Experience the Philippines
Carlos Celdran's walking tour
Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor
Pan Pacific's Lounge
Cebu-Plantation Bay Resort
Cebu-Island Hopping - beach lunch
Bohol-Pangloa Island Resort-view from our Jacuzzi
Bohol-Tarsiers-world's smallest mammals
Pearl Farm Resort
Mindanao Night at Pearl Farm
Lobby of the Peninsula Hotel
"I can’t change how Manila looks but I can change how you look at Manila," explained our guide, Carlos Celdran. Manila is not a city that immediately wins one over. The heat and the traffic can be intense. The city’s colonial history was bombed into oblivion during WW II. But, our walking tour with Carlos definitely helped to change our impression of Manila. His tour starts at Intramuros, the walled portion of the city and is as much street theater as history lesson. Carlos began by leading our group of 20 in singing the Philippine national anthem. With a rapid-fire mix of history and humor he kept our attention right up to when he donned sunglasses, put a pipe in his mouth, and waving the American flag, became General Douglas MacArthur fulfilling his promise, "I shall return." The tour ended at Casa Manila, a typical upper class Philippine home of the colonial period restored under the guidance of Imelda Marcos. Carlos quipped, "She furnished it by mining. ‘This is mine. This is mine.""
One evening we went to dinner at Kaldekaldero where all the waiters and cooks took turns singing familiar American classics that are popular throughout Asia. We had adobo, the national dish of marinated chicken and pork. For dessert John and I shared Halo Halo, the yummy Philippine dessert is a that is a mixture of shaved ice, milk, sweet beans and fruits topped with ube, sweet yam ice cream. "Halo" means "mix" and the dessert could be the icon of Philippine culture. The Philippine culture is a fascinating mix of Asian, European, and American, with the American culture currently dominating. The national language is Tagalog but most people also speak English. Manila is home to the largest mall in Asia. It would be right at home in any large American city. After WW II, the American Jeeps were elongated and brightly painted to become Jeepneys that are now the typical means of inexpensive transportation. As one guide explained, "We sit knee-to-knee in the Jeeps so we call them Jeep-neys."
At the mouth of Manila Harbor sits Corregidor, the second most bombed island during WW II. I found the new tourist slogan a bit disturbing. "Visit Corregidor: A whole new fun experience!" There is a resort at the top of the "rock" and the island is promoted as a wedding destination and for corporate team building exercises. But most tourists take the 40-minute boat ride to the island to learn about the Battle of Corregidor. The guide explained, "The American base on the island was the pride of the military before WW II with the best facilities, including the Mile Long Barracks. It was considered a choice assignment. Then the war came." The light and sound show in the Malinta Tunnel tells the story of the battles on Corregidor from the Japanese and American perspective. The 835-foot long tunnel had dozens of laterals and held Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters, a 1000-bed hospital, and supplies. The war memorials and ruins of the Mile Long Barracks are a testament to the fact that there is no way to put a pretty face on war.
We were in Manila three different times and stayed at three different hotels. Some nights we sat in the Pacific Lounge on 21st floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel with a panoramic view of Manila realizing that Carlos was right, learning the history of Manila had changed our perspective of the city. Our last two nights we sat in the lobby of the elegant Peninsula Hotel listening to the beautiful live music by the hotel’s resident band realizing there are many Manilas!