In fact, Greenbelt Mall in Makati section of Manila is the most stylish mall I have ever seen -- the coffee culture is alive and well there! Paolo and I also took a trip to some mineral hot springs outside of town. Paolo even took me to a kickboxing match -- his friend owns the kickbox training gym. And he introduced me to some new Filipino foods. Since he is also a budding chef, he cooked me an Italian dinner, also. Thanks, Paolo!
I met several times with the friends that I had traveled with earlier. We seem to have a thing for cemeteries, so we visited the American Cemetery in Manila:
I was not sure where my Great Uncle Travis had died or was buried. He died in World War II in late 1944 and never got to see his son, Travis (after whom I was named). I did not see his name on the walls. We went to the office and got an official printout and found out he had died in France. However, Helen found her father-in-law's name on the wall. She had not known that his death was recorded here. She immediately called her ex-husband to let him know. Here she is pointing to the name:
The entire World War II campaign is explained by about 20 stone murals. The artwork and historical detail is quite amazing:
The Filipino people are quite thankful for America's sacrifices that led to their liberation from the Japanese after World War II. It is one of the reasons our countries continue to have such close ties today.
I did not take many photos during the times we went out but here is one of Helen, Liza, and Ara:
Later in the week we also went to a Karoake Comedy bar north of Manila. Basically, there are two men dressed as women on stage who crack jokes, sing, and require virtually everyone in the bar to come up and sing, too, at some point during the evening. This was far enough outside of the main part of Manila that they had apparently never gotten a regular tourist there before. So they spent about a third of the night making me the butt of their jokes, which was actually a lot of fun. Their routines were in Tagalog, but they would use English when joking about me ;-) I also sang three songs, something they required of me -- oh, the humanity! I am not sure if I have ever heard a worse rendition of "Hotel California," I think I will be getting some more practice back in the States. Karaoke is a big part of Filipino culture -- it is almost the default entertainment wherever you go, so be prepared!
I attended an Asian music contest very similar to American Idol. Wow, some of the singers were so good -- filipinos can really sing! Also, there were some distinctive Asian sounds that were really refreshing.
My new friend, Leah, and I also met through couchsurfing and after having lunch together she took me to a Chinese massage place in Chinatown. I had never had a proper massage as it just something that is not very common in America. Massage is definitely a part of the Filipino culture and is a common topic of conversation. Thanks, Leah!
Now I am off to Singapore to meet up with my friend Dave and begin our adventure together!