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Food, family and good times. One thing I should mention is eating while in the Philippines. When around family it seems eating is never done. I recall how in the mornings, we would enjoy our coffee (Nescafe 3-in-1) with freshly baked pandesal purchased from a rolling store (usually a honking bicycle with a big box on the back.)peanut store

Pandesal, or the “bread of salt’ is probably the most popular bread in the Philippines and is the favorite “agahan” or breakfast food of most Pinoys. Get it before 8am because it goes “out of stock” quickly. Our morning pandesal however, is the family’s way of curbing the appetite until the real breakfast is ready, usually consisting of rice,  "kinilaw" (made from the mornings fresh fish catch), and just about anything else they could conjure up.

No sooner was breakfast over and preparations for lunch were already underway. Lunch, then more snacking, then supper, then pulutan (analogous to the English term “finger food”) with evening drinks. There may be a shortage of many things here in the Philippines, but appetites are not one of them.

Beaches, fiestas, mountain hikes, waterfalls, SM Pale Pisen and all with no rain. Well okay, one measly shower but I don’t think we could have timed our visit any better. Our time in Calbayog City in the province of Samar came to an end faster than a gecko catching a fly. We would have loved to stay put but we did have to get back to reality and our children (our cats.)

We had only 5 days left and we still had to travel with Teri’s sister and nieces back to Mariveles, Bataan to see her hard working left-at-home husband. Bebe and Orly own two stores that specialize in all kinds and varieties of roasted nuts, pork skins, etc. He could not leave the stores for an extended vacation, so I was going to make it up to him when we got there. (See lead photo.)

The wait for our return flight to Manila was not without the usual tearful exchange of hugs, kisses and goodbyes. We assured everyone that we would do everything in our power to return home to Samar as soon as physically possible. Everyone was well briefed on what we must accomplish before we can eventually purchase our one-way tickets home.

We boarded our plane, took off,  and the return to Manila was again uneventful except this time I got to view Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal under clear flying conditions. They were not as picturesque as Mayon, but striking and beautiful in their own right. In one hour we were at NAIA, on the ground gathering our luggage from the turnstile.

We proceeded quickly out the doors to the shuttle station that would deliver us to the bus station where the A/C liner to Mariveles awaited.  Up until this point in my trip, I had exercised a great deal of patience in everything Pinoy and I was beginning to think I was actually becoming a new person until "the cutter" showed up.

After standing in and near the front of the shuttle line for about 25 minutes, the shuttle finally arrived. By this time the line had become quite long, and apparently too long for this young punk of a pinoy who decided he was too good to queue up like everyone else and was getting on this shuttle first.

I quickly came out of my quiet little shell, walked up to him and with a firm tap on his shoulder, pointed to the rear and said rather loudly “line” while pointing to the rear. He gave me a cold stare but quickly realized I had garnered the support of everyone in line behind me and retreated to the back of the queue.  My asawa (who would never get involved in so much as a  friendly food fight even if she was starving) just gave me the “look” and shook her head. These days when I get the “look”, I will just smile.

Mariveles Harbor

Our four hour aircon bus ride into the southern Bataan Province climaxed with a steep descent down the side of the southern Mariveles Mountain ridge and provided a magnificent view of the Bataan Freeport Zone. Mariveles, a first class municipality, sits at the base of Mt. Marivelles along the coast conjoined with the picturesque natural harbor which makes this city desirably attractive to a wide range of economic activity.

Brother Orly was home awaiting our arrival and almost the minute we arrived the second celebration began. More greets and hugs, food, drink, and all that goes with it. Although our time in Bataan Province was short, we managed to spend a day at a mountain river picnic spot where we ate and stayed refreshed in the clear cool waters descending Mt Mariveles.

On the river

Picnic hut

Our last full day before departing for home, we again employed the driver and the van to take us to the Subic Freeport Zone, to visit the place that we once called home. Driving around the Subic and Olongapo areas was quite different than we remembered it as much progress and many new business had changed the landscape.

While my asawa seemed lost, I quickly directed the driver through town and the vaguely familiar streets to our old apartment down by the river. My asawa was amazed and said to everyone in the van, “I’m impressed – he can remember where we lived 25 years ago but he can’t remember to take out the garbage!” Much laughter ensued.

We then drove out to the Barrio to see some old sights, shopped at the new mall on Magsaysay, and then met for lunch at Texas Joe’s at Subic Freeport. We were met for lunch by Paul and Mayang Thompson, long-time residents of the area, and while Paul and I tossed back a few SMB’s and reminisced about Navy days and days gone by, the ladies and kids all went shopping again (have I ever mentioned my asawa’s favorite pastime?)

Upon their return, they enjoyed pony rides, watching skateboarding competition and just hanging out on the beach at the Subic bay front while Paul and I slowly finished off our adult beverage. Once we were all gathered, we said our goodbyes and departed back for Marivelles.

We hope someday to visit Olongapo and visit with the Thompson’s again as we had a rousing good time. I bought Orly a really nice bottle of Merot at the Mall for his bar at home. He even made me sign it before he put it on display along-side all the other famous names on his other bottles like Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, etc. Needless to say, he was proud and happy.

Texas Joes


Pony rides Teri and Mayang

The next day, our driver took us all to the NAIA departure terminal for our long trip home. The midnight departure gave us all full maximum use of our last day there and couldn’t have worked out any better as it gave us plenty of time to share hugs, kisses and goodbyes.

Once we got home, the jet lag (that we never experienced going) hit us both pretty hard and it took a full week to recover. Of course there was probably a little ‘depression’ mixed in, but nonetheless, it was a very long week. The jet lag finally disappeared but the depression looms on, understandably so. Looking back on the trip, I’m not sure which leg of the trip was longer, coming or going, but one thing is for sure. The next trip will only be one way.

25 thoughts on “Return to Paradise, Part Three

  1. Randy; Great series! Like you after several visits I found my self becoming more and more “pinoyized”, and our last trip to NAIA was the most difficult, I really didnt want to get back on the plane, well like you only one more trip and that will be a one way ticket. Also, your story made me realize, like you I have learned lots of patience with things that drive most westerners batspit crazy. But win I do snap a little (at a line cutter for example) I remember the silent support that the others in line gave me. Seems crazy, but at time Filipinos like having a ‘Kano” around to do things like that, that they have always wanted to do.

    1. I think patience really is a “golden virtue” in the RP. Makes no sense to argue over most things (except cutters). The perennial smile will get most of us by for everything else ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I love that invisible line! I can have patience over many things but I will forever be a “Cutter Rebuter”. Like you, I just don’t get it. :\

  2. Sounds like you had a good time. Meeting with Paul and his wife at Texas Joe’s sounded great to me. He is a fun guy and is been here in the Philippines a long time. Paul HAS a man cave!

    For some reason the jet lag really hits you flying west. A week to recover sounds normal. I can remember leaving Hong Kong at 10 in the morning and landing in the US at 10 in the morning…same day! Then it took me the rest of the day to get back to Michigan. I was wore out!!!


    1. You mean flying east, don’t you Gary? Flying west has never been a problem for me. I think the depression of being here vs. there is worse than anything though. It’s just a matter of time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. East is what I meant Randy….back to the West. ๐Ÿ˜› As for line cutters, God help you if you cut in line when Meriam is there. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. So Randy this is where you’re hanging out when you’re not at John or Bobs place? I share many of the same emotions as you and now consider the Philippines my home. However the wife still wants to come to the US and I promised her she could so my stage of life is a bit different than yours right now, especially with a one year old! Of course I fear that I may never get to retire there as at my age he’ll finish high school when I’m 72, lol. Ah, well we make our beds then we lay in them ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I guess if your asawa has never been to the U.S., it would be a hard sell to talk her out of it. If you could only make her understand that these days in the land of Opportunity, Milk and Honey, that opportunity is becoming a rarity except for those with large sums of money and that the milk is quickly becoming spoiled. The Bees are either on strike or welfare and therefore not much honey to spread around. If only she understand how our tax code works. My asawa is tired of her tax dollars going to those who don’t deserve it. If it were me, I would feel better with my child in the Philippine school system these days, and especially more so at your age. See you around the blogs Mark! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I’m sorry if I came across as overly negative, and I do love my country but, things are changing quickly here and at the cost of the middle class. When you work hard everyday you can achieve a nice lifestyle here (or least you use to be able to), but the growing social class is taking more and more from us as each day passes. My asawa is self employed, pays hefty self employment taxes, and must work hard to bring home a descent wage. She’s privey to hoards of welfare recipients driving around all day wasting gas or just hanging out on street corners. Then there are the people at the local bowling alley bowling that bowl several leagues a week while receiving disability checks. She witnesses the shoppers at the grocery buying crap with food stamps then driving away in their new SUV. Of course there is much more and personally, she is fed up and so am I. You can live here and be oblivious to it all and, then when you start paying attention, it hits you in the head like a hockey puck in Pensacola! Once we make the move, we will definitely miss the space and relevant quietness of living here. What we will gain though is a family who works hard and genuinely cares, and a different kind of relaxation and peace of mind….knowing that we are not supporting the newest of entitlement generations. I feel like I could write a book on this….good thing I have no supply of SMB. Maybe next time I opine, I’ll submit it to Dave as an article. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. RandyL.
    Thanks alot for the continuing story of your trip. You are right things are not getting any better here in the US. They just had a big sting here in my part of Fl for Food Stamp Fraud. People selling there Access Cards to store owners. Had alot of arrests from it. Also arrestees coming to jail with the Access Cards and a pocket full of money. What are you going to do. Just wait for the one way ticket to your new life. Take care.

  7. First arrived in P.I. back in 1971. Through the Naval Career got stationed there, and just pulled port calls. All in all, the one spot on this earth, I can truly relax, enjoy the culture, food, and Iced Cold SM. I was on the final flight out of Cubi in 1992. Now it is time to return for good. Retire in 33 days, already have Passport and 13A, wife is packing up Balikbayan Boxes, just have to take German Shepherds to VET for clearance. Then time to fly home and set out on Island Hopping Adventure. I wish to walk the path my Dad took before me during WWII, when the army returned.

    1. Terry, If you would, keep me apprised of the “pet” process as we will be taking our cats. What transportation arrangements have you made for your animals? Cost? Thanks in advance.

  8. What an enjoyable series. My wife and I have been married six years and have a six month old son. We live in Alabama and have property bought and paid for in Roxas City. Her family all lives in Iloilo and Roxas City. I have been many many times and am looking forward to my retirement and move in Nov 2014 unless I can sell my company beforehand. I would like to ask those in the know about the 13A visa? How do we obtain it before we make the move? Looking forward to reading all the great content here in the future.

    1. Ron, I believe you will have to go to the Philippine embassy in Chicago to get your 13a. You can to to their website to find out all the requirements. They say it is easier and cheaper to get while still here rather than waiting until you get to the RP.

  9. Don’t know about the windy city, applied for mine in San Francisco. Have all your paperwork in order, call for appointment (Interview), have correct or extra copies of all paperwork. $150.00 Cash. Smile, talk to the nice people, and if your there by 11:30AM, you can get it the same day.
    Yeah it’s really that easy as long as you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

  10. I applied for my 13A Visa in San Francisco, only took one day for it to be ready, since I arrived after 12:00PM. Otherwise it would have been a one day event. Very nice people, just like in the Philippines. . . . Then they hand me back a large envelope containing my Chest X-Ray and other paperwork inside, all taped up and labeled for BI personnel at Manila International Airport. Again. . . Dot your i’s and cross your T’s, then make copies of everything. Walk in with a smile, and you can also walk out with a smile. I did!

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