This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Philippines: Day Four

Today was an early rise, as we were taking a trip to Manila to sightsee.  It is about a two hour drive to Manila so a van and driver was hired to get us over there and back.

Manny has been our driver: he picked us up in Manila from the airport, and it became quite apparent during our trip to Manila, why he is THE chosen one. How he knew to get to where we wanted to go is beyond me, after all the side streets we took to get there.

And driving here? Unless one is on the freeway, it is every man for himself. There is only a loose obedience of any logical traffic laws. Pedestrians cross DIRECTLY in front of passing autos, buses, tricycles, motorcycles, other pedestrians...what ever.  Four way crossings are only slower-but-still-capable-of-crashing speed, and in nearly every case, there is a close call.

Seat belts were worn by us in the van but outside, there are infants riding on laps in tricycles, or jeepneys, some children are even out and about biking on their own. It's incredible...but not at all shocking to me as this is something I grew up seeing.

I asked CJ during the ride if anything was upsetting her. When I watch The Amazing Race, and they travel to India, or some other asian country, these people often end up crying because they are so upset by their surroundings. She said the only thing that made her sad was seeing the dogs and cats -- which just run around. Some with collars or broken "leashes" (like rope?). Again, something that no longer shocks me...although, when I was her age, the sight always, always, always made me sad.

Our first stop was Intramuros, where Fort Santiago is located. If you don't know your Filipino history, the country was ruled by Spain many, many years ago. The spanish alphabet makes up the alphabet system here, as well as numbers. Our monetary here are "pesos" and "centavos". There are derivatives of the spanish language, as in "kumusta" to say hello ("como esta" in Spanish).

I came here a few times on school field trips and I remembered the statue of Jose Rizal, sitting at a desk very well that I knew it was somewhere around the Fort. It was although I never got close enough to get a decent picture.

We had a good crew with us: my Auntie Cora, Auntie Neng, cousin Jhun, Uncle Bong, cousin Renz, cousin Kassey, my mom, me, Tim and the girls. We walked around the fort and got history lessons on Jose Rizal, who is a national hero here and imprisoned at Fort Santiago for attempting to reform the Philippines back to its roots, and away from the Spanish government. He was executed for this but it launched the rebellion to drive out the Spanish.

This is the fort entrance. The wall and fort are built of stones from volcanic rock.

This is the detail at the top of the entrance into the fort. 

After entering through the entrance, there are golden foot prints leading _out_ from whence we came. I later found out that these represent Rizal's foot steps, as he leaves the fort one last time, headed for his execution.

This is one of his sculptures, as Rizal was an accomplished painter, sculpture, poet, essayist, and a doctor, to list just a few of his talents. When I saw this, I about died - so beautiful *and* a skull. It is titled "Triumph of Death Over Science".

One of many quotes from his writings.  This one in particular, from The Indolence of the Filipinos, Tim asked me to capture:
We have seen that the countries which believe most in miracles are the laziest, just as spoiled children are the most ill-mannered. Whether they believe in miracles to palliate their laziness or they are lazy because they believe in miracles, we cannot say: but the fact is that the Filipinos were much less lazy before the word miracle was introduced into their language.

This is one of several prison cells we passed. Tim had to take the picture as I hadn't expected to see something so deep into the ground, so it freaked me out.

This is a view of Manila Bay from the fort. There were these big ass green things floating in the water. I thought they were something that came loose off some boat. I asked my uncle Bong what they were and he said they were water lilies. They are the biggest water lilies I've ever seen and they did just float around the bay, from boat to boat.

On the wall of the fort. You can see the notch at the bottom of the left-hand side where, I assume, the cannons were placed. On the other side, where you see Tim and the girls' backs, are ruins from the fort. See next picture.

After the fort, we headed to Rizal Park, where Jose Rizal was executed and eventually, interred. The park is vast, green and beautiful. I wish I had recorded this guy was quite amusing as he was extremely happy with himself, dancing in a fashion that didn't actual coincide with they style of music. It reminded me of some SNL skit.

This is the execution site of Jose Rizal. My auntie Cora explained to me that Rizal was shot in the back but as he fell down, dying, he managed to twist himself around to face the shooters.

Renz and Kassey further explained that the executioners were Filipino soldiers but that behind them were Spanish soldiers, ready to shoot not only Rizal, but the Filipino soldiers if they decided not to shoot him.

Next stop was lunch. Jhun picked out a fish market, in which you pick what you want, and they prepare it for you. There were every type of seafood imaginable but we opted for some oysters and shrimp, in hopes of having fried oysters and fried shrimp. What we actually got was fried oysters: no breading, just little morsels of oysters that were fried. There were also oysters on the half shell although I was told they were steamed, so I ate one. My first raw oyster. It actually wasn't bad but certainly, one was enough for me.

Oh yeah. And there really are no shrimp. I mean, there _are_ but if you see the blue buckets at the bottom of the picture, those are prawns in various sizes. The ones on the end are what we had tempura-fried.

The interesting part of this restaurant were the wait staff. They were men but made up as women. We especially had a laugh watching Apple and Charice - their names emblazoned on their shirts.

Next stop was the Mall of Asia, which is one of the largest malls in all of Asia.

There is an large skating rink within this two story mall. There really is no difference in attending this place as any other mall in the U.S. Just bigger. We didn't spend much money or much time at this one. It was just nice to see it and say we'd been there.

Oh, they have attendants in the elevators who announce what floor you're on. The parking garage is about six stories.

We hit another "mall" of sorts after this one. But this is where the 'natives' shop. The stores are one-right-after-another. If you are claustrophobic, there is no way to survive this place. Tim said he almost had a panic attack at one of the many, tight aisles.

This is where the good buys are. Of course, I can't buy anything. It's not for lack of pesos, it's having the relatives pick up the tab. I grabbed a few buys that I'm quite happy with.

I didn't get any pictures here as I was dumbfounded that we were hitting yet another shopping area. I had thought we were heading home and had settled for the two hour drive back when I realized what was going on...and left my BFF, my iPhone, in the van.

When we finally left there and really headed home, the traffic was fricking unbelievable. Again, Manny to the rescue. It is amazing to me how he can cut through everything without hitting anyone, getting hit, or pissing anyone off. It's a good idea to NOT watch out through the front window and just trust that Manny will get us back in one piece.

We passed by some fiesta going on where there were tricycles filled with Santo Ninos, or baby Jesus. It was quite colorful to see. But again, been there, done that 29 years ago.

Dinner was determined en route home: pizza and tacos from DiDi's. This was a place I used to get pizza and tacos from when I lived here. I was so excited about the tacos because these tacos are not like anything from Mexico, or the U.S. They shells are made from lumpia wrappers. They were quite delicious once we finally got them. The pizza was also good - and quite different than american pizza. It's all in the dough.

The girls ended up playing cards with our cousins but Tim and I were done for the evening. We headed home and left them to continue playing, and bonding, with their family.

It's been so wonderful, to say the least. 

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