I started this blog with the idea that it would be a travel blog. That idea is not dead (neither am I) but I have not been traveling much recently. Not that I am stuck at the old homestead, in fact there is no longer “an old homestead”. I have moved to the Philippines (Angeles City, Pampanga) full time and have been settling in. The next few blogs will follow the blog “Mystery”, in that I am still walking, and on the same route as the ‘Mystery’ vegetables. I never did find out what happened and I asked the doorman at the hotel about it and he didn’t even know what I was talking about.
The Philippines is a poor country but I would not suggest it is third world. There are rich, middle class, poor and destitute people that inhabit the country. It is much the same in many ways as the US. There are obvious areas of significant wealth and the business centers with 60 story buildings in Makati (Manila area) could be mistaken for any downtown center in the US but the poorest areas are significantly poorer. I will never get used to children sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the side of the street.
Every morning I try to walk at least 5 Kilometers to maintain my ability to move around and to keep my weight under control. A morning walk in the area I live in can be a bit of an adventure, sometimes boring, sometimes scary, sometimes comical. Las Vegas may be the quintessential “city that never sleeps” but Angeles City in the Philippines qualifies also. I generally start my walk at six am but the streets are already buzzing and the markets have long been open. I take the same route daily because it is known, bustling and relatively safe; at my age safety is an issue. There are other expats walking the same route, probably for the same reasons. There are also beggars, lots and lots of beggars. They range from women with little babies to people with one leg or no legs at all. After awhile you get to recognize them and they recognize me. I have become a part of the scene.
One sad aspect is that if you give to one by the time you go 20 yards everyone has you marked. Shortly they are coming out of the cracks in walls and they know YOU. It takes a week or two of brusque refusals for them to stop blocking your path looking for a handout. I have since learned that contributing anonymously to a trusted group that serves the old peoples home or the street kids is the best way to help. On my walk I don’t take a wallet or money. I have a USB drive on a necklace that has ID, my local address and phone contacts, medical history, family contacts and my will. The only thing to protect is my watch and my phone. Reality.
When I was young I was taught by my military father to stand tall, shoulders back and head held high, pressing on with purpose. In Angeles I walk with my head down looking for the next hole in the sidewalk that will break my leg if I step in it, or the next big crack that will cause me to trip and pitch me on my face. Think of hop-scotch with holes and obstacles instead of chalked squares. I constantly glance up to see what is in front of me. I don’t want to knock over an old lady with a used McDonalds coffee cup she wants me to put a few pesos in, or run unaware into a gaggle of street kids waiting to mob me and pick my pockets. I need to walk into the street because a trike driver has parked on the sidewalk, but with care because there are dozens of motorcycles zooming down the gutter and a foot farther out the jeepneys are growling along looking for their next rider to contribute 10 pesos so their daily income.
Did that sound like a complaint – if so gotcha! That is real life not the sanitized version of Beverly hills. The real people are not hidden from view and the city does not have billions of dollars of debt to fix their problems and the people do as they can. This city is real, in your face and alive. I love it. For the few that might find it interesting I start at Garfield’s Last Stand Bar (I live near there) and walk to MacDonald’s on MacArthur Blvd then turn right and walk to Robinson’s Place mall, have a cup of coffee and walk back (google maps https://goo.gl/maps/QbfAkdpeEkF2 ). I will take some pictures over the next few days (aren’t cameras in your phone a wonderful invention?).
The next few blogs will be the local area and a bit of Christmas. Christmas starts around the first of November in the malls with lots of decorations and sales galore. The Philippines is 90% Christian with a very heavy Roman Catholic presence. There are carolers at the gate every night and they expect a few pesos. I have a number of stacks of pesos (10 to a stack) which is about 20 cents US which is given to the carolers as a thanks for their entertainment and they will probably be back for more quite a few times before Christmas. I am sure cookies and chocolate would be more appreciated but when the word got out there would be a lot more carolers.