Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007


Tess' former roommate Nene and her driver Loloy picked us up in their Nissan Sentra and drove us to Glorietta, Makati (next to the Intercontinental Hotel) to a restaurant called "Fresh Catch Seafood Seafood Market." We were joined by former roommate Elaine, Bong, and their father.
The girls picked the entrees live from tanks: Shrimps, crabs, and lapu-lapu, which the chefs then prepared for us.
We then returned to the condo to pack up and took a van to the airport. Kim got his sixth massage of the vacation at the airport: one hour for $28 (airports are always a rip-off).
We departed Manila Sunday at 10:30pm and arrived in San Francisco Sunday at 7:45pm, and then drove back to Sacramento.

Tess snapped this sunset photo as we were approaching over San Francisco.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


The last two times I was in the Philippines, 1983 and 1984, I was sick with fever etc on the flight home, making me wary of returning. But it appears that this trip was different. Our return flight is this evening and so far no health issues (other than the headache the night I tried the Tanduay.) A key factor is probably the awareness to only drink beverages from bottles, especially avoiding drinks with ice.

Around noon we took a cab to SM Megamall so that Tess could meet some more of her friends. We found a great restaurant in the mall "Tong Yang Hot Pot." It's like a "mongolian barbeque" in that you select "all you can eat" from fresh meats and vegetables.
The difference is that you grill or drop in boiling water, cook it yourself at your table. They had a large selection of fresh fish, exotic mushrooms, and vegetables. They also had a "make it yourself Halo-Halo bar." At $7 it was not cheap. But it was packed with locals.

We then caught a cab to TriNoMa mall for the 3pm - 7pm karaoke party a Red Box that Tess has set up.
The large private room included a pool table, and many of Tess' friends came.
Unlike in the USA, the malls here have many armed security guards, and they search bags and have metal detectors at the doors. But once inside there are no "baggy pants mtv-wanna-be gang members" and the other undesirables that are in most California malls.

Friday, September 14, 2007


We started the morning by walking up Roxas Blvd. At 8am it was already sweating hot.
Kim stayed at the Silahi Hotel when he was last in the Philippines in 1984. It's been renamed the Grand Boulevard Hotel. The Aristocrat Restaurant is still next door, and Shakey's Pizza is still next to the Aristocrat. (The first Shakey's Pizza opened in Sacramento, and Kim's grandfather knew the founders.)
We walked up to Luneta Park.
In the afternoon Tess' former roommate Ched, and her husband Dominic, accompanied us to the Nissan in Quezon City where Tess had worked for 5 years doing claims and accounting work. Luckily they were having a birthday celebration, and Kim did not decline the offer for a slice of the pizza.
Next we went to the TriNoMa Mall, a new four-level mall that just opened in May 2007. They had a shop selling the rubber water-shoes, made in China, that we got in the USA for $10. This trendy shop was selling them as the hottest fashion, for $40! (I should start an import business from USA to China?)
We went into Red Box Karaoke, stayed for a few hours, and decided to move tomorrow's party to there.
We then took the LRT (light rail transportation) to SM Megamall. Unlike light rail in Sacramento, everyone was clean and behaved. The lines for tickets and having to push on and off was similar to a Tokyo train.
While others waited for Ched's sister, Kim had steam bath and full massage at Monpelle Inc. on the 5th floor, for $20. Afterwards Kim found them at Goldilocks.
We did some shopping at the huge grocery store (38 checkout lines, with double cashiers) then went outside to get a cab. Holy cow there were no cabs in sight and 40 people waiting in the "cab line here." The cabs are supposed to pull to the front, but, maybe because I'm white, a cab stopped next to us and offered fixed fare $8 for the long drive back to the condo. (Regular fare would be about $3.) Tess talked to the guy and agreed. I felt like a real jerk as everyone in line watched. But there is so much economic injustice in Manila, I don't think I can change it by waiting an hour for a cab.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Since we didn't have the motorcycle (see last post) we took a tricycle from the hotel to Tess' parents house.

Tess had her hair straightened while Kim and Bodel took motorcycle rides, like to Punta Cruz, Maribojoc - a church bell tower across the bay constructed over 200 years ago by the Spanish.

Tess' family and friends came to the airport to say goodbye, then we took a 4:45pm flight to Manila.

We departed south then made a 180 degree right turn to head north to Manila. The view of Taglibaran was so good that Kim ignored the "all electronic devices off" and snapped a quick photo. (Still digital cameras don't generate emf and radio signals like laptops and cell phones do.)
We are over Panglao island. To the right is the bridge between the islands, then moving left, Bohol Tropics is just past the big pier/port. Past the end of the runway is Manga Point, and barely visible is the river that we went up.
An hour later we dropped out of thunderclouds to a rainly final approach to Manila, and easily arranged transportation into town. When stopped at a red light some teenage kids approached our van, banging on the windows asking for pesos. We didn't have small change and it would not be safe to open the window anyway. There are so many poor people here living on sidewalks, or in Jeepneys parked on the side of the street.
Our friends from Sacramento are letting us stay at their "second home" condo in Manila. They come a few times per year for business so its convenient for them to have a second set of clothes and furnished household to arrive to.

It's on the 20th floor with a nice view.
We had a good dinner at Cafe Adriatico, but we only brought the cash we would need - and both thought that the other had grabbed the money. When the bill came we had ZERO and no credit card. Kim asked the waiter to bring him a beer so he could at least "look cool" while he waited 20 minutes for Tess to fetch some cash.
Unlike the Manila Kim remembers in 1984 of mostly junky cars, most cars on the road seem newer than the average in the USA, and there were many top-end SUVs parked at the Cafe.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


We planned to relax today and swim in the ocean. We stopped at Judith's store to get some snacks, and they offered to take us up the river in their boats to Bili-Bili. (Kim didn't know what was going on.)

We took two "Pump Boats" (outrigger canoe with motor) up the river, winding past fishermen, and it got narrower with short and tall palm trees lining the shore.

We arrived at Bili-Bili, which had nonstop fresh forest water flowing from pipes where the locals were doing laundry. The river had a cement wall and a higher cement structure that we jumped into the river from.

They then gave us a tour around Tagbilaran shore to Bohol Tropics. The wind had come up and the sea was choppy, making it a wet ride.

We arrived soaked at Bohol Tropics, they tied up the boats and we all had lunch there. Four of them had never been to Bohol Tropics, including the three in the back of the orange boat in the photo. The fish and stir fry entrees ranged from about 150 to 200 pesos - $3 to $4. This was like 1/3 of USA prices, but to them, compared to the price of fish at the local markets, they were hesitant to order because the prices seemed too high. (There livelihood is fishing - normally their boats are out catching fish rather than giving tourist rides.)

I imagined that the weather would be mostly hot and muggy, but was not usually the case. Today there was a breeze and clouds like thunderstorm coming in. In the evening it was a cool breeze. Riding in the boat the ocean water felt like a warm bath water splashing on us. The ocean had aqua blue color.

In the evening Tess went shopping at the mall with her two sisters while Jerry offered Kim a ride for fun on the Sikad-Sikad (bike with sidecar). Kim then joined the guys drinking and talking in the Payag-Payag (bamboo nipa hut) that is on Tess' parents property - between the house and a child daycare center.


On Tuesday Sept 11th we chartered a van for $75, including fuel and driver, which took 11 of us to two views of Chocolate Hills and then to the Loboc River Cruise. The chocolate hills look about like I imagined from all the photos already on the web. Still the drive was enjoyable.
Some parts of the drive had heavy downpour of rain, and some parts of this "main highway" is still a dirt road. The van driver below through a 30kph school district at about 90kph as a policeman went past the other way. I thought "we are busted" but the driver didn't even look in the mirror to see if cop would turn around.
This was one of the locations to see a Tarsier - the world's smallest monkey - that only exists in Bohol and is nearly extinct.
The Loboc River Cruise is a popular tourist destination with several boats operating.
They serve a buffet while it goes up and back down the river for about 45 minutes.
As our boat went by, some kids jumped from a coconut tree at an angle over the river and climbed aboard. Tess' Mom secretly handed one kid a stick of barbecue and sliced fruits. It was unclear whether they were seeking handouts, free food, or just having fun. The river is brown due to all of the recent heavy rain.
Riding in the van gave me a chance to take more photos of traffic. This is what I have been driving in. Oncoming cars - and buses and large trucks - pull out to pass and the motorcyle driver has to be alert to allow them room to pass through in the middle of the road. Many intersections are uncontrolled. The rules are like pushing a shopping cart in a crowded store. So far I have not seen any accidents.
My last traffic ticket in the USA was a "sting" where the principal of an elementary school would step into the crosswalk on the opposite side of the road just a few seconds before I was going through, as the police on a motorcycle was hidden. Here cars keep going and pedestrians have to be agressive to get the vehicles to slow down for them.
Prior to sundown Tess said she wanted to go out at low tide to gather shells. I thought she meant shells for decorations, but she meant shells to boil and eat for dinner. We went out in a small outrigger (Palm Boat) about a mile offshore to a "sandbar" where Tess and her family gathered shells. It was well after sunset, nearly dark, when we returned to dock. After dark Kim and Eric swam in the ocean for about 30 minutes. There is very little "light pollution" here, so many stars and the milky way were visible, and there was lightening off in the distance.
When we returned Tess and Tito boiled the shells and made vegetable soup.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


We had an early breakfast at Bohol Tropics. (the website doesn't show the entrance to the resort, so we show it here - back from the motorcycle ride to the beach.)

It was raining and my plan was to go to Manga Point to video the airline approaching from Manila. But it was clear that we would get wet and muddy on the motorcycle. I concluded the solution was to put on our bathing suits and sandals and make the drive.
We splashed through a lot of mud puddles since much of the road is not paved. I got the footage of the airline arrival and the rain tapered off. I took a swim in the ocean while Tess convinced a guy to let her paddle his boat around, like she used to do as a kid.
It is a new experience getting both in and out of water with no chill. The salt made it easy to stay afloat with no effort. There were no waves so by adjusting my height I could see the curve of the earth: At 6" above water the hulls of 2' high boats a few miles out were invisible. But when I raised up another foot I could see the full boat. so I suspect that the earth curve drops off at about one foot per mile.

At noon we transferred from Bohol Tropics to Vest Pension House to save money, then went to Tess parents house. We just caught Maricar (Cop sister), Herman and Lumine leaving to catch a ferry to another island (Cagayan), where they are thinking of settling down.

Around 5pm we hiked up Elly Hill. The top is fenced off and Calixto lives on the site, but it is public land. He charges a small fee to enter the fenced property - after having us read a long religious writing. Tess says he does not own the land, but he says he's lived there for 25 years. He is known for being crucified - nails through his hands - several times.
We then went to Manga Point for the sunset.
After dark Kim tried Eric's bicycle with sidecar with Tess as passenger. It is a dirt road and uphill in places. Eric pushed from behind to make it easier, and everyone we passed thought it was funny.


After having the complimentary breakfast at Bohol Tropics, the plan was to go to Tess' parents house and then visit her aunt and husband at the jail. But it rained all morning so they delayed the visit until the afternoon. so I mostly sat on the porch and watched the rain.

In the afternoon the rain stopped so several of us went to visit at the jail. It was out in the country. It houses about 130 inmates and visitation was outdoors within the high cinderblock outer wall. (Oddly the females were all searched, but I was waived through.) Tess had visited some of jailed policemen when she lived in Manila and said this was much better than the Manila jail.

Tess' father then dropped us off at the Island City Mall to do errands. Since some had not tried Bohol Bee Farm food, we took them to that restaurant.

I stopped at Internet Cafe in the mall and paid for a computer for Eric too. He interrupted me and said "watch this" and i saw an Iranian guy taking off his shirt on the webcam chat. What? Eric said pretended to be a female online to see what he can get guys to do. Well funny enough.

i've learned to ride 2 on the back of the motorcycle (eric and tess) but we see 4 or 5 on a motorcycle quite often.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


In the afternoon we hung out at Bohol Tropics. The fountains in the pool gave a nice massage effect.

You can see our room behind Kim in the pool.

At 6:30pm we took a cab to the parents' house. It was overflowing with people eating rice, lechon, and the filipino cuisine that Tess' brother Tito and other family and friends had prepared all day. From about 8pm to 11pm it was a Karaoke party.
Kim promised guests to put the video of the party on YouTube so that visitors could see it.

There were many very good singers. Tess' sister Maricar, who is a police officer in Davao, traveled by plane and ferry to attend. Three years ago her police officer husband was shot and killed during an undercover drug bust.
Tess had been planning this party for about 2 months when she realized it would take days of traveling to visit all family and friends. There were about 100 people, including the expected (and welcome) party crashers - Tess did not know many of the people in the front yard.

Friday, September 7, 2007


At 6:10am Tess father arrived at the hotel to pick us up to go to the open market. Tess and I then took the motorcycle to the pier at Magma Point to video the arrival of the flight from Manila to Taglibaran. We thought it should arrive by 9am but didn't see it. We stayed until 9:30, in spite of gray skies - too late. We got stuck in a tropical downpour, so we took cover under a waiting structure. The local kids and families continued to come and go to swim in the ocean. But we had two cameras and no nearby change of clothes. Luckily an hour later it stopped, and except for puddles its now a clear sunny day.

Tess family and relatives are preparing for the evening party. Their computer had browser problems, so I brought relative "Eric" to navigate me to an internet cafe.


Tess' father arrived at 8am in Alona to pick up our luggage and Herman, Lumine, and baby. We then walked to the beach and again hired a boat to take Kim out snorkeling ($8 for one hour, including the gear). Again, it's only about 3 meters deep out 200 yards, then drops off a cliff. I was looking at the coral and small fish when i saw some huge black things emerging - two divers. I waved and they waved back.
After checking out from Flower Garden we stopped for gas in Alona. The attendant asked "You want one or two liters?" I said two and he returned with two 1-liter coke bottles full of gas and poured them in the tank.

We drove the north route to Tagbilaran, through the crazy traffic and checked into Bohol Tropics. We asked to see some rooms first and picked a nice one (Room 107), completely private, hardwood floors. Their exchange rate was bad so after eating we went back to Island City Mall to the currency exchange, then to Tess' parents house in Manga. Along the way someone called Tess' name. I turned around, it was her friend Judith, who she last saw in 1999, and recognized her during one second driving past.

When we arrived at the parents' house in Manga they were testing the karaoke machine. Then a motorcycle dropped a pig from a sidecar and left it squealing hog-tied in the front yard. In some process I don't want to think about, they will turn it into a lechon for the party tomorrow.

Around 7:30pm - well after dark - the power for the whole town went out for about an hour. Later Tess' father drove us back to Bohol Tropics. Saturday will start early.


While at Internet Cafe posting the prior Thursday entry, Jovelyn, who works at Flower Garden Resort (in photo), stopped in with her friend to use the Internet. Tess helped her set up a Yahoo email acct.

Kim finished his San Miguel while Tess and Jovelyn were still busy. There are signs everywhere on the highways "TANDUAY" so he asked to try a shot. "Five year or 15 year?" I can't decide, give me both. It is rum. (I guess google it and you'll know more than me - except that I liked the 5-year better - it had a more unique flavor.)

We returned from Internet Cafe about 11pm and Tess'sister and husband (Herman from Belguim) were still up so we visited and had some more beers. (Boy those Europeans can slam down beers.)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday September 6th


(NOTE: Click on photos for larger images)

Tess sister and husband (Herman from Belgium) liked Flower Garden so much that they rented the a-frame unit next to us. At 8am Tess' parents picked them up and we followed into town on the motorcycle.
Two years ago Tess' aunt's husband (orange shirt) had been accused of embezzling from the bank he worked at. The witnesses are former accused who agreed to testify against him. They have both been in jail for two years "awaiting trial" - aunt (white shirt) as "co-conspirator." We went to the court to attend a pre-trial hearing but for the sixth time the plaintiff (banker/attorney) failed to appear. They have a new attorney from out of the area. There is no right to jury trial in philippine criminal court, and from what is happening to them (and what happens in US family court) it's apparent the benefit of the jury trial. I should not say any more about the case in a public blog.
Except for the aunt and husband who were escorted back to jail, the rest of us went to the Island City Mall to the Bohol Bee Farm outlet for lunch - including the attorney. Out the window I saw a "muslim" drive up on a motorcycle and remove his headgear. I asked where to buy that. When he put it back on we saw it was just a t-shirt with his eyes through the head-hole and sleeves tied behind head. Since being foreigner poses some risk, and for fun, I decided to do the same. See photo. It's fun to notice the difference from when girls would look at me to now when guys just watch to see that i keep going.
Tomorrow we move from Flower Garden to Bohol Tropics in town.

Wednesday September 5th in Bohol

We took the motorcycle into town and met Tess' family at new Island City Mall. First we bought a WOW karaoke from an electronics store. The policy there is to demo that items work, so they set it up in the store. The employees liked Kim singing Archies "Sugar Sugar" and Tess' "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Next we shopped at the grocery store in the mall for the big Saturday party. This store was more like a Raley's than the dirty "asian stores" in Sacramento. There were over 200 employees around to assist. The fish was laid out fresh. I wanted to take photos but the security guard said I could not - and since he had a 2 foot long gun, I did what he said. (There is a lot of heavily armed security at stores in the Philippines, but rarely see a policemen.)

I wore the my "Justice for Aquino" shirt that I bought during my last visit to Philippines, February 1984 just after President Marcos had ordered his rival Ninoy Aquino executed as he got off the airplane. The Filipinos then overthrough Marcos and voted in Aquino's wife as president.

In the afternoon we took the motorcycle around the north side of Panglao Island. In In Panglao City we stopped at a Church/School that had an old stone tower from a war at least 100 years ago. The tide was low and no waves in the ocean - I'm not used to a quiet ocean in California. We drove to Dulho Point.

Next we drove to Hinagdanan Cave then to Panglao Island Nature Resort, which was over-the-top exclusive. It was $6 each just to drive in, but $4 credit to food purchases. We had some fruit drinks, clam chowder, and vegetable curry stir fry (made at the table, outdoors overlooking the ocean.) Like most resorts it was nearly empty. The only other table was a lady and guy. Tess whispered that she is some sort of movie star. After they left the waiter confirmed that she was "Amanda Page" - soft porn star. (But Tess never watches such movies?)

We had to rush out as the sun was about to set and Kim only had sunglasses for the motorcycle to protect from bugs in eyes.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Tuesday Sept 4th update


Hi! 10am Tuesday from internet cafe in Panglao.
Went out snorkeling with private guide in small outrigger canoe, about 200 yards beach drops off underwater cliff. Then had coconut for breakfast. Now 10am have a large red horse beer.

After experiencing snorkel maybe no need to scuba, i realize mask fills with water, which would scare me 10 meters down. The coral is so shallow i see the same from snorkel. Ocean is like an 80-degree swimming pool, no chill at all. (i hate cold water)

Yesterday arrived ok, rode the motorocycle around Tagbilaran, and Tess' brother dropped it for us at Flower Garden Resort. Yesterday I drove on side streets but today will be 3rd world crazy, no helmet, with people honking and passing everywhere.

TECH PROBLEM: i had a SIM installed in cell to get local access, and now it can no longer send email! So my plan of posting cell photos here isn't going to work. (The world just needs to catch up with me.)

Shopping in grocery was so much like shopping in the Asian markets in South Sacramento it was not even like a foreign country - except for one thing. Suddenly everyone froze like twilight zone. i started to talk and Tess said SSHHH. There was a prayer coming over the speaker "the holy rosary" (angelus) every mall "praise the father" or something.

Flight into Bohol was amazing approach. It's short field so the 737-clone came in on low/slow approach, and my right window seat was looking out just a few hundred feet at the shorline. Tess recognized a spot where she used to hang out when she was little, so we took the motorcycle there a few hours later. (the airport only gets a few flights per day. aside from our 737-clone there was only a few Cessna 150s.)

Worse "mishap" was i forgot to pack a belt, learned that when i put on my long pants for the flight, so we made a quick trip to tanforan mall sears to get one.

Maybe more another day - we'll take the motorcyle around Panglao Island north shore now, to Bohol Bee farm.