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Horizons: Philippines - Southern Leyte 2010

Turtle, Southern Leyte, PhilippinesThe Return of Suzhou’s Prodigal Sun – Part 17 – “Attack of the Mutant Ninja Turtle!”

As the suntan peels off, under ferocious attack from Suzhou’s temperatures, which currently hover around zero, and dry calf skin itches under the desk, a barrage of continuous explosions detonate, rocking the deserted world that is Suzhou Industrial Park.

There are so few people around that it’s hard to see who might be setting off the fireworks, but they are; non-stop since 23.00hrs last night and it’s now 11.00hrs the next day. They may have stopped briefly in the small hours, although when I got up for a pee sometime around three, they were as loud as ever.

Chinese New Year is a few days behind us and it’s a little difficult to understand why last night and this morning (Wednesday and Thursday) should have been chosen for such extensive pyrotechnics. I’ve seen film of the conflicts in the Fireworks, Suzhou, China, Chinese New YearGaza Strip that had soundtracks more subdued than this. Anyone who didn’t know what was going on would be convinced there was a war or civil insurrection underway; the empty streets would further encourage the idea that the population were in hiding from roving combatant gangs.

Of course fireworks make up an important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, the idea being that last year ’s demons have got to be given a good hiding and that this year’s demons need to be given a sufficient deterrent for the next twelve lunar months. Well I guess by now the demons will have raging headaches and earache; they’ll have to spend at least a few days in bed to get over it!

This is the Year of the Tiger or, more correctly, the Golden Tiger. Andrea was born in the Year of the Tiger and thus it is her special year; unfortunately myth has it that Tigers don’t have such a good time in their own year, but I’m sure she’ll get over this and tackle it with her usual enthusiasm! Last year had 13 months and this next occurs in 2012-13,Andrea Kidd, Padre Burgos, Philippines which will be the Year of the Dragon, but the coming year only has 12; it is followed by the Year of the Rabbit.

We got back from the Philippines on Tuesday, having spent a most relaxing holiday, hanging out on the beach, snorkelling, walking and of course, for Andrea, some scuba diving. The temperature differential has been a little tough to cope with, we left Manila in a sweltering 30C, only to land three hours later to find patches of snow on the ground. We’re both hunkered up, spending a few days catching up on our administration issues, preparing for Andrea’s next semester and me trying to clear the desk to allow me to get stuck into my writing.

So, the odd title, “Attack of the Mutant Ninja Turtles”; well, stranger things have happened at sea, but it did prove an interesting experience, more information will follow further down the page!

Obviously most of this journal concerns itself with our recent holiday to the Philippines and particularly Southern Leyte, where we spent the bulk of the time. Having returned from England on the Friday afternoon, before twenty-four hours were up I was back in the air for Manila. It has to be said that I remained jetlagged for the first half of our holiday but that doesn’t matter too much when you’re spending a lot of time on the beach. It became apparent that I was a little out of it when I woke up one hour into the Philippines Airlines flight only to find we were still on the runway, held up by bad weather and air traffic control. After twelve hours sitting on the London-Shanghai leg, the addition of an hour to the nominally three hour flight was very unwelcome; it was also a crowded flight and there was little space to breathe.

Manila, slums, Philippines, shanty townManila seems to present a different face at every turn and the taxi took us through a very ropey area of town to get to our hotel. Once there we were advised it was unsafe to go out in darkness and use the nearby ATM, something that had to be left until the following day and even then it didn’t feel particularly comfortable.

We stayed in the Heritage Hotel for a night at the start and end of our holiday. The place does not have a great write up on Trip Advisor but, due to its proximity to the airport and the fact that most other hotels (except the dead posh 5 star ones) have equally poor write-ups, we had opted to stay there. It has to be said that the staff were wonderful, our first night’s room was very good and that on our last night the room had a bed the size of a tennis court; it is also very conveniently located and offers a shuttle bus to the SM Mall – supposedly the best mall in South-east Asia.