Pic: An old man resting himself for an afternoon siesta, a tricycle (motorized passenger bike) parked in front of him. Bolinao, Philippines, 2004.
The days in the Philippines are often lackluster. In Bolinao where we were stationed, is a city dweller’s nightmare. There is no cinema for 200 km, the mall is called the local farmer’s market, internet access is a single wooden shoplot with Pentium 100 computers, entertainment consists of basketball (a local passion), betting, cock fights, drinking and videoke (which the whole nation is crazy about). The lone concrete paved street to the Institute is often unlit at night, the nights are punctuated with the serenade of cicadas, croaking of geckos, the hum of the generator (power blackouts and brownouts are common) and the ever present wailing of someone singing a song on the videoke (an interesting fact, the group F4 is very very popular here, posters of them endorse items ranging from cell phone services, drinks and tires, their songs have been rewritten in Tagalog and the only Chinese lyric songs are those of the group). A travel to the nearest ‘civilization’ is two hours away. As I mentioned the lifestyle here is one of a laid back one, people often start work late round 9, siestas for lunch stretches from noon to round 2 and works get off at 4. People are never in a hurry, taking their time to get to places, enjoying something or relaxing.
An interesting note is the people’s love for music, song and dance. Music is a national passion, everyone does it, singing away a hard day’s work, competing with each other in song and just making merry. It is so ingrained in their blood, the passion is consummate to say the least. Even as we were holidaying in Baguio in a rented house, the only entertainment was that of a karaoke box as tall as me while there was not even a TV in sight. Culture wise, as we attended a wedding, customs dictate that after the ceremonies, a party ensues with music, dance and singing. Even the poorest people will often be seen spotted owning a videoke machine (akin to the karaoke box we have here) and during any celebrations, be it feast day, holy week, weddings, parties or fiesta, the ever present boom box will be at hand. It’s a little odd for me to see in the middle of an empty field, a speaker setup twice my height, disco lights and reflectors that light up the place and a DJ with the latest songs available, local or international. Then all hell breaks loose as the night is filled with the cacophony of voices, shouts and cheers!