Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kids play

Jonathan,

This one is at your askance. You asked about activities for preschoolers or for young kids on summer vacation.

You’re right. You won’t find here a whole lot of parks or libraries like those back home, especially not up to the same standards of safety and quality that you are used to. Of course I’m speaking generally and there are probably some towns and cities where you CAN find some nice playgrounds. I’m not sure where you plan on visiting, but its best to contact someone there and get the local scoop before you show up with your kids.

I just asked my wife about the subject as it applies to this area. We live in Angeles City and there are probably more places here to keep kids busy than in other spots in the country. I can think of three offhand, and I asked my wife about all three.

There is a playground park over by the Air Force City area on Clark that is grassy and has slides and swings. My wife says that is a fairly safe place to take kids so that’s one option.

A few years back the CDC (Clark Development Corp.) also built a pretty nice municipal style park in the huge open rectangular area in front of the main gate. At first it was an okay place to take your kids, but according to the wife, not so anymore. The “hold uppers,” as she calls them, have made that area not so family-safe these days. You will hear a chorus of “not so’s!,” but believe me, neither she or any of her friends will take their children there. You could try to go and act as security, but it’s just not worth the risk. Purse-snatchers, pickpockets, and gun-toting muggers use that area all the time.

She says the best place to take your kids to play is to the SM Mall located just inside the Clark Main Gate. My wife says the security is very good in the mall’s enclosed play area and she takes our two girls there all the time. Even so, watch your wallet and belongings.

There is a water park on Clark as well. I’ve never been to it, but my best buddy has taken his 10-year-old daughter there several times and he says it’s not bad. So that’s another option. Pretty much anything on Clark is safe. Once you leave the confines however, you MUST keep your wits about you.

Its Christmas time, and as my wife just reminded me, the muggers and robbers are working overtime to get money to buy presents for their loved ones. (Isn’t that sweet?) Along those lines, she just told me a “lovely” little story about what happened to her girlfriend a couple weeks back. The lady drove to her bank on Macarthur Boulevard to withdraw from her dollar account. Her next move was to drive up Main Gate Boulevard towards Checkpoint to exchange her bucks for pesos at Norma’s Money Exchange. She'd just pulled off Main Gate drag to make her way over to Field’s Avenue when a motorcyclist pulled in front of her, blocking her way. Another guy, also on a motorcycle, pulled up next to her window and fired one round from his handgun past her head to demonstrate that he meant business before aiming it at her face. He told her two things: “Give me the money you just got from the bank,” and two, “If you tell anyone about this I will kill you and your family.” She handed him the whole wad, and taking him at his word, never reported that she’d been mugged. And mind you, it all happened in broad daylight.

Much violent crime goes unreported here, especially that done to Filipino victims. People are easily cowed in these parts and their fear causes them to shrug off their outrage. I guess I can’t blame them. I could move away if I want, but most locals have no place to go. As for me, I’d rather die than give in to threats. Of course, if anyone ever threatened my kids I’d probably try to use my resources to track down those making the threats and try to kill them first, but that’s not the way the average person here thinks where fear is indeed the watchword.

No one EVER thinks it can happen to them, but eventually, it does. I’ve told my wife to have a “mugger’s purse” available with only a couple hundred pesos in it to hand over just in case; and even though she’s been held up at gunpoint herself once, she STILL has no fake purse. I can only tell her right? But that’s the way to go. Best advice: If a man points a gun at you give him what he wants—just don’t give him your REAL wallet or purse.

That reminds me:

Two years after I got here I got a call to get my ass over to the hospital. A fellow veteran had just been shot and needed my relatively rare O negative blood because his was all but gone. He and his wife had pulled into a quiet subdivision in Dau and were just getting out of their van when he heard her cry out. She did so at the sight of a gun being pushed into her face. The veteran rushed around the side of his van to her aid. The robber snapped off a round into the big American’s thigh and rushed off with his wife’s purse. The stricken navy vet, only about 6 months retired, made a tourniquet from his belt, and his wife was barely able to get him back into the van to drive him to a nearby small hospital. They took one look and turned her away. She then took him to the then PIH (Philippine Int’l Hospital) about 20 minutes away. I ran into the emergency room and begged them to take my blood but they shook their heads. I knew at that point he was gone. The wife, her jeans soaked in her husband’s blood, waited downstairs in our Veterans Service Office. Lucky for us, she had a good friend there to catch and console her when we told her that her husband didn’t make it.

Sorry for the doom and gloom, but that’s the way of it. It’s just that I see so many expats here that run around this place taking their safety for granted and that’s a huge mistake. Be paranoid, be wary, be ready for the worst-case scenario and keep your family and yourself safe.

Oh, I just thought of another possibility as far as activities for your kids—swimming. There are a lot of hotels that will allow you and your family to use their pool. Some, like the Clarkton will charge you a pretty stiff fee, but others will welcome you for your food and drink business. I believe the Swagman Hotel still falls into the latter category and it’s a good kids pool because it has a water slide.

And speaking of water, you can never go wrong with just spending a lot of time at one of the hundreds of seaside resorts in the country. I’ve been to Puerto Galera several times and my girls love it. I don’t know of any kid that doesn’t like playing on the beach. Just bring plenty of sun block.

For the most part, my girls stay pretty close to home. We live at the end of a quiet dead-end street and they ride their bikes with their little friends out in front of the house where we keep an eagle eye on them. I also put a little swing set and slide out in our yard, which they and their playmates also frequent.

Then again, if you are ever in the area you are welcome to stop by. We can chat and have libations while the kids play…

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Playing at Nepo Mall

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much, Phil! That helps a lot.

I think you scared my wife away from Angeles City, though. :)

-Jonathan

PhilippinesPhil said...

Its worse some places in Manila. Various folks in my wife's family have been repeatedly mugged, usually the women, and usually at knife point, for their cell phones and purses. No one ever reports the crimes, as I said, out of fear of retribution. I'm not sure the authorities are even aware of how bad it is, if they even care. The politicians here all travel with security details, so THEY know.

Angeles City isn't so awful. Its not as bad as many cities in the US and Europe. Thing is, if you allow criminality to control your life, then all you'd ever do is hide inside your house. Doesn't matter where you live and that's true. Even back home whenever I leave the house I think tactically. You just have to do it even more so here. To ignore the dangers is foolhardy.

Katana said...

"It’s just that I see so many expats here that run around this place taking their safety for granted and that’s a huge mistake. Be paranoid, be wary, be ready for the worst-case scenario and keep your family and yourself safe."

Sir, you sound just like my father. I do believe that those were his words of wisdom when I went to Korea, and everytime I leave the country --- or dare I say anytime I leave my hometown.

PhilippinesPhil said...

No problem Kat, you can come here (or go anywhere) and be as blithe as you want. You make it sound like I'm just as full of it as your dad. Maybe so, maybe so.

Oh, another fellow got nailed not long ago on his scooter, and just a few hundred meters from here. With his girlfriend on the back he was just about to cross the Friendship Bridge from the north, which involves a sharp turn. Two men were waiting as he slowed. One jumped up and kicked the scooter to the ground. The foreigner and his gal were thrown to the pavement at which point an accomplice pointed a gun at the fallen pair. They gave up their money and jewelry, but they lived, so its all good, right?

Katana said...

there's taking precautions, and there's being paranoid. One makes you feel prepared and confident, the other makes you afraid and unhappy. One makes the world into more of an adventure, the other convinces people that they might as well stay home.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I hear you "Madam Yes, But;" still, you ain't here...

I take meds for MY paranoia et al, and I certainly don't let any of mental mess keep me housebound. I like to call it my Spidey Sense...

Let me ask you something Ms Adventure. Would you prefer you didn't know about the possible dangers here? I suppose sheep, cows and pigs would also just as soon not be bothered with the details of their future slaughter. By letting people know what to watch out for, I'm doing my part to keep them from being culled, sheared, milked or butchered. Believe me, when THAT happens, THAT'S what makes people unhappy. Now, if you'd rather be oblivious, I'll give ya a heads up at the beginning of any of my future "informative" posts; although you seem to define them more as alarmist and maybe even inflammatory). Lemme know and I'll keep you in mind... grin...

Katana said...

see, putting a disclaimer on future posts is like putting a viewer discretion on a movie - I'm gonna read cos I'm advised not to so it makes me more curious as to the content. it's the whole curiosity killed the kat thing.

macmac said...

I just wish some enterprising expat or pinoy would invest in a modern, secure, money exchange facility. Its a shame that virtually all of the money changers are sari-sari store operations in the worst part of town.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yeah mac its called a bank. grin... but yeah, i agree with you. if only...

The bigger, more secure the place, the more they feel they can "charge" us, or should I say "rip us off."

Places like Norma's operate under a very slim profit margin and they don't feel that providing the customer security is their problem. Norma's has a guard, but he's not for us, he's for Norma's. Anyway, its more part of "the fun" of living here.

Amadeo said...

Phil:

You are to be commended for advising caution all the time, and in any place. Danger, peril, and evil can come in any package at any time.

But to reduce the possibilities, I would also recommend to stay away as far as possible from Metro Manila, if one's desire is to live a quiet and peaceful family life.

Believe it or not, some places in Mindanao may be a lot better than the former.

And for child play, the ubiquitous malls, in big and small cities, would be an easy choice. Play time in air-conditioned ambiance.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I think you are right. And after discussing this subject with fellow expats over the last couple days I have heard a few more of the latest "horror stories."

An interesting one to me was of a fellow who was accosted while jogging on Clark. Two local fellows surprised him by jumping into his path. They held machetes and ordered him to hand over his chain which he did without pause.

When I heard that one I realized that other than the poor lady in her car, all the other guys who had been mugged at gun or knife point had been wearing big gold chains around their necks.

So guys, I know you want to wear that beautiful gold you picked up in Thailand, but don't do it here in the Philippines. If you do, "you're asking for it!"

Forewarned is forearmed!