Hello, all. I have been in the Philippines, and specifically Cebu City, for just over a week now. Bridget and I spent just 24 hours in Manila before heading to Cebu City on the island of Cebu. A wise decision, I think, since all the words that come to mind to describe Manila have a bit of a negative connotation. The one I choose to leave you with is ‘gritty’. But, now we are in Cebu City. The Lonely Planet describes Cebu City as, “Preferable to Manila, but nowhere we would want to spend our holiday.”
Cebu City is a weird mix of poverty and megamalls. It is hot and dirty, with thick, sweet-smelling smoky tropical air sporadically punctuated with episodes of torrential downpour. We are staying uptown, in the nicer part of the city near the Ayala Mall. I have spent an ungodly amount of time at malls during the past week. The megamall is an integral part of the culture here. Almost all of the decent restaurants are located in a mall, and coffee shops with free wifi are located there, too. Our mall is three to four times the length of a typical mall in Seattle or St. Louis, and six stories high. They hold concerts here and mass on Sundays (most of the population in the Philippines is catholic).
Our hotel, Myra’s Pension, is lovely. The staff is great, and our room has a private bath, air-conditioning and cable TV. The people both in the hotel and outside of it are unfailingly polite, even when shouting at us from cars as they flash passed us. Hello's are always accompanied by a ma'am, and Bridget and I torn between " Hello, Ma'am. I love you. " and "Water for date you?" as the best pick-up lines. The front desk staff has been teaching us Cebuano, the local language. People are amused with our attempts and pleased by our efforts, I think, as learning the language isn’t really necessary with the prevalence of English speakers in the Philippines. Bridget and I are very amused by the unilateral insistence of the locals that ‘evening’ doesn’t start until six. We will occasionally call out “My-young Ga-bee-ee” (Good evening!) and hear, “NO! Hapon (afternoon). Not Ga-bee-ee yet!” We asked a man one day what time ‘ga-bee-ee’ started, and he stated very definitively without hesitation, “6:00PM.” One of my favorite moments so far was calling out politely in Cebuano to the jeepney driver that we had reached our stop and seeing all ten or so of the other passengers snap their heads in my direction, surprised that I had mastered that command.
The jeepney is public transportation that looks like an elongated hummer-jeep hybrid with reinforced metal panels and bright spray paint. You sort of need to know where you are going to ride one successfully. We have figured out how to catch a jeepney to and from work (CCE Foundation) and all the major malls. My favorite is named Jenny IV and is delightfully spattered in neon rainbow hues. We will be the jeepney to CCE daily this week, meeting with the staff and trying iron out the details of our research, so hopefully I will have a better idea of exactly what I am doing later this week to share with you.
Sending my love until then, Jenn.