Saturday, July 29, 2006

Observations After a Year I

I have been here in the Philippines just on a year now and it seems appropriate to reflect upon and offer some very presonal observations about how I am finding living in this country.

The most noticeable is the low level of anarchy that permeates daily life here. From the jumble of overhead cables supplying electricity and various forms of communication through jeepneys and buses that start and stop on the whim of their passengers to the short term take over of the street when the house is too small for the assembled throng.

This level of personal freedom is achieved through the Filipinos’ tolerance for and of their neighbours. In Australia, the land of my birth, there is a paternal ethos at work that ensures there are myriad of building codes that must be adhered to for the simplest construction. Buses (there are no jeepneys) will stop only at certain places which are predetermined by faceless bureaucrats and although a party in the street is possible, it will require 3 months of planning and a fist full of government permits.

There is a price for this freedom. Things in the Philippines are often chaotic, especially the traffic, although the evidence of road trauma is a lot less than in Oz. There, in the City of Perth, which has a population one twentieth that of Manila, it is a rare week not to see a couple of seriously bent cars as one moves about that town. Here in the Philippines I have seen perhaps 4 or 5 in 12 months.

There also seems to be less examples of road rage, a phenomenon that is exploding in first world countries. The tolerance exhibited by Filipinos accepts that the other road users have a right to be on the same piece of tarmac and consequently impede ones progress. Although they will go for the open space with gusto when one presents itself.

This turn the other cheek attitude doesn’t mean that the Filipinos are meek and mild. They have an agenda that they will peruse with vigor it is just accepted that those around them have the same and it is respected if not agreed with. When agreement is reached, they can move mountains as the 2 People Power revolutions ably demonstrate.

For me coming from a highly regulated first world country this is a breath of fresh air. This level of personal freedom is envigourating although learning to accord the same to my neighbours does take some doing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Are We Having Fun Yet

Fast food restaurants like Jollibee and Maccas are a popular venue for kids birthday parties. This pic was taken at one such event, her expression says it all, di ba?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Congratulations Mr Swift

This is a first for me, 2 posts in one day, but today sees an event of such momentous proportions that it cannot go past un-noticed. Perhaps it may also have something to do with the restrictions imposed by the weather...... whatever.

The second best blog on the net is celebrating 7 months of posts and 100,000 visitors, both on the same day.

A very big congratulation goes out to Jon Swift. Your number of visitors is very well earned and also very well deserved. Following in the tradition of your name sake you have made the world and for sure the internet a much better place, perhaps even a better place than it deserves to be.

If you dear reader havent read Jon Swift do yourself a favour and do so, the link is on the right.

It's Raining

The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It's raining on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

This verse by RL Stevenson sums it all up. The Wet as it is known in the northern parts of OZ is alive and well and living here in Manila.

My brolley has become my best friend. Last Monday I forgot it and whilst riding the first jeep of my daily trip to the Academy the heavens opened. The 100 meter dash from the jeep to the boat I catch to cross the Pasig river was just long enough for me to start doing my drowned rat impersonations.

The up side was that unlike being drenched in Oz where at this time of year my teeth would be chattering in very quick order, I was only wet. Two more jeep rides and half an hour in the air-con and it was a distant memory.

The rain does make the traffic more interesting in the Chinese sense. Manilas reputation for chaotic traffic goes up a notch when it rains, where all those people are going escapes me.

Last week when Typhoon, if your in Asia, Hurrican, if your in the Americas, or Cyclone, if you’re an Aussie, Florita or was it Bilis was slipping past Luzon and heading out to sea to do what they do when no one is watching there was some serious rain. I had to visit the tailor at the Poblicion market and it was all but deserted. An area that is usually teeming with life as the picture below shows was reminiscent of an Aussie country town fair that someone had forgotten to publicize.

Another of life’s unanswerable questions for this bemused Aussie which perhaps my more knowledgeable readers maybe able to cast some light.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Learning Tagalog

I have started teaching English at a Korean school here in the Philippines. I started last Monday, hence the reduction of posts on The Expat but being a native speaker it is quite lucrative. OK by Filipino standards, very lucrative.

There are a lot of schools here teaching English to Koreans of varying ages. Learning English is a very big deal for the Koreans and as the Philippines is considered an English speaking country a lot come here to learn. It is just so much cheaper and easier than going to the States.

Working closely with my mother tongue has high lighted the differences in pronunciation that one must adopt when speaking Tagalog. It would seem that 2 letter syllables are all the go, whenever possible.

Take for example the Tagalog word for thank you, ‘salamat’. For an English speaker it would be pronounced sal-a-mat, wrong. In Tagalog it is pronounced sa-la-mat with the emphasis on the second syllable. Likewise with the tagalong for ‘how are you”, Kumusta. The Aussie pronunciation would be Ku-must-a, wrong again, in Tagalog it is Ku-mus-ta, with again the emphasis on the second syllable which is pronounced like puss in English rather than pus.

Say the word the wrong way and for the majority of Filipinos it is unrecognizable. When I pronounce my surname, Bateman, in the English way of Bate-man, I get a lot of blank looks and rustling of papers. Pronounce it as Ba-te-man and I am found amongst the hundreds of others with ease. Not that I mind this pronunciation of my name, sorta sounds like a super hero, faster than a speeding snail, able to leap double Leggo blocks in a single bound, etc etc.

Although learning the pronunciation linguistics of Tagalog does make my head hurt. Now if I could make use of my super powers and find a nice brick wall to smash down with my forehead…………

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Street Basketball

Street Basketball games are a common sight around the barangay. When traffic comes down the street the game is suspended until it has passed and then the players pick up where they left off.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dining in Style in the Outback

It had to happen; an Aussie just couldn’t resist attending an Australian themed restaurant in the heart of Manila. And overall the experience was a very positive one.

When I walked in the door I felt I was walking into an up market Australian pub with its prominent U shaped bar set up in the fashion that so many are in the land of the kangaroo. As this flood of nostalgia swept over me so too did the realization that by Philippine standards it was not going to be a cheap night out. Although by Aussie standards it would be reasonable.

With the best beloved and number one daughter and son in tow, we elected to dine in the up stairs non smoking section. It too had a bar dressed in the Australian fashion if a little smaller than the one down stairs. Your humble scribe was heartened to see a selection of red wines nestled on its back wall.

Once seated and with the wine list in my hot little hand it was a pleasant discovery to find a selection of Australian reds, if a some what limited one. I did find it rather amusing that the most expensive wine on the list, coming in at 1710 pesos (about AU$45), was an Oxford Landing Shiraz. This wine is available in Oz for around the AU$7 to $11 a bottle from the off license and is very much considered a second choice wine. At the other end of the list was a Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Cab Sav which is a bloody good drop and at 995 pesos (AU$26) it is about its bottle shop cost in Australia. Needless to say we went for the better wine at the better price.

The menu is littered with Australian references from Kookaburra wings to Land Rover steaks via walk about soup and ribs on the barbie. We went for the Kookaburra wings for starters which are actually deep fried chicken wings that come as mild, medium spicy and hot spicy and served with a partially melted blue vein cheese dip. Our waiter, Anthony, was on the ball enough to notice that we had varying tastes regarding our spicy tolerances and arranged for a variety of the wings to be served on his own initiative which was greatly appreciated.

My best beloved and I chose a half slab each of the ribs on the barbie for our mian course. The slab reference being how package beer is purchased in Australia, a slab being 24 cans of the amber fluid in a cardboard carton and a half slab being, well half that amount. The ribs were succulent and topped with a home made barbeque sauce that complimented them very nicely. They were served with Australian chips, the thick long ones which were just like those from the land of my birth, not those skinny shoe laces certain fast food joints call fries. Number one son and daughter ordered grilled pork chops with rice and buttered corn and chicken on the barbie with rice and veggies respectively.

It has always been my contention that the best compliment you can pay a chef is to send your plate back as near to clean as is possible without actually washing it. All our plates went back in that condition as did the rib bones.

For afters we had Brownie a la mode, a warm chocolate brownie served with ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce. It is truly a dessert you can feel landing on your hips as it passes the lips. The one we were served was a monster which we 4 were only able to demolish through the determined efforts of the number one son.

Shall we be returning to the Outback, you’d better believe it. Although expensive with steaks running out at a 1000 pesos plus per serve, the quality of both the food and the service is such that for value for your peso you would be very hard pressed to find its equal.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fiesta Time

The last 2 days of June were somewhat noisier than those that surrounded them. It was Fiesta time in the Poblacion district of Makati city, that part of the Philippines I call home.

For a couple of weeks prior to the festivities bunting had been stretched across the streets announcing its impending arrival. Situated in the parish of St Peter and St Paul, the feast days for these saints was the excuse for the residents to spill out onto the streets and party. The samahang (street councils) had organized activities to entertain the kids and after the downing of enough San Mig for the adults.

The most notable activity of the second day of the fiesta was the marching bands. Twice they paraded through the streets. Marching girls with flags in the lead followed by drum and xylophone bands or silver bands all dressing in colourful uniforms enticing the residents out of their homes to join the party.

After the second parade the bands congregated in the town square, which is more of a triangle, and there they each played in turn. Each band presented a couple of tunes, the associated marching girls performed their routines whilst the traffic on JP Rizal Avenue, which runs through the square, waited patiently for them to finish.