Observations… first trip to the Philippines

My head is spinning I don’t even know where to begin!!

Suddenly the grasp on the English language I thought I have mastered has slipped away….

So many sights sounds smells have overridden my senses. The first thing you notice here is the heat, it is staggering, the humidity oppressive, the people absolutely beautiful. Manila was a collage of traffic horns and people by the millions. I landed in Cagayan De Oro yesterday. As the plane touched down there was no mistake, this particular TOTO was no longer in Kansas. We de-planed from our 747 right on to the tarmac which led to an open air terminal. The smell of jet fuel hung in the air so thick you tasted it. It made your eyes water people were walking feet from the turbo jet engines bustling here and there, everyone and I mean everyone had smiles on their faces.

After we made it to the resort a taxi to the city center was in order. There was some sort of Friday night party/bazaar taking place. Jeepneys, taxis, cars, trikes and people moved about in a way that makes westerners dizzy “at-least this westerner”. Dinner was from a pig they served every part and I tried everything. “Mental note to self— small intestine tastes… well, like shit” more to come…………..

Monkey Skull

Monkey Skull

Market today sunny 95

Have you seen the markets in the Indiana Jones movies. Well this was the market. Dusty dirt streets people everywhere selling everything. We walked into a shop to find some trinkets to bring home. My friends were looking around and I found myself wandering like I have been for the last few days. I wandered to the side of the store after the first right it went into a labyrinth of baskets handmade and rope. Dark, dusty and musty, light streaming in from the cracks in the wall that faces the street I could see the shadows of people outside walking by. I felt like I was 10 all over. I was exploring this place I had dreamed of as a child.

WowPhilippines Gift Delivery in the Philippines

That’s when I heard it, voices, and they were in a panic and distressed. That’s when I also realized the voices were calling for me, crap the people in charge of me were concerned. I had disappeared. I worked my way back to the center of the store wishing I had been able to consume all these sights as a younger man. Alas I am here now.

As I re-entered the main portion of the store is when I saw it. There amongst the beads, shells, hand carved oil soaked wooden ornaments and hats tucked up high. Perched atop some debris is a small skull, a skull with very human like features. But it was small the size of a cat perhaps. It was a monkey’s skull! This poor fellow met his demise and was now here in front of me. He was attached to some other decorations that in my opinion distracted from his uniqueness and his personality. I had my guides question whether or not they had more. After the woman shop keeper scoured the far reaches of her store, much to my surprise she produced a bag with about 10 of the poor fellows. I promptly sat on the dry cracked dirt floor and riffled through them picking out a fine dark specimen.

After some heated debate with the shop owner, which is customary here. A price was agreed upon. He should fit nicely in my son’s room. The moment I pulled him from the bag I began to think of Hayden, how he should be here, how he should experience this part of our world. “You will be here soon enough son.” We left the store and I placed my glasses on as the sun’s rays nearly blinded me. The transition from the dark musty shop to the sun filled streets was too much. As my eyes adjusted to their new surrounding I noticed a figure walking towards me there was no mistake this figure was coming straight at me. He was tall and in this part of the world tall is not common. His name is Bill and a fellow American. As he approached with his hand out he had a broad grin on his face. We talked in a foyer of a bakery, shielding ourselves from the scorching afternoon sun. Our discussion ranged from the ever present heat to business in Phil. He told me of rice farming, sugar cane and of being a durian exporter. I could not help have that strange feeling I have had here a few times that I was in some sort of special club. Members only- willing to travel to dark places. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Hemmingway felt during his travels of our planet.
— in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.

Post Author: Brian Purrone (2 Posts)


  1. Arnie Engstrand says

    Enjoyed your article however 747 jumbo jets are not supported at that airport. The turbo prop is more likely. I do enjoy living in the Philippines it is a diferent lifestyle than back in usa.

  2. Bob New York says

    Yes, the heat will hit you right in the face along with the humidity. For me after seven wonderful visits I do not notice it as much. I usually arrive with a jacket on as it is cold when I board the plane in New York.

    I certainly hope you have enjoyed your entire visit. Lots of things to see and do in CDO and neighboring Iligan City.

  3. Murray says

    Are you permitted to take a monkey skull back to the USA. In New Zealand you would probably be arrested.

  4. Robert LaRue says

    Welcome to the Philippines. Come back in August when it’s really hot! Take a lot of photos right now while things still look fresh and unusual. If you stay for long you get used to life here and things don’t always look so unusual or odd. OK… monkey skulls will always be unusual and cool! Have great time and come back again.

    From Angeles City, Pampanga

  5. says

    including me Bob , how is Davao right now? I wish I will be there soon, start getting bored here in Texas after retiring just 2 years ago, I’ve been working like a carabao since I was 18 years old ,12 more days I’ll be 75 tons! You look young in your photo, keep it that way Bob & good luck !

  6. says

    Last 2010 I was in Iraq as truck driver ,our Convoy Commander named Philimon Aviano,that’s the way He spelled his name ,he was an Italian/ American good looking guy at his early 50s) ,coming back from 3 week vacation to visit his farm in Bukidnon, Mindanao he excitingly told me a part of his joyous free days with lots of partying among Pilipino guys but all of a sudden his smiling face faded as he reached to the point that he was surprised and a bit disappointed when a young tamed carabao join the crowd and all his friends called the animal as Pilimon and there was a burst of laughter & everybody were looking at him also the carabao with a very friendly attitude. After the people spread out his friend reminded him that the young carabao belonged to him he bought 2 years ago during his first visit when that carabao was still a baby. Philimon showed me the picture of Pilimon and further asked me a certain Bisayan Song he oftentime heard from the Pilipinos and I quickly answered him by singing loudly, “Si Pilimon, si Pilimon, namasul sa kadagatan” you know the rest Bob. After 6 months he went back to Bukidnon to see Pilimon , until now Philimon Aviano remained single & is eying for a Pilipna wife, we were K B R ex employees worked at JBB ex Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq .

  7. chasrand says

    Quote: “He told me of…………….. and being a Durian exporter”, mmm what next, a Gold mine in the back yard…… run Forrest run :)

  8. sugar says

    Enjoyed this post! Put a sunblock or something. it’s only gonna get hot even more. It’s summer! people take a bath 3 to 4x a day. I’m serious!

  9. Brian Purrone says

    Thanks for the comments. I wrote that last May or June my first trip to Philippines. What an eye opener!! Maybe it was 737?? it was a jet of some sort. I am more familiar with ww2 era prop planes the jets look mostly the same to me. As far as pot of gold…. in back yard??? whatever. And yes the heat is crazy as a boy from the Pacific Northwest it took some getting used to. I imagine I would melt in august.

  10. Jay says

    Hi Brian,

    I enjoyed reading your article although I feel it reads more like an excerpt from a book than a blog article I felt you painted a good picture of your experience and I look forward to reading more.

    I am the same way on planes either jet or prop. I cannot tell the difference and largely don’t care. The first time I flew into Tagbilaran, Bohol was on a prop plane, but the rest of the times it has been some kind of jet plane. I searched the airport you mentioned and their were pictures of several jet airplanes on the ground so I am sure they have no problem taking off and landing there.

    I share Chasrand’s suspicions about the tall American possibly being a swindler, but maybe we will find out more in your next excerpt.

    Take care,


  11. says

    Speaking of monkey skull, I saw an underground VHS video many years ago. The footage was taken inside a restaurant in Egypt, if I remember the country correctly. But before I proceed, a word of warning is in order. Do not read below this line if you are easily grossed out by unpleasant things.

    The video footage showed a group of Western tourists seated around a table, having just ordered monkey for dinner. A live monkey is brought in and promptly strapped under the table with its head protruding from a hole on the surface of the table. Laughing, the tourists then proceeded to take turns hammering the helpless monkey’s exposed head with iron mallets until the monkey died for cooking.

    • says

      I just checked YouTube and found the video described above. The diners were not laughing when they hit the monkey on the head, and the monkey was not cooked after it died. The diners were after the monkey’s raw brain. One of the commenters said that it was fake, though..

    • Brian Purrone says

      That is a part of a movie called “Faces of death and I”
      I believe it was made in the 80′s !!! Wow have not thought about that movie in a long time.
      Fortunately the skulls I seen were quite intact and in fairly good shape other than the obvious fact they were missing a body.
      Brenton I don’t really know if there Is a big market for them. And to be honest I wasn’t really in the market for one when I went there. When I saw it though it brought some powerful visions and spurred my imagination of days gone by and exotic locales so….. I had to have him.

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