Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)

For other adventures in the Philippines Friday series, see 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)

In my defense, when I am at home I am your typical Carseat Nazi Mom, with a five-year-old and a three-year-old in the back seat in properly latched-and-tethered Britax Boulevards that were only recently turned forward-facing. But when we’re doing serious traveling, my inner Mr. Toad surfaces, and those same children bounce around freely in taxis, beat-up, stripped-down army jeeps, sidecars . . . and even worse.

Take busses, for instance. Bus travel in the Philippines is a heart-stopping string of near misses on bumpy two-lane roads populated mostly by other buses, jeepneys, motorcycles with sidecars, and the occasional horse and cart. The bus schedules don’t even pretend to approximate regularity or precision. You just have to ask around, and people will give rough (within two or three hour) estimates of when the next bus bound for your destination will arrive at the bus station. IF the bus ever arrives. And that’s not taking into account the time while the bus sits in the station waiting to fill up with paying customers. The moral of the story is, always plan a full day for bus travel, no matter how short you think your bus trip will be.

On one of those full days five years ago, we had left Manila to travel north to the exotic fringes of Northern Luzon, the main island in the archipelago. We were on our way to Baguio, the “Summer Capital” of the Philippines. The name is not just an honorific. Before the advent of air conditioning, the entire Filipino government (foreign embassies and all) would actually remove to Baguio for the entire summer. It’s up in the mountains several hours north of Manila, so the weather is always breezy and cool.

But before we got to the breezy coolness, we had to change busses in San Fernando, where it was still as blisteringly hot as Manila, and where for some reason we had to walk several blocks to a different bus station to change busses (nope, that wasn’t on the bus schedule either). Several blocks is no big deal, of course, especially if you’re not toting two ridiculously over-packed frame backpacks, another heavy backpack-turned-frontpack, and a baby in a wool wrap five yards long, who though small, is like a little hot-water-bottle snuggled up to you. By the time we had walked the gauntlet of all the staring Filipinos (who were not used to seeing American tourists there, and certainly not American tourists who really could no longer even pose as “savvy” backpackers), our faces were burning, we’re not sure if more from the heat or the embarrassment.

Our bus, when we finally made it back on to one, was actually headed for Vigan, an old Spanish colonial town on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. We’re not sure who bribed UNESCO to put it there, but I did not consider it worth the trip. Neither, I surmise, did the writer of my infamous Rough Guide, whom I suspect of never even having gone there himself. In any case, the map he drew for the book was laid out completely wrong, and the only Spanish-style architecture really in the town was on the one street in the photograph in the book. It is possible that I was just experiencing jet-lag and/or culture shock at the time, and Vigan really is worth a 12-hour bus ride from Manila. Don’t let me dissuade you.

We did stay in a quaint little inn with a canopy bed and a lot of antiques (all covered in a thick coating of dust), owned by the family of an assassinated politician rumored to be one of Marcos’ casualties. The next morning, I was introduced to the typical Filipino breakfast, tosilog, which consists of a tall rice mould, a fried egg, and sweet salted pork. It comes in many greasy -silog variations. They all contain rice and fried egg, but the other item can vary from dehydrated fish to corned beef hash. Not my favorite breakfast, shall we say . . .  After making token visits to some old buildings so we wouldn’t feel like we’d wasted our death-defying bus ride, we finally, blessedly, made our way back to the bus station to continue our trip to cool and blissful Baguio.

Stay tuned next Friday for Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy.

2 thoughts on “Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)

  • Pingback: Philippines, Part 14: Trouble in Paradise (Malapascua) — Casteluzzo

  • October 22, 2010 at 11:57 am

    How fascinating to see one's own country through a foreigner's eyes. 🙂 Sadly, I agree with much of what you said. Bus travel is an absolute anarchy – both in schedules and in the driving. And yeah, Vigan is really just one stretch of one street! You should've visited some colonial era Catholic churches in nearby towns instead.


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