It just screams at you, you know? “41 posts, last published July 27, 2007.” Err, that was over two months ago. So I got lazy. Blame the 100+ degree days and the fact that I skipped abroad for a few weeks.
Went to the Philippines to spend some time with my mom and to reacquaint myself with the old country. God, I’d forgotten how much I love and loathe the place. Love: the familiarity, the only-in-the-tropics yellow sunlight, the curious mix of Tagalog and English, the unintentionally hilarious TV shows (Seriously, Kokey? What the hell, they couldn’t come up with at least an original-looking alien, they had to rip off the look of a twenty-five-year-old American icon, all the way down to the red hoodie sweatshirt? And where did I get the idea Ruffa Gutierrez could act?), the obsession with celebrities, the cool local fashion scene, the stuck-in-the-80’s music industry, the over-the-top journalism, Anchor Butter (yes, I realize it’s from New Zealand, but damned if I can find it here in the U.S.), and speaking of which, the FOOD.
Hate: the crowds, the pollution, the noise, the funny smell in certain places, the obsession with celebrities, the uber-bitchy gossip mags (of which I bought plenty when I was there, natch), the mind-numbing traffic, the lack of clean restrooms in most establishments, the insects (geckos and roaches and ants, oh my!), the seriously-in-need-of-an-overhaul political system, the alarming rise in violent criminal activity, the degrading premium put on physical appearances, the snobbery…I could go on and on, but I may lose my balikbayan status, so I’ll shut up now.
Of course, I ended up catching my cousin’s flu halfway through my trip, which meant that I spent way more time than I wanted to lying around in bed nursing a headache, a fever, stuffed sinuses, and a bad cough (that I still have, weeks later). I engaged in a full-on pity party for awhile until I soon realized that there are definitely worst ways to recuperate from an illness than living in a cute little bungalow by the sea and having the full-time services of a housekeeper.
One of the things I definitely did not enjoy was the startling strength of the Philippine peso (or perhaps, more accurately, the weakness of the American dollar). I mean, people, c’mon! I thought this was a Third World country! (Can I still use that term?) I love shopping in the Philippines, as I can find outstanding clothes, accessories, beauty products, books, music, DVD’s, etc., that I can’t get in the U.S. But for some reason, the last 5 years have witnessed a remarkable economic transformation in the country, as the price of goods and services have risen to the point where quite a few locally made products are rivaling the U.S in prices. I had to whip out my calculator more than a few times to confirm just what I was seeing on tags.
Ah well. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my stay. If anything, I have to admit, I found myself more than once scanning the pitiful local want ads to see if I qualified for interesting employment. (For the most part, I don’t, as I’m apparently too old to be considered for most plum positions.) B. would be apoplectic at the thought of relocating there, not because of any animosity towards the place but rather because he and I are well aware that healthcare providers are engaged in a mass exodus of the country, which doesn’t bode well for his own financial status if he were to find a job there. But for awhile, I did dream of a life surrounded by people who share my ethnic heritage, who talk in a comforting language I’m still familiar with, and who think nothing of bursting into song in the middle of the street, as if they’re all playing small but important roles in a grand musical.