Philippine Memoir: Exploring Luzon

Me (orange shirt), and my brother Scott in front of Mt. Mayon, Legazpi City, The Philippines

”…The climate in Manila was actually hotter than Indonesia, and quite a bit more humid. Just as the sun cracked the horizon, you could feel the strong heat on your skin. As in Indonesia, there were just two seasons, the (hot) dry season, and the (not quite as hot) rainy season, or monsoon.

We would get a number of inoculations before moving overseas, as there was still the possibility of catching diseases that had largely been eradicated in the US – diphtheria, polio, yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis, measles, TB, and cholera come to mind. Ouch. While we were in the Philippines, Bill came down with a serious sinus infection. He was hospitalized and because they had to perform surgery to clear his sinuses, he had bandages over his eyes for several days. A scary time for us.

A sight I always enjoyed in Manila were the jeepneys, used as mini-buses, surplus Jeeps from World War II with two side facing bench seats behind the driver, with an aisle between them so that people could easily get on and off. The jeepneys were painted the most amazing colors, rainbows of vivid green, blue, yellow, orange, and red. They also had a lot of trinkets on them, extra bells and horns, and a lot of chrome – Very ornate, each one different but all of them loud and beautiful.

There were many ‘Sari Sari’ stores around Manila and in the small rural towns, the tropical equivalent of a 7-11 in the US, minus the glass front and air conditioning. Every one had the store name in black lettering against a white background, flanked by either Coke or Pepsi signs on either side. As long as you could reach the counter, cigarettes and liquor were available.

Our family ventured to Baguio, in the Luzon hills, five or six times a year, especially during the hotter weather. We left Manila, and passed Clark Air Force Base, and Angeles City on the way. It was a six hour drive, and slow, over rutted dirt roads once we reached the hills, but pretty interesting too after we began to drive through the valleys and mountain passes.

There was a pervasive slogan along the highways, “We want safety, not coffee”. I sort of get it…The other sign we would see everywhere, even in the most remote areas, down gravel roads in the jungle, a yellow tin sign with black lettering tacked to a tree: “Guzman Tech”. I don’t know anything about the place, but the signs were universal. Not far behind, signs for Coca-Cola, and Pepsi.

When we arrived in Baguio, we sometimes stayed at the Park Hotel, just outside Camp John Hay, a radar installation and R&R base, with a golf course and theater, and other times we stayed on the base. The air was always crisp and cool, and there were pine trees at that elevation, such a contrast to the heat and humidity of Manila.

We used to ride ponies up there, through the trails surrounding the base. We also rented mopeds at Burnham Park in Baguio, a park with a large oval track around it. They were Honda P-50’s, clutch-less 50cc mopeds. We would have faces full of dust afterwards. I once rented a 90cc bike, with 3 speeds, a hand clutch and foot shift, and found it to be a handful, considering I was just 13 and not yet five feet tall. Even today at 6’2”, I have never been comfortable riding a motorcycle.

Just as in Indonesia, Dad used to travel a lot in the Philippines, and bring us along. I remember a few of those trips, one to Legazpi City, a city near the southern tip of Luzon. We flew there from Manila. There is a volcano with a perfect cone there, Mt. Mayon, pictured with this post.

One day, we rode a motorized outrigger out to a secluded beach, in a cove with clear water and no roads in, were dropped off, and snorkeled there for hours. There was a small thatched lean-to on the beach and we brought a cooler with drinks. The reef was spectacular, and colorful. I remember the parrot fish, schools of small tropical fish, and bright large corals. Also quite shallow, as we went about a half mile out and still in eight to ten feet of clear water. We wore white t-shirts while snorkeling and swimming as the sun was so hot even lotion wouldn’t prevent a sunburn.

During the same trip we went to a bar, more of a cantina, in Legazpi with Dad and Bill. Dad had some drinks, we had sodas, and there were Christmas lights around – I think it was New Year’s Eve…”

Published by Jim Flanegin

it shows up in the pictures...I am a US citizen (born in California), though spent my childhood through high school living primarily in SE Asia, giving me a deep view of both East and West. I began TM at 21 and the TM-Sidhis at 26. I was visited by Guru Dev at 39. The rest is history. :-)

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