Hello all from the wonderful islands of the Philippines! So, we've been in the country for about...36 hours now, and man, we've been through a whirlwind and a half! Where to begin...well, I suppose I'll begin in Salt Lake.
Going through the airport was fun and actually, not too bad...seeing as we had about more electronics going through security than TSA actually owns in the airport. Okay, maybe not, but, we sent four cameras (only one video camera), a laptop, three external hard drives, two ipods and who knows what else. They actually didn't give us much problems, and I think they're streamlining security now, so, that's good.
We took off about 8.00a MST in fair weather and took off to...Minneapolis, Minnesota! Yay! It's alright though, because it added about 1000 more sky miles for me, so, no one's complaining. Arriving and transferring to our new plane in Minnesota wasn't difficult either...I called America First and got that taken care of and I convinced myself that the next leg of our flight--from Minneapolis to Tokyo--wasn't going to be long. Well...it was. Add to that the fact that we were in a rather...well, we'll say cozy...airplane (it was an older 747) made the flight that much *better*. We didn't have the individual screens in the chair backs, so we didn't have the option to actually see where we were in the air, which made it more of a mystery until the in-flight movies all ended on the big screen up front and the maps (displayed in four languages--english, japanese, korean, and chinese) came up. Apparently, the air highway from Minneapolis to Tokyo is over Canada, Alaska, almost to the North Pole, through Siberia and finally to Tokyo. *That* was exciting. Before we knew where we were, we actually looked down to see ice for miles and miles and figured we had been hijacked and taken somewhere else. False alarm. No worries.
The airport in Tokyo made us go through security again, which made sense--I'm sure no airport wants to incur the blame of sending a flight up unsecured. They also had really nice bathrooms. Seriously! The stalls were full individual rooms with wood veneer walls and full doors on them. Apparently the women's were even nicer...
We were actually not too tired at this point. It was odd, for when we arrived in Tokyo we had been flying nonstop (that is, from Minneapolis to Tokyo) for about 16 hours. The crazy thing was...we were chasing the sun, so it never actually set. So, for over 16 hours, we had complete sunlight. When we got to Tokyo, it got dark, and we set out again. About 20 minutes into the flight...we got really tired. But little did we know what lied ahead.
We arrived in Manila at the scheduled 10.50p, their time. So, it was about 7 in the am for you Americans living in Utah. We got out and headed to get our luggage. We ended up getting stuck in a room, oh, about the size of a large LDS chapel, with about 3000 people packed into it, all trying to get through immigration. About 15 lanes, and not one organized line was there. After an hour of moving about 1 foot per minute, we finally got through immigration. It was midnight, and we were *tired*! We got through customs quite easily and headed to find transportation to our hotel. After pulling some cash out at the ATM, we headed outside where, on the way, we were stopped by a gal from Berlin, Germany. She asked us if she could catch a taxi with us--she was alone, and wasn't sure about traveling this late at night by herself. Her hotel was a little ways away from ours, so we went to the taxi booth and asked if they'd take us to her hotel, and then to ours. They were too far apart. So...we took off separately. I don't think she had a problem...the airport taxis were very professional and felt very safe. Of course, that was at midnight when there wasn't much other traffic out...
We arrived at our hotel, and after the guards searched the car high and low, were allow to pull up beside the front door. We said goodbye to Ruell, our driver, and watched as a dog sniffed our baggage. Our luggage was then taken by the bellboy, and we walked through the metal detector and into the lobby. We checked in and took off to our room...at this point it was about 1 o'clock in the morning. In my discussion with Ruell, I discovered that our original plans might not work very well for day 3 (today). We were supposed to head up to the city of Cabanatuan to film the prison camp memorial, but I found out that traveling up there and then to our next stop would prove quite difficult and expensive, if not just impossible. So, we switched our plans for day 2 and day 3. Knowing that, we also knew that we would have to wake up quite early to start the next day.
I fell asleep quickly and woke up around 6.30 in the morning to no alarm, no noise...but that's okay. I prefer it that way. I thought it would be best to take the bus to Cabanatuan, since a car would probably cost over $100. Plus, I had experience with these long bus drives that only covered a short distance, right? Well, we got on and paid our fare of P167 each (comes out to about $4 each) and I was feeling pretty good about the money I had saved us. The trip wasn't uncomfortable, per se, but it wasn't exactly a greyhound either. The advantage that the Philippines have over a place like Albania is that the roads are actually smooth. The advantage that Albania has over a place like the Philippines is that there are 77 million less people, which translates to less traffic. The main highway wasn't too bad, actually, but we had to take another, less 'highway'-ish road to the city. It was two lanes--one each way--and it had about the same number of cars as you might find on State Street at mid-day. This 80-100 some-odd mile trip took us a little under 4 hours. Nice. I went through it fine...it actually brought back many memories, but Ashley was a little queasy afterwards.
When we pulled up to the transit station in Cabanatuan, we were quite relieved and ready to go to work. However, that intention was put on hold when we were suddenly thrown forward. You see, the bus somehow hit a huge cement barrier. It was quite funny to me, but I felt sincerely bad for the bus people. The way it hit the bus, it jammed the door closed. This causes you a problem, you see, since there were also no emergency exits. We were trapped. I wanted to take a picture, but it just didn't feel right. For half an hour, they worked on that door, and finally, after much prying and pulling, they got it off. It was only at this time that we saw the damage. The cement had completely torn off the bottom two steps to get out! We had to jump off, and of course, were immediately surround by people who wanted to take us to our destination. Well, we weren't quite sure of our destination...the exacta address that is. I figured the Philippines would be much like Albania in that regard--addresses are a nice thought, but they really don't stand for much.
We chose a tricyclist, actually, I do believe he chose us, but I asked him if he knew where the WWII memorial was for the prison camp, and he responded with a reassuring nod and 'yes, yes.' In Manila, and especially at our hotel (which, although it's a Marriott and although it's like a 4 star hotel, doesn't offer any services, including internet. It wanted like $5/hr for internet! Which is why we're here, using the less than $1/hr internet...hehe) we were spoiled by everyone speaking communicable english, however, as I expected, the further away from the capitol we found ourselves, the less english would be as commonplace.
Our driver, apparently, fit this stereotype, because about 5 minutes of driving us, he pulled over and asked where we wanted to go. Hmmm...I told him again, and he said he didn't know where that was. Fine, I assured him, take us to an internet cafe. He nodded in agreement and took us to one. We were joking to one another, Ashley and I, that we had just traveled for four hours to do nothing, when I finally found a website with pictures. A light went off in his head and our driver got real excited. We took off, and about a 40 minute tricycle drive later, we were finally at the old prison camp.
It was quite a site, with a really nice memorial that, although it was quite new, had obviously seen better days. The main memorial was actually a sundial as well, with special markers at specific hours noting major events of the rescue mission. That was cool. We filmed a good deal and then moved on over to the flag monument. This one had a cool wall with the names of all the victims, and it was a cool site.
About 4 o'clock in the afternoon we decided to take off for the bus center again. Before we left, we noticed that our driver had a flat tire. Nice. We're in the middle of nowhere, and we have a flat tire! Sweet! Our driver walked it down the road to get it fixed (it must happen quite a lot) and we were immediately surround by a lot...*a lot*...of Filipino children. I decided this would be as good a time as any to practice my Tagalog. We laughed and they certainly did as well while I tried to pronounce things and learn numbers and names. Our driver came back saying that the tire was about fixed, and beckoned for us to come. We said our goodbye's to the kids and took off, hoping to get to the transit center before 5.
Well, he took us to the transit center, and then he told us something we didn't understand and we were all the sudden moving again. From what I got from it, he was trying to find us another bus, because he thought that the buses there wouldn't have enough room for us. Ugh. Anyway, that turned into a wasted half-hour of him taking us wherever he took us, and I finally told him to take us back to the transit center...we would take our chances from there.
Well, we did take our chances (and I did give him about 100 times the going rate for tricycles as well as a couple liters of gas) and we got into a bus to bring us back. We were put into the very back, which proved disastrous to be sure, since everybody had closed their air vents and all the cold a/c air came to us. We were freezing. Freezing for four hours. Plus, I think that those four hours were longer than the first ride's four hours. Anyway, after the miserable ride home, and finally just getting off of the bus, not really knowing where we were, we found a taxi that took us back to our hotel.
I think I died that night, but I'm not sure. Obviously I'm alive today, so, I guess we're still rolling.
Today we have some fun things planned, and we conceded that hiring a driver for $100 is NOT a bad idea. In fact, we've actually warmed up to the idea...


  1. So your planning on writing a novel to go along with your trip? Haha just joking, sounds like good times.

  2. Holy moly...I hope you two survive several more days of this. :) I was a bit worried reading this first post, but then I remembered it was Tyler..he-who-can-deal-with-about-anything. :) Your pics are fabulous! Is it warm there? Hope you're having fun! Love ya!