The week of September 19th, 2010 was Chuseok (I think that if you say chew followed very quickly by suck, you’ll be in the correct ballpark as far as pronunciation), the Korean version of Thanksgiving. If I choose to flesh this out more at some point, I suppose I’d better look it up, but for now it is adequate to say that this holiday netted me a 4 day vacation from the unrelenting pain of working for a company that is slowly making it's turns around an emptying commode. To celebrate, I booked passage to the island of Boracay in the Philippines—a country that I admittedly know little about (and knew even less before my exploratory venture).
I know that back when Japan was King Shit they tossed MacArthur out of those islands and onto his ass, and also that there was some intense fighting that took place there as we slowly climbed back up from the bottom of the Pacific around that great fat equatorial girdle and all the way to Okinawa, just before we killed off Japanese resolve; along with several hundred thousand civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I know that Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1975 in Quezon City, Manila. The fight could be called Ali v. Frazier III, but is more popularly known as the Thrilla in Manila. Ali and Frazier pummeled each other for fourteen rounds in that epic tilt; two great burly behemoths—both past their prime—scrapping like beachmaster elephant seals on some rocky spit of shore with nothing but their harems looking on and barking in wonder and terror. ESPN’s SportsCentury series declared the bout the biggest sporting event of the twentieth century. Who am I to disagree?
I know that there are a large proportion of Filipinos who are pretty unhappy with the political situation in their country pretty much all of the time. In fact, some of them have taken to violence if you’d believe it, and nearly every foreign ministry, state department, or foreign affairs bureau in the world will warn their respective citizenry to avoid the dicey terrorist hotspots of mainland Mindanao, where kidnapping and other less savory felonies are commonplace.
I also know that Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady, once famously declared, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.”
I arrived in Manila in the sweaty morning on September 21, 2010, only to find that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is cooled almost uniformly to around 52° Fahrenheit. I had to be nimble with my clothing adjustments as I weaved indoors and outdoors while making my way from the monolithic PAL international terminal to the slightly less austere—and far newer—terminal 2.
Here followed three of the longest hours of my life as I was told repeatedly not to leave the gate where the plane I was to have boarded x amount of minutes/hours ago was still clearly not present, and therefore unlikely to begin boarding in a few short minutes as the gate attendant repeatedly claimed. I was hungry and more disgruntled than usual when the ATR 42-500 turboprop finally roared up above the gritty blacktop and tin roofs of Taguig and out over Laguna de Bay. En route.