Saturday, June 27, 2020

Trip to the Philippines, Part 2: Mascots, Wang Od, Sagada, and Palawan

So before the pandemic happened, I had originally wanted to update this blog with a series of posts with pictures from my trip to the Philippines. Since the End Times drew near, I decided to spend my time gathering supplies and buying action figures before the world really ended. Since that hasn't occurred yet, and won't occur until July 5th, I thought now would be a good chance to just catch up with my plan. I felt kind of burdened by this so I'm just glad to get it out of the way so I can return to posting nonsense and bulldada. Expect the third installment in a few days at least. 

The Philippines was once again an exhilarating experience. For a tubby couch potato like me, this trip was a total adventure. I did all the things I hated  to do and I conquered them. It's difficult for me to gauge how much I really traveled while I was there, but I can say with some certainty that I saw most of the Philippines. I recall taking like 5 or 6 short flights while there, sailing a bunch, going up mountains, driving for long hours, and climbing into caves. This was far more than was originally planned, and I was nervous half the time but it was all worth it. 

Oh and a volcano erupted while I was there, so that was definitely something new for me. I was kind of near the volcano when it happened too but just missed the actual eruption by like an hour or two. There was a healthy coat of ash everywhere the following day and I had meant to gather some up as a souvenir but I forgot. 


Before anything else, I just wanted to share some snack food mascots I saw. I thought they were pretty amusing. Some were just off-model versions of famous cartoon characters, while some were their own crazy creations. 

Here's a Sweet Corn "Minon"

A Cracker Nuts "Dale" sporting a squirrel's tail

A Corn Bits cousin version of "Twinkie the Kid"

And I don't know what this guy is but he's my favorite. Some sort of Pseudo-anime character with giant hair on a futuristic motorcycle, wielding an icicle pop! In my mind, WindRider is the king of bonkers Filipino mascots! Just look at all those powerful muscles!!!

So yeah, I ate a ton of snacks while there, but that's to be expected. Especially on the long drives. The longest drive we had while I was there was the near 12 hour drive to the top of a mountain where we still had to hike like 40 minutes to reach the famous tattoo artist, Wang Od. This was a big deal because not only is she a legend, but she's still active at 104 years old. She's tough too, acting much younger than her age and showing a spirit that is almost supernatural. The plan was to go meet her and get some ink done. 

Okay so, it was a long drive and although the countryside was beautiful, we mainly drove overnight so there wasn't much for me to photograph while we were on the road. We did make a pit stop in Banaue, and we got some food not far from there. 

Breakfast was some rice, a fried egg, and some pork... stuff. I don't rememeber what it was called but it was delicious and I could have eaten like five more plates of it. 

Below are just some of the wondrous views of this place. I can't even begin to describe how it all felt. Philippines is a humid place, so there was this cool rainy smell as the sun rose up for the day. We got here right before 6AM and it was definitely worth the drive. 

These statues were located at the very edge of a platform near the edge of the mountain where the little eatery where we had breakfast was located.I'm uncertain of their significance, but they were beautiful and almost as tall as I am.

Sometime after that, maybe an hour or so, we made it to the top of the mountain where we had to climb down into a valley then climb back up to the other side to meet Wang Od. I'm not exactly in the best shape for this sort of thing so I made sure to be extra careful. The climb was very muddy and slippery; so much so that even our guide slipped and fell! It's not exactly and expert climb or anything like that, but I took it seriously and by the end of it I was a total sweaty mess. I had to take off my Creepshow hoodie and stuff it in my bag. 

The tattoos given by Wang Od and her pupils are done in the traditional way. They're essentially chisled into the skin. It isn't very painful at all, but that depends on you as a person I suspect. Wang Od had some trouble with giving me my tattoo, saying I had skin like an "ox-cow" or something like that. She actually got winded half way through and needed a rest. I felt bad making her work so hard so we made sure to pay double; which was about $40 in total. 

There were different designs based on Wang Od's culture, but I was surprised to see the Christian faith-hope symbol there. I suppose since the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic/Christian country it makes sense. 

There was also this hut where folks left their cards and I.D.'s , so I decided to leave my Discordian GOD card. I have plenty of them so I felt like this was a worthy place to leave it for all to see.

We had lunch while waiting our turn for my tattoo. The view is pretty amazing there. The road we drove on just resembled a bit of thread. I didn't feel like we were that far away; the hike back was only 10 minutes and was way easier than the hike up to see Wang Od. 

My tattoo is the "snake with eagle wings bringing messages from the heavens" I believe. The three dots are Wang Od's signature. I know thousands of people have probably gotten a tattoo from her, but this feels special. Like I'm a part of her legacy as an artist, and that's pretty rad. 

This is the tool she used to chisel my tattoo. Beneath the cap there's a small thorn of some sort. 

After we were done getting tattoos, we drove immediately to Sagada which might be my favorite place in the Philippines because they have a cool atmosphere and low humidity! It was glorious!!

Our main objective here was to see the famous hanging coffins, which was how they used to bury their dead before Christian missionaries ruined their traditional culture.

I really love this place, but foreigners aren't allowed to purchase homes here; if they marry someone native to Sagada though it's allowed. There is a population of retired American soldiers who now reside here and run pubs and restaurants.

But come on, look at this view and just try and breath in that fresh mountain air. It's real easy to fall in love with Sagada. 

Our tour guide explained to us that people were hung in coffins by the side of the mountain so their spirits could have better access to the forest and mountainside. Being buried underground was seen as strange because it stifles the spirit and they can't freely explore the world. I think this is beautiful actually and I would love it if this was my final resting place. 

There were some human remains in a cave nearby; an old coffin had rotted open and some bones fell out of it. Our guide had mentioned that during the carrying of the coffin that if any fluids, like blood or whatever dripped on you it was considered good luck. I wonder if that applied to bones as well. 

There was a weird flow to this area. Knowing that this particular style of burial had fell out of favor for a more traditional Christian burial bummed me out, but it also made seeing this all the more special. I believe our guide mentioned that there is still the occasional hanging-burial (if you could call it that) but I can't remember.

This is Sagada Bear and he's my best friend. He was my reward for surviving my first ever cave tour. I went spelunking and it was pretty terrifying. There are no real pictures to show from inside the cave since we were too busy climbing and trying to survive to take any. Plus the bats wouldn't have enjoyed the flash photography. But let me just say that cave climbing is fucking crazy and I hate it, but I'm glad I had the experience to know that I hate it! Still, I couldn't probably be talked into doing it again. 

This is the only picture of me in the cave. I believe we were something like 5 or 6 stories underground. What's crazy is I even managed to fit in all the tight corners of the cave. It took a lot of effort but I managed to do it. I say if you've never done it before, do it once and see how you like it. I have some fond memories from this trip, and this sure as heck ain't one of them; but at least I can brag about it now!

And besides, the locals says if you haven't gone cave climbing then you haven't been to Sagada at all, so I guess I passed that test!

So after Sagada we did a bunch of stuff. We went sand-duning, we saw an old lighthouse, got lunch near a wishing tree, etc., but this place was beautiful. I'm a former Catholic so I still have a bit of love for old churches and basilicas. This is a 300 year old church in some town I can't remember. 

I'm a sucker for old architecture, and I loved the look of this place. Being an ordained reverend, I took it upon myself to inspect the joint and let me tell ya it's a real swanky place. 

After all that adventuring though, we needed some quick grub so we swung by a McDonald's for some quick garbage food! A little taste of home while we were in the middle of the Philippines did me some good. 

I was real surprised to learn there was an official secret menu! No McGangBang listed, but there was other stuff there. The Double Big Mac was listed here before it appeared officially in the US, so that's something, right? Or maybe it isn't anything. I dunno man, I just wanted a cheap burger. 

The Rich Chocolate Pie was a bit too rich for my taste, but it was something new to try. I remember when I was in Japan I had the McDonald's Cherry Pie was was more my taste. But nothing will replace the Apple Pie in my heart. 

 Like later that day, because we were driving for like another 10 hours back to the airport so we could catch a flight, we had dinner in a small Japanese-Italian place in Palawan. They had  picture of Wang Od on the wall so we knew this place was legit. 

I ordered this monstrous burger because I could. I haven't nothing else to say really. It was just a massive goddamn burger and I ate the whole thing. It was delicious. 


In Palawan we did a lot of sailing and island hopping.It was pretty relaxing, but the boat we were on did break down for a bit so we got worried. If I'm not mistaken we even went to the real "Blue Lagoon" so that was somewhat exciting. 

The canoeing was a first for me.  Because of my size the damn thing tipped over and so we had to have three people on the canoe with me to maintain some sort of balance! It was worth it though. I think this may have been my favorite part of this portion of my trip. We even saw some baby sharks swim past our little canoe. 

Next time: Guimo battles a volcano!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Things to Come: How should one feel about this whole mess...?

I found this Jack Chick Tract on my way to work the other night and the title keeps bouncing around in my brain; "Things to Come?"

Who even knows anymore. 

The levels of uncertainty surrounding our current pandemic situation are so high we may as well be in the End Times. And who knows, maybe this is the first step towards just that. A grand reboot of our world. Nature has already taken notice; there have been reports going around of animals reclaiming and returning to places where they were once chased off by so-called civilization. Maybe we should remain an underground dwelling society of quarantined half-people, only emerging from our dwellings for food and toilet paper. 

A few days ago I had to take a trip into Manhattan to get a few things. What an eerie experience. I had joked around to wanting to do something like this earlier last month, but when I actually had a chance to experience it for myself it was just too heartbreaking. NYC is a ghost town. Giant ads and billboards are still flashing about, but there's no one there to see them. Weird. 

That day when I was in Manhattan I decided to walk from Penn Station to my destination instead of taking the subway. I thought maybe the trains would be running on a weird schedule, and I'm not sure how clean they might be right now when we're all trying to be so sanitized during this germaphobic time. 

My walk downtown was fairly brisk. There was very little traffic, and I counted seeing maybe less than 100 people while I was out. All my favorite locations were closed though; Forbidden Planet, Strands Bookstore, and other shops were closed down with letters on their doors expressing sadness but hope that they'll be up and running in no time. Seeing this really got me thinking about how different things will be after, and if, we survive this pandemic. 

What I mean is, the world is already so much different from when I was a kid. After 9/11, there was an explicit shift in the world. The internet changed, how news was presented to us as a medium changed, and the thin line between governance and authoritarianism definitely became more defined and noticeable. Even our civil liberties and way of life have been poisoned by a world of capitalism without any restraints (but the beginnings of that happened a few years before 9/11 so...). 

I just wonder how new horrors our nihilistic culture will breed. We already depend so much on the wealthy elite for the crumbs of survival, and now so many people are expecting them to bail us out. It's depressing and all too predictable of consumer culture. 

So far, food isn't scarce yet, and we can all still go out and get the essentials needed to survive. I've been using my Y2K Survival Book for simple planning and ideas on what to buy. My kitchen has never been as full of stuff like how it is currently. I'm actually kind of mystified by all the supplies I was able to get by not losing my mind and buying only exactly what I need. The last thing I want to do is inhibit the survival or even the creature comforts of someone else.

This whole thing could have gone so much better, and maybe thousands could have been saved if our so-called leaders weren't godless idiots. But that's what happens when idiots are voted into office; you get idiotic situations like we're in right now. I don't feel that there's a government on earth that took this situation seriously at all, and that is of course predictable. I don't even understand why people bother to pretend that any government official has our best interests at heart; they want us all dead. Well, maybe not all of us, just enough of us that maybe certain resources can be recuperated, and anyone who survives can continue paying taxes.

I remember hearing about this virus when I was in the Philippines back in January I think, so there was plenty of time to plan and prep for it. While I was in the middle of volunteering during all that volcano nonsense I had to go through, I remember there were people talking about how scary it could get, and when I left that country I let out a sigh of relief because I was leaving an active volcano and a killer virus! 

What's funny to me is how some people are joking that this "simulation" is out of whack and they'd like to return to the real world. This current situation IS the real world; a daily battle for survival. What we had before was a protective bubble where we could live a safe life of work, play, and consumption. 

Everyone is trying their best to stay positive during this time by treating it like how things were before, but maybe a lot more people should realize that this is how things are around the world, even when there's no pandemic going on; resources are low, politicians lie, people stab each other in the back, and every day you just wonder if you're going to make it through it all to live another day.  

Life is a lot more cruel than maybe you've ever considered because maybe all you do is live a patterned life and you've just never noticed how rotten it can all be. 

It would be wonderful if we could just quarantine the whole world for a while and just let this virus rot away, but I don't know if that would help. There's no land in sight, so to speak. I feel like this journey is just starting and we may still have a long way to go. It's scary actually, and maybe we should be treating this pandemic experience with more reverence. 

At this point, just try and make peace with it all. Seriously. Just take a moment to breathe it all in, take what precautions you can, be careful, and don't be afraid to tell your friends and family how much you love and care for them.With idiots at the helm guiding this ship towards an iceberg that I hope we never hit, that's really all we can do. If you can, stay indoors. If you're an essential worker (like I am) don't take any stupid chances. 

Everything might get better, but live everyday like they won't.