David and Cathy’s 30th anniversary trip to the Philippines

Arriving in the Philippines and initial days, December 16, 2008

Cathy and I just arrived in the Philippines for our 30th wedding anniversary vacation and to see our daughter who is teaching here. We arrived late Sunday night.

The trip involved flights from Kansas City to Minneapolis, a 13.5-hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo and 5-hour flight from Tokyo to Manila with some time to transition from one plane to the other. A lot of sitting time over the 20 hours of flying.

In Manila getting through immigration and customs went fine. The only snag in our trip was connecting with Betsy in the mayhem at the place where people get picked up at the airport as we did not have any way of contacting each other.  We did not get to bed until 3:30 am local time, almost 30 hours since we left our home.

At the Manila airport
At the Manila airport

One first impression of Manila: its transportation.

Manila is city of about 10,000,000. The number of modes of transportation is very diverse. In additions to cars, trucks, buses and the like, there are a great number of small motor cycles, often with multiple passengers, and a form of transportation that is unique to the Philippines but used extensive: the Jeepney. They were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and are flamboyantly decorated, with many passengers. They are somewhat a symbol of the culture here.

the Jeepney

While here, we will leave the driving to others as the rules of the road here are also a bit unique. Their road capacity is much less than they need and so the rules of the road are fluid to maximize carrying capacity. The bigger the vehicle, the more space it takes and the greater priority it has. The small forms use about any available space, yielding to larger vehicles as required. So where they are 4 marked lanes, you might have 5 or 6 actually lanes of traffic – the shoulders are fair gain as well. They use their horns very regularly to make their presence and intention known. So you must be constantly paying attention. I am amazed there are not more accidents but they are quite careful to avoid this.

The view from where we are staying

We are staying in an apartment next to Betsy’s that is near her school. It is outside the main city in an area that is a mixture of city and country. Attached is a photo of the view outside our window the morning after we got here.

Manila view from our apartment
Manila view from our apartment

Betsy – teaching at Faith Academy

Betsy is our oldest of three daughters. After graduating with a degree in elementary education from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe in May 2007, she decided that her first year teaching (and then subsequently her second year) would overseas before getting settled into American life. She has been at Faith Academy here in Manila teaching Kindergartens of missionary families.

Betsy teaching her class
Betsy teaching her class

She loves to teach these young students. While challenging at times, she has found it rewarding and also enjoys her fellow teachers and experiencing another part of the world. For more, see her blog at: http://betsybarfield.wordpress.com/.

More from the Philippines, December 21, 2008

We had a great week with Betsy in Manila. Cathy spent two and half days helping her in her classroom. I was able to go up for much of a day and to get a tour of the school. We also spent some time visiting one of the ministries that Betsy and others there have participating in area squatters that includes a children’s home for orphans and neglected children, a school for these children and other needy children of the area, and more.

Overall, the week in Manila was very relaxing.

On Saturday we traveled to one of the favorite island resorts of the Philippines, Boracay. It is known for its beautiful beaches and excellent snorkeling/scuba diving.

Sorry to be so fixated on modes of transportation but it is one of the more interesting differences with this part of the world and most others. To get to Boracay, in addition to a taxi and plane ride, we had two “trike” rides (it is basically a side car for passengers and luggage strapped to motorcycle) and a ride on a Bangka boat.

David, Cathy and Betsy being transported by "trike"
David, Cathy and Betsy being transported by "trike"
Bangka boat
Bangka boat

It is beautiful here. We spent some time on the beach yesterday and today. We used sunscreen liberally, not wanting to repeat a mistake of our honeymoon when we got sun burnt the first day on the beach, esp. as we are very near the equator here.

Boracay Beach in the morning
Boracay Beach in the morning

Tomorrow Cathy and Betsy are going to do some para-sailing and then we are taking a sailboat ride to a location where I can some snorkeling. There are about 30 scuba diving companies here. I plan to do what is called a “discovery dive” where they teach you to scuba dive and take you on a first dive in a relatively shallow water (30 feet).

David and Cathy in Boracay

There is a lot of great food here as well. It was great having breakfast on the beach this morning.

Breakfast on the beach
Breakfast on the beach

We will be here 4 nights and then go back to Manila for part of a day and then go north to the rice terraces. More on that later.

Fun on the beach at Boracay, December 24, 2008

We have had a couple of great, active days here in Boracay on Monday and Tuesday.


In addition relaxing, the enjoying the beach, eating some good food, shopping, etc, we decided each of us would do one thing we had never done before. Cathy and Betsy preferred to stay above the water whereas I wanted to do underneath of it.

Monday was Cathy’s birthday and she decided her special adventure for the time here would be para-sailing on her birthday. Betsy joined here as well. While they were a bit apprehensive of being lifted 300 feet into the air and held up with a sail, they did beautifully and enjoyed the 15 minutes in the air without getting wet during take off or landing.


After this we rented a sailboat with crew and had a very enjoyable 2 hours cruise around the western side of the island and stopping at a two areas good for snorkeling. David greatly enjoyed this first underwater adventure, seeing a significant number of different small and colorful fish species as well as various plants on the rocks on the floor at these locations.


For supper on her birthday we enjoyed a meal at a nice Indian restaurant.

Boracay is known for its scuba diving, with 30 scuba shops on the relatively small island.  On Tuesday, I had my big adventure, a “discovery dive”, a first adventure in scuba diving.  The instruction and experience was great! It may not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. The pictures below show me ready to go, practicing our skills in the shallow water before going deeper (which we did a lot of), and at the conclusion of my first 30 minute dive.  It was incredible; like being in a large salt water aquarium.  There were so many different fish species I could not keep them all in my head.




I enjoyed it so much I did a second dive in the afternoon. This time I bought an underwater camera so I could capture some of what I saw (although I know it will not do it any justice).

Today we returned to Manila. Tomorrow we go off to the northern  part of Philippines known for its rice terraces. More on this later.

Hiking in the mountains of Banaue, December 29, 2008


On Thursday we headed to the northern part of the island that includes Manila to the rice terraces. They are spectacular. As is often the case, our pictures don’t really give you much idea of the scope and beauty of the area. I am not sure that anyone really knows for sure but the locals say they have been here for about 2000 years, used to grow rice (and at times, other crops) over the centuries.


You don’t build rice terraces in dry places. So as we started off on our hike, there was a light rain.


Unfortunately, Cathy slipped, fell and sprained her ankle. The injury was complicated by the need to climb back up the way we came. Even with my help and the help of one of our guides, it took us a while to return to the top where we could get a ride back to our hotel.


We have an appointment with the doctor when we get home to see what the damage is. The rest of the group continued on with the other guide we had hired (they suggested two in case something like this might happen).


Despite the injury, it was still an unforgettable time.


On returning to Manila, Betsy and I did some final shopping at the Green Hills shopping area.


As I write this, I am taking a break from packing (after finding some crutches and ACE bandage for Cathy, no small feat in this part of the world (no pun intended), as well as getting us better seats on the plane, ordering wheelchairs at the airport, etc).

It has been great trip. We hope to see many of you soon.


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