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Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-23-2006, 11:58 PM   #1
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Fun in the Philippines

"Hey Joe, good morning!" chirped the street urchin in his musical english. I let my eyes drift upwards to the full moon to confirm that it was indeed a balmy night on the hot and humid island of Bohol in the cetral Philippines.

But I digress...

I arrived at the old Clark Air Base in central Luzon on August 10, via Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia, the upstart Malaysian budget airlines that is enabling the masses to fly.

I booked online and scored a one-way e-ticket from Bangkok to Clark for $125 USD, including taxes and fuel. The seven hour layover in the KL "Low Cost Terminal" was a bit dragy, but I found solace in the ever present symbol of Yankee imperialism, McDonalds.

Fueled on McD's strong black coffee, I bounded across the tarmac and cleared immigration, receiving the free 21 day visa on arrival. Out the door, and down to the main road, I walked until the straps of my backpack ground uncomfortably into my shoulders and the tropical sun rendered all moisture from my body.* Then I did the only sensible thing and hailed a jeepney, that ingeneous conversion of an "abandonded" US Army jeep into a small but efficient passenger bus. The Philipino passengers grinned as I wrestled my gear aboard and obligingly forwared my fare to the driver, who made change, then* my money was returned under the watchful eyes of my fellow travelers.

"Main Gate!" announced the driver and we all emerged from the jeepney to bustling Field Avenue. I asked around for lodging and eventually took a room at Central Park for 1,500 Pesos, about $30 USD @ P50/$USD.

The next day I relocated to the "Perimiter area and cut my lodging over half to P700 / night, complete with air con and CATV. The best part was the fly infested, open air little Philippino canteen opposite my hotel serving German and Philippino food and German food. They have daily specials, such as Weinerschnitzel, salat and potatos -fried or mashed- for P140-160. I can chow down and refresh myself with P20 San Miguels for about $4.50 to $5.00 USD. It's Lance's kind of place.

The little canteen is a hoot: the Filipina waitresses conduct them selves in the vein of "You haven't been here long enough to earn my contempt yet", but despite them selves, they sometimes flash a smile that would melt even the heart of old Scroodge himself. I finally got smart and paid up, treating the three girl staff to a P12 bag of chips each. Now Im in like Flynn... My fellow dinners are a motly crew, by their own admissions: one retired Australian Special Forces commando, one Swiss soldier of fortune, one merchant seaman, one US helicopter pilot, Dennis Rodman's father (Only repeating what I was told) and yours truly, Lance. These guys are world class, er, uhm "story tellers" so mostly I just listen. Besides Marcelena has decided that I am just another harmles, if simple minded, "Kano" (short for Americano) and she has made it her short term goal to teach me tagalog, the main Filippino dialect. My progress is slow, but I seem to keep the staff entertained, so all is well.

The prices here are quite reasonableand things are even cheaper in the provinces. Manila, like all major cities is a bit more expensive. Some average prices:

Jeepney Ride - $0.15
San Miguel at 7-11, 330 ml* $0.40
Hair cut - $1.20
Big Mac, fries & coke - $2.20
Internet, one hour - $0.40
One whole BBQ chicken - $2.40
Hamburger at sidewalk cafe - $0.50
One litre bottled water $0.35
One gallon regular gasoline - $3.34
Happy Hour Beer in go go bar - $0.70
Beer at Lance's favorite canteen - $0.40

After three weeks at Angeles City, I decided I needed a break from my tagalog lessons, so I booked a flight online with Cebu Pacific Air, to Davao City in Mindanao (~$46.00) Davao was a nice place to decompress after the hustle bussle of Clark (Angeles City.) The mayor at Davao city is quite a character and has taken a hard line on petty crime and drugs. They solve the problem permanently with "neighborhood patrols." The bad guys are never heard from again. All I know is that I wandered all over the city and no one ever bothered me. I dined at an all you can eat, $1.80 buffet, featuring grilled chicken, pork, salmon, steamed fish and an aray of stews, vegetables and the everpresent steamed white rice. Beer was optional at $0.60 a bottle. Haircuts were even cheaper at $0.60 and delicious garlic roasted peanuts from street vendors were only $0.10 per serving (about one heaping shot glass.)

I met Melva, a lady that works at city hall and she told me a lot about the local situation (terrorists) politics and life in Mindanao. Basically Davao city is quite safe, western Mindanao is a bit dicy and the Sulu Islands are a no go area for foreigners, if not Christian Filippinos.* For the most part, the bad guys stay out of Davao, the mayor doesn't put up with any crap. Despite the reputation of a no nonsense place, I rarely say any police and only a few military patrols. Private uniformed security guards armed with nasty, lethal looking sawed of shot guns are everywhere: outside banks, ATMs, even McDonalds and the mall, but I see that everwhere in the Philippines. Maybe Davao's "security" services are more undercover, but I just didn't see large numbers of police. But then I never witnessed violence or crimes in progress.*

After seven days of wandering around Davao, I booked a Cebu Pacific Flight to Cebu Island...



* * *
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-24-2006, 12:25 PM   #2
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Thanks, Lance, it sounds like Angeles City is considerably quieter from its days of the U.S. military bases at Clark & Subic!

How does Tagalog compare to Thai? Does the PI do the same type of business with farang language schools and other immersion experiences? Is tourism as hyperactive as it is around Bangkok & Chiang Mai?

So, did you leave Bangkok before or after the tanks arrived?
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-24-2006, 12:39 PM   #3
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

I found Tagalog very easy to learn.* I am fluent Tagalog speaker - working on the written word.* I found Thai very hard to learn.* But can get by.*
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-24-2006, 08:45 PM   #4
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Lance,

I spent 15 months at Subic Bay in 1970-71. I traveled to Clark and Sangeley Point quite frequently. I thought Luzon was quite pretty with its beaches and green mountains. Baguio is a resort city in the mountains of northern Luzon and is worth a visit.

I remember eating lumpia which is a Philippine eggroll and drinking San Miguel beer. I won't go into some of the other exotic foods such as duck eggs (balouts) and monkey meat on a stick.

Subic Bay is now a free trade zone and some day I would like to go back for a visit. Subic had a beautiful golf course but the caddies refused to go into the jungle to retrieve errant balls because of "bamboo vipers".

Lots of good memories and some not so good.

Mabuhay
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-24-2006, 10:58 PM   #5
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Lance,

Are prices there considerably cheaper than Thailand?
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-25-2006, 01:22 AM   #6
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Hey Lance, is this just an exploratory trip or have you moved from Thailand?
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-25-2006, 03:59 PM   #7
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Quote:
Originally Posted by modhatter
Lance,

Are prices there considerably cheaper than Thailand?
It depends on the exchange rate. They are pretty much the same. It is easier to get a visa in the Philippines and easier to own property. I have been all over PI and the two places I like the most are Bagio City (up in the mountains) and Cebu (a protective island that does not get typhoons).

If you are not bi-lingual it is easier to live in the Philippines.

If you like to site see in Thailand you are required to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt with a collar to go into the holy/king type areas. Sounds not like a big deal but when it is 95 degrees with 100% humidity - it ain't all that fun.
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-25-2006, 11:51 PM   #8
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Thanks, Lance, it sounds like Angeles City is considerably quieter from its days of the U.S. military bases at Clark & Subic!

How does Tagalog compare to Thai?* Does the PI do the same type of business with farang language schools and other immersion experiences?* Is tourism as hyperactive as it is around Bangkok & Chiang Mai?

So, did you leave Bangkok before or after the tanks arrived?
Nords,

Yes, the ex US Military guys tell me that Clark is a bit tamer than before.

Tagalog is not tonal and uses the roman alphabet, so IMHO, yes, it is easier to learn the Thai.

I really have not seen any language schools here, but then, I really haven't been looking for any.

I think tourisim is definately more hyper in Thailand. Alona beach near Bohol island was deserted.

I missed the coup. I arrived here On Aug 10 and I will stay until late October or early November.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vagabond
Hey Lance, is this just an exploratory trip or have you moved from Thailand?
Just looking around for a possible alternative to Thailand...

Quote:
Originally Posted by modhatter
Lance, Are prices there considerably cheaper than Thailand?
IMHO, yes. Hotels are cheaper in Thailand, but there are some (hotel) bargains to be had here. The USD goes about 34% farther here (P50 / THB 37.2) as well.

All the best,

Lance
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-26-2006, 09:25 PM   #9
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Lance, thanks for the report.* One question about culture/religion.* It might be a little early for you, but here goes.* In your view, is it easier to for an american to live in a buddhist society (Thailand) or a muslim society (Philippines)?
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-26-2006, 09:32 PM   #10
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Interesting question about where it would be easier for Americans to live, but the Philippine republic is largely Catholic.* I think it was 80% Catholic (or maybe Christian) a couple of decades ago.* Anyway, it's predominantly Christian, albeit* with vestiges of paganism or whatever the term is for pre-Christian spiritual beliefs.

In the southern islands of the country, Islam is the major religion.

Magandang araw sa 'yo, Lancelot!* * At sa 'yo rin, IHateCNBC, unless it's night-time where you are.
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 09-26-2006, 09:35 PM   #11
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

Thank you flipstress. My mistake. I was thinking of Indonesia.
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Re: Fun in the Philippines
Old 10-06-2006, 03:44 AM   #12
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Re: Fun in the Philippines

The prices mentioned by Lancelot seem cheaper than here in Thailand. I think I will have to do a trip and check things out there for myself soon. Lancelot; lets catch up so I can hear the stories. Cheers!
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Re: Fun in the Philippines - Davao, Mindanao
Old 10-15-2006, 02:33 AM   #13
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Re: Fun in the Philippines - Davao, Mindanao

Marcelna scooped the toothpics off the dusty, well walked floor and purposefuly packed the contaminated items back into the jar, setting same on the table. She flashed everyone a smile, obviously pleased that she had saved her employer -the infamous Kanteen 101- several, if not 10 pesos, at least $0.20 US at current exchange rates.

I just tried to memorize the jar so I would not inadvertantley help to my self from one of the uh hum "recycled" toothpics.

I had missed the food and gang of missfits at the Kanteen 101, deep in the heart of Angeles City (the former US Clark Air Base) during my foray to Mindanao (Davao City only); Cebu and Bohol. The Kanteen had plowed fat profits back into the business: screens now covered the previously open windows. Not everyone was pleased however, Several german clients maintained that the screens impeded the entry of "fresh air" into the dining area and opend the screens at every opportunity. Heck, I thought screens kept the flys out, but it seems they also contribute to dangerously poor air quality. It's good to know though, I had feared that my sensations of light headedness was related to the beer I had consumed. I must learn to be less self critical and just enjoy life a little...

Mindanao was interesting; majority christian in muslim mindanao; sense of order (trash cans on the street and the mayor even rounded up stray dogs after the city was exceeding its rabies treatment budget) and lack of daily rain. It seems Mindanao somehow escapes the monsoon's daily drenchings experienced in the rest of the Philippines.

I met Jocelyn, a delightful lady who worked at procurement at Davao's city hall. She told me alot about Davao's proactive, and depending on who you speak with, controversial mayor. In a nutshell, the mayor's death squads deal permanently with drug dealers, petty criminals and junkies. The mayor's methods may not be politically correct, but who am I to judge? To wit, I walked all over Davao at all hours and never, ever had a problem.

Jocelyn invited me to her Mother's birthday party and I was glad I accepted. First we stopped by another party; Filipinos are VERY sociable. I was treated like a VIP, stuffed with food and treated to "Red Horse" the kick ass local brew favored by Filipino men. We stayed about one hour and man, I'm fading fast...

Farewells are made and Jocelyn drives over bumpy roads and narrow lanes to her parent's modest but well maintained house. Again I'm made welcome and this time my glass is filled with San Miguel, a tamer but very delicious local brew. Jocelyn has two brothers: one an intelectual attorney and the other a pragmatic local policeman. Some how the attorney gets on conspiracy theories and his favorite (theory) is that the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon in 2001 never happened.... it was created by the CIA/US military to justify the Iraq invasion. I grinned, shrugged and said that I was a simple farm boy; world politics was way over my head.

I could have saved my breath. The elder policeman brother's face turned beet red and he launched an immediate rebutal, dismissing his brother's theory as "terrorist lies", unworthy of the slightest consideration. Suprisingly, the younger brother never batted an eye and quickly changed the topic of conversation to basketball.

It was getting late, Lance was getting drunk and his Cebu Pacific flight was at noon the next day.




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