Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Philippines - Chapter Seven - A Stalled Hearse, A Temple, and Halo-Halo


If I ever write a real book, someone please remind me to set a deadline. Someone else, please remind me that I'll probably finish the book two years after the deadline.

Anyway...Chapter 7 encapsulates a full day. I bid adieu to the farm bungalow I stayed in (and had come to love) and went to Aris's house for one last awesome breakfast, complete with a nice chat with Aris's mother. Great way to wrap things up in Hermosa!

I should mention, since I forgot to mention it in my last post, that the Philippines has an interesting tradition in regards to public officials, which Aris is. On New Year's Day, and a few mornings after that, families will come to the gate of a public official in town, knock, and ask for money or gifts. Some do it as early as 6:00am. The official may or may not personally know the soliciting families, but the official is expected to give something to them. I saw it happen several times, but I didn't catch any pictures of it happening (it probably would have been awkward if I had).

Another thing to mention...before we began the trek back to Manila, we stopped at a gas station to fill up. There was a vehicle that had been there for a long time...perhaps five hours or so.

The reason the vehicle had been there for so long: The driver put the wrong kind of fuel in the tank.

The reason this was a big problem: This vehicle was basically a hearse. There was a dead body inside. 

I believe they found another vehicle to transport the body, but was just sitting there for quite a while in not-so-cool weather.

And off we go. Aris is a champ for so many reasons, one of them being that he took me to see one of the landmarks I'd wanted to check out: The Manila LDS Temple.

On the way to Manila, I make the biggest mistake of the trip. As we go through the drive-thru at McDonald's, I order a burger and fries.

Yes. I know this is an event that happens millions of times throughout the world. Yes. I ate a lot of very random things in the Philippines, including ketchup-covered sardines. But something about Mickey D's not only gave me a stomachache, but caused me to feel like everything, including thinking and talking, took a lot of extra effort. I think I'll be steering clear of the golden arches for a while, because the next couple hours were just less fun than they could have been.

And do you know what does not make a quarter-pounder-with-cheese-induced lethargy any better? Manila traffic.

Traffic in Manila is notoriously bad. We alternated between stand-still and slug-pace for an hour and a half. I just figured that this was business as usual, but this time, there was a culprit, and it wasn't a traffic accident.

The issues was that a mass was being held at a place called Quiapo, and so many people were in attendance, they simply walked out into the road and blocked two lanes of a four lane road.

These devotees are't about to let a little traffic stop them.
Smooth sailing after that. I almost forgot to mention that our route took us by Aris's alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas. Tiger and nativity set included.

We pull into Intramuros, the oldest established district in Manila, and wander around. The Spanish influence in the area is strong.

St. Agustin Church

Oh hey. A wedding car.

Oh hey. A wedding.

Cathedral of Manila

Old Governor's Palace...I think

On the wall of Intramuros
After Intramuros, it was time guessed it...MORE FOOD!

Epic cake and halo-halo, which is 250% sugar.
I took some time to update the ACYPL book and look like a scruff.

Eventually, we made it to my destination and I had to bid Aris farewell. What an incredible host. He really put so much effort into making sure I enjoyed our time together, and it was effort well-spent. I just found out that he and his family will be coming to Seoul early next year, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.

The remainder of the evening will have to be touched on in another chapter. Hopefully I can get my butt in gear and post it, along with some of the other happenings that have occurred, soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Philippines - Chapter Six - New Year's Day...It Happened

New Year's Day. We wake some point.

The details are foggy, but the day involves a stop at a nice cafe on the ridge of the mountains.

Soup. I don't remember this.

We go to Subic to relax and eat...wait for it...

...Korean food.

It's time to wash it all down with an ube (taro cream) doughnut.

These lines on the photo. Yes. Weird. Oh well, the doughnut was good.
We drive back to Hermosa and have a nice chat about life, expectations, and so forth. When we return to the farm house, Aris pulls out this beauty...

It's a photo book about the trip Aris and others (including Abel) took to the US in 2010, when I met these guys! I was floored. I start writing notes in the book about who the group met with, only to discover that I was using a smudgy dry erase marker...

It was all soon to be chapter 7.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Philippines - Chapter Five - More Milo, Volleyball, and 2015

After a long break, we return to chapter five, where I start off the morning with rice, fish, chicken/papaya (?) soup, a banana, more fish, and, of course, Milo. This isn't my typical New Year's Eve breakfast.

Off we go to Subic Bay. The mountains offer an incredible view. The next few hours consist of a stop at Inang Laya Monument, lunch with two of Aris's friends, and a trip to the beach, where I play volleyball while Aris takes a well-deserved nap.

After playing a few games and swimming around, I wake Aris up and we return to Hermosa to take a nap for a few hours. It's a good things we do this, because as I'm about to discover, New Year's Eve in the Philippines is kind of a big deal...

The party starts at 7:00pm at Aris's lola's (grandmother's) home. Also in attendance are Aris's parents, siblings (six, including Aris), uncles and aunts (seven), and their children (...many). The next several hours consist of food, dance-offs, *games, **FIREWORKS, and a ***gift exchange. We return home at around 1:00am.

*In one of the games, everyone starts with 20 pesos (given to everyone by lola). A pair of people do rock-paper-scissors to see who keeps the money...I won every round, earning 320. Then, Aris's dad stepped in and r-p-s'ed me out of it all. Oh well...can't win 'em all.

**These were legit, explode-in-the-sky pyrotechnical devices. Children were standing within five feet of them.

***Every family brought a present for every member of every other family. This took a long time. I can't remember how long, exactly, but I can say that we were well into 2015 by the time the exchange finished.

I tried to teach a few games I knew. It went well for a while, until people realized that there were no prizes. At that point, it was time to stop.
Light 'em up.
At some point, one of the cousins takes family pictures, and I join in. Should've worn my stripes...

Standing: Me, Aaron, Angela, Papa Gaza (lucky man got 320 peso winnings)
Sitting:'ll come to me, Mama Gaza, Lola, Aris
Author's note: Partially because of how long it's been since this happened, and partially because of how difficult it is to convey feelings in writing, I admit that it's not easy to communicate how awesome New Year's Eve was. Being able to spend it with a friend that I hadn't seen in four years was amazing enough, but being part of the NYE festivities was just an unreal treat.