Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bert's Trip to the Philippines, Part 2

Manila, here I come.

After 14 hours up in the sky, after three movies (one of them in Tagalog, with English subtitles), after two hot meals and several snacks, after numerous drinks including white and red wine, after a few hours of nap time, the plane finally landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It was the smoothest plane ride I had ever had. I don't think the captain put on the "fasten your seatbelt" sign more than half a dozen times during the entire flight. Congratulations, Captain Medina and crew. And say "Hi!" to Josephine.

The time was 10:21 a.m. Hot and humid, of course. (By the way, one big change I noticed was all the employees at the airport were courteous, helpful, dedicated, and honest and always with a smile on their faces. And they were not even asking or hinting for a tip. A huge change from what I remembered five years ago during my last travels.) Thank you, thank you very much. (My decision whether to fly or not to fly PAL again will be revealed in a subsequent part of this series.)

Another hour of waiting for the two balikbayan boxes of assorted personal items and padalas, and I was finally in an air-conditioned van plying and squeezing between jeepneys, cars, taxis and trucks, buses and pedicabs joining this controlled mayhem of misdirected direction called Manila traffic . My only regret was, I was not able to record any of this to show to my American friends. Amazing, isn't it?

Since it was almost lunch time, my sister-in-law suggested to try the eateries at Serendra. Who was I to argue? They don't take dollars, so my money was safe. We went to Conti's. (A few days later, my other group of barkada treated me to a dinner at Duo. But that's another story.)

The purpose of my travel was to attend my parents' 65th wedding anniversary celebration which was done at Bocaue, Bulacan where my oldest brother is the parish priest. He made all the preparations and executions. It was the celebration of the century for us. How many families are lucky enough to celebrate what we did? Not many. Time to count our blessings.

Instead of narrating the events by chronological order, I will just offer observations and comments, in no particular order.


The night before, I did something I have not done in my almost 60 years. I had a manicure! Wowee! The manicurista was there to do house calls and when she was done with my sisters, she asked me if I want one too. Why not? I was on my third bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen by then. And it was for less than a dollar! How can you beat that? Don't they charge $40 for this service in L.A.? (But you get to keep the entire bottle of nail polish, I was told. Big deal.)

Three of my college buddies, picked me up at Quezon City, and we all drove to Bocaue. Another one called in to give his regrets. These three guys are still full of fun, and I just kinda listened to their exchanges of recent crazy happenings. If other people would just listen to their conversations and not see them, they would not suspect that these are semi-senior citizens (one of them, at least is not 60 years old yet) who are serious with their jobs, careers, and lives. Puro kalokohan pa rin, sabi nga, after all these years.

Speaking of seniors, we were at my brother's convent office/parlor drinking San Mig Light (that will always be the "basaang gilagid" venue) when people were coming and going who saw us there. More than one person thought we were bishops from other dioceses invited by my brother. Can you imagine if any one of them offered to kiss our college rings? It might be the first of "many."

More than 250 guests attended. We had the proverbial fatted calf, five lechons, a dozen adobong pato and other stuff. The finale was the fireworks display; after all, isn't this Bocaue, the Philippine capital of Fireworks? As you may have guessed, 65 rockets were launched in the air. It was almost midnight when the party ended, but the "three bishops" left earlier than that. And guess what? With all the food and drinks, I was not able to eat or drink a lot. I was busy attending to relatives and friends, taking pictures, and generally visiting. And thank goodness everybody had a camera, because with all the confusion on my part, I failed to take a picture of my parents. Lagot!

My contribution to the event was a comedy skit I wrote and directed, starring all my young nieces and nephews. It was about how my parents met, the situation around the first wedding 65 years ago, and the births of all ten children. The funny part was during her "labor," you could hear my "Mom" screaming "Huli na ito" but then again, it was repeated nine more times. We didn't have time to rehearse or have a dry run so we did it with scripts in hand, but all in all, it was fun.

More to come.

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