“Hey Foster, where are the Philippines?”
I looked down from my window shelf to see Panda scrolling through maps on the computer. “Between Ephesians and Colossians,” I replied, surprised. “You know, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Are you memorizing the books of the Bible?” Panda shook his head. “No, not Philippians, the Philippines!” he responded, sounding a tiny bit miffed. “And I know my books of the Bible. I’m talking about the Philippines, where Sage went scuba diving.”“Oh,” I said, “You’re right! I remember now!” Sage is Mom’s granddaughter, and she did go scuba diving in the Philippines. She told us it was really fun when she came to visit, but I hadn’t thought much about it since then.I jumped down from my shelf and joined Panda on the computer. “It looks like there are some pretty good maps,” I remarked. “It probably wouldn’t take us long to get there if we take the living room carpet.” Panda agreed. We waited until that night when Mom was asleep, and then…I have to admit it did take longer than we thought it would to get there, but when we flew into the beautiful city of Manila we knew the trip had been worth it!The first thing we did after we landed was jump in a taxi and head into town. The weather was hot and humid, which we weren’t expecting because it was winter in Fresno. Fortunately Panda had remembered to bring his overalls so he could change out of the plaid flannel shirt he had worn to Yosemite.As usual, when we got into town, we immediately looked for somewhere to have a snack. Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant we chose only had chopsticks to eat with. Panda decided to try them, but I thought it would be easier to just use my front paw. The food was delicious, and after we ate we decided to get some iced coffee. “Wow,” Panda exclaimed when our coffee was served. “Mom would really like this!” I made a mental note to tell her about it when we got home. We finished our coffee and decided to have a look around outside.In the alley outside the restaurant, we were surprised to hear someone call our names. “Hey, Panda and Foster, is that you?” We approached cautiously, and slowly it dawned on us: we had seen this rooster before, when we were in Sweden! “It’s me, Sven!” the rooster continued. “Don’t you remember me?”Actually we had only seen Sven from far away, since we had talked to the chickens that day, but not him. “Oh, hi,” we responded politely. “It’s nice to see you again. But what are you doing here?” Sven explained that his owner had sold the farm in Sweden and moved to the Philippines. He was one of the few animals that had gotten to come along. “That’s cool,” Panda said approvingly. Sven agreed. “Yes, it’s much warmer here than it was in Sweden,” he remarked. After catching up on the news from the farm, we said goodbye to Sven and continued on our way. After awhile we came across a sign we had never seen before. It looked like a speed limit sign. But it had a maximum and a minimum speed limit, which was new to us. “Well,” Panda remarked, “If kilometers are anything like miles, Mom would not like this!” I laughed as I inspected the sign more closely. “You’re right about that,” I agreed, thinking about how much she hates to drive on the freeway. “Hey, it looks like we’re getting out of the city limits,” I added. “Shouldn’t we go back to town?”But Panda was already headed down the road toward the forest. “This is kind of like Yosemite!” he called over his shoulder. “Come on!” I knew I had to follow him. There was no way I was going to lose him in the forest like I did at Yosemite!When I caught up with him, he was talking to the smallest deer I had ever seen! “Actually,” the deer was saying, “I’m not really a deer. I’m from the chevrotain family. We are among the smallest hoofed animals in the world.” We were impressed. “Wow, that’s really interesting,” Panda said. I was just about to reply when a Filipino forest ranger came up to us. “Chevy, get back over here!” he said, addressing the chevrotain. “You’re an endangered species! You shouldn’t be talking to strangers.” And with that, he scooped up both Chevy and Panda in his arms! “Wait,” he said, looking more closely at Panda. “Are you a panda?” Panda replied in the affirmative. “Yes, sir,” he said. “And this is my best friend, Foster. We would never do anything to harm Chevy. Pandas are an endangered species too, you know.” The man looked surprised. “Oh, I forgot about that,” he said, putting them both down. “In that case, I’m sure you will be fine friends for Chevy.” After admonishing us not to get lost, and not to stay out after dark, the ranger went on his way. We visited with Chevy for awhile and then decided to continue exploring the forest. Imagine our surprise when we saw a pair of huge eyes peering out at us from a nearby tree! “Who are you?” the owner of they eyes asked in a friendly voice. We introduced ourselves and explained that we were visiting from Fresno. “Cool overalls,” the creature remarked, examining Panda carefully. “Is that a real pocket?” Panda nodded. We’re starting to get used to that question. But Panda had a question of his own. “Excuse me for asking, but what exactly are you?”“I’m a Philippine tarsier,” replied our new friend. “We tarsiers are some of the smallest known primates. Plus our eyes are the largest in proportion to our bodies of any other animal!” Panda and I looked at each other, amazed. “I guess they are,” Panda remarked. “And we always thought Foster had big eyes!” I blinked, nodding in agreement. “That’s what all Mom’s friends say anyway,” I said. “It looks like you’ve got me beat there!” The tarsier laughed heartily. “Well, you guys enjoy your visit,” he said. “I’m off to look for some bugs or lizards to eat for lunch!”As we continued on our way, we heard a high-pitched voice from above us. “Did I hear someone say they eat lizards?” We looked up, startled. “As a matter of fact, you did,” I replied. “It was a tarsier over in that other tree.” The lizard shuddered. “Oh that guy!” he said. “I have to hide from him all the time. Hey, you don’t eat lizards, do you?” Panda and I grimaced. “Bleah!” we exclaimed in unison. “Uh..no offense,” Panda added hastily. Our new friend shrugged. “None taken,” was his reply. “Well, gotta go hide,” he added. “Nice meeting you,” he called as he scurried back into the green foliage of the forest.We left the forest and decided to go find something for a snack. We were happy to find an outdoor market and started to look around. Before I knew it, Panda had jumped right into a huge cart full of watermelons! “Panda!” I called. “You can’t get in there! You’re going to get in trouble!” Panda disregarded my warning. “”It’s fine,” he called back. “Hey, these watermelons look delicious!” “Are you looking for this guy?” a kindly man asked as I sat anxiously on top of a bag of rice, waiting for Panda to either get out of the watermelons or get in trouble. “Yes, thank you,” I replied. Once I got Panda back, he remembered something. “Hey, let’s go check out the scuba diving! We have to be able to tell Sage we tried it!” Together we took off toward the water, although I admit I did have some misgivings…It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not going to work!“You’re on your own, dude,” I said as I scrambled back into the boat. “I like water and all, but I’m not going to do this!” Panda didn’t argue. “There’s always an element of risk!” he quipped as he jumped back into the water.Panda told me later that scuba diving was super fun. The other divers were very helpful and answered any questions he had about diving technique. There was only one mishap, when he got a little too close to a sea anemone while trying to get a good look at some clown fish. “They looked like something from Mom’s sea animals mosaic,” he told me, “and I just wanted to see them up close.”He said the clown fish were friendly, but a bit cautious. “We’ve never seen a panda scuba diving before,” the head fish ventured. “Especially one with overalls. Is that a real–“Before the fish could finish, one of the other divers came to Panda’s rescue. “Come on, Panda,” she said, “let’s get you out of here.” Panda thanked her and rejoined me in the boat. After that, even he agreed that we should be getting home.As we sailed over Manila on our way back to Fresno, we reminisced about how much fun we’d had in the Philippines and all the amazing animals we’d met. We could hardly wait to tell Mom all about our trip.But when we landed in the front living room, she was busy working on a blog post. It was no use trying to get her attention.We decided it was just as well, since we had “flying carpet lag” because of the time difference between Fresno and the Philippines.
Author’s Note: The background pictures in this story are from Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com. The photos of the chevrotain and the lizard are from https://www.wildlifealliance.org, and https://www.ecologyasia.com, respectively.