Manila, Philippines: Dear Lisa, I do
not even miss you. I get called "Mom" 100 times a day, since that is the way
Filipinos pronounce ma'am. Good Morning, Mom. How are you, Mom? Thank
you, Mom. Welcome back, Mom.
Dad went for a run this morning, while I answered emails and showered. When I
stepped out of the bathroom - naked - there was a dude hanging from a rigging
outside the balcony - painting the railing. Hello, Mom, and Good Morning.
I had to hang out in the bathroom for quite a while until
your Dad returned to close the drapes. Once, when I peered out from behind the
door, the guy was combing his hair. Why? Poor painter will probably be in
therapy for years.
We readied ourselves for a day touring the old 'hood and
went down to the lobby to catch a taxi to Makati. The hotel is still so
pretty and filled with gorgeous flowers everywhere.
Steamy Manila Hotel
Our driver this morning was quite excited we were Balikbayan
and tried to get us as close as possible to our old apartment. We knew the
street had been renamed and were concerned the building may no longer be
standing. We had the driver drop us in front of Makati Medical Center.
Our room was on the 5th floor
You were born in this building, three hours after we
arrived, early in the evening on a Saturday. We remained overnight, and then
went home the next afternoon. Our apartment was only three blocks from the
hospital, so figured if any problems arose, we could always schlep you back
to the medical center. We reasoned any germs we had at home were better than
the germs the guy with tuberculosis in the hospital bed in the next room was
We remembered the few block walk from the hospital to our apartment building
and though the street name has been changed, the buildings on the street
still used the old name on the address painted on their doors and we quickly
found the location. Amazingly enough, the apartment/condo building was still
standing. It looked hopelessly out-of-place amid all the new construction
and was somehow now painted a hideous green.
Isn't that just awful? It was just a boring beige when we
lived here, and actually quite nice. Our apartment was on the third level
(with all the plants on the balcony in the photo above). The balcony/window
to the left was the master bedroom. I think it best if you just think you
were conceived on a tropical island and forget about the hideous lime green
condo part, okay?
Considering the shape of our old house in Taipei, the condo building in
Manila is a palatial dream house.
If the condo security guards were drunk enough at night, they would shoot cats
crawling on top of the fence next door.
After this surprising discovery, I told Dad we should just walk
around the corner to find the park where we used to take you to play and
continue to Rustan's
Department Store and have a look around the
supermarket in the
basement where I would do our shopping.
The park was here, but it did not look quite like this.
I headed off in the direction of the route I covered several
times a week, but nothing looked the same. The old park was still there, but
it was now completely surrounded by a new shopping center and skyscrapers,
and next to that shopping center was
another shopping center and skyscraper and then another and another and
they were all connected with sky bridges. We had to pass through so many
security checkpoints (Thank you, Mom, please come inside) - it was
like being at the airport... but then we recalled all the bombings we had in
the neighborhood when we lived here. We had forgotten. Completely forgotten.
How is that possible?
How much things have changed - Marks & Spencer in Manila???
We had a quick lunch at a "Filipino Bistro" and then set out
to buy Lucy a pretty hand-smocked Filipina dress, just like you used to wear
when you were a baby in Manila. Could. Not. Find. One. We found the
children's department in Rustan's. It is exactly where it was 35 years ago,
but they no longer sell local handmade baby clothes. Instead they carry the
same stuff you can buy at Nordstrom or Macy or any baby store anywhere. So
disappointed. We went to the Filipino handicraft area and asked about baby
clothes and the girl asked us "how old"? I said one year. She said they had
size one clothing and showed me a dress for a skinny adult model. Seriously? I said Lucy weighs 16 pounds. The girl told me the
dress would be too big. Sorry, Mom. Too bad we weren't shopping for
Leo - the Frozen costume section was out of control, plus Rustan's
had a vendor in place to custom-fit amazing Halloween costumes. When we
lived here, Halloween didn't even exist.
At least I covered over six miles on the old pedometer, so the adventure was
not in vain.
There are still so many knock-off's in Manila. Like in
China, every woman carries a "Louis Vuitton" bag. Did Vuitton finally just
cave and give-up fighting the contraband? Fake bags are everywhere. A woman
asked me where I bought my (Longchamp) bag and I told her I bought it in the
states. I told her it was real. She gushed with apology, not wanting to
imply that I had purchased an illegal bag... when she had the biggest,
fakest Louis Vuitton knock-off I have ever seen. She proceeded to tell me
how much her fake bag cost and where I could buy one in Quezon City and how
much her fake Rolex cost and where I could buy one in Quezon City. How can a
restaurant name their sushi bar johnandyoko and get away with it?
We popped down to the Rustan's basement for a stroll through the
supermarket. Just like the Taipei grocer we visited a few days ago, Rustan's
now carries everything on the planet. We couldn't even get fresh cheese
(processed only) or milk (UHT only) when we lived here. Guess what we found
Organic milk, imported from California. $22 (US) per half-gallon.
Oregon representing in Manila! Nancy's yoghurt from Eugene - $4.85
Oregon again! Half-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese - $14-ish.
It's a whole new world.
At least one thing remains the same. Mangos. There is
nothing like a mango from The Philippines. Flesh only. No stringy bits.
Sweet. Juicy. Practically free.
Taxi lines were crazy-long leaving the mall, so we popped into a nearby
luxury hotel and had a coffee and easily grabbed a cab from the hotel lobby.
We reached the Manila Hotel in time for a nap before dinner, and there
wasn't a painter hanging from ropes outside our hotel room window. We planned to go to a
local Filipino restaurant, but were too lazy to deal with another taxi ride, so
decided to stay-in. The hotel was featuring a massive buffet and people were
flocking into the hotel to partake. The hostess said we were entitled to a
40% discount to the buffet because we were hotel guests. We were in!
Unfortunately for me, the buffet was a Friday Night Seafood Extravaganza.
I met an Italian man working at the Italian pasta station at the buffet.
We started chatting and he (jokingly?) said he was the only Italian on the
island. I said I was the only Jew on the island. He looked at me and said,
"I will make you Fettuccini Alfredo".
And he did.
Dad and I had a great day re-exploring our old neighborhood.
We can't believe all the changes, but just like Taipei, are happy we came
back to see it all again.
Wish you were here!
Until my next update, I remain, your Mom.
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