Yes, we live in South Korea. My daughter now has a green card and can function as a citizen even though she doesn’t have citizenship in Korea, but at one time, she was having visa troubles. Her visa was expiring and she needed to leave the country. Often, we like to make trips into Japan, but Japan is expensive, and I didn’t want to send my daughter alone. We wondered if we could go somewhere cheaper where I could go with her. A professor from the university where I was teaching was always making trips to the Philippines, and he loved it. I had seen an advertisement that you could fly to the Philippines for only $50.00 a while back. I have some Romanian friends who went for a holiday in the Philippines, and they stayed at a resort, went to the beach, went boating, and went snorkeling for a very cheap price. There is a missionary from the Philippines on my Facebook page that is always saying, “Come to the Philippines.” A lot of English teachers in Korean private schools come from the Philippines. We saw advertisements on TV saying, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” We decided the place to go was the Philippines. We only had a weekend, but we needed to get out of Korea or my daughter would be in trouble.
We booked the plane tickets. It only cost $200 round trip for two people to go to the Philippines. If we had wanted to pay more, we could have tracked the missionary down and gone where he was, but it was just more expensive, and we didn’t have that much money. We wanted to go to a resort for the weekend like our Romanian friends, but that ended up impossible too. We made reservations at a hotel in Manila since that is where our plane was flying into. The advertisement for the hotel talked about a swimming pool. We thought, “Okay, maybe we can’t go to the beach, but maybe we can at least swim.”
When we got off the plane in Manila, we stood in line in front of the airport to get in a taxi. We finally got a taxi, and the guy didn’t turn the meter on. I know what that meant. It meant he thought we were rich Americans, and he was going to charge us anything he wanted, so I demanded he turn the meter on, and he gave in and did. In Korea, they think of all Filipinos as speaking English, but the taxi driver only spoke a little English, and he went back and forth between Tagalog (a Filipino language) and English. We know no Tagalog.
We arrived at the hotel and checked in. We learned there was no swimming pool. They said there were other hotels that were part of their chain that had swimming pools, but their particular hotel didn’t have one. The hotel room was nice enough. It was evening, so we stayed in. We were told not to eat street food, so we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and it wasn’t bad. After dinner, we turned the TV on in our room, and the TV was in English, Spanish, and Tagalog. We watched a movie where the people were mixing the three languages. I speak English and Spanish, so I could follow the movie, but my daughter doesn’t speak Spanish, so it was harder for her.
The next day, we got up and had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and then we went out exploring. It was bright and sun shinny outside. There were palm trees and nicely cut grass along the streets. It was nice. We poked around looking through things. Lunch time came, so we looked for a restaurant that had real Filipino food. We found one. the food was good, but strange. It’s base was rice, and it had vegetables in it we had never seen. I have lived all over the world, in 8 countries. I have eaten some really strange things, and it is hard to find strange vegetables I have never seen, but they did it. They didn’t have any diet drinks, only Coca Cola in cans with glasses of ice, so we accepted that to drink. It reminded me of Mexico with an oriental influence.
After that, we continued our walk. We found a shopping mall like the nice big shopping malls in America and South Korea. It was close to Christmas time, and the mall was much more decked out than the South Korean mall in our neighborhood back in South Korea. They even had a Santa, and kids were sitting on his lap. It was close to Christmas, but it wasn’t cold at all. It was like early summer weather. The weather was perfect. We poked around through the shops at the mall. We went into a book shop and bought some souvenirs for friends and a book that had ancient Filipino stories. I have been thinking about relating some of those stories to you on my blog. We found a grocery store and bought some unusual Filipino candy to try.
When we left the mall, we began looking for a church because the next day was Sunday, and we wanted to go to church. We had seen several Catholic churches when we were in the taxi, but we were members of the church of Christ, and we thought it would be good to try to find one. We found a building that had “Church of Christ” written on it, so we decided to try going in to check it out. It had a high fence around it and an armed guard who refused to talk to us. When we went back to the hotel, we found a computer and looked the church up. On the computer, we found that that particular church was a cult of some kind. It was not the church of Christ that we were used to. No other church was in walking distance.
That evening, we decided not to eat in the hotel restaurant but to go to a convenience store to find food. If we could bring things back from a grocery store, we decided that we could also eat from a convenience store. We didn’t consider convenience store food street food. In Korea, little ladies stand along the streets cooking and selling what they are cooking, and we considered that street food. We ate some hot dogs from the convenience store. There were tables in the convenience store where people were eating. We made a mistake.
The next day, we weren’t feeling well. We got up and went to the restaurant for breakfast and decided just to head back to the room because we didn’t feel well. I didn’t make it to the room. I vomited all over the lobby. The staff ran and got a wheel chair and insisted I sit in it and took me to my room. My daughter was sick too. We both had diarrhea. It was coming fast and furious. We were miserable! We called the desk, and they said it was Sunday, so not everywhere was open for medicine and doctors, but that they could call a taxi and take us to the hospital. We let them call a taxi to take us to the hospital. We were a disaster! We almost didn’t make it without making a mess in the taxi. When we got into the hospital, they took us to the emergency room. We messed our clothes up because we couldn’t make it to the bathroom on time. They put IVs in both of our arms. They finally got our stomachs calmed down. It was food poisoning, probably from the hot dogs from the convenience store. The money we had to pay for the hospital bill ate up any money we saved going to the Philippines instead of Japan. A taxi took us back to the hotel, and we spent the rest of the day in bed.
The next morning, a taxi came and took us back to the airport. We got back on the plane and went back to South Korea. We no longer have a desire to see the Philippines. If Filipinos try to tell you they are native speakers of English, they aren’t, but the language situation was very interesting with them mixing all three languages, English, Spanish, and Tagalog, when they spoke. The weather was nice, but we got the feeling there was just something very unhealthy for people who don’t live there. We knew that if we had gone where the missionary was, he could have stirred us in the right direction, but we had been trying to save money. We hit the rejection stage of culture shock when we got sick. We have no desire to go back to the Philippines. For us, it was not more fun in the Philippines like the commercials said.