My first experience even before arrival in the Philippines was on the plane ride over. I sat next to a man named Dr. Ang who is the President of the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California. He grew up in the Philippines and now lives in the bay area. He was on his way to the Philippines on a medical mission to one of the provinces to repair cleft lips, throat issues, etc (http://www.pmsnc.com/tmp/Medical_Mission.html).
Dr. Ang had some fascinating stories. His father was truly remarkable; from running away from China to the Philippines, being an interpreter for General Douglas McArthur (if you don’t know who he is look him up), being a guerilla hiding out in secret passages behind stoves, to meeting his wife who comes from Barangay Batad in Banaue which is home to the famous Banaue rice terraces that many consider one of the most beautiful places in the world. Weirdly, one of the things that I found most interesting was that his father invented the manila folder. Go figure! One of the things I use on a daily basis at work and I met the inventor’s son on a trip to the Philippines.
Besides his stories about his father Dr. Ang specializes in about a gazillion things. His theories on sleep and diet were most interesting. He even invited me to their medical society’s annual dinner next year since I will be in the Philippines this year when they have it. So I do have to say I had an interesting plane ride over and my adventure started before I even stepped foot in the Philippines.
Day 1 in the Philippines I arrived at 5:35 am. I do have to say that flying business class does have its perks; first off the plane, first through immigration and first to get your bags is NICE! Believe me, being priority at Ninoy Aquino International Airport is sweet specifically when your plane has over 400 passengers and probably twice as many balikbayan boxes rolling off the conveyor belt.
I arrived at the hotel by 7 AM which was just in time for breakfast buffet. They have Chinese, sushi, all kinds of breakfast foods and much more to choose from. It’s fabulous! I love the fresh juices, smoothies and fruits.
After breakfast I looked around the hotel at the swimming pool and gym and then went upstairs to check email. Luckily I checked my work email as my new supervisor had emailed me and said she would be picking me up at the hotel along with a fellow co-worker I know who works in San Ramon for lunch.
My supervisors driver picked me up and we all headed to the Sofitel for lunch/dinner. The traffic is unbelievable and the fact that stoplights, road signs and pedestrians are ignored is interesting. You really have to be a defensive driver to drive in the Philippines.
The Sofitel is beautiful and apparently a lot of the nice hotels have amazing lobbies just as the Sofitel does. We sat outside and ate lunch watching the sunset. It was nice although the food was just okay.
For reservations at the Sofitel http://www.sofitel.com/gb/booking/hotels-list.shtml
After the Sofitel we went to the Landmark Supermart for my supervisor could pick up some groceries. It was good for me to see their markets so that I can have an idea of what to look forward to when I start my assignment. The market was big and clean and busy. They did have my husbands HP sauce, which he was wondering if he was going to have to stock up before we came. It seems similar to our stores in the US except they have a ton of fresh seafood to choose from, which is nice!
On our way back the driver stopped in the middle of an intersection when the light turned red and was pulled over by a policeman. They were speaking in Tagalog so we had no idea what he was saying. He was smiling, which all Filipinos do all the time. He spoke to him for about 10 minutes and they kept passing the driver’s license in and out of the window. Apparently the policeman was showing him drivers licenses of people he had taken and saying that he would take his too. The driver sneakily slipped him 100 pesos as to avoid getting a ticket. Its funny because my husband had told me he read about this, but I didn’t think it would happen to me on the first day. I guess that was a taste of things to come for me to get used to my new life in the Philippines.
I joined an expatriate community group online a few weeks ago and they happened to be having their monthly event on the night I arrived. At first when I got back to the hotel from the market I didn’t think I would go, but I decided it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so I might as well take advantage of it. I hired a car from the hotel to pick me up and drop me off. It was at a place called Casa Nami Surf Pub. When I got there it was pretty dead but it got busy just as I was leaving. I was only there for an hour and a half since I was going on virtually no sleep. I met expats from India, US, Australia, etc. It was fun but I didn’t make any serious connections. Then again, I was only there a very short time and only met a few folks. I will go to the next one when I’m here for longer and make sure I go late. I will have my own driver then and won’t have to be picked up at a certain time.
So my first night ended around 9:30 PM and I have to say it was eventful for my first day in the Philippines. Looking forward to Day 2!