22 May 2003: So what have we been doing this month of May? On the 1st of May, we went to Intramuros and saw a smidgen of the actual attractions.
We’d actually just intended on going to this one shop but it was 9:30 and the shop didn’t open until 10 so we hiked around the area a bit. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Intramuros is the old part of the city that the Spanish walled up and fortified. It’s a big ole tourist trap full of hotels and restaurants, shops and churches. Well, since we were early, we headed down a street, any street really, and passed lots of people getting their day going, opening their little open air stalls of mangos and magazines. Kids were out playing, we passed a dead cat, and one man who walked by greeted Ian with a “Hi, Joe”. I tell you, that tickled Ian to no end. Bonus points if you know why!
So we meandered to the Manila Cathedral. It was hot, it was dark, but it was also rather stunning for the Philippines. Granted, the doors had all been stripped from the confessionals, and the girls were spooked by the dead people interred along the sides (thanks dad), but really, it was pretty. We’re going to go to an actual Mass in the cooler months because Ian doesn’t trust that there’s adequate cooling for hundreds of people in 90+ temperature and 80% humidity. I guess the floor fans placed around gave him a bad vibe. The Cathedral has had a shaky history. The building we were in was actual Take 6 on that spot. The other 5 cathedrals had been destroyed by earthquakes, fire, bombings and typhoons. I’m sure the local are hoping this one stands. Or maybe they should take some tips from San Augustin down the street, one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines.
So we walked down a different street back the way we came. We could see off another alley a whole section that had colorful flags hanging and later Ian discovered that fiestas are common in Intramuros and often held in the evenings, with street performers, music and I would imagine, plenty of food. Hmm, something else to put on our to-do list.
And we went into San Augustin. From the street it is truly unspectacular. Dull is putting it nice. A small door off to the side said it housed a museum and since we had time I cajoled Ian into going. It was something like P100 per adult entrance fee and less for the kids. I peeked into the museum room and thought “Well, that’s rather small”, but was delighted to see that the museum actually was door after door off an outdoor center court. We passed through a crypt to Ian’s delight. Of course, we left with 3 kids complaining of ghosts and everything being spooky. The church itself is stunning with blue Parisian glass chandeliers, and it houses the mausoleum of Legaspi, the Spaniard who founded the city of Manila in the 1500s. There were quite a few artifacts but all of them were in non-climate-controlled rooms, with layers of dust and cobwebs and some of the paintings were reduced to blackness from age, disrepair and lack of attention. Half way through the self-guided tour was a snack station with free drinks and cookies with your ticket stub. And near the end, a section opened into a garden with part of the old Intramuros wall as part of the boundary. It was such a pleasant diversion and we hope to attend Mass there as well. When it gets cooler. The organ in San Augustin was much smaller than the one in the Manila Cathedral, but the church itself was smaller as well with one center aisle. As we were leaving, it was being prepared for a wedding.
So we finally made it to the shop, and what a shop it was. Three levels, and we only wandered through one, filled to the brim with handicrafts of wood, shell, woven materials, and wicker. Ian purchased a small kris while we also bought some small gifts, cards and odds and ends.
On the 10th, we decided at the last minute to go to the National Museum. If we’d waited a day, entrance is free on Sundays, but not a big deal. Another thing to make note of I suppose. If you’re looking for something to do with the 3-10 set on a Saturday morning, this is the place to go. The exhibits were small and varied. One discussed the sinking of the San Diego (discovered off the coast of Batangas). It was originally a trading ship called the San Antonio, but was outfitted by the Spanish as a warship. Only the ship couldn’t hack the weight, it had a permanent tilt, the cannon portholes were below sea level and it sank without firing a shot on its maiden voyage when it encountered the Dutch warship, Mauritius, in 1600. The galleon was only discovered in the early 1990s and the archeologists found artifacts from the Ming dynasty amidst the cannons, china and wooden planks. The exhibit room was lighted with blue lights and the air conditioning was pumped so, so you can imagine the effect. Kids can even pick up the cannon balls. The other favorite for the kids was a raised hut that we were allowed to climb in. Since the Philippines has typhoons and many of the people live on the coastline or even on the water, huts on stilts are common outside the city. It was hot and stuffy but the kids thought it was nifty. One of my favorites was the Best of Philippine Art exhibit. It housed about 50 different items (like, I said, everything is small) but one was a wall-sized painting depicting the arrival of the Spanish, claiming the land while the native Malays in full paint markings stand to the side of the cross being planted on their soil. The ships could be seen in the distance. I pulled the girls in front of this work and told them that a single image can hold an entire story and had them find the different parts. It was fascinating.
The 20th was a special day for Katherine. She didn’t have to wear her uniform! OK, that’s a big deal in itself, but today was different. Even though she hasn’t been at ISM for the entire year, she was still here for part of their poetry writing segment. The 20th was the day the class did a poetry reading for the parents. Katherine even did the welcome and introduction of the first poet. She read her two poems (a name poem and a haiku) loudly and well enunciated. I was so impressed with her. I’d even brought the video camera to tape the event and send a copy to grandma and grandpa, but wouldn’t you know the one tape I’d brought crapped out on me. Thank goodness the camera still works and that I’d brought the digital still camera, but even so I was really annoyed that the video didn’t work. Arg. She was extremely hyper the entire time, and was concerned that we wouldn’t make it (she’s –always- concerned if we’re not there 15 minutes early), so she hopped around, talking to everyone in sight, showing me everything that was hers on the boards. I’m always glad when I make it to her school functions. There were plenty of yayas at the reading, but I can’t imagine that makes the same impression on a child. Once the kids were all done with their poetry, they had a surprise for the parents. Each child was given a bound book of all the poetry, complete with embossed name on the front. What a souvenir from the first grade!
Once she was off to lunch, I went around the school completing her re-registration and getting Rebecca’s registration (ack!) largely done as well. This is obviously a private school, if the uniforms didn’t give it away. When going to the clinic (when they say clinic, they mean clinic with robed nurses, different sick rooms, a front desk, and everything on site for minor emergencies. This school even has a dentist. But I digress….) we passed an art section. Not little pieces of ceramic, not small canvases but sections 3’X3’ of cut glass projects, mosaic ceramics, and oil paintings lining the halls. We just might have to come back when the kids are in high school.
The 21st I took the 3 kids to the Women’s Club Bazaar. They hold this every month and it’s basically the same as Shopper’s Day, only smaller. I recognized a lot of vendors and their wares. I keep thinking I’d like to get a quilt for our bed, but you know, the quilts here look just like anything I could buy in the States. Now, if there were one that was an unusual local pattern, or a color scheme from the highlands, that I would go for. But for basic pattern pastel quilts, I’ll pass. I also looked at getting a picnic basket, but the only ones there were just big empty baskets. I know I saw some last time that came equipped and with several compartments, so I’ll keep looking. I did find mother of pearl table setting sets for a very reasonable price, but had it in my mind that I needed 2 matching sets which they didn’t have of the one I wanted. After talking about it with Ian though, 2 different but similar sets would be much more pleasing. I did splurge on some Barbie items for the girls, not that they needed them, but heck why not. Also bought some bathroom mats. My big purchase though was a chess set. Oh, I know what you’re saying “Not another one!” Well, OK, I did but this time I bought one that I’d been looking for, a wooden set with the king and queen designed as local farmers in traditional clothing, with the knight as a carabao and the rooks as fishing huts. I wasn’t going to pass it up, and I have no regrets. Hey, it was a whole lot cheaper than Ian’s marble set and I think it’ll have more meaning for us when we leave Manila too. It even closes up to hold the pieces and has a handle for carrying. Five stars in my book.
At the bazaar I bumped into several people I’ve met, a couple moms from school, and a couple other ladies from the Embassy. One is even newer that us. Ah, seniority! She had her new baby with her and we all chatted for a bit. Apparently she’s been getting pressured to wean her child from the locals she’s met, and has gotten grief for using a front-carrier. Well, I was carrying Jonathon in the sling, but didn’t mention that he was still nursing. Maybe if we invite them over for dinner.