the philippines

The Massachusetts Moment

by O. Langer

The ferry to Cebu is late.

Every seat in the large waiting room is taken. Those not sitting are stood either against the back wall or in the isles. There’s a white noise of chatter. Behind microphones, by the doorway the tourists will use to embark, are acoustic guitars, a mandolin and a tambourine. In front is a donation box. Few will put in. The hum of talk won’t abate when the performance starts.

The blind band appears; each member with an arm locked in a colleague’s for guidance. All are in the Ocean Jet company uniform of yellow polo and red shorts. Though one is a young man, the songs he’ll sing this evening are hits from long before he was born. Massachusetts, by the Bee Gees, is one.

Tarsier Time: Hanging Out With the World’s Smallest Primate

A long-time opponent of zoos, my up-close experience with wild animals has been somewhat limited.  A trip through SE Asia years ago provided brushes with iguanas, water buffalo, and the ubiquitous gecko, but sightings of elephants or tigers evaded me; I refused to visit them in camps, wary of bearing witness to animals who underwent training for the sole purpose of entertaining humans.  Wild creatures of an exotic nature felt like an aspect of the planet destined to remain distant from my own small existence; I sometimes imagined them in their natural habitat, but beyond that didn’t persue learning about them in any sort of focused way.

Journey to the Jungle

It’s 12:25 a.m. on Sunday, the eve before Korea’s Lunar New Year, temperature for tomorrow predicted at -1.  I’ve been typing away on a couple marketing projects all day,  while Joe fried beans for seven-layer dip, trucked to Home Plus for a bottle of wine, some  Johnnie Walker Red, a pineapple, other colourful things. Now he is chopping mushrooms for pasta salad, preparing for our overnight trip tomorrow with friends to a pension in Yangsan.  The train will leave from Bujeon Station at 10:30 a.m.  I haven’t packed but the Philippines is fading and between preparing to leave Korea (38 days!), selling my bookcase, my couch, my mirrors, teaching, writing text for websites and reading up on Rajasthan (11 hours, the guide book says, from Delhi to Ajmer, then 30 minutes to Pushkar…) the blog has been on an unwanted pause.

Tombstones and Firecrackers, Cebu Afternoon

We stepped out Palazzo’s doors after a breakfast of eggs and instant coffee, our bags still newly packed, the port a 10-minute cab ride away, our boat to Bohol scheduled to depart at noon.  A boy smiled to me from the Pensionne’s road and the cab pulled up, a figurine of Mary dangling from the rearview mirror as the driver placed our bags in the trunk and we piled into the back.  During the ride a girl holding a baby scurried from the curb where she sat to our window, tapping on it while the driver waited for the light to turn green, the baby’s hair matted to its head, the skin on its scalp red and dry and bumpy, unwashed, the girl, maybe 13, peering through the glass, tapping on it with her knuckles, her eyes pleading, the baby sleeping.  The light changed.

August Links Dump

Teaser: the hypocrisy of praising sex, Noynoy’s follies, the entertaining Koreas, nuclear Japan, and Tyler Cowen defending Bruce Cumings

White Mountain Links, 6-04

The Wrath of KanSo, this month’s schedule sucks, and I have to resort to dumping links into posts like this. It gives you a notion of what I do read, and instead of forcing it all into a post that not even I can unpack, I’ll just tell you what I read and am thinking about.

1. Special Report: Chaos in North Korea Coverage

2. Hatoyama Resignation Boost to DPJ

3. Regime Change?

Let's Get Critical: The Food

As you may have surmised by my joyous posts from the Philippines, I've been enjoying the hell out of this place. The islands are beautiful, the water clear and full of amazing life, the prices are cheap and the people are just great. I totally endorse this place as an exciting and really fun travel destination, with one caveat:

The food. My Kiwi friends took some umbrage when I made fun of their stodgy hobbit fare, so now let me piss off any Filipino readers.


It finally got properly cold here in the Special K, cold enough to snow this morning, or so I was told. I was sleeping at the time and sadly missed out on the wintry spectacle, but later in the day a dusting of white stuff could be seen on the mountains that pop out of this rough-and-tumble town.

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