So, I decided it was time to leave Manila for a few days. It's almost indescribably dirty, hot, loud and crowded there and it was definitely starting to get to me. For just a few dollars, it's possible to get a boat to a clean, quiet place with a beach, which is what I decided to do. I decided it was time for a few days of hedonism before returning to reality. After this, I'll be going to UP to do reaseach, and then return to the states where I'll have a few days to move back in to my apartment before school starts, so this is pretty much my only chance for a vacation.
I'm in Mindoro now, near Puerto Galera. The village I'm staying in, Talipanan, is quite nice -- very quiet (except for the shouting Korean family staying next-door), small and friendly with a few family-run guesthouses. ( I'll try to upload a few pictures in a minute, but I want to post this before I try anything that fancy on this computer.)
The problem is that most of the rest of this part of the island is a tourist resort, which means that it's pretty hard for me to walk down the street without about 6 people trying to sell me something I don't want at exhorbitantly inflated prices. I try to remain sympathetic to people who are just trying to make a living, but it can get pretty aggressive. For example, I wanted to take the jeepney (regular public transit) into town this morning, but while I was waiting, I was surrounded by a veritable plague of tricycle drivers trying to charge me 5 times the normal fare to ride with them instead, in spite of my repeatedly insisting that I just wanted to take the jeepney. It's an aspect of the Philippines I haven't really had to deal with yet, because so far I've always been with Filipino companions or in urban areas where people pretty much leave me alone.
In the end, it usually turns out okay, but only because people are so amused by my Tagalog that I can usually redirect the dialogue into a conversation about their wives and kids, or various relatives who are overseas workers in America.
The other thing I have to concede is that even when people do overcharge me, at least they're nice about it. They'll charge 5 times the local fare, but they'll make sure I get exactly where I need to go, and that I'm safe and well taken care of when I arrive.
To be honest, I don't even particularly mind paying a bit more than the locals for services -- I mean, when you start thinking in terms of percentage of hourly wage, it's ridiculous to quibble about a quarter which really means nothing to me, but can make the difference between some vendor's kid going hungry or not. It does seem like there's a certain amount of justice in people who have more money paying more. Still, there's a point between where economic justice turns into just plain getting ripped off, and you do have to draw the line somewhere.
On that note, this internet connection is pretty steep as well, so I'm going to wrap this up and save the more serious thoughts until I get back to Manila.