Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sometimes A Great Notion: Part 3 - Baguio

"Probably the worst time in a person's life is when they have to kill a family member because they are the devil... but otherwise it's been a pretty good day"
~ Emo Philips

"... but then, everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came to him for the funeral expenses" 
 ~ Jerome K. Jerome

We awoke the next morning to the sounds of the city. We lay in bed and listened to the street vendors for awhile; Maureen marveling at the difference between her Midwestern farm girl life and this bustling megacity on the other side of the world. 

For me, everything screamed Home. I was experiencing a crazy combination of Deja Vu and time travel where everything was familiar and yet new. It was a bit disorienting actually, warping between past and present and it was extremely hard to keep from acting like a kid in a candy store. 

We talked for awhile (mostly me sharing memories and insights) before getting up to pack and dress, then went down and had an early breakfast. I had tapsilog, (beef tapa, rice and egg) but Maureen had Frosted Flakes with milk (room temperature) and a banana. We finished eating and were wondering what was keeping the parents (we had knocked on their door on our way down). So we went and banged on the door again. Finally my Dad answered, they had fallen back to sleep! I reminded him we had an early flight and had to get to the airport!

Manong Tony picked us up a short while later and took us to the domestic flight terminal. We went through the metal detectors, were frisked and all of our backpacks had to be checked in. But other than that, the security check was substantially less than what we went through back in the States. We were off to the mountain city of Baguio!

We took off in the rain and there was a lot of turbulence. From the back of the plane I heard:
Step-mom:"What is that water down there?"
Dad: "The Pacific ocean"
Step-mom: "The ocean! So the Philippines is by an ocean?"

The bouncing around made Maureen a bit queasy. She kept her eyes shut, sipped water and tried to keep her frosted flakes down. I think there was also the fear that the plane was going to fall apart right where we were sitting. Our plane was a twin turbo prop of Canadian manufacture and the section where the plane was riveted together was at our feet and it kept shifting back and forth, and water dripped from the seam above our heads. The gap was wide enough to stick a pencil in and from the look on her face I could tell she was worried the bolts were falling out! Fortunately the skies cleared and she was distracted by the scenery unfolding below us.

We rose above the rain clouds to a cruising altitude of around 5000 feet. From the back of the plane I heard:
Step-mom:"What are those?"
Dad: "Mountains"
Step-mom: "Mountains! Does the Philippines have mountains?"

Just under an hour later we were there. It seemed like the plane just slowed down and landed without circling the runway or descending. We were just flying along and boom! we hit the runway and slammed on the brakes because the runway was very short and if we didn’t stop in time we would fall off the other end of the mountain.

We went through baggage claim and out through security and I went up to the ticket counter to see if I could use a phone. The young lady behind the counter said "sure!" and waived me around the metal detector to use the phone at her desk (so much for security). I called my friend Mike to see if he had been able to find us anything. It was right in the middle of the annual Panagbenga Flower Festival and usually everything is booked months in advance (which is why I had tried to discourage Dad from changing our itinerary; we had originally been booked at the Country Club, but they were full, as was the Manor House on Camp John Hay.) Mike said he found us something which was not as nice but it would have to do on such short notice.
We found a taxi driver who took us to our hotel, for about 150 pesos or $3. That was about a dollar more than the posted price, but well worth it because the driver was quite a character, full of information! We drove up to the city, me on the edge of my seat, looking here, looking there. We arrived at the hotel and as soon as we got there Dad leapt out, went into the hotel, leaving me to pay the driver.

At the desk we found the only thing they had was a suite with two queen beds: this meant we would have to share the room with the Step-Mother and Dad. I looked at Maureen and she whispered "it'll be okay."
Will it? I whispered back.

After we unpacked we decided to walk downtown. The Step-Mom immediately took off power walking and soon left us far behind.

Here she is about a half block ahead of us
It is a good thing she knew her way around Baguio... Oh, wait! This is her first time in the Philippines!

Unfortunately we didn't lose her and we ended up at Burnham Park. 
Step-mom: "Boy, it sure is hilly around here."
Dad: "uh, that is because we are in the mountains"

The parents got interested in all the plants and flowers on display and we left them to find an internet café to check on the kids back home.

We walked up and down Session Road, window shopping and looking to see if I could find any familiar landmarks from the past.
Here is what used to be the Pines Theater

And this was Session Theater

When we got back to the hotel the parents napped and Maureen wrote in her journal. We talked about where to eat that night, I suggested we try the hotel restaurant but the Step-Mom wanted "a sandwich". We looked at the menu but they didn't have what she wanted. She was kind of irritated by this, even after Dad explained that sandwiches were not as common here in the Philippines. I suggested she just tell them what she wanted and see if they could make it for her. But No, she wasn't going to do that. Anyway, she wanted a sandwich so the lady at the front desk suggested we try the mall.

We took a taxi to the mall and as soon as the cab stopped she jumped out and took off and disappeared in the crowd. Dad ran after her and that left me to pay for the cab again. Hmm, I am suspecting a trend here.

We hung around outside for awhile till Dad reappeared with the Step-mom in tow. We went through security and I spotted a Starbucks and told her they had sandwiches and she reluctantly went in. We looked through the glass case and there were several different kinds of sandwiches to choose from. But, of course, because I found them there was nothing she wanted. I decided to get a coffee while we were in there. Step-mom got mad and said “Why do you want that?” “Just get one where we eat!”
So we roamed the mall checking out the various restaurants. Well there was a Pizza Hut but she wanted a sandwich so we kept looking. There was a McDonalds but not that kind of sandwich. We went up and down the mall looking at menus. We finally ended up in the food court and by then we were all starving and it was the last resort so she had to eat there. 

All they had was Filipino fast food! I was in fast food heaven. I ordered siopao for Maureen and I (show-pow – roasted pork inside a rice flour dough pastry then steamed) and a pitcher of San Miguel Beer for 35 pesos. I suggested the Step-Mom try Dinuguan (a dish made from pigs blood and diced lungs, kidneys, intestines, ears, heart and snout) but Dad told her what it was so she didn't get it. She was mad (at me) about not getting a sandwich the rest of the night.

It was still pitch black out when we awoke the next morning to someone loudly talking in the bed next to us.
“What time is it, Paul?

Then they got up, turned on all the lights and started banging around and talking in even louder voices. I put a pillow over my face and silently screamed into it. They finally went down for breakfast but we were wide awake now so we went down to eat too. They asked how we slept. Maureen: “Alright” 
Step-mom: Did you wake up during the night?” 
Maureen: “No, actually I didn’t wake up until 4:30.” 
Step-mom: “Oh, well then you had a great night’s sleep!” 
Maureen: “Well, I could have slept a couple more hours.” 
Step-mom: “Oh, you couldn’t get back to sleep?” 
Maureen: “No, it started getting noisy.” 
Step-mom: “Oh yeah, the people next door were very noisy”

Dad and I got Filipino food for breakfast while Maureen had French toast. The Step-mom wanted whole wheat toast. Not on the menu. "Why not? Everybody has whole wheat!" Dad tried to explain that in South East Asia rice is the prevalent grain crop. Being as she came from a farm family in the Midwest, she couldn't understand why the Filipino farmers didn't grow wheat and grumbled to herself. It was shaping up to be a wonderful day.

It is Sunday and we were planning to go to the UCCP church service, but all of a sudden I needed some breathing room. So when the parents got up to get ready for church (and left us to cover the bill) we went outside and caught a cab to Brent School.

We were scheduled to take a tour of the campus the following day with Mike, but now I wanted to make a separate pilgrimage alone, without the running commentary from the Step-mom. 

For my father, Baguio was just a town and Brent was just another one of the many schools I went to. But for me it was the place I called home for five years.

Through the town, up Brent Road, my heart beating faster. The gates were closed when we got there, but when I explained I was an alumni they let us in.

Walking up the hill, it was if I had only been gone for the summer. Almost everything was still the same, I still knew this place like the back of my hand.
This is the place that changed my life forever, this is the place where I drew my strength. My blood, my sweat, my tears were in the very soil of this place. We walked around quietly in the rain: here is where my dad dropped me off when I was twelve, this was where my locker was, this was my Spanish classroom, that was my history classroom.These were the steps where I sat so many times. I reached out to touch the walls to remind myself that this was real, not just another dream.
Here was the dorm I lived in for the first two years, over there is the dorm where I lived for last three years of my time at Brent. This is the place where I learned self-confidence, the place where I found my identity.

Familiar voices called out to me from every corner, I turned to see the faces but they were gone. They were echoes from my youth, long forgotten scenes replaying in my head. Some of the words were mine. Loudest of all was the School, tugging at my sleeve, asking me where I had been. I felt guilty, as if I had abandoned a loved one without a word. 

It was only to be a brief visit, we were meeting Mike Pearson for lunch. So, all to soon we were walking down Brent Road to catch a taxi back to the hotel. At the corner of Brent Road and Leonard Wood Road was a shop that carried ethnic goods from the mountain tribes, it was still raining so we decided to go inside. Vintage and antique wares were on the walls and in the cases. Spears filled a big jar by the door, beads, arm cuffs, necklaces were in one case, head axes and heavy knifes in another. Hand woven loin cloths, blouses, skirts and blankets on the shelves. Another row of shelves held vintage backpacks. 

We purchased a few items then caught a taxi back to the hotel, arriving just before the parents and Mike arriving soon after. The break from them had done us good, we felt revitalized and ready for another round.
Mike took us over to to the Baguio Country Club for a buffet lunch and we sat on the veranda overlooking the golf course. It was an excellent buffet with many western style foods which made the Step-mom happy. For dessert Maureen had flan, crème brulee, and mango cheesecake.
Mike's family had been in the Philippines since before WWII. He came from a mining family and grew up in Baguio; both his grandmother and mother had taught at Brent. He captivated my parents with his stories, especially the Step-mom. She was trying vainly to wrap her head around the American Experience in the Philippines, and Mike was her historical expert.

After lunch, Mike took us on a tour of the usual Baguio tourist spots. Everywhere we went people seemed to know Mike, greeting and conversing with him in Ilocano. Camp John Hay, Mansion House (the President’s summer residence), Wright Park, Mines View. 
Step-mom: "So why does President Bush have a house here?
Mike: "No, the Mansion House is for the Philippine president"
Step-mom: "So why is there a US Air Force base in Baguio?  
Mike: "No, it used to be a US base. It isn't an Air Force base anymore"
Step-mom: "Wright Park? Is that a common Filipino name?"
Mike: ?!? 

He dropped us back at the hotel around 5 pm and I think he was worn out by all the Step-mom's questions. We were tired too and had supper at the hotel and went to bed early.

I awoke the next morning to loud voices: Deja Vu.
“What time is it, Paul?

Then they got up, turned on all the lights and started banging around and talking in even louder voices. I put a pillow over my face and silently screamed into it. OMG.

Mike picked us up after breakfast for our Brent tour and when we arrived at the school, the guards just waved him in (Mike was on the faculty and staff for a number of years). Mike gave us the full tour and the parents just sucked it up. I had forgotten that Dad had only been to the school three times during the five years I had attended Brent. Now and then I would try and interject with additional information, but the Step-mom ignored my comments and would ask Mike again.
Step-mom: "So tell me again why the students came from the United States just to go to school here?"
Mike: ???

Dad told Mike about "his" adventure getting to Baguio in the fall of 1972 and his subsequent "inspection tour" of  the typhoon and flood damage with President Marcos and his entourage. Mike patiently answered their questions and occasionally would glance over at me now and then with a bemused, puzzled look on his face. Welcome to my world buddy.

After Brent we stopped at a travel agency to get tickets to Tacloban; and yes, I ended up paying for the tickets as Dad had once again left his credit card at the hotel.
Here is Mike wondering how he 
can get out of this. 
The Step-Mom giving me the 'evil eye'

Then we went to Mario’s for lunch (I made Dad get his wallet from the hotel first). The Mario's I remembered from my school days was gone from Session Road, this was a new one, complete with modern menu. I missed the pizza, the bread sticks and the Bullfighter posters on the wall of the old restaurant.  Mike entertained us with funny stories about his experiences at a New Zealand boarding school.

After that Mike dropped us off at a shop, I think he needed a break. Dad wanted to buy a pair of mounted carabao horns, but the Step-mom nixed it.

Next we went to an Internet Café to check our email and then headed to the Shoe-Mart Mall (SM). We wandered around the mall and checked out the stores. One of the shops sold t-shirt spoofs:

The mall seemed to be built on or near where the Pine Hotel used to stand. It was four or 5 stories high on top of a mountain. There were huge balconies on the east and west sides with unobstructed views of the city. We found a little shop called Figaro’s. They served coffee and sandwiches (the Step-mom glared at me). Dad and I had grilled Spam and cheese sandwiches. We sat on the top balcony and had coffee while we watched the sun set and the fog roll in.

On our last day in Baguio we took a taxi over to the Easter School Weaving Room, where women with large looms were weaving yards of fabric. From this they sew blankets, tablecloths, placemats, purses and clothing.

We all picked out some gifts to take back home and the Step-mom said "what are you doing?"  When Maureen explained that she was getting souvenirs for her parents and our kids she gave her a funny look and said "why would you want to do that?" Maureen just gave her the moron look and said nothing. But shortly after that the Step-mom was scurrying around the store and headed up to the counter with her arms full. Dad did his knick knack paddy wack dance. Again. He looked at me expectantly. I asked him what he would do if I wasn't there to bail him out. He didn't even have any cash to pay for a taxi back to the hotel!

My visit to Baguio had not gone the way I hoped it would. I had been planning to take a day trip up to Banaue and/or Sagada to show Maureen the rice terraces, but the Step-mom didn't want to go. When I suggested that Maureen and I go by ourselves, Dad got all worked up and panicky and somehow I let him talk us out of it. I guess he, too, was overwhelmed by his memories from 30 years ago. I was used to an assertive, self-reliant father and didn't know how to deal with him. 

Just like that our Baguio experience was over. We ate a small breakfast, I paid our hotel bill (of course!) and then we headed for the airport. We got there, went through baggage inspection which included taking everything out of our bags and repacking. Then we got our boarding passes and went to the outdoor lounge and had coffee. There we met Richard Swart, the Dean of Studies at Brent School. He told us some good stories about his years of teaching at boarding schools. Then it was finally time to board the plane. 

This time I got to say goodbye.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sometimes A Great Notion: Part 2 - First Day:Manila

"Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds
~ Charles Caleb Colton

"In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes of mice and
men go oft awry"
~ Robert Burns

We arrived in Manila just before midnight and found ourselves disembarking at the old International terminal, the same terminal I had left from 28 years earlier. We were told the "new" terminal was closed, but not why.
But we went through Customs, our papers stamped and got our luggage in what seemed like just a few minutes, despite the large number of "Balikbayan boxes". In reality it took us about an hour, I guess the excitement of being back made time go fast.

Balikbayan is a term that refers to Filipinos
returning to their homeland (there are 11 million who reside and work in countries all over the world). They return bearing "pasalubong" (gifts) in large boxes.

Suitcases in hand we turned and there was Manong Tony, looking much the same as he did the last time I saw him back in '75. He had been like a big brother to me when I was little, and when my two youngest brothers were born he took over some of the responsibilities that had formerly been the sole domain of our housekeeper Auring, like taking me to the movies. After college, he went on to attend seminary and had become a minister. Now we discovered he was a Chaplain in the Philippine Air Force with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He currently was attached to the PSG, the equivalent of the US Secret Service.

After hugs and introductions, we took our luggage and headed for the parking lot. It was warm and muggy, and we started sweating immediately. Our noses were assaulted by the blended, sour odor of diesel fuel exhaust, sewage and uncollected garbage. The Step-Mom exclaimed at the stench, but for me, the old familiar smells were stirring the memories and resurrecting feelings long forgotten: home. I'm home.

I was reminded of the movie Kelly's Heroes, where two soldiers from rural Texas are covered with the contents of an outhouse. Upon being told they stink, Don Rickles comments "kind of reminds you of home, don't it" whereupon one of the soldiers replies "you know it kind of does"

Tony loaded us up, Dad up front and the Step-Mom, Maureen and I crammed in the back, and drove us to the old UCCP Mission Guest House in the area of Metro Manila called Malate. Tony was trying to convince Dad to have us stay with him, but the Step-Mom insisted on a hotel and the Guest House (now called Shalom Center) was the compromise. I wanted to see and experience the old sights and places, and the Guest House was an important part of our pilgrimage.

The city was still very active at 1:00 a.m. and traffic was heavy. Most of the time our driver just drove through the red lights, simultaneously depressing the accelerator and his horn as we approached an intersection. We had no idea whether the drivers in the on-coming traffic were going to stop or not, so it was rather exciting. But the honking must have been a well known signal because it all seemed to work out. When we were forced to stop at a traffic light, a small boy or two would come up to our car and press their faces close to the glass, looking so pathetic, begging for money. The driver would give them some cash and they scurried away. It made Maureen cry and I realized this was an aspect of our trip that I had not anticipated.

The drive from the airport that used to take twenty minutes now took just over an hour. We got to the Guest House to find that the beautiful turn-of-the century two story guest house had been replaced by a modern tall building. We checked in, not knowing what other changes to expect after all these years. But the room was cool and clean, the sheets crisp and white, the water hot and refreshing. We cleaned up and crawled into bed, and were soon fast asleep.

We awoke just a few hours later to the sounds of vendors in the street selling taho, a custardy dish made from tofu, sago pearls and assorted fruit or syrups of your choice. We tried to go back to sleep but we hadn't adjusted to the change in time zone yet. To be honest, I was too excited to go back to sleep.

So, we got up and went downstairs and took some pictures on the street out front and then went through the lobby and out the back door.

There, behind the new tower were two of the original guest houses still standing, looking rather forlorn and uncomfortable. This was one of the things I wanted to see again. Slightly modified, but still mostly the same, there was the house where we lived our first few months in the Philippines.

It was strange and wonderful, the memories of my childhood came rushing back, of daily sounds, smells, and rituals. Of warm, yet still comfortable mornings, the relative quiet before the hustle and bustle of the city gearing up for another busy day of commerce. The hot afternoons when the city would suddenly go silent, the only sound was the wings of the cicadas humming.

Back inside, I asked at the front desk about changing some dollars for pesos and the clerk said they could arrange for a money changer to come by a little later. Dad and the stepmother were still in bed and we were enjoying the break in the Tagalog lessons, so we went to see about getting some breakfast without them.

The days of a multi-course American style meal served family style at long tables covered in white tablecloths were long gone. In the old days, breakfast was preceded by a reading from the Upper Room, followed by several relevant Bible passages and a prayer. Then eggs, sometimes fried, sometimes scrambled or wonder of wonders boiled eggs perched on little white egg cups. Fruit, toast, bacon or sausage and juice would round out the meal.

The Shalom Center now had a cafeteria and served traditional Filipino foods. I steered Maureen towards a breakfast of coffee, mango juice, rice, fried eggs and little red sausages called longaniza and was gratified to find that she really enjoyed it. The coffee came in little packets with the creamer already mixed in and you just poured it into a cup of hot water. She was a little suspicious of it at first, but happily discovered that it was quite delicious. We lingered for awhile after eating, sipping our coffee and slowly adjusting to our new surroundings.

After breakfast we went down to the lobby to meet the money exchanger, running into our "travel companions" as we exited the cafeteria. I suggested to Dad that he take the opportunity to change some dollars to pesos but he brushed it off.

Prior to our trip I had spent many hours on line updating myself on the Philippines, reading travel tips and advice, newspaper articles and consular warnings. The country that we had known so well had greatly changed, but Dad still thought that he knew it all, certainly much better than I.

When we got to the lobby Tony was there and helped us change some money with the money changer while we waited for the parents. They appeared a little while later, and Dad promptly announced that he needed to change some dollars! Too late, the money changer had already left. The step mother needed some sun glasses too, so it was decided we would head over to SM Mall after lunch at Tony's home. We grabbed some of our luggage to store at his home and headed out to fight the traffic once again.

We arrived at the base and the guard cheerfully waved us through. Tony gave us a quick tour around the base and stopped first to let Maureen pick a Kalachuchi blossom, then to let us have some photo ops with the impressive residence across the river.

We kind of felt like we were breaking some rules: You usually don't see this side of the official residence, nor can you normally get this close. But we reminded ourselves that this was the Philippines and things are a little more relaxed here.

The parsonage was attached to the back of the Base Chapel. We arrived at Tony's home and met some of his family. Two of his daughters were at work and we would meet them later. His wife, Beth, was the daughter of old family friends and excused herself to prepare lunch while Tony gave us a tour of the Chapel and his gardens. Orchids, flowers, fruit trees were everywhere. I had forgotten how lush the tropics can be.

Here is Tony and the parents. Dad is trying to figure out how to use the video camera (he shot hours of the sky, the ground or the interior of the car).

Then we were ushered in for lunch. It was an excellent meal that included fried fish, rice, a shrimp, beef and vegetable stir fry, green beans, mangoes, bananas, grapes and suman. They even cooked up a few pieces of whole dried fish called Tuyo just for me.

Dried fish is made by heavily salting fresh whole or split fish, which then are dried in the sun. To prepare them you simply heat a little oil in a skillet and fry them up. The oil reconstitutes the flesh and they emit a very strong odor. Most Americans find the smell horrific, but it always makes my mouth water. For almost thirty years I had been dreaming of this moment, the taste of tuyo and rice filling my mouth.

After lunch, Tony and Dad sat down to discuss the itinerary. Our original plans had been to go from Manila to the island of Leyte for a week, then back to Manila and on to the mountains of Baguio with a side trip to Sagada. Dad immediately changed things up by saying he wanted to go to Baguio first and then Leyte. I tried to explain that we had reservations made at hotels in Baguio and Leyte, that people had taken time off from work to see us and that we couldn't just change things up but he refused to listen.

What I didn't realize then was that he was apprehensive about going back to Leyte. He was afraid that, at best, no one would even remember him. So we changed our plans, which meant we now had to go buy tickets to Baguio and hope we could find rooms.

So first we went to get 4 plane tickets to Baguio. Dad did his knick knack paddy whack dance (slapping each pocket in turn) and said he left his credit card at the hotel. Apparently he had only brought dollars to exchange into pesos. So I had to pay for all the tickets.

Then we headed over to SM Mall. Traffic was miserable and it took us forever to get there. I was totally amazed at the congestion of the city. We were even more shocked at the total disregard for traffic signals, the large number of cars trying to fit into a finite number of lanes. Navigating the ever changing maze was like some crazy dance, a game of "chicken" to see who would yield first. At some point Tony determined that we were headed the wrong direction and began to slowly work his way from the far left lane all the way over to the far right lane. Once there we thought he was going to pull in on a side street and head back the other direction. Instead, tooting his horn and putting on his left blinker he executed a wide turn. Cutting across about six or seven lanes of traffic and into the lanes heading the opposite way, smiling and waving as vehicles would stop just inches from our car. It was a gut wrenching experience, but two things were evident to us, there was no road rage, no cussing or angry gestures. With so many people (around 21 million in the Greater Manila area) rubbing elbows, it was essential that decorum be maintained. So, despite the congestion, people kept their cool.

When we finally arrived we were stopped by guards at the parking garage who cheerfully checked the trunk and under the car for bombs. After we parked, there was another security check, this time for us. We were told that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the mall, but I surreptitiously took a few blurry shots. There were no malls in the Philippines when we had lived there last, and Maureen was impressed at the number of employees (four or five smartly dressed young women in every department) and how friendly and helpful they were.

Dad and Tony went to exchange some dollars to pesos while the Step-mom, Maureen and I did some shopping. Maureen had left her swim suit back in the States, and I thought I'd pick up an embroidered short sleeve shirt. The Step-Mom went to go buy some sunglasses. The exchange rate currently was floating around 56 pesos to one dollar. For some reason this was very confusing to the parents and I wasn't sure why. Dad had done some mission work in Nepal, Central and South America, they both had worked in Africa, so they had relatively recent experience with varying exchange rates. Maureen got her suit, I got my shirt and we wandered over to see how the Step-Mom was doing. She was having trouble picking a pair but finally decided on a stylish black framed designer branded pair. Dad and Tony came up and she said "these are only $10 dollars". Maureen looked at the tag labeled 5,600 pesos and said uh no, they are around $100. The Step-Mom looked annoyed and insisted she was correct and purchased them anyway. Leaving the mall she had an indignant whispered conversation with Dad and after some calculations on a piece of paper the sunglasses were carefully remanded to her luggage for the remainder of our trip, as they too valuable to wear.

After the mall we headed over to the American Cemetery. This again took forever due to the heavy traffic. We had intended to do some sight-seeing but it now seemed rather late to get started. I was beginning to worry about how much time we would waste everyday just trying to get to the places we wanted to see.

When we got there it was just after 5 pm, it was raining and they were closing for the day. But Tony showed them his official I.D. and they just waved us in.

The rain suddenly stopped and the sun tried to peak out. It was serene and beautiful.

Administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission it covers about 152 acres and has 17, 206 graves and an additional 36,282 names inscribed on limestone columns of those missing in action. We walked around for an hour and then it started raining again so we decided to go.

Tony decided it was time to get something to eat and stopped off at McDonalds. After crossing the ocean to get here it was not our first choice but he was driving and our host, so we went along with it. We parked right in front and Tony paid some street kids to watch his car. A guard armed with a shot-gun opened the door for us and we trooped in.

This turned out to be an interesting experience because the McDonalds in the Philippines are nothing like the ones back in the States. For one thing rice comes with the meals and french fries are a special side order. Salisbury steak, Spaghetti and fried chicken are also on the menu. We tried these "new" items and found them to be pretty good!

The Step-mom went to use the restroom and came out shortly and said there is no toilet paper in there. Maureen pulled some out of her travel bag and handed it to her. She seemed most annoyed that we were so prepared.

I can't help it, a decade of living in a rural area of the Philippines, plus being a Boy Scout who was taught to "be prepared", I find my self always thinking of contingencies. Before we had left I had advised her to get some travel "tp" to bring with her, because like when they were in Africa, it is something that is not always provided or available.

We had an early flight to Baguio the next morning, jet lag had finally caught up to us and we were worn out, so Tony took us back the Guest House. We showered and Maureen took a little time to write down the experiences we had so far in her journal. Another day of firsts for her!

A Day in Manila from Waldo Wanders on Vimeo.