Thursday, November 30, 2006

here comes the hammer (again)

What is SW doing today? SW is SHITTING himself. Why? Because of Typhoon Durian (that’s the International name; the Philippine name is Reming, but “Durian” is more appropriate – more so than “Wendy” or “Kevin”, at least) is heading straight for SW’s hometown, Los Baños. A couple of months ago, Milenyo (Xangsane) whacked heartily into LB and this was the result. Reming is currently rather larger than Milenyo, currently packing winds of up to 230km/h. It’s predicted to hit LB sometime tomorrow (Friday) morning. There was something sort of cool and exciting about experiencing a typhoon (my first) in September (until you realise that everything’s been fucked up and lots or people have lost lives/homes/roofs/etc). But one was enough – REALLY not looking forward to this one if it continues on its merry way…

I wrote the above a few hours ago. It’s now just gone 2.30pm and the update as of 11am was that it had intensified back up to a maximum 250km/hr category 5 (top category) “super typhoon”. This note from the Typhoon2000 website was particularly encouraging:

“THIS IS AN EXTEMELY CATASTROPHIC TYPHOON...PAGASA Virac has recorded wind gusts of 265 km/hr...All interests in the Northern Samar, Bicol Region & Quezon Provinces should closely monitor the progress of this extremely dangerous typhoon.”
Here's a nice shot of Durian off the east of the Philippines, taken yesterday:

(Got this from Wikipedia -- an image taken by the US Naval Research Laboratory.)

Work has just been suspended for the rest of the day. Were it not a public holiday tomorrow, I guess it would be cancelled tomorrow too. I’ve cashed a cheque with the work cashier (when I drove into work at lunch time – worked from home this morning – there were large queues forming at the ATMs) and filled up with petrol. Am planning to get some work done now and head back for dinner or if the wind starts getting fierce (it’s been steadily increasing all day).


Stay tuned…

Friday, November 24, 2006

lunch with a KILLER

Be in no doubt, SW wines and dines with souls from every point on the human spectrum. Yes indeed, it’s not uncommon for me to lunch with Fufu the crackwhore and dine with Imelda Marcos on the same day. Though maybe that’s not really evidence for my all-points-on-the-continuum claim.


A few weeks ago, SW lunched with a friend and her family. A couple of the family’s friends joined us. One of these – let us call him X – had worked as a handyman/gardener for my friend’s family, who come from a small town on one of the big Philippine islands. X became very close to the family, who treated him like a Godson.

By the way, the Godson/Godparent thing is alive and kicking and screaming here – some people nominate half-a-dozen or more people as a godparent to their newborn (even SW is a Godparent!). Often, they try to include friends or associates who are wealthy and/or influential, in the hope that the Godparent will help out financially or otherwise as the little tyke grows up (the people who nominated SW as a Godparent clearly failed to do their research). That’s not to say it’s a cynical attempt at currying favor. It’s partly just the way things are done, and given the Philippine concept of utang na loob, the new parents will be indebted to the Godparent for life. Here’s a little paragraph on this topic, which I jotted down just this minute off the top of my head:

A dyadic bond – between two individuals – may be formed based on the concept of utang na loob. Although it is expected that the debtor will attempt repayment, it is widely recognized that the debt (as in one's obligation to a parent) can never be fully repaid and the obligation can last for generations. Saving another's life, providing employment, or making it possible for another to become educated are "gifts" that incur utang na loob. Moreover, such gifts initiate a long-term reciprocal interdependency in which the grantor of the favor can expect help from the debtor whenever the need arises and the debtor can, in turn, ask other favors. Such reciprocal personal alliances have had obvious implications for the society in general and the political system in particular.

Actually, I DIDN’T write that myself. It came from here, and is originally from “the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army.” But what is the internet if not a tool for making one look like one has book smarts when in fact one has NO book smarts?? Besides, I’m sure everyone assumes SW is book smart enough to PULL THIS SORT OF SHIT off the top of his head. Sorry for misleading youse, though.

But I digress.

A couple of years ago, X got into a drunken fight with another guy. He happened to have a gun, happened to fire it, and the bullet happened to kill the other guy. So X fled to another island (the one where I met him), where he lives and works today, having not so much as been charged with a crime.

This sort of thing happens quite a lot here. Unless it’s a high-profile case, police often don’t have the resources or inclination to pursue an arrest once someone leaves the area where it happened. But it’s not quite getting away with murder. There’s often a sort of community justice, which entails a deal between the family of the felon (I do love using the word “felon”) and the victim’s family. It’s usually a simple payment; in X’s case it was US$2-3000. Sounds cheap to my Australian ears, but 1) that sort of money goes along way here (to raise the cash, X's family sold their property), especially in the provinces, and 2) in some ways life is cheap here. I don’t mean that people don’t care about others’ lives as much as they do in, say, Australia, but – from my completely unresearched observations* – death is just way more common here and people deal with it differently.

I didn’t talk to X much. AND DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS. It wasn’t because he was PACKIN’ HEAT and I was scared he might POP ONE IN ME. He just didn’t speak much English.

But he seemed a thoroughly nice chap and I for one do not intend to hold the odd killing against him. So he whacked** a guy. So what? Haven’t we ALL killed, when we really stop to think about it? Hmm? Yeah, that’s right.

*It makes sense though – 1) The Philippines is a much poorer country than Australia, so people don’t have access to the same health care, education, etc and there are fewer policed health and safety rules and regulations; and 2) There’s more than four times the population of Australia in a fraction of the area and people tend to have larger families and inner-circle communities occupying smaller spaces – people are simply around more people more often. I would bet on the death rate here being much higher than in Oz (Indigenous population notwithstanding), but these two points alone make me think people just end up facing death far more than your average middle-class Australian.

** I watched an episode of The Sopranos for the first time the other day. Hence I have the right to authoritatively sprinkle my missives with Mafioso vernacular.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Q: What's more artistic than a photo of a candle?

A: A series of photos of candles!

That's right! It doesn't get ANY MORE ARTY than the following photos of candles outside a catholic church that SW, D and D's friend Ch wandered through in Cebu a few weeks ago
. It was an old and famous church but I have to confess that I can't recall the name. This is art, not history, people.

Friday, November 17, 2006

buck off

I visited Cambodia once, in 2001. Sure, Angkor Wat was a highlight, but nowhere near the best thing I saw. THAT was the sign for the appetising-sounding Angkor Chum Burger (photo here, courtesy of E, who was with me and was smart enough to buy an Angkor Chum Burger T-shirt).

While I can understand the need for intellectual property rights, I do rather enjoy seeing this sort of blatant rip off. Like the ‘Big Mak’ burger vans here in the Philippines. No photo, unfortunately, but McDonalds had their lawyers on the case. Not even a man-child idiot would’ve thought the Big Mak vans (with their truth-in-advertising chubby-kid logo) had anything to do with McDonalds, but I think the courts ordered the vans to shut down or change the name.

While in Cebu a couple of weeks ago, I came across this eerily familiar-looking establishment:

There’s no way anyone would think they ripped off another, somewhat larger and more insidious coffee shop. I DID try the coffee – it was actually OK but, just like the other buck, everything came in disposable fucking containers...

"But it's BIGbucks, your honour! BIG!"*

*SW's hypothetical court-of-law statements are clearly now a THING. And hereafter eagerly awaited by the punters.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

two (2) unrelated photos of signs that amused me

1. I like all the information presented on this sign, but I particularly like the name of the police operation. Especially the exclamation mark. I hope beyond hope that police officers have been instructed to yell "gotcha!" in an aggressive yet jaunty manner (as behooved by said exclamation mark) when apprehending FELONS.

2. What is the universal symbol for the hamburger? What is the one icon that is inextricably linked to a beef patty served between two halves of a bun? That's right -- the leprechaun.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

credible sauce

In theory, SW is a science communicator. This may or may not give him the right to pontificate on companies appropriating scientific sounding language to give their products an air of credibility. For example:

Look at the neck of the bottle:

I know that the word “naturally” saves Del Monte from accusations of outright dishonesty, but:

  1. How many average punters would actually know what lycopene is? Hence, what is the value of saying something contains it, other than: “Ooooh, it sounds science-y, therefore it must be important!”

  2. Despite “naturally”, there’s still an implication that, specifically, Del Monte ketchup contains lycopene. As opposed to all those cooked tomato products out there that don’t contain lycopene.

But fear not – the explanation is on the back of the bottle, complete with a thoroughly excellent disclaimer:

Of course, "a low-fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruit and vegetables" is just window-dressing. If you live a healthy, active life until 97, it'll be almost entirely due to Del Monte ketchup. And “certain cancers” + “many factors” = HIGHLY DETAILED information. They forgot to add: “…and, you know…stuff.”

Still, you’d have to question the smarts of someone who, after a cigarette- and booze-induced heart attack tried to sue Del Monte. “But, your honour, I drowned my fries in that shit.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006! (Part 2)

The meet-the-family weekend has been and gone. It went pretty well, I guess, as these things go. All very friendly. There were a few awkward moments, as expected, but nothing major. D’s Mum, Dad and brother (+ his wife and 3-year-old kid) were there, as well as D’s best friend from her hometown in Mindanao. Her family speaks decent English but I think they were a little self-conscious talking to a native English speaker. They live in small towns in rural provinces and either don’t use English much at all or only with other Filipinos.

D's family was very friendly to me. No questions about my intentions for their daughter (I think D had warned them not to ask) and I think they thought I was a decent person (despite knowing I’m a godless heathen).

However, all that may have been undone last night when D revealed over the phone that we’re living in sin (for almost 3 years now). D thinks they already suspected, but her mum came right out and asked last night. Something along the lines of:

“One last question…are you and SW living together?”
“Yes mum.”
“Are you living as man and wife?”
“Yes mum.”
“Are you living in the same house?”
“Yes mum.”

I guess she wanted to be completely sure. Or thought that if she asked the question differently it might illicit a “no”. Bear in mind that D’s folks had a traditional, conservative, Filipino Catholic upbringing. It didn’t seem to provoke too bad a reaction, though there was quite an intense conversation afterwards. I’m not sure yet what her Dad’s reaction is.

And, in case anyone was wondering, I did manage to get through the entire weekend without once referring to D’s mum and dad by name or title. That alone constitutes success.

Thursday, November 02, 2006!

So, SW is off to Cebu City tomorrow to meet, for the first time, D's folks. Probably about time after almost 3 years (by far a relationship record, I'll have you know), but SW is not without some trepidation. It could well be fun; it could well be a weekend of cross-cultural awkwardness. Were I a local lad, I'd be expected to address them, initially, as "sir" and "ma'am"... but that won't happen. Nor do they expect it -- they know I'm not local -- but D's helpful advice is "just don't address them at all."

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

silver lining / the DIY post

KEYWORDS for the below photos, taken at Canlubang Golf Course on 24 October (then you may write the caption yourself):