The Philippines Adventure Round Two

(Ed. note: Before going any further: Philippines – spelled with “Ph”, one “l” and two “p”s, Filipino – “F”, one “l” and one “p” – WHY? Okay, rant is now done.)

On our walk in Manila from the hotel to the Mall of Asia, we passed the Philippines Senate buildings. Outside were three shuttle buses – I assume for senator use. Now, what I don’t understand is first, how, if the Philippines are so corrupt as literally everyone we talk to here says, they get their senators to use these and second, could we get our senators out of their limos, private planes etc and into these.

"Oh yes, we'll take the bus..."

“Oh yes, we’ll take the bus…”

When flying to Boracay from Cebu they limit you to 10 kgs. of checked and 5 kgs. of carry-on luggage. We decided to buy a third suitcase and leave some stuff that we wouldn’t need at the Manila hotel and pick it up when we came back. So off we went to the Mall of the Asias (Ed. note: Only mall we have ever been to where you put your shopping bags, purses etc. through a scanner and get patted down by an armed security guard – just like the airport.) We get into the department store luggage department and are almost assaulted by sales people. Each section has 4 or 5 young men hawking their product – Voyager, Delsey, American Tourister etc. See the 2 teal bags just behind the guy in the foreground? His section is that wide and goes maybe 20 feet out from the wall to the aisle. They just come at you the whole time it takes you to walk the 5 foot width and then totally let you go. When you stop, the guys in that section are all over you though. They throw the bags down, step and/or jump on them to demonstrate the durability. It is really quite a show.

Buy mine, buy mine, buy mine

Buy mine, buy mine, buy mine

Terry saw this guy in the ocean from our hotel room. He has some kind of homemade raft – made out of filled buoyant sacks and a yellow bucket. He would dive down looking for something and throw it into the bucket. Don’t know what. I do know there is no way you would get me into that water, letting alone eating something out of it, if that was what he was doing.

Just what he was after we don't know.

Just what he was after we don’t know.

Getting to Cebu from Manila is only a one hour trip – but this woman was asleep before the flight even left the gate!

Looks really comfortable...

Looks REALLY comfortable…

This is a different plane – but same airline.

Air Asia - nothing but the finest vinyl seating - and check out those comfortable arm rests.

Air Asia – nothing but the finest vinyl seating – and check out those comfortable arm rests. On the other hand…

they do have cute flight attendants - both personalities and looks.

they do have cute flight attendants – both personalities and looks.

We saw this a couple of times. You can’t really tell, but this is just a piece of paper or cardboard with the license number printed on it with the words “Lost Plate” underneath them. Good luck.

Try this at home and let me know how it works out for you.

Try this at home and let me know how it works out for you.

Being the flexible travellers we are, we changed out plans while in Cebu and extended our stay on Boracay, eliminating a trip to Bacalod. To do this, I spent three hours on the phone trying to make the change. It wasn’t possible to do online because I had to cancel one trip and use the money in my travel bank to purchase the new flight. It was unbelievable. I summarize:

Please cancel our flight from Boracay to Bacolod and Bacalod to Manila and then book us from Boracay to Manila.

First, I tried to do it on Skype. Bad connections led to frequent disconnects and little understanding. This took almost an hour. I know you don’t believe me but I am telling the honest to God truth. Then it was on to the hotel phone. The total cost of this change will be $32.00 since I am using my travel bank. THEN she comes back and says that my bank has rejected my transaction. There goes hour two. Now we have had a couple of instances where the Visa Fraud squad has gotten involved, but I specifically called them to tell them where we were going so that this didn’t happen. Was I irate? Does Terry like white wine? I get the guy from TD Visa on the phone and rip him a new one without letting him breathe. Then he says, “Mr. Watt I see that transaction and it has been approved. The problem must be at their end.”.Oh dear – now I am forced to ap …apol…apologize. I call the airline back and go through the whole thing again because once a reservation is denied it kicks out all the data input – birthdates, passport numbers, address etc. (Ed. note: Try getting a Filipino to understand Coquitlam) – this time the guy tells me that it is possible I am not using the same email address with them that I have with the bank and if so, when we submit the request it will be rejected – not by the bank but by their system. Who knew there were clairvoyants working for Cebu Air because that is exactly what happened after hour three. Then he tells me that the only way to do it is to go to an organic office (bricks and mortar) and do it live and in person. Off we go to the organic Cebu office – we walk in and get number 53 – they are serving number 37. We finally have a lovely young woman help us – no not the one below. With her I thought I was back in China. The first time #53 came up on the screen it said her and off I went. Then the display was retracted back to #52 and I stood there for 5 minutes waiting. She never once looked up in all that time. It was like – “I don’t see you so you don’t exist.” a very very common Chinese thing.

Hello? Hello? Hello?

Hello? Hello? Hello?

While we were waiting, we watched these two reading something on the right hand guys phone. No, they weren’t together. When he moved his phone and looked around, the guy on the left just adjusted his sitting position so he could continue reading it.

Mind if I read your book?

Mind if I read your book?

Saw this man on the sidewalk in Cebu City. Set up his typewriter and was doing all sorts of jobs for people. Very creative. Not everyone has a computer.

Willing to work

Willing to work

It is amazing how many people you will see on a bus, a tricycle, a motorcycle, a scooter and walking etc.

There are over 14 people on this vehicle.

There are over 14 people on this vehicle.

For all you people out there who castigate religion…

See - the church does some good.

See – the church does some good.

As Terry mentioned last time, you are consistently struck with the poverty in the Philippines. The number of the adults and kids you see on the streets at any time of day is amazing. We have been on the road at 5 to get to an airport or a ferry and it is unsettling to see groups of 3 or 4 10 or 11 year olds wandering – clearly they have been up all night – maybe homeless, maybe just no reason to go home. The photo below is the outside of the Carbon Market. It is a huge vegetable/fruit/meat market just like we have seen in many cities in Southeast Asia. What makes this one different is that they live above their stall. After a while you feel very guilty taking photos of their situation. They always smile or say hi, but I wonder how much they resent us. When we came back to the hotel last night, there were a group pf about 6 hotel employees waiting at the main gate to catch the public bus home. I saw a couple of them looking at the minivan they run as a shuttle for guests. Their look was very sullen – almost angry. It must be so hard to work for the pittance they make and continue to smile and say “Can I help you Sir-Madam”. I have never been known for having a strong social conscience, but…

The poverty can really get to you after awhile

The poverty can really get to you after awhile

They are renovating, refurbishing, redecorating the Chinese Society building in Cebu. It is surrounded with all the normal construction protection. I wonder if Mr. Gokongwei and Mr. Gotianun are heavily backing the project or are being shamed into doing something for their fellow citizens. It is right next door to the Carbon Market.



We were told that it is mostly very safe to walk in Cebu. We saw guards everywhere though – at the banks and pawnshops they have machine gun looking guns and almost all retail outlets have some official looking person with a gun at the door. These were some of the more blatant “I can’t believe it” ones.

Left - A Grocery Store; Middle - Mr. Donut; Right - Starbucks - STARBUCKS for God's sake

Yellow Circle – Handgun in holster. Left – A Grocery Store; Middle – Mr. Donut – MR. DONUT for God’s sake ;
Right – Starbucks

The Shoe Blog

These are sparkly camouflage. She couldn't have been 5 feet tall without them.

These are sparkly camouflage. She couldn’t have been 5 feet tall without them.



2 thoughts on “The Philippines Adventure Round Two

  1. Violet Javerina

    Hi Terry & Geoff, I know Philippines was one of the places that you are going to visit before heading back home, and I’ve been waiting for this blog, because I couldn’t wait what you will post. I find this travel blog as funny at times but true to life observations of the Philippines. Too bad you and I didn’t catch up again last summer to give you some warnings about my homeland, specifically Boracay. But after reading this, I was brought back to the same feeling I had when Rene and me went there in 2000. It is really difficult to witness the poverty surrounding that specific area, being that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful spots in the country, and it seems that even after so many years from my last visit, nothing has changed. People of the Philippines are very resourceful and imaginative in order to survive, though. Also, store owners have to hire security with guns to protect their businesses, but I think not just from the ordinary citizens but I also think from Al-Qaeda’s as well. I heard from reliable resources that the Philippines are hotbeds for terrorists. We didn’t use to see this kind of security with guns before 9/11. I was shocked as well when we saw this when we went to visit in 2000, and being frisked and your stuff being put in a scanner just to go to the mall. But anyway, you guys survived the Philippines and I’m so glad. I might go visit soon just to put things into perspective about my life in Canada.

  2. Lois

    We have all learned from both the Watts and Violet to value our life in Canada. Knowledge and insight is so powerful. Ta.


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