The Pilipiñas Packet

Sojourn in The Philippines, 2019-2020

Volume 3, Tagaytay, November 13

After two weeks in Cavite and Samar, we have finally moved into the condo in Tagaytay. I must congratulate Carmen for taking care of the ground game once we had arrived in her country. I had done the macro-planning: the travel dates, the fights, the insurance, the hotel reservations, and of course the condo rental negotiations, but she had to marshall her family to transport us and our many bulging bags from airport to hotel, to shopping malls and restaurants, to and from Tacloban airport, to Santa Rita, and finally to Tagaytay. The value of an extended family, and all their extensions.

Not to mention organizing security. It’s not much of an issue in Tagaytay, but it was a more significant question in Samar. Carmen’s cousin the Mayor, and former Chief of Police assured my safety. So far unscathed.  

First things first, health. We’ve been here today 13 days and my fortnight cold was almost over. Last bits of drainage and recovering my stamina. We walked to the grocery store yesterday, uphill, both ways, and I could feel the lungs sucking and blowing. And Saturday night in Tacloban I had 24 hour gastro. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to die but there were times that seemed preferable. It occurred to me that Carmen and I should work out some protocol for shipping my body back to Canada, or at least, know how to contact Johnson Medoc. I was cursing the local bacilli and myself for not renewing my Ducerol (my pharmacist had advised it was good for two years and I had had no incidents last December and January when I was in Philippines). Now I’m thinking it was not Montezuma’s revenge but 24-hour stomach flu, possibly contracted from the Quarter-pounder with cheese I had at McDonalds for lunch! (I know, there was no Montezuma in The Philippines but there is an extensive historical connection between Mexico and Philippines as that was how things moved back and forth to Spain before the Suez Canal in 1869.)

A few words about Tagaytay and then the condo itself. 

I won’t repeat here anything you might find for yourself in a google search, but maybe a few insights that may resonate more with my fellow Ottawans and others.

Tagaytay is about 650 meters (~2000 ft) above sea level and the elevation obviously moderates the ambient temperature, always about 5o C below the lower mainland around Manila, and Trece Martires, Carmen’s town. And that temperature is a temperate 27 most days, dropping to perhaps 24 at night. And usually there is a good cooling breeze. 

Tagaytay is located on the ridge of a massive caldera, now flooded as Lake Taal. The unique feature of this ‘dormant’ volcano is that there is a smaller volcano and island in the centre of the lake. It last erupted in 1965 but blew its top in 1754. Despite this, the government of The Philippines decided Tagaytay would be a good spot to build a vacation centre – relief from the heat of Manila for the elite – and under the direction of President Quezon in 1938, the town was incorporated and hotels constructed, just in time for the Japanese to make it their occupation headquarters. 

It feels like an Ottawa July or August, all the time. It is soft tropical air, with high moisture content. My skin is already much softer than before and certainly than it would be if I were still in Kanata enjoying central heating, and refilling the humidifiers every day. We are on a mountain, of sorts and so it is overcast much of the time. Sun does break through at times and the rays are quite intense. Carmen insists on being covered and carries a parasol, or if she has forgotten, uses my dario (newspaper) as a shield.

It is the [tail-end of the] rainy season here just now and typical of the tropics it often clouds over by late afternoon, even becomes foggy. Sometimes you feel you are actually in the cloud, which is what fog really is, a very low cloud. The mist may become a shower but the breeze returns to clear away the fog, the skies clear; sometimes the shower is a deluge that lasts about an hour. Twice we have been caught out at one of the local shopping malls and have had to postpone our return walk to wait out the rain. Plenty of restaurants to help with the wait however.

In our first week we haven’t seen much of Tagaytay beyond walking distance of our condo. Lunch the first day was at a classic Filipino restaurant overlooking Lake Taal. Here’s a picture. Or two.

The condo complex is massive, and to my mind, not the sort of place I really like to live in. But you sacrifice quaint for location, and of course, the view. There are five towers, each about 20 stores high, but because they are on a hillside, the back of the buildings are three stories lower than the fronts, plus there are no 13th nor 14th floors in the elevators! We’re on the 15th floor, but I’m not fooled, and I’m not superstitious.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, or more, so here is a good one of the five towers looking east and slightly down hill. 

We’re in Tower 4, second from the right.

There is a penthouse lounge on the roof of Tower 3. I had intended spending lots of
time there, to escape the confines of our small apartment. Even though two bedrooms, the unit is not very big; you could easily swing a dead cat and hit every wall. But the roof top while offering terrific views (when it’s not too  overcast) and some party rooms, is sparsely furnished and not very inviting. Plus the express elevator is guarded by the ubiquitous guards and the signing in at ground floor, and then again on the rooftop, is tedious. 

There are distinctively  dressed security guards everywhere of course, (why do I say  ‘of course’??) of two types: crisply groomed white shirted police officer types, with epaulets and pockets but well equipped with flashlights, billy clubs, and handguns. The guys in dark military garb are more intimidating – more muscular, and carrying shotguns or ak-15s. There is a BDO branch in our complex and a safer bank is hard to imagine. There must be a dozen guards on duty (of both types) inside and out. Do I feel any safer? Not so sure. But it is amazing how quickly you just accept this massive armed presence. I’d take pictures of them but they aren’t too pleased about it. Overall though, it’s not unpleasant, they smile professionally and say ‘sir’. And I think they are bored to death.

I should end this edition with a couple more pictures, one or two from our unit window, looking east:

and one looking south to the volcano island, but you have to twist your torso to see it out our Juliet balcony.

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