First thing to tell you is that the trikes in Janet’s hometown of Alcoy, Cebu are very small. They make the trikes in Dumaguete look like SUVs. The main passenger bench can fit two smallish Filipinos or 1 Kano plus his bag. Janet was sitting across from me on the mini seat, which on the Alcoy trikes barely accommodates a child.
We were on our way to the local fiesta; actually it was the band performances and competition part of the fiesta activities. Because of this the National Hwy. was blocked off and the trike driver, along with everyone else, was forced to take a dirt and stone road detour. He must have been annoyed because he was driving along the dirt road at the same speed he would have been driving along the highway. He hit every rock and bump and Janet and I were bouncing pretty good. But we were close to our destination and it is after all a trike – so I wasn’t complaining. Finally the driver hit one hard bump. I levitated a couple inches and landed on the bench pretty hard. Now these benches are sort of upholstered; there’s a little padding but not much. As we stuck the landing the bench seat sagged and I knew something had broken; I figured a spring. I told Janet that my seat was broken. She translated to the driver who tried to feel what was wrong with the bench, while still flying down the dirt road. Finally he pulled over just at the place we were going to get off. He pulled up the bench. All that was holding the thing in place was one rusted pipe welded at either end. The left weld had given up the ghost and the pipe has separated from its connecting piece. I was amazed that only one pipe held the trike seat in place. There was a conversation between the driver and Janet in Visayan. I just pulled out some change and gave the driver the normal fare.
Later Janet told me that the driver looked at us saying “My trike is broken. What am I going to do?” While he didn’t state it directly, Janet was under the impression that he was implying that the great big kano was responsible and we should share in the cost of the repair.
Now for those of you who don’t know me personally one of the advantages I have in the Philippines is that I am somewhat vertically challenged. I used to be 5’6″ tall. I say used to be because at my last physical exam, I stretched myself as tall as I could and managed to get measured at 5’5 1/2″. Apparently we do shrink with age. And while I am not as svelte as I was in my youth I am not one of those huge guys who break chairs and benches just by sitting on them. As I say one of my advantages in the Philippines is that I am small enough to be only a little bit taller than the average Filipino and thus can fit in most things here. This includes the faux leather chairs in our apartment, which wouldn’t handle many American butts (loboot in Visayan). My size also means I can fit into a trike without causing damage – that is up until now.
Since in the Philippines all information is passed though an extensive grapevine, I am worried that all the Alcoy drivers will soon know that I am the huge kano who broke the trike seat. I might have to take out insurance!
Note: We’ve got a shiny new (ok, not so new) YouTube Channel, called, Married a Filipina. Please check it out and subscribe as I post more videos! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_1lUo3tR9-JQK3gXLRkYag
I spent part of this morning reading some of my old blog postings. I know, I know – spending time reading my old scribblings proves I have a thrilling life! My readings included a piece called, Meet the Parents. Feel free to go back and read it; it’s a good ‘un.
I described the first time I met Janet’s family and her fear of my reaction to the home she grew up in, her “old” parents (who were younger than me). She also warned me about the lack of indoor plumbing in their home, and here I’ll quote what I wrote a couple years ago about the experience. “Of course there was no indoor plumbing and I was told by Janet to avoid using the outhouse. Thanks goodness that at my advanced age bladder retention is still – well, retained.”
I found, as I described in that previous blog, that her modest home was perfectly nice and her parents were not old looking or acting, or at least not as geriatric as the guy she was going to marry 🙂
But I avoided the “outhouse” and continued to avoid it for years and the many times I visited the family home. And Janet continued to mention over the years that I should avoid the bathroom. This led to a curious, though effective scheduling scenario every time we went to their home based on the fact that I was confident that bladder retention could be retained for perhaps half a day. So, if a late afternoon dinner was planned, we might arrive in the early afternoon and leave in the early evening, just in time for me to get back to our hotel, the famous BBB (Bodos Bamboo Bar) so that I could do my best imitation of Tom Hanks in the Green Mile.
I suppose that if asked I would admit that I was afraid of what I might find or what I might smell in that large concrete structure. Honestly, images of the kid hiding in the outhouse in Schindler’s List came to mind. And no, I will not post a video of that scene; no need to thank me. That image kept me far away from the bathroom. It also kept me from drinking too many San Miguels at Janet’s ancestral home, which disappointed the men in the family, who might have wanted to see the kano get hammered.
But over the years I had my doubts. After all, I was now married to Janet and knew her to be a very meticulous, cleanly person. I had been around her sisters enough to know that they were the same way. So how, I wondered, could they stand it? Poverty forces difficult sacrifices, I told myself as I forced the Schindler’s List image out of my mind for the hundredth time.
This past April, we spent a week in Alcoy. The last day lunch was scheduled at the ancestral home with the required lechon. I had always expressed a desire to see how they did it and Janet asked if I wanted to go early and see what the lechon guy did. So, we arrived around 10:30 and watched the lechon guy perform his magic. You can see a video of that and some other Alcoy fun here. By 12:00 the happy barangay was being fed.
After lunch, I proceeded to consume 3 glasses of Red Horse with my father in law and Lolo; a bit more than would normally be prudent, but it was my last day in Alcoy. Games happened, talk happened. 4:00 arrived and Janet and I actually took a mini nap. Upon awakening at 4:30 I knew I was in trouble and woke up Janet quickly and said “we have to go.” Janet awoke and slowly complied but of course, since this was our last day in Alcoy we had to say our goodbyes – to everyone. I felt embarrassed by how quickly I was saying goodbye to the family.
Now you might be wondering, this being the Philippines, and deep in the provinces, why I didn’t just head off and find a place to do my business. I mean that’s certainly culturally appropriate in the Philippines.
The reason is that my mother in law and everyone else in the family keeps an eye on me like a hawk. Just the day before I was going to go back to the BBB and Janet was going to stay for dinner. I got up to leave. My MIL insisted that I have the kids accompany me to the main road where I would get a trike. I assured her that I knew the way and had been successfully walking on my own since my 30s. No dice. Ten kids accompanied me.
So I knew I could not just sneak off to find a place to pee. I rushed Janet, we quickly said our goodbyes, hit the trail toward the main road, accompanied by the kids, and grabbed a trike. A little bit after 5:00 I was back at the BBB again pulling my Tom Hanks impression. OK, “pulling” is a bit inappropriate 🙂
But Janet was upset. “Why did you have to rush us,” she demanded to know.
“Because I had to pee – badly!” I said.
“So why didn’t you just use the bathroom?”
“What!” I yelled. “Because you’ve told me for years that I should never never use it – that it was awful.”
“It’s perfectly fine,” she shot back, surprised.
“It doesn’t stink?”
“It’s not like, you know – Schindler’s List?” I asked.
So, first I insisted that Janet acknowledge that she in fact had repeatedly told me over the years that I should never use it. She finally laughed and admitted she had said that. I then screwed up my courage and asked her to describe the environment.
Turns out my image of splintery planks with crude holes in them was not quite accurate. In fact there were standard toilets and no smell. The only adjustment you’d have to make is that, as in many places in the Philippines, including a couple of hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, a bucket of water and a ladle sits next to the toilet and that’s what’s used to get it to flush.
There was no sense in busting Janet too much for her deception. I understood that just as she had described her home as poor and terrible and her parents as old and poor, this was her way to protect me from the reality of her upbringing.
Next time I go to Alcoy I’m going to overdo the San Miguel and do my best Tom Hanks impression right there. Just don’t expect a video 🙂
We’ve been back less than a week from our 3-week vacation to the Philippines. Our itinerary was: 1 week in Alcoy, Cebu; 1 week in Dumaguete; 1 week in Palawan. It all went by too quickly. Here are some impressions.
I need to work on my drinking:
I had the opportunity to meet three expats for lunch while in Dumaguete. They were guys I knew online from a Philippines forum I frequent. Good guys, not an American among them, and it seems clear that when we move to Dumaguete, that if I want some expat friends, at least a few good ones live there.
But when it comes to drinking San Miguel I am woefully lacking. Had my standard 1 beer while two of my new friends were plowing through a 6-pack each. The waitress was running full speed to and from our table to take and then deliver the next beer run. Somehow the guys had the energy to flirt with her every time she arrived – which might have been the purpose. Finally I ordered a 2nd San Mig just to keep from looking like the lightweight that I am.
Afterwards Janet took one look at me and asked how many beers I’d had.
Is the Philippines the noisiest or most romantic place on earth:
Janet and I were in El Nido, Palawan – a beautiful place. We’d just had dinner and were walking back to our hotel. Janet spotted a cart with her fave grilled chicken intestines on a stick; and no I did not partake. I like Filipino food but there’s a limit. She is waiting with baited breath for the grilling to finish when suddenly we hear a dog yelping in extreme pain. Like most places in the Philippines the streets of El Nido are narrow, trikes, motorcycles, and cars rush along with little concern, and we assumed the dog got hit by something. Everyone was looking in the direction of the cries of pain, which did not stop and if anything intensified. Janet and I feared the worst and approached the dog. I was expecting to see massive injuries. Instead we witnessed two dogs humping happily. “Must be a virgin,” Janet remarked. Only in the Philippines!
Janet takes on the trike drivers:
One of the gripes for most expats is with the taxi and trike drivers trying to overcharge. In many cities trikes are regulated and there’s a flat rate wherever you want to go. For example in Dumaguete the rate is 6.5p/person. In Puerto Princesa, Palawan it’s 8p. During our stay in Puerto Princesa we went out to dinner and had no problem with a trike driver taking us from our hotel to the restaurant for the 8p x2 plus a small tip. On the way back we flagged a trike. Janet told the driver in Tagalog the name of our hotel. “40 pesos,” he said. “No way!” responded Janet and we didn’t get into the trike. She flagged the next one. “50 pesos,” he immediately told her. Now she’s pissed. Traveling in the Philippines, knowledge is power. We knew what the rates were and she would not pay more. Finally the 3rd driver took us home and we paid him the correct amount plus tip.
I am lazy enough that I probably would have overpaid, but do not mess with Janet!
Palawan really is that beautiful:
Palawan has been on the list of the most beautiful islands in the world many times and finally we decided to go. As a cynic I know that such lists are exaggerated. For example, despite the hype, Boracay, which I do like, is far from the best place to vacation in the Philippines.
But Palawan is beautiful. El Nido has to be seen to be believed and we just scratched the surface. Even the 5+ hour drive from Puerto Pricessa to El Nido was extraordinarily beautiful.
There are so many mountains on Palawan that they haven’t bothered to name them all.
We will be returning!
Yes, sometimes there is progress in the Philippines:
The Philippines is not known as a place where change happens quickly. We spent a week at our favorite resort in Alcoy, the BBB (Bodos Bamboo Bar). Ok, truth be told there aren’t a lot of options in Alcoy so every year it’s the BBB. The 1st time we stayed there some years back, we had a very nice cottage. The cottage had a fan, but no aircon, which was doable. The cottage had no hot water in the shower, which was not doable to my standards. I don’t need luxury but even in a place like Alcoy in the summer, I want hot water. But worst is that while the hotel advertised free wifi, the wifi only worked in public areas, not the cottages.
But sometimes, if rarely, things change in the Philippines. This year the cottages were equipment with aircon. Modern hot water was plentiful. And what’s best is that the wifi worked everywhere and the connection was reasonably fast. At the end of our stay I approached the owner, told her we’d been coming for several years and appreciated the improvements, particularly to the wifi.
Of course the rate for the cottages was increased 50%.
Everything is crispy in the Philippines:
In the Philippines “crispy” is king. Lechon must be crispy. Anything grilled is only good if the skin is crack in your mouth crispy. The first time Janet had KFC in the US I ordered Original Recipe. She tasted it and crinkled her nose. After that we always ordered Extra Crispy.
There is no such thing as rare meats in the Philippines, Most meats are cooked to death – probably for health purposes. But that’s the taste that people are used to.
But it seems that this crispy thing was taken to an extreme when I saw that all the cigarette ads advertised the flavor of the cancer stick in question as “crispy.”
Last year, at just about this exact time, I posted, Tell Us Where to Go, a request for input on your favorite places to visit in the Philippines. We ended up traveling to Boracay, Camiguin, and did a couple days in Moalboal, in addition to our standard week in Alcoy, Cebu.
Well, it’s Back to the Future, folks and I am looking for more recommendations.
First the good news. We booked 3 weeks in April. The flight prices from Portland to Cebu were substantially less than last year and any of the other 7 or 8 times I have gone to the Philippines. Whether this was the luck of the draw, because of the decreasing oil prices, or my brilliant shopping skills, I don’t know. But if you were thinking of visiting the Philippines this is a great time to check out the flights. A $300/per ticket savings was a pretty compelling argument for us to book our next trip.
As always, we will spend a week in Alcoy, Cebu. Janet will get to see her family, as will I, but I also look forward to Tingko Beach, Dalaguete, Oslob and the whale sharks we didn’t see last year.
I also look forward to not cutting my damn hand like I did last year.
We will also spend a week in the Dumaguete area. Since there is a good chance that Dumaguete will be our retirement destination, it’s time to check it out further. We will again see the city and Valencia. If anyone has any recommendations about other towns in the vicinity, please let us know!
Well that leaves another week open. We could just hit another wonderful beach, look at other retirement destinations, or some combo. We’ve never been to Palawan, so that’s an option. Malapascua, off of Cebu, sounds nice. And last night, for the first time in three years, Janet expressed an interest in returning to Leyte.
Now, Janet worked and went to school in Leyte for five years, and every time I have asked if she would like to return and show me the place she spent these important years, I get – the look!
We have a friend, who I suspect will weigh in on this posting, who owns a small resort in Maasin, Leyte. He asks every year if we are coming and I reply not to count on it. So Janet even hinting she’s interested in going to Leyte is a big step.
Here’s a link to an article on Kalanggaman – supposed to be a great island off Leyte: http://www.thetravelingnomad.com/2016/01/better-leyte-than-never-kalanggaman.html
Me? I am interested in any place fun, off the beaten track. And if it’s cheap, all the better.
So. what do you all think? Tell us where to go – we can take it!
I am not proud of the fact that Janet and I argue more often than I would like. OTOH I am proud of the fact that our arguments are invariably about nothing and are usually things we laugh about afterwards. Or at least Janet laughs at me.
Now, let’s face it, no matter what culture you are from, all couples occasionally argue – some more than occasionally. I have a couple of online friends who claim they have never argued with their Filipina wives, but I don’t believe them. At the very least I would have to say that life would be a little dull if one never disagreed or felt passionate enough about his or her point of view to, well, get heated about it.
But the question here is – are arguments engaged by Fil-Am couples different? Sometimes the answer has to be yes. We all know that some disagreements with our asawas are language-based. A misunderstanding based on language occurs and suddenly all hell breaks loose because when she asked you to “shut the light” you shrugged your shoulders and shut the door because you had no idea what the hell “shut the light” means.
Or if she tells you her brother/father/ate got load and you assume she meant they got drunk as a skunk, rather than that they can now call you on their cell – a big argument might ensue.
And then there are misunderstandings that are cultural. Like most Filipinas, Janet points to something or indicates agreement with a tiny flick of her lips. So, if I ask her something and am anticipating a yes or no answer and don’t notice or am not looking directly at her lips, it causes confusion. I am wondering why she didn’t answer me and she gets pissed because she knows she did answer me – with her lips – and why didn’t I pay attention to her.
I would also say that at least 50% of all our arguments in some way, shape or form involve “the family.” Now I really like Janet’s family. I am serious – they are very nice people and I enjoy seeing them. I have been to her hometown of Alcoy 5 or 6 times now and each time we return to the Philippines, Janet is positive that I don’t want to go to Alcoy and don’t really want to see her family, despite what I believe is significant evidence to the contrary. So when we plan our latest trip to the Philippines, we usually end up in some sort of minor argument over visiting Alcoy, despite the fact that we both agree that we want to visit Alcoy.
Once we have booked the trip, including the one week to Alcoy, Janet will shyly ask whether she can spend one night with her family alone, with me staying in the hotel. I know this request is coming, and agree immediately. I completely understand why a night without the kano son in law is a great thing for all of them. But of course this is followed by ten separate discussions making sure it is really, really OK.
“What will you do when I’m gone?” Janet will ask.
“I don’t know. I’ll figure it out,” I respond. This is usually followed by fears that I will do something dangerous, like take a trike on my own or go swimming at the beach. I assure Janet that I have been swimming on my own “since I was 40,” and can handle it. She will nod in agreement but tell me that her mother says there is the section of the beach where there is undertoe and really I should maybe just swim at the hotel’s pool (where I am also less likely to meet another Filipina 🙂 )
In these discussions I keep calm by reminding myself that my previous wives never cared so much for my safety, never asked for permission to do things on their own, and for that matter never asked my opinion about anything, and unlike Janet, never worried about whether I might meet another Filipina.
The flip side is that I too have insecurities and they sometimes come into play during disagreements, usually in the form of wondering why a beautiful woman like Janet would be with a mope like me in the first place. Fears about my age, height, and lack of hair come to the forefront and Janet ends up annoyed by having to remind me that I am “not that old,” am somewhat taller than her, but that it is true that “I wish you had more hair.” Well two out of three ain’t bad, I tell myself.
Sometimes it seems like the thing that causes the most heated arguments is – the sending of the balikayan box. This happened recently. Janet had done a great job filling the box with the goodies we had accumulated over the past couple months. She did quite a job of overstuffing the box with the maximum amount it can possibly hold. After that it takes a herculean effort to close the box and tape it shut, usually involving one person sitting on the thing, while the other uses all his strength to pull the box lids closed and quickly throwing some tape around it.
This particular night I came into our bedroom tired and ready to go to bed. I tore off most of my clothing and Janet said, “let’s close the box.” I looked at it and immediately realized it would be a long, sweaty process and said “let’s wait till tomorrow. Set it on its side so the contents can settle. That might make it easier.” But Janet was ready right then and so we went at the box. Grunts and curses ensued (mostly by me) at first directed at the box and tape, and then directed at each other – ok, those were mostly by me also. We gave up and went silently to bed.
24 hours later Janet decided it might be ok for me to talk to her again. Apologies were given and a certain amount of necessary groveling was done (also by me) and all was well with the world.
The next day we went at the box again and easily got it taped up. I thought to myself (but smart husband that I am kept it to myself) ‘see, when the contents settle, it goes easily.’ Janet thought and then said to me, “see, when we do it together and you’re not cranky, it goes easily.”
So, now I have told you, dear readers how to avoid and resolve your Fil-Am argument problems – or maybe not!
PS. OK, Lucy and Ricky (above) aren’t Fil-Am but their arguments were so funny and they usually made up so well.
BTW, here’s my favorite description of the way most of us Westerners argue, Monty Python’s legendary Argument Clinic:
I just got a great email from a reader preparing for his first trip to the Philippines to meet his girlfriend, who he hopes to someday marry. I realized in answering his questions how much basic information people struggle with about visiting the Philippines (or any international travel for that matter) and marrying a Filipina.
At the same time, I am on a variety of Philippines-related forums and sometimes roll my eyes at the debates and misinformation spewed out there. It suddenly occurred to me that visitors to these sites, seeking information are making a fundamental mistake in their approach – they aren’t simply skipping the middle man and contacting me first 🙂
Therefore I thought I would write the 1st in a potential series of what in my industry would be called “core dumps” about traveling to the Philippines, meeting your girl and her family, and surviving to tell the tale. I’ll end with a mini traveling tip.
1. Manila is a Shithole: Yes, you’ve heard it here first. Manila is all the stereotypes it is famous for. It’s dirty, polluted, the traffic is insane, it’s expensive by Philippines standards, taxis are nuts, beggars are everywhere, and the people are…well you get the idea; I don’t much care for the place. Now I know a few guys who like the city, and no doubt there are Filipina readers who were raised in Manila – and to those I apologize – but I won’t amend my statement.
Yes, Manila has an international airport (one of the worst rated in the world) and some high end malls, there are some neighborhoods that are better than others, and there are plenty of clubs for those of you into “clubbing” (wink-wink). Nonetheless, if you are a Westerner and visiting the Philippines for the 1st time (or the 10th time), unless your fiancé lives in Manila, avoid it like the plague. I see constant postings by guys who went to the Philippines, hung out in Manila and Angeles, hated the place, and complained at the fools who had advised them that the Philippines was a glorious, tropical country filled with wonderful Pinays. It is glorious – except for Manila – you have been warned.
2. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto: Americans (and that’s what I am, so I’m gonna hit it from that POV) do very little International traveling (Canada and Mexico don’t count, so don’t make me come over there and smack you) and we know nothing (and care even less) about the differences in various cultures. Don’t let the Philippines fool you. Yes, most Filipinos speak some English, know something about and love American culture, and the women will claim they love you the first time they see your pasty white guapo visage. But the Philippines ain’t America. Nothing they do will be done in the way you do it or Americans do it. I mean nothing! BTW, in my opinion this is often a good thing. But most guys can’t handle it. Adapt or die, cause it starts the moment you get off the plane. Want to have a happy vacation or a successful start with your new love? Assume nothing will be as you know it. You have landed on Mars. If you can make this leap, you have a chance to be successful; and a chance to fall in love with the Philippines. If not, you’re toast.
3. Not every Filipino is out to take advantage of you: OK, let me amend this; some Filipinos are out to take advantage of you. By comparison to the average Filipino you are Donald Freaking Trump, a billionaire with unlimited amounts of money – money that they hope to get a tiny taste of. Is this really so unusual? I owned a service business for many years and when a guy walked into my office wearing a $1k suit I knew it was gonna be a good day. I quickly pulled out my top of the line stuff and added a few bucks to the standard price, just because…well just because he could pay it and I was a poor working stiff.
Last year Janet and I were in Dumaguete. We ended up in a terrible argument about an overpriced trike ride, each assigning blame to the other for the fact that we had obviously been overcharged. Finally I calmed down and said to her, “Do you realize we are arguing about a ride that cost us $6?”
We went downstairs and asked the front desk clerk how much trike rides cost in Duma and from then on only paid the standard rate. Knowledge is power and it’s your responsibility to know how things work. So don’t be a dumbass, and if you get beat out of a few pesos, grin and bare it – and learn.
But I guess the real take away should be that if you assume everyone exists in the Philippines to take advantage of you – you’re gonna have a lousy time. Enjoy yourself. Any way you look at it your vacation’s gonna be a lot cheaper than almost anywhere you could go in the 1st world; and the view (both tropical and female) is gonna be a hell of a lot better.
4. There’s No Political Correctness in the Philippines: It’s surprising, sometimes off putting and often refreshing, but expect Filipinos to tell you directly what they think when it comes to other people and cultures. Your gf/wife will tell you she loves white skin, doesn’t like people with darker skin (including her own). You will hear references to person X, followed by “he’s a gay.” It’s not meant as an insult; just a point of information.
If someone is a bit overweight, you won’t hear references to glandular or hormonal issues; they’ll be called fat. Last night, as Oscar winner, Patricia Arquette, made her impassioned speech, Janet said what millions of others thought but wouldn’t dare say – “she’s getting fat.”
Filipinas are unlikely to understand you when you refer to African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, etc. They will just say “he’s black.” Or more likely they will say, “I’m black,” or “I’m too black,” and look very sad in saying so. Respond by saying you like black – black is good, devils food cake tastes yummier than angel food cake, and you will have a very good time.
5. Family is everything: Now, many expats in the Philippines and men married to Filipinas say this in a negative way, but that’s not how I mean it. You probably wanted a woman with traditional values, didn’t you? That means family is central; they’re Leave it to Beaver with a Filipino accent, and Lumpy Rutherford is a little less well-nourished.
When you meet your gf/wife’s family you ought to check out how she treats her parents. That’s how she’s gonna treat you someday. Or, if you’re like me, and are older than her parents – that’s how she’s gonna treat you right away!
Now compare your relationship with your family at home – and enjoy the difference.
Remember, if you do the right thing, very soon you will be part of the family as well, and will be treated accordingly. And no, I am not just referring to being asked to kick in money, although that’s a sometime part of family life.
The first time I visited Janet’s family in Alcoy her younger brother attempted to take my bag and carry it for me. Since in the US we are independent and an older guy like me might consider it an insult, assuming I could not schlep my own bag – I politely refused, telling him that I was fine. He was confused, later asking Janet why I refused his help. I was looking at the whole thing though my American eyes; I sure as hell don’t expect my teens to help with a bag – and they don’t.
Janet waited a month or two before mentioning that her brother was surprised at my refusal. I realized it was a point of respect he was showing me, so from that point on I decided for subsequent trips to act feeble and let him help. Frankly, the whole family treats me wonderfully and it makes me wish for more of the same in my home country.
6. Today’s mini traveling tip: Carry lots of small bills or coins. I know, I know – you’re a rich kano who doesn’t want to be bothered carrying anything less than a 1000 peso note. Be bothered. The little store you want to buy a coke in, or the taxi driver you want to give a 20P tip to will not have change and then you will have to scurry around to find some change or get frustrated and overpay, thus being pissed off at getting cheated again. And if you are in Manila or Cebu and encounter a child looking for a coin – give one to him. It won’t kill you; you might even feel good about yourself. So carry lots of small stuff and leave most of the big bills at the hotel.
P.S. If you were offended by the title of this piece, I again apologize. You ought to realize by now that this is how I try to suck you in, right 🙂
An Update: It’s official! Manila is not a complete shithole. In-n-Out Burger comes to Manila.
It’s about two months till we return to the Philippines. As excited as Janet is to see her family and home, I may be even more excited! I really like the place and can’t wait for some serious heat and humidity. I’m ready to tear my coat off, throw on some sandals, shorts and shades and soak in what’s become my second home.
Our vacation will entail three weeks in the Philippines. The last week is easy. We’ll spend it in Alcoy, Cebu, Janet’s hometown, with her family. I am looking forward to seeing them again and looking forward to seeing Alcoy again – it’s a beautiful spot. And it makes Janet happy to be there and I will get the credit – so there’s that, as well.
But what to do for the two weeks before then? We had been considering many options and had in fact asked all of you for opinions. Thanks to those who weighed in. Finally, one recent evening I suggesting to Janet that we needed to pry ourselves away from Facebook long enough to make a decision.
It wasn’t long into the discussion before Boracay came up. Now in some ways this would be a natural vacation consideration. Boracay is, after all, the best known and most popular tourist destination in the Philippines. Many lists include it among the best beaches in the world. For many Filipinos/as Boracay is a dream destination, since by Philippines standards it’s expensive and most Filipinas never get to go, unless they’re attached to a rich kano 🙂
But for Janet and I the name Boracay holds a bit more weight. You see, I’ve been to Boracay before, prior to meeting, falling in love with and marrying Janet. And most significantly, I was in Boracay with another girl.
But for Janet and I the name Boracay holds a bit more weight. You see, I’ve been to Boracay before, prior to meeting, falling in love with and marrying Janet. And most significantly, I was in Boracay with another girl.
So for us it’s not even an issue of what a nice white sand beach Bora has (it does) or whether it’s overcrowded with Chinese and Korean tourists (it is). The issue is “you took ‘her’ to Boracay.” This remark comes up perhaps every couple months and invariably I say, “I am happy to take you there if you’d like. We can go on our next visit.”
Now between you and me, here’s my honest appraisal of Boracay. The white beach is beautiful but it’s mobbed. It’s like Atlantic City when I was a kid. Bora is exciting and island hopping is fun. But I’m too damn old to need so much excitement and guys will ask you “Island hopping, Sir?” at least 10 times an hour as you walk the beach or boardwalk, until you wish they’d island hop themselves off the island or at least out of your way.
All this said, I liked Boracay, and would be happy to take Janet, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s a fun place to go if you’re a tourist looking for fun and sun, but if you want to see the real Philippines – Boracay ain’t it.
As far as the notion that it’s expensive, it’s really not that bad. Decent hotels can be had for as low as $50/night (I’ll get to that soon) and you can eat dinner on the beach for under $10. Drinking and partying yourself silly every night might be another matter, but I’m not much of a drinker.
What is expensive about Boracay – is getting there. Cebu Pacific, my local favorite airline, has many flights a day from Cebu to Bora. They have an interesting way to market your trip. The flight to Bora is cheap, but getting off the island and back to Cebu is expensive!
Anyway, Janet and I had broken away from Facebook long enough to talk and decide to spend some time in Bora. I pulled up Agoda’s website (my fave hotel site) and we looked at many hotels. Janet’s only criteria was, “I don’t want to stay where you took her!” I readily agreed.
We did what we have done many times before; looked at prices and hotel reviews. Sometimes the price was right but the reviews sucked and other times it was the other way around. We are middle of the road travelers. Unlike our good friend, Jim, who declares as a badge of honor, “Life is too short to stay in a cheap hotel,” our motto is “Money is too tight to piss it away on a space we’re not going to spend time in.” So we want a nice bed, reasonable amenities, and aircon (April is summertime in the Philippines). And if breakfast is included that’s a big plus.
After looking at about a dozen hotels, Janet spotted one that was cheap and had a great Agoda review score.
“Let’s look at that one,” she said.
“Hmm. Maybe not, baby,” I quietly responded. “That’s the one I went to before.”
“It’s OK. Show me.”
Now, this is my worst nightmare come true. But I did as I was told and showed her the pics of the hotel and the reviews which are uniformly good. Most importantly, at $51/night with breakfast included, by Bora standards, the place is a steal. Plus it’s located at Station 3, which if you’ve every been to Bora, is away from the heart of the party madness.
Well, you guessed it. Janet liked the place and said, “Let’s stay there. Just not the same room,” she added giggling. I rolled my eyes, imagined the upcoming potential OA moments (OA means “over acting” for those not married to a Filipina) and agreed. “Book it now,” she said.
“No no. First I have to make sure we can get the flights, then I’ll book the hotel.”
So I left Agoda behind and proceeded to Cebu Pacific’s website. As I mentioned before, I like Cebu Pacific. I like their cheap fares, number of flights, cute orange planes, and cuter orange clad Flight Attendants. I love the games they play onboard; I even won once. But their website – that’s all Philippines. It’s convoluted and incredibly slow. The fare starts out very cheap, but as you click each page more charges are added; taxes, baggage charges, seat assignment charges, etc.
But this night was as slow as I’d ever seen the website work. Each click took about 5 minutes to get to the next page and with each page the price grew. Now I had explained many times to Janet that the airfare to Bora was expensive but here she was seeing it – and seeing it in slow motion. As minutes would go by between page refreshes she would exclaim, “OMG that’s expensive.”
“It’s OK ,” I’d respond. “We want to go. We’ll have a great time.”
Finally after 20 minutes staring at the Cebu Pacific site as it moved in Filipino time, it became clear to Janet (I already knew) that the airfare from Cebu to Boracay for two would top $500. She announced, “It’s too expensive. I don’t want to go.”
“It’s OK, baby. We can afford it.” But I could see her mind at work. I could tell she was thinking about what we could do with $500. Actually I figured she was thinking about all the clothes she could buy at Ayala Mall for $500!
“I don’t want to go there,” she announced.
“Are you sure,” I asked her several times. She was more adamant each time.
And that’s how we decided to spend five days in Camiguin. Total round trip airfare from Cebu to Camiguin for two = $160.
And if you don’t think that Camiguin is a total winner, check out this video. I already know I’m a total winner!