Everything is smaller even the packaging. One thing that I had to get used to is having a lot of patience and this was no exception. After getting the food, we were keeping in touch to see if the van is ready to go since it will take 6 hours to get to Baguio. So we wait outside.

After some hours, we get word that it will be fixed. But for how long? Looking back on it, I wished I would looked around the mall more. We didn't know if it was going to be fixed right away so we better stay close. We stayed outside for a long time even after 6PM, and then it rained. Really hard. Raining in buckets. There was a lot of miscommunication going on by at this point when they are going to show up. Are they going to show up at the front or someone else? We were not sure so after all the communication going on, we finally found out they were right back to the IMAX theatre. They apparently got it fixed and we were ready to go to Baguio. We met up with my wife's brother and the driver and we were on our way. Or were we? At this time it was 8:30PM.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arriving at NAIA

June 20, 2010.
This day, I arrived in the Philippines when me, my wife and mom arrived at NAIA Terminal 1. It was like a dream. Here I am being at place that I am waiting a long time for. First thoughts arriving at Terminal 1 was, “Wow. It is a old terminal.” The facilities have been outdated. I was nervous going through the immigration officer. I have been told by some of my Filipino friends about some that you don’t need to get a visa. Since I have been staying 27 there, I decided to take a chance. I got information stating that if you marry a Filipina, you don’t need a visa. Since I have been married for over a year at the time, I felt it will be okay. However that was not the case. They only allowed me to stay until July 11th. My flight out was July 16th. This caused a snag. I would have to get a extended stay. Since my wife is from Baguio City, we dragged about going back to Manila to get it settled. I had all these thoughts come in my head wondering what is going to happen. We got our luggage and headed out to the customer pick up area.
The weather was hot and very humid. More humid than a typical summer day in Chicago. We are expecting my wife’s brother to pick us up. It was 11:30 AM by this time and my wife was expecting him at Noon. Despite it is Fathers Day, everybody is outside and I must of know that traffic is bad. After 4 hours of waiting in the heat and my socks are soaking with the humidity, he finally arrived. We got all of our luggage in the van and we are all set to go. However we found out there was another problem: the car overheated and would not start. They had to get it fixed and the van had to stay at the airport. Unsure what to do, one of them have to stay with the van while the driver has to get the parts to fix it. After my wife and her brother talked about what to do, it was decided to take us somewhere until the vehicle gets fixed. So me, my wife, my mom and Koby took a taxi and headed to the Mall of Asia. My adventure was just beginning.