Final Scrabbling for a month...

Trip Start Nov 22, 2010
Trip End Jan 11, 2011

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Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Monday, December 6, 2010

Arrival in the Philippines: minor transportation issues persist, as my cab driver runs out of gas mere blocks from the hotel, but it's just a brief delay in an otherwise traffic-jammed but uneventful trip.

  With my scheduled tour of the middle east not starting until December 11th, I had just enough time to squeeze in another Scrabble tournament in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this left me no time to actually see the country, except for a single day with a preplanned tour organized by the local Scrabble community. I wish I had been able to see more of the Philippines and look forward to making it back there sometime. The small part I saw can probably best be described as the "armpit" of the country. Huge, stinky, polluted, overpopulated Manila is hardly representative of the rice terraces and white sand beaches that dot the rest of the archipelago.

That said, we do get to see Fort Santiago and Rizal park. A large group of Scrabble players--mainly the youth contingent--depart via two jeepneys and an SUV around nine AM. After poking our way through the Manila traffic we finally arrive at the fort. Dating back to 1571, it has been damaged and rebuilt multiple times. It has been used by the British, Spanish, Americans, and Japanese at various times. Of particular importance for Filipino history, it was where Jose Rizal was imprisoned prior to his execution.

Rizal is the rare national hero who is truly deserving of the title. A brilliant polymath, he was a medical doctor who was conversant in at least ten languages. He wrote several books which criticized the rule of Spain and the Catholic church. Upon his return to the Philippines after study in Europe, he founded La Liga Filipina, which advocated non-violent social reforms. But the governor disbanded the league and Rizal, who was already considered an enemy of Spain due to his critical novels was exiled to the south. During his four years of exile, revolution broke out in the Philippines, which suggested to the Spanish Rizal's complicity, although he condemned violent revolution. In 1896, to disassociate himself from the revolutionaries, he asked for and received permission to volunteer his medical services in Cuba in the aftermath of an earthquake there. Nonetheless, he was arrested en route and shipped back to the Philippines for trial on charged of sedition. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to death. He was 35 years old.

Our second stop, Rizal park, marks the actual spot of his execution. The monument to Rizal is guarded around the clock by ceremonial soldiers. 
Beginning the tour of the middle east requires a late night departure from Manila and a long overnight redeye from MNL to BKK to KWI to DAM, arriving mid day the next day. Check in at Manila is insanely crowded, even though I arrive over three hours early! But the flight itself is uneventful and allows me to get a decent amount of sleep.
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