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Manila, Philippines:  As long as we were re-living our past life in Taiwan... and Manila is only a two-hour flight from Taipei... we have hopped down to the next island for a visit to another place we used to live. Dave was transferred to Manila when we were only 24 years old. As clueless and inexperience and unworldly as we were, he just as well could have been transferred to the moon. We had no idea what was in store for us, but as it turned-out, the Filipino people were so warm, friendly, inviting (and everyone speaks English!), we immediately felt at-home and settled-in for a three-year stint. Lisa was born here.

Speaking of Lisa... guess who is starting his last first-day of morning pre-school? Next year, Leo starts kindergarten.

Leo, age 4

And just because I can, how about we go back to the past two years of first day of school shots?

Last year, age 3

Leo, age 2

Notice how the little guy gets a new lunch box every year? Where did all those blonde calamari curls go? Where did the little baby go?

We have been able to Facetime nearly daily with the kids on this trip. Leo enjoyed seeing the Taipei 101 tower from our hotel room in Taiwan and Lucy has perfected saying "hi" and "bye bye" and can wave on-cue. Genius!

Back to our day...

We arrived to Manila late afternoon and the hotel had a car to carry us from the airport. Traffic is still terrible. There is always construction and there is so much new development on reclaimed land inside Manila Bay. New hotels, shopping centers, convention centers, commerce centers, etc. We did recognize many old familiar scenes and can confidentially state Taiwan has changed far more than Manila the past thirty years.

When we moved to The Philippines in 1980, we stayed in the Manila Hotel for six weeks while Dave set up local operations, we found/leased an apartment and waited for our household shipment to arrive. For this trip, we thought it only fitting to return to the same hotel/place we started so long ago. The hotel has faded, but just a bit, and is in the middle of an extensive renovation which (we hope) will bring her back to beautiful glory. The hotel has so much history - General MacArthur lived here with his family for several years - and has always been the center of glittering social life for locals and world travelers alike.

Beautiful lobby with capiz shell chandeliers

Famed Filipino wedding dress designer Jo Rubio has a display of gowns - The Art and Romance of the Filipiniana - in the hotel lobby in celebration of the Filipino Food Festival. Not sure how glamourous gowns and food tie-in, but I will just go with it...

Nothing says Filipino like the beautiful traditional "butterfly" sleeves.

Though we know the rooms have been renovated several times since 1980, they are still so much the same. Same wooden sliding doors over the windows, heavy carved wood beds and furniture, ornate bathrooms. We asked for a room over-looking the bay - same as the room we had so very long ago.

The cargo ships are larger now, but the view is basically the same. Corregidor Islandcan be seen on the horizon.

After settling-in to our room, we went down to the Tap Room - the same lobby bar we patronized years ago - for a cocktail. I had a martini (a proper, real, martini!) and Dave had a San Miguel beer (one of the best beers in the entire world). We sat nibbling on peanuts and remembering such wonderful times at the Tap Room and toasted our old friends from Australia. They have both passed away now, but tonight they were living large in our memories and I swear I heard Maurice laughing and ordering another brandy soda.

While enjoying our private scenario, another round of drinks miraculously appeared on our table. Had Maurice ordered another round? No. It was Happy Hour. Two for one. When we left, our total bar tab was $11. Forget expensive nursing homes, we are just going to move into the Manila Hotel when we slow down.

Tired from traveling, we decided to dine in the so-very fancy Champagne Room restaurant just off the hotel lobby. Uniformed wait staff. A ridiculous amount of cutlery. Finery. A pianist. Caesar salad is still made table-side, and they continue to serve a sorbet palate cleanser between courses. The sorbet course must be a rare thing these days, am I right?

US Ribeye with au jus

Hold on to your hats. Tomorrow we head off in search of our old condo building in Manila.

*A Balikbayan (ball-ick-bye-ahn) is a person returning to their home in the Philippines after being away for a long time.

Until my next update, I remain, your Filipina correspondent.