Monday, October 23, 2023

Life in the Philippines


There is zero separation between wild nature and human habitat in the tropics.  At any given moment there is always something crawling about.  Yesterday my neighbor woke up with a cobra in his bed.  No shit.  I asked him what he did.  He said he grabbed the snake and threw it out the door.


Insects, rats, lizards, birds, snakes, wild dogs.

We share our home with about six wild cats.  We can't get rid of them but that's OK because they eat the rats who also share our home.

This one is a Tom and he gets in fights.  In the middle of the night right outside our bedroom window.  Vicious cat brawls.

Somehow none of the wild cats have tails.  It's strange.  

This one is the Black Cat.  He is a proven rat killer.  We've seen him catch two rats in one day.  We let him sleep in the store.  He's a big complainer but two rats in one day.  Come on man.

This one is the Calico.  I think it's a girl.  I have to confess she's my favorite, but she won't let me get near her.

Story of my life.

Calbayog City 2023

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Are you kidding me!

"Let's pretend we're on a magic cloud and the sky is an infinite ocean."  Sean, my son said.

I pondered this for a moment. That's kind of how I feel about living in the Philippines. 

"Did you know," I said, changing the subject, "that if you were naked in outer space that one side of your body would freeze while the other side boiled?"

"Well, I'll be on the frozen side." Sean replied.

"That's the spirit."  I said.

We were riding in the back of Sean's uncle's trike speeding up the coast.  It was a beautiful day.  I looked up at the clouds and thought of magical islands filled with beautiful women and lovely beaches.  The Philippine sky is a deep blue.  My mind journeyed deep into an infinite ocean.

"Daddy, what is Heaven like?" Sean asked looking up at the clouds.  We have him enrolled in a private Catholic school and they're teaching him about Jesus.  That's OK.  I prefer that to teaching him about anal sex.

"I don't really know," I said, "I've never been there."   I try to keep these religious conversations vague yet truthful.

"Daddy, are you older than grandma?"  Sean asked me.  

I'm not really sure where this is going but I answer, "Yah..."

Stick with the truth.  That's my motto.

"Are you the oldest person in our family?"

"Yep," I said.  Just the truth.  I'm older than my wife's mother.  Shame on me hahahaha.

"So you're going to Heaven first?"  He asked.

Hmmm,  so that's where he's going.

The tricycle hit a bump and Sean leaned up against me.  I looked down at him and said,

"That's the plan, if everything goes right.  I'll be heading on to Heaven first. But don't worry, when I get there, I'll put in a good word for you with God." 

"Thanks Dad." He said.

As we talked I brought my cell phone up and took a quick a picture of the two of us.

"Are you kidding me!" He yelled.

And we both laughed.

Calbayog 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

This morning eternity called

This morning eternity called.

She is waiting for an answer. 

I have her on hold.

“Cole, they’re here!” My wife called to me.

I stepped outside the house and saw Ramil pull up in his center car.  I knew the pig would be in the back where the passengers usually sit.  Ramil pulled up alongside of me and we gave each other our warm wordless greetings.

I walked over to the back of the center car and looked in.  There on the floor lying quietly on its side was an adult pig.  All four of its legs were firmly bound with twine.  I looked at the pig’s face.  It was calm.  Its eye stared up at nothing.  I could see it was breathing but nothing else.

Up front on either side of Ramil were two of his kids, Marisol and Ramil Jr.  They both looked back at me, eyes wide with excitement, and then down at the pig. 

About then Datu pulled up on his motorcycle and motioned for me to hop on. 

“Let’s go.”  He said with an easy grin.

I hopped on the back of the bike and we all sped off into the Filipino night.

Is “perfectly good” any more perfect than “perfectly bad?”

I suppose that is a legitimate philosophical question and I presume the answer is “no” but I still find it unsettling.  Of course, that’s just the human in me.  Always wishing for things to be good.  Or at least for things to make sense.

Calbayog City at night is exquisitely chaotic.  The dimly lit streets are alive and jammed.  Motorcycles, tricycles, hordes of people all crossing the street at once.  And noise.  Motorcycle engines, blaring horns, music blasting.  And smells.  The smell of cooking street food.  Smoke.  Exhaust fumes.  Datu’s motorcycle followed closely behind Ramil’s center car with me holding on for dear life.

Shortly Ramil’s center car pulled off the main stretch and turned down a narrow back street.  Datu and I followed behind.  Halfway down the narrow street the center car turned again into an even narrower alley.  We followed again.  Tall buildings loomed darkly on either side us.  A few windows were lit in yellow light.  Presently the alley opened up into a driveway and we pulled in.

I got off the motorcycle and went over to see how the pig was holding up.  The kids got out as well and presently a few other people were there milling around speaking Tagalog.  I looked down at the pig.  It was breathing heavy now and its eye was wide open now.  The whites of the eye showed as it looked back at me.

Suddenly the pig tried to run. It thrashed around furiously trying to gallop with its legs bound, squealing loudly.  The pig’s outburst made the kids laugh.  After a moment the pig quieted down.  It lay motionless again with heavy breathing.  And wheezing.

Ramil and Datu came over to the car with a couple of men that I didn’t recognize.  We all gathered around and looked down at the pig.  I noticed that the pig’s underbelly was lined with two rows of large nipples.

“Girl?”  I asked, surprised.

“No, boy.” Someone answered.

“But look.”  I pointed at the nipples in confusion.

“Boy” They all assured me.

“Transgender.”  I joked and everyone laughed.

Except for the pig.

Is “perfectly good” any more perfect than “perfectly bad?”

Personally, I’m going to hold off on answering that question. 

I will say this though, if I have learned anything in this life it is that nature is completely indifferent.

I guess that’s also a type of perfect.

The kids moved around to the front of the center car.  I joined them to be out of the way as the men got to work.

Several men reached in and grabbed at the pig.  The pig screamed and twisted its head around violently as hands grabbed at its legs and tail all pulling hard.  The pig’s mouth opened wide showing teeth, and it tried to bite.

“Watch out for those teeth,” I thought but the men were all laughing in the excitement.

After much pulling and fighting the men had the pig up to the edge of the car and then with a final heave the pig fell unceremoniously to the ground.

Quickly the men unbound the pig’s legs and then they tied a single rope to one of the pig’s front ankles.

The pig stood up with the rope tied to its ankle.  It looked dazed.  The men gathered around the pig talking.

Then one of the men pulled on the rope tied to the pig's ankle and the pig stumbled forward.

I watched in awe.

The man pulled again, and the pig stumbled forward again.  This time though the pig recoiled and dug in its front legs and began bellowing loudly.

But the pig's resistance was futile.  The man gave another firm pull to the pig’s ankle and again the pig stumble forward.  A few more steps.  Bellowing and squealing as it was grimly led forward.

And I thought about those trucks, all in a line, filled with Polish prisoners.  Traveling slowly through the dark fog, into the Katyn forest.

When the trucks had pulled to a stop the men were led away.  One by one.  Into the forest.  Hands bound behind their backs.  Blind folded.  Some must have resisted.  Some must have yelled.

“Cole.” I looked up.

Datu was motioning for me to come.  The pig was being led down a narrow path between two buildings.

I followed behind and watched the pig as it stumbled forward, slowly making its way through the dark narrow, into a yard, where it met its final master.  A little girl.

The girl looked like she was about ten and she was standing there waiting for the pig.

The man handed the rope off to the little girl and she began leading the pig toward a little metal cage.

The pig saw the cage and would have nothing to do with it.  It turned as if to flee and the little girl hauled off and savagely kicked the pig on its side.

The pig was rightfully shocked and momentarily turned back to the cage but then it turned again and tried to flee and the little girl kicked it again.  And then again and again slowly kicking the pig into the little metal cage.

I still have eternity on hold.

I know she’s waiting for me, but I just don’t want to pick up the phone.

Not yet.

I still have some things and honestly, I don’t want to take anything with me.

The next day was my daughter’s birthday.

And the pig’s final appearance.

My daughter is three and it was a gala affair with a freshly roasted pig taking center stage.

And folks, it was delicious.  Not gonna lie.  A treat really.  If you ever have a chance to eat freshly roasted lechon do so.  It really is good.  And the skin is crispy.

Like super duper bacon.



Peter, the ancient Chinese told us.  They told us that the only reason why we have beauty is because we have ugly.  Even though it drives us mad, what is, simply is.  And try as we might the best we can do is raise a royal middle finger up to God and scream FUCK YOU!

But we all still love beauty.

Calbayog City  2022



Saturday, April 15, 2023

Drawing a blank


“Odd plus odd equals even." Sean, my son, informed me.  

I thought about that for a moment and then Sean added, "And odd plus even equals odd.”  

He was building a Legos tower on my desk.  We've been learning numbers recently.  He continued to look at his Legos tower while he talked.  

Odd plus odd equals even...  I had never thought about that actually.  I gave it a run through in my mind and... he was right.  And odd plus even... 

“That’s actually true,” I said giving him a sideways look.   "Where did you learn that?” 

“From Number Blocks.” he said continuing to look at his Legos tower.  “This is going to be a masterpiece,” he said with pride.

Have you ever stepped on a Legos piece in the middle of the night?  Parents will understand.

“Daddy,” Sean stopped and looked up at me, “Why is Hell bad?”

Oh my, that's going to take some explaining.  Where to begin.  And what to leave out.  I imagined a painting by Hieronymus Bosch and began to formulate my answer. 

Then he continued, "You told me that it was OK for me to say, 'What the heck' but that it was bad for me to say, 'What the Hell'.  Why is 'Hell' bad?"  He looked at me and waited.

I looked back at him with some relief.  He meant the word "Hell" not the place "Hell."  That's easier.  Why is it bad to say the word 'Hell'?

"Well," I started, and drew a blank. I looked up at the ceiling waiting for help.

After a moment Sean said, "Daddy?"

"Yah." I said looking back down at him.

"Do 'Heaven' and 'Hell' sound similar?"

This was getting complicated.

Calbayog City 2023

Calbayog City 2023


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Fireworks on the waterfront

I was down at the docks this morning. It's almost New Years and they're selling fireworks. I think they sell the fireworks by the waterfront just in case someone gets stupid and lights up a cigarette or something. Let me tell you, you have never in your life seen so many fireworks. An entire city block right there on the waterfront with nothing but fireworks for sale. I wanted to get a picture, but I was to shy to just walk up and take a picture. So, what I did was I walked along the booths and quietly recorded a video.

When I was finished filming I wanted to see if I had gotten a good take so I looked around for a place where I could sit and watch it.

Across the street there was a patio overlooking the river with some chairs. I walked over to look for a seat. Suddenly an older gentleman came up to me and said, in an altogether friendly way, "Can we get you anything?"

Why not. "Can you get me a cup of coffee?" I asked.

"Coffee?" he said, then, "Yes, yes," and he motioned to a young man who ran off to get me a cup of coffee.

"Have a seat." he said extending his hand towards a table where a young woman was sitting.

I surveryed the situation and pulled out a chair at the far end of the table and started looking at my cell phone.

In my peripheral vision I could see the older gentleman urging the young woman to come join me. At the man's urging the young woman moved over and sat across the table from me.

"He wants me to talk to you." she said shyly.

I looked over at the older man. He was looking back at us with a huge grin on his face. I looked back at the young woman. Dark hair and lovely almond eyes. She looked like she had stepped out of a fabulous Paul Gauguin painting. She looked back at me.

"May I ask you what is your name?" she asked me demurely.

"Cole." I said.

"Cole." she repeated. Quietly to herself.

I watched her for a second and then, why not.

"What is your name?" I asked her.

"Marilee." she said.

"Marilee." I repeated, "that's a lovely name."

This made her relax noticeably and she sat back and smiled directly at me.

Oh, My, God. What a beautiful smile.

Our eyes locked.

Right about then I literally raised up my hands and said to them both,

"Listen," I said, "I'm married."

To which Marilee said,

"I'm married too."

I put the palm of my hand over my forehead and muttered, "Dear God."

Luckily at that moment I was saved by the coffee.

The young man brought my cup of coffee and placed it in front of me.

I focused on the coffee. Marilee waited patiently.

The coffee was hot and I realized that I was going to be there until the cup was done. I took a sip and blew on it a bit. It was starting to look like I wasn't going to view my video.

Calbayog City 2022


Saturday, February 4, 2023

Just the facts


"You're smart, but you're not as smart as God," my son Sean told me, for no particular reason other than to just make sure I knew.

I had pretty much come to that same conclusion a few years back but still, I couldn't let that go unchallenged.

"Why, exactly, do you think that?" I asked him.

"Because God has a 2000 IQ... Doh."  He said and looked at me from a cool distance.

Calbayog Cigy 2023

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Rain and Sun


Hi John and everyone.

It's pouring rain outside my window again.  The tropics.  Last night in our bedroom there was a spider on the wall that was about 6 inches across.  No shit.  Honest.  It was huge.  I walked over to get a better look at it and the bugger started running across the wall fast.  What the fuck!!!  The tropics.

We went to fiesta in the little home village.  That was a trip.  The whole village ate and drank and sang karaoke for two day non stop.  Too much fun.  They have a basket ball court in the village and they set up speakers and played pounding dance music and everyone got on the dance floor and went crazy to the wee hours of the morning.  All Saturday and all Sunday.  Karaoke all night long.  Then on monday we all went to the beach to chill and recover.  I love the Philippines..

I felt a bit sorry for all the pigs being roasted but they tasted good hahaha.

While we were in the village I went to my first chicken fight.  I believe chicken fights are illegal but out in the middle of the jungle who's going to know.  The Filipino men LOVE chicken fights.  They drink and bet money and go nuts.  I love the Philippines.

I'm sendng the old picture of the hanging bridge you asked for. The bridge got washed out during a monsoon so now we have to take a back route to the village. They're going to rebuild the bridge soon come.

That fruit my wife is holding is cacao.  They prepare the cacao beans and brew a chocolate drink with coconut milk and it is out of this world delicious.  And mildly euphoric.  I now know why the Aztec kings drank cacao before they retired with their princess.  For real.  

The rain has stopped and I can see the sun.  Time for a walk.  I love the Philippines.


Caybago 2023