Aaron’s Blog

Mamma Mia, We Won!

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One of the highlights of Manila, for better or worse, is their world class shopping malls, so finding ourselves without anything to do for the day, we decided to walk around Green Belt mall (actually a collection of 5 malls all together).  As we wandered around, we happened to see that there was a special performance scheduled in the mall that day to promote the upcoming performance of Mamma Mia, so, looking at our wide open schedule, we decided to stay and watch the show.

IMG_2291The schedule called for a Philippino accapella group to come on first, followed by a short medley of songs from Mamma Mia.  However, as part of the promotion, they were giving away tickets to the show to people who were picked and could correctly answer the trivia question about Mamma Mia.  When the MC said he would be picking the people who looked the most excited, I knew my years of making a fool out of myself as an English teacher would finally pay off.  I jumped up, threw my arms about, and generally acted like a mix of baboon on acid and Justin Beiber fan.  This presented me with the opportunity to win tickets if only I could find the answer to the incredibly difficult trivia question: What day does Mamma Mia begin in Manila?  I contemplated, took a deep breath, reached deep within my mind, and then looked at the 20 or so posters which were all around the area in order to spit out the right answer.

To raucus applause, I walked over to collect the tickets and we celebrated that night by changing our flights so that we could actually see the show.  I’d like to thank all of the people at the mall that made it possible as well as baboons on acid that taught me everything I know.

The show itself was fantastic!  We got to see the performance on opening night and the whole cast and crew made it a special night.  You could tell that a lot of work went into the preparation of everything from the revolving set to the sound levels to, obviously, the singing and choreography.  Though we did get a surprise when we found out that our tickets were, in fact, on opposite sides of the auditoreum, it didn’t take away from our enjoyment.  The hall itself, though not on par with some of the top theaters, was nonetheless comfortable and provided a clear view of the stage, even towards the back, where our free seats were located.

Riding to a Ripoff in Intramuros, Manilla

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San Agustin Church_1280_for_Web

For over 300 years, the Spanish ruled the Philippines from within the stone walls of Intramuros, the Spanish only section of Manila.  They oppressed the Philippinos and used them to build their empire across the seas.  Nowadays, Philippino cyclo drivers are working to pay these westerners back by ripping off one tourist at a time as they visit the ruins of the old Spanish Quarter.

Even the Police are Spanish inspired_1280_for_Web

Upon arriving in Intramuros, which is easily reached by cab from just about anywhere in Manila, we suddenly found ourselved to be very popular as we were approached by several people on cyclos offering to take us around the Intramuros area.  After finding one driver whose jib cut we liked, we asked him his price to take us around.  He then brought out his trusty map showing 15 or so different sites and told us that it would be 250 pesos and “take about 30 minutes”.  This sounded reasonable for a ride around the entire area so we agreed and hopped in.  It was my expectation that given the short amount of time, we would be driven around the area and then dropped off.  It was much to my surprise that he dropped us off at Fort Santiago to take our time in seeing the old fortification. Read more

Photo of the Week: Underground River, Philippines

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A Meeting in the Cave_1280_for_Web

Two Boats pass in the caverns in the Underground River, located in Sabang on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.  The Underground River is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World as rated by millions of voters throughout the world.  It is a long river that passes through caverns that were carved out by the action of the water over thousands of years.  The current water level allows small boats to navigate the inside of the caverns as part of a guided tour of the area.  The standard tour takes about 45 minutes to go through main caverns and generally boats consist of about 10 people.

The cave is calm, quiet, and cool, which is a much needed break from the heat that exists outside.  The only noise is the voice of the guide and the chirping of the thousands of bats that inhabit the cave.  If you’re lucky, you just might be annointed by the holy water eminating from said noctillionine companions.  It’s a fantastic experience, and one you should not miss if you are on Palawan (which you should be).

The Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines

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Chocolate Hills loom large_1280_for_Web

The Chocolate Hills are one of the main attractions on the island of Bohol in the Philippines.  It is a large area of land in which over a thousand hills leaves the Earth looking like a more colorful version of James Edward Olmos’ face – Pockmarcked yet dignified.  The large mounds, 30-120 meters high, consist of grass covering limestone.  In the dry season, the grass on top of the hills dries out, turning a brownish color, which is where the Chocolate Hills get their name.  In other times of the year, the hills remain green, though the sparser vegetation still leaves them looking different from the surroundings and still worth the visit.

Getting to the Chocolate Hills is easy once you are on Bohol.  I’m not sure it’s possible to arrange a tour on Bohol that does not include the Hills, so finding someone to take you there is as easy as can be.  There is a particular viewing spot, which all of the tours go to, that has been built to give visitors a wide view of the area.  You hike up a number of stairs to the top of the platform and you can look out over the divoted landscape as far as the eye can see.  It’s a really impressive view and pretty amazing to think that it’s all just a natural coincidence.  It’s a sight that makes you feel like you’re on an away mission on Star Trek, so just make sure you’re not wearing a red shirt and enjoy the splendor.

Chocolate Hills in the distance_1280_for_Web

Photo of the Week: Old Building in Bohol

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The Old Building

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this building is.  It could be a monastery or a crack house and I wouldn’t be able to tell you.  What I can say is that it is old and full of character.  It would be my guess that this building dates back quite some time from when the Spanish influence was strong in the Philippines as the stone architecture is typical of other buildings of the period.  It happens to be right next to the river where the standard day-tour-of-Bohol-floating-buffet-lunch stop is.  Our tour guide didn’t point out the building as being anything special, but it has such great texture to it, I couldn’t help but take a few pictures.  I hope the snap above does it at least half justice.

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