The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 26, Dasma Lockdown, April 26

Week 26, Dasmariñas Lockdown, Week 6

It was another quiet week in Dasma.
As of today I am an illegal alien in Philippines. My 59 day visa expired on April 23 and since the Immigration Office in Dasma is closed due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine, I was not able to renew it. I wasn’t worried, but my Filipino family, compliant citizens that they are, were fearful of my imminent arrest. Despite their anxiety and warnings to stay in the friendly confines of QQR, I nevertheless marched out the front doors to pick up supplies at Robinson’s Mall. I was not arrested, but to be fair, I didn’t see any police either. Nevertheless, my optimism has been rewarded. Official Philippines have announced a temporary exemption for folks like me, 30 days from the official end of the ECQ, whenever that might be. 
News alert: Duterte has now extended the ECQ to May 15, and warns he may yet declare martial law. Where does that leave this alien? I’ve written to my less than helpful government and get an auto response advising that   I may not receive a response from this address [ManillaImmigration] and should submit my inquiry to a computer system, but HAL doesn’t reply either.

In times of adversity it is more important than ever to practice gratitude, to take a few moments out of your day to reflect on the good things in your life, especially those that happened today. Better yet is to savour the moment while it is happening, and then reflect on it later; you get to practice this virtue twice. Gratitude is one way to happiness.
I am very grateful for Carmen, for her company, for her love, and for what she does for me. I also admire her courage and willingness to learn new things.
Such as cutting my hair!
There comes a point in everyone’s time in quarantine when you can’t stand your long hair any longer. In my own case I wasn’t quite tired of my lengthening hair. In fact I was thinking the last few years the style was too short. I was wondering whether artists such as myself should have long and flowing locks, much like Mark Twain, or Pinchas Zukerman. I mean, how many men with military haircuts are also authors? (Maybe some of you have an answer for that.)
In any event, my hair was creeping over my ears and irritating my collars and I was beginning to get the feeling, you know what I mean, I need a haircut. Carmen seemed to think so too and so Wednesday she got out our only pair of decent scissors, and a comb, instructed me to remove my shirt, plopped me in the chair and, draping a towel around my shoulders, had her way with me. (Sounds like a verse from Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.)

She’s never cut hair before but made a study of barbering while watching me in the men’s hair salon. And she did a pretty decent job I think.

As I said, a study in gratitude.

But gratitude can be short lived if you don’t cultivate it, and care for your generous partner. Two days after the haircut we had a small row. (Not a ‘line’, a ‘contretemps’.) It doesn’t really matter what the dispute was about; I flared and Carmen flared back. I sat and stewed for a while, okay sulked, then left our room to take a walk around the pool, occupied myself scooping seed pods out of the pool, sat by the steps and soothed my feet. Carmen knows how to fight these little psychological battles, she is after all female. After a bit she followed me down the stairs with a bag of garbage, deposited it in the bin, then turned on her heel and returned to our room without a word. I thought, ‘I’m not begging forgiveness, she was the one at fault.’ I went back to the room to find her lying on the bed with her cell-phone for company. I lied down beside her. I reached for her and pulled her to me to put her head on my shoulder; she consented. We talked about the flare. Nothing was resolved on the specifics of the spat, except we know this was another minor test of tolerance. I wonder how many couples are beginning to snipe at each other in this, week six of confinement.

The owners of Qubo Qabana Resort, and the neighbouring property, held a staff meeting on Saturday in the courtyard of QQR. Plastic chairs were carefully positioned six feet apart; everyone wore homemade face masks and now plastic face shields and latex gloves. After the meeting, one of the owners, Avelino, came by and we talked from over the balcony. He thanked me for the bank draft transfer that finally went through, paying off our March invoices; he asked how we were doing, and I was glad to tell him his staff are treating us very well (he probably doesn’t know we treat them very well as well with 20 or 50 P for the little services they do for Carmen); he beamed and then asked if we wanted a supply of latex gloves; Carmen was keen to accept but I could hardly see the point, though we wore them grocery shopping. The visors and gloves seem excessive to me but Avelino is a fastidious guy and it transpired that he is taking every precaution to keep us safe from his staff! I’m beginning to find my confinement here a bit like an old-folks home, not Alcatraz. And speaking of Alcatraz, I read in my Canadian press feeds that the government is thinking of releasing some of the prisoners early, ironically keeping the old folks still locked up.
QQR is now down to only two staff by day, one for each building, and one at night plus the contract security guard. To the owners’ credit they distribute a few hours to most of the staff throughout the week (there is no CERB in The Philippines). We are the only guests in the hotel, though from time to time one of the owners moves in for a few days, not sure why – keep an eye on us?? They are obliged to protect their asset during this lockdown for basic maintenance and protection against vandals; protecting us is incidental. Having us as paying guests however provides some [limited] cash flow which would cover some of these costs, I guess, but at the rate we run the aircon, and the kitchen, and Carmen’s ablutions, there can’t be much cash left over. And they maintain the private hotel pool for us. If we weren’t here they would most assuredly drain it like the other two recreational pools. The staff spend a good part of an early morning hour cleaning that pool, and again skim it late afternoon. Out of gratitude I feel obliged to use the pool. I go most days twice, 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. I’d prefer to go in the evening, say around 6:30, but Carmen is convinced swimming in the evening is not healthy. And maybe she’s right. I’ve been nursing a case of swimmer’s ear for a few weeks now.

Speaking of security, and rows, I spied one of the cats the other day and last night there was a terrible row (there’s that word again, okay, fight) outside our door in the hallway. The cats used to come around most nights to check out the leftovers on the restaurant trays we would leave in the hall but we haven’t had restaurant privileges for six weeks now and the cats seem to have abandoned us, except for last night. Such caterwauling and squabbling I haven’t heard for a while, though it didn’t sound like a cat fight. The squawking began to recede down the hall and down the steps and across the yard and then silence. I’m betting the cat met her match in an encounter with a rat. I wonder what happened to the rat.

Stay safe. Stay sane. And stay tuned for the next edition of The Dasma Diary.

Doug Jordan Reporting to you from Dasma, Philippines © Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 

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