On the Road: Philippines

Oh, my, where has the time gone?  I've seriously neglected this blog for some time, and it's not because I haven't been traveling.  Since March, I've been jumping from Japan to Singapore, Philippines and then back to Japan—and then off to California, Nevada, Mexico, Utah, Washington DC, Maryland, California (yes, again), and I'm finally back in Japan.  You would think that I would do a wonderful job of writing while traveling; and, well, frankly, I haven't.  (I have been posting photos on instagram, though; and here's my shameless plug to follow me @maricel.) It's been a hectic year, and now that I'm back in Japan, I finally feel like writing again.  You see, it all started earlier this year when I received a phone call from my Aunt Lyn asking me if I wanted to meet her and our extended family in Manila.  I grew up with my aunt as she is one of two sisters whom lived with my mom in California.  The last time my family took a family trip to the Philippines, I was 4 years old, a year older than my eldest son (at the time), so I thought it would be great to visit and reconnect with family this past spring.

Originally, we were only supposed to stay in the Philippines for 1 1/2 weeks; and those weeks were filled with lots of fun, reunion, and meeting family members for the first time.  At first, I was on an emotional roller coaster as I saw how poor the country is during our drives through the city and heard about some police corruption stories.  In fact, our car was pulled over twice, and we were kindly pardoned after donating a few pesos.  My family was so paranoid that I was going to get robbed or kidnapped (because I dressed and talked differently) that I couldn't bring my "fancy camera" with me, so I would sneak photos with my iPhone here and there.  Here are a few photos (mostly) on the road in the Philippines, mainly in and around Manila:

My family mistakenly thought I was prissy, so they thought it would be fun and funny to take me to a wet and dry market.  I have been to a few flea, farmers, and fish markets in other countries, but these wet and dry markets in Manila seem to be all of those places all rolled up into one area.  I have never seen so much produce in my life!  And to clarify, I actually enjoyed my time there.  (Okay, when we got home, I immediately washed my feet and legs.  Uh, I think you would too if you were wearing flip flops.  Honestly, I would either wear rain boots for these trips.) 

On our way to Majic Jade Kingdom Resort, a tiny water park in Pampanga, we saw Mt. Arayat, an extinct volcano.

There were lots of carabao, or water buffalos, in Pampanga.  This one was right across the street from Majic Jade Kingdom Resort.

When we drove through Tondo in Manila, my heart broke.  It's disheartening to see people live in these conditions, especially children.  I couldn't imagine growing up here let alone my own children growing up here.

We visited the Cathay Pacific office in Makati to make changes to our flight reservations.  No matter what number I called on their site, I couldn't get through to a live person, so we drove to the office.  I guess that's what everyone else did because it was filled with customers.  At least the room was lined with huge windows, so we had something to look at while we waited.  We literally left to grab lunch, came back, and still waited 30-45 minutes for our turn.

I was so excited to ride a tricycle!  

This picture does not give the traffic jam and aggressive driving in Manila any justice.  Seriously, though, I could have opened my window and touched the truck to my right.

The Rizal Monument at Rizal Park.  Jose Rizal is a Filipino hero who was martyred here during the Philippine Revolution on December 30, 1896.  US President Harry Truman declared the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946 in front of this monument.  The site is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by ceremonial soldiers.

 After a few weeks in the Philippines, I finally rode in a jeepney!  I took this quick photo of my Cousin Vicky and me.

View of Manila on our way back from Antipolo.


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