In praise of the Philippines (despite the food)

     The amazing thing about traveling is how much of a full life has been compressed into my one little month away. The engine fire feels like ages ago. It does feel like living in the grandest sense.
     I left the Philippines on the 30th day of my 30-day visa. Why is Philippines only offering 30-day visas? Do they want tourists or not? It’s a simple question. You have this vast archipelago with iffy transport and tourists only see a thin slice of it before they are forced to pack up and leave or buy an expensive-ish extension.
     Nobody comes to the Philippines anyway. Why is it a poor cousin to Thailand? On Thailand travel forums everyone is obsessed with finding the best, uncrowded beach, but that was last century; Thailand is saturated. It’s all been discovered. It’s over. There are great beaches, but you don’t go for your Robinson Crusoe experience. The Philippines, however, has endless little islands to explore with enough coves and beaches to satisfy anyone, and it will for a long time.
     I extol the virtues of the Philippines to everyone, but if someone comes and they get eaten by mosquitoes, freak out at seatless toilets, witness the poverty, and take too much time to become numb over bothersome things, then I can see why my excitement isn’t matched. And that’s before they try the food.

weight control

     Weight control? We need to talk.

nutrition for kids

     Nutrition?! No, really, we must discuss this.

     I was going to write a whole blog post about the food. I can’t let it go. I love the Philippines, but the food, let’s say, disappoints. It wouldn’t be fair of me to let it go unmentioned and therefore the country become idealized. I can sum it up in one sentence: nearly everything is overly fatty or overly sweet, even things that aren’t meant to be, such as spaghetti. Homemade food, when you can get it, is the best, and I am still discovering regional dishes such as tinumkan in Panay, which is mashed shrimp with coconut wrapped in a small leaf, but these are the exceptions.
     The Philippines is still a Top 10 country. Why would I come five times if I didn’t like it? (Wait, scratch that. I’ve been to India five times and it still makes me crazy.) The people are absolutely wonderful. I just wish I didn’t dread meals which is the opposite feeling I have for every other country in the region. It’s advantageous that I have a high tolerance for eating the same food every day, because there are only a few sure things to gravitate to such as fish and roast chicken. (Is this a bad time to mention that this is the only country where I have knowingly and willingly eaten dog? It is? Sorry. Let’s move on.)
     I guess the inconvenient truth is that the Philippines is a mirror image of America in many ways: the junk food, the sweets, the soft drinks at meals, the obsession with dubious supplements as waistlines expand, and a good time is shuffling around at a mall.
     We interrupt this rant to show actual jobs that Filipinos are applying for overseas:
no short butchers

     No short butchers!

tea boys job

     Really? We need to bring people a quarter of the way around the world to be tea boys?

couple job

     Has to be one of the easiest job descriptions to fill.

bakery job

     Two years experience making juice. You can be a married assistant cook, but no married waiters!

tips and toes

     Who knew Oman has so many needs?

tennis coach job

     You really should pass the exam and interview. Hey, wait a minute, I want to be a tennis coach assistant in Oman! What’s with the age discrimination? What 23-year-old is going to have six years experience?

     In the Philippines I am going to miss going into the street markets and having someone shout, “What are you looking for?”
     I would quickly say, “Love”, and then there would be a small commotion as they come up with women to matchmake for me.
manila dirty river

     My brain might be going to seed, but Manila seems a little more tolerable this time around. I kind of miss seeing garbage-swollen rivers and armed guards at donut shops. I already miss the people.

lady bedspacer

     A bedspacer is someone sharing a dorm room. That’s cheap. I pay 400 pesos for one night. I wonder what it looks like.

usps box

     Thought about making a citizen’s arrest to reclaim this in the name of Barack Obama. Decided not to.

     My heel had been hurting so I participated in some medical tourism at a clinic in Makati I found on the internet. Only supermodels seemed to be allowed to work the reception, which is an interesting business model. I saw Dr. Manuel Pecson for an 856-peso consultation fee. A Pinay friend thought that was high, but compared to USA, that’s crazy-cheap, and isn’t it worth a few pesos to observe the professionalism of the staff while you wait to see the good doctor?
     I should have brought a stopwatch as I think it took 23.2 seconds for the doctor to say I had plantar fasciitis. I’m a tad skeptical, but I will do the exercises he suggests and then come back for many more visits to the office for checkups.
     In Manila I stayed at the place I always end up, Pension Natividad. The only reason it isn’t more popular is that you can’t book online. 400 pesos for a dorm bed, the most I have spent in the country, but they have…ready for this? A HOT SHOWER! Hurray! I went a solid month without a hot shower. I went days without seeing myself in a mirror, which isn’t a pretty sight in the best of times.
     The Manila airport terminal fee is finally included in the price of an international airline ticket if it was bought after Feb 1. If you bought your ticket before then, you still need to pay 550 pesos after check in.
manila sunset

     Pretty Manila sunset. Take that, Boracay!

     Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something worth remembering on Twitter and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+. (I’ll follow you back!)

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In praise of the Philippines (despite the food) — 13 Comments

  1. Thanks! I had a great time, but don’t get mad at me if you don’t!
    I never decided if “the” Philippines was the way to go, but it sounds better.

  2. My first trip into the country, ten minutes after a taxi had dropped me off in central Manila with no idea where I was staying for the night, a little shop convinced me that Pinoy food was AMAZING and suggested I try the ‘hamsilog’. I’m game, always up to try new foods in new culture, so of course I ordered it!

    I finished my lunchmeat + egg and wandered off into the night.

  3. A great sum-up of the Philippines, but one niggling question remains – what was eating dog like? I like to think that I’m not too squeamish – I’ve eaten live grubs in Australia, and toad and rat in Vietnam, but while we were in South East Asia, I couldn’t quite bring myself to try dog. Would you recommend it? 🙂

  4. The dog I had wasn’t very good. Tasted a little gamey, but this was a tiny place up in the mountains and I didn’t expect much. If you are into trying such exotic things, go for it, but order a small plate.

  5. First time at a street stall in the Philippines. There are 2 big pots:
    “What is that?”, pointing to the left one.
    “That’s Adobo!”
    “What is that?, pointing to the right one.
    “That’s sweet Adobo!”

    That pretty much was the best preparation for Philippino food, we could have wished for…

    At least there’s no language barrier, so you know that everything you eat is Adobo 😉

  6. I would stand in front of all the pots and ask, “Which has the least fat?” and sometimes they would look around and finally say something like, “It’s all pork! What do you expect?”

  7. Well, I’m German, so Adobo actually works out fine for me. We love our pork almost as much as Philippinos and Balinese.

  8. Pingback: 10 Euro, ein perfekter Tag in Manila, Philippinen | flocblog

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