Everything was going well for a while on our ‘imagication’. We landed in Manila having flown from London via Doha. Going through security we got pulled over, seemingly because we only had backpacks and no suitcases. When they commented that there were no shoes in my wife’s luggage, I flippantly said ‘Who do you think she is, Imelda Marcos?’ That was the wrong thing to say. We were quickly ushered into a small room and told to wait. A couple of hours later a gentleman arrived and introduces himself as Bongbong Marcos, son of Imelda. I make another flippant remark. How was I to know? He name really was Bongbong and not only that but he has just become President of the Philippines. Talk about putting my foot in it. Anyway, we chatted about his time in England where he was educated and parted friends (I think).
I stuck lucky and arrived in the Philippines just when the SEA Games (South East Asian Games) was on – it’s not being held here but in Hanoi, Vietnam but the media is full of it, especially as Philippines came out on top last time.
I enjoyed watching a whole range of sports I’m not used to including Sepak Takraw. It looks like volleyball but players use their feet!
The Philippines ended up coming fifth in the medal table out of eleven nations. Electronic games were a category in these games, sanctioned by the Olympic Committee. The Philippines won gold in the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang tournament would you believe. And here to prove it is an eight hour long video of the match against Indonesia.
Not! San Miguel is the most popular beer by far in the Philippines. There’s a San Miguel brewery there that brews a range of beers including 8% Red Horse. Optimistically, I ordered some from a Filipino shop in Leeds only to find the cans says brewed in Hong Kong! It was a surprisingly nice drink. Lightly carbonated. No metallic taste, so probably within its ‘Best Before Date’. That’s a relief – there’s another 3 cans to drink.
I had better luck with a passion fruit drink I ordered at the same time – made in Manila. Strangely though it is mainly pineapple.
The highlight of the month was definitely going up to Mountain Ash and eating at the Kalan Café and Noodle Bar. I discovered it by just doing a bit of internet searching and reading some reviews saying it was the best authentic Filipino food noodle people had found in South Wales. We weren’t disappointed. We asked Grace for a recommendation and had the Pancit Pinoy. It was excellent. Not only was the food good but we were impressed by the happy and welcoming atmosphere in the café.
We had a few other taste of the Philippines during the month. I made some Pinoy Chicken Curry. This was nicely different from the traditional curries we make. It included potato and fish sauce but not the traditional Indian spices.
We also ventured into Cardiff and had lunch at Jollibee. This is a Filipino fast food chain. I had the chicken rice bowl which was certainly tasty, spicy and sweet and Margaret had the same in a wrap. It left our lips tingling.
I attempted to read Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco mainly on the basis of this positive review, but I’m afraid I didn’t get on with it. It’s one of those novels that jumps around one heck of a lot between the story of the narrator, the person he is writing about (an author) and the author’s writings plus it jumped around in time periods too. I never quite knew where I was and it changed every page. I have to admit I gave up half way through not just because it was confusing me but because I wasn’t getting much out of it in way of an insight into the Philippines etc.
I got on much better with Awaiting Trespass by Linda Ty Casper. I centres around the death of a member of a well-to-do Philippine family during the Marcos regime. Linda Ty Casper is a Filipino author who lives in USA and this novel of hers is apparently banned in the Philippines. Lucky I didn’t have it in my luggage when we went there.
I struggled finding a film I wanted to watch. Although there are a lot of Filipino films available on Netflix they just weren’t my cup of tea. Most were seemingly aimed at the teenage market and sort of rom-coms I guess you would describe them. I ended up watching Lola Igna, a comedy where the main character is to receive an award for being the world’s oldest grandmother at 118 years old. If nothing else I enjoyed it for watching the veteran actress Angie Ferro.
Highest Peak – Mount Apo
Mount Apo, active volcano, south central Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines and down the bottom of the country. The peak is 20 miles (32 km) west of Davao City and rises to 9,692 feet (2,954 metres). It may be an active volcano but it hasn’t erupted in living memory but does spew out sulphurous gasses. At least if you break wind you have something to blame it on. It’s one of those peaks you need a permit to climb as it was getting too popular. These days only about 50 people per day are allowed to summit. It takes a couple of days and there is mention of an 870 bolder face which to me is another word for a rock face so well beyond my capabilities. I enjoyed reading some accounts of the trek from a couple of successful baggers: The Lone Rider and Eric Gilbertson.
There’s just two active puzzle caches for me to have a go at solving in the Philippines, both in the Manila area. I successfully solved one of them, ‘status quo ante’ Mystery Cache GC5W0PA. When I say I solved it I mean I got the answer by googling the code but don’t understand much more than that.
Clock – or not a clock
So far on this imaginary journey around the globe the countries have been of a shape conducive to making a clock. Not so with the Philippines. It is made up of some 700 islands. Someone suggested I make a negative but when I tried to work that one out my head hurt, mainly because my scroll saw isn’t easy when it comes to threading a blade through a pre-drilled hole and reattaching it. Instead I was left with the idea of cutting out the shapes of the main islands which was relatively straightforward. Then came the challenge of trying to mount them on something and more so, trying to put them all in the correct position. I ended up cutting out more than I ended up mounting as they were so small. I think the end result still looks like the Philippines. You decide.
Well that didn’t take long. The morning after the Philippines got picked out as our next country to visit I popped down the newsagents for a paper and discovered that she came from the Philippines. I’ve been practicing my Tagalog language ever since: Magandang umaga – good morning.
In fact it got even better as when we went to the Kalan Café and Noodle Bar in Mountain Ash we were greeted by Grace who came from the island of Negros in the Philippines. Luckily that was one of the islands I had included in my picture!
A bit of a different type of charity this month. I picked Kalayaan, a small London based charity which works to provide practical advice and support to, as well as campaign with and for, the rights of migrant domestic workers in the UK. Why did I choose them? Things don’t always go right when you go abroad to work and it’s nice to think that on those occasions people have got someone like Kalayaan to turn to for advice and support.
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of railway in the Philippines, some but not a lot. Around Manila there is some modernisation that has taken place. There’s quite a lot of videos on YouTube and the one that stays in my mind the most is a BBC film of the trolley taxis. These are people who use trolleys on railway tracks to take commuters and others in and out of Manila in what could be described as extreme commuting. It’s dangerous to say the least as the tracks are shared with trains and accidents occur. Here’s the video I’m talking about:
There were plenty of Philippines stamps available for sale on eBay. I chose a selection where one had a train on it. It’s taken me a while to realise there was a volcano in the background. Mount Mayon volcano erupted in 2018 causing the evacuation of 74,000 people.
I must admit I’ve struggled to find music to my taste from the Philippines. The US colonial influence comes through a lot. There’s a lot of sugary-sweet ballads. I went back and found some more traditional music and even some jazz but again nothing that stayed with me. I thought I had found something when I came across the folk singer Freddie Aguilar who it is said has influences from Cat Stevens and James Taylor. I was quite enjoying it till I read his Wikipedia page and personal life. The 60 odd year old recently changed his religion too enable him to marry a 16 year old. I stopped listening after that.
Another interesting country to visit that I knew next to nothing about before this month. An interesting history, lots of languages, but above all it looks a great place with attractive coastlines. And the noodles in Mountain Ash were great!