The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 5, Tagaytay, December 1

It was another quiet week in Tagaytay.

Despite the fact the rooster has returned, it was a quiet week. I’m not sure if the rooster has been rehabilitated after his death, or whether in fact it is a new rooster, but whatever the case this rooster at least knows what time of day the cock should crow. This one has kept his peace until about 5:00 a.m., as he should, when first light begins to dawn. Maybe he is a new cock on the rock and only has to crow once to let the hens know he’s ready for the day’s action. It would seem he doesn’t have to crow all day long, and all night long, as the old crow did, desperately seeking the attention of the hens. Is this what happens to old cocks?

And speaking of hen parties, Carmen had invited a gaggle of them on Monday for lunch and a mani-pedi party. I largely kept my distance (hard to do in this little apartment) by closing the door of the second bedroom, come office, come storage room, and worked on a draft of a future Travels with Myself post, while simultaneously listening to Winnipeg thrash the Tabbies in the Grey Cup game. 

And who were the members  of this hen party: Why Carmen’s two best friends from Trece, Lani and Annabelle, her youngest daughter Olice, and her almost three-year old daughter, Reine, and the manicurist, Mei. Everyone got a mani-pedi but me and Reine. Reine because she is too young, maybe, and me because I still have my dignity. I should have taken a picture of the gathering; maybe one of the hens has a good one.

I have it on good authority that the national tree of The Philippines is the ylang-ylang tree, known for its fragrant flowers, often used as a perfume base. I casually mentioned this obscure fact to the hens; they didn’t quite get my pronunciation of ylang-ylang at first and didn’t know much about it, but once on the scent, so to speak, it became the mission of the day to find a specimen. So off four of us went – Lani, Annabelle, Carmen and I in Lani’s agile Suzuki – to find plant nurseries and outlets seeking ylang-ylangs  We found a vendor who had a nice healthy looking plant in a pot, but it had no flowers, and then another who had a giant 70-foot tree in her back yard. 

[Erratum!: One of my wonderful readers who herself spent a few years in The Philippines has provided me feedback that my reliable sources are not that reliable, or perhaps I just misunderstood. The national tree is not the ylang-ylang, nor even the national flower. The “narra” is the national tree of the Philippines and the “sampaguita” is the national flower.]  

Needless to say, I haven’t yet had the full pleasure of this national treasure. The quest shall continue but at more a serendipitous rate. I wonder if there is a botanical garden in Tagaytay. Or maybe in Manila, our destination next week.

Here’s a curious factoid about The Philippines that might interest Maxim Bernier: dairy. There is a dairy industry in The Philippines but it seems to lack a cartel that makes Philippines milk the monopoly that the dairy farmers in Canada enjoy. I first noticed that something was different here in Philippines because of the lack of groaning coolers in the grocery stores ladened with bags and cartoons of milk and milk products, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, etc. You can buy fresh milk in the coolers, but you have to look carefully as there are only a few ‘bottles’ (plastic) on offer, albeit in all three usual grades: whole, low fat, skimmed. And where was this milk bottled? In France! Curious. I thought to myself, do Pilipinos drink milk? Carmen assures me they do – she herself, and her niece in Japan have a glass of milk before bed. ‘So where is all the milk?’ I asked. ‘On the shelves’ I was told, and sure enough, entire [non-refrigerated] shelves were laden with milk cartons in tetrapak 1-liter containers, with a dozen different brands. Good for six months or more. And where does this milk come from? One of them is Magnolia, bottled by the giant San Miguel Corporation (who have a 96% share of the beer market in The Philippines), and another, Polar Bear; both are manufactured in Philippines (but I’m not certain whether from Philippine cows), and the ubiquitous Nestlé company. And the rest from around the world: New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, USA, Switzerland, Germany; probably more – I haven’t read all the labels yet. The yoghurt I’ve tried comes from Australia and New Zealand. Similar story for orange juice: Thailand, Spain, Greece, South Africa: The fresh, 100%, not-from-concentrate juice I buy is from Brazil! Talk about low carbon footprint.

And our internet died this week. The second time in the three weeks we have been in Tagaytay without internet! I was quick to blame the frayed infrastructure of this crumbling country – you should see the tangle of wires hanging from every pole on the streets – it’s a wonder anything works at all. But it turns out it was not the internet provider’s fault, it was Cisco! The owner of this condo subscribes to a cable company and by all accounts is a leading and reliable provider. The 20-story apartment building, built about six years ago, is internally wired for cable and tv and internet is delivered by the same service provider, just as in Canada. The cable in our unit goes to a splitter – one cable then to the tv and the other to the Cisco router. All our devices then pick up the wifi signal. Things were fine for ten days, but then, no internet. It took two days to convince Diane (the landlord’s local manager, who also happens to be his neice) about the problem (both she and Carmen were convinced the problem was the cable connection in the wall!). I suggested she had get hold of the cable provider and have them investigate whether there was a signal to the apartment itself which they can detect from central. Taliga? TV signal was fine, and I was still getting a strong wifi signal from the router, but no internet. The internet provider determined there was a intenet signal to the apartment unit. Has to be the splitter, or the router itself. So two young techs from Globe Cable Company arrived with a new Cisco router and, passwords renewed, voilà, internet! Relief.

Now today, no internet. Frustration. I’m sure in a day or two the techs will arrive with a new router, probably another fragile Cisco box. Not everything is the fault of the Philippines.

But that’s not the real point of my story. It’s amazing how quickly you feel incarcerated when cut off from the outside world for lack of internet. Even Carmen, who still has access to cellular, and can call family and friends on her phone, felt cut off and frustrated. Me being me, with my various psychological disorders, took this as personal criticism – my fault that the internet wasn’t working. It also struck me as ironic, and not in a good way, that we have become psychologically dependent on our electronic devices (and it’s not different here in the Philippines, everyone, especially younger generation ones, have a device in front of them and are constantly texting and talking with whomever in their own personal networks). Even I began to fret – how was I going to transmit this week’s edition of The Tagaytay Tribune to all you waiitng eager readers?!? and then wait for the congratulatory, or even critical feedback. It also struck me as ironic that, having read most of the print books I had brought with me I was now dependent on my e-book from the cloud!, useless without the cloud connection. And, as I read José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangera, that in his time ~1890, there were no phones, nevermind internet, and only a rudimentary mail system; communications with Spain took at least three months round trip. How did they possibly survive with all that silence.

And last, I heard this week that a long-time good friend, Harry Hughes, has died. Sadly, I will have to remove him from this reader’s list.

As I said, it was a quiet week in Tagaytay.

Like this article?

Get notified when a new blog is posted. Join the mailing list now!

AFS Publishing

T   613 254-5315

Copyright ©2018 AFS Publishing

Sign Up and Receive Updates

Get notified when there is a new blog post and receive other updates from AFS Publishing.