12 June 2003: The first week of Camp Critters ended on Thursday (with Friday being the observed day this year for Philippine Independence Day. Though I don’t know Independence from whom, the Japanese or us?) and the summer camp gang headed to Museo Pambata, a children’s museum located right next door to the Chancery. We rode on a bus that didn’t know the meaning of seat belts and Jonathon had his own seat, right over the wheel so his feet didn’t even dangle. Talk about giving him a thrill ride.
From the street Museo Pambata is unimpressive and when you enter, it’s seems unimpressive as well. But the kids had a great time. The building is broken up into 6 zones with a different theme for each. The first we entered focused on the history of the Philippines with examples of materials used for clothing, old toys, typewriters and a miniature trading ship all free to be touched and explored. Kids dressed up in period clothing, rang the ship’s bell, and climbed into a miniature of an old church that’s at the entrance to Chinatown. There were also phones around for listening to the voices of historic figures.
We were then led to an area about the waters around the Philippines with aquariums, hanging figures of various aquatic wildlife, a fashioned sewer pipe (three stars for realism!), examination table with shells and in an adjoining room, a mini waterfall next to an example of a riverside hut that the kids could climb into. The one at the National Museum was a true sample, but this one was big enough for just a handful of kids.
Off we hopped to the music room, where the gang could pound on drums and gongs and all sorts of really loud instruments, all at once. I’d have to guess that this was one of Katherine’s favorite sections and she scurried from one noisemaker to the next in a frenzy of excitement. Only one section was cordoned off and wouldn’t you know that’s the part Jonathon really wanted to touch. With pianos and guitars that were off limits he just couldn’t resist, not even the miniature rocking horse and pig could get him out willingly.
Once the room stopped reverberating, we marched up the stairs and were welcomed by a giant open mouth with a red carpet tongue. Welcome to the exploration of the human body where you can enter via the mouth and wander the throat and various body tubes, or take the more mature (and boring) entrance through a flapped doorway. A corner housed a giant womb for a child to curl in and sample the cozy sensation of pre-birth. Another corner had a circular model of a tongue, a tummy, a butt and a nose. Press the giant body part and hear the sounds it can make! A sneeze! A rumble and of course, a fart! Wheee! These folks sure know kids. Of course, we have to see how digestion works and everyone wants to know what food turns into as it moves through the gastrointestinal system. Yes, from chewing to waste, you can see it all. We spend the longest amount of time in this room, even I thought it was pretty cool, but of course I would.
Then through the doors to the outside portion of a long wide balcony that depicted a market. Each side housed different stalls, from a bakery to a barber and fish monger to conveniences. And all were stocked with items the kids could play with and pretend with. I bought plenty of cinnamon rolls and lobsters, had some clam soup from the street restauranteur, and passed on getting my shoes repaired. Nicholas enjoyed whacking the various shellfish while Rebecca was busy cutting people’s hair. Katherine was a fireman for a while before deciding to open her restaurant business. Jonathon just wandered from stall to stall undecided about his next purchase.
Once all the goods had been exchanged and business were profiting, we went over to the actors’ studio. Lights, camera, action, with costumes, a stage and actual cameras catching all the action, the kids put on a show about poachers and benevolent angels (or something to that effect, we never did get to see Act II and the conclusion). This wasn’t a great section for the smaller kids. There weren’t enough costumes and the big kids really barreled around. I was glad to leave the stage and head over to the final portion, the science wing.
Now, don’t think that this is anything like a children’s science museum at home. No, it didn’t compare at all. But for what it was, it was good. There were tornado jugs, a smoke tornado tunnel (low on smoke), and a bunch of visual experiments with mirrors. My favorite part was an earthquake table. Build a little house of blocks and push the button to simulate an earthquake. Have 2 people build houses or towers and see which one takes longer to fall. OK, call me silly, but I giggled each time my house crumbled. Last, we headed outside to the playground where a stripped helicopter was available for climbing and exploring. Of all things, Rebecca said the see-saws were her favorite. It was broiling out, the playground had no protection either from the sun or from the asphalt and we only spent 10 minutes there, but she thought the see-saw was great. Oookay. The boys liked the helicopter best. Of course.
Once back at Seafront, the kids jumped into the pool and Jonathon and I were allowed to join the gang since we’d helped chaperone the trip. With the formation of ARC (American Recreation Club) the pool, library, tennis courts and all fun things are off limits except to members. But since the kids are in Camp, we got to tag along and Jonathon had a great time. (Chances are good we won’t join until the rainy season is over so that it’s worth access to the pool.)