Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the Road Again...

Last week was Holy Week here in the Philippines. Eighty percent of the population is Catholic, so Easter is a big deal here. With extra time off from work and school we had the chance to take another day trip, this time to Subic. Our plan was to spend the day at the beach, soaking up some sun. However, we should have done our homework. The beaches we could find (no map!) were disappointing since they were either fenced in marine adventure parks and super crowded, or had less-than idyllic industrial views, the latter making it hard not to think about what could be seeping through your swimsuit. So we had lunch, hopped back into the car, enjoyed the sights and found a nice zoo to visit.

Apparently a picture is worth 10 pesos. Or at least that's what we were told after I snapped a quick picture of Henry in this giant green shoe. 10 pesos is about $.20, so a bargain considering what an awesome giant green shoe this one was.

While waiting (and waiting, and waiting...) for our lunch, Henry and Truman enjoyed being the only blond kids around and the audience that comes with it. A taxi driver told us the other day that if his son met our kids, he would think they were not real, but some kind of monsters. I can only assume he was talking about their complexion, because at the time they were perfectly behaved and not acting like monsters at all.

As we were driving around searching for a nice beach, I spotted what I thought was a large bird. I was excited at first because I hoped it might be a Philippine Eagle.

After looking a little closer I realized it was not a bird, but a very large bat. The picture doesn't do the scene justice. All of those large black objects in the tree are bats! If I had brought along the video camera you could have seen that they were all actually squirming around, and making a lot of noise. There were thousands of them. When we returned home, I googled them and learned they were Flying Fox bats, also known as Megabats, the largest bats in the world and are found only in the Philippines. Did I mention they were HUGE? Their wingspan is up to 6 feet!

After we realized we were not going to find a beach that suited our needs, we decided to stop at a zoo we happened to pass while searching. Though we were apprehensive, the kids were excited. We were herded into a group and lead by a guide with a bullhorn through the exhibits. This scene almost conveys the chaos. It felt like it was a hundred degrees, with about 99% humidity.

Feeding the lambs and little goats was the highlight.

Little monkeys.

Truman wanted his picture taken with the tiger, which seemed harmless enough...

Umm, on second thought... I don't think he liked Truman's impression. Nothing like a few inches and some low-grade wire mesh to make you realize how big the man-eating tiger is in relation to your little boy.

I snapped some random pictures out of the car window as we drove home. This bus with smoke belching out the back and questionable suspension caught my eye.

Provincial rice fields and farm towns.

As we headed back into town we came upon numerous processions in celebration of Good Friday. I had a hard time getting a good picture of any of them. I wasn't sure I should even take a picture at first, because initially I thought this was an actual funeral. On two separate occasions while riding in a taxi around Manila I have witnessed open casket visitations right on the side of busy streets. Seriously. At first I thought this might be a real casket with a real body, so I sort of freaked out when Steve said I should take a photo.

Here is another one about to start. We probably saw seven to ten total. Some of them, like this one, were very beautiful.

So we're driving along, minding our own business (well, maybe not minding our own business) when all of the sudden the street we're driving on turns into a market place. Some of the vendors were nice enough to move their produce to allow us to drive through.

This Easter procession finally moved out of the way after Steve laid on the horn for about three minutes straight.

We decided against taking this shortcut home.