Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Philippines

When we moved to China in July several people asked us if we had made our Chinese New Year (CNY) travel plans yet, which fell at the end of January this year.  All but one person said we needed leave China for CNY because it involves several days of continual fireworks and a mass exodus of Chinese people to their home provinces.  As the time for CNY drew closer, some friends changed their tunes and said "Oh, you should experience CNY once".  Well, maybe we will next year, but for this year we decided to go the Philippines.

I chose the Philippines because it was a relatively short flight, just 4 hours from Shanghai to Manila and considering we had just gotten back from the US (a 14 hour flight), that sounded pretty good to me!  It's also in the same time zone as China, and as LBean would say "Ha ha, no jet lag."  The Philippines is also tropical, beautiful and warm....enough said.

This trip was a bit complicated because Jamie had to fly back to the US for a meeting that ran right up to the start of our vacation.  We decided that it made more sense for Jamie to fly from Peoria to Manila, via Chicago and Tokyo and just meet us there.  I got to make my inaugural international journey with the girls, no help from Jamie.  Because I was flying solo, I felt justified in purchasing direct flights for the girls and myself from Shanghai to Manila!

My girls were fantastic travelers and all went well.  As with our previous trips, I printed off preschool and kindergarten themed worksheet packets for them to do on the plane.  They get very excited to see what's in their packets and I like that they're doing something educational.  It was interesting being on a flight where most of the people were either expats going on vacation or Philippinos returning home for the CNY.  Most of the passengers were in pretty high spirits and it certainly was a fun flight.  The Philippine Airlines flight also gave us the best flight safety video that I've ever seen.  A little bit of music, some humor and dancing flight attendants.  It was very funny!

The girls and I arrived in Manila an hour ahead of Jamie and the plan was to meet him at the airport and then ride to the hotel together.  While we were "waiting" for Jamie, we figured out where the ATM was and got a snack at Jollibee.  As were sitting at the terminal, a security guard asked if we needed help and I explained our situation.  She told me that Jamie's flight was in another terminal and I could only reach it by taxi.  So, off we went trying to find Jamie.  We had no international cell phones or any way to contact each other.  We walked up and down Jamie's terminal and decided that it was best to just go onto the hotel since it was almost 10 p.m.

My first impressions of Manila, as we drove through it at night, were those of a musical movie set...airplane hangers, neon lights, and corrugated metal.  Motorcycles were buzzing around and the nightlife was quite active.

As we got to the hotel I was a little uncertain about where we were.  It was dark and we didn't pull up to a regular hotel.  We had actually arrived at the Manila Aquarium which was attached to our hotel.  We left our luggage with the valet, climbed up the stairs to the aquarium, through the ticket area and up the elevator to the hotel desk.  The elevator doors opened and...Jamie was standing there.  It was a beautiful sight!  We were very happy to be a reunited family.

The next morning we decided to visit the American Cemetery in Manila since Jamie's grandfather served in the Philippines after WWII.  Knowing that we probably wouldn't ever be back there, and to connect with a piece of our family history, we wanted to go.  We hired a car to take us there and wait for us as we walked around, which I'm learning is a really smart way to sight-see in southeast Asia.  We stopped at the visitor's office first and the caretaker/overseer of the cemetery introduced himself.  He was also a mid-west boy, raised in Iowa.  It was nice to talk to him and hear more about his experience in the military and the cemetery.  He said that there were several sets of brothers buried together and a father and son were laid-to-rest together.  We then walked around the grounds, looked for familiar last names, and enjoyed the mosaic murals around the memorial.

Tile mural in the chapel.

Maps made from tiles of the different Asia-Pacific battles.

The exterior of the chapel.

That would be a van full of nuns!

The yellow contraption is called a "Jeepney" and they were
every where.  They looked like a really fun taxi ride.  The
Jeppneys were originally made from left-over US
military Jeeps after WWII.

It's hard to see, but that is what I call a side car!

Look at all the power lines running through
San Andres St.

Now it truly is a paradise!

Enjoying a Philippino lunch!

A "mermaid" at the aquarium.

The public fish pool.

There are special fish that will *ahem* eat the dead and dry flesh off your body.  It's something that I had read about and really wanted to do, but under the right circumstances.  For a small fee (about $3) I could have dipped my feet in the public fish pool at the aquarium, but thankfully Jamie discovered that the spa at the hotel had private facilities for just a few more dollars.
I wish that we would have captured my first reaction on video because it was the strangest feeling and I had a pretty funny reaction.  I also wish I could adequately explain how it felt.  The weirdest part was that the pool was made for you to put your entire body into it.  Umm, no thank you.  I don't want to know where all my dead skin is!

Can you see the fish swimming around my feet?

By some Chinese New Year decorations, doing the
traditional Chinese "victory" sign.

Running to the room.
We checked out of hotel in Manila and took a short flight to the island of Cebu.  We hopped into a cab and took the back roads to our hotel.  The route took it us past some interesting sights including several live chickens and huts on pillars at the edge of the ocean.

Lovely lady waiting at the Cebu airport.

First afternoon at the beach: 

That's a real coconut!

What the McClintock family really likes to do on!

The kids play area and slides.

One of the pools.

Who said we can't have ice cream for lunch?

Two tired and slightly sunburned sisters.

We spent part of a day in the actual town of Cebu.  The explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu in the 1500's.  He placed a large wooden cross on the island and now the original cross in encased in a new cross at a little pavilion.  In an attempt to seize control of the area (an important trade route), Magellan decided to invade Mactan Island (the island that our hotel was on)...this did not go well and he was unceremoniously "buried at sea" near the island by the local natives.

Near the site of Magellan's cross is the Basillica of Santo Nino.  When Magellan landed he brought a statue of the Christ child as a gift for the wife of the Rajah of Cebu.  There is a huge festival where the statue is carried through the streets and then dressed in new clothes.

A date night, even in the Philippines.
We had to get up pretty early to make our flight home.  We had checked with the front desk and left on the shuttle the hotel had suggested.  It turned out that it wasn't enough time.  Our family, along with a few others, we running onto the plane.  I think we could have improved our time if every passenger wasn't required to take our boarding passes, step into another line, pay our "security fee", step into the security line and fight our way to the front.  The girls and I had a pleasant surprise on our flight from Manila to Shanghai for an unknown reason.  Somehow we were upgraded to business class (Jamie wasn't because he had booked his flight separately).  It was a mixed blessing because as much fun as it was to be served a three-course meal on china, I was all alone with the girls...again, at the front of the plane and Jamie was (blissfully, at least I assume it was blissful) alone in the back of the plane.  Since the seats were bigger, there weren't three in a single row and the girls and I couldn't sit together.  LBean was brave and sat on other side of the aisle and EBean and I were on the other side.  We made it back safely to the cold and rain of China.

When we got home I was motivated to finish a craft project that I had envisioned.  We took the sea coral that we had gathered along the beach and spelled out the girls' names.  I paired their names with a picture of each girl from our vacation and I think the results were pretty good.  I think I was even happier that I finished a project within a year of deciding to do it!


  1. how did you do a date night on vacay? the girls stayed with someone they didn't know?? love the pics (but want to see the pic of the coral/picture frame craft!). :)

    1. We hired a babysitter from the kid's clubhouse program. It was great! They had room service and watched cartoons while we had a grown-up meal. I'll send you a picture of the craft!