Armed Police and Superheroes in Manila!

“I am Iron Man!“

I did absolutely nothing in the Philippines. There were no trips to Cebu island or to the white sands of Boracay. In spending my time there, I skipped Puerto Princesa, home of the famed Underground River and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Instead, I booked two hotels, (by mistake) and spent all my time at the Dusit Thani Manila and the Ascott Makari. The distance between the two hotels was a mere 1.1 (km). I must admit that in my mind I thought I had booked the other Ascott hotel, in Bonifacio Global City. That location, in the financial business district, would have put me near the Venice Grand Canal Mall and its main attraction, a ten minute Gondola ride. None of that makes sense to me now. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been to Las Vegas and never once have I ever been on a Gondola ride at the Venetian Resort Hotel.

“Wakanda Forever!”

I’m going to blame all that confusion on travel fatigue. The entire point of going to the Philippines was the same as beginning this adventure in Guam. Back in 1979, I took part in an Air Force mission called “Team Spirit.” I flew from Norton Air Force Base, in San Bernardino, California, to McChord, in Tacoma, Washington. After refueling, we flew to Hickam Air Force Base, in Honolulu. We were put up, on base, for the night. The following day, we flew to Anderson Air Force Base, on the village of Yigo, in Guam. We refueled and then headed to Clark Air Base, on Luzon Island, in the Philippines. After our final refueling, we headed to our 90 day TDY (temporary duty) on Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa, Japan. For close to forty five years, I’ve said that I had traveled to Guam and the Philippines. And yet, I never stepped foot off the US Air Base, in each country. So, this five year journey began in Guam and it was now time for me to make my way to the Philippines.

“May the Force be with you!“

After getting settled, at the Dusit Thani, I asked directions to the nearest ATM. I was told there was one close by, just down the street. When I reached the end of the short block, there was nothing. I decided to see if I could find one inside the SM Makati mall. I crossed the street and tried not to stare at the police officer, guarding the entrance, holding a rifle. During my travels, I’ve seen armed officers, in London (of all places), in both Addis Ababa and my Peace Corps hub town (Debre Birhan) in Ethiopia, and on every military base I’ve ever served on or visited. I just did not expect to see this outside a shopping mall in Manila. Given my arrival, at the first hotel, I should have. As soon as my taxi drove up to the entrance, of the Dusit Thani, there was a guard dog and luggage scanner. Each time I reentered the hotel, I had to go in through the security checkpoint.

“When in doubt, go to the library.”

The security situation at the Ascott Makati was similar. The entire property is housed along side the Glorietta Shopping Mall. Your taxi pulls up to the street in front of the hotel. You then enter, into the security area, which also has a police dog. To enter the hotel, you must take the first set of elevators. Once on the highest level, the 6th floor, you exit into the main lobby. Hotel rooms are accessible from a different set of elevators. There’s very little chance of getting in that hotel, if you don’t belong there. I spent my entire stay at the hotel’s pool. It’s not that I didn’t feel safe enough to venture out. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to bother. The cafe at the pool had great food and the staff was amazing. The pool was large and most people swam in the evening. It was like having the space all to myself. So, although I did nothing in Manila. I was totally satisfied with my time there. And most of that had to do with finding the Omniverse Museum.

“I’ll be back!”

Comics were a big part of my reading culture, in the 1960s. I collected DC, Marvel, and The Archies comic books. By age ten, I had to store them in a suitcase. My mother complained that they would start a house fire and that she was going to throw them out. A few days later, I dragged the large suitcase to my school’s playground. I opened it and kids ran over and grabbed handfuls. That was the end of my collecting. The Omniverse Museum is an amazing collection. It’s home to thousands of movie artifacts and props. Located in Japan Town, Glorietta 3 Mall, you enter into each themed area, through sliding doors. Trust me. When you’re standing outside and that first door opens, you will scream. Once inside, you come face to face with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, and the Justice League. There’s also memorabilia from TV favorites, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the old Batman show (from the 1960s) and much, much, more.

The combination of armed police officers and comic book superheroes just did it for me. It probably wasn’t the best way to see the Philippines, after forty five years, but . . . it sure was fun! XOXO —GGT

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