Philippines-scuba diving paradise

January 4-January 12
Seems like a short trip to be on the other side of the world for only 10 days when the flight time is 26 hours each direction, but we are leaving our baby boy home for the first time so 10 days was all the stamina I could muster.

We started in DFW dropping off Weston with my parents, AKA most amazing parents ever for being primary caregiver for us. So thankful. 

Dallas—> LA—> Guangzhou—> Manila
DFW to LAX was by far the best flight with TVs and plenty of space. Then the layover in LAX was awesome! Hello international terminal!! Everything was clean and big and there was plenty of seating. LAX to Guangzhou was disgusting. Flight and entertainment was fine but we were seated in what felt like a hospital waiting room. Cough cough, sneeze, cough, bathroom break, cough, bathroom break. Couldn’t wait to take a shower. Oddly, at Guangzhou we had to do another security check and this was a huge bottle neck. We only had a 75 minute layover! Plus, our plane did not deboard at a terminal. Instead we had to take stairs down the plane and take a shuttle in. Remember, time crunch! There, they slapped a yellow sticker on our arm symbolizing we were in a hurry and sent us off to stand in the security line. We quickly realized that about 60% of those around us also had yellow stickers. 😑 45 minutes and one frantic lady shouting for flight 3077 later, we made it through and high tailed it to our gate just in time for boarding. Once on the plane we waited an extra 30 minutes for all the other passengers and bags that were slow to transfer like us. So I guess this was the norm!

Whew, finally made it to Manila!!! Now it’s time to wait 2 hrs for customs in a blob of people not even resembling a line. You just all collectively take 1 step forward until you are near the front. It may now be midnight going into January 6, but we made it!

We landed in terminal 1, but our hotel is terminal 3. Easy transfer inside the airport right? Nope... apparently you have to go outside and get a taxi. I’m going to look into this though. Surely I was jipped. Shame on me for assuming the terminals were connected. 

Sweet sweet bed... oh how I’ve missed thee. 

We made it to our hotel and had a very easy check in. Room service was fast and CHEAP. I had one of the best seared salmon and vegetables ever and it was $7! Money well spent. Now it’s time for a good nights rest in these lovely twin beds. 
Travel time including transfers to hotel and customs: 31hrs
Amount of sleep: 30 minutes, so we should be primed for good sleep!

January 6, 2018
Day 1 in Manila. And by day 1, I mean pretty much our only day here as the other days are half days in transit. 

Breakfast at the hotel was great! Traditional foods from around the world were offered. Toby chose to stay in his comfort zone with an omelet and waffles, but I branched out for dumplings, rice, and stewed beef. Ended up going back for a little cereal... sometime you just need a little crunch.

We plan an excursion to see the city in the afternoon so we have the morning hours to explore our little bubble. First stop, the casino! We were told we could do free currency exchange..... and we might as well hit the black jack table while we are there right?
50php = $1
Exchange rate is certainly working in our favor for this trip.

Lunch was great! I chose a traditional Filipino lunch of chicken adobo and Toby went for the buffet where he sampled a wide range of Filipino food. I’m obsessed with Asian food and personally think that rice is preactocally a food group, so I am feeling very at home here. 

We plan an excursion to see the city in the afternoon so we head off to the hotel to meet our guide. It’s just Toby and me for the tour, which is awesome! Nice car, AC, and our guide speaks perfect English-which is surprisingly very common with around 95% being taught English in school. Although we signed up for the flashback tour that goes through the history of the country, our guide is incredibly knowledgeable and is able to tell us all sorts of stories. Just driving through town or stuck in traffic, he is able to point out so many interesting things.
-Manila is comprised of 13 cities and is 64 km large total. Each district has its only mayor and its own rules. One city will have motorcycle taxis, electrical wires draped everywhere and cigarettes, the next won’t allow any of it.
-2% are super wealthy, 28% are middle class, 70% live in poverty. Our driver was very proud of being a worker and said that he was considered middle-middle class. He said he lived in a 2 bed, 1 bath home and paid 4000php/month... that’s $80. Our tour cost more than that. When he pointed out a house that looked similar to his, it was humbling.

-Education is free, including books, through college, but families must provide the uniform. What do people  do if they can’t pay for a uniform? There is some sort of government asssitanxe available for this, but from the amount of half-clothed children we saw playing in the slums at 2pm on a Thursday when school was in session makes me think they may not be aware of this. 
-There are 1200 colleges in the Philippines and 40 in Manila alone. We stopped by UST. The oldest college. Couldn’t take pictures inside and we had to kind of sneak in (I was wearing a back pack, totally incognito), but it was so grand and beautiful! Definitely still had that island life feel to it, with the open windows, doors and atriums, but it felt like we were transported to some British school inside. Also, fun fact... even college students have to wear uniforms according to their degree. 

-Our driver was a chemical engineer. In order to practice, you have to pass the engineering exam (P.E. in America I think?) and he didn’t, so he just decided to become a salesman/tour guide instead! 
-There is no divorce in the Philippines. Marriage is FOR LIFE. I’m trying to convince Toby to renew our vows here someday.... Speaking of weddings! We got to see one about to start. Seems a lot like a wedding in the US, but much more budget friendly. You can go NUTS on a wedding and it will only cost a few thousand dollars. 

-Cockfighting is legal in Philippines and a very common form of family entertainment. You’ll see roosters with or without chains around their feet walking around everywhere. I asked what they do with the rooster after the fight, he said “Eat it of course!”

-Only the rich have chicken, pork and beef with every meal. Most Filipino people eat fish and vegetables. “Rich people don’t eat vegetables.” 
-The Philippines was under Spanish rule for 330 years. Then under US occupation for 47(?) years before finally being left alone!

After our tour, we were cravvvving a $7 massage. They were fully booked so we decided to do the expensive one... $25 massage. I’m in love with this country.

Quick dinner and trip to the shopping mall for flip flops for Toby (you did know we were going to the beach right?) and we were exhausted and ready to FaceTime our baby and hit the bed for sleep. 

January 7, 2018
Day 2 in Manila: Today we transfer to Dumageute where we will be staying for the next week. Before then, we are going to indulge in an in-room massage and a yummy buffet breakfast. 
Guess which plate is mine?

Tata til Dumaguete!


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