The week between Christmas and New Years, Jenn had one of her nieces (Kylie) staying with us. I am not a big fan of having a lot of people in my house but in this instance I was OK with it. The little girl is well behaved, for the most part, and it gives my kids someone else to play with. The problem is, Kylie has a cough.

Many Filipinos (NOT ALL) do not teach their children to cover their mouth/nose when they cough or sneeze so we had to teach her to cover her mouth when she coughs. Many kids here don’t learn this very quickly, old habits die hard, but Kylie picked it up pretty fast. (She even learned to wear her slippers in the house quickly which is something I have been struggling to get my 6 year old, Nicole/Nikki to do.)  At any rate, even though she covered her mouth just about every time, my baby (20-month old Samantha/Sammi) still got sick, so I had to run to the pharmacy to get her some medicine.

So I showered and headed out the door, up the hill, out the main gate of the subdivision and I am waiting for a jeepney to the nearest town. As I am waiting, I noticed just how relatively dead everything was. You have to understand that I am not a big fan of mingling with people in the province so I was happy about this.  Far too many of them have what I call the “Zoo Complex”.

The Zoo Complex

This is what I call it when Filipinos stare at or act goofy around foreigners.  They do a lot of silly things like:

  • Staring/ogling
  • Pointing
  • Silly comments like, “Hey Joe” or they will whisper to each other about the, in my case, American or the White Guy.
  • Try to be overly friendly. This varies from person to person but the more sincere ones, that I do respond to, will respectfully try to start a conversation. Others, usually the kids, teenagers, immature adults or drunken morons, will just start shouting idiotic things at you in English.
  • Be greedy – Kids will walk up and say, “Give me money.” Gone are the days pf polite panhandling.

I treat each case based on how they treat/approach me. As I said, if they are respectful and polite or at the least seem as though they are genuine then I will respond in kind. The ones that act silly or goofy I will either ignore them or give a lesson in manners. I am from New Jersey which means I am definitely not shy. I have no problem telling someone they’re being rude.

Germ Jeepney

(Thanks to Kurt Rasmussen for the title.)

As I was saying, I was waiting for the jeepney and just as I see a nice empty one coming suddenly a large group of people emerges and lumbers their way onto my nice empty jeep. I started to get on and I notice that several of them are coughing and I thought better of it and waited for the next one.

I grab the next one to come down the street, short wait luckily, and I hop on and get to the town in pretty short order because traffic was really light. Thank God for the holiday!

But let’s backtrack a little bit here. When I got on the jeep we had some fun with the change from the fare. The fare price is 8 pesos. I gave the guy a 20 peso bill. (Keep in mind there were others on the jeepney when I got on and they had not gotten their change yet.)

The driver hands me back eight 25 centavo coins and two 5 peso coins. I looked and had to count it twice. This was highly irregular for a driver at the end of his run to not have any 1 peso coins, but here nothing surprises me anymore. I was a little annoyed but I accepted it because I assumed it was all he had.

So I sat back and I start to notice other people asking for change. I thought it was a bit odd that I got my change right away and others, who were on before me, never got theirs. OK, so maybe he forgot to pay them. It happens right?

So I am passing change from the driver to the other passengers. As I am passing it back I notice that they are getting 1 peso coins. At first I thought nothing of it but then I realized. He was messing with me.

You see, some (NOT ALL) Filipinos are racist. Simply put, they don’t like foreigners. Some don’t like foreigners from certain places, but others just don’t like foreigners in general. I am going to assume he is one of the latter. This may seem paranoid but after 7 years here you learn how to spot the bigots. (I just want to say that there are a lot more nice and friendly Filipinos than there are bigots. I have worked with many and met many in social situations who I became fast friends with and whom I admire greatly. One look at my Facebook friends list will confirm that.)

He did gave me the eight 25 centavo coins to mess with me. He figured the white guy won’t like it because we are all rich and we only carry those large bills like 1000 and 500’s.

JOKE IS ON YOU PAL!!!  You probably make more than I do lately.

Eight 25 centavo coins and two 1 peso coins

The two 1 peso coins were not part of the change I received. They are there for reference. The eight 25 centavo coins you see are the actual coins the driver gave me.

The List

Jenn had given me a list of things to buy while I was out.

  • Two separate medicines for the baby
  • Lugaw – A Filipino soup that can be prepared in several different ways
  • Oranges

I’ve been to this town many many times but it’s always been an adventure whenever I went alone. Something always goes wrong to either make it difficult or so that when I got home I got in trouble for screwing up the list of tasks. Of course, this little trek was to be no exception.

I figured I would be smart about this and do my best to make this as painless as possible. I got off the jeepney and I looked around to plan out my strategy. The place to buy the lugaw, which I had never noticed before because it is a little hole in the wall crammed in between two stores I know very well, was directly across from the Mercury drug store and the fruit stand was right around the corner from the same Mercury.  I was feeling good about this and started to let myself think I had a shot of getting through this ordeal in one piece with no mistakes.

The Pharmacy

I decided to hit the drug store first because all I had was the 1000 pesos bill Jenn had given me. Good luck finding a small store with change of a 1000 much less a merchant (where I live) willing to make that kind of change for a foreigner. Mercury is a big national chain store and as such was my best chance of breaking the bill.

I crossed the street pretty easily, which never happens, but thanks to the holiday, traffic was relatively light. Mercury is open on New Year’s Day. My confidence is booming now.

I walk into Mercury and notice it isn’t crowded and I stroll to the rear of the store where the pharmacy counter is and that is when my confidence starts to deflate some. There is a huge line of people. Well, it is a Filipino line.  In the Philippines, a lot of the time instead of people lining up in a nice neat vertical line they will queue up horizontally the length of the counter and clerks take customers in whatever order people bully their way to the front.

So when in Rome…..I bullied my way to just behind these two old ladies and blocked so no one could get to the clerk before them. Once they were done I got selfish and got my order filled. HEY! I had a sick kid at home and I did my good deed for the day.

Of course, the fun isn’t over. Of the two medicines I needed they only had one of them. I didn’t really care too much because there are three other pharmacies in the area. OR SO I THOUGHT. I forgot it was a holiday and of course they were both closed, which I didn’t know at the time.  I would have called Jenn to ask her if it was OK to get the substitute the girl at the counter suggested, but I left my cellphone home with a dead battery. DOH!!!

After I discovered they were closed, I decided to cut my losses and just get the rest of the items on the list.

Mercury Drugstore Libertad Mandaluyong

Just the storefront of a Mercury in Mandaluyong. I will get a picture of the store I was in and a picture of the counter line next time I am out. Let’s hope it’s not soon. LOL


I crossed the main street and go into the Lugaw place. There are two girls and a guy outside. The one who looks at me, of course, has to be the one with the typical insecure and jealous boyfriend. I LOVE THAT! So he gets mad and I just kept walking and let them argue it amongst themselves.

I get to the counter and said to the girl EXACTLY WHAT JENN TOLD ME. Basically, I asked for 15 pesos worth of lugaw. Even that has to be a problem because the cheapest they have is 17 pesos and there has to be more than one variety at that price. I flipped a mental coin and ordered the lugaw with beef and as she is preparing it I see her dump, what looked like, red pepper flakes into the mix. UH OH! I know the baby doesn’t mind spicy food but Nikki isn’t real fond of it. I started to ask about it, but quickly realized my question was falling on deaf ears as the girl’s English was “no so good.”

I decided to take my chances with Jenn since she gave me the wrong info to begin with. and just paid and left. Once outside the boyfriend was gone and little miss smiley wasn’t smiling no more. Instead I got a dirty look from her as if her infidelity was my fault. So I laughed as I enjoyed it and continued over to buy the oranges.

Lugaw with beef

Lugaw with beef. I grabbed this off the internet but I will get a real picture next time I see it in the house.

Fun with the phones

As I walked passed 7 Eleven I noticed they had a payphone so I decided to call Jenn and ask about the one medicine I couldn’t get at Mercury and the possible substitute. Once again even the simplest task has to be made difficult. I pick up the receiver and insert my two 5 peso coins and notice a little message on the phone’s LCD screen telling me the coin box or change box or something was missing. I figured I would dial anyway and quickly discovered my suspicions were confirmed. I was wasting my time.

I crossed the street AGAIN (third time if you include the time I had to cross to visit one of the two closed pharmacies) and head to the other 7 Eleven nearby. I get to their phone and dial Jenn’s cell phone figuring she is downstairs (our landline is upstairs and I knew she’d be too lazy to climb upstairs to answer) and I don’t hear a ring tone. I hung up and tried again with the same result. At this point, I am starting to think this phone isn’t working either, but I wasted this much time so far what is another few minutes?

I insert my coins and dial the landline. This time it rings and Maricel, Jenn’s 16 year old sister, answers. I tell her what I need to know and she turns around and yells for Jenn to come upstairs. More wasted time explaining to Cel. Jenn yells up to ask what I want I tell Cel to tell her to hurry up the stairs because I am on a payphone. She yells for Jenn to come up and I can hear, THROUGH THE PHONE, the sound of Jenn complaining as she stomps her way up the stairs. ARGH!

Jenn finally gets on the phone and greets me with a gruff,


I explain the situation and she gives me the go ahead to get, not the substitute, but something else entirely. So back to Mercury I go.

Mercury Again

I get back to Mercury and say hello to a security guard who works there and who was always friendly to me whenever I came in. I go to the back and the girl looks at me with surprise. She’s the same pharmacist who helped me earlier and I guess she thought I had a problem with what I bought earlier. I order the Solmux for children…DROPS…not syrup, as instructed so many times in the past. This is resolved quickly with no problem as the counter was much less crowded this time around. A small miracle in and of itself I guess.

Fun with the jeepney…AGAIN!

I go outside and get on a jeepney that had happened to stop in front. This was great because it saved me from having to walk down the street and wait for a jeepney to fill up. I figured between the counter being relatively empty on the second go round, getting all the items on the list and the convenient jeepney I might just be able to salvage this trip after all.

Of course, that was not to be so.  The driver’s wife, in the passenger seat, made change for me first (here we go again) and quickly which made the other passengers angry because, again, she had no change for them. Deja Vu!!!

Add to that I was way up in the front of the jeepney so when it stopped I had to climb over an entire jeep full of none to happy with me people to get out.

Time to face the judges

I get home and, somewhat proudly, start showing Jenn that I got all the items on the list and Nikki, my lovely 6 year old daughter, says to me,

Daddy, where are my oranges?”


So much for getting everything on the list!!!