I keep coming back to Manila….

On the jetway, for the flight back to Manila.

Another balikbayan selfie.

Uber is easily the best way to get around in Metro Manila.  It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it’s CASHLESS.  The 1 hour aiport ride to go 10 miles in heavy traffic was about USD $15.  

I went for an ilocano combo plate last night before going to bed.

This morning I got in a cab to go to Market Market!  which is kind of like a mall + market + Singaporean-style hawker center in the Bonifacio Global City, which is Manila’s attempt at creating a clean, modern, orderly city.  However, that lofty aspiration does not stop somebody from selling me a longsilog breakfast without any sinagnag.  They should call it the long-hmph-log breakfast.  Hmph. 

There is a store in the mall called “Maldita.”  Rough translation:  the damn girl.  Damn her!


I bought some liempo just so I could get a side order of lato, this seaweed with bulbs, that tastes like salmon roe.


  

Later:  my niece’s big birthday party!

Final Days in Singapore

I woke up yesterday in Singapore. I had an errand for Cousin Ate D that I was grumpy about doing but it seemed easy enough; she wanted some vitamins from a specific store, which was at a mall near my hotel. When I got to the mall, I asked around for the store, and finally I found out that the store had moved to a different mall.  Forget it, I said!  This mission for vitamins is over! But then I realized the store’s new location was on my way back to the hotel, so I begrudgingly decided to continue.  The information lady told me to take a bus, which was silly because it was so close.  But I took the bus anyway, just as part of the advenutre.  Of course taking the bus in Singapore is clean, beautiful, easy, and rule-driven. I took some mall photos along the way.  Here’s dtf, which is bs. And here’s a 肉骨茶 place. For some reason the word “bakuteh” does not stay in my head, so I’m always asking people what they’re talking about.  Then they try to explain it, and I say oh, you mean 肉骨茶, why didn’t you just say so!  It’s kind of a difficult concept to explain succinctly.  Well, “pork rib broth” would do it. My first lunch was a boneless chicken rice, and it was delicious. My second lunch was an oyster fry, which put me over the edge.  It was oily and I had to take a nap afterward.        fruit stand! Apparently the hotel has a 4th floor terrace as well.     After my nap, I decided to subway to Little India for 3rd lunch, but at the last moment I took the train to Harbourfront Centre instead. There in a food court I found some crazy brown rice set meal which was too big, but still cheap.  The best part was the stuffed tofu in broth.  Later when I passed the stall, the owner asked me very sincerely if I had enjoyed it.     After that I saw signs that said “cable car” so I followed them and rode it.  If there are cable cars to ride, I ride them. It’s a rule.          Later that night I met up with JJ again, also MS, 明 , and French J.  We went to the opening of Red Banks, then to a  62nd floor rooftop bar with a spectacular view but they couldn’t make me a martini.  Finally we went to a hawker centre downtown, the Telok Ayer Market, known as Lau Pa Sat.  We got satays from stall #6.  It was amazing and my hands were too dirty for photos. Also, I want you all to know, there’s a point when the weather is so hot and humid that it’s gross to touch the screen of your phone.  The phone itself feels hot and sticky and it just goes back into my pocket, and forget looking things up or communicating.

Anyway, after Lao Pa Sat JJ and I got some drinks on a rooftop on Club Street.  There should be more rooftop bars in Seattle.  And in my life.

The next morning I saw Cousin D off in a cab and then planned the rest of my morning in Singapore.  I actually found myself buying a duffel bag for the flight home.  It made packing and flying a little easier, but I was annoyed at having to check a bag still.  Jetstar Asia has a ceiling of 7kg for a carry on, which is the weight of one of my shoes.  Guh. I managed the duffel bag situation, and then met JJ for lunch.  We got the “carrot cake” which is a daikon fry/omelette, some of that pansit that everyone talks about, some veggies and some spinach mee.  Afterward, we had some coffee and said goodbye, and JJ was kind enough to pose for a selfie, even choosing the background ! Then I got in a cab to the airport and was out of there.      

Woke up in Singapore (Day 1)

 I just realized my time in Singapore is 4 days, three nights.  Since today is Day 1, it’s almost time to go!  After that it’s a day in Manila and then back to Seattle.  

I woke up at sunrise again, and went to the rooftop.  My mama is worried about the dark circles under my eyes (I had just woke up!).  Also, there is a glass-walled rooftop infinity pool, if you want to watch a dude swim.  

  
    

Cousin D said I was going to hate the food at the breakfast buffet, and I didn’t.  However I will acknowledge that hotel breakfast buffet in SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE is a mistake, and I won’t be repeating this mistake.  I’d rather walk a block and eat 生煎包 or something.  Maybe I’ll just get coffee and dragon fruit at the buffet tomorrow.     

So after breakfast I walked down Mosque Street and Temple Street.  I had a goal to get to the Maxwell Food Centre, but didn’t make it.  English J texted that he wanted to meet me for pho, and I don’t turn down pho.   
   

I decided to walk back to the hotel and freshen up before lunch, and then cabbed over to the pho restaurant on Amoy Street.  I am not used to the right-sidee driving culture.  The right-side cars are blowing my mind.  Every time I cross the street on foot, I catch myself looking left instead of right.  I’m a mess.   
    
    

 After Amoy Street, I had a 30 minute cool out time in the hotel, and then it was back out to Little India.  I took the subway.      
    

  

Clarke Quay.     
 

 Later on I met up with M and N, and Cousin D; the four of us went to Old Airport Road Food Centre and had white pepper crab, among other things.  It was spectacular.    
    

 

Travel day to Singapore

So I woke up this morning, got my breakfast buffet, and then went to pack my clothes.  To my surprise, my clean clothes, which I had had laundered the day brefore, were packaged, complete with plastic, cardboard band, cardboard collar, cardboard stiff back, and those white plastic clippies.  Do not even ask me how much I paid for laundry.  Also, Asian people love packaging, they love it like they love their mamas.    

One last shot of Hong Kong from my 40th floor window.   

Here’s me on the airport express train.  When I walked out of the hotel, the staff all asked if I wanted a cab, and I said, no way, are you nuts?  I gotta take the subway.  

Here’s what I learned:  it is obnoxious to drag around a carry on, neck pillow, and brown bear hoodie sweatshirt on the Hong Kong MRT on a Tuesday during the morning commute.  Next time, I will take a cab to Hong Kong Station, and then train the rest of the way.  

Hong Kong is really amazing as a city, because every place I saw was all dense, with high rise apartments.  The result is that 75% of the territory is undeveloped.  They actually have a wild boar problem.  Such a delicious problem ! 

There may be sprawl in the places I didn’t see, but the places I saw, even on the train to the airport, were vertical cities, served by services on the ground floor.  Down on the road, the streets are narrow and human scale.  It’s really spectacular.    

I flew Jetstar Asia to Singapore, and my experience at the Hong Kong airport was annoying.  I was annoyed.  Nobody wants to read about how I was annoyed, but listen, if you’re flying Jetstar Asia, preorder your meal online and be prepared to check your carry on if it’s over 7 kilos.  Obnoxious.    

When I got to Singapore, all the Singapore stuff started.  I got cash, I got a SIM card.  I only needed to find the $9 Airport Hotel Shuttle and get something to eat.  I asked the SIM card lady where the $9 Airport Hotel Shuttle, and she laughed broadly, and said, “There is no aiport shuttle for $9.”  Luckily I had my email confirmation on my phone, and she read it and said, “ohh, you want the shuttle BUS, ok, yes, there’s a shuttle BUS.”  Obviously.  She pointed me in the right direction.  

Here’s what happened as I was buying my ticket for the shuttle BUS.  First, I watched a mom and a daughter go behind the transport desk and do their daily prayers toward Mecca.  Doesn’t a big international airport have a place where Muslims can pray?  I know they can pray anywhere, but it seems they would have planned a sacred space.  

Second, I bought the ticket to the Airport Shuttle, and the two ladies behind the desk (one Indian, the other Chinese, both great English speakers) gave very clear instructions:  put this sticker on your shirt.  Sit in this chair and go NOWHERE.  The driver will come for you.  

So I was waiting for the driver, as was a young mother with a 9 year old by who was quietly eating his sandwitch.  It was 3pm and I hadn’t had lunch and I wanted to eat a sandwich quietly like that boy.  

Of course it turns out that the boy, once the sandwich is finished, is a little emperor.  He talked super loud and was crawling all over the place.  Finally the bus driver came, and he said to the kid, you’ll have to finish that and recycle the can.  Of course little emperor ignored him, and while getting onto the bus, the driver said, you can’t drink that on the bus.  Little emperor said “why?” and Singapore driver was amazing, “DON’T ASK WHY, THAT’S THE WAY IT IS, IF YOU WANT TO RIDE THE BUS YOU CAN’T HAVE FOOD OR DRINKS, YOU CAN STAY HERE IF YOU WANT.”  It was breathtaking.  Little emperor was stunned because no one had ever not indulged his spoiled ass before.  

The ride into Singapore was quiet and clean, and the road is lined with fuchsias in bloom.  I may have seen 20 miles of fuchsia-lined road.  It’s a little striking how clean and well organized Singapore is, and it’s not the same vertical plan, but narrow human-scale at street level.  Singapore is built on a grand scale for cars.  

My cousin had warned me about the small hotel room we were sharing, but it turns out it has a sexy bathroom, just like in Hong Kong, PLUS a butt-hose bidet.  It’s a win in my book.    

    

Although, the view is not quite as grand…    
 
   

The lady at the desk suggested Subway when I told her I was dying of hunger, but when I rejected the Subway idea, she said, “Walk 5 minutes until you see Chinatown Point, then you’ll know what to do.”  She was right.  I found a street-side buffet and spent 4 dollars on rice, two veggies, and a scoop of chicken.  I took a picture of the hotel on the walk back, because the light was nice.      
   

   
  

Later, Cousin D showed up and we went to Bak Kut Teh for some 肉骨茶.  We also met his friends, D and T, who were charming.    
    
    

We had a couple of beers at Clarke Quay, and then I went to the roof of the hotel, and it’s quite beautiful.  Makes me wish I could smoke cigarettes up there and hang out, but I don’t smoke cigarettes, and knowing the Singaporeans It’s probably punishable by death.  

  

Finally, I found a Sol with limón at the bar.  Dont’ ask how much it cost, but the bartender answered me in Spanish.  Tomorrow, lunch in Chinatown with JJ, and then black pepper crab, no matter what Cousin D says or does, I’m eating crab tomorrow.  Sige!  

 

Hong Kong Day Four; Last Day

I get up at sunrise because I can’t bear to close my hotel room curtains.    

I put on some pants on and went to the hotel breakfast buffet.  This is my first plate; the second plate had fruit, cheese, and salmon.  Tomorrow I’m just going to fill my plate with salmon, it’s my last day!   

I had lunch plans with a friend of mine, so I didn’t want to stray too far on my morning explore, so I found the Mid-Levels Travelator, the 中環至半山自動扶梯.  So apparently the city… built something to help the people… get around town… with something OTHER THAN A CAR.  Amazing.  It’s a series of escalators up a residential hill, but iin the narrow streets up there are tons of bars, restaurants, and cafes.  It’s really pretty cool.  

From 6am to 10am they run the escalators downhill, so people living up the hill can get to work in Central.  Around 10:30 they complete the big direction switch, so yokels like me can go up and get lost.  The photos below are right before the switch.  

   

You get a pretty good view of the streets below.  Just like in the movies, the narrow streets are crowded with colorful signs.  Notice, though, that the streets are immaculate and there are no aerial cables or wires for telephone, electricity, cable tv, or whatever.    

 
    

I started my journey up the hill around 10am and at 11am I panicked a little becuase I didn’t want to be late to meet my friend back at Central.  It was a hot day but it was fun taking the escalators up.  On the way down I realized that the hill is STEEP and I was worried about my ankles… which held up just fine, by the way.  

By the time I got back down to Queen’s Road I had sweat through my shirt, so I popped into a luxury shopping mall and parked at a Starbucks.  My friend CS met me soon after.  

We went to Crystal Jade in the IFC Mall, and the 小籠包 soup dumplings were so, so good.  Way better than DTF, for all of you that know that I hate that place.  CS had me read the English version of the crazy menu copy.  On one hand, why didn’t they get an English speaker to fix it?  On the other hand, it’s awesome just as it is, because crazy.  
  

We had coffee and talked about travel, Asia, Italian moms, and books.  As he was about to go back to work, I said, “You know I’m going to take a selfie…” 

“What,” he asked, “is this like 2014 or something?” 

“Come on,” I said, “I’m on vacation!”  

CS recommended I take a star ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui and walk up Nathan Road, exploring.  Which is what I did!  But I also took a one hour tourist ferry through the harbor, which was a little weak, but there was a/c and I got to sit, so I count it as a win.  

  
 

I got off the boat at Tsim Sha Tsui and walked around and found some Macanese tea houses, and got me a couple of 葡撻, which were great!  

   

 

I gave myself the mission of buying a bandana or hankerchief, since I was annoyed I hadn’t had one on Lamma Island when sweat was rolling into my eyes.  I failed to find any, but I did see these guys putting up bamboo scaffolding. 

 

 After that I went back to the hotel to chill out for an hour or so.  My laundry came back, and the price tag is so high I could have just thrown the dirty clothes away and bought all new clothes for the price.  Oh well, at least they’re already folded and ready to pack.  

By the way, the cleaning lady misidentified me earlier today as Taiwanese, and said I was very 斯文。 Funny, because I felt pretty shabby in my rayon aloha shirt and cargo shorts, but I’ll take the compliment!  

Afterwards, I met Hizonor S in Mong Kok and we had a meal in the food court of the mall there.  The a/c was delicious and so was the garlic rice in this photo below.  The pork neck was a little dry.   

 

S ordered a durian and black rice dessert, and I took a picture of it, and he took a picture of me taking a picture of it.  Yes, it smelled like durian!  My dessert was mango and watermelon slices, and I got a picture of him taking a picture of it.  

   

And then there was a selfie.  Of course, I’m on vacation!  Tomorrow:  Singapore.   
 

Hong Kong Day 3: Lamma Island

I slept in until crazy late today:  8:30.  I got dressed up in my pants, because I like to wear pants to the breakfast buffet, which is overstaffed with 25 year old kids who are overdresed and trying to impress their bosses with their attentiveness.  I feel like I’m representing the Philippines, so I wear pants. The cats from northern England all wear either cargo shorts or cut off jean shorts.  CUT OFF JEAN SHORTS.  

These are the things I like at the breakfast buffet:  the lox, the mini benedicts, the croissants, the cheeses, not the bacon, the eggs, or the asian hotel sausages.  Not the rice; not the fried rice, not the saffron rice.  I do like the fruit:  cubed melon, pineapple, watermelon, and dragon fruit.  The coffee is rancid.  

When I get back up to my room and change into my cargo shorts and lose the undershirt, and prepare to face the  non airconditioned world.  Today’s mission was to Lamma Island, which is a direct train with 5 stops to Central Station, a little walky-walk that’s a little more than a kilometer, and a ferry ride that’s listed as an hour but seems shorter.  

I just want to mention that Central Station on a Sunday is JAMMED with Filipinas, hanging out in the stairwells and all the pathways like birds that flock at the end of the day.  There are also several Jehova’s Witness missionaries who are obviously only after the Pinays, since their literature is all in English and presuming a Christian world view.  I assume that they are maids and cleaning ladies and maybe nurses.  They are different from the vacation Filipinos, who carry shopping bags and dress preppier.  

Anyway, I walked through them all, down to the pier, and I was a little confused about how to pay for the ferry ticket.  In the end I watched some girls from Northern England pay with their subway pass, the Octopus Card.  So I followed them, and got onto a boat.     

The ferry is fast and it crosses a shipping lane.  And at one point it looked like we were going to ram this container ship.  In the end, though, we scooted behind it without changing course.  

  

Lamma Island is 南丫島.  My ferry took me to 榕樹灣 Yung Shue Wan first, and it was still too early for lunch so the restaurants were empty.  The entire island is carless, and walking through carless towns and villages reminded me a lot of the towns on the Amalfi Coast, or maybe Cinque Terre.  I wondered if all small Chinese coastal towns were like that, before the advent of the automobile.  I thought somebody should really open a Cantonese Language school there.  

There is a “walk” from 榕樹灣 Yung Shue Wan to 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan which is called the Lamma Island Family Trail. Signs say it’s a 50 minute walk, but the internet says it’s two hours.  It’s a paved trail between the two towns, so it’s a “hike” in the Chinese sense, if not the American sense.  It’s not a hard walk but there are a few hills to deal with.  I was glad I was alone, so I could go at my own speed.  

    

I thought that this as an interesting sign to have on a carless island.  

  
 

I stopped at 洪聖爺灣泳灘  Hung Sheng Yeh Beach and thought, wow this is the Indian Ocean, I better put my toes in!  Later I looked at a map and realized I was off by a million miles; it was only the South China West Philippine Sea.    
  

The trail takes you up some hills to some lookouts and there is a stand at the peak that sells frozen pineapple.  Later the trail winds down into the valley where there is a pretty significant creeping vine problem; it’s becoming a creeping vine monoculture.  As I got into 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan you could see the fish farms in the bay, and hear the tourguides doing their comedy on the Chinese tour groups.  I could also hear tourist kids shouting at each other down in the stream delta.  

When I got down to 索罟灣 Sok Kwu Wan I walked through the restaurant row and picked a place.  I didn’t really know what to order, and the seafood platters looked too big for one person.  So I just ordered a plate of Singapore Fried Noodles.  The waiter got mad at me for not ordering seafood–the conversation is all in Mandarin, by the way–and I asked him to show me what one person could order.  He said to get a couple of scallops so I chose scallops in garlic, because scallops baked in cheese gross me out.  

I asked the waiter what the bowl was for, and he impatiently told me that in Hong Kong, people rinse out their bowls, cups, and utensils in the hot tea, so they can be sure that it’s clean.  Then I asked where the tea cup was, and he impatiently told me, it’s that!  and pointed to the juice glass.  

Later they brought the Singapore fried noodles, and they were good but whatever, better in Seattle.  Then he brought the scallops and they looked SPECTACULAR and I thought I should have ordered ten of them and a bowl of rice.  Old grumpy waiter put them on the table and said, these are so delicious.  The younger waiter chuckled as he saw me snap a photo.  

Later still, grumpy old waiter saw me try to chopstick the scallops and started yelling at me again, and I didn’t know what the hell he wanted.  He kept saying “cha” so I kept looking at my tea.  Then he pointed at my fork, and I realized he was saying “chā” and he wanted me to slide the damn fork under the scallop, which made way more sense than sliding the tea under it.  

The scallops were spectacular and actually quite hot; there was some hot oil poured onto them and the bean threads preserved the heat.  The garlic was fragrant and intoxicating.  I told the waiter, 「先生,沒有你我怎麼辦?」(“Sir, what would I do without you?”).  After that, he wasn’t grumpy anymore; he smiled and patted me on the back and told me no problem.  

Later young waiter asked me if I was Singaporean, which is a pretty good guess, I think.  I said no, and he started walking to the next table so I shouted behind him 我是菲律賓人! (“I’m Filipino!”)  because I think everyone should know.  Then I realized I was sitting at table 206.  

   

After a can of beer I settled the bill and didn’t tip, because you’re not supposed to.  I ate my complimentary wedge of frozen pineapple on a stick, and then got onto the empty, waiting ferrry to come back to Hong Kong Island.  

When I walked into the grand lobby, I stopped at the concierge desk and asked them to send up some ice for my soda.  Here’s what they sent me.    

 

After a short rest and a tedious amount of uploading, I went to dinner.  I thought about the hotel buffet, but it was $70 USD per person because it’s Sunday or something.  So then I googled and the only thing I found in this neighborhood was a hamburger restaurant called “The Big Bite.”  I was going to find it, but then I thought I should go back to Causeway Bay and poke around.  So I trained over to Causeway Bay and found myself in a freaking shopping mall.  

I am so sick of shopping malls.  

Anyway, I found my way back up top and found a bowl of noodles.  There were some Mainland kids that asked to share my table, and they used a cool word for “share a table” but I forgot what it was.  

On the way back, I thought I’d walk around 炮台山 Fortress Hill Station, which is this neighborhood that the hotel is in.  Google doesn’t say anything about this neighborhood, and my friends have nothing to say about this neighborhood either, so I was pretty surprised at all the cafes and restaurants I saw folks eating dinner at.  It’s actually a pretty quiet residential neighborhood, and the restaurants are local hangouts rather than destinations.

Tomorrow  I will eat more seafood and hopefully meet another friend of mine.  Also, I’ll get the hotel to do my laundry.  That should be something!    

Hong Kong Day 2:  The Junk Boat

I woke up this morning as the sun was rising over Ma On Shan.  I put on long pants and went to the breakfast buffet, which was pretty nice…  My next mission was to get cash and buy some booze for the booze cruise.  

I managed to get cash in the neighborhood, but the booze at 7-11 all looked off brand, and I didn’t wat to show up to the booze cruise with something that would embarrass my friend, so I asked the concierge, who directed me to a neighborhood grocery.  The selection wasn’t great there either but I ended up getting a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label because it was the right size for the day, the size of a small jar of olive oil.  

Some of the Chinese booze on the shelf kind of looked like oyster sauce.  

I subwayed and hoofed it down to the pier, where I met my friend J.  It was kind of a zoo because apparently a lot of people had scheduled junk boat parties, and they were all meeting at the same pier.  When I got onto the boat, I put my bottle on the table and someone said, “Who brought the sesame oil?”  

Anyway, we sailed around the east end of Hong Kong Island and dropped anchor in a quiet bay.  People jumped in the water.  I stayed aboard and spotted a jelly fish, a big one.  We ate burrittos and drank some booze and it was a fun way to spend seven hours.  

After we got back on land I met A in Mongkok, and I got some seafood spaghetti.  I bought some souvenirs at the Ladies Market and then went back ot the hotel, soaked in the tub for a little, and then showered off.  There are two showers in my sexy bathroom with a view of Kowloon; one is a shower attachment with a hose and a couple of hooks on the wall and it’s pretty fancy.  The other is a showerhead way up on the 20 foot ceiling that drenches you like a  torrential downpour.  The thing about that one is that you have to turn the water a little hotter than usual, because it tends to cool off as it falls from such great a distance.  

I’m not sure what I’m doing tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll explore Kowloon some more.  Maybe I’ll stay here on the island.  Bus out to Stanley?  Skylift to see the Buddha?  Who knows.  

Hong Kong Day 1

I woke up this morning in Manila, closed up my bags and übered to the airport.  The driver told me about how he was adopted by a Belgian man in Mindoro who was kind to him and he wished he could track him down.  

When I got to the airport I was starving.  I bought a jumbo airport siopao which was as big as a toilet seat and just as appetizing.  I threw it out after a couple of bites as the meat center was cold and pink.  Then I found a dish called “bacon cheese sausage, which was grilled sausage slices topped with bacon and squirt bottle cheese.  

The Philippine Airline flight wasn’t full and they served a small meal; it was pork stroganoff and potatoes, and I ate it.  

I landed in Hong Kong and breezed through immigration, got some cash, and took the Airport Express, which is the train from the airport (on a different island) to Hong Kong Station.  It seemed to be way faster than the $20 USD aiport shuttle, and at only $12.  Also, I like trains.  

When I got to Hong Kong Station I looked around for the subway but found the Free Airport Shuttle instead.  I walked up to the counter to look at the metro map, but a lady came up to me and asked me in Mandarin where I was going.  I guess I still speak Mandarin.  I told her Fortress Hill Station, and she’s like, naw, which HOTEL.  And I told her the Harbour Grand, and asked her if it wasn’t faster to take the subway.  She was like, just get on the bus, Harbour Grand is the first stop!  

So I bussed over to my hotel on the free shuttle and it turns out that this is a five star hotel, and I’m definitely on the top floor, below the restaurant, on a “club floor.”  The deal is, I wanted to “do it up” a little bit, since I’m here with a little bit of time and a little bit of money.  

My friend Hong Kong A showed up to take me to a late lunch; she works in the hotel business and is familiar with this company.  She said I got my room at half price, and that I was living like some rich people.  There’s definitely a view of Kowloon Harbor and a sexy bathroom with a glass wall so you can see inside from the bed.  Last night I actually discovered a privacy screen that you can lower, if you don’t want someone watching you doing your business.  

So Hong Kong is spectacular, and from what I saw yesterday it might be the nicest city on the planet.  

Hong Kong A took me to get a bowl of squid, octopus, and cuttlefish noodle soup.  She helped me get a data SIM card so I have the internet, and she helped me get an octopus card for the metro.  

We had coffee, walked around, sat in a stadium and watched some soccer, met her friend Gina for a drink, and had dinner on LFK.  Then we walked down by the waterfront area down by Hong Kong Station and rode the ferris wheel.  

Today there’s a booze cruise.  

Chizza and Altered Slacks

Ok, quick journal.  I’m on the 5th Floor of the SM Megamall at Ortigas Center in Mandalyuong in Metro Manila.  I’m alone at a Starbucks that’s nestled between the IMAX Theater and a Director’s Club Cinema.  In front of me is a Pinkberry, another ice cream shop, and an ice skating rink.  The barista just asked the two English tourists “for here?” instead of “dine in po?”  There is ambient music piped in and it’s crazy pants loud.  

Yesterday I übered over to Green Hills, because it’s a famous mall I haven’t been to yet.  There are a lot of mass and department stores here, and they are half filled with restaurants.  Green Hills is interesting because they designed it to be confusing and a little chaotic, rather than the rest of the malls gleaming white spaces as if you were in a space ship.  I didn’t find much there, except for a Shakey’s Pizza and a Starbucks where I could get my caffeine fix and plug in devices.  I was officially there to look for something to wear for my nieces debut, her 18th birthday party/cotillion which has a black and white dress code theme.  

I übered over to the SM Megamall and found a black outfit; shoes, slacks, and shoes.  The slacks I had hemmed which cost $1.50 USD and they were finished in an hour.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait for them, so I cabbed back for my lesson.  

Before my lesson, I stopped for a snack, but there were 4 restaurants in a row that were closed during the dinner hour.  Ina-ayos ang gas, said the guard; they’re fixing the gas.  So I went to the KFC next to the Starbucks where I had my lesson and ordered the damn chizza; the chicken pizza.  It’s piece of chicken that they flatten into a small circle, chicken fry, and then top with pizza sauce, cheese and some toppings, I don’t know.  It was fine, some food on top of food that doesn’t usually go together.  People shouldn’t freak out about the idea.  They SHOULD, however, freak out about cheap ass pizza toppings and gross KFC fried chicken.  It was gross and I wish I could un-eat it.    

At my lesson we talked about American politics, weather and storm systems, plate techtonics, and a little bit about the weekend.  The lesson is the best part of my day.  

For real dinner, I walked across Yakal street, right across from tower two.  There are two restaurants, the fancy H-Cuisine, and a blank looking place with the name 五點半.  I saw a white dude in 五點半 but couldn’t see what people were eating, so I went to H-Cuisine instead, where I got stewed beef belly, fried baby yukon golds, and frenched veggies.  It was good, I’ll go back!  

So this morning I’m back at SM Megamall.  I’ve picked up my pants and later I’ll go downstairs to try a Chinese place my cousin recommended.  

“Just read comics!” and Other Crap That Doesn’t Apply To Me  

When I tell Filipinos that I’m learning Tagalog, there are two standard replies that I recieve.  One is “What the hell are you doing that for?” which is because they are still spiritually colonized.  

The other is “Just Read Comics!”  Some variations on this are “Just watch dramas!” and “Just listen to pop songs!”  

There is a common legend among Manileños, it goes like this.  Little Buboy moved to Manila at the tender age of 9, speaking nothing but Ilocano and generally acting like a goat farmer from the province.  His pants are too short and his socks are worn through.  By the time he’s 11, he’s wearing pressed denim jeans and designer brand sunglasses, and speaks Tagalog and English fluently with a shocking Manila accent, pronounciing the word “hours” as one syllable (arse) and the word “five” as two syllables (fah-eev) and even saying “pakbit” instead of “pinakbet.”  When you ask Buboy about his shocking transformation, he says “I just read comics.”  HE JUST READ COMICS.  

I am absolutely sure that Buboy read him some commics.  Here’s the other stuff that also may have contributed to Buboy’s success in Tagalog, stuff he didn’t mention…

  • He’s lived in Manila for the past two years, immersed in Tagalog. 
  • He has a huge language bonus since he already speaks a provincial Philippine language.  
  • He consumes all media (radio, TV, movies, etc) in Tagalog and English.
  • He is required to take the national langauge class at school.  

What irks me about “Just read comics” is the word “just.”  The word “just” makes me want to slap somebody’s teeth out of their mouth.  JP, whatever you’re doing is wrong, stop it, you don’t know how to learn langauge.  JUST READ COMICS.  COMICS ALONE = LANGAUGE LEARNING. 

Here’s the deal:  I now share most of those bullet points with Buboy.  I’m immersed in Tagalog, I consume media, I’m studying grammar.  I’ve got all of that covered.  What’s missing?  

What’s missing is that I don’t speak a provincial Philippine language, so I don’t enjoy a bonus in grammar and vocabulary.  Buboy already gets focus grammar and infixation because it’s all there in his native Ilocano as well.  The sounds are different, the words might be different, but structurally, it’s similar.  

I don’t enjoy that bonus.  I speak a bunch of European languages, and I can conjugate verb tenses and do all kinds of gender and number morphology, but that doesn’t help me with Tagalog.  So actually, if I were to do the damn “just read comics” method, I would have to find a dictionary that didn’t suck.  Which is a tall order, since most Tagalog “dictionaries” are just crappy glossaries that suck all day, every day. 

I speak a bunch of European languages.  When it’s time for me to learn Portuguese, or Catalan, or Provencal, or Sicilian I will read the shit out of some comics and come dazzle  you with my comic book vocabulary.  But unfortunately that’s a dead end for me when it comes to Tagalog.  By the way, ComicMaster, you don’t really have any qualifications to give someone language learning advice, do you.  Remember?  

We’re not done yet.  It may surprise people to learn that I, a 42 year old man, do not share the same enthusiasm for reading comics as 9 year old Buboy.  I don’t find them compelling.  I have friends that do.  Not me.  I also do not find TV dramas compelling.  In fact, I would rather get pickpocketed than watch a TV drama, in any language.  Guess how I feel about Tagalog pop music…

People are often shocked to learn that they don’t actually have to solve this problem for me.  I have been down this road before, actually, when I learned the other languages.  I actually have a better time reading legends, fairy tales, and contemporary short stories.  So that’s actually what I’m reading now, in Tagalog.  Does anyone care?  Hello?  No, see, nobody cares what actually works for me, what they care about is being the hero that reveals the great secret of Comic Book Language learning to me, which I have never heard before, except for every day since I arrived in this country, and several times before that.  

Look, consuming media is a crutial part of langauge learning; it’s a huge boost to vocabulary and an amazing window into culture.  So everybody should consume media:  radio, TV, newspapers, books, movies.  The thing is, if you want that to be SUSTAINABLE you have to do it for pleasure.  If you happen to like watching movies, then watch a movie in the target language!  Are you fascinated by news and current events?  Then watch the news in the target langauge!   Hooray!  Do it!  

So if Buboy is deriving pleasure from comics, yay for Buboy, I’ll give him 100 pesos toward his next comic book.  He’ll be speaking his target language in no time.  Me, I’m not into comics.  I’m into other things.  But thank you, for your expert opinion, ComicMaster.  

Finally, the best part.  I was telling KalyeSpeak Cris about my frustrations with “Just Read Comics” and he asked a very solid question:  Where do you even get Tagalog comic books nowadays?  Have you seen any anywhere?  There are plenty of comics in English around and also Japanese… have you seen a “comics in Tagalog” section at National Book Store lately?  Where is it?  WHERE IS IT?!

One last thing:  if you had a kid and expected the kid to learn their first language (be it English or any other langauge) EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH COMICS, they would arrest you and take that child from you, and  you’d stand trial for child neglect and be convicted.  And you’d go to jail and i personally would curse you.  Because it’s horrible.  So what makes “Just read comics” an acceptable method for someone learning a second langauge?  It doesn’t.  It’s horrible.