July 03, 2011

Some things are...just DIFFERENT

Now that we have been living here in the Philippines for a month we have seen how some things are just different. For example, in the States people were (maybe still are) offended and screamed "It is violating" when airport security decided to do more frequent 'pat-downs.' However here pat-downs are the norm. There is a security woman and a man standing at every door into the mall, the grocery store, the movies, and restaurants. But alas, don't fret because they do smile and greet you friendly as they inspect the treasure in your bags and pat your jewels.

Another example is the food industry. In the States organic food is a heated political and health debate. "Do you know where your food is prepared?" Most people in the States think they do, yet are shocked coming to a place where meat is not magically shrink wrapped in the cooler at the market. The pig for next month's pork chops is usually in the yard; the fish in the store are not fileted already and but have blank glassy eyes staring out at you; prawns really are not pink until they are cooked, and they are entertainingly active in their alive pre-cooked tank; and eggs still have bird poop on them when they are packaged! I debated today when Lady Hiva asked me to crack two eggs for her cookies if I should wash the egg before I cracked it, hahaha!

We have seen so many taxi drivers, with all sorts of personalities. The other day Hiva was riding somewhere and the driver stopped the banana seller--at every major light there are salespeople toting goods from car parts, dustpans, water and food that you can roll your window down and buy--and bought a few bananas, he then asked if Hiva wanted one because she needed to eat breakfast and "bananas are good for your breakfast."  Now, would a cabby in NYC even CARE if he ate in front of you? More than that, would he even care if you ate breakfast or not as long as you paid the fare? See, it is just different.

One of biggest differences for Hiva and I (other than driving, but we will discuss that later) is shopping. As you have read in previous posts, Lady Hiva LOVES to shop! She already knows the way to all the malls--well maybe not all, but it seems like she has found a new one everyday to explore when I get home from work--now the malls are our frame of reference. A common question at our house is, "Is that next to Glorietta mall or closer to Greenhills?" Often I am fascinated by the sheer AMOUNT of employees at a mall. Everywhere you turn there are helpers. They want to please so badly that once you select something you never touch it again until it is paid for, wrapped intricately in brown paper, and you are ready to head out the door. Talk about service! Mall in America need some lessons.

Sometimes it is overwhelming though, "Sir, Maam you can buy______" can be heard wherever we go. It does not help that my appearance somehow is a neon light that says "RICH AMERICAN COMING, BE EXTRA NICE AND HE WILL BUY SOMETHING." I have to laugh when they even ask me to buy something when we are standing in the women's clothing section??? Hmmm... Usually if you stop, point, ask the price or any combination of these it is a trigger for them to help you find what you need. Even if you were just plain old looking, I have become selective in what I point and ask about. I have to hold back my laughter sometimes because they will usually grab something off the shelf to see if I like it. I cannot figure out if they just grab the nearest item to them, if they really like that item, or they think I WOULD really like it. Either way it always ends up being the ugliest thing on the shelf and then I resort to thinking they are only trying to pawn off the item to the American because he can afford ugly things! HAHA. For the most part it is nice to have the helpfulness, there have only been a few times that we both get so overwhelmed with help we have to go back out for a breather.

We bought a used SUV today, it is nice to now think we are done with  taxis. It was fun to drive around. We took a driving tour of Manila, including a photo stop at the LDS Temple. We got some photos of how neighborhoods change so much from large pristine glass high rises, to gated mansions, and finally the packed housing for the poor. The stark contrast, as I have mentioned before, is startling sometimes. You can see that in the photos above. We took Bryan to Makati today and he could not get over that we were in the same city. He just kept echoing what Hiva and I have said several times, "It feels like we are in LA here." There was one time I counted 7 lanes across on a road with three lanes!

We stopped at Rizal Park. Jose Rizal is a--no make that--THE Filipino Hero. During the time of the Spanish, he wrote several books and united people enough to start a war and overcome their colonial power. He is viewed by the Filipino people in the same light Americans see George Washington. Actually, I dare say Rizal is revered more by his people. The park is beautiful. A monument is erected to him and his martyrdom. Large grass areas were filled with people picnicking, and fountains completed the landscape. We found it amusing that several men were working in the large fountain in the center of the park and it was still running! Poor guys were out there with snorkeling goggles trying to work, but hey, the aesthetics were not interrupted, must be a successful day.

There was a huge relief, to scale, at one end of all the Philippines islands. It was fun to sit and look at the country and see where we had been and where we want to go visit next.  There are several people in the park offering rides on their carriages or bikes, much like Central Park in NYC. All of their horses were healthy and looked well fed, except one. On our way out  this old guy walked up to us, pointed to Bryan, and said, "Hey I remember you from 4 years ago. I now work here in the park giving rides," to which he gestured to the bony grey horse in the road a few feet away. He scooted closer to us and continued, "I am hungry, but I will sacrifice to give you a ride on my carriage through the park and after I will take the money you give me and go eat." Wow, talk about a creative approach. We still walked.

Lady Hiva and I are loving Manila, the Filipino people are so friendly and warm. They especially like when we are willing to spend time with them and ask questions about their culture, lives and language. Despite all the many differences, we still find moments that it is beginning to feel like home.


  1. That's awesome, I've always wanted to go to Rizal Park.

  2. Hello from India! I love reading your posts. I get a little glimpse of a place I've never been but would love to experience. Our first month in Chennai has been wonderful, too, but with plenty of differences to get used to. We miss you and Hiva!

    Amy Hall

  3. I miss Filipino food! I love to watch some live seafood swim around (catfish for example) and seashells spit out some water! hahaha!!! Sure, you can wash the eggshells before cracking them.. hehe! Your stories about the mall employees made me laugh. Yes they are helpful but more often than not they are "too" helpful I have to run away from them. My least favorite is the way they follow you (and everybody else) around their "aisle" ... it makes me feel like I'm a thief that they need to watch out for. I was gonna take Jesse to Rizal Park when we went home but we run out of time. Good for you! :)

  4. Well said Dustin. Im hoping to see you both soon. Hows your Tagalog? To capture the beauty of a place is to enjoy whatever you see.

  5. I enjoy reading your blog. My husband served a mission in the Philippines and we will be moving there soon, so it's nice to see pictures and hear about what it is like. Are you LDS too? :)

    Thanks for sharing!