Jill and John Travel to the Philippines to bring Jackie home from her Mission
May 31st to June 8th,
Written by John
Jill and I began our journey on Monday, May 31st, 2010, at 9:20 am by
flying from Minneapolis to L.A. on a Delta Airlines Boeing 757.
We decided to only take carry-ons to avoid the cost of checking
luggage and to speed things up. We had a couple hours in L.A., then we
boarded a 747 to Tokyo. We were very fortunate to get seats in an exit
row, so there was a huge amount of leg room, and it helped the flight
go quicker than it might have had I been scrunched up in a normal seat.
also had a couple hours in Tokyo before boarding another 747 to
Manila. We had time only to walk around and look at displays at the
airport. Here Jill is admiring oragami on display at the Tokyo airport.
Good fortune was certainly with us because we had exactly the
same seats to Manila as on the previous flight. However, the flight for
reason was delayed about an hour, so we arrived in Manila after 11:00
PM on June first. We had a little trouble finding the Holiday Inn
lounge at the airport, but the friendly Filipinos pointed it out to us,
and we were welcomed there with a car waiting to take us to the hotel.
The driver, as well as the hotel people, were all so helpful and
courteous. The customer service was most excellent, in contrast to what
we found in Russia on our trip there a few years ago. We didn't get to
the hotel till after midnight, but what did that mean to our internal
clocks? Our room was 2406, on the 24th floor. Arriving at night, I
didn't realize that the building was so tall, but from our window we
could barely see the tops of some of the nearby buildings. We
thought it strange that we could only get one light in our room to turn
on. Nothing else worked, including the air conditioning. It was a
little warm that night, but we made it okay. In the morning I called
the desk and reported the problem with the lights. They said I needed
to insert a door key into the contraption near the door. Once I did
that, everything worked. I had never seen anything like that before,
but it is a good idea.
We went to bed and actually slept pretty well till 5:00 am or so. I
guess it was good we could sleep on the planes. We ate our breakfast at
the hotel. They had a bountiful buffet which was really good. I didn't
think it was free, so I was concerned that it was pretty expensive, I
think about $15 each. However, I found out later that it was free with our hotel stay.
We had two main things to accomplish on the 2nd of June, before we met
up with Jackie the next day. We had to get some traveler's checks
converted to pesos, and make arrangements for a bus on the afternoon of
the 3rd to take us up to Solano, in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, at the southern end of Jackie's
mission. The hotel has a concierge service which provided great help in
arranging for a bus. Jackie had suggested Florida Transport, but the
concierge person directed us to Victory Liner, which had a terminal a
little closer. They said we didn't need a reservation, but just to go
there and get the next bus. As for the travelers' checks, after we had
already bought some at our bank in Eagan, I read some comments on the
internet that travelers' checks are nearly useless in the Philippines.
So I was a little anxious about that. I brought 12,500 Filippino pesos (Php) (about $270) with us that
I had ordered from Travelex on the internet, but we decided we probably
needed another $500 worth. I had seen that there was a Bank of the
Philippine Islands at the mall to which the hotel was attached, but a
walk around the mall didn't prove useful in finding it. We did find a
Banco de Oro, at which they said they would convert up to $200 to pesos, but
they needed the purchase receipt, which I didn't bring from the hotel
room. Once we went back and got that, we did some asking and managed to
find the BPI, which was not in the mall but was right next to the hotel
entrance. They were happy to convert $500 into pesos, had a pretty good
exchange rate, and small charges. So we sighed "whew" and had our tasks
of the day finished.
On Wednesday morning we decided to walk over to the Manila Temple. I
thought I had things figured out between our map and what I could see
from our room, but when we got out on the street I somehow got turned
around by about 90 degrees. We crossed the street in front of the hotel
and tried to match the street names with the map, without success. A
young fellow came by and asked if he could help. After explaining and
showing where we were trying to go, he told us we were heading in the
wrong direction, and besides the path we were looking for was through a
gated community that doesn't allow pedestrians. He showed us the way to
go, and walked with us about half way. He was very kind and helpful. He
said he was Engineer Nick. I didn't catch his last name. Jill gave him
a pass-along card with the Church information. We made it to
the temple and looked around a little there and across the street at
the Missionary Training Center, then returned home. As we were walking
to the temple with Nick, Jill noticed some youth walking the other
direction with Manila Stake and the Church logo signs on their
were youth from the stake there. We talked to them for a while.
The traffic is unbelievable in Manila. It was pretty clogged after
midnight when we came from the airport, and our driver says it starts
up at about 4:00 in the morning. There are some traffic lights, but most
intersections are budge-your-way-through. All the while they are
honking at each other, not in meanness, but to indicate that they're
there and coming through. Our walk along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue
to the temple, though there was a very nice sidewalk along it, was
incredibly noisy with all the horn honking, diesel engines, etc.
Robinson Mall next to the hotel is huge, with five floors covering
most of a city block. I didn't get any pictures of the mall itself, so
this one is from the internet and gives some idea of the size. The food
court is on the second floor and covers almost the whole floor. It was
amazing how many people were there eating lunch.
On Wednesday Jill and I wandered around the food court at noon and
decided to try something Filippino (they have lots of American places
like McDonalds and KFC). Basically all dishes come with a big scoop of
rice in the middle. We found one labeled egg plant tortilla that we
decided to try. It looked like enough to feed us both, so we just
bought one at 69 pesos (about $1.50). It was pretty good, but we
couldn't make it look or taste like egg plant. We decided it was really
a chili relleno, FIlippino style. Since we've been home Jackie cooked
us some with US egg plants, and it now makes sense that they might have
really started with egg plant for this dish, though probably a different variety.
For supper we started at the restaurant in the hotel and found that
they only have entrees (I thought they had buffets all day), so we went
to the Robinson Mall 4th floor where they have about half the floor
with sit-down restaurants. It was hard to decide which to pick, but we
found an interesting one with Filippino food that was pretty
interesting. We have both forgotten the name of the restaurant and what we ate. I guess it wasn't tremendously memorable
We got a good rest on Wednesday night, then got up early to get to the
temple around 6:00 am to meet Jackie. Because it was raining, we
decided to take a taxi. The fare was only 50 pesos (about $1.10) so we
thought that was reasonable. We arrived at about 6:10, mentioned to the
temple workers, including the president, that we were waiting for our
daughter, then sat in the foyer. After a couple impatient hours of
getting up and walking around inside and out, the president asked me if
I would like to help in the temple. He got me some clothing and I was a
witness in the baptistry. The Manila Temple has embroidered shirts they
wear untucked and without a tie. Boy, I like that temple! When the
baptism session ended about a half-hour later, I found that Jackie had
arrived and was in the foyer with Jill. It was very nice to see her
again after 18 months.We just barely had enough time to catch the 9:00 am
session. Jackie was later than expected because of traffic and road
construction. They rode the overnight bus from Cauayan to Manila, which
should have arrived around 6:00 to 6:30. but it obviously didn't.
the endowment session, the three of us went outside for a picture in
front of the temple, then we went over to the MTC where
Jackie had left her luggage, then we flagged down a taxi to take us to
Victory Liner station. It wasn't very far and cost us only 70
pesos (about $1.52). They had seats on the 1:00 pm bus and said it
5 to 7 hours to get to Solano, where we planned to stay for two nights.
The tickets were 346 pesos (about $7.50), which I thought was pretty
reasonable for a 5 to 7 hour trip.
My experience in the Philippines was very good overall. I stayed
didn't experience any jet lag, but the bus ride from Manila to Solano
was a very low point
in my life. It was a regular bus, meaning the seats were close, there
was no restroom onboard, and it stopped lots of times along the way.
When we purchased the passage, we asked if we could get me a seat in
the front with extra leg room. He said I could have the seat behind
the driver. But he was mistaken. It was one more back from that. So
much for that strategy. Jill and Jackie were most of the way in the
back and had a good time together. But from my seat I could see the
road ahead, and that made me very nervous the whole way. The only thing
worse would have been if I had been driving. So I was glad I didn't
attempt that. It was like a constant game of chicken the whole way, as
the bus pulled around slower vehicles seemingly ignoring oncoming
traffic. My legs barely fit between seats, and I purposely drank very
water because I didn't know when the next bathroom stop would be. And
then we didn't arrive at Solano until 9:00 pm. That was a long eight
hours! I was so glad when we finally arrived.
We were told about the Highlander Hotel
Solano, and that we wouldn't need reservations. I was greatly
relieved when we found that they had a room for us. In fact they had
rooms. It is a very fancy hotel/resort which was under construction
during the first part of Jackie's mission. We chose a room that had
three single beds in a loft above the living room and bathroom. It was
very interesting. To get to the toilet you had to walk through the
shower, and there weren't any towel racks. But who's complaining? It
was most comfortable after the bus ride! Here is a picture I took from
the front of the hotel. Behind me and to the left is a 100-yard
driveway and a night club facility along the driveway. When we arrived
there was a band playing, but we didn't hear much from our room which
is in an additional building behind the one you see here. We arrived
pretty late our first night, and we were tired (especially me!), so we
went to bed to get rested up for the next day.
had a nice restaurant at the Highlander Hotel with good Filippino
dishes and very reasonable prices. We stayed at this hotel for two
and ate our breakfasts and dinners at the restaurant. As you can see it
is a very nice restaurant. The napkins were different colors and folded
in different unique patterns at each table. Jill asked the workers who
did all the interesting napkin folding. They looked at each other, then
responded that they all did. Jill found it
interesting that the restaurants in general didn't have much in the way
of fruit, though fruit was growing in abundance all around us, such as
coconuts and pineapples. Jackie said it was so common
that they didn't bother to have it in many restaurants. Oh well. For
second breakfast I asked for a big bowl of oatmeal. They brought out a
huge bowl that must have had triple the usual amount. I offered to pay
extra for the extra oatmeal, but they wouldn't hear of it.
woke up Friday morning, June 5th, at about 6:00 am hearing pounding
nearby. Upon investigation, we found that just a ways from us were men
building furniture for the hotel. Jill went down to investigate and
took this picture. She thought they were doing a good job with 2x4s.
The main hotel is on the left here and our room is in the structure on the right behind
and I had made arrangements with Rogelio Martin to drive us around a
couple days in Jackie's mission area. He agreed to meet us at the
Highlander Hotel at 9:00 on Friday morning. He called us at about 8:45,
having already arrived. He told us that he was busy with some things
and would ride with us for a while, then his son and friend would take
us around the remainder of the time. Pictured here are the friend,
Bladel, and Chris Martin. Chris isn't looking too happy at the moment
because a policeman took away his driver's license right when he left
us off at the hotel in Tuguegarao. More about that later. They have here a Mazda diesel van,
which got around pretty well. And since diesel is considerably less
expensive (about $2.77/gal) in the Philippines, that was good.
first thing we did with our drivers is head out to Banaue where the
eighth wonder of the world is, the Banaue Rice Terraces. I didn't know
it would be such a long drive. It took two to three hours to arrive,
though on the map it shows to be only about 40 miles away from Solano.
The roads are very curvy and the going is pretty slow.
The rice terraces were very amazing. You can't really get the
perspective of it from this picture at our first lookout point, but
they extend all over this valley. We asked some of the locals if they
knew when they were constructed. They said they were there when they
were born, and they were pretty old.
another lookout point we found this poster down from the road, and were
surprised to see that the rice terraces are purported to be 2000 years
old. So yes, several generations of natives were born while they
already existed. And notice that they cover about 4000 square miles.
That is really amazing. And of course, they are still planting rice,
which is the bright green you can see in the picture above. Jackie had
the opportunity to help plant some rice elsewhere during her mission. It is done just a few
seedlings at a time. Imagine how much labor it takes to plant 4000
square miles! I just found out from Wikipedia that in tropical areas
the rice plants can produce for up to 30 years. That's pretty amazing.
It still has to be planted.
are still working on the rice terraces, including expanding the area
already terraced. Just below the lookout point where we stopped the
second time this young man was working on one of the terraces and
cleaning up the steps, which are right now mostly covered with dirt..
Jackie, I and some locals in their native costumes pose in front of
the rice terraces at our first lookout point. You can see that they
have been around for a while, but certainly not 2000 years. They take
donations when they are included in a picture, and they are anxious to
add color and spice to your pictures.
decided to look for a place to eat lunch once we started down from the
rice terraces lookouts. The first place we found didn't look very
appetizing. The second one, recommended by one of the locals to Chris, was much better, and
the food was pretty good. I took this picture looking up from our
table. The lizards are all over the place, including in our hotel
rooms. Jill had visions of going on a mission to a foreign land, with
dirt floors, and having lizards fall on her chest during the night.
Though the Filippinos usually have concrete or tile floors, the lizard
part could certainly happen here.
we came down from Banaue we went to visit members in Bagabag
(Bahg-AH-bahg) that Jackie wanted to see. Here Jackie is posing in
front of the apartment they lived in. Unfortunately, due to the
security fence, you can't see the building very well. But it looked
pretty nice from the exterior.
said her favorite baby in Bagabag was BJ Bumatay. When we arrived at
their home, BJ was asleep, but Jackie was able to see his mother, Mary.
After we had visited for a short time and Jackie had mentioned how much
she liked BJ, Mary relented and woke him up so he could see Jackie
again. He was a bit shy, but he seemed to remember her and gave her a
we got close to the Abad home, sister Abad came running out yelling,
"Sister Price" several times till they met and hugged each other. On
the left she is with her two girls and Jackie at the edge of their
property, which is full of coconut trees. On the right is her husband on
his tricycle, which, motorized or not, is a very common sight all over
By the way, you may be wondering what in the world Jackie has on the
front of her t-shirt. If you guessed Charlie's Angels, you're right.
This is because she was in a trisome in her first area (meaning she had
two companions) so their district leader, Elder Nelson, called them
Nelly's Angels and it became a little joke between the four of them
which then turned into a shirt that the four of them were able to make.
we walked around in Bagabag, we got close to a building which had this
woven material which we had seen a lot. So Jill wanted me to take a
picture of it. It is used on the sides of buildings, and we saw it
rolled up a number of times.
visited the Bayatan family who also loved Jackie. I also took a picture
of their home looking further away from the road to show how they are
situated. They don't have any fences and the kids play around
throughout the neighborhood, so it was difficult for me to tell whose
family the children who gathered around to see the foreigners belonged
had another case of the baby asleep when we arrived. This picture shows
the youngest Bayatan child who woke up while we were visiting. Isn't she
a cute little girl? then another daughter who had been away returned
home and we got this picture on the right with Jackie.
For example, here were two little girls who came to see us who didn't
belong to the Bayatan family we were visiting. I took their picture
because I thought they were so cute, and very curious about the
we traveled around we saw a number of groups of boys playing
basketball, as we found here in Bagabag. In Latin American countries
the common thing is for the boys is to be playing soccer. We didn't see
any of that in the Philippines. The popular things to do, even in the
heat and humidity, is to play basketball.
Jackie is hugging the daughter of the Dalilis family. She was the only
one home at the time of our visit. When Jackie served in Bagabag only
the mother was a member, but this daughter was baptized after Jackie
was transferred. They had been teaching the whole family while she was
After our Bagabag visits we were tired. We went back to the hotel, had
a nice dinner, then went to bed. Our drivers, Chris and Bladel, rather
than go home for the night, decided to find a cheaper hotel in the area
than the Highlander. We saw them a while later and they said they
hadn't found a suitable place, so they decided to spend the night in
their van. In the morning I volunteered to treat them to breakfast, but
they had already eaten. It appeared that they had made friends with
some of the hotel employees and were able to get freshened up for the
morning. So once we all had eaten and checked out, we headed north to
Jackie's second area, Alicia.
first stop was planned for the home of Jimmy's girlfriend. Jimmy was
Jackie's favorite baptism on her mission. Jackie was praying that
somehow Jimmy would be there so we could see him. As we drove by,
Jackie missed the place where they lived, which was a ways off the road
and down a hill, not obvious to find from the road. So we had to turn
around and go back. As we approached their place, Jackie noticed that a
motorcycle pulled up about the same time we did. And to our amazement
it was Jimmy! He told us that he was preparing to serve a mission soon.
On the right you can see Jackie and Jimmy's girlfriend, Deseree.
next stop in Alicia was at the Gemma (GEM-ah) home. On the left are
Jackie and Sister Gemma, who is the Relief Society president. Their
home is actually on your right as seen in the picture on your right,
and the little bit you can see on the left is their new home they just
built in which her nephews are now living. I should have taken a more
complete picture of this home. It is really fancy. One of the nephews
is Jaros (JAY-rohs), pictured on the right. His parents are living and
working in another country, but Jaros served a mission in the
Philippines and returned to Alicia to go to electrical engineering
school. Jaros accompanied us on our other visits on foot in Alicia.
Jaros, we walked a ways and visited a couple families that lived close
to each other. On the left are Abby and Jackie. On the right are
pictured the primary president (Jackie can't remember her name) and
Brother and Sister Abuan with the three of us.
also stopped by the branch president's home. He wasn't there, but we
found his wife. Here Jackie and Sister Gandela look really happy to see
each other again.
also walked by Jackie's former apartment in Alicia. We also found
someone at one of the stops washing clothes. I took this picture to
show how this is done, and how Jackie washed her clothes all during her
mission. I could also mention here that Jackie claims that she didn't
take any showers during her entire mission. At least not using a shower
with a shower head. The method to wash oneself is basically a sponge
bath, pouring water over oneself. Sorry, no pictures to show this
also happened to see some of Jackie's former investigators along our
walk. She doesn't remember their names. This is a good picture of a
tricey which is such a common mode of transportation all over the
mission. It gives them some shade from the hot sun and a little
protection from the wind and bugs, and also additional room for
passengers. They become more common the further away from Manila you
go. We didn't see many in Manila, but there are thousands of jeepneys
for public transportation. Jackie says there aren't any jeepneys in
Tuguegarao, her most northern area, except private ones. We also saw
some vehicles that looked like a roto tiller connected to a cart, with
long bars like handle bars coming back to the driver for steering.
We finished our Alicia visits on Saturday morning then headed further north to Cauayan City
(Kah-WAI-ahn) to the mission home. We were invited to lunch with
President and Sister Villanueva and the office staff, Elder and Sister
Pratt and Elder and Sister Starley. As you can see from the picture,
President and Sister Villanueva are pretty young. Sister Villanueva
gave birth to their fourth child (and first girl) about a week after we
were there. They will finish their mission in a few weeks then
will be the directors of the MTC in Manila. We had a very good lunch of
spaghetti and garlic bread. It was really nice to meet Jackie's mission
president and the office staff. The Pratts and the Starleys are lots of
fun. Elder Pratt mentioned to me that he has been in lots of places in
the world, but the driving situation is worst in the Philippines.
After a good time at the mission home in Cauayan, we continued our journey toward the north to Tuguegarao City (Tug-ee-gar-AH-oh) where Jackie finished her mission. Actually she was about 10 miles east in a suburb called Peñablanca (Pehn-ya-BLAHN-kah). The first thing on our agenda for Tuguegarao was to stop at the GV Florida Transport
bus station to check out the sleeper bus to Manila on Sunday night.
Jackie had originally thought we could ride the day bus on Monday, but
after my previous waking experience on a bus, and the fact that Jackie
still needed to retrieve her passport from the Manila MTC, we figured
we needed to return to Manila earlier on Monday. Fortunately they had
seats available on the 9:15 pm bus for 1000 pesos (about $22) each. It
sounded like an okay deal. Chris Martin had volunteered to take us to
Manila if we chose, but the sleeper bus sounded like a better deal
As I mentioned earlier, Chris Martin, our driver, got nabbed making an
illegal left turn just as he dropped us off at the Roma Hotel. I heard
back from Chris a week later, and he still didn't have his license back
yet. Poor guy.
Roma Hotel is very nice and we enjoyed our stay there very much. It
doesn't look like much from the outside, but the lobby, stairs and
rooms are very nice. We got a room with three beds for only 2300 pesos
(about $50) per night. We decided to eat supper at one of Jackie's
favorite places in the Philippines (Chow King) which was just down the
street from the hotel. It was a pretty good place to eat, but it was
really noisy. In fact, I found that everywhere we went was pretty noisy
in general. It's probably that there are so many people. We decided
that we would begin our fast after this meal and then break our fast at
the fireside at the branch which they had organized to honor Jackie.
More about that later. We decided to have our purpose for this fast to
ask for help for Jackie as she transitions from her mission life to the
more difficult civilian life.
we had a good night's sleep at the Roma Hotel then got ready to leave
in the morning. Jackie said there weren't any taxis nor jeepneys in
Tuguegarao, but the way to get around is on a tricey. Besides our
carry-on bags that Jill and I brought, Jackie had two suitcases that
weighed 100 pounds between them plus her purse and carry-on equivalent.
I was thinking we might need to take two triceys, but Jackie tried to
convince us that they are frequently seen carrying 6 or 8 people as
well as lots of things. In Alicia we watched a group of men trying to
load a cow on a tricey, but the cow wasn't being very cooperative. I
wish I had taken a picture of a really loaded tricey, but ours will
have to do. You can see a couple bags on top. The heavy bags were on a
rack in the rear. Jackie sat on the cycle seat, and Jill and I were in
the side-car. As the driver took off the front wheel went way into the
air, and we thought we were gonners. Jill and I moved forward as much
as we could and it was a bit more stable, but Jill was still convinced
that we would soon be splotches on the pavement. Despite her fears, we
moved along pretty well. The driver had to downshift at each up-hill,
and then it was scary going down the other sides. All along the journey
the driver and Jackie were carrying on a conversation. She later told
us that he was asking if Jackie would ask me for more money. He also
told her he was available if she was looking for a mate. Is that really
what he said? Anyway, about half a mile before reaching the chapel in
Peñablanca Jackie spotted a horse-drawn cart and decided we
needed to experience that mode of transportation as well. So she had
him pull over, we gave him only the 150 pesos originally agreed to, and
we transfered all our baggage to the roomier cart then continued on our
way to the chapel for another 30 pesos or so.
Branch chapel is in a densly populated neighborhood and is very nice,
though small. The parking lot is small, but then only one family has a
car. Several members also own triceys. You can see that the parking lot
also serves as a full-court basketball court. We arrived well before
the sacrament meeting started at 9:00. Jill is sitting in the
front-left of the chapel as member are beginning to arrive.
former companion, Sister Conje (CON-hay) came with her new companion,
Sister Stewart, who had come in the same group of new missionaries as
Sister Conje, so we had heard they were excited to be together
of the members Jackie was excited to see was Rose-Anne Ballad
(Ball-AHD), a recent convert Jackie had taught, and her month-old
daughter, May-Anne. During the fast and testimony meeting we attended
May-Anne was blessed and given a name by one of the members of the
branch. Her father is a member but is not active and works on Sundays.
As you can see, Jackie was excited to hold May-Anne too.
Jackie was also excited to see Maan (Mah-ANN) de la Cruz. She is getting ready to serve a mission herself.
was asked to accompany in fast and testimony meeting for the last time
in the branch. Here she is playing prelude, with Jill doing last-minute
hair touch-up as several gather around to say hi to Jackie. During the
meeting Jackie and Jill both bore their testimonies. We were surprised
that Jackie was able to do so without crying excessively. It was
interesting that the American missionaries (Jackie and Sister Stewart)
bore their testimonies in Tagalog, while all the other members used
varying amounts of English, even completely in English.
After the third hour of Relief Society and priesthood meetings, Jackie
had all the sisters gather in the RS room for this picture. I asked
Jackie what the "peace" sign means that you can see here and in some of
the other pictures. She doesn't know that it means anything other than
"peace." They have quite a few members, though fewer men than women,
but they are hoping to be a ward in the near future.
After the meetings, while we were still fasting, we decided to hang out
at the branch until the 5:00 pm fireside. Unfortunately, the power went
off just before noon and was off till almost 5:00. So the nice breeze
from the ceiling fans we were counting on was missed, and the wind was
nonexistent. It got pretty steamy while we were there. Nevertheless, we
had a nice time. We decided to sweep and mop the tile which covered all
the floors, so that took up some of the time we were waiting. Finally
the wind picked up and was very welcome as it drifted into the building.
the gates open from the street to the chapel, lots of the neighborhood
children came to play on the chapel grounds. Jackie played some hymns
and Jill and I sang to them. They were entranced by the music. Jill
even taught some of them to sing part of "I Am a Child of God."
the 5:00 pm fireside, Jackie, Jill and I were asked to say a little,
then an assigned brother in the branch spoke. I talked about how Jackie
and her priesthood leaders were inspired that she should serve a
mission, showing that Heavenly Father knows all of us and takes care of
us. After the fireside they served refreshments, which was our breaking
of our fasting. After we said good-bye to everyone, Sister Ringor, the
branch president's wife, and their daughter drove Jackie and Jill to
the Tuguegarao bus station, while a brother in the branch drove the
Ringor's panel truck with all our luggage and me. This picture was
taken at the bus station after they dropped us off. I tried to give
Sister Ringor some money to pay for the gas to drive us, but she
wouldn't accept anything. They are so nice. By the way, President
Ringor was not around during the weekend because he was in Manila. In
fact, we had met him at the Manila Temple while we were there.
sleeper bus was supposed to leave the station at 9:15 pm and arrive at
the station in Manila around 6:00 am on Monday. It didn't actually
leave until about 10:00, and with all the construction I didn't think
we'd get to Manila very early. We had the three rear lower seats on the
bus. Here are Jill and Jackie posing from their berths. The left
picture was taken from my seat looking forward. The seat backs could
sit up or lean back considerably, though not all the way to the
horizontal; but the structure forward of the seat was nearly
horizontal, and there were two levels with stairs going to the upper
berths. There were three seats across with two narrow aisles. I wasn't
terribly comfortable (but it was 100 times better than the previous bus
ride) and I didn't sleep a lot. But when I assumed it was around 2:00
am I saw it start getting light and wondered what it was. I was
surprised to find that it was about 5:15 am, so I had been sleeping
better than I had assumed. It was also quite cold with the AC blowing
on me, but I had borrowed a towel from Jackie to keep me warm.
traffic in Manila was incredible. I've never seen it take around 20
minutes to get through an intersection, but that was how it was. As we
inched our way through an intersection it was interesting to see a sign
prohibiting drivers from blocking the intersection. It was incredibly
clogged up as we went through. When we arrived at the bus station
around 8:30 am we were mobbed by taxi and other drivers anxious to give
us a ride. One fellow said he had a van and was ready and willing to
drive us. We decided to take him up on his offer. When we told him we
were going to the Robinson Mall Holiday Inn, a distance of perhaps 10
miles, he said he'd take us there for 500 pesos ($10.90). I'm sure we
could have negotiated him down from there, but it sounded fair enough.
We were interested to see all the Care Bears he had on his dash. He
seemed to know the fast ways to get around through the horrible traffic
and got us to the hotel in good time.
in time at the hotel was 1:00 pm, and here we were at about 9:30 am. I
asked if we could check in, and they said there was no problem, but we
would be charged an extra half day. I suggested that since the previous
time we arrived after midnight, if we average the two arrival times it
would be in the afternoon. She checked with her supervisor and he
agreed to eliminate the extra charge. That was nice. So now we had most
of the day Monday to relax and rest up for the long flights home. We
took naps. We also went over to the mall for meals and a little
shopping. We ate lunch at Greenwich Pizza. Jackie suggested we eat
supper at the Pancake House, where we had a few things on their menu.
Jill's and Jackie's meals were a little skimpy, so they also split a
hamburger between them. In the meantime we also shopped at the Robinson
Department Store. Here Jill is looking at some of the nice dishes they
had out. We bought some handkerchiefs for our children and
grandchildren in Minnesota. The Filippinos carry around with them a
handkerchief or rag to wipe their faces, or put on their heads for a
little shade or protection from rain. So we presented these to our
offspring telling them how they can use them like the Filippinos. We
also played Phase 10 in the hotel room and I beat them both by three or
four phases. They couldn't imagine how I did it. I said the rules are
different on the other side of the world, such that I am now the usual
winner instead of one of them.
We got to bed early on Monday night because we had to get up at 4:20 am
to catch our ride to the airport. We had some things for breakfast that
we got at the mall, packed up, checked out and met our ride at 5:00 am.
For this ride we had a larger vehicle due to Jackie's luggage. The ride
cost us 1620 pesos (about $35). It seemed pretty high, but we were glad
to get there on time. The airport was very busy and we had to wait in
four or five lines to finally get to the gate. But we made it in time.
I was surprised that they didn't charge us extra to check Jackie's
100-pounds of suitcases.
three of us had good seats on the 747 to Tokyo, exit row 51 in the rear
section. It looks like Jill and Jackie are sleeping, but I think they
just got caught during a blink. We arrived in Tokyo on time and had to
have our carry-ons checked again. Jackie and I looked for lunch and
found a McDonalds in the airport which accepted US dollars but returned
change in Yen. Jackie had a chicken sandwich, I had a Big Mac, and we
got Jill a shrimp sandwich.
The flight from Tokyo to Seattle was on an Airbus 330. I thought we had
bulkhead seats, but it turned out they were one row behind the
bulkhead. Sitting in front of me was a young man who was agreeable to
swap seats. As we were working on the negotiations, Jill realized that
seated next to her was a 6'6" guy who also thought he had arranged for
a bulkhead seat. Since he was in greater need for leg room than I, I
relinquished my newly arranged-for seat to him. Actually, there was
plenty of room for me in a regular seat on this A330. The flight was
okay and went by in reasonable time.
In Seattle we had to go through customs, which means gathering up
Jackie's checked bags and hauling everything to another couple lines
and checks. We had plenty of time there so we didn't have to rush. I
had 3680 pesos in bills that we brought back with us, plus a few coins.
I was able to exchange the bills at a Travelex booth that was just a
few hundred feet from our gate while we were waiting for the next
flight. They gave me $66.83, which is about $13 less than they were
worth, but that's probably the best we could get outside of the
Philippines. I checked to see how much we spent on our trip, and was
amazed to find that we spent quite a bit less than I had estimated.
Our seats from Seattle to Minneapolis were also a row behind the
bulkhead seats, but it was less comfortable than on the A330.
Fortunately it was a short flight and we made it okay. Julie and Jerica
were both at the airport to pick us up. We got our luggage and got away
around 7:00 pm I think. The girls took us to Chevy's Cinco de Mayo
Mexican restaurant for dinner. They volunteered to pay for us, but I
felt sorry for them and paid it myself. I chose to have a chile relleno
and a tamal. We also ate a ton of chips.
So we were back home after a week in the Philippines. Despite the
horrible bus ride going north of Manila, overall I really enjoyed our
trip and meeting Jackie and the people she worked with on her mission.
The Filippinos are beautiful people, very courteous and polite, and
treated us very well while we were there.