#3 Philippines Jan. 22, 2010

Dear Everybody,

I really enjoyed our day at Villa Escudero. Josie’s husband drove us there and we had the morning to explore the vast grounds. The wealthy Escudero family has lived on this estate for three generations; the last of them is now 83 years old and still lives here.

A big church had been turned into a museum with everything imaginable—first lots of religious statues (gold, silver, gemstones) and other 300-400 year old pieces; followed by animal and insect collections, Chinese 11th century celadon, 17th century furniture arranged in rooms, clothing worn by the Escuderos in the early 1900;s, clothing worn by ALL the Philippine presidents and their spouses, ethnic Filippino clothing on manikins in dioramas—it went on and on! This museum was much more interesting than the National Museum in Manila!

Next came the carabao ride—a wagon trimmed in fresh palm fronds pulled by a water buffalo (carabao). In exploring the grounds with a river, (you can stay in beautiful huts with thatched roofs) we found a bar and had a beer.

Next came the buffet lunch at the bottom of a 25-foot-high waterfall. We removed our shoes, rolled up our pantslegs and sat at tables that were placed IN the river. About six inches of water flowed over our feet! The lunch was excellent and, as always with buffets, I ate too much. Dessert was big tapioca with sugar cane syrup and coconut milk—also the bananas on a stick—Yum!

Later the two of us were entertained by a young man climbing a very, very high coconut tree like My Cousin Vinney, Vinney. They used old tools to husk the coconut and they opened two of them for us, slipped in a straw and invited us to drink the coconut water, which we did.

The cultural show was next. The opening was the best part with about 40 children playing guitars and mandolin-like instruments. They played a Mexican (!) medley and other things—just excellent! The cultural show was fine—dancing, beautiful people wearing beautiful costumes.

When it was over, Josie and I got the Villa Escudero jeep to the highway, a jeepney back to San Pablo, a tricycle to the B and B to drop Josie and collect my backpack

and then to the bus to Manila. A taxi took me to Elana’s home.

On Sunday we did the politically incorrect thing and went to a cockfight. It was milder than I expected although Didi excused herself and waited in the car. It was kind of ‘sanitized’, I thought. None of this straw pit stuff in a hot crowded room. This was an airconditioned arena with the fight occurring on a stage with glass walls (protection from blood?), well lit by fluorescent lights. There was much shouting about betting while the handlers induced the cocks to fight by having them peck each other.

After several matches, resulting in dead cocks (which

they stew and eat!) we moved on to the bamboo organ.

The bamboo organ is in St. Thomas church in Las Pinas. It is from 1824 and a beautiful instrument which I photographed. All the pipes are made exclusively of bamboo except the ‘trumpet’ ones, which have metal parts. Unfortunately it wasn’t being played at that moment but will be during the bamboo organ festival which I have made plans to attend. So instead of going to Northern Luzon on Monday, I went to the Visayas on Tuesday and will go to Northern Luzon after the bamboo organ festival which is Feb. 19-27.

We moved on to a special street where they sell Luchon, which are small charcoal-roasted whole pigs. After looking at the displays, Didi picked one to buy. They wrapped the whole pig up in heavy foil and put it in Didi’s car. We hurried on home to eat it for dinner. I think that this will be the BEST dinner I’ll have in the Philippines! Elana’s parents joined us—they live nearby and also enjoyed the Lechon as did I! Wow, what a great dinner.

That morning I learned about the origin of jeepneys. Before World War II the get-around mode of transportation was the horse and calesa. After WWII the Americans had abandoned many jeeps which locals began to convert into public conveyances. As they wore out, they built new ones on the same model but with longer and longer backends to accommodate more passengers. We drove past the Serao Company who built these jeepneys—an interesting heritage.

Monday I visited Elana and Didi’s Hiraya Art Gallery. They pointed out a six foot-high angle corner just feet from their door. It had two beautiful religious murals (icons), one on each face of the corner. They had a local artist paint those because people used to pee and poo in that corner and now they don’t! There are many beautiful things in their gallery. We walked to a favorite Indian restaurant of theirs, and had a terrific Indian lunch.

That afternoon, just as we got home, it rained quite hard—the first rain I’ve had since arriving in the Philippines. It isn’t the rainy season, but it still rains occasionally.

Tuesday after having a wonderful Korean lunch, Didi and Elana dropped me at the airport and I flew to Cebu City, the Philippines second city. The taxi ride from the airport during rush hour traffic was horrendous—the driver drove so aggressively (which he had to do) it was really scary. But we finally made it to the Kukuk’s Nest Hostel, a very funky but pleasant backpacker place. They had given away my shared bathroom room that I had reserved on the internet because I arrived so late, so I got an upgrade (private bathed BIG room). There was a resident artist on site with no arms—I had three of his pieces in my room.

Thursday I took the fast boat to the island of Bohol, the town of Tagbliaran, where I am now. I’ll be staying here for quite a few days as there are several side trips on the island that I want to take. I have a nice hotel, and the town seems Goldilocks right—not too big and not too small!

I actually had lunch yesterday at the local McDonalds! She gave me several packets of ketchup (at my request) but when I went to use them, I absolutely could not get them open! She apparently saw me struggling and came running with a scissors to cut them open—obviously I am not the only person who couldn’t manage them.

This morning I took a tricycle (they’re bigger and nicer here than in Manila and Cebu) to the central bus/jeepney station and got a jeepney to go to the Tarsier Research and Development Center. Tarsiers are tiny little primates (monkeys, etc) but more closely related to lemurs. They evolved 45,000,000 years ago, so are older than monkeys. They are no bigger than my fist. They live in the jungle, quietly resting during the day after being very active at night, catching insects. They have big ears and enormous eyes (to see at night) and are cuter than anything! There was information about them at the center for us to study; then we were taken on a little walk to see them in the jungle. We saw (and photographed) seven of them. They just quietly watched us. My walk was with an American young couple from Michigan. The docent said that every morning he scurries around the area smelling their urine to locate them. Since they stay put all day, he can then lead visitors to them. They, too, are on the endangered species list.

After walking back up to the road, a half-km, I waited for a jeepney which took a half hour. Finally one came and I got back to town. I am staying in a really nice hotel–it has such a warm, clean feeling. It also serves a complimentary breakfast—scrambled eggs, good ‘Spanish’ bread and poor coffee.

All’s well with me—I hope it is with all of you!


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