Friday, February 06, 2015

Rewind to Manila

Wednesday, January 7th
Parade Preparations - The Pope will be coming soon

We arrive in Manilla at 10:45 A.M, clear immigration and retrieve our bags easily.  I see Art’s brother Joe waiting for us outside of the terminal but I don’t want to exit until I have changed money. I wait in line at a non-working A.T.M; eventually admit defeat and exit without pesos. Joe has arranged for a 6 passenger van for our 10 hour drive to Banaue. The van and driver are waiting elsewhere and when I exit, Joe welcomes me and calls for the van. “Marky” is waiting in the van, is 19, slight, handsome and soft spoken. We connected with Mark Anthony about 12 years ago, through Childreach or Plan, when he was assigned to us as a foster child. English is spoken in the Philippines and he (with the help of his mother and the plan sponsors) would write laborious letters and send photos several times each year. Because our son John is of similar in age, it was easy to identify and to connect with him but at 18 years old, children “time out” of the program. Thanks to Facebook, Mark Anthony contacted me and we have communicated sporadically over the past two years. We have now invited Marky to be our guest on a three night trip to Banaue, a Unesco heritage site in the mountain provence of Luzon and meet him face to face for the first time.

John and Marky
Lunch at Jollibee

Our van is spacious enough but is lacking several seat belts which to me is of considerable concern, but at least some of us are belted in. John and Marky sit together in the rear seats and we begin our long drive towards Banaue through the noon traffic of Manila, clogged and barely moving. Long, ornately decorated Jeepneys, (Manila’s style of a mini-bus with two long bench seats along the inside and rear ladders and roof racks for extra passengers and for baggage,)  and trikes, (three wheeled vehicles, powered by a motorcycle and with a passenger side car adequate to carry 2-3 passengers, sardine style,) slip in and out of traffic. Scooters, often carrying 4 family members, children sandwiched in between adults and usually without helmets, add to the chaos and congestion.  It is amazing that we don’t hear the crunch of metal regularly. It takes us two hours to work our way out of Manila and we use this time to get to know Marky. We ask him about his work, his family, his education and his goals for the future.  He is the oldest of 5 children. He has 4 sisters, 15yrs, 13 yrs, 9 yrs and 6 yrs. His 15 year old sister is in 8th grade in Manila and lives with their aunt and uncle. Marky finished high school and has completed one year of university where he studied marine engineering.  He would like to be able to finish his studies at the university but rather than being a marine mechanic, he aspires to be a neurosurgeon. He now works full time to help pay for his sisters high school and to provide for his mother and his younger sisters back home in Samar.  Marky is a sales assistant for a Japanese clothing shop in Quetzon City, (a suburb of Manila) and makes a little over the minimum wage which is about $10.00 a day. He works 6 x 12 hour days at his job and shares a room with a friend who works at the same company. He is still on probation but they gave him this week off for vacation and he expects to be a regular employee soon. 

At 2:30 we stop for lunch at a Jollibee fast food restaurant. John and Marky pose beside the Jollibee mascot and I take photos.  (Art passes Marky a little spending money so that he won’t be stressed about personal expenses and at the same time tells him that he is our guest on this trip.) I am not impressed by the Jollibee experience but Joe tells us they are everywhere in the Philippines. Joe, John and I order spaghetti with a red meat sauce with a few chunks of hot dog mixed into the oddly sweet sauce.  Art orders a hamburger and Marky has fried chicken.  

The drive to Banaue is 10 hours and we still have 8 hours to go. Once outside of Manila we speed along  a new freeway above delicious green rice fields, lush vegetation, banana trees and palm trees. The countryside is flat except for Mount Arayae that rises above the rice fields in the distance.  About 8:00 P.M. we stop at a simple rest stop for dinner. The food is unappealing; uncovered cold pans of unidentifiable stir fry and the rotisserie chicken, that looks promising, won’t be ready for 30 minutes. We order simple bowls of noodle and vegetable soup which are at least hot and continue driving another two hours onto Banaue.
Greenview Lodge, Banaue
Greenview Lodge, Banaue

We arrive in Banaue at 10:30 P.M. Art and I have a room at the Banaue Hotel on the outskirts of town, a large sprawling tourist hotel that has seen finer days, and the boys; (Joe, John and Marky) have a triple room at the Greenview Lodge, a backpackers lodge, in the heart of town. (Apparently there were no triple rooms available at the Banaue Hotel.)  We part ways and after much needed showers, Art and I fall into bed exhausted. (Our hotels are a 15 minute walk , or 5 minute trike ride, from each other.)