Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Auntie Ally is here!

Megan's reflection
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

All 5 kids and I picked her up at YVR this evening. Allan had a co-op landscaping committee meeting so couldn't watch any of the children. The kids were ecstatic to go along to pick up Auntie Ally instead of going to bed and seeing her in the morning.

But they did get a bit tired and cranky with the 90 min wait caused by my thinking traffic would be worse than it was and Ally having a horrid wait to get through customs.

I only had Megan down from the backpack for about 10 min of the wait. She just kept taking off running on her own so she ended up IN the backpack. Maribeth rode in the seat in the front of an airport luggage cart as our single Jeep stroller got stolen a while back.

We've just got the kids lights off but I still hear thumping around upstairs. I'm hoping it's Allison and NOT the kids or they will be awfully crabby tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Insane Gas Price

The insane gas price
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Already this summer we've crossed the $1/litre threshhold. 103.5 is actually DOWN considerable from the weekend where I spotted gas for 106.4 per litre! Which worked out to $4.26 per gallon. Sickening.

Either price means a gallon of gas is more than a gallon of milk - which is currently $3.89 at Save-on-Foods. For obvious reasons - we're not doing any more driving with our gas guzzling van than absolutely nescessary!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Spontaneous Adventure

This afternoon we had to deliver a letter from Aunt Rebecca in the Philippines to Allan's mom. After a brief visit with her - and still unable to reach the bow maker who has my backup cello bow in for rehair - we set off - ostensibly to the grocery store and then home.

It was a beautiful sunny day: warm but not hot, breezy but not windy, blue skies, sunshine, and good traffic. I said to Allan, "you know - I half think we should just go out to the beach and eat supper out". Then I lapsed into a semi-napping state. When I next became consious of my surroundings - we were headed to Crescent Beach out in White Rock!

Gulf beach
Crescent Beach
Originally uploaded by biketrouble.

As we parked, Michael and Melissa clued in and because VERY excited! We got the babies into the backpacks and headed for the beach. As soon as we were within sound of the water Maribeth started to coo, babble, and LAUGH with utter happiness. Once the waves on the beach were in view - Megan joined in and proclaimed loudly "DAT!" pointing at the waves. We realized that from the time the girls came home from the NICU until we moved in February - they had gone to sleep every night with ocean wave sounds from the computer (to mask the noise from the people upstairs). Living here - that hasn't been needed - but they remembered the sounds and were excited to hear wave sounds and also to see the water.

Megan's "DAT!" was shortly followed by "get DOWN" as she watched Michael, Melissa and Maddy running on the beach and balancing on big logs. Of course we didn't let her down as we know from past adventures with wee toddlers that a toddler "DOWN" at the beach means about 10 minutes to END OF ADVENTURE due to wet, cold toddler!

With some difficulty - we convinced M's 1, 2, and 3 that we should WALK the length of the beach FIRST before stopping to play. This was helped along by walking along the edge of the water to "look for shells" instead of walking on the pathway. Backpacks are wonderful things for these situations. As useful as the double stroller is, it can't handle rocky beaches.

Gulf beach
Beth, Cheryl, and Allison on the beach
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

So we had a magical late afternoon and early evening: climbing on big rocks, looking for shells, playing with the natural driftwood "teeter totter" - where we found out that Mommy with Maribeth in the backpack weigh about the same as Melissa, Michael and Maddy. Along the way - we met someone we knew from back in Open Door days and we had many, many people counting how many children we had with us!

Then we headed over to the washrooms because Maddy claimed she had to pee. Melissa and Michael claimed they didn't but were told to "go anyway". As it turned out - Maddy did NOT have to go and Melissa and Michael DID. Coming out of the bathroom Melissa smelled something, "sort of like French fries and fish and Mommy don't you think it's supper time?"

We followed our noses - Allan wanted to go to RAF's where we had often gone with our friend Richard while he was alive. But RAF's was packed and our babies were antsy, having spent a good amount of the afternoon either in carseats or backpacks. So we opted for fish and chips at a take-out window eaten at an outdoor picnic table instead.

After having a snack (didn't buy enough for a full meal plus they were out of salad which left french fries only for the non-fish eaters) - we headed back towards the other direction at a lesiurely pace. As we neared where the van was parked - we let the babies out to their immense delight! They did what all our toddlers have done - they headed STRAIGHT for the ocean and tried to crawl in. We caught them in time and held them over the edge of the water so they could reach down to touch the ocean for the very first time. Both squealed in delight and did exactly what Melissa did 5 years ago: reach down and grab up sand and rocks and then stuffed them into their MOUTHS! Only this time - no one had a camera along to capture the moment! Yes, that's right - we went out for an adventure without a camera.

By the time we got the crew back in the van to the grocery store and home it was already long past bedtime but it was a good way to close off the last of Allan's vacation time for this year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Michael and Allan are HOME!

On the sidewalk in front of Grandpa apt
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

We picked them up today at Grandpa's apt. The kids were really glad to see each other again! The traditional vests were a gift from Aunt Edna.

New Dresses for the Girls!

New Dresses and sandals for Roo
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Each of the 4 girls has 2 new dresses! These are the ones that fit Melissa and Maddy the best - the others will probably be for next summer. Melissa's will still need some altering as it's a bit big. Maddy's sandal's were accidental - Grandma Sophie found them in the bag after going to the market but hadn't bought them! Melissa's a tad jealous over the sandals.

The Road Home: The Long Good-bye

Our good-byes began early yesterday when family members whom we have met over the last couple of weeks began arriving at the house for one last day of swapping stories, parting gifts, and hugs.

More Uncles

I burned the last of the CD's that I was leaving of the pictures I had taken over the course of our visit.

I wrote out our address a few dozen times for those aunts and cousins who asked.

I took a few more photos and shot some video for my dad on his Canon DV-cam. Which reminds me, I should look up the drivers to download while I'm here in the airport.

Berlinda and Uncle Peter

I gave my folding multi-tool / knife to my step-brother. It was worth about $80 USD when I bought it 10 years ago, thinking I was going to ride my bicycle around the world. It's a Gerber made knife - their first generation SOG Para-tool, made to mil-spec. The original hype was that you could take a tank apart with it - has pliers and screw-drivers, etc on it. I think it's been superseded several times over since then, but it's still a solid tool. I figured it would be better used by him than by airline security if they came up with an excuse to confiscate it.


I also ran out of ink on our last photo printer cartridge. The original intention had been to bring the printer to the reunions to make photos for those attendees from overseas who would otherwise not get a chance to share in any photos that I was able to get at the reunions. I printed a schwak of those, but also a bunch more for the old folks who didn't have cameras or the means to get photos from their children.

There was also a sing-along where they asked me to sing "O Canada" and share a few thoughts from our visit here. I managed to get both out without choking up too badly.

In being here, I discovered how much those of us who are overseas owe to our relatives who stayed home. In many cases they supported our parents as they were growing up - paying for their education or even "adopting them" while our grandparents struggled to make ends meet. It was these uncles and aunties and cousins who looked after some of us while our parents came to Canada or the U.S. alone, working at low-paying service jobs, until they could earn citizenship and then sponsor the us to come.

It is this long tradition of family helping family that I saw over and over - and almost always, without any explicit requirement for remuneration. They did it simply because it would move the entire family forward in some way.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I left my "hometown" - and the family there - late last night, on an air-conditioned bus to Manila. And with each mile that passed, so did a tear of gratitude.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Road Home: Getting Around Town


There are more vehicles devoted to taxi work in this country than at home. The morning we got here, we took a taxi from where we live here up the hill to the shop where the telephones were. We have taken taxis just about every day since to get around. It is mainly because having a car here is a luxury whereas at home it's a real necessity. In Canada, unless you live in a metropolitan area like Vancouver or Toronto, the distances we travel every day to get from home to work or anywhere else require owning a vehicle. Here, you don't often have to travel far, and if you do, there are likely to be enough other people going in the same general direction that you can either take a taxi together or take the jeepney.

Forever Praising Taxi
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

From where we live to get to the market, a journey of about 10 minutes, costs about P45, just over $1 CAD. A longer journey such as going to visit my uncle Peter in Irisan, about 10 minutes outside the city costs around P80, almost $2 CAD.

These prices are reasonable enough for most Filipinos to afford a cab if they are travelling from point to point within the city and have packages to take or are going in group of half a dozen or less.

Compare to rates in Canada where a cab will cost you about a $1 CAD a minute.

Cabs in Canada are used infrequently enough that a cental dispatch is required to ensure that they have enough fares to earn their keep. If a pick-up is not called in, the dispatchers will send cab drivers to locations such as the airport or large hotels where a fare is likely.

Here, no central dispatch is needed because there are pickups everywhere. I don't know how long drivers go between fares, but it can't be very long because the longest we've ever had to wait to wave down a taxi was just under 10 minutes. Even when a driver has a fare that goes out of town, such as the one who took us out to Irisan, he doesn't hesitate because there's a strong likelihood he'll get a fare to take him back into town.

Jeepneys serve the equivalent function of public transit here, except that there isn't an overarching transit authority. Instead they are privately run in an open market fashion. As a system, it works reasonably well.

Compared to taxis, jeepneys are really cheap. It cost ten of us P64 (about $1.20 CAD) to ride home from Tuba town back to Baguio. The trade off is that you have to wait a bit and jeepneys (like buses) follow set routes.

In the Baguio city center, near the market, there are a number of plazas where you can find jeepneys parked. Each plaza is the starting and ending place for one or more regular routes to the different parts of the city and outlying areas. You can walk around the various plazas and listen to the men calling out the routes that start in that plaza.

The Philippine Jeepney: Each one uniquely gaudy and a special expression of the Filipino exhuberance for colour.
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

If you are with someone who knows the city, they can take you directly to the plaza where you can find a jeepney that goes on a route that will go past the part of the city you are going to. If you don't know the city, you have to ask the men calling the routes.

In that plaza there will be a queue of empty jeepneys waiting. If the route is busy, you may have to wait for a jeepney to return, sometimes full of passengers coming into the city. The man who is calling out the routes will direct you into the jeepney which is first in line for passengers. As soon as the jeepney is full - which can be any time from less than a minute to half an hour - the driver pulls out and the next jeepney in line starts to fill with passengers.

You get into and out of the jeepney from the back, instead of in the front like buses in North America. This means that payments to the driver are done on an honor system. Passengers fish out their coins whenever they can and the fares are handed up to the driver from the back to the front from hand to hand. The driver counts out the fare and any change while he's driving. Any change is returned to the person again from hand to hand.

Jeepney Driver

Most drivers use a full width mirror like the one here to see who has boarded and whose fare is being handed forward.

I have no idea what would happen if someone tried to 'stiff' the driver or palm some of the change that was to be handed back to another passenger. In our many rides around town in jeepneys, I've never seen this happen, so I can only imagine that people here take a pretty dim view of this kind of behaviour.

When the jeepney gets close to where you want to get off, you just say, "parah" (pahr-ah) and the driver will stop and let you off. On the inbound part of the route, people will wait by the side of the road and wave at the jeepney driver and he will stop to pick them up.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Road Home: We Remember

The frogs are out tonight. They don't sound like our frogs that 'croak', 'ribbit', or 'peep'. The frogs around here sound like they have tiny wooden drums. Imagine a small child with a little wooden drum, beating a tatoo to drive the adult mind insane. Now imagine several hundred of these little children. That's what it's like at night in some places here after the rains.

At Auntie Rita's House

We spent today at the home of my Auntie Rita, who passed away last year this time. My cousin Marlo was abroad last year and had to miss the funeral. She came home at this time to catch the reunions we are here for, but also to be present for a family memorial service for my aunt.

We had a lunch for the various families who came and chatted most of the afternoon about the normal things that families chat about - and then we spent an hour or so sharing stories about my aunt. Most of the discussion was in Ibaloy, so I took pictures and video - which my dad will have to translate for me at some point.

In Julie's Kitchen

I also sat in the kitchen this evening listening to my uncle Max and my dad reminisce over family history and swap stories from long ago. My auntie Felipa brought her albums down after a while and they talked some more about family members in the photos.

I didn't have any more room on the digicam for more video, so I recorded as much as I could on my PDA.

On top of Uncle Peter's house in Irisan

I have to get to bed. I didn't go to sleep until after midnight last night updating our blog, and then I woke at 6 am and couldn't go back to sleep again.

Those of you from the higher latitudes take note - in the tropics, there is little in the way of actual twilight. The sun rises and sets awfully quick the closer you get to the equator.

I'm having a tough time getting connected to the local dial-up server, so I think I'm going to turn in and try connecting again in a couple of hours.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Road Home: DATI Clan Reunion

The Dugay Sub-clan
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Long ago there were four sisters - Dugay, Agnay, Tadaha, and Ingco. Dugay was the eldest and she was my father's grandmother.

I've been trying to unravel this thread both prior to arriving and since we got here. I don't think Dad has been deliberately vague - I think he is because this topic is confusing as well to just about everyone in the family when it comes to sorting out how we seem to be related to so many different different people here in Baguio.

It wasn't until I attended the DATI reunion and had a look at the family tree diagrams that I figured out one source of all the confusion. Great-grandmother Dugay had more than one family!

This is a very long story that needs to be told, but before I can even scratch the surface, I think it is important to enumerate some of the difficulties that my sister, brother, and I have faced (and will continue to face) when trying to piece together our family history:

Geography - Living in Canada has not made it terribly easy to get at the multiple sources needed when pursuing multiple lines of enquiry. Nor has it be easy to get corroborating stories from different family members. Hence the importance of using family reunions and other gatherings like funerals and weddings.

Time - My father's parents were born close to the start of the last century. My father, we know with reasonable certainty, was born before WWII. With each passing year the number of members of my father's generation diminish: each one a first hand witness to family, clan, and tribal history.

Language - My father's people speak Ibaloy (some sources read Inibaloy), which is distinct from Bontoc. According to my dad, both are spoken here in Baguio and Benguet overall. This dialect is specific to this part of the Philippines and is less well-known than the Ilocano spoken by the foothills people of Ilocos del Sur. The bottom line is that familiar communication with family members is restricted because my siblings and I don't speak Ilocano or Ibaloy. Even if we could speak Tagalog, the national dialect, I don't think we'd be marginally ahead of where we are now. My cousin tells me that the old folks speak far better English than they do Tagalog, and in fact prefer to do so (I think to minimize any association with the lowland Tagalogs who have made fun of the mountain people for so long).

Custom - This is where our difficulties increase greatly. (a) It is only after the Americans came to the highlands that the custom of using a surname was taken up. If you go back a few generations, all of the old folks only had one name because they really didn't go anywhere and clan affiliations were pretty obvious. Thus my father's great-grandfather was simply called 'Biray'. (b) Multiple marriages. It turns out that great-grandfather Biray was married 3 times, owing to the early passings of his first two wives. While his children were only 5 in count, they had 3 mothers and all of the extended family each one represented. (c) Marriage of relatives. My Dad and my step-mother are cousins, though from different branches of the clan. When they were first married they related to me that this was not unusual. After attending two family reunions, I can confirm this is not unusual at all. (d) Adoption of near-relatives. My cousin Jerry was adopted by my uncle Max's family because the family of the uncle he was actually born into was not able to care for him at the time.

So, by way of introduction, the story of my direct ancestors starts with great-great-grandfather Biray. Biray married three women (not all once!): Shakmay, Kanedja, and Simbay.

With Shakmay, he had one child, Sifet. With Kanedja, one child again, Shalingo. With Simbay, he had three: Smith, Orani, and Lingbanan.

DATI Reunion
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Sifet married Dugay and they had two children: Kangi and Bunga.

Kangi married my grandfather Edwin Bugnay, and this is where the history I am more familiar with begins.

The two reunions we came to attend were: (1) The Biray clan reunion, which encompasses all the descendants of Biray represented by the five sub-clans: Sifet, Shalingo, Smith, Orani, and Lingbanan. (2) The DATI clan reunion, which encompasses all the descendants of the four sisters: Dugay (who married Sifet), Agnay, Tadaha, and Ingco.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Road Home: The Baguio Show Mart

Baguio Show Mart
Originally uploaded by Allan.

The Show Mart is this huge North American style mall on the hill above Burnham Park.

Thankfully the architecture is somewhat interesting, but it's still overly conspicuous up there. There is a big open shaft (atrium) up the center of it that is capped by tent-like sails on the roof. Warm air rises up the central shaft and draws air in these big balconies on the front of it. No AC required!

Originally uploaded by Allan.

It's our fudgicle with a chocolate shell and rolled in nuts. Yum!

Good Twins Update

Our Twins
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

The twins had a weight check with their family doctor today. They are 14.5 months old. They will be referred back to the pediatrician who cared for them in the NICU for one last check-up at 15 months. Unless he sees anything else he wants to follow - that will be their last follow up appt from being preemie.

The good news is both girls have gained weight! Megan is a hefty 21 lbs 3.5 oz now. No worries there at all! She is on the 25% for ACTUAL age for weight. The doctor has decided NOT to adjust any more for either girl. Megan also demonstrated walking AND talking "all done" "get OUT" "Get DAT" "DOWN" "uh uh". The doctor said Megan is ADVANCED verbally for ACTUAL - not adjusted age!!!!

Maribeth has also had an impressive weight gain. She is now up from 16 lbs even to 17 lbs 14 oz! She is still spitting up a lot but I was instructed to ask the pediatrician about if it would be worth re-starting zantac when we see him in a few weeks. Her weight gain has been sufficient enough to get her back headed up on the curve. So we can now drop the middle of the night feedings.

She also thinks that since both girls are gaining well again - that it's time to start getting them to use sippy cups more than bottles. So we picked up 6 of the little 4oz transitional sippies at Walmart on the way home.

We also spoke to the doctor about Maddy as I was worried about her development. The doctor tested Maddy on things on the 3 year old development sheet.

She diagnosed Maddy with middle child-itis -being between the babies and the older sibs and not deciding yet whether she wants align herselfs with the babies or the big kids.

Basically a a normal 3 year old who had a very rough past year. On the falling over issue (which Maddy DID in front of the doctor) - I was told Maddy is "goofing around and not paying attention - she's not as CAREFUL" about what she is doing as Michael and Melissa. She is within normal developmental guidlines.

I was also cautioned not to compare too much because in a lot of areas Michael and Melissa are advanced for their ages. Plus Maddy is a BIG 3 year old - the same weight as Melissa now - and Melissa is a petite 5 year old. So I may be unconciously - just expecting more of Maddy.

The treatment for Maddy with the potty training, dressing herself, learning to ride her trike - the doctor prescribes "lots of focuesed attention".

Maribeth hard at work / Megan is REALLY walking!

Maribeth hard at work
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

My mom took this. I'm still not sure what Maribeth was doing or why exactly all the TP was in reach of the twins - but I think this photo is hilarious! She's working SO hard to lift a roll of TP!

Fisher Price house is very popular
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

She walks now way more than she crawls!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New ballet outfit for Melissa

Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

New outfit for Melissa's 1st day of preschool ballet II. She is enjoying being in PINK like the other girls this class! I'm personally not as impressed with this teacher though. She just is not as professional looking and I thought some her her music choices were in appropriate. (she also teaches hip hop and she had undies showing herself). I think we may have to start looking into REAL ballet school rather than parks and recreation for next year. Check out flickr for more photos of Melissa's ballet class.

Melissa's first REAL bike ride
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

She didn't ride the whole way but I'm guessing we did at least 1.5 miles maybe more!

We are working on street safety, following instructions, and steering to avoid potholes. We need to do this a few more times with Melissa before we add Michael into the mix as he is a much faster and more erratic cyclist!

The Road Home: Michael and Gumpa on the pony

Michael and Gumpa on the pony
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

The girls were very excited to see this photo online this morning!

"Michael is widing de horsie!" (Maddy)

Melissa says "Hi Michael - you look cool on the horse. I would like to go on a horse sometime"

Melissa however - HAS been on a horse at Maplewood farm a couple years back and ended up screaming to get off.

At some point in the first few days we were in Baguio, my dad mentioned to Michael that there was a place that we would be going to where one could ride a horse. What he meant, I found out later, was the riding ring in Wright Park, which is just down the hill a bit from Mines View Park. Well, from that point forward Michael's every waking thought revolved around being on a horse. Every five minutes he would ask, "When are we going to ride the horse?"

It wasn't until the middle of the week that we had a chance to go to Mines View Park to take in the view. This was my first chance to actually see parts of the city other than the downtown areas.

Thankfully we found a couple of "Photo Op" vendors near the look-out who had ponies available for Michael to sit on. At first Michael played shy, but he managed to get up some courage after my dad sat on the pony first. They were even nice enough to let my dad lead the pony around a small ring a few times - which was enough excitement for a 4 year-old boy that we didn't actually have to go down to Wright Park to see the real horses.

The Road Home: My Grandparent's Graves

Down the stairs
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

In the distance, the family cemetary sits on a hill that overlooks a valley outside of Baguio. We took a taxi up to Quezon hill, got out near the top, and had to walk down this road to get the trailhead.

I've seen photos from when my grandmother was buried, the year I was born, that show that the road was once passable almost to the gate of the cemetary itself. It hasn't been maintained and the jungle has reclaimed most of the roadbed.

My grandfather's grave
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

The headstone reads:

Edwin Bugnay
Died: June 29, 1969

Of course, no one knows for sure when he was born. The old folks did not keep track of things like birthdays back in those days. My dad says that he was born right around 1900, which is a convenient date for calculations. However, my dad also says that my grandfather was a foreman of one of the work crews that dredged the pond in the middle of Burnham Park.

The city of Baguio was chartered in 1909 to implement the Burnham Plan, so named after Daniel H. Burnham, the American architect commissioned to create a development plan for the city by (U.S.) Governor Luke E. Wright. If my dad's 2nd assertion is true, my grandfather would have to been born before 1900 to be at least in his late teens or early twenties at the time of the development of Burnham Park.

(This link offers more information about the history of Baguio city.)

Edwin Bugnay

In the grave beside him is my grandmother, Kangi Biray, daugther of of Sifet, and granddaughter of Biray himself.

My grandmother's grave

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Road Home: R&R on Monday

Yesterday was a rest & recovery day after being on the go since we arrived (other than Sabbath - which was relatively quiet too).

Auntie Lolita (Uncle Mateo's widow) came over to do our laundry - which is handwashed because our house doesn't have hot running water or a washing machine. I showed her pictures of our family here on my laptop - including ones of the twins in their incubators (the nurses in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit here called them "isolettes") after being born 2 months premature. She shared with me again that the family here are all very impressed with Cheryl, who is managing a household with five children and no extended family to help, as is done here.

My aunt Lolita and her granddaughter

Auntie Edna (who is from a different side of the clan) said pretty much the same thing, when she came to visit in the afternoon as well. She shared with me a little more about clan history and that there are several sets of twins - including an aunt who was a twin, but the other twin was stillborn.

We went out after breakfast to go to Mines View Park, where my dad said there were "horses" (ponies, really) to ride. Michael was looking forward to this, but our plans got side-tracked by another trip to Burnham Park to wait while my step-mom Sophie went to the dentist. While we were there, I took Michael out for a ride on the rowboats they have here for hire.

While we were out on the water, Michael told me he needed to 'go potty', and urged me to row faster back to the dock. Not to go into the gruesome details, but we didn't get to the 'CR' in time. Here in the Philippines, the public lavatories (bathrooms, washrooms, WC, etc.) are known as Comfort Rooms. Thus the initials 'CR'. For some reason, Michael couldn't hold his water (he's fine, no diarrhoea) and we visited, if not all, at least the majority of the CR's in and around the market area of Baguio yesterday.

We stopped for lunch in a local fast food place called the Jollibee, which has appropriately enough, a large smiling bee as its mascot a la Ronald McDonald. Jollibee is clearly the local competition for the global McD chain, and they do a very good job of it.

The Jolly Bee

Speaking of the golden arches, there was one just across the street from the Jollibee where we had lunch. Both places were packed all the way to the 3rd floor with the lunchtime crowd, so there's clearly plenty of room for each in this market.

The irony is that these fast food chains (and I include the previously logged KFC and BK chains) are the cleanest establishments here in the Philippines, owing to McD setting the precedent by having each franchise meet corporate standards. There is commentary that decries the globalization of the McDonald's culture, but I noticed that both McD and Jollibee employ a lot of students in order to meet those high (for here anyway) standards for fast service and cleanliness.

Jolli Menu

Students here, especially those who are attending parochial schools - primary, secondary, or post-secondary, have a tough time finding sources of funding. My dad worked his way through school doing a variety of jobs, from farm work to being a security guard. In the afternoon we had some students from AUP (Adventist University of the Philippines) working as literature evangelists come by. I was impressed to give them my business card with my e-mail address. I don't know what will come of it. At the very least I may be able to offer encouragement to some kids at the very start of their own path to independence.

So everyone NEVER looks at the camera at the same time!

Grandmommy with the girls
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

We went to the library today and despite the forecast of rain - the morning was beautiful and sunny. So we set up on a bench outside to try and take some photos. While the lighting was wonderful - trying to get all 4 girls looking at the camera at the same time proved to be a impossible task! See flickr for most of the photo shoot. I uploaded everything and deleted a few that were REALLY bad of most people. I suppose in years to come - all the silly/wiggly kid shots will be more interested to remember than if we only did get perfectly posed photos!

Melissa took this photo!

Grandmommy and Megan
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

After the library we stopped by a playground. The sky was clouding over already and the wind was picking up - so we didn't stay long. The kids had a good time though!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Road Home: Biray Reunion & Afterwards

It's Monday here. The sun is just up and I've sent Michael back to bed again because he was up late yesterday. We had a long day attending a family reunion that was about 3/4 of the way back down to the plain.

The road to Baguio is a toll highway and the road is in reasonably good repair. It follows a gorge, cut by a river that periodically flows strongly, but is now very low, almost a stream in places. There are places here and there however where the river undercut the embankment and the lane closer to the river has crumbled into the river. I imagine this is the work of flooding during the monsoon season.

Coming down from Baguio, you have to come down a long stretch of switch-backs, known locally as the 'zig-zag'. Even with the switch-backs to ease the drop, the road is still very steep. I don't know how the transport trucks ascend it every day, but they do. I've even seen them pass regular jeeps in the hairpin turns.

After you leave the switch-backs it's a long section of road that follows the gorge. The sides of the gorge are quite steep, almost canyons in places, but you can see where people have built houses anyway. I got a picture of a rope bridge still in place where people cross with their heavy bundles going to or from market.

The house of the family that was hosting the reunion this year had papaya trees all around it and a small pool in the garden with goldfish in it. It took some doing to keep all of the small children from trying catch the fish.

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary for Cheryl and me. We have a long way to go to catch all the old folks here, but even so, they were quite proud of us. Especially for having contributed 5 more members to the clan!

We came back to Baguio to drop off our stuff and then were told we were invited to someone's house for supper. When we got there we found out it was a "Welcome Home" / "Bon Voyage" dinner for us and the new husband of a cousin who has to go back to Germany. They were here for a combined honeymoon / reunion visit and Alfred has to go back early, while Joyce will be here for a little longer for the 2nd clan reunion day scheduled later this week.

It was such a long day yesterday that we're just going to take it easy today. It's laundry day too..

The infamous Britax Marathon's

Britax Marathon's
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

The ultimate in carseats for the toddler set - these set us back close to $1000! They are 5 point carseats and also attached to the van at 4 points, tethered at the back, latch system on each side hooked onto our actual seat frame (Allan cut the seat upholstry to do that) and the lap belts. These seats aren't going anywhere! They rear face up to 30 lbs and front face up to 48 though here in Canada the SAME seats are rated to 60 lbs with 5 point harness front facing!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Maribeth took her first steps today!

Yes a bottle in bed
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

No photos of that actual event! She took about 1.5 steps before dropping down but then clapped her hands and went "YAY"! She is so determined to keep up with Megan.

Both girls are teething and pretty miserable with that right now. Maribeth was also cranky about being put IN the bed and not being allowed to touch the camera. It's very hard to photograph her these days because she crawls over very quickly to try and get the camera - followed by SCREAMING if she doesn't actually get it.

I let her hold the camera yesterday and she took a photo of the rug and squealed in delight when her photo appeared on the camera display screen - but then when it went away she THREW the camera hard - it landed several feet away on the floor. So I've decided that she is NOT allowed to have the camera. Amazingly the A30 is still functional!

Goodnight Megan!

Goodnight Megan
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Yes - she's actually smiling because I put her to bed! She is trying to walk more and more - averaging around 4-6 steps before dropping to crawling. Where before she wanted to be put down in crawling position - now she wants to be put down standing up!

The Road Home: Sunday update

It's early Sunday morning here. Today is Reunion day so I will be gone all day with Michael to meet my dad's grandfather's family. My grandfather was Edwin Bugnay. My dad's mother's father was Biray. We are going to meet with the children of Biray.

I've cleared off the 512 MB CF card so I will be taking a lot of photos and video on our digicam to augment my dad's video on his Canon DV camcorder.

I've figured it out and day-time here is evening/night there. I probably won't be able to connect again until this time tmorrow.

You can see some terraced fields along the highway down from Baguio.

For those of you SDA's, greetings from the Baguio church. I don't know how to type what they said in Ilocano. We attended there yesterday. It's an odd sensation attending church where about 1/3 of the people who greet you are extended family.

After church we came home and had potluck here with family members, and told stories about who was abroad and who stayed home. I got to show my cousins pictures and video of the twins in their incubators last year.

I am very happy to be here and if anyone has any questions, feel free to post them. I'm happy to share this educational experience with you all.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Road Home: Day 2 in Bagio

Hello all! Time for my 3 am posting again. This seems to be the only time I can get a reliable dial-up here, and for some reason I wake up at this time on my own. At least I can't blame the roosters this time.

My step-mom found the adapter I needed, so I'm not tied to the battery anymore. Whew! I've used up most of the 5 hours of online time now though, so it means a trip to the market again tomorrow.

My dad tells me there are now 5 million people in and around Baguio. The urban sprawl has created more chaos, if that is at all possible.

Michael in Burnham Park

We went to Burnham Park today for a picnic and most of the grassy areas are now gone because of the number of people trampling back and forth. The 'lake' itself is now so dirty it cannot support any fish like it once did. The jewel that once existed in the middle of the city is now gone and a tarnished cheap bauble is what is there now.

On the teeter totters (see saws)

It's painful to watch, no matter where you live. Here in the Philippines, life is lived so close to the edge that it's almost impossible to move people to consider environmental impact.

Much of the natural beauty that existed here is now gone.

The pond at Burnham Park

I am glad to see my cousins, my aunts and uncles, but even they tell me they are glad my dad was able to get us to 'America' where there is more opportunity. We are sad that the family cannot be together, but it is a reality that life here is hard - and beautiful things are few and far between.

The disappearance of natural beauty is everyplace here. The outer islands have been tourist destinations for years and they're going through the same deterioration because divers have been taking chunks of coral and tropical fish home with them as souvenirs. The reefs are breaking down and the beaches are being destroyed.

One of these days I'd like to find someone in NA who would be willing to put one of these together for me.

The Philippines is known as the Crossroads of the Pacific for good reason. (Though there are other places that vie for the title too.) Owing to our geography and history, you will meet Filipinos who look Latino, Chinese, Malay, or even Polynesian. And many that are half-American ;-) Consequently there are many ways to say or spell that we are Pilipino, Filipino, or Pinoy.

I've been asked more than once, 'Pinoy ka?'. I don't know what to answer sometimes. Both my parents are Filipino, and I was born here, but I was raised in Canada.