Could Use A Doctor

Trip Start May 10, 2007
Trip End Jun 25, 2007

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

5:24AM  Yesterday, Tuesday, I wake to a sunlight-filled room and am positive it's time to get up.  I didn't need to be up until 6:30, but my body thought differently.  We checked into our fan rooms and have been running the fans on full blast in an attempt to have some reprieve from the heat.  Since I do not normally sleep with a fan, my body was not so much a fan of being blown on all night.  I woke up with a VERY BAD sore throat and body aches.  My sinuses were unhappy, but I figured I just needed to get on with the day.  I tried to take a cold shower in order to slow the sweating, but the water never got too cold. 
I woke Meredith up and we sought out food.  Oddly enough, breakfast is not that big here.  Most places don't begin serving breakfast until about 9AM!  We needed to eat and leave by 8, so we found a "Country Store" that is basically the same as Dunkin Donuts.  I had a sugar donut, coffee and a ham & cheese crossiant.  I knew I wouldn't be eating again for a few hours.
At 8, Johnathan briefed the group on our day and also had a face-to-face confrontation about some of the things that the group needed to improve upon.  We don't really like to compare them to last year's group, but that's all we have to go off of.  It's too bad for them that last year's group was extremely intense and very into EVERY activity.  For some reason, these kids are a little more mellow and just don't seem as into it.  I know they're learning a lot and having a great time, but more interaction could be done.  This group is unique and are working out well.  They're on-time for everything, which last year's group struggled with.  They are also NOT forming cliques, which is really important to avoid with this type of intense atmosphere.  There just seems to be something lacking, and Johnathan & I are having a hard time figuring out how to make them understand or make them be more intense.  Whatever, it's working out regardless.  Everyone gets along and nobody is having a bad time.
At 8:30 we loaded into two minivans and headed out for Bacolor.  It was about a 2-hour ride out of Manila and we headed north along the west coast.  In 1991 Mount Pinatubo had a great eruption that severely affected the surrounding areas.  This eruption also changed weather patterns and has been considered to have affected global climate.  Bacolor is a small town, which once had about 50,000 people and now only maybe 1,000 reside there.  It did not receive any lava flows, but was rained upon by about 4 inches of ash.  Over the course of the next 5 or so years, lahar would flow down off the volcano.  Lahar is basically a slurry mixture of ash and rain.  The rainy season brings great rains and floods, so when it mixed with the residual ash from the eruption there were many problems.  As the lahar flows it is a slush, but when it settles and dries it becomes as hard as cement.  People were losing their homes.  Each year homes were put underground by about 3-4 ft.  They tried to rebuild, but were never sure when the lahar flows would stop.  In the late 1990s, the flows halted and the people of Bacolor could finally complete their homes.  We went to the town's church that had adjusted to the flows.  The final depth of the lahar is about 12 ft, which is VERY deep.  Twelve feet of cement that you can't dig out of can greatly affect the way you live.  The church adapted to having the 2nd floor be its' main entrance and they raised the roof.  When you look at the pictures (if I ever get them uploaded), you'll see that the front door looks correct, but on a traditional church it would've been considered the 2nd floor.
After visiting the church, we headed to Herman's house for lunch.  Last year he was still rebuilding and they had tried twice before this final attempt to rebuild, but lahar was still flowing during those times and it was almost a waste to rebuild.  His home is complete now and I'm sure last year's group would love to see the pictures!  I'll get them up soon, I promise.   We enjoyed a lunch with pancit bijon, rice cakes and Coca-Cola.  It was DELICIOUS.  His mother and cousins had created such a wonderful feast! 
After conversing with his family for a bit, we got back in the vans and headed up the road to Subic Bay.  The ride was a little over an hour through main roads and small towns.  A lot of them look very similar.  Everything is very gaudy and brightly decorated.  It's really eye-candy, even in the slums.  There is so much to see and absorb when you look out the window.  We did not get a chance to go see the Naval base this year in Subic Bay, so I was a bit disappointed since my maternal grandfather had been stationed there during WWII and I had not known that last year.  I think I would have seen it differently this year.
We drove past a well-kept golf course, but I only saw 1 golfer on the entire course.  They are trying to make Subic Bay more touristy, but it's such an out-of-the-way area that I am not sure if people are really attracted to it.  Anyway, we pulled up to a tropical rainforest and Johnathan went to get our guide, Casoy.  The native people are called Ita and many of them looked like the rest of the Filipinos, but many had curly hair and that's not too common in Asia.  Our guide was a small man with a warm smile and GREAT sense of humor.  He shows us all the IDs he had for different organizations and told us he has led hundreds of boy & girl scouts from the US.  He had this wonderful machete tied around his waist that he used to cut down TREES in the jungle.  This man was an ACTOR, an OVERACTOR really.  He said "important" about one hundred times, saying why this tree or that tree is important in the jungle.  He said "Oh oh oohh, I have a headache or sore throat" and would talk about the medicine he used.  He got to a point where he was wearing leaves under his cap, had a vine tired around his neck and was demonstrating women menstruating!  He was an absolute riot!  He had a story for everything.  He even lit a rubber tree on fire to demonstrate how this tree's bark became black and rubbery, but let the fire get too tall.  He joked about burning the whole forest down by mistake.  He showed us a tree that he called a vine tree, but it looked like a cypress.  He said "This is like the hotel of the jungle" and he curled up in a ball and laid on the ground in between the tree's wide roots.  He was hilarious.
A small boy named Emerson followed us on our hike through the jungle.  The air was THICK with humidity and the hike lasted for about 2 1/2 hours.  It was not as intense as the hikes through the rice terraces had been, but the sticky air made it feel that way.  He would cut bamboo down and turn it upright and have us drink the water the dripped from it.  I was amazed at how much water you could get from the bamboo! [sidenote: please excuse my typos.  I am trying to type quickly since the internet is not free and I'd like to save some money :) ]  Towards the end of the hike, I asked Casoy if he had any Ita knives or machetes for sale.  I was still desperate to find one for my friend.  He said "Oohh, I don't know.  Come back next month."  Next month?!  I said "Oh, but I won't be here!! Don't you have any extras?"  He kind of avoided thinking about it and continued with our hike.  I wasn't going to give up yet, surely they had ONE they could sell me.  We got to an area with beautiful red flowers on the trees and he picked some to put in the girls' hair.  He said "beautiful"!  He cut down a big pole of bamboo and carried it back to where we met him at the beginning of the hike.  We couldn't really understand what he was talking about with this stick of bamboo, but he cut it up and eventually started a FIRE with just his machete and the bamboo.  After this demonstration and everyone headed back to the vans, Johnathan and I stayed behind to thank him again.  At that time I asked him about a machete and he said "come back next month" and I told him I couldn't.  So, he immediately took off the one around his waist and said "how much?" and I tried to get him to name a price.  He didn't really know how to bargain, I guess.  I said "500?" and he said "Okay", but I felt guilty and doubled it to 1,000 pesos.  I told him that it was a VERY special knife to me and that made him smile BIG.  I couldn't believe he sold me his PERSONAL machete.  It truly is the best thing I cold buy here.  He said, "You are beautiful like a supermodel."  Haha!  I was so sweaty and dirty and sumac-ridden that I don't know how he could think that.  I must have mesmerized him into selling me his machete.  Now I don't know if I can give it away because it has a great story, but I think my friend would find it as special as I would knowing this story.  Meeting and having the machete of a native Ita Filipino is truly rare and I feel quite priviledged. 
It was about 5:45 when we finally left Subic Bay and rode 3 hours back to Manila in the air-conditioned vans.  I slept almost the entire time because it gets dark here VERY early.  I think they should change their clocks.  The sun comes up at like 5AM and it's dark long before 7PM. Hmm.  During the car ride, my sore throat and body aches worsened.  I closed the air vents, but I was still shivering.  We got back to Manila around 9PM and immediately headed out for a light dinner.  We were all exhausted.  I could barely eat and had just a few pieces of pita bread with humus, then went to sleep at 10:30PM.  The others were tired, but they dug up the energy to go out and drink until late in the night.  I haven't really partied at all yet, I think my body can't handle it.  I fell asleep with the light on and my bed covered with my belongings.  At 2AM, I woke up for my mid - night pee.  For some reason, I can never make it through the night here!  I brushed my teeth, cleared my bed and went back to sleep.  I had to keep the blanket over my face because the fan was just killing my sinuses.  At 8AM I woke up feeling pretty good, but within minutes my body decided to retract back into sickness.  I showered and could barely walk, everything hurt so badly.  I had chills, pains and decided I had a fever.  Meghan, Meredith & I dropped some laundry off up the street and went to breakfast.  I felt so ill and tired, that it reminded me of having Mono.  I made it about halfway through a plate of pancakes and eggs, but DEVOURED my mango smoothie.  It was delicious and felt wonderful on my throat.  We walked slowly back to the hotel, and I immediately took an Advil and went back to bed.  About an hour later, I woke up and began sweating profusely.  My body had taken a complete 180.  Right then I knew that I had broken the fever.  I had only felt that once or twice before, but I was pretty sure I was getting better.  I got up, grabbed a bag of M&M's and joined Chris and Meredith downstairs at Starbucks.  Meredith was amazed at how much better I looked.  We sat and chatted for awhile, and other group members came in and out of the conversation.  So, here I am now, typing away on the internet.  We originally had plans today, but after our long day yesterday Johnathan decided to give us the day off today.
Melanie's birthday is tomorrow and we got her a Kink Cake (shhh it's a surprise!).  It's HILARIOUS.  She will probably be thoroughly disgusted, but it will be funny.  Kink Cakes are these sexually decorated cakes.  We're talking X-rated!  We had seen them last year, but had no reason to purchase anything.  Good thing someone has a birthday while we're in Manila! haha.
Our plan for tonight is to have the cake, then go to the Call Center.
Tomorrow we will leave the hotel at 11AM and fly to where we catch a boat to Apo Island.  I may not write again until after Apo Island since I'm pretty sure there isn't anywhere to access the internet.  I'm SO excited to soak my body in saltwater and for the others to learn how to SCUBA dive.  I can't believe I'm the ONLY diver on this trip.  I may try to get my Rescue Diver certification on Apo, but I'm not sure if there will be enough instructors.
Anyway, ciao for awhile.  The rest of the afternoon I expect to be peaceful and maybe I'll try to briefly write about the Call Center tomorrow morning.
Hope all is well! Cheers!
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hankdad on

Best story yet -- glad you are feeling better !

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