Well, made it back alive. Had the time of my life too! Got 1,086 new pictures and a few dozen videos as well. And I have to say, I was not sure what to expect. Claire had warned me that he family was poor, but happy. I told her no worries, my family had money but was not happy. Me, I am somewhere in between — in both senses.
Still, I was not prepared. I should have been. Claire’s place here in Subic Bay is depressing enough. I can’t even put into words how sad I am that such an angel is forced to live like that. No wonder it took a couple trips to the Phils first before she would even show it to me.
She and her sister Dorothy share a room at her aunt’s place. Her aunt has a lil six-foot wide store that sells random snacks and bottled drinks, as are common around here. Claire and Dorothy’s bedroom borders the back wall of the store. Upstairs is her aunt’s room and her cousin’s room, and a small kinda-kitchen. Even here in Subic, they have no running water. There is a community water pump downstairs, just outside the store and C’s bedroom, in this open area with the bathroom, if you can call it that: just a small four-ft square room with a couple buckets of water. The pump and restroom are used not only by them but a surprisingly large number of the neighbors also.
See, the housing here in Subic and Olongapo is very different from the States. There is the one main road that runs through Subic, National Highway. It is on this road that Mango’s and the other resorts are located. Branching off like tributaries every so often are numerous alleys, some paved but most not, that stretch back anywhere from a few hundred feet to half-mile. Housing and numerous small shops are along these lesser roads, many of which I don’t believe are even named. And certainly not marked in any obvious way. You have to know where you are going for sure.
There are no big places, or even any medium-sized ones. The houses are small buildings made of cinderblocks with a corrugated metal roof, never more than two stories tall. From what I have seen numerous families share each of the buildings. We would consider them more like small apartments. It was seriously depressing.
So of course way out in the province things were even worse. The house Claire was raised in (along with her three siblings and parents) is maybe 15-ft square tops, with a wall dividing it in two main rooms. A couple sheets of plywood are slapped upright in one corner for the bathroom, which is again just a couple buckets of water. There is a small corner in the back that I guess would be the kitchen, with a water pump out back.
Such Is Life In The Philippines
A few years ago they finally got electricity, thanks to the efforts of the current Governor Arroyo, who has been working her hardest to uplift the country, and bring power to the places without. You will be able to see from the pictures, I’ll post them on the web site as soon as I can. It was so damn depressing though.
Luckily she and I stayed at her grandparents house. That was at least a semi-real house, albeit very small. I have a video walking through it that I will post in the video gallery. It was three bedrooms, a bathroom, half-kitchen, and living room. Surprisingly not only were we given a room to ourselves, but her grandparents took the mattress off their bed and gave it to us, along with their electric fan — trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible. How sweet of them 😉 Still no running water though…
But her entire family was so nice, so damn nice. I met aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and old school mates. Numerous people gave me gifts, souvenirs, so I would not forget them, which completely took me for surprise. Her oldest brother, Andrew — the one whose wedding were we attending — even gave me his basketball jersey.
They could not have made a better impression. And I could go on and on explaining so much more, but I’ll tell all little by little, in my following posts. It was definitely good though, to be part of the family. I told them how I have no family anymore, so it was so wonderful of them to take me in the way they did.
Of course so many people were asking when we were going to tie the knot, that was the one thing that got old. And you better believe Claire tried hard to catch the bouquet at the wedding, ha ha ha! In the end Dorothy caught it, but C had one hand on it as well. For a split-second it looked like C was going to rip it out of her little sister’s hands, but then I think she realized what she was doing in time to stop. Dorothy tried to give it to her, but she would not accept.
In the end we went to the cemetery, so she could introduce me to her father. He passed away when she was only 5 years old. OH GET THIS! We were walking home from playing a game of basketball with her brother Bernard and some local kids one night, as it was getting dark, and all of the sudden Claire got really quiet. This older guy was coming towards us on a bicycle, and not long after he passed, Claire struggled to say “That is the man who killed my father.” When I responded with my condolences and asking how/why, she chose not to elaborate, and we walked in silence for the next quarter-mile.
That of course got my brain going with so many more questions, besides how and why. I mean did he physically kill him? Or accidentally? Maybe she meant metaphorically? Did he ever go to jail for it? Is he just out now and back in town? Or what?!? Seriously…
But anyway, I’ll get to posting the rest of the photos and videos soon. Take it easy!