The story, cont.

So, I want to make clear that the purpose of my blog, isn't to be list of websites I run into and enjoy. I don't like that definition of a blog, and so I won't use it. Instead, you get to hear of all my adventures and mis-adventures. Today I'd like to write about day 3 and day 4 of our trip to the Philippines. Here goes:
Chapter 1 (there you go Lance)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We had just finished our last internet session when we realized that, hey, we ordered a car and it should be ready in a bit. So, we started back to hotel, knowing our day was only beginning, but not being entirely sure what it would entail. We figured it would be a straightforward shooting day: go to the American Memorial Cemetery in Manila, and then traveling northward to Clark, currently the struggling economic zone set up west of Angeles City. Sounds simple, right?
We stopped off at a bookstore to find a Tagalog dictionary (oh yeah...thanks, Kristian, for letting me borrow yours...). Interestingly enough, they didn't have one. But they had a phrase book that I figured might be useful, although it was wrapped in plastic, so I couldn't be sure. Oh well, I thought, we might as well try it. It actually turned out to be quite good.
We went back to our hotel to check out and to get our driver for the day. His name was Peter (no, he was very Filipino), and seemed like a nice chum. We took off to find the American Cemetery.
Upon arriving at the Cemetery, we noticed that it was quite large. We debated stopping at the visitors' center, but decided to go take a look-see around before we started shooting. That turned into a 'let's just start shooting' and so that's what we did. We had driven around and I was very much impressed by the beauty of the gardens. Gettysburg's National Cemetery was cool, but this was quite amazing.
The first shots we went for were of the name wall. They call them the fins of heroes, and they're set up in two hemi-cycles. You'll understand with the pictures.
We had been shooting for a bit, and I realized Peter was still in the car with it running. Nice. Our personal servant/escort/driver was keeping the car cool for us, ready to make a get-a-way at any time. I told him to come out and turn the car off.
About 5 minutes later we met Hubert. Hubert had seen us in the distance, and being the Assistant Superintendent of the Memorial, had to come inform us that what we were doing was, in effect, illegal. Hmmm...not what we came 7,000 miles to be told. He wasn't very imposing, mind you, but he did make it very clear that we needed permission to be filming. Permission from Arlington. Ugh.
We packed up and headed to his office, hoping to find some way to figure out a way to film that day. We did have a $100 driver, and we didn't have much time to spare (or so we thought...more later!). We went inside and had some nice discussions with Hubert. He really was a good man, and a little factoid giver as well. I swear he was afraid of the silence, because any time there *was* silence, he filled it with some odd fact about the war and the Philippines, the war and Europe, the war and America, the war or even the war. He told us about other authors and such that had been there recently, and even showed us two shorts that were made with footage in the cemetery, with authorization mind you. He explained that anything that was misrepresented in film could cause lots of problems for them, and I could understand why. And of course, he said, the content of our work (based off of the book "Soldier Slaves") could be seen as something criticizing the current administration. Well, I thought to myself, we wouldn't want *that*, now, would we?
Well, we filled out the paperwork--we *are* good citizens, I promise--and his supervisor, the Superintendent, came in. They excused themselves and after deliberating a bit, decided that they weren't even going to send our papers in for approval and that we could finish filming whatever we wanted. Um...hokay. So much for trying to repudiate the image of government stagnation and bureaucracy. Whatever. The only thing we lost was 2 hours of valuable shooting time, what do they care?
So, we head back out to do the exact same thing we were doing anyway. We were a bit hungry at this point, so I left Ashley and went with out man-servant-driver to get some food. We didn't want hamburgers--especially the Filipino style we had had twice on our lovely bus trip the day before--so we settled for Subway. Wow...I guess I was spoiled in Albania for not having these American restaurants there. Subway was sure a Subway, but it wasn't really a Subway. Interesting. Anyway, I had a nice chat with Peter regardless and we were soon back at the cemetery. Ol' Hubert had found Ashley again and had started sharing his stories and facts again. I came bearing gifts, and there were none for Bert, so I think that's why he left. Maybe. We finished shooting at the cemetery, and were on our way back to the car when we saw them.
Chapter 1.5
They stood out like white Americans with gray hair wearing white shirts, dark slacks, and those funny black tags in their shirt pocket. Yes. They stood out alright. We were almost back to the car when we saw them, and there were a few of them. Senior missionaries. As we were passing the map museums on the way back I noticed one was lying on the cement bench. Too easy, I thought. How ya doin', Elder?, I gave away my presence. He got up quickly, and I soon found out that I had just met President LeSueur of the Manila Mission. Well how about that! His wife was off with his brother and his wife (who just happen to be senior missionaries here as well) and their son and daughter-in-law. We began talking and explained why we were here. It was a good little chat, even if President saw it fit to give me a worthiness interview on the spot. Nice touch. Actually, it wasn't an interview, he just wanted to make sure I was, ahem, 'minding my manners.' His intentions were good, however, and I didn't hold anything against him.
Actually, after talking a bit, he had some good advice for us. Apparently, there is a member in Manila who has a helicopter charter service, and he helped get us his contact information. Hopefully it will help us out.
It was good seeing them and they wished us best of luck as we got in our car and left for Clark. It was kinda late, so we knew we'd be going through traffic to get to the main highway leading out of the city, but I don't think either of us expected it to go so slow. We crept along until finally we were there.
Our driver was a good one, albeit a little slow. He got us to Clark safe and sound, but then informed us that we'd be going about 2 hours over our agreement, which amounted to P300 more, which isn't much, but we also had to pay for gas. Nice. That and a tip and we were done with our man-driver Peter.
We walked into the Holiday Inn, a 5 star hotel, tired and ready to have a good night sleep. After checking in, our rooms were 30 rooms apart this time, we made our way up.
I don't know what kind of stars they used when rating this hotel, but I must admit, if any other 5-star hotel like the Grand America is like this, it's certainly not worth staying at. The rooms were small and dank--nothing like our 3-star Renaissance. Not that I'm complaining, but for the same price, you'd expect similar amenities and features. Yep, dank is the best word for it. I'm sure at one time it was worthy of the Holiday Inn mark, but I think those people in charge over there should reconsider. Plus, I'm getting used to the bell boys carrying my luggage up and opening the doors for us. It's a nice touch.
We ate dinner at one of the restaurants there at the hotel. That was okay, and I tried the Kapampangan CPA, which is 'a local favorite dish made from soy-vinegar braised chicken and pork, served with steamed rice and mixed vegetables.' Well, it sounded and still sounds good, but I got it with a weird film over the soup, kinda like when you put hot chocolate or gravy in the fridge. Hmmm...well, Ashley's chicken and mashed potatoes were normal, so I kept eating. My stomach is pretty much made of iron, but it know when to get stuff out, and it let me know yesterday. Good thing too, because now I'm better! Sure was woosy stuff...didn't keep me down at all.
We woke up in the morning and had a relaxing start to the day. About 10.00a, we were ready to go up to Capas and Camp O'Donnel. We decided that we were going to try to find a car on our own--not through the hotel. It was pricey through the hotel, and I had seen better prices through car rental agencies, so I figured we would find something.
Chapter 2
It didn't work out like that. We ended up using the same service, although this time it was only $88.75 this time. Right. We had him for 10 hours and we were definitely going to use them.
We headed up to Camp O'Donnel, which is actually in Capas. The Philippine government had created a nice shrine. We pulled in and went out to film. After some good shooting, we decided to film the replicas. Well, we were told they were under renovation, however, I think that was an excuse that meant 'we have let the weeds overrun them and they are falling apart.'
There were no signs of renovation, but they certainly looked like they may have been 65 years old. We had to bushwhack into them, which caused some nasty rashes and scratches on our legs. What we do for art and science. Of course, I saw it as a fun adventure, so, no biggie, but it still was a little annoying on the legs.
After we left Capas, we asked to be taken to some Filipino fast-food so we could eat quickly. He took us to a place called Jollibee, which is about as Philippine and as fast-food as you could get, I guess. We had specifically told him to avoid McDonald's, but as soon as we got into Jollibee, he told me that Jollibee was the Philippine McDonald's. Great. Whatever.
After that we took off to Bataan. We had our 10 hours, and we had some left, so we thought we'd get ahead of schedule if possible. And that's what happened. This driver was my type of driver--fast, impatient, but still safe. He's a good example of how to use your horn and brights to alert and send messages to other drivers. Hehe...yeah...my kind of driver.
He got us down to Bataan quickly, which was good, and we went up to the shrine on Mt. Samat. That was cool. It's a giant cross, but the cool thing is...there's an elevator going up to the horizontal section!! How cool can crosses get?
After seeing that and getting our first souvenirs, oh, and we saw pretty much a rad museum with WWII artifacts and guns, we headed back home. The ride back was quite uneventful, except we decided that driving at night was much more fearsome. However, we got back safe and sound, and that's the story we like, right?
Chapter To Be Continued...

check pictures for this days story on picasa!!! picasaweb.google.com/tsoelberg/Philippines

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