Friday, January 23, 2015

That Dinghy Little Maid Room at the End of the Hallway

"Since the regular room is booked out, we will move you into a two-bedroom suite for your stay," the receptionist casually mentioned upon the author's check-in.  The author, for his business trip this time in the Philippines, was placed into a gigantic service residence unit.  Wowed by the sheet size of the bedrooms, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom...the author was just giving himself a tour of the place when he noticed a little dark alley on the side of the kitchen, away from the bedrooms and the main door.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Death of the "Iron Stomach" and the Doubts of a Casual Traveler

On the road, the biggest enjoyment a traveler can possibly have is food.  Going to new places and indulging on the delicacies that raised a whole new unknown civilization cannot be underestimated in its value in communicating with the locals.  It is like the Chinese says, "民以食為天" (people see food sky/heaven).  The centrality of gastronomy in not only the cultural expression of a place, but also the economic realities of the common people residing there provides possibly the most concentrated and succinct method to get know the good and bad of a foreign location.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Can Liberalism Also be Fundamentalist?

A couple of years ago, there was a South Park episode that made fun of the late Steve Irwin,  Australia's famed "crocodile hunter."  The episode characterized the nature of Irwin's TV documentaries as mere attempts to gain viewership by intentionally pissing off wild animals while fully knowing that the animals will be pissed off by the human intrusions.  By skirting serious physical danger in his pretty much unnecessarily violent interactions with the pissed off animals, Irwin somehow gains a status of folk hero in the process.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One-Sided Interpretations of History and Underlying Grievances in the Shadows

Sri Lanka is scheduled for another presidential election on January 8th.  As a result, the streets are filled with campaign posters and pictures of the two main candidates, more notably that of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent.  His party's blue flag grace the man streets of the country's main cities, with campaign personnel busying themselves plastering posters with photos of him shaking hands with notable foreigners or cuddling a small child on the campaign trail.  His campaign team is on the road through main towns, drawing huge crowds with fiery speeches.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Legend of the Sri Lankan Feet

"It's only 3km away, that's only a short walk from here," many Sri Lankans met on the road often says something of this sort to the author.  No joking, no exaggeration of self-pride, but just stating what is to them a simple matter of fact.  And they certainly back up such talks with action: the author, on his bus trips, has seen too many locals, in their simple worn-out flip-flops, walking next to major highways, appearing in the middle-of-nowheres between towns that are not particularly close even by driving.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sensitivity of Embarassment

The Christmas markets of Metro Manila are not for the fainthearted.  The streets, usually crowded already with the high density of population, are extra packed with people doing their last-minute shopping for gifts.  Unlike elsewhere where Christmas is a matter of adopting a foreign culture into a consumerist form, Catholic Philippines are religiously tied to the celebrations.  And when it comes to Christmas, people simply let out.  A taxi driver said it the best, "the Filipinos will be impoverished after the Christmas holidays."