Our agenda (specific details were added after the fact)
Table of Contents: (links will be created as posts are published)
- Days to 1 to 4: Manila
- Day 5: Taal Volcano
- Day 6: Pagsanjan Falls & Mall of Asia
- Day 7 and 8: Basketball, Shopping, and Church
- Days 9 to 11: Bohol & Panglao
- Day 12: An Unexpected Family Reunion in Siquijor
- Day 13 and 14: More fun in Manila
- Days 15 to 17: Coron Island
- Day 18: Wrap-up
After several business trips to the Philippines (June 2011, Sept 2011, Feb 2012), I was successful in convincing Tia that we should spend our summer vacation there (without kids!). As mentioned in the first post regarding this vacation (Day 12), it would give us an opportunity to see some amazing sites and attempt to explore more of Tia’s family history.
The rough agenda had us staying around Metro Manila for the first week, including a few days in the office, and then island hopping for the final two weeks (returning to Manila on the weekends). The islands we visited are Bohol, Panglao, Siquijor, and Coron. Each offered a variety of great experiences and memories which we’ll attempt to capture in this family journal through an ongoing series of blog posts.
Highlights from the first few days include:
- Attending Church a short walk from the hotel
- Manila Bay Dinner Cruise
- Rain taking us to a professional basketball game (PBA)
- Tia’s first experiences shopping at the Manila super malls
- An evening with Toto & Ava Jill, who took us on a tour of
Over the course of three weeks we visited Manila, Bohol, Panglao, Siquijor, and Coron. To get to Bohol and Coron we flew Cebu Pacific Airlines, but for Siquijor we had to take a 3 hour ferry from Bohol. Panglao was connected to Bohol via 1/4 mile bridge.
The Manila Bay Cruise included dinner and a live band. The total cost of the ticket was only 550 pesos / person (roughly $13 each).
Toto and Ava took us to the Manila LDS Temple on our way to Ateneo University.
Ateneo de Manila is a well respected private university known for its successful basketball program (among many other things). Toto (pictured here, rebounding) and Ava Jill took us on a tour of the university and surrounding area, followed by some pickup games at the main arena. (30+ players showed up!)
Rainier, a good friend, co-worker, and x-PBA player took us to this double-header PBA match. In this Filipino equivalent of the NBA, ten teams (all based in Manila) compete in three rotating tournaments (called conferences). In two of the three conferences, teams are allowed a single non-Filipino on the roster (in one of the two conferences, a height limit is imposed on the foreigners: 6’5″). In the third tournament, ringers are disallowed — Filipinos only. Anyone who can prove partial Filipino blood, is considered Filipino by the rules. This results in a lot of “Fil-Am” players, or Filipino-Americans who were born and raised in the U.S., but are not 100% Filipino. Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines and is played even in the most remote villages (usually in flip-flops!).
Stopped for a picture at this monument in Makati, walking from our hotel to Church on Sunday morning. Makati is a very nice, clean, and safe area of Metro Manila.
Balikbayan Handicrafts is an amazing place for souvenirs. The combination of price, workmanship, and selection is unbeatable.
* We ran into not one, but two, good friends at the Houston airport! One was an old family friend from Sacramento, and the other was a co-worker from Australia who was passing through on his way home from Miami to Perth. (the same co-worker I met up with in Manila several times on previous business trips)
* On the plane from SF to Tokyo, we were surrounded by a group of young men in their 20’s dressed in basketball warm-ups. Turns out they’re a traveling Christian Missionary Team, and their coach is from my old highschool in Sacramento! (he wasn’t a coach when I played for the school, but said he recognized me)
* At the Sacramento airport (we had an overnight layover, dropping off our kids with their grandparents), someone who had the same brand of luggage as me took mine by mistake (and left). Luckily, I managed to locate his luggage and worked with the airport staff to contact him. He came back to the airport to exchange bags with me. Close call!
* Leaving Sacramento, upon check-in, our reservations showed an unknown error and would not let us proceed. The lady at the counter had to call headquarters not once, but twice, to get the mysterious error cleared. It was a pretty tense 15 minutes or so standing there with our fingers crossed (and even then, Tia’s connecting boarding pass from Tokyo to Manila printed out fine, but mine would not! I had to get mine printed at the gate in Tokyo).
* The flight from Sacramento to San Francisco was delayed due to weather. If it was delayed more than an hour or two, we would have missed our connection to Tokyo (luckily it wasn’t).
* Returning to the U.S., I was denied check-in at the counter in Manila due to a red coloration in my left eye. I knew it was being caused by a cold sore on my eyelid, but they escorted me to the airport doctor for examination. Despite my plea that it was a harmless cold sore on the eyelid (that I’ve had reoccurring since my teenage years), he still wrote conjunctivitis on the diagnosis form (which is highly contagious, pinkeye). Luckily, he also checked the box that says I’m clear to fly.