Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Funny weird and "haha"

Ok, there have been some strange things that I have not seen before happen here in Manila. About two weeks ago, Karen and I were in a taxi on our way home. Karen yells “Holy crap, she’s naked!” I start looking around, and then I see that right in the middle of the street, a woman of about 45 is running down the street naked. She was totally normal looking, healthy, hair combed and clean. Her expression was like, ‘I am running for exercise”. We just kept on going. We still laugh about it. Also, we were eating in a restaurant a few days ago and next to us, a family sat down to eat. A girl about 20 leaned over and bit her boyfriend on the ear. He flipped out and grabbed her hand and smacked it a few times. They both started crying. Everyone just kept on eating their lunch not even really reacting to it, so as not to lose face. After ten to fifteen excruciating minutes they seemed to make up, so we left, show’s over.

Something else is real funny too. Karen and I were staying over at her Uncle Mike’s (does everyone have an Uncle Mike?) house and as is the accepted custom I assumed, men are often shirtless in the Barangays (neighborhoods). Mike has four kids, mostly very behaved aged 2-12. (the one that acts up the most, Joevic, is a chip off the old block, as the explanation was given to me.) Mika, the 2 year old, was just starting to warm up to me, showing off her Spongebob Squarepants plush toy and backpack. As it was hot, I casually pulled off my shirt, not knowing that the kids are unaccustomed to body hair, of which I certainly have my share. Mika came walking by and as she turned to be, totally “double-taked”, and then with eyes real big and out of the sides, kept walking until she had reached the safety of her mother. Ever since that day, Mika has been apprehensive in coming close to me, even with a shirt on. I think they tease her when she is fussing or acting up with a “You better be good, or Kulya Joaquin will get mad at you” or even worse “If you don’t behave, you will have to kiss Kulya Joaquin” (that one ALWAYS quiets her down.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Well, I had an idea for some interesting facts about the Philippines, but couldn't find the site again, so I am winging it. 88 million people puts it at the 12th most populated. Putting it well over these countries.
Vietnam 83,535,576
Germany 82,468,000
Egypt 77,505,756
Ethiopia 73,053,286
Turkey 69,660,559
Iran 68,017,860
Thailand 65,444,371

Also, ex Filipino president Marcos is #2 all time stealer of money from his country, estimates have it at 5-10 billion USD. Joseph Estrada (another esteemed Philippine president, embezzled $78-80m to become the 10th biggest corrupt world leader.

Filipinos are #2 in t.v. watching, #7 in total University students, #5 in total Christian population, and I just bored myself silly with this blog, sorry to all that read it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Xmas Break

Well, its that time of year again. Reflections or whatever you want to call them... I like to reflect, I just dont Windex the mirror first, if you catch my drift.

This has been a great year for me, mostly because of my dearest and sweetest, Karen. She has made the impossible in my life possible.

This year I have had the opportunity to go to Cancun, Honduras, Belize, New Orleans, Gatlinburg and Nashville, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, and of course I am writing this self indulgent tale from Manila. It has been a banner year of travel for me, the crown jewel being that I am back in school, studying to become a Health Care Professional of what capacity only time will tell.

Every day I learn something new and interesting here, if I had a nickel for every sociological lesson that I have learned the hard way in my travels, I would be a millionaire. I guess its boastful to say that in a way, but I say it with the most sincere self-depreciating tone that I can. Hey, Im lucky and I know it. Also, I think I make my own luck by allowing myself the opportunity to let chance and randomness take the reigns once in a while. I guess I am non-structured and disorderly to some, but hey, it works for me.

I just bought a harmonica from a guy in the street selling them for about $0.75. It is without a doubt the cheapest of harmonicas that one could purchase, but ibrainier brainer because I am always busting the reeds on my $40.00 Lee Oskars and my budget is such that if the opportunity to buy a crappy harmonica presents itself, I jump at the chance. I havent played in so long. I hope to jam out one of these days, just need to find a blues band. I saw Freddy Aguilar in the Hobbit House a couple of weeks back. Freddy is a Dylan-esque standard in the Philippines, singing and playing music about Filipinos, women, and Filipino women. I got his CD and had it autographed, I thanked him for his performance (though short) and he said "Sorry man, I was so drunk". I excused him and casually (a bit drunk myself) asked if I could jam with him one day (he is a regular at the Hobbit House) and he humored me by saying "sure" though I am sure he was just being polite, I mean the guy is a legend. And from what I have learned, though extremely polite in social discourse, Filipinos would rather say "yes" even if it means "no, actually". Either way, it was a very good night, even though my squeeze was not feeling well enough to make it out. BTW, the Hobbit House is a very well known establishment featuring big name draws to its intimate 1500 sq/ft size. Another thing interesting about the place and size is that it is run and employed by midgets.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gettin a bit frustrated

My teacher today during Religion 2 was very expressive today about his dissatisfaction with the administration, general class participation, and the lackadaisical (sp?) attitude of most of the students at the school. I was in complete agreement. Karen and I are pursuing school in "Baguio", a beautiful northern city five hours drive to the north. Fresh grown coffee, no pollution and a mean temperature of 80 degrees. Hold me back!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Back Home

Well, after three weeks off, we got back home (for now). After the usual jetlagged zombie state, we are faced with the daunting enrollment procedure that is necessary to get you the classes that you want. After approximately 25 signatures from administrators, librarians, student advisors and the like ; I am about 50% done. Tomorrow should the essential rest, then another week to fine tune it. I should have anatomy and physiology (and lab), chem 2 (and lab), Filipino, English 2, Algebra 2, Sociology and my P.E. and two more I am forgetting. This will bring my year one total credit hours to 56!!

Anywho, I am back to the grind, and it's all good, as usual.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

High yellow

Made my 2nd yellow promotion today. Sparred with a 14 y.o.. He was scared witless, but he did ok. I gave him a few points. In all, we had a good time, Karen got her 1st yellow. We are really looking forward to our vacation back home, and I have my schedule mapped out on my calendar on this blog. We have decided to stay here in this apartment for the time being. Once we finish our exams, we will be leaving the next day, no time lost....

We bought a pirated copy of World of Warcraft, per my sister Rinah's recommendation. The version we have here can be played offline, to basically see if we want the online (real) version. Video games, beer, pizza; ahhh, the life of a student..

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The High Five

Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker are often credited with having participated in the first baseball high five in the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1977, with Burke receiving credit for "inventing" the high five (in the context of sports) because he raised his hand first after Baker scored a run.- Wikipedia

The High Five had some good times in the late seventies and even through the eighties. but in the early 90's, it began to erode into parody, finally dropping off in North America when Bill Clinton high fived Al gore on his innaugeration night.

Did you know that the High Five is alive and well in the Philippines? I was amazed at all the high fiving going on here. I thought I had been teleported back in time to an advanced screening of Police Academy: The Movie.

It seems to be the exact context when you would have seen a High Five being executed in say, Simi Valley California Circa 1983. One participant usually says something to another, then a witty remark is exchanged to the other, resulting in a mutually agreed point that is glorified for all bypassers and onlookers to see with an ensuing coordinated hand clap.

As in America in the 80's the ultimate rejection of someone would be the non return execute of an offered high five. To avoid this obvious social faux pas, I have seen people High five others who they obviously disagreed with, but politely returned the jesture, lest they "leave you hangin'" which is the equivalent to the hand extended to shake, yet ignored. It takes exactly 3.8 seconds to go from soaring emotional bliss to rejected foolish shame when the highfive is not reciprocated. Anyways, you will see at least 10 High Fives in the Philippines a day, more if you are a student or employed. In contrast to America, High Fives can be seen being participated by generally more women than men. Though the cause of the High Five is almost assuredly about the mutual agreement of the foolishness of a man.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What to do?

I am sitting in an internet cafe in near my school.... I have 55 minutes until my next class starts. I have eaten lunch already.. They don't have the latest games here, so I guess an hour long session of "BattleField2" is out of the question...
Looking forward to going home for a couple of weeks. The schedule is set tentatively for a time in Socal, Florida, Utah and then back home. I can't wait to rink some good beer. That has to be the one luxury that I have most missed these past months (coming up on 6!)
I am going to try to post pictures on here one of these days. It isn't as easy as it would seem. I have TKD tonight and am looking forward to sparring. My last match was a bit one sided as my opponent came to class late (fresh legs) and then was instructed to merely"counter" my attacks, and I was instructed to attack with 3-5 kick combinations. in about 45 seconds, I had kicked myself into exhaustion (ever try kicking 30-35 times? in a minute?), while my opponent would sit back, and counter my (by this point) slow and tired flaylings. Still, it is a good lesson in endurance and I am better for it, I suppose. I made inquiries into other Martial Arts available here. My instructor says that his brother is an accomplished "Arnis" combatant. I am interested in that particular art as a friend of mine with much experience in full contact sports has recommended it highly. I mostly enjoy the mental challenge that martial arts provide. You test your strength in many different ways, and usually surprise yourself when you are called upon to use it.
Today we are to hand in our take home test in Chemistry. It almost seems laughable to have a take home test given the likelyhood and prolific tendandancy for Filipino Students to "lend" and "borrow" eachother's class work. Karen and I generally do not participate, but every once in a while I slip, either sharing or looking to receive a "share".
I actually remembered to bring my umbrella today and Karen forgot hers, making me the temporary "nah,nah-nah-nah, nah" king today, as she usually holds that post unchallenged.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Inappropriate feelings stirred by Katrina

I am more shocked and more disgusted by what Katrina did to show of our society than the actual storm damage itself. A natural disaster is horrible by any account, yet they are unavoidable. Preparedness can only get you so far, but ultimately, whatever belief system you employ is going to be the factor in how well you make it or not when an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane hits you. Painfully so, Katrina pulled away the much praised patchwork of one of my favorite cities and showed it for what it was. A gross example of apathy, ignorance, pride, greed, vengeance....
aren't there a few more to make seven? Rather than letting us feel compassion and caring, we the people of the current era find ourselves bitterly angry at each other once again, as if someone needs to be blamed for a disaster. It's the President, it's the Governor, it's FEMA, it's the Mayor, it's the police, it's the looters, etc., etc.
Imagine for a moment if this would have happened to America 50 years ago, our grandfathers would have rolled up their sleeves, and started bailing New Orleans out, one pail at a time, not thinking for one second to stop and figure on whom to cast blame. How can you blame mother nature? You could of course, but where will that get you? After the cleanup, there would be questions, but there would be a greater resolve to work together. Now look at today, in the aftermath of this tragedy, there will be further divisiveness and further disdain. The people will be pulled further apart from a common goal and they will take further distant stances from each other. All the while, people who profit from this chaos (certain media, politicians and other power hungry predators) are greedily licking their lips at the headlines and the mindless drones that fill their ranks and pocketbooks.
It's sad what happened. Also, the hurricane really sucked, too.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Many lessons learned

As usual, I brashly walked into another painful lesson that I had to learn the hard way......Filipino meteorology.... It would seem that the weather that we had for the past month was in no way indicative of the weather we were to have on Saturday night. It slowly and steadily rained for the entire party. Not to be out done, the food and drink arrived two hours late. We were saved by the graciousness of our guests, who seemed to enjoy our company regardless of the bribery of enticing imbibments. Eventually, there were large tarpaulins made available and we rigged up some tents on the roof and ate and drank anyway. It turned out to be probably more memorable in the long run. I hope my guests will look back on the event fondly, I am still shake my head with the "timing" issue of the rain, something that I obviously had no control over...
This is the week of Pre-Final exams, so we are to be examined and then released early, we are in good spirits as any students is being allowed to play "hookey". I have my Algebra test tomorrow, it is on word problems and linear equations. So far this is my most difficult area of the class. Karen is usually eager to help me in my studies, but she has not yet offered to help in this particular occasion, I think she must share the universal disdain for word problems that everyone else has. If I can figure it out, I will post some pics of the party and general life here... Maybe one of me in uniform!

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Party

We are having a party tomorrow. Gonna get some good eats supplied mostly by Karen's family. (Her uncle is a caterer and her other Aunt is also going to make some stuff. In all, we should have 60+ guests at our rooftop shin-dig. An interesting mix of people, karaoke, booze and food. We spent the day basically working out the details and fine tuning our operation. Tomorrow should be a breeze. I will be charging up the camera to take lots of pictures. Check here for them!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I am a yellow belt!

Made my yellow belt promotion today. It was at least 95 degrees in the dojo where I took the exam. Had to perform the first two "foundations" then do a series of fundamental self defense postures, followed by a personal interview with a Taekwondo master. Passed with flying colors. Celebrated by purchasing some Taekwondo shoes and a t-shirt promoting the "lifestyle"..... We mysteriously have the day off of school tomorrow, so I will be kicking back (no pun intended) reading and probably take in a movie.
Karen and I are planning on hosting a party on our roof top next weekend. She is "allowing" me to take the reigns, though I think she seceretly wants me to be publicly humiliated! Kidding. I was planning on a basic affair with swimming and some games (maybe a clown, ugh) or the kiddies, then some karaoke and food/drinks for the adults later. Mostly, it will be Karen's family, our school mates and Taekwondo friends. Should be fun, I am getting a list together of what we will need. Party catering is a big business here, and it is fairly affordable for us.
I weighed myself today at the gym and noted that I have lost 21 lbs since I arrived in the Philippines 4 months ago. Most of this is a result of dietary change and non stop sweating. The Teakwondo doesn't hurt either. I am going to look into some dumbbells and a small bench just to keep muscle tone. The diet here is kind of lacking in protein, so I eat a lot of eggs and tuna (the easiest and most readily accessible forms of protein here)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Should I or Should I Not?

I was given the opportunity to anonymously comment on the current facilities at my school. After some moments, I found that I had nothing complementary to say, so I withdrew my opinions and crumpled up the survey. Then, I began to look at what was really bothering me and realized that most of it centered around misunderstandings and the like, not institutions. I also considered the fact that someone could be hurt by remarks I might make, especially out of context or misread. This is a dangerous thing to comment by the written word. It has a degree of officialdom to it. Like you researched and came up with a theory, not just some casual hypothesis. The written word is a powerful weapon. I hope to one day to wield it with skill and precision. If I should be clumsy with it, may my blows be glancing and superficial. (that was a very elaborate safety net, wasn't it?)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I have friends that have spent years in the Pizza business. I have always loved pizza and have eaten amazing quanity of it. On one occasion, I actually ordered the pizza "unsliced", then folded in half and ate it "Calzone style" (long before Calzones had been introduced widely as they are today), to the amazement of an onlooking friend. I guess gluttony is at the core of all of my best pizza stories. Here in the Philippines, real pizza is rare to find. There is a decent establishment making pizzas from a combination of native and imported ingrediants. The result is surprisingly good and somewhat affordable in comparison to other imported cuisine. My eating habits have changed slightly when it comes to pizza, I must admit I now prefer either margharita (sp?) with fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic, or a vegetarian, but always a thin crust. My strangest pizza was a taco pizza topped with ground spiced beef, sour cream, lettuce, red hot sauce and grated cheddar cheese. I was always threatening to get it, like "oh, let's see, that TACO pizza looks interesting...... (a lie)". In the end, the taco pizza was consumed though not feverishly as is the general rule. I can eat pizza for every meal of the day, though I prefer it cold only for breakfast.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Way of the Foot and Fist

Today I had my Taekwondo class. Taekwondo is a Korean Sport and Martial Art. Similar to Karate, but instead of an emphasis on strikes and form, Taekwondo is more fluid and favors kicks to punches and wearing body armor and sparring to performing elaborate pre-determined forms.. You can translate that to " ......'Pop!' Hey, was that my hamstring?!"
Karen is taking it now, too. . She is keeping quiet about her experience to the instructor for fear that he will ask her to lead a class or something, I have found this will be an excellent leverage point to lord over her as in, "If you don't do the dishes even though it is my turn today, I will tell the instructor you are a blue belt!" On Sunday, I am to take my yellow belt promotion. I have taken many forms of Martial Arts in my life, this one is the most challenging. Though I wish it were for the reason of style difficulty, it's more of an "age" thing. I can kick well over my head now though. The methods of stretching would make a medieval dungeon keeper wince.
Ok, going to bed now. Sound sleep is assured!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Well, my first real post. We have "Week of Prayer" this week at school. 2 x 1.5 hrs a day for the whole week. This will be the most religious service I have attended in my entire life put together. On the home front, Karen and I are figuring out our living arrangements yet again, and it looks like we may be moving in with her Aunt's immediate family, not far from where we are right now. This would help us out financially to be sure, though the loss of privacy might be the issue du jour for a while. It rained like crazy today, stranding me under an awning while making me late (though still 30 minutes early by Filipino time standard) for our 2nd chapel period.

Filipino time will be familiar to some as the "Manyana" (sp?) type of attitude towards various meetings or deadlines. Similarly there is a cultural indifference to punctuality, and to a lesser degree, a sort of fatalistic view of events, e.g. A professor cannot show up for a scheduled class because there is a required workshop elsewhere across town that he must attend. After the professor is approximately one hour late, someone will pop their head into the classroom to inform the well mannered and not in the least bit agitated class of students that their class was "cancelled". Not a raised eyebrow or question will ensue.