Wednesday, March 02, 2005

a chance to reflect

Time has moved so quickly here in the Philippines. It feels like we're just getting settled, yet we fly home tomorrow evening. Somehow we've managed to fit 2 shows in different cities over less than 72 hours! Cebu was much different than had a more relaxed feel, even though we were in the 2nd largest city. Cebu was an "island" city, where we felt like a beach was always nearby and a slower pace was evident. Though traffic seemed a little chaotic, we had no idea what Manilla would be like.

I enjoyed a good night's sleep after the show in Cebu, and a fine breakfast the next morning. We headed to the airport and flew to Manila, landing around 1pm. Someone in Cebu had asked us if we'd have security with us in Manila, and we said we didn't know...we hadn't thought about it. Well, we met our security team at the baggage claim--4 stout guys who are hired often for the same deal with other artists and speakers from abroad when they come to Manila. They obviously are there to give "security" assistance, but also to help you relax during your stay (my opinion) and not worry about where you're going and your surroundings as much.

We had a police escort from the airport to the hotel, which we were immediately thankful for...traffic was insane and the driving even more chaotic. The escort was 2 motorcycle cops in front of our 2 vans, and they drove all over the place in order to get us to the hotel within 30 minutes rather than over an hour sitting in traffic. We were driving in the oncoming traffic lanes at times, then swerving back into our own as cars approached. It was a little exhilarating and a little frightening, but they knew what they were doing and we felt better for it. It helped that the cars around us seemed to know what was going on and yielded when necessary.

The guys had some press events in the afternoon and evening, so Joe, Bobby and I relaxed at the hotel and took in the different culture. Manila has a big city feel with some skyscrapers and more evidence of the influences of the west. Nicer cars, more traffic lanes, some plush hotels, broader socio-economic variety...and the landscape in the city has a beautiful mixture of trees so that it looks vibrant and tropical. We took advantage of the free time to lay low, leaving tourist activities and getting around town for the next day.

I slept about 8 hours last night, and we all went to some shopping centers after breakfast to browse and buy. The selection was plentiful, with all the major clothing brands and popular stores of the U.S. and world. I felt like I was in a huge mall in the U.S., with even more stores than most centers in the U.S. I was a little surprised at this, and part of me just wanted to find a market on the side of the road where the locals made livings and bought their necessities.

We went to the venue in mid-afternoon, about a 45 minute drive in fairly heavy traffic and without an escort this time. The arena has been home to a majority of the concerts when artists and bands come in from the world. We had a big crowd, just as excited as in Cebu. Since it was indoors, it felt more like a typical concert and lended itself to a little more intimacy and dynamics. One highlight was midway through the show when we invited a couple (boyfriend and girlfriend) up on stage to sing Unforgetful You, and afterwards he proposed to her (and she said yes). Every once in awhile we get to experience this during a show, and each time it brings a big grin to my face. The crowd went crazy and so did the couple.

We made it back to the hotel and have been strategizing on the best way to start moving our bodies back to our native time zone. We have a day off tomorrow before heading to the airport in the evening to begin our travels home. While we lost a day coming to the Philippines, we will leave Thursday night and get home in Nashville Friday morning. If only it was just an 8 hour trip in reality!!


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