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Philippine Travel Log: Our Last Day in Manila October 9, 2008

Posted by Jeff Block in Adoption, Family, Travel.
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October 9th was dominated by one theme: preparing to return home.  We ate our classic breakfast buffet at the hotel, then headed over to the mall for sovenier shopping.  After being exposed to such great stores at the “new” mall (the one we hadn’t been to) the night before, we decided that it would likely be one-stop shopping for us.  So, off we went to Kultura to get started.

Kultura Filipino, our favorite store in Manila

Kultura Filipino, our favorite store in Manila

We shopped there for like two hours – easily long enough for John to be totally bored out of his mind.  I’m terribly indecisive when it comes to this kind of thing.  Also, when I’m really hungry and have to choose something to eat from a large menu.  I’m fairly incapacitated by (what I unfortunately have to admit is) the fear of choosing “the wrong thing”.  Shopping at Kultura was no different … Are we spending too much?  Will so-and-so like such-and-such?  If we get this person this, will that person feel slighted that we got that?  Plus, we had already purchased a few things along the way through the trip – such as during our day trip to the Ilocos Norte museum and Fort Ilocandia while up north near Laoag City.  So, the decision-making process was further complicated by trying to remember what we had previous purchased, who it was for, how many we got, why we got it, etc.  Ugh!  Made me (and still makes me) want to just tell all my friends and family that we love them but we’re not competent enough to shop for them while traveling.  Then again, I guess I just did.  :-/

So after spending a grand total of P6200 (about $100 – which I only mention because it’s amazing how much we bought for that little cash)  on everything from serving platters to figurines to picture frames to smaller gifts for the children of neighbors, friends, and family, we were finally ready to move on.  I think John was on his third anurism by this point, and mom and I were beginning to lose patience with him as well.  Hours of shopping with mom and dad is not the way to a 4 year old’s heart, I have to say.

For the record – and for John’s memory when he reads this 10 years from now (the real reason I’m recording all of this), we bought some really cool stuff.  We got picture frames for parents and siblings, which we knew we’d fill with fun pictures of our trip.  We got a carved wooden statue of a Philippine eagle, the 2nd largest in the world (the eagle, not the statue) for my dad.  We got coin purses and other little trinkets for lots of kids in our lives.  We got some simple serving platters and bowls for friends.  And a whole bunch of other stuff, I’m sure, that I just can’t remember at the moment.  We also purchased a really awesome rice serving dish and spoon – wooden bowl and spoon with a glass lid – for us, and a picture and woven scroll to hang on the wall.  We were adament in going over there that we would purchase art and/or a few random other artifacts so that when John becomes more aware that he is in a foreign place, that he has a taste of home to remember it by.

Okay, enough Kultura.  After that, mom distracted John with the all-powerful, all-enticing siren’s call of the escalator.  She kept him busy for quite a while – made longer by a resurgance of my fear of choosing wrongly – as I shopped for transformers at the mega toy store in the mall.  Our thought was that if we gave John a transformer when he got on the plane that he would be SO distracted by the wonders of modern toyhood that he wouldn’t even notice the 24+ hour trip home.  Yeah, like that worked, but I’m getting ahead.

Once reunited, we headed for the massive food court to have lunch.  I think Faith sneaked a quick pummelo run in on the way there, but it’s all a blur.  She was quite the fan (so was John), so it wouldn’t surprise me.  It’s too much like grapefruit for me to get my fries to covered in chili.  But I digress…..

So, at the food court…  I was more than a little frustrated with Faith, because she seemed to be pretty scatter-brained.  First, we didn’t know where we were eating.  Then she couldn’t get a table.  Then there were bathroom runs to make.  And all the while I’m loaded down with GIANT bags of souvenirs.  I don’t remember any more detail than that, just that I was frustrated.  I’m sure it had as much if not more to do with a long morning of shopping and John’s starting to get roudy than it did with anything Faith was doing.

We got John and Faith Jollibee, and I tried something else I don’t remember, but remember thinking that it wasn’t anything to write home about.  Of course, John and Faith were both prepared to write home about the Jollibee spaghetti and fried chicken combo!  Faith absolutely loved their fried chicken, and John is pretty much all about fried chicken and/or spaghetti wherever he can find it.  And if I had a peso for every time Faith commented on how much she liked the rice with her meals, even fast food, I’d have a whole dollar (which is saying something).  Not that I’m complaining; I happen to agree.  But anyway…  Once we were sitting down and chilling out, all our moods greatly improved, which was my favorite part.

Lunch at Jollibee

Lunch at Jollibee

After lunch, it was back to the hotel.  Dad set about the daunting task (but I love this stuff) of getting us all packed up and ready to head back to the States.  And it was better for everyone involved – more fun for everyone – that Faith and John went swimming.  It was sunny and warm and the last opportunity for many months they would have to bask in the sunshine, heat and water.  Plus, we had to rearrange toys and other supplies that John had yet to be exposed to, as we had been saving them for the long ride home (we were so prepared!).  AND, everyone knew that the mess that would be created in that little hotel room to get us packed up wouldn’t be made better by tripling the number of people in the room.

So, I packed.  They swam.  And a good time was had by all.

Upon completing the packing, I joined them by the pool, but didn’t get in.  I wasn’t there long before the sun (and my personal tendencies independent of the weather) drove me back inside to the business center to play with Facebook, my blog, and other glorious technology.

Eventually, after they had had their fill of sun and pool, and I’d finished a blog entry or two, we headed back over to the mall.  Faith wanted to check out Philippine cookbooks and other books on the Philippines (for both John’s and our educations).  We hung out in the bookstore for a little while, John on my shoulders most of the time drawing “aww, how cute!” looks for passers-by.  Faith picked up a couple books, and I definitively declared that all this shopping for cookbooks was making me hungry.  We ate at TGI Friday’s in the other mall, which was really fun family time, and then headed back to the hotel.

We got ready for bed, there was snuggling, and there was a little more play time, and there was evening and there was morning, the last day.

Philippine Travel Log: Dinner with the Ramos family October 8, 2008

Posted by Jeff Block in Adoption, Family, Travel.
Tags: , , , , ,
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When Faith originally mentioned the idea that we were going to meet up for dinner in Manila with a family she’d met on the Yahoo! adoption group, my first reaction was paranoia.  I was pretty (legitimately, I think) concerned about meeting someone we didn’t really know in a foreign country.  I had visions of being left for dead in a back alley as some thug made off with Faith, John, and my passport and wallet.  Ugh!  So, I was pretty funny drilling Faith about the “rules” of meeting with this family.  Don’t get in a car with them.  Stay in a public place.  Insist on their meeting us within walking distance of our hotel.  Etc.

Faith assured me that everything was on the up-and-up, though, because these people are evidently a fixture in the Philippine Yahoo group.  They are a wonderful couple named Joel and Cherry Ramos – clearly wealthy by Philippine standards – and apparently make it their business to meet with families who are traveling through Manila for the purposes of adopting from the Philippines.  We were the latest couple in a long list of Americans they have met up with and added a bit of spice to the journey of adoption.

Here’s a picture of all of us at dinner…

The Blocks and the Ramos in Manila

The Block's and the Ramos' in Manila

And here’s the story…

Faith had arranged for the Ramos family to meet us.  They did, and we could tell immediately that everything was fine and that we were going to have a great time.  We walked next store to one of the three malls which flank the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati – the one Faith and I hadn’t been to yet.  Immediately we realized that we had been missing out.  This was the mall with the massive grocery store.  Right out of the gate, Joel and Cherry introduced us to a new fruit I still can’t remember or pronouce.  But it was like a grapefruit, only sweeter.  Funky afterbite, but very tasty.  Both their daughter and John loved it, and it served as a great hold-them-over snack while we wandered the mall.  They also introduced us to an awesome shop where we ended up doing much of our souvenir shopping the following day, called Kultura.  After wandering around there for a while, we ended up at one of the Ramos’ favorite restaurants, called Max’s.

Before I get to dinner, let me tell you a little about Joel and Cherry.  First, it was clear they were people of means in the Philippines.  They have a live-in nany, who takes care of their daughter, and is like one of the family.  That was really interesting and cool.  Second, they both work in Makati, the financial district in Manila.  They also spoke with better English than most Americans and knew WAY more about American pop culture than Faith and I did.  It was pretty funny.  Joel would routinely rattle off references to movies or music or use slang words or obscure contractions that shocked me.  He was a storyteller too, so it was really fun to listen to him talk.  Faith and I had a great time, and though I’m sure John was bored with the conversation, he was all about the food, so it was okay.

Speaking of the food…

They went crazy ordering food for us in this little restaurant.  If Faith or I expressed even the slightest interest in a menu item, it was on the way to the table a second later.  Of course, there were a number of dishes that they insisted we needed to try as well, so that was fun.  Ultimately, there was way more food than we were ever going to get through in one sitting.

Faith’s big favorite was the chop suey … veggies that tasted amazing and looked fairly healthy until you realized that they were cooked with pork liver bits.  Ah, the pork!

Chop Suey

Chop Suey

Jeff’s big favorite was a dish called Chicken Sisig … chunks of chicken mixed with chopped veggies and a spice with a bit of a kick to it.  Very tasty.  Here’s a blog post about the Sisig from Max’s.  Interesting that I’m not the only sisigaholic.

Filipino Chicken Sisig

Filipino Chicken Sisig

John liked the soup broth.  I think if he could have resurrected the digusting Tinenneb nga Paltat (translated: evil dead charcoaled catfish floating in broth) that we had at the Palazzo de Laoag hotel in Laoag City, he’d have been all over it.

After a long evening of conversation and way more food than any group of people should consume, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.  Of course, after Faith and John went to bed, I snuck off to the business center to get some alone time with the computer and my blog.  Of course, this was not before a dreaded mishap was only barely avoided at the hotel.  Check out my next entry for that story.

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