Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blogging His Visit to the Philippines 1st Day

My dear Tatay  Tony wanted to blog his experiences when he visited the Philippines last June 2009 but he don't have enough time for blogging so he requested me to post it for him.

I came into Manila this evening aboard Asiana Airlines after flying almost 22 hours. What a great airlines; they treated me like gold. The seats were very comfortable and the food and drinks plentiful. I pity the poor folks who flew here in steerage; stacked in like sardines in the back of the plane. Many thanks to Tony Jo for giving me the tickets as a gift; she booked me round trip in business class!
I am staying in a small hotel in the city of Makati , which is a suburb of Manila and contains the main business district for Metro-Manila. The hotel is nice by the standards of a third world country, is very reasonably priced and lies on a quiet back street on the edge of the slums. It is clean, has air conditioning, and a small coffee shop. The hotel looks old and inside it looks like it is about 50 years old and has had numerous repairs, but everything works. I brought two cable locks and lock my suitcases to my bed each day when I leave. The cases are locked but if anyone really wanted to take them they could. My hope is that this is a deterrent and so far this has worked. I receive a daily subtle request for tips in the form of a short note from my room cleaner telling me what a great job he/she is doing and asking for feedback. 20 pesos is considered to be a satisfactory room cleaner tip but I give them all of my change at the end of the day. The conversion of pesos to the dollar is about 49 pesos to the dollar.
 My room was up a short flight of stairs that was glassed in on one side and open to the interior on the other. At the top there was a nice balcony with artificial plants in a container attached to the balcony hand rail. The hotel had six floors that could be reached by a circular staircase that didn’t look all that stable and my curiosity wasn’t great enough to find out what the other floors were like.
Today I woke up before the wake up call from the front desk. I couldn’t bring my alarm clock because the Philippines are on 240volts instead of 120 like the states. I had asked for a wake up call at 9:00am but they called at 8:30am. This is one of the fun little quirks that happen here in Manila where time walks to the beat of a different drummer. I found it is useless to complain about the little stuff and its all little stuff. A few social rules for the Philippines : never get angry, always smile, and don’t argue with anyone especially the police.
Breakfast was two eggs over easy with rice and Filipino chicken sausage. Very different to my palate, not the flavors I was expecting from the sausage, more like Chinese sausage and certainly not like American sausage.
The only downside is its location, on the edge of the slums. The hotel staff told me to stay on the main streets and avoid the endlessly twisted back streets and alleys. I am depending on God for guidance in all my choices and this one seems good so far.
On arriving in the Phil I changed some American cash into pesos, at the airport. It was easy I just handed them the cash and they gave me the pesos. The next day I needed to change my dollars into Philippine pesos so I went to the Philippine Land Bank. Whoooeeee, what a huge mistake! They made me jump through all kinds of hoops and sign over my first born child, just to change over a $100 bucks. Never again! After this nightmare I always changed over dollars at the numerous money changers located in the malls.
Today was my first appointment with the dentist and my first experience with Manila taxis. On the way to the dentist (about 3 miles) I only screamed in terror twice. The driver and everyone else on the road all have death wishes. This isn’t transportation it’s a test of nerves in the game called “chicken.” Cars, taxis, buses, jeepneys,  and these little motorcycle driven transports all try to squeeze into the same space at the same time. Pedestrians walk in the middle of the street to cross, prisoners on work release sell everything you can possibly imagine in the middle of traffic, beggars and motor cycles are everywhere. It is chaos! My driver actually managed to find about twenty five feet of open space and promptly floored the car. My hands were gripping the seat so tightly that I felt the worn fabric starting to tear and my face had the rictus of the newly dead. Within seconds he had to brake sharply and we missed a couple of pedestrians and a motorcycle by a hair. Meanwhile this road warrior was giving me a running commentary on something but I couldn’t completely understand his broken English, and frankly didn’t care. I just wanted to get there in one piece.
I meet the husband of the dentist. This guy is one of those people that have an opinion about everything. He is a Brit that has lived in Manila for the last 30 years and knows the city well. After my checkup he takes me sightseeing in Manila . His driving is even worse than everyone else’s but I have turned my safety over to God and rest in His protection. We arrive at the Mall of Asia in one piece.
The Mall of Asia is the third largest mall in the world. We spend three hours here looking at various shops, but even if I had three weeks and spent 12 hours a day, every day looking at the mall and it’s adjoining shops and attractions it would not be enough time to see it all. There is even a road that runs through the center of the mall complex.
First day of great day experiences. Hope you'll stay until all experiences during Philippine visit be posted!

Tatay Tony Merrill, (left ) supporting my mother- who can tell she is sick and undergoing
hemodialysis ?

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