We arrived in the Philippines at 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16, 2009. Received a warm welcome at the aiport and then headed to the guesthouse where we stayed for a few days. Here's an excerpt from my journal that covers our first few days here. Hopefully it's not too long.
December 19, 2009
Nice quiet morning this morning. We didn’t sign up for breakfast and didn’t have to be anywhere, so it was nice to lounge around and take our time getting ready. We eventually took a walk to get some pandesal (delicious Philipino bread hot from the brick oven) for breakfast. We got 2 rolls of that and 2 empanadas (or something like that) for 31P, which is about 65cents. Pretty cheap breakfast wouldn’t you say? The empanadas were shaped like a cinnamon roll, but were pretty much like the pandesal bread with butter and sugar on the top. We are meeting Jeff and Katie for lunch, but won’t have to leave till 10:30 or later for that. After lunch we hope to go to the mall and get Daniel’s cell phone set up. We stopped there yesterday and they said they would need a day to do research on it and get the info they needed. We already paid 1/2 of the fee for them to fix it, so hopefully it will actually work now.
Well we are back, after doing what I just wrote about. We left here about 10:45 so that we could get to Jeff and Katie’s by 11:30. Made it in plenty of time. Katie is looking great. And Jeff has dropped some pounds. He seems to be thriving here. We went for lunch to Tokyo/Tokyo, which is Jeff’s favorite place to eat. I got the chicken and rice. I should have gone with Jeff’s suggestion on the beef bowl. Daniel did. My chicken was deep fried with lots of batter and rather greasy. We got a Dairy Queen blizzard after lunch for dessert. After lunch we took them to see our house. They were impressed. Katie offered to help clean on Monday.
After dropping Jeff and Katie off again, we left for the mall to get Daniel’s cell phone set up. We got that done and bought a few cleaning supplies and looked at some other stuff we might need for the house.
We headed back for home and because it was a pain to do a U-turn on Felix Ave we ended up taking Ortigas back instead of Marcos. Wow, the traffic was unbelievable. It’s hard to describe. The jeepneys think they are the king of the road and everyone else better just get out of their way. The buses too. They just come over and you better watch out. The traffic was two lanes, then at one point spread out to five, and then suddenly came back to two after maybe a half a mile at the most. You wonder why this is done - didn't seem to help traffic flow, at least not as far as we could see. Also there is no slow merge back down to two, (like from 5 to 4 to 3 etc.) but just all of a sudden the three left lanes have to swing right. I tried to get a few pictures, but I don’t know if they really show it either. Daniel did really well with the driving.
I sure was glad I wasn’t behind the wheel. You have to constantly be watching in every direction when you drive. The motorcycles will suddenly come sneaking up next to you when you are turning, everyone is constantly changing lanes, traffic merges when you aren’t expecting it, and like I said before, the jeepneys and buses just come over, regardless if you’re there or not. I think if I ever drive there will have to be two conditions. One, I will never go on Ortigas Ave. Two, if anyone is with me, they will not be allowed to talk (unless it’s to give directions) or do anything else to distract me. :-)
Taking Ortigas Daniel wasn’t as sure of himself on directions back to the guest house, so I got thrown into map reading - not my forte. One thing about it, you have plenty of time to figure out the map since traffic is moving (or not!) so slowly. So between the two of us, we managed to get safely back. I would really like to know the distance we went, because I doubt it was even 10 miles, but it took us an hour and a half.
Anyway, that was our fun for the day. And I haven’t even written about yesterday yet.
We left shortly after breakfast yesterday morning. We didn’t have our car yet at that point, so we took a taxi to the train. We had to stand quite a while and wait for a taxi outside the subdivision here. It’s supposed to be the cooler season, but I soon had drips of sweat running down my back. The train rides (two different ones with a half mile walk between them) took us about an hour and then we had less than a mile walk to the Christian Missionary Service Office. Our business with Catherine (turning in originals of all the documents we had emailed to her earlier) took less than fifteen minutes, but we spent at least another 15 to 20 minutes (at the start) chatting. That's a very important part of business here.
We were out of there by a little after 10. Daniel tried to make contact with the guy about insurance for the car, but he wasn’t in the office. So we decided to just take the train back and decide from there what to do. We ended up taking a taxi to Brookside to pick up our car from the Johnstons. We were there a little early, so we lunched on some snacks we had along and took a walk in the neighborhood. The roads and sidewalks are rough, although the houses seemed nice enough. By the time we got back, their helper was waiting for us (they are in the states for a wedding). We went inside, showed her the bill of sale, checked out some of the other things we had bought from them (we will have a mover pick them up Monday evening), and left with our wheels! A red Toyota Revo. Boy did we feel quite the big cheese. No more taxis, which will be convenient. But we will miss the conversations with the drivers.
The driver that brought us to Brookside was really chatty. He loved it when we said a few things in Tagalog, and loved it even more when Daniel said he could teach us. When we said we were here to do mission work, he said it was wonderful that we would be teaching people. We were quite surprised at that because in the states and here sometimes too when we would say we are moving to do mission work, they ask what we are going to be doing. I think they expect that we will say some sort of social work project with orphans or unwed mothers or whatever.
With our own wheels we drove to meet our landlady at the house and she showed us around and gave us the keys. The remodeling is finished! And the rooms are huge now! They actually added 6 feet, I think, not three. It looks great. We headed to the bank and got our ATM cards and then to the mall where we did some looking at printers and washing machines and a few other things. We had a rest for a while from all the walking in Kenny Roger’s Chicken and had some bottled water. We eventually ate supper at Greenwich Pizza (good!) and then headed back to the guest house. A long day, but we got a lot accomplished.
I have to write a bit about the malls. The number of people and the level of noise are unbelievable. Daniel and I could often not walk next to each other, just because there were too many people. It is worse now because of Christmas, but they are always a lot busier than we are used to. Then, besides the noise that number of people make, Christmas Carols were playing, TV's were loud in electronics stores, and added to all of that is a stage set up in the mall with some program or presentation going on over loudspeakers. It’s deafening at times. Seems Filipinos love their noise and love to be with people. So with the added benefit of getting out of the heat, the malls are a great place for them to go.
There is a racket outside right now too. This time of year is a time for fireworks. So every weekend and then the holidays you hear (and see) them all over the place. And there is a party going on up the street somewhere. I doube this is the place to come to for peace and quiet. :-)