Tag Archives: San Miguel

Stress and the Filipina

It’s June 1st. May has just ended and none too soon. It was one of the most stressful months in recent memory.  And stress is the subject of today’s post.

Janet and I arrived back in town  from our wonderful trip to the Philippines at the end of April to discover that my employer had decided that despite the tens of billions of dollars in profit they earn, that 11% of the staff had to go. We had arrived Sunday night and I intended to sleep in and do some work from home when I awoke Monday afternoon. But instead I went to work bright and early to see if I still had a job.

My friend Jim messaged me via Facebook at about 6AM to say he had just received an email and wondered if I had; I hadn’t. Throughout the day and the rest of the week, the bodies began to pile up. Of course since I work for a high tech company, they can’t simply pull a Trump and say, “you’re fired!” They developed multiple categories: involuntary separations (get out – now), voluntary separations (here’s some money – now get out), and my favorite, enhanced retirement (you’re old – here’s a bunch of money – now wheel yourself out).

For the entire month everyone walked around with that look like they envied the dead. And yet I survived, at least for now. I have been joking that by the time the actions are over I will be the oldest person working there. It is no longer a joke.

But wait a minute, you ask, what does this have to do with Filipinas or even my wife, Janet. Patience, grasshopper.

Each day I would come home more beat up, worried and stressed than the last. And each day Janet would say, “Don’t worry – we’re fine. If you lose your job we will just retire now instead of next year.”

Last Thursday was the topper to my wonderful month. I was driving home from work on the freeway at 60 MPH. The modern tire air pressure warning system told me that my tire needed air. “Nice,” I thought. “When I get home I’ll add some air. What a great feature in these modern cars!” I thought that about 30 seconds before the tire decompressed – on the freeway – at 60 MPH.

As if it was something I did every day, I somehow pulled the car off to the shoulder and called roadside assistance. The tow truck arrived. I stood 100 feet behind my car, directing cars whizzing by at 70 away from us so that the tow truck operator didn’t get – you know – run over! It was actually kind of fun. It never occurred to me how lucky I was to survive the blowout. Nor did it occur to me that I was an idiot for directing freeway traffic. After all, it was a lot more exciting than work.

But the next day when I called the dealer and was told the price of the new tire, I lost it. “The tire’s a year and a half old. It has a warranty, right?”

“Yes sir, but that only covers manufacturer defects.”

‘What the hell would you call this? The thing blew at 60 MPH!”

“The tire was slashed. You must have run over something.”

“I didn’t run over anything. I was just driving on the freeway. I’m lucky to be alive.” I threw that in just to bring out some guilt; it didn’t work.

The guy repeated the price. “What is it – a Pirelli?” I yelled. “Last time I checked I drive a Ford.”

“Well that price includes $120 for the sensor?”

“The sensor? You mean the sensor that gave me a 30 second warning that the tire was going to blow?”

“Yes sir.”

And when I told Janet about what happened and the expense just at a time when I might lose my job she just shrugged one of those ‘what else can you do’ sort of shrugs. She hugged me and again told me not to worry.

And it struck me that she was truly being honest in her assessment. She genuinely did not seem worried. Unlike us Americans she chooses not to worry about things she cannot control.

It’s a quality I have seen and admired in the Philippines; a ‘life is short, enjoy it now’ type of quality. It’s also a quality that some expats living in the Philippines do not admire. It drives them crazy to see people smiling despite their circumstances, despite their poverty, despite scams and corruption, and even despite slow service at Jolibees.

So bottom line is that my 28 year old wife is wiser and more mature than her geriatric husband. Like most Western men, I worry and stress. When I was younger I needed stress; it seemed like I couldn’t get going without stress. But now as old age approaches I don’t like stress.

And unlike most of my peers I am not much capable of alleviating stress through drinking. Oh sure, I like my San Miguel at dinner. But one is about it; two’s my limit. And that doesn’t allow me to get hammered enough to reduce the stress. If any of you drinkers has a suggestion about how I can increase my intake, please let me know.

I look forward to retirement for many reasons but the notion that it will reduce my stress is at the top of the list.

But still I look around the Philippines and see generally happy people and wonder – why aren’t they stressed to the max. Oh I know, there’s “high blood” in the Philippines, just like there is here. But you don’t see that “I wish I were dead” sort of strained face that many Americans go around displaying.

One more addendum. Last night, May 31st, I come home to find a letter from the IRS. They claim we owe a boatload of money. I stress and Janet says, “Don’t worry. Come sit next to me. You’ll figure it out.” And maybe I will; or pay them the boatload of money. Now where did I leave that San Miguel?

 

The Language Issue

One of the things that many expats to the Philippines want to do is to learn the language. Well, at least we say we want to; in reality once most of us have learned “San Miguel, salamat” our studies end. For me the language thing is a real challenge. I was a good student about 100 years ago but never came close to mastering the two foreign languages I studied for years. I’ll come back to one of those languages later.

Since Janet and I are planning to live in the Philippines and pretty damn soon, I have been trying to learn. The Philippines makes such an endeavor even more complex since there are so many separate languages spoken there. No, I am not talking about different dialects of the same language, but completely different languages. Fortunately Janet speaks Cebuano or Visayan, which is the dominant language in the central part of the Philippines, including Janet’s home of Cebu, as well as Dumaguete, Negros, where we will eventually find ourselves.

So, prior to our recent trip to the Philippines I did some work on language basics. Janet helped, though I sensed it was at times frustrating for her. I worked on simple stuff: please and thank you; good morning/afternoon/evening. That level of language. I also had some help from a new source: Dumaguete vblogger, Bud Brown. You can see him here: @ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqtDAUVhJQZzHsNi-XzzP7w

Bud is a sweet guy, even older than me, and I began to watch his adventures living in Dumaguete. But Bud has an advantage over most of us: he speaks Visayan and Tagalog (the language of Luzon) pretty well. Of course, he developed those skills though hard work and a 40 year relationship with his asawa, Gloria.

The point being, his videos show him speaking Visayan to local residents. For me I find it difficult to learn language via rote memorization and much easier to learn by watching and seeing the words used in context.

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For example, one of the first words I learned though Bud is tchinelas – flip flops. He loves to give inexpensive tchinelas to local kids who don’t have any or whose tchinelas are worn to their end of life. Since I love wearing sandals and flip flops I mastered tchinelas, which is pronounced without the “t.” So, say it with me – chin-e-las. Very good, class. Salamat.

Janet and I quickly became fan’s of Bud’s videos and she began to quiz me based on some of the words I was learning.

Once we hit the Philippines, I was determined to use as many Visayan words as I could. I said please and thank you, palihog and salamat, whenever possible. I greeted people with good morning/afternoon/evening, struggling not to confuse maayong buntag, maayong hapon and maayong gabii.

I tried as much as possible and I think people did appreciate it but I find that many Filipinos want to speak English to an American as much as I wanted to speak Visayan to a Filipino. So my maayong buntag would be answered with “good morning, sir.”

I also tried to throw in a smattering of kamusta ka, how are you, and when someone asked me  how I was, I answer maayo, good, because I didn’t know how to say, “OK – waiting for my next San Miguel.”

I did however learn that if you say, Okay lang, as often as possible you sound much more Filipino than if you just say, “okay.” So okay lang became my go to expression.

Our itinerary on this trip was a week in Alcoy, Cebu, a week in Dumaguete, and then a final week in Palawan. While I won’t say that my language skills improved significantly the first couple weeks, I did enjoy trying. We then arrived in Palawan. Unfortunately, Janet had failed to mention that they speak Tagalog in Palawan. So my maayong buntags  failed to elicit the proper response. “They speak Tagalog here,” Janet informed me.

“Tagalog? What good is that?”

“Well some words are the same,” she tried to assure me.

I spent the week mostly saying, “San Miguel, Salamat.”

Snipets from our Latest Trip to the Philippines

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.”