The Philippines’ 8th President, Carlos P. Garcia, was born in the municipality of Talibon, Bohol – where I live! So while the rest of the country was busy working last Friday, November 4th, the island of Bohol was enjoying another long weekend. And in Talibon, all the teachers, students, and government workers, as well as families from around town came to celebrate the birth of President Garcia, with a parade and official program!
This was my first parade of any kind in the Philippines and I was excited! I met my colleagues outside the Municipal Hall at 6am and we took a little truck to the start of the parade a few neighborhoods away. There were jeepneys full of people wearing shirts with the beloved presidents face on it and kids in their school uniforms all heading down a dirt road… to where? I didn’t have a clue but I was happy to be along for the ride. We passed rice fields and caribou and little wooden huts with smiling kids staring out at us. And I followed my coworkers down the muddy road… quite content with just being outdoors.
Finally, we arrived… at the President Carlos P. Garcia Park that was swarming with party-goers. Kids were dressed in brightly-colored marching band uniforms (neon green and hot pink) and street vendors had set up camp selling everything from coconut juice, to fried fish, to homemade ice cream (I resisted, but I’m still regretting that decision to this day). I was invited into a house with my office mates where I was served a breakfast of rice, and pancit (stir-fry noodles) and a fragrant beef stew before we went back to the square to mingle with others. At 8am a mass started and upon it’s finishing an hour later, everyone crowded around into the park to watch the military salute.
The service included a gun salute that I don’t think many people anticipated, as there were quite a few screams from the crowd when the shots went out. And then service was over and it was merienda time (mmm, food!); government worker’s walked around handing out juice boxes and sweet bread rolls by the bagful. The mayor went to give a speech and the next thing I know we were on our way back home! I wasn’t sure if the parade was over or we had just seen the obligatory parts of the event; I’m still not sure. I never saw the neon-colored children perform and I think I regret that a bit, too. But as with every day in the Philippines – it was an adventure!
Anyway, I spent the rest of my Friday relaxing and playing cards with my host family, enjoying a stormy afternoon and cooler weather. In fact, it was so ‘cold’ to me that evening, I went to bed with my fan off! When I woke up, the weather was still bleak and grey, and I didn’t bother turning my fan on yet. I was killing the battery of my phone discussing a trip to a waterfall with my site mates (the only reason for the debate was the weather!) when it occurred to me that I had no power. I was at 58% battery when a text from an island mate announced that the brownout was planned island-wide for twelve hours. TWELVE HOURS!!!
We rain-checked the waterfall plans for a sunnier day and everyone came to my town instead, where there was a known restaurant with a generator. We drank cold bevvies while eating curried chicken and carrot cake at my favorite waterfront spot; forgetting about the brownout until the lights flickered on at 5.45pm. In a way the brownout was a gift: forcing people to get together in person and unplug for a while. I don’t remember the last time a phone conversation made me cry and choke from laughter, but there sure was plenty of it that Saturday afternoon at Chel-Anne’s restaurant. I think I could come up with a catchphrase for the Filipino government: ‘The Brownout: Give the Gift of Unplugging’.
Given the stress and hype (for lack of so many stronger words) surrounding the upcoming US Presidential Election, I hope that people give themselves time to decompress and unplug for a little while. Give yourself, your family, your coworkers, your friends, a mandatory brownout; go outside, enjoy the autumn for those who can’t… or maybe go get some ice cream… or wine… or cheese… or, well, you know where this is going. Anyway, just unplug a bit, leave your phone at home one day, it feels GREAT!
Okay, have a great week and thanks for reading!
*See what I did with my title here… P.B. and P.B. I clearly have Peanut Butter on my mind. Have still not broken down and bought some 😦 Oh, Peace Corps pesos.