What's this about?

Ladies and gents our story begins with our author who one day packed up his bags to spend the next 5 years of his life on some tropical island far far away. This land is not like any place he has ever been to before. There is no telling of what he may encounter during his stay there but one thing is sure he is going to be in for one crazy adventure. And this is where you get to read about it.

What you say?

Free shoutbox @ ShoutMix

Readers beware!

The stories told here maybe appear larger than in real life and at times may even appear outlandish. However, all actual events are in fact real (well, most of them). What may appear as a distortion of reality to some may only be due to the author's perspective of the actual events. Some say he is just not right in the head.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In the morning

I woke up early this morning and decided to step outside just for a little bit. The sun was already out and the morning was nice and bright but the air was neither hot nor humid as it is typically in the afternoons. As I stepped closer to the railing looking over the center court I was greeted by a cool and gentle breeze, another rare but pleasant occurrence in a country where the sun beats down on you like a hammer for the majority of the day. For a moment everything was surreal but then as the wind swirled about and changed its direction towards me it carried with it a scent that so vividly reminded me of where I was... A foul and wretched odor of cat shit knocked me back a couple of steps and took the drowsiness out from my eyes in an instance.

How would you like to wake up to that every morning? I guarantee that it would do a better job of perking you up in the morning than a cup of Folgers. For the past week the odor from the cat shit around outside my dormitory room has gotten really bad. Could this have anything to do with why I'm sick?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Is there a doctor in the house?

I'm hurting. I'm hurting bad. My throat is sore, my muscles are aching, I'm feeling a little hot, and I think I look as bad as I feel. I can feel this big lump on the left side of my neck. (Would that indicate a swollen parotid gland, guys? Someone fill me in here.)

I got that family reunion to go to today too. That's why I got all them gift baskets. Well, if I don't go then I won't have to starve. It's funny how things work out sometimes. Then again I'll still probably end up stopping by there just for a few minutes at least.

Would I go to the hospital though if I got any worse? I don't know about that one. I've heard the stories from the clerks here and if the doctors end up treating me as well as they do in class, then I'm better off staying here.

The nurse would probably come in as I'm already nearing death,
"Sir, the doctor said he will be here in 15 minutes."
"But you said that an hour ago."
"I know sir, but he said there is a long line at Starbu... I mean at the tollgate."
"Son of a %!@&#."

I'll manage it by myself some how. Anyone know what the initial symptoms of bird flu are?

Christmas Shopping - Part 2: The Reality After Christmas

Marmie, what I was hoping to hear you say was "you don't need to get them anything". That's what my mom said. Well, she just said get gifts for the kids and my grandmother not every single person. Thanks for telling me now mom, after the fact. Maybe if you guys picked up the phone at the house once in a while you could have informed me about it earlier.

Ok, so from the sound of some people it seems like I may have gone a little over board with this Christmas shopping but when Filipinos in the States talk about Christmas here they always talk about it as if it is some great big event. Well I guess it is and in the States it is as well but from their stories it always seems to mean so much more here somehow. "Oh, Christmas in the Philippines yada, yada, yada..." I may have Filipino blood but I know nothing about the customs out here. Though I hardly ever say it in the States (Ain't that ironic? ) I'm an American. I didn't want to screw up on the biggest day of the year and end up being shunned for the rest of my stay here just because I made the mistake of not getting someone a gift. So I covered all my tracks and tried to get something for everyone.

I did take your advice Marmie and did get food. I appreciate your advice too but there are just so many families out here. To get them all something to eat isn't cheap. I was thinking about getting a small cake at first but these families aren't small. Filipinos love to procreate.

Anyway if I think about it, in the States I would be so lucky to get away with spending only this much even if all the gifts were just for the kids. There are a lot of little kids back home. And have you seen the prices of Spider-man figure these days? Don't think about getting some generic figure either like Man-spider or something. Kids in the States recognize that right away.

"This ain't no Spider-man uncle. Spider-man doesn't have four legs, he's a man."
"Oh that's because this is Man-spider."
"Who the heck is Man-spider?"

Yeah, so maybe it ain't that bad after all.

Well, it's not like I'm complaining about buying all these gifts... or am I? I mean, I understand it is Christmas! It's all about giving. It's not like all of my relatives out here are rolling in Benz's either. I'm not either but some of them aren't exactly all that well off and I am sure it would be nice to get something once in a while, especially at Christmas. I don't know if they're exactly expecting pound cake but hey it's something.

I also got a little something for the help. It wasn't much. The amount of money they have borrowed from me probably is more than what I spent on their gifts. Maybe I should have just told them to cancel their debts. Well anyway they don't really have much either and they do take care of me out here... sort of. At least they feed me even after I have already told them I don't want their food anymore.

Hey, at least I didn't follow Dale's advice and give out 500 pesos out to the guards, right? That would have been crazy, huh? There's hell of them out here. I would be in debt right now. I'll just defend myself.

...Ok, is it obvious yet that I'm just trying to make myself feel better about all this? Then again what's to feel bad about? Like I said it's Christmas! Another positive could be that I'll be saving my liver because I really don't have money for drinking anymore. Maybe I'll finally even be able to loose weight ‘cause I'm not sure if I'll have enough money to eat next month or for the rest of this week for that matter. Yeah that should do it.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

So this is Christmas

It's Christmas here in the Philippines and though I've went to Simbang Gabi, had a Christmas Eve dinner with my relatives and even had my usually mad one day of Christmas shopping it's just not the same. Where's the lot of pine trees to choose your Christmas tree from? The streets here aren't even really decorated with Christmas lights or ornaments. There are some homes that have them but not nearly as much as back home. Could be because not that many people can afford them here but even most of the stores in the pricey Alabang Town Center have hardly any decorations. In the States just about every store you got to would have some Christmas motive, a mannequin of Santa, ornaments and holly placed along the isles, and even spray painted snow on the windows. Even all the skyscrapers in San Francisco would be lit up with Christmas lights. Watching TV here they have a lot of religious programs but where are the shows like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas or A Christmas Story? As for the weather it is a little colder but I really can't tell if it's actually winter or summer here. Obviously there'll be no sleigh riding or snow fights this Christmas.

Maybe that's alright though. When you think of what Christmas is supposed to represent maybe things are more authentic out here anyway. I mean they didn't have snow or pine trees in Bethlehem back when Jesus was born. Most scholars even believe that Jesus was born around the time of spring not December 25th, which was already a day of celebration for many pagans. So the weather out here would actually be more like it was the day Jesus was born. Santa, Rudolf, the Christmas tree and all that other stuff were also mostly pagan traditions that were added later. But don't let me get started on that now.

Anyway, I realize that Christmas has come to represent a lof of different things to a lot of different people. And weather I'm there or here, Merry Christmas to everyone! To all the friends and family I've made and met out here. To all my family and friends I've left back home, some of which may have already gone off else where to Iraq, Korea, China, Japan, Canada or where ever. (You guys are the biggest difference why Christmas is not the same here.) I hope you all have a good one.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Simbang Gabi

Last Thursday my uncle asked me if I would like to attend the Simbang Gabi. I have never heard of it before and my uncle said it would be a good custom of the Philippines to try at least once. So curiously I decided to give it a shot and staid up for the next 4 hours until it was time to head off for mass at 3:30 am! The literal translation for Simbang Gabi means "night worship". I don't know why it's call that because at 3:30 am the night is already over; it's early, early morning.

When I got to the chapel in Pacita I was sort of expecting to see something I have never seen before maybe some guy with a magical banana plant healing the sick or at least a live reenactment of the nativity with a real birth but I got nothing like that. It basically seemed to be your normal Sunday mass except for being held way earlier in the morning and with quite a few people sleeping in the pews and even some sleeping as they stood straight up. I saw one older gentleman who dozed off while standing up and ended up falling back in to his seat. (He broke his hip but it was alright because the priest pulled out the magical banana leaves and healed him up really good. Just kidding.) After that mass ended I and my cousins headed off to another chapel in Alabang to attend their 5:00 am mass. I wanted to see if there was something extra I missed the first time around. Nope not a thing.

All kidding aside it was at least an experience for me. I don't think I have ever been to such a mass in the States. It's kind of a symbol here of the people's devotion to their faith as they go about their normal lives working and what have you and then proceeding on to mass at the wee hours of the morning for nine days straight. I did it for one day and I'm still tired.

Now for the educational portion of my blogg.

The Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi is what is sometimes referred to as a Classic Christmas Novena. It last for nine days starting on December 16th and ending on December 24th. The word novena itself is derived from the Latin word "novem" meaning "nine", hence the nine days of prayer. But why actually nine instead of seven or eight? I'm not actually quite sure of this. It may have something to do with the pagan religions that date back during the early times of the Roman Catholic Church. The number nine seems to have had a special meaning to many of the early pagans, especially to the Anglo-Saxons.

This Classic Christmas Novena is not actually a custom in which all Roman Catholics take part in. Neither is any other novena for that matter. However, holding a church mass for this particular novena has been popular for a long time in the countries of Spain and France (where it originated) and later in the Latin American countries and the Philippines (where the custom was introduced the by the Spanish). While most of these countries begin their mass in the early morning, usually from between the hours of 5:00 am to 6:00 am, Simbang Gabi may start as early as 3:30 am. The reason for this may have been to accommodate the lifestyle of the Filipino people during their time under Spanish rule. Most of the Filipinos during that time were farmers who normally began their work at the start of dawn. So starting the masses exceptionally early gave the Filipino farmer time to attend Church before they had to begin their days work. Due to this bit of historical trivia the title Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster) has now almost become synonymous in the Philippines with Simban Gabi but in doing so they have created another misnomer.

It would almost seem perfectly logical to entitle the mass of Simban Gabi as the Misa de Gallo if you had no prior knowledge of history, since roosters are known for crowing at the break of dawn. However, Misa de Gallo was originally the Spanish title given to the mass which is held at the night of Christmas Eve. This is because it is believed that the rooster was the first animal to recognize the birth of Christ; crowing at midnight to usher in the dawn of Christ in to this world not the morning sun. A more appropriate Spanish title for Simbang Gabi would be Misa de Aguinaldo (Christmas gift mass).

One of the beliefs of completing the Simbang Gabi is that you would receive what ever it is that you were asking for Christmas. Ain't that cool it's kind of like a divine chain letter.

Now send this to nine people with in the next nine minutes and in nine days Santa will send you what ever it is you wish for.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas shopping

Go ahead and call me Mr. Scrooge or what have you but I really wasn't planning on buying anyone anything for this Christmas season. I just have way too many relatives out here and I just don't have enough money to get each of them a gift. So I thought just to be fair I would get them all... nothing. Then as my relatives took me out shopping to finish up buying their gifts and I after mistakenly texted Marmie for advice which I was not hoping to hear (thanks anyway Marmie) I had a change of heart and decided I better get some gifts. So with two hours left before all the stores closed I made a mad dash around the mall in an attempt to purchase a Christmas gift for 30+ people. Talk about pressure. I have a hard time as it is deciding on what to get for one person even if I have already been looking around for weeks. My brain just isn't capable of dealing with this kind of dilemma. I didn't have enough time to think of what's best to get for everyone. So I took the easy route. I hope all of you out here like fruit cake. Oh, and mom that money you sent me earlier this week it's all gone. Yup, I bought a lot of cake.

Left at the altar

We just got thru with the wedding ceremony of J and M. I was glad because it was already 3:30 pm and I was starving. I haven't eaten anything the whole day except for a few strawberries, a cup of yogurt and a small croissant. I guess I could have just gotten something to eat at the Aristocrat which was right next door but I figured that since in a few minutes we would at the site of the wedding reception I could hold off the hunger for a little while longer. How can I be so stupid?

The wedding reception was held in the center court yard of the San Agustin Museum. It was actually a rather nice place for a wedding reception. (Sorry, I don't have any pictures to show you but I don't have a camera anymore) I would say the majority of us whom were at the wedding ceremony got there no later than 4:00 pm. All except for the bride and groom. Well I guest that's customary though, so that the bride and groom can get a proper introduction as they walk on in. So we waited... and waited... and waited. As we all sat there at our assigned tables the only thing they served was alcohol and a few plates of finger foods. Four small sized saucers half filled with finger food for a table of 10 hungry Filipinos? I don't think so. That was not going to do. I don't know what surprised me more the actual waiting or that they had the nerve to continue serving us alcohol and not feed us as we waited there. There could have been a riot on their hands. Maybe what they were doing trying to gets us too intoxicated to complain. Some of the smart people just left but like an idiot I was clinging on to the hope of getting some free grub. When the bride and groom finally walked in at 6:30 the crowd was lifeless. I don't think they even cared for who J and M were anymore. Half of the people probably forgot why they were there in the first place, too delirious from low blood sugar levels. So after they were finally introduced and they thanked their sponsors and what have you the biggest applause that night came when we were finally allowed to line up at the buffet tables at 7:30pm, four hours after the end of their wedding ceremony. Filipinos sure do love making people wait.

Dale you better not be doing this to us on your wedding day. I'm warning you now you could end up with another Donner party on your hands.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

To pee or not to pee

I have been having this discussion between my classmates for quite some time and now that I'm on my second bottle of beer for the night I think that makes me quite qualified to state that alcohol is indeed a diuretic. Case closed.

Alcoholic beverages suppress vasopressin, the hormone that causes your body to retain water, and therefore for a lack of a more scientific term you pee. If you continue to drink the more dehydrated you'll become and that's the cause of your hangover in the morning. So why would people drink coffee which is also a diuretic to help with their hangovers? Well actually if you drink too much coffee it can make your condition even worse but a cup or too may be able to help you counter act your sluggishness since it acts as a stimulant.

And no guys, though it may also suppress the inhibition center of your brain making you more active in seeking some action it also keeps you from being a good performer. Did you ever wonder why people can't understand a thing you're babbling at a party and why you have the coordination of 2 month old baby after two shots of Jack Daniels? It's because alcohol suppresses the nervous system. Remember you're going to need both your sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves to working properly to stand tall and fire straight.

So despite all the health risk alcoholism can lead to liver and heart disease, pancreatitis, etc., you still want to get your buzz on but not have to worry about the effects of a hangover the next day. So what can you do? Nothing much really, just keep hydrated and replenish your electrolytes, particularly your potassium and magnesium. Also remember: Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never fear. Carbonated drinks enhance the absorption rate of alcoholic beverages by the body tissues.

Wow, so what we are learning in class may actually have a use after all.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The drama at the Christmas party... well, kind of

"Maybe, you shouldn't come to the Christmas party because it won't be fun if we have to speak in English for you."

Ever since the start of last Wendseday, Archie has been slowly working his away under my skin with his offensive and indifferent comments, and his childish taunts. Wasn't really quite sure of what initiated it but his comments and acts continued to worsen all the way up until the night of our Christmas party at the Villa Cholas resort last Friday, where I finally just had enough.

The final breaking point came right after Archie had told me "you are the lousiest half-cooked American I have ever met." I didn't care anymore if this was a "Christmas" party. To hell with good cheer and merriment. I yelled out to Archie telling him I was tired of his shit and that he should just shut the $#@& up and if he wouldn't shut up I would make him shut up. Then he had the never to walk away from me while I was talking to him as if I was nothing. I snapped. I pulled out the knife I had in my pocket chased him down half way across the pool and stabbed him in the chest with it before I tossed his sorry ass in to the pool. As I ran out the gate most of the girls in my class chased after me apparently more concerned over my well fare than Archie's who was left bleeding in the pool.

And for that I love you girls, oh and you too JM, but it wasn't supposed to work out that way. What me, Archie, Kissey and Ray really wanted to see when we were thinking of how to pull of this crazy stunt was how many people would jump in to the pool to save Archie. Maybe if I had teased Archie back in a similar fashion then everyone wouldn't have been so against him. Oh, well there is always next time.

The whole idea came to me last Tuesday when Ray, Kissey and I were looking for gifts at Pavilion and we happened to stumble upon a gag knife which had a retractable blade with fake blood. Kissey and Ray didn't think they could pull off being the antagonizer so we had to find some else for the part. That's when we decided to include Archie who we thought would be perfect for the roll. So the next day Archie began his roll of the antagonizer and we began to spread rumors of how I was in a gang and ended up in jail in the States just to get the whole thing buried in the back of their mind for the final finale Friday night.

A few unexpected events also happened to help our cause. Bambi misinterpreted a comment I made to her in a previous message. JM helped to spread the rumor that I was really starting to get irritated by Archie's teasing though that was originally the job of Kissey and Ray. Jovanni also got upset with me and started to aid Archie with the teasing because he thought that I had traded his name away for our Kris Kringle. (For the last time Jo, I never picked you and no, Tom never picked Anna not even on the first time around. Sheehz, I even actually thought about getting you a gift. I knew Tom wasn't going to show up and that's why I was looking at the prices of Johnny Walker but I decided just to let Tom do as he said he was and get you a gift from Thailand. The prices of the Johnny Walker here kind of helped me out on making that decision.)

Despite the unexpected help we also had a couple of unexpected problems. Mitch was coming to the party late. We really didn't want to drag out the teasing part out for long because we didn't want to kill the mood of the party. If we did I'm sorry for that. Also the layout of the pool was quite different from what we had expected and we had to improvise a bit. The alcohol Kissey was serving me may have gotten to me a little bit as well. That might explain why we didn't get the exact effect we were looking for but overall I think it turned out alright. Jovanni, won the Best Reaction award for trying to pull out Archie from the pool after he saw the fake blood and JM was runner up for being the first guy out the gate after me.

Good job guys. Let me know if you have any ideas for the next one.

The rest of the night we exchanged our gifts (Thanks for the hat Ray and I hope you like the pendant I got you Bambi. The lovely gift wrapping was done by Anna by way. Thanks, Anna.) drank, and threw each other into the pool. Helilah, Deds and I also got a special musical performance from the diva Marmie as we four staid up for the rest of the night mainly because we didn't have any place to sleep. In the morning we packed up our stuff and headed off back for home.

I have to say our first Christmas party was definitely one to remember.