Por the Kulture: Mga Istorya sa Pilipinas (Part 2)

Translation: Stories in the Philippines

Ang nakaraan… (Previously) 

Welcome back! I hope you all had a good bathroom and water break! We have a couple more hours on the road–er sky? But don’t worry, I only have a couple more stories to share.

Bug’s Life Sucks

If there was one warning I would give to any travelers on their way to the Philippines, it’s to be wary of the bugs. The most commonly known ones are the infamous mosquitoes. Nothing like waking up to an itchy leg and irritating your new bump, courtesy of the mosquitoes. But sometimes I’m glad that if they were going to bite me, at least they had the consideration to do it when I’m asleep. For example, one morning I woke finding it hard to open my left eye all the way. It was partially closing and my sight in my left eye was reduced. When I looked in the mirror, there was this huge swollen bump that had formed near my eyelid. It progressively got itchier as the minutes passed so I asked my aunt about it. To my wonderful surprise, I was told “ikaw ay nakagat ng ipis.” (You were bitten by a cockroach) Well, that’s new. I shuddered at the thought of a cockroach crawling around my face with its stupid legs to then decide to sink its stupid teeth into my flesh. I’ll actually take the mosquitoes back please. Really felt the privileged American vibes.

Something I’ve never seen in California though are colorful beetles. Or at least an up close and personal encounter. It was just right after pouring myself a cup of milk, I reached to grab the glass to then be met with what was called a scarab beetle, resting on the side of the cup. It definitely shocked me, but not as much as when I tried to touch it and it rapidly flew off.

Alishan via SyAlishan

But, sadly, this was not my only experience I’ve had with the creatures of the Philippines. The most traumatic one was with a spider. It was the most horrific spider I’ve ever seen. I was on my way to the bathroom to take a shower when I saw this brown, hairy, thick-legged spider crawling on the shower curtains. It was about the size of an adult’s palm and I was not about to try and engage with that thing. For all I know, it was capable of jumping on my face and blinding me by slashing my eyes out. It was fight or flight, and you know I ran out of there as quick as I made eye contact with all eight of its eyes. If you think I was going to continue on to shower and become even more vulnerable to its attack, you’re dead wrong.

Image result for wolf spider
Wolf Spider via Medical News Today

I told my cousin about it and not only did he go in the bathroom to check, but he came out WITH IT CRAWLING ON HIS ARM. The AUDACITY this man had, to think it would be funny to walk towards me what that thing. But above all else I was bewildered at how calmly he picked it up, walked with it, and let it go. I could never.

After learning about spider fighting in the Philippines, I think I know how my cousin was unbothered by the spider to the point where he was fine with picking it up and letting it crawl on him. Spider fighting is a popular hobby among filipino children. Spider fighting can arguably be the “water bottle challenge” of the Philippines. It’s gone too far to the point where schools have to ban these spider fights because kids are spending too much time focusing on the fights.  It actually is a serious sport where you can gain money from battling. In these “spider fights,” two spiders that have been trained to fight by filipino children are placed on a skewer to then fight to the death. Whichever spider loses is wrapped in the winner’s webs and is eaten later. But kids often unwrap the losing spider to prevent it from dying.

Did I mention this trip is nonrefundable?

As you can see, kids in the Philippines are actually fearless. I sometimes wonder how different I would’ve turned out if I grew up there. Maybe I wouldn’t be so frightened of these “big” bugs. But as much as I hate the bug activity in the Philippines, I did have one cool experience with dragonflies. I was a bit hesitant at first, but my cousin taught me how to catch dragonflies. Of course in a way it wouldn’t hurt them…I think. I vaguely remember exactly how he taught me, but I know it had something to with carefully grabbing them by the wings. I guess I felt kinda cool to know how to catch dragonflies, but that was a long time ago so I’m a bit rusty now. Searching and catching dragonflies was pretty fun, would definitely recommend.

Trip Around the Hundred Islands 

I think maybe I should start talking about the cooler experiences I’ve had before you all start doubting traveling to the Philippines. There’s these cluster of islands off the coast of the City of Alaminos called the Hundred Islands. It’s not quite a hundred islands but 123-124. (124 islands during low tide) Each island is its own adventure, there are caves both above and underwater, platforms to jump off of to swim around, scenic hikes around the island, and much more! I had the chance to journey to a couple islands. As much as I would love going through 124 islands, we didn’t have the time. Before we got on the bangka (boat) that would take us to each island, we were given life jackets to put on. 

Boats used to take to the islands.

In the Philippines, the usual temperatures reach up to around 80s-100s. But what makes it excruciatingly painful is that it’s also humid. So humid, you can either smell it’s hot, or you’re suffocating in the very air you’re breathing. But those hot days aren’t every day. There are days or more specifically evenings, where its warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts out but there’s also a breeze that moves through your hair and leg hairs, that kinda day. This was not that kinda day. You either turn really dark, or your skin burns. You’re also sweating buckets, so if you’re not wearing good sunblock, it’ll probably melt down your face. Luckily for us, there was ice cream!

Hundred Islands National Park, Alaminos City

After we got off our relaxing, shaded, bangka (boat) ride, we spotted our savior selling ice cream. Planning to hike upwards on the island, this was our pre-game snack. But the thing with me when I was younger was that I ate ice cream really slowly. My teeth were very sensitive to the cold, as was my brain! I kept getting the wonderful “ay nako sobrang maarte yong batang ito,” (Oh my gosh, this child is so extra) from my nanay (mom). Although I really loved ice cream, that didn’t stop me from wasting the parts that started melting off. I had even less time to scramble to finish it, because the temperature was hotter than what I’m used to when I would eat ice cream back home. So while everyone finished up their ice cream and started to hike up, I was hiking with a melting ice cream cone in one hand, and a water bottle in the other. It was only until we were at the very top of the hiking point where I had finally finished eating it.

Quezon Island, Alaminos City

Operation: Bird Rescue

It was a hot afternoon in Malolos, Philippines. I just woke up from a nap at my aunt’s bahay (house) and I wanted to venture sa labas (outside) for a bit. I walked around the space between the house and the tall gate, stopping to greet mga aso ng tita ko sa gilid ng bahay. (my aunt’s dogs on the side of the house) And then I saw it. I didn’t know what it was at first but I asked ang pinsan ko (my cousin) and apparently it was a baby bird. 

via Facebook
via Facebook

It appeared naked and shivering. I didn’t see its parents around either. I wasn’t really sure what to do but I didn’t want to leave it all by its lonesome. There was also this other bird that seemed like it was trying to eat him/her! Over some deliberation, I decided to move it away carefully from that other bird circling around it. Over some time my cousin came out and pointed out this bird perched on the gate. We assumed that the bird may be one of the parents, so we decided to go inside for a bit to see if the ibon (bird) would take the baby bird. After some lingering, we saw the bird fly away. When we looked outside, the baby bird was no longer where we left it. Looking back, I really hope that bird was actually the parent and didn’t eat the baby bird instead. Cannibalism is not it. Reuniting parent and child is the way to go.

Oh! There was also this one time where I–well actually that’s enough of that, looks like we’ve entered Philippine territory. Congratulations everyone, we are now above the beautiful waters of the Province of Palawan. 

Michael Louie via Unsplash