Monday, September 13, 2010

Juliet, Rusty's Filipino Monkey

My fellow American friend here in Bogo, Cebu Philippines has a Filipino monkey named Juliet. Now, I did do a blog post featuring her back during my first visit here in August 2009, but she's too cute to not feature again. She really hated me a year ago, but it seems like we're on better terms now. Perhaps that's because I've wisely decided to always try to bring snacks to her upon my visits.

Juliet is a very interesting character. She's got quite the mean streak in her, being bourne more of insane jealousy than general animosity. She doesn't do well when a guy such as Rusty or I is feeding her snacks and a lady approaches. This usually makes her really pissed off. She's not a fan of my friend Elly at all.

Juliet is very gentle when she reaches with her tiny little hand to grab snacks from either my fingertips or from the flat palm of my hand. In these photos, I was feeding her chips, which she really likes, although I recently gave her a bunch of local Tobi peanuts (already shelled before packaging) and she loved those .

When you approach with snacks, she gets excited and begins making cute ittle chirping noises. She's very smart and remembers pretty much everything. She appears to display both good short- and long-term memory. My friend Elly made Juliet mad once and then upon Elly's next visit Juliet immediately grunted at her before she even got withing 50 feet of the cage.

Juliet does ok. She seems to live a pretty good life. Many might say that buying a monkey as a pet simply perpetuates the problem of people going into the jungles and stealing baby monkeys away from their mothers. But it seems like Juliet is living a pretty happy and contented life here, and I know she surely has a much better owner than she could have ended up with. I'm looking forward to the debating that may ensue in the comments after this post. Feel free to ask any questions you want to about Juliet, and I'll try to answer them all to the best of my knowledge. I'll be happy to record some video of her as well, if somebody asks me to do so.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Church of the Annoying 3:30AM Bells

The St Vincente Catholic Church is right next to our house in Bungtod, Bogo, Cebu, Philippines. Ask those close to me back in America how I feel about church in general, and you'll learn about my natural disdain for church. Then watch their bemused reactions when you tell them that I'm not living next to a Catholic church that has day-and-night services every day. I asked some locals why there are loud bells which create a great deal of commotion at about 3:30am every morning, and they informed me that this particular church does its thing  in the wee hours of the early morning and also in the afternoon, day in and day out.

Now I disagree with many of the fear and guilt tactics of Catholicism, I won't try to hide that. My dad was raised Catholic and my mom was raised Presbyterian, and when they got together they went with her side. Any time people here in the Philippines ask me which religion I am, I always have to describe Presbyterian because very few locals I've talked to are familiar with it. I usually just say that it's kind of like Catholic except that Presbyterians can eat meat on Fridays (most Filipinos who are Catholic don't worry about that Friday-no meat rule, by the way) and that also we typically only go to church on Sundays, without the mid-week mass. Sometimes I just simply reply that Presbyterian is basically the same as Catholicism but without all the fear and guilt.

That little gap between the ecorner entrance of the church and the little building, directly behind the school students walking, is the opening to the little dirt road which has my house on the left-hand side.

Being woken up in the wee hours each day by that cacophony of bells is annoying, I won't even try to sugarcoat that one. It drives me nuts. If they at least would only do that on Sundays and Wednesdays, it would not be so annoying. But come on, man.

But then again, I understand that in a relatively poor society, many people don't have much else to do besides go to church. Many of these people don't have TV, internet, etc. So it's actually kind of heartwarming to me to think that church, something which I've despised for as long as I can recall, can offer so much to these good people. The more time I spend here interacting with more and more locals, the less and less I'm annoyed by those bells. The bells of cacophony slowly morph into the bells of reason. And that makes me begin to wonder if church is really such a bad thing after all. Now if I could only begin to make peace with those roosters who live directly next to my kitchen window...

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Lots of Motorbike Choices in Bogo

There are several motorbike dealers here in Bogo, Cebu Philippines. Having to pay hundreds of pesos each time I need a tricycle (motorbike with sidecar) driver to take me to some beach or other place to swim, I become more and more tempted to just buy a bike. They're good on gas, easy to get around on and mostly reliable.

Inside the above pictured Honda dealership on the main street known as P Rodriguez here in Bogo, they have a few different scooter models as well as various traditional motorbikes. This above scooter is the Honda Dash, which I believe to be 108cc and retailing for about p58,000 (current exchange rate being about p45-1USD).

The Honda Beat pictured above is supposedly also about p58,000, according to the saleslady. I believe the Beat shares the same 108cc motor as the Dash, and it  features an automatic transmission, too. These scooters are known to be pretty comfortable and easy on gas, with not an excess of power but plenty to get you around even in this hilly region.

The Globe internet service technician who fixed our internet connection this week arrived on a Honda Wave, and I asked him some questions about his ride. He claims that this 100cc manual-shift scooter gets around 50-60km per liter of gas. It goes for about p48,000 at the Honda dealer and more than that at another dealer down the street.

I really like the value of this Honda 155cc motorbike. The dealer's asking price is almost p70,000, giving it more motor than the multitude of similarly priced motorbikes featuring smaller 125cc motors which are offered around town as alternatives. I'd love to buy a motorbike, attach a sidecar and then be able to take whomever I want wherever I want whenever I want. This bike probably gets around 40km out of a liter of gas, and even with a sidecar loaded with a handful of people, it would still probably get around 25+ km/liter. I've always had the utmost respect for Honda cars, and I've heard of the legendary reliability of their bikes.

A few blocks down from the Honda dealership is the Norkis dealer, also on P Rodriguez. The salesmen there are cool and very helpful in explaining the differences between their various scooters and motorbikes. They sell Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha as well as "China bikes". The dealer told me that the Haojue "China scooter" they sell for p46,000 is actually assembled in Cebu City, about 100km south of here.

It would be cool to own one of these vehicles known here in the Philippines as a multicab. They're maneuverable, versatile and fairly reliable, or at least from what I've heard. This particular one is sold brand-new here at the Norkis dealership for p155,000, or about $3,500US. It has a stickshift and a 12-valve engine, and it gets somewhere around 11-15km per liter of gas.

If I could still see well enough to drive an automobile, this is what I'd probably go for. There's room for 2 or 3 people up front in the little cab, and more can ride along in the rear jumpseats  I've ridden in these various times during my travels around the Philippines, and the lack of aircon in most of them never seemed to be a big deal. Just roll your window down.

The little awning top is pretty cool, and most multicabs employ them. It keeps the hot sun and also some or most of the rain off of those riding in the back.

Pictured above is Norkis' current pricing sheet for the various bikes and scooters they sell. They have financing options on everything, but interest is a real killer over time. If given the choice, I'd much rather just take the one-time hit up front on the cash price, perhaps out of savings, instead of giving them nearly twice as much over a financing period.

Pictured above3 here are the Yamaha Mio and Yamaha Novo, both of which have 115cc motors according the the salesmen. They tell me that the Mio is p65,000 and the Novo is p75,000, with a longer/roomier body and more space under the seat for which to store stuff.

This Suzuki Skydrive has a 125cc motor and goes for around p71,000. It looks pretty cool, although I'm not very familiar with Suzuki's models. A local drove his 2006 Suzuki Smash up to my house to show it to me, and he admitted that Suzuki parts are more expensive and harder to get here than Honda parts.

Behold the Haojue "China scooter". They want p46,000 for it, and it claims to have a 110cc motor, which is 10cc bigger than  the comparably priced Honda Wave. China bikes are becoming more and more popular throughout the Philippines, so it will be interesting to see if they can ever reach a level of quality comparable to a legend such as Honda.

This is the Haojue 125cc China bike, and the asking price of p52,000 sounds pretty reasonable for what you get. I'd still rather go with a more trusted brand from Japan, but maybe someday I'll try one out. I've ridden around on the backs of these bikes with others driving numerous times, and I've never witnessed any type of mechanical malfunction. They seem like they do just fine.

This beast is the Kawasaki Barako. At 175cc for p80,000, that seems like quite a lot of motor for the money. I'd love to see what this monster could do toting a fully loaded sidecar up a sand-swept hill. The dealer claims that this bike has gas consumption similar to the aforementioned Honda 155.

If I ever got this bike, the first thing I'd do is change the tires, because I much prefer the knobby variety that are stock on the competing Yamaha models.

And yes, of course I wouldn't be driving myself around on any of these bikes, having my eyesight problems. But it would be cool to have my own bike that my girlfriend could take me for rides on whenever we please. We've been talking it over, and she likes the idea of having our own bike, too. Gas is around p50/liter here, so we could go quite a distance on our own instead of having to pay some driver p300 or more to wait for us as we try to swim and relax. Many places are tricky to get a ride home from, especially those cool little hidden beach spots. So unless you have your paid driver wait for you while you do whatever it is you're doing there, you run a risk of getting stuck out there and then trying to walk home. And whenever our friends from Cebu come to visit, I'm sure it woud be even better then. Getting stranded out in the sticks with five or six hungry filipinas is not the most pleasant experience, believe me.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My house in Bogo, Cebu, Philippines

Windy and I moved 100km north from Cebu City up to Bogo on August 1st, and we spent a few days sleeping in a spare bedroom at our friend Rusty's house. Then on August 4th we moved into and began renting the right half of a big 2-story side-by-side duplex a short walk from Rusty's house in the barangay Bungtod.

The first floor is an open living-dining-kitchen area, with plenty of space for living and entertaining guests.

This place was constructed not long ago, and from what the local Filipino owners told us, the only person to have rented it before us was a German man who rented it for just one month before moving on.

It's fully furnished, with tables, chairs, couch, outdoor patio furniture and beds, etc in the bedrooms. The only essential things I needed to buy were a big stand fan, a refridgerator, a bottled water dispenser and a gasul cooktop (the local word for propane is "gasul").

There are several different little appliance stores in Bogo. I found the best deals on refridgerators at the store called Imperial which is withing walking distance from the house (as is most everything else). The ref was stickered at over p14,000 but they gave it to me for a cash price of p11,900 plus I think p100 for delivery. Exchange rate is around p46 to $1US. We got the gasul cooktop at the Prince Warehouse store about 1km away, and it cost about p1,000 plus p2,000 for a new 11kg gasul tank and about p400 for a really good quality regulator. The water dispenser with hot water element cost about p1,500

There is a laundry area right off of the kitchen, and you can walk through it to get to our second exterior door. I can't call it the back door because it's right by our front door. As you can see, all of our laundry is hand-washed in the true Filipino tradition.

The downstairs CR ("comfort room", Filipino-speak for "bathroom") is simple, a little underneath-the-stairs space with a toilet and a water tap coming from the wall. It works. The toilets in our two CRs have flushers, which is a luxury here.

As you walk up the stairs, you arrive at the landing of the second floor. There's plenty of open floor space up here as well.

This view in the above photo is from the upstairs landing looking down at the halfway landing and also over at the indoors balcony which overlooks the staircase as well.

This is our waterbed. I will repeat that. We have a waterbed. It's the first one I've ever seen in the Philippines. Windy hated it at first but then became more used to it, although we are both routinely annoyed by not having a regular bed. Imagine sitting on the edge of a waterbed trying to type on your laptop as your butt keeps sinking down and shifting from side to side along with the waves. I've since moved my laptop from up there in the master bedroom to downstairs on the glass round table.

Here's an alternate view of our master beedroom, and now you can see the door in the corner which opens out onto the aforementioned indoor balcony. There's plenty of natural sunlight in this house, making most interior lights unneeded except of course at night. There's a window aircon in this bedroom, and I like using it while we sleep at night although sometimes on rainy nights the outside air is cool enough for just fan use.

Here's the hallway flanking our master bedroom with an outdoor balcony overlooking our courtyard, patio, the little dirt road outside our gate and the big Catholic church which is directly across that little road.

Here's an exterior shot showcasing our little patio/courtyard area with my lovely girlfriend Windy in the background. We use the smaller gate for coming and going, although when I someday get a motorbike and/or scooter we can begin using the bigger gate for keeping them inside our covered carport area.

Windy posing for my camera in front of our gate. Notice the church in the background. My favorite in the foreground and my least favorite in the background.

With the big gate open, this gives a better view from the roadside. Notice the big bottles of water lined up on the right side along the wall. These are delivered for p30 per bottle. We go through approximately one per week, primarily using this clean mineral water for hot instant coffee and also for mixing powdered juices and powdered milk.

A better view of the little road that runs between our house and the church. We like hanging out and relaxing in the chairs on our patio, although I'd much prefer if they were soft cushions instead of hard metal. But hard seating surfaces is one of the first things I became accustomed to during my travels throughout the Philippines.

Here's Windy posing next to the fish tank that resides between our two exterior doors. These fish are really cool, I like having fish. They belong to the owner, but I like watching their antics sometimes when I need to de-stress.

I hope you've enjoyed my little tour of our house here in Bungtod, Bogo, Cebu, Philippines. My plan is to keep the house during the two months I'll be visiting friends and family back in America from November to January. I rent it for p10,000 per month or just a bit over $200US. The owner was cool with only a single month worth of up-front security deposit, which is nice because it's common to have to pay that plus also your last month's rent here and also back in America. Not bad for 200 bucks, right? I'll be getting our first water and electric bills soon, and I'll report on them upon receiving them. I just got our first bill for Globe DSL internet which I've speed tested at 1,700k down and 500k up. It's p1,999/month plus an annoying VAT of about p275. If they didn't have awful DNS issues, the speed of thaty connection would be worth the high cost. But it's a bit of a rip-off with the wild unreliability. Ask all the questions you want and I'll do my best to answer them.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Lost Blogs: Panglao

My two lady friends came to visit me while I was in Tagbilaran, Bohol back in late April of this year (2010). They actually were visiting me under a shroud of secrecy due to the fact that neither of them wanted their online boyfriend types to know about them seeing me. So as promised, I'm holding back any photos in which either C or M appear. It looks like the face of a sleeping girl can be seen in one photo, but I'm not really worried about it.

The day after their arrival in Tagbilaran via ferryboat, we all climbed onto a tricycle and the driver lugged us and our stuff from Tagbilaran to the sweet island of Panglao, about a 30+ minute drive. There's a causeway that you cross to get from Bohol to Panglao, and the ride usually costs about 200-300 pesos.

We chose the Dumaluan Beach Resort to spend a couple of days and nights. They have a multitude of luxurious aircon-equipped accomodations from which to choose, but in my cheap style I rented a kubo with nothing more than an overhead light fixture and a fan.

No bathroom (comfort room or "c.r." as they're referred to here in the Philippines), no fridge and certainly no TV. No beds, either. It was like a single-room cabin, with a couple of thin mats to lay on.

This was a very cozy little place, and being at a successful beach resort with what I consider to be a world-class beach (at high tide ;), it was relatively expensive at p1000 or about $22US. This same kubo (basically just another word for nipa hut) would cost a small fraction of that in many other places. Expect to pay around p200 for this accomodation in various areas of the Philippines.

But something that made Dumaluan special and debatably worth the price premium is the atmosphere of white sand beach and sweet seabreezes. The above photo is of the scene directly off of our kubo's doorstep. I'd trade aircon for this anyday.

It's really a very relaxing place. The majority of people who visit Dumaluan are vacationing Koreans and Filipinos, as I saw only a handful of white tourists during my stay. I briefly hung my hammock between a couple of the palm trees just steps from our kubo and right near the water's edge. But of course some jackass came along and told me it's not permitted to hang a hammock on their property. I guess some things are the same regardless of which country you are in: Businesses always scared of frivolous lawsuits. I used the high-quality tree-friendly straps made specifically for safely supporting up to 350 pounds in my hammock, but that doesn't matter to these nervous-ninnies.

In this above photo, you can see me looking happy, well-adjusted and not yet burned out. This is what I look like any time I'm caught up on my blog and such.

Here's a snapshot I took from out in the surf at dusk. This is my best attempt to showcase the Dumaluan Beach Resort from afar using a digital camera that doesn't play nice with nightime shots. If you compare the $22US per night for the kubo we rented here, you'll probably notice that a similar thing would run you around $500US/night in Hawaii or French Polynesia. Funny how I whine about p1000 being relatively expensive compared to some other parts of the Philippines, right?

This platter of delicious local foods was touted on a chalkboard that claimed it to be the "Choose any 3 of 5". This gave me the impression that one would select their 3 favorite foods from the possible 5, but when I tried specifying my choices to the cashier she informed me that there was no decision-making required. It turned out that you simply got a sampling from each of the 5 choices. Good luck figuring out what exactly is on this platter in the above photo, since this was 4 months ago and I can't recall what all of them were from this overhead camera angle. The platter fed 3 of us and cost p600, and again there are two schools of thought as to the relativity of prices for such things when compared to other parts of the Philippines and then when compared to other places in the world.

And yes, I'm officially back to blogging. I got very strung out for a while, as my laptop continued to overflow with photos and my head continued to swirl with uncertainties and thoughts of possibly tossing my laptop and camera into the nearest dumpster. But now I'm feeling about 6% better, so I feel like again going on another blogging rampage. With my fantasy football drafts looming in the very near future, I'm about to begin juggling even more distractions, so it should see fun to see how long it takes for me to go completely nuts. But that should make for an interesting read, right?

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