January 2002 Edition
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Jim writes about his Philippines experience

I had wonderful time in the Philippines! It was the first time I had ever left North America. The trip was everything I had hoped for - and more.

The trip started out with a major traveling (naturally!). Our first leg of the flight (to Detroit) was canceled, and things started getting even crazier from there. The (long) flight to Nagoya, Japan (our stopover) was fine. They fed us well and the attendants were friendly. The three movies were good, and our seats were at the exit row, which made for a lot of leg and head room. When we got to Manila, we found out our four huge pieces of luggage were missing! Shirley's wedding dress was in one! We were very upset, naturally. Four days later we finally got our stuff, but items were stolen and the luggage was somewhat damaged.

Shirley's family and relatives all treated us like a king and queen. Her friends I met were all very friendly, warm, and had a good sense of humor. Her mom Teresita cooked for us each day. I love the Filipino dishes. With Mom being a great cook, I was in for a special treat each day. Speaking of daily food treats, the fruit in the Philippines was wonderful. I love mangos, and I had either a fresh mango or a mango shake each day. Trying fruit that I have never eaten (nor even heard of), was exciting. Chico, one of Shirley's favorites, was not tasty to me at all. I couldn't eat it.

Shirley's brother (kuya) Caloy took us "out on the town" many nights. He treated us to an authentic Japanese restaurant. We saw a super 10 person reggae band in Malate - one of the hot spots in Metro Manila. Another night out we were with Shirley's sister Terri as well as Caloy. We went to a crepe house called Café Breton, and a really cool bar called the Hobbit House. At the "House", all the servers are real dwarves! We bought shirts there for souvenirs and Christmas presents.

Before leaving the USA for Shirley's homeland, I was made aware of the pollution problem in the Philippines. But no words could have been prepared me for what I experienced. There are 10 million people in Metro Manila. Cars are either diesel engines or use leaded gas! You can hardly breathe on the streets (and sidewalks). Many pedestrians and motorcyclists hold cloths to their mouths and noses in an attempt to filter out the smoke and smell. Twice I got dizzy and lightheaded riding in a cab. Getting stuck in traffic is the norm in Manila, and the drivers make the cab drivers in New York City look tame and well behaved! Yes, things are really crazy on the streets of Manila.

I was amazed at the availability and exposure of pirated items for sale at the malls and shops all around Manila. This included movies (VCDs), computer software and games, and console games (Playstation 1 and 2, etc..). For example we bought the movie Lord Of The Rings (3 CD set for USA$1.40) two weeks before it was even released in the Philippines! We also bought Vanilla Sky and many others.

My favorite Tagalog phrase is "Kakabakabakaba Kaba". Weird eh? It means "Are you nervous?"

Because of the intensive wedding preparations we had to do, we made only one major side trip. We went to Tagaytay Highlands. Tagaytay is a wonderful peaceful, cool, and pollution-free town about an hour and a half drive South of Manila. It was so beautiful there, I didn't want to leave. Be sure to see the picture of us all having dinner at a Tagaytay restaurant. You'll know it's the right picture when you see a big buko (young coconut) in front of each of us at the table.

I'm looking forward to many trips back to the Philippines. Next time we'll be sure to go to Baguio, Boracay, and some neighboring countries like Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.

Jim

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