1st Week in Philippines

We arrived a week ago today in Manila where we stayed put for 3 days turning our clock around to Filipino time. It was good to be able to sleep and take naps as needed and were ready to join our Filipino family on Saturday.

While in Manila we didn’t venture very far since we were on foot and warned by our host family not to trust those who might take advantage. We walked down to Intramuros (Walled City) which is rich with history but it was difficult to actually learn about it as there’s little coordination by an kind of visitors center or tours. There are plenty of hawkers that will offer you a ride around the city in buggies drawn by horse, trike or motorcycle but information they give may or may not be correct.

We were just a couple blocks from the sea wall which was made for a nice place to walk. It was also a place for hawkers to hangout so we always had people nearby haggling for our pesos. Once just after we had stopped at a grocery store and bought some dried fruit and nuts, we had just barely sat down to mix them and have a snack, when we were surrounded by children all begging for whatever it was we had. It’s heartbreaking to see children so starved for just about everything from food to love. We shared some our fruits and nuts and split 2 bananas between the 3 of them.

Saturday came and we were picked up right in front of our hotel by our host family, Gerly and Jace and soon we were on our way to Olongapo. Winding through lots of crazy city streets we finally arrived on the expressway/toll road. Then we were going 55-60MPH for long stretches with rice fields stretched out on either side and houses built under the roadway. 3 hours later we rolled into Subic Bay, approximately 38 years after Kevin had left on a US Navy ship.

He was pretty excited and wanted to see all the places down by the bay. I on the other had was hungry and really was hoping to get to the house for a dinner we had heard was being prepared for us!

Our arrival was met by lots of extended family which offered handshakes and the children took our hand and pressed their forehead against it in what I assume is a honor custom here. Jace and Gerly’s children made a welcome sign for us which was very touching. It hangs on the wall in our room.

After a delicious meal prepared by a brother-in-law (a lot of the guys do the cooking here). I unpacked a deck of Uno cards I’d brought along on a whim and we soon found all the kids knew and loved it and soon we had a rousing game going.

Those first days went by in a blur of activity. Sunday we were introduced to the public market where we bought 3 kinds of fish and some squid, all kinds of vegetables, and fruits and brought it home. Immediately the entire family started cooking, cleaning and preparing a feast for a “Boodle Fight” which is a traditional Filipino custom. Banana leaves are cut and cleaned and laid out on the table. Cooked rice is spread down the center and then all the prepared foods are placed around the edges of the rice. A prayer was offered and then we all dug in… with only fingers and only the right hand (the left remains behind your back). We ate until we were stuffed and it really amazed me to see how much of the food was gone! Let’s just say there were very few leftovers.

That night we went to mass with the family in downtown Olongapo, at a pretty cathedral located just about city center. Although we couldn’t understand much of it the singing was beautiful almost like you’d imagine if we heard angels sing.

Afterwards, making our way to where the waiting Jeepny’s were, the streets were lined with food vendors of all kinds and we stopped for fried chicken skins with vinegar and cotton candy for the little ones.

The few short days we have been here we’ve packed enough in to seem like a week already and yet we still have so much to see and do.

Magsaysay Drive

The Jeepnys used for transportation by everyone here. Cost: 6-8 Peso’s

The meal prepared for us on our arrival.

The Public market where everybody goes to buy their food for the day.

Climbing trees to cut banana leaves for the Boodle Fight

Roasting food for the feast

After the Boodle Fight the table was pretty well picked clean! I didn’t get any pictures of the table beforehand which is a bummer but Google “Boodle Fight” and you’ll get the idea.

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