Off to the Philippines

I’m writing this at 9.20pm, Taiwan time, in an internet cafe in Shida night market. No, I’m not out in a net cafe just to ease myself into the feeling of traveling before I actually depart. Yes, I do own my own computer here, currently located and fully operational in my own apartment. What is not working is my internet connection. For some reason unknown to me or my flatmates, the phone/DSL line went completely dead last night, and between final exams in my Chinese class yesterday and today and an early morning flight there was just no time to wait for a repairman. This internet cafe is called Concept, but as far as I can tell the only concept they had in designing this place was “take a basement room and plaster it with World of Warcraft posters.

I’ll be leaving on a 9.30am flight tomorrow (Nov 25), Taiwan’s Eva airlines from Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek airport, to Manila, Philippines. Returning at the same time, December 7th. Everything in between is a little up in the air.

I have several friends in the Philippines that I’ll be visiting, all Philippinos who I met while I was living in Kyoto. Of the five people I expect to meet up with, three were students at Ritsumeikan with me (two exchange students and one graduate student), and two were graduate students at Kyoto University, that I met through my Philippino friends at Ritsumeikan, who they knew from home.

Some of these friends I’ll be seeing in Manila, and one (or two, if she can go), I’ll be meeting on Boracay Island. Rocs (the friend I will be meeting there) tried to book a flight for me for this weekend, but it was too short notice, so instead I’ll arrange one for the following weekend after I arrive in the country. Although next weekend is more convenient in terms of time, this weekend would have been much better from a financial perspective. Rocs tells me that following December 1st, when the tourist season starts, prices for accomodations will double.

Aside from that, I have very little idea of exactly what I’ll be doing while I’m there. I’m sure Manila will be interesting for a couple of days at least, and Arlo was telling me that there are some nice places to visit not too far from Manila. Since I was unable to actually find an English language guidebook in the stores here-plenty of guidebooks, but no Philippines book in stock-and also haven’t had much time to read up online (particularly in light of domestic service outage).

I’ve backed very light. I borrowed a smallish hiking backpack from my flatmate Steph-larger than my schoolbag, but much smaller than the orange monster I used to hike around China. I’ve packed a few days of clothes, my camera, a few minor items, and a few books. The books mainly consist of a couple of Japanese language history books on Taiwan. This is a space saving strategy, as English books take far, fare less time to read, and even one large book in English would weigh a few times as much as two slim Japanese paperbacks. Of course, since the entire educated population of the Philippines is fluent in English, I may pick up some local histories or novels in the English language, so I can actually know something about the country I’m in.

I don’t feel particularly nervous about my lack of preparation for the trip, and my lack of any real knowledge about where I’m going. A lot of people say that the Philippines is a dangerous country to travel in, but I think it should be a lot safer ever since they locked up Commander Robot. Is my lack of stress merely the calm before the storm, a lack of human emotions, or simply exhaustion from the dozen or more trips I was forced to make to various Taiwanese offices and burueas over the past three weeks to get my Taiwanese residence visa and reentry permit, so I would actually be able to come back into the country on the return leg of my trip instead of having to live like Tom Hanks in that that silly movie about the airport?