Yesterday was a mixed bag. April 25 was ANZAC Day and there was a brief, sincere tribute honouring the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I. It was also some kind of special day in Manila, to be marked by a parade beginning around noon. Our excursion set off at 10 a.m. We began at a park and I chose with some others to stay on the AC bus, to preserve my cool and my foot. The big stop at the park and ruins of Fort Santiago intrigued me. I kept expecting Antonio Banderas to swing down from a balcony although I knew it was the wrong country. I left my iPad (camera) on the bus so I had someone take picture of me sitting between two military statues and I must try to get copy. I have been similarly caught with the statures of John Hirsch and Tom Hendry in Winnipeg and of Glen Gould in Toronto. The third will make a collection. Some buildings have been restored but I liked the ruins best, much easier to conjure up the past. The heat, however, drained my energy and swoll (?) my foot. We waited for the bus to pick us up but were directed instead into a gift shop to wait for the “Jeepney Ride” – the reason I opted for this tour.
Apparently, the Americans left behind their jeeps after the war (WWI) and a few entrepreneurs used them as jitneys (a jitney is a bus or other vehicle carrying passengers for a low fare). Then they added on, extra seats at first but then they made larger vehicles. The latest addition has been air-conditioning, of a sort, of which the guide seemed to be very proud. It was not what I had envisioned and it was a very short ride, for which I was grateful. The driver spent the first five or ten minutes getting out of the parking lot. A man stood outside the Jeepney and slapped the side of it to indicate which way to go while the driver hee-hawed and diddley-dawed to get it into a position to squeeze past other cars and the wall of a building on the left side where I was sitting, and into the street. I helped b sucking in my breath as we inched past the wall beside me.
Then we drove for about three minutes to a church and got out. That was the last we saw of our Jeepney.
I and three other people were limping in the heat by this time and chose not to attempt the guided tour: 45 minutes of history and artifacts. Plastic chairs were found for two of us and we listened to the detailed complain of one of our number about the shortcomings of this tour and others. On the right side, we saw a bride and her wedding party: two young girls in red and green dresses, respectively, and two younger boys with dress shirts, no ties. (It was hot.)
The guide, determined to give people their money’s worth, gave the m about 45 minutes before he returned and guided us across the street to another building, adding an extra lecture before we crossed to give several beggar children time to paw us for money. I know I am blessed and fortunate above and beyond and I felt guilty but not generous.
Inside this other building we were to see how rich people lived: more walking in the heat, three stories this time. Five people stayed on the steps in the courtyard; two of us sat on benches in the shade beside a beautiful flower-covered archway leading to a - kiosk? Perhaps. She and I just sat and talked.
I’m sorry I didn’t take the opportunity to see how rich people in Manila live but you have to remember how old I am and also how much of this world have already seen. I am trying to sort out and organize and cut down on my essential memory banks.
One last stop: the Manila Hotel, for ten minutes. Built in 1912, according to he beautiful carved wooden (mahogany?) chairs in a side foyer, it looked like a colonial hotel, with lovely chandeliers and a carved wooden ceiling. Apparently it was the headquarters for McArthur’s last stand, and was visited by John F. Kennedy and Michael Jackson, among others. To our left, down the hall from the big chairs, was the Champagne Room, featuring beautiful umbrellas of crystal leaves arching over the chandeliers. Pretty. I had champagne for my Happy Hour when I got back to the ship. It made my foot feel better.