THE PHILIPPINES

~ a shitty photo tour ~

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LIFE UPDATES

Wow, long time no go anywhere and make up some bullshit. For those who forget I exist in between me sending them stupid emails about stupid photo tours, I thought I'd give an update. The dreaded costanzavirus that made everyone's life really boring kept me from going anywhere for a while and once I got tired of that I moved to Taiwan. I've been there for almost two years now and that's neat and weird. For those of you who don't know anything about Taiwan, I'll clarify some things. First off... Yes, it's the same country as Thailand. Sounding slightly similar makes them the same place. It's so easy. Also, lots of people write me and say, "Chet, now that you live in Asia, does that mean your parents are Asian?" The honest answer is that I'm not sure, but I think they're mostly the same as before. My dad watches a lot of Ninja Warrior and my mom asks me if we have fortune cookies here too, so I'm not ruling it out. That's all. Let's get down to business.


THE ISLES OF PHILLIP

This time I’m in the Philippines! Though I spent a week here, I mostly was living in a Korean restaurant and spending my time underwater, so I only really got to spend about 24 hours doing Philippines stuff and otherwise I was making faces at turtles and trying not to stick metal chopsticks up my nose. I was traveling with my dive group so I didn’t get as much time to run around and get into trouble like I wanted. Especially cause I spent a day in the hospital due to a metal chopstick in my nose. Chopsticks are just hard for white people.

My first impression was that the Philippines was kind of like if you took Vietnam and replace all the Vietnamese stuff with things that are vaguely Spanish. Also instead of people calling me, “hello, good price!” they call me “sir”. In other places it looks like Boston with palm trees.

The taxi system here is much like in Thailand where all you have to do to be a taxi driver is slap some metal shit around your motorbike and dodge anyone who might be qualified to do a safety inspection. They also have big metal tuk-tuks that will take you places or die trying.


A THIRD KOREA

We arrived at the ass-crack of dawn because apparently that’s cheaper than getting a hotel and went straight to the Korean restaurant. On the way I grabbed a sandwich at a place called Jollibee, which is kind of like KFC that has spaghetti but probably shouldn’t have anything at all. This is not an endorsement…

In the past I've written about how there are two Koreas and you wanna make sure you go to the good one but it seems I was mistaken. There's a third one in the Philippines and that one is also better than Bad Korea. It's much smaller and seems to exist so that Korean people can feel at home and travel at the same time.

The Korean restaurant that we lived at was quite lovely but it was about two hours from the rest of civilization. The implications of this are that 12 of the 14 meals I ate in the Philippines were Korean food. I remembered something Hana told me once, “The secret to being Korean is that no matter where you are in the world you have to only eat Korean food.” I think that’s one of the cornerstones to their society, so much so that you can almost become Korean through some kind of divine moment. I liken it to one of those near death experiences where you’re walking on thin ice and then it cracks and you fall through. As you plunge into the depths your body begins to slow and shut down and everything fades to black. Somewhere in the blackness, a piercing white light appears and it gets wider and longer like a tunnel. You know you’re so close to seeing what’s on the other side of the bright tunnel because you hear an almighty voice that says, “finish your kimchi and do your english homework,” but at the last moment the doctor pulls you back to life and gives you a hamburger. I was so close to being Korean, but alas, four days wasn’t enough.

Since we had come all the way to Alternate Korea to go underwater, here are some photos of Underwater Alternate Korea.

At one point, we did take a metal-shit-motorbike ride down to a little street to get a sense of what local life was like. They have a seven-eleven with Cheetos and stuff, so I felt at home and a whole street full of people who wanted to say “Hello, how are you?” to me but they seemingly don’t realize that’s a question. I bought a sad little burrito thing and then we went back to the Korean restaurant. There wasn’t much there.


A DAY IN MANILA

On the last day we came back to Manila. The highway was mostly normal except for the parts that were entirely dirt. At one point there was a police officer with a shotgun just hanging out on the side of the highway making sure you didn’t go the wrong way. I thought a friendly sign would have done the job, but maybe he thought he was gonna have to fight a grizzly bear or something.

One of the guys in my dive group had a buddy there so we went to see him. He lived in the area and offered to take us to lunch. For the sake of discussion and pretending I remembered his name, I’m just gonna call this guy Buddy. Buddy knew I wanted something authentic, so he took us to something called a “boodle fight”. For the first third of this conversation, I had misheard this and thought he said poodle fight. I thought to myself, “yes, they are nasty animals but they don’t need to fight on my account”. Buddy continued, “you eat it over rice”. I nodded, half-convinced. “It’s just a pile of all the meat that and you use your bare hands to eat it!” Anything for a cultural experience, I guess. It was around this point where my diver group was all, “yeah let’s do that thing you described,” that I realized we weren’t talking about making nasty dogs fight to the death and then eating the mutilated corpse of the loser over rice. I’m pretty open-minded but I didn’t want to let my disappointment show.

The boodle fight restaurant had a theme of American basketball, but Buddy said those things weren’t related at all. In fact, lots of things that are American were in the Philippines: Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Texas Roadhouse, those mall pretzel booths, Cinnabon, and Shake Shack.

After not dogfighting, we drove around in the Buddy’s car. Buddy gave us a tour that started in local history and quickly went through subjects of business, family history, and then in the direction of personal philosophies. For example, I learned that the mall near his place used to be a power plant and they preserved the history of that building by planting indoor trees where the columns of that building were. I drifted in and out during the business part of his monologue, but I know that he and his friend build kitchens in the Philippines because that’s “where the money is”. He went on to say that because his boat is full of explosives he can’t *just take it anywhere*. Next, Buddy told us that his grandparents on both sides were gorillas and told us a story about how his grandfather lost his life very young doing gorilla warfare stuff. The story seemed sad, but he was laughing so I was confused. I replied solemnly, “yes, they’re endangered. It’s so sad,” and everyone even the dive group shot me perplexed squints. As we moved into the personal philosophy part of the tour, we learned that Taiwanese and Filipino people are his favorites and that the Fins are good too, but for muslims he recommended genocide. He didn’t say why, but I’m not sure there’s a reason that would make anyone to say, “Oh, I see. That makes sense.” Everything was so casual up to that point, but I’m glad that he felt comfortable discussing ethnic cleansing with strangers after just 30 minutes. I tried to be understanding because it’s hard to imagine what being raised by gorillas must be like. I think he sensed that amongst our dive bags we didn’t have any pitchforks or nazi stuff so he then said, “Hey, who wants to go to a wet market?” I think fruits and vegetables are nice, so I suggested we do that.

When I was done eating mystery plant genitals at the wet market, Buddy took us to the mall. By that point, we had recovered from his previous indiscretion but nevertheless conversation in car ride was still a bit sparse. The silence wasn’t very awkward, but Buddy broke it by telling us “the other day I went for a uhhh…. prostate massage.” He said it took 90 minutes and described in vivid detail other things that happened during that time. I didn’t want him to feel weird as if we couldn’t relate to that so I loudly let out the, “Oh, I see. That makes sense!” that I had been unable to produce earlier. The mall mostly only sold hifi audio equipment and guns. Buddy said his favorite shooting range was here and also the guns weren’t lethal. I guess that’s good new for ethnicities that didn’t make Buddy’s top ten.

Before we went back to the airport we went for a long walk. Buddy didn’t join us, and I never saw him again. We walked through the red light district, which is a weird name cause they didn’t have any red lights at all. There were lots of people catcalling me with massage offers and I think I saw a nipple, but I already have nipples so I didn’t need a massage. We stopped at a bar and a very pretty girl in a scandalous skirt came to make conversation to me. A friend whispered in my ear, “She’s a working girl!” I know firsthand how annoying it can be to be interrupted, so apologized for disturbing her and told her I’ll let her focus. As our last act of authenticity, we went to get tacos. My colon is still intact, so I guess they weren’t so authentic after all.

That's no way to end a story, so here's a picture of James being a pajama monster.

Anyhow, if you like Korean food or wanna meet Buddy, I recommend the Philippines. You should stay longer than I did so you have a better chance of talking to girls when they aren’t busy working.


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