Manila, Philippines

Bow Waves in San Bernardino Straits

On the day prior to our arrival in Manila, the captain adjusted our speed so that we sailed through the San Bernardino Straits during daylight.  It was beautiful, and because the seas were very calm here, we were able to watch the bow waves for quite a while.

Manila Welcome

Visiting Manila is always special, since a large percentage of the ship’s crew is Filipino.  The people always give us an amazing welcome, which is a major production.  Their farewell to us is likewise major and wonderful.  However, in contrast to the joy of the welcome, there is somewhat of an air of sadness connected with the farewell.  Even though the crew members really appreciate getting to be home for a couple of days, it is always very hard for them to leave their families.

We were last in Manila in 2008, and have fond memories of the city.  On the first day, when we were on our way to breakfast, we first stopped out on deck 3 to see what kind of welcome we were getting.  It was very lively music and dancing, just perfect for getting us in the mood to be here.  After breakfast we walked over to the next pier to visit Manila Ocean Park, the aquarium.  Our tickets admitted us to the aquarium and the penguin exhibit.  They also have a raptor exhibit and other things you can do, such as a glass bottom boat and shark encounters.  The aquarium is very nicely done, with a wide variety of fish and some other sea creatures, and a huge tank with a tunnel you can walk through.  In that one they have some large sharks and bat rays; in another large tank they have huge grouper fish and huge stingrays.  The penguin exhibit has all of 5 or 6 live penguins in it.  Having seen large colonies of penguins in the wild, it didn’t seem like much to us, but it would be wonderful for people who hadn’t had the same experience.  However, we did get to go on an ice slide on tires that were tied together.  When we got to the bottom they pulled the tires back up with the rope that was attached to it.  By the time we got back to the ship we were tired and ready to spend the afternoon relaxing.

For the second day we had a long excursion scheduled.  Our first stop was at the Manila American Cemetery.  Thanks to some road closures for a race, it took a long time to get there, and then we only had 20 minutes at a place that deserves a visit of at least an hour.  Then we got back on the bus and spent the next couple of hours driving around in circles, trying to find a way to get to our next stop.  It was supposed to be a park for a short photo stop, but we couldn’t get in, so we continued on to our lunch destination.  That was a 1937 art deco style house owned by a doctor, whose wife was renowned for her cooking.  The house was nice, and the food was okay, but we had to conclude that we don’t really care much for Filipino food.  At the end of the meal we had a choice of coffee, tea, or native hot chocolate.  After lunch we did make it to that park, and then headed over to the Church of San Augustin, which is very old and quite nice.  Then we went across the street to a stone house that is now a museum, where we were not allowed to take photos.  We spent a little time at Santiago Fort, and finally ended up at a craft store for shopping.  The thing that impressed me the most in the craft store were the necklaces of huge, quite grotesque freshwater pearls.  This trip was a disappointment; being stuck on the bus in traffic for so long did not leave a good impression.  We did get to see a side of Manila that we’ve not seen before: the poorer sections.  There are many people living in shanties, and a few on the streets.  Our guide referred to them as ‘urban campers’ rather than squatters.  He also told us that they have ‘clowns’ in their congress and ‘comedians’ in their senate.  Sounds just like home…

Once again we were on the last bus to get back to the ship.  As we were boarding, there were two high school bands playing for us.  The music was great, as was their enthusiasm.  There was a sail-away party on deck 3, where we could enjoy free beverages (including alcohol) as we listened to the bands.  As we pulled away from the dock, the bands marched down toward the end of the dock.  Their send-off was beautiful, and it really touched us.  We’ve pretty much decided that doing excursions in Manila is not a great idea, and that from now on we’ll be better off doing things on our own when we visit.  What appeals to us here is really the people.  Manilla photo album #2 has more pictures.

                                                                    Manila Sail-Away

© Susan L. Stone 2015