March 22, 2019
We were disappointed to miss Boracay Island, and we did hear that it is not uncommon to miss it due to unpredictable winds and seas. Even if it is not terrible when we arrive, in a tender port, it is equally important to be able to get people out of the port in the tenders safely. So we enjoyed our sea day on Thursday. We had dinner in Polo. Before dinner, there was the most beautiful sky after sunset. These shots are from our balcony.
Then, at dinner, we had a table at the very back of the restaurant where the moon was in a perfect position. Unfortunately I had my eyes closed when our friend took this picture and he took only one. Oh well..I didn’t see it till after dinner.
On Friday, we went to Manila. The port is a busy shipping port, so not much to see as we came in. This was our third visit to Manila so this time we went outside the city having toured it and Corregidor in the past.
Our tour today was to Tagaytay Ridge which was a 2 1/2 hour bus ride south of Manila. But first we had to get out of Manila in the Friday traffic. We did have a police escort for the 3 buses, but honestly it didn’t seem to help too much, the traffic in the city was very bad. Our guide was Melanie, and she was VERY good. She told us that to try to cut down on traffic they use a number coding system (we remember this from China), where on Monday, no cars with license plates that end in 1 or 2 are allowed on the roads, 3 and 4 on Tuesday, 5 and 6 on Wednesday, 7 and 8 on Thursday and 9 and 0 on Friday. That didn’t seem to help much either!
Melanie told us that there are 7641 islands in the Philippines. Now that we have been to two, we have 7639 reasons to come back!
One common method of transportation is the jeepney. These are small buses that originally made from US jeeps that were left over from WWII. The word jeepney could be from combining jeep with jitney, but Melanie said that the explanation that most people believe is the combination of jeep and knee because the vehicles are so tightly cramped. They are very colorful but often not well maintained or safe. They are also a source of traffic congestion because passengers get in and out from a rear door, and seem to do it almost anywhere, even in heavy traffic. The government is trying to do away with the old jeepneys and introduce new generation ones with air conditioning, padded seats and more room, but the owners of these older ones do not want to give up their livelihood and also do not have the money to purchase the new ones so the effort is not taking off. New ones cost 1.8 million Philippine pesos ($34,190 US).
They also have the motorbikes, tuk-tuks, pedicabs and horse drawn carriages – those are mostly near the Rizal park.
On the trip to Tagaytay, Melanie told us a lot about the history and customs of the Philippines. We learned that there are 1800 employees at the US Embassy which we passed on our trip. This is our largest embassy.The Philippines has 105 million people and 12 million live in Manila.
There are some beautiful homes and enormous casinos but a lot of the city is slum like. We heard that the government tries to relocate people but they keep coming back, even the homeless population does not go down. There is also a problem of squatters who get chased out but always return. Now they want to be called “informal settlers”!
This is a real challenge in the country where the average wage is $150 US a week. Melanie said that many workers make 595 pesos/day which is about $11.30 US. She works as a cook in addition to being a travel guide to make ends meet.
One of the casinos we passed was the City of Dreams with a casino and 3 hotels. There is something called DreamPlay for children which allows the adults to drop their children off there while they gamble or do other hotel activities.
Our first stop was at La Pinas, St. Joseph Parish Church which houses the world’s only bamboo organ which was built in 1824 and has become a national cultural treasure. It took Fr. Diego Cera 8 years to finish the organ. We visited the church with its very thick stone walls and even had the pleasure to hear the organist play several songs. Then we went to the adjoining museum where we saw and heard about the construction of the organ. Very interesting. The stations of the cross are all around the outside of the church and are bamboo crosses.
There is a school next door and we saw these girls outside.
Another interesting thing Melanie told us is that most young people live together for even up to 5 or 10 years before getting married because there is no divorce in the Philippines. You can get an annulment but it is very expensive and can also take many years to obtain.
We heard about past political leaders and that Imelda Marcos still is a congresswoman in a Philippine district at age 89. Her 3300 pairs of shoes were confiscated and 800 of them are in a shoe museum. The ones with the diamonds in them are in the central bank!
Our destination in Tagaytay was the Taal Vista Hotel which overlooks the volcano district and smallest active volcano in the world. It is 2000 feet above sea level and we thought it would be much cooler, but it still felt pretty warm. The views of the volcanoes, the mountains and lakes were beautiful but the air was very smoggy and it would have been nicer if it was clear. Many people come here from Manila in the summer – it is actually called the summer capital of the south.
We had a wonderful buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant and had time to relax in the beautiful surroundings. We even had musicians to entertain us during lunch.
We also stopped at a wonderful fruit and flower market where we saw huge jackfruit (look at the one the man has on the motorbike), durian, bananas, mangoes, etc., as well as lots of sardines – Melanie said the lake here is the only source of fresh water sardines in the world. Melanie bought a bunch of small “monkey” bananas and gave us each two. Very sweet and delicious.
And I bought flowers to take back to the ship.
When we returned to Manila, we had a tour around the city, including the Intramuros, the city’s oldest district which is enclosed within a thick wall that the Spanish build for defense in the 1500s. We also had a photo stop at Rizal Park which is dedicated to the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal who was shot to death here by the Spaniards and led to the Philippine revolution against Spain. This is also his burial place and one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It serves as the point from which all distances in Manila are measured and it is said if you don’t have a picture taken here, you haven’t visited Manila!
We also passed by the Manila Hotel which was used by General Douglas MacArthur as his command post during much of World War II. His suite of rooms can be a place to stay if you have $8000 for a night!
Here are a couple of other sights from the city. Markets, traffic and yes, you can have your gallstones removed.
It was really touching to see so many of our crew members with their families and so hard to see their goodbyes.
After a long day, we had dinner in the terrace. Here is the sunset and sight of the city from our balcony as we leave Manila. And my flowers.
On to Taiwan after a sea day.