Posted by: larry13767 | January 11, 2010

The More Simple Life

As opposed to the  stupid  tv show life of a couple of extremely privileged vapid bimbos during menial chores embarrassing those participating and those watching.

Life in the rural areas of the Philippines starts like all rural areas.  Up before dawn to care for animals as most families seem to have a few pigs and chicken.  I was staying at 3 of my wife’s various brothers and sisters.  One sister is a university professor teaching IT and cultural dance at the local state university (husband long since retired).  Her other brother is recently retired as the manager of agricultural systems and irrigation throughout the Cagayan Valley.  His wife is clinical manager of the local clinic and a nurse practitioner.  The last brother was an engineer in the big city before he decided to chuck it and move back to be a farmer.  His life is simpler and his kids have a nicer environment to grow up in.  Isn’t that what it is all about if you can deal with it and live well enough.

Each of them owns some animals and some rice fields and they hire locals farmers to manage the day to day running of it.  Owning land and having self sufficiency is fairly important.  Especially when the government is unable to pay the salaries of its employees on a semi regular basis.  Eventually they catch up to what they owe you, except that doe snot help when you need money for you kids.  Having a source of food you can control and a way to make money is important.

So up before dawn to take care of the animals and then as the sun comes up at 5:30 am, you do you usual cleanup and breakfast.  The light here in the pre dawn is amazing.  I am not sure how to describe it except it is pleasant. Lame description I know but one of those things you have to experience to understand.  Here in the morning when you take a shower, it is a bucket of whatever temperature water comes out of the tap and a ladle.  More effective than a double expresso.  You get used to it after a day or so.  It really isn’t that cold.

One thing that I was very surprised at initially many years ago was that teenagers would get up early in the morning to clean the house and environs before they went to school.  Parents drop their kids at school early and then off to work.   Some parents are off to work earlier than their kids and the kids are taken care off by another relative until they go to school.  Everyone pitches in and the kids are more a communal care and no one complains.  Children are cared for deeply and it shows.  The kids are happy, respectful and well behaved.  A bit naive perhaps but generally really nice.  One thing that they all do is ask for a bless which entails them taking your hand and placing the back of it to their forehead.  It is a way of their paying respect to you.   The first time I had teenagers paying me respect my mouth dropped. haha

Most people work throughout the day.  It does not seem very hard but they are on a gentler schedule than you or I face (except for a federal/state  government employee, but can what they do be called work?).

At the end of the day, families are back together, kids do homework and then off to see their friends.  They have cell phones just like other teenagers but no one uses them to make voice calls, just text messages as the cost of a voice call is so expensive.

The sun starts to go down by 530 and it is pitch black by 630 pm.  Pretty much everyone is in bed by 9pm.

Posted by: larry13767 | January 11, 2010

First Post

I start this blog roughly 13,000 kms from home and 11 days into an impromptu trip.  On 22 Dec 2009, my father in law passed away and so began the crazy struggle to get tickets, make arrangements for the kids, get leave form work.

Oh yeah, and celebrate Xmas do all the things we had planned, etc.

Anyhow my wife and I got tickets for Jan 2, 1210 am which somehow I took to be the night of Jan 2 but nooo it was just after midnight of Jan 1st.   Good thing I realized that in time. Homer moment.

Anyway, after roughly 32 hours of travel from Toronto to Hong Kong to Manila to Tuguegarao and then finally San Mateo in the province of Isabela.  Long journey, warm welcome.

I come to the Philippines every few years and I have been here about 9 times by my count.  I am always struck by many things about the country and its people.  The poverty, the humor, the friendliness and wish to share whatever they have with us.  Every time I arrive, it is into the arms of a family that have taken me in as they own.

There are always things that one has to get used to, off course.   Toilets, bugs and heat.  Being a North American the squat toilet is a scary sight.  During this time of year, the temperature was very nice and more like a June Day back home. warm, pleasant and no humidity.  This particular  year, the mosquitoes decided I was wonderfully scrumptious and for some odd reason they only attacked my hands and feet.  I count 61 bites on one hand alone.  I was soaking my hand in ice to quell the itchiness which was a bit more than I could deal with.

In most years when I traveled to my in laws place it was always a time for celebration and welcome, lots of laughter and good times (expect for the aforementioned caveatst off course).

This year was the exception and I found it hard to take the sight of my mother in law’s sorrow at her companion of many years passing.  This woman is as close to me as my own mother.  Her and her husband were the matriarch and patriarch’s of the massive extended family and his passing was a shock even with his extended age (88) and his illness with COPD/emphysema.

Over the next few days I will cover some of the days that I spent here trying to catch up as much as possible and in the following weeks.