September 28th, 2010 Archive

Philippines: Truly beyond the usual

September 28th, 2010 by Liz in Lifestyle, Sharing Success

A few more days and we are saying goodbye to the Philippines.

I am going to have such wonderful memories of this piece of paradise, and it is with a heavy heart that I will leave this place.

So before I go, let me just paint you a picture of what I’m experiencing in this charming country.

First of all, the Philippines is such a contradiction <g>.  Or maybe it just has too many islands, scattered throughout its archipelago, that it’s difficult to attribute a definitive feature to explain what this country really is like.

Let me illustrate my point.  When you arrive, you land at the airport right smack in the main city of Manila which is the central business district.  Manila is heavily populated and never in my life have I encountered an ABSOLUTELY INSANE traffic.

Everyone drives like maniacs according to US standards, but what’s surprising to us is they all seem to know where everyone else is going.  Despite breaking all the traffic rules as Ric noted, the drivers are just totally in sync.  As proof, of the tens of thousands of vehicles we saw over a number of weeks – we saw only 1 mild fender-bender <g>!  Absolutely insane, I tell you!  If you’ve driven here, you can drive anywhere else in the world.  But that’s just Manila.

From the city to the sea

Go a little farther down south and you get a glimpse of the charming countryside, with the magnificent chessboard fields, and long, long trails of greens, and a clear, blue endless sky.

Ric said the transformation was just so poetic <g>.  We rode in a banca – a very long, VERY narrow boat with bamboo “wings” on either side that help it skim through the water – across the Verde Island Passage for the first time on our way to check out our new home.  From the city of Manila – one of the most heavily populated cities in the world – to the serene welcome of the crystal clear waters from one of the most beautiful bays in the world – to the provincial peace and quiet of our seaside home – it was just marvelous.

Puerto Galera on the Island of Mindoro is the nearest coastal town, a mere three-hour drive and 60-minute boat ride from Manila.

I’ve NEVER been a morning person, but here I naturally wake up between 6 and 7am every morning for the simple reason that I just have to admire the amazing view from my window.

I lie in bed looking out the open glass doors onto the bay as it wakes up. The birds calling, the sun cresting the ridge of the mountains in the East, the few men out in their tiny bancas fishing with hand lines, and the sweet heavy scent of tropical flowers greeting the day.  And that’s just a view outside my bedroom.

One thing that I’m going to take with me when I get home is the wonderful memory of this view.

Then of course, Ric and the kids have their own take-homes.

Stefan said he will always remember ‘driving’ the water buffalo cart through the “jungle” to the waterfalls <g>.  The farmer driving the cart let him ride in the driver’s seat the rickety wooden cart and hold the rope that acted as the reins.  He has made a lot of friends here from the community and they have tons of fun creating sand castles and picking pebbles.

Chandler can’t get enough of the water.  I can’t blame him since the water is basically downstairs from our front door.  He just heads out on the dock, jumps in, goes snorkeling, or takes the kayak out to the floating slide, or dives in the deep water. Everyday <g>!

He has also discovered diving off of rocks at this craggy falls called, Hidden Paradise Waterfalls in Mindoro. (I try not to watch!)

As for Ric, he said he’d love to bring home the food, since he couldn’t bring the bay <g>.

Trip to Sarap

“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food” - Erma Bombeck

 

We seem to have a continued string of surprises waiting for us at every turn here in the Philippines.  And the best surprise is the food <g>.  Chandler, who’s a picky eater, thought he wouldn’t like the cuisine- BUT the kid is eating us out of house and home.  Jocelyn, our cook and housekeeper, made steak one night and he ate 3.  He ate an entire “whole fish” one night, and he’s developed a taste for Calamansi juice.  Calamansi is about the size of a Key Lime and tastes like a cross between a lemon and a lime. Maybe this is what Sprite had in mind with the “limon” <g>.

I guess it’s no longer a surprise that the first Filipino word I learned is ‘Sarap’ which means delicious <g>.

If I could, I want to bring Jocelyn home with me.  She is an absolutely AMAZING cook and she prepares our lunch and dinner every day that there’s no need for us to go out.  Often I’ll order some local dish in a restaurant then come home and ask her if she knows it – she always does and hers has always been better.  It was a bit embarrassing when we asked her to make fried chicken and hers was better than mine! I’m a Southerner after all <g>.

From the sea to the mountains…

 

The family’s ‘voyage’ to the mountains was a bit of a misadventure, but hey, those seem to be the spice of international travel  and definitely serves to make the trips even more memorable.

Perhaps the route we took wasn’t the best one.  Long story short, Stefan’s tummy didn’t agree with the long and twisty roads leading down through the mountains and he got car sick.  It was indeed a long and smelly 9-hour trip home from the famous city of pines.

But overall it was well worth it! The mountains the city is located in are absolutely stunning <g>.  We stayed at the Camp John Hay Manor Lodge where everybody soaked up the cool mountain air outdoors.

We all went horseback riding a couple of times – and Stefan got to ride on his own for the first time.  It was amazing, to be on a horse while enjoying the scenic view and the fresh mountain air <g>.

 

Come rain, come shine, come stars…

 

The Philippines has only two seasons: rainy and summer.  Thank goodness we’re here during the rainy one, because the heat can be tough on those of us who have winters.

It’s actually cooler here than it is at home in Virginia – but the difference is we have air conditioning there and not here.

Not that I’m complaining because I do love the afternoon and evening rains that cool everything off.  And though I’m also used to living in an enclosed house, I have come to love ‘living outside’ <g>.

Here, we basically live under the stars.  The living room is a second-story raised open Lanai – the dining room has one wall as an open sheer cliff, and the kitchen and all the bathrooms have “windows” but instead of glass insets they have decorative wrought iron bars that are open to the outside, and my bedroom has a series of 3 sets of glass double-doors that are perpetually open onto the 3rd story balcony.  When we stayed in a hotel a few weekends back I actually started feeling a little claustrophobic with being enclosed – going home will be an interesting adjustment.

More leave takings

After all the books, advice, travel blogs we’ve gone through before our trip to the Philippines, there still is no better way to figure out a place than experiencing it for yourself.

Get those sails ready!
Liz