~ Honeymoonerbirds and Dinner with the Chief
Miniloc, Friday (cont'd from last week)...
During our stay here, we've been intently observing the fascinating habits of what I've come to think of as the not-so-rare Korean Honeymoonerbird. Until Thursday evening brought the weekend crowd of Filipinos and other foreigners, the other guests at the resort were exclusively these quiet young couples from South Korea. Never seen individually, these pairs enjoy adorning themselves in matching plumage (Tommy Hilfiger logo shirts, shorts, and sandals), along with their shiny bright new wedding rings. Their decision to honeymoon on a remote tropical island is truly puzzling, given their intense aversion to rain, water, and sun, which they guard against by slathering on layers of sunscreen before donning hat, skirt, and sometimes a plastic poncho prior to snorkeling. Watching the females of the species alternately teetering and sinking step by step from beach bar to cabana in 4-inch high heels confirms my suspicion that this flock may have been blown off course in a fog of connubial bliss. Clearly their intention was to vacation someplace more like Helsinki, for example, where sunburns are less likely, and matching track suits on a Sunday morning are the height of fashion.
The plus side of their flocking instinct, though (the whole group takes all of their off-island excursions together, as a giant gaggle of 12-20), is that the four of us practically have the resort to ourselves whenever they are out. Since Butch and Joel are more of the "vacations are for relaxing" school of thought, our guide has really only had to keep track of me and Mik. Mostly Mik, though, who hasn't been more relaxed and happy in months, even when bouncing from kayak to fishing to hiking to climbing, leaving everyone watching him breathless and prompting Butch to ask, "Has he always been like this?"
I don't think we've made it to 9 pm on any night while on the island, often not even being able to finish reading the 1-page local bedtime story left on our bed every night. But on the other hand, we've set out every morning by 6 am for some kind of hiking, fishing, or paddling. Windsurfing (which I sat out) and sailing on the Hobiecat were sort of a bust, since the winds were funky, but everything else has been fantastic. I snorkeled and kayaked just about every day, but we also went on a great hike up to a lookout post on one of the other islands (with a gorgeous sunrise view of the surroundings, which we shared with some monkeys), had a delicious barbecue lunch on the same island, fished and swam on another, and explored a set of caves on a third. For the first time, I've run into a couple of situations when I've just wanted to take off my belly for a bit and let someone else take care of my little passenger for a while: in the caves when Mik got to climb to see the rest of the caverns and I was left stamping my feet like a little kid saying, "I wanna go too"; and during dusk at the end of every day, freshly showered after being out in the sun doing stuff since sunrise, when normally the only thing left to do is to order a San Miguel Beer at the beach bar in your bare feet. I tried substituting various fresh juice mocktails, which, though delicious and nutritious, just ain't the same thing.
It was tough to leave this most-perfect vacation destination, with amazing nature, plenty to do, and a staff that was friendly and attentive without being overbearing and obsequious in the way of some posh resorts. Abet (our guide) made me a goofy coconut leaf hat with dangling birds, fish, and grasshopper a la anglerfish before we left, and the activities staff sang us a goodbye song as we pulled away from the dock. Mik's been starting many sentences with, "Next time we come..." and "When we come with the baby..." for a few days now, so I'm sure we'll be back.
General Gene and Dinner with the President
Soon after returning to Manila, Tito Joel got a message from my aunt Judith, saying she and my aunt Imelda had invitations for me and Mik to attend a parade and dinner honoring yet another uncle, who was recently appointed Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces. Mik, having been in the army and more savvy to the honor, thankfully insisted that we attend at least the dinner, as I was on the verge of declining and opting to have a quiet night instead. It turned out to be a lot of fun and quite a 'do,' not only because of the dignitaries present (more stars on shoulders than you could shake a stick at, mayors, congressional types, and all 4'11" of President Arroyo herself), but also because most of my mom's maternal side of the family were there, as were a contingent of my parents' high school classmates (the General and my parents were in the same high school class).
At 30 years old, I'm finally starting to feel like I have a handle on my extended family. My maternal grandmother alone had 12 siblings, so I'm sure you can appreciate my being daunted by the task. With the exception of the teenagers and kids, who were babies or not even born when we left the Philippines, I think I did a pretty good job of remembering who was who, and introducing Mik appropriately. Between seeing a large number of relatives at this dinner, and then most of my Papa's side of the family at two Sunday lunches with my paternal grandmother, we were very lucky to be able to say hello to so much family during such a short time in Manila. I think Mik may have been a little stunned to meet so many "new" people related to me, who in fact I know pretty well, some of them having grown up with my parents or having spent summers at our house when I was little. Add the supplemental network of family friends and neighbors who have known me since I was in diapers as well, and it adds up to a lot of people with a lot of interest in the baby-to-be.
We capped it all off on our last day with another massage at Sonya's Garden and dinner at another beautiful, secluded restaurant called Antonio's. I have no idea how Butch and Tito Joel find these amazing places, but we're so grateful to them for being such great hosts on this trip, which I'm now realizing may be the last real pre-baby hurrah for me and Mik. With no other trips planned for the rest of the year, the thought of being "grounded" until the baby is born is admittedly a little depressing, but I'm also looking forward to getting some rest, not having constant jetlag, and having a normal schedule for a little while. Next week, I'll be writing once again from the Beej, where I'm sure I'll be going through withdrawal symptoms of all kinds...