Sunday, January 28, 2007

Keyo's Beetle Nut Experience

Wow, only an hour to upload. Editted the video to make is 99.5 MB under the You Tube limit.

You can get an idea of the tasty treat...

And the second half...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Half way round the world

Just got off the phone with James. Made it to Sun Valley Idaho. Ready to start his skiing vacation. We'll be able to chat by Skype to cell phone, and then he'll walk over to the public web cam so we can see him in a still snap shot.

Friday, January 26, 2007

If the Banaue Rice Terraces are truly considered the 8th Wonder of the World…

And I have been fortunate enough to walk on the Great Wall of China, then I have been to 25% of the most amazing sites created by man. That’s heavy.

Went a little overboard on the number of photos uploaded in the set. It is so hard to convey all that we saw.

Quotable quotes:
“This is Keyo…” Rey introduces Keyo to a pretty tollgate girl.
“It smells like s*#t but tastes good…” Rey explains some other dish after we try papaitan.
“I know this sounds strange, but I feel like we are being so efficient driving all day…” Backwards been up 20 hours thought process of mine.
“Does that really say AMAZING BUTT FUEL?” You’ll see the photo. It was an optical illusion. I swear it said that. You tell me what you think.
“Would it be inappropriate to lick the bag?” I ask after eating the roasted peanuts and garlic.
“What did I see you lick last week?” James says after I state the aforementioned question.
“I want some gum Mom…” Reyde asks while Keyo is trying Beetle Nut.

The sound of Reyde’s toy airplane now saved as Rey’s ring tone.

Loree, Keyo, James, Reyde and I left Makati on Saturday morning for the grand adventure. James and I have been on day tours with the driver and felt very comfortable to make this long trek with him.

Banaue is roughly 245kms north of Manila. You’d think it should take a few hours…but no…8-9 hours. The highways are packed, the roads off the beaten track, sometimes narrow, sometimes bumpy, and sometimes crazy. Taking your life in your own hands.

Loree, Keyo, and I thought we’d sleep on the way up as we’d been up all night working. We were far too excited to see the land and ended up staying awake the entire time. Lot’s of laughs and silliness ensued with the fatigue factor.

It does a body good to get out of the concrete jungle. As we headed north and began to see the hills and valleys of the Philippines, I was reminded of home. The tropical vegetation still abounded, but additional trees were evident to make it feel a bit like the Pacific Northwest. For as far as the eye could see the valley of rice paddies, mango groves, and other crops continued. Amidst the farms, the homes with palm trees for shade sat in the middle. Carabao, dogs, goats, and chickens along the road. It’s the type of scenery that I envisioned the Philippine Islands to be like. So peaceful, so beautiful with dozens of different shades and textures of green. I now understand why people go home to the province and leave Metro Manila whenever they get a chance. Manila is nothing but another big city in the world.

Amazing that we didn’t see any road kill. Rey said that the drivers are very careful to not hit animals, especially chickens. The owners will come out and negotiate payment for the dead chicken, the number of chicks that it might have laid, and the number of eggs that the said chicken and possible chicks might have laid for their life spans. Could get expensive.

The highlight of the afternoon in my mind? The absolutely fabulous roasted peanuts with dry roasted garlic that Rey bought from a guy by the gas station. We see many vendors walking around with pots of food, and have never been daring enough to try the treats. These were out of this world. Almost had Rey turn around to buy more.

We arrived at the hotel about 4pm on Saturday night. Reyde and James roamed around while I took a much needed 2 hour nap. The climate was perfect; cooling for the night with a slight breeze and chill in the air. We would all sleep good.

We met up for dinner at 7pm. The oddest thing happened; I had asked for Mexican food for lunch only as a joke for there is no Mexican food here. I’ll take that back, there is a chain in Manila, but not like food in Seattle. Our guide Ina was trying to accommodate all of our requests and took it to heart that she couldn’t provide Mexican food, only to find it at the beginning of the buffet line. We laughed so hard. Had a soft stale hard shell taco with unknown meat, cheese, salsa, and lettuce.

After dinner we watched the native cultural presentation and headed to bed. The next day would be big.

Slept so soundly. The windows were open, we had a cool night breeze coming in, and the sounds of crickets, chickens, and dogs.

Met up for breakfast on Sunday and off to the first viewpoint. Up to 4800 feet to see the awe inspiring rice terraces. The terraces have been built over the last 2000 years, all by hand. It is believed that people from China traveled down to the islands thousands of years ago and brought with them the knowledge to cultivate the mountains. If the walls of all the terraces were put end to end, the wall would be half way around the world.

UNESCO now pays families to maintain the terraces of the ancestral lands and keep the way of life intact. So much of the land is still food bearing. The main crop of course is rice.

As we drove around, we would come upon sections of the road covered in rice. The families just lay the rice out to dry and the drivers know not to drive over it. Nothing like having a little extra fiber in your rice right?

The next part of our adventure was a Jeepney ride to a native village to interact with the natives. So said the itinerary. A bit canned I thought, like these people would be dressed up in native clothing and we’d pretend that they live the way their elders did…

The ride was crazy. Jeepney’s need suspension. In a bad way. Reyde kept hold of James’ hand the entire ride and kept on saying, “we’re going to be okay right Dad?” I only hit my head once with a big bump. From time to time we would gather extra riders. Kids would run and jump on the back. Hold on for dear life and hang off the back of the Jeepney until they got to where they wanted to go. I have no idea how they didn’t hurt themselves dismounting because the driver didn’t slow down. The boys were pretty funny. As they held on outside, they serenaded us with American pop songs. I should have gotten some video of their singing.

We arrived at the village, only to find out that we needed to walk down to it. Walk down to it is an understatement. This was a 25 minute hike down a steep hillside with uneven stairs, no safety handrails, and plain crazy in some spots. Knowing now what we do, James and I wouldn’t have taken Reyde. It was quite an adventure for a 4 year old. (And 36 and 38 year old!)

The last part of the walk was on the walls of the rice paddies. About 12 inches wide with drops down to the next paddy on one side and the water of the other paddy on the other side. Ina the guide lost her footing and stepped in the water/mud/muck as well as James and Reyde on the way up.

Once down to the village, we visited with the families that do live there. Crazy to have to do that trek to go to the store and school, and whatever else you need. I am saying it’s all about planning and questioning if you really need what you think you need. And no overweight people living in the village. No way could they get overweight with that walk.

The huts are made of bamboo and grass; raised off the ground to prevent rodents and insects from coming inside, as well as protection against the enemy in old times. Inside the huts, which are maybe 12’ x 12’ there is a second story to store the rice. The 20th century has come to the village. Electricity, refridgerators and TVs inside.

So as the itinerary stated, we did interact with natives, but not natives in the true sense. They wore 20th century clothing, no loin cloths here.

The people let us look into their homes and showed us how they prepare the rice. Reyde had a go of it…

James was very taken by the culture and bought up a storm of souveneirs. I purchased 2 handmade woven cloths, he purchased a spoon/rice cutter, cow horn, drum, necklace. I guess we are about even; I also bought a necklace and a wooden figurine of the rice god.

Took us about 45 minutes to walk up the stairs/hillside. Another 45 in the Jeepney to get back to the hotel. We could have had lunch in the village but the guide and driver recommended we eat at the hotel because of food quality and not being sure of the safeness of what we would eat. Nice to have them looking out for us, especially Reyde and his virgin belly.

After lunch we headed back to the market in tricycles. Which is your standard motorcycle with a sidecar. Reyde loves taking rides in trikes. We arrived around 4pm with not a lot going on. Went to a few shops but didn’t buy anything. Ina, the tour guide, always one to please, “scored us some nut.” Keyo wanted to try the native Beetle Nut chew. From what I gathered, it is a spicy nut dipped in dried lime, then wrapped in a tobacco leave and banana leaf. The nut stains your lips and mouth red. Some of the people we saw had stained teeth as well. I suppose the effect is a bit addictive but probably more than anything something to keep people warm up in the mountains. It causes you to sweat profusely.

Couldn't insert video from You Tube. Too large of a file.

Had dinner and to bed early. Needed to head back to Manila bright and early so we could take a nap before work on Monday night.

Left at 7am, and safely turned onto Valero street at 3.15pm. Have to admit that my spirit brightened being outside of the city. It makes the concrete jungle a little bit more bearable. Two more weeks to go until the next escape. Back to Boracay for the weekend.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


YUM YUM. Ms Puring brings suman and mango for a philipino snack. Reyde loves it. The mango is incredible and I now know how to prepare mango without mangling it. Suman is rice with some sugar wrapped in a banana leaf. The leaf has coconut oil in it so the rice doesn't stick. Steam and it's ready to eat.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Headed to Banaue- 8th Wonder of the World

The adventure continues. James, Reyde, Loree, Keyo and I are headed north tomorrow after work. Going to see the famous rice terraces of the Philippines.

Wooppee, wippeee...bye bye concrete jungle, hellloooo green hills of vegetation.

Check the jealous...

And just for's Joy and James on our last touristy event:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Captain my captain....

Keyo Gold arrived from Seattle on Tuesday to lead the Small Business Sales Team in Makati.

In the four short days he's been in the office, the team has rallied around their new leader and welcomed him. It's about 6am on Saturday morning in the photo. (L to R Keyo, Mandrake, and Marcelino.)

The camadrerie in the office is amazing. It's so nice to be around a group of people that are working on individual goals but yet are genuinely excited for other people's success and wins. Check out the video attached.

The salesman ringing the bell is Jolly Ong. He landed a 17 case order at the end of the day on Friday. Pulled the team out of a weak sales day with the order. It's his first big win.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My own little fear factor episode

Went to lunch with the next set of new hires last Friday. One of them ordered soup that had beef bones in it. I noticed that one of the guys was shaking the bone...only to see the gelatin like substance fall out. You got that right....beef bone marrow. A delicacy right?

So even though I knew it would be a texture moment for me, I asked if I could taste it. The itty bitty-iest taste. I don't think it even measured to 1/2 tsp. At any rate, I put it in my mouth, texture of 1/2 formed jello....and not much flavor. I assumed it would take on the flavor of the soup broth.

No, I am not trying balut. And for those of you intrigued by the on the link below. Graphic pictures.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Probably WAY TOO much information...

but I've wanted to write this question for many weeks...

Why is it that the lighting and mirrors in the elevator is the best place James and I can see to pick our faces of white and black heads?

So far, we haven't been caught by anyone entering the elavator....but if they notice, we have red spots on our faces!


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Keeping it short and sweet....

I haven't had time to upload to flickr or write my long winded narrative of the visit with Grandma Joy and Aunt Babs. Suffice it to say, it was WONDERFUL having family here. Rang in the new year with my buddy Jon Bon...(no need to say Jovi now, we are are the 2 name basis.)

As James and I walked down to the New Year's Celebration on the streets...

"Do you hear that?"


"It's Jon Bon Jovi! See I couldn't miss an important date without him."

ka-BOOM, goes the M-80 to the 3rd power.

"Never say goodbye...never say good by ee eyeeee."

And to keep everyone up to date, since I am so long winded...they love Jon Bon here. I hear him singing everywhere, tourist spots, 7-11, taxis, McDonalds... Ohh..tried to "McDo" burger.

"What's a Mcdo burger (pronounced Mc due.)" I inquire at work.

"It's a regular burger. But you say it, Mc dough."

"That's good, because Mc-due doesn't sound so appetizing." (It wasn't that tasty.)

And I am here for work, that's what brought us here. AMMEX opened a sales office to support the USA office and sell into the USA market.

And we finally found paper towels at the store...2 rolls of Bounty only $4 US. We are paying $8 US for fresh milk. Yowser....

3 months have passed, we are on the down side of the hill now.

I miss Turbo and Nitro...Reyde misses grass...and James missed his truck that appears to be totaled by Allstate.

Oh and one more thing. Aunt Babs wanted a picture of a security guard. They are everywhere in Makati. I pass by 6-8 in my 2 block walk to work