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Saturday, May 01, 2004

May 1, 2004-Sour Notes in the Philippines




This is not a complaint, we still love the Philippines, but there are a few sour notes around. The problem is Video Karaoke.

They like Video Karaoke in the Philippines. Every little town has a Video Karaoke bar. Big towns have thousands of them. Maybe Filipino people are dreaming of getting out of the villages by being singers, like ghetto kids in the USA dream of the NBA, or maybe they just like to sing. I don't know, the problem is, they can't.

So here we are, anchored in a beautiful cove, surrounded by rolling hills, with mountains in the background, blue sky, white sand beaches, waving palm trees, hardly a sign of humanity, except for one little village, and across the water, day and night, comes the off key screech of some, otherwise very nice, I am sure, female singer. "I'm the one who loves you best…"

And they like their amplifiers too, so we can hear it half a mile away, plenty loud. The singing is so bad it hurts my ears.

I just know that it is some little place with a dirt floor, two tables, and three people passing a microphone back and forth as they watch a music video.

Today we went into that village. Probably in the back of my mind I wanted to see the scene of the crime, but the stated reason for the visit was to see if we could buy some more rum. It was 4:00 PM on Saturday and we were out of rum. That is as good a reason as any to go to town.

A dozen boys were jumping in the water at the end of the pier where we tied the dingy. They showed us where we could put the rope, and laughed as they imitated my, "Thank You". Apparently they don't get to hear many American accents here.

We walked along the narrow road of the village and found a store. You could miss the store if you weren't paying attention, it's just a big open window fronting on the road with a screen, and behind the screen, some shelves with canned goods and a few open bags of bulk rice. You pass your money through a hole in the screen, and they pass out your purchase. (this is after hours, you know.)

Some people were crowded around the window. The old woman with a nice smile tending the store saw us walk up and she started saying, "No English, no English." I looked in and saw some dusty bottles of rum on the back shelf. Never mind her lack of English, I figured she would understand, "Tanduay Rum, Please". She did. One dollar.

As we paid, a young man in the group holding a baby asked us if we liked mangos?

I looked at Judy who said we were down to one mango back on the boat, so I said, "Yes, we like mangos."

"Follow me." He said, and he marched off down the street.

We followed him past a dozen houses. He turned in and went through the yards of two more houses, and back to a third which was behind. There were four men of varying ages sitting in plastic chairs in the shade in front of his house, drinking gin from small glasses. They introduced themselves: Doy, Neo, Freddy, and Ismith. Bernie handed the baby to a pretty young woman at the doorway to the house and left to collect the mangos. Someone got some extra chairs for us. We sat down. It was cool there in the shade on the concrete patio under a big green tree. Doy started a to talk to us. He said it was the first time they had foreign visitors come and have a conversation with them. He said he was happy we stopped to visit. I liked him. He was polite and friendly. His English was good, but he was slow. Maybe he was a little drunk. He said the house belonged to Ismith. Ismith offered us gin, which we declined. Three young women and the baby watched from the doorway. I looked around, the house and yard were neat, the neighborhood pleasant. Quiet…I couldn't even hear the Karaoke singer.

Bernie came back with a plastic bag of green mangos. He said fifty pesos, quite a high price, I thought. I should have bargained, but with about eight people watching my every move, I was shy. I said "OK". The women in the doorway jumped with joy. I guess I made their day.

We took our mangos and excused ourselves. Everyone said "Bye". Lots of smiles.

Down at the wharf Bernie caught up with us. He had another bag of mangos.

"We've got plenty now," I said.

"Indian mangos," he showed us that the bag contained another variety. "Forty pesos".

"No," I said, "We've got enough".

"Indian Mangos, twenty pesos."

"Ten."

"Twenty"

"Fifteen"

"Ok". We bought another bag of green mangos.

When we got back to the boat we could hear the video karaoke singer again, but it was OK.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, The Philippines
14 deg 10.8 N, 120 deg 36.4 E

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