Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why yes, I am Martha Stewart

I have noticed that since moving here, I tend to be more "crafty". This is not to say I have any skill at it, it just comes as a surprise since I really did not do ANYTHING craft related before moving out here. Here, life seems to be opposite of the states in some regards. I feel like in the states, I was of the mindset of why do something if I can pay for it to already be done. Why make coffee in the morning when I can just grab a cup on the way to work? Why iron when the dry cleaner will do it for me, better and faster? Here, there is the mindset of why pay to have it done, when I can do it myself. And this thinking led me to try and become Martha.

Despite what you may think, it is the Christmas season. The evening news has a countdown which is why I know there are 37 days left until Christmas. No Thanksgiving to break it up or get in the way (since I am going to SF this year for Christmas, I was overruled and Thanksgiving will not happen at my house this year). Thus, the start of the Christmas shopping. We have 18 village security guards, ~30 clients or professional associates, countless god-kids, and billions of people in my in-laws neighborhood. These are our somewhat obligatory gifts and do not count close friend or family. Our security guards get grocery baskets (rice, ham, sardines, tuna, cookies, tube of potato chip things that look like french fries), clients get wine (some get fruit as well), god-kids get age appropriate books or educational toys, and the billions in Tondo get toothbrushes (we gave out 500 last year). Needless to say, we start early.

Wine was selected at S&R and we went to Divisoria to buy the wrapping (as well as a fake Christmas tree). The pre-decorated bags were P25 each (~$.50) but we could buy plain craft paper bags for P13 (~$.25). Guess which way we went?

Started with a plain bag

Bought red and green ribbon for P17 (~$.35 per 50 yard roll), little holly leaves, and red berries ($.30 for 10 sticks with two pieces each), Christmas labels for P10 (100 labels ~$.20), and a glue gun for P60 (~$1.25).

While watching a downloaded episode of Top Chef, we made the above bag.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Next year will be the presidential elections. I am still (after over three years here) at times very confused by politics here and still have not fully grasped how everything works. I am ecstatic that GMA will be out of power (unless she pulls some last minute shenanigans). I also love the parody videos that tend to come out around this time as well. This is by far my favorite of the moment.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Our village is one of the villages in the Philippines that usually participates in Halloween. While it is not a country-wide holiday (like All Saints Day the following day), some areas do have events. This year, Halloween was canceled in our village due to Ondoy. Besides the fact that many houses in the village sustained damage, a squatter area right outside the walls was almost completely decimated. Thus, it was decided that the money usually spent on the Halloween should be spent (and rightly so) on grocery donations for the people who lost their homes.

The kids (who live in Tondo which is one of the areas that does not have Halloween celebrations) had been asking about Halloween for the past few months (since perhaps July) since they had been here last year for the village party and trick-or-treating. There was no way we could just tell them Halloween had been canceled so we instead decided to throw a Halloween party at home.

We did everything fairly traditional with the exception of costumes because we knew the kids would want to swim and it seemed like a waste to have everyone all dressed up just to jump in the pool 20 minutes later. We had swimming, spaghetti for lunch, and a bunch of games. A slew of the kids slept over and they stayed up late into the night watching horror movies. It was a very successful holiday all around and everyone woke up early enough to go to the cemetery for All Saints Day the following day.

Bobbing for apples....

Doughnut on a string game

Our Halloween giveaways were little paper mache pumpkins (which look like eggs due to the fact that I used water balloons instead of normal balloons). We filled them with candy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Adobo Aso

Eating dogs was a post I avoided writing about because it is such a cliche. The whole Filipinos eats dogs is as tired to me as a travel show coming here and focusing on none of the cuisine besides balut. So what changed my mind? Well, it had a lot to do with the dog I saw being slaughtered this morning.

While statistically, that majority of people who live here do not eat dog meat, to say that this is an extinct practice or one that only takes place in the north or in remote provinces is way off. It definitely happens and to accidentally witness the slaughter, makes me want to vomit. I do not fall into the camp that believes that because I live in another country I have to either love or respect all aspects of the culture and to do otherwise is either some form of neocolonialism or sneaky manifest destiny. I think that the home slaughter of dogs is disgusting. It is worth noting that both the dogs I have come across being killed were in Manila.

I grew up in a major city. I have never lived on a farm. I eat meat. If I saw the cow alive before I ate it, I would likely not be able to eat the steak. I am one of those who likes to pretend my meat was born already chopped up at the butcher. However, I think even people who are used to the animal as food equation would have issues with a dog being repeatedly bashed with a 2 x 4. This is the second dog I have come across being killed in the three years I have lived here. I have not gotten desensitized to it and likely never will.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The flooding on Saturday was horrible--and we were some of the lucky ones. Although we had heard there was a tropical storm coming, we honestly did not pay much attention to it as there are a slew of tropical storms and typhoons each year. We did not think this would be any different and in fact were already dressed to go out when the rain started falling harder.

By early afternoon the water was coming into the house. All in all we got about three feet of water on the first floor. Our fridge floated (it never really occurred to me that a fridge would float). We were able to move a lot of items upstairs and really the only damage we had was loss of everything in our fridge (flood water got inside) and a lot of our cabinet doors no longer open or in some cases no longer shut. A woman a block away from us drowned and a young man on that same street was bitten by a snake. We really were okay. Once we moved everything upstairs, we hunkered down for the evening. We never lost electricity (actually people told me later that it is best to turn off the electricity in a flood--we had no idea).

As you can see, in the beginning we were really optimistic. We stacked items up higher until it became apparent we were going to get some serious water in the house. That is when we switched to bringing everything upstairs.

This is about the highest point of the water in our front yard. It got to about above the waist. Outside in front of our garage, the water on the street was already above the head, while outside of our gate, it was about neck high.

Our friend's daughter could not get back into her dorm (streets were flooded) so she came here. Since our street was already flooded at that point, she went through the neighbors house, climbed a ladder over the fence and scaled a small roof to get on to our balcony. Our house was the last house on the street to get flooded (we live on a slight hill).

Neighbors just four houses down from us and water reached their second level. Some neighbors a block away who were trying to locate to owners of a dog that ended up at their house during the flood ended up with water on their second floor. We were really, really lucky.

The Start....

The Flood....

The Aftermath.....

Friday, July 24, 2009


There are a few cable companies here but in Manila, the main players are Destiny & Sky Cable. Once we moved to our current home, I signed up for Sky Cable. What appealed to me was the digital cable with box which meant that instead of having to channel surf or watch a VERY slow TV guide channel, at the bottom of the screen, each show would say the title. In addition, I could scroll through all the channels and see what was on all day (somewhat similar to what I used to have in SF).

When we first moved I signed up for every channel they had (with the exception of some foreign language packages) which included three HBO channels. Basic cable here has a single HBO channel but it was always edited (namely for sex) which I had assumed was because it was part of basic cable and not a premium channel. I was wrong. When I signed up for the additional three channels of HBO, I realized they were ALL edited. I can only assume that we get one generic Asia feed which likely includes countries with censorship (i.e., Singapore) but I am not sure. I was watching the movie Traffic once on local network TV here and when a gun was held to Michael Douglas, the gun was blurred out, so who knows. I ended up canceling the HBO package and if there is a movie or HBO series I want to see, I just download it or buy the DVD. I could not take the huge chunks of movies being edited. In addition, most of the movies they showed were repeated a thousand times in the course of a month and were mostly movies I had no interest in seeing (movies along the lines of Problem Child 2, Look Who's Talking 2).

There are some fantastic channels here, namely National Geographic Adventure which is in addition to the regular National Geographic. If I could only watch one channel, this would likely be it. I am in love with "Don't Tell My Mother" (random French guy who visits random countries, i.e., North Korea), "Bondi Rescue" (follows lifeguards on Bondi Beach--way more interesting than it sounds), and "Banged Up Abroad" (a series all about people who were locked up abroad--namely for drug smuggling although some have been people who were kidnapped by extremist groups). I have no idea if these shows are available in the US but I am loving them.

Since my Tagalog still sucks, I do not watch a lot of local television. Once I get more fluent, I want to be able to watch (and understand) Imbestigador and XXX which are both expose shows (similar I guess to 20/20 or Dateline). I never understand what is going on so I am left staring at the TV wondering what is going on. Same with TV Patrol which is an evening news show. There is a local news channel in English, ANC but it never seems as interesting as TV Patrol. There is a local version of Project Runway which I got a kick out of last year and plan to watch the second season once it starts.

I still wish there was a system here that had Television on Demand like I had in SF. Since I usually watch television before going to bed, I usually am watching really weird shows at midnight. I loved being able to watch primetime shows in the middle of the night. A friend of mine in the US recommended getting a DVR but honestly I am not sure if there are enough shows I like to necessitate that. I guess a lot of television here for me consists of shows that are interesting enough but I would likely watch something given the oppourtunity.

Most recently our cable company started offering a "select" service which means that once you book a basic package, you can add on the additional channels you want which is what we did. Most of the channels were P20 a month (~$.50) although even at that price, I am not sure about Fox News. There is Int'l CNN, Int'l BBC, ANC, GMA (local), CNN Headline, and ANC plays Al Jazeera in the afternoon for an hour. I kept Fox News because it is mostly US domestic news, but it is way too slanted (in the wrong direction) for me. What I wouldn't give for some MSNBC.

I shouldn't be so hard on the HBO--in hindsight I did watch War Games which I love, never would have thought to watch again, so I guess it did have some purpose.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Burritos in the Philippines

I am from San Francisco where I can safely state that EVERYONE eats burritos. Burritos are the food to eat when stepping out of the office for lunch, a dinner, or a snack after a long night of drinking. You start eating them as a kid and never stop. When I was last in San Francisco, I probably ate about 10 burritos during my month long stay.

For some reason, burritos are not very popular here so whenever I see them anywhere, I always try them. Actually I should not say they are not popular because everyone I talk to really likes mexican food, but rather it is really hard to find a decent mexican restaurant and even harder to find a buritto. Chili's and Taco Bell are about as Mexican as it gets (possibly the most blasphemous statement I have ever made). First stop was Salcedo market which had a little burrito booth set up. For P179 ( ~$3.75) I bought a burrito with pork, rice, sour cream...and that's about it. Honsetly there may have been other items in it...but nothing that added any flavor. While it was small, the biggest problem was it was flavorless. Literally tasted like unseasoned meat and rice. Not what I was looking for.

Luckily we came across Ristras in San Juan. Fricking awesome!! Again I had a pork burrito and it was just what I wanted. The manager was there to walk people through the ordering process and answer any questions about toppings. While not as good as a San Francisco burrito (nothing can match a deluxe steak from La Cumbre) it was really, really, really good. Cost was P290 (a little over $6.00) and was packed with stuff!! The flavors were there and it was big--too big for me to finish on my own. So now I am estatic that I can get a fantastic burrito here. It also makes me really happy that the restaurant is located in San Juan and not in a mall. I feel like tons of the places I love are in Makati where I never really go, or inside a mall which makes me heistant to go. Honestly, I would never park and walk through a mall to get a burrito. Here, I can just pull up, get my take out, and leave. I think it may be safe to say that Ristras may become my new favorite place to be.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Six Months Later.....

Well, the Christmas tree did not work out. It turned brown way before the 25th and by the time New Year's came, it was probably a fire hazard. I am going to have to bite the bullet next year and buy a plastic one or buy some weird bush from a plant store and decorate it.

In the past six months, we made two trips to the States: Hawaii and San Francisco. I realize when I go back, I really do miss San Francisco. I love it there. Where else in the course of an evening can I have fondue for dinner, eat Gingerbread-Guinness ice cream, have drinks at a crusty dive in West Portal, and end up in the Castro at a drag show? I miss it a lot. Nowhere else am I able to buy items like biodegradable plastic bags made specifically for picking up after my dog on a walk. Besides my family and friends, the city is just awesome. Home is always home to a certain extent and I will always, always love San Francisco.

I realized that I am coming up on three years now living in the Philippines. People no longer think my pidgin tagalog is cute and are starting to wonder why I do not have a better grasp on the language now. What can I say, I suck at languages. I have gotten much better at understanding the language, it is just my speaking that sounds like a drunken five year old.

We have been in our new home for a year now. We are settling in to the neighborhood well. I have found a fantastic neighborhood vet for my dogs at Animal House, found a fantastic source for eggs from one of the houses in our village (eggs here tend to run small and this place has larger ones), Ado found a nearby gym for her workouts, and we have only had three brownouts in a year. Life is good here.

We had a lot of visitors from overseas this past year, and I have found that they tend to see things that I overlook now or take for granted. Below are some random images (mostly taken by said guests).

The girls are wearing uniforms that are typical of a high school here (although I am thinking this picture was taken in the province). The skirts are always much longer than you would see in the US and the shoe is always the Mary Jane style. Although I would have hated to wear a uniform in high school (nine years of elementary was enough), I can't get enough of the students in uniform here. I think they are so fricking cute.

This was the store in our previous neighborhood. One stop shopping for the basics.

I absolutely love this picture which a friend of mine captured while we were in traffic. What can I say? This sums up the Philippines for me in so many ways.

Ah, while most of the food here is great, there are certain culinary delights I cannot wrap my head around. Hot dogs and marshmallows are one of them. This is really common at kids parties and I cannot figure what twisted fucking mind came up with it. It's a hot dog! With marshmallows!!
Finally, a picture at the market in Tagaytay. Leave my mother alone in a wet market with a camera and this is what you get. I have no idea how she got the guy to pose with some pig legs but I love it!!!!