Philippines

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

We thought it might be fun to be in Manilla for Christmas and partake in some festivities and then leave after a couple days.  However we got sidetracked by all the malls and food.  Instead of going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve as planned, we went to movies and crashed long before midnight. Christmas day we ordered pizza and holed up in our hotel room.  ‘Tis the season?

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We took a freezing overnight bus to north Luzon (the island Manilla is on) and saw some rice terraces and then headed on to the town of Sagada which is known for their rice wine, oatmeal cookies and hanging coffins.  We participated in all three activities but the rice wine was definitely my favorite.  We spent new years here eating free food, watching fireworks rocketed off in the street and drank beers around the bonfire (ie: wood just being burned in the road) with our new friend Ryan.  We also watched and participated in the gong playing that went on for hours.  I was told that I was holding the gong sexy by a man who’d had more than a few too many drinks. I didn’t know you could hold a piece of string sexy, but apparently you can and was taught how to hold it strongly.  Whew, glad that was cleared up.

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The north was beautiful (and cold) but we were excited for our flight to the island of Palawan. Our good friends  Armanita and Bill (from All Hands) were there and joined us for a couple days in the quiet little town of Port Barton. It was an adventurous ride there with our Jeepney getting stuck in some nasty mud, and impressive watching them haul it out with only a rope and a metal stake. I think the cold overnight bus did me in and I ended up lying in a bed with a fever for a few days. It was the perfect excuse to relax and recuperate. We took a nice walk and did yoga and qigong on the beach, read books and wrote in our journals.

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We headed to the town of El Nido which has beautiful limestone karsts. The sea was rough and the coast guard wouldn’t let any boats out for sightseeing, which was a little disappointing, but secretly I was happy. I wasn’t feeling well and the last thing I really wanted to do was swim. So we just enjoyed the beautiful scenery and it felt like a real vacation.

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Last stop we went to the “granddaddy of all festivals” called Ati-atihan. We had an interesting flight.  Our plane was too heavy to take off and so we waited aboard while luggage was rearranged. We take off finally but the plane is shaking and making strange noises.  Feet from landing the pilot shoots the plane back up and says there’s too much wind.  His voice is shaking too.  As people are vomiting thru turbulence and hail I can’t help but think, “well I’ve had a good run.” Second go at landing was rough but met with hugs and applause. Unfortunately our bags were left in Manilla due to the weight problem.

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The rest of the weekend was great with lots of drumming, colorful outfits and drinking everywhere. The city was in full party mode. One night we met some nice people and hung out on the street drinking beers. One of our new friends ended up being a hooker and was nice, but we weren’t all together sure she wasn’t trying to rob us. Not your typical Saturday night.

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