Monday, January 28, 2013

My first witch

I'm in Siquijor right now, a fairly remote island in the Visayas. It's notorious for the healers who live here, though any Filipino will tell you that they're all actually witches and that you should be staying way the f away. But come on, who's seriously going to listen when there are witches involved?? Especially after loving "The Witches" and "A Wrinkle in Time" as a kid? So after some googling ("best witch in siquijor" doesn't yield much, it turns out) and some advice from my hostel, I took my trusty red scooter and headed into the mountains to go get bewitched. Or, something like that.

I guess I was expecting the surroundings to be filled with gnarly vines, ominous looking trees, maybe some crazy birds of prey stalking around. Nope, it looked pretty much like everywhere else on the island, if not a little better maintained.

These witches have a great eye for landscaping, I thought.

I didn't take a picture of the healer's house because a bunch of family members in wife beaters were just sort of sitting around outside looking decidedly un-magical, but there was literally a sign out front that said "faith healer," along with a bunch of the ailments they could cure listed in misspelled English. I had just assumed that I would be beckoned into the right house by a toothless, old hunchback stroking a blind cat, but this was way easier.

Since I wasn't sick, didn't need a love potion, and didn't want to be "smoked" (the preferred treatment for skin ailments), my healing options were pretty limited.

So I decided to buy a protection amulet, which she is imbuing with extra protection in this picture since she didn't have change for the 500P note I gave her and is thus making an extra 150P from my visit. Clearly I had to ask for some extra joojoo - capitalism spares no one, not even witches.

Moral of the story: witches are really nice! They also have adorable grandchildren, like this kid, who was hanging around the whole time and getting scolded for letting his duck kick at the Virgin Mary statuette.

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Location:My first witch!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A late winter snowfall...

I've been bumming around Manila since Michael left on Saturday, staying with family and soaking up old stories that I normally don't get to hear since I live so far away. I was staying at my Auntie Tess' house, looking at family photos, when I came across the following caption in one of my Lola's albums from the 80's. She had come to visit us in Chicago with my Lolo and a couple of my cousins, and they experienced their first blizzard. I was struck by how lovely and old-school my Lola's prose was:

"The following pictures were taken on the early morning of April 15, 1985, during a late winter snowfall. The snow flurries were thick enough that by mid-morning, the neighborhood, the rooftops..."

"...the streets, trees, etc. were a pretty sight to behold. Notice how Cecil and Cielo enjoyed their first experience with the snow."

On a side note, of course there's a blizzard in Chicago in April. Also, I'm the fat one in the snowsuit.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

dirty hippie alert #5: the shoeless hippie

I realized today that I haven't posted any dirty hippie alerts since India - almost 5 years ago! - and, like manna from the sky, I stumbled upon this guy in the street.

You might argue that that street looks pretty clean, but about two minutes before this guy came walking past, we saw a dog trot by with a distended bowel that I'm certain has made contact with the ground at some point.  If even the most impoverished Filipinos can manage to find 20 pesos to buy a cheap pair of flip flops, so can this guy.  I hope he finds distended dog bowel mushed between his toes later.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How I got over

Happy new year! 2012 may not have been my favorite but when I think of what I want out of a year, I crave balance. Michael and I spent the past 7 days on a boat, sailing around the islands of Palawan, and it was so amazing and healing that it pretty much made up for everything I didn't like about the past year.

This was my last impression of 2012:

And then obviously we ate a lechon, got drunk, and sang a bunch of karaoke in the local village with one of the three families that live there. Totally healing, if you ask me.

Filipino are pretty superstitious, and I'd say that ending one year and starting another on such an awesome note is a pretty good omen.*

*Even if I do still have a minor burn on my calf from being hit by a wayward Roman candle and Michael burned his feet by drunkenly stomping out a small fireworks-induced fire in the forest with his bare feet, it just means that 2013 will be especially fiery and fun, right?

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A Filipina and a white guy walk into a bar...

As excited as I am to be traveling around Asia, I've been dreading the inevitable looks and assumptions that occur when an Asian female is seen with a white guy. When I was traveling in 2008, I had been pretty surprised to see some of the reactions in SE Asia to me just walking down the street with a guy from my hostel. So I knew to expect at least some sideways looks while Michael and I were in town. What I didn't expect was how preemptively crazy I would get in my actions and reactions, and now that Michael has left to go back to Brooklyn, I can actually reflect on why that was the case.

Sure, most people probably/hopefully don't think I'm a prostitute - while there's a lot of that around, Michael definitely doesn't look like the old, fat, ugly bastards who typically hire prostitutes, and my travel wardrobe doesn't usually include glittery heels and makeup - but I think a lot of people still assume that there must be some sort of power imbalance in our relationship. Even if it's clear that I grew up in the US, there must obviously still be some weird dynamics when an Asian woman is involved. So to ensure that Asians everywhere know not only that I'm not a prostitute but that I'm a strong, bad-ass woman who has has equal standing in her relationship, I found myself saying or thinking the following while traveling with Michael:

"Michael! You're walking too far behind me and people are going to think that I'm your tour guide."

"Michael! You're walking too far in front of me and people are going to think that I'm your docile lotus blossom or some other bullshit!!"

"Hey Michael, can you shave tonight? Everyone here shaves except for white guys with prostitutes that they don't care to impress."

"Michael! No PDA's! Unless I initiate, and if I do, you can't do more than what I'm doing."

"Michael! You can't hold all the money otherwise it'll seem like you're my sugar daddy."

Where are my North Face shorts, prostitutes don't wear North Face

hmm I'll sit so that my tattoos face the rest of the restaurant, prostitutes don't have tattoos

Crazy? Yeah. I'm sure that my own inherent neuroses don't help - I am admittedly paranoid that people will think that I'm somehow less Filipino since I married a non-Filipino, and it doesn't help that literally every single Filipino we've met thinks that I'm only half-Filipino. So it's an ongoing struggle to find middle ground and convey, hey I'm Filipino but I'm American, too, and I hopefully got the best parts of both cultures.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Taipei: #1 in public transportation etiquette

Michael and I have been all over Taipei's subway system since we got here - things are way further apart than we thought they would be and we usually have to take two lines to get anywhere, which entails going up and down escalators and staircases only to walk down long hallways to make the transfer. In addition to the subway, we've been on a cable car, shuttle bus, and high speed rail. So I feel okay saying that it is far more pleasant to share space with a Taiwanese person than with the majority of people riding the NYC subway. Seriously, if New Yorkers and tourists were a little more like the Taiwanese, we'd all be a lot more zen in the morning (though, sadly, there'd probably be no YouTube videos about people eating/fighting/puking/feeding rats/singing inappropriately on the subway).
1) Everyone stands on the right, walks on the left when riding an escalator. Like, every single time.


They just make it look so easy.
2) Everyone has to get in line to board, which, on a side note, has always been a secret dream of mine. But the best part? No one shoves their way through while people are still getting off the train. Really.

The way that woman's feet stay inside the line reminds me of watching the women's gymnastics floor exercise during the Olympics.

Michael, in line at the high speed rail station. Everyone is even appropriately spaced!
3) What's wrong with this picture?

Answer: absolutely nothing. No one is sitting with their legs splayed out so much that they're going into the next seat (actually, my own husband in the foreground kind of is, which sort of proves this whole thing, no?). No one has their bag on the seat next to them. No one is cutting their nails. This is pretty much what it looked like during EVERY. SINGLE. train ride.
I have to admit, the people watching on the subway here was definitely not as good, but I'd consider giving that up in order to not feel, oh I don't know, murderous on most mornings.
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First awesome meal in Taiwan: 7-11

I had just sort of assumed that the streets of Taipei would be lined with street stalls - probably much like the way foreigners used to think that America was paved with gold - so imagine my surprise when the only place to get food near the railway station at 8am was 7-11. Sure, there were a bunch of Taiwanese people there, but it was still pretty defeating to walk into a place that I normally only frequent when I'm desperate or have the munchies. But as it turns out, Taiwanese 7-11s are fantastic, and I would totally come back willingly and when I'm of sound mind and body.
No taquitos here, son!

The full hot bar:

Um, GENIUS. Definitely tomorrow's breakfast.

Update: I've tried every single flavor of the above sushi sandwiches and they are the last thing I think about at night and the first thing I crave in the mornings. Michael and I have watched two sunrises with these in hand, if that gives you any idea.

Update: These are fucking fantastic, too. New Yorkers, get ready - everything I cook from now on is going to be wrapped in seaweed.

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