Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Philippines - Chapter Eight - Videoke, Bayside Breakfast, and the Author Who Finally Finished this Installment

Holy Toledo.

Initially, spreading my experience in the Philippines into different "chapters" seemed like a really good idea. After all, if I would have tried to document it in one blog entry, I either (a.) would have skimped out on many important...well, important to me at least...details, or (b) would have written the longest blog entry in human history (well, maybe not, but it would have been in the runnings). Perhaps this was the only way to do it, but for one reason or another (I was moving/tired/generally lazy), it took a long time. But, all's well that ends well, so let's finish this up!

There I am. I've just been dropped off at the Sofitel Manila. It's only because of a very nice friend with connections that I'm able to be here, otherwise, I wouldn't have been anywhere close to this luxurious biz. After checking in, I head up to my room and, for the first time in almost a week, I take a long, hot shower. I remember thinking beforehand that it was going to be blissful. And you know something? It was really nice.

But at that moment, I realized that it was also a luxury that I hadn't missed all that much during the week. For one thing, it was warm outside anyway. But the other, and to me, the more important, thing was that I'd spent so much time in the past week with enjoyable, giving, laid back people. I had such a good time with them that a weak lukewarm shower or a bucket shower didn't present that much of an inconvenience.

Good people > Luxury

Again, the shower was nice. And so was the view.

In fact, the sunset looked so epic, I thought that I'd better run down and grab a picture down by the water. I figured that I had some time before I needed to meet another friend.

On the way down, lo and behold, my friend was already there! I met Ricky Dela Cruz in 2012, when he came to the US as part of an ACYPL group along with others from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, and Samoa. Ricky was hilarious and he told me I was welcome in Manila any time (are we seeing a theme with hospitality here?).

Anyhow, Ricky was there with a bunch of other friends. The group, including Ricky, were part of an organization for young elected officials called the National Movement of Young Legislators. As you'll see, there were a LOT of people from this group in attendance that night.

But first, sunset.

Then, dinner.

And what a dinner. This place had a buffet that was above and beyond amazing. Sushi, Indian food, a cheese room...I remember walking through and thinking, "Holy crap. I wish I were more hungry." But what I ate was awesome (Malaysian stew and maybe some curry and I think some sushi and's been too long).

Did I mention that there were a lot of people?

Not the whole group, but a good chunk of them. Ricky is to the left of the woman with the yellow scarf. Also, on the front row, third from the right, is Fritzie Aguado. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been connected with such great people. Salamat po, Fritzie!

I should mention that many of these people brought gifts...I mentioned Filipino hospitality, did I not?

After wrapping up dinner, it was time for a little something the Filipinos call "Videoke". It's basically the same thing as karaoke in the US (instrumental music with the lyrics displayed on video). Like Korea, groups of people reserve a room and sing to their hearts' content. In keeping with this tradition, we went into a huge room and did not leave for four hours.

Other things I learned about Filipino videoke:
  • Not only are there tambourines like there are in Korea, but there are afro wigs.
  • People can smoke in these rooms. The smoke will stink up your clothes after more than three hours.
  • Sometimes people drink to the point of screaming into the microphone...perhaps that's an international thing.
It was a blast. Also, the collage below is from Fritzie.

Serious talent here.

Eventually (as in well past midnight), we returned to the hotel and I bid Ricky farewell. Ricky did a lot to make this trip amazing, and I'm truly grateful for that.

After a few hours of shuteye, it was time for some express laundry service for my smoky clothes, and then it was time to meet one more friend before heading back to the cold realm of Korea.

Carla May Bautista was a part of the same 2012 group I mentioned earlier. She is so full of character and drive...there's no other way to describe her than an absolute delight, in my opinion. She reminds me of many friends I had in high school.

We ate breakfast, told stories, and laughed for two hours. It made a beautiful morning even better!

After catching up, it was time for me to make my way to the airport. To my disbelief, the road to the airport was completely clear of traffic...definitely a first!

As I sat in the terminal, I pondered the past week. It was a perfect trip. Not too long, not too short. It made me appreciate so much of the convenience of Korea, but it also made me realize that, as I mentioned before, relationships are much more important than things.

Also, the beach...the sunsets...the underground pool...the fireworks...the roast pig...the singing...the warmth...what's not to love? One of the country's slogans is, "It's More Fun in the Philippines!" People, I whole-heartedly agree.

Ingat (take care) till next time!

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