Subic Bay, The Philippines

                                            Subic Bay Yacht Club (Seabird and Grey Pearl docked)

Our plan was to stay in Subic Bay, The Philippines for about one week.   As always, our plans are cast in goo and subject to change depending on many things like:  How much fun we are having, the facility we are at, quality of the restaurants and the time it takes to fix things that were broken along the way.

Our friend, Doug, who traveled with us from Hong Kong, had to depart, sadly.  It is amazing how little things like a REAL JOB can get in the way of having fun!  Doug had to catch his plane back to the US in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which was about 50 miles away.  In the US, you simply hop onto Interstate Highway whatever, and in 30 minutes you are there.  Here in Subic Bay, you have to either take a seaplane or a cab, which takes about 2 hours, believe it or not.  We went back and forth on the benefits of both and decided that it might be more fun for Doug in the cab, so that he could get a flavor for the REAL countryside.  Doug departed in the afternoon, reporting back to us that it was an “interesting” cab ride which took him through some “interesting” (again) parts of Manila.  The Philippines, in general, is a country of either very rich or poor and not much in between.  The poorest live in conditions that you would never see in the US and it is very evident as you travel to Manila by car.

The first thing I wanted to do was to get the internet and phone situation under control.  We have done this so many times in other places that we know the procedure very well.  Carol and I both bought SIM cards for our unlocked GSM phones nearby and we became instantly set up with phone service.  The SIM cards were $2 each and the time is pennies per minute.  Once we were set up with phones we found a shop that sold “3G” USB internet modems.  To say that it was 3G is a stretch and it was more like the old dial-up internet in the US.  Again, it was cheap and did a reasonable job sending emails and limited (if not slow) internet browsing.

One of the nicest things about the Philippines is that, because of the large US military presence early on, they adopted many of our systems, such as driving on the right hand side of the road and 60 cycles, US style electricity.  After a little haggling by our agent, Dirk, he convinced them to go the extra mile for us and hook us up to a large amperage service, which easily powered our boat including (most importantly) the air conditioning.  By the way, now that we were back at a dock, it worked flawlessly.  The problems we have were definitely related to the high engine room temps underway.

On Grey Pearl, plans were already underway to go to Manila for a few days and we decided to go along.  The main question was:  Do we take the cab or fly on the seaplane?  We decided to do both.  We would fly to Manila by seaplane and come home a few days later by cab.  Carol found a great hotel, made  reservations and then we went on to make our “plane reservations”.  Since the plane could only seat 4, we had to break it up into two trips.  Furthermore, our pilot, Mike, informed us that he could only take 500 lbs including luggage.  Wayne, Jose, Braun and I happily volunteered our “actual” weights to our skeptical wives, who then produced a scale, making us get on.  Ok, so the guys estimate was off slightly (or more).  So we went from “no problem”  to “ok, you can bring two pair of underwear, two golf shirts and a toothbrush”.  Fortunately, the girls convinced Mike to accept a bit more weight and it ended up  with me, Braun and Wayne (with almost no luggage) on the second trip and Carol, Tina and Jose with all the luggage on the first flight.

                                               Seaplane to Manila

Wayne dropped them off at the plane and reported back to us warning that this was not exactly American Airlines.  Carol called to caution me about the quality of the trip, but it was too late as we were just taking off when she called from Manila.  I used to fly a bit in a small Cessna back in the 70’s and this plane looked all too familiar.  It was definitely from the same era and loud and clunky.  Our pilot, Mike, was a grumpy ex military guy who found no humor in my question about food and beverage service on the flight.  It seemed to take forever for the plane to pull up from the water in the bay and even longer to get over the mountains.  “Keep your hands off the wheel!” he barked at me after we got into the air.  I ended up sitting in the front as Braun and Wayne voted me to sit there as I was the only other one in the plane with any flight experience. If anything happened to Mr. Grump, I was the designated guy to bring them to safety.  I tried to discreetly ask him questions about how the plane flew so I would know, but he just gave me a dirty look and put his headphones on for the duration of the flight.  The flight turned out to be without incident and we landed near a rickety free floating dock.  When we were about 30 feet from the dock, the pilot opened his door and hopped on to one of the pontoons and when we got close to the dock, he leaped, with surprising agility, to the dock, holding on hand on the wing strut! He then pulled the plane into the float, grumbled something nasty to the Philippino helper at the dock for not being quick enough and instructed us to get out.

After finding the girls and the Hotel, we started to make plans to visit Corregidor Island, about 48 Kilometers by ferryboat from Manila central.  Corregidor Island is of historic significance as it was the main guardian for the defense of Manila Bay dating back to the 16th century. When under Spanish control, Corregidor Island, at different times, was a penal institution, a customs port and always the first line of defense for Manila Bay.  Because of its strategic location (see map) it was also a signal outpost which was used to warn Manila of an attack by hostile forces from the sea.

                                           Corregidor Island (lower left side of map)

During World War II, under the command of General Douglas McArthur,  Corregidor was the main headquarters for the war in the Philippines.  After McArthur was ordered to leave the island,  Commander Jonathan Wainwright was promoted to temporary Lieutenant General and put in charge of the island.  When the island became under siege by the Japanese, Wainwright, out of concern that there would be a massive loss of allied lives, chose to surrender all of the Philippines on May 6th, 1942.  He was then taken prisoner of war and moved to several detention camps until liberated by Russian troops in Manchuria in 1945.  He was given the Medal of Honor, much to the chagrin of Douglas McArthur, who felt that he should not have surrendered.

In September, 1945, he returned to the Philippines to witness the surrender of the local Japanese commander.  Today, Corregidor remains much as it was after World War II, from the bombed out buildings to the large guns and mortars.

                                                 Mortars on Corregidor

After touring Corregidor, we spend a good deal of time simply walking around Manila to get a feel for the city.  It has some beautiful buildings and hotels, but for the most part, we saw a lot of impoverished areas.  I needed to find a store to add time to my telephone SIM card, so I asked a local shop keeper to direct me to the nearest location.  He told me to go to the end of the street, go left and travel about 2 kilometers.  After walking a bit, Wayne, myself, Braun and Jose began to sense that we were walking into a BAD area.  At one point, out of nowhere, a small boy came up asking me for money for food.  Before I knew it, about 8 others (kids) surrounded me in a coordinated effort to distract me so that one of the others could pick my pocket.  When they started rubbing against me from all sides, I knew what was going on and shoved them all away.  Braun and Wayne were behind me by about 40 feet and saw what was going on.   Fortunately, we were able to get rid of them without further incident.  Going from there back to the better parts meant walking for another 20 minutes through very bad areas with a bit of uncertainty of what could happen.  My understanding now is that nearly all of these kids work for “syndicates”, where all the collected money goes to a local boss who provides the kids with the bare necessities of food and shelter.

Upon arriving back to the marina, we started making our plans to leave for our next location, a short hop to an overnight anchorage in Hamilo Bay, then on to Puerto Galera.

Before we left, I needed to fix the air conditioning circulation pump that had fried on the way to Subic.  A friend found me a local electrical shop who, for about $60 US dollars, traveled to the marina with a helper, removed the pump, took it back to the shop, rebuilt it and returned it the next day, installing it!  I shudder to think what that would have cost in the US!

Next stop:  Hamilo Bay

Oh, by the way, this is the main method of transportation around towns in the Philippines

                                                        Our “cab” and driver in Subic Bay

They are 100cc motorcycles with side cars that are semi enclosed.  Two of us squeezed in one day to go look for some boat parts!!  They are VERY noisy and rough riding, but cheap, usually about 50 cents to go anywhere.



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