An Englishman In Isabela Blog #90 – Bits & Pieces

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It’s definitely been colder since mid December so to take a shower we are now boiling water to mix in a bucket with cold water from the mains supply. We have heaters in the t&bs of the new house but not here in our rented house. Most of the year a cold shower is welcome relief but not at this time of year. Even in the Summer you notice that after a heavy rain shower the mains water is colder.
The tricycle drivers are all wearing long sleeved shirts, sometimes back to front so that their chests are protected from the cold air when they are driving along. Cold means in the 60s however so I’m still in t-shirts as it’s warm for me.
It’s more like an Autumn than a Winter. Paper trees are shedding their leaves while some palms are dropping their dead fronds, but otherwise the landscape hasn’t really changed. The fields are covered with the deep green of growing rice seedlings, moving towards the first of the two annual harvests. Isabela is a major rice basket for the Philippines and after harvest time trucks are carrying much of the produce south to Metro Manila and beyond. When typhoons close the mountain passes there is real concern if the rice trucks cannot get through. The repair of collapsed roads and the removal of landslips therefore gets top priority, much of it involving the army.
This morning, when I’m not updating my blog, I’m reading the latest Michael Palin biography while Justin is watching a Hi5 dvd, a popular Australian children’s TV programme. Gina is visiting a local curtain maker with sister-in-law Jane. We measured up the window openings the other day. Having found some attractive curtain designs on the internet, Gina wants to see what the local maker can do for us. Made-to-measure is quite expensive in the UK but here it’s a way of life so you can indulge in your own design tastes.
Yesterday kids were off school in this area as it was the mayor’s "state of the city" address. She is running for re-election in May and already there is a lot of focus on her pet projects. In the meantime rivals have begun to appear. We pass large groups of parked tricycles outside the homes of rivals for the position. Associations of different kinds are meeting and there are vehicles driving through the city with loud hailers announcing candidates.
No opportunity is missed for promoting candidates for the different levels of political ofice right up to President. When Gina’s aunt died before Christmas the free canopy the barangay council provided for the street section of the wake was promoting the candidacy of Giggi Aggabao for re-election as Congressman for this part of the province of Isabela.
News from my daughter, Wendy, in the UK that she is expecting my first grandchild in July. There was an embargo on saying anything while they were waiting for the usual test results but everything’s looking good.
My Christmas present to my other Sydney-based daughter, Stephanie, has just been mysteriously returned to my bank with the message "no account" so I’m not sure what is wrong as I know I used the account details she gave me in an email. This might also explain why the online setting up of the account also failed when I tried. I ended up having to phone my bank in the UK at great expense to make the payment. A pointless exercise it now seems.
I must get back to my tagalog course. In practice everyone here speaks English as well as tagalog (filipino is the official name) and generally they understand me if I speak slowly as they watch a lot of American films on TV and DVD. For family gatherings however having some command of tagalog avoids Gina having to translate. In our case we have the added complication that when the family meet about 80% of what they say is in Ilocano. Ilocano is more of a different language than a dialiect of tagalog, with some common words. It has origins in the western provinces of Northern Luzon and owes much to the 300 years of Spanish occupation.