Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
20Trip End Feb 02, 2010
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Where I stayed
The immigration lines were long, six flights all seemed to arrive around the same time, two from Korea, one from China, and one from Dubai among them. But it moved well enough, 30 minutes I think I was through. My bag was on conveyor by the time I got to baggage claim, and there was no hassle with customs. There was some confusion getting my money changed, a number of banks have windows there, all were closed. The customs windows changed money, despite a sign saying they don't
Zel and her friends arrived a little late (well, not really, but the flight was 30 minutes early). We exchanged hugs, took their waiting cab to the commuter airport, and I gave Zel's roommate a bag full of things that didn't need to travel to Cebu. I already knew I was going to be way over the weight limit on the commuter flight, and this reduced the damage. It was about $45 for the extra 12 kg of weight. Which is funny, considering the airfare for the flight was only $29.
One thing that struck me at the airport and has been notable since is the lack of some technological conveniences we've come to expect in the US. That wasn't unexpected, but it seems that at the moment, there is no particular need for more technology -- with high unemployment rates, it's cost effective to still use people for a lot of things. Unfortunately, this lead to long check-in lines at the commuter airport.
We took a cab from the airport to the Marriott, about 30 minutes. Traffic got increasingly bad the closer we got. The roads are clogged with a mixture pedestrian and motor traffic. But it seems like they get along in pretty good harmony.
I checked in at the hotel, but was informed it would be an hour until the room was ready. All of our bags were stored for us, and Zel and I set out to find the parade. The concierge provided a copy of the map of the route that I had printed but left behind in my luggage, and gave us vague directions on how to find it. It was long-walk distance. After asking a few times for directions, we finally found it. While it all started at 9 am (and I was concerned we might be late), what we found was a little unexpected. The parade wasn't really in motion yet, everything was staging. Some of the acts were performing, others were just resting in the hot and humid weather (it had rained earlier and was steamy).
The crowd was separated from the parade by rope barriers. But, as soon as I got there, an older Filipino touched my shoulder and said, "come on, follow me." Zel stayed behind, as he forced through the tight crowd and we climbed under the rope. I looked in both directions, there was acts lined up as far as I could see. I started to head one direction, the gentleman grinned and said, "you go that way, I shall go this way." I never saw him again
For several hours, Zel and I walked along the route, taking hundreds of pictures along the way (some posted here, others will be put up later on Picasa). Everyone it seemed loved having their pictures taken, some hammed it up for the camera, others posed nicely. At one point, the street split and we chose an arbitrary direction. We had some corn from a street vendor (not as sweet as US corn, but good), and some bottled water. Zel bought us a couple of straw hats to protect from the heat, the wind picked up later and made it difficult to keep them on our heads.
Finally, the heat and two days without sleep (travel and excitement took its toll on both of us) we decided to head back to the hotel. We should have left a trail of breadcrumbs, because neither of us had any idea where we were. We decided to try and find a cab, this probably took us another 40 minutes of walking aimlessly, and once we did, it was a 30 minute ride to the hotel (so I guess we did walk pretty far). Our room was ready, we came up, showered, and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. A local channel was broadcasting the parade from the stadium. Right before we left the parade route, it had started moving. We watched it on TV for a good 4-5 hours, it was that long! And I'm sure we missed some of it.
One thing about Sinulog
Our hotel window affords a view of Ayala Mall, a nice, modern indoor/outdoor shopping mall behind the hotel. I noticed thousands of people in the walkways and lawn there. A fireworks show was scheduled for later. We just had room service dinner (we were both trying to martial energy to go out), and then headed over to join the throng. There was a stage with a techno group performing, a DJ and two drummers. The beat was often reminiscent of the Sinulog rhythms. Many were dancing; I tried, much to Zel's amusement. We got a partial view of the fireworks (the three-story mall obscured some of it); after the finale we stopped for gelato before coming back to the hotel. An attempt to watch a movie was aborted when neither of us could stay awake long enough.