Special Moments @ SM . MOA


Official Entry to the SM Hypermarket Blog Writing Contest

SM Supermarket - 7

I hate supermarkets. I drag my feet every time my wife would suggest to go to one. I don’t like to go from one aisle to another in search for diapers or milk. Most of the supermarkets in Manila are not designed for you to hang around. The only time I would go to one would be to do a store check of our products as part of work. I also do shelf management for supermarkets so every time I go to a supermarket, it reminds me of that work. Maybe, I hate supermarkets because I don’t like following a certain routine or I don’t cook at all (surprisingly). My wife can attest to the number of arguments and negotiations just to convince me to shop in a supermarket on a weekly basis.

There is only one supermarket that I love going to. I love going to SM Hypermarket in Mall of Asia which I think is the best supermarket in Manila!

Top 8 Things Why We Love SM Hypermarket in MOA

1. SM Hypermarket in MOA, is Aidan’s playground. You should hear Aidan say “Papa, go SM” with a paawa effect facial expression. We love it because it is spacious, and there is enough carts with this little Tykes car. We never had a problem getting one of these cars even on a peak hour like Sunday evening. We would imagine that this is the MOA race circuit for Aidan and racing through the food section, to the non food, all the way to the apparel and appliance section. Going to SM is a special bonding moment for the entire family.

2. Best Value for Pampers. We know that the prices in SM are a little bit higher than Cash and Carry, Puregold, Shopwise or Robinson’s which are SM’s competitors in the Mall of Asia catchment area. We live in the area and my wife would alternate between Cash and Carry or Puregold to get the best deals. But buying the Pamper’s XL 34’s with free 6 pads is more than enough motivation to go to SM Hypermarket. We know that this is the best place to buy Pampers and Mr. Sy would ensure that it stays that way.

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3. Exclusive Foodie Products like Mother Earth. We know that you have to drive all the way to Pampanga just to buy Mother Earth goodies. Also, you can get most of the delicacies in the Philippines in SM MOA if you are craving for one. They also have Cebu Lechon available in Taste Asia beside the Supermarket. They have a wide assortment of fresh products that are very competitive in price even vs. Cash and Carry.

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4. Big and Breathable. We usually shop during peak hours and we don’t have any problem with it. The hypermarket has high ceiling and offers breathable spaces for you to relax if you want to avoid the crowd. We would go to the apparel and appliance section if we want to do a leisure drive around the hypermarket. Check out lines are short and we are always the second in line. There was no occasion where we have to wait 30 minutes or more in the check outs.

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5. Retailtainment Live. There are a lot of entertaining demo booths like this Knorr Kitchen or Anlene’s Calcium Check up. If I want to be in touch with competitors activity in the supermarkets, I just need to go to SM MOA and you’ll already get a sense of the battle for consumer minds. We also like the high tech price barcode checkers located strategically around the supermarket. There are a lot of exciting innovations happening in MOA so the shopping experience is “unique” every time you go there and not the usual boring shopping list routine.

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6. Kids Essentials Heaven. After the race around the supermarket, we would have a pit stop in Kids Essentials area where Aidan can check out all the toys. There is an extensive assortment of toys made from China so some of the prices are reasonable. This pit stop is risky because we might end up buying a toy for Aidan that is expensive with no canvassing being done by my wife.

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7. Parking was never a problem. The best part is parking was never a problem except when it rains heavily. We usually change to a normal supermarket cart where Aidan can sit and we would run to the parking lot with the cart. Usually, I hate bringing the “stuff” and load it at the back of the car but not when it becomes another special bonding occasion between you and your son.

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8. Taste Asia, still the Best Kept Secret in Mall of Asia. I’ve raved about Taste Asia @ MOA about a year ago. Since then, they now have an airconditioned area and they still serves the best of the Philippines. It is a Dampa with a Tiendesitas concept where you can find Filipino delicacies and food that you would crave for. Where can you find delicious filipino food at only P500 where you get pancit canton, sisig, pusit and pinakbet good for 5 people? We love eating Sunday Dinner here and in the end, may take-out pa.

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For us, SM really stands for Special Moments Hypermarket. Thanks to SM for being part of our lives. We are looking forward to more excitement in your store….


Related Posts:
Be updated and interact with SM Hypermarket through their blog

SM Hypermarket Blog Writing Contest
Taste Asia @ MOA- Best Kept Secret in Mall of Asia

Join us in Bloggers Party at Taste Asia on August 23
What: SM Hypermarket Invites Bloggers to Party!
When: August 23, 2007, Thursday, 7:30 pm
Who: bloggers of any size, age, status or whatever
How: Just leave a comment on my blog or any of the coordinators blogs
Why: Party and awarding ceremonies for the winner of the SM Hypermarket blog writing contest
Where: Taste of Asia (beside SM Hypermarket), SM Mall of Asia

13 thoughts on “Special Moments @ SM . MOA

  1. thanks to SM baby aidan is looking bigger better healthier cutier my attention was taken by the color-products stocking coordinations it has a calming effects the place looks well organized extremely clean with tidy effects
    huge food platter servings just like hawaii aidan’s plastic toy car looks cool him in it aidan is just charming cuddly looking mighty boy LOL!

  2. hi anton!
    i’ve been a lurker for a long time now. however, i can’t help but de-lurk and comment. 🙂 isn’t sm hypermarket the supermarket where the cashiers are also the baggers making checking out takes twice as long? or am i mistaking this for another supermarket?

  3. @ggmahoney — Yeah he loves the plastic toy car…
    @sp — I believe it is the same. Surpringly, the check outs in Mall of Asia are quite fast despite the fact that the cashiers are the baggers. We usually only buy 20 pieces per shopping trip, so it is really fast.

  4. personally…..i am an SM mall lover my experiences in SM malls are truly wonderful ‘maybe not’ with some few non chalant sales ladies but that is the fault of the managers not the mall itself i admire almost all things SM malls offers considering it’s low low prices but good better better qualities in return they made sure their employees are neat-presentable too they PAY RIGHT TAXES AND ON TIME NOW to help upgrade philippines poor thru their other social donations-contributions i appreciate ‘SM malls companies’for their EXTRA efforts to make sure their employees are looking great at workplaces it is sometimes overwhelming to meet salesladies who look like hollywood stars-international models serving LOL!

  5. The SM Hypermarket at MOA is really huge! They have a lot of check-out counters and the cashiers are fast even if they are the ones bagging the groceries. The staff are very helpful and friendly!

  6. dear mighty baby aidan: i would like you to be the first outside my own home to know my best kept ‘menu’ secret it is a secret because it is too personnal{for me}i do not cook it just for anyone. i hope you’ll try and like it as i do……………menu:……..’my first love’………
    4 pcs. lean pork chops
    4 full spoons of lemon{liquid}
    1 tablespoon knorr or swiss powder
    little enough table salt
    much more than little ground pepper
    cooking oil
    wash pork chops well then wash it last with lemon liquid but don’t drain lemon use it instead to marinate the meat later after lemon put small quantity of table salt in each meat then cover the meat with knorr powder evenly then cover it again with pepper then let it settle in it’s lemon sauce as you heat oil in frying fan set in HIGH-medium heat when hot enough fry the meat very red on both sides without the lemon sauce{don’t turn meat over unless it’s already red to keep knorr powder intact}then pour all left over lemon sauce tapos use less than 1/2 cup water to rinse yung natirang lemon sauce sa container para idagdag but only after turning meat tapos takpan mo still in HIGH-medium heat then wait 1 or 2 minutes??? or before all the sauce dry{must have some sauce}


  8. Speaking of mall of asia, maybe you would like to visit Carlo’s Pizza Mall of Asia. From the northwing parking, it’s right beside goldilocks before you hit the hypermarket 🙂

  9. MOA is definitely the best…andito na lahat!!!
    Thanks to Anton nga pala for posting his “gala moments” with us….mwuah!!!

  10. might sound ridiculous…..but having ‘ not ‘ so beautiful-handsome sales clerks ‘ but fix ‘ up-made up well{personalities-outside appearances}as if they are hollywood movie stars international fashion models of standards will help guaranteed-increased your sales at the end of the year…..sales clerks are like your window displays they’re your fashion statements indirectly but visually they’re your quality samples of what you can offer they’re your informal representatives-ambassadors to your unnoticeable-uninteresting products they are the silent gateways-door openers to consumers even without saying welcome and hello……try the maximum effects but make ups-personalities must have a natural effects TOO…..

  11. Dear Anton,
    Love your blog I just discovered through Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel website (where an entry on travel to the RP mentioned local blogs as a good source of info on the country and that linked to you). I try to blog to a few friends during my annual trips to the RP where I plan to retire within the next couple of years. What pasted in here below is one of my first entries from 2005.
    I hope to follow your fine work which reminds me of so many good times I have had and alerts me to ones I can plan for in the future.
    Avenue Q is currently playing here in LA. I saw it in Las Vegas about a year ago and loved it too. I saw it was coming to Manila when I was there in July and I’m so sorry I’m missing it. I did have a great time, however, at Cinemalaya this year. Love SM MOA too, it’s spaciousness, cleanliness and, especially, the big ice rink and the view of Manila Bay, make it very contentment-inducing. For energy, however, SM Megamall is still my favorite.
    Looking to retire to the Dumaguete-Valencia area on Negros where I’ve cultivated friends. Trying to write up my latest trip as part of a piece on African Americans living in the RP. My article traces Af-Am history in the Philippines going back to 1899 and, among others, the Af-Am “Buffalo Soldiers” (9th and 10th Cavalry) who were sent to the archipelago as part of the forces ordered to put down the fight for freedom of the Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo. A good number of those soldiers, David Fagen, being the most famous, deserted to the Filipino side sympathizing with a fellow “colored” race seeking self-determination. From those who deserted and those who loyally served the US, came African American men who settled permanently in the Philippines and their descendants have been there ever since. The tradition of black US military once posted to the Philippines retiring there has persisted right through the base closings to the present time. I’ve met a number of such guys. I’m going to join them there in “paradise” as soon as I can.
    Thanks again for your entertaining and informative work.
    Best regards,
    Eugene “Gene” Boggs
    Roy Boggs wrote:
    Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 15:08:29 -0800 (PST)
    From: Roy Boggs
    Subject: A Humble Tribute to Max Soliven
    To: editor@philstar.net.ph
    CC: joyce.guevarra@yahoo.com
    Dear Ms. Bana and Ms. Guevarra:
    First, if I have forwarded this transmission to you in error, please forgive me and please pass it on to the appropriate person. I couldn’t find a clear “contact” link on the website for letters to the editor or messages of tribute and condolence for Mr. Soliven, so I’m sending to you both.
    I’m writing, as so many have, to pay my respects to Max Soliven. I first came to the Philippines in 1989, to work as a classroom teacher supervisor at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center, the huge Southeast Asian refugee camp that operated for many years on Bataan, south of Subic Bay. It was then that first came to read The Star and Mr. Soliven. I’ve been a fan and even after I returned to the US, I remained a fan. He was simply the best journalist, day-in-and-day-out, I’ve ever read.
    I’m not a professional journalist myself. I’m a retired law professor. But, I’ve “dabbled” in journalism having been a contributing correspondent to the media watch “supersite,” http://www.MediaChannel.org. I’ve also had some pieces in the Los Angeles Times and am active in the Black Journalists Association of Southern California. I’m an African American and I must say one of the abiding themes of Mr. Soliven’s work that drew me to him was his unwavering championing of the poor and marginalized in Filipino society. As a Harvard AB and UC Berkeley JD degree holder, Mr. Soliven’s erudition was a source of awe. His brilliant writing and unflinching courage were always inspiring. I didn’t agree with his position on the death penalty, but his forceful arguments on the issue in the context of trying to bring political stability and national unity to the Philippines made me think.
    Again, like so many people around the world, I read his column online religiously every day. It was always a gem of literary art and civic principle. I’ve been planning my retirement in the Philippines for several years now, and to the end, returned to the country in May-June, 2005, for the first time in 15 years. In no small part due to the inspiration of Max Soliven as a constant observer of all things Filipino and the broader world as well, I kept a daily “blog” of my trip (a trip I repeated this past May and June). I’m passing on one of the early entries because it’s a good Christmas fit since it involves what amounted to a “family” reunion, namely, my return to the family from whom I had rented a house in the town of Morong on the South China Sea coast while working at PRPC. The Sulangis are my Filipino family.
    Please extend my deepest condolences to the Soliven Family. For all Sir Max meant to me and so many, I can only add my “Maraming salamat po” to that of the multitudes of others around the world who admired him.
    Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!
    Yours sincerely,
    Roy Eugene Boggs, Jr.
    rboggs@sbcglobal.net, http://www.eugene-boggs.com
    Culver City, California
    Roy Boggs wrote:
    Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2006 04:47:03 -0800 (PST)
    From: Roy Boggs
    Subject: Fwd: Philippines Chronicle, Entry 4
    To: rboggs@sbcglobal.net
    Roy Boggs wrote:
    Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2005 01:33:32 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Roy Boggs
    Subject: Fwd: Philippines Chronicle, Entry 4
    To: Angie
    So glad I can be of service helping you fight boredom on the job. The attached photos:
    11: the Sulangi Family and me, reunited after 15 years in front of the house my wife and I rented from them.
    21: Subic Bay below our road north away from the former refugee camp site into the former naval base not a free trade zone.
    22: Bats!
    25: Carlo, my driver and roadside monkeys.
    36: Pig with big balls (on the road back to Angeles).
    Roy Boggs wrote:
    Date: Thu, 9 Jun 2005 08:43:13 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Roy Eugene Boggs, rboggs@sbcglobal.net
    Philippines Chronicle Entry 4: A Sentimental Journey.
    “Oh, the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga!
    The monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga!
    The monkeys have no tails.
    They were bitten off by whales.
    Oh, the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga!”
    The above-quoted lyrics are from a supposed US Navy drinking song, title and authenticity unknown. It was performed in John Ford’s classic docudrama depicting the Patrol Torpedo Boat service in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II, “They Were Expendable,” one of my all-time favorite films. I’m a member of an undoubted minority among movie buffs who think John Ford’s strongest films were his sea pictures rather than his westerns and that John Wayne is most moving and convincing as a man of the sea rather than a cowboy (except for his work in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “True Grit,” and “The Shootist”). In “They Were Expendable,” Wayne is at once brave and heartwarmingly human, especially in his scenes with Donna Reed. See him in Ford’s “The Long Voyage Home” as well, and in “The Sea Chase” and “In Harm’s Way.” Ford was a former naval officer and his sea films are compellingly informed by his love of the sea. I don’t think he was ever a cowboy. The point of all this will reveal itself in the course of tonight’s ramblings.
    So, on with it. I need a full night’s sleep tonight, so I’m getting this started early. It’s 6:49 pm here in Angeles City on Thursday, 8 June. Another film allusion coming: Remember the “Great Rendezvous” of the mountain men in “Jeremiah Johnson”? The guys who assemble in this town have that same feral quality. The good citizens of the contemporary western of record on TV today, “Deadwood,” would also be sympatico with these guys. One can see them out trapping beaver and taking scalps. Among the Americans, I doubt that there’s a single Democrat in the lot. I’m happier here in the computer room with the Filipinas e-mailing their penpals than bar hopping with this lot. What is the story with me?! Am I really gay, but have never had the guts to come to grips with the truth about myself? I do see an inordinate amount of theatre for a straight man. And look at this veritable hen party I have as a correspondence group. Oh well…
    Today I hired a car and driver to take me south to the Bataan peninsula. I wanted to visit my old residence site in Morong, the village on the South China Sea below the Philippine Refugee Processing Center where my then-wife, Francesca, and I had worked for a unexpectedly short time of eight months from July, 1989 through February, 1990. I wanted to see if our old landlords, friends and general protectors, the Sulangi Family, were still there.
    I’d arranged the car hire yesterday. The price was stiff, P3,500, nearly $70. But the alternative was a day of exhausting bus rides, several on what we called “chicken buses,” the un-air-conditioned vans that serve the smallest Philippine hamlets. Your seatmate (assuming you have a seat) on such a vehicle is as likely to be a goat as a person. I paid the money for the car and driver. I paid cash.
    At 10:00 am promptly my driver, a young (mid-to-late 20s), slightly hefty guy named Carlo appeared with a little white Honda sedan appearing of 1980s vintage (in other words, barely broken in, as I kiss up to the Honda Motor Company). I hadn’t had any breakfast and wanted no part of the hotel’s restaurant (as I saw the shorts and rubber flipflops gathering for another day of whoring). Carlo suggested we stop at the local mall (where else?) and get breakfast at the food court. The Angeles Robinson’s Mall is tiny in comparison to the European principality-size consumption centers I saw in Manila, but it’s still pretty impressive with several tiers of shopping passages and a wide assortment of stores. Before getting food, I needed a gift for the Sulangis wrapped. Carlo guided me to a school supply and stationary store. I was going to buy gift wrap and tape to do the wrapping myself when I saw a young saleswoman wrapping another customer’s item. I decided to have her do mine. By the way, she was beauty queen beautiful, maybe 18 or 19. She used elaborate origami-like folds and pinking shears to cut the paper. She added a pink bow to finish her work of art. The price for this moment in heaven: P20. She beamed as I tipped her an extra 3 pesos. This country can break your heart before the day has even gotten going.
    None of the food court stalls or fast food outlets had an American-style breakfast menu and I wasn’t in the mood for KFC and rice for breakfast. Carlo would, of course, have been fine with that. I opted to go to the big supermarket in the mall where I got a bottle of water, some nonfat yogurt, an apple and some sort of chocolate cake that negated all the good of the yogurt and apple. I got Carlo his chicken and fries which he insisted on taking to go even though he was driving. We were off on what he loved calling our “road trip.”
    I showed Carlo my 2005 map of the Subic-Bataan area, showing how we get to Morong by driving to the Subic Economic Zone (or whatever the new name is for the industrial and free trade center conversion of the former Subic Naval Base). From Subic we could continue through the once-highly-restricted-but-now-open “back road” south of Subic into Bataan’s Morong district. The road would take us right to the former refugee camp site (which has likewise been converted into a bio-eco technology park) and thence on further south to the town of Morong itself. We’d save hours and about 100km otherwise entailed in driving the old route south from Angeles to Dinalupihan, along the eastern Manila-Bay-bordering road south to Balanga, then west across the Peninsula to Bagac, then north up to Morong.
    Carlo listened politely to my plan, consulted a couple of times with tricycle drivers along the road, and opted to go the long way which he insisted would be shorter. The tricycle drivers knew nothing of the back road and Carlo, though a native and life-long resident of Angeles in Pampanga, the contiguous province just to the north of Bataan, had never been to Bataan some 20km to the south and Morong might just have well been Manaus on the Amazon. I wasn’t driving and I’d paid a flat fee so I just sat back, spooned down my mango yogurt and watched the endless crowds of the most wholesome school children walking beside the road. They look so delightfully wholesome to me because of their uniforms and grooming. All the boys are in white shirts and dark trousers, short pants for small boys. No braids, dreads, low hanging pants, backward caps or hooded sweatshirts. The girls are all in white blouses, full, ankle-length skirts either solid dark blue, maroon, or some school-identifying plaid. No dreads, no cornrows, no bare midriffs, no makeup, no CD players, no platforms. I teach in LA’s schools. I know these wretchedly poor Filipino kids in their chronically underfunded schools serving an exploding youth population are getting a better education than they’d get in LAUSD.
    Carlo and I got along famously as we headed south. We talked a lot about the Angeles “scene.” He agreed with me that the foreign johns were a sorry lot and that the local people largely held them in contempt. Their money was needed and the bar girls were nice girls form the provinces who, with limited opportunities even if educated, had none without college degrees, were, in Carlo’s words, simply “being practical” when they became bargirls. Carlo was surprised but admiring that my tastes lay elsewhere. He was particularly appreciative of my egalitarian choice to join him in the front seat and not to spit orders at him to drive faster and go this way and that as had been his experience with some of his more boorish clients.
    We followed, in reverse, the route of the infamous Bataan Death March of April, 1942, during which untold hundreds of American and Filipino prisoners of war, survivors of the defense of Bataan and the Manila Bay fortress island of Corregidor, were subjected to a brutal forced march in the blistering heat of the Philippine dry season from the last battle sights in the middle and south of Bataan some 100km north to the plains town of Tarlac (I think). Those who survived were to be prisoners for more than three years at the now-infamous, prisoner-of-war camp at Cabanatuan. The Japanese guards were not schooled in the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners, but they were thorough students of the Japanese Warrior Code of Bushido. To them, a soldier who allowed himself to be taken prisoner was a shameful coward. That contempt combined with the frustation of not being equipped to move the thousands of soldiers facing them, resulted in innumerable shootings, clubbings, bayonetings and beheadings of stragglers, the crippled, wounded and water seekers, American and Filipino. If anything still unites Filipinos and Americans it is this common wartime Calvary on this otherwise unremarkable road.
    Carlo drove Filipino style which he explained with a laugh means “there are no rules” as he made a U turn out of a back-to-back stream of traffic directly into an opposing stream of back-to-back traffic. Not a single driver objected. I relaxed and munched on my apple.
    At the mid-peninsula town of Balanga we turned right and headed west across the peninsula and over the mountain range that runs down the middle of Bataan like a spine. To the south,our left now, rose Mt. Samat, the still-heavily-forested, war-memorial-cross-crowned peak that is the highest point on the peninsula. As we rose into the mountains along a road marked with memorials to the valiant defenders of 1942, the air cooled. This is the climate I’m hoping to find in Valencia outside Dumaguete on the Visayan island of Negros. I think with that upland tropical climate and reliable, fiber-optic-transmitted broadband access, I’ll be in my dream retirement site. We’ll see next week.
    We descended, turned right and drove north along the South China Sea coast past what had been the Westinghouse power plant (and is now a government-operated power installation) and into Morong. It was about 1:00 pm. We stopped at a gas station where a group of young men were gathered among their peddle and gas-powered tricycles. I showed them the photos I’d brought of the Sulangi family from my time there nearly sixteen years ago. They recognized them immediately and directed us toward their house and little sari-sari store, a place New Yorkers call a bodega. We pulled up and I was back in front of the house in which I’d lived during my honeymoon year with my wife while we provided worked at the refugee camp. It had been enlarged, but was othewise much the same. Just to the left of the house’s front yard was
    the Sulangi store’s steel bar grill through which one spoke one’s request, paid for it, and was passed the purchase. Aurora Sulangi, the daughter the elder Sulangi was taking a siesta fast asleep behind the counter when I knocked on the grill and awakened her. She rubbed her eyes as she awoke, a woman now in her 50s, who looked puzzled and annoyed at this black foreign stranger addressing her in the always-annoying English language. Then I repeated my name and her smile of recognition spread across her face. She called in her now-quite-elderly-and-nearly toothless mother, Mrs. Maria Sulangi (now I call her “Dona” (“Donya” phonetically, the Spanish term of respect for a matriarch, the correct accent for which, this e-mail word process cannot produce). Aurora’s brother, Edward, also was also out back and as he came in we were a mass of hugs and laughs. They also asked immediately after my ex-wife. “How is Francesca?,” they said. Her name came to them immediately. They’d truly loved her as everyone did, except me it seems. I told them that we were divorced, for some six years now. We got caught up. Aurora or Edward’s daughter (I’m not sure which), Lea, who, as a reed-thin pre-adolescent girl, had earned her own money doing our laundry, was now married and living in Manila. Aurora also had a sister now living in Manila. Sadly, Mr. Sulangi, Dona Maria’s husband, had died about five years ago. He’d been an-always mirthful, James Stewart-like man who was as nice a family head as one is ever likely to meet. I told them that I was back in the country looking to retire there. They were eager to help me. A town that had no telephones 16 years ago now is full of cell phone owners and the Sulangis gave me their numbers for which I gave them my card in return. This was a big step for me on the road to a successful relocation here. This is a traditional, family-centered society. No one, even amid the 10 million souls of Manila goes through life as a loner. I need a family to call mine to have a real place in this world. With my return, I became one of them forever, and in this respect I am like MacArthur.
    I’d brought a token present for the old lady, the item so artfully wrapped earlier today. Mrs. Sulangi didn’t open it in my presence as is the custom. When she finally does open it, she’ll find a long, narrow black-velvet-covered box containing a diamond bracelet. Now wait a minute, it’s a very cheap diamond bracelet with microscopicly small diamonds, albeit somehow actually faceted by some truly astounding, unknown drone in China. Still, the bracelet comes with a certificate of the “stones'” authenticity. I think she’ll like it, or at least the gesture. I wish I’d thought to bring something for Aurora as well, but I can send her something now that I know where she is. As we talked, I learned we are kindred spirits. She’s an early retiree from her teaching position as well. Something about the project with which she was associated being defunded. Now she works at the sari-sari store. I could be next.
    After a nice visit of about a half hour with Carlo helping the communication with timely translations for old Mrs. Sulangi whose English was always very limited, we bade the home folks adieu and headed north and up the hill to the east to the plateau site of what once was the Philippine Refugee Processing Center and is now the Bataan Technology Park. The check point at the end of the winding road up the plateau is much the same as it had been 16 years ago. The security guard waved us on after being told by Carlo that I was a former PRPC worker making a sentimental journey. Once on the site, I was astounded by the change. First the site is a technology park now in pretty much name only. Little appeared to be going on though there are some new buildings and some people are sweeping here and there. Perhaps these new buildings are hiding a storm of eco-bio innovation Manhattan Project-like. For the sake of the local economy I hope so. Losing the naval base to the north and this camp knocked the stuffing out of the jobs picture in Bataan, long an economic step-child in the Philippines. Indeed, as we toured the peninsula Carlo remarked on how “old school” life was there. This is a centuries-old land of rise paddies and fierce-looking-but-ever-gentle carabao being led about by five year olds through the fields for another day of drayage. Carlo speculated he’d get bored quickly living in Bataan. He’s a kid from the mean streets of Angeles. He likes the action, the chaos. He was grateful to me for giving him a first look at this “different world” two hours drive from his home.
    At the main plaza of the camp, still called Freedom Plaza, but no longer sporting the flag poles that once announced the camp’s Filipino, UN, US and South Vietnamese affiliations if memory serves. I took a couple of my new digital photos. We drove on toward the back road north into the Subic Free Port Zone. What struck me most was how the camp had, true to the tropics, returned almost completely to its natural state since its closing over a decade ago. Areas that had been completely clear of everything but grass were now thick with trees, not saplings, but substantial trees with thick trunks. One could hardly tell that row upon row of refugee living quarters, “billets” as the stable-like structures were referred to, had been there. Where had the Vietnamese-refugee-restaurant, Pho, been? I couldn’t tell.
    Once through the back gate at the north end of the camp site, we were in country new to both Carlo and me. The fine, American-made road presented stunning vistas of the incomparable Subic Bay below us to the north before descending into thick bamboo and timber forest that had been a training site for US counter-insurgency and jungle warfare for Navy SEALs, Special Forces, the Marines and the like. Accordingly in its Navy days this road had been completely off limits to low level, NGO grunts like me working at the camp. To get to Subic in those days, I either had to take a small outrigger motor boat called a banca from the beach just north of Morong (at an even smaller village called Sabang) to Subic, a sometimes challenging voyage of about an hour, or one could take buses back around reversing the way Carlo and I had come, all the way to Olongapo. That’s about a four-hour trip. This back road journey to the base center takes about 30 minutes.
    Along the back road we encountered some wonderful sites. The trees along the road at one point were being circled by hundreds of large bats. I’d never seen so many. Further down the road a pride? herd? school? barrel? of monkeys were sitting by the road. Several other vehicles stopped by the side of the road to take pictures were joined by ours as Carlo and I snapped away shots of ourselves with the monkeys in the same shot. We didn’t try to feed them which I fear others had done in the past. That would explain the monkeys’ just sitting looking at us at the roadside. They were waiting for a handout (Democrat-style you say?). I didn’t notice if the monkeys had tails or not as they were sitting on their haunches in fairly high grass. I guess they did since they weren’t Mindanao monkeys.
    It was about 2:00 pm then. We were driving through the former base housing areas. This is typical US base territory, a bit of the US reproduced down to the last detail abroad, much like a movie location. As camp teachers, we’d bring refugee youth over to the base from time to time to get a taste literally of life American style by treating them to a cafeteria meal in the on-base casual dining facility followed by dessert at Baskin-Robbins.
    We were ready for lunch. Carlo suggested we get something to eat at a place on the bay’s edge called Vasco’s that looked out over the bay across to the mountains on the other shore and to the Subic International Airport which had once been the Cubi Point Naval Air Station. The place had an open air dining deck that was right over the water. To the right an empty oil tanker was moored to the dock sitting high in the water. The day had been perpetually cloudy, luckily with little rain. The bay was beautiful as usual with the a light chop and few vessels moving in its waters.
    As we sat there, with a few inevitable white guys, Aussies and Americans, we looked out upon the bay as we had a really nice meal, I, an order of Thai chicken, and Carlo more fried chicken and fries which I have to believe he really likes. I’d never seen a Filipino go two meals in a row with no rice. I found myself imagining that Dewey, and Bull Halsey and even General MacArthur himself had probably sat in this very spot at some point looking out at the American fleet projecting American power throughout East Asia. There is a scene in “They Were Expendable” where an old sailer recalls with wistful pride seeing the old Arizona, steaming into this bay. I can imagine it as well with her stacks billowing smoke and not a black sailor on board allowed to do anything more complicated than kitchen work. I never let my enthusiasm for World War II history turn me into an apologist for the racist world it was.
    The drive back to Angeles after our lunch was, as I’d said at the beginning of the day, much quicker and we arrived back at the hotel by 5:30 pm having left Vasco’s at about 3:30 pm. By the way, Carlo’s car radio had been tuned all day to a Manila station called The Wave, an FM station that broadcasts almost entirely in English playing African American soul and ballads almost to a song. What a crazy place this country is.
    Carlo and I exchanged e-mail addresses. He sees no future for himself here where there is so little work. I know he’d like me to help him get to the States. He offers to introduce me to some “nice” girls who are friends of his. I had elicited this offer, admittedly by design, by chiding him that he was of no use to me as a friend since he only had younger brothers no eligible sisters to whom he could introduce me. We promised to stay in touch. My mission was accomplished. It’s been a really good-though-expensive day, my best so far. The Sulangis, the school children with their umbrellas, the careening tricycles, the beautiful girls riding as passengers on two-wheeled motorcyles in that graceful, sidesaddled way Asian women do, and always the gentle carabao. This is why I’m here. Tomorrow, on the earliest bus possible, I’m out of this place, and back to Manila. The high seas await this weekend.
    This entry is way too long, concision is coming. Won’t have time for anything else if I’d don’t make this stuff shorter.
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