April 17, 2016 - Day 15 - Docked in Manila, Philippines

Today we arrived in Manila with 2 High School  Bands welcoming us to the pier.  We had set an alarm for 6:15 AM and I think if we hadn't woken up the bands would have woken us up 5 minutes later.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Cafe.

We had to meet in the Insignia Lounge at 7:30 AM for our tour of Old and New Manilla.

Our guide for Bus # 7 is Noven.  She said parents name their kids the month they are born in and she is a November baby so the name is Noven.  She said she was 40 and might marry when she was 50 as then it would be true love as there is no divorce in the Philippines.

We started our tour driving through the old section of Manila to an area  called the Suckling Pig. There they had pigs roasting and hanging up by their feet for your purchase.  Philippine people like to celebrate everything so for Grandpa's 80th birthday the family buys a pig and they cost about $600.  They feel it is worth it to celebrate as this event will never happen again and they like to celebrate everything.

On our way we could see the slum areas which showed dilapidated rooms, beggars and the streets full of trash.

Our next stop was the Chinese Cemetery.  In death Manila’s wealthy Chinese citizens are buried with every modern convenience in the huge Chinese Cemetery.  It's far from your ordinary cemetery and instead feels like a residential suburb with streets lined with mausoleums – some that feature crystal chandeliers, air-conditioning , hot and cold running water, kitchens and flushing toilets (in case the interred are caught short on the way to Paradise).

Jim asked the policeman, our escort, if Pat could sit on the Police motorcycle and he let us so Jim could take a picture.  Then our guide took a picture of both of us with Jim sitting on it.  I don't think this would have happened in the United States.  The police were all armed.   

We drove through the Dimasalang Flower Market.  The market is composed of several small individually-owned stalls and street vendors selling flowers wholesale and retail 50 to 90 percent cheaper than flower shops.

Our next stop was to the Manila American Cemetery and  Memorial. 

On Dec 7th, 1941 simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii and The Philippines led to war. For six months the US Army Forces, made up of US Military, Philippine Military and Philippine Scouts, held off the Japanese until surrendering.  On April 9th, 1942 the remaining US Forces surrendered on Bataan and 76,000 prisoners, 12,000 of which were Americans, began a 65 mile march to a prisoner of war camp.  Of the 30,000 Americans captured in The Philippines nearly 11,000 died in captivity. On July 5th 1945 The Philippines was liberated at a cost of another 14,000 Americans.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission which operates 24 cemeteries in various parts of the world. These cemeteries are the final resting place for thousands of American military that have died in previous wars.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is the largest of the 24 both in area and in number of graves. 16,636 military dead from WWII rest here along with 570 Philippine Nationals who were serving with the US Forces. Additionally 32,520 Americans and 3,762 Philippine Nationals whose remains were never recovered or identified are inscribed in the walls of the memorial. There are 20 sets of brothers buried here and 29 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It was a very moving experience to realize how many people lost their lives in war.

We had a Police Escort as busses 7 & 8 were going to sightsee then have lunch.  We got a little behind bus 8 so the Police Escort came for us and made us turn right instead of staying with bus 8.  Finally the police came to the side of the driver and talked and they pulled over in the street and our guide got out and talked to the police.  He thought we were going to lunch and the guide said it was to early and we needed to see some of the new areas of Manilla first.  So we turned around and he took us back to see the things we had missed.

We saw the largest mall which is the Asia Mall, saw the Skating Rink.  Saw a Ferris wheel  near Manila Bay.  Although they did say it was not good to go in Manila Bay as that is where all the sewage goes for 10 million people.  We saw the hotel that had been built quickly in less than 90 days and it collapsed killing the people inside that were working on it.

We had lunch at the Diamond Hotel.  Corniche is the Diamond Hotel's restaurant located at the lobby level of the hotel.

As we walked in people were there to greet us saying welcome...it made us feel like royalty after our police escort ran  lights and showed us the way to the hotel.  There was even a sign welcoming the Insignia guests to the hotel. 

The buffet selection had Asian, Philippine, Western, Japanese, bread/rolls, salad and dessert stations, all prepared by culinary experts.  It was an amazing buffet and the dessert section was the best.  The people serving the food were so friendly and posed so easily for a photo.

On our way out of the hotel we went to the gift shop and Jim found a necklace to buy for Pat as her souvenir from Manila. We had trouble figuring out the conversion rate but we finally found our guide to tell us that it was not thousands of dollars.  We would ask the girl in the shop about the conversion rate and she would get on the phone and talk to someone.  I don't think she could understand English very well as to what we were asking.  They had someone else come to use the credit card machine for the purchase.  We finally finished and got back on the bus.  A score for Pat with a new necklace.

After lunch we went to Rizal Park which is spread out over some 60 acres of open lawns, ornamental gardens, ponds, paved walks and wooded areas, dotted with monuments to a whole pantheon of Filipino heroes. As the place where José Rizal was executed by the Spanish colonial authorities, it's of great historical significance. We saw the Rizal Monument fronted by a 46m flagpole, which contains the hero’s mortal remains and stands as a symbol of Filipino nationhood.

The park is divided into three sections. At the edge of the middle section is the Site of Rizal’s Execution; at the entrance is a black granite wall inscribed with Rizal’s ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (My Last Farewell).  Eight sections of life-size bronze statues recreate the dramatic last moments of the hero’s life.

We stopped at the Intramuros Visitors Center, which showed us a film of the beginning of Manila.   

We visited Fort Santiago, which is one of the most important historical sites in Manila and built by the Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed city of Manila. It is a key feature of the famous Walled City of Manila, which is referred to as Intramuros.

José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army.

Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes a set of bronze footprints laid onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death.

After walking around we stopped at the Handicraft Store for a few minutes before we boarded the bus.  I found a couple of beaded necklaces to add to my collection.

Pat was followed by a man trying to sell her pearl necklaces in little packages.  He kept saying one for $10 and then he went down to  2 for $10 then he went 3 for $10.  I kept saying no as they were not something I wanted as they look like necklaces for a child and we think they were made of plastic. But he just kept following me.  We got on the bus and he kept knocking at my window. I finally just had to smile at him and not look anymore.  It was kind of funny.

The funny thing was he showed up at the next stop and started again trying to sell me these necklaces.  I patted him on the back and laughed.  I could not believe how persistent he was.

We arrived at Saint Agustin Church Museum which It is part of the San Agustin church structure and there were really huge long corridors with paintings and artifacts! There's a beautiful rectangular garden surrounded by the structure and so peaceful.

The exhibits are very well presented, documented and organized in different rooms. There's also a video presentation of the history which shows some of the exhibits.

The San Agustin Church was the only building left intact after the destruction of Intramuros in WWII.  Built between 1587 and 1606, it is the oldest church in the Philippines.  The massive facade conceals an ornate interior filled with objects of great historical and cultural merit. There are intricate trompe l’oeil frescoes on the vaulted ceiling.

The present structure is actually the third to stand on the site and has weathered seven major earthquakes, as well as the Battle of Manila.

There was a wedding taking place in the Saint Agustin Church so we walked around and was able to get a peek of the wedding.  Then the wedding party came out and we were able to walk inside the church as they were setting up for another wedding.  It’s an active church and much in demand for weddings and other ceremonies as we saw how busy they were for weddings on this Sunday. 

We drove a short distance back to the ship.

At about 5:15 PM the 2 bands that had started the day playing music for us came out and entertained us again for the next 2 hours before we left Manila.  The director for the red band entertained us with his passion for getting the kids to play.  What great spirit these kids had giving their all to play and entertain us.  There was a bald drummer that was fantastic that Jim especially enjoyed.  As we were leaving  the pier at 7:15 PM they all stood in one  long line playing Auld Lang Syne and waving.

We were tired after our long day because it was so warm, 99 degrees, and humid so we ate at the Terrace Café.

Good night Manila...cruising to Boracay, Philippines!