Monday, December 31, 2007

Boom boom boom boom

Manigong Bagong Taon! Happy New Year!

Back in the states, as the new year rolls around, people celebrate by pouring lots of champagne, following it with a synchronized countdown, and then bursting into a riot of cheering, drinking, and kissing.

Here in the Philippines, people celebrate by blowing shit up.

It's like a war zone out here, only people don't die (they just lose some fingers or set nearby things on fire). Explosions are heard round the clock, getting especially feverish when the new year rolls around. My cousins, earlier in the day, bought a bunch of fireworks and had them out at around 11 pm. They took me out to the street, set some kind of gigantic box in the middle, gave me an ember on a long metal stick, and told me it's time I experience the Filipino style celebration. Go, and light it.

Once I see the fuse catch, turn around and run.

Uh, thanks guys.

I'm struggling to find the fuse since it's dark and it's hard to hold a long stick steady. I'm afraid I'll light the inner fuse and get to feel what it's like to vaporize. Soon enough, the fuse catches. I turn around, and before I take two steps


It launches a searingly white ember into the sky which explodes into a dazzling sphere of colors. Like the kind at Disneyland, or any other fireworks extravaganza. Back in Cerritos, the kind that gets you sent to jail for thinking about lighting one. Here though, every neighbor has their own set of aerial light bombs, the richer ones launching barrages that would rival California theme parks.

It's a beautiful place to be when the new year rolls around, to celebrate it with a bang.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Maligayang Pasko!!!! Merry Christmas from the Philippines!

Maligayang Pasko!!!! Merry Christmas from the Philippines!

Spent pre-Christmas Eve (23rd) at a company party with family (my family in Iloilo owns like 12 companies) with 500 other people, drinking, dancing, being a bad influence to my cousins/nephews by passing them alcohol (that my cousin passed to me first.... so technically I would like to point out that she's the bad one) and watching my very drunken oldest cousin try to "kai shao" (introduce) various ladies to me throughout the night by pulling random ones to where I was dancing, which was quite enjoyable and hilarious at the same time. He could barely talk. It was soooo amusing. They had company singing and dance contests, and I enjoyed watching (as the night went on) deliriously drunken people just slide their way into the dance floor while other contestants were trying to compete.

Spent a nice quiet Christmas night with family eating some fresh seafood nearby the SM Mall of Asia and watching the fireworks by the sea, swiggin' my beer and not feeling buzzed. That is absolutely a first for me! Woo!

I hope your guys's Christmas was enjoyable, that you got as drunk as you wanted to, and shared some good times with family and friends. If you haven't had your party yet, then I hope you have a blast.

Miss you guys. Have a beer/shot/bottle for me! See y'all in 2008.

By the way, like I said before, I've been eating like a hurricane, sucking up everything in my path. It's all like, 5 to 12 course meals out here, seafood to the limit, lechon, crispy pata, pansit, pinakbet, like 800 types of fish, mussels, clams, torta, prawns, crabs, mango shakes, chicken inasal, beer, and tons of rice. I even eat breakfast out here. I never eat breakfast. Longinisa sausage, bangus, eggs, rice and some tea (or a mango shake). Then a 5 course meal lunch, and a nap.

I haven't gained any weight. My cousin gained 18 pounds though. Hahaha!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My one great vacation

Newly unemployed, I found this kind of life refreshing. No more commuting to work on jam-packed subways, no more meetings with people I didn't want to meet. And best of all, I could read any book I wanted, anytime I wanted. I had no idea how long this relaxed lifestyle would continue, but at that point, at least, after a week, I was enjoying it, and I tried hard not to think about the future. This was my one great vacation in life. It would have to end sometime, but until it did I was determined to enjoy it.

I love Haruki Murakami.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Under the Sea

Woke up early in the morning to head to the southern area of Dumagete to take a pump boat (a small 5 passenger boat with a tiny engine) to Apo Island, a local island about half an hour to 45 minutes away. Hilton tells me it's a marine sanctuary and that you can go snorkeling and see lots of coral and stuff. Well, Santa Cruz was sort of a wash, it can only get better, right?

After paying the fare (1500 pesos) we took off in this tiny pump boat toward the far island of Apo. During December, the winds are pretty strong and the ocean's quite turbulent. Small boat plus big waves = big fun! Up a wave, then down the wave, part of the boat crashes into the water... and we get soaked. I usually get sick on boat rides, but something about how large the motions were just made it feel like a rollercoaster. It was pretty thrilling.

Half an hour or so later, we are close to the island. It pretty much looks like a tropical paradise: the water is clear and a bright blue, the sands are white, you see a private resort area with two tiny cottages off to the side, and a few other pump boats parked on the beach. The cliffs are high and covered in lush green vegetation, the sky is a sherbet of cloud and sky, the palm trees wave to us as if in welcome; yes, it's kind of like a paradise. A really cheap, beautiful paradise. It cost us 100 pesos per person to be on the isle and another 50 pesos to snorkel (about $3 total). We got three snorkel goggles and tubes for 100 pesos each.

We head into the isle itself, passing a lot of cottages and huts. The island town! Very cozy, rustic cottages all over, people and kids walking about, and the occasional sleeping dog and pink fuzzy pig snoring and oinking about. Apo Island is shaped like a giant ring; there's some kind of giant marsh in the center of the island that is disconnected from the ocean. It's got tons of fish inside and a lot of the trees with high roots that you'd imagine to be on the banks of rivers in Africa. Going around that, we arrive at the rear of the island where the actual marine sanctuary is located. There are no boats on this side because it's protected, just sand, lots of coral, the ocean and the sky. Putting on the goggles and gear, we head into the ocean at an area to the far left where the coral is less rocky and the deeper areas are easily accessible. The captain of the ship came with us to guide us through the water and point us to some cool things to see. What a chill guy.

I wade into the water, get a bit further into the water until the water hits my navel and stick my head down. What do I see?

A freaking underwater paradise. Hanauma Bay (Hawaii) be damned, this place is easily ten thousand times better. I thought the part of the island above water was gorgeous, underneath is absolutely, almost inconceivably breathtaking.

Corals of all shapes, sizes, colors. Purple, shaped like a small stout tree with fat branches and twigs and no leaves. Orange colored coral that waved with the currents. Giant dark blue coral that looked like a fat and humongously wide mushroom. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Fish colored like yellow and black zebras, bright blue/green/orange fish, barracuda. Not just a few scattered here and there. Hundreds. Big ones, small ones. There was this long yellow one that looked kind of scary, so I tried to stay a pretty far distance. I swam out further just marveling at my surroundings. The water is so clear, the colors are so vivid. God DAMN I wish I had an underwater camera. I should be thankful I didn't, I might have dropped it and I wouldn't have been able to just float there, soaking up the beauty of it all.

Pushing out away from the island, I reach an area where the coral and sea bottom sort of just... fade into the blue. I basically got to the point where the sea floor deepened beyond visibility from where I was at the surface. Ooooh, how freaky. I spent a while marveling at the deep blue depths, floating there at the surface, completely relaxed, and then turned around to see... a big silvery glistening cloud... thing. I get closer and it's...

A huge school of fish. Hell, school be damned, these guys graduated. These fish are ginormous, it's a fuckin fish university out here! There's at least a hundred of them, swimming slowly, moving around in circles and waves. I swam closer and closer and... they don't swim away! No fear! They slowly glided from my right to my left, then slowly turned and circled around under me. I was surrounded by hundreds of giant fish! Amaaaaaaazing. I just wanted to grab one and bite into it. They must taste like awesome.

After swimming with them, we headed out because the captain mentioned something about sea turtles. Swimming towards a different area of the beach, I learned why there's a special entrance area on the other side. Walking on coral is nigh impossible with the sea currents shoving me around. I totally ate it trying to get out of there, gashing my knee into some beautiful purple coral, staining it a brilliant red. I've never had blood running down my leg before, but I have to say it looks pretty damn cool.

Heading back to the front of the island, we do the same routine and get out to the sea. Not more than three minutes later, the captain points at a direction and we head toward it to find a sea turtle! It was a little guy, about one and a half feet from rear fin to head. It slid through the water with such grace, the simplest motions with its fins propelling it forward without effort. Such a beautiful creature. It took off and I could not watch it for long, so I continued heading out toward the deep end. Not too many fish on this side, not too much coral either, though I did see a lot of sea cucumbers, spiky sea slugs, and a couple of deep blue colored starfish.

I push on further and notice a giant sea turtle just a few feet away from me. I froze, just staring at it. It wasn't moving, just floating in a small clearing surrounded by coral and poked its head up to stare back. We stayed like that for a few moments, me floating completely relaxed, pushed and pulled by the ebb and flow of the water, and it, frozen in its spot. After a while, it began to glide away and I followed it the best I could, watching it float through the water and head past groups of fish toward the deep.

Take your next vacation to Apo Island next to Dumagete in the Visaya area of the Philippines. With such bang for your... peso, you absolutely just can't lose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ancient History 2, Ancient Historier

Dipolog is a town that sort of has nothing remarkable so I won't spend too much time talking about it, except that it has some 3003 steps to a special viewpoint where you can see the city and surrounding cities. Unfortunately, since Pastor Mariano, the old man that we're traveling with seems more talk than walk, we only got to the 7th station (out of 13, probably about half of the steps).

By the way dad, Mariano says Hi.

We left Dipolog and headed to Dumagete on a ferry boat. It's one of the speedy kinds which will reach Dumagete in 2 hours instead of 5, which is great for me because I don't exactly have the strongest aptitude for ocean voyages. I think the last time I remember being on a boat was with Tan, Ryan V, Cianar and Brenda. We were out in the Long Beach waters, doing some deep sea night fishing. I remember Tan and I, in the midst of being awesome fishermen and catching everything under the sea (I even caught the same fish that Cianar tossed back into the ocean), spent most of our time on our knees, breathing hard and doing everything humanly possible to avoid vomiting on our toes.

Back on the ferry boat, even before it left the harbor, I was already feeling a bit woozy. The winds today are quite... strong, meaning there's bound to be some big ocean waves. It's not exactly a huge ferry, it probably carries 400 people at max, so those waves can be really felt. I have but one trick up my sleeve for this kind of thing: iPod in pocket, Fontopia in-ear phones closing off the outside world, volume up, head down, relaxed body. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I think it cushions the movements of the parts that control balance in my head, lessening the feelings of nausea enough so I can pass out and avoid the ocean waves' deadly effects.

Arriving at Dumagete, we're picked up by my Auntie Sandra. Of course, being me, I could not remember where or when I had met her. She reminded me that she came by one time in like 2002 while I was still in college, and I came home late and was mad that she took my room to sleep in, meaning I was stuck with my dad who can sleep through a hurricane and snore like a typhoon.

Haha oh man, embarrassing recognition nod. Yes, I do remember meeting her then. Heeee....

We're taken to their bake shop, the Mandarin Caterers and Bake Shop. In Dumagete, there are tons of bake shops everywhere. It's sort of their thing, since apparently it's quite profitable and there's always room for more. On the first floor, the bake shop is comprised of the store area, the garage, and the awesome kitchen area, which still holds a very very old brick oven, an ancient type of oven that uses wood, fire and special bricks to heat and bake bread. Very old method of cooking, very hard to control. They also make sio pao (cha siu bao), which to their credit, are possibly the best tasting. Evar. The fluffiest bread, the tenderest chicken and pork meat, and hard boiled eggs chopped up into a delicious bun. Eggs make just about anything better.

The rest of the floors above the bottom floor is the house. This is the house where my mother grew up and studied while in Dumagete, and also where my Ama lived, the grandmother that took care of me when I was a baby, I think from age 1 to 2. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 91. I met my Uncle Charles and his wife, and Uncle Jerry, the younger brother here. I also met my Akim, the wife of my mom's older brother (aunt in-law). She very recently suffered through a mild stroke and lost the ability to control the left side of her body (arm and leg are numb) and she left for the hospital the day after I met her. To think she just stayed at the house a day or two without going to the hospital immediately... guess they do things differently out here.

We ate dinner at the house, meeting even more friends of my mom's (Rose says Hi mom), all of which agree with me that my mom is quite the motormouth. My auntie Maryanne is called twa bac (big eyes) because she has relatively big bright eyes, so when I was younger, I named my mom twa chui (big mouth). My relatives all got a kick out of that! While I was there, I even met like, 8 or so nieces and nephews. Which meant I gave them each ang pao, and really begin to appreciate my aunts and uncles who did the same for me when I was a kid.

Man, I'm such a cheap bastard.

*pause for a moment* Thank you to all my aunts and uncles and others who gave me ang pao over all those years. You guys are truly, truly awesome =*)

The day after, my Uncle Charles took us to the cemetery where my Ama and the grandfather on my mom's side were buried. Like my grandparents and family from my father's side, they too fled China to settle in the Philippines, except they settled in Dumagete rather than Zamboanga. My Ama outlived my Angkong (grandfather) by decades, he passed away very young. We spent some time there at their graves, the both of them reminiscing about the family. It is then that my Uncle Charles and Hilton began to reveal certain aspects of the family bloodline, details which differ from what I originally believed, creating changes in my mental family tree. It's a lot more complicated than what I had originally thought. Mostly because I have like 200 aunts and uncles and apparently 8 million cousins, nephews and nieces. I exaggerate, of course, but it feels that way sometimes.

Tomorrow, we plan to head out to Apo Island.

Behind the name

By the way, last time I started to tell you about Chinese naming and mentioned the meanings of names. So let's go over what we know about Chinese naming so far:

1. Each name has three characters, starting last name first.
2. For some reason, my Angkong on my father's side has a table where each of us is named a certain way for our first name. For my generation, that character is 仁, pronounced 'rén' in Mandarin.
3. Each person is given a name which embodies a sort of positive, good meaning, that will be bestowed upon the child. Well, I'd hope it's a good meaning. You don't want to name your child something like lollygagging numbskull.

Now, let's go over the meaning.

My name in Chinese, given to me by my parents and my Angkong, is 林仁義.
The pronunciation is lín rén yì.

The individual meanings are -woods/forest, -benevolence, -righteousness

Hell to the yes.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ancient History

Zamboanga City. A hot, blisteringly humid, yet generally sleepy town in the south of the Philippines.

This is where it all begins.

My grandfather and grandmother settled here in Zamboanga having come from the 福建 (Fukkien/Fujian) province of China. They had 8 children, the last of which is my dad, born 林少鵬 (Lim Shao Peng), in 1939. When World War II broke out, apparently the Japanese were searching for my grandfather because he was a Kuomingtang operative for this southern part of the Philippines. They even put a huge reward on his head for it. Grandmother fled with the kiddies, going into hiding in another small town in the outskirts called Ipil. Everyone survived the war, returning to Zamboanga with nary a scratch.

Right now, I'm here at 22 Sevilla St., Zamboanga City. The very house where my grandfather and grandmother lived with their 8 children. I recently visited my dad's high school (Chong Hua Chinese School) and met a couple of his classmates and friends that knew him. There's even a room dedicated to my grandfather at the school. The town is quite small, so it turns out lots of people outside of our family know my dad. I'm always introduced as 少鵬's son, and usually people will light up with recognition. It's kind of cool to be in this house. Lots of memorabilia is hidden here, like my dad's graduation yearbook, class of 1962, some old photos with him and his brothers, and another graduation photo for the class of 1963 where he received his second degree. After graduating Chong Hua here in Zamboanga, he left to attend MIT and graduate with Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering degrees. That's Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila, hee. His graduation photo looks weird to me, mostly because I've never seen my dad look... young. I've pretty much always known him as, well, an old man. Young at heart! My auntie showed me another photo of him and Sah Peh (Hilton's dad) when they were younger.

He's the guy on the right. Look at those glasses!

After spending a few days here, I've met quite a lot of people. Hilton, my cousin traveling with me (he likes to call himself my tour guide... which is totally true because that's essentially what he's doing) has been diligently contacting our relatives in the area and bringing us to eat with them. I'm staying with Hilton's mom and younger brother Anson, both of whom I saw while traveling in Japan two years ago. I also met Hilton's brother Paul, his wife Natalie and their kiddies KimKim, Nika, TaunTaun and Aaron. I've met their dogs too, one of which is white and poofy and so adorable. We've gone by to their house to eat lunch a few times. One thing I definitely love about the Philippines is how people eat. Usually the families are bigger than in the states, so they cook a lot of food. There are like 8 dishes laid out on the Lazy Susan, and if you know me, I take every opportunity to seriously gorge myself. We usually head back home to rest during the early afternoon since it's too blisteringly hot to do anything. Inevitably, a gargantuan food coma magically appears to thoroughly lay waste to all conscious thought, sending me into the unhealthiest 3+ hour nap, prompting my body to convert all the food I just ate into quite possibly the beginning of my late life Asian gut.

Hilton also took me to the the Top Taste Bakery, the owner of which knew my dad (his son is Hilton's friend). I even met my niece Corinne who teaches English at Chong Hua. She's older than I am by a few years. Isn't it strange how family works that way? I later met her brother Mikey who runs the Mr. Bean coffeeshop. I gave them ang pao (red envelope) earlier today, saying that it was technically because I'm their uncle, and Corinne jokingly gave me some flak about setting up the lines of respect and boundaries or something. Haha, my family is awesome! Today I gave Paul and Natalie's kids ang pao. Since they don't work, they got more than Corinne and Mikey, hee.

Other things I did: Went snorkling at the islands of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, a typhoon hit this part of the Philippines a week before we arrived, which I think took out a lot of the marine life in the area. Despite this, I did manage to see a bunch of fish including a big puffer, lots of sea anemones (with accompanying clown fish!), lots and lots of sea urchins, a couple of hermit crabs, some deep blue starfish, and a sea snail. I grabbed the snail off a rock and, after fighting the ridiculously strong current, managed to get the hermit crab to move to shallow enough water to catch it. We dropped them off at Paul's saltwater aquarium. Now there's two hermit crabs and two sea snails (one of which was a big one that Hilton caught). Swimming in the ocean in this area is interesting, mostly because while I was paddling around like an idiot, I kept feeling stinging on various parts of my skin. It turns out there's some very tiny jellyfish in the water. It doesn't sting as bad as Monica from Friends makes it out to be, mostly because these jellyfish are like, microscopic, and because I bet Hilton managed to get the brunt of their poisonous attack (he was the first one to swim around). For me, it felt like an annoying sting that would last for 10-15 minutes.

Visiting my grandfather and grandmother's grave. The burial site makes it appear as if they are buried above ground since there are visible tombs with their names. On my grandfather's grave, it lists the names of all the children. All the sons are named with Shao (少) as first name, and all the daughters with Soh. For our generation, our first names are Ren (仁). In traditional Chinese style, each individual gets three names/characters, the last name and two given names. These names are chosen to try and reflect attributable qualities that the parents want to have bestowed to the child.

For example, my name is 林仁義, following the last name first style and also the generation naming.
Pronunciation: lín rén yì

Any guesses as to what my name's meaning is? I'll give you a starter: 林 means forest.

So, apparently I've run into an interesting dilemma with regards to how I'm going to stay in the Philippines for a long while. The Visa I acquired upon landing gives me at maximum 21 days to spend in the Philippines, but the plan was to stay longer than that. I also had to show that I had an exit ticket before I could check in, which I got by purchasing a fully refundable biz class (which I've already got my refund for, tee hee). Apparently, we're all not certain how I'm going to get the Visa extension, so one of my uncles kept joking that he would see me in jail. He knows of a way to handle this issue though, so he'll take my passport in the meanwhile and... handle it.

Tomorrow I leave for Dipolog, which is a city on the way to Dumagete. I go there to visit my grandma on my mothers side, the one who took care of me when I was a wee baby.

Till next time I find some time and internet access, peace out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fatty McFatty

I'm eating a lot in the Philippines, and not walking around much. I'm going to be a fatty.

On good news, I bought some sandals that totally rock. They're so comfortable, and totally work with the fob style (read: socks + sandals) that I love doing. Even though they cost way more than I wanted to spend (about $30 since I saw sandals of the same style that cost $5) I'm so glad I bought these just because they're both comfy and look better than the others, w00t!

While I'm staying with my aunt, the one with nannies (one for each kid), maids to clean and do laundry, a driver and a cook, I basically eat like I'm at a hotel. Their place LOOKS like a hotel (it was designed by an architect that builds hotels). Big dinner table, Lazy Susan, and usually eight different kinds of dishes for lunch or dinner, usually a dish of fried rice or noodle, and some soup. Oh gawd, I love variety. I just put it all on my plate and gobble it up.

Last night, I ate at this... er, "restaurant." It's in quotes because the place actually doesn't have any food in inventory. You must be asking, "then where does the food come from?"

That's why there's a huge open air market in the plaza. The idea is, you go to the market and buy the fresh food, from fresh oysters, mussels, clams, a range of shrimp sizes (tiny shrimp, regular shrimp, tiger shrimp, jumbo shrimp, and fatty mc fatass ginormous shrimp), possibly twenty different kinds of fish, either whole or cut in all shapes and sizes, a range of squid sizes (small fishing line bait size, regular supermarket size, fatty mc fatass ginormous size, and giant squid so big you don't actually buy the whole squid, you buy it by the area), crabs of all sizes, some kind of sea mantis (it literally looks like a gigantic insect), lobsters, eel... basically a smorgasbord of marine delicacies.

Everything is purchased by weight (each 1/2 kilo). The nice thing is, you can bargain with these people to get the prices lower. Unfortunately, my cousin Hilton has nowhere near the ruthless force of Ling, despite being an accomplished economist. Ling could whittle down a lady selling a bracelet from 80 yuan down to 20 in about 15 seconds, get a Coke for 3 yuan instead of 4 with one sentence (the difference between 54 cents and 41 cents). We could only get minimal discounts, but technically the food is pretty cheap (compared to the states) that it is still good.

You bring the food over to the "restaurant," still alive, moving and kicking around in the plastic bag, and tell the person at the front desk/podium how you want to cook each thing. There's a cooking charge by weight. She takes the bags of freshly squirming dinner, and heads into the kitchen.

We got:
1. A bunch of freshly sliced tuna, sashimi style.
2. Six gigantic shrimp. Biggest shrimp I've ever seen in my life.
3. 12 oysters, probably caught that day.
4. Tuna face, literally. It's like a slice of the tuna's gill and cheek area, mostly bone but also has the delicate cheek meat, which is the best part of the fish. The tuna face is huge, about the size of a big plate.
5. Some kind of seaweed that looks like a bunch of little bulbs on branches (think of kelp, but tiny and green).
6. A giant tiger lobster. Live.

Here's my assessment:

Shrimp: Cooked butterfly style with garlic, onions and chilis. Spicy. AMAZING.

Oysters: Half baked, half steamed. I only ate one baked one because the steamed was half cooked (half raw). When they bake shellfish here, they put cheese on it. It's weird.

Seaweed: Washed, and served raw with diced onions and tomatoes. You drench it with vinegar and eat it as is. Tastes like the sea, literally. It's like swimming in the ocean, then drinking some sea water, just not as gross sounding.

Tuna face: Lots of bone, but once you can dig around in there you get some dark meat and cheek meat. If you haven't eaten the cheek of a fish, grab it next time you're at a Chinese restaurant and the big steamed fish is in front of you. Take it before someone else does, it's the most tender piece of the fish and it's delicious.

Tuna sashimi: Awesome. One pound of it. We couldn't even finish it all.

Tiger lobster: Apparently they cook it with Sprite. The best lobster I've ever had.

San Miguel Lite: Half a bottle and I'm gone. Go tolerance.

Bad luck struck us when we left... Hilton's friend Kenneth had his bag stolen. Missing: Cell phone and charger, 2000 pesos, airline ticket, tissues. The people there didn't want to go to the police station and make a report. They said, just come back tomorrow. According to Hilton, there's an introduction to the everyday people. He was determined so we eventually went to the police station and they made a report. Unfortunately, most likely nothing will be done.

Today, I went to the Lechon City here in Manila. Basically, it's a street where there are only restaurants and sellers of lechon, which is the whole roasted pig that you can get at Filipino restaurants. They all go to a special area where they roast the pigs, turned on a spit over hot coals for an undetermined amount of time (to me) and then it's brought to the restaurants where they rest the poles against the wall of the place, displaying the roasted pigs to the world. We walked around so I could get some photos and then went back to one of the restaurants to have them cut some freshly cooked lechon, some rice, and misc foods. Good tender meat, crispy skin, oh man.

Did I mention I also had lechon the day before at lunch? Stomach flap, here I come.

Tonight, we went to a specific area where there's lots of restaurants that are displaying their food, and you pick and choose the ones that you want. Sticks of barbecued pork, chicken, chicken organs, more lechon, various kinds of fried and steamed fishes, many traditional Filipino dishes (dinuguan, pansit, sinagang, pinakbet, that awesome eggplant stuffed with meat, vegetables, and wrapped in a scrambled egg batter, etc.). We chose 7 dishes, including dinuguan and that stuffed eggplant egg thing, as well as some BBQ pork, some kind of fish with vinegar based sauce and an awesome spicy curry-like dish, and sat down. And two beers.

I should mention what an awesome bargain this is. 650 pesos for the whole dinner (about $15.25 for three of us). The Chinese in me is ecstatic.

I finished my beer today without feeling a buzz. That's odd.

Tomorrow I leave for Zamboanga, the city where my father was born and raised. My dad's been telling me stories for years about how dirty the Philippines are, which has always been what's kept me from coming here all these years. It's pretty evident that he means Zamboanga, so... wish me luck.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Check this girl out. Turns out we met her at a club in Shanghai. She apparently won a beauty pageant competition, and is now a spokesmodel for a Chinese shoe company! She's a pretty cool chica.

Until next time, peace out!