Welcome! I'm Brad, a retired American high school teacher who has been living in Cabanatuan City, the Philippines for more than four years. My adoptive/adopted Filipino family, the Javier-Aldonza-Guevarra-Academia clan, the kind staff at the hotel across the street where I used to live, and the Raguindin family, under whose roof I now live, have been friends and helpmates to me during this time; thanks to them for letting me describe here their trials, successes, heartaches, celebrations, passions, so that American readers can get an idea of Filipino life. It has, for the most part, been a very enjoyable stay. I post every four to ten days. Tap the lower floors above for earlier posts. I'm afraid this new platform does not enable readers to embiggen the photos; will try to make sure to post photos large enough not to require a magnifying glass.
At the new Angel's Pizzeria, downtown Cabanatuan. There's Mama Luz, holding a tasty halo-halo; Maria, the owner of the franchise; me lamely holding up some takeout; and Mich, cousin of Jheng and the manager of Angel's Cabanatuan!
Vice President Harris Pays a Visit
The vice president arrived on Monday in Manila, where she met with President Marcos. Among other things discussed, there was a joint reaffirmation of the 1951 mutual defense treaty, which stipulates that if one of the two nations should be attacked by a third nation, the other nation would militarily help defend the one attacked.
Yesterday, Harris and the Second Gentleman (have I got that right?) flew to Palawan, the long, narrow island that that juts out from the archipeligo in a southwestwardly direction and fronts the South China Sea. There the couple visited a fishing community and a coast guard base. At the base, the vice president gave a speech underscoring the importance of "respect for sovereignty" and "freedom of navigation," and so on.
Now, I do hold those two freedoms in high esteem. And I'm sorry to see either abrogated by a belligerent power, as they have been in Ukraine, for instance. Over here in East Asia, China has laid claim to a huge swath of the South China Sea, including what should be the territorial waters of four other countries. An international court in the Hague invalidated China's claim in 2016, but China did not send representatives to the court sessions, and has ignored the court's ruling. It has built military bases on islands in its enormous claim, denied non-Chinese fishermen access to fisheries they had previously fished for ages, and is starting to place oil rigs in what are basically disputed waters.
(The Japan Times)
. . . And yet. And yet, the Philippines and its neighbors have been muddling through what is certainly a difficult time. There have been no hostilities between countries, and a great deal of negotiating. Manila is in talks with Beijing to undertake joint oil exploration in the South China Sea, for example. Vietnamese diplomacy is endeavoring to give Vietnamese fishermen access to fishing grounds off the Paracel Islands.
The U.S., as you probably know, has become China's bogeyman over the last couple of decades. The superpower rivalry, with its tit-for-tat tariffs and denunciations, is growing increasingly bitter. And does the appearance of an American vice president in the Philippines indicting the Chinese power grab help or hinder the talks between China and its neighbors?
Weak countries tend to be leery of strong countries, even those strong countries with which they have an alliance, lest they get squashed like a bug in a rivalry between the strong, and I think the Philippines should be leery of the powerful on all sides.
I agree with Anna Malindog-Uy, a geopolitical analyst in Manila, who says the Philippines must “prevent at all costs the possibility of becoming a pawn of any superpower to encircle another superpower.”
Arsean Is One Month Old
. . . And celebration is in order! Jheng's 19-year-old sister Mariel is proving to be a very caring mother, and Arsean (whose name is an amalgam of the names of Mariel and her boyfriend Sean -- see 2.16.20 on floor 8 for some discussion of Filipino names) is the proverbial darling baby.
The Javiers are taking Arsean to the home of Sean's family today and have been invited to spend the night there. I'm invited to the duplex tomorrow morning for a breakfast -- I'll contribute a couple of bags of warm pandesal (a sticky, spiced, sweet bread) from the stand at the foot of my street.
The news just came in that back in the States, the Nevada U.S. Senate race has been called for the Democratic encumbent, Catherine Cortez Masto. Democrats keep control of the Senate! I voted for Republicans, occasionally, back in the day, but if you've read these postings for a while you know that I feel the GOP has grown toxic over the last ten or so years, and certainly over the last six years.
American reader, you may feel the same way. I hope you do. The four years of Trump saw record-breaking corruption in the American executive, outpacing anything seen in the administrations of Nixon, Harding, Grant. Republicans readily became Trump's enablers, even in the face of abuses that threatened the balance of powers, American democracy, etc. Jeez-Louise. Actions have their reactions, of course. The McConnell Senate's underhanded stacking of the Supreme Court led to the Dobbs decision, and the Dobbs decision became a major factor in the stemming of the "red wave." Continuing Republican support of Trump after Trump had lost for the GOP the presidency, the Senate, and the House enabled Trump to select many candidates for the midterms, candidates that often turned out to be unfit to lead, in the eyes of the electorate. Trump himself will be immersed in legal trouble probably for the rest of his life; what's on the docket, let's see, tax fraud, election fraud, the stealing of classified documents, rape . . . .
The Senate is safe, but not the House, and as of this writing Republicans are closer to a House majority than the Democrats are: it will be a slight majority if they get one, however. The thought of Jim Jordan chairing the House Judiciary Committee turns my stomach -- but the midterms of a first-term presidency have historically skewed significantly to the side of the party in opposition to the president's party. This time the Geogia runoff may increase the Democratic majority in the Senate, and, if they gain a slim majority in the House, the undisciplined Republican Freedom Caucus will likely be at loggerheads with the more traditional GOPers, to the Democrats' advantage.
All in all, heartening news for democracy lovers.
Back in the Tricycle City
Up the Cagayan Watershed, across swollen rivers, over two stretches of highland, and down the Pampanga Watershed. Nine hours of driving without mishap and with pretty clear sailing almost all of the way, but with no cats to visit me in the driver's seat! I traveled on All Saints Day, a holiday in the Philippines, when so many Filipinos pack food in the early hours of the morning and travel to cemeteries where loved ones are buried to keep vigils at gravesites from sunup to sundown. Not so many vehicles on the Maharlika; not so many overladen trucks zig-zagging the highlands at 5 or 10 kms./hr. And I would have shaved a half hour or a full hour off the trip, had I left Cabagan at 8am instead of 10am. Just as I arrived in Munoz, two cities above Cabanatuan, folks started leaving the cemeteries, and in no time the Maharlika was chockfull of cars, pickups, tricycles. In the highlands above San Jose City, I had bought 8 kgs of fresh ginger as pasalubong, and dropped off 4 kgs at the duplex before heading home and handing over 4kgs to Don-Don.
The day before, my last day in Cabagan, I had driven to Tuguegarao for a last visit there. My passengers in the Avanza were Grace, Faith, Matt, and Crace's niece Marga. Tropical Storm Paeng was now spinning over the South China Sea, but its effects were in stark evidence on this stretch of the Maharlika, which in places passes close to the Cagayan River. In two places we crawled through road-flooding in which water rose to the tops of the Avanza's wheels.Tropical Storm Paeng killed 150 Filipinos; 36 are missing.
See the treeline in the distance? It marks the bank of the Cayagan River. No, not the far bank: the near bank. The river normally runs on the other side of those trees. We passed many flooded homes, and in places on the side of the highway makeshift sheds and tents housed families that had been flooded out.
The time at Robinson's Mall in Tug City was fun but bittersweet. Would I be seeing these fine people again? I had wanted to get closer to warm, funny, smart Grace during my stay in Cabagan, but I had made missteps in that direction. In addition to being warm, funny and smart, Grace is very (almost typed "intensely") religious. She crosses herself before car trips; more than once I've witnessed her whispering prayers under her breath. And of course she attends mass, usually with her children, every week. I'm not religious, though I'm not the strict materialist my scientist sons often appear to me to be. Aldous Huxley coined the term "agnostic," and despite the copout connotations of this moniker it probably suits me best. I don't want to get into the particulars of my "missteps"; suffice it to say they fall into the range of possible missteps committed by a man without religion toward a woman who is fervently religious. And I regret them. But could we have ever bridged the spiritual divide between us? Perhaps and perhaps not.
At any rate here I am now, catless in Cabanatuan. Say that three times fast. Grace and I are staying in touch online. Yesterday felt stiff all over, due to the long drive; today is much better. Hoping to hear some word from the resort staff about Bob and Cy.
As you can see, the new editing platform I was inexplicably saddled with is still quite foreign to me. I somehow lost the border, and can't get it back now (hopefully, before long, I will get it back). Still have not heard from the SimpleSite folks.
Awaiting the arrival of Tropical Storm Paeng (int'l name: Nalgae) right now. The eye will pass to the south of both Cabagan and Cabanatuan, but this storm is massive, hundreds of miles in diameter, and pretty much all of Luzon will get a drenching along with gusty winds. Jheng in Cab City will be closer to the eye than I will be, and I checked in on her earlier today: the family is ready. The family, by the way, is one soul larger than it was when I departed for my month-long sojourn: Mariel and her boyfriend Sean are now the parents of a baby boy. Jheng texted me that the the birth was a very painful one for Mariel, and that the baby was robust and healthy.
I'll be leaving Cabagan for Cab City in a few days. It's been fun, restful. To this day, during my stay, I've provided transportation for a couple of happy and polite children to and from school. Have swum quite a bit in the pool at the resort. And each weekend Grace and her children have joined me on trips to the malls up in Tuguegarao: above you see Grace helping Matt dress for such a trip while Lolo (Grandfather) watches his beloved fights; and there is a quick turnaround snap of Grace and Faith on the escalator at Tug City's SM Mall.
The rain outside is steady but not yet very heavy; the wind is picking up. Already the storm has caused tragedy in southern Luzon and the Visayas: at least 72, so far, have died in flash floods and mudslides. Here is a Ventusky image of the storm at this time..
So the last week of my stay in Cabagan is punctuated by a national calamity -- one that is ongoing as I type this.
A calamity of a more more personal nature than Paeng is unfolding for me now: Cy has been missing for two weeks, and Bob has been gone for twelve days. Cy scooted out as I was talking at the door with the resort's manager, and Bob seems to have fled when I was away and a housekeeper was cleaning the room. At first I didn't feel upset. Cy was out overnight once during my first week; he showed up around noon the following day. "Cats have the homing instinct," I told myself, after a few days. "They'e getting fed somewhere, and that's where they'll hang out for a while." It's been a long while, and still no sign of the two.
My eyes are peeled now when I'm driving in the vicinity of the resort. A staffer here has led me to two strays on the premises, but neither was Bob or Cy. Will I be leaving without them? If it comes to that, I'll leave pictures of them with all the staff here. I'll ask them to try to get them into a room if one or both turn up, contact me, and expect my arrival within a day or two.