This past Tuesday, we took a drive down to Tacloban City on the neighboring island of Leyte to get our car serviced. Tacloban is the closest Mitsubishi dealer around, so that becomes thee destination when the kilometers add up to an oil change and needed service on the car. It also provides us with an opportunity to hit the Malls and large grocery stores for the few items we cannot find in Calbayog City. This time during the trip down, we got to witness the many “road slips” caused by Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) which ravaged the islands with heavy rains early in December. A road slip is the term for a collapsed or sunken roadway caused by heavy rains – some would just call it a landslide. But in any case, we counted about 13 slips between Calbayog City and the San Juanico Bridge which links Samar to Leyte. Most of the slips we seen mainly affected the edge of the road and only a couple of them actually included a small part of the roadway. The entire road though from here to there was pass-able without any problems. As usual, the only thing that slows you down on these roads are people, dogs, kids, chickens, pedal-bike drivers, goats school zones and potholes…mostly in that order. These road slips were not a big problem as they did not hinder us the entire drive. Any further erosion though and some major problems will be had going forward.
We usually time our trip so we can stop at the Flaming Hat restaurant in Catbalogan City for lunch, and then, with our appetites fully satisfied (I recommend the Chicken Fajita Wraps when at the Flaming Hat, the wife likes the Bulalo soup), we continue on with the two-hour drive south and across the San Juanico Bridge onto the island of Leyte.
The drive into Tacloban hasn’t changed much since our last trip about 3 months ago and aside from some recent road repairs at the city proper, not much has improved travel wise. The roads are still congested and slow going. The drive into the city exposed some good progress on reconstruction, but it was still overly obvious that the churches, corporations, and wealthy business owners are well on their way to recovery, if not already recovered. Many newly constructed buildings housing larger business were seen like the new Toyota and Ford dealerships, Citi-Hardware, McDonald’s, the Robinson’s Mall, and other popular businesses. Even the Mitsubishi dealership has slated plans for expansion with a new building. We did manage to make a trip into the downtown area for a visit to the Giasano Mall. It appears as if most of the downtown business have been reopened and the new McDonald’s was packed as usual. Some structures still don’t look so pretty, but as functionality doesn’t win any beauty contests, most have re-opened for business. There were even a few Pope Francis souvenir stands still operating, selling their leftover wares at NO DISCOUNT pricing! Here in the Philippines they love the Pope so much, it just wouldn’t be ethical to discount anything papal in nature. And, it remains blatantly obvious that the poorest of the poor are still suffering here. When you have little to begin with, and mother nature takes it all away, well…it’s just not that easy to turn things around. But nonetheless, you will always see more smiling faces in the Philippines in the face of adversity than you will anywhere else in the world, in many the opinion of course.
A first for me this trip was a stop and a visit inside the new Citi Hardware store, which is a big box home improvement store chain in the Philippines. It resembles a scaled down version of The Home Depot stores in the USA. Inside the store I managed to find several items, and could have easily spent a half of a day there and found many more items to spend money on, until the wife had me ushered to the cashier by sales clerks. I did ask one pretty young floor clerk about the decision to build a Citi Hardware store in Calbayog City. She told me that the company was still in negotiations over site location and it shouldn’t be much longer before terms are agreed upon and the official announcement is made. I then asked her if I could apply for a job at the Calbayog store and she took pause, looked me up and down, and replied “I think you are over qualified sir!” I then explained that I did work at a Home Depot store for about a year in the USA and that I would be perfectly groomed for a position. Again, she paused and repeated, “I still think you are over qualified sir!” I’m certain she had no idea what The Home Depot was, but the “overqualified” comment is simply a convenient way to exercise the practice of age discrimination here in the Philippines . At my wife’s first opportunity, she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me away from that conversation. I’m not sure if it was the cute looking saleslady or maybe she didn’t want me exploring future work opportunities? Oh well.
One of the main reasons, besides getting the car serviced in Tacloban, was to look for some much-needed cat food (of the dry variety) as our cats have been on a rice and sardine diet for a couple of weeks now. We have been getting some strange looks from our three cats whenever we opened yet ANOTHER can of sardines. Our eldest, we think, is practicing some sort of feline hunger strike and is loosing weight, so finding some cat food was a high priority item. We spent the entire afternoon and evening on our first day looking for cat food, and after getting the car serviced the next morning, we spent several hours driving the city looking for dry food, but to no avail. Everyplace that normally carried dry food was out of stock! So after striking out in Tacloban, we decided to head back to Catbalogan early enough to scour that city for cat food. Just about the time we were coming into Catbalogan, the woman that runs the local Pacifica brand feed and grains store in Calbayog City called the wife and said, good news, our shipment of cat food came in today! Aughhhh!!! If we would have only known this last night…I could have had more time to consume more pitchers of Margaritas at the “MEX ‘EM UP” (Tex-Fil-Mex restaurant) at Robinson’s Mall. Oh well…at least we did pick up some Whiska’s brand canned food for our feline commanders at the Robinson’s Supermarket. Robinson’s had canned cat food, but not a single can of beans (kidney, white, red, chili, brown), nada! Oh well, maybe next trip I will get lucky enough and can put some home-made Chili on the menu at home.
Knowing there was a large bag of cat food awaiting us in Calbayog City, we could now relax a little on the ride home. We knew this time when we got home, we wouldn’t be empty-handed as far as the cats were concerned. They will love us dearly for at least another day! So we decided to slow down and enjoy the setting sun as we made our way along the coast into Calbayog City. I even felt the need to stop and take a picture. Once in town, we decided to take a driving break and celebrate our arrival back home with a couple of cold San Miguel’s at Demetrius’ before setting out for the final 10 kilometer drive west to our village. Some people might choose to head home at break-neck speed, sliding in sideways….but me, I don’t mind arriving home these days in the slow-motion mode. It makes the trip more enjoyable and makes it easier to relax….especially when you are retired!