When Will You Visit?

I spent ages looking for a good video with which to entice you over to this part of the world  in the near future – one that didn’t include people needlessly showing off – after a good twenty-five minutes of searching, finally this one was settled on.

I did want a shorter, snappier video but  – although quite long at seven and a half minutes – it does a very good job of capturing the beauty of both the country and people, whilst, towards the end, balancing that out with the poverty that is so often glossed over in such videos.

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We’re Walking in the Air

This time last year, had it been suggested I would be flying back to England for a vacation so soon, I would have doubted it but as I am reminded each day, you really can’t plan ahead in the Philippines.

Now returning with some of the Filipino side of the family in tow, for a few weeks in the cold, in late December, it will be very intriguing to see England through the new and fresh eyes.  It will be a relief to leave the mosquitoes behind as well.

Flying for around 14 hours on the new Airbus A350 (shown off above with a neat introductory book that has a pop up plane in the middle), reminds me with a shudder of the ‘joys’ of prolonged air travel and the dramas of avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis.  Continue reading “We’re Walking in the Air”

Catching Up on Things

Every morning I feel extremely privileged to wake up in The Philippines.  Now in my tenth month of living here, it really is ‘more fun in The Philippines’, as the saying goes.  Despite its status as a third world country, there is so much more to this archipelago than that label. Here people deal with life in such a positive way, day-to-day living here can be hard, the early morning commutes to an ever busier Manila for example, the fight to get on the transport, the endless queueing, and everyone (except me and – thankfully – the driver) grabbing a nap whilst they can.  Yet despite all that people are happier here, perhaps the sunlight is a factor but whatever the reason, despite the challenges people endure, they love life and will make any excuse for a gathering, with more food than its physically possible to eat.

Standing at the door armed with a cup of coffee, usually around 6am (when the temperature has yet to hit thirty degrees but is almost there), I love to look at the palm trees and hear people catching up, sweeping their house fronts, and doing regular people-in-the-morning things.  As I settle down to my own work, the sun usually shines relentlessly, the ebb and flow of passersby changes with the waxing and waning of that fiery ball in the sky, and I get lost in words, and ideas for the future.  Today I realised that, apart from neglecting the blog  -due to other important things that needed doing – I haven’t really mentioned a lot about where we have gone in recent months, so in no particular order and without further ado:

Whilst Summer was still with us we took a trip to Laguna for a day at the hot springs – situated halfway up a mountain – and the most important thing to do was to find a good vantage point and take a photo of the great view spread out below us. That done we rushed down the hill to have a go on the slides!  The so-called express way we took to get there has frequent toll gates which was a new and surprising detail, this of course meant more queueing (an unsurprising detail) but it was worth it for this view alone.

In an effort to fly off the end of the orange slide as far as possible, I threw myself down with reckless abandon and as a burnt my back but to balance that out, I did get a cheer from the people at the bottom of the green slide when I exploded off that one, my nose felt like it had been smashed with a concrete slab, it was brilliant!  There was even some really good reception to Skype with my parents later on, as we munched on our squid dinner.

I was lucky enough to be invited once again to Join the Kiwanis crew for more work in the community. If you missed my first adventures with this wonderful charity, you can read about it here, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then.  This time it was a colouring competition and the kids were really talented, I’ll bring you more about the charity soon.

One of my favourite places to go is Tagaytay, The view from up on high at Sky Ranch, with a glimpse of Taal Lake and the many trees, is always a welcome thing to see.  The breeze was lovely and gazing out with the other impressed visitors really brings home the beauty of this country and also the worrying spread of building which threatens places like this.

Further around the lake at Charito’s, there is another beautiful scenic view, with fishing boats, small villages and on the right of the island is Taal Volcano, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes and was active as recently as 2011.  Food and drink is always abundant and full of seasoning, as well as the obligatory rice, but it tastes even better with this sort of scenic vista for company.  When we were in Bali, I really missed the food of the Philippines, and I am eager for you all to hunt out a Filipino restaurant and go sample some of the delights.
Continue reading “Catching Up on Things”

Local Reading

Wandering around Manila at Friday lunchtime, with the typhoon looming, it was exciting to head to the SMX Convention center to attend the 39th Manila International Book Fair, and after a few hours of perusing I came away with just two books. Po-on (renamed Dusk in western editions) which is the first of five books in the highly acclaimed Rosales saga, tracing the successive generations and struggles of a Filipino family.  The second of my choices, Motherless Tongues caught my eye when at the Ateneo de Manila University Press stand, here is the blurb which explains the book better than I can after too much coffee to kickstart my week:

In Motherless Tongues, Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history gleaned from the workings of translation in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond. Moving across a range of colonial and postcolonial settings, he demonstrates translation’s agency in the making and understanding of events. These include nationalist efforts to vernacularize politics, U.S. projects to weaponize languages in wartime, and autobiographical attempts by area studies scholars to translate the otherness of their lives amid the Cold War. In all cases, translation is at war with itself, generating divergent effects. It deploys as well as distorts American English in counterinsurgency and colonial education, for example, just as it re-articulates European notions of sovereignty among Filipino revolutionaries in the nineteenth century and spurs the circulation of text messages in a civilian-driven coup in the twenty-first. Along the way, Rafael delineates the untranslatable that inheres in every act of translation, asking about the politics and ethics of uneven linguistic and semiotic exchanges. Mapping those moments where translation and historical imagination give rise to one another, Motherless Tongues shows how translation, in unleashing the insurgency of language, simultaneously sustains and subverts regimes of knowledge and relations of power. 

Although I envisioned an afternoon of agonising which books to purchase from a whole heap spread over the many stands, it didn’t quite work out like that.  It was exciting to see people coming out loaded with books, there was an unrestrained enthusiasm from the masses, which was great to see and this was amped up when receiving a map of the many publishers, bookshops and other assorted stands that were in attendance. Continue reading “Local Reading”

Wandering in a Fantasy World

On a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, our car climbed into the hills above Lake Taal, the fog allowing for brief glimpses of the now familiar – but no less picturesque – view.  No journey is complete without a bit of drama and this comes with a drive over a narrow section of road that is being repaired, and has an almost sheer drop on one side, that was one thing to thank the fog for, obscuring the stomach lurching drops that would be visable on better days.  The reason for our trip is to visit what was once promised as ‘the Disneyland of The Philippines’, but the owners ran into financial problems and so it is now a mere shell of theme park.

Greeted by the sight of turrets over the treeline, it all started to look as familiar as it did out of place.  As the car turned we were greeted with a vista of what resembles one of those German castles that looks like it’s come straight from a fairytale.  It was an impressive introduction as an approach to the car park.  I didn’t get a photo of that but I don’t think it would have done it justice had I done so.

A few years ago I did a post on abandoned theme parks and that melancholy feel, real or as in this case, possibly just imagined by myself.  It does get the imagination going and reminded me of Helen Cresswell’s The Watcher’s: A Mystery at Alton towers which is a tightly plotted adventure and well worth getting your hands on for a bit of escapism.

Continue reading “Wandering in a Fantasy World”

Religion, Politics, and Rationality in a Philippine Community – Raul Pertierra

Religion, Politics, and Rationality in a Philippine Community is a study of the relationship between material interest and ideological practises.  Based on extensive fieldwork in a municipality of northern Luzon, the book explores the structural and cultural bases of religious belief and practise.  Tracing the historical pattern of the local response initially to catholic conversion, later to American Protestantism and more recently to indigenous forms of Christianity.  Dr. Pertierra argues that the complex response to conversion can be understood in terms of material-political interests in association with the attempts to retain meaningful cultural forms.  Drawing from the classical tradition established by Marx, Durkheim , and Weber, but extending their sociological insights by incorporating more recent theory as well as modern anthropological techniques, this study questions the prevailing views of religious practise in Philippine society and challenges the theories of rationalisation found in Development and Modernisation theory.

Hiding (and wilting) from the 41 degree heat outside, I chose to read this. Had I not had an understandable interest in Philippine history and culture, I would still have selected this, for the pure joy of learning about a new country and culture.  Although it’s important to remember that this book deals with data and research from the 1975-6; the value of understanding the present, far outweighs the changes in both community, and perhaps in the theory as well.

Using a fictitious name to protect the identity of the province and the privacy of individuals, the book starts off with a look at previous studies of Filipino communities, the results, and the flaws.  In and of itself, I found this short tour of the subject to be both highly interesting and extremely intricate.

The focus of this study is to track religion (and its evolution, if I may use the word in such a context) to the wider social structure within which it exists. The reader is soon introduced to the balance of both spiritual (institutionalised and indigenous) and secular behaviours on the social climate of the community. Combined with an exploration of the economy, and family roles and ties, it soon starts to resemble an extremely complex puzzle to the outsider.

The book does a great job of explaining the various subjects, keeping everything simple.  It’s well chronicled and well written, insights from other studies are put forward in support or opposition to the points Dr. Pertierra asserts.  The book focuses on (in order):

  • history and geography
  • the economy, division of labour, and the system of stratification
  • political and religious mobilisation and factionalism
  • kinship and social order
  • rituals and social structure
  • indigenous beliefs, morals values, and behavioural models
  • material interests and religious ideology

Continue reading “Religion, Politics, and Rationality in a Philippine Community – Raul Pertierra”

A Walk in the Park Day 3

Now this is a bridge!  Wandering across it had me in mind of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the difference being that instead of a man trying to pull my heart out of my chest, it was firmly in my mouth.  Especially in the middle, where despite there only being a gentle breeze it was pretty swaysome.

Before we could get there though, we had to begin our day.  By the time we got going, the heat was already unforgiving and was only offset slightly by the now, de rigueur beauty.  After gifting snacks to the local children and the usual group photo, we took to heading down hill at a sideways jog, as it was easier than walking believe it or not.  Forty minutes of this and my already jelly legs from day two were feeling the pain and wobbliness once again.

Heading down into the above valley to the bridge was tiring, and at this point I was looking forward to ascending because I can ‘do’ climbing. The bridge itself, although not too high was another one of those wired together, trip hazards, though it does give the traveller a sense of adventure.  The openness of the mountain beyond was a good reason to slap on more sun cream and led me to ask the question, if the packaging says only apply four times a day, can I overdose on it?

Ryan Tejado

I was walking normally again by this point, which was handy as there were some demanding, long and steep sections of climbing (both track and path) that snaked around corners and took a good five minutes or more to climb.  A brief stop by a pool to let some kind fish eat the dead skin off our feet was reviving.  There followed a discussion about how much this service would cost in various countries, as we hoped nobody would call us to march again. Continue reading “A Walk in the Park Day 3”