When I left off last time, Virginia and I were trying to decide what to do with the rest of our time. With only two days until we had to return to Manila, we wanted to fit in some waterfalls, caves, jungle hikes, some more beaches, ruins, and volcanoes. Turns out that nothing is really that reliable here. Things like buses and boats don't have schedules, so you just have to ask around to find out what time the next one will be leaving. Once you figure out what bus/boat to get on and what time it leaves, you just wait for a few more hours because everything leaves at least an hour later than what everyone told you. Long story short, we never made it to the beaches or the waterfalls around Legaspi. We talked with several people about how to get to some waterfall that I can't pronounce. Some had never heard of it, some said it was impossible to get to, and others told us it was a 10 minute bus or jeepney ride away. Inquiring about buses was too complicated, so we tried to flag down the correct jeepneys, but none of them would stop for us. You can only stand around on the side of the roads here for so long before the heat and fumes get to you. After missing about five jeepneys, we just gave up and figured if they didn't want to take us, it probably wasn't all that great anyway.
Anyway, after missing the waterfalls, we decided to hike up to the top of some hill that overlooked the city and had some views of Mayon (the perfect volcano). The guidebook gave us specific directions for how to find the trail that led up the hill. Of course, we completely got lost and ended up wandering around in a fish market on the south side of town. We could see the hill we were supposed to climb, but it was surrounded by a fence that didn't look like it was meant to be crossed. Luckily, good old Philipino hospitality saved us once again. We passed a small house with an old man sitting in the front yard. He called out the familiar "Hey Joe!" which seems to be the greeting that we are receiving more and more often. Also as we expected, his next question was "where you going?" We asked him about the path up the hill, and instead of just pointing us in the right direction, he jumped up out of his chair and walked us to where the trail started. It involved us climbing under a barbed-wire fence and walking through a cow pasture type thing. In other words, we never would have found it on our own. He lifted up the barbed-wire and motioned for us to climb under. I should mention at this point that I've stopped using contractions when talking to people here. Their grasp of English is enough for us to get by, but talking too fast or using contractions or slang throws them off. The whole conversation with the old man went something like this:
"Hey Joe! Where you going?"
"Hello! We are going up the hill. Is there a path...a trail?"
"Yes. Up hill. I take you."
"Oh. Uh. Wow. Thank you." (He walks us to the trailhead and lifts up the fence)
"Under the fence?"
"Really? Is no problem?"
"If problem, you come to my home."
The view from the top of the hill was pretty nice, and we got to share the path with two cows. I got some pictures of Mayon and the city below. On our way back down, the old man must have seen us coming, because he met us at the fence and again held it up for us to crawl under. We thanked him again and were on our way. Since then, we've met many other people who have gone so far out of their way to help us it's unbelievable. I'm not going to go into all the stories, but it's definitely a level of friendliness and helpfulness that you just would never find in the states. All the staring and attention is finally starting to get to me, and I've been thinking about why these people find us so interesting. First off, I thought about how much we in the states actually know about the Philippines. I mean, right now, off the top of your head, what do you know about this country? How many people are there? What kinds of stuff do they grow? What language do they speak? Where exactly are the Philippines? And we have plenty of opportunity to know these things. Internet access is pretty standard in almost every home in the states, and a lot of time is spent watching the news and such, yet we still don't know much of anything about how this country works. People here are in the same situation as we are, except that they don't have the option to access all the information that we do. From what I can tell, most of their exposure to life in the US comes from television. And I don't mean TV news, I mean MTV, HBO and CineMax (which are everywhere we go), and the like. Only watching MTV and American movies would give the impression that everyone in the states is beautiful and rich, and that everyone leads a happy, stress free life. I'm not saying that all Philipinos believe that everything on TV is real, but I can see how they might have a somewhat skewed view of American life. The teenagers here all pass us on the street and greet us with a "What's up?" instead of the "hello. Good evening/morning" that we get from older folks. Anyway, I probably sound like I'm preaching or something. I guess I'm just trying to figure out why we are such a big deal. And I hope we're not letting people here down by not being as good looking as they'd hoped for. Sorry Philipinos, we're not really all that TV makes us out to be.