of the San Francisco Ambassadors
on the Philippines
(including a pre-exchange
October 25–November 17, 2006
This is a collaborative journal with different ambassadors contributing
November 11: Baguio, Philippines
Taking the bus from Manila to Baguio
It was a rainy day. After
getting out of the city, we passed many soaked rice fields with water buffalo
grazing. The only entertainment in the area people seem to enjoy were
church-going and cock fighting, and they have large stadiums to pursue this
The area, which had been
heavily affected by the erupted volcano on June 15, 1991, seems to have
recovered with lush vegetation and new subdivisions.
We stopped to look at San
Guillerma Parish Church, which the townspeople were trying to save after the
disaster. As in most poor areas, the church is the most meaningful structure in
the village. This one was no exception, it must have been beautiful and full of
memories, but had been buried to about half its size with lava and had major
cracks in the foundation, but they were pouring floors and building new altars.
I said a prayer for them.
When we came to a town called
Taplac, the end of the death march after WWII, we drove by the Prison Camp,
Camp O'Donnell, and then went to see the very striking and moving Capas
National Shrine. It was built in memory of and engraved with the names of
45,692 Filipinos and 9,300 American Soldiers, who died between April and March
of 1942 in the hands of the Japanese.
The next stop took us through a
rain-soaked and overgrown road to a remote new subdivision in Moncada, Tarlac,
being created in memory of Willie McCool, pilot of Columbia, which was launched
on Jan.16, 2003 and disintegrated during re-entry into the atmosphere killing
all seven crew members. The 1 hectare (2.471 acre) property was donated in his
name by his mother-in-law, a retired school teacher named Atilana Rambayon, in
the hopes of providing a community where people can build and provide a
better future for their families.
Arriving later than expected in Baguio, we were very
friendly welcomed, having two young ladies dance and sing for us, and a
welcoming speech by Dan Galang of the local Friendship Force, who gave us an
overview of the area and invited us to a wonderful dinner, after which we were
introduced to our Host Families and went home with them.
November 13: Baguio, Philippines
the Mayor, Philippine Military Academy,
wood carving, weaving, and more
We are now in Baguio at the
home of Bernie and Shirley Canapi. The Canapi’s have four children, Paulo,
Carlo, Miguel, and Anna. Paulo is in California studying to take the nursing exam. Carlo is in his last semester in Baguio
also studying nursing, Miguel is 13 and in high school, and Anna is 11.
The Canapi’s have a lovely four bedroom home
in a gated community. They have a maid who Shirley refers to as her angel. The
maid has a 7 year old daughter. They all
live together in this four bedroom, two bath home.
Our day starts out with the
sound of roosters crowing. We are in
Anna’s bedroom. It looks very much like our granddaughters’ rooms in the U.S. “That’s
so Raven,” “High School Musical,” Sponge Bob, stuffed animals, and Disneyland
pictures decorate the room.
This is an important day not
only because it is the first day we will sight-see with the Friendship Force
Group but also because we get to take showers. The houses in this neighborhood
have running water every other day due to problems with the water system.
After our showers, a big breakfast
awaits us downstairs. There are eggs, pancakes, sausage, fruit, juice, tea, and
coffee. After breakfast we hop in the car so that we can join the rest of the
This day is filled with many
Baguio experiences. One of the most interesting is a visit with the acting
mayor. Mayor Bautista was actually elected vice mayor but when the elected
mayor encountered some technical difficulties, the vice mayor was moved into the
mayor’s position for a year.
All the Ambassadors were
assembled waiting for the mayor to appear when this young man dressed in black
jacket and blue jeans appeared. Some of us wondered if he would tell us when we
would get to see the mayor, but we were wrong. The young man is the mayor. He
teaches management at a Baguio college and is 38 years old and the father of two children. He discussed with us some of the industries Baguio
has, including mining. Silver, gold, and copper are mined in the area. He talked
about some of the history, including the American influence since Baguio served as an R & R site for the American military. With its high elevation,
5,000 plus feet, Baguio has a comfortable climate that made it a natural spot
for R & R. He also mentioned some problems the city has such as the water
delivery. Before the meeting was over, he presented us with the key to the city
(good for anything except the jail and the treasury) and Karen, our ED,
presented him with a proclamation from the Mayor of Fremont.
We visited the Philippine
Military Academy. We went through the museum where statues depicted life in the
Military Dorm. There were copies of interesting documents including the
Japanese surrender document. After going through the museum, we were taken to
the Parade Grounds for the Academy and it was there that an Ambassador suffered
a minor injury to his arm and the Academy sent an ambulance to assess the
wound, clean, and dress it. They also rendered some aid to an Ambassador who was
suffering from a cold.
A visit to Kennon Road View
Point and its breath-taking view of the mountains of the Baguio region was a
memorable stop in our tour of the area. We drove past the summer “White House” for Philippine presidents. We
went by Burnham Park in the middle of town. We also passed the Texas Instrument
Campus where there is a Call Center that gives young educated Filipinos jobs with good compensation. We saw the
site of the Hyatt Hotel that was destroyed in
the Earthquake in the 90’s. There is no sign that any building actually existed
there now. We drove by the Manor House, a five star hotel that overlooks Camp
John Hay Golf courses and the Country Club.
For lunch we went to The
Filling Station. Here we could choose among vendors that sold pizza, burgers,
Asian food, and ice cream. Don and I choose to share a small pizza and finished
lunch with an ice cream sundae.
Later in the day we visited a
wood carving school and then went to the Easter Weaving store. The weaving was
particularly interesting. The workers were bare footed as they worked the
looms. They produced a variety of
beautiful fabrics. It would take approximately an hour for them to do one yard
Finally we went to dinner at
the Rosebowl restaurant. We were dropped off across Burnham Park from the restaurant and had
the experience of crossing two streets in rush hour Filipino traffic in order
to reach the restaurant. We all made it.
Mayor Bautista joined us again for the dinner. Our
host family and several other families had dinner with us before we went home.
November 14: Baguio, Philippines
Botanical Garden, and more
itinerary for Nov. 14 was to go to the City of San Fernando, La Union province,
about two hours drive north of Baguio. We had a beautiful drive through the
mountains and the countryside to arrive at San Fernando.
Arrival was around 10:00
a.m. and we were served a snack of hamburger and coke. Mayor Ortega was not
present as she was in Denmark attending a conference.
Her husband, a member of
the city council, greeted us and told us about himself and the city. He said he
had attended management school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on a
Bill Gates Fellowship. A slide show was presented detailing impressive plans
covering all aspects of city management.
After taking group pictures we reboarded the bus and drove to the city Botanical
Garden with council member Kit Ortega. The Ortega family is extremely involved
in local politics.
She walked us through the various garden sections of the well maintained
botanical and zoological park. Some of the animals included were birds and
monkeys. Several mahogany trees were planted by the members of FFSFBA.
The next stop was lunch back in the city hosted by the governor Victor F.
who stopped by to greet us but did not stay for lunch. This was at a Chinese
restaurant. Comments from the group were that the sweet and sour soup was good.
The city is clean and unlittered.
After lunch the bus took us to Poro Point Management Corp. where we were served
dessert and soda. The ladies from the Corp. presented a
presentation of the extensive plans for tourism and commercial development of
this former American military base. We then drove over to the boardwalk
area bordering the South China Sea.
There was a short paved street and several
shaded benches along a rocky shore. The beach was reached by navigating some
broken cement stairs. Three of the group swam in the South China Sea, which we found mirky due to the recent typhoon. Ed
Shannon expressed nostalgia in revisiting the South China Sea 50 years after his
military duty in the area. The swimmers were treated to a hot shower. The
final stop was a visit to the casino, the only part of the resort that is
already built. A few
in the group ventured a wager with mixed results.
The return trip to Baguio was over a different route. Along the way we passed
an oil refinery. The oil comes in on ships from Saudi Arabia. The route leads
up a windy mountain road with beautiful views back
to San Fernando. Looking back over the sea we could see a beautiful sunset with
red sun and bright golden pink sky turning crimson.
In the evening I had dinner at the home of the
Heiduk’s hostess, Alma. Those
present included also her family of three daughters, son-in-law,
and my hostess, Annabelle. After dinner we sat by the Christmas tree and sang
November 15: Baguio, Philippines
Hay, Farewell Party, and more
A typical morning, hurried breakfast, then a taxi ride to the
Baguio Convention grounds, where we assembled
ourselves in three vans/SUVs at 8:00 a.m.
for our last day of touring. We enjoyed the clear air at Camp John Hay, former R
& R spot for American troops, and walked through the lovely home named for our Secretary of State when the
Philippines was acquired by the U.S. We
toured the cemetery, the gardens, hiked to the gazebo, and viewed the beautiful
garden amphitheatre being readied for a weekend wedding.
Next was a shopping stop for postcards and the last minute
souvenirs, and a walk around the grounds of the lovely Manor Hotel, then on to
Provinces Museum, which was experiencing a
brownout, then to see the Igorot Stairs with the
life-size figures graphically depicting tribal life.
We arrived at the Cathedral an hour
early so attended Mass before our hostess retrieved us for a shopping trip to
the covered bazaar.
Our Farewell Party was held at Home Sweet Home, where our
sojourn started four days ago. We were feted with dancing, singing, tasty
potluck buffet, gifts, and testimonials to the friendships established
November 16: Baguio, Philippines
Baguio to Manila ride, World War II stories
early breakfast, we bade goodbye to our host family’s three children, and their
grandmother. Our hosts Eric and Jobi gave us banana bread to take along on the
bus, and some nice presents: two packages of dried mangoes, and a lovely
artificial decorative golden mango. (They know how we LOVE mangoes!)
four adults went for a walk around the neighborhood, (including climbing down
and back up a very steep hill) the two maids carried all our luggage to the
car, and packed it neatly into the car trunk.
Jobi drove us to the meeting place well before the 8:00 a.m. bus departure. One
last group photo was taken, then it was time to say goodbye to our hosts. We were sad to leave, because after living
with them for five days, we felt like family. Jobi and I hugged each other
through tears; we both admitted that we don’t like goodbyes, so we said, “till
we meet again!” And hopefully we will. We really hope they and/or their children will visit us in California
boarding the bus, Bob, the American host Dave met at the party, delivered his
novel to Dave, as an encrypted file on a CD. Dave managed to transfer the file
to his Treo cell phone, so he could read it enroute home.
The bus was
deluxe—no problems this time! It was equipped with footrests, restroom, sound
system with mike, and a young stewardess who provided bottled water and snacks.
descent from Baguio via Marcos Highway, the scenery was beautiful—green velvety
mountains with some trees, and houses perched on the steep sides, with
vegetables growing on the terraces. This
was the area we missed seeing while enroute to Baguio, because we traveled the
last distance in the dark.
roadside, we saw the remains of a large sculpture, Marcos' head, which was
blown up by communists. All that remains
is a large framework of concrete.
the bus, Nilo, the Manila Exchange Director’s husband, told a true story about
his father. During the Death March, the
prisoners walked right by their home. His father had heard that living conditions were terrible in the Death
March. To keep from starving, some
people ate the leather soles of their shoes. His father somehow managed to help five prisoners escape from the group—three
Americans and two Filipinos, and he hid them from the Japanese, in their
attic. The American's names were Green,
Anderson, and Smith. (We had heard that the stragglers weren't well guarded.)
father later received a letter from the U.S. Government thanking him for saving
these three men's lives. He used that letter
several times to solve problems with the U.S., e.g., when three of his sons were
entering the U.S. Navy and one was being delayed because of some minor problem,
and once when he was having trouble getting a visa to visit the U.S. The
interviewer immediately granted him the visa, saying he was more American than
the interviewer, because he was American (in spirit) by choice, while the
interviewer was American by accident of birth. Nilo’s father eventually became
an American citizen.
family had a rice mill. The Japanese
came to destroy it, but his father said, "Wait! First you must come to my house." There he served them a meal, and after they
were full and happy, he said "OK, now let's go destroy my mill!" They
changed their minds, and left his rice mill alone. Their family's rice mill was the only one
left in the region, so they provided milling services to the neighbors. They
eventually became the dominant miller for the region, which developed into a
good business for them.
We drove by
lots of rice fields in various stages of growth. Some growers were harvesting (cutting the
grain stalks by hand), others were burning piles of straw in the fields. We also observed areas of rice drying (spread
out in a thin layer on plastic tarps by the roadside). Some were raking through
the rice to help it dry out. Several times we saw unattended rice being gobbled
down by chickens!
through former U.S. Clark Air Base, currently being remodeled into an
international airport and an industrial area. A Holiday Inn, a casino, and a
golf course still remain on the grounds.
at the JolliBee restaurant in Tarlac for lunch, the same place we’d stopped for
lunch enroute to Baguio. We chose
hamburgers (one with pineapple), but many selected chicken and rice
dishes. Most selected some kind of shake
or ice cream dish for dessert. We chose something called swizzle bits, similar
to Dairy Queen’s "blizzard," and a chocolate shake that's really chocolate ice
cream blended with ice, not at all what we consider a shake in the U.S.
in the Manila area about 3:00 p.m., but it took another hour to drive through the
city to reach our destination, the Traders Hotel. Before we even got out of the bus, my eyes
and throat were already affected by the pollution in the air. Because I’d been having throat problems all
that week, I already decided to eat dinner in the hotel, so I wouldn’t have to
go outside and breathe the air.
discovered that the hotel had a Fitness Room, so I did a few miles on the
treadmill and stationary bike before thinking about food.
Dave and I
enjoyed dinner in our hotel, splitting a salmon entrée, which included
vegetables and bread. Delicious, and just the right amount of food. Mary Lou
The book on
Do's and Don'ts for the Philippines that Dave bought yesterday warns one to be
careful not to embarrass a Filipino by indicating when something is wrong. Dave should have read that before he pointed
out to hotel management that he thought they ought to rethink their Internet
arrangements, which are cheaper in the lobby or coffee shop than in the hotel
room, but much less convenient.
up paying for Internet usage in the hotel room, (P90 for 30 minutes) instead of
using the Internet Café across the street, where it was free, if you purchased
food or drinks from there. But we found
it to be more comfortable to read and write emails in our hotel room.
the Voice of America on TV, which showed an interesting program about NASA work
on airplane safety. We also watched Animal Planet show about life in gardens, a
fascinating program with incredible photography showing pests and anti-pests in
life struggles, slow-motion plant growth, etc. CNN reported that Pres. Bush
might be in Singapore while we are, so we hope his travels don't delay our
repacking our suitcases for the last time this trip, we got to bed at 11:00
p.m. According to our Manila host's
daughter, who works for Singapore Airlines, NO liquids or gels of any kind are
allowed on board their aircraft. It sure
makes it difficult for those on medication, or those in need of cough medicine!
(As usual, we found out later that security was inconsistent, and a few people
got through with water and small bottles of liquid, because they didn’t inspect
amazing that we begin our day tomorrow in Manila, then after spending 30+ long,
grueling hours on planes and in airports, we’ll still arrive home on the same
day. The trip has been an interesting,
educational, rewarding experience, and we’re both glad that we did it. But after being away for 3-1/2 weeks, we look
forward to being home again, and getting back to our regular routine.
November 17: Baguio, Philippines
Mary Alice van Doorn
Wake up call came at 3:45 a.m., so up and packed and boarded the bus for the
airport to begin this VERY LONG trip home. No traffic on highways at this early
hour. At airport: claim all luggage, put it through
machine, reclaim other side, give up passports, stand in line to check in, fill
out papers. Wil Heiduk must
check his Cambodian “violin” at the gate!
arrived in our VIP Room (Linda and Marilyn had
arranged for us) after going through Immigration and paying exit fee (1000
pesos). Finally used my breakfast decaf cuz we were
the last to board the bus to the airport! Steve and I spent waiting time (2½
hours) writing our journal days—Steve the first day in the
Mary Alice the last day—today. Linda asked to borrow my camera to take photos
around the VIP Room. Marilyn took them, and I must remember to have several
copies made and send to Linda and Marilyn! We’ve been advised our flight has
been postponed until 10:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m.: Linda and Marilyn left to go home with
hugs for each of us and Marilyn tearful. Around 9:00 a.m. Steve and I played a
couple of hands of Honeymoon Bridge (which I was fortunate enough
to win). Anne Sanders suggested she’d find Kay to play four handed bridge—which
she did, and we played until time to board our late plane. Aboard, we were
seated across the aisle from each other. Our group was all around, and Dee
Gustavson figured out how to make everyone happy! Gerry traded to Steve’s seat,
Ed Shannon got his window seat, and now M. A. and Steve are together.
for Singapore at 11:05 a.m. Singapore Airlines
stewardesses have these beautiful “skinny” uniforms. Dee Gustavson asked if they
are available to the public. Yes, in
Shannon just noted that we took off from
Manila at 7:05 p.m. YESTERDAY!) Slept very little
on this leg of the journey to Singapore. We arrived around 3:00, began boarding at 4:00, did a bit of shopping. Steve
bought me a blue “skinny” uniform—size 42 [European sizing].
When we came aboard,
our assigned seats were 60D and 60C—across the aisle—so we immediately began
trading seats cuz Louise wanted an aisle seat and I
wanted to sit next to Steve. When a young lady came to claim her seat next to
Steve, we asked her to take Louise’s two rows up. ZZZZZ—slept from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00
a.m. Awoke to stand in line at comfort station with very swollen ankles.
Breakfast being served around us, and arrival time is
5:47 a.m.! Soon we’ll be parting
ways with all but our Fremont
contingent of six who'll be picked up by a van for the trip to our homes. Looking forward to seeing my Sooty and Blanco cat
This is the end of an excellent Friendship Force experience,
proving to me that I should NOT undertake such a physical challenge again at my
increasing age. The planning by Karen and Diane and Karen and Linda was
outstanding. Many thanks to them! Having five “others” was a plus,
Wanted to add: last night’s dinner
on the plane—fish with veggies, coleslaw with tiny shrimp, etc. and ice
cream—was the best dinner of the trip. We were all disappointed to have to take
our hand luggage off the plane at Hong
1 | Page
to FFSFBA Home.