I accompanied my twelve year old grandson, Christopher, on a four day Boy Scout Troop outing to Corregidor Island, Philippines. It was a camping trip for the boys and the adults could choose either to camp or stay in the hotel on the island. I chose the hotel. But the trip got off to a rocky start.
The adventure started at 04:30am, when we met at the Singapore airport. It was a three and a half hour flight to Manila where we would spend the first night in a downtown hotel and then ferry to Corregidor the next morning.When we arrived at the Manila airport, Customs wouldn’t let Christopher pass through. I was told by the officer that a child under fourteen must be accompanied by a relative or have a signed waiver from the parents. I told him that Chris was my grandson, but that wasn’t enough. My being Caucasian and Chris being Asian and our having different last names, might have had something to do with it. The woman in charge told me I needed to fill out a form, but then had a terrible time locating one. She consulted several other officials and finally found it, I filled it out and gave it back to her. Another woman escorted me through customs and over to a cash machine where I withdrew 3,200 pesos, about $67 US, the fee for the waiver and in the meantime, the woman in charge had somehow misplaced the form I had just given her. She asked me to fill out another one, but before I finished, she located the first one. The Customs officials spent an inordinate amount of time talking the situation over with each other and meanwhile the entire troop and accompanying adults waited. On the positive side, all the people we dealt with were very gracious and kind throughout the whole extremely inefficient process.
How do I describe the Manila traffic? Once in Vietnam, my friends and I were at the enlisted men’s club watching a Korean song and dance troop when some joker popped a tear gas grenade. We all tried to get out into the fresh air as quickly as possible through the one and only door. That is sort of what the Manila traffic is like. There are streets with lines to signify lanes just like we have at home, but no one seems to pay any attention to them. Our driver straddled the line like he didn’t want to commit to any particular lane, keeping his options open. Every street was in the process of being worked on and there were barriers and cones all over the place. Our driver tooted the horn a lot and was constantly jockeying for position and attempting to nose other drivers out. All the other cars, trucks, buses and Jeepneys were doing the same thing and added to the mix were motorcyclists weaving in and out, pedestrians crossing six lanes of traffic and even children wandering around on the sides of the street. I closed my eyes for part of the ride, certain that we were going to crash. We didn’t and we managed to arrive at the Aloha Hotel safe and sound. After returning home from the trip, I told my step son Peter about the traffic and he said, “If you think the traffic’s bad in Manila, you should see Jakarta in Indonesia, it's worse.” I can’t imagine traffic being any worse, but I trust he knows what he’s talking about.
It was lunch time when we arrived and the Scout Master, Morgan, told us to deposit our bags in our rooms and meet down in the hotel dining room for lunch. I had a queasy feeling in my stomach and decided I probably needed to get some food into it. I ordered some soup. Sitting at the table with the others, waiting for my soup to arrive, the pain in my stomach became more intense. I felt like I was going to pass out and not wanting to pass out in the restaurant and make a scene, I got up and started toward the door. I took several steps and realized I wasn’t going to make it, so I eased myself down toward the floor and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a bunch of concerned restaurant employees looking down at me.
They tried to hoist me up and into a chair and one of the men said, “I’ll call the hospital.”
“No.” I said, “I don’t need to go to the hospital.”
Luckily, one of the other adults with the troop, George, was a practicing physician. He advised the staff to lay me down on a row of chairs. He took my pulse and asked me some questions. George was another grandfather accompanying his grandson. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He correctly diagnosed that I was having a vasovagal response, probably brought on by a stomach bug.
I tried to get up several times, but had to lie back down. One of the scouts came over and told me I was trying to get up too fast and described the physiology of why that was. I remember wondering if he had gotten a merit badge for learning about that. They have merit badges for just about everything.