CEBU – ila puti

[A note to anyone that actually reads this thing. This particular piece on ila puti was overlooked and I ate there and wrote this a few months ago, and it was still dry season.]

Drum Roll  – 72 years old and counting and traveling and experiencing. NOT DEAD YET.

In order to give my derriere a break I decided to stop in CEBU for a few days en route to my next assignment. I normally use agoda.com to book rooms in Southeast Asia and as it was short notice. I ended up at the Cebu Grand Hotel. Nice hotel and I rated it on agoda. The upshot is that it is located next to AXIS/Vibro Place.

Wandering around looking for a late dinner I passed a packed Starbucks and an oversized and very busy Burger King. I began to wonder if I had time/space traveled to my old home. Then I came to ila puti. A small restaurant with a young couple playing guitars and singing inside (they were great).  I was snagged by a waiter that said they had what I was looking for. They did! This gem of a small restaurant with great service was enough to kick me back into blogging.

Any gourmand from New York or San Francisco would be in heaven here. The restaurant is named after the chef who is nothing less that a creative genius. The portions are just right, the ingredients fresh and incredibly well matched.

With Japanese, Korean, Fusion and Lechon to pick from, all three of my nights in Cebu were spent at ila puti . You will Love it. The Philippines are not known for their cuisine as are Thailand and Japan.The Philippines are about practical food such as Adobo and lots of fish and rice. Restaurants like ila puti might start a National trend. GOOGLE them, pictures of some dishes and menus on line (this is their second location).

To give the Philippines its due, there are mega malls in the big cities and most host a very wide selection of restaurants that represent most popular epicurean delights such as Japanese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, and most popular American fast foods. A mall I ate Japanese from tonight I walked around and counted 52 restaurants and probably missed some.

 

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Posted in Blogging, drinks, food, Life, Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Wet is Wet

The Weather people are calling it a tropical depression or a cyclone. The locals in the bars are calling it a typhoon. I call it damned wet. My 3 ½ hour trip from Calbayog to Manila (1;03 TO Cebu, I hour ground for plane change 1:10 to Manila) became 12 wet and wild (and a bit bouncy). It made me remember that I got to Vietnam in the rainy season, 8 days from now it will be 50 years ago. That was a muddy miserable welcome. I am sure that my sons SCUBA trip 3 weeks ago and my last trip on the ferry from Cebu to Samar would NOT have been so great this weekend.

I am not complaining as I am now in a dry hotel room and there are lots of people in the second story of their house or on the roof because the water is so deep. I suppose one would have to be a bit ignorant no to understand that an archipelago situated between the Pacific Ocean and the South China sea on the pacific typhoon track might have weather that some call bizarre.

Portions of Manilla are below sea level. I am on the 11th floor and as I look at the weather map I am grateful. In fact looking at that map (and being on the 11th floor), I may sleep under the bed rather on top of it. I do not take lightly the plight of the millions of people that do not share the luxuries I am blessed with.

There is another aspect to the wet here even when it is not raining. HUMIDITY. For the second time in 4 months I have some fluid in my lungs, hence the trip to the doctor mentioned in a previous ‘blog’. When I went to the third doctor 2 days ago he asked me where I was from. When I said Arizona he smiled and asked what part. I said the Valley of the Sun, Tempe to be exact and he said he had a brother-in-law in Chandler (neighbors). He also talked about how much hotter it is there than here in the Philippines.

Then he said, “and much dryer”. He further discussed the problem people from dry climates have adjusting to the humidity, not just because the “wet bulb” factor makes it seem hotter than it is, but because the lungs have trouble adjusting to getting rid of the moisture that comes in with the air. It made me curious so I looked up the difference for August. In the valley it is 23%. In Manila where I am this week it is 73%. It speaks for itself. It may not be as hot here but the weather is oppressive and when you add all the diesel smoke it is deadly.

As I head for Vietnam and Cambodia it will still be the rainy season but hopefully not on the same Typhoon track.

That being said, I am still in Southeast Asia and it is the rainy season and WET is WET.

Posted in Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Pinball Wizard

This a blog not a travelogue so from time to time I get to run off into some pretty esoteric areas. Today is one of those days.

This morning during the buffet breakfast at the hotel I am in I ran into and spent hours talking to a Anthropology Professor from an (I shall not name) Southern California University. He spends his research time living with indigenous Filipino Families on a small island (also I shall not name).  He spends months at a time recording on his trusty laptop all of their daily actions, stories and the complexity of the lives of extremely poor people in a virtually closed environment. As I listened to some of his stories I was amazed at some things I heard and learned about a country I have visited 14 times since 1994.

He is a skilled observer, a published author and in general a very interesting fellow. As I was doing my morning walk (trying to keep from getting fatter and more crippled) I reflected on his success and determination vs my 23 jobs in 22 cities and for a few minutes started to look down upon myself. My life has been similar to that steel ball in a pinball machine. Smashing about seemingly aimlessly causing all sorts of mayhem along the way. Certainly there are paths I might have trod much differently, however, I am the one who is most fortunate. I am no pinball wizard but my path has gifted me with doctors, lawyers and the salt of the earth. I have more friends than many people have acquaintances and I have learned from all of them.  I have Good friends that are high school dropouts and a few that are arguably “over educated”.

One of my best friends is an Indian, a REAL native American, and three Mexicans whose families were here before my home state was a state. I have close friends that were in the military and one that was part of the group that burned the draft cards in DC during Vietnam.  I may be the luckiest person in the world to have met these wonderful people and it never would have happened but for my incomprehensible bouncing around the country. Now as I travel around other countries I am meeting more people and learning more about more things.

So why this diatribe? Because I was foolish enough to waste even a little bit of time on overlooking all the blessings I have called friends and the route I have taken to acquire them. In reality and particularly at my age friends are all that really matter.

So, if you can travel (even in your 70’s) I highly recommend it and if you can’t then when you are standing in line at Starbucks or the grocery store, start talking to people around you. Some will be arseholes, ignore them, and concentrate on the nuggets like the Professor I met this morning or the Surgeon from Hong Kong I met a few years ago in a bar or the the truck driver I met from the Northwest Territories in Canada or…. You get the idea.

Bon Voyage

 

 

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A Visit To The Doctor

My bodies reaction to the difference between the high desert climate of my home and the tropical climate of my current abode is to revisit my old friend, walking pneumonia. A bit of a rattle when breathing made me decide it was time to get it treated. New location equals new experiences.

The hospital in town has signage that makes it obvious that most  of its clientele is pregnant or bringing in a new papoose  – I fit neither category.  I presented myself  to the reception desk and was given a form to fill out, which I did. A little later a nurse came out and looked at the form. Ten minutes later she came out and took my blood pressure 120/80 and left. A few minutes later she came out again and told me I needed to see a respiratory specialist, “go to the corner, one block to the left and then left again, back a half block”.

The Doctors office was rather worn and had benches inside and outside in the entry way. No frills that the patients need to support. There was a single receptionist and a lot of people waiting. The doctor was due shortly and I was number 11 on the list. I went back out to the benches in the patio and waited. There was an earthquake 2 weeks before and the power was intermittent while repairs to the power grid were made.  We were in an off stage so there was no fans on or lights. The office did not appear to have air conditioning even if we had power so the benches in the hall were a good choice anyway since they were the closest to fresh air.

As I awaited my turn I observed the other clients/patients. I was one of the better dressed in shorts, a polo shirt and canvas shoes. Most were in pants, tee shirts and flip flops. It is a commentary on economics not individuals. One lady appeared to be older than I and she had a tattered dress and no shoes. she was so frail I prepared to catch her if she fell in my vicinity.  There was one gentleman in what looked like new jeans, nicely polished shoes and a button shirt, two ladies were dressed as if working in an office or about to go out on the town. We seemed to represent a cross section of the populace. I was the only white person in a sea of various shades of brown. I am also a foot taller that most here so I really stand out. Glaringly and grotesquely stand out. So be it. Every person stopped at the desk and gave the receptionist some money as they went out.

My turn with the Doctor eventually came and I found my way back to a nook where he sat behind a small desk with a weak light illuminating his desk. It appeared to be battery energised. He was very nicely dressed and had an open shirt with a gold crucifix. He reminded me of a young Ricky Riccardo (that dates me). He greeted me politely and in perfect english asked me to describe my problem. As I did so he made a few notes and asked a few questions. He then stood up and listened to my chest. As he sat down he said my left lung was clear and I had no breathing sounds in my right lung. He said I had what was commonly called walking pneumonia. He gave me a detailed discussion of what he thought and wrote a prescription for three medications, describing in detail how to take them. He said if my breathing got worse in the next week or if it was not cleared up after the medication was completed  to come back and he would send me for a chest x-ray. We parted and as I left I stopped at the desk and paid for the visit. It was 250 pesos, which at the current exchange rate is 5 dollars, yes $5.00.

I took my prescriptions to the pharmacy and got an antibiotic for respiratory infections, an anti-mucolytic to help clear the lungs and a powder to mix with water to help with the throat irritation. The total cost of the three drugs was 1450 pesos. The total cost in Dollars was just under $30.00. No copay, no insurance and no hassle.

In the US I would have waited hours to see the ER doctor and had to pay the $75.00 co-pay up front before they would see me. The visit would have been much more expensive and mounds of paperwork involved. In the US health care is a very big, very profitable enterprise with great expense to the tax payer and some individuals. In the Philippines it is simply a way to fix sick people and keep others healthy.

Posted in Life, Medicine, Old Age, Philippines, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Transportation

Sticking with my Southeast Asia travels it is interesting the differences in transportation from area to area.

Thailand seems to be the most complete and varied in its transportation offerings. In many areas a Toyota pickup with a row of seats down each side and a set of steps off the back with hand rails seems to be the least expensive and pretty safe. They run a route and in many ways are like the Jeepneys in the Philippines. There are tuk-tuks much like in India which are comfortable and will take you to a location of your choice, rather than a route. Motorcycle taxis are common and very practical, but I have personally (unfortunately) seen two people killed on separate occasions right in front of me on motorcycle taxis so I will not use them. That and the one time I did, the rider took a short cut between rows of oncoming traffic and then up the sidewalk. I would rather be back flying a helicopter in combat than do that very often.

The shining star in Bangkok is the overhead rail system. The trains cover very well planned routes and are fast and clean. They are crowded during rush hour but other than having to stand they are great. During non rush hour they are a dream and an all day pass is inexpensive and a great way to explore and visit the wonderful malls. There are buses but I have not used them in town, although I see lots of them and they always seem crowded. I have used them cross country but the language issue popped up and I almost got on the wrong bus more than once.

Have the desk clerk or someone that speaks your native tongue write down your hotels name and address in Thai before you go, it may save you a panic when you are returning. Also if you are going to the airport, there are two of them, be sure the taxi driver understands which airport you are going to unless you don’t mind missing your plane.

Vietnam seems to be least varied as the most available transport to tourists are the venerable Toyota taxi.  Mai Linh  and Vinasun (green and white in color) are reliable and have meters. I prefer Vinasun since it has always seemed less expensive to me. My experience from the airport in Vinasun is 1/3 what a non metered cab is (150,000 dong  vs 500,000 dong) to my hotel, as an example. I have been dropped off blocks from my desired destination because of language issues. Maps and written directions are a must. I have learned not to leave the hotel without written instructions of where I am going and a well written description of the hotel and its surrounding area, all in Vietnamese. If you are English speaking don’t expect much help in an understandable fashion, although the people are wonderful and do try.

Prices by taxi are so reasonable that I would not try to figure out the city bus system although I understand it is very good, the language issue can be a real problem. There are motorbike taxis but are your nerves really worth the money saved, and the same language issues. Vietnam is a wonderful place to visit but Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City  are easy to get lost in. Be prepared and spend your time enjoying instead of frustration.

Finally I am not so hot in math and even the metered taxis have a shortcut in dealing with the dong so when trying to figure out a $1.00 US is d22,300 and when the meter shows 190 and you don’t see the 000 in small numbers to the side (the fare is 190,000) and you have bills in denominations of 1000, 10000, 100000 (some in similar colors) for someone like me it gets a bit hairy. Just saying!

Philippines has a vast network of Jeepneys, buses and trikes which can get you anywhere you wish to go and being a series of islands (7107 of the) both air and water transport abound. The most picturesque are the jeepneys which come in various capacities, condition and decoration. Universally if you are over five and a half feet tall you are bound to bang your head from time to time. As time goes by and some restrictions kick in much of this will change. Other areas besides Luzon have different designs and in many cases safer and more comfortable vehicles but the traditional Jeepney may live on for a long time.

Buses are also somewhat varied. The old idea of a chicken bus (literally a bus in which some passengers may have a few chickens with them) seldom is seen but there are different bus ‘classes’ so one must determine what they are willing to trade – money or comfort. The least expensive are crowded and have no air conditioning. The next level is crowded and has air-conditioning. The best are fairly modern buses with WiFi and air-conditioning and more spacey and comfortable seating. Most of the buses are second hand from Japan, as most of the jeepneys are made from surplus parts removed from used vehicles in japan. Even some of the small boats I have used for island hopping are powered by used Isuzu truck diesel engines with the trucks transmission giving them forward, neutral and reverse. In bad weather an extra night in a hotel prevents a horrible amusement park ride. Small boats and big waves are not for the faint of heart. If you need a ride and see a jeepney or a bus stick out your arm. They will stop regardless if you are at a bus stop or just along the road side. The conductor will collect your fare along the way.

The trikes are a motorbike with a sidecar. Many of them are so small that it is worthy of Charlie Chaplain trying to get in and out. I have been stuffed in some that I had to be pulled out by the driver or an onlooker and ended up on my hands and knees. Some are driven by the same kamikazes as the motorbike taxi’s in Thailand and prices can be widely varied. So the cheapest ride is in a jeepney but it travels a route and the most flexible is a trike but your nerves may suffer a bit. There are a number of private services which operate with new vans from Toyota or Hyundai that are swift, convenient and comfortable, but significantly more expensive. Still, they remain cheaper that similar services in America or Europe so it is all relative.

The biggest savior in the Philippines is that MANY people speak English (and many other languages also) so it is easy to get directions. I have found, for me, that basing myself in the Philippines and traveling from there is extremely convenient. It is actually cheaper to go to Bangkok and return to the Philippines and then Hanoi and return to the Philippines than it is to go to Bangkok, then Hanoi, then return to the Philippines. Of course I have friends that live in Vietnam and Thailand that feel that where they are is the best place to be :-).

Transportation is a part of the culture and experience of the country you are visiting. Enjoy and experience the thrill of it all.

 

Posted in Old Age, Philippines, Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized, Vietnam | 1 Comment

Cafe Cubana

Back to Makati and the restaurant next to the filling station and one of the more interesting restaurants I have ever seen.

Cafe Cubana

So first a necessary editorial comment. I was in grade school when Fidel and his gang took over Cuba and replaced it with the glorious communist paradise it is today. I was in high school during the missile crisis and our classes were routinely interrupted by B-52’s thundering overhead as they took off “to the south”.  I have not seen, nor can I think of,  anywhere that people are better off under communism than they would be under any system that allowed one to benefit proportionally from the fruits of their own labor.

That said, the cafe is liberally (pun noted) decorated with Cuban and other communist brick-a-bract. There are large blow-ups of TIME magazine covers of Fidel and his henchmen. There are unending items on the walls and hanging from the ceiling festooned with the red communist star. I sat at a table and looked up and looking down at me was a communist military pilots helmet with prominent red star. As a former US military pilot that just didn’t look right to me at all. The staff was dressed in khaki and olive drab ‘uniforms’, many of which included a cap or beret with the ever present red star. A few had on a jaunty fedora sans star.

All that said it is a wonderful restaurant. It has an open front that is full width and on the street so the patrons can watch the passers-by. Since it is literally ‘an open front’ the restaurant is open 24 hours a day. The service is fantastic and the menu is top notch. Mojitos (Cuba’s national drink and Hemingway’s favorite) are made by hand as Hemingway would have demanded. If in Makati you MUST visit and dine at this top notch establishment. Been there, done that, shudda bought the ‘T’ shirt.

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The Most Unique Place On Earth

The highest concentration of unique mammals on earth is found in the Philippines on the island of Luzon (where I am as I write this). There are 7,107 islands in the Philippine Archipelago and the main individual  islands each have their own personality. The meat of this post is copied from “How to Geek” so I do not claim originality for that, only an intense interest since it is one of my favorite places.

[A survey of the Earth reveals, rather quickly, that islands are hot spots of diversity. Cut off from mainland areas, the contained ecosystems of islands offer a place for creatures to evolve, adapt, and thrive. While the big names in island diversity, like the Galapagos islands and Madagascar, are the most likely to spring to mind for most people, recent research has revealed that Luzon Island, the largest island in the Philippines, has the highest number of unique mammals on Earth.

Why Luzon? Not only is it a large island and distant from any mainland area, but it also has several other factors that favor a diverse ecosystem. First, it’s a volcanic island that has never been connected with any continent. Second, it’s quite old (for comparison, it’s at least five times older than the oldest of the Hawaiian islands). Finally, the island is home to many high and separated mountain peaks. These high peaks serve as sky islands of sorts, where mammalian families have split into separate species over time as they adapted to conditions on the different mountains.

cloud rat

As a result of these conditions, researchers found that of the 56 species of non-flying mammals located on the island, like the northern Luzon giant cloud rat seen here, 52 of them are found nowhere else in the world.][Indicates what I copied from “How to Geek”]

No I do not lump the people here into this interesting fact, but they are of special interest to me also. The  majority of the people of the Philippines are Malay and known  as Filipinos. Others include the Negritos (negroid pygmies) and Dumagats (similar to the Papuans of New Guinea). There is a fairly strong influence of Chines splashed throughout, as well as the Spaniards who claimed the Philippines and brought the Catholic religion of which 80% of the population follow today.  Simply traveling around Luzon one notices differences in physical features and cultural attributes, leave Luzon for another Island and more differences are apparent. So if one is trying to find an interesting and unique place to visit both historically and culturally I highly recommend the Philippines.

Posted in Life, photography, Travel, Uncategorized