Raquel C. Bagnol
The only permanent thing in the world is change, or so the saying goes. And so with this article comes many changes, first in the column name. For the past couple of years, I had been writing a column titled LoCaL CoLoR in the Philippines but less than five hour’s plane ride from Davao City three weeks ago brought me and officemates Aurea and Celina to this island in the pacific to work for another newspaper and to another set of changes in our lives.
This article is written in this place dubbed as the Rainbow’s End, and I couldn’t think of any other name much more fitting than Island Color. In this island where there seems to be more cars than people and you can rarely see anybody walking on the streets, the feeling of being “parang nasa Pinas pa rin” (feels like being still in the Philippines) prevails. Filipinos are everywhere and you see them in the stores, offices, clubs and bars, hotels and practically everywhere.
Comes now adjustment time-stage one.
Although the three of us worked in the same office and seen each other’s shadow for almost three years, we did not live in the same house so normally we all have to make a lot of adjustments. Ever tried keeping your cool when the bathroom we shared already resembled a bat cave? you know what I mean, with all those wet “bats” that were supposed to be dried at the driers in the Laundromat hanging from the shower hooks, falling hairs clogging the drainage, soap melting in the sink or stepping on empty shampoo sachets? We have.
I also learned a fast lesson in patience when Aurea practically takes forever in the bathroom while Celina and I wait for our turn to take a bath every morning. I was beginning to wonder if there’s a mass going on inside the bathroom that she only knew of and attends exclusively…
One thing that needs a 360-degree turn is my sleeping pattern. This is not easy and may take months or even years of trying because I, labeled as a “vampire” by friends because I stay up till dawn and is sleepy through the day have to make a complete turn-around. For the past nights I’ve stayed awake staring at the ceiling trying to count sheep and fall asleep or try to follow the rotation of the stand fan I bought for $23.25 a day after we arrived but to no avail. Bedtime for my body is still 2 a.m.
The hardest part is in getting up at 6:30 a.m. and wait for my turn to take a cold shower to wake up, (I usually go to the bathroom with eyes still closed and wake up only when the first squirt of water falls on my head), grab a quick breakfast which I very rarely do and rush with my housemates because I have no other means of getting to the office but hitch a ride in our housemate’s car. For the first time I saw what offices look like in the mornings but only digest half of what’s going on until late in the afternoon.
Another shock awaited us when we shopped for groceries for the first time. Everything is priced in dollars. I nearly collapsed when I picked up a bunch of string beans priced $1.25. Why, with the exchange rate of P56 to a dollar, that would cost P70! And to think that I would even snob that bunch of beans at the Bankerohan market in Davao and grumble (and sometimes curse the vendor) for overpricing it at P6 a bunch!
I bought a plate, spoon and a glass for $3, whew! I had hordes of plates and mugs and spoons which had accumulated through my brief journalistic stint in Davao, but here everything is exported from the Philippines. Our Pinoy officemates advised us never to convert all the prices to peso “dahil talagang maloloko at makakalbo kayo” (you’ll go bald and crazy) but they understood us because they too, went through the same phase.
I do miss my body pillow, the one I bought with my first salary at Davao but have to leave it behind. Buying a new one here would cost me $12. Converted, that would be P672! I could buy that in the PI (short for Philippine Islands) for less than P300 (There I go again…) but I’m going to buy one just the same when I get my first paycheck. It sure helps a lot to lure me to dreamland.