Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hot Dumaguete Sun, Cold Midwest Winter

(Above: Marilyn and I at the open air cafe on the grounds of South Seas Resort, Dumaguete, sporting our much-used sunglasses)

Growing up in Michigan, I was never accustomed to seeing very many sunny days. In fact, for years I had no idea what people meant when they talked about this thing called the "sun". Okay, that's obviously a lie, but I had never seen the sun as much as I did during two weeks in Dumaguete. It was so bright. And so darn hot, too.

I wonder what Marilyn will think when she experiences a good, old-fashioned frigid Midwest winter. Get me out of here? Here's something for her to ponder: the high temperatures in Cincinnati over the weekend are supposed to hover around the 35ºF - 40ºF range (2ºC - 4ºC). A far cry from Dumaguete's year-round heat, wouldn't you say? And the winter season hasn't even begun yet!

Oh, you'll be fine. We'll just buy you a very big winter coat...maybe two or three. You know how you always ask me if I can bring some snow with me to Dumaguete? Well, how about bringing some Dumaguete sun with you to Ohio?

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"The Amazing Race" in Dumaguete?

(Above: Could Phil Keoghan, host of "The Amazing Race", soon be making an appearance in Dumaguete?)

I have become quite an avid fan of The Amazing Race since I started watching the seventh season. In fact, it was during that very season that my trip to Dumaguete became a reality. As I watched my fellow Americans trek across the globe and interact with a diverse range of cultures, I wondered how my experiences in Dumaguete would compare. Obviously, my adventure would be without the road blocks, detours and fast forwards seen each week on the popular TV show. As it turns out, I actually did encounter a few detours, but these were not accompanied by a Phil Keoghan voice-over describing two tasks from which I had to choose. It's too bad—that would have given me something to do while I waited in Manila's domestic terminal.

Anyway, the likelihood of the producers choosing Dumaguete City as one of the destinations in Season 11 seems, sadly, quite remote. My guess is that Cebu will host the next venture into the Philippines (Manila was featured in Season 5). However, I think there are many qualities that would make Dumaguete a great "Amazing Race" town, not the least of which are the kind-hearted people who make it the bustling little metropolis it is.

I can just picture the first team arriving at the pit stop somewhere along the Promenade...

...they make that final dramatic stomp onto the mat and are immediately greeted by a local man who declares, simply and gently, "Welcome to Dumaguete City, Philippines". This pleasant salutation is then followed by some very important news from Phil...

..."Corey and're team number ONE!"

Could happen, right? :)

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Dumagueteño in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is a far cry from Dumaguete in many ways(Above: The shimmering lights of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio at night. Photo credit goes to Cincinnati Images.)

Assuming all goes well with the immigration process, Marilyn will be leaving her humble home in Dumaguete and joining me here in the Cincinnati metro area sometime next year. I often wonder how she will respond to such a drastic change in culture after spending her entire life in the Philippines. I am convinced she will find this place devoid of the activity and personality of Dumaguete. Sure, there are many options for entertainment, but very few involve any actual interaction with other human beings. Socially speaking, Americans tend to be dead from the neck up. That isn't to say we aren't among the most amiable people in the world, but we often must be reminded of our capacity to fellowship with others.

Marilyn, if you're reading this, I'll be honest with you...Cincinnati is no Dumaguete. In fact, I doubt there exists such a place in America that compares with the culturally rich and uniquely hospitable landscape which undergirds Dumaguete.

Ahh, but I am here...and this, she tells me, is all that will ever matter to her. Ain't love swell? :)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dumaguete Endures to the End

Silliman Hall is a Dumaguete City icon(Above: Silliman Hall, on the campus of Silliman University, is a prolific Dumaguete landmark)

As Marilyn has often expressed to me, life in Dumaguete is hard. Food isn't necessarily guaranteed to be on the table, nor is shelter readily available to all who need it. Opportunities for work lag far behind the burgeoning number of highly-educated and qualified candidates released into the workforce each year. Quality medical care is beyond the reach of those who lay bed-ridden in their own homes, too weak to breathe the fresh air just outside their front door. No one seems to truly understand all that afflicts the people of Dumaguete, especially those elected to be their voice.

During my time with Marilyn we made a point to pray together each day, surrendering everything to our Savior and renewing our focus on Him. These daily conversations with the Lord added a new perspective to my experiences in Dumaguete. I began to understand the full extent of oppression in this part of the world. Yet, at the same time, this worldly oppression appeared to breed a deep reliance on the Lord. There was an overwhelming spirit of supernatural endurance that largely defined the people of Dumaguete, and overshadowed the harsh realities of life here.

As the world crumbles around us——whether in Dumaguete, Riyadh, Tehran, Jerusalem, Tripoli, Mumbai or Chicago—let us all draw from the everlasting well of strength that is Christ the Lord, so that we may endure to the end.

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matthew 24:13)

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Family Ties—Dumaguete Style

Marilyn has family in and around Dumaguete.  This photo was actually taken down the road in Zamboanguita.(Above: Part of my soon-to-be extended family, which includes Marilyn's uncle and her cousins)

I was understandably nervous about meeting Marilyn's family during my Dumaguete adventure. Fear dwelt in the back of my mind as I pondered the possibility of making a bad impression. I wasn't entirely sure how this might occur, but I knew these would be among the most protective people in Marilyn's life. Therefore, it was very important that I instilled a sense of trust in their minds.

Future leaders in Dumaguete?  Wouldn't surprise me ;)(Above: Time for a group photo with the big white guy, or "uncle", as I was referred to)

I began to relax about the situation once Marilyn informed me how nervous her family was to meet me, and how they were actually ashamed because they felt their English was not sufficient. It seems they were even more concerned about making a positive impression on me! I was the one seeking acceptance into their family, but here they were seeking my approval as well.

A quick photo with Marilyn's grandmother before we headed back to Dumaguete(Above: A quick photo with Marilyn's grandmother before we headed back to Dumaguete)

Despite my earlier fears, the time spent with Marilyn's family was most certainly a highlight of my two weeks in Dumaguete.

Sadly, Marilyn's parents had already passed on by this time. Her mother's death came just months before my visit. I would have been privileged to meet the woman who brought Marilyn into this world, that's for sure.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dumaguete Ramblings, Part 1

Group photo after lunch at Jo's Chicken Inato in downtown Dumaguete(Above: Outside of Jo's Chicken Inato in downtown Dumaguete after a delicious lunch that included the famous mango shake. Marilyn, right, is shown with two of her friends.)

Many months ago I had written on the virtues of mango shakes, specifically those served at South Seas Resort just north of downtown Dumaguete. I should also note that I became quite fond of the mango fruit itself, having never before tasted this delectable treat. Now, I do not consider myself a connoisseur of exotic cuisine (i.e. anything other than pizza or cheeseburgers) and so was quite pleased with the rather tame selection of foods that I encountered in Dumaguete. However, I couldn't possibly expect to subsist on a diet of fresh mangos and fattening mango shakes for two weeks, could I? Actually, I probably would have done so without issue, but I possessed a culinary curiosity that required me to leave my unadventurous taste buds at home and experience some native Filipino delicacies.

My decision to be "brave" and partake of these foods quickly evaporated when I got my first look at halo-halo. Admittedly, it looked extremely peculiar to me, though perhaps not quite on the same level as balut or dinuguan. Never before had I encountered such a colorful and eclectic brew as this halo-halo, what with fruits and ice chips and beans and gelatin—all jammed together in a tall dessert glass. To an American who was not accustomed to such a sight you can probably appreciate my apprehension about trying it. There are various American dishes that would illicit similar reactions in Dumagueteños as well. Even Marilyn retorted with an emphatic "yuk" at the mere mention of turkey. Yes, our beloved American turkey. I didn't interpret this eschew as a slam against my culture, but as a reminder of how palatable cuisine in one country can be viewed with the utmost disgust in another (whether actually ingested or not).

Even some Americans would balk at the offer of sampling a bowl (or plate) of genuine Cincinnati Chili.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pit Stop in Cebu

Cebu provided a nice transit point to and from Dumaguete(Above: Modern office buildings in downtown Cebu. My photos of Cebu were not very good, so I borrowed this image from Wikipedia, which looks as if it was shot from the Marriott across the street.)

Marilyn and I spent three nights in Cebu, as it provided us a nice transit point to and from her hometown of Dumaguete. While our time was limited, we did manage to visit one of the top tourist attractions in Cebu: an observation point atop one of the highest peaks in the city. Looking back, the taxi ride up the mountain was just as exhilarating as the panoramic views. Our driver was quite the warrior, taking on insanely steep mountain grades that his inferior engine was not designed to handle. We stalled several times, and then one last heroic push ended with the car calling out, "Enough is enough!" The aroma of burning parts made me wonder what atrocity the poor engine had just suffered. We were forced to walk, at least for a quick jaunt up the road that had killed our taxi. Amazingly, a youngster on a motorcycle was waiting for us just ahead, ready to take us the rest of the way. I wasn't sure how he knew of our sudden change of plans. Anyway, here I was, on the side of a mountain in Cebu, Philippines in the dark of night, ready to take my first motorcycle ride ever. Marilyn managed to fit on as well, and soon we were flying up and down hills and around curves until we finally reached the entrance to the observation deck (all without helmets of course). Our reward was the spectacle of thousands of twinkling orange lights emanating from this living and breathing city. It was not unlike views I have seen here in America, yet when framed by the reality that I was in the Philippines the scene took on a surreal appearance.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Random Dumaguete Ponderings

A relaxing day at The Forest Camp, located outside of Dumaguete at the foot of Mt. Talinis(Above: The Forest Camp, located just outside of Dumaguete in Valencia. I am pictured here, along with Marilyn and her friend Ivy. Sadly, this was taken on my last full day in Dumaguete. The thought of impending goodbyes was beginning to form knots in my stomach at this point.)

The original intent of this blog was to provide (hopefully) interesting and thought-provoking narrative for my Dumaguete trip in 2005. Well, here we are, nearing the end of 2006, and I have yet to return to the City of Gentle People. This lack of travel has presented a quandary of sorts as I struggle to keep this blog fresh enough to appease those who may be repeat visitors. One solution, as evident by one of my prior two postings, is to comment on my current perceptions of Dumaguete. Another, of course, is to report on the ongoing process of obtaining Marilyn's fiancee visa. While I find it much easier to write about my excursions into Dumaguete, I will do my best to insure what whatever I write is engaging and intriguing. I do confess that some of the journaling I did shortly after returning from the Philippines has not yet been recorded in these entries, so there will be more "new" old stories to share, if that makes sense :)