Posts Tagged ‘Evan Iliadis Philippines’

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America!

Long time no post here. Not only I neglected this blog but also a place lived a big part of my life, that is nearly 16 years in the USA. Yes, it was a January of the year 1985 when landed in LAX. I had a suitcase, some money, and many skills. Oh! Did I tell you I also was young and handsome?…  

After the usual “welcome to America” in the airport, immigration and customs all I remember from that day is the suspicion of that Filipino immigration officer that pushed hard the questioning of my Visa type B, like, business she wanted to know in details on what kind of business I’m in and the purpose of entering the US. So if you see a Filipina officer in the airport change lane and go to the other one with blue eyes and blond hair.

Anyway, there I am in a taxi heading to Venice Beach 20 minutes ride from LAX with no suitcase, being told: “will arrive with the next plane from Paris”. Arrived at my apartment at midnight with not even a change of a pair of socks. Indeed, my suitcase was delivered a 10 PM next day at my place.

Venice Beach California My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America! I went back to Venice on February 2015. My cute condo was demolished and the little garden on the front was gone. They built 6 units instead of two it was before.

My apartment at 419 Ocean Front Walk was right there where its name is, @20 meters from the sand. A small, cute two stories two units condo facing the beach with a small garden on the front and a big, big window facing the boardwalk.

I hadn’t even had the time to explore the beach when a loud screaming and voices woke me up at 7 in the morning. Jumped out to see what was going on, saw 4 cops on top of a man on the floor trying to handcuff him. Said to myself, he must have done something grave to have all these cops trying to arrest him; I ask a bystander if he knew why he was arrested and got the shocking reply.

He was drinking a beer on the street
I said, then? Was he drunk?
I don’t know he said, but you can’t drink in public places here.
Do they really need all this manpower to subdue a guy just for drinking a beer?
Apparently, the bystander didn’t like the question, he left.

Venice is a crazy place to live. You’re caught in the middle of a middle-class bourgeoisie homeowners, homeless, leftists activists, nostalgics of the hippie era, artists and singers in search of a breakthrough that will change their life, but more often will never come.

Cops are everywhere on the streets, their 4X4 patrol the beach all night long looking for campers. I have rarely seen such a concentration of law enforcement on a tourist place. Talk about California the most liberal state of the Union…

Let’s post a video from my FB  I filmed last year for the heck of remembering the real face of Venice.

And this picture here

My years in America. America! America!

My years in America. America! America! Venice Beach California February 2015

Should I mention all reasons for loving this country I’d have to write a book not a blog.
First and most important in those years, you weren’t seen as a foreigner but rather as a newcomer. That’s at least how my US friends used to introduce me to others,Unlike the rest of the world, newcomers and US citizens are caring the same form of ID, the driver’s license that is; as opposed to French and other Europeans where the citizen cares a National ID and the Immigrant one of the several stay authorizations reserved to them.

Love affair cultural shock. Only in America! My years in America. America! America!

Days later I met a woman in her 30’s  she invited me for dinner to… MacDonald’s. We talked about everything and nothing, she told me she was working then as a social worker for the county with a salary of $8 an hour, never married and she would like to, something it was the last thing I was thinking recovering from a recent divorce.

Anyway, we finished dinner and decided to go. I saw her taking her plate and bringing it back to the designated place, something I didn’t, left everything on the table. With an authoritarian style she almost ordered me to do the same, I replied sorry, I’ve never been to a fast food before and don’t know the rules.

But out of curiosity, I asked her why should I have to do that? I’ve been to restaurants all my life, had never seen it before. Her answer was that we must help to keep the cost down, should every customer leave the table without clearing it they’ll have to assign an additional employee to do this therefore raising their prices!

She went on saying, ” One more thing you should know, here in America, she said, we must help the rich to become richer because they are the only ones can resolve the poor people problems! Not the government! 

How a liberal like me, by French standards, coming from a socialist country where even the most extreme conservatives views are far from being not even close to her statement can digest this? 

I hadn’t to. She does not have a legion of supporters on her thinking, I’ll even say she was an exception. But I did like the woman for expressing her views as she sees them, regardless of what YOUR perception is on the same.

I like Americans for defending their opinions, expressing them fearlessly, no complex or reservation, as stupid and incomprehensible might be to us Europeans from a different culture living with taboos and often nonsense conservative traditions that often complicates our life. Should I go as far as to say I should endorse Donald Trump? Just for having the courage of his opinion?.

No, I won’t! Even though he now tries to correct his rhetoric on violence sexism and racism is too late. Sorry, Donald, you don’t fit the all-American profile of a leader as I knew it in the 80’s. You look to me more of a madman than a president of the US. 

 My years in America. America! America!

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding Evan Iliadis Blog

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Los Angeles California Year 1992. I met a girl, We liked each other and fall in love.
A few months later I said: Do you want to marry me? She said: Humm!!!! Maybe a bit early for me, I have many obligations back home and can’t think of my own future right now. I said: a bit early? You’re 30! Besides, I can also help with the obligations you have back home. She said: Let’s think later about this, we’ll talk again. I said:  I’m 45 and long time single. Maybe I should look somewhere else. A few days later she said: OK. Let’s start thinking about it. When and where we are going to get married? My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Our first outing to my  favorite spot. Marina Del Rey THE WAREHOUSE bar and restaurant. One of the places I missed most in CA. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

I said: Look. You don’t have any family here, neither do I. In France will be very expensive, why we don’t go in the Philippines so I can meet your family and have our honeymoon in a white sand beach resort? It’s more fun in the Philippines!!…

She said: It sounds like a plan to me. Let’s start shopping, we have to bring everything from here. Let’s go first to the jewelry store for the rings. Done: Beautiful pieces of art the rings.
I said: I want a first world class wedding, we have to bring a lot of Champagne, the real stuff, not American Sparkling Wine they call it champagne. I want French Wines and Whatever food can go in  Balikbayan boxes.
She said ok. Let’s go to the CostCo in Inglewood. We went, 3 hours later, came out with 3 huge shopping carts full of goods,  when looking for my car-nowhere to be found. Oh! Maybe we forgot where we parked it? No! We didn’t forget. My beautiful Mustang 5.0L  V8 Convertible was gone! It was my third one, just bought 8 months ago. The mother of all sports cars ever built in the US!  Those who owned one know what I’m talking. Those who had one with manual transmission know even better the kind of toy!

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

The mustang No digital cameras then. That’s what explains the poor quality of the picture. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

The customer service at Costco called a taxi. When the driver saw the load, he said that we need a truck, not a taxi! Not happy, but his car was big enough and with a bit of effort we have been able to load the whole thing. The car was recovered by the LA Police department 45 days later when they arrested the driver. He said he stole it to impress a girl he was dating. The insurance had already paid, they offered me to “take a look at the car, maybe we can negotiate.”  When I saw the wreck he made of a well-maintained car, I said “thanks…but No, thanks….

May 1993. My D-Day in the Philippines. My Big Fat Philippi

15 hours later I landed in a continent I have never visited before. New faces, new accent, observing the vendors inside the airport and people passing by all you notice first is smiling and good mood. In a little kiosk where we stoped for some drinks, the young guy asked me. Sir!  Are you  Joe Pesci. I said, No, why? “You look like him and you talk with the same accent in English he said”. I heard that before, many times, remember, is the Good Fellas era, Pesci’s best movie ever! I’ll embed an excerpt for you, but beware: Yes, true, close look, same height, and face and I speak with the same accent, minus the slang.

Then, to the domestic airport in Manila, long, long wait in the airport, only one flight every other day at that time to Bohol, in old planes, scary, I thought they were taken out of service anywhere else in the world and dumped to the Philippines. Let’s pray and  say goodbye to our loved ones, just in case… (Things have changed since. Now 4 flights a day, mostly nice new Airbus, new airport)

Welcome to Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

I said: I want a first world class wedding, we have to bring a lot of champagne, the real stuff, not American Sparkling Wine they call it champagne. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

One hour 30 minutes drive on a bus (Jeepney) that Stella had made “special reservation” for us and the family came to the airport brought us to Batuan, a remote area in the center of the island, far from the sea, close to be called a jungle.

I thought I’ll never make it alive to the destination, the jeepney driver was driving so fast a mass of a junk fuming black smoke, I couldn’t breathe! How they could allow cars good for the junk yard, on a road good for horses and carabaos as it was then? Things have also changed in this department.  There are now buses in good condition with aircon, the road is nice, the travel time shorter.

Friend, this is a blog, not a book. Writing all my first impression and adventures it will take not one, but several books. Bohol at this time was one of the poorest provinces in the country but known also for its hospitality and traditional values, virgin and clean beaches, not a tourist spot.

Let’s continue with our story, the wedding, which was the reason we were here.

We thought, getting married in the Philippines would be as easy as at a Las Vegas drive in, just show your IDs and you’re all set! No folks! Things are more complicated than that. Once in the City Hall for the marriage license, the Mayor asks if I had a marriage capacity license with me.

I said: Excuse me? What is it?

He said: In the Philippines, every foreigner is obliged to show a certificate of marital capacity. Do you have one?

I said: Of course I have one! But I can’t show it to you just like that! This is a private thing and none of your business..

He said: Are you taking me for a stupid? Let me explain you. As a foreigner, in order to get married in the Philippines, it’s a must that we know you aren’t married already, or any other reason preventing you from getting married. So, put up or shut up.

I said. Oh! I have with me a judgment of divorce of a previous marriage.

He said. That’s fine! Go to the French consulate in Manila and tell them to give you the certificate, they know what to do, they are familiar with our laws.

The next day, I called the French consulate in Manila and asked the consul to help me with that. He said: “Monsieur, don’t even think about” don’t waste your money and time to come over. You should have first informed the French Consulate in LA where you reside, in turn, the consulate will send the information to the City Hall of the town in France where your first marriage took place. The mayor will publish your petition  for a license for 30 days outside the building, if no opposition, the Consulate in LA will issue the document to you. Not us.. Bad news! 8 days left and no hope to obtain the document. 

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding Evan and Stella Iliadis

But the Mayor could no longer resist the pressure he was receiving from constituents and family, to ignore the fact that a foreigner is honoring us with his presence and he’s giving him red tape treatment. Besides, prominent people, including the Governor of the island and the entire Dagohoy Masonic Lodge from Tagbilaran were planning to attend the wedding.

Finally, we found a way to bypass the requirement, with the promise on my part to provide it as soon our return to the US. Done? Not exactly.

In the Philippines, a marriage not blessed in a church is not a real. In this remote area of Bohol in 1993, a civil marriage only was just unthinkable. Because I was divorced, and also made the mistake to say my first marriage took place in a Catholic church in France, (My ex was Catholic I’m Greek Orthodox).

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

The chances of getting re-married in the same church are zero. We went to see the Eveque in Tagbilaran for a dispensation, when finally found him, not only he refused, but gave us a nasty letter to give it to the priest, basically ordering him to respect the rules and slam the door on us.

We are Friday, the wedding is scheduled for Sunday, still, we don’t know where we’ll get married. Sadness and disappointment are all over the family in the house. But, hey! We are in the Philippines Folks! There is always a solution to the problem, Karma has been kind to us, always sided with us.

Late Friday evening, a relative came to the house to tell us that a priest of another church, not Catholic, will be willing to marry us, but he doesn’t have a temple, but he will come and celebrate our wedding at any place of our choice. Welcome to the

Philippine Independent Church  My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

 Also known as Aglipayan Church.  Good. We have now to decide fast, find a suitable place to build something like a chapel, something we can accommodate the guests estimated at more than 200. We went and asked the manager of the Restaurant in Chocolate Hills if she can rent us the place, or at least part of it, for the celebration. Very skeptical about the request, never happened before in the history of the place, but she accepted.

We are Saturday morning, May 22 1993. One day before the event. Since last night the pigs were screaming under the sharp knife of “the executioner”, cooking and cleaning all over, the whole family, neighbors, and volunteers are working overnight, a team of brothers, cousins, and nieces are busy decorating the chapel up in the Chocolate Hills.

Let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Today, 20 years later, I got a glimpse on the net and saw who you really are, what you exactly representing. I wish I knew it then. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Venerable Priest, I don’t even remember your name. It all happened so fast, what was counted then, is getting a religious marriage as a Stela’s family wanted.   I’m not a religious person, I don’t state publicly my convictions on the subject. But somehow, the symbolism behind your Ritual came to harmony with my spiritual beliefs acquired elsewhere, and my Philosophy as to what a religion and a church should be.

Today, 20 years later, I got a glimpse on the net and saw who you really are, what you exactly representing. I wish I knew it then. Today, all I can say is, Thank you for coming to us, thank you for the message you sent us during the ceremony, it was received,  be proud of your church and its history. Keep your symbolic and meaningful  rites, especially the wedding ceremonial Ritual.

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Tatay Fortunato Jumawid Nanay Nazareta Jumawid ready to accompany Stela to the Altar. Evan Iliadis My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

To Tatay and Nanay who raised my wife, be assured, America and later France, countries she lived most of her life have not altered the principles you taught her as a child. Still the same, respectful and compassionate with her family, friends, and neighbors. Thank you for your efforts, for what you have done so I can find that unique Filipina in a place I never thought will be possible. In America. Rest in peace Tatay, you know your daughter is in good hands. 

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

To all beauties of the Jumawid Clan who worked hard, countless hours on the preparation, this picture may remind you a different era, the time of innocence and laughter. 20 years have passed, you now all have family and children on your own. The laughter is still here, I saw it, not long ago..

More pictures in a few days. Meanwhile, if you want to get married, do it in the Philippines. It’s really more fun!…

My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

It’s more fun in the Philippines! I guarantee it. My Big Fat Philippines Wedding

Culture shock.

Culture shock.

More than a year has passed already, both me and Stella  on the go every day early in the morning, driving her “farmer’s car” as she called her preferred  multicab Suzuki 4X4  visiting her lands in preparation for the “big project” plantation of trees on 30 hectares that is.

Culture shock.

Culture shock.

An adventure I had never thought she could handle with such easiness provided the area is remote, 4X4 cars can only go as close as 2 kilometers, meaning walking the rest of the distance no big deal, but transportation of seedlings fertilizers and other material had to be done on carabao.

Myself, driving another ” Passenger” multicab,  I bought it new, made in the Philippines!…What a joke!.. Equipped with a Suzuki engine but the rest was a  total rip-off. 13 years later still runs but with crutches!…






Culture shock.

Culture shock.

Anyway, the time had come for me to handle the 400 mahogany and other species of standing trees I bought. Daily meeting in the forest with my favorite chainsaw man Armand, an artist in his trade, known as “the electronic precision” tree trunk slicer, doing with a Still brand chainsaw better than a band saw sometimes on 50 centimeters in diameter.

Once done,  daily trips to Cebu for machinery and accessories, setting up a shop making a reproduction of classic French design massive wood parquet tiles, furniture and other woodwork in quantities limited to my personal need.

Culture shock. 

Social life was limited, no time, a few drinks with a small number of foreigners living in the area, mostly good people but felt a bit shocked to see a number of them in their 50’s and 60’s  even 70’s with wives in their 20’s, felt a bit sorry for the girls when reading the embarrassment on their faces and the artificial, I’d say fake manners and fabricated forced expressions to look happy during the gatherings. They weren’t. Remember, we are in Bohol, not in Cebu. Local boys were making fun of them, editorialists in the local newspapers also, this kind of foreigners wasn’t welcomed.

Culture shock.

Culture shock.

I’ll never forget that day about a scene in the SuperCat boat going to Cebu when all eyes of the passengers were turned towards a couple with a baby. He was an American in his 60’s short, skinny and bald, a sunburned skin was making him look even older.

The girl, looked in her teens, a small body, short also, very dark skin, shy, looked like still works in the rice field with that baby maybe days or maxi a few weeks old in her arms it wasn’t something the locals had seen often.  The couple did not exchange a single word of conversation during the 2-hour trip.. Talk about enthusiasm…

Life in Bohol becomes boring after a while. The beauty of Panglao Island entertains the tourists including sex tourists with imported “entertainers” from Cebu and Manila and other provinces but when one lives there and has visited the place countless times it’s time for renewal of interests.

The choice isn’t easy. Especially when you live in a gated house in a land of 3000sq.meters with a securely build fence  locals aren’t happy with you. They used to cross this land to reach a destination a few minutes faster, now they have to go around and that bothered them.

But slowly this issue was resolved, diplomacy and “beautiful eyes” manners beat the hostility of those wanted to paint us “the neighborhood new conquistadors” but for once wasn’t an “Amerikano”, as white skin foreigners are called regardless of their nationality; I was privileged to be called   “The Griego” referring to my ethnic background, even though I was the holder of a US Passport and known as a US citizen to the PH immigration.

Culture shock.

Culture shock.

looking through the fence kids passing by on the way to school wearing “chinilas” (Cheap plastic sandals)  walking 3 kilometers to reach the elementary school brought me back to my childhood in Greece, that childhood whatever could be in a bloody civil war that had just ended. Culture shock. 

I learned later from the teachers that many had not taken breakfast before going to school. A few hundred meters outside the north side of my fence an old lady in her late 70s, living alone was sharing the basic food when available to her (Rice and salted fish) with two mentally retarded in their 40’s. Some of the neighbors came to my house and ask if I could help. Read the rest of the story here

Next in a few days : The Rotary International years