Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Halo-halo Time

Tuesday morning, we groggily crawl out of bed and use our shower. The shower has an electrical flash water heater and a handset-type shower head. There's no enclosure--the entire bathroom is the shower stall. I just have to be careful where I aim. I take a stingy shower, soaping with the water turned off. As I adjust the water heater while rinsing, I wonder whether this is a wise thing to do, and for the first of many times this trip, I speculate about Filipino building codes.

After a light breakfast, Fran shows up. We all head out on foot and trek past the open market. We're greeted with "Hey, Joe!" from all sides. Filipinos still call Americans Joe, after GI Joe, from World War II. We walk to the Tabaco City LCC department store. The store has everything, and great service. We're continually surrounded by eager salespeople. We buy laundry detergent--a small brick of solid Tide; drinking water; and a few snack items. Then we go to the ChinaBank and use the ATM.

Back at the Gardenia, we unload our loot and hand-wash some laundry. We traveled light, with no checked-in baggage, so laundry becomes part of our daily routine, along with finding drinking water and a usable ATM--everyone wants pesos; no one takes credit cards. We also become used to taking multiple showers each day. Between the showers and the laundry, much of our hotel time is centered around the bathroom.

We go to Fran's favorite restaurant in Tabaco City for lunch, Solamente. It's an open-sided roof, basically, with a kitchen. They serve us a fish dish--fish "cooked" in citric juice--and a regional chicken dish. It's all very tasty.

Then we head to the San Lorenzo National High School, Fran's place of employment. We meet her principal, Rose, a very pleasant person who leaves no doubt as to who is in charge at her school. She treats us to colas and batter-fried bananas. Then Fran's co-teacher guides us on a tour of the school.

Fran leads us into a couple classrooms, where we say hello to the students and answer questions.
For the girls, Ed is the center of attention. Apparently, it's the dream of many young Filipinas to marry an American. Ed is greeted with much giggling. One of the girls brazenly asks how old he is, and when Fran asks her how old she is, she replies, "Sweet sixteen!"

After the tour, Rose and Jai, her assistant, take us to a place in Tabaco City for merienda. We have pancit again, and then Rose orders halo-halo for each of us. We're each served a dessert bowl filled with shaved ice and topped with a glob of purple goo and grated cheese. There's a layer of syrupy-looking liquid in the bottom of the bowl, with some unidentifiable stuff floating in it. We each mix our halo-halo together with a long spoon--that's what halo-halo means in Tagalog, mix-mix. Then we eat. It's surprisingly good, very refreshing in the heat. I taste the cheese, a sweet coconutty syrup, and occasionally, peas and corn, maybe, and gummy candies.

After our good-byes, we head back to the Gardenia and off to bed.

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