I wish it was fall. As a Midwesterner, and someone whose favorite month is October, I seem to have some sort of internal clock that tells me that this is just about the right time to start putting on sweaters and smelling apples and cinnamon and wanting to make my favorite soup in the whole world. This is unpleasant because it is about 850 degrees outside and you’re more likely to smell mangoes and pineapple than anything like cloves or nutmeg. But I am still conscious that, somewhere in a less-tropical part of the world, leaves are changing and the best holiday of the year is fast approaching. So, in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment, I am defying the rules and making that soup as we speak, to go along with the apple-cinnamon tea I bought yesterday. To hell with mangoes; give me thyme and cardamom!
Also, I realized that I’ve been here for over a month and have only traveled to two places in the Philippines, La Union, where I learned to surf (read: got my ass kicked by the sun and waves and rocks), and Tagaytay, where I stayed in a garden and found my peace. With difficult flight schedules, not to mention the fact that most domestic travel involves PROPELLERS, I haven’t been motivated to travel much. The problem with this job is that you’re always somewhere fantastic, and you always have only a few weekends left to see it. That means there is a constant sense of having to take advantage of every last minute, and frankly, sometimes that’s tiring. I no longer have weekends of DVDs and books and cooking…the question is now, “should I explore a cave, dive on a coral reef, visit a hidden beach, or go surfing?” While that’s an amazing decision to have to make at a weekend, I have to give myself permission every once in a while to let something pass me by, and spend the kind of weekend that will allow me to catch up on my sleep…and my sanity. No one can be adventurous all the time, so I think I’m going to sit this one out. Unless someone has tickets to Palawan…
So, during my weekend here at home, doing nothing but reading books, I have started to realize that Filipinos are, without exception, two things:
1. Completely obsessed with karaoke. It borders on national hysteria. It’s a family activity, it’s a date activity, it’s something to do at parties and when you’re home alone and bored. There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic, with the windows down, and hearing, at 4pm on a Tuesday, someone belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” from a nearby bar with, well, let’s just say, less than perfect pitch. And rhythm. And tone… Even worse, imagine being on a bus for eight hours, and after two of the worst action movies of all time (“Hellboy” and something worse), seeing the television screens light up with the display “Bee Gees Videoke, Volume 1″…and then hearing the entire bus sing along for the duration of the trip. You can buy karaoke DVDs in stores, you can sing in a bar at any time of day (no, really, any time), and you can even build your own karaoke theater in your home (I wish I could say that this last one was rare, but I’d be lying…). To top it all off, you can buy a special karaoke machine that records you singing, and then chooses several songs to make into a disc that you can give to your friends (who will, mysteriously, stop calling you after that). In fact, even as I write this, my new friend Carlo has just sent me a message telling me that he has karaoke in his room and will call me so that he can sing his favorite song to me (“Guess how many songs I have!” “How many?” “Twenty thousand! Even Korean ones!” “Can you sing in Korean?” “…no.”). Of course, I enjoy a good karaoke romp every now and then (although I only sing one song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), but this is just too much. Which leads me to Number Two…
2. Sentimental fools. Believe me, I’ve been trying very hard to discover good Filipino bands for the World Music Showcase, but…there just aren’t any, as far as rock is concerned (except 6cyclemind and their excellent video for “Saludo”, which may appear again later in this journal). As a population, Filipinos seem to have a soft spot for the kind of slow, mellow, cheesy, elevator-music, easy-listening sentimental ballads that either put the rest of us immediately to sleep or make us throw up in our mouths a little bit. A nation of gentle lovers and Michael Bolton fans. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but don’t come here expecting raucous rock concerts, mosh pits, or headbanging…unless it’s at a Michael Bolton concert.