Where inspiration meets desperation and dreams meet self-deprecation.
And where every post has a link. Click them and get lost.
Jake finds time to explain himself why he is in the Philippines:
So, I guess I’ll take this time to actually explain why the hell I’m actually here. I’m sure everyone is confused and probably thinking: “pfft he just tagged along with Madamba on a trip to the Philippines to help his Instagram game.”
And that’s exactly correct.
Haha no just kidding. Let me explain.
(If you don’t want to hear all the background crap; scroll down two paragraphs. I’ll just disown you but that’s coo.)
So it all kind of started with a joke between Elvin and I last Fall. We were at the house in Waterloo that we share with Brandon, Jenn & Matty C (#namedropped) and I think it was around 3am probably, so that obviously means we were talking about how much we hate certain things (people) and and what we actually want to do with our lives. We both came to the conclusion that we hate how there’s always been a set way to live and do well in Waterloo. You go to class, hope you don’t get awful grades and then you apply to a million jobs on job mine, to get turned down 999,999 times based on your resume & cover letter and a half an hour interview. So with that, and the fact that we were both unhappy with how our lives were going in Ontario (Waterloo and specifically Smithville – for me at least), we started joking that we should just leave and go somewhere far for our co-op. So we joked that we could utilize all of Elvin’s connections in the Philippines to start our own co-op. We said we could go, and create a special experience that would put us ahead of the game. We also joked that we would meet our future beautiful girlfriends here and never come back – but that’s just a side-note and an “in a perfect world” occurrence.
Elvin brought this up with his dad. And his dad instantly was on board and started brainstorming. The man is incredibly smart and respectable; he started contacting his friends and family in the Philippines to see if it would be even feasible to send us here for our co-op and to find us something to do that would be related to both of our fields of study. He was overwhelmed with all of the quick responses of friends and family that were willing to lend him a favour – to accommodate us and help us reach out goals. He’s the mastermind behind this operation and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his hard work and quality relationships he has maintained to keep over the years. Elvin did a lot of the work too. And for myself, I just did what they told me to do, mentally prepared myself and jumped on the hype train for the long journey. Sounds insane right? For a white boy to go and live in Asia for four months? You’re absolutely right. But I guess I was willing to take a chance to escape and find some answers and adventure.
But this is what we came up with:
We are over here serving as Social Enterprise Researchers, which means we are researching and surveying ALL aspects of the Philippine landscape to ultimately create and jump start a business (social enterprise) for Elvin’s uncle and our wonderful supervisor, Sarah to take over once he retires and she finishes her schooling (I think). Sarah will be overseeing everything we’re doing and she knows a crazy amount about urban planning and obviously the Philippines, so she’s a vital asset to our success.
I’m focusing on the physical geography such as ROCKS AND MUD AND WATER AND MAPS AND FUN ‘CAUSE THAT’S WUT US GEO KIDS LUV AND STUFF. But seriously more so landforms, native vegetation, erosion, urban/rural planning, that kind of stuff since that’s kind of my area of “expertise” being in Geography & Environmental Management. Elvin is focusing on the social/cultural geography side of things here, being an Environment and Resources Studies student minoring in International Development. So he’s looking for community development, tourism, population density and human well-being.
So every single thing we have arranged for the next few months will help us in our journey to find an environmentally and economically sustainable social enterprise to get into. Sustainability is key. I’m sure some people have been like Wuuuuut and wondering why we were at a high-end resort one week and a rural hospital another week, but it’s all part of the cultural immersion. We’re pretty much bathing and washing all the nooks and cranny’s with Filipino culture so we can make an educated business proposal at the end. And we are being taken care of by some crazy smart, loving and important people over here.
Sorry for the long read (don’t cry sh sh shhhh), but there will be more interesting and funny posts once I actually get into my experiences.
Thanks for reading! And I’m missing everyone from home!!
Tomorrow, Jake and I leave Laguna BelAir, Santa Rosa, Laguna for Sariaya, Quezon where we would be staying with one of my dad’s dearest friends from high school, Tito Rolly Padre. He is a rural doctor who recently gave up his private practice to serve his community publicly. As my dad would say, “It’s a very noble and honourable thing to do.” So, that’s my Tito Rolly. We’ll be staying with him and his family in Sariaya for five days, Monday-Friday. We’ll get to immerse ourselves in a more rural way of living, in contrast to the urban and ‘developed’ environment we’ve been accustomed to in the past week. After that, we’ll make our way to Gumaca which is in Quezon province as well and stay with my dad’s inaanak, Fr. Dindo Necesito in his parish community for two days. We then will be going to Fr. Dindo’s dad’s home in Tagkawayan for two more days. Then we’ll make our way back to either Makati or Santa Rosa on September 23rd.
September 12, 2014
Thank you for the e-mail!
I’m leaving Tagaytay Highlands in a few hours. Man, this place crazy. It’s incredibly high-end, luxurious. Rich as all hell. It’s not even Filipino rich, you know what I mean? It’s just rich. Filthy, stinking rich. Fortunately for us, my godfather (Ninong Roger) hooked us up with a guest pass that covers all of our meals here and all the amenities we might use. We have accrued quite a bill here, but thank goodness for Ninong Roger for taking care of everything for us. It’s really crazy how well-connected my dad is here. Everyone loves him! It really goes to show how far friendships can actually take you when you take them seriously, and if you like people for who they are and not just what they have. More on that later! The real purpose here is to observe after all, I’ll blind-copy you the analysis journal I’ve written for our study here. It’s fairly interesting. Filipino hospitality is off the charts though. Btw, the other night, I had the best steak of my life, but you wouldn’t wanna know the price tag on that. Haha, let’s just say… a lot. Anyway, that’s Tagaytay Highlands, I’ll be uploading a few pics really soon, once our own portable internet gets up and running. Check my blog for it, or I could even e-mail some more photos if that’s not enough. I don’t think I will be uploading everything all at once.
My flight was good, my Ninong Adel picked me up (my dad’s younger brother). If you’ve read my blog post, I’ve got a couple things to say about it, lol. Particularly, this fine gentleman that sat beside us. I did watch a movie, just one though, would you believe it? I watched On the Job, a Filipino movie, I highly recommend watching it along with Metro Manila. It’s amazing what Filipino Cinema can be when they actually do try and not pander to the masa (mass people). On the Job is actually mainstream artistas too, so I was even more impressed by the acting. They really are talented, they’re just dumbed down for everyone else. It’s a shame. That’s one of the things I have a problem with the Philippines, they don’t try to challenge their taste, they don’t try to think too much. A lot of the media programming in the Philippines is rather vapid. I wish it’d be different, but sometimes that’s just the reality, after a long hard day of struggling to get by, you just don’t want to think.
Our homebase is technically Makati, in Metro Manila, but we’ll be moving around a lot so who really knows where I’d be, right? Later on today, I will be going back to Santa Rosa (I was already there for last Sunday and a little bit of Monday) for the weekend with friends, before I head out for Quezon province this next Monday where we’ll be immersing ourselves in a rural area. We will be staying with my Tito Rolly who is a doctor so we’ll get to shadow him in the hospital/clinic. He has actually gone from private practice to public, so very noble as my dad would say. He just wants to help people.
Jake is doing great. A little bit overwhelmed, a little bit confused. Culture shocked really. Some of his White Boy Quirks annoy me, but I need to be patient with him and not be frustrated since this is all new to him. Philippines is not for the faint of heart really. It’s no Costa Rica, it’s no Europe. But he loves it here, actually, trying to pick up the language and just being generally porous. He really likes Tocino! Haha. He has a journal that I’ll be quoting from time to time, so be on the lookout for that.
In terms of long term plans, there’s a lot, man. You’re gonna have to be more specific! Unless you’d wanna take a peek at our itinerary/calendar. Let me know!
Well, that’s it from my end in the meantime, I’m glad to hear you’re getting back into the swing of things. What movies have you watched recently? I can’t believe you and Arlene are already 21 though, how was that party, I saw some photos on Instagram, but that’s about it. That’s a cute cake.
All my best,
I have been preparing for this trip, but being here—well—I realized that barely meant anything. Nothing could really prepare me for what I’ve started to embark on here (I could only then imagine what Jake is feeling). I’ve told countless friends and families what I, along with Jake, will be doing in the Philippines. At this point, you already know I’m in the Philippines for a research project that I came up with my dad. I’ll spare those details right now, this is a research project as much as it is a cultural immersion after all. You know as in, observe and live within the natural and built environment in the rural and urban landscape, be entrenched in Filipino living, observe and empathize with the purest and rawest of human conditions.
Quite honestly though, I’m overwhelmed. The good kind, however. I have this feeling of shaky confidence and scatterbrained duty and accomplishment. And you know, sometimes this feeling comes with hints of doubt, too. Okay, maybe not doubt, but in a way you start to reflect, do you deserve this? Have you worked hard enough for this? Did I get Jake in some random shit that may not be worth it at all? I sure hope I’m right in all of this. I do believe we have worked mightily hard to put ourselves in this position. We do deserve it. If we’re not gonna say it ourselves, who will, right? We’re lucky too though, that it’s not just us who believes in us, who believes in this project. There are our friends and our families who are incredibly impressed by us. These are the friends and families that have a sense of pride in their farewells, in their See-You-Letter cards, and in the way they looked at us before they said, “good luck in the Philippines”. This is not a vacation, but this is a vacation from the humdrum (read: boring) grind of university course work.
Anyway, there goes my might-be boring monologue, you might be more interested in what we’ve actually done so far. So let me tell you.
On September 3rd, we flew out of Canada. We arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on September 5th, Friday morning. On this flight, there was this fine gentleman (not at all) that sat beside Jake that asked him, “Is this your first time going to Pussyland?” As soon as I heard that, I knew it was gonna be a long flight. This guy had sent me into a silent fit of rage that made my blood boil and evaporate. The guy had been to the Philippines 14 times to participate in the apparently active sexual tourism in the Philippines. This 50-year-old man talked to Jake (I detached myself from him and the conversation as soon as he dropped that Pussyland line on us) as if he were a crude and horny 16-year-old boy. Besides this cheating, unfit, unattractive, sexually diseased white man, the flight wasn’t so bad. The food was ample and Filipino hospitality and warmth showcased by the flight attendants go unmatched. At the airport, we were picked up by my Ninong Adel.
“You’re not allowed to look lost. Only me.”—Jake Thomas
Right after being picked up, we had breakfast at Jollibee (!), of course a Filipino staple. Then we arrived in our main base in Makati, at my Ninong’s residence. It is currently under construction and he seems to have huge plans for it as soon as it is completed. We settled in and Jake, overwhelmed by the population in the city, caught his breath. Actually, catching his breath, wasn’t the only thing Jake did in the morning too. He already had his experience with Filipino plumbing. You know the one. The one where you have to buhos (pour water) in the toilet for it to flush.
“Ber na po, sir. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!”—Cash & Carry Clerk
For lunch, we went to the nearby mall, Cash & Carry, where we also got our phones fixed up and we took care some of our necessary shopping list.
Later on the evening, we (Jake, my Ninong, and I) met up to have dinner and a couple drinks with our supervisor, also one of my best and dearest friends, Sarah. We went to The Collective just here in Makati and ate at Wingman where Jake and I had two San Miguel’s along with our non-Filipino dinner. It was nice to finally see Sarah again after how many years? Seven? I didn’t see her the last time I was home, which was in 2012, since she was in Europe. A little side note here. Sarah and I were never really close growing up and going to school in Laguna BelAir. We really only became close in the last year. Where she tweeted me saying something along the lines of, “I think we’d get along well” (paraphrased). So I told her to write to me Facebook, since I’d love to have an exchange of letters with her! So she did that, she wrote to me. I wrote back. And we kept writing to each other; these letters were extensive, intelligent, and heartfelt all the same time (more so on Sarah’s end). We kept doing this until we’ve come to know a lot about each other, what makes us tick, what our priorities and values lie—you know—our general human conditioning. We realized how similar we are, but at the same time different. Over time though, our letter writing evolved, we chatted more frequently—almost daily now. We just have a lot of things and subjects and emotions to cover I guess. And there’s still so much. How she came to be the supervisor for our research project though is a no-brainer; she recently graduated, she understands what we’re trying to do, she loves what we’re doing, she is qualified, and my dad reveres the idea of Sarah overseeing us since she is incredibly knowledgeable regarding topics that we will cover in our project. Anyway, when I finally saw her in the flesh, I was overjoyed as was she. The first hug we shared took a lot of build-up; it was warm, it was affectionate, it was uninhibited, honest. I’m just glad that she will be a constant in these next four months.
Now brings me to last night. Tito Rolly picked Jake and me up from Makati so that we could attend Philippine Science High School’s 50th Anniversary Reunion. PSHS/Pisay is my dad’s high school. And his closest friends are his high school buddies. Naturally, he wanted me to attend in his place. So I did, along with Jake. The night started off—well—we felt out of place, of course, since we didn’t really know anybody there. These were my dad’s friends, not mine. They knew of me and maybe they know what I’m doing there, what I’m doing in the Philippines, but I’m not my dad. Enteng is not me. I’m Elvin! My dad wouldn’t like it any other way. He wants me to be me. But the night picked up and I had gone to converse with my Titos and Titas. It really was a good event for us to network with these important people who may or may not be doing work that might be relevant to our project. One of my godmothers, Ninang Tere, was there in attendance actually. Tito Paggy talked to us about copper smelting and the realities of for-profit industries. Tito Delcy talked to us about water treatment. Tito Volt wanted to meet with us at a more convenient date. We actually also got to talk to Tito Jay’s son, Jeremy Bartolo, a recently drafted PBA player. He believes in our project and he’s “feeling” what we’re doing. So that’s cool. The event itself was bumping, there was a programme: lights, performances, and just a general good time. It was held in the PSHS gymnasium. All 50 batches were in attendance, from 1969-2014; my dad is Batch 1976. Honestly, if I had gone to and graduated from PSHS, that event would actually be really fun. But it was a good experience nonetheless, especially being able to converse with plenty intelligent people. Oh, you just know they’re smart with the difficulty of being admitted into PSHS. I didn’t even pass the second screening when I was younger. Ah well. We can’t play that what-if right now, since if I really did go, who knows what I’d be doing and right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s it for now, next on the itinerary is en route to Santa Rosa, my hometown.
I’m actually in Santa Rosa now, I was just late to uploading this.