Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Manila HIGHLIGHTS (and LOWLIGHTS)

Juria and Shrinky are in China! However before we start blogging about THAT, it's only fitting to bid our adieu to good 'ole Manila. Basically, the show opened and you never heard from me (Juria) again! I guess I was too busy working and adventuring to get the job done. Procrastination and laziness reared their lovely heads as well. (Those two sometimes camp out in my life... we are intimately acquainted!) With so much to write about I will condense my comments into a series of (I'm sure) captivating topics:

DAY TRIPPING:
- We took an overnight trip to the Taal Volcano (technically, not a "day trip", I know.) Shrinky already wrote about that a little... but some of the highlights were swimming in a pool as the rain poured down on our heads and eating BUKO (coconut)... Buko pie (layers of buko in a flaky pie crust...wowsa), Buko juice drunk right out of the shell and then having them crack it open to get to the wet meat inside. The volcano was cool. We hiked to the top so we could view the sulphur lake down below and it was HOT. Hot temperature and hot fumes and a hot hike up. So, basically, cool and hot both.

-Pagsangjan Falls and Gorge: This is the river where they filmed Apocalypse Now and we boated up river in order to reach the Falls at the end and then ride the rapids back down again. Basically, it was the two of us in the middle of a canoe and two boatmen, one at the front and one at the back, who paddled when necessary and basically CARRIED us up the rapids. The gorge walls got larger and closer and we passed various smaller falls along the way. Then, we arrived at the Pagsangjan Falls.. and transferred to a bamboo raft so that we could travel to a cave located BEHIND the waterfall. Now, that's a fun way to get absolutely soaked!

-Ayala Museum in Manila: Lea's assistant, Sheila (who I adore), used to work there and gave some of us a tour of this beautiful museum... but the thing most notable to mention was THE GOLD COLLECTION. We are talking some SERIOUS gold pieces from Philippine history (they were hid from the Spanish!) And LOTS OF IT.... and BEAUTIFUL. Gold earrings, gold necklaces, gold death masks, gold crowns. I've never seen so much gold all in one place. The designs looked so modern to me, so forward. I thought of my Grandpa Cook, who would have been fascinated by the chains and the boldness of these 10th century designs!

-Walking tour of Chinatown and Quiapo Church: Another guided tour with our favorite guide, Carlos Celdran. Seriously, this guy's amazing. As a former tour guide myself (ok, so it was Universal Studios, but still) and a performer, I truly appreciate someone who can organize the information dramatically and present it in a lively and interesting manner. Well, that's what Carlos does, with humor and point of view fully intact. Walking around Chinatown was a perfect seque into the next chapter of our travels (and many Chinese settled in the Philippines so it's an important part of their mixed heritage as well.) We burned incense at a Taoist temple (and a special paper representing "money" in heaven... you burn it so that your ancestors have cash to spend in heaven. I gave mine to Grandma Marrett so she could do all the clothes shopping she wants up there!)
Quiapo Church and the market around it was one of the most fascinating places in Manila! The church houses one of the most beloved and strange icons, the Black Nazarene. The Spanish introduced this Christ sculpture to the Filipinos, hoping that they would more easily embrace Christianity with a dark skinned Saviour. It worked and became a beloved figure to the people, especially the poor and working class. (If you touch the foot of the statue, leave a flower offering and make 3 wishes, they will come true... I'll let you know.) Ironically, the market outside is the largest pagan/voodoo market in town... one can buy amulets, candles, oils, love potions and an abortion drink (which is very dangerous and used by many poverty-stricken women in a country with no federal family planning or legal options!) There are palm readers and fortune tellers available as well. Now, the same people that are shopping in this market are worshipping the Black Nazarene... somehow, it all fits together for them. CRAZY!

-Corregidor Island: Famous WW2 spot where a huge battle took place when the Japanese attacked the American base that was located there, to protect Manila Bay. Basically, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor AND Corregidor.. TWO hostile acts that started our war with them. It was a good history lesson and now a beautiful, hilly island to explore....

SALON/SPA/BEAUTY and FISH WHO EAT YOU:

-NO ROOTS! It was time to get my hair re-done, so I did what I've done many times before... asked Lea Salonga for her recommendation. She recommended a lovely salon. I made an appt. after 20 phone call attempts (they are very busy) and arrived at the salon ready for my new highlights and haircut. FOUR HOURS LATER, I had new highlights, new lowlights, new snappy haircut, deep conditioning hair treatment, a neck and shoulder massage, and a smile on my face... but here's the kicker... usually, when I get new highlights, you can still see the roots since they can't go all the way to the scalp.... but somehow here they did! It looks like all these gorgeous blond strands of hair (in multiple shades) are growing out of my head... I've never seen anything like it. I mean, eventually my hair will grow our enough that my natural color will show, but seriously, this is amazing... and why it needed to be told to all of cyberspace. :)

-Korean Spa Day: Jefferson and I spent FIVE hours at a Korean spa, La Sema. We fell in love with hot springs and bathhouses when we lived in Japan and have seeked them out ever since. Experiencing bodywork has been one of my favorite things in Manila and when I read about LaSema in a magazine, I knew it was the place for us. We started in the baths (segregated) where I bathed in Green Tea, Ginseng, a cold plunge and sat in a Jade encrusted steam room. THEN, we moved to the co-ed area, the traditional Korean Jjim jjill Bang (Three hot sauna rooms, each designed to treat different ailments. They were made of mud, salt and charcoal, and clay at varied temperatures.) The point is to sweat, sweat, sweat. When we got too hot, we moved to the ICE ROOM. Yes, a room that resembled a freezer, with ice on the walls and ceiling. Then, back in the hot sauna. After all that, a 2 hour massage and time in the Napping Caves. These were caves where you could stretch out and rest your head on a wooden pillow (oddly comfy). Total price: under $30 each. Oh yeah.

-FISH SPA! We found ourselves at Manila Ocean Park in the Bay to watch the sunset one evening. As we were about to depart, I noticed the words, "FISH SPA" and remembered an article I had recently read about Nibble Fish, or Doctor Fish, used in the east to treat skin dryness. Sure enough, it was two large tanks of fish... for $3 you could stick your feet in the tank and let the fish "clean" them... as in, eat the dead skin from the bottom, sides and tops of your feet, as in nibble the tiny spaces between your toes... which we did. Truly, one of the most bizzare feelings in my life. And I've felt some bizarre things before.

THE SHOW:

-Four week run at the CCP and it was just wonderful. The audiences were great and the show was a hit. Backstage, Charlie Parker (the Godmother and my dressing room-mate) and I became very fond of our dresser, Ellen. She just loved being involved in this experience and was completely on top of things... like I would come in and she would have organized all my bobby pins according to shape, size, and color. In some ways, she represented for me the very best of the Filipino people... so hard-working, always smiling, and when we said good-bye, openly sobbing.... just so warm-hearted and full of feeling.

Overall, our Manila stay was very special... Most of it was spent getting the show up and on its feet, but two months is enough time to get a feel for a place and its people... and reading the daily paper helped too...
We will miss:
-Daily Mango consumption.. like, EVERYDAY, fresh or dried.
-English everywhere
-People understanding the verbal jokes in the show
-Spa treatments at crazy cheap prices
-Sunsets
-Cheap food.. in all ethnic cuisines
-Our stage crew
-Halo-halo (see previous blogs for definition)

BYE BYE MANILA! Thanks so much for sharing yourselves with us!

Oh, and if you are wondering, "Where are the pictures??" please bear with us... we are having some technical difficulties getting pics uploaded... I think it's a China obstacle...

And just in case you are anxiously awaiting our Xian, China impressions, please know this.. WE ARE GETTING OUR SOCKS BLOWN OFF!!!! Stay tuned. :)

1 comment:

Liz said...

Hi Boo! I really enjoyed this latest blog (LOL funny)! What I want to know is...did the skin eating fish make your feet soft? Inquiring minds want to know. Beth