The Bataan Death March vs the 2019 Death March

The Bataan Death March was the transfer by the Japanese Army of thousands of American and Filipino prisoners of war from Bataan to Tarlac.

The total distance marched was over 60 miles.

Differing sources report that the death march caused from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths and was later judged to be a war crime.

Last summer I took a bunch of Filipino friends on a march that was supposed to be fun, but it turned out to be a “death march” for some of them who are not used to walking long distances.

Here is a video of the 2019 death march that took place from the village of Termini di Massalubrense in the Amalfi Coast, in Southern Italy, to Ieranto Bay, one of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean Sea.

You should try this “death march” too…just remember that “walang tricycle o ibang uri ng sasakyan para bumalik mula sa dagat”

Mga Pinoy sa Italy: mga Pilipino at ang Social Welfare sa Italy

Dito sa Italya ang mga tao ay may maraming masamang ugali.

Noong bata pa ako marami ang tulong na kayang ibigay ng gobyerno sa mga nangangailangan.

Noong mga “70s at “80s libre ang gamot, libre ang university, pwede mag-retire ang mga trabahador kapag 55-60 taong gulang, napakamura ng pampublikong transportasyon at may maraming tulong na available para sa mga may sakit o invalidity.

Sa ngayon naging mahigpit ang gobyerno at bumaba ang mga pondo ng gobyerno para sa mga bagay na iyon.

Ngunit, kahit papaano, marami pa rin ang mga benepisyo na available para sa mga walang trabaho o may mababang sahod, lalo na kung may anak.

Isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit medyo kulang sa pondo ang Social Welfare dito ay na sinamantala iyon nang malaki ng maraming tao na walang tunay na pangangailangan.

Dito may maraming Italyano na nag-aanking may mababang income pero, baka, may hindi-dinedeklarang sideline (at baka may magandang kotse, dalawang bahay etc.) at may maraming tao na tumatanggap ng tseke bilang “invalid” pero hindi pala totoong bulag o pilay sila.

Kamakailan natuklasan ng pulis na ang isang tao na, sa loob ng matagal na panahon, ay tumanggap ng tseke ng Social Welfare bilang bulag ay kaya niyang magmaneho ng kotse!

Bilang asawa ng isang Pilipina, mayroon akong impresyon na medyo monkey see monkey do ang saloobin ng mga Pilipino.

Madali sana para sa isang Pilipino dito magkunwari na mababa ang kanyang income kahit hindi iyon totoo: karamihan ng mga Pilipino dito ay nagtratrabaho sa iba’t ibang amo, isang oras dito, isang oras doon at, baka, isa lang sa mga amo ang handang gumawa ng legal na kontrata.

Sa ganitong situwasyon pwede mangyari na ang isang OFW ay nag-aaply sa tulong ng gobyerno kahit ang totoong income ay mas mataas kaysa sa kung ano ang “officially” na lumilitaw at baka ang aplikante para sa tulong ng gobyerno ay may magandang kotse, magastos na i-phone, flat-screen na TV etc.

Ayaw kong magbigay ng “sermon” tungkol dito. Ang gusto ko lang sabihin ay na nagiging medyo mahigpit ang gobyerno dito at dumarami ang mga kontrol.

Gaya ng sinabi ko, natuklasan ng pulis maraming bulag na nakapagmamaneho, baka mayamaya lalabas ang mga pilay na umaakyat ng mga bundok, ang mga bingi na kumakanta, ang mga homeless na may bagong BMW at marami pa….

Kaya, kung kayo ay OFW dito sa bansa ko mag-ingat sa pagdedeklara ng income dahil kulang sa pondo ang bansa at dumarami ang mga inspeksyon…..

Mga Pinoy sa Italy: Estranghero sa Bansa at Estranghero sa Bahay

Bilang asawa ng isang Pilipina dito sa Italya, isa sa mga bagay na napansin ko ay na maraming mga Pilipino dito ay kapwa estranghero sa bansa at sa bahay.

Mga estranghero sila sa Italya hindi lang dahil iba ang nationality nila kundi dahil hindi gaano silang natututo ng Italyano at halos hindi sila nakikipagsalamuha sa mga taga dito.

May iba’t ibang mga dahilan:

Ang isang dahilan ay na marami ang nagtratrabaho bilang live-in (o full-time) na tagalinis at nakakulong sila sa bahay ng kanilang mga amo sa loob ng maraming oras, kaya may kaunting pagkakataon (o halos wala) sila para makipagsalamuha sa mga taga dito.

Ang isa pang dahilan ay na, dito sa Roma, mayroon ganitong karaming Pilipino na halos hindi kailangan ng mga Pilipinong dayuhan makipag-ugnayan sa mga Italyano at, karamihan sa mga kakilala ko ay, sa totoo, wala gaanong interes o gana na magpalawak at makipag-kaibigan sa mga taga dito.

Ang kanilang mga anak naman ay regular na nakikipagsalamuha sa mga taga dito, kaya fluent sila sa Italyano.

Kaya ang dahilan kung bakit nagiging mga estranghero sila sa bahay ay na maraming mga anak ng mga Pilipino dito ay halos hindi marunong magsalita ng Tagalog (o Iloko o anuman ang wika ng kanilang mga magulang).

Halimbawa, noong isang linggo kinausap ko ang isang 25 taong gulang na anak ng isang Bulaquenya: hindi siya kailanman nakarating sa Pilipinas at hindi niya kanyang bumuo ng kahit isang buong pangungusap sa Tagalog.

Nagkaroon ako ng impresyon na ang kanyang nanay ay hindi gaanong ka-fluent sa Italyano, kaya paano nagkakaroon sila ng makabuluhang komunikasyon sa tahanan?

Sa palagay ko medyo binabale-wala ng ilang mga magulang ang pagtuturo ng Tagalog sa kanilang mga anak habang maliit pa sila at kaya sana nilang matuto ng mabilis.

Masyadong abala ang mga magulang sa trabaho at pagdating sa bahay pagod sila, may masyado maraming teknolohya na nagiging sagabal sa komunikasyon at, dahil dito, ang mga anak ay nagiging mga estranghero sa tahanan.

Kaya kung may balak kayo na lumipat dito para magtrabaho (kung sakali may trabaho pa dito…..hindi ako sigurado tungkol dito), pakisuyo isaalang-alang ninyo kung paano magtuturo kayo ng Tagalog sa inyong mga anak para hindi mangyari na kayo ay magiging kapwa estranghero sa bansa at estranghero sa tahanan!

Is it Necessary to Travel to be Happy?

Travelling alone in the Philippines


(I am editing this old post because I think there are parts of it that needed to be slightly modified. I am going through my posts to find out which fit nicely into my blog and which need to be modified or deleted)

I must say right off the bat that I love travelling and that travelling is part of my identity.

Yet in this post I am going to talk about “compulsive Wanderlust” which, I guess, is one of my weaknesses, and almost 3 months of lockdown between March and May  2020, plus the fact that, even if most lockdown measures have been lifted here in Italy, travelling is still quite complicated, have further brought to the light that this is something I need to fix.

I am an Italian man who is married to a foreigner.

One of the reasons why 20 years ago I stumbled upon the foreign woman whom I eventually married is because I am well-travelled, I speak more than one language and therefore, when I first met my wife, I was able to communicate with her because she was new here in Italy and she couldn’t really speak my language.

Also, because of my travelling experiences, I was open to other cultures and I had plenty of experience in interacting with people from diverse backgrounds.

But, while my desire to explore other countries and cultures was the very thing that got me to get to know my wife and eventually marry her, this very desire became a huge stumbling block in my relationship.

WANDERLUST VS BASKING IN THE ENJOYMENT OF LITTLE EVERYDAY THINGS

To make a long story short: as I have said I love travelling, or, more honestly, I actually crave it, so much so that before I got married I couldn’t stand the idea of letting a single year go by without visiting at least one foreign country and I couldn’t even stand the idea of letting one week go by without going at least on some excursion even to a nearby medieval town, a lake, a forest or whatever (and we’ve got an abundance of amazing places to explore in my region).

My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t care at all about travelling.

I think that there are three underlying reasons why this is the case:

She left the Philippines at a very early age and became an OFW or Overseas Filipino Worker and, therefore, she associates the idea of travelling to other countries to the idea of migration and being severed from friends and relatives, while I was born in a first world country and I associate the idea of travelling to adventure and the possibility to broaden my horizons.

Another reason is that my wife comes from a culture that is very people oriented and family oriented while us Westerners are more goal oriented.

But a deeper reason is that she has an incredible ability to enjoy little and ordinary things and bask in those things without having to distract herself and necessarily go somewhere to feel fulfilled which is something I like to talk about, read about and theorize about but, in practice, if you take travelling away from me, I don’t have this skill at all.


WHEN HUSBAND AND WIFE HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWPOINTS ABOUT TRAVELLING

My wife’s concept of vacation is pure rest and nothing more.

I, on the other hand, have an almost neurotic and compulsive need and urge to go somewhere else.

My wife and I often go somewhere out of town and I am grateful to her that she is willing to meet me half-way in this area.

My idea of going somewhere to spend a weekend together is somewhere in Europe like Prague, Paris or even further away, while her idea is somewhere as close as possible, even if this entails renting an apartment here in town or in a very close lake resort or anywhere else that entails moving as little as possible from home.

I have learned to compromise and, therefore, I now travel much less than I used to do in the past.

I was actually forced to compromise because the gap between me and my wife in this area was becoming a big problem in my relationship which took me years to fix.

I realized how serious this problem was after my first trip to the Philippines.

My first trip to the Philippines was my first opportunity ever to visit a tropical country.

Until then I had seen nothing but almost every single corner of Europe, I had never visited any other continent.

I had made amazing trips to the far North of Europe and other amazing places but I had never been to the tropics before or, as I said, I had never been anywhere else outside Europe.

So I was expecting to do a big deal of snorkeling and see plenty of coral reefs, explore jungles and remote waterfalls and do everything else that a European would expect to do in an exotic paradise but I pretty soon realized that my wife had no intention whatsoever to show me around and take me on a tour of her amazing country.
She wanted to do nothing but visit old friends and relatives.

So, because some Filipino friends of mine who live in Rome were in the Philippines on vacation in that period, I left my wife and went off on my own to meet up with them.

I took a bus from the bus terminal in Cubao (Metro Manila) and headed North to the Ilocos Region where I met up with my friends who took me to a lot of beaches in Pangasinan, to the Cordillera Mountains and to a bunch of other places.

It is not as if I hadn’t seen anything of the Philippines while with my wife: we had actually been to the One Hundred Islands (only for one day), Tagaytay and few other places. But I was eager to see more, as the Philippines offer much more than that.

The problem is that, few months  after my trip to the Philippines, I realized how selfish I had been and how I should have put my relationship ahead of my cravings for adventure.

Once I realized that my urge to travel all the time, not only in the Philippines but also here in Italy, was driving a serious wedge between me and my wife I began to seriously ask myself: “why do I have this urge to travel all the time”, “why can’t I just appreciate little ordinary things as my wife does?”.

AN ADDICTIVE WANDERLUST CAN BE A REAL NEUROSIS

I came to the conclusion that my urge to always experience something new or different was a real neurosis and that I had to become more grounded in being, not only for the sake of my relationship but also for the sake of having a more balanced mindset.

I once stumbled upon a book where I read that our relationship with the present moment defines our relationship with life itself and it became pretty obvious to me that my urge to always go somewhere else was closely tied to my underlying inability to bask in the present moment and enjoy the little things that are the bulk of an intimate relationship and of family life.

I understood that what makes a marriage great is not those ecstatic highs that I hoped to experience with my wife somewhere in Palawan or Boracay but rather the everyday ordinary little moments that my wife seemed to be happy with and that I was failing to fully enjoy.

NEVER STAKE YOUR LIFE ON THE PURSUIT OF ADVENTURE

Another reason why I am reconsidering my relationship with travelling is that I am 53 years old and I am facing old age and, maybe, disease in the future.

What would I do if I lost my eyesight or I got sick to the point of not being able to go anywhere anymore and being bedridden for life?

If travelling is so addictive for me this means that when that part my life is over my whole life will be over.

I can’t run this risk so I’d better learn from my beautiful wife how to be more grounded in the here and now and enjoy the amazing little things we experience every single day while they last and view those ecstatic highs that we from time to time experience when we travel somewhere as a bonus and nothing more.

REAL FULFILLMENT IS THE ABILITY TO ENJOY LITTLE THINGS

Granted, travelling has enriched my life beyond measure and I also owe the fact that I have met my wife to my travelling experience.

Travelling is an incredible opportunity to broaden my perspectives and enjoy the beauty of life but so is reading, so is buying a microscope and staring at the magnificence of a cell or even staring in awe at my own hand, or some other part of my body, or, as I said, enjoying the beauty of ordinary moments with my wife and my family.

I am seriously introspecting and trying to get to the root cause why for so many years I haven’t been able to be still and just bask in being without needing to distract myself and go somewhere else to see more or something different or new.

My wife is helping me a lot in this regard and I am very grateful that I have met this amazing woman who has taught me what it is like to put a relationship and the little yet amazing things that characterize it ahead of the flimsy highs that going on some adventure offers.

Gaano Karaming Alak ang Masyadong Marami?

Sinasabi ng ilan na walang problema kung ang isang tao ay umiinom ng isang baso ng alak o isang lata ng beer na lang.

Totoo ba ito?

Bweno, depende sa:

Kung gaano kalaki ang baso ng alak

Kung ano ang “grado” ng isang lata ng beer

Mas matapang yata ito kaysa sa Red Horse (doble ang grado)

May pagkakataon na kahit ang isang baso o ang isang lata lang ay nagiging pampatunaw (…ng atay)….

Massalubrense: the Town at the Edge of the Amalfi Coast

I live in Rome with my Filipino wife, but I was born in Southern Italy, in a place situated at the edge of the famous tourist spot known as the Amalfi Coast.

My birthplace is the village of Termini, in the municipality of Massalubrense, and Termini is the very last village of the peninsula, the one situated at the very edge of it, only 3 km away from Punta Campanella, the tip of the peninsula that separates the Bay of Naples (or the Sorrento Coast) from the Bay of Salerno (the Amalfi Coast) and faces the world famous Capri Island.

Why should you visit this area?

Because it’s the only sort of off-the-beaten-track spot in the entire region.

Beautiful though it may be, the area gets extremely crowded in summer, while the very tip of the peninsula is (relatively) still kind of unspoiled and, on top of that it’s a nature reserve.

TOP PLACES IN MASSALUBRENSE

Monte di San Costanzo

Monte di San Costanzo: the best vantage point in the area, right in front of it is Capri Island

A view of the Amalfi Coast from Monte di San Costanzo

Naples’ Bay and the islands of Ischia and Procida from Monte di San Costanzo

Punta Campanella

There are two ways to get to Punta Campanella: one is by walking down via Campanella from Termini, while a much more scenic one is hiking on a trail from Monte di San Costanzo

Capri Island from the trail that leads to Punta Campanella from Monte di San Costanzo

Ieranto Bay from the trail to Punta Campanella

Nearing Punta Campanella

The lighthouse and the medieval watchtower in Punta Campanella

There is no beach in Punta Campanella and the sea gets very deep almost immediately, so stay away from Punta Campanella if you can’t swim

Baia di Ieranto

Baia di Ieranto is the core of the natural reserve of Punta Campanella and both fishing and motor boats are strictly forbidden.

You can get to the Baia di Ieranto from Termini itself, by way of a trail that leads to the village of Nerano first and then leads to the bay, or you can take a bus to Nerano and take the trail directly from there (easier option).

Cala di Mitigliano

And, last but not least, another nice place to visit is the Cala di Mitigliano.

So, this is my village in a nutshell.

Please visit!

How to Experience “Real” Adventure in the Philippines

Driving in Manila is a real adventure

(I stumbled upon this old post that I had not categorized when I created it so I am reposting it)

The Philippines has so many remote islands, jungles, rough roads and so on that the opportunities to experience adventure at its peak are endless.

I’ve had the chance to visit remote parts of the Sierra Madre Mountains where there is not even a trail and where the NPA hide.

Yet, scuba diving, bungee jumping, driving a jeep on a rough road leading to some remote waterfall, hiking in a jungle etc are certainly not the only ways to experience adventure in the Philippines.

You don’t by any means need to go to some remote area to experience adventure: just try driving in Manila during rush hour (that in Manila practically means almost any hour) where cutting in lanes and tailgating is routine or even in the province where buses overtake cars or buses in a curve and you have to resort to your best driving skills to avoid a crash, or try walking alone in some slum area like Tondo or Quiapo (I’ve experienced Quiapo by night) and you will experience “adventure” in the real sense of the word.

But even more adventurous is being married to a Filipina as the various aspects of culture shock that I’ve abundantly touched on in this blog can turn your relationship into a real “adventure” that can cause other kinds of adventures like swimming among the sharks or hiking in a trail infested with cobras or pythons to pale in comparison.

You will find yourself dealing with mainit ang ulo, hinanakit and other highly emotional traits of Filipinos or moving on the razor’s edge of trying to budget your money while sending substantial amounts to relatives in the Philippines (not my situation but it can happen to some) who expect help and those things definitely qualify as “adventure”.

But if you are willing to view the bumps on the road, the challenges and the obstacles as an opportunity to step up emotionally your relationship with a Filipina will definitely offer you an opportunity for an exciting adventure, a ride second to none.

So here is my top five list of adventures one can experience in the Philippines:

  • Tondo by night
  • Quiapo by night
  • E.D.S.A. Avenue at rush hour
  • Your Filipina’s relatives who ask for money
  • Your Filipina’s mood when she is having buwanang dalaw (menstruation)

Have a great time in the Philippines!

Mabuhay!….or mamatay

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