Randal and I spent another few days in Manila this past week. Nick and Zaida were driving there for some banking and shopping and had asked if we wanted to join them. We left Subic Monday evening. To ease traffic congestion, vehicles are restricted from entering on certain days and Nick’s plates don’t allow him to drive in Manila on Mondays until after 7 pm. The roads from Subic to Manila were filled with crazy traffic: cars with no lights, cars in no lanes, trucks and buses taking 2 lanes. We arrived with Nick’s nerves a bit worn but the car unscathed about 10:30 pm. Nick and Zaida dropped us at the Aloha Hotel and then went to Nick’s apartment just basically around the corner.
This trip was planned as a shopping trip rather than for sightseeing. We needed a rain fly to cover the front deck so the hatches can remain open in the rain when we are without shore power and so can’t always run the air con. We needed a thermos and insulated coffee mugs for those days during passages when boat motion makes things spill and trips to the galley too difficult. They will be useful on calm days when everyone wants to be up on the flybridge and traipsing down the ladder, into the pilot house and back to the galley seems like a big deal. I can just take the thermos and insulated mugs up first thing and we can have it during an entire morning or afternoon. Plus every person who has cruised with us has asked, “Don’t you have a thermos and insulated mugs for those rough days?” (Now we do.) We needed to buy a replacement life ring since one of ours disappeared last trip to Puerto Galera. We needed an array of stuff, bolts, things. We needed a small fishing rod.
I needed a new bike helmet, books, more books, and more books! I needed underwear, still being on my quest for something that fit. And we needed some pesto! Randal really likes it, and though it took 3 malls, we finally found some at the Hypermarket at the Mall of Asia where Randal also found some new shorts at the Dickies Store.
I’m not sure everything that we bought, but we don’t need to visit a mall again for a long while. At the Mall of Asia, there are guards at every entrance to check your backpack and pat you down. There is a food court and eating there made me feel as if I were back in Tanglewood Mall. Can you get sautéed spinach with garlic at Tanglewood Mall?
We really went to 3 malls in 3 days. Tuesday we went to the MegaMall. Randal and Nick went one direction and Zaida and I another. I spent about an hour browsing in my first bookstore while Zaida looked for a camera. I had gone with her at first, but then went off to make sure I would have time enough to really browse before we regrouped. We all met for lunch and then switched partners, Randal and I went off together and Nick with Zaida. After lunch Randal and I hit an internet café and then wandered for a bit. About 5:30 pm it was time to get back into another hour of traffic and return to the hotel. Zaida was not feeling so great so we skipped dinner plans. After our long day Randal and I opted to have dinner in the Chinese restaurant in the hotel. I liked it a lot, Randal thought it too spicy hot. We went to bed about 8 pm!
Wednesday Randal met Nick at 7:45 am for a shopping trip to Binondo, the Chinese section of Manila that resembles Mongkok in Hong Kong. Lots of little shops selling stainless steel bits, bolts, and whatever. About 9:30 I walked over to meet Zaida and we walked to one of Manila’s older and smaller malls, the Harrison Mall. First stop there was to one of the cell phone repair stands where I was able to get a replacement LCD for my cell phone. Then Zaida went to look for clothes and I went to browse in another great “remainder” book store. The books don’t look used but are priced very low. They had older magazines too and the clerk helped me look for the Sports Illustrated World Series issue. She would hold up any SI she found, asking, “Is this it?” Baseball is not big here in the Philippines. I had no luck with the magazines but lots with the books. Here’s what I bought. While I Was Gone by Sue Miller, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman because it was set in Boston and I think Harriet G told me she likes Lipman, I Know Just What You Mean: The Power of Friendship in Women’s Lives by Ellen Goodman (who I really like) and Patricia O’Brien, Lost Geography, a novel by Charlotte Bacon because it talks about how geography impacts life. I also bought The Flyers by Noah Adams about the Wright Brothers. When I was still working, I read Adam’s book Piano Lesson about his attempt to really study piano. I had called Public Radio to asked about having Mr. Adams speak at the library during Piano Week. The woman who answered the phone, said, here he is, talk to him directly. I was a bit flabbergasted, but Noah Adams was very nice. I said I was wondering what he would charge as a fee. He said he’d just speak for free, he liked libraries; but he was just about to go off to promote The Flyers during the 100th anniversary of the flight. (I can’t believe that was over 4 years ago, but the book was written in 2003!) But I should check with him again. Maybe someone else at the library will do that. I thought Randal would also like the book. At that same little Harrison Mall I went to the National Bookstore, similar to the one here. I found a “sale’ copy of The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. Oddly I find I have patience for authors that I hadn’t before like Welty and Austen and Joyce Carol Oates. I’m getting a whole new education. In the very last bookstore I bought a magazine called y’all because it had a cover story about southern writers like Welty and Tennessee Williams, etc. Along with those books, I had bought The Gathering by Anne Enright one of the NYT’s best books and also Dylan On Dylan for Randal who is a Dylan fan. I also bought Drawing Problems and Solutions by Trudy Friend. She shows the problem and then the solution. I will be glad when I can draw as well as the problem examples. Unfortunately all of those books were full price at the first MegaMall.
We also did some grocery shopping. Peanut butter was quite a bit cheaper and we did find pesto and cooking spray. But I couldn’t find whole wheat flour. I think my last batch came from Sai Kung when we were living in Hong Kong.
Nick and Zaida left Manila after midnight on Wednesday to avoid traffic. Kindly they took our purchases with them. Randal and I wanted a bit more time to look for the life ring and a dinghy engine cover. We also wanted to visit the National Museum within walking distance of our hotel. It was not far from the Manila Hotel, famous for many reasons including being the residence of General MacArthur while he was in the Philippines after the war. I had been wanting to see it, but missed it on previous visits. We walked to the hotel first to have a real breakfast. We’d had a granola bar much earlier so a late breakfast would hold us for a while. The Manila Hotel is not spectacular from the outside. It is huge and the inside is old fashioned elegance, line the Hotel Roanoke or any of those old hotels like the one on Mount Washington in New Hampshire or Mohonk House in New Paltz, N. Y. Reflecting the times and place, the lobby has a luggage scanner like the airports and you go through a metal detector also. I think Randal and I made it beep, but the guards ignored that. We walked to the gift shop first for a post card, but there were none. I had not brought my camera thinking we would do no touring, darn! We walked to the coffee shop which was light and airy and expensive. At least the buffet was: $20 per person. I couldn’t eat half that amount. We each ordered an omelet and coffee. Randal also ordered orange juice, expensive but freshly squeezed. The service was gracious and quick, but the bread was cold and blah and the omelet was just so so. Oh well, we can at least check the Manila Hotel off our list of must see. I did ask at the desk if we could visit MacArthur’s room. They checked, but the person who could have taken us was not available at that time. Oh well. Had we been guests, maybe they would have made more of an effort. The room rates at the manila Hotel were 3 or 4 times the rates of the Aloha Hotel so I am sure we will never be guests. But it was nice to visit and see. There was a PALT conference underway. I had to ask because I saw Oxford University Press and a Children’s book publisher’s display. I wondered if it were a library conference. PALT is the Philippine Association for Language Teaching. There were about 20 vendors in the conference hall. Go to a Virginia Library Conference or an American Library Conference and there are hundreds of vendors. I wish the language teachers here had more resources. It was another reminder of how lucky we are back home to have so many resources available.
We then went to the main building of the National Museum. Randal had suggested going though we weren’t sure what it was a museum of. Lucky me, it was art. Many of the building’s rooms are either empty or used for other purposes, so a guide went with us to show us to each room. All of the art, mostly paintings, were worth seeing though rooms had both traditional and modern and social and abstract works all mixed together. Randal was ready to leave and continue our hunt for a life ring, so after about an hour we left the museum. We walked into Intramuros to a marine supply store, but had no luck. By then we were getting tired so took a taxi back to our hotel. Randal called another marine supply store and they did have life rings in stock. But by the time we added the 800 P taxi fare to the cost of the life ring, it wasn’t so much more than the one in Olongapo. Plus, getting it back on the bus would have been a bit much. So we decided to go to the Mall of Asia instead. That’s where we found the pesto and shorts and southern culture magazine.
During our visit we were able to have dinner Wednesday night at our favorite Manila Vice food stand on Roxas Blvd. That’s the place with 50 cent shots of Chevas and 50 cent glasses of wine. We also had paper thin crust pizza and veggie sticks. They say the pizza comes from the Pizza Hut stand down the way. You sit at the tables along the Blvd. and several wait staff come to ask what you want. All are carrying menus from their respective stands. We chose the one from Manila Vice and she went off to find a food menu. In the past the music has been so loud we had to leave, but last Wednesday they lowered it for us. They did that in the Dickies store too. We walked in and the clerks saw our faces and immediately ran to lower the music. I don’t mind the music they play, I just mind when it rattles my teeth.
We were up early Friday morning and caught the 8am bus back to Olongapo. We have made this trip twice before and each time the bus lady recognizes us. She is there to make sure people are on board when the bus is ready to leave. She made the bus wait so I could go to the CR before we left the terminal. We thought the ticket seller said the bus would leave at 8:30; but it really was 8 am. I ran and was really quick!
When we got to the Olongapo terminal, we decided to walk back to the boat though half way back, my pack was feeling like lead. Just outside the gate in Olongapo the McDonald’s now has salads so we stopped there for lunch.
I wish I had taken my camera and won’t leave it home ever again. There were no postcards of the Manila Hotel and the hotel web site has no photos. Sorry. But as I said, it was mostly a visit to the mall, and when you have seen one mall, you really have seen most of them.