Celebrating Krizza's birthday with a "boodle fight."


The Move Made

It'll require some careful thought, careful purchasing, but I think we can have

this place looking like home in pretty short order. Thanks to the Raguindins, who

helped a great deal with the moving itself; what with my foot still in stitches and

Glenda recovering from a cold, our job would have taken a full day, despite the

fifty-yard walk between domiciles, without the help of Aiza and Adonis.

A sofa bed, two tables, an armchair, at least one more wastebasket . . . .  A wide-

screen TV comes with the place (it's above the pc, on the wall facing away in the 

photo), and a special cable will be needed to link the TV to the PC, so we can 

watch Netflix movies and other streamables on the wide-screen. An area rug a 

definite possibility for the big room.

The kitchen we use is no longer a long walk through the great room of the 

mansion away from us but attached to our abode. The fridge we used in the

kitchen of the mansion is now in our attached kitchen. The bathroom has no 

deep bathtub, but there is a water heater attached to the shower, and Don-Don

had our toilet moved from the master bedroom's bathroom to this bathroom.

The convecting air conditioner was likewise moved to our new place.

Teresita Tecson, Don-Don's mom, will arrive the 23rd of this month, and

siblings and cousins of Adonis from all over the city will be on hand to welcome 

her! She will have new a/c, a new throne in the bathroom, and other updates

to the master bedroom; we have the same quiet a/c and the commode our bums 

have grown used to.

We are paying considerably less for this place -- a price competitive with rents

for comparably-sized and -furnished apartments across the city. Both Glenda 

and I like Barangay Bitas's peaceful northern corner of Cab City, and we like

the Raguindins, who went to considerable lengths to help ensure we would not

be moving elsewhere.

In other news, Krizza celebrated her twelfth birthday in her hometown before heading back to Manila for the remainder of her last elementary school year. A boodle fight was planned, and there was much prep work and cooking at the farmhouse before the table was prepared.

The table is covered with sponged-down banana leaves, and mounds of rice are plopped down along the edges of the table. Cooked dishes are placed in the center. Spoon the dishes you like onto the rice in front of you; eat with one bare hand. We had eight dishes which we consumed in two courses: a liver dish, a pork dish, pinakbet (veggies), chicken peds, tilapia, pancit, a duck dish, a fruit dish . . . . 

The origin of the term "boodle fight" is pretty murky, though there is evidence that American military personnel contributed the term sometime before WWII. There is no "fighting" involved in the practice, which before Americans came on the scene was known as "kamayan," and kamayan, communal feasting on banana leaves using bare hands, was described by one of the writers on Magellan's expedition. It goes back a long ways, in other words.

Blissfully cool in the mornings and evenings these days (70-75 degrees F) and daytime temps stay in the 80's. Still very dry, though, and there are now warnings of "severe drought" coming to parts of the islands.


Hobbling About

As he was stitching up the bottom of my left foot, I asked Dr. Acinue whether I should rent or buy a pair of crutches to get around before the stitch removal date of Feb. 10. "You can walk on your heel until I take them out," he said without missing a beat in the needle dance he was performing with his hands. The young doc, an orthopedics guy specializing in hand and foot problems at Good Sam Hospital, had just removed the plantar wart that had been bothering me on and off for about a year and a half. It will be pleasant to walk with no discomfort, but to earn that pleasure I will have to put up with two weeks of awkward ambulation. And awkward it is to maneuver about without putting any pressure on the front of the left foot! But it's also no more awkward than maneuvering with crutches, with the benefit of not incurring the cost of crutches. Will be driving up to the farm in Rizal with Glenda tomorrow to help Krizza memorialize her twelfth birthday (she is currently spending a couple of days of her school break there), but outside of that and maybe visiting a restaurant or two, I plan to be pretty sedentary until the stitches have been removed.

In other news, Glenda and I will have new digs in a few days! We have known for months that Don-Don's mother, Teresita Tecson, would be returning to the Philippines from London, where for more than 20 years she has been the manager of a "great house." That time is coming very soon, and Lola Teresita will be resting her head where she rested her head more than 20 years ago -- in the master bedroom here. Glenda and I were looking online for rental accomodations in the city that would permit cats when Aiza and Don-Don suggested we move into their own current apartment behind the store. They would close the store and remove the partition between the apartment and the store to provide living space larger than what we have in the master bedroom, and would reduce the rent we are currently paying to P10,000 + utilities. This is a deal very hard to turn down, reader. And besides, we are good friends of the family and get along with them well. Where will Don-Don, Aiza, Donaiza, Langjohn, and Adelle live? They will take over the second-floor bedrooms of the mansion, to better tend to the needs of Lola Teresita.

The times they are a' changing. Will be interested to meet Teresita Tecson, by the way. She's a very gracious lady on the phone.


A New Resident at the Farm, and a Wedding

Bong drove down the mountain and back to Cabanatuan without a hitch. The strawberry farms close to Baguio are famous; we enjoyed strawberries and, next morning, strawberry jam on warm, oven-fresh bread from the pandesal truck that parks down the street each morning for a couple hours. We brought the Manilenos to the terminal for their bus ride to Manila and I tried on some clothing Glenda had bought for me in Baguio (very comfortable shirts!).

Before driving to Cab City Bong had dropped off Gio and Charm (Glen's sister and her partner) in Rizal to be of assistance to Novi (the wife of Glen's nephew Edmar), who was busy giving birth to her second child, a boy! And Ethan James Ignacio is a healthy small blob of humanity, at that: galing naman, Novi! Three days ago Glenda took a bus up to Rizal to visit with the family's newcomer and present him with two outfits Glen and I had bought earlier. Edmar had started up from Manila, where he has a good job, upon learning that Novi was in labor, and is playing the attentive husband in Rizal currently. Glenda said to me that after her night in Rizal she told Joy-Joy she was taking her new baby brother with her back to Cabanatuan -- which caused consternation in the form of wailing and tears before Joy-Joy could be convinced that Tita Glenda would be doing no such thing.

Now, before she journeyed to the land of strawberries, more than a week ago Glenda and I attended the wedding of Don-Don and Aiza, our landlords and friends. We were ninong and ninang at the wedding, in other words official witnesses, and we had to sign some long official spiel in quadruplicate before sitting down and enjoying the ceremony with Langjohn, Don-Don's son from a previous relationship; Donaiza and Adelle, Don-Don and Aiza's daughters; Aiza's sister Clara Mae and her son Frinz; and Aiza's mother, Luzminda. Don-Don's cousin Brad was also on the scene with his daughter. For the third or fourth time in my six-year stay Phlipside, I was wearing long pants. Four other couples were getting married along with Adonis and Aiza at this civil ceremony. First a councilman gave a long, serious/humorous speech. Then the mayor showed up to marry the couples, one couple after another. The husband and then the wife had to speak into the microphone to the beloved before the mayor declared them married. As Don-Don started speaking, the tears came to Aiza's eyes, and by the time the microphone came to her she was, well, bawling. She held the microphone as she gathered herself, and then said something in a cracked voice that set everyone in the room laughing and clapping. I nudged Brad next to me and told him I couldn't make out what she said. Brad smiled at me. "She said, 'I can't believe you finally married me!'" After the couples were pronounced, they were required to kiss for five seconds before the audience -- the councilman intoned over the loudspeaker, "One--two--three . . . ." Don-Don and Aiza kissed to the count of five; then Don-Don swung Aiza till her back was on his arm and kissed her for at least another ten seconds, to the loud approval of many present, including me!

The elder of their two daughters, Donaiza, turned fifteen a few months ago. The two are devoted to each other (Aiza ebulliently, Adonis taciturnly), and I'm glad Don-Don, a "go-my-own-way" kind of guy, at last acceded to a union with paperwork attached. After the ceremony, we all sat down to a very pleasant mid-day reception that included a whole roasted pig at the Lamarang Restaurant.


It's 2024, and All Is . . .

Yeah, I know. In the U.S., an evil djin has taken millions of Americans on a magic carpet ride, and who knows when, or how, they will land. Russia is bombing the hell out of Ukraine, and Israel is bombing the hell out of Gaza. China's hammer is poised above Taiwan, and its warships are ramming boats of the small Philippine navy . . . .  While worldwide the radical right is ebbing in some places (Poland, Brazil), it is surging in others (Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands). All is not well in the world, all is not well.

It has been too long since I last tapped the keys here; sorry for that. Spent New Year's Eve and much of New Year's Day at the Torres farm. We drove into downtown Rizal in the closing hours of 2023 because, while I'd remembered to bring along a change of clothes, I had forgotten to bring a T-shirt for sleeping -- so we bought one at the public market, and, on the way home, stopped at a makeshift fireworks bazaar by the side of the Rizal road. Blew about P1,500 there, and after dark we entertained ourselves and many neighborhood children with loud noises and flashing colors. Took special care with those I set off, as I'd been tippling with other old boys behind the farmhouse as dusk closed in.

In the morning after breakfast I sat quietly in the yard beneath banana trees, a mango tree, and some wide-spreading tree with tiny pinnate leaves. "A green thought in a green shade," as Marvell put it, centuries ago. Clouds hid the peaks of the Sierra Madre Range in the distance. Chickens and geese ranged around the property, pecking and squabbling.

Sixty-five is closing in on sixty-six, and I resisted the impulse, when invited, to join Glenda, Gio, Charm, Jenny, Bong, and Glenda's children on a planned excursion to Baguio Jan. 13-14, in celebration of the birthdays of both Gio and Glenda's Francis. They are young and will be rushing here and there, probably far into the night on this short stay in the mile-high city. An old guy with a plantar wart on the ball of his left foot would just hold them back. I will finally get that wart taken care of -- and I will finally make a return to Baguio, but on my own terms, at my own speed.

                                                                         Joy-Joy in Glenda's lap in a hammock, at the farm.                           



Maligayang Pasko!

Yes, American reader, it's the Tagalog Christmas greeting -- and I had many opportunities to use it two days ago! Christmas Eve Glenda prepared a fine little feast which Krizza, Francis, and I thoroughly

enjoyed in front of a Netflix movie that was thoroughly

forgettable. A sound sleep later, I was up early to get ready for a 

video call with my sons Bart and Jeff, Jeff's wife Anna, and the

little beauty who is my granddaughter, Mirah! As the call 

commenced, my Filipino family woke up, and in the middle of the

call, several members of the Raguindin family entered the

apartment to wish us maligayang pasko. Pointing the computer's

camera this way and that, I introduced each of them to my 

American family. Between handing out gifts to the Raguindin kids

and conversing with those on each side of the computer screen,

it was a fairly confusing first part of the morning. I was saddened

to learn from Jeff and Anna that they had come down with one

of Covid's many variants, which had spoiled plans to get together

with Bart and the three grandparents who live Stateside. They

assured me that their cases were relatively mild -- what a way to spend Christmas, though! It reminded me of my last yearly visit to

Massachusetts, when Bart and I were holed up together in Bart's apartment for almost the entirety of my stay, while the take-home tests kept giving us a positive reading.

Later in the morning we all hopped in the Avanza and headed for Rizal. Glenda had earlier driven the straight stretch from Talavera to Rizal with me as copilot, and she had done a fine job, but with the children in the car I thought it better for me to do all the driving this time. At the family farm, we had a very nice chicken stew with rice, and I got to know better Mario's two surviving brothers. Children of the neighborhood soon started arriving in pairs and threesomes with their hands out to perform "mano po" with adults that were present. The adult takes the child's hand, and the child presses the back of the hand to his or her forehead in a show of veneration.

"Mano po" at Christmas involves reciprocity in the form of a treat or gift of money offered

by the venerated one, and it wasn't long before Glenda and I had both run out of 50-peso notes

to give. We fretfully drove to the 7-11 at the foot of the barangay, and the very kind cashier

there gave up practically all the 50's she had in exchange for larger bills, and so saved our

afternoon! We disbursed well over 1,000 pesos in all to smiling kiddos as we sat in the shade; the

experience made me wish there had been a similar custom in America when I was a kid.

Krizza and Francis asked if they could spend the week before New Years at the farm, and Glenda

granted permission. We'll go back on New Years Eve, when several Torreses still in Manila will

arrive at the farm, celebrate the ushering in of the new year with everyone, get some sleep in 

Glenda's bedroom, then drive back with the children in the morning.                                                          The "mano po."   (I.E.P.)

So Glenda and I started back to Cab City late in the afternoon Christmas Day. We left behind not only the children, but also the electric vehicle Glenda had won in a Christmas raffle. Yup. Unbeknownst to me, a few weeks back when we were shopping in Rizal, Glenda had bought a ticket, and two days before Christmas she received the news that she had won the top prize in the raffle, a three-passenger electric car! Glenda had the car delivered to the farm Cristmas Eve morning. She will soon be driving the Avanza solo; the cute go-cart, which has a range of 35-40 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 20-25 mph, will be maintained and used by Glenda's parents, Mario and Bienbe. The farm is two or three miles from downtown Rizal, and the car, which has a large basket on its tail, will be ideal for them in the running of errands. Hope they let me give it a spin when we are there over New Year's!


A Day at Crystal Waves

As we munched on the adobo chicken and longganisa Glenda and Aiza had prepared and brought along to Crystal Waves Resort, Aiza thanked Glenda and me for the invite and confided to us that this was the first visit to the place for her and her children, because it was quite expensive. Compared to a day at Nery's, I guess she was right -- but for the nine admissions and the rental of the spacious cabana in which we sat, Glenda and I were out of pocket less than $40 American! Aiza is one of our landlords and no slouch at business, which made me wonder whether there might be other reasons she had never come here.

Present in the cabana were Glenda, me, and Glenda's children Krizza and Francis; Aiza and her two daughters, Donaiza and Adelle; and Aiza's sister Clara Mae and her son Frinz. We all waded into Nueva Ecija's largest swimming pool soon after finishing our meal, the children playing water games, the women conversing in a group, me floating on my back and swishing myself here and there. There were fifteen or twenty people in and around the pool: surprisingly few, given the fact that kids were out of school. Well, I thought, there is much to do in the days before Christmas. Glenda and I had done our Christmas shopping in the second week of December (due mainly to my aversion to crushes of people and long lines). Krizza had invited Adelle, Donaiza, and Frinz yesterday, and when we learned that their moms would also be free the next day, we invited them along.

After about an hour in the water, I called out to a staff member of the resort, "Nasaan ang mga waves?" (where are the waves?) He held up three fingers. "Three o'clock?" A head nod. That was two hours away, and we had already been there two hours! Then it occurred to me that I had previously been at the resort only on weekends, that they probably gave the wave-making machinery more rest on weekdays. I approached the women with the news; they were in the middle of a conversation about the wave-making. Clara Mae looked at me with wide eyes. "Do you know many people died here?"

"What do you mean? When? How?"

"When?" Clara Mae looked at Aiza, and Aiza said, "Many years ago! Maybe ten years?"

"What happened?"

Clara Mae: "They were elect-- elect--"

"Electrocuted!" Aiza chimed in. "People know about this. The wave-making machine failed and sent electricity through the water. Many people in the pool died!"

Why weren't they shut down?"

"They were closed. Closed for one month. They fixed the problem. It's safe now."

I noted that my lower jaw was a little unhinged. "How many died?"

Aiza said, "I don't know. Many. It's okay now."

As I waded back toward the cabana, Clara Mae called out, enigmatically, "Trial and error!"

I was on my back on one of the benches in the cabana when a loudspeaker sparked and whined. "Lifeguards to duty stations. The waves will start soon. Lifeguards to duty stations."

Donaiza was across from me nibbling fruit, the only other in the cabana, and we both made our way to the path to the pool, bougainvillea trees on either side of us. I was approaching Aiza in the shallow end of the pool when the thrumming of machinery began. My body juttered, hands outstretched, and my eyes went up into the back of my head. I crashed into the water. Rose from the water to Aiza's laughter, and she forced me to repeat my theatrics for Clara Mae and Glenda. Then we played in the waves.

That was yesterday. For several minutes this morning I searched online for news of a Crystal Waves tragedy ten years ago. As you might guess, nothing came up. Hoping this urban legend is not costing a good resort much in lost business!

I have to get the camera my ex-wife gave to me fixed! The little sony is just not up to the job anymore . . . .


The Price of Rice

Glenda has completed her errand run to the Crossing, returning a few minutes ago with two eco-bags filled with bags of a variety of candy -- and a large packet of small plastic bags decorated with anime figures. She is now in the process of taking different candies and loading each of the small plastic bags. Some time ago Francis's teacher connected with her and asked whether she could make a

contribution for the class's Christmas party tomorrow. In the morning we'll drive to the Agbannawag Elementary School in Rizal with

the goodies. Kreeza in Manila also finishes tomorrow, and the plan is for her to come to Cabanatuan by bus on Friday accompanied by the aunt she is staying with in Manila, Glenda's sister Jenny.

The days surrounding Christmas will be spent by Glenda, her children, and me in Cab City, celebrating with the Raguindins some of the time, and in Rizal, celebrating with Glenda's family on the farm. Glenda is practicing her driving on the small roads of our neighborhood -- she has a student license; perhaps it has become time to introduce her to highway driving on the long, straight stretch of road between Talavera and Rizal.

In news larger in scope, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. seems to be doing a good job, I'm happy (relieved?) to say. In his first eighteen months in office he has visited several countries and procured much-needed foreign investment in the islands. Public irrigation projects and several infrastructure projects outlined in his first weeks in office are currently under way.  As he promised when a candidate, extrajudicial killings of drug dealers, a dark stain on the legacy of former president Duterte, have been sharply curtailed.

And he is not shy of tackling problems before they become crises. A case in point: the price of rice began spiraling upward a few months ago, and Marcos by executive order put a cap on the retail price of the grain. It was a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario for him, with the growers on one side and the Filipino consumers on the other, and he chose for the consumers, and particularly for the poor of the nation. Rice is not just eaten every day by Filipinos; it is eaten two or three times a day. Fifty-five to sixty pesos per kilo were prices that made it difficult for an underprivileged portion of the population to keep itself fed! Marcos placed the cap at 41 pesos for regular milled rice and 45 pesos for well-milled rice. (Lessee, a peso is $.018, a kilo is 2.2 pounds . . . that's $.33/pound for the regular rice and $.37/pound for the primo rice.)

                    Philippines Department of Agriculture

Marcos acted quickly, and to my way of thinking rightly. And yet, he has made an already precarious living for many Filipinos even more precarious. Fertilizer prices have skyrocketed over the last two years, and it's estimated that 25% of the country's rice farmers are living below the government-delineated poverty level. It has been foretold in the press that this price ceiling will force many farmers with smaller holdings to sell their land to major rice-growers who won't feel the pinch of this government action as sharply as "small farmers" will.

It was a tough decision for the president-- but a just decision, and a timely one.






We had about an hour of much-needed rain here yesterday evening, but for the last few weeks it has been very dry. The mighty Pampanga, famous for knocking over bridges after typhoons, has become a mere trickle of its former self. PAGASA expects drought conditions by the end of December in three Luzon provinces, with many more provinces to follow in the first half of 2024. This was expected, I should add: when an El Nino is in the ascendency, all of the islands tend to be drier than normal, and particularly the northern islands. The two expected cyclones I wrote of in the 11/7 posting never materialized: Vendusky and PAGASA got that wrong.

Much in the news here is the southern island of Mindanao. Two days ago, a 7.4 magnitude quake struck off the eastern coast of the island, destroying buildings in some localities and raising a tsunami alert. Thankfully, a tsunami did not occur, but at least seven people died in the quake. The next day, Sunday, in the western city of Marawi, a bomb exploded in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University, killing four and injuring more than fifty. A mass was being celebrated in the gym at the time; obviously the perpetrators wanted to kill as many people as possible. Fragments of a 16mm mortar were found at the scene, leading authorities to believe this could have been a retaliatory attack by foreign friends of pro-Islamic State militia groups, against whom there have been several recent and successful raids by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In other news, the government has surprisingly given its consent for a flotilla of 30 to 40 privately owned boats to visit islands within 200 miles of Philippine shores at Christmastime in the South China Sea, to deliver "holiday cheer" to outposts there. They will be prohibited from visiting the Sierra Madre on the Second Thomas Shoal due to the recent fracas with Chinese vessels at the shoal, and have been directed to leave goods for the troops on the Sierra Madre at one of the outposts they will be visiting. Waters claimed by China lie within the 200-mile zone; it remains to be seen whether Beijing will view this maritime caroling as a provocation that demands a response.

News from Barangay Bitas? Well, Don-Don is at it again. My landlord is good with tools, a fine mechanic really. The carport, on the other side of one of the walls of the bedroom Glenda and I sleep in, is his workshop when there are projects afoot, and for the last two mornings the grinding of power saws on metal has been Glenda's alarm clock (I'm up earlier than their starting time). They: yes. Don-Don has enlisted the help of a friend for this project: Francisco, one of the neighborhood's trike drivers, who is also knowledgeable when it comes to power tools.

Out of large piles of long steel rods and metal pipes, they have fashioned ten bunk beds: enough for twenty sleepers. Now and then I've watched them at work: operating large and small power saws, welding, working a hydraulic pipe-bender, painting. And throughout the compound now there sit ten sturdy, handsome bunk beds! Don-Don's fifteen-year old son and a friend bounced all over one of them: they are certainly sturdy. They will soon be shipped to an apartment building Don-Don's mother and sister have acquired in the southern part of the city. I'll say this for the young man (Don-Don is forty): he is a skilled craftsman. They are now completing construction of small ladders for the upper bunks.

Galing naman, Adonis. Mabuhay!





China Is the Bully on the Block

Glenda is well. My own cold devolved into bronchitis about a week ago; fever, aching bones, etc. Four days into a round of azithromycin, am feeling a good deal better.    

I've written on the territorial dispute between China and other countries bordering the South China Sea (see 9.15.20, 5th floor). China's "nine-dash line" basically gives the entire sea, including waters 1,000 miles from the Chinese coast, to China. The U.N.'s Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled that the Chinese claim had no legal basis, but China rejected the ruling, created military bases on islands in the sea, and has been harrassing non-Chinese fishermen as well as island outposts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. 

Tensions grow and dissipate, grow and dissipate. Recently they have been growing. In 1999 the Philippines intentionally grounded the World War Two-era warship Sierra Madre upon the Second Thomas Shoal, within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, and keeps a handful of troops on the vessel, much to the displeasure of China. In the last few weeks, attempts to reprovision these troops were turned back by Chinese water cannons; supply ships were finally able to get through, but Beijing has announced the resupplying missions were deliberate incursions upon its sovereign territory. In the month before the Second Thomas Shoal incident, two collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels occurred; in both cases, Beijing and Manila blamed the other's navy for the mishaps. During this time, President Marcos ordered a floating barrier preventing Philippine fishermen from entering the Scarborough Shoals fishing ground to be cut free and set adrift; the Chinese, who had constructed it, responded angrily and intimidatingly.

                                                 The grounded Sierra Madre.  (photo: Armed Forces of the Philippines)

The Philippine public, in Manila, has demonstrated before the Chinese Embassy against Beijing's strong-handed actions. And civilian owners of more than thirty ships planned to form a convoy that would deliver "Christmas cheer" to the troops onboard the Sierra Madre; it seems that a government fearing this would destabilize further an already unstable situation has managed to dissuade these mariners from proceeding. But anti-Chinese sentiment, according to my own interactions with Filipinos, has been on the rise among the public here since my arrival in 2017.

Enter the United States. War games are normally held by the U.S. at this time of year with the Philippine navy; this year they are larger and better publicised than ones that went before. US Seventh Fleet chief Vice Admiral Karl Thomas has stated for the Philippine media, without mentioning China by name, that the "rules-based international order" has been "ripped at and tugged at and tested to benefit not all nations but one nation." American and Philippine ships will patrol portions of the South China Sea, and perform anti-submarine and electronic warfare drills well into next week. As for China, its media is claiming that the Philippines has enlisted "foreign forces" to patrol the South China Sea.

Joe Biden's promising meeting with Xi Jinping notwithstanding, tensions between China and the Philippines do appear to be growing.






A Quickie

We've had head colds for more than a week, and still they hang on. Lingerers. Laggers. Poky-joes. Glenda and I have just about had it. A day in the sun may be what we need to shake this thing; I'll suggest a trip to a resort tomorrow after I'm done typing. Mainly, we've been indoors these many days. I'm nearing the end of a long, immersive novel, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, spending time with a likeable if flawed protagonist in New York City, Las Vegas, Amsterdam; Glenda watches videos on her smartphone.

I've been online, too. Are the talking heads back in Washington becoming more alarmist over the domestic intranquility? It seems that way. Well, Trump does seem to be following a fascist playbook, and a majority of Republican politicians, when they're not beating up on each other, seem to be lining up behind him. The Dems picked Adlai Stevenson to go up against Eisenhower a second time in 1956; old Adlai had not proven himself to be a liar, a fraud, a grifter, an inciter, a crook, and just an overall bad person, though. Never thought I'd see the U.S. in such straits.

Not up for more writing today. My head's a piece of balsa wood. Will get back to this when feeling better!


This and That

All Saints Day break is over, and the children are back in school: Kreeza boarded a bus bound for Manila with Gio and Charm yesterday; Francis is back at the family homestead in Rizal. Two days before they left, I drove up to Rizal and picked up many Torreses, along with pots and containers holding dishes they had prepared. Destination: Crystal Waves. We spent six or seven hours there, eating much, swimming together, getting tossed around together when the management turned on the wave-making machine. The sun was bright; my sun block works well, thankfully. Joy-Joy was gleeful in the water and got passed around among us. She practiced ducking her head under water and seems more comfortable in the water than when I first saw her at a resort. In the middle of a poker game at our rented cabana (we played for petty cash) Charm's leg seized up -- a very painful cramp! Gio put pressure on the leg in one direction while we comisserated with the sufferer, who was in tears. She finally regained operation of the leg; I remember thinking it was a good thing this had not happened when she was in water over her head.

Charm and Gio have been together for nearly two years and have great affection for each other. If they lived in the U.S. they would probably be hitched up legally by now. Oddly enough, the first, third, and fifth of Mario and Bienbe's daughters are attracted to men, while the second, fourth, and sixth daughters are attracted to women.  I once asked Glenda whether she thought maybe God had chosen every other child to be a boy, but had gotten the equipment mixed up. In this very religious country, jokes encompassing religion and sexuality, even pretty lame jokes encompassing religion and sexuality, are appreciated by most Filipinos. Filipinos are, by and large, more humorous, and more appreciative of humor, than Americans. (Glenda laughed at my poor attempt.)

. . . . . . . . . .

The three months before November are the most hazardous for the Philippines, with regard to cyclonic storms, but we sailed through August, September, and October practically unscathed. If the Ventusky modeler is correct, that may change in the next two weeks; they have two powerful cyclones forming about a week from now and heading not northwest in the direction of Taiwan or Japan, but directly west. As I've mentioned before, cyclones in the Pacific can form in any month, and in the latitudes of the Philipines they have no trouble maintaining strength as typhoons.

. . . . . . . . . .

Varanus bitatawa is a large lizard "discovered" in the Sierra Madre range east of Cab City. I put "discover" in quotation marks because the Agta and Ilongot peoples indigenous to those mountains have of course known about this animal for centuries -- it had never been catalogued by science before 2009, however. And this is a large creature, a cousin of the Komodo Dragon, growing up to two meters in length! After learning of it I chatted about it online with my sons a few months ago; together we tracked down pictures of it. Unlike the Komodo, Varanus is an herbivore, so my friends and I won't have to worry about it when we make a pit stop in the mountains traveling to Baler or Dingalan on the east coast . . . .  Before reading about it, I had thought the largest lizards in the islands were the monitors, which can grow to about three feet!

. . . . . . . . . .

The seven-seat Toyota Avanza I drive, I'm pleased to say, is now completely paid off.


Election Day

Drove to market for provisions today and was relieved to find that the smell of pig now seems completely gone from the car. No, we did not transport a live pig down here from Rizal; Glenda and Don-Don could not find enough buyers for roasted lechon. So on to Plan B: the pig was slaughtered in Rizal (got to see and hear that spectacle on Glenda's smartphone) and we drove over there to pick up half of the pig parts, as well as the pig's blood, to sell in Cabanatuan. A portion remained in Rizal for the family to sell, and a portion went over to the town of Luar, where Glenda's cousins had buyers. So we were hawking raw pork instead of crispy lechon; Glenda is still making a profit on her investment in feed and care. The pig parts were carefully bagged before they were put into the Avanza; there are no stains, but the pig smell was still quite noticeable in the car several days later.

At the market, I noticed that many of the customers and workers already had the ink mark on their right forefinger. Voters here receive it after they place their votes -- this election for their barangay captain, councilors, and youth representative. Their names are checked off on a roll, too; COMELEC, the country's election overseers, has put into place several techniques and mechanisms to ensure that elections are fair and skulduggery-free. Vote-buying is a problem that COMELEC has still not solved, but efforts to combat that practice seem to have resulted in a reduction, if not an eradication of it.

Markets are open, but most places of business are not. Election days are national holidays in the Philippines. You ask me, they should be national holidays in the U.S. as well. As for school, school is out for the whole week, because it is All Saints Day break! Halloween gets relatively short shrift here, though there will still be some folks in costumes tomorrow, a few parties. The much bigger day is Nov. 1, when many families bring a day's supply of food for dawn-to-dusk vigils in cemeteries at the gravesites of departed loved ones.

Glenda's Kreeza, along with Glenda's sister Gio and Gio's partner Charm, came up from Manila to spend a night with us; the next day, I ferried them up to Rizal, where we picked up Glenda's Francis and brought him with Kreeza back to Cab City. Before heading up to Rizal, we met with Edmar, Novi, JM, and little Joy-Joy, and we all spent some time at the SM Mall, where Glenda had a follow-up appointment with her ENT doc while the children had fun at Kidzoona; after this we all went to Shakey's, where the ten of us made our way through most of two "family spreads" -- Gio and Charm had takeout fare to bring with them to Rizal. Just how are Edmar,


Novi, Joy-Joy, and JM related to Glenda, you may be wondering. Edmar and JM are the sons of Glenda's eldest sister, who is working in Saudi Arabia. Novi is Edmar's wife and Joy-Joy their daughter. And an addition to their family is currently doing some gestating inside Novi!

Yesterday there were just the four of us, and what was there for Glenda and me to do but pack the lad and lassie into the car, pick up two rotisserie chickens, and head for one of our favorite swimming holes.



Pig Worries

Glenda's pig, back at the homestead in Rizal, wouldn't get pregnant, and now it won't eat. Glenda is sitting out in the compound with the Raguindins, periodically texting home for updates -- but this pig seems down for the count. I imagine it just grew tired of its piggy existence within the stone walls of its 3x5 pen.

A low pressure area has sidled up to Luzon's east coast, and it's been a dank day. This morning I'm sure many a Cabanatuanite remarked to a neighbor on how cold it was ("sobrang lamig!") -- "cold," to a Filipino living near sea level, is any temperature below about 80 degrees F; and it did seem to be in the mid to high 70's this morning. On another note, two days ago Glenda and I made the trek to Palayan to extend my visa at the immigration office there, a task I must now perform every two months (the Mardos administration switched it from six months to two months, for unknown reasons). In Palayan I received a pleasant surprise; the Nueva Ecija immigration office would be changing its location from Palayan to Cabanatuan on October 25! Indeed, Palayan is the capital of the province, but the move of the immigration office to Cab City makes good sense: Cab City sits on the main drag of the province, the Maharlika Highway, and Palayan does not; also, Cabanatuan, the most populous city in the province, has six or seven times the number of people that Palayan has. So starting in December it will not be a 50-minute drive but rather a 10-minute hop downtown that gets me an extension. And bonus: the new office will be in the NE Pacific Mall, so Glenda can do some shopping while I fill out the form and wait for paperwork to be processed.

Yesterday was a big day for Robin, the husband of Aiza Raguindin's sister Clara Mae. Robin and Mae visit with the Raguindins often, and Glenda and I have gotten to know them well, so we were invited to join the celebration at Nery's Resort. Resort after resort, I know. But these resorts, most of which are very clean and tricked out in interesting ways, play an important role in modern Filipino culture, particularly for Filipinos who live hours from the seashore. They are places for family groups, and other groups, to gather and commune. For a nominal fee long tables, barbecue equipment, and multiple swimming pools in which to cavort are provided. Nery's, as I wrote about in an earlier posting, has quite a few exotic animals as well!

The birthday boy, who owns and runs a motorcycle repair shop on the Maharlika, was presented with two cakes and serenaded with the birthday song by the 25 or so in our group; then another group closeby sang for him! Before this, we all swam, then sat down to a plentiful buffet containing a huge spicy sisig made by Aiza and Don-Don that morning, adobo and fried fish cooked by Mae, a pakbet that I think Lola Luz made, rotisserie chickens bought by Glenda and me, spaghetti (a must at every Filipino birthday), a big pot of steamed mussels, sweet muffins, boiled peanuts, and green mangos.

News Flash -- I typed out this posting about 3 hours ago. The pig's a goner, the family has agreed. I won't drive at night; the motorcycle repairman/birthday boy Robin has agreed to drive with Glenda to Rizal tonight in the Avanza and fetch the pig here in the back of the car. It will be slaughtered here tomorrow morning and roasted in a firepit overseen by Don-Don. The meat will be sold at the Raguindins' for P700 a kilo, not a bad price for fresh lechon.

I C    D U M  P

Mae is here. Everything's under control.

                                                                                                                                        Some of the gang.


Sisig!                                                                                                                                                   Pinakbet!

                                                                                                               Glenda and me slumming.                                                   


Robin's cousin and Aiza present the cakes.


The OFWs of Gaza

A week out from the murderous raid on Israeli civilians by Hamas, a raid that took the lives of more than 1,300 innocent Israelis, the Israeli army seems poised to invade northern Gaza. Hezbollah in Lebanon is firing missiles into northern Israel and may attempt an invasion of Israel, if Israel moves on Gaza. Israel, thanks largely to the United States, has the firepower to stave off Hezbollah while attacking Hamas. Wild cards are Syria, Iran, and Egypt: how do these countries, each with a sizeable army, react if the Israeli army in Gaza wreaks havoc among the civilian population there? It does not help that Bibi Netanyahu saved his position as Israel's prime minister (and in doing so avoided jail time for now) by joining with factions on Israel's far right to form a government. One senses that the plight of Gazan civilians in the middle of urban warfare will not be a priority on the minds of these government leaders.

It's a very nasty situation. Ismail Haniyeh, Chairman of Hamas, are you getting what you wanted when you sent fighters to kill as many Israelis as possible? Of course, not just Israelis died on 10/7: at least 25 Americans were killed. And at least three Filipinos died at the hands of Hamas murderers. The U.S. has a large Jewish population and close ties to Israel: the large number of American dead (and more apparently taken hostage) comes as no great surprise. But three Filipinos? The Jewish population in the Philippines is approximately 100; there is one synagogue in the entire country, in Manila.

Well, more than 10 million Filipinos work overseas, if you can believe it; that is nearly 10% of the entire population. And more than 30,000 OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) work in Israel. Ninety-two OFWs in Gaza have notified the Philippine government that they wish to leave Gaza, pronto, and the government says it is "exhausting all options" in its attempt to evacuate these Filipinos from the blockaded enclave. These 92 are in the news and on the minds of many in the Philippines right now.

Why are there so many Filipinos working overseas? Firstly, there are many well-educated Filipinos in the work force here, and not enough adequate jobs to go around. Secondly, salaries in this country are a fraction of the salaries that can be earned overseas. Finally, the islands have very family-centric societies, and there is much eagerness, as well as peer pressure, to be a breadwinner for loved ones. Much more could be written concerning each of these main reasons: there you have the bare bones of it. OFWs most commonly work in construction, in factories. They are housekeepers in rich families, nurses, doctors, therapists, and engineers. The top destinations for these overseas workers are Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Qatar, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. Nine percent of OFWs are in Europe, and 6.3% are in North and South America. My significant other Glenda worked for two years in Qatar, and her sister now lives and works in Saudi Arabia.

In the Philippines, a small industry exists which serves OFWs and prospective OFWs. Remittance centers can be found on all the main streets of cities: they handle the conveyance of funds from Filipinos abroad to their family members. Government-licensed agencies hook Filipinos up with overseas employers. The Department of Labor and Employment has a division devoted to OFWs: it offers worker training for overseas jobs, repatriation assistance, and other services.

Until the Philippines gets on its feet, economically, work available abroad will continue to entice ambitious Filipinos. And calamities like the current one in the Middle East will influence this phenomenon very little, I think.






The Barangay Election Season

Glenda's sister Gio and her partner Charm were up from Manila to spend five days with the Rizal Torreses, and Glenda went to Rizal for an overnight with her sister. Glenda texted me late that evening and asked if I would like to join them on a family outing to Rancho Paraiso, a "nature park" in Rizal, and I said sure. It was a pretty place, covering the summit of one of the foothills of the Sierra Madre, with views into valleys containing rice fields. Banana trees, mango trees, lots of flowers.The life-sized, colorfully painted sculptures of various dinosaurs weren't something I was expecting in a nature park, nor was the caged, long-tailed macaque, an animal found on many Philippine islands but not on Luzon. As the family brought lunch to one of the cabins surrounding the swimming pool, I studied the macaque as it was fed a jelly donut by a group of schoolgirls.

After a swim we sat down to a lunch which included some of the pig Edmar had slaughtered. Dark clouds were marching in from the direction of the mountains, and a genuinely cool breeze kicked up. After eating, most of us piled back into the water, which was warmer than the air. A steady, chilly rain set in, and I realized that for only the second time in six years I felt cold in the Philippines, shivering cold! (The other time was a night I spent one and a half miles high in the central Cordilleran town of Sagada.) After the agonizing emergence from the pool, the younger adults and I sat in a close-knit group in dry clothes sipping brandy. Joy-Joy slept in Mario's lap.

In other news . . . barangay and youth elections happen Oct. 30! The youth elections, whose candidates are young men and women aged 15-21, ensure a "contribution of youth" to local government. Winners of these elections a) sit in on barangay councils and b) form their own youth councils, which, once approved, receive a small stipend from the government to initiate or expand community projects.

The "grown-up" barangay council is where the real political power lies. The barangay is the smallest administrative unit in the country; each barangay contains a few thousand people, and there are 42,027 barangays throughout the islands. A barangay kapitan and his or her seven councilors have several jobs: they are justices of the peace, mediating disputes that arise in the barangay to avoid further clogging the already clogged dockets of the courts of justice; they hire and oversee unarmed barangay police whose job it is to keep the peace; they are responsible for the disbursement of government funds within their barangay for projects ranging from road repair to barangay festivals. Among these and other functions, the kapitan and councilors divide their time so that one of them is available on-call 24/7 to attend to needs, sometimes emergency needs, of the barangay population. It's a lovely set-up. Yes, there is occasional corner-cutting and corruption (part of the machinery here and in most southeast Asian countries) but the barangay system has served Filipinos well for centuries. It gives one an added sense of belonging here. I'm not just a Nueva Ecijo, a Cabanatuanite. I'm also a Bitas boy. Sometimes I wonder how such a system would work in the United States.

In each barangay, every three years, the election takes place. The eight candidates who receive the most votes take a place on the council; of the eight, the one who received the most votes is designated barangay kapitan. This arrangement does not prevent slates of eight candidates from running together. There are, if I'm not mistaken, two such slates running for the Barangay Bitas council: one is all men and the other has three women candidates. Such slates, if they are successful, must drop candidates if outsiders receive more votes than these candidates.

The lead-up to these elections can be a very contentious time in some barangays. Already an incumbent barangay kapitan has been assassinated in Cebu; other election-related violence has been reported. Government officials want to avoid the kind of experience the last barangay elections underwent, when 25 deaths due to election-related violence occurred (these elections took place in 2018; a law had expanded councilors' terms from 3 years to 5, but the law was rescinded by the new legislature and the Marcos administration).The Philippine National Police have designated 249 barangays to be of "grave concern" with regard to the possibility of election violence; in my province of Nueva Ecija, there is only one such barangay, and it is well to the south of Cab City in General Tinio. All 89 barangay councils in Cabanatuan have signed a covenant aimed at ensuring a peaceful election season in the city.

An order forbidding the carrying of firearms outside of the home is in effect now and will be in effect until November 30. The buying, selling, and drinking of alcoholic beverages will be forbidden on October 29 and 30. Already police checkpoints have sprung up within cities and between cities, manned not by barangay police but by the gun-toting variety of cop. They are looking for firearms. Filipinos who are not madcap political partisans (and I haven't yet met one of those) take this all in stride.

There is no orange menace fomenting hatred and violence in this country; political tiffs and scraps leading to needless deaths are just, uh, a nasty tradition here?

                          Philippine Information Agency






The days are sunny and not overly hot in Cab City, this late September. For the past three or four afternoons cumulus clouds have started piling up by 4pm, and thunderstorms with frequent lightning and gusty winds have serenaded the city around dusk, thankfully without pranking us and shutting down power. There are two reasons why this country has many more storm-caused power outages than the U.S. has. Firstly, there are many more lightning storms here than over there (with the possible exception of Florida). Secondly, when lightning hits a wire and sends one or two million volts towards a transformer, here it has a better chance of blowing up the transformer than it has over there, because the circuit breakers used here are inferior to those used in the States. I read about this recently. Well, PAGASA has central Luzon pegged for another round of storms later today; candles in the bedside cupboard are at the ready!

Fully recovered from her operation, Glenda has spent the last week in Rizal. She went up to the homestead to care for Francis, who had come down with a bad cold. A few days later, with Francis chipper again, she stayed on to attend the birthday party of the son of an old classmate, and to help out selling portions of one of the family pigs, which Edmar had recently slaughtered. She is due back later today. In conversation with Aiza, a few days back, I praised the dinner dishes Glenda prepared. "Of course, of course her food is good," said Aiza. "She's Ilocano!" And so I learned that people from Glenda's ethnic group have a reputation for being good cooks.

Sinigang, pinakbet, adobo, menudo, tinola, kaldereta . . . .  If you are not living in the Philippines and these words mean little to you, punch them up in Goodle Image. I'd had these several times before meeting Glenda, mostly in restaurants; Glenda's Filipino dishes beat those of the restaurants, hands down. Tastier, heartier. And her fried chicken is among the best I've ever tasted!  . . . So I've watched her perform in the kitchen. She knows what to put in, when to put it in, and, once it's all simmering, how much time she has to enter the compound and have a tete-a-tete with Aiza or Donaiza; but it always seems that the end product must rely on more than these simple mechanics!

I can, and have for the past week, fend for myself in the kitchen. Can toss an omelet in the pan, cook hamburgers and sausages, create nicely grilled cheese sandwiches, even make a decent American chop suey. Can't help looking forward to Glenda's return, however.


Breathing Naturally . . .

. . . is what Glenda does now. She is five days post-op and the discomfort is gone, though a "heaviness," as she puts it, occasionally visits her. She has done excellently for someone who, before this experience, had never before been examined by a doctor, nevermind had an operation. She told me this just before our first visit to Dr. Claudio, and I was a little incredulous. Never? No, never. You delivered two babies; you had OB doctors caring for you? No Brad. How do you call it? Midwife? Dr. Claudio is a good first doctor to have: tall, personable, smart-looking in his rimless glasses, and just a little goofy. Likes black denim. A little goofy? I still see him dashing down to his car just before the operation because he had forgotten something; still see him holding up for me with a lop-sided smile two medicine phials full of those little white globules, now blood-spattered, while Glenda was being woken up on the table. I spent the first night with Glenda, and there was not much sleep for either of us: the little I got was on a padded bench maybe four and a half feet long.

The next morning Glenda's nephew Edmar showed up on his trike with his wife Novi (in earlier postings misspelled "Nobe"), little Joy-Joy, and Glenda's mom Bienbe. Novi with Joy in her arms was stopped at the door: babies were not allowed in the hospital. Jeesh! So Joy-Joy stayed outside with her father while Novi and Bienbe followed me up the stairs to Glenda. I'd asked for a private room after learning one was available -- one of a few factors that pushed the "package deal" closer to 100K than to 70K -- and Bienbe, Glenda, and 

and Novi chatted about the operation in Tagalog, me understanding a few snippets and throwing in a phrase or two edgewise. Novi was to stay with Glenda, who was still not eating solids, for the second night, and after a while Bienbe joined Edmar and Joy-Joy for the trip back to Rizal; I headed for the Raguindins and my bed.

The following morning Dr. Claudio had been paid his share but we hadn't yet seen the hospital bill. I had 47K in my pocket and wasn't sure it would be enough, so over the cell phone I asked Glenda and Novi to wait for the bill and let me know the amount as soon as they received it; if we needed more money, I would stop at an ATM on the way over. The cashier on the first floor well before noon was told to prepare the bill; at 2pm Glenda was told it would be soon. At 3:30pm, with the bill not yet delivered, I hopped in the car, stopped at the ATM and withdrew 20K, then made for the hospital. In the room they had not yet seen the bill. Novi and I went down to the glass-enclosed finance department, at which a lady behind the glass said there was one more thing to do. I keep my cool very well in aggravating situations, but felt that here, for only the third or fourth time in the nearly six years I've been in the Philippines, the "exasperated foreigner" routine could be used to advantage. "It's been hours and hours and hours!" I said in a raised voice, looking in turn at each of the three employees behind the glass. And it did the trick. Mollifyingly the woman told me to please have a seat and she would get right on it. Within fifteen minutes the bill was presented, 49K+, and I handed over a wad of fifty 1K notes. The money was counted, papers were stamped, and in no time we were all at the nurses' station waiting for a wheelchair. 


The "exasperated foreigner" routine rarely does anyone any good, which is why I only very rarely use it. It demeans people and is self-demeaning, too, methinks. At any rate, Glenda ate a good solid meal that evening, at home. Novi stayed with us that night and we took her back to Rizal the following morning, walking down the deeply rutted dirt drive to find Joy-Joy in a plastic childrens' pool buck-naked and gleefully pointing a garden hose this way and that. Thank you, Novi, for your help! Salamat, Novi, sa iyong tulong!

The large gravel lot bordered by acacia trees, and Wesleyan University Hostpital beyond it. At one end of the hospital, the gate to the university proper.


Driving Ms Glenda

That Good Witch of the West has had a lot to do in many different places recently, and I've been driving her here and there. Drove her to Paniqui, Tarlac Province, about an hour and a half from Cab City, last Monday, so that she could renew her passport. One cannot renew a Filipino passport online or via mail, and there are only three government offices on Luzon that issue and renew passports: the closest to us is in Paniqui. Always I'm up for driving roads as yet untraveled by me; we checked out Guimba, Pura, Ramos, listening to the music on my thumb drive: Procol Harum, the Pixies, the Pogues, some reggae-fied popular songs (I change up the selection often). The office was in a WalterMart, and, having arrived more than an hour early, we sat down to lunch at the Shakey's in the mall.

Have not yet found pizza better than the pizza at Shakey's in the Philippines; if you are a Filipino or Phlipside expat who knows of better, please let me know! The office opened a half hour late, but once the doors opened Glenda got through her fuss and bother in less than an hour. In the Philippines that's saying something.

Last Wednesday I drove Glenda to see the ENT guy who had treated my folliculitis, for the simple reason that Glenda has not been able to breathe through her nose since she had a bad case of sinusitis while working in Qatar. Hadn't even realized she couldn't breathe through her nose until recently, when we talked about her snoring at night. Her snoring is gentle, never loud enough to keep me awake; and she has informed me that I occasionally have conversations with someone in my sleep, so it was not out of complaint but out of concern that I brought it up. And she said she couldn't use the airway. The nose plays an immunological role in protecting us from airborne disease -- so long as we breathe through it. She agreed to see Dr. Claudius.

The doctor put his viewer up Glenda's nostrils, and far up the nasal passages, the computer screen showed, there were clusters of glossy-white, globular things. "Those are polyps," the doctor intoned. It was a severe enough case to require endoscopic surgery, a scraping of the sinuses, and would Glenda be up for such a procedure? She affirmed that she would. Dr. Claudius is affiliated with Wesleyan University Hospital here in Cabanatuan, so that is where the procedure will take place. The doctor said a "package deal" was available that would include a two-day stay for Glenda at the hospital, if Glenda had Philhealth insurance. Glenda did not have Philhealth, so one of our pre-op errands would be to get Glenda signed on. The package deal would come to 70,000 pesos, or a bit less than 1,500 American -- for something that costs $8,000 to $13,000 without hospitalization figured in, in the U.S., according to Dove Medical Press.

On the way home from the doctor's office we picked up pre-op

medications. There were tests to run, and the next morning we

went to St. Albert's Clinic for blood and urine tests. The waiting 

room was crowded and so I stayed in the car with the a/c on and

waited. And waited. Should have brought along a book! Well,

eventually she came back with the results, all within normal

parameters. Then it was off to Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial

Hospital for a chest x-ray; after considerable circling about,

finally found a parking space, and told Glenda I would wait in 

the car for her. After she left I was chased out of the space by

hospital security: "Employees only," they said. Great, and my

smartphone needed charging. Drove home and, texting there,

asked Glenda if she could take a trike home. Not a problem,

the Good Witch replied.

Next day, there was paperwork to procure, fill out, get notarized, and bring to a magistrate at Rizal City Hall, so that Glenda would be

able to sign on to the national health insurance plan (Philhealth). We went to Wesleyan University, where kind security guards pointed the way to the hospital, for the C-scan Dr. Claudius had signed Glenda up for, and I was relieved to find an enormous area for parking next to the hospital. Wouldn't need to take a trike to visit Glenda while she was hospitalized.

On Monday (tomorrow) I'll drive Ms Glenda to the Philhealth office at the NE Pacific Mall. If all goes smoothly there, Glenda will undergo her procedure Wednesday morning.


The Troubled Homeland: Some Quick Thoughts

First of the month. Brought rent money to Don-Don.  Drove to the duplex on the Aurora road and dropped off support for Jheng's family, tuition for Mariel. These cyclones coursing north of Luzon have been "enhancing the southwest monsoon," as the weather bureau puts it, and the rain in Cabanatuan has been pretty much constant for the last four or five days. On the west coast it's downright stormy, and I hope the Mangrove Hotel, at the foot of Subic Bay, is faring okay.

Early mornings I check in with American news on Youtube. Will have no truck with Fox, Newsmax, and the other outlets of "gonzo rightist propaganda." MSNBC and CNN seem too partisan for my taste, but I listen to Maddow, Hayes, Melber, Blitzer, Scarborough, also to Charlie Sykes on "The Bulwark," a sane podcast focused on the craziness of American politics today. Will America get through the 2024 elections intact? It seems that a sound drubbing of Trumpist candidates, and, as it seems more and more likely he will be the presidential nominee, Trump himself, would ensure the survival of the Union. But even if that should happen, what would Americans be left with? A one-party dominance of  the national executive and legislature, and a rightist Supreme Court out to quash all the initiatives of this party. It's not a pretty picture.

An uglier picture is the one portraying a holding pattern in the political scene after 2024. "Civil war" is a term the Freedom Caucus in the House bandies about frequently now; talking heads in TV- and podcast-land  discuss the possibility of such a war. What would it look like? It would not have many of the qualities of the civil war fought 160 years ago; that's for sure. Would it be a fight fought within a few (or many?) individual states between insurgents and resisters? Once all the states are irretrievably red or blue, does a nation-wide conflict ensue? What role, if any, would the national armed forces play in such a conflict? And how are secession and the creation of a new nation, or subjugation and reconciliation, whichever is the upshot of the conflict, worked out? 

Such questions chill my brain, as they probably do yours, if you're an American reader. What chills it more, though, is the consideration of another Trump presidency.  . . . Perish the thought, my dear grandmom would say. Things have a way of working themselves out, if you don't mind another cliche. Concerted violence needn't appear in the picture that does eventually emerge. I'll leave you with a coupla photos of our cats.


Transportation for Francis; Mario's BP Takes a Nice Downhill Slide

The southwest monsoon is still in play and is doing an admirable job of sheering cyclones -- typhoons and wannabe-typhoons -- off to the north. This monsoon is a band of super-moist air that originates in the waters below Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia; it can bring to the Philippines days of a rain that stops only for short intervals, or it can bring days of solid overcast with an occasional shower. Oddly, the current monsoon, while it has brought very high humidity to the islands, has not brought continuous rain or overcast. The sunny afternoons are oppressive -- but on some days, starting at about 3pm, heavy thunderstorms march across Luzon. The doppler right now indicates a big one is approaching Cab City from the west (hope I can stay online).

Yesterday Glenda and I traveled to Barangay Agbannawag, Rizal, the barangay of the Torres homestead and the barangay of Glenda's husband, to pick up Francis at his father's place, which is only a couple of blocks from the homestead by the rice fields. He has taken up with another woman; he and Glenda have not spoken for a very long time, and I get the idea that I may never meet him. Checked in on the pigs at the homestead, noticed that the new brood of chicks seemed to be doing fine; Glenda texted to Francis to come on over. While we waited for Francis, Glenda came out of the house with a dish of frog legs adobo with chili sauce. Had never before eaten frog, but I was game. A little oily, but really delicious!

Francis came. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Cabanatuan, intending the following morning to take Glenda's son to Cab City bike shops and help him pick out a ride. The Agbannawag elementary school is some distance from his father's place; in addition to the cred with his friends a bicycle would bring, the bike would also save Francis's father the service fees of trike rides to and from school. Well, the first shop we went to this morning had a very good selection of bikes for preteeners, and Francis had little problem choosing one; with bike helmet, basket, and padlock, it came to a little less than $100 American. I liked the price.

Francis rode it up and down the street outside the Raguindins this afternoon, and gave some friends he has made here a chance to ride it themselves. We'll bring him and the bike back to Agbannawag, Rizal tomorrow.

Glenda and I light out for Rizal whenever the occasion suggests it; as I've written, it's about 45 minutes away -- up the Maharlika to Talavera, then a straight shot up the Rizal road through Llanera to Rizal. The occasion more than suggested it four days ago. On that day, Glenda's father Mario was having trouble breathing, was stiff all over and suffering from headaches. He takes medicine for high blood pressure, but the sphygmomanometer his daughters in Manila had sent him was reading 175/120 on that day; he obviously needed to see a doctor. We drove up and took him to his clinic in the business section of Rizal, where the doc confirmed the high bp reading, decided to change Mario's meds, and signed Mario up for an EKG and x-rays the following day. We got the new meds, and Glenda provided her father with money for the tests. Forty-eight hours later the stiffness and headaches had disappeared and the bp machine read 120/80! That was not a one-off reading, too. The tests came back satisfactory, and Mario is up and about now, feeling a whole lot better, to the relief of many people.

Business district, Rizal.

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