Sorry for some reason now Animoto only sends the embedding as 360 so please once again upgrade the quality to 720 when you watch the video. Just click on 360 and change to 720...the quality is MUCH better!
Korean "Chuseok" or Thanksgiving was the weekend of September 29th so I had a chance to get away for a few days and take a quick trip to Philippines. One of the first things I noticed as soon as I got off the plane in Philippines is how kind the people there were. I had read quite a few places that that's one thing people there really pride themselves in and I'd have to agree!
I had tried to decide where to go...I'd heard how nice Cebu and Boracay are with their beautiful beaches, but I've always thought of those as places for like a honeymoon or something, so I figured those weren't really the places for me. I decided to just head to Manila and then do a few day trips and I'm glad that's what I decided to do. It was a nice short convenient flight, I left Incheon at 8AM and was into Manila by around noon. My hotel was really cool and allowed me to check in a little early, so I got all showered up and took a nice nap after an early morning (I had to leave my house at 3AM!). I figured I could do a few day trips and just get a feel and taste of Philippines in that short time.
The first day there it was rainy in the afternoon so after showering and taking a short nap I went out for a bit around the hotel, they had some cool shops and a nice mall. I kind of just took it easy, and by afternoon it had stopped raining, so I checked out the hotel pool and just relaxed the rest of the day away...sometimes the best thing about a trip is just being somewhere new and the ease of being able to relax and enjoy your new surroundings. That evening I headed over to Intramuros which is Manila's oldest district which was established during the Spanish Colonial Period. The name is Latin for "within the walls" and this area is one of the last remaining places where the old Spanish influence is still visible.
The next day I was excited, I headed out to Villa Escudero in the lovely area of San Pablo City, about two hours outside of Manila. Villa Escudero is a historic colonial plantation which was founded in the 1880s by Don Placido Escudero and his wife Dona Claudia Marasigan. Originally they planted sugar cane and grew it there, but eventually their son Don Arsenio Escudero converted it to a coconut plantation and that's what they still grow there today. Arsenio was a pioneering agro-industrialist and he actually built the country's first working hydroelectric plant in 1937. I thought that he must have been a genius, having his own power plant in a rural area in the 1930s...pretty amazing. He and his wife Dona Rosario Adap made Villa Escudero a safe refuge through war, foreign occupation and political upheaval. On the property there are many different places and things to see. They had a large church which has since been turned into a museum and many beautiful and lush gardens. One of the cooler things that they have available there is a ride on a wagon pulled by a carabao. Now, I have to stop and say I feel a little dumb in the fact that that was one of my favorite things and yet I forgot to even get a picture of a carabao or the wagon! HA! Anyway, a carabao is basically a water buffalo, but the ride was very cool. It takes you from the front of the plantation back to the waterfall and small lake. Now, one of the coolest things I experienced on the trip was lunch. They have the lunch area set up right under the waterfall from the hydroelectric plant and the tables are actually in the water...so you eat your lunch in the water! HA! I've never seen anything like it...I was quite surprised when I saw it. Basically you walk down, take off your shoes and then just get in line for some delicious food. Like I said, the tables are in the water so as you eat your feet are nice and cool in the nice stream of water flowing over them. The food there was amazing, it was buffet style so I made sure to make a few trips back and when I was finished I was stuffed! Above the waterfall of course is a small lake which provides water for the plant. They have some small flat wooden rafts that you can take out and paddle around the lake. Around the lake are some cottages where you can actually stay at Villa Escudero. It's a really beautiful and peaceful scene paddling around the lake, also there's an AMAZING view of Mt. Banahaw in the distance. Unfortunately when I was on the lake it was covered by clouds, but you can see it in the background behind the main house at Villa Escudero. After eating lunch and paddling around the lake they also had a short cultural program which featured dances from many of the different indigenous people of Philippines. It was a nice way to end the day there, and I also enjoyed a really nice glass of halo-halo which is a Filipino desert made up of shaved ice, evaporated milk, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, sugar palm fruit, coconut sport, caramelized plantains, jackfruit, gulaman, tapioca, nata de coco, sweet potato, cheese and rice. Basically its a huge mixture of tropical goodness! HAHAHA! It was really delicious!
The next day was kind of the highlight of my trip. For anyone who knows me well knows I really love history and I'm quite a proud American when it comes to our history, especially around the time of World War II. I have the utmost respect for those brave men and women that fought during that perilous time in the world. Well, as many of you know one of the most difficult places to serve during WWII ended up being in the Pacific and one of the places was Philippines. A trip to Corregidor Island was a truly amazing experience and made me even more proud of the American and Filipino soldiers who fought and died to keep our countries free. The ferry ride from Manila out to Corregidor was about an hour and a half ride. It was a rainy day and kind of seemed fitting for the occasion. It seemed surreal to be there in such a famous place. During the US occupation of the Philippines in 1908 the US established Ft. Mills on the island. The Army Corp. of Engineers started constructing tunnels and bomb proof shelters around the island. I won't get into too much history here since the main focus of this blog is my trip, however of course during the Battle of Philippines the Japanese invaded Luzon and the American and Filipino troops which were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur retreated to the Bataan Peninsula. The troops although they fought valiantly eventually ran out of food, water and ammunition and the fall of Bataan was complete on Apr 9, 1942. Bataan is just north of the island of Corregidor and this was the last stronghold for the American troops. For months the Japanese had been bombing Corrigedor and finally the Battle of Corregidor took place on May 5th and 6th 1942. The Japanese took the island on May 6th and most of the prisoners of war that had been on the island were sent of to prison camps and forced into slave labor. Of course several years later in Feb 1945 the US and Filipino troops re-took the island in which over 6,600 Japanese soldiers were killed. Corregidor is also of course famous for being the site where on March 12, 1942 Gen. MacArthur had been forced by President Roosevelt to leave the Philippines and go to Australia. So from the Lorcha Dock he left, of course promising with his words "I came out of Bataan and I shall return." Years later after the US and Filipino troops had defeated the Japanese MacArthur did in fact return and on March 7, 1945 in a special ceremony he said "I see that the old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever haul it down."
The nice thing there as a tourist is that they have some little shuttle busses that take you around the island and the guide was very cool and informative. You can see the ruins of the barracks that used to stand on the island and there are also a few really nice memorials that have been established for the US and Filipino soldiers who fought and died, not only on Corregidor and Bataan but also to all the soldiers who fought in the Pacific Front. It was a great day, even through the rains (which at times were quite heavy actually!) I felt very proud of those brave soldiers and it made me really appreciate the free and easy life I live.
The last day I went to visit the Manila-American cemetery. I've been to Arlington and I was surprised but also happy to see that this cemetery easily rivals Arlington in how beautiful the grounds are maintained. There are 17, 206 graves and it was an intense sight to see so many crosses there and know that so many people had perished. Also on the site is a memorial constructed of limestone quarried near Rome, Italy. The memorial is in honor of those 36, 285 soldiers whose bodies were never recovered. There is also a chapel and tower and each of the state seals are carved in the limestone as well.
I had a wonderful trip to Philippines...I enjoyed some wonderful food (like adobo!), drinks and the people there were amazingly awesome and friendly. I also had a chance to buy about 6 bags of dried mangoes but sadly I ate them all about two days after I got back! HA! I wish I could eat them everyday...I never knew I liked mangoes so much.