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Gone for so little of a time, but WOW! – the changes that even a short period of time can bring! People, places, things: all appear to be changing; and for your humble scribe, dear readers, that change brings both hope and chagrin.

The changes – from miniscule to monstrous in size – surround me and cause me to question whether I’ve returned to the same, lovely piece of paradise that I left a number of months ago, or if the destination on my plane ticket had changed, too.

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Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 BCE) could relate it best: Panta Rhei. (Gr., “Life is Flux.”) From this we draw: “The only constant in Life is Change.” Ah, those old Greek philosophers certainly had it summed up quite well for us lesser mortals.

FIRST CHANGE NOTICED

It didn’t take long for me to notice it. Baket ko (Asawa ko) [my Wife] missed it on the first few times around NAIA Terminal 2 South – the domestic PAL / PAL Express terminal. She, too, came around to the change. And, a welcome one it was.

There, in the middle of the terminal, where the numerous heads of flying cattle are herded from all of the check-in kiosks toward the two security screening positions (Male and Female, they be), was change Numero Uno.

terminal feePerhaps I should say that the change of which I speak with gleam is the physical change of something that was there, but now, is no longer there. Fellow travelers, who have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of trodding that well-worn path from being “checked in” to being “checked out,” may know where this is going.

GONE is the bottleneck causing means of squeaking extra pesos from weary travelers’ pockets.  Farewell to a hideous source of traveler’s frustration. Goodbye to the singularly manned den of revenue collection that spawned long lines at boarding time. Yes, the Terminal Fee collection booth is no longer there. 

THE SECOND CHANGE NOTICED

Miniscule by comparison to the first, the second change that I noticed was more “customer service” oriented.  No, I’m not reporting that the villainous carry-on luggage weight checker, who’d ply her trade with a smile, is no longer annoying the traveling public (she does take longer and more frequent breaks, however – I guess that’s a teeny-weeny change).

ensaymadaEl Chango Segundo occurred in-flight aboard the 45-minute hop from Manila to Laoag. Known for its getting up to cruising altitude, leveling off just long enough for serving in-flight refreshments, then descending for its final approach; this flight doesn’t have much available for any noteworthy changing.

no skyflakesOh, but for the hungry traveler depending on that serving of refreshments to stem the hunger pangs until they finally reach their provincial abode, the change was quite noticeable.

GONE were the ages-old packets of “Skyflakes” crackers that got tossed to travelers trying to enjoy their “coffee, tea, or water.”  In their place, a rightly pleasing Ensaymada (rumored to be from the Goldilocks chain of bakeshops, but without any company logos on the wrapper, save the PAL logo) was gently passed from attendant to smiling traveler.

Even extremely small changes can be noticed and exceptionally welcomed.

THREE TIMES A CHARM, EVEN IN CHANGE

A bit of time transpired between the noticing of (and appreciation for) El Segundo, and the discovery of Numero Tres. Oh, there were plenty of apparent differences with the former status quo to observe and, possibly, report here. But, they merely ranked as “differences” not “Changes,” and most were minor enough that they just barely squeaked into the category of “difference.”

Numero Tres, however, definitely qualifies as a Change,” and a major one at that.  Let me explain.

Here, in my beloved Pasuquin, it is a very rare occasion when “Change” touches us. One of the lands that time forgot, change seldom happened over the decades. For whatever reason – be it fear of change, comfort in the “what is” and angst in the “what may be,” or any number of explanations available – instant change takes years to implement here.  That’s part of Pasuquin’s charm.

20151004_183957Now, a socio-economic change has taken place in the Poblaćion. It is the appearance of a new culinary business – something that the local citizenry was more comfortable with when they’d have to travel to a larger municipality in order to enjoy it.  I’m talking “Restobar.”

I don’t know when “Maria’s Restobar” opened, but to me, that’s of slight consequence. What’s important, making this Change worth reporting, is that it did open!  That was quite a “Leap of Faith” for Maria.

For years and years, we did have a tourist-stop variety of eatery (or two) that supplemented the street food vendors as sources of eating outside of the house. What we didn’t have was some form of restaurant focused on the local townspeople as customers.  After all, those places were in Laoag and the associated trip to the provincial capital to partake of a pleasant “sit down meal” added to the prestige of the occasion.

Too, the citizenry’s tradition of being “tight fisted” financially kept “dining out” a sacred and rare event.

Enter “Maria’s Restobar.” We learned of its existence while being ferried from the airport on our arrival, and four endless days was the extreme limit to our staying away. Not knowing how to go about “dining out in town,” our first visit was arranged during the afternoon of our evening’s enjoyment.

20151004_184102Maria’s” is quaint – decorated with an air of Ilocandia past, and most fortuitously placed in a location far enough back from the National Highway’s road noises while taking full advantage of soft, cool breezes that make even the hottest evenings of Pasuquin seem like the more temperate climes of Baguio City.

The faire du jour? Traditional Ilocano dishes with slight modern twists and vive.  (Remember, aversion to change here limits even the boldest ventures!)

20151004_184134We enjoyed wonderful Sinagang, Sisig, Sweet & Sour Lapu-Lapu, Marinated Steak (sliced thin and prepared in such a manner that, under the knife of a lesser chef, could have been ordinary, “shoe leather bistek” but here, with the skills amassed in the kitchen, was more like highly favorable bites of filet mignon), and the pièce de résistance, steamed Rock Lobster with a dab of a wonderful, “chef’s secret” dark sauce. Toss in some Ilocano sweets for desert, and “My, oh my! Where have you been all of my life?” can only describe this sumptuous meal’s aftereffects on our spirits.

20151004_184038When the bill arrived, all “financially tight fisted” thoughts vanished as well. Had we partaken of such a feasting in the “Big City” – there were four of us dining, by the way – the night’s tab would have most certainly been in the thousands of Pesos range. The numbers entered onto that official slip of paper, however, insured that we walked away totally sated, physically and spirituality. It read, “P 912.” – confirmation of the Royal Treatment we received at “Maria’s” from our entry into the small parking area at twilight to our departure in the dark of an early, Pasuquiño evening.

ONE FOR THE ROAD 

Most motorists have a great dislike for change, especially when it comes in the form of “Road Works.” Announced by colorful signs, usually together with one lamenting about some “Slow Men Working” (Yes, I know that sign has a comma after the word “Slow,” but it seems that the message is the same when you’re being “slowed” by those men.)

th (1)It was a different story, somewhat, while making our way from the airport, however. The closer we got to our humble abode, the more workmen and work tents appeared alongside our path.

Though I wondered at first whether this was a highway lined convention of DPWH engineers and roadmen, a little more scrutiny revealed that another set of official initials were at work – PLDT. That turned disgust into delight, albeit on a small-scale.

Deciding that I needed to find out more about all of these workmen, tents, backhoes, and very large coils of whatever it was that was disappearing underground – but not willing to go and intrude on labor being actually performed with my insignificant questions – I decided to take the “wait and see” approach to satisfying my curiosity.

Leap-frogging their way north alongside the National Highway, one team’s hop landed the crew by our fence. It was time to investigate, and a short stroll around the work area provided all of the signs I needed for an educated guess.  When the technicians took a break and headed to the nearest sari-sari for snacks, I made my move. Short and sweet, my only question needing an answer was, “Wire or Fiber?”

FIBER!  Huzzah!  We are on the verge of leaping into the 21st Century!

The technicians confirmed that they were laying the fiber-optic backbone for our folwcabblolfuture communications needs. They were proud of their progress, too, and gave me a short tour of their tent, wherein they “fused” the giant fiber-optic coils into one, long, impressive conduit for my future Internet, HDTV, and other modes of modern communications.

Now, that’s “CHANGE”!

th (2)There will be more stories of our transition from Satellite TV and SMARTBro (now called “HOMEBro” but still acting like “SLOWBro” or “NOBro”), I’m sure. For now, though, the Change is welcome.  So much of it discovered in so very few days – I still have to check the plane ticket stub to make sure that the destination says, “Laoag”!

WILL CHANGE REMAIN THE CONSTANT?

Now, spoiled by the above, I can only wonder when Change will wield its magic wand, and point it at our electric co-op. Did I mention the Change there, too?  Yep, you guessed it – we’ve had more brown outs in the week and a half that we’ve been home than at any other time we’ve been here.

106717544.KyI1LtIT.ManilaNov08034Maybe the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative can take a “lesson learned” from our local post office (another wonderful Change). The retirement of the “central head of power in all things postal” has resulted in many long-shelved ideas and improvements in service to be unleashed on the public. Mail delivery routes, drafted years and years ago, but “put on hold,” are now being staffed by cheerful mailmen. Home delivery – imagine that!

You know? All of this Change stuff has me feeling upbeat!

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PaulK

Paul is a CPA and a retired tax accountant, having served companies and corporations of all sizes, as well as individuals, in public accounting practices. Prior to what he refers to as his "real job," he served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. It was during this career that he met and married his OFW spouse of 40+ years, Emy, while stationed in London, UK. (Though he pleaded for the assignment, Paul never received orders to the Philippines.) A "Phil-phile" from an early age, Paul remembers his first introduction to the Philippines in the primary grades of a parochial elementary school where, one week each year, children donated their pennies to purchase school supplies, food and other necessities for Filipino children in need. That love for Filipinos continues to this day. Calling Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte--in the far northwestern part of Luzon--home (just about as far away from Davao as one can be while still being on one of the major islands) Paul prefers a more relaxed provincial life style, and willingly shares a different view of the Philippines from "up north"!

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Derek
7 years ago

Hi Paul, the changes are nice for once I like the look of that restaurant or restobar
Nice food, it’s good to see the airport getting things right for once,
Derek in pasig.

Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  Derek

Hi Derek – Being risk adverse for most of my early life, and spending a number of anxious moments awaiting the invariable disaster that change could bring, I must admit that my awakening to “Change is Good” has made life much more pleasant and even exciting.

My anxieties are now freed up to concentrate on whether the changes with hold fast, or if a “culturally-induced” reversion to “the way things used to be” might occur (I can hear Englebert Humperdick “tuning up” in the community). 😆

queeniebee5
queeniebee5
7 years ago

Hi Paul,

Glad to hear that that good changes seem to be positive ones.
For expats like you who travel back and forth from Manila to the States, it’s nice to have a smoother transition with less hassle.

As far as that restobar–seems pretty classy! Don’t imagine anything remotely like that coming to our province, but you never know:)
Change is good they say! I just like it out here in small doses though..

Queenie

Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  queeniebee5

Hi Queenie – I don’t know if I need a “smooth transition” when I return home. I want the “change” from “back there” to “here” to hit me – add hit me hard – in the gob. After all, that’s why I’m “here” – to get away from “back there” and to shake the dust of “back there” from my tsinelas.

A s-l-o-w, smooth transition is only acceptable when I make my eastward crossing of the Pacific! 😆

Todd
Todd
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul,

I am like you….I don’t want the Philippines to be like where I am from (Pacific NW, America). I love many of the differences. If I wanted the Philippines to be like America…I would stay in America!

But some changes are good.

GaryM
GaryM
7 years ago

I am happy to hear about your new resto bar and about the fiber. I hope that they get to us with fiber some day, but I doubt it is any time soon. Until then, I will continue to deal with a combo of slow bro, Globe 4G, and AFN.
My wife’s cousin told us about that little bakery there in Pasuquin town proper. It has been an added stop whenever we are going or coming that way for some of those delicious Spanish rolls.

Paul
Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  GaryM

OH YES! We’re talking about the Original Pasuquin Bakery: “Famous Maker of Delicious BISCOCHO * Pride of the North”!

Ask any Ilocano, worldwide, and he or she will tell you that the soft biscocho is “to die for.” (I agree)

Also try their extra toasty version of the biscocho – great to either crunch on or to dunk in your morning capě.

This is, indeed, a little slice of paradise!

Rusty
Rusty
7 years ago

Any idea when the PLDT/Smart Fibru will start? We have the LTE so we don’t need FIBRE for two years.

Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

Hi Rusty – Getting PLDT to verify when their HOME Fibr plans or their Fibr Lite service will be available to customers living in a specific location is like trying to nail Jell-O® to the wall. (Can’t be done.) PLDT has my personal contact information “on file,” however, and assures me that they will “contact me immediately upon Fibr service becoming available in the area where I live.” (I should live so long – I’m still awaiting their response to a SMARTBro “lack of service over 5 weeks” claim that I “properly” filed with them over 4 years ago.) Should… Read more »

Bob New York
Bob New York
7 years ago

Hi Paul, On each and every visit since my first one, I have noticed a little improvement here and there. Going thru entry at NAIA this time was a breeze compared to earlier visits. No more customs cards to be filled out on the plain although I always present a hand written list to customs agents at my entry point. Have never been charged and I am always thanked for my honesty in making declarations. Getting from one terminal to another is still a bit of a problem but I try to be patient knowing I am Not at JFK… Read more »

Paul
Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  Bob New York

Hi Bob – I’m still looking for more changes as time marches on.

Trouble is: I’m at an age when change is heavily sought after and cherished. 😉

Jay
Jay
7 years ago

Hi Paul,

My kids actually love SkyFlakes. Summer of 2014 we flew Cebu Pacific and their change from previous trips was that they offered no refreshments as part of the fare and sold refreshment from the cart instead. Not too big a deal the flight was only about an hour. I enjoyed reading your article and am glad you found some positive change!

Paul
Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Hi Jay – Nothing wrong with “Shyflakes” in my book. But flight after flight? It’s good to break the routine every now and then.

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