A Filipino Farewell

So that’s it. Home tomorrow via a few days in Hong Kong. Sadly, two and a bit weeks in The Philippines has come to an end. Am sitting in the shade with mango juice in hand, looking out over an ivory beach with turquoise blue sea and white surf hissing up the the sands, reflecting on the trip. I have really enjoyed these wonderful islands and these lovely people.

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My lasting memories will be the smiles on open.friendly faces, the welcome at every stop, their politeness and respect. I have been addressed as ‘sir’ on every occasion, in every situation, on the street or in restaurants and hotels where you’d expect it maybe, by a cheerful, seemingly happy Filipino. Yet most of these guys earn a pittance, 30% of the population is below the poverty line, with an average income of 2 dollars a day. If they can keep a smile of their faces all the time why can’t we?

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The scenery, upland to lowland, is also rather special. Sunshine, ivory sanded beaches, green jungle foliage, pine stretching ridges, river carved ravines and gorges, patterns of emerald rice terraces contribute to a rich textured tapestry outside the brieze blocked, cemented, corrugated ironed towns and villages.

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The signature image is that of rice terrace. Rice production is evident through out the countryside – terraces, paddy fields, irrigation, planting, harvesting, threshing, drying, bagging. In the highlands they manage one harvest a year, in lowlands up to three harvests.

Towns are a dumbledore of dwellings, shops, tangles of electricity cables, lines of uniformed school kids, exhausting jeepnies, motorbikes, zooped up motor trikes. The most impressive buildings in every town and village is always the large Catholic churches. That’s not to say that Ameicanisarion has not hit this place hard. In every town at least one McDonald’s, Jollibee (the Philippines’ KFC whose speciality is the Yum Burger), 7 Eleven, Starbucks, Maxs-The House That Fried Chicken Built, Subway stand bright and shiny in amongst the local businesses and stores.

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Food, hmmmm. Lots of rice and more rice, with chicken or pork. It can be quite tasty. I spotted chicken and sweet potato chips on the menu. The chicken was lovely and crispy. Potato chips arrived with a sachet of sugar – literally, sweet potato chips!

The whole country is so youthful and full of laughter and smiles. The place has a gentle, friendly buzz with youngsters giggling their way to school or hanging out together, families sitting around or choring together, men rocking in the shade and chewing the cud, shopkeepers quietly anticipating customers under dusty, shaded awnings, convoys of bike trikes with teeth gleaming riders and oustretched hands of greeting. I loved the whole experience. Try and get here if you can.

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