Life in the Philippines – “I Sorry” Ay Sorry, joke lang!

Well, the ‘ber months are here so it is full-on Christmas. More on that later. Today I wanted to cover one commonly used English expression and one Taglish* expression generally used by all Filipinos, no matter their native tongue.

I Sorry” “Ay Sorry” — firstly, my team has corrected my poor Taglish. The correct expression is “ay sorry” rather than “I sorry”. Of course to an English speakers ears, the difference in sound between “ay” and “I” is, well, almost none. Anyway, this is said whenever someone bumps you, knocks, you drops something in front of you or generally does anything that would elicit an apology from native English speakers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand or similar. The expression is simply “I sorry”. No “I am”, “I’m”, or other form of the pronoun, just a simple “I”. The expression is simply “ay sorry”, literally “oh, sorry”. OK RJ, Kaii and the others … have I got that correct now? 🙂

“Joke lang” — When hearing the expression “joke lang” I am reminded of an old friend since passed, Bob Preller. Bob was born in Rhodesia and lived there through the civil war that resulted in the current Zimbabwe. He later travelled, married a lovely Norwegian lady and lived in Norway for the rest of his life. He was the most positive person I ever knew but he was also gifted with an acute sense of humour and the ability to make any story, no matter how unbelievable, sound believable. This got him scolded a few times by his Norwegian friends who could not tell he was joking. They explained to him,

Når du forteller en vits, må du smile slik at vi vet at det er en vits

Which translated to:

When you tell a joke you must smile so that we know it is a joke

It is similar here. At the immediate conclusion of a joke or when teasing someone playfully, you are expected to say, “joke lang”, which I guess literally means, “and it is a joke” or perhaps better, “just kidding”.


* Taglish – is the combination of Tagalog and English, both in name and in substance. It is the name given to the phenomenon where the two languages are combined into one sentence in everyday speech. It is also common to see in writing too. The earliest use of the term “Taglish” seems to date back to about 1973. There are other forms of this portmanteau, such as “Engalog” and “Tanglish” but “Taglish” appears to be the common form used these days.

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Life in the Philippines – 15 Days to Christmas!

Well, it is in the Philippines. Today is 16 August and as such, 15 days away from the start of the Festive Season here. In the Philippines the festive season is known as the ‘ber months (September, October, November, December). This will be when the Christmas decorations go up in the stores and malls, and the playing of Christmas Carols commences in those malls – for the next four months!

It is normally around mid-October that the repeated Christmas Carols feel more like a Chinese Water Torture but then I relex and reaise that there are only 10 more weeks of Carol Singing to go!

Merry Christmas!

Life in the Philippines – Pasalubong

Whenever I return from a trip to Australia or Singapore, my staff ask me for their Pasalubong. Pasalubong is a Tagalog word that seems to mean, “here is something I have for you for when you welcome me back”. It is a Filipino tradition where travellers bring gifts from their destination to folks back home – for family, friends, office mates and so on. The Pasalubong can be any gift or souvenir brought for family or friends after being away for a period of time.

Pasalubong is normally something local from the region, or country visited. Yes, it does not just apply to those that have been overseas. So, for example, should I visit the province of Bicol, then I would look to bring back pili nuts. Head to Pampanga and chicharron (see left) would be a suitable Pasalubong. Visit Australia, and I could bring back vegemite (which has the double advantage of being the expected Pasalubong and at the same time, after tasting it, curing the locals of asking me for Pasalubong in the future). Vegemite is an acquired taste after all, fit only for real men and women! 😉

Pasalubong is culturally important to Filipinos and is a way for the traveller to share some of the experience of their trip with family and friends – sort of like the souvenirs brought back by western cultures (like the Elgin marbles for example).

The other nice part about Pasalubong is that it is not wrapped, but given as is. A nice custom and one I seem to recall in other parts of Asia as well.

 

Life in the Philippines – bagyo and Baguio – storms and strawberries

Manila Bay hidden by an incoming rain squall

One of the difficulties for the foreigner in the Philippines is the similarity of some words or sounds in Tagalog. Tagalog is the Austronesian language of the Tagalog people, generally from central Luzon. Its vocabulary has been much influenced by Spanish and English, and it is the basis of a standardized national language of the Philippines (Filipino). The other national language, mercifully, is English. All Republic Acts in the Philippines are written in Tagalog and English.

Two words that to me sound alike are Baguio and bagyo. Baguio is a mountain city of some 350,000 residents that was initially established as a hill station by the United States in 1900 at the site of an Ibaloi village known as Kafagway. It has grown over the past 100 years or so and is known as the summer capital of the Philippines. Famous for its cool air, pine trees, fruit and vegetables and strawberries in particular, it is one of the major towns in the Philippines that does not have air-conditioning installed everywhere.

Bagyo however is a storm. We have just had four or five days of a storm here in Metro Manila, brought about by a combination of the Habagat and a Low Pressure Area (LPA) in the Pacific east of Luzon.

There are two kinds of winds and seasons that occur here every year. The Amihan refers to the northeast monsoon and the Habagat, the south western monsoon.

The habagat blows up from the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and generally brings with it a lot of moist air. When there is an LPA in the Philippine Sea to the east of the Philippines, the habagat is intensified, as was the case over the past four or five days. FLood warnings were at the yellow level for three of the four days in Manila, Bataan and Zambales, with orange warning signal for Bataan and Zambales over a day. This season is normally over the period June to October (the wet season).

The amihan usually occurs over the period October to March and generally there is a little rainfall associated with it but more characteristically, there is a lowering of the temperature in the Philippines as the wind carries cool air that originates in Siberia and Mongolia which passes across China to blow down to Southeast Asia. This makes Christmas, January and February the best time, temperature and humidity wise, in the Philippines.

I also believe that habagat and amihan are two characters from Philippine mythology. I shall investigate that later.

Life in the Philippines – Paluwagan

Paluwagan has existed in the Philippines for many years. It is a group forced savings system and similar money saving systems exist in other countries and cultures, however, in the Philippines, and regardless of what the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP – the Central Bank) says, it is almost ubiquitous. Paluwagans exist in the cities such as Metro Manila and down to the farms on Mindanao and Samar. Even retired folks have been know to be part of a paluwagan.

So, what is it exactly? It is a means of group saving or money lending. A group of people, perhaps workmates, friends, extended family and such, get together and agree an amount they can afford to “save” or deposit to the paluwagan. They agree on who will hold the funds, how frequently payments will be and then the order of receiving payments – the order is usually random unless there is a compelling reason to help out one or two members of the paluwagan group first.

The mechanics are quite simple. Each member contributes the same amount each week (or month or whatever cycle is selected). One member then receives the collected funds each cycle. The next week all contribute again and the second member receives the collected funds. This continues until all members receive the full funds after which the paluwagan then terminates. In many respects, it is like the terminating Building societies of 18th century England.

A paluwagan payment set of cycles could look like:

There are six members and all agree to contribute 1,000 pesos per month for six months. The payment order is agreed, in this case, Anne, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Edwin and Francine. In January all contribute 1,000 pesos and Anne is then given 6,000 pesos. In February all contribute 1,000 pesos and Bob is then given 6,000 pesos. The cycle repeats until everyone has received their 6,000 pesos.

The benefits of paluwagan are:

  • quick access to a lump sum of money
  • easy to set up
  • no fees
  • forces saving

The disadvantages/risks:

  • unregulated
  • prone to money problems (dishonest members)
  • strained relationships among friends and family
  • no interest or profits

The paluwagan however, is effective among friends, colleagues, co-workers and family where all can be trusted and if there is a large group, say 10 to 20 people, and they are contributing 1,000 pesos each cycle, then the lump sum of 10,000 to 20,000 pesos is very useful.

As with all things in the 21st century, there are a number of online frauds and scams to be avoided. However, when lending face-to-face to the paluwagan among a group of trusted friends,  colleagues etc. the risk is low.

Life in the Philippines

I’ve been living in the Philippines for nearly five years now (I arrived in Manila on 9 August 2014 so five years on 9 August 2019). It is an interesting and friendly country with much familiar and much different. Most of the five years has been spent in Manila, famous mostly for its traffic and balut. I have been fortunate in the apartments I have stayed in to be able to see Manila Bay (battlefield of course for Dewey’s Squadron in the Spanish-American War) and generally a nice view into the distance, although a few too many high dwellings.

Many days the sunsets are wonderful and on clear days I can see the Bataan peninsula which forms the northern edge to the entrance to Manila Bay and was the scene of one of the death marches in World War 2. It is also the home to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Construction of that commenced in 1976 and was completed by 1986, just in time to see the Chernobyl meltdown. It was decided not to power up this power plant and it sits on the Bataan peninsula to this day. Who knew?

Interestingly it is not that far from Mt Pinatubo which famously blew its top in 1991.

Sunset over Manila Bay – Bataan in the right background, Corregidor in the left

To the south I can see the Cavite peninsula, forming the southern edge to the entrance to the bay and in the middle, Corregidor, famous as a fortified island, fortified by the Spanish, the Americans and then the Japanese. It was supposed to protect the entrance to the bay. From there you can see the concrete battleship Fort Drum (originally known as El Fraile Island).

I was fortunate to take a day drip across to Corregidor a few years ago, which I promised myself I would write up here. Still, it’s my blog so things happen at my rate.

I will start to cover life in the Philippines more in the future, especially the life of the expat turning local as my plan is to remain here after I finally retire. In the meantime, ingat ikaw.

A Day in the Life

Some folks get the idea that travel is fun (which it is) and therefore business travel must be more fun because someone else is paying for it. It isn’t. Following is my journey from Macksville to Jakarta.

2013-01-07 13.20.14

It started with the XPT train journey from Macksville Station. Temperature was about 30 degrees and a bright sunny day. The train left Macksville on time at 1:30pm and headed south at a stately pace. We stopped at a number of stations on the way to Sydney, including Kempsey, Wauchope, Gloucester and such. By the time we got to Maitland we were running about 5 minutes early so got to sit around there for five minutes longer than necessary.

We passed long coal trains (80 coal wagons) and some pretty countryside but the worst part of the journey was the child screaming all the way to Sydney.

We arrived at Central Station in Sydney at 9:06pm on time.

A taxi to Jeff’s where I spent the night.

A taxi was booked for 7:15 the following morning to take me to the airport.

Sylvester Stallone: "I heard you were bitten by a cobra".

Chuck Norris: "I was but after five days of agonising pain the cobra died".

From the in-flight movie, the Expendables 2.

2013-01-08 09.37.49Tuesday was flight day – up at 5:45am to the sound of Frodo throwing up on Jeffrey’s carpet. Back to sleep and up at 6:30 for a shower and a taxi to the airport at 7:15.

Having a bite at the airport the amusing sight of the day was the bloke who spills a full cup of coffee over the table and his wife. A quick clean off of her skirt and she’s off to the toilet to clean up. His next move, remorselessly, is to pick up the coffee cup and drain what is left before worrying about any sort of clean-up to the table and surrounds.

Aircraft boarding call is made and we board. Disconnect from the air-bridge and commence taxiing on time. We then sit on the taxiway for about 30 minutes, plane in front of us and six more queued behind us. We eventually get to the runway and are airborne.

By the time we are half way to Denpasar, the Expendables 2 movie is almost finished. We have also had an almost continuous stream of turbulence and altering of course and height to try and avoid the turbulence. Seems the great heat of Australia on Tuesday is also affecting the weather 10,000 metres above ground level.

The big plus on this Garuda flight is the in-flight immigration. Brilliant!

We arrived at Denpasar, collected bags, passed customs, handed the bags to the transfer desk then walked to the domestic terminal.

Denpasar domestic terminal is being rebuilt so inside it the temperature is thirty something degrees, there’s no WiFi, no air-conditioning, lots of building works, sweat is dripping from my fingers and my new Popeye t-shirt is melting. Also the flies are Australian in their persistence and annoyance.

Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. Sat in that terminal for five hours waiting for the next flight. There was no point taking a taxi into town (I’ve never really been to Bali) as it was raining and the traffic was too heavy.

Finally it was time to board. There was the ride out to the plane on an airport bus. The door I was leaning against flew open as the bus turned. A quick death grip on one of the poles and a few choice adjectives helped in regaining the main cabin of the bus.

2013-01-09 12.18.10The outside air was cooler than the terminal and the inside air of the aircraft was just wonderful.

Finally arrived in Jakarta and headed out through the maelstrom of "private" taxi drivers to the peace of a White Horse taxi – there was a queue at the Silver Bird stand.

We then zoom along the airport road until the toll gate and the Jakarta traffic slows us to a pace a bullock cart would be pleased to achieve. It takes about the same time from the airport to the hotel as it does from Bali to Jakarta.

Finally the peace and tranquillity of the hotel. I’d been up for 19 hours getting from Ashfield to Jakarta and had 8 hours travelling by train the day before – just another normal day for Thomo. It was definitely time for a glass of Dr Feelgood.

Oh, and lest you think it all gets better at the hotel – the last photo is the view from my window!

The West Lake – Ha Noi

2012-10-03 14.55.16After a meeting this afternoon in Ha Noi that was near the West Lake we decided to walk for a little to stretch the legs before catching a taxi to the next meeting. We took a walk around the West Lake which is the largest in Ha Noi. There were some nice houses around the lake, coffee shops, places to sit and and it all looked very nice. Even some of the locals fishing.

Fishing here is interesting. It is done with a hand line and a bamboo pole with a ring on the end. The fisherman uses his hand to work like the reel does on a rod you would buy elsewhere. I was amazed with the distance these guys were getting on the cast however.

The only downside that I could see was related to the smell of the lake. It really did not smell all that healthy. Indeed, the lack of health seemed to be borne out by the number of dead fish that we saw on the edge of the lake as we walked around.2012-10-03 15.04.56

A Most Bizarre Flight

20120907_161457As regulars here will know Thomo spends a good deal of time in aircraft flying from here to there and back again. In my time I have flown on some pretty amazing airlines, some very ordinary airlines and some downright scary. Friday night’s flight on Garuda back to Singapore was perhaps the most bizarre one.

I was flying GA834 from Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta to Changi Singapore.

The oddness started when the tannoy announced that they were boarding the flight whilst I was still walking to the gate – and I was walking there 5 minutes before scheduled boarding. Arrived at the gate to find that the aircraft had not arrived yet. I then spent a pleasant 10 minutes considering what we could board instead of the aircraft.

Another tannoy announcement, distorted in the best Sydney CityRail manner, but which sounded something like “Mr Thompson Ian Leslie please see the desk staff”.

“Hmm” thinks I, “flight looks very full, wonder what this is?”

I was asked if I minded swapping seats as a father was travelling with his son and they could not get seats next to each other. I agreed and went back to waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

In fact, we waited another 45 minutes or so past departure time before boarding. We boarded. Once the doors were closed, the two seats beside me were still empty and where I was sitting before swapping was, sure enough, taken up by a man with his son next to him. Two people turned up from the business section and sat next to me. The ‘plane was disconnected from the air-bridge and started engine power-up.

The co-pilot then came out of the business class toilet and sat back down in the cockpit. The cabin crew closed the door again. It was fortunate that he had finished in the toilet as an old gentleman travelling in business class needed the toilet and as he was unsteady on his legs, he had to be assisted into the cubicle.

We  reached the end of the taxiway but the old guy was still in the toilet. The ‘plane then sat and waited until the old chap could be persuaded back out of the toilet and re-seated. The gentleman now sitting next to me was called forward to assist as it seems it was his father. We waited and eventually he was brought back to his seat, at which point the cockpit was informed and the aircraft powered onto the runway, then accelerated and took off, by now 60 minutes late.

At this point I was getting ready to assume my usual flying position of eyes closed and dozing when the cockpit door flew wide open. This permitted those of us with an aisle seat an uninterrupted view of the “office” of the aircraft. We saw the co-pilot’s arms reaching out to switch switches on or off and generally do flying type things. It was interesting, I must admit to watch the arcane movements off the flight crew taking the ‘plane off. I did wonder what the spinning thing was next to the throttles on the Boeing 737-800. I thought flight decks were all computerised now and fly by wire.

After all that, I was very concerned then about selecting the chicken or the fish.