Monday, January 27, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 15

We got up at 3:30 a.m. Jack and I left for the airport at 4:30 a.m. Sharon stayed and traveled to Thailand later in the day with Pat.

Jack and I got to the airport a little after 5:00 a.m. We spent the next two hours going through the most intense security screening I have ever seen. Jack and I were pulled out of the check-in line. They went through all of the bags that we were checking; we had to empty the bags and repack them. Once we checked the luggage, Jack and I got in the line to pass through the metal detector and have the carry-ons x-rayed. When we passed through this check point, we were met with another long line. In this line, they were having everyone completely unpacked their carry-on bags. They examined the contents. They also took our shoes away from us. We had to stand in another line to get our shoes back and then were allowed to board the plane. All of this took over two hours. They closed the doors on the plane and it took off about 20 minutes after we boarded.

The next twenty two hours were relatively uneventful. Jack was more subdued on the trip home than he was on the trip out; there were no episodes of him bouncing off the seats and walls.

The only melt-down on the way back was in the Tokyo airport. We had a two hour lay-over. While wandering through one of the shops, Jack saw some toys that he had to have. When I would not let him have a toy, he went berserk.

The oddest part of the whole trip was the time change. Jack and I left Manila on a 7:30 a.m. flight on Monday, January 27. After traveling sixteen hours, we arrived in San Francisco about 7:30 a.m. on Monday, January 27.

By the time, we drove home from the airport, we had been traveling almost exactly 24 hours.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 14

This was Jack and my last day in the Philippines. We spent a lazy day at Pat's house. Sharon and I worked in the morning repacking all of the suitcases. After breakfast, we hung out in the backyard and lounged in the pool with Steve and the kids.

In the late morning, Steve took me through the upscale shopping mall under the freeway to the local dry and wet markets. The variety of smells in the wet market were amazing, if not a little overwhelming.

Afterwards, we wandered into a mall that catered to Philippinos rather than Westerners. It was Sunday afternoon and this mall with packed. Steve and I were the only westerners and really stood out; we were both about six inches taller than everyone else. We went down into the basement and bought some DVDs for about a dollar a piece.

We wandered back to look for Pat and Sharon who were having a manicure and a pedicure. While they were finishing up, Steve and I went to the San Miguel Brew Pub. After they were done, we went back to the 31 story tall hotel for a drink at sunset.

Pat's cook made Mexican food for dinner.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 13

This was our last day on Boracay. We packed everything in the morning. Sharon, Jack and I walked up to the beach to Pier One where we had drinks on Thursday night. We had to stop and get a picture of Sharon and Jack in front of the Boracay "Land Bank!"

We had a long leisurely breakfast. Jack had a continental breakfast, while Sharon and I had American Breakfasts. We caught a tricycle from there back to the Red Coconut. Near the Red Coconut was a law office sign that we had seen during the week for another photo op.

After that we ran into Pat on the beach, the hotel had told Pat that awe needed to leave at 11 a.m. rather than 12 p.m. because of another regilious festival along the way. We caught a larger banca back to Catilin and then a large air-coniditioned bus to Kalibo. Unlike the little minivan that we were stuffed into on the way to Boracay, this was a modern greyhound sized bus. The end result was a much smoother, faster and cooler ride than the previous week.

We did not run into any regilous festivals. As a result, we got to the airport very early. Unlike the previous week when the airport was packed, this time the airport was absolutely empty. After checking in, we herded the kids across the street to a very funky bar that looked out over the rice paddies.

Sitting in this rundown establishment, trying to keep the kids from impale themselves on rusty nails and looking out on the rice paddies, it was one of the times on the trip that it felt like we were in Asia.

After a quick flight back to Manila, we were back at the Funks. Pat's cook made Chinese food for dinner.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 12

We had breakfast (Mango French Toast) at Staples near the hotel. This little restaurant was owned by Carol, a woman that Pat had gotten to know on previous trips to Boracay.

After breakfast, Sharon, Jack and I caught a tricycle to the Taipapa shopping district. We wandered through the shops and ended up buying some t-shirts and a gecko hanging for Jack's room. There were a number of shops selling fresh fruit, meats and fish.

We stopped at the Calypso restaurant , had a couple of beers and wrote postcards.

Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel and started to bargain to rent a sailboat for a couple of hours. We rented a catamaran for two hours and had them take Sharon, Jack and I to a resort at one end of the island called Balihi. There was a very cool cove with a grass hut. The resort was actually on a cliff above the cove. They had rigged a rope and a large bucket to send food and drinks down from the resort into the cove through a hole in the roof of the hut.

We had planned to have lunch in the cove, but got another taste of local service. After a long wait, my Balhi mix sandwich and Jack's spaghetti showed up, but not Sharon's order. We asked several times about the status of Sharon's order and got noncommittal responses. Finally, after probably close to an hour and a half, we gave up and took the catamaran back to the hotel. In spite of the bad service, it was a very cool spot.

This was our last night on Boracay. Continuing the tradition, all of us sat on the beach in front of the Hey Jude bar and watched the sunset.

Sharon, Jack and I had a great dinner at a Portuguese restaurant called Place Banza. Dinner included shrimp curry, chicken kabobs and Portuguese style steaks. I think that this was the best meal that I had on the trip.

After dinner, we ran into Pat, Ryan and Briana at an ice cream parlor.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 10

Every night that we were in Boracay, we would sit on the beach in front of a bar called Hey Judes, drink Mai Tais and watch the sunsets. The kids would play on the beach and in the surf.

Wednesday morning, Sharon, Jack and I wandered down the boardwalk looking for somewhere different to eat. We ended up eating at a more upscale resort that primarily cartered to Koreans. After breakfast, we sat and talked to a guy from Houston about Boracay.

Sharon and I went on another dive with Watercolors. We went to a dive spot called the Coral Garden with Randy again as the dive master. The dive was only down to 40 feet and lasted about 30 minutes. The diving was not particularly good; the water was not very clear and there was not an abundance of marine life.

We had lunch at a place called Hamburgers. I stopped an internet cafe and actually ended up exchanging instant messages with Lew Gasper at work. Sharon and Pat had to find a place to get copies of their passports made in order to finalize their arrangements to go to Thailand the following week.

Sharon went to yoga in the afternoon, while I hung out at the pool and on the beach with the kids.

All of us had dinner at a Chinese place called Mrs. Moon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 9

I got up early and ran north on the beach for about 30 minutes.

Pat, Sharon and I went to the Fairways and Bluewater Golf Course to play 18 holes. One of my problems with golf is that the more I play, the worst I seem to get. This was the third time in a week that we played golf and it was the worst that I played. Like the previous two times, we had three philippino women for caddies. We walked the front nine. Along the fairways of the front nine, there were a number of condo projects that had been started in the late 1990's and then abandoned. By the time we finished the front nine, it was getting pretty warm.

We got carts for the back nine. This was a good thing; the back nine was much steeper than the front nine.

After golf, we sat on the patio at the country club and had beers and appetizers. The view of the coast was spectacular.

In the evening, we loaded up everyone (Pat, Ryan, Briana, Sharon, Jack and I) on a catamaran called the Tequila Sunrise and did a sunset cruise. We sailed from one end of the white sand beach to other.

Timely service was not one of Boracay's strong points. Tuesday night all of us went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Manana. While we waited for our food, the adults drank mango margaritas and all of the kids fell asleep. It literally took and an hour and a half for us to get all of our food. It appeared that they only had one grill and were cooking the meals one at a time and were not starting on the next plate until they had finished preparing one.

Manana means tomorrow in Spanish. We were sure that it was going to be the next day before we got all of our food.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 8

Sharon, Jack and I walked down to a place called the English Tea Room for breakfast. We had a pretty good meal of cinnamon rolls and mango and banana pancakes.

We had a 9:00 a.m. dive. Sharon, Pat and I went out for a morning dive with a dive company called Watercolors. The dive master's name was Randy. He was an American who had lived in Boracay for 20 years.

The dive was to 58 feet at Friday's rock. We fed the fish, including a cool orange Napoleon Wrasse. We swam against the current to a sponge with a clown fish and a crab. We finished the dive by drifting back and heading up the rope.

After the dive, we wandered pretty far down the broadwalk to a place called Calpyso for lunch. Afterwards, we walked with Pat all the way to the end of the broadwalk to another dive shop. Pat went out for an afternoon dive. Sharon, Jack, Ryan and I took a tricycle back to the Red Coconut.

Sharon went to a yoga class at a spa, while I laid around the pool with my book and had a few beers. Jack, Ryan and Briana had a great time playing in the pool.

All of us had dinner at Gashoffs. This was kind of an interesting place; you picked your meal out of a big display case and then they cooked for you. Sharon and I had grilled fish and shrimp. The scene on the beach in front of the restaurant where we were eating was bedlam. They were setting up for a bikini contest. It got very loud and packed with people very quickly.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 7

I got up early and ran for 30 minutes on the beach. The hotel offered a free breakfast. We made the mistake of taking the hotel up on the offer. It was not very good and included rice and some very odd looking meat. After breakfast, Sharon, Jack and I walked up and down the broadwalk exploring. Ryan, Briana and Jack swam in the hotel pool.

Mid-morning, Pat, Sharon and I took a tricycle over to the other side of the island to check out kite surfing. Pat was interested in checking out the cost and availability of lessons. We wandered around for a while and talked to a few people about lessons. Eventually, we found a little shack called the Surf Kite Bar serving lunch and beer. After lunch, we sat and watched the kite surfing. Kite surfing is pretty amazing. Essentially, they were a wake board, a climbing harness and a cut down kite.

We walked several miles down the beach checking out a couple of different resorts. Unlike the other side of the island where we were staying, this side of the island was not very developed. We caught a tricycle and went to check out the horse back riding and a couple of possible places to eat on Sharon's birthday.

We picked up the kids and went back to the horseback riding. It took an hour ride up to the top of Mount Luho. It had an amazing panarama view of the island.

On the horseback ride, we passed one village which looked extremely poor. The house had dirt floors and there appeared to be no running water. It was definitely poorer than anything I have seen thus far in Mexico.

Sharon, Jack and I had dinner at Mango Ra's. Of the places we ate on Boracay, this is not one that we would recommend. We had Shrimp Tempura and Barbacue Chicken. This was the first of several nights in a row that Jack crashed during dinner and did not wake up until the next morning.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 6

We got up at 4:15 a.m. to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight to Kalibo on the island of Panay.

It was extremely smoggy as we took off from Manila; the air was literally brown. Looking out of the window of the plane, you could see hundreds of fires on the ground. Apparently, they burn everything from vegetation to trash.

The plane was unable to land at Kalibo due to low clouds and we were rerouted to Iliolo, only about 70 south. We sat on the ground there for a little more than an hour before the cloud cover lifted enough to fly back to Kalibo.

We walked out of the Kalibo airport into the middle of a major regilious festival. There were people and bands everywhere.

The hotel on Boracay had sent a minivan to meet us. There were seven of us, another couple, a representative of the hotel and the van driver (11!) all packed in a standard size minivan with our luggage. We drove about an hour and 45 minutes to Catilin to catch a banca to Boracay.

At Catilin, we caught a banca to Boracay. The porters are loading our eleven bags on the top of the boat.

After about 15 minute boat ride, we waded ashore on the beach in front of the Red Coconut where we were staying. We had a great room on the second floor overlooking the pool (just to the right of the tallest palm tree in the picture).

After unpacking, the kids played in the pool and then sat on the beach and watched the sun go down. Sharon, Jack and I had dinner at Hey Judes (Pork Tenderloin, Seafood Gumbo and Pizza). It was one of the few times on the trip that Sharon raved about the food sending her compliments to the chef!

Friday, January 17, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 5

After two late nights, we did not get up and going very early. We had a leisurely breakfast. Pat's household in the Philippines included a cook. Every morning, the cook would come out and ask us what we wanted for breakfast. At first, Sharon and I felt awkward ordering breakfast, but after a couple of days we got accustomed to the service. It was like staying at a very expensive hotel!

With Steve Funk's help, we finally resolved the traveler check dilemma. Steve talked to a bank branch manager in the financial district near his office who agreed to cash the travelers checks. As a result, we had to drive into the financial district of Makita which was the opposite direction that we were planning to go that day. We cashed all of the traveler's check, except those that Sharon was planning to take to Thailand.

After the bank, Sharon, Pat, Jack and I headed out to Lake Taal. Pat's household also includes a driver and a minivan. Everywhere we went, we would just pile into the minivan with an ice chest. The driver took care of the rest! It was an interesting drive through the countryside with glimpse of some smaller towns and villages and a look at some local agriculture.

Lake Taal is the third largest lake in the Philippines. Lake Taal occupies the crater of an extinct volcano. The lake's uninhabited Volcano Island contains a small active volcano.

We had lunch at Josephines. The restaurant is located on the north crater rim and offers some great views. The menu includes meat and seafood in a variety of traditional Philippines styles. The four of us had seafood grill, blue marlin, tuna and barbecued chicken.

Friday night, we went to the top of a 31 story hotel for drinks. It offered great views of Manila bay and a view back towards downtown Manila. The air population makes for some spectacular sunsets.

Pat's cook made lasagna for Dinner. Steve Funk and I ended up talking, drinking wine and listening to the Gladiators after dinner.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 4

While Sharon had a massage in the morning, I continued my search for a bank to cash the travelers checks. I called the Visa Travelers Check Assistance Center in Great Britain and they suggested MetroBank.

To make a long story short, I was unsuccessful in my repeated attempts to explain to the bank’s satisfaction what AAA is (yes ma’am, it is an automobile club…). MetroBank acted like they might take VISA Travelers checks, but they did not want anything to do with ones issued by AAA.

Sharon, Jack and I had lunch at a TGI Friday’s in a mall just outside the Village of Alabang. Pat caught up with us after lunch and she and I went to an electronics store to try, without success, to find a router for her home network.

In the early afternoon, Pat, Sharon and I started back towards downtown Manila to play night golf. The traffic was very bad. Manila is a city of 10 million people and there are little or no freeways. As a result, the last half of the trip was on surface streets clogged with jeepneys, tricycles and buses.

We played night golf at the Club Intramuros Golf Course. The entire course is lighted. We teed off about 6:30 p.m. and it did not finish up until after 11:00 p.m. Here is a view from a spot on the wall overlooking the first tee.

It was very cool. You play golf along the 16th century walls of the Spanish fort in the middle of Manila.

The heart of the city is around the golf course with lots of traffic on several the major streets. It was a very unique experience!

Like the previous day, we had three philippino women as caddys. I got a little frustrated with the caddys because it seemed like they were not much help keeping track of where the balls had gone in the dark.

By the time, we got home it was after midnight; the second late night in a row.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 3

Wednesday morning, Sharon, Pat and I went to Pat's health club and worked out. Sharon and I both ran on the treadmills.

Afterwards we headed to Southwoods, their country club.

We dropped Jack and Pat's two youngest kids, Ryan and Briana, at the pool with Pat's nanny. Sharon, Pat and I headed for the clubhouse and had lunch (Japanese Tempura). We played nine holes of golf on the Legends Course. We had three philippino women for caddys. This was a unique experience for me; I had never played with a caddy before. Sharon and Pat used the caddys very effectively to help them read the putts. Unfortunately, I am too stubborn to accept this kind of help!

This was my birthday and we made plans to go out to dinner in downtown Manilla. One of the unique things about the Philippines is their vehicles. It is a poor country and there are very few personal cars. The most common things on the road are three wheel motorcycles and jeepneys!.

After World War II, ten thousand jeeps were left in the Philippines by the U.S. military. The Philippinos morphed these into a transportation infastructure that continues to this day. Each jeepney is decorated differently.

We went to dinner at a restaurant called Sala . Sharon and I had lamb shank and lamb tenderloin. One of the people who joined us for dinner was Australian and was expounding the virtues of Austrialian wines. We had a couple of bottles of Australian wine; I was not overly impressed.

After dinner, we went to the Hobbit House for drinks. As we stopped across the street from the bar, half a dozen drawfs ran out into the street to stop traffic. They wanted to make sure that we were going to the Hobbit House and not one of the other local bars. The place is owned and staffed by drawfs. By the time, we got to the second drink it was after midnight and I was virtually falling asleep in my beer. It had been a long couple of days.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 2

After breakfast, we started towards downtown of Manila. On the way, we made our first attempt to cash some travelers checks. When we travel, Sharon and I have always carried traveler's checks and have never had a problem cashing them. Well, at the first bank where I tried to cash the travelers checks, they looked at me like I was from another planet. This was the first chapter of what became a continuing saga for the next several days.

Known as Intraments, the center of Manila is surrounded by 50 to 60 foot high walls built by the Spanish in the 16th century. Most of this part of the city was heavily damaged by the allied bombing in War World II.

We toured the Church of Augustina. Built starting in the 16th century, the church was one of the few buildings that was largely untouched by World War II bombing. The Church and the surrounding area had a very European feel.

Adjacent to the church is the Augustinian monastery. It includes the San Agustin Museum which houses two floors of regilious art from the Spanish colonial period. We also wandered around through the gardens behind the church for a while.

We got our first taste of local food (some kind of chicken aparagus and ham and cheese sandwiches). Jack had some spaghetti that had a huge amount of sugar in the red sauce. After lunch, we walked around and went into the Casa Manilla. The Casa Manilla is a restored Spanish colonial home that offers a look at the opulent and formal lifestyle of the Spanish gentry in the Phillipines during the 19th century.

Afterwards we headed back towards Pat's house. I then had one of several surreal episodes during the trip. Pat took me to the local driving range to hit a bucket of balls. As we got set up at the range, Pat explained that a young girl will sit in front of you and put balls down for you to hit. It was as weird as it sounds. Add to this, the golfs ball were being picked up on the range by a half a dozen men walking with makeshift shields around themselves. The shields, almost little cages in one case, were of all shapes and sizes. The whole experience was very odd. Afterwards, she and I sat there and had a couple of beers while we waited for Steve Funk and the driver to pick us up and marveled at the scene going on around us.

Pat's cook made a great dinner of Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salza!

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Heringer's in the Philippines, Day 1

It was a long trip with a four year old. We left home at about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, drove to San Francisco and caught a 12:30 p.m. flight to Tokyo. Jack did pretty well, except for about a one and a half hour period towards the end of the eleven-hour flight when he was literally bouncing off the seats and walls.

We had about an hour and a half layover in Tokyo and then caught a flight to Manila. Jack crashed most of this four-hour plus flight.

There is a sixteen-hour time difference between Sacramento and Manila. We landed in Manila after 10:00 p.m. on Monday night local time. By the time we collected our luggage, passed through customs and traveled to Pat and Steve’s house in the village of Alabang, it was about 11:30 p.m.

I made a great discovery on the last leg of the trip: San Miguel Beer. Pat showed up the airport with a six-pack of San Miguel which is brewed in the Philippines. After essentially traveling for almost exactly 24 hours and then downing four or five San Miguel’s in the van on the way to their house, I was ready for some sleep.