Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Philippine File

(The following are excerpts from the journal I kept faithfully during my four-week working holiday to the other side of the globe. And in keeping with the whole randomness of Philippine culture, these excerpts have been listed in no specific order and for no apparent purpose other than to give the false impression of something resembling organized chaos which, in essence, is akin to the entire Philippine experience.)

October 12nd, Cebu Pacific – Terminal 3, Ninoy Aquino International Airport; Manila, Philippines (7:30am)

Spending my Canadian Thanksgiving at the airport waiting to board my flight to Bacolod. The only thing resembling a holiday feast is the old man picking his nose beside me and the weird purple alien turd-like ice cream which may, or may not, have random pig parts in it. Then again, the same could be said for just about every food item in the Philippines. Suffice to say, Filipino people eat just about anything…pig ears, chicken feet, butts on a stick, chicken livers, rotten duck embryo’s, not to mention a strange penchant for anything deep purple in color (cupcakes, tarts, pies, ice cream, etc.)

October 18th, The Old Ruins; Bacolod, Philippines (8:30pm)

Japanese tourists will take photos of just about anything. I am watching one woman have her picture taken at least 500 goddamn times…on the rock, off the rock, over the rock, leaning on the rock - for fuck sakes woman, how many pictures do you need of yourself and a rock?

October 1st, Lester Pearson Airport; Toronto, ON (7:15am)

The “sniffer” machine at the airport security gather is rather new and thereby scary to me. Apparently it “sniffs” out and detects traces of chemicals that may still be lingering on any mischievous terrorist. Whatever, I think it’s just another excuse to flush out hippies.

If they were really concerned about dangerous and potentially lethal chemical compounds they set this sniffer machine outside the public bathroom just outside “Beaches Boardwalk Café” in Terminal 3. The remnants of their featured ‘Scrambled Egg Platter’ will no doubt register off the chart and make any budding Taliban chemist green with envy.

October 14th, Chicken House, Bacolod, Philippines (4:45pm)

Menu options: “Pecho” (breast), “isol” (ass), or “atay” (liver).

Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with the breast please. I’ll need a few drinks before I build up enough Dutch courage to tackle the chicken ass.

October 29th, Flight CX906 to Hong Kong (10:45am)

Too good to be true headline from the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Gov’t, MILF Sign Accord to Spare Millions”. How incredibly fucking awesome is that? Is that the best name they could think of for their terrorist group? Really? ‘MILF’ actually stands for the secessionist ‘Moro Islamic Liberation Front’, and not ‘Militants I’d Like to Fuck’ as I originally thought.

How do people ever take these people seriously? Do you negotiate a peace treaty or the price for a room at some No-Tell Motel for a heated quickie? Whatever the case, it seems that MILF has agreed to sign a deal to keep civilians out of harms way during clashes in Mindanao. Is that what we’re calling it these days? It’s a good will gesture to restart the stalled peace talks. Personally, I would have asked for a blow job as a good will gesture, but that’s just me.

“The next logical move is to resume the peace negotiations”, said Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson. By that, I think he means a five-alarm booty-call back at party headquarters. “Formal resumption of talks is imminent”, he said in a phone interview (which, subsequently, happened to cost $1.99 for the first minute then $3.99 for each consecutive minute – local long distance and toll charges still apply), adding that both parties were looking for a date for the resumption of talks, “hopefully before Christmas”. What he failed to mention is that these dates they’re looking for are more than likely located in the back pages of Swank magazine.

I could go on and on and on and on and…

October 11th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (9:45am)

Woke myself out of a deep sleep with the rank stench of my own Bubba Gump Garlic Shrimp farts.

October 18th, The Old Ruins; Bacolod, Philippines (8:00pm)

Had dinner tonight at ‘The Old Ruins’. Very nice, of course, but the Filipino’s really need to take a course in marketing and naming convention. Chicken House sells chicken; The Old House is an old house; The Old Cemetery is an old cemetery, and The Old Ruins are old ruins…I get it already.

October 1st, Lester Pearson Airport; Toronto, ON (7:45am)

I don’t understand the whole automated bathroom thing in airports. The towels are dispensed automatically. The toilet paper automatically tears after 2 flimsy sheets, and the toilet flushes every time you lift your ass. Now, I’m not saying I’m against the whole ecological ‘Save the Planet’ philosophy of controlled dispensing in order to limit man’s wastefulness and the overall negative impact on his environment, but what sense does it make to supply toilet paper so thin that you need to wipe at least three thousand times before you can safely put your pants back on? Never mind the water you’re wasting each time the toilet flushes each time you stand up and sit down while you helplessly try to clean yourself with this cheap-ass toilet paper. I swear my toilet must have flushed the equivalent of a small inland lake by the time I managed to exit the stall. There is probably a whole species of sea scallop now on the endangered list as a result of wasting so much natural habitat wiping my ass.

October 9th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (3:00pm)

Lucky me, I have acquired a case of the screaming shits. If pooping were an Olympic sport I’d win the gold medal let me tell you! Whoever said “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” should be tied up and left on the streets of Ortigas for a speed bump. I haven’t felt this ill since the Season Premiere of ‘Dancing With the Stars’.

October 18th, Gaisano Mall; Bacolod, Philippines (1:30pm)

I’ve about had it with the trannies. Here a tranny, there a tranny, everywhere a tranny, tranny. For such a modest and reserved culture, there sure is a fuck of a lot of transvestites walking around! I’m developing a deep mistrust of any good looking female now as I just can’t immediately assume that this vision of loveliness also has a huge horse cock swinging between her legs.

October 1st, Lester Pearson Airport; Toronto, ON (8:30am)

Looking around the airport lobby (Gate 35C) there is wide scope of multi-culturalism evident. There are at least 12 –13 different sleepy-eyed nationalities waiting to board flight CX919 to Hong Kong. I wonder what other cultural differences await for me on the other side. Are there any particular social no-no’s I should be aware of? After all, it is Eastern Asian, the very epicenter of “weird”. For example, you never touch the head of someone in a largely Buddhist country - even that of a child - or not embracing anyone from Saudi Arabia or other places in the Middle East. You would never dream sneeze at a dinner table in Venezuela or use your chopsticks to pull a plate closer in China. You get the picture. So what others are out there besides these old chestnuts? Is there a book published that has an updated listing of all these cultural social faux pas’s?

If there were a single taboo gesture that is universal it would be to never kick someone in the Charlie Brown’s. And that goes for all nationalities and sexes while we’re at it. No matter where you are or in whose presence you may find yourself, it would be a pretty safe bet to say that it would be totally frowned upon to hoof someone in the nads. Yes sir, nothing says “rude, obnoxious tourist” quite like a sharp, swift kick to the junk. You may as well tattoo “I’m not from around here” on your forehead and check yourself into the nearest maximum security prison.

October 5th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (8:15pm)

The courtesy hotel “Guest Security Advisory” memo this morning addresses the issue of street crime in the area. Yeah, nothing like a Security Advisory to give you the warm fuzzies first thing in the morning. In this memo, they recommend to avoid talking to “friendly” strangers, as they are apt to lure you into their vehicles and offer drinks spiked with gamma-hydroxbuttyrate, which induces immediate sleep and subsequent memory lass. Personally, that sounds like my Prom Night, but I get their point. You just know that any drug with the word ‘butt’ stuck in the middle of it isn’t going to end up being all pretty rainbows and talking unicorns, dig? If you’re lucky, you’ll just get robbed and left for dead.

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G; Toronto, ON (9:25am)

First observation: I’m frickin’ HUGE! I’m, like, easily the tallest one on this plane.

Second observation: All these short Asian people look like ninja’s, or the type of people who might know ninja’s.

Despite my height advantage, if things go all ‘Snakes on a Plane’ I’d still need to keep a close watch of these ninja lovin’ bastards. I could just as easily meet my fate as the result of a ‘Philippino Death Touch’ after accidentally bumping into an old woman in the aisle on my way to the lavatory. If anyone even looks at me funny I’m going to loudly give them my best Godzilla-like shriek as if to say: “Back off there Bruce Lee, or I’ll eat you whole!”

October 20th, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Bacolod, Philippines (5:30pm)

I read an interesting tidbit about Filipino’s in the airport lobby. Apparently, Filipino people are more subject to ‘Bangungot’, which is a sleep paralysis or dying from your nightmare. Good to know. Since, it’s also said that you develop bad dreams when you eat too much, and given what these people eat on a daily basis I’m not fucking surprised! Stuff me full of grilled chicken asshole and I’m likely to die in my sleep of extreme indigestion too.

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G; Toronto, ON (9:28am)

Third observation: I can’t believe this plane is even going to get airborne. It’s so big that it has an onboard fruit market and a shuttle to get you there.

October 12th, Bacolod Airport, (10:00am)

If I wasn’t in Kansas before, I sure as shit must have just landed on the moon. Palm trees, sugar cane, thatched huts, ox-driven carts – it’s like I just landed in Apocalypse Now!

Immediately upon leaving the plane they take your temperature. Why? Who the fuck knows. To do this, they aim a laser gun at your forehead for only a few seconds and give you a reading. Now, I’m certain this is a harmless process, but for anyone from North America, having a gun of any sort pointed directly at your head without explanation is more than a tad bit uncomfortable. I almost shit my pants right there on the spot when I first saw the faint flicker of a laser beam hone in on my temple, let me tell you. Of course, even though it all turned out well enough (31-degrees, or “normal”), with my luck they also just gave me brain cancer. I also doubt very highly that the dude in the white lab coat pointing the gun at passengers while they disembarked ever had any credible training in order to certifiably operate a laser.

Afterwards, you are presented with three small pills in the even you get sick - no explanation why or what for. Hey, I just got off the plane and they’re already giving me free drugs. How fucking awesome is that?

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G; Toronto, ON (9:35am)

So after take off, it’s only going to be a short 12,562km to Hong Kong. By the time I get there I will be 65 years old and ready for retirement. Guaranteed I will need Viagra if I’m lucky enough to hook up with any local hunnies. “Geez, sorry babe. It was working fine when I left!”

October 19th, Gaisano Mall, Bacolod, Philippines (6:30pm)

The most popular form of public transport here are “tri-bikes”. The streets are literally crowded with them. The bikes themselves look like they’re constructed of random plumbing parts and look about as durable as Tinker Toys. And nothing about these bikes could be considered as comfortable, for neither rider nor driver. Absolutely none of these bikes have cushions seats, so these poor bastards much have asses of granite from riding around on these things all day.

October 29th, Ninoy Aquino International Airport; Manila, Philippines (6:45pm)

Just barely made my flight thanks to the chin-wagging customs officer taking his sweet fucking time processing passenger’s passports. You’d think he was Dog the Bounty Hunter or something. Just as my flight began to blink ‘Final Boarding’, this guy decides it’s the perfect time to have a stretch and share a giggle or two with his fellow customs officers. “Look here, Needledick. This isn’t the Filipino Mr. Congeniality contest…hurry the fuck up or there’s going to be blood”. Swear to god, I was ready to leap through that blast-proof barrier, tear his head off and use it to stamp my own bloody passport. “Salamat, asshat!”

But it seems this is the norm here at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as lines are currently longer than the lines at Disney’s ‘Space Mountain’. It’s enough to drive you to insanity. And if that’s not bad enough, there’s the mandatory 500 Pesos “Passenger Service Charge” fee they fuck you with before you can board your plane. You mean, I have to pay for the privilege of being part of this total clusterfuck? Why not just rape me behind the Check-In Counter and be done with it.

But wait, there’s more! Lets not forget the 250 Pesos “Security Development Charge” you also get strapped with. This seemingly is being put to good use considering there’s nearly twice as many guards as there are to passengers and, funnily enough, not one of them is doing a single thing to assist with sorting things out apart from glaring at us suspiciously. Bravo! Good plan with the spending there. I know if I had my way on how my Security Development Charge is to be allocated, 249.99 of it would be spent on developing these fuckheads a goddamn clue!

But I did manage to make my flight just in the nick of time just to end up sitting and idling on the airport tarmac.

Only in the Philippines!

October 4th, Greenhills; Manila, Philippines (12:30pm)

“Greenhills” marketplace is off the hook. Pearls, knock off designer clothes, shoes, import items…you fucking name it. You could probably buy yourself a Filipino orphan child for the price of one week’s worth of groceries. In the span of one afternoon, I dropped more money than Michael J. Fox at a parking meter.

This place is an absolute labyrinth of stalls, booths, vendor stands, etc. This place makes King Minos’ maze at Crete seem like a velodrome. I half expected a Minotaur to charge me down in one of the narrow vendor aisles.

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G (2:00pm)

I’ve been on this plane for five hours and I’ve already watched so much television my eyes are at risk of bleeding out. Two movies, one documentary on the mating habits of bumble bees, a few games of Centipede, and more episodes of ‘King of the Hill’ than you could shake a remote control at. I am rather pleased however at having beaten the computer in a game of chess…not once, but twice! You know you reached your life’s Zenith when you manage to beat the onboard computer in a game of Battle Chess. This plane could plunge out of the sky in the middle of the Arctic Circle never to be seen again and I would die a happy man.

October 12th, Planta Hotel, Bacolod, Philippines (2:05pm)

Note to self: trying to sleep in the middle of the day while a drunken Filipino butchers ‘For Your Eyes Only’ at the karaoke bar across the street, is about as likely as teaching a pony to play the flute.

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G (9:30pm)

Twelve and a half hours on this plane so far and I haven’t killed anybody yet. Thanks Heaven for small miracles. That’s more time spent in a small, cramped and uncomfortable location than any human should ever have to endure.

October 30th, Hong Kong International Airport (2:45pm)

I’m sitting at a Sports Bar listening to Disco Music and eating chicken wings, potato skins, onion rings and a Diet Coke…weird sensation considering where I am currently. Particularly strange is the bottle of Dijon mustard they brought to my table for whatever reason.

October 2nd, Hong Kong International Airport (1:30pm)

Funny thing about Hong Kong – everyone looks like Jet Li.

I’m a bit nerved by the number of people walking around wearing surgical germ masks. I bet if I sneezed openly at least half a dozen people would duck and roll for cover.

I wonder if they have an alley somewhere where I can place bets on Kumate-style stick fighting or something while I wait for my connecting flight to Manila?

October 25th, Village of Cardona; Province of Rizal, Philippines (11:30am)

I am attending a Filipino Hawaiian Luau wedding. What are the chances of that happening twice in your lifetime? Your more likely to get struck by lightning twice.

Filipino’s are big on the ‘L’ word. The word ‘love’ was used approximately 39,892,362,298 times inside a 30-minute ceremony. Thank God there isn’t also a customary drinking game to go along with it.

October 6th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (10:00am)

Had my toe nails buffed to high sheen by a pretty Filipino woman. That was my little treat to heal my bruised pride after yesterday’s abysmal display of golf prowess. I think over the course of 18 holes I embarrassed myself, my caddy, and my umbrella girl, as well as my family and friends for generations to come. The whole experience was about as enjoyable as having hot lava poured down your pants. Luckily, it also afforded me the opportunity to down many beers afterwards in an effort to erase the whole fiasco from my memory. Now, I’m proud to say, I will most be remembered for my beer chugging skills than I will for my shitty driving, chipping or putting skills.

Random cultural observation: it seems it is perfectly acceptable to be wrist deep up your nose in public.

October 13th, Planta Hotel, Bacolod, Philippines (3:30pm)

Requested a taxi driver to take me “shopping’ and got dropped off at a local Third World style marketplace which was a cross between a farmers market and a ‘Little Shop of Horrors’.

If I was looking for local flavor, I sure found it here in the form of grains, spices, sweet breads, candies, funny-looking fruits and vegetables, and just about every random animal part you could ever think to look for. Let’s not forget the endless aisles of butchers, fish mongers, textile merchants, dry good vendors, flip-flop salesmen, and kitchen utensil salesgirls, not to mention the other random nick-nack and brick-a-brack. Except that this place makes your local Dollar-Rama look like Macy’s. There are even little seated areas that act as cafeterias to serve shoppers snacks and drinks. If it wasn’t for the fact that you weren’t surrounded by such poverty and a smell that could stop a charging rhino in it’s tracks, you might think you were at the Kmart cafeteria at your local public mall.

And in the middle of all this chaos – there it is – Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ playing loud and proud through the Walmart brand ghetto blaster that’s hanging from the ceiling, which acts as the internal muzac system.

Oh, and MacDonald’s of course. It never ceases to amaze me how MacDonald’s manages to integrate itself into every local culture – no matter how poor or destitute. Yep, just when you think you’ve reached the most desolate place on earth, there it will be – the Golden Arches. When we colonize another planet, MacDonald’s will be serving up cheeseburgers in the space station. It just spreads like the plague.

October 29th, Flight CX826 to Toronto (7:30pm)

You have to wonder about some passengers and what they do in airplane bathrooms. What the fuck takes them so long? I waited nearly 20 minutes for two people to finish their business. What could they have possibly been doing in their for 20 freakin’ minutes? You know what I think about when I go into any public bathroom? Getting the fuck out again – that’s what! But noooooooo, some people like to make a day out of it; plan a picnic, see the sights, take in a movie, grab coffee, that kind of thing. Just taking their sweet ass time and enjoy themselves with no consideration for the rest of us out here experiencing bladder pains waiting our turn to use the facilities. I almost had to ask the stewardess to pass me an empty Ginger Ale can to piss in.

Finally, one of the morons emerges from one bathroom leaving a wake of shit behind them: used napkins, wadded towelettes, wrappers, a toothbrush, and water (or what I hope was water) absolutely everywhere. It looked like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in there. All that was missing was some guy making off with pairs of Levi’s.

October 10th, Rogues; Burgos, Manila, Philippines (11:35pm)

I’m sipping beers wrapped in paper napkins in what would best be considered as the local “Red Light District”. Except, by North American standards, this district is more of a dull rose-tinted light than it is red. There is nothing that would be considered as steamy, per se. The dancing girls dance with all the charged enthusiasm of someone who has just undergone a full frontal lobotomy. They’re obviously bored out of their semi-naked minds. Their luscious tight nubile bodies clad in skimpy day-glow bikini’s may say, “hello, sailor!” but their yawns of indifference say “God help me.”

October 21st, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (8:30am)

Looking at the morning paper I am seeing photos of typhoon victims, and I notice in each picture that they are all smiling away happily as if nothing had happened. Weird, right? But then again, think about it, these pictures are of displaced families whose villages were washed away as a result of Typhoon Peping. And from the looks of the photos, the evacuation centers look more hospitable than the villages themselves. So this is most likely an upgrade in living for these people. Clean tents, good food, clean water, medical aid, shit, it’s Christmas come early for these people. No wonder they’re so happy! They’re just wishing for the next tropical storm in order to extend their stays in paradise.

October 16th, Planta Hotel; Bacolod, Philippines (5:30pm)

I think God is having a laugh at my expense some days. For instance, he hasn’t allowed me to sleep for the past 72 hours. As soon as my head hits the pillow it’s either pigs screeching bloody murder as they’re hauled behind the local “Lechon” BBQ’s for slaughter, drunken karaoke, fireworks which more sound like a washing machine being dragged down the middle of the street and today, some open-air festival in the parking lot of Gaisano Mall across the street kicking off the Masskara Festival…and you just know how I loves me my Filipino pop music.

October 2nd, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (11:00pm)

I feel like a total Rock Star. My hotel room looks as if it has been designed and customized just for me. Now I know how Cheops must have felt when he first laid eyes on the Great Pyramid; how Pope Julius II felt when he first strolled into the Sistine Chapel; how the Shah felt when he first kicked in the door at the Taj Mahal; or even how the Duke of Buckingham felt when he first laid eyes on, well, Buckingham Palace. You get the gist…

I have been warned, however, to never - under NO circumstances - ever drink the water here in Manila unless it has been sealed, resealed and blessed by at least a dozen holy men first. Apparently, just using tap water here to just brush your teeth is akin to injecting cyanide straight into your veins.

October 3rd, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (8:00pm)

Woke up to a heavy rainfall outside my 14th floor suite. This is inevitably the beginning of the latest “Super Typhoon” Peping. Sounds more like Pluto’s retarded Asian stepsister if you ask me…certainly not a Category 5 tropical storm. Is this the best that PAGASA (Philippine Atmospherical, Geographical, and Astronomical Services Administration) could think of? Shit, if they really wanted to scare the pants off us leery travelers why didn’t they name it ‘Typhoon Vader’ and be done with it?

October 18th, Masskara Festival; Bacolod, Philippines (12:30am)

Tonight I stared Fear directly in the eye and did not flinch. No, I did not stick my head inside a bucket of live tarantula’s or anything, but I did suck the brains out of a giant shrimp. This was particularly significant as it totally goes against Rule #765 of life, which basically states that one - meaning me, of course - should never suck the brains out of, well, anything.

October 4th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (7:00am)

The most amazing thing to me so far about the city of Manila is the fucking traffic. To me, you literally take your life in your hands every time you buckle yourself into any motorized vehicle. Picture six lanes of traffic all jockeying for position on a three-lane span of road. Its organized chaos at it’s finest. The fact that nobody ever seems to side-swipe, crash into or, say, kill anyone else is an absolute miracle. Drivers seem to communicate with each other through a recognized series of honks of the car horn. I think it may go something like this:

1 honk = “Hello, here I am!”
2 honks = “Please be careful, I’m coming.”
3 honks = “Hey Buster, watch out!”
4 honks = “Are you out of your fucking mind, jackass?”

October 14th, Planta Hotel, Bacolod, Philippines (8:00am)

Definition of Embarrassing: drop a 7ft. coiler in a Third World bathroom and have to call Housekeeping. This turd was almost as big as the poor unfortunate bastard who had to come plunge it away. Godzilla himself would have been impressed.

October 4th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (5:00pm)

New memo to all hotel patrons: “This is to inform you that for your own security as well as for the safety of your personal belongings in the room, we strongly discourage our guests from availing of external massage services.”

This sounds like a polite way of saying “Please don’t bring your whores into the hotel, you schmuck!” if you ask me.

October 12th, Planta Hotel, Bacolod, Philippines (3:30pm)

I needed to buy a new belt (don’t ask) today. And I had no less than the same number it takes to field an entire women’s field hockey team trying to help me find one. It was like having my own shopping entourage. Now I know how ‘ol Brittany and K-Fed feel when they go out for the day. Once they determined my size, preferred color and buckle type they set loose to the scouring the many racks of men’s belts in search. All in all, they pulled about 50 belts in total for me to consider. I hadn’t even so much as scratched my ass by this point, and so far, everything was all being done for me. All I had to do was stand there and nod approvingly or frown depending on how I liked what they laid out before me. I felt like an Emperor deciding what to wear for the day.

October 18th, Planta Hotel; Bacolod, Philippines (10:30pm)

Filipino’s absolutely adore BBQ so these are definitely my kind of people! On the same stretch of street you will find at least two-dozen BBQ vendors all huddled together offering passers-by a variety of animal parts. It’s as if the whole chicken is just passed down the long row of BBQ’s where, each vendor just simply takes his or her piece for grilling; a conveyor belt of carcass if you will.

October 1st, Lester Pearson Airport; Toronto, ON (8:15am)

Nothing starts ones trip on a positive note like CNN disaster updates of oversea tsunamis (Samoa) and typhoons (Philippines) on the airport lobby television. Good times. The Pacific Ocean is angry and I’m about to swan dive right into the middle of it.

I’m thinking now I should have packed my extra swim goggles.

October 14th, Chicken House, Bacolod, Philippines (4:30pm)

I finally managed to get somewhere so I can try the famous Bacolodian chicken. I know, I know, chicken? I mean, really, how do you fuck up chicken exactly? But hey, it’s cool to just be known for something and chicken is as good as anything I suppose. After all, how can you go wrong with the chicken at a place called ‘The Chicken House’? Considering that my other options are the Burger Machine or Bong-Bong’s across the street, I am confident I made the right choice.

October 7th, Mega Mall; Ortigas, Manila, Philippines (12:00pm)

Shopping in the Philippines is insane. Entire Metropolis’ dedicated to marketing and consumerism. And with the exchange rate I feel like I don’t “shop” for goods and item, per se, I rape and pillage like a Viking. The only thing I don’t do is toss the sales lady over my shoulder, light the store ablaze and run off into the night with my discounted booty.

The only thing I can’t warm to is the happier-than-fuck music they constantly play over the mall’s PA system. It’s like being trapped in ‘It’s A Small World’ at Disneyland. It’s enough to drive you to hard drugs! Another thing that annoys while I’m at it is the over-zealous sales people in the shops themselves. Being obviously North American, I might as well as tattoo dollar signs on my forehead. If I browse for a shirt, they immediately fetch me pants, a belt, a tie, a blazer, shoes, dress socks, as well as every other possible piece of accessory item I could ever think to look for. It’s impossible to shop undisturbed. I’m afraid that I may snap on one of these shopping excursions and end up round kicking the sales person into the next millennium for coming within my 5ft. personal bubble.

October 25th, Village of Cardona; Province of Rizal, Philippines (1:30pm)

I saw something rather bizarre today which traveling out in the country. There standing by the middle of side of the road – in the middle of nowhere – was a cotton candy salesman. Huh? The questions this raises completely overload my brain. Why would someone pick this particular location to sell cotton candy? I personally haven’t seen anyone in nearly 20 minutes, much less anyone with balloons and a Kewpie doll. Where did this guy get his cotton candy? It’s not likely that there’s a cotton candy factory anywhere, nor is there any electricity for hundreds of miles to power any cotton candy machines that may in the area – which is bloody unlikely.

October 4th, Linden Suites Hotel; Manila, Philippines (6:30am)

Well, Peping came and went with all the destructive force of a wet fart. Whoopee.

October 16th, Pala-Pala’s; Bacolod, Philippines (2:30pm)

Had an enjoyable dinner of fresh garlic butter shrimp and lapu-lapu with coconut milk straight from the shell. I’m probably going to have the shits for a week but how fucking awesome does that sound?

October 1st, Flight CX919 to Hong Kong, Seat 39G (11:00am)

One thing I can say about Cathay Pacific for sure, and that’s they’re attentive as fuck. In the first 90 minutes alone we have been given a head set, a pillow, a blanket, a packet of peanuts, a complimentary beverage, an unidentifiable brunch-like meal, a refill on our beverages, and a snack baggy of fruit, granola and a bottle of water. Shit, anything else and there won’t be any room left in my seat for me. Christ, the way it’s going I’m going to need a Sherpa to help me cart all this shit off the plane.

The stewardesses are like beavers on crack as they busily distribute their wares, collecting garbage, delivering magazines, and refilling bottomless plastic glasses. You’re likely to get mowed down in the aisle with a runaway beverage cart while trying to navigate your way to the bathroom.

October 12th, Flight 475 to Bacolod, Seat 2A (8:30am)

Ho-lee-shit! This airplane is so small I’m nervous it won’t even lift off the ground with all of us aboard. It’s more of a crop duster if you ask me and we’re packed in here like chickens. I can’t even shrug my shoulders without giving someone a black eye. Here I’m seated in the second row and the cabin crew are practically sitting in my lap. I could give the co-pilot a pony ride during take-off for fuck sakes! And the cold steam cascading from the cabin ceiling does nothing to make me feel any more secure. It’s as if this plane it about to boil over or something, and given that the whole plane probably runs on the same electrical mechanics as your basic discounted Black & Decker kettle, this may not entirely be out of the question. My other concern is that if we should need to suddenly crash out in open water, I am doubtful that the emergency floatation vests will even fit me as, like everything else on this plane, is inevitably intended to fit Smurfs. Not gigantic, clumsy ass North Americans such as myself. Now I know how Gulliver felt among the Lilliputians. If I survive this flight I will truly have something to be thankful for this particular holiday season.

To make matters worse, the asshole seated in front of me - another North American like myself as it happens –immediately put his chair back into the reclining position, like, 60 nano-seconds into the flight. I have about 2 inches of space to maneuver my head. Shit, every time I exhale through my nostrils I part this idiot’s hair. If we crash land, I’m seeking out this prick to drown him and use his corpse as my floatation device.

October 14th, Gaisano Mall, Bacolod, Philippines (5:30pm)

Google has finally let me down. It lists as “Things to Do” in Bacolod as some park, a field, a cemetery, and some old house and a statue of some dude and a water buffalo. These are the key things of interest? Whoopee shit! I think I’ll just go back to my hotel room and masturbate.

October 19th, Planta Hotel; Bacolod, Philippines (8:30am)

I woke this morning with the realization that although I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, I am ready to go home. I miss my bed. I miss my cat. I miss clean clothes. I miss my every day routine. I’m also developing the phobia that I smell like a grizzly bear.

I’ve grown weary of the street vendors, the Bacolod chicken, the drunken karaoke, the labyrinth malls, the hotel doorman, the tri-bikes, the BBQ, the armed guards, and the organized chaos they call traffic. Even sitting at the mall watching trannies has grown tiresome. And you just know you’re done when men in drag fail to bring you amusement. Mostly, I can’t stand to hear the Godfather theme played in the hotel lobby anymore. I’m going to run amok and stab somebody soon.

October 2nd, Ninoy Aquino International Airport; Manila, Philippines (9:30pm)

I’m waiting for my luggage and trying desperately to adjust to my new surroundings with a jet-lagged head full of marbles. I feel about as lively as a used douche bag.

October 29th, Flight CX906, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (6: 50pm)

For such small statured people, these Filipinos sure can build huge-ass airplanes when they want to. Compared to the plane I took to Bacolod, this double-decker Boeing 747-400 is a flying condominium. You don’t so much book a seat as you rent an apartment. It’s amazing to me that these things can get airborne at all. I feel like I’m at some neighborhood social gathering than I am on a flight to Hong Kong. I even feel inclined to introduce myself to the other passengers sitting around me. Not because I really give a shit, mind you, but because it might be nice to know whom I’m bobbing along beside in the middle of the China Sea when this gargantuan airplane falls out of the sky.

October 24th, Chicharong Monggo; Manila, Philippines (1:30pm)

Tried something called Shrimp Maruya at a local Philippine cuisine restaurant, which had the consistency of fiberglass. The picture in the menu looked nice, however, I’d rather gargle battery acid than ever bite into one of these nasty things again. Truly, this is what evil tastes like.

Later, I made another mistake by trying ‘Pinipig’ ice cream. I don’t know what I was thinking buying ice cream with the word ‘pig’ in it, but like a dumbass I did. The package promised “80% more pinipig!” Now, I have no idea what ‘pinipig’ is exactly, but if it’s Tagalog for ‘Devil’s nasty bits’, then that’s exactly what I had.

October 29th, Flight CX906 to Hong Kong (11:30am)

How weird is it to be watching ‘King of the Hill’, a cartoon about Texas rednecks, on a plane to Hong Kong?

October 12th, Planta Hotel, Bacolod, Philippines (1:30pm)

Upon arriving at the hotel I wandered across the street to the mall (if you want to call it that) and stocked up on fruit juice, water and biscuits to get me through the next few days. The stores here are funny in that, proportionately, there has to be at least three employees for each customer in the store. It’s not that the stores are huge on customer satisfaction so much, as they in reaping the full benefit of low hourly wages. They can afford to hire dozens of employees to stand lifelessly on the odd chance that someone may need assistance, or heavens forbid, place something back down improperly or out of place on the shelf. By just strolling down the canned goods aisle you can see how meticulously the labels on each and every can has been positioned just so. Then you realize that also up and down the same aisle are at least two dozens employees on their hands and knees rearranging all the misplaced cans back so that their labels face forward. Now, I’m sure that being able to list ‘Can Reorganizer’ on a resume demands a certain amount of respect, but geez!

Whenever you’re ready to purchase anything, you make your way to any one of the hundred’s of small checkout booths located throughout the store. There you will have one person to “validate” it (I’m guessing for inventory sake), someone else to double check that it was validated correctly (“Yup, one package biscuits…”), someone to ring it into the 1940’s era cash register, someone to collect your money and pass it to the cashier and then pass then change back, one person to wrap and bag your item for you, one person to staple your receipt to the bag, and lastly, another person to hand it to you, smile, and bid you a hap-hap-happy day. Its absolutely fucking crazy, man, crazy!

October 14th, Robinson’s Mall, Bacolod, Philippines (5:30pm)

There are armed guards absolutely everywhere. At the mall, the hotel, local shops, restaurants, cafes, salons, and even outside the front door of KFC. Heaven’s forbid anything should ever happen to the Colonel’s ‘Secret Recipe’!

But, really, if a militant terrorist faction ever decided that it wanted to strike a deep blow to moral society and completely disrupt the public peace, are they really going to target a KFC? Well, never mind, I guess stranger things have happened.

October 19th, Gaisano Mall, Bacolod, Philippines (1:30pm)

I decided to go for a shave this morning to alleviate the boredom. And let me tell you, you haven’t tasted life (or how lucky you are to have it) until you’ve let some transvestite shave you with a straight razor. I equate it with getting a blow job by a toothless alligator; it’s pretty scary but still perfectly safe. When they recline you back in the chair and place that hot towel over your face, well, I don’t know how anyone else might feel, but I was suddenly very aware of my exposed throat. What if that tranny decided to slit my throat and make off with my wallet and credit cards? What if I woke up hours later in a tub of ice with a missing kidney? I bet that’s not an easy souvenir t-shirt to find: “I went to the Philippines and all I got was this missing kidney”.

October 27th, Transcom, Pasig City, Philippines (11:30pm)

I am going to indulge in a lead treat tonight – ‘Taho’. For days, I’ve been watching the vendors outside the office spoon their gunk out of a silver pail into plastic cups for passer-bys and I think I’ve finally built up enough cahones to actually give it a try for myself. I mean, really, how often do you get to try things served out of a pail? This goes against one of my strictest observed personal rules when it comes to food: NEVER EAT THINGS SERVED OUT OF ANYTHING THAT COULD ALSO BE USED TO FEED LIVESTOCK. Call me crazy.

‘Taho’ is a soy-based refreshment that is typically served hot (thank you Google!). It’s a comfort snack food made from fresh silken tofu. The vendors’ (or ‘Magtataho’) make these goods before dawn by processing the fresh silken tofu into a consistency of very fine custard…and that’s the polite way of saying it looks like splooge. Shit, it closely resembles something you might expect to find jarred up in Peter North’s refrigerator. In fact, this also happens to violate my second-most strictly observed personal rule regarding food: NEVER EAT ANYTHING THAT LOOKS LIKE SPUNK.

But, hey, some rules are just meant to be broken.

The brown sugar is then heated and caramelized to create a viscous amber-colored syrup called ‘annibal’. Sago “pearls” – similar to tapioca - purchased from the market is also boiled down to a gummy consistency until they are a translucent white. Hungry yet?

The Magtataho carries his mixtures in two large aluminum pails, which hang from either end of a yoke (again with the livestock feeling). One of the buckets carries the tofu base; the other holds the annibal and pearls. They serve their sugary goo into plastic cups using a wide shallow metal ladle that they skim the surface of the silken tofu curd with to remove excess water. Then using a long, thin ladle they scoop in some pearls and annibal, and voila! One plastic cup of spunky goodness!

And, yes, it tastes much better than it sounds. Absolutely delicious in fact!

October 29th, Flight CX826 to Toronto (7:00pm)

My dinner of braised chicken in tomato, mushroom, oregano sauce and penne rigate with hazelnut cake might just be the worst meal I have ever had the displeasure of eating. There are dumpsters that offer more nutritional value and flavor. My hazelnut cake could have actually been used a doorstop. I could have swallowed a hockey puck easier than this nasty dessert cake.