This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Philippines: Day Five

Mt. ArayatToday we traveled to a place where I spent many weekends, Spring breaks, and Christmas breaks. It's located in Mt. Arayat, which is the scenic mountain I saw everyday in my youth, as well as now. It is, by far, my favorite view in the entire world. And I am "from" there, so it makes it even more favorable. The mountain itself is a dormant volcano. I haven't been to the crater but there is a resort on the mountain and I remember several times going there and swimming at its pool. 

I recognized nothing of the drive over. Apparently it was a different route than the one I took with my aunties as a child: walk to the end of the subdivision in Diamond, take a jeepney to Angeles, get on another jeepney or mini-bus to San Fernando, get on yet another jeepney to Arayat, get on a banka boat to cross the river, walk or rarely, take a tricycle to my grandfather's house. I am not going to dick around: I rarely looked forward to this trip. Too much walking. Too much transferring vehicles and more likely, the jeepneys would be crowded. 

Tricycle with child in frontTricycle behind me with child in front
Passing by fieldsFields of Glory

For many years, my grandpa's house, the barrio itself, was without electricity. My aunties would buy big blocks of ice occasionally from an ice store. It would be covered in rice husks. They chipped away, or shaved the ice, and I drank pepsis or sprite or 7-up the entire time I was there. Or they would heat water and I'd have coffee with goat's milk and sugar. This is when I was introduced to coffee and I've never regretted it. :) 

The banka boat ride across the river was due to the bridge going out. I remember this bridge collapsing twice, so the was a brief period in which the banka ride was skipped. But for a majority of the years, it was out but it had been re-erected for sometime before I left in 1982. It is still intact, I am happy to say. And it was this bridge, once we reached it, that I remembered the geography. 

It is amazing how my memory stinks - sometimes I fear I have early-onset Alzheimer's but since I've been here, I have clear memories and know where things are or used to. 

We made it to my grandpa's house, which is now occupied by my uncle Tony and his wife. I immediately ran in and discovered they remodeled the entire place. It wasn't beyond recognition but even the stairs to the second floor were moved. The bathroom and shower area is now part of the kitchen. The water pump that was outside the house, where I actually took a few showers, was now enclosed. I gave the tour to my girls, again, feeling like I was having a dream-come-true moment. 

Second floor
Water pump
My auntie Cely looks happy and relaxed

Food was prepared and I enjoyed eggplant with rice. They fried chicken for CJ and Tim. I didn't have any but it looked better than any fried chicken I have seen in the states. CJ ate three pieces which thrilled me. This is an overwhelming place to be in when one is not only a picky eater, but specific about the things she _will_ eat. Burgers she'll eat, but only made a certain way...and so on... 

My uncle Bong took us out to the farm in the back. It's just acres of farmland as far as the eye can see. They are getting ready to grow tomatoes and the land adjacent to his was being plowed. Further down was the rice and it was cool for them to see what rice looks like when grown. 

Path to the fieldsPath to the fields
Caribou enjoying the shade
Rice fields
Rice up close

We said hello to the caribou that was just hanging out under a tree. The oddity was that this animal was chewing - CJ loved seeing his mouth go in 360 degree bites - but he became fixated on CJ and stopped chewing and just stared at her. Of course, I'm a little freaked out because this is not what I consider 'routine behavior' for this beast. And the only thing holding that animal from my daughter is a piece of rope, 'tying' it's horns to a tree. Thankfully, it got what it wanted out of his assessment of her and went back to his chew. I find it amazing that this creature would find something so curious in us, her. What made us look different than any other passing person? If you look close enough in the picture with CJ, you can see how fixated he is on her. Compare that to the earlier picture of him just being 'normal'. 

My uncle then asked if I wanted to see Auntie Mher's mango trees. I knew they were located across the street from my uncle Tony's house so I thought it would be a short walk. Technically it was but it was through high grass and other natural debris. I could see a whole forest of mango trees, the fruit just hanging off. But between me and the trees was a jungle of grass. I noticed two cows (which I don't recall ever seeing during my childhood) and once they noticed us, they came charging. My instinct was to alert Tim to the danger and to protect the children...well, ME, then the children. But these city folks just stood there waiting for the cows to attack. 

Seeing their naiveness, I abandoned them for my own safety and ran to my uncle Bong. He played it well - keeping cool so as not to make me panic more, or to make the cows even more aggressive than they wanted to be. It worked, as once I turned around, I saw the cows licking the hands of my children. I was still concerned that they might _eat_ them...but fortunately, that did not happen. Tim later reminded MiMi, who also thought the cow might eat her, that they are herbivores and don't eat meat. Whew. 

I pleaded with my uncle that we had gone far enough - I see the trees and they look great. Now let's go back. I looked like Paris Hilton trying to tiptoe through a field of wiry grass. I can only imagine what I must've looked like to anyone watching. 

We finally made it to the trees but first, I had to show Tim and the girls one of my favorite plants in the Philippines, the fern-thing that folds its leaves when you touch them. This entranced ALL of us for a good five minutes. 

Tim picked some mangoes off the tree, as well as MiMi and CJ. I was ready to get out of the jungle. Tim was kind enough to protect me from the killer cows but once I found a path to get out of there, I did. 

Tim picking mangoes
MiMi and her mango
CJ and her mangoes
My uncle tries to steer them away from the killer cows

We then took a trip to the cemetery where my grandpa, grandma, my young cousin (Uncle Bong's daughter) are buried, along with many of my other family members. I had been here a few times on All Saint's Day, where the living visit the dead for the day. 

This cemetery has tombs above ground, since it can flood here. I have told this many times to my kids and Tim, so I wasn't disappointed to see how it looked when we got there. 

It's changed a lot since they paved walkways. Imagine not having walkways and just walking over crypts and through dirt. It is really a nicely maintained place now. There are buildings around some tombs, including my grandma, grandpa and May-May, my cousin. These were not around when I was young. My mom said it's to keep the goats and other animals from crapping around the crypts. 

After our visit to the dead, we went to visit the living - family on my grandmother's side. Tim and the girls have never seen so many family members to one family in their is a lot. Here, I taught Tim and the girls to 'soo-clod' (phonetically spelled), or give blessings to the elders. This is where you take the hand and put it to your forehead. It's a gesture of respect. 

We visited for a bit and my childhood sent flashbacks about how I used to go around with my auntie Cely, visiting family...and just sitting there, waiting until we could leave. Don't get me wrong: I loved seeing them and I loved that my mom could catch up with her family. But imagine having to sit around, not knowing the language thoroughly, not having a friend or sibling to talk to, and not being able to share anything with them in communications. Today was fine but as a child? It was not fun. 

We headed back to my uncle Tony's and had what is called 'merienda', which is a 'light' (not really) snack. Today my auntie Precy (uncle Bong's wife) and auntie Merly (uncle Tony's wife) prepared something called sampelot, which is a sweet dessert dish with little balls of dough in a thick creamy sweet sauce, with chunks of banana. I forgot all about this sweet treat. I watched my aunties roll the dough before we went to the cemetery. When we got back, it was ready to eat - warm and inviting. Tim loved it and had several bowls of it.  

Finally we headed back. I enjoyed a visit with my family while Tim and the girls headed back to the apartment. A nice rainstorm came through and flooded the way...and allowed Tim some great white noise to have a restful nap.


  1. Cindy, I'm really loving your trip reports! Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Killer cows and mangoes go great together! glad you all are having a great time.