So after twenty hours of travel, I finally land in the Philippines and couldn't be happier, or more exhausted. We are here shooting another episode of Bizarre Foods and my producer and photog director (Shannon and Mike) have flown in a day ahead of me and are already scouting locations and setting up our shooting schedule along with our second shooter, who we are picking up in Manila, and the four of us will be accompanied by several members of the Philippine Dept of Tourism, which is a huge help when it comes to making our shoots as efficient as they can be. I was met at the airport by the PDT and whisked through customs like a rock star . . . I could get used to this in a hurry . . . then driven to the hotel, where I unpacked, caught a little CNN, and hit the sack.
Monday has been a b-roll and pre-production day, and we have a night shoot tentatively set up as well for the evening if the the typhoon holds off and the sunset is as brilliant as we hope it will be. The day has been cloudy, with the Bay of Manila a roiling mass of whitecaps ahead of the summer storm; typhoons are this part of the world's version of a hurricane, but everyone takes them in stride. If it wasn't a typhoon it could be a volcano, or earthquake, or tsunami, or some other Act of God . . . such is life on the road.
The Philippines is an island nation of almost 7,000 sandwiched between the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea. Long regarded as a happy, carefree people with a national psyche predicated on its laissez faire attitude, my first day here can emminently confirm that rumor. The people here are fabulous, and very cool.
Pulutan (finger food) is everywhere and tomorrow I am apparently scheduled to be eating the following: balut (boiled duck embryos), kwek kwek (quail eggs covered with yellow flour); itolog na maalat (duck eggs that are hard-boiled, then cured in warm brine, adidas (grilled chicken feet served with vinegar and onions); IUD (chicken intestines grilled and skewered on sticks in a way that reminds Filipinos of the famed birth control device); betamax (roasted dried chicken blood served in little cubes, the origin of the name coming from its squared shape and black color, identical to a miniature Betamax tape); and walkman (pig’s ear).
Many of the street foods are named after 1980s pop culture icons because of the deteriorating political and economic situation brought on by Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in the early 1980s. Many traditionally “lower class” food items became more common with the middle class. What was usually thrown away—intestines, ears, feet, and the like—gained wider acceptance into the mainstream to the point that they became named after popular 1980s American brands.
By the time I post on Thursday, I'll have plenty of cool things to report and hopefully some pictures as well.