Baguio City: a Fitting Symbol of the Pinoy Mentality

The orderliness and garden-city vibe of Wright Park

In the past few months I’ve tapped into my picture file to gather some pictures that I often look at, pictures that contain details that say everything about the Filipino mentality and what being married to a Filipina may entail.

One of the photo albums that I often look at is the one that contains the pictures of my trip to Baguio City.

Baguio is a medium-sized city situated in the northern part of the island of Luzon, the northernmost island of the archipelago, in the province of Benguet.

There are several things that make Baguio a unique place:

BAGUIO’S UNIQUE CLIMATE

The city was developed as the American colonial summer capital, according to a plan composed in 1905 by the American architect-planner, Daniel Burnham.

The reason why the area where Baguio is situated was chosen to build the “summer capital” is because of its cool climate, as the city is situated about 1,470 meters above sea level and, because it has a particular microclimate that makes it conducive for the growth of its signature symbol: the pine tree (or what I call the Filipine tree…) which is a rather unique thing for a tropical country.

THE “GARDEN-CITY” OF THE PHILIPPINES

The area surrounding Burnham Park, a vast green area situated in the very middle of the city, really resembles a garden-city.
Burnham Park is not the only park in downtown Baguio: there is also Wright Park and quite a few others that really give the central area of the city a garden-city vibe.

A FITTING METAPHOR OF THE PINOY MENTALITY

Yes, Baguio is way different from the rest of the country, because it is much greener and because it offers the opportunity to find some concealment from the unbeareably hot tropical climate of the coast and, unlike most cities and towns in the Philippines, Baguio has a measure of urban planning because it was intentionally designed to become what it partly still is, namely some sort of garden-city.

Unfortunately, at least from my standpoint as a Western tourist, Baguio looks like a city that, because of the “Pinoy mentality” has largely missed the opportunity to become the garden-city that was supposed to have become, and, most of it, looks pretty much similar to the rest of the Philippines.

Here are few examples:

This is the view from the SM Baguio that clearly shows the sharp contrast between the green and orderly central core of the city and the hillside with its chaotic and unplanned development
The view from Mines View: not much of a view, it looks like many pine trees have been cut down…..
Quiapo-like atmosphere only few blocks away from Burnham Park
Spaghetti wires only few blocks away from Burnham Park

If you look at the pictures above, you can’t help but notice the sharp contrast between the orderliness of Wright Park (and several other green areas in town) and the Quiapo-like environment of many back streets (the one in the picture is only a couple of blocks away from Burnham Park, another neat green area of Baguio situated in the downtown area).

The people of Baguio were offered the possibility to live in an orderly city but the Filipino mentality turned order into chaos and much of the city, outside the beaten tourist track, is quite messy.

My trip to Baguio (that I made after having already experienced a few years of being in a relationship with a Filipina) strengthened my mental picture of Filipinos as people who complicate their lives unnecessarily even when they are offered the possibility to live a more straightforward and easy life on a golden plate.

Some Filipinos here in my country have employers who esteem them and pay them well and yet, as I said many times, too many Pinoy here end up broke and the possibilities they are offered to live a more “orderly” life with savings to tap into when life gets tough go down the drain and they find themselves living messy lives.

Obviously generalizations are never in order and I know a few Filipinos who bought a house here and do have savings but most don’t and I am talking about people who have been working here for 20-30 years and who came here when the economy was still thriving.

In much the same way as the inhabitants of Baguio City mismanaged their city, and instead of improving on the foundation that had been laid by the Americans who designed the city, turned many parts of it into something that is very far from being a garden-city, many (not all of course) expatriate Filipinos who have had all the possibilities in the world to improve their socio-economic condition have made no progress whatsoever.

Filipinos are, by and large, not masters at creating added value, at least socio-economically.

If you marry a Filipina there is a chance that your financial house will end up like Baguio City.

On the flip side other qualities of your Filipino spouse can make you a better man: their way of taking care of their families, their gregarious way of life, their hospitality and their sense of laughing away at tragedies could create added value in your level of humanity.

It is a matter of deciding what matters the most in your life.

Italian Style “Lechon”

The Italian version of Filipino “lechon”
“La Selvotta” in Ariccia, just outside Rome
“La Selvotta”

Very close to Rome there is a hilly area known as Castelli Romani.

The area is characterized by hills covered with forests and there are two amazing lakes known as Lago di Albano and Lago di Nemi.

There are also pictoresque towns like Frascati, Albano, Ariccia etc.

The town of Ariccia is known for “porchetta”, a slow-roasted pig that is very similar to the Filipino lechon, except for the fact that the Roman version is much more spicy.

Yesterday we were at “La Selvotta” (the forest), an eatery situated in the middle of the woods where they serve the typical “porchetta di Ariccia”.

Many Filipinos whom I know love the place and I often go there with them although I prefer to stay away from baboy and meat in general as I am more into veggies and healthy eating.

The atmosphere is unique, the wine is great and the weather is always cool even when in Rome the temperature is extremely hot.

If you come to Rome try visiting the hilly area of Castelli Romani, you’ll fall in love with it!

Lago di Albano, in the area known as “Castelli Romani” situated just outside Rome

Bitten by a Freshwater Eel!

Recently I spent a long weekend in my parents’ village in Southern Italy.

The name of the village is Termini di Massalubrense, situated between Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

The village is situated on the top of a hill and there are several bays there that can only be reached on foot.

One of those is called Baia di Ieranto and it takes about 1,5 hours to get there on foot.

Baia di Ieranto

As I got close to the beach, I spotted a lot of people standing on an old pier, and there was no one in the water. How come?

I kept walking and, when I got to the pier, I jumped into the water without any hesitancy and…..guess what? Jellyfish! The water was infested with jellyfish. That’s how come….

It felt like being shot with a machine gun!

I had no choice but to hike back under the scorching sun.

That is why my recent swims have only taken place in the various lakes we have around Rome.

And the reason is because the lake is safer than the sea, right? There are no sharks, no barracudas and no jellyfish in the lake, so the lake is safer, right?

Wrong!!!!

Few days ago, while I was basking in the waters of Lake Bracciano, about 10 km away from the outskirts of Rome, not far from where I work, something bit me.

Yes I got bitten in the lake!

What was it?

Because the place where the incident took place is called Anguillara Sabazia, and, because the town is named after the Anguilla, the Italian term for freshwater eels, I assume that the thing that bit me was a freshwater eel.

I guess that the only safe place is a swimming pool….or better yet my wife’s loving arms….

Lake Bracciano in Anguillara Sabazia

Ang “Barok” na Pagsasalita ng mga Pilipino dito sa Italya

Baroque architecture sa Roma
Hindi gaano interesado ang mga Pilipino dito sa history at sa Baroque style….pero at least “barok” ang kanilang pagsasalita

Ang Bayan ng Roma ay kilalang-kilala bilang ang kabisera ng Baroque style.

Sa sentro ng Roma may maraming simbahan at gusali na “Baroque” ang istylo at, ayon sa ilan mga iskolar, ang kahulugan, o isa sa mga kahulugan, ng terminong ito ay may kinalaman sa di-regular na hugis ng mga perlas na medyo magaspang at hindi perpekto. Maraming mga gusali dito sa Roma ay may di-regular na hugis.

Ang isang halimbawa ay ang simbahan ng Sant’Agnese sa Piazza Navona kung saan ay may halo-halo ng malukong at matambok na hugis ang harap ng simbahan.

Noong bagong kasal ako madalas na narinig ko ang mga Pilipino na gumagamit ng salitang baroque at nagtaka ako dahil alam ko mabuti na hindi ganitong ka-interesado ang mga Pinoy sa arts at, dito sa Roma, bagaman may maraming historic na mga gusali, mas gusto ng mga Pilipino pumunta sa mga shopping mall, sa KFC, Mc Donalds o Burger King at medyo binabale-wala nila ang mga monumento na milyun-milyong mga turista na galing sa buong mundo ay sabik na sabik na makita.

Sa bagay, noong nasa Pilipinas ako, gusto ko sana makita ang historic na bahagi ng Maynila, na tinatawag na Intramuros, pero puro shopping malls ang pinuntahan namin.

Sa Baliuag, Bulacan mayroon ang isang Colonial Style na simbahan na dinaanan namin maraming beses, at na gusto ko sana makita, pero ayaw huminto ng dryber.

Sa kalaunan natuklasan ko na ang salitang baroque na ginagamit ng mga Pinoy ay walang kinalaman sa “sining” kundi sa “broken at non-standard” na pagsasalita ng ibang wika.

At, syempre, dito talagang nahihirapan ang mga Pinoy sa pagsasalita ng Italyano at sobrang barok ang kanilang pagsasalita.

Halimbawa, madalas ginagamit ng mga Pilipino ang inverter ay, na karaniwan sa Tagalog, kapag nagsasalita sila sa Italyano. Bukod dito ang f ay nagiging p at ang v ay nagiging b.

Ang nagiging resulta ay na ang isang pananalita katulad halimbawa “io devo fare…,” (“dapat akong gumawa ng……”) ay nagiging “io ay debo pare”.

Madalas na ginagamit ng mga Pilipino ang mag-, na karaniwang ginagamit sa Tagalog para bumuo ng mga pandiwa, at hinahalo nila ito sa mga pandiwa sa Italyano. Halimbawa ang Italyanong pandiwang “partire” (magbyahe) ay nagiging: “magpartire”.

Kaya, bagaman ang mga Pinoy dito ay wala kahit anong interes sa Baroque Architecture naging sila dalubhasa sa pagsasalita ng Barok Italian at talagang barok na barok ang pagsasalita nila.

Naintindihan ko na bising-bisi ang mga Pinoy dito, pero natuklasan ko na hindi kailangan ang malaking pagsisikap para pasulungin ang pagsasalita ng isang banyagang wika, sapat ang ilang minuto araw-araw. Tutal, bagaman sobrang abala ako sa dami ng ginagawa ko, kahit papaano natuto ako magsalita ng Tagalog……..kahit baka kung minsan medyo barok din ang Tagalog ko……..

Pagpapadala ng Pera sa Pilipinas: Mabilis at Ligtas!

Minsan dumaan ako sa harap ng isang “money transfer” na agency dito sa Roma, Italy, at napansin ko ang sinasabi sa isang patalastas na nasa pasukan: “magpadala ng pera sa Pilipinas: mabilis at ligtas“.

Binubulay-bulay ko kung gaano katotoo iyon: kung ang isang OFW ay nagpapadala ng pera sa Pilipinas mabilis mauubos iyon ng mga kamag-anak at mabilis na i-rerequest nila ang karagdagang pera.

Ligtas din sila kapag may kamag-anak na trabaho nang trabaho sa abroad at padala nang padala: malaya sila na kumain at uminom.

Mayroon ba isang taong mas ligtas kaysa sa taong hindi nagtratrabaho at naghihintay lang ng pera mula sa iba?

Talagang ligtas sila: kahit bumabagsak ang mundo nananatili sila nakatayo!

Oo, mabilis at ligtas talaga!

Isulong ang Kalinisan!

Dito sa Roma, Italya, mayroon ang isang systema para itapon ang basura na medyo bago para sa Southern Italy.

Matagal na gumagana ang systemang ito sa Hilagang Italya at sa karamihan ng mga bansa sa Europa.

Ang tinutukoy ko ay ang pagtatapon ng basura sa iba’t ibang uri ng trash can, depende sa uri ng basura.

May mga trash can na para sa plastik lang kung saan walang iba kundi plastik ang inilalagay.

May trash can para sa food waste, para sa papel at para sa glass. Akalayin ninyo!

Mukhang advanced ang systemang ito.

Pero sa totoo ang paraang ito ng paghihiwalay ng basura ayon sa uri nito ay muna inimbento sa Pilipinas, hindi sa Europa.

Lagi sinasabi ko na ang Pilipinas ay, at least, 20 years ahead of the rest of the world….

Sa Pilipinas may mga uri ng basura na itinatapon sa ilog, may mga uri ng basura na itinatapon sa kanal, may mga uri ng basura na itinatapon sa kalsada at may mga uri ng basura na itinatapon sa bukid!

Pero, sa totoo, sa Pilipinas ay mayroon ang pinakamaganda, pinakaepektibo at pinakamurang paraan para alisin ang basura mula sa ibabaw ng lupa: lahat ay tinitipon sa bakuran at sinusunog!!!!

Masyadong maarte dito…

Where to Eat on a Budget around Rome

As I have said before, although my blog is about my experience as an Italian husband of a Filipina, sometimes I like to deflect and talk about interesting places to visit and things to do, not only in the Philippines but even here in my country.

Italy is an amazing country but tourist spots can get rather crowded and, quite honestly, pretty expensive.

There are alternative ways to visit this country that are no less interesting than going where everyone else is going.

And, sure enough, there are alternative ways to taste real Italian food.

A rule of thumb to follow if you want to eat well and on a budget around Rome is the following: you rent a car, or take a bus or a train, and head inland (a great area to experience Italy very off-the-beaten-track is the region surrounding the town of Rieti).

Once you get to the first village that looks like a God-forgotten place, or, in other words, a village situated in the middle of nowhere, nowhen and nohow (and there are many in that region), you ask the first local you encounter the following question: “dove posso trovare un ristorantino molto ignorante?”, literally meaning “where can I find a very informal place to eat? (Romans sometimes use the word “ignorante” or “ignorant” not to mean “illiterate” but, rather, to mean something or someone very informal.

Chances are that you will find one of those typical super-rustic Italian trattoria where old and fat waitresses wearing an apron almost throw huge amounts of food at you, where belching in front of everyone is socially-acceptable and wine showers from the sky in very large amounts.

Yesterday we were at Lago del Turano, near Rieti. To say that that place is off-the-beaten-track is an understatement.

I actually decided to go there after reading a blog post by a British blogger based in Ireland who is married to an Italian.

She seems to know a lot of off-the-beaten-track spots in the Rome region and she has a post about this lake that I barely knew that it even existed. I had been there maybe 30 years ago or something but had forgotten all about it.

Anyway, we visited the lake, actually a dam, and the place is quite interesting because it is surrounded by mountains and there are a few villages perched on the surrounding hills that look over the dam.

Once there I started to vividly remember visiting this lake some 30 years ago and, after that, stumbling upon a fanta-super-mega-ignorant (in the Roman sense of the word) restaurant where, for something like 25 euros per person, they fed us the whole world.

I went back to that restaurant last year without first visiting the lake: we headed straight to the restaurant from Rome.

They started out with “some” (just “some”) antipasti or starters

This too was part of the “antipasti”

Then came the first dishes: the waitress asked whether we wanted one type of pasta or five assaggini (meaning little “samples” of different kinds of pasta).

We went for the assaggini and it turned out to be five dishes like this per person (just to “sample” different types of food):

“assaggino”

After that we tried to ask for the bill, but the waitress said: “we haven’t finished yet”, at which I got knocked down on my knees and begged her to stop bringing more food…but to no avail.

She kept bringing more and more assaggini of various second, third, fourth, fifth…100th dishes and then tiramisù, ice cream, grappa, limoncello…you name it, until we got to the point that we needed some drain cleaner, some sodium hydroxide, like the one plumbers use to free the drains from stuff that clogs them, to digest….

Yes, if you want to experience eating around Rome on a budget, rent a car and go get lost in some God-forgotten village in the inland areas of the Rome region.

You will eat with satisfaction and belch in dolby-surround stereo and the echo of your belch will fill the air in an area of 100 square miles…I promise you

Lago del Turano
The village of Paganico Sabino perched on a hill overlooking the lake

Funny Filipino T Shirts

Is this a man? Tao ba ito?
Hindi pala tao lang: henyo!!!!!!

If you have the chance to visit the Philippines and one of its huge malls, you will stumble upon one of those stores that sell t shirts with all sorts of (more or less) funny logos and printings in Tagalog.

I saw one that mimicked the Heineken Beer logo that said “Hay naku! Ubos na ang beer” (oh my goodness, we have run out of beer).

Another one had something like the “Tag-heuer” logo and it replaced “Tag-heuer” with tag-hirap since birth” (“poverty since birth”).

And on and on it goes: you can find all kinds of logos, from “tangi kapogian lang ang minana ko mula sa tatay ko” (“beauty is the only thing I inherited from my father” to “Bahala-na Republic”.

I was given the one above that says “tao ba ‘to?”, meaning “is this a man?”.

And the answer on the back gives the answer: “henyo” or “genius”!…..

I actually wanted the one with “Hay naku! Ubos na ang beer” but they didn’t have my size, hay naku! Naku po(gi)!

If you visit the Philippines, and you know a little bit of Tagalog, buy yourself one of these funny t-shirts….

Kung Papaano Pwede Maging isang Ligtas na Dako ang Pag-aasawa

Nabubuhay tayong lahat sa isang mundo kung saan medyo mahirap magkaroon ng pagkadama na ligtas at tiwasay tayo.

Sa labas ng tahanan ay may maraming mga “lobo” wika nga at mga tao na medyo makasarili.

Kilala ko rin ang isang tao na ang kanyang apelydo ay Canlobo pero hindi siya lobo, mabait na tao iyon. Pero talagang marami ang mga lobo sa mundong ito (at mga Canlobo rin…lalo na sa parteng Batangas…).

Kaya napakaimportante na at least sa tahanan ay mayroon tayong kaunting kanlungan mula sa mga lobo na nasa labas at mula sa tinatawag na dog eat dog world.

Nais kong i-share ang ilang mga pamantayan na, sa palagay ko at least, nakakatulong sa amin na tamasahin kaunting kanlungan mula sa mga problema at kaigtingan na idinudulot ng mundo na nasa labas ng tahanan

Hangga’t maaari gumagawa ako ng aking makakaya para

makitungo sa asawa ko ayon sa kaunawaan

May mga tanong na tinatanong ko sa aking sarili gaya: gaano ko siyang kakilala? Ano ba talaga ang nalalaman ko tungkol sa background niya?
Ano ba talaga ang iniisip niya? Ano ang nakakainis sa kanya?

Ang salitang kaunawaan, at least isa sa mga diwa nito, ay “ang kakayahang makita mas malalim kaysa sa kung ano ang mahalata”

Mahirap maging tiwasay ang ibang tao kung nadarama niya na nakikita ko lang ang ibabaw ng kung ano ang sinasabi o ginagawa niya at hindi ang nasa likod at padalus-dalos umaabot ako sa mga konklusyon tungkol sa kanya.

Isa sa mga diwa ng salitang intimacy ay into me see at mas malaki ang posibilidad na ang ating kabiyak ay magiging intimate sa atin, sa diwa na magiging siyang malaya na isiwalat sa atin ang kanyang niloloob kung nadarama niya na tayo ay nagsusumikap na talagang unawain siya.

Kaya napakaimportante na sinisikap nating makita ang panloob na pagkatao na nasa likod ng kung ano ang mahalata, ang kanyang mabuting motibo at intensyon na nakatago sa likod ng kanyang pagkakamali dahil sa masyado maraming pamilya nakikita lang ng babae ang maBOTEng mga bagay na itinatago ng lalaki sa likod ng aparador at nakikita lang ng lalaki ang mga sigaw o ang init ng ulo ng babae at hindi kung ano ang nasa likod.

Maging isang tunay na macho

Kaming mga lalaki ay mas malakas sa pisikal na diwa at mas delikado ang babae (sa pisikal na lang dahil maraming babae ay marunong mabuti kung papaano ilagay ang lalaki under the saya).

Ang tunay na macho ay hindi ang isa na nagpapakita kung gaano kahusay siya sa awayan, suntukan, barilan, inuman at kung gaano kalakas siyang nagtataas ng boses. Kadalasan ang gayong uri ng macho ay nagiging machunurin sa loob ng bahay.

Ang tunay na macho sa tingin ko ay ang isa na tinatrato ang kabiyak bilang isang uri ng sisidlan na delikado ngunit mataas ang halaga, na para bang mangkok ng porselana ang asawang babae, mahina at delikado ngunit mamahaling mangkok.

Ang ganitong uri ng macho ay hindi sumisigaw, hindi nagyayabang na malakas uminom siya, mabilis magmaneho at na marunong siyang suntukin maraming tao nang sabay sabay.

Hindi iyon ang hinahanap ng babae, hinahanap nila ang isa na delikado at romantiko….gaya ng mga lalaki na nakikita sa mga pelikulang romantiko.

Ang hinahanap din ng babae para madama niya na tiwasay siya ay ang lalaki na kahit walang trabaho nagsusumikap siya na sumulong.

Sa Pilipinas maraming mga lalaki na walang trabaho ay nakatambay lang at may masyado maraming pamilya kung saan ang babae lang ang nagsusumikap. Sa Pilipinas marami kong nakita pamilya kung saan engineer ang asawang babae at gingeneer ang lalaki.

Mahirap maging tiwasay ang babae kung ganito ang lalaki.

Maraming bagay sana ang kailangang sabihin tungkol dito pero gusto ko lang idagdag ang isa pang punto na sa tinging ko ay napakaimportante:

MAGING MAKATOTOHANAN SA INAASAHAN SA KABIYAK

gusto nating lahat na pagpapasensyahan ng asawa natin tayo sa mga pagkukulang natin ‘di ba?

Pero ang kadalasang nangyayari ay na one way street na lang ito.

Gusto ng marami ang awa ng asawa kapag sila ang nagkakamali pero kung sila ay biktima ng pagkakamali ng kabiyak ayaw nilang siyang pagpasensyahan.

Dapat two way street iyon.

Marami ko sanang idadagdag pero hanggang dito na lang ako sa post na ‘to.

Mabuhay ang katiwasayan!