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Jim Durham's personal Vacation to the Philippines (Jim toured the Far East)
2009 PHILIPPINES TRIP HIGHLIGHTS (Jim's comments)
Visiting the Philippines was one part of my trip to the Far East . I had three main stops there in three of the four main regions. The Philippines is made up of about 7,000 islands; so, seeing all of it is impossible.
Metro Manila has more than 19 million residents, making it one of the world’s large cities. It consists of a lot of beautiful high rise buildings and a lot of slums. Much of the Philippine population lives in “shanties”. Many of these families are “squatters”, having built shacks on land that does not belong to them. I talked with some of these people. They never know when the real owner might show up and demand his property.
The country’s total population is around 92 million, making it the 12th most populous country in the world. Most of the population speaks English, but sometimes the accent is so strong that you have trouble understanding. The primary native language is Tagalong, but there are other dialects as well.
Most of the people are very courteous and helpful. But nearly all of the taxi drivers will try to rip you off.
I spent some time with the family of a friend of mine, wanting to know the culture better. They could not do enough for me, and treated me like a very special guest.
I became sick during the swine flu scare and so checked myself into a local hospital. They did not accept my insurance, so I told them that I did not know if I could pay the hospital bill and asked how much it would cost. I was paying $125 for my hotel. They said the hospital was $40 per night for a private room and bath. I nearly decided to spend the rest of my vacation at the hospital. They gave me an IV, did tests, kept me overnight, and I checked out the next afternoon.
The weather is always hot and humid. It never freezes. There is lush vegetation in most places and lots of mountains and beaches.
Most people use some form of public transportation. The “Jeepneys” are very popular and there are thousands of them. Also there are lots of “tricycles”...some motorized and some man-powered. Also there are buses and taxis.
Most of the Philippine people want to come to the USA, or some other country, because of their desperate financial situation.
Every meal has rice, often with fish three times a day. Normally squid is on the menu as well, but I could not make myself order the sweet and sour squid heads; sometimes I went to an American-chain restaurant to eat.
“Pesos” is the normal currency and the exchange rate was 48 pesos per dollar. A registered nurse told me she makes $8 per day. A recently retired electrician told me he also made $8 per day when he was working (398 pesos). A restaurant worker told me she makes 100 pesos per day; she is single with two children and her wage is about $2 per day. She lives with an aunt because she cannot afford a place to live; family members are very accommodating of each other. It is hard to imagine how many people live in some of the little shanties. All Americans need to see the situation that exists in so many parts of the world so that we can appreciate what we have and stop demanding "more". In comparison, our people on welfare are rich. With their pay scale, you can understand why a lot of companies are outsourcing their customer services, etc., to the English-speaking Philippines.
One of my favorite stories of this trip is seeing two little girls, ages 10 and 11, in front of McDonalds in Cebu City. They were selling flower bracelets they had made for 5 pesos each. I asked them what they were going to do with the money, and they said “Buy food for our family.” I sat down and talked to them about Jesus. They go somewhat to a Catholic church. Then I told them that Jesus wanted me to give them each 100 pesos for the bracelets because they were working so hard. Their eyes really lit up. Then I asked them if they had ever had ice cream from McDonalds. They said, “No, we can’t afford it.” So I took them inside and we all had ice cream sundaes. I wanted to take their photo, but they were afraid to let me (which reveals something of the fear that girls have to deal with on the streets).
Another favorite story was when I was at the beach and a guy came up to me with a bag of really nice sea shells and asked if I would give him 500 pesos for them. Before I had a chance to answer, someone nearby said, “No, that is too much. He will give you 300 pesos.” “Okay, I will take it”, he said. I was not even in that conversation, but paid him the $6 and walked away happy.
I would discourage visiting for the first time the Philippines without a tour guide (though I did); yet, they do speak English and with some preparation and a spirit of adventure, you can have a good time.
Flying over the north pole (the pole is under ice) Siberia below on a warm spring day
Manila, Philippines "Manila By the Sea" (lots of shanties)
Jeepneys, a favorite transportation Motorized tricycles, another transportation
I went to church in Passig City near Manila. Riding in a jeepney (6 pesos)
Luxury condos Shanty Town
Fort San Pedro, built by Spain in 1565 My personal body guard - haha
The Philippine Islands...7,000 islands At the beach I bought some shells
38 nice sea shells They still use propellers here
Magellan's Shrine, killed here in trip around the world. Human weaving machine, some products.
Like the one I used as a kid. Fabric is banana leaves. Local sculptor...this piece less than $100.
Typical lush vegetation Boy and his steer. In the distance, houses in the sea.
How was the food? You tell me. Filipino Hamburger. Where's the beef?
Oh well, you can always eat coconuts... or drink it.
Late evening...large Catholic Shrine Omogos Family (not the whole family). Great hosts.
Driving this time...on the way to Subic Bay. Lots of coconut trees
Typical lane in a typical small village Fishing vessel, with outriggers..
"The islands have lots of beaches" Philippine Sunset
Philippine Traveler's Palm tree...overlooking the bay. A Florida traveler's palm...at journey's end.
You have reached THE END.
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