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November 3-4, 2013 Manila, Philippines

November 3-4, 2013 Manila, Philippines

We were originally scheduled to be here one day, but, much to the delight of the Philippine crew members, our stop at Cebu was cancelled due to civil unrest, giving us a two day stay in Manila.  Our greeting on arrival was over the top.

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Even the drug sniffing dog had a somewhat festive air about him, as did the Philippine Coast Guard.

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Not to be overlooked in the welcoming group were the friends and relatives of the Philippine crew members, checking in early to see their loved ones.

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All day, both days, the ship was filled with crew members’ families on the ship, over 1600 of them, being escorted around the ship by their relatives, seeing where mom or dad worked, enjoying the lido buffet and generally having a good time.  The average length of time these folks are away from home is 8 months, so this is really special. It definitely lifted the spirit of the ship – both passengers and crew.  More than once we saw “grandma” passengers serving food to the children of the crew members.  It was delightful!  Many crew members had worked extra hours so they could be off during this time, and got to spend a rare night at home in their own beds.

The only option for touring, other than an all day tour of Corregidor, last holdout of Australians and Americans at the outset of WWII, was a shuttle to Robinson Mall, which turned out to be a massive four story mall in the center of Manila.  Alas, no Hop-A-Bus here.  We jumped on the shuttle and headed to the mall to browse.  Security was tight at the mall – airport type scanners and pat downs.  I don’t know if it is because of the civil unrest among the southern, Muslim, provinces, or just to keep the vendors and assorted evildoers out – either way, it was tight.

Imagine this at your local mall.

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The mall was filled with shoppers, and we bought a few essentials and headed back to the ship.

These are a few shots of one of the local forms of taxis – called “Jeepneys”.  There is a factory outside of Manila which imports the jeeps, stretches them, and sells them to the local drivers for their highly individualized decorations.

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Another local form of transport ; the pedi-cab, again highly decorated.

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More transport options in Manila.

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Like Singapore, Hong Kong & Shanghai, this is a very large city (about 11,000,000 people), but unlike those cities, it is not organized for tourism, and perhaps is a little unsafe – in a pickpocket sense.  Most places you might go you are besieged with beggars and vendors selling $10 Rolexes and Guccis.  Despite those negatives, the people here are super friendly and happy people.

Two views of Manila’s skyline.

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Upon returning to the ship, and enjoying talking with the families visiting, we learned that a group of children from an orphanage were going to be coming on board tomorrow for lunch and to perform in the main showroom.

This ship has been parked next to us in Manila – with the open door, I thought it was a ferry, but I noticed the trucks loaded with containers going in, depositing the container and driving off.  Every container ship I have seen had the containers stacked on the deck and they were loaded and unloaded by crane from the shore.  This is a different system entirely with the containers in the hold, and no need for cranes – I wonder if it is a “one off” specialty ship, or maybe  it represents a new trend.  I will keep an eye out for more of them.

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In the morning, Sally and I converted some dollars to pesos and boarded the shuttle bus to Robinson Mall, where we had seen a couple of sporting goods stores.  We purchased all the basketballs and soccer balls we could carry and hauled them back to the ship.  Several of our fellow passengers asked how we were going to get all these balls in our luggage and back home.  We gave the balls to the Guest Services Manager who assured us she would get them to the Cruise Director, Gene Young, for delivery.  Gene had arranged the orphans visit and performance.  He announced that when told they could have anything they wanted for their lunch buffet, the unanimous selection was chicken nuggets, French fries, and Coca Cola.

The children’s performance was really special – they pantomimed and danced to a medley of Christmas tunes, while all wearing Santa caps – not a dry eye in the house and they received a standing ovation and came back for more applause.  Both the kids and the passengers enjoyed it, they got a bunch of soccer and basketballs and the passengers donated over $4,000 to the orphanage.  I would have to say that along with the crew members’ family visits; it was the highlight of our stay in Manila.

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Basketballs in tow, the kids leave the ship.

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A goodbye wave.

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And a wave back from the Amsterdam.

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And a Bon Voyage that outdid our welcome – two complete high school bands, complete with flag corps and twirlers in our own battle of the bands on the dock.  They were both most enthusiastic, and when there was a delay in casting off, I think they went through their entire repertoires.

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A rainy visit to a place with not much to see – but it will be a high point of the trip because of the people.  We sailed out of Manila harbor, past Corregidor Island, where General Wainwright held out against the Japanese, before he and his men were forced on the Bataan death march.

And now off to the Island of Yap, in Micronesia – and yes the inhabitants are called Yapanese!

As we sail out the Captain announces that another typhoon, Typhoon Haiyan, is approaching from the East, he is evaluating our options and we should anticipate some course changes.  This is the second one we have had to avoid – a minor issue for us, but sometimes a major event for the islands.

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