Once in a while, no matter whatever my status has been in life, and from a young age, I have always had the need to get up and go, somewhere…anywhere. After being raised in a flat land farming community in North Central Illinois, the desire to just take off and go somewhere showed up early in my life. Immediately after graduating high school, my bestie and I got in his car and drove to Orlando, Florida (mainly because it had palm and coconut trees). A year and a half later I realized I needed the Navy as much as it needed me, so I could get both an education and my travel fix. It not only worked for me, it became an addiction. I believe sometime early in my life, I must have been abducted and administered a transfusion of Gypsy blood. During the 20+ years I spent with the Navy, my addiction for change was satisfied on the average of once every 3-4 years. For most of my life after leaving the Navy, the travel clock kept ticking and the desire to move along never subsided…and if anything it has since gotten worse. Without the government footing the bill like in my earlier days however, and like most good working class people, I had to settle down and go to work carving out my piece of the American dream. Settling down after my Navy years was difficult for me. If you have never read about my Enchantment with Paradise, you can take the time here to read it, I’ll wait (I’m not going anywhere…at least not in the time it will take you to read it).
During my post Navy years and During my throughout my working life, my inner voice would constantly remind me that it’s “time to go!’ It was something that was difficult to resist, working and all, and on occasion, I could only take so much and I would accept the challenge to just get away from it all. During all our years “Before Paradise” we managed to travel to the four corners of the U.S. and even made it to London once. My wife has a collection of souvenier plates from every state or territory she has ever visited and now totals some 29 plates (she is missing a few). So that’s not so bad…I guess.
Now that we are officially “retired” here in the land of coconuts (Philippines), that burning desire to go somewhere that plagued me over the years seems to have been subdued, until now…..we had to go to Guam. Because my wife is a Permanent U.S. Green Card holder (she never felt the need to become a U.S. Citizen) and in order for her to retain that permanent green card, she must not be outside the U.S. for more than one year. So we had to make a trip to Guam to get her passport validated (Guam is a U.S. territory). Now instead of me, the foreigner, living here like many others doing the tourist visa thing, and being required to leave periodically, she is the one who needs to travel, not I (I am a permanent resident – 13A Visa).
Because a trip to Guam was in order, I arranged our flight to coincide with the date I first set foot on the island in 1974, exactly 40 years to the day (I love irony). It was a rather quiet return, without all the fanfare that General Douglas MacArthur once expected and received when he returned to the Philippines during WWII. Maybe if I would have made the proclamation “I Shall Return”, things would have been different. A fiesta in my honor maybe? …I don’t think so. Oh well.
Once we arrived in Guam, we rented a car and spent three full days seeing the sights, doing some much needed shopping, and visiting with Teri’s cousin and her Guamanian born husband. Nice people. They took us to Chamorro Village on a Wednesday evening when all the fiesta food and tourists come out. I never was a “tourist” on Guam before. I was always a local, so this felt different. I definitely ate my share of red rice, BBQ, Kelaguen, and Fina’denne. Once Teri discovered that the world’s largest Kmart was just up the road, she was there! And, many more times during the course of our three-day visit (she is really missing Walmart!). A Trip to Two Lover’s Point was also in store, as well as a trip to the beach on Tumon Bay for a peaceful and laid back afternoon BBQ (everything in Guam is laid back). After doing and seeing all that we could in the alloted 3 days, it was time to head for home in the Philippines. :/
Once we arrived back in Manila, it was clear that my travel bug affliction was back. So we decided rather than go home to Samar, that we would change directions and head for the Subic Bay Freeport Zone where we witnessed some sort of Transformation of Subic Bay. From there we travelled to Dinalupihan in Bataan province to visit with our friends Paul and Mayang T, joining them at their beautiful home on the mountain. There, along with their family and friends (most of them hard-core Manny Pacquiao fans), we witnessed Pacman’s much deserved win over Timothy Bradley. Oh happy days in the Philippines! The Red Horse, Emperador Brandy, and coconut wine (tuba) would be flowing this night. It was better than the sad alternative of losing anyway. After meandering around the Subic Bay area for 4 more days, we decided to buy that car we have been talking about and do some driving (this travel bug was definitely alive in me now). Now we were staring at Holy Week for the next four days or so, and because everything was going to shut down (our bank included), we decided to take the bus liner to Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula, to spend the holy weekend with Teri’s sister and her family. On Easter Sunday, we spent the day at a local resort with the family where we BBQ’d and swam in the nice covered pool. Four days later I was back on the road to Subic to pick up the new car. I left Teri in Bataan and returned with the car to pick her up. Now we had enought of room for plenty of Pasalubong and by the time we departed from Mariveles and headed for Samar, the car was packed out. Mostly clothes and hand me downs for the family back home, and some delicacies from the peanut stores that the family owns.
Now we were back on the road and headed to Manila. Wait, I have to drive through Manila?!? I did this one time back in 1984 and swore I would never do that again. I lied. We managed to find a Manila street map before we hit all the jeepney madness, and much to my delight, the map was about as useful as a football bat. Oh, the streets where all there on the map, it’s just that the names didn’t match up with some of them which made my Manila navigation just slightly more difficult. Have you ever driven in Manila with one eye? With the map I had, that’s a good analogy. Now I can affirm, I will never do that again! Without stopping, we finally made it through Manila by mid afternoon (we arrived there about 10am) and headed south. We spent the night in Lopez, in Quezon province, just before reaching Bicol province and just north of Naga City. The following day we drove through the southern Luzon countryside, without the aid any map, through mountains, coconut tree forests, past volcanoes and as far south as you can drive on the Island of Luzon, to the Port of Matnog. We only made two wrong turns and never much out of our way. Matnog is where we caught the ferry for the 1 hour journey across the San Bernardino Straights to the port of Allen in Northern Samar. We arrived in Samar about 7:30 pm, unloaded and drove the final two hours home, where I found my bed. I then spoke these words to my very good-looking bed – “I will never leave you again, I promise!”
In one big nutshell, our planned 4 day trip turned into 15 days and was an appropriate length of time away from home to keep the travel bug at bay for another year. We accomplished more than we ever though we could. My wife got her passport validated, I enjoyed a sentimental return to Guam on my 40th anniversary, we ate lots of good food, spent some time with good people, seen many sights, watched the Pacman win, picked up a new car, did I mention all the good Cheeseburgers I enjoyed at Texas Joe’s? And oh, Teri got her ZUMBA fix several times along the way and collected yet another plate.
All in all, It turned out to be a much-needed vacation from our retirement in paradise.