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    Dispatch from the Philippines

    Here’s an email that I wrote to my family while I was visiting my fiancé’s family in the Philippines in October. 

    Hello family,

    I just wanted to send you a quick update from the southern Philippines, where I’m hanging out on Lovely’s family’s patio (there was a chicken walking around here a couples mins ago).  I’ve been here for the past five days and am going back to California tomorrow.  

    I’ve included some pictures of her family’s front yard, which extends out to the street where they have a little eatery; across the street is an elementary school.   There’s a little farm in her backyard, and over the past several days her family’s slaughtered and roasted two goats, two pigs, two turkeys, and one duck, and those are just the ones I know about.   For dinner the entire neighborhood comes over and the house is filled with around fifty family members and friends attending the feast.  If you walk up the road you pass the hospital, high school, and then hit the main part of town, where popular Zumba lessons are held for the public in the town square every evening.  (I say town but it’s more of a village.)    

    Lovely’s home is in the province of Hagonoy, which for the second year in a row has been awarded the top Rice Achievers Award (or something like that) in the country.  I’ve included a pic of the rice harvest that Lovely’s mom was overseeing on the rice field they own.   Far beyond the rice fields lies Mount Apo, the tallest mountain in the Philippines.  It’s an overnight trek to the top of the mountain, which is allegedly swarming with bandits, so we just visited the base of the mountain where we went zip-lining and then had lunch in the “land of peace.”

    The beach pictures were taken on a little island near the main city of Davao del Sur, the main city on the island of Mindanao, where the airport is located.  The current president of the Philippines used to be the mayor of Davao del Sur, and his daughter is now the mayor.  Durterte seems to have massive support among citizens here, whom largely appear to endorse the state of martial law which is in effect on Mindanao (there are checkpoints on the street ((I’ve been driving Lovely’s friend’s manual Toyota to town because none of her friends have driver’s licenses – a nerve-wracking experience since my skills with a stick shift are limited)), and metal detectors in malls and hotels).  The martial law, which has been extended throughout 2018, seem to be targeted at reducing rampant criminality and terrorism.  There are cells of Islamic fighters who have proclaimed their allegiance to ISIS on the western edge of the island, which is comprised mostly of Roman Catholics.  Signs in town display photos of the dozens of “most wanted terrorists.”  The overall situation is presently peaceful and quiet, though the neighboring town was overtaken by ISIS militants and bombed to the ground by the Filipino Air Force last year.  

    We’ve been eating a lot, and there are edible gardens everywhere.  We can’t go anywhere or visit anyone without being fed or leaving without food.  You can be standing outside and someone will hand you a papaya from their yard, then they’ll ask if you’ve ever had the fruit that you’re standing under (“watery-rose apple”), then they’ll go and hack down some coconuts or offer you a tuna steak on a stick, and always there will be mangoes, and this process goes on ad infinitum. I just took a break from writing this letter to eat a breakfast that Lovely’s mom made which consisted of a delicious array of fruits and vegetables.  The food derives from immediate sources and is ubiquitous   On more than one occasion I’ve been sitting down eating one meal and they are already preparing the next.  Yesterday I was eating a pig’s blood and liver soup in the backyard and Lovely’s dad’s friend walks to the side of the house with a turkey, casually breaks its neck then begins the bloodletting process because it’s what’s for dinner.  While we were eating breakfast two sparrows flew into the kitchen to eat grains of rice. Yesterday I was having a beer in the kitchen a gecko fell from the ceiling onto my lap.   After the rice harvest mung beans and watermelons are planted, but before this people go out into the fields at night with lights and gather the frogs, which are supposedly tasty (after they’re cooked).   There was only one delicacy that I couldn’t stomach and almost threw up chewing which was balut: the 18-day old embryo of a duck that’s boiled and eaten from the egg shell.   No thanks. We’re going to go to Crocodile Park today, where Lolong – the largest crocodile in captivity (20 ft., 2,300 lbs.) lived and died and is now preserved in formalin – and I have a feeling we’re going to eat crocodile meat there.

    This trip has been awesome and has been made extremely unique because of Lovely and her family. Her parents are kind, generous, and gregarious.  (Her father, a retired police officer, isn’t home right now because he fell off his motorcycle a couple weeks ago and injured his wrist – so he’s been seeing a “quack doctor” who heals him through touch and having him drink “miracle oil.”)  I look forward to my next trip back here (definitely for a longer duration of time).  In the meantime, it’s back to work to prepare of Lovely’s arrival to California in January.  I’m working more than I ever have in my life at the moment, and I truly hope it pays off.

    Hope you enjoy the pics and videos.



    I forgot to mention that I’m the only white guy in sight for many, many miles.  I was reminded of this as I heard some giggling behind me and a squad of little school girls were hiding in the plants smiling.  I got up and pretended to be angry and chased them away. :oP






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