Bits and Pieces from Our Philippines Adventure

We just got back from our three week vacation to the Philippines and now that I am sort of un-jet lagged, here are some random thoughts. Expect more in depth and profound ramblings, pics and videos later (if ever).

Philippines Weight Loss Program:

Like most Americans on vacation, Janet and I ate like pigs. Particularly in Boracay, which I will cover in a future post, all you can eat dinner buffets are held on the beach with a typical charge of less than $10 and include two San Miguels for the price of one. I ate and drank till I could barely walk back to the hotel.

Yet after a week or two Janet kept saying, “you’re losing weight.” I had to agree. The money belt was getting looser and not just because I was removing money from it.

I got home and sure enough – I was about 4 pounds down. This despite the fact that I am a lightweight drinker, yet drank more beer than I have ever drunk in my life, ate mass quantities, including eggs nearly every morning, and had plenty of ice cream (it’s cooling in the heat after all).

I have to assume that the reasons for my loses involved more activity, lots more sweating, more fun and less stress. Oh and there’s the fact that I didn’t spend 8 hours a day in a cubicle – that might have helped. And all this despite the fact that the Filipino diet is not considered the healthiest going, what with tons of rice and lots of pork and yummy barbecue.

Nonetheless I see a book in my future. Perhaps I’ll become one of those dieting tour operators.

My Inlaws Protect Me:

I hate the expat argument about dumb Filipinos and have written about that before. Dumb expats – there are plenty. Dumb inlaws – don’t kid yourself. Wherever we went Janet’s younger siblings watched everything I did.

Alcoy is a small beach town of 15,000. Public transportation, in the form of trikes, are everywhere. The trikes are regulated and have a sticker inside listing the rates: 8 pesos/person here, 10 pesos there, etc. Let’s just say it’s a damn cheap if uncomfortable way to travel. In fact the kids take a trike daily to go to school. Why not, I took a bus.

So everywhere we went Janet and I and whatever siblings we were with would pile into a trike. One thing you’re not getting is safety. Janet and I would get into the trike sidecar and a kid would hop on the motorcycle behind the driver. And BTW, no one wears helmets.

As a lazy traveler, at the end of a ride I would simply ask Janet how much to give the driver. “40 pesos,” she might say. I would give him a 50, thank him and walk away.

The next day the kids told Janet’s mom, “Uncle Dave was overpaying for the trikes and didn’t even ask for change!” What Janet hadn’t taken into account was that the rate for children was less than an adult and that 40 peso fee might have actually been negotiated down to 30. Janet’s mom assured them that Uncle Dave was merely giving the driver a tip. BTW, the 10 peso “tip” was equivalent to $.25. I’m nothing if not a big tipper.

Nonetheless I appreciated their concern regarding my money and told my young BIL that the next time I was in Alcoy I was gonna make him my business manager, in charge of determining what was proper to pay.

My Very Expensive Kano Belt:

Even before discovering the Philippines I had done a bit of international traveling. Trying to be safe (or at least fooling myself into believing I am acting safe) I travel with a Pacsafe wallet, one of those travel wallets with a chain. I also have a travel belt. It’s a simple thing with a hidden zippered compartment where you can stash your vast kano wealth.  It’s always funny because I get off the plane and while in the airport immediately go to a money exchange kiosk. The clerk watches in amusement as I remove my belt and take out the hundies that are all scrunched up in the belt. Unfortunately in the Philippines you never get more than 1000 peso notes (about $25). Anything more is unusable in the real world. So let’s say you stuffed 10 hundreds in your belt. You now have 40 1000 peso notes and  after you place them in the same belt you end up looking like the Michelin Man.

Here’s what was funny on this trip. When we arrived in Janet’s home town of Alcoy, several of her younger siblings asked if they could spend a night with us at the legendary BBB (Bodos Bamboo Bar). It’s a small resort, which in provincial Philippines means it’s a series of native bamboo cottages. It’s actually nice, the restaurant’s decent and we enjoy staying there; but the Hilton it ain’t. But for Janet’s siblings – it’s another world – and a world of luxury.

Janet’s younger brother stayed with us one night. The next morning I showered, dressed and did the general morning routine. I unlocked the room safe and removed my travel belt. My BIL watched me do that but did not see me remove a few 1000 peso notes from the belt. I replaced the belt back in the safe and locked it.

The next day Janet told me that her brother said to their mom in Visayan, “Uncle Dave has a really expensive belt. He keeps it locked in a safe!”

LV Bag Shopping:

The last day of our 3-week trip was spent traveling by bus from Alcoy back to Cebu. We checked into our hotel and had a quick lunch. It was now 1:00 and truth be told I was exhausted and would have happily rested and gotten ready for the early morning flight home. But I knew that wasn’t gonna fly.

We had a half day to hit a mall in Cebu and I could not let Janet miss such an opportunity. So we grabbed a taxi and went for a quick mall shopping excursion. BTW, I don’t think it’s my imagination but the traffic in Cebu is worse than ever. We crawled along.

Janet normally loves Ayala Mall, but as we passed Parkmall Janet told the driver to take us there. Janet quickly scored quite a few inexpensive and nice clothing items.

We went up to the second floor of the mall which is set up bazar style. Dozens of tiny shops filled with fake clothes, Nikes, watches – and bags. To my untrained eye these looked like pretty nice fakes. It’s well known that often fakes are made in the very same Asian factories that produce the real thing. As an Oregonian, headquarters to Nike, and it’s subsidiary, the University of Oregon (lol), I had always wondered how poor Filipinos could afford expensive Nikes. OK, I’m an idiot – now I know how.

Janet hit every shop but saw nothing she wanted. Surely, I suggested, a high end bag was in order. My ever practical wife reluctantly agreed. She entered a shop which was LV Bag Central, with more LV bag options than a real LV store. I think she was handed every single one by the two eager sales clerks who knew a rich kano trying to satisfy his wife when they saw one 🙂

Finally Janet settled on the one she liked. “How much,” I asked. “4500 pesos,” I was told. “No way.” “2500 pesos,” she said. I scowled. We settled on 2000 pesos – about $45. Janet went away very happy and I went away relieved. I also had a plan.

Recently I wrote a blog piece about jealousy. Among other things I talked about what happens when a Pinay posts pics of an expensive acquisition on Facebook. So we went right back to our hotel and I took pics of Janet’s latest present and posted them. But I did include a note which said, “To finish our trip off in style Janet deserved a special present. I had to use all my negotiating skills to get it down to 2000 – pesos, that is 🙂

I was amazed that many of our friends didn’t get the joke and really assumed Janet had scored the real thing. Clearly my friends don’t know me as well as they should 🙂

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