They say the age of adventure is over, all roads have been traveled and all secrets have been uncovered.
I as a writer know this is not true. You have to blaze new trails and see new wonders or you become jaded and bored.
This is why I do not do my travel, as many do on the Internet. They surf the web in the comfort of their own homes and don’t even get their shoes dirty. They then think they understand the world.
This is why when I see something interesting in the news or yes, even on the net. I pack up my bags and head out to find out the truth for myself.
For example, I learned that for some reason Filipino’s who come to America do better and succeed better in business than many other minorities that come here.
So, in order to find out why this could be true I thought I would take a trip there and see what they were doing in the islands that we don’t do here in the States.
I was not expecting what I was to find or the things that were about to happen to me.
But, it changed the way I think about travel and how I do it now forever. Especially after the events, I experienced there.
Setting up to go was a breeze.
First, I contacted some business people down in Manila, which is the capital city of this island republic.
I was able to reach the head of one of the fast rising businesses I had heard about down there and they invited me down for a look-see.
I booked tickets with my usual travel agent Linda. She said it would be no problem to get me there in a day or so.
I thought this was a great idea, gave her my credit card info, and confirmed my tickets and I was set to travel in a couple of days.
I also took some precautions and got most of my money changed into travelers Checks and got a second wallet.
I also bought a pair of Dockers with deep pockets.
Things began to go south.
What I wasn’t aware of was that my flight would have a layover for the night in another city prior to making the trans-ocean hop.
To my dismay, I had a 12-hour stop over. So, I thought I would make the best of it and sleep in the airport.
Big mistake! I was uncomfortable and in the drafty air of the airport, I came down with something. I am still not sure what but I wasn’t feeling so hot by the time my connecting flight left for the Philippines.
The flight itself was pleasant enough but I wasn’t feeling well.
Arriving with a fever in the dark
When the plane landed at the Manila airport, I wasn’t myself and was feeling feverish.
It was night when we arrived and it was very dark outside the airport.
Instead of waiting for my hosts, I thought I would go to the hotel myself, as it was only a few miles away.
I flagged down a Jeepney, which is like and open back pickup truck that has two rows of facing benches and the driver is in an open cab.
Each Jeepney is distinctive and colorful as their owners.
I picked one with a lot of chrome and it could seat about eight comfortably.
Three men and a couple got in as well. We then set off.
Things go from bad to worse
I really wasn’t with it as well drove down the road.
We made a stop, the couple got off, and we continued. I lost track of the time. I slowly realized we were no longer in Manila and we were heading outside the city.
I was later to learn it was about 70 clicks in fact.
We entered another town or city. The Jeepney pulled off into a secluded area and stopped.
Now I began to wake to the fact that my trip had taken a wrong turn.
One of the three men produced a bolo, which is the tradition sugar cane knife used in its harvesting. It is a wicked looking knife and it the perfect intimidation or beheading tool.
I stayed seated as one I was not feeling so hot and two there were three men and at least one was armed.
He gestured at my camera, A Nikon F5; this was my main tool I used to record sights and color for my writing.
He meaning was clear. So without comment I passed it over. He next opened his hand in the universal gesture of “Give me your wallet.”
I reached into my Dockers and handed him my wallet. He seemed pleased and he smiled, as it had a couple of hundred dollars in small bills.
He smiled and gestured with the cane knife to the back of the Jeepney and I was being told to scram.
I made a move to take my carryon suitcase and he shook his head again smiling.
I took the hint and got out of the Jeepney, which then roared off with my wallet, suitcase, and camera.
I was in a strange country and a city of which I don’t even know the name. I also had a headache and fever.
But things could have been much worse.
My luck changed for the better.
I made my way into the city proper and discovered that I was in Angeles City, which is near the former Clarkton Air force base.
I was able to find a hotel called the Clarkton, obviously named after the former base.
I was able to get a hotel room with no problem as in my Dockers I had an inner pocket where I had secreted my passport, Travelers Checks, and my real wallet. You see I plan for trouble and it stood me in good stead.
I then spent the next two days getting over my fever and eating some of the best local food I’ve ever tasted.
The city was jumping as it is the home the the entertainment industry of the islands with numerous clubs and bars.
I bought a small portable camera and took pictures of everything and everyone.
The people were friendly and as I said, the food was great.
I was able to get a ride in one of the TUK TUK motorcycle taxis and was dropped off at a hotel in Makati, which is on the outskirts of Manila and close to the airport.
I found a local 7-11, which also doubled as a police station.
I changed some of my Travelers Checks to pesos and the hotel staff treated me like a king. I had a bodyguard assigned to me from hotel as I was informed I was a foreigner and there had been a rash of kidnappings. (You think!)
I smiled at this news. I however asked that I get the name of a club where I could get a beer, as 20 years previously, while in the Navy I had promised myself I would someday have a San Miguel beer (San Miguel is a popular beer)in the Philippines.
They sent a second bodyguard out with us, I had dinner and watched a dance show, and the owner of the club walked me back to my hotel as I let my bodyguards go home earlier in the evening.
I got back to my room and later on caught my plane for home cutting my trip short to do so. I never did meet up with my hosts. I cut my trip short. I had enough information for a book and I had a better understanding of the people than I ever would otherwise.
The islands are poor, people need cash from abroad, and they sell their labor abroad to bring in the money that the Philippines lacks.
The people are family oriented and family groups have cousins, aunts, uncles, and children galore.
They are probably the friendliest people on earth and the happiest.
So you see my being kidnapped was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me as I got to see the people in a way most travelers never experience. So, to me World Travel is for meeting people, eating the food, and the unexpected things that can happen
I wouldn’t be here today if not for the assistance I received and help that let me make it back home.
Would I go back the Philippines?
Yes, In fact I am thinking about retiring there. I love the food, beer, and the people.