Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Snippets of a holiday

There are no malls in Marshall Islands. It’s that small a country. The biggest supermarket though, also sells houseware and clothes much like Shopwise. So when we went home we made sure to drop by our favorite malls. Glorietta, Alabang Town Center, Bonifacio High Street, SM and Festival Mall. Being mall-deprived for four months we just soaked up everything, the shops, the lights, the sounds, the people. Ahhh, the fastest way to get back into the Manila groove is to go to a mall.

My best friend from grade school, invited me to the Karl Edwards’ Bazaar at the NBC Tent. It was fun walking around and marveling at the different merchandise for sale. I mostly bought clothes for Raine, including a 2-piece Baby Gap swimsuit for only PhP 150 and an adorable hooded bathrobe for PhP 350! What a bargain!

We spent 5 days in hubby’s hometown in Victorias City in Negros Occidental, about an hour’s drive from Bacolod City. They have a spanking new international airport in Silay. Very sleek and modern. It was only Raine’s second time to visit the province. She was 10 months old the first time we came over. It can be a bit overwhelming mind you, since Papa, hubby’s Dad has, 12 siblings (2 already passed away) who each have families, some of whom also have families of their own. So you can just imagine how big their brood is.

Of course hubby had to play 18 holes of golf at the nearby country club, while Raine and I went to visit their farm. Raine enjoyed looking at the cows and the chickens. Papa even showed off two of his best cockfighting hens much to the delight of the little girl. We have one 10 month old niece from hubby’s sister Joy. Raine seemed in awe of Baby Louie. I had to keep reminding her to be gentle when she touched her, or held her hand. I think Raine thought she was a doll.

We were able to get in some spa time as well. We tried one at a mall and also had some home service done. The home service massage though was better and more relaxing than the one at the mall. My masseuse was even able to remove the crick on my shoulder blades. Raine was watching while I was getting my massage and after that whenever I lie on my tummy she would pretend to massage me. She would rub her tiny hands together, as if there was some oil in it and then move her palms down my back like a real masseuse.

Raine was invited to two children’s parties while we were home. First was to her cousin Annika’s 3rd birthday party and then, to my Dad’s friend’s grandson’s 1st birthday. The little girl was in her element. She hadn’t seen so many kids her age and race for so long. She thoroughly enjoyed the whole kiddie party atmosphere.

I got a chance to catch a cheesy Pinoy romantic flick with my highschool best friend Hazel. We agreed to watch the Aga Muhlach and Anne Curtis starrer "When Love Begins" and were anticipating a nice movie with some kilig, some funny, some insightful moments on our favorite topic. But the movie failed to deliver. We succumbed to making up our own stories and comments about the actors during the “dead-air” moments, which were more than we liked. Although the movie turned out to be a dud, I can truthfully say I still had fun watching it because of the company of my friend.

Thankfully we caught the first Saturday mass at the Pink Sisters’ convent with my college friend Mayang and her sisters. It was May and every house in Tagaytay seemed to be having a party that was spilling into the streets that day. We were in crawling traffic for 3 hours and made it just in time for the special mass. We had a relaxing dinner at Sonia’s Garden later.

Reunions here and there, meeting up with former neighbors, college friends, childhood friends. It was a whirlwind of activity for us, most especially for hubby since he had to cram it all in 2 weeks while Raine and I extended our stay for an extra couple more. I’m thankful for the time we were able to spend in our hometowns with our families. Up to now, Raine still remembers Lolo and Annika. When she can’t sleep at night I tell her stories about our trip to the Philippines and she listens intently with her big round eyes and repeats the names of everybody back home.

It’s back to the daily grind for me and hubby here in the islands. Sigh, it was only a month but it was we’ll always cherish. ‘Til the next one in December!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Three strikes & you're ... blessed

We’re back in Majuro (Marshall Islands)! I thought surely I’d be able to blog a lot on our vacation but I was only able to post one entry during our month-long holiday. I wrote about our flight to Manila and now I’m writing about our trip back.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to pack light. I remember when Raine and I first traveled to MI we had two big suitcases and 1 balikbayan box and to think I’d already removed several clothes to lighten the load. This time I only repacked our 1 big suitcase twice, leaving behind a significant amount of clothes, mostly mine. The luggage weighed in at 49 lbs. (the limit was 50 lbs. for Continental Airlines). I’d hoped for at least 45 lbs. just in case our weighing scale was a bit off from the airport’s. Dad helped me with our luggage as I pushed Raine in her stroller. The person-in-charge of the scale was nowhere to be found so the airport employee just waved us thru to the check-in counters! Whew, I should’ve just added in my other clothes. Lucky strike 1!

As the Continental personnel checked my ticket she pointed out that our flight was at 11:20 a.m. that morning, not at 10:55 p.m. as I thought! Horror of horrors! How could I have been so stupid as to miss that??!! I had checked online earlier that day and I thought to myself the flight was a little delayed because the 10:55 had changed to 11:20. I didn’t realize that the other was a.m. while the other was p.m.! I was panicking inwardly but the personnel seemed calm and thought I could still get in the 10:55 flight that night. Thankfully, the flight to Guam (the first stop) wasn’t full. We were even told that instead of the 4 island stops we’d be making, there would only be three! Lucky strike 2!

I said my goodbyes to my Dad and after the requisite trip to the restroom to check Raine’s diaper, we headed for our gate. I saw Obet, our former seatmate on our trip from Majuro last month, he was taking the same flight too. What a coincidence, a familiar face. I had just a few pesos left on my prepaid number and texted friends, Hazel and Janis, a hasty farewell. We boarded the plane and it turns out that Obet was our seatmate again! I told him about my big booboo and he said I should actually feel fortunate because the 11:20 a.m. flight to Guam actually has a very long waiting period for the Majuro flight. The departure of the connecting flight was early morning of the next day! Airport rules don’t allow passengers to wait at the airport longer than 8 hours so Raine and I would have had to check into a hotel to await our flight the next day! I couldn’t believe it! Lucky Strike 3!

What I thought was going to be a flight of blunders turned out to be a blessing in the sky. ;-) Haha!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Flight Like No Other

I’m back with tons of stories to blog about! I haven’t been able to post anything for almost a month since we were busy preparing for our semi-impromptu trip back to the Philippines. We weren’t planning to take a vacation until December but due to hubby’s business requirements we decided to take a break from the island life and re-join the hustle and bustle of our native land.

Unfortunately, only hubby’s plane fare was covered by his company so for a while I wasn’t sure I would be able to join him and Raine (since Raine is below 2 her fare is only 10% of the adult rate). The plane fare from Marshall Islands is even more expensive than the fare from the Philippines to the U.S., would you believe?! Luckily, we were able to find someone who was selling his “miles” credits for half the price. The only catch was that the flight was not a direct one to Manila (i.e., Majuro-Guam-Manila), like the one Raine and I took last December coming to MI. It was a “hop-on” flight, which meant it would stopover on 4 other islands before landing in Guam and then Manila. Due to this, we were apprehensive that the flight would be too tiring for the little one. Hubby was familiar with the route and said it was pretty tiring and painful to the ears, what with the constant landing and taking off, every couple of hours. We prayed hard that Raine’s little ears would be able to take it.

The day of our departure we were up and ready before lunch for the 12:55pm flight. However, we found out that the plane was delayed and we would be leaving later in the afternoon. Continental had arranged for us and the other passengers to stay overnight in Guam due to the delay. We waited in the airport for about 4 hours as the time of departure kept getting pushed back further and further. It wasn’t a very comfortable wait since the airport didn’t have air conditioning or any form of entertainment to keep us occupied. But like most kids, Raine still found ways to amuse herself. I brought her two favorite stuffed toys and a few books to keep her entertained.

We finally took off at 5:30 pm. It was indeed a flight like no other, we felt like we were in a school bus with wings because every stop passengers would get off and new ones would take their place. From Majuro, we went to Kwajalein, then Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuk and finally Guam. At every stop, airport security checked the plane’s interiors and made sure all the carry-on baggage were accounted for.

Surprisingly, Raine was a good baby through all those stops. She slept most of the time, even during the landings while me and hubby were busy yawning and chewing gum to relieve our ears from the pressure. She was her usual inquisitive self, leafing thru the magazines, pulling on the tray table and giving our seatmate high-fives. She was a very happy baby, thank goodness. We arrived in Guam at 3 am and were billeted at the Hilton for the night.

Since our flight to Manila was at 6 pm we had time to rest and get our strength back from the looooong flight the previous day. We enjoyed the overflowing breakfast and lunch buffets at the Hilton and were even able to take in a little bit of pasalubong shopping thanks to a friend who drove us to the outlet stores.
The delayed flight turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we were able to recharge our weary bodies from the tedious "hop-on" flight in a 5-star hotel no less! Although I hope our return flight to MI won't be delayed, another free stay at the Hilton wouldn't be so bad either.