The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 1, Introduction, 2019 October

This will be the first in a ?weekly? series newsletter briefly telling of my five-month sojourn in The Philippines. This is not in lieu of posts on my blog, Travels with Myself, which should still be appearing in your inbox more or less weekly as well.

I had promised most of you I’d keep you posted, but the first ten days of getting acclimated didn’t seem to allow time for newsletters. After a couple of weeks of no news, some of you reminded me of my promise. So here’s the first of the newsletters, cobbled together from some of the quick ones I had already sent. I’ll supply more detail in the next few weeks. My purpose is to give you some of the colour and flavour of this very challenging society, not just a trite travelogue of my wonderful adventures in an exotic country, a first world voyeur in third world society.

As [most of] you know I returned to The Philippines October 24 to accompany Carmen home. Her six-month term in Canada had expired and she had to go back, but for how long? And should I go with her? Or await her return in Canada? It should have been an easy decision but, I know how to complicate almost anything: It’s a long way from Canada, and more expensive that the stereo-typical belief; I would have to figure out how to have the house watched, and Bonnie relocated (to Allison and her boys) and generally upset my now increasingly comfortable life pattern. But I reminded myself, I wasn’t ready to get comfortable and this would be yet another adventure in my last years. Why not? Daughter Alison tried to be helpful by reminding me that many of my peers are retired and do the snowbird thing, to Florida, or Arizona, I was just going a little further. Reasonable logic, except it didn’t fit my self-image of a non-retired person. So off we would go to Philippines for 5 months and avoid interminable winters, but I would keep up with my writing, and maybe land a few long distance contracts.

I’ve never been a great fan of winter – it’s just something to be endured – but it’s amazing how the thought of not being there for winter was mildly alarming. That’s resistance to change for you. Carmen thought five months would be good so she could get her small business going again with her daughter, but she wanted to see snow! Many Canadians, native or otherwise, advised her she wasn’t missing much. So I told her if we come back towards the end of March, I’m sure she will see snow, and likely get to shovel some too.
But that still meant five potentially long months in a foreign land; what if I couldn’t stand the culture shock and the claustrophobia, and wanted to come home? My two daughters both reminded me that I wasn’t serving a sentence and I could come home anytime I liked.

So it was decided, and all the arrangements were made: visa for Doug, finances arranged, tickets bought, accommodations settled, travel/health insurance.  Goodbye to Bonnie.

Ten days in and this is proving to be no picnic, unlike the two weeks I spent here last January and December. I’m in a lot deeper and the reality is a bit heavier to than I thought, even though I think heavy thoughts. But we know the human mind is very resilient and I’ve already started to feel inured to some of the shock.

You realize of course I have practically fallen off the edge of the earth. 
I’ve been to Philippines twice so I shouldn’t be surprised but somehow the poverty and chaos of this god-forsaken country takes a lot of getting used to. Carmen and I returned to Trece Martires, her home, to attend her church, The Christian Church of Yahweh. The irony has not escaped me that these poor god-fearing people live in a god-forsaken country, yet still live in hope for a better life. It reminds me anew why I’m agnostic and that Karl Marx was right, religion is the opiate of the masses.
I don’t mean to sound quite so cynical, but this is an unrelentingly difficult place. I think all naive and and prescriptive environmental socialists should be required to spend some time here and get a taste of reality. 

There was an earthquake in Mindinao last week, and two weeks before that, 6.6 and 6.1. and another yesterday, 6.5. Only a few dead and dozens injured. Not newsworthy in Canada I’m sure. Hardly newsworthy here. Routine. Mindinao is about 700 miles south of Lauzon. We didn’t feel anything. 

I’m in Tacloban now. We visited many of Carmen’s relatives, some of them dead. All Souls Day is big here. Cf religion above. 

And I’ve come down with a miserable cold. I’m sure it will last two weeks. And not adding to my mood. At least I can’t blame this on the Philippines, or maybe I can: 250 passengers on ANA from Tokyo to Manila. 

Thank you for asking about me. I don’t feel quite so forsaken myself. I realize of course I need to keep people informed. Maybe I should start another blog. Or at least a mass email. 

And speaking of blogs, I have written two more in my Travels with Myself but they won’t be posted until Monday/Tuesday when I have access to my computer. 

Best regards, stay tuned for your next instalment, soon.

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