Updaterific--the story cont.

Wow, I don't know where to begin, mostly because I don't know where I left off. Hmmmm...Let's see, I believe the last update that I gave to the world included us going to the shrine at Mt. Samat on the Bataan Peninsula. Cool. Well, let us look in at our heroes now...
Chapter Next
We decided to see if we could check out of our hotel in Clark. Mostly, we had finished with everything we wanted to do up there, so it was pointless to stay in the middle of nowhere. Well, the fees involved, we decided, just didn't make it worth it. We would take our break day in Clark.
So, we woke up late the next morning and had a lovely morning, and decided that we wanted to go into town. You know, see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the...well, we didn't quite *want* to smell the smells, but it's all the experience, baby...the experience. We didn't want to freakin' rent a driver for the entire day either, so we went outside to find a taxi. Well, the hotel is conveniently located in the most non-trafficked area in Clark, and it's basically a resort on its own, so there were no taxis. So, we decided to stick it to the man and walk. That's right. These Americans were walking!!!
After walking about a mile and half, we realized that we really were in the middle of nowhere, and walking was just not getting us anywhere. We stopped at a bus station where many locals were waiting and pretended to fit in. After waiting for about 20 minutes, we decided to go back and just hang at the hotel. A fitting end to a lazy day. We went swimming--got our free drink by the pool, convincing the bartender that even though our little coupons were for one free ice tea, a fruit juice would be just as refreshing. I spilled the mango juice and decided that I'd leave the scene and get into the pool. Mmmmm...yes. The pool. It was nice for about 10 minutes, then I was done with it. I went to my room and read and lazed around. What a wonderful way to spend a day in the Philippines!
The next day we were leaving this hole in the ground and hired a driver. We were going to (ab)use our ten hours--after all, it's only reasonable to do so. We took him back down to the Bataan Peninsula, and this time we want all the way to Mariveles to the starting point of the march. We got some cool pictures in this beautiful city and followed the march's trail from the beginning. It's now a road, a main one at that, so it was a bit different than what we first imagined. We got some good pics and footage (can we really call it footage anymore? That term is so antiquated!) at the trail markers. It was really beautiful country. We made our way all the way up to San Fernando, where the Death March became a Death Ride. Here the POWs were sardined into small train cars and taken up close to Camp O'Donnell. There are plenty of stories where the men died of suffocation, standing up, only to be discovered dead at when the rest were disembarking from the car. Who knows how long the dead were there, standing amongst the living.
Our day then brought us back to Manila. Our driver negotiated the rush hour traffic of this blustering city and finally, after a long day, we arrived at Best Western La Corona in Ermita. Ermita is one of the 13 cities that make up Manila. We were close to the US Embassy and UN building, so once we were all taken care of at the hotel, we took a little walk around town.
Well...around town. Funny thing was we were really hungry. We found a small pizza place (Yellow Cab Pizza Co.) and ordered. While we were in there, waiting for our food, we finally had time to stop and watch the Filipinos around and about. By watching I mean observing, and by observing, I mean that we finally saw the routine of life here. On our way out, I saw a man selling guitars on the street. The Philippines are known for making guitars, and I thought that would be a cool gift. Well, the street guy wanted about P3500 (about $88) for a very thinly constructed guitar, and although I almost buckled, I decided it was a bad deal. And it was. Ashley, however, did decide to buy a ukelele. She is oh so very excited about that. Promise.
After our encounter, we started walking toward Intramuros, the oldest part of the city. Intramuros was the very first Spanish colony here. As such, it's from the 1500s and is actually the most planned part of the country I've seen. That is, it was originally planned very well. It uses the grid system (not a popular city plan outside of the US) and it appears organized. About halfway there, we were offered a horse drawn carriage tour through Intramuros. We asked how much, and he said P250 (about $7) and Ashley asked how long it would take, to which the driver responded, a half hour. Okay, we said, that would be alright. We went and had our tour through this gem of antique cities, then he took us through Chinatown. Finally, he brought us back almost to our hotel, and when we were going to pay, he told us that the fare was P1500 ($38)--P250 per person, per half hour. Wow. I must give him credit. For being such an innocent looking 35 year-old (he looked my age) with 9 kids, this guy didn't have an ounce of embarrassment for scamming the rich Americans. Or the poor Americans for that matter. Whatever, I told Ashley, it was better to just get out of there.
On our way back to our hotel (you see, our horse driver didn't take us back...) we stopped by an art gallery and, well, we loved some paintings, and so we purchased some. Ashley wasn't happy that she missed an art show in the US while we were here, and so maybe the whole horse thing was supposed to happen; we wouldn't have found the gallery otherwise.
We made it back to our hotel, had a nice Filipino dinner, talked to a man about a helicopter (his name is Mike Johnson, and we'll come back to him later) and hit the sack. We had an early morning in front of us: a tour of Corregidor Island.
Chapter _______
We didn't have reservations on the tour, so we knew we had to get there early. The ferry took off from South Harbor at 8.00a, so we woke up and caught a taxi by 6.30a. Crazy, eh? Well, we don't take chances when were at this point. We got our tickets all taken care of by 7.50a, and quickly loaded our equipment onto the ferry boat. Once there, we got on one of the tour buses--we took the back seats so we had both sides to shoot--and started our tour.
I don't want to ruin the tour for anyone who ever plans to come here, but we'll just say that we learned a lot and had a really good time. Our tour guide took us to places we weren't supposed to be, and we got some awesome footage (again...the word...) of the ruins and the land mass. Corregidor was known as "The Rock," and now I can see why. It's truly a historical marvel.
We came back form Corregidor to our hotel and then we were off to a meeting with a man named Mike. Michael Johnson. He was our contact that I got from the mission president here for the helicopter. He had arranged for the flight, and we just had to go pay up front. Ashley was a little hesitant, but I assured her everything would be fine. We got to Mike's house late (thanks to the wonderful traffic here...ugh), and he opened the door with his small son and let us in. We chatted and stroke up a good conversation with him. A little about Mike: he came to the Philippines a little over 15 years ago (sorry I don't remember the details completely, Mike!!) and helped start the first mobile phone competitor (there was already a small monopoly-type carrier, so he brought the competition)--which is now the number one mobile phone carrier in the country--and now is in the entrepreneurial business. He's practically got connections everywhere now. We hit it up real well, and forked over some $2000 to reserve our helicopter for the morning. He sent us off--after we met his wife, Sheila,--and we came back to the hotel, ready for our next day.
Our ride was scheduled for 10.30a, and we left at 9.30a. Of course, even being close to the airport didn't help with traffic at that time. So...we got to Delta Gate (after asking about 10 people where it was) and were cleared to go to the helicopter with a driver.
Everything went really smooth, the kinks were small and didn't cause us any grief. I credit Mike and his contacts for that. Really impressed me, he did. We had a wonderful helicopter ride and said goodbye.
(You thought I jacked you of the helicopter details, didn't you!?) Well, I actually *am* jacking you of the helicopter details. It really doesn't translate to words, so you'll have to wait to talk to me and see the pictures I'll post soon. So there. I win. Emerging triumphant. Take that!
After the helicopter ride, we came back and dropped off our stuff at the hotel. We now had an appointment with Mike to settle on the ride--you know, if we didn't go as long as we paid for, we'd get money back; which we did. Then, Mike and Sheila had planned to go shopping with us, kinda show us around.
(****WARNING: Teasers below. Actually, I just changed my mind. I will not tell you what we bought, because then some of you would know what I got you, and others would be pre-offended that I didn't buy them anything. Well...you can get offended later.****)
Okay, so we spent the entire evening with Mike and Sheila. They were awesome. Sheila's Filipina, so she (okay, Mike helped too) helped us to get some really good prices where we could. Like I said, a very enjoyable evening. They actually treated us to dinner at TGI Friday's (I know...but it was good, and they really do serve Filipino dishes there...well...I saw *one* on the menu). Great people, and they run a travel agency, so if anyone's planning on coming...they can hook you up. Or...I could hook you up. With them. That's right.
We came home and then I started writing this. I wonder sometimes how self-aware you can make your own writing. Like, if my writing starts talking about itself while I'm talking about my writing which is writing the writing that I'm writing, how many pickled peppers could peter piper pick if the woodchuck was....
Sorry. Got bored.
Well, I'm supposed to be packing and going to the airport in about now, so I will see the US in a couple of long flights!
Over and out from Manila, Philippines.

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