Friday, October 15, 2010

Farewell Philippines

Here is a look back at our fantastic 3 weeks or so in the Philippines! If you're not in a reading mood, just wait a few days until we get internet that is quick enough to post our video and photo montage.

Country Summary with Ange

1 sentence
It's like living in a polite musical set in Central America.

Top 10 Sites in order of appearance in life
  • Tagaytay/Taal Volcano: Ania and Ange's first venture out of Manila with clear air, a delicious buffet and gorgeous view of the volcano. Thanks Auntie Vera and Uncle Randy for taking us up!
  • Corregidor: Great tour of an island used as a major base for the navy, fought over by the Americans and Japanese. A local artist used the underground tunnels to make life-sized models of different rooms with narration along with actual video footage from the 1940's.
  • Pagsanjan Falls: Two Filipino boatmen pull you against a strong current up a river to the falls, where you go underneath the pounding water to a small cave then you ride the current back. Lots of hard work for them, a cool ride for Ange and T!
  • Busuanga: Ania's kick-off diving adventure where she got to do her first wreck dives.
  • Puerto Galera/Sabang/White Beach: Our first great beach all together at White Beach. A little touristy and full of prostitutes and old white dudes looking for them, but we saw an amazing band in a skeezy bar in Sabang (at the end of the summary video) and met our friend Ozy, so it worked out alright!
  • Tamaraw Falls: Ange's first completely random expedition while Ania and T dove/snorkeled off Sabang. Really relaxing and quiet, almost no other people and you can climb/swim right up to the different falls.
  • Boracay: What we looked forward to the most, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It rained the entire time but there was nightlife as promised. We met Daniel, Jeremy and Nickhil on our first night and had a great time clubbing for Dan's birthday (including dancing in the ocean to the club's music at midnight) and then going out again the following night.
  • Bacolod: Met up with the Ledesma family (Auntie Lenee is Ange's dad's cousin) and spent time at a Gawad Kalinga site, painting new homes for an area that is being transformed from a slum. Auntie Lenee took us to the Negros Museum and Ange went to the Lifestyle Museum and San Diego Pro-Cathedral (in Silay, funded mainly by Uncle Pepe's grandfather). On Sunday she also went to the neighbourhood church where it was her mass (St Francis of Assisi) where they bless people's pets!
  • Dumaguete/Apo Island: Where T and Ania got their first sunburns, living it up in the gorgeous but rough sea at Apo Island. Turtles galore!
  • Cebu City: Where we finally did karaoke. We didn't have much competition but we definitely impressed the locals in the tiny Diva Family KTV bar.
History with Ania:

Coron Bay
It took 15 minutes for American air forces to bomb the Japanese ships anchored in Coron Bay, Busuanga, Palawan. On the morning of September 24th, 1944, at 5:50, a total of 96 Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter escorts and 24 Curtis SB2C Helldiver bombers took off on a flight to their targets 340 miles. At 9:00 the strike on the 12 large ships took place. The grim reality of the war hit me as I dove these same ships on September 24, 2010, exactly 66 years after the attack. Twisted metal and deep craters from the air raid are still evident despite the fact that the old steel is now coated in thick corals. Remnants of boilers and cement mixers remain in the ships’ cargo holds, frozen in time.

Lt. Hiroo Onoda
The last Japanese soldier to surrender in WWII was Lt. Onoda of the Imperial Japanese 1974! On December 26, 1944, at the age of 23, Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang. Shortly after the Americans landed, all but four of the Japanese soldiers had either died or surrendered. Hiroo Onoda was also with three other holdouts, who all died in the decades after the war. Despite the efforts of the Philippines Army, letters and newspapers left for them, radio broadcasts, and even a plea from Onoda’s brother, he did not believe the war was over. On February 20, 1974, Onoda encountered a young Japanese university dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was travelling the world and told his friends that he was going to look for Onoda. Onoda said he was waiting for news from his commander. On March 9, 1974, Suzuki returned with Onoda’s one-time superior commander, Major Taniguchi, who delivered oral orders for Onoda to surrender. Onoda emerged from the jungle of Lubang island with his 25 caliber rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. He surrendered 29 years after Japan’s formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan.

Negros Island
The Negros Revolution, now commemorated and popularly known as Al Cinco de Noviembre or Negros Day, was a political movement that in 1898 ended Spanish sovereignty and resulted in a government run by Filipino natives. What’s interesting about this movement? Unlike the many historical movements for independence from Spain, the Negros Revolution succeeded with no blood spilled. The revolt began in Central and Northern Negros in the morning of November 5th. In Silay, rebels surrounded the municipal building held by the Spanish general and his guard, who surrendered at the realization that the rebels intended to burn the building down. To save face, lieutenant Correa of the Spanish army had it appear in the official records that the capitulation was the result of a bloody battle. The next morning, the rebels advanced upon Bacolod, armed with fake cannons made of bamboo and rifles carved out of wood and coconut fronds. The Spanish fell for the bluff and surrendered the territory to the Filipinos.

Food for Thought with Tiana:
  1. Pitchers or Bottomless iced tea- Delicious! Although Ania and I got some stares after ordering a pitcher for the two of us (and multiple confirmations that we indeed wanted a pitcher, and not 2 glasses) once we discovered this, iced tea had replaced much of our water consumption.
  2. Balot- Boiled duck embryos, sold on the side of the street. Which we did not try. Essentially, you crack open the top, suck back the 'juice', then intake the embryo. And depending on the stage of development of the embryo, you may feel the tickle of a feather or the crunch of a beak going down your throat. I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to new foods, thanks.
  3. Adobo- The Philippines's traditional dish. Meat marinated in a soy and vinegar and cooked with onions and garlic. This one was good and something we got accustomed to ordering.
  4. Mango Shakes- Mmm mmm mmm. I had been told, correctly, that Filipino mangoes were the best in the world. So we made it a daily purchase. And at night, we weren't shy to add a shot of local rum in there.
  5. Donuts- yes, donuts. Not the Tim Hortons kind but Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts were popular choices everywhere you went.
  6. Jollibee- The most popular fast food chain in the Philippines (and there are a lot of them. This country is fast food central). Think McDonald's combined with KFC and a hot dog stand, all in one. What more can you want right? And if you wanted to get local, you could always choose rice with your combo rather than fries.
Overheard on the radio by T:
  1. Justin Bieber- yes, Bieber fever has hit Asia, and it is over 100*C with no signs of going down.
  2. Chris Brown- oh the shame
  3. Micheal Bublé- a little Canadian flavour (we're not counting Bieber)
  4. Charice- made famous by Ellen and Oprah after she was found by Ellen's staff on YouTube when she was 15. She was picked up by Glee this season, just released her first album and has become the pride and joy of the entire Filipino population.
  5. Lady Gaga- an interesting choice, but I suppose she's theatrical, so the love of performance in Filipinos makes her an obvious favourite.   

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