Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015: Manila, Philippines

Welcome to the year of the goat! (Or sheep, I have seen both used interchangeably here in China.) I know I'm a little behind on blogging, but better late than never right?!?

Chinese New Year is the celebration of the end of the lunar calendar.  Chinese New Year festivities traditionally run from Chinese New Year's Eve, the last day of the lunar calendar to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The first day of the lunar new year falls between January 21st and February 20th, this year it was on February 19th. The Chinese New Year festival is a time to honor deities and ancestors. There are many regional customs and traditions surrounding this festival. Often families gather for an annual family reunion dinner, houses are thoroughly cleansed to sweep away ill-fortune and make room for good luck. Houses are decorated in red for good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity. Many people also light fireworks and give money in red paper envelopes.

The CNY tradition for many expat families is simple - get out of China!  In the weeks leading up to the festival there is an exodus from the larger cities (where many people work) to the country (where their families live). During the festival there are fireworks being set off at all times of day/night (not great for  babies who are trying to sleep or parents who want their babies to sleep) and many stores/restaurants are closed. Thus expats decide to go else where to enjoy there time off work.
As I'm sure you gathered from the title, we headed to the Philippines to get in some much needed relaxation and sunshine. We had a bit of a rocky start, our flight out of Shanghai was delayed by a couple of hours. We finally made it to Manila (after a quick layover in Hong Kong) at about 9pm. But our bags, they were still in Hong Kong and wouldn't be arriving until 10:30pm and would have to be inspected/released after that. Neither J or I has ever had our luggage lost or delayed like this so we were not prepared. After checking in to our hotel, J had to find a store to buy Baby O some more formula and more diapers! Our  luggage was delivered to our hotel the next evening. In the future I'll be packing our carry on luggage with extra essentials, just in case.
We have to sit on the plane for TWO EXTRA hours!! Are you kidding me?!?

Baby O did a lot of walking in the aisle while we waited to take off.
We had two full days in Manila at the beginning of our trip and then about half a day at the end before our flight back to Shanghai. Our first day in Manila we went to the National Museum of the Philippines. There were two buildings, one with art and one with history and artifacts. We didn't spend as much time in the art building. But we did see some interesting works.
We spent most of the day looking through the Museum of the Filipino People. Here we saw an Ifugao House. Ifugao is a province on the main island of the Philippines. From the outside the house appears to be a pyramid on stilts, the interior had one room with a lofted area. It was more spacious than I thought it would be. The houses are built to blend in with the rice terrace surroundings.
There was a large exhibit on the San Diego. The San Diego was originally built as a trading ship, but needed to be quickly converted for a warship. On December 14, 1600 the galleon San Diego engaged in combat with the Dutch warship Mauritius approximately 900 meters from Fortune Island, Philippines. The San Diego couldn't handle the extra weight of the cannons and she sunk before firing a single shot at the Dutch. The ship stayed untouched at the bottom on the ocean until 1992 when French underwater archaeologies Frank Goddio discovered it. Goddio found approximately 34,000 artifacts that went on tour and now live at the Museum in Manila.
The next day we headed to the Intramuros district of Manila. The is the oldest district of Manila. This walled district is the original city of Manila. The wall was constructed by the Spanish Colonial Government in the late 16th century. The wall sustained a lot of damage in the second world war. Reconstructed started in 1951 after Intramuros was declared a national historic monument.
The fort wasn't too far from where we were staying but traffic in Manila is terrible,
 so Baby O had time to nap in the cab.
The first thing we visited in Intramuros was Fort Santiago, which was originally built in 1571. This fort was built to protect Manila from foreign invaders entering the Pasig River. Many lives were lost in the prisons at Fort Sangiago during the Spanish Colonial Period and World War II, most notably Jose Rizal.  Rizal is a national hero in the Philippines. He was tried with rebellion, sedition and conspiracy and convicted on all three counts. Rizal was executed at Fort Santiago on December 30, 1896.
After visiting Fort Santiago we walked through Intramuros, stopping at a couple of church's and for a nice lunch of Filipino food.
I wasn't actually this close to the chickens...I zoomed in :)
Both evenings we went to a mall called the Greenbelt for dinner. It seemed to be a huge mall but we only went to one area and I believe there were five different sections. It was kind of odd going from a neighborhood that wasn't that great to a mall that had Gucci, Micheal Kor's and similar fancy stores. The mall had some US chain stores and restaurants and everyone was speaking English too. It felt like we were in Southern California or Hawaii. It was comforting to know that we would be able to read the menu and that people would understand us, it definitely made the trip a little more relaxing.

At the end of our trip we had one last day (half a day really) and night in Manila before heading back to Shanghai. I don't think I took any pictures that day. We went to the Mall of Asia. It is the 4th largest mall in the world.  But you know, it didn't really seem that big to me. It did have an ice skating rink in it and I think we were only in two of the buildings. We got lunch and wondered around, but didn't by anything.

Next stop Alona Beach, Panglao Island.


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