A parade was flowing down the city’s main street at precisely the hour Beth, Manny, and my not-so-secret admirer (Hi, Jun) were to fetch me. A few marching bands later, and we were on our way to a swimming hole in the country side. Kind of.
I said they are contractors and engineers, right? A kink in a road building project meant that we needed to visit the site on the way. Apparently, the locals are used to being paid off by the companies the government hires to work in the area. My friend’s company is unwilling to do this (they were hired by the government to fix a landslide and stabilize the area. Why would they give money to the people who live nearby? The locals try to say, “Your work is ruining our land.” But the way it looked to me is a landslide ruined their land.) An old woman came wandering up to the site when we were there an an argument ensued, Filipino style. By that I mean, heated arguments are supposedly not possible here. They could have been discussing the weather forecast, sports scores, or new from family to listen to their tones and see their facial expressions.
A quip from the guidebook that might explain:
Another force that shapes Filipino life is “hiya” which roughly means, “sense of shame.” Showing a lack of “hiya” in front of others is similar to ‘losing face,’ and for Filipinos there are few worse fates. Alas there is a dark side to “hiya.” Despite outward appearances, Filipinos can hold a grudge with the best of them. Because of “hiya,” these grudges tend to fester until they are settled behind the scenes, often in unsavory fashion. The Philippines leads the world in journalists killed for their work – not surprising if you consider that being publicly outed for a misdeed is to suffer hiya in the gravest manner possible.
(An aside – I wondered about the accuracy of this statement until I read in the paper the other night that another journalist has been killed for talking about drug lords!)
Apparently, my friend Beth told me these people have been stealing materials from the site (especially cement), harassing the workers, and even physically assaulting them. One night the locals attacked the employees, thrashed them, punched them repeatedly, stoned them… many had to be rushed to the hospital! And because the police didn’t SEE the incident, paperwork has to be filed to the court before they can be arrested! (This goes for any crime, so says Beth! The police didn’t see you steal that car, even though ten other people did? Well, you’re scott-free until the forms work their way through the courts!) Unbelievable!
As we ambled up and down the construction site, as the verbal battle flowed on, as Beth described to me the violent problems with the locals… I realized that maybe I should start looking for good places to duck and cover should a truck load full of gun-toting folks come around the corner yet again demanding their payout!
Finally “mother” (the old woman) hopped on a passing jeepney, and we headed for the swimming area. Mini resorts dot the hillside, ranging from classy to wanna-be-piles-of-rubble to I-wouldn’t-even-let-my-dog-swim-there. Most of the pools lacked one key thing – WATER! Why? Well, some are dried-up junkyards. Others are drained daily at 5 for cleaning. And so straight to the abandoned-mine-shaft-turned-sauna it is! The back of the bamboo platform is as hot as it gets. Jun braved it for five minutes, the last of which he couldn’t bear to suffer in silence. He’s so FUNNY! (and a man after my own heart. When we saw a “Men at Work” sign, he said, “Men at work? What about women at work?) After the spa, we were off to the hot springs, and then finally back on the road home!
Now – subject change. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, animal lover, pet owner, faint-of-heart, or easily grossed out, you are done reading this entry. I’m serious. Click here. It’s a nice link to a heartwarming site so your entertainment may continue. Go there. No really. Click the link. Or go look at my photos on facebook.
So, in New Zealand, as we hitched back and forth from Kumeu to Veronica’s, we met lots of interesting people. One of the last rides we got was from a woman named Michelle who squeezed us into her already overflowing four-door. Turns out she’s a reporter with 60-minutes and had just returned from the Philippines where they were doing an expose on the mountain-people’s practice of eating dogs. (Animal lover? What are you still doing here? Get out! NOW! Click this link!)
Eating dogs has now been illegalized by the government as it is considered animal cruelty. However, it’s a cultural practice with deep roots. Apparently, restaurants serving dog meat face prosecution if they are caught, as do the suppliers. Which is why the path leading to said joints is generally down a dimly lit, un-signposted, dirty concrete set of stairs. For some reason, my stomach hasn’t done flips when confronted with foods definitely not popular in America. I guess because I have always been with friends. (After all, when I go to restaurants, I sure don’t choose the “pusit” – lots of whole baby squid in broth. But I loved the squid in squid ink that I tried with my friends in Anilao!)
[Seriously? Animal lover? You are so fired if you are still here. Get OUT!]
When Beth asked if I would eat dog with them, I said okay. Later I said, “umm.. how about we get pizza tonight?” and… “I think I only want to try it once. Maybe we could wait until Christmas when Pat is here.” But coming home from the hot springs, a co-worker called from a dog restaurant and told us to stop by. Gulp. Okay.
The scene? Besides the covert entrance described above, same as any other plastic-chairs-and-tables-flourescent-lit restaurant. Soup came first – broth with green onions floating in it that improved with a bit of soy sauce. Then came a plate of spinach-like-stringy-leafy-veggies with pork bits. Then came the dog – bones not quite the diameter of a dime cloaked in hunks of dark, roasted meat. I can now say, if you think you’ve fallen prey to the urban legend of dog meat being served at Chinese restaurants… trust me. You would know.
If you’re like me, your favorite part of the Thanksgiving turkey is the “drumstick” and any other dark meat. Well, folks, that’s what dog tastes like. It was really tasty. (If you are sad right now, it’s your own damn fault. I warned you!) I’m still dumbfounded that I wasn’t nauseated by the idea. Two months ago I would have bet you $100 that I would never, ever eat dog. Or actually some of the other “bizarre” foods I’ve tried. When I was in Peru, no way would I ever try the delicacy there – roasted Guinea Pig. But now, I think I might. Probably it has to do with consuming these things in the presence of friends. They are my friends, they are like me, so maybe it’s not so weird after all. What the heck. Maybe I’ll even start eating bugs. Maybe I’ll start seeing those cockroaches as a meal opportunity instead of a vile, hated, creepy-crawly. For the record – would I seek out dog meat again? No. I, too, have had pets, will have pets, and actually love (good, well-behaved) dogs. Will I eat dog meat again? Ummm… well… when in Rome…! Beth says I’m a true Igorota now! ♣
See my pile of bones and more in this facebook album.