Jill and John Travel to the Philippines to bring Jackie home from her Mission

May 31st to June 8th, 2010

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.

We 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 some 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 t-shirts. They 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. 

The 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.

After 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 the 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 would take 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 healthy, we 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 little 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 located in 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 lots of 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.

They had a nice restaurant at the Highlander Hotel with good Filippino dishes and very reasonable prices. We stayed at this hotel for two nights, 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 our 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.

We 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 the photographer.

Jackie 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.

The 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.

At 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.

They 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..

Here 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.

We 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.

After 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.

Jackie 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 kiss.

When 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 the Philippines.

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.

As 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.

We 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 to.

We 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 visitors.

As 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.

Here 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 in Bagabag.

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.

Our 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.

Our 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.

With 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.

We 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.

We 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 procedure!

We 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 overall.

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.

The 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.

So 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.

The Peñablanca 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.

Jackie's 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 in Peñablanca.

One 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.

Jackie 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.

With 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."

For 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Check 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.

The 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.