since I've been gone...

....I can sleep for the first time...


Though my two hours spent tossing and turning in bed last night effectively cut my amount of hours of sleep to a measeley 3, I still feel beckoned to spend time writing in here for some odd but seemingly convincing reason.

First of all, there were some things I forgot to mention about my adventures in the east. They didn't have much to do with the country, rather what I did. So while there, my brother, cousin, and I pass by this detox/foot massage place someplace in Boracay. Advertising on the outside of this clinic was an offer for a detoxing through some sort of foot bath, not unlike the kinoki foot pad things, except through water. Have you ever heard about these things? Apparently this treatment is supposed to help remove toxins from your body that may have been building up in your blood vessels, stomach, lungs, and liver. So we all give it a try (with the exception of my brother...apparently you can't do the treatment if you have metal in your body[in his case, a metal rod keeping his femur together]) And, according to the picture, it looked like it worked:

(WARNING: The following image is graphic. I don't know how to keep you from looking at it, and you probably skimmed through the pictures on the post before you read the text, so in a way, this warning is kinda futile. Enjoy.)

See kids, that there's the product of epsom salt, some sort of detoxing ionizing machine, distilled water, and 60 minutes. That brown stuff you see is all the toxins from all the liquor I drank in college.


Moving on, I finally did make it back home, after an excruciatingly long Monday (my flight left 10:30pm Monday Philippine time, and arrived in 8:30pm Monday San Francisco time), and it was then that I discovered that the worst kind of hangover is jetlag. Especially when your jetlag is the product of a 15 hour time difference and the crossing of the international date line. I had a horrible experience trying to readjust, waking up at 3pm one day, and not being able to sleep till 8am the next day. It was terrible.

Also coming home, I finally had the time to organize all the little knick knacks and souvenirs one would buy from the Philppines. Though I had my share of typical artifacts such as tiny barrel men, giant wooden forks and spoons, and of course, pusit, there was one object I wasn't sure what to make of:

This dude.

It's a wooden statue of a headhunter, originating in the northern mountainous region of Luzon. In other words, my people. Be that as it may, it's still hideous. I don't know how my brother convinced me to buy one with him (there's a second one at home!), but for some reason, I ended up forking over the 500 pesos for this scary looking thing. I tried giving it to my dad, but he was adamant in keeping this thing out of the home, so for now, it currently resides next to my desk, ready to greet (or warn?) anyone who walks into my room. I guess what I'm trying to do is find it a home other than in my little abode, so if anyone wants a conversation piece or a halloween decoration, it's up for the taking!

One more off the wall purchase I made:

Thaaaat's right. It's Holy Communion bread. Unblessed though. And purchased at the liquor section in the supermarket at Fort Bonifacio's Market! Market! They were 60 pesos (about $1.30) per bag, and next to the wine.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to offend anyone or anyone's religion. I'm Catholic too (but moreso by name not so much by practice). I'm just saying, if you saw this for sale next to the wine at the liquor store, wouldn't you at least chuckle?

I'm going to hell, aren't I?

"it's kinda mean, but it feels good"


The Notorious P.I.

So concludes my two week foray into the Eastern horizon that is the country of my ethnic origin, this supposed developing nation that is known as Ang Republika ng Pilipinas. Coming into this trip I didn’t what to expect, coming out of it all the stories I’ve only heard from others have only become more real.

If I were to describe the Philippines to me in one word, I would say ‘different.’ I mean, really really different, given my American background. This place really blew my mind, and to be honest at one point in the trip, I swore it was unreal, haha.

But in all seriousness, like most individuals who visit their home country for the first time ever after growing up their whole lives in the United States, I have been given a chance to get some perspective on my quality of life. I know that I've only gotten a small glimpse and a slight taste of what life really is like there, but hey, I've experienced more than if I had just sat on my couch back at home.

So alls I’ve got say about that is, damn.

Anyways, I don’t think I’ll go over every single detail of my trip, however I do believe I will list off all the things that stood out to me the most.

Oh, and I’d also like to mention that I will be thoroughly and extensively disappointed in myself for the rest of my life, since in an unfortunate turn of events, I lost one of my memory sticks for my camera, along with the 400 pictures that was stored on that. As a result, I no longer have pictures and videos from Makati, Quiapo, Mt. Pinatubo, Tarlac, the drive to Baguio City, and many other scenes that I will probably never be able to capture again (one of the videos I’m most disappointed in losing is driving through the Barangay Pembo during the rain, truly powerful in my humble opinion). So, in other words, I fucked up. I messed up real bad.

Moving on.

And now, the 14 things that stood out to me the most during my trip to the Notorious P.I.

1.Anything Goes While Driving

Imagine everything that is illegal about driving in the United States. Now forget all of that. That is how driving is like in the Philippines.

Lanes are of no meaning. Seatbelts are not mandatory. You could fit 9 people in a 5 seater jeep, since apparently there are no laws against people sitting in the trunk. There is constant honking, lights flashing, vehicles merging in and out of lanes on both sides of the roads.

Little tricycles consisting of only a motorcycle and a small carriage with 4 or 5 people riding inside are weaving in and out of the traffic of much more larger vehicles.

And then the jeepneys. Old retrofitted, retooled, and often flamboyantly painted post WWII army jeeps that have been converted into a pseudo public transportation system for the country. You’ve got people hanging off the back these trucks, going at speeds upwards of 40 mph, rain or shine.

But you know what? No one had road rage. Not once did I see anybody complain or open their window to shout at the next driver over. It was sort of accepted that driving would be complete and utter chaos.

But I’m not gonna lie, I actually enjoyed traveling around like that. It was fun, hanging on for dear life on these little machines, risking flying off the vehicle on the next struck pothole or bump in the road. And besides, it’s cheap too.

“I now know where the bad Asian driver stereotype developed.”

2. There are Filipino equivalents of so much of our media

Have you ever heard of Kapamilyang Deal or No Deal? Or I love Betty La Fea? Or Survivor Philippines?

No, not Survivor that takes place in the Philippines, rather, the reality show Survivor with Filipino contestants. I mean, where the hell could they go that’s more exotic? Haha.

But the shows are practically the same as their American equivalents, with the exception of an all Filipino cast, the obvious language difference, and much more synchronized dancing:

If you know me well, you’ll know that alternative versions of certain media are hilarious to me, and to see an equivalent here in the Philippines just made laugh out loud.

You could probably imagine my reaction when I first saw the video to this song MTV Asia:

“So you know how they eat balut on the American version of Fear Factor? Do they eat burgers on the Filipino version of Fear Factor?”

3. Those damn malls…

You think the United States is commercialized and overrun with malls? You ain’t seen nothing till you’ve been to the malls in the Philippines. These holy monstrosities take up the majority of the acreage in the more commercial areas of the Philippines. And gah, how exhausting they are to look at and walk through.

And the worst part? They’re fucking everywhere!

Hundreds of thousands of people roam these air conditioned malls day in and day out. The stores are crowded, and they’re overstaffed. Every aisle in every department store has a worker in uniform just standing and waiting there, watching your every move. The moment you approach a product, they instantly walk up to you, trying to assist you in finding whatever size belt it is you wear. “Hello po, peepty percent ope today,” I’d always hear. And then if you do decide to purchase anything, you go up to the cashier counter, and notice the 12 workers they have waiting for you, staring at you.

[picture missing because mark messed up real bad and lost his memory card]

Now, I’m sure this is probably normal for the country, and I guess everyone needs a job, but I can safely say that at this point in my life (or at least for while) that I have been traumatized by these malls and do not wish to walk into another mall, nor my children, nor my children's children, or their children...for 3 months.

And those street vendors, gah. I mostly experienced it in Boracay, and lightly when I visited Antipulo. Everywhere you go, there’s a vendor in a light blue polo holding a rack of sunglasses, pearls, watches, or something. Make eye contact with them, and already it’s too late. The sunglass rack is held up and put in front of your face, the box of pearls is opened and lifted to your view. And damn, are they persistent. They’ll begin following you even if you give the slightest acknowledgement. I think the worst we encountered was while sailing around the island of Boracay. We had stopped to go snorkeling for a while, when suddenly a man on a canoe rows up to us and begins yelling “Ice cream!” While he held on to our boat, we weren’t sure how to react.

Hilarious. Now I know that this the livelihood of these people, so I won’t judge or criticize them. I’m simply pointing out a quirk that most American people would find quite unordinary and to a point, annoying.

“We get raped and pillaged and colonized by the most powerful nations of the world, and what do we do once we get our freedom and independence? Build the biggest malls in Asia.”

4. What is it with this obsession with whiter skin?

“Fact: All Filipinos want fairer skin.”
-commercial for SkinWhite Whitening Lotion

Now, I’m pretty sure I’m late to catch on to this trend, but I always knew it existed, and I have since heard many Filipinos discuss it amongst themselves. I guess I just had to see it for myself. I don’t see why, I don’t understand it, but in the Philippines, lighter skin=more beautiful. They’ve even got soaps and lotions and body washes that are designed to make your skin more ‘pink-ish white.’

So I decided to give these whitening soaps a try, and conducted an experiment. I purchased the SkinWhite PowerWhitening hand lotion and body soap. The label read:
“Reveals your whitest white! Whitens in as fast as 7 days. Best of all, it whitens continuously.”

Everyday, I used the whitening body soap, and later used the whitening lotion (which doubled as a 20 SPF sunblock). I swear, my skin began to achieve that pink-ish white glow up until we spent time at Boracay, where my time in the sun roasted me and brought me back to my lowly dark brown.

And another thing, I know it’s a little late to point this out, but it’s true. All the biggest actors in the movies and all the people who do make it on TV are freakin white as hell. I mean, look at Aga Mulach. He’s everywhere and he’s as pale as my legs!

Okay, not really anymore, I actually wore shorts while in the Philippines. But just see for yourself!

Well, I’m not gonna lie. I’d be smiling like him too if I got to star in movies with those girls, ha.

“Tita Ming and Amanda look fine. You look like you just got darker.”
“Wow Mark…you certainly got darker. A nice tan.”
“Boracay made you dark!”
-Mom’s neighbor and friend

5. So much pork…

I swear, I’ve never had so much lechon kawali and crispy pata at once my whole life…

“You look red, like roast pork. Have you been drinking?”
-Lolo Asterio

6.They sure love them fast food

Every fast food place I visited, and that’s not only including the Filipino chains, but also your McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC served fried chicken (okay, so KFC is supposed to serve fried chicken anyway, but…). And on top of that, all of them deliver to your home, 24 hours a day.

[picture missing because Mark messed up real bad by losing his memory card]

Imagine that in America. How horrible would that be for our already obese nation?

And that damn Jollibee. He’s just so damn…happy. But hey, I’ve got nothin but love for the character that brings joy to so many Filipino youth, not unlike…



“I’m not shy, you are the one that is shy…(to the tune of that one backstreet boys song) tell me why…ohh…ay jusko…”

8. I love the exchange rate

So it’s about 46 pesos to a dollar. And many dishes at many restaurants are no more than 150 pesos. We’re not talking fast food burgers or anything (a big mac meal is only 100 pesos), we’re talking full on dishes like sinigang, kare kare, bangus, and rice. You can order a beer at a bar or a club for only 45 pesos (given that it’s San Miguel). A rum and coke at one bar was only 60 pesos.

Needless to say, you can see where I pissed away most of my money.

“Well since we’re all together, shall I bring out the Jack Daniels? The Johnnie Walker? The weed?”

7. Security Guards are well armed, and everywhere

And I mean everywhere, at your local mall, bank, Max’s restaurant, even Jollibee’s:

I read somewhere that the current ratio of these guards are 750 citizens to 1, and the government wants to increase that ratio to 500 to 1.The streets are already teeming with these men in white uniforms, and some of them carry around a lot of firepower.

(don't ever get caught with a broken tail light here...or else.)

And get this. Whenever you enter any sort of building at all, even your local mall, you’re required to go through a metal detector and be patted down for security reasons.

Once again, another case of what may be normal in one place, but not another. Something like that would never pass here in the States.

“Lolo always said when in Rome, do as the Romans do. You’re not trying to do that at all!”

9. I now have a new favorite beer

Unfortunately it’s not manufactured in the States. Or at least, I’ve never seen it. It’s call San Miguel Strong Ice, an ice filtered pale pilsen that gives you the strength of a strong beer or malt liquor but with the smoothness of a light beer. If you’ve ever seen it here in America, please direct me towards where I will be able to purchase it.

“Maybe I should upgrade my phone. You know, to a redberry.”

10. Ya’ll are wimps in the States

Now I’ve heard the rumors that Alpha Phi Omega (a community service based co-ed fraternity in the United States) is a gang in the Philippines, but according to my cousin that’s not necessarily true. But what is necessarily true is that frats here in the PI don’t just party and go clubbing with each other, they have full out frat fights. And it gets violent.

“Two years ago, 500 people died at the taping of Wowowee. They were trampled because the prize was 400 pesos. Imagine that.”

11. That ain’t right.

Surely you’ve heard of mail order brides (or nowadays, internet order brides). I never realized how prevalent it was here in this country. You don’t see it too much around the big city, but while in Boracay, I counted 57 couples that just didn’t seem right.

Now this picture wasn’t the worst I had seen, but it got to the point where it just wasn’t right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not racist and I'm not the type to go "oh look the white man is stealing OUR women." I'm not like that at all. If these people met on their own accord and fell in love, more power to them. I'm just criticizing those where it's obvious a little business transaction was involved.

There were men who were clearly past or approaching 60 with young women who looked no older than in their 20s. And the worst part was that seeing the same couples the next day, we all knew what had happened with them the night before. I understand that possibly these are some lonely men who simply need companionship in their life, and I feel for them to be driven to this point of desperation. Then again, who knows, perhaps these guys are on ‘business trips’ away from their families and wives and are looking for a good time 7,000 miles away from home.

“I just got married 2 days ago! Life is beautiful! God bless.”
-The 57 year old Caucasian man with the 22 year old Filipina woman

12. A place so nice, they destroyed it twice

In the more colonial parts of the country, especially in the historical areas around Manila, you will find that our country has a rich and diverse history full of innovation and influence.

And it was all destroyed at least two or three times.

The oldest church in the Philippines, Saint Augustin, originally erected in 1571, has been burned and pillaged at least twice each by the Spanish, the Chinese, the British, and the Americans. You can read for yourself its colorful history.

Look at how the church looks in the picture. Look at it now:

It’s been destroyed so many times, they didn’t even bother putting up a second tower.
Now I’m not one of those pseudo activists who’s gonna scream “it’s cause we’re brown” in the case of a few colonial overpowerings. But let’s not bullshit. My country was pretty much fucked by every other surrounding nation, and it saddens me to think of all that. It’s a sad history, and well, damn dude, it sucks. But regardless, it’s our history, and let’s hope that during World War III, the Americans won’t come back and trample the livelihoods of thousands of Filipino citizens.

“And to your right, are jail cells where Spaniards imprisoned many Filipino revolutionaries. Today, it is a bar.”
-The calesa driver

13. You don’t know crowded

So imagine a huge room. For you college students, imagine a large lecture hall, not unilike the size of Moore 100 at UCLA. For others, think of a basketball court and the lower section of the stands. Now imagine hundreds of people gathered and stuffed in that room, it’s hot and muggy, there are fans situated all over the room but you’re still dripping with sweat, and there are so many people that others are waiting outside.

That’s Sunday mass at Antipolo for you.

Imagine a train, BART for the Bay Area folks, and the Red Line for those of you from Los Angeles. Imagine being stuffed arm to arm in that train, non-airconditioned and Dunkin Donuts commercials playing on repeat for the whole ride.

That’s the MRT rail transit in Manila for you.

Imagine driving through a neighborhood, with hundreds of people walking on the streets, little tricycles driving in and around these pedestrians, markets selling fresh produce in rows, homes with open doors, friends and children playing in every which direction, and others simply standing and staring at all the life that passes them by.

That’s a neighborhood street in Quezon City.

I lost the best videos that would help you visualize what I just described, but I managed to record driving through the neighborhood, on a quieter part of the day in Pembo, Makati:

And that's a quiet day.

Seeing and experiencing and living that for a while made me realize that American streets are nice and quiet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that also makes them kinda lifeless. It’s still slightly strange to me right now to be sitting near a window, and to not hear the putters of a motorcycle or jeepney pass by, the voices of hundreds of children and the occasional firecracker go off.

Ah what am I saying. Living there and hearing all that for a few more weeks would have probably driven me crazy.

I’ll adjust back soon.

"Gas goes down, pan de sal goes up"
-The Manila Bulletin

14. But…

Amidst all the supposed poverty, lack of food, and hardships that I’ve heard many go through on an every day basis, everyone is still pretty damn happy.

Must be the Magic Mics.

“Ah, back to work, na.”
-The guy next to me on the plane

And In Conclusion...

Overall? I think I had a great time. Seeing, experiencing, and living this for a while has really opened my eyes and given me perspective. I don’t want to sound cheesy and trite, but yeah, I’m a different person now that I’ve seen it for myself. Was it a life changing experience? You bet. I’ve connected with family I didn’t even know exist, I’ve experienced a culture I’ve only heard about, and I now have a deeper appreciation for simple amenities taken for the granted on my part (Thank God for toilet paper).

And for the record, yes it was over 70 degrees, and at times (okay most of the time) I was hot and uncomfortable.

“Have you met Ina? She is so pretty. And you are so guwapo.

But you are cousins.”



So I am quite convinced that it's time for me to leave...for a while, at least. In the course of the past few days, I've gotten into a car accident, my tire has blown out, I've been summoned for jury duty, and my license has been threatened to be taken away. Not cool.


Yes, these are all auto related issues, so it'll be nice to get away from them for a while. I just don't wanna think about it at the moment.

Anyways, this shall be my last post for a while, as I will be 6,967 miles away. I know I'll find internet, but come on, I can blogspot and facebook on this side of the world just fine. For those of you curious as to where I'll be visiting (and because I'm a true geography nerd and love maps), I've marked where I'll be spending the next 2 weeks of my life with the moderately large and clear x's:

(Metro Manila, La Union, and Boracay for those of you who don't know)

That is all. Show me what you got, homeland!

"you know, this inner turmoil of mine? it's hungry. give it some nachos."


I will be unreachable for some time...

So in less than 5 days, I shall be departing the country. I will be traveling halfway across the world to the region that is known as the Philippines. The sheer gravity of the trip hasn't quite hit me yet, but I'm assuming that's because I've been so caught up in the grind that I haven't had the chance to sit down, breathe, and slow down to really assess the situation I'm about to get myself into. It'll be a flurry of firsts for me, some being my first time to the country of my cultural heritage, my first foray ever into Southeast Asia, and (according to the "Western scheme of things") my first time to set foot on a 'developing country.'

So basically, I'm not really sure what to expect, except for a life changing experience, which is what most of people who have visited the country prior have told me. There's an itinerary laid out for me already, I'll be there with my family, but still, I'm not sure how I'll be taking this. I'm not saying I might not enjoy this, by all means, I'm really looking forward to it with an open mind and a closed mouth (my mom advised me to not say anything out loud, otherwise that'll be the dead giveaway that I'm not from around there...although I'm guessing it's gonna be my profuse sweating that'll give it away).

While gone, I know I'll be missing out on some typical American commodities, such as mild temperatures, toilet paper in some parts (according to my brother at least), consistent clean running water, and I Love Money (unless they do air it on VH1 Southest Asia). It'll be different, but it'll be a good experience.

Either way, don't expect to hear back from me until about the 23rd of this month...but don't say bye! I'm not gone yet.

On another note, September 3rd was the one year anniversary of my blog! Isn't that cute, he's growing up...

This will be my 38th published post since that fateful night when I decided that hey, I should find some sort of creative outlet for all my incessant rantings. You know, create a place where I will be free to revel in narcissism and not feel bad about it. Lately there have been alot of people I know that have succumbed to this thing called blogspot. Welcome to the club, my friends.

Let's take a look back at that first post again:

"Needless to say, my attempts to start online journals have been inconsistent and flaky at best. I tend to lose interest in writing in these things after a while, since seemingly I only write when I'm feeling emotional. But I guess this is a trend I can break this time around, possibly. I say this every time, but will this one stand the test of time and my ultimate un-desire to write? I always answer the same way too: m'eh."

So far, so good.

Anyways, there's so much in the news that I've discovered thanks to my inflated amount of downtine at work, and so much I'd like to write about, but blogs that are actually read provide visuals, and so I'd like to conclude likewise:

My God, this woman is all over the news. You can't browse by a news channel or pass by a page on digg without seeing the name 'Palin' show up. As such, I have taken the time to get to know this veep candidate extensively, since the media has given her quite the hype. Now, I'd like to convince myself that I enjoy following politics, as much as I deny it publicly. But in reality I eat this shit up, haha. Some notable quotes from this past week:
Palin, on her experience as related to Obama's:
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities."
Obama, on Palin's piercing attacks and why he isn't responding to her:
"Why? I'm not running against her, I'm running against McCain...I've heard worse on the basketball courts."
A blogger, calling the GOP out:
"I can imagine Biden at the VP debates now: 'You, Ms. Palin, are running a ticket in which you wish to appeal to the Hillary Clinton voters. I know Ms. Clinton personally, Ms. Palin, and you are no Hillary Clinton."
A Fox News correspondent, on Ms. Palin's foreign policy experience:
"Well of course she has foreign policy experience! She governed the state that is closest to Russia!"

Alls I've got say on this matter at this point is shame on you Republicans, for the obvious gimmick you are trying to play on America, knowing damn well that a good amount of people will fall for that gimmick. And if this fateful November, we do happen to allow the Grand Old Party (bro) to come into office, well then I just have to say that this country deserves to be fucked over if we're going to be that naive.

Seriously? I take consolation in the fact that both you, my readers, I, and millions of other people all over the United States view this as ridiculous and completely out of line. But I am also saddened by the fact that in some part of the United States (and in one of my relatives' houses), there is a family that is watching the Faux News Network and taking this as true, real, and genuine.

Awww, poor Bill. It may have already been a decade, but nobody's forgotten yet.

I ensure you, this is not photoshopped.

If you watch South Park, you'd be lauging your ass off right now.

Total laps swam so far, 9/5/08: 60 laps x 25 meters = 1500meters
How much in shape am I feeling: Gah I haven't swam in 2 weeks. And my family keeps telling me that I'm looking fatter. Not good.

"How am I? Well, I'm down to 8 cigarettes per day."