In last week’s installment, we had just wrapped up our brief adventure in Narita, Japan and were headed back to the airport to fly to Manila. After a leisurely and somewhat circuitous trip to see one of Narita’s temples, we caught the trail back to the airport. From this point, it was simply a matter of waiting to see if we would get seats on the plane. To pass the time, first I, then my brother, went off in search of Japanese Kitkats and other snacks. Finally, our names were called and we were given seats.
The flight to Manila was uneventful, except we didn’t get first class. I forgot to mention that in the US to Narita legs, we had both gotten upgraded, but the Manila flight was heavily booked so we had to settle for premium economy (oh, the humanity).
When we arrived in Manila we had to reach a compromise about where to stay. My brother wanted to economize, since we weren’t sure what sort of expenses might be in front of us. I might have liked a little more luxury, but agreed that it usually doesn’t hurt to save money, so we settled on a guesthouse not too far from the airport. I’ll foreshadow a bit here and say that it was fine for this portion of the journey.
So, we booked the guesthouse, then booked our seats to Cagayan D’Oro for the next day. Then we decided to eat at the airport, since it had a substantial food court and we didn’t know where else we might conveniently eat.
When it was time to head over to our lodging I checked the map and thought we would be able to walk without too much trouble. It was only about .5 mile from our terminal. So, we set out along a busy street, with Jeepneys and mopeds streaming past and numerous cab drivers stopping to ask if we needed a ride. (Who would then respond incredulously when we said we didn’t.)
We had walked for a while and were coming to an area where there wasn’t much of a sidewalk, when I decided to check the route again. I realized I had made a mistake. Our guesthouse was close, as the crow flies. However, to get there we had to skirt the airport perimeter. Imagine that you’re in the center of a star. If you want to get to the other side of the center by going across, it’s not far. But if you have to walk all the way around two points of the star, then it’s much farther. We were only about halfway up the first side of the first point. There was a runway in between us and our guesthouse. So we decided to hail a cab. Which, it seemed, had all decided to break for dinner, because suddenly we couldn’t find one (alternate explanation: they all talk to each other and the word had gotten out that the tall, pasty foreigners didn’t want a ride).
As a side note, it was interesting to hear people’s reactions when we told them that we were on our way to Mindanao. They seemed to assume, at first, that we were clueless American tourists, out for an adventure, and were appalled that we were heading into such a troubled area. When we would explain it was to help a family member, they were immediately sympathetic and wished us the best.
After a short adventure involving going to a different branch of the guesthouse, we were finally deposited at the correct place. After what seemed like an interminable check in process we were given our rooms. The place was spare but clean and pleasant. On this night (duh-DUH, foreshadowing) it was also quiet.
The next morning we got to the airport and onto our next flight without incident. As I mentioned earlier, we had asked the mayor of my brother’s municipality to arrange a driver for us. Fortunately that worked out nicely. The driver was pleasant and efficient, and, as it turned out, endlessly patient.
We had an approximately 80 mile drive from the airport, along a road that was developed, but, being a coastal road, narrow in places, and winding (imagine a road like US 101 along the Oregon Coast). The ride was mostly uneventful, except for where we passed the turnoff for the road to Marawi. Hundreds of refugees were lined up at a checkpoint, trying to escape the violence and reach safety in Illigan City. Our driver filled us in a bit about the fighting, including the news that the US had contributed a bunker buster bomb to the cause of fighting the extremists in Marawi.
We arrived in our brother’s town in mid-afternoon and went to see the mayor. He was extremely gracious and promised to help us in any way he could. Our brother was supposed to come meet with us at the mayor’s office, but there was a delay, so in the meantime, the mayor’s assistant took us to his family’s guesthouse where we were set up with rooms, then taken to a restaurant, where the owners kindly opened up just for us, since we hadn’t eaten significantly since Manila.
This meal included one of the highlights of the trip – buko pie. Our host mentioned that it was a thing, and that it was sold right next to the restaurant he was taking us to. The car stopped and before anyone knew what was happening, my brother had gone over to the pie shack and secured a pineapple pie (made in the style of buko pie, but with pineapple, instead of young coconut), which we ate after dinner. I wish every day could be a buko pie day, but alas, I will have to make do with the memory.
After we ate, we went back to the mayor’s office to meet up with our brother. Tune in next week for further adventures.