Philippines, Part 15: All’s Well that Ends Well (Manila and Home)
Here is the long-awaited ending to the story of the summer we spent traveling in the Philippines, baby in tow. If you are just joining us, or have missed a previous episode, you can find them all right here:
Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel
Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?
Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)
Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy (Baguio)
Philippines, Part 5: Hanging Coffins! (Sagada)
Philippines, Part 6: Voyage of the Icebox (Banauae & Batad)
Philippines, Part 7: Revenge of the Cockroaches (Manila)
Philippines, Part 8: Please Don’t Feed the Sharks (Anilao)
Philippines, Part 9: “Sexy Chic” at the Playboy Fashion Show (Field Study Research)
Philippines, Part 10: Luxury Travel, Filipino Style (Cebu)
Philippines, Part 11: Nuts to the Huts (Bohol)
Philippines, Part 12: If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island . . . (Panglao)
Philippines, Part 13: The Chocolate Hills (Bohol Again)
Philippines, Part 14: Trouble in Paradise (Malapascua)
At the end of last post, we had just escaped from the masseuses, mosquitos, and German disco on paradisiacal Malapascua. After a good air-conditioned night’s rest, we decided since we were back in Cebu we might as well hit a few other attractions. We turned up at one of the best-preserved old Spanish houses in the Philippines around noon, and were informed by the staff that it was closed for restoration and fortification for the next few months. Tony spun a yarn (only slightly exaggerated) about how the only thing we had come to the Philippines to see were old Spanish houses, and we had already been to Vigan, and I speak Spanish, and my mom went on a mission to Spain and we gave our daughter a Spanish name, and we came all the way from America, and dropped some names like the curator of the museum in Baguio who is an expert on Ifugao mummification, and said we would be so, so, so disappointed if we couldn’t at least take a tiny peek at the house. The architect who was overseeing the renovation happened to be there, and thought he had found some kindred spirits. He ended up taking us upstairs (where everything was in fact covered in sheets and disarranged) and telling us a little about the house, while we did our best to remember everything we knew about Spanish architecture (admittedly not much) and sound intelligent. It really was a beautiful old house, and we were inspired to go home and learn more about period architecture.
Rumor had it that the local university had a museum with a six-legged carabao (water-buffalo). So we popped in at the museum, where we were treated to a jumbled and dusty collection of butterflies, old stone coffins, pottery, seashells, and amateur taxidermy, but were unable to locate the six-legged carabao. When we asked the curator, she informed us that it was displayed at the other campus on the other side of the city. Undaunted, we took an hour-long jeepney ride up to the second campus, where after wandering for a while, we located an even smaller and dingier museum run by a formaldehyde-drunk student. Although photography was forbidden, Tony felt he had earned the right to one photo. He sureptitiously captured the six-legged carabao on film for all posterity. Poor little thing, it had more wrong with it than just the extra legs. And since everyone is always asking, I will give you the link to the photo. We have a family blog, which Tony maintains to preserve a visual account of our adventures just as I preserve a literary account. Here’s the six-legged carabao. And here are photos for the rest of the travelogues, complete with the original text from the emails upon which I have based this blog series (and you thought I just remembered it all from six years ago).
The next night Axa came down with a fever and Mommy and Daddy panicked. Two X-Rays, several expensive cell phone calls to Grandpa (Doctor) Bringhurst, and three visits to the hospital later (during which Axa feigned contented smiley, healthy babyness to all the medical personnel who examined her) the exhausted parents were finally convinced that she was not at death’s door. We all slept much better the next few nights, and our Superferry ride back to Manila was uneventful.
Back in Manila, we checked into the same pension house we’d stayed at twice before (we chose them because they were the only ones whose phone was not disconnected or manned by people who hung up when we spoke English to them). But we did like it at Pension Natividad. They gave us a discount for staying three weeks and a table in our room, so it almost felt like home. Since they also served food, if we had wanted to (and we almost did) we could theoretically have never left the hotel. And often we didn’t. We’d just go sit down in the lobby while they cleaned our room. Pathetic, I know. But we were burnt out on travel, and content to live off of BLT sandwiches and the communal pasta dish. By this time, the days were kind of running together. Monsoon season had begun in force. Some days it rained continuously day and night. Other days it would stop for an hour or so before resuming. The amount of flooding in various sections of Manila depended purely on their respective infrastructures, and the infrastructure in our neighborhood was evidently not that great.
When we ventured out at all, it was only to eat at at cheap nearby restaurants and check our email. The highlight of one week was our sushi date, since we knew the price of sushi would become suddenly prohibitive when we returned to the States. One day we went down to Baywalk and got tatoos (henna, of course). Another day Tony got so bored he shaved off his goatee. The most interesting thing in our lives at the time (besides reading the latest on “Gloriagate” and the “Cha-Cha” (Filipino politics at its best)) was watching the other guests at the pension house. Most stayed a few days and then moved on from Manila. It was really mostly a stopover for backpackers and Peace Corps types. The only other long-term guest at the pension house was a very decrepit-looking Oregonian who shuffled around with a back-scratcher and smelled, shall we say, earthy. Crazy Ralph (not his real name. Actually, I don’t know that he ever got around to telling us his real name. But he told us plenty of other things) was a character. We made his acquaintance one day when he took advantage of a captive audience to tell us a long and involved story about a run-in with muggers and security guards, in which he claims he shot and killed two Filipinos. To this day, I don’t know if his story was true, but during the short time we were neighbors, we saw representatives from the U.S. embassy visiting him on two occasions and offering to fly him back to the States for medical treatment (we don’t know if they were referring to physical or psychological treatment). Crazy Ralph had informed us that he was a general in the U.S. military, so perhaps that explains the V.I.P. treatment. We were so sick of hanging around Manila that we were tempted to ask them if the U.S. embassy would fly us home in a special jet, but we knew we weren’t as important as Crazy Ralph, so we just waited around for our normal commercial flight
In the end, I guess you could say that our trip to the Philippines went out with more of a whimper than a bang. And we haven’t been back since, although we consider it the beginning of all our international adventures together. Hopefully I’m not dampening the spirits of anyone who’s bought plane tickets to the Philippines on the strength of previous posts. The Philippines is a beautiful country, and as you can tell, we had a wonderful time during most of our time there. It’s just that four months of roughing it through a tropical country with a baby that gets heavier every day can really take it out of a person.
And now that I think of it, I think I actually might have one more post on this topic left in me. On our way home from the Philippines, we had an action-packed layover in Hong Kong. So if you stay tuned next week, I just might psych myself up to tell you about it.