Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Philippines: My Arrival in Manila

I'd only met Arthur Tyde III one time in my life, and neither of us can remember where or when. Our mutual friend is Steve Keeley, former racquetball pro and current hobo. Art thinks it might have been at Burning Man or the Rainbow Gathering, but so far I've never been to either (yet). I was thinking we might have hopped freights together with Keeley, but probably not.

Either way, Art was kind enough to invite me to stay with him, his lovely Filipina wife Sherry Ann, and his 4-year-old son Jupiter, in their beautiful condo in downtown Malaki, a rich suburb of Manila. Turns out, he was flying back into town on July 7 too, so he stuck around at the airport and met me as I was coming out of customs. Thank you, Art! I didn't have to change money, get ripped off by a taxi driver, or dropped off in the wrong spot. What service, and with a big smile too.

I have to admit, when I saw pictures of Sherry Ann on Art's Facebook page, I placed her at 15, maybe 18 years old at the most. There were pictures of Art with a bunch of young girls and I imagined the worst. I knew he was a computer specialist, former private eye, and successful investor, and I know the reputation here in the Philippines. But I was pleasantly surprised when I met Sherry Ann to learn that she's 27 years old and just got accepted into med school. She is super smart and a perfect partner for Art, who's also super brilliant, funny and sweet.

Next on the list is Jupiter. And I don't usually fall for little boys. I'm crazy about girls. But this guy is a crack-up. His mother is basically out of the picture, so Art and Sherry Ann are raising him. He goes to an English-speaking preschool which I visited today. He's spoiled rotten between his Dada, Mama Sherry Ann, and housekeeper Marisa, but he's still really sweet. I'm smitten.

Since arriving, I've spent most of my time in the condo, catching up on Erica and Rex's wedding photos, all my Hawaii photos, this blog (finally), Facebook and emails. It's nice to have wifi and I suspect I won't have much during the rest of my two weeks in the Philippines.

When I asked Arthur where he recommends I travel in the Philippines he said he's been all over the world, but barely explored his own backyard because he hates Filipino food. I was expecting to lose weight because I'm not crazy about meat or fried food. But of course, I found all kinds of food that I like, such as sweet sticky rice and jack fruit. Marisa just served me a delicious champorado, a hot chocolate rice drink that I know from Mexico. Now she's giving me a pedicure for $4 including tip. No wonder I haven't gone out much. They also have AC.

We're 15 hours ahead of California. So, with a bit of jet lag, I've been getting up around 3:00 a.m. which is a good time to call home because it's noon in California -- the day before. We did go out to the Sunday market yesterday. I was really impressed with the market, not so much by the size because it was quite small, mostly food vendors. But the vendors were having a meeting with the Environmental Police and they were discussing packaging. They've outlawed styrofoam and most plastic in the market. Plastic straws are next to be verboten. They even had an organic fruit and vegetable stand.

I'm getting ready to travel to Tarlac, a small city about two hours away where a friend of a friend will be waiting for me. She told Sherry Ann to warn me that her family isn't rich, but I'm easy to please and happy for the opportunity to stay with local people. I'm planning to be back in Manila by Thursday so I can have my new crown put in. I chipped a back molar in Hawaii on a cherry pit. So Art recommended their dentist, Dr. Marilou Maligaya. Her office is a tiny hole-in-wall in a big shopping center called Cash-N-Carry, next to a movie theater. I was a little skeptical until I met the dentist. She's one year younger than me and has been a dentist for 32 years. Her mother was a dentist also, and her son works as a dental surgeon in her clinic too. She quoted me $150 for a crown which would cost at least $1000 in the US, and went right to work taking an x-ray, filing and filling the tooth, then taking the molds.

Sherry Ann is almost ready to accompany me to the bus station so she can text the friend in Tarlac with my bus number and arrival time. I'm the only person in the Philippines without a cell phone, so I'm dependent on the kindness of others to make phone calls for me. At least most Filipinos speak English or understand it anyway. Everyone keeps asking me why I came to the Philippines and they seem surprised when I say I've wanted to for a long, long time. I grew up with Filipinos in San Diego and have many friends from the islands. They're all jealous that I get to visit their motherland and are looking forward to my photos, so here are a few to begin:

Ocean and clouds was my view for 10-1/2 hours, flying from Honolulu to Manila

My first glimpse of land in 10-1/2 hours. Yeah!!

Like father, like son. Matching smiles.

My new best friend Jupiter!

Sherry Ann says she doesn't cook, so she called for Chinese food delivery. Yum!

Art and Sherry Ann recently remodeled their condo to open up the ceiling and add more storage above. Very cool idea.

Jupiter cracks up his cousin Sandra who lives here as his nanny when she's not studying.

Three views from my balcony at Art and Sherry Ann's condo

Sandra and Jupiter enjoying cartoons together.

Sunday Market in Malaki

I bought some of these candles for gifts. Very cool.

Preparing Jackfruit, my favorite fruit from trips to Thailand.

For $2 I bought just enough jackfruit to make me want more.

Jupiter is all-American, preferring pizza and hamburgers instead.

Art and Jupiter always get hamburgers at Sunday Market.

Burgers grilling on the hibachi

I remember I bought Maya some of these Filipino educational toys

Happy to see organic produce and a ban on plastics and styrofoam

Jupiter the pirate.

Art's Cherry(ot), a Chinese car bought new for $10,000. It also comes with a factory
cassette player. At least it's not an 8-track player.

I asked Art if many women work in construction. He said, no, but these signs get the attention of the guys.

Puto is not a good word in Mexico.

The shopping center where the dentist's office is.

American bazaar

Seriously, I couldn't tell we're in a recession with all the shopping going on.

Eyelash extensions for Asian women. I have a Chinese friend who uses false eyelashes.

Diplomas in English gave me more confidence in my Filipina dentist

Actually, I'm crazy about Dr. Marilou Maligaya. I felt absolutely no pain at all. She's a pro after 32 years in the profession.

Pork lovers would be in heaven in the Philippines, but pigs beware.

More evidence of a bustling economy.

Love the public transportation

These are called Jeepneys, similar to tap-taps in Haiti

Pedicab, which they call tricycles

Something was funny, but I can't remember what

Three views from my balcony at night.


Mary Anne said...

You must be in adventure heaven! Love the photo journal. More, please!

veraepicurea said...

Love reading about your trip to Filipinas, hermana. But, what are you doing there? Don't tell me you just flew there for your crown.... ??? And I want to see YOU in some pictures. Keep the posts coming!
Love, C