Manila, Philippines: As long as we
were re-living our past life in Taiwan... and Manila is only a two-hour flight from
Taipei... we have hopped down to the next island for a visit to
another place we used to live. Dave was transferred to Manila when we were only 24 years old. As
clueless and inexperience and unworldly as we were, he just as well could have
been transferred to the moon. We had no idea what was in store for us, but as it
turned-out, the Filipino people were so warm, friendly, inviting (and everyone
speaks English!), we immediately felt at-home and settled-in for a three-year
stint. Lisa was born here.
Speaking of Lisa... guess who is starting his last first-day of morning pre-school? Next
year, Leo starts kindergarten.
Leo, age 4
And just because I can, how about we go back to the past two
years of first day of school shots?
Last year, age 3
Leo, age 2
Notice how the little guy gets a new lunch box every year? Where did all those
blonde calamari curls go? Where did the little baby go?
We have been able to Facetime nearly daily with the kids on this trip. Leo
enjoyed seeing the Taipei 101 tower from our hotel room in Taiwan and Lucy has
perfected saying "hi" and "bye bye" and can wave on-cue. Genius!
Back to our day...
We arrived to Manila late afternoon and the hotel had a car to carry us from the
airport. Traffic is still terrible. There is always construction and there is so
much new development on reclaimed land inside Manila Bay. New hotels, shopping
centers, convention centers, commerce centers, etc. We did recognize many old
familiar scenes and can confidentially state Taiwan has changed far more than
Manila the past thirty years.
When we moved to The Philippines in 1980, we stayed in the
Manila Hotel for
six weeks while Dave set up local operations, we found/leased an apartment and
waited for our household shipment to arrive. For this trip, we thought it only
fitting to return to the same hotel/place we started so long ago. The hotel has
faded, but just a bit, and is in the middle of an extensive renovation which (we
hope) will bring her back to beautiful glory. The hotel has so much history -
General MacArthur lived here with his family for several years - and has always
been the center of glittering social life for locals and world travelers alike.
Beautiful lobby with capiz shell chandeliers
Famed Filipino wedding dress designer Jo Rubio has a display of
gowns - The Art and Romance of the Filipiniana - in the hotel lobby in
celebration of the Filipino Food Festival. Not sure how glamourous gowns and
food tie-in, but I will just go with it...
Nothing says Filipino like the beautiful traditional "butterfly" sleeves.
Though we know the rooms have been renovated several times since
1980, they are still so much the same. Same wooden sliding doors over the
windows, heavy carved wood beds and furniture, ornate bathrooms. We asked for a
room over-looking the bay - same as the room we had so very long ago.
The cargo ships are larger now, but the
view is basically the same.
Corregidor Island can be seen on the horizon.
After settling-in to our room, we went down to the Tap
Room - the same lobby bar we patronized years ago - for
a cocktail. I had a martini (a proper, real, martini!)
and Dave had a San Miguel beer (one of the best beers in
the entire world). We sat nibbling on peanuts and
remembering such wonderful times at the Tap Room and
toasted our old friends from Australia. They have both
passed away now, but tonight they were living large in
our memories and I swear I heard Maurice laughing and
ordering another brandy soda.
While enjoying our private scenario, another round of
drinks miraculously appeared on our table. Had Maurice
ordered another round? No. It was Happy Hour. Two for
one. When we left, our total bar tab was $11. Forget expensive
nursing homes, we are just going to move into the Manila
Hotel when we slow down.
Tired from traveling, we decided to dine in the so-very fancy
Champagne Room restaurant just off the hotel lobby. Uniformed wait staff. A
ridiculous amount of cutlery. Finery. A pianist. Caesar salad is still made
table-side, and they continue to serve a sorbet palate cleanser between courses. The
sorbet course must be a rare thing these days, am I right?
US Ribeye with au jus
Hold on to your hats. Tomorrow we head off in search of our old condo building
*A Balikbayan (ball-ick-bye-ahn) is a person returning to their
home in the Philippines after being away for a long time.
Until my next update, I remain, your Filipina correspondent.
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