13. Yes, we had TV. Enri … the lady with whom we lived … had a TV. and was very fond of watching it during the evenings when she was home. Most of the programs were made in the Philippines, and Peggy would appear in one … as the Virgin Mary …before we left Manila. We did get some programs from the U.S., and once and awhile saw something good. There were quite a few TVs in Manila; one person told us that one out of four homes had a TV; and another said that most homes in Manila had a set. Away from the city, of course, TVs, were much rarer.
14. What to do about Christmas? Our families received letters from the Peace Corps telling them what they could and could not send us. We wrote to them telling them that it was none of the Peace Corps’ business. But they were right that things of value were likely be heavily taxed … if they even made it through the mail at all. And sending money … even in small amounts … was quite risky. But we saw no harm in sending small gifts.
About the only item of any size that Peggy especially wanted was hose (9 ½ Penny’s Gala- Sweetbrier’s shade). I had no special request: just books. (In Manila even paperbacks were expensive after the price was translated into pasos and import tax was added.) We also requested a 1968 UNICEF calendar, which we hadn’t seen.
Peggy had found that her sweet tooth still got hungry but a piece of gum cost five cents and M&Ms cost anywhere from 25 cents to 40 cents. Thus, she wrote that she would be very pleased to get some Doublement gum, Lifesavers, Sugar Babies and M&Ms. She also advised them that it would be better to mail several small packages than one larger one. All packages also had to be marked “Unsolicited gift; U.S. value under $10. Otherwise some customs or post office official might get overly interested in the contents.
We had all of our Christmas gifts that year mailed by the stores where we bought them. Departure of ships from the Philippines was very irregular, so there was no telling when our packages would start across the ocean. Thus our packages never arrived before Christmas, and they were sent before Thanksgiving.
15. For Election Day most people enjoyed a five-day holiday. Elections were held on Tuesday the 14th. Almost everything was closed on the 13th, and public schools were closed on the 15th also. Teachers served as poll clerks, and many worked until 6 and 7 on Wednesday tallying the votes. Some teachers were still absent on the 16th because they were too far behind in their sleep to be able to handle their classes. We slept in ourselves because we stayed up late watching the returns on TV.
Election results were collected much more slowly in the Philippines than in the U.S. There were no voting machines, meaning that everything had to be counted and re-counted by hand … with members of both parties watching to make sure there was no cheating. One precinct somewhere couldn’t even start counting its votes until Wednesday morning because the Nationalists observer stole the keys to the ballot box. The box finally had to be sawed open, and there was an arrest warrant put out for the troublemaker.
16. Christmas. We looked forward to the holidays though I had to work. Peggy made us a small tree out of paper. Christmas trees were not traditional. There weren’t many pines in the Philippines and artificial trees were way more expensive than we could afford. Most homes were decorated with paper lanterns and stars. They looked nice, but to us they didn’t have the same meaning as a tree. We also missed cookie making and plum puddings. We placed our gifts from home under our paper tree. Because these packages were insured I had to open them at the post office to prove to customs that they contained the items that were declared. I also had trouble because the packages were addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Randy Ford, when my Peace Corps I.D said Kenneth R. Ford. So when we put the packages away and under the tree, we pretended that we didn’t know what was in them.
17. Meanwhile I was quite busy. My classes at the University were in full swing. I was teaching a children’s theater course on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and a directing course on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since I never taught either course before, I had to put quite of bit of time and planning into each lesson. I also visited laboratory classes conduct by my children’s theater students.
Most volunteers spent most of their Christmas vacation traveling, but we were tied down because I was stage manager for an historical Filipino play, which opened four days after Christmas. Most of my evenings were spent in rehearsals. Peggy sometimes sent me sandwiches because I didn’t have time to go home between class and rehearsal. The theater we used was still being built …in the ruins of historic Fort Santiago. It was an open-air theater, and the fort where it was had not been restored, so that the atmosphere was perfect for this play. But there were all sorts of headaches … such as when workmen splashed red and gray paint all over new bricks in an effort to make them look old and match the brick and block of the old fort.
Peggy and Randy Ford