The ESPN-iage...

The title's clever if you get it.
So, the story continues with me and the guys at Washington Life magazine and Sundance. That's the company that I'm "with," at least when I talk to the people in Park City.
Today I got a phone call around 12.30p from Soroush, asking me to be in Park City at the ESPN House at 1.15. Right. Well, that was going to be a stretch, but I found parking after 20 minutes, and by 1.45, I was at the ESPN House. I was supposed to meet Michael, Soroush's executive editor. Well, upon arrival I didn't see him, and he wasn't answering his phone. However, I did see the cast of a film in the festival. You may recognize the names: Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and (again) Dennis Quaid. They were pushing through the crowd of people trying to find some peace, I suppose. About that time, I also turned to see David Denman--or for you people who don't know who that is--Roy from the American version of "The Office." That was cool. Although, he went by completely unnoticed by the huge gathering of fans trying to bate SJP back out into the crowd. Crazy.
I finally got a hold of Michael, who didn't recognize my name (they think it's Taylor for some odd reason and I've given up trying to correct that), at first, but afterwards realized who I was and told me to come up the stairs. I met him up top, he was behind the "no-access" fence, and I wasn't. He pulled me to the side, just out of earshot of the guards and said, "You're name is David." Well, well, well...all right, my name is David. Or is it Taylor? Hmph. Well, being "David" got me into the ESPN house without a wristband and without being on the list, so that's cool. I can say I was probably the only one that did so.
I shot the party a bit, then I took the producers of the film "Kicking It" outside and interviewed them. Then I got to take the ESPN execs out and interview them. Cool stuff. I asked Keith, a VP of content, when we would see more soccer on ESPN, and he chuckled and said maybe this film would help that along. ...Right-o. We'll believe it when we see it.
I figured I didn't have much to do in that party, the Patriots-Chargers game was on, but we all knew what would happen with that. So I took off. After taking off I was down the stairs just in time to see Jessica Alba. She was nice to everybody, and even turned around on the stairs to let people take photos. Then she mosied on down to be with SJP below.
I left to meet up with some friends from school, and we hung out, ate some pizza, and went up to SlamDance to see the stuff up there. Oh, and to get some free stuff, which we did. About this time I got a call from Soroush, telling me to be at 540 Main at promptly 5.20. After I found it, I waited, and after a bit of questioning, I was taken up to the Bon Appetite restaurant. Nice place, and a nice little gathering. I saw Glenn Close, who I believe is one of this year's judges for one of the categories, and walked further into the restaurant. I filmed and I filmed, and then guess who comes and talks to me? Tom Arnold. Well, I'm not 100%, but I'm pretty sure. It's kind of embarrassing when you don't always know the people you meet here. I mean, do you ask, "What's your name?" or do you pretend you know them? Ugh. Well, he looked like Tom Arnold, and he was a nice enough man, so unless he has a look-alike, that was him. He wanted to know where Soroush's photog was, and, well, I didn't know. I was only his film guy. Anyway...the richy-schnitzy party continued, and when everyone was almost seated, Danny Glover showed up. Woot! Go Danny!
I got some great shots of him, and he was cool with everyone, pretty low-key kind of guy.
I realized up there, that these people were crazy. I mean, the mayor of Washington, D.C. was there, and so was the governor/soon-to-be-senator from Virginia. There were plenty other high profile people there, but I noticed that it was a game, mostly. Oh well, what do I know? It was better than the party the night before. In fact, people were quite civilized even after a couple of glasses of wine.
I thought I'd go catch a film with Ana tonight, but I was just ready to go home. It's tiring running around, being a gopher, let alone with a camera. So I headed back, only to nearly run into the Black-Eyed Peas. Or, at least, the lead singer. I'm not sure what they all look like, but when you're outside, there're plenty of other people shouting out their identity.
So, that's Sundance for today, I'll add my celeb-ratings (that's clever too) later!

Live from Park City!!

Okay, well, I think you've figured out by now that it's not live, but, well, you don't get much better than this. It's 2.30 in the morning of Sunday the 20th of January, and I've just arrived home from Day number 2 of the Sundance Film Festival. It's been an exciting ride so far, so I thought I'd update everyone with what's going on.

The following is a very selfish opinion, and what is said about celebrity figures is not necessarily true. I do not know these people personally, and to be honest, I think I relate and understand many of their actions. Regardless, these, again, are my impressions, and mine alone. Don't judge them solely based on my observations.

Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, I think I can finish this entry without the fear of someone's lawyer ever calling me. Of course, I'm just not that important, so why would they call me anyway?
Yesterday was the first full day of the festival. I had grand plans to go spend the day in Park City, go to a panel on technology and film, and then come home in time to get in the wait-line (wonderful student passes only get you free tickets from the wait-line) for the gala premiere of "The Great Buck Howard." I fly with the public transportation around these parts, which just isn't as good as it might be elsewhere, so I ended up being later than I was hoping. I got number 88 in the wait-line for that 6.30 showing, and I think only numbers 1 and 2 got in. Yeah. So, we went outside and saw John Malkovich get out of his car. Cool guy, in a hurry, but seriously, he seemed genuinely kind. He dished out a few autographs, and then made his short way into the theatre's lobby (where we weren't allowed, of course). A few minutes later, Colin Hanks came with his wife/girlfriend/a girl that happened to be with him (not quite sure about that, I don't stalk him). He was also really cool with people. Surprising how much he truly resembles his father, Tom.
I missed the coming of Tom Hanks, I was getting back in line to see if I'd get in. But he came, and then he went. All the while, I didn't get into the first showing of "Buck Howard," but I was able to immediately secure a very nice #30 spot in the wait-line for the 9.30 showing. Nice. It just so happened that about 36 people got into that one, so that was grand.
As we sat down, to our surprise, Tom Hanks was introduced and brought out onto the stage, where he introduced and presented the rest of the cast--including John Malkovich and Hanks' son, Colin--to the audience. How about that? Right in front of us. Well, I was surprised of how normal I felt. I didn't feel lower than them, oh no. Quite the contrary. I was surprised because I didn't feel "star-struck" and I had no yearning to go...touch them; or whatever it is that people feel like doing when they see famous people.
Tom's pretty funny in real life. He made some good jokes about the writers' strike, about Tom Arnold's wives, what else? He was just so genuine--it made me happy to see that.
After they left the stage, the movie started. "The Great Buck Howard" was probably one of the best films to start the festival I could have seen. It was good; you could call it one of those feel-good films of the year. Plus, it hit right at home, which meant a lot to me. Overall, it had great acting--hello!!! John Malkovich!--and just an all-around great feeling. So, it carries my recommendation if you want a feel-good time with some memorable roles. "Isn't that wild?"
That same day, I was called by a friend of mine who had hooked up with a producer named Soroush Shehabi who had a film, "Kicking It," in the festival. Soroush had asked my friend if he knew of any videographers who could come and just document the "ride" of premiering a film at Sundance. Well, I was recommended, and got the job.
I got the equipment that I needed (thanks to Ash, and Pictureline, even though I really had no need for the lighting kits!!) and went up to the library in Park City, where the premiere was going to take place.
I wasn't met by Soroush, but by some other person (PR dude?) working for the company. He wanted me to get right on shooting--didn't even let me put a mic on...tsk tsk--and he took me around to the execs that funded this film.
The film is about the Homeless World Cup, so it hit home to me. No, I'm really not homeless, even though sometimes I feel that way, but I do love soccer, so I thought it was cool. The neatest part was that Colin Farrell was the narrator. Which meant he was coming. In fact, when he got there, I was filming him. So, my first celebrity on my footage was Colin Farrell. Who'da thunk it? Not me. Of course, even though Soroush promised him that the paparazzi was cleared out and that one photographer and I would be the sole people recording him...I don't think Colin thought that was cool. If Colin Farrell was my first star, then he was also the first one who pushed my camera out of the way...twice. I should explain.
So, my "correspondant" with Soroush, and Soroush himself, wanted me to be close to Colin. It's good publicity, obviously, to have someone that famous come to your premier--even if he's in it. However, I don't think they understood telephoto and its magic. I'd get perfectly framed shots from a good distance--I mean, come on, Colin's a person too, and deserves his space, right?--but they kept on telling me to go closer...and closer. Well, Colin started talking to someone about something (I'm not sure because my headphone's were half on and there was noise in the room) that he obviously didn't want me recording, so he put his hand up to the camera in true anti-paparazzi style and shooed me away. His friend had already come up and told me, in short, to back off.
I understand, I really really do. I had two people to please, and I didn't want to piss Colin Farrell off. Meanwhile, I also understood why Soroush wanted that footage. So...I played it easy. And it worked. I got plenty of Farrell shots, while I thought I was still respecting him.
Well, that is, until the after-party.
I was supposed to go and film that, you know, show the world what it's like or something. It took a bit to track all the equipment (including the lighting kits that I didn't use) back to my car, and then go find something to eat...and THEN go get a new parking spot closer to the party, so by the time I had got there, it was half over.
However, it was still full, so I went in...with a mission: to be able to come back out alive.
I went to the back door--I obviously couldn't get in that way, so I went to the front where there was a huge(!) line. I tried to call Soroush, didn't get a hold of him, when he walked out. I yelled to him and he joked with security that I was supposed to be filming the party and got me in. How about that. Once inside, however, it was so dark that I couldn't get much. I realized that I had to re-prep the camera, since it had ran out of battery, etc. so I found a little bar I could do it at in the back. At that time, Dennis Quaid and his lovely wife came in. How's Dennis? Awesome. He was really kind to the workers there at Cisero's and even encouraged them to take pictures. Nice guy. Plus, he stayed at the back. Up front we had dancing and who knows what else, but back in the "lounge" it was just a crowded talking party. I wandered around a bit, not wanting Dennis to think I was stalking him (I'm very self-conscious) when I came to another little table where I could rest my camera. What I didn't notice was that the camera was probably right next to Colin Farrell's head. That's embarrassing. I decided to leave, and when I did, Colin's friend/bodyguard/assistant/you name it, came up to me, ticked off as all get out (maybe not that bad) and told me not to shoot them at the table. I responded very friendly-like, and even patted him on the shoulder, and apologized. I don't think he cared. Whatever. That was number two.
The movie, "Kicking It" will be rated R, unless some F-our letter words are bleeped out, distributed by ESPN, and should definitely be on your documentary watch list. I enjoyed it, and it was a poignant look at how the homeless really struggle, and how we as their "neighbors" treat them. It was some great moments, and had a great creative infrastructure which kept the movie rolling and the audience in it.
The stars for today, Dennis and Colin, received differing "grades." Colin's probably number last on the short list right now for congeniality, while Dennis is put right next to the Hanks'. Then again, I was paparazzi-ing (not really) Colin without really meaning to, so I probably had him in a bad mood. Too bad we didn't talk it out. Communication solves *so* many problems these days.
Well, I should go to bed so I can prepare for tomorrow's long day as well. Who knows what great adventure we'll have then.


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.


Videos are uploaded!

You'll have to deal with my narration, but videos can now be seen at

Also, don't forget to check out the pictures at

More later!

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...

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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...