8/11/2005 - Don't cry for me Manila  

  Well, in case anyone has missed the weekly novelette, we're stillalive and still in the Philippines. We've been laying low in Manilafor a few weeks to give you all time to finish reading our last email.Monday we leave for home, so we thought we'd send you a recap of whatwe've been doing lately.

We took the ferry from Bohol back to Cebu (this time the movie was thecomic book comedy "HellBoy") a few weeks ago and rode a bus up to thevery northern tip of Cebu Island. There, at the end of civilization,is a little dock where boats leave every hour or so (whenever they'refull) for Malapascua, the latest on a long list of islands dubbed "thenext Boracay." We'd planned to spend two and a half weeks relaxing onthe white sand beach and staying in a picturesque little nipa hut atfabulous off-season prices, in the very pinnacle of our vacation tothe Philippines. The awful truth began to dawn on us as Axa and Sarahsat in the blistering heat that threatened rain and Tony inquiredabout prices. We discovered that the island has electricity (and thus,air conditioning, or even fans) for only about five hours a day. Moreexpensive resorts have their own generator, but they don't like to runit. If you're the only customer staying and you want electricity, theprice of running the generator for the whole resort is effectivelyadded to your bill. So, bizzarely, during off-season (which isoff-season because you may be stuck in your room or delayed for fivedays or swept of your tiny boat and drowned because of a monsoon)rates are tripled or quadrupled. We settled down, rather unhappily, ina little hut with two small beds enclosed in much-needed mosquitonets. Even at one of the most expensive resort on the island, theelectricity went off for a few hours every day. Right behind our room wasa noisy disco that pumped out the same three chords and beat until twoin the morning, and was full of drunken Germans whose cigarette smokedrifted into our window all night. Whenever we ventured out of our hut(even just to sit on the front porch), we were assailed by a flock ofmasseuses, desperate for off-season business. Tony took one up on theoffer, but was eaten alive by mosquitos as he received a very averagemassage. As soon as she finished, the masseuse tried to scheduleanother massage. Dismayed, we realized that we still had an entiremonth left in the Philippines. Our reasearch was finished, and so wasany remaining desire to vacation. We combed the island for aninternet cafe so we could change our flight. Three phone callslater, we realized the airline wouldn't do it, and we would have tosomehow survive another month. But we couldn't do that surviving onMalapascua. We took the next boat in to the mainland, rode thefour-hour bus back to Cebu City, changed our superferry tickets, andchecked in to a pension house, where we almost cried when we turned onthe air conditioning.

After a good air-conditioned night's rest, we decided since we wereback in Cebu we would hit a few attractions. We turned up at one ofthe best-preserved old Spanish houses in the Philippines around noon,and were informed by the staff that it was closed for restoration andfortification for the next few months. Tony spun a yarn (only slightlyexaggerated) about how the only thing we had come to the Philippinesto see were old Spanish houses, and we had already been to Vigan, andSarah speaks Spanish, and her mom went on a mission to Spain and wegave our daughter a Spanish name, and we came all the way fromAmerica, and dropped some names like the curator of the museum inBaguio who is an expert on Ifugao mummification, and said we would beso, so, so disappointed if we couldn't at least take a peak at thehouse. The architect who was overseeing the renovation happened to bethere, and thought he had found some kindred spirits. He ended uptaking us upstairs (where everything was in fact covered in sheets anddisarranged) and telling us a little about the house, while we didour best to remember everything we knew about Spanish architecture(admittedly not much) and sound intelligent. It really was a beautifulold house, and we were inspired to go home and learn more about periodarchitecture.

Rumor had it that the local university had a museum with a six-leggedcarabao (water-buffalo). We perused a jumbled and dusty collection ofbutterflies, old stonecoffins, pottery, seashells, and amateur taxidermy, but were unable tolocate the six-legged carabao. When we asked the curator, she informedus that it was displayed at the other campus on the other side of thecity. Undaunted, we took an hour-long jeepney ride up to the secondcampus to an even smaller and dingier museum run by aformaldehyde-drunken student. Although photography was forbidden, Tonyfelt he had earned the right to one photo. He sureptitiously capturedthe six-legged carabao, and we include it here.

The next night Axa came down with a fever and Mommy and Daddypanicked. Two X-Rays, several expensive cell phone calls to Grandpa(Doctor) Bringhurst, and three visits to the hospital later (duringwhich Axa feigned contented smiley, healthy babyness to all themedical personnel who examined her) the exhausted parents were finallyconvinced that she was not at death's door. We all slept much betterthe next few nights, and our Superferry ride back to Manila wasuneventful.

Back in Manila, we checked into the same pension house we'd stayed attwice before (we chose them because they were the only ones whosephone was not disconnected or manned by people who hung up when wespoke English to them). But we do like it here at Pension Natividad.They gave us a discount for staying three weeks and a table in ourroom, so it almost feels like home. It's fun to see the guests comeand go. The days do kind of run together. Monsoon season has begun inforce, so we don't do much. Some days it rains continuously day andnight. Some days it stops for an hour or so before resuming. Theamount of flooding in various sections of Manila depends on theirrespective infrastructures. We've included a picture of ourneighborhood after a rain. Mostly we just relax, eat at at cheapnearby restaurants, and check our email. We had a sushi date the otherday, since the price of sushi will become suddenly prohibitive when wereturn to the States. One day we went down to Baywalk and got tatoos(henna, of course). Tony got so bored one day he shaved off hisgoatee. The most interesting thing in our lives (besides reading thelatest on "Gloriagate" and the "Cha-Cha" (Filipino politics at itsbest)) is watching the other guests at the pension house. Most stay afew days and then move on from Manila. The only other long-term guestat the pension house we dubbed Crazy Ralph, because we don't know hisreal name. He's a very decrepit-looking Oregonian who shuffles aroundwith a brush and smells very earthy. We made his acquaintance one daywhen he decided to tell us a very confusing story about a run-in withmuggers and security guards, inwhich he claims he shot and killed two Filipinos. We don't know ifit's true, but we have seen representatives of the U.S. embassyvisiting him on two occasions and offering to fly him back to theStates for medical treatment (we don't know if it's physical orpsychological). He claims to be a general, so maybe that explains theV.I.P. treatment.

Axa has been exploring the world in a more interactive way lately. Sheloves reading. Her favorite book is Drummer Hoff, and she reads itwith Mommy, with Daddy, and by herself. She is sitting up and crawlingnow, or at least scooting and tumbling. She looks forward to seeingher Grandmas and Grandpas and family and friends in a few days, as doTony and Sarah.

For anyone who has already purchased a vacation package to thePhilippines based on our previous glowing reports, please understand.We're not trying to discourage you. We're just vacationed out. We'lltry to psyche ourselves up enough to send you a synopsis of ourwhirlwind tour of Hong Kong next week. We hope you're all well, andwe're excited to kiss the ground of America and see you all again.

Tony, Sarah and Axa


who fired it off?

bay walk day/night

getting henna tatoos on bay walk

sushi date


a street flooded during monsoon season

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