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Metamorphosis of a Kano

Metamorphosis of a Kano



–  How I fell in love with the Philippines  –

I will skip the part of how I met my asawa, our courtship and my first exposure to the Filipino culture. Needless to say I should have been tipped off by these earlier experiences, but I have always been a slow learner. I just gathered up my bride and continued marching merrily along with my military career.

I think when my wife first made tinola (soup) with lots of ginger, followed a few days later by nilaga (soup) and naturally pan de sal (small rolls) with pate for breakfast, the first thoughts of the Philippines as a place to spend my golden years began to form.

It wasn’t until several years later when we first visited her home in Paranaque, Metro Manila that I actually fell in love with the Philippine country, culture and people. I was surrounded by friendly happy people who for the most part wanted to please and be pleased.

After a few days there, when it was obvious I was not going to turn into a raving lunatic, I was sent out to get the morning breakfast. So clad in shorts, T-shirt, sunglasses and flip flops and armed with 100 Pesos, off I went. Negotiating the jeepneys, motor scooters and tricycles I made my way to the cathedral where I had seen a news stand (a guy sitting on a milk crate under a cardboard shade) where I bought a copy of the Manila Star (in English) for  P15.  I then went to the palengke (wet market), where I was treated to the sights, sounds and smells of an open air market that most Americans only see on the Travel Channel. I saw what I was sent to get, ripe mangoes piled in a basket among other baskets and crates filled with as yet unidentified fruits and vegetables. Behind which sat an older lady with arms folded scowling at me. I gave her my best “Don’t hate me, I am really a nice guy smile” held up four fingers and said:   “Apat please” (feeling like a complete idiot, pointing at the mangoes).   She said “four Kilos?”  “No apat ummmmmm each please” was my reply.  “Ah, four pieces” (hey they speak English I thought, COOL)

She then picked out four really nice fruit put them in a flimsy red plastic bag and said something so fast I couldn’t make it out but I assumed it was the price. So I just held out my money cupped in both hands and grinned. She laughed looked at the pile of coins and crumpled bills, fished out a P10 note handed me the bag, said something to her neighbor and off I went. I had found my first suke (like a favorite vendor) and didn’t even know it. I then headed towards were I knew the bakery was, dodging kids, stray dogs and umbrellas sticking in my eye (being 6 foot 1 inch is dangerous in crowds here) stepping around puddles and responding to “Hey Joe!”, all the way.

Upon reaching the bakery there was a semi circle of people around a very small barred window; mentally scratching my head I wondered how I was going to crack this nut. I got in the back of the crowd and patiently waited my turn. After noticing people wiggling their way into the front of the line from the edges of the crowd, then sticking their arm through the window, shouting “Vente” (what in the world?  Spanish?) and receiving another flimsy red plastic bag filled with pan de sal, I finally caught on. I then gently and politely inched my way forward to the front of the crowd (maybe being 6-1 is useful after all) stuck my arm in with a P20 note saying “Vente” and was handed a bag of hot bread by a very startled pretty teenage girl, backed my way out of the crowd and proudly made my way back home. Once there I was greeted by a suspicious wife and mother in law who inspected each item like a drill instructor inspecting a recruit. Satisfied that I didn’t buy something completely wrong, I was given my breakfast in the garden (see picture) and left in peace with my paper. I remember asking my mother in law. “Mom how much is P50 in American money?” “A little over one dollar” was the reply. HOLY SMOKES I thought, I could get used to this.

Later that day the wife announces “Let’s go shopping” GRUMBLE. I was soon taking my first jeepney ride which in about five minutes dropped us in front of Shoe Mart Sucat. I remember gazing at the large mall thinking “What the heck?” Then upon entering  “Air-conditioning?” looked to the right “Ace Hardware?”  Looked to the left “McDonald’s?”  Needless to say I was surprised.

I won’t go into all the other beautiful things I saw that first trip, like the beaches of Boracay, the lake at Laguna, the mountains of Baguio, the hot springs and jungle of Tagaytay and the countless churches and cathedrals.

Let it suffice to say in one day with that first solo excursion to buy breakfast, and what is normally a chore of going shopping with the wife, was when I decided I would retire in the Philippines. What a combination of old and new, primitive and modern, bustling metropolis and rustic old world charm and the guarantee that each time I turn a corner there is a new experience to discover.

Metamorphosis of a Kano Part 2



Some links for your Paranaque viewing pleasure.



  1. Scott is a great writer. I love reading his stories. I hope he will continue to send more stories your way. Thanks John for inviting me to this website. this is wonderful, informative and has what I have been looking for, information with lots of small details so I can really get the true picture and all the information I am seeking.

    • Well I’m glad the website is helping you. That is its main goal. I figure that ‘everything’ I write has some information in it that somebody can use.
      I wish Scott would send me more stories too, but he hasn’t sent any for a long time. I try to write stories like him, but I just don’t have the knack for it. I’ll keep trying though.

  2. Beautiful story.

    • Glad you liked it Travis. I hope the author, Scott, sees this, maybe he will send me another story.

  3. “HOLY SMOKES I thought, I could get used to this”

    Hello Scott, your style of writing is a page turner! This blog is an an excellent site with all kinds of colorful photos of my native land. Keep up the good work! Respectfully — Jake (from PEF)

    • Hello Jake. This is UJ, the author of the blog. I hope that you liked more than just that one article, even though that was a good one, because that one wasn’t written by me. That article was written by Scott and I published it for him on this site. So far it’s the only one that he has sent me, but I’m expecting more. I told him he did a good job and maybe he should start his on blog, but he has declined at this time. Yeah that “HOLY SMOKES” line was a good one. Well you seemed to have enjoyed more of the blog, so that’s good. I hope to see you commenting on here again soon. If you need any information about our city let me know, I’ll try to find it. If you have any suggestions for the website, let me know, I’ll sure consider it. I was wonder though, what is PEF?
      Thanks again for being a reader and commenter.

      • Hello UJ,

        With the lack of a better word, I’m still a virgin in the world of blogs and forums. Although I’m one of the moderators of Philippines Expat Forum (where Scott recently became a member), my preps of returning back to my native land include reading experiences of expats and their lessons learned. You should be commended for doing some fine work UJ. Respectfully — Jake

        • Well, thanks. I guess that means you read and liked more of the site.
          I too have only been dabbling in blogs for 11 months now and still have much to learn.
          I know enough to know that I’ll probably never know everything.
          I believe I joined that Philippine Expat Forum quite awhile back, but I’ll double check on that.
          Please keep reading and keep commenting.

          • Hey cool dude, even though you’re an air force puke! I’m “retarded” from USN back in 1990 as an E-9 electronics tech. I’m waiting for my SS eligibility next year, age 62 to augment my military pension and then good bye to USA. As a Filipino-American, I’m very anxious to re-acquire my native culture and just live the good life. You and I have been there and done that my friend from our military travels. No need to prove ourselves anymore. I see that you like the Eagles — now that is DOUBLE COOL! Respectfully — Jake

          • Well Squid we’ll be glad to have your OLD self here. But I think you need to get glasses or if you have them already, get a new prescription. Because you have been HIGHLY misinformed.
            I’m more like TRIPLE COOL, because my favorite team is the DALLAS COWBOYS! I hate the Eagles, so I don’t know where you got the impression I liked them at all.
            Please let me know where it references that so I can be sure that is clear. It clearly states this fact in my bio and I wouldn’t want people thinking I supported the “Iiggles”, the “Dead-skins” or the “Gi-aints”

          • Oh… I see where you could have gotten that messed up. My favorite singing group is The Eagles. Right after that though it says my favorite football team is the Dallas Cowboys.

          • I got so caught up in the football stuff, I forgot to ask where do you plan on retiring in the Philippines? You be sure to let me know if I can do something to help you on this end. I’ll sure do my best to try to help out.

          • Hey UJ,

            Yeah, the Eagles, CCR, Linda Ronstadt, Journey and any old school rock and roll will get me on the dance floor. I can vividly remember during the ‘Nam days in PO City and Angeles where “Proud Mary” was sung to perfection, while eating those mystery meat on the stick and downing the last San Magoo before we re-enter mail gate. I was born in Olongapo but probably settle down in Batangas City where my wife is from. And she knows how to use the “balisong” (trademark from that province), so good boy ako….he, he.

          • I’m too young, barely, for the ‘Nam days’, but I know what you mean.
            In my 5 Jun post I featured Batangas and put several pictures on it. Just letting you know in case you want to check it out.
            I’m not sure if I’ve done Olongapo or not, but if you do a search on it from the front page, you can find out.
            I think “balisong” translates to “bolo”, is that correct? Just going by the content of the sentence.

  4. Hi john. long time since ive posted on your blog. Just wondering if you have any news about the two men who were hunted down in Amanpacang baranga calbayog. they were apparently both shot and killed in the rice field after a lengthy chase. What i know is about 40 PNP were involved but i have no idea why they were being chased. This happened right beside my fiance’s home. Any news?

    • Not much more news then what you have said, except I heard it was for drugs. Qais do you know?

      • yup, they say these guys went to the police station and started shooting the police, and the police chased them down and shot them

        • Wow! I wonder why the were shooting the police. That’s a death wish in the Philippines.

          • these guys are killers, this guy already murdered 15 people, he aimed his gun to my cousin once and we reported him to the police, but he was released

          • Guess we don’t have to worry about him anymore though. I hope they are more careful about who they release in the future, but it will probably happen again.

          • Yes i heard now from my fiance’s aunt the one was a brutal murderer and the other wasnt much better. Why would anyone mess witht he PNP. For sure a deathwish. thanks for replying john and qais. ingat…

  5. Hey Cool Dude, just thought I would say a few words to you. It sounds like you have and had a good life and now injoying your fruits of labor.I congratulat you. Some day I will be in the same boat as you. I enjoy reading your post, keep up your good storeies………………JC

    • I’m glad you decided to say a few words. Yes life is much better than it was while living in the rat race. I am fortunate and someday, within the next 2 years I would say, life will be even better. We will be able to do some traveling then and see things around the world. Right now I’d just be happy to have an extra electric fan.
      I’ll try to continue the blog in the best way I can. If you have any suggestions, just say and we’ll see.
      Thanks for reading and especially for commenting.

Texan in the Philippines