The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 11, Trece City Hall, January 9

Week 11 – Trece City Hall
It was a quiet week in Tagaytay. 
Really. Monday was back to school and back to work day in The Philippines and after all the crush of the Sunday exit was over the street below our condo was quiet. Very quiet. Even my neighbour rooster no longer felt the need to compete with the traffic.
The end of the holiday period also meant diminished visitor traffic to our condo. I began to fret about how I would fill my hours. You’d think I would know how to do that after years, decades even, of running my own consulting business, driving my own agenda, but the truth is, the business had a rhythm and life of its own to some extent and I was satisfied with that. It was only a problem when the phone didn’t ring enough and I had to face the fact that I had to take the initiative again. And in recent years, the phone rang less and less, and I was ground down too much to make the effort to overcome my introversion. And so we drift into retirement, resisting it, and resenting it, but not doing much about it. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I write – this newsletter, the Travels With Myself Blog, and my next novel(s) – to occupy my mind and grasp for relevance. 
And so this week I devoted even more hours to my vocation/avocation. When I decided I was going to be in The Philippines for five months I knew this would provide the opportunity to devote more time to writing and I knew I would need dedicated space to do that. So we have a two bedroom apartment, (even so quite small/compact) that allows me a certain sanctuary to do my writing. But his can be confining and as any author will tell you, you need to get out of your writing space and into the world to recharge with reading, research, reflecting. Carmen and I have established a collaborative pattern in which we walk to the nearby shopping plaza, she to shop and me to drink cappuccino in the Café Amazon (I don’t know why it is called Café Amazon, it’s a Thai coffee franchise!) and contemplate my i-Pad.
I’ve also bought a work-book to help me in my flailing efforts to learn Tagalog: Learning to Speak Tagalog 2. It’s one thing to be immersed in it, it’s another thing (for me at least) to have a little grammar and structure to figure out what is being said beyond a string of unrecognizable sounds and syllables. I feel as though I am back in language class in AECL learning French all over again. And I am very appreciative of how much French I actually know, as compared to my Tagalog!, and how much more I have to learn.

Carmen Renews her Business Licence
Carmen runs a little business selling cosmetics and beauty products, mostly promoting the wonders of oral collagen. She’s had many little businesses over her years, some of which helped her survive and raise her kids on her own, most of these without a license (business that is, she had a license for the kids). But about five years ago she decided she needed a business license, or maybe it was decided for her, and a business name (Infinite Dreams Marketing) and that meant documentation, bank accounts and tax returns. It was perhaps a fortunate thing she did become ‘legit’ because those business records probably went a long way to helping her get her Canadian travel visa. But the license has to be renewed annually. Hers expires January 21, the day after we return from our weekend in Singapore. So this week she determined it timely to get the chore done. Wednesday was the designated day. She said it would likely take all day and I would be bored and frustrated with the waiting (she seems to know me very well now), so maybe I should stay home in Tagaytay and she would go on her own, with Celca’s help, and Celca’s friend driving. So off she went to Trece Martires City Hall leaving me alone in the apartment, with warnings not to go out on my own. It was a very long day, and my sympathies for Carmen increased for the days I had left her alone in Kanata while I attended to business downtown. Carmen told me she and Bonnie would wait patiently by the door for my return, though Bonnie always knew before Carmen did when I was about to show up. I instantly thought of Rupert Sheldrake, Dogs Know When You Are Coming Home.
In any event I was depressed all day and was grateful when Carmen returned around 4:00. But her errand wasn’t yet done; she had to go back the next day. She had had a chest Xray and provided a urine sample as part of the renewal procedure (don’t ask!) and her results would not be available until the next day. She didn’t like me to be left home alone again, and neither did I, so it was resolved I would accompany the crew for day 2, bringing along my i-Pad for company. And I’m glad I went – the chance to watch Pilipino bureaucracy at work first hand. Not that it was a nightmare of epic slow motion but it was long and tedious. Think, lining up to renew your driver’s licence, or OHIP card at the local bureau, and add ten steps. 

Carmen had an appointment for 1:00 pm to get her health results and then to complete the next steps. We left the condo at 11:00 am to give plenty of contingency time but we arrived at our destination at 12:30. 

And then to wait. My first surprise was that the Health Office waiting room is outdoors. Of course, this is the Philippines, temperature ~31; tent canopies provided as protection against the sun, or rain should it rain. In order to save 1000 words, consider these pictures. (Note Carmen sitting on the porch. One of the officious officials tried to remove her, reminding her the bench was designated for seniors; Carmen showed her her identity card. Oh, said the official.)

Health records secured, our next stop was the Registrar’s office, and wait: then retrieve our registered documents from the Treasurer’s Office, and wait; and then the AP Office to pay all the fees (~ 12000 PhP); then to the mayor’s office for signature. Talaga?Yes, really. It’s not the usual practice but Carmen has a friend in City Hall and this friend (Bobet) was expediting each step. Bobet asked me if I wanted to meet the mayor; of course I did, but it turned out she wasn’t in the office that day; I was invited to come back Monday. But I did get a calendar with Gemma’s picture; maybe I will go back some day and get it autographed!.

(Side note, Carmen isn’t that impressed with the new Mayor, Gemma Lubigan, and maybe it was more than female jealousy. Carmen had been personal friends of the previous mayor (Melandres de Sagun) because she had been a campaign worker for him. Melandres’ son, Melencio de Sagun Jr., was running in the 2019 election because Melandres was ineligible to run for another term. (Melencio even came to Carmen’s little house in April to contribute to Carmen’s going away party.) The previous Vice-Mayor, Alex Lubigan, was murdered in 2018 July days after he had declared he would run for mayor in 2019. The De Saguns were implicated but cleared of wrong doing, but you have to wonder. This prompted Gemma to run in her husband’s place. It would appear the public were more sympathetic to the Lubigans than the Saguns: Melencio lost the election in May to Gemma, his cousin! And that is just another story in Philippines politics. Hmmm.
But wait, that’s not all.
If your Spanish is a bit rusty I should tell you Trece Martires means thirteen martyrs. And no doubt your history of the Philippines is even more limited. Trece Martires (city) was previously a town called Quinta but was made the capital of Cavite Province (itself rich in Philippine revolutionary history) in 1954, and renamed after the Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite who were part of a revolutionary conspiracy called the Katipunan, and led by Andrés Bonifacio and General Emilio Aguinaldo. The 13 conspirators were arrested and tried and executed by firing squad in 1896 at the beginning of the Philippines Revolution. General Emilio Aguinaldo (you’ve seen that name before, the highway that runs in front of our condominium in Tagaytay, another city of Cavite Province) lived to fight another day. There are 13 barangays (districts) in Trece Martires, each named after one of the martyrs. (Carmen lives in Lapadrio after Severino Lapadario.) A monument to the thirteen martyrs was erected at City Hall to commemorate their deaths at the hands of the Spanish loyalists. If you look closely at the picture below you will see a fourteenth martyr.

So, it was a quiet week in Tagaytay, and it was still only Thursday.

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