The title is in quotes because obviously we are not really living in Angeles City. We are in a hotel, albeit a very nice hotel for the price, biding our time until the next stop: Manila. After five days there, we will join our friends for the 2 week diving trip that was the springboard for this entire plan: ScubaBoard Invasion 2016 - 1 week each in Atlantis Puerto Galera and Dumagette. I mean, once you travel half-way around the world, you should make it count, right? Meanwhile we need to eat and wash our clothes and sitting in the hotel room day in, day out is not an option.
*Aside* When we arrived at Janus Apartelle, upon entering our “Janus Luxury Queen Suite 105” (the description on AirBnB) we were just a little surprised to find a full, standard bed in our room. The small kitchenette with a compact refrigerator was a big plus over our previous digs. The swimming pool in the atrium was inviting and attractive, if not exactly practical in actual use.
*Aside* Having excited splashing children right outside your door does not offer the best experience. Nor is traversing the standing water on the tile floor around the pool to reach the front door.
The price of $199 for eight nights (less than $25 a night) was good value though, which was part of the attraction of Angeles City: reasonable housing. The premises have been updated with paint while obviously the staff is in the process of making more improvements.
*Aside* Our transition room in Manila will probably be nicer, an entire condo apartment in a high-rise with full kitchen, living room, dining area and (for sure) a queen sized bed, but will cost us $189 for 5 nights ($37.80 per night with an up-charge if we use too much electricity).
I emailed the owner of Janus Apartelle to let him know that he might consider changing his description because our US vocabulary translated “Queen Suite” to queen-sized bed. He immediately moved us to a larger room with a king-sized bed and a larger refrigerator. Sweet! Sweeter Suite!
Returning to Angeles City with a week ahead of us, we realized there isn’t much to do here. Well actually there’s plenty to do here if you want a tattoo (no up-charge for hepatitis), a sexy massage with “happy ending,” or to drink yourself into oblivion for cheap. Since those are not in our wheelhouse, we needed to find other diversions.
Mall Rats (That’s Us)
SM Mall is about 5 minutes walk away. We took a Motorized Tricycle back and forth the first few times (P100 or $2.25). Then from our hotel we walked to the end of the street, exploring the neighborhood to behold the behemoth (with 420 vendors, it is a behemoth) right across the street. Sorry Motorized Tricycle Drivers, no more riding for us. There we found our new favorite drink: Buko.
*Aside* Buko is made with coconut fresh-cut from the shell, blended with sugar, coconut milk, water and ice into a frosty, frothy drinking delight, served up in a one liter bottle with a straw through the lid (smaller sizes are available but at $1.50 each, go big or go home - or go big and go home arriving at said domicile with some to sip on the couch.) It is the antithesis to hot and sweaty. As you walk toward home, sipping the icy-cold concoction, you can hold the cold, sweating bottle to your neck and chest or place your now-chilled hand on your cheek or forehead to chase away the heat.
We also found our new favorite desert: Buko Pie.
*Aside* This delight is also made of fresh sliced coconut. A thin piecrust is rolled out into a small pan (about 3” diameter), slices of coconut laid in, custard poured in, top crust added, then baked. The resulting coconut custard pie is best when it’s warm with slightly salty fresh cheese shredded on top. It is a mouth full of total yum nirvana.
We went to the movies: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.” Once you’re inside the theater you would never know you were in the Philippines. Except that they don’t make people using cell phones leave or even ask them to quit. Not even when they use the flashlight.
If You Have it, You Can Get It.
We went to the Mall in search of a travel vest with lots of pockets. Air travel is problematic for us as we are each traveling with about 100 lbs of diving gear in addition to our clothes and supplies deemed necessary for a trip of indeterminate length. When traveling in Asia, even the carry-on is weighed and counted against your weight allowance. Reading online, Tom found a suggestion to use a travel vest for some of the heavy stuff that you must hand carry, like rechargeable Lithium batteries for the camera gear. We headed to our favorite haunt (SM Mall) to play “Mission: seek and find”.
Luggage stores? 1,889 steps later: No.
Athletic stores? 3,495 steps later: Nope, don’t have it.
Try the SM Store. 1112 steps later: Blank stares of non-understanding tell us they don’t have it. Then we walk by one. Hanging right there. On the end of the rack. “Like this!” we exclaimed, but we need it in large, not small.” We could see in their eyes that they still wanted to tell us they didn’t have one. But they did! It was right there in our hand! Then they took it away to see if they had another one: large. The answer, “No. Just this one.” But we could try the Marine Arcade or maybe the San Fernando SM Mall would have one. Finding the proper jeepney, without much difficulty we get to the Marine Arcade.
*Aside* I’m thinking Marine Arcade, like a place they have stuff for boats, like maybe it's a fishing or sports vest in the Philippines. No it’s the Marine Arcade like the Army-Navy-Marine surplus store.
We describe what we want. No, not like a flack-jacket. Lighter - like a vest. Finally they find one - small. We can’t use small. The harsh reality is that neither one of us is small anymore. They go away, searching for a long time. Rebecca considers waking up the guy in the hammock to see if she could borrow it for a nap. Finally they return with one: large. P1500 = $33. Rebecca immediately says “No.”
*Aside* I saw the price on the one at SM Mall: P399.75 = $8.70. I tell Tom this and I can see in his eyes that he doesn’t think I read it right. And then he asks me, “Are you sure it wasn’t $3999?” Okay I’m famous for misreading prices, but I was pretty sure of myself this time. That would have been almost $90. I was surprised that it was only P399.75 and looked several times to be sure. But we are aware I could have misplaced that pesky decimal point again.
However, based on my information, he offers P600 which Rebecca thinks is too high for a starting point. The guy says, “P850, only P150 profit for me.” However he took the “no profit” P700 = $15.25 Tom offered. We’d like another one. Being a team player, Rebecca aspires to wear one also. There are no more. No, not even one more.
With nothing better to do, we decide to try SM Mall San Fernando. We walk down the street, rounding the corner to catch the Jeepney to San Fernando - about 30 minutes away.
*Aside* As we’re walking, we glance up to notice the myriad of power and cable lines over our heads in such a tangle that it looked as though drunken birds had laid the wires.
Arriving in at SM Mall San Fernando we bee-lined to the SM Store. The request for “Travel vest with pockets” was again met with blank expressions. “Show them the vest,” Rebecca said. The light of understanding dawned on their faces. “Yes!” Right there, folded up on a display shelf under other hanging goods, sure enough there are two: one, small; one, large. And it costs? P399.75. But I swear, if we hadn’t had the one, we would have never gotten the other.
You Can’t Get There From Here
After removing a chunk of metal from his finger picked up on the wreck of the New York in Subic, Tom decided he needed a pair of diving gloves. He would have needed a tetanus shot too but we got that before we left the US. So back to SM Mall we go. After much walking and asking, we determine there is no scuba gear in the mall, but looking on our phone we find a scuba shop within walking distance so we give it a go. We walk about a half mile down the road to a check point to discover that the long fence on the other side has no opening to the street we want. We walk back to SM Mall to cross the street. We walk all the way back on the other street, turning up into a neighborhood to find a sign on a building for Deep Blue Scuba, but no door. We walk around the building to the other side where there is another sign for Deep Blue Scuba, but no door. We finally understand that it is inside the walls of the hotel. We gain admittance, wandering a bit more to finally find Deep Blue Scuba. They have lessons, but no gear. Maybe we shoulda called? But we sit down to a great conversation about diving in the Philippines before we map a new route back to our hotel.
What we eat in the Philippines
There are hundreds of street vendors everywhere selling bowls and plates of things I can’t identify. Of course even when they tell us what it is, we still don’t know what it is in English. Even the things I can identify don’t really look familiar. I think there are fried bananas or plantains, but they are fatter and shorter than I think they should be. There is rich broth with vegetables, all kinds of meat sizzling on hot plates, noodles and rice, and take out is in a plastic bag ready to dump out on your plate when you get home. Napkins are so small as to be considered non-existent. In addition to Filipino food, we’ve enjoyed Korean, Arabian and Japanese with meals costing less than $3.00 each, although we also indulged ourselves with a Japanese meal for $25.00 (that’s for both of us).
*Aside* Much of the Filipino street food is super cheap but somewhat scary. There was this one thing that they said was quail, but it didn’t look like any quail I’ve ever seen. I assume the unidentifiable part was its head, but it looked more like a turtle. We skipped that one. We mostly eat breakfast in our room - tea for Rebecca, coffee for Tom, some fruit and some yogurt. Sometimes we get up late opting for an early lunch and early dinner, only eating two meals a day.
There are no coin operated Laundromats in Angeles City, maybe in all of the Philippines. However they will pick your laundry up from the front desk at the hotel today, dropping it back off for you all done tomorrow. Cost? P28 per Kilo. It cost us six dollars to have a week’s worth of laundry done including the up charge for 2 pairs of Rebecca’s shoes. Next time without shoes only P175 = $3.80. Who wants to sit in a Laundromat spending money on a washer and dryer at that rate?
Spa Day Philippines Style
Tom and Rebecca BOTH had massages, mani -pedis, waxes, and haircuts for just over $112. A price significantly less than either one could have enjoyed it in the good ol’ US of A.
*Aside* Here are the amazing details: Haircut for Rebecca: P250 + P50 tip = $6.50; shave and haircut for Tom: P200 = $4.35; 1 hour massage for Tom and Rebecca: P900 + P200 tip = $23.93 (the happy ending was that we felt great without the “happy ending”); manicure and pedicure for Tom and Rebecca (Foot massage included - nail polish for Rebecca. Tom declined polish): P1500 + P200 tip = $37.00; Brazilian sugar wax for Rebecca (Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?) P750 + P100 tip = $18.50; back and arm wax for Tom: P900 + P100 tip = $21.75.
Okay - I could learn to love this lifestyle.
P.S. If Philippines starts with a “P,” why does Filipino start with an “F”?