Originally published on February 4th, 2012
Waking up to the sounds of the flute, I’m now almost local and an active part of our family of the moment, and here’s how my days generally go.
When I wake up in the morning, it is either through pottering in the house of Chyd (Ramke’s sister) getting ready to go to work and her helper Victor…helping. He has a very shrill voice. Or it is to the sound of Ramke playing his flute very softly, it is a beautiful, peaceful and gentle wake-up call from a distance.
Mostly I wake up to the sunshine first though. It shines right onto my mattress, through tinted windows and it is H O T. I turn on the little fan beside me to dry off the sweat, then I roll out.
sleeping with drums and guitars
The room I sleep in is a mess. A proper mess. It is normally Ramke’s room, he sleeps in the living room, as does Simone, while I am here, and all their stuff as well as my stuff is in here. There is one cupboard, but it has no hangers or shelves, so stuff falls out of it. I have taken possession of the 4 hooks on the door, and that is as organised as it gets. I try to sort heaps as I go along, but really, it is all about ‘look and find’. This room is also the storage to Ramke’s band’s instruments. Drums and guitars are my roommates. I like that, makes me feel artsy.
I grab one of the individual Nescafé serving bags I buy at the market in Talisay and make my way to the kitchen.
Victor inevitably screeches ‘coofffeeeeeeee?’ and I say ‘hmmmmmm’ and he gets out a mug and saucer for me while I pump hot water out of the hot water maker.
Ramke then inevitably says ‘Coffee!!!’ in a fake surprised, shocked and sarcastically reproaching tone and ‘but you’re on RAW!’, to which I used to respond politely, even apologetically, and to which I now just groan. He’s become a like a brother to me, and we’re getting comfortable in each others’ authenticities in that way. Simone still sleeps at this point. When she gets up, she makes smoothies, though I have begun to also make the morning smoothie. We use whatever fruit we have from previous visits to the market. Typically we go there every day. Typically we get papaya and mango, she likes papaya, I like mango (they are really juicy!) – so we mix in the two, and add in a banana.
And then the start to the day is slow. We mooch. Everybody goes online. I write. Or prepare work for Nomadic Hands. Or just talk Simone through whatever she is working on. Or I read my book on raw food that I want to finish before I leave. When I feel like doing my own stuff, I retreat to my mattress in our room, which is where I am right now.
Sometimes we have a timeframe for when we want to leave, but it is never fixed, it is inevitably always changed, and for obscure reasons when someone finally decides that it’s time to leave, it becomes an emergency. At first I would then hurry, but realising that that would have me sit ready and with my backpack on my back on the couch for another half hour waiting for people, I have just adopted my own rhythm now.
Time and timing have a different concept in the Philippines. Relaxing into is is part of local integration, a bit like knowing which jeepney to catch when.
We write yesterday. Yesterday was a very big day. Yesterday was the fundraising concert at the University at which Ramke and Simone’s band, Malignu, were performing. Malignu are a so-called earth band, they play instruments that they mostly make themselves (drums, didjeridoos, flute, guitar) and they have been rehearsing for this event ever since I arrived. Their music is melodious and somewhat primal, I have grown to really enjoy it.
At one o-clock was the technical rehearsal at the university, but first we needed to collect business cards we went to have printed the previous day (this is a big PR opportunity, so we had them made for distribution), collect photos we had printed to take to the community workshop on Sunday, buy bubbles for the performance (not champagne, but soapey water blowey bubbles) and a black t-shirt for Simone’s outfit. We sat down for some lunch at 11.30 with Chyd. When it was time to go, there was a bit of an excitement about where to go first, how long it would take, and would we have time?
We wouldn’t have time, to me it was clear. To me it is always clear.
But even when we are running late, we are still always fine, because in the Philippines, no one is ever ‘on time’.
So if you are a half an hour late, you are still too early. An illustration?
Our flight for the weekend get-away last week was at 5:55 am, I had Simone book a taxi for a 4am pickup. I was up at 3.30 for my shower. I woke Simone at 4. She’d said she wouldn’t get up earlier because the taxi would be late. It was late, 30 minutes late. And what do you know? When we arrived at the airport shortly before 5, there was a long queue outside – passengers waiting for the airport to open!
Yeah, one has a different take on time here.
But I still suggested that I go to Plaza Mart to get the prints, so that they could get off the jeepney at an earlier stop to get their bits.
They had hardly jumped out the jeepney when I got a text message to my local number saying that they had been called to go straight to the rehearsal, if I could get the bubbles.
So I went. Plaza Mart is a local shopping mall. Local meaning not a big complex with air-con, but a highly buzzing crowd of little shops and market booths, all leading into each other in an intricate web; you enter through one of many holes on the lively street between fruit stalls and mobile phone repair booths, and you find yourself in a labyrinth of stuff, sounds and smells.
The printer who made the business cards (600, printed both sides for 1000 pesos, i.e. 20$) was a business set up in an alleyway. Three computers and an inkjet printer huddled into a corner, about five people busying in it and 10 customers at the desk at all times. They were one of many printers in that alley, but they looked like the most successful by far. Their equipment also looked the most sophisticated. Our cards were ready and on the counter when I came. Big customer oblige, I got smiles from all the staff and when I said that they had done a good job they were clearly very proud of it, too. Done! Collecting the photos was quickly done, too. Next: bubbles. Where to get bubbles? Well, just walk into any of the colourful crappy toy shop and sure enough, they have bubbles. I chose the simplest looking pot, not the big pink bear-shaped signature one I was initially presented with. There is too much kitsch for my comfort in Asia.
Messages kept coming in from my ‘managers’ with requests for random errands, like ‘sorry, please can you also get calamansi’ (tiny lime-like fruit we put on everything and into all drinks) and ‘can you pick up a sewing needle, it should only cost a peso or two’. I also wanted to get business card holders for the musicians (I sponsored their 300 cards coz they have no money for them) and a black t-shirt.
I meandered through shops and jaywalked (as one does) around hooting jeepneys, past people trying to sell me yellow gold-imitation wristwatches, asking directions to sewing needles and calamansi. I treated myself to a new iPhone cover; buying that alone took a half an hour because after the girl disappeared for 15 minutes (‘wait here’) to find more colours, she carefully stuck the protective plastic on to perfection.
So even in the bustle of the market, things move slowly here.
Once I was finally done with my errands I asked the calamansi street vendor which Jeepney to get to go to La Salle university. He pointed one out to me. The jeepneys are everywhere, going in all directions, constantly hooting to get attention of potential customers. Which ‘route’ they operate is to be discerned from the two or three key words painted on them. I needed to get one going to ‘Shopping – Libertad’.
To get their attention, you whistle, waive or make kissy sounds. Yes, kissy sounds. For some reason they resonate in the loudness of the old-engine roars of the busy streets. I hopped on and texted my people that I was on the way and taking no more orders except for something from the local coffee shop called Bob’s. And sat back. People get on and off. We passed the South City bus terminal and the central market where we stopped for about 20 minutes.
Here’s the thing. The Jeepney driver only earns as much as he has customers, I think. So if he finds there aren’t enough people on board, he’ll just stop at a strategic location and wait for it to fill up. And everybody seems to be OK with that.
So even in the bustle of traffic, things move slowly here.
reflecting on my time here
On how I now feel comfortable enough with local transport, with diving into markets, with plain being here. I liked that feeling.
And then I thought about how utterly colourful everything is, how many photos and good photos are to be taken, and how I was not really taking many photos at all. And how I had initially chosen this ‘internship’ to develop my photography skills. How come I wasn’t taking any photos? I think it was because we were either constantly on the move or waiting around, I think it is because I just don’t feel comfortable or inspired to take photos all the time, or that I enjoy watching the life around me that I forget to take the photos. Which is a pity, I’ll get home and have little left of this opportunity, at least photo-wise. So I thought: just take out the camera, if it is out you may be more inclined to shoot. But the feeling wasn’t there, also, Jeepneys wobble a lot, break suddenly, start abruptly.
and then my phone goes missing
Shortly after that I felt for my phone, which I had put in the front pocket of my jeans to have it accessible. And it wasn’t there. I remember telling myself at one point that day that ‘this is not a good place for your phone’, the pocket was a bit too small and the phone needed to be pushed back in all the time, which is why I felt for it every five minutes. But it wasn’t there. This never happens. It must have slipped out. But it wasn’t on the seat. Maybe I’d put it into my bag? I rummaged but had the feeling, the feeling when you just know that it’s gone. I’d had it on the Jeepney, I had written to Simone. Now it was nowhere. I turned to my neighbour, the man I had talked to just minutes before to ask if I was on the right Jeepney and he had been friendly and said yes – well, I turned to him in my search and just then he jumped off, I found that he looked a bit in a hurry.
I didn’t want to believe it but I just knew like you know, my phone was with him. Before I got off I searched the jeepney again, there was nothing. And at Café Bob’s I searched my rucksack to no avail. A feeling of sadness overcame me, I just wanted to cry. It was only a phone. It was my spare old phone. It was a good little phone, fits nicely into pockets (well…), and I use it for travelling. The simcard in it had hardly any load left, there is hardly anything of any value on it except everyone’s phone numbers in Europe and some photos I had taken over the years that it had been my main phone – and, rationally, of all the things I’d had with me in my bag that day, it was the least valuable thing. It is just a thing. I hadn’t been attacked or hurt. But I felt abused. It made me appreciate how safe I had been throughout my entire trip; if having my phone stolen off me felt this way, well, my heart found a new compassion for everyone who is less lucky than me. Why would someone do that? His karma will take care of him, is what I thought.
Then I reflected on my general state that day. I had to admit that I had had a few negative thoughts that day… Yes, maybe I had been slightly grumpy about how slowly things move. About how I kept receiving messages to shop for something more that kept me going back and forth into the crowded shops. About the pollution and noise in this city. About how I wasn’t taking photos. About if I had really made the most of my time here or if I had spent too much of it hanging around, waiting for people, discussing matters that aren’t mine. Maybe I had thought to myself that I was now ready to leave again; the time had been great and better than I could have hoped for, but that I was also now happy to move on…
And as a strong believer in the law of attraction, those negative thoughts replied to me.
Luckily in a very subtle way, a warning only, telling me to shift thought frequencies.
recycling: the phone and then me
So later I decided that maybe this was a way of recycling. At home this phone just lies around, maybe I don’t need so many electronics… Simone texted a nice text to my phone asking the finder of it to return it – benefit of the doubt, maybe it wasn’t stolen after all.
And frequency change: I brought out the city girl for the concert that evening. I dressed up in my black pants and black halter less top and put on full make-up for the first time since New Year’s Eve. It worked, it always does.
Pretty soon after emerging from the Comfort Room of the venue as a changed lady, the President of the Danjugan Island Reef Protection Foundation, the organiser of the event so to say, handed me a nice cold beer, a compliment and a smile.
You get what you give, it is the law of attraction.