Philippine Travel Log: Outing to Laoag

Day 3: Friday, October 3, 2008
Outing to Ilocos Norte Museum and Fort Ilocandia

Fort Ilocandia

Fort Ilocandia

Of the 5 days we had planned to spend at the orphanage, there were three outings scheduled.  Today, the plan was to visit Fort Ilocandia, a resort outside Laoag City, about 40 minutes from Shekinah.  I don’t remember who it was that suggested that we also visit the Ilocos Norte Museum in Laoag, but that ended up on the itinerary as well.  At the suggestion, I was immediately unsure how John-John would handle a museum.  Doesn’t really feel like a good fit for a 4 yr old.  Also, I knew it’d be incredibly hot, and as per their customs I’d be stuck in jeans.

We got John up and went through our morning ritual without incident.  Sadiri brought us breakfast at our cottage, which we greatly enjoyed.  We then headed over to the main building, gathered up Jackie and her things, and headed into town.  We were dropping Jackie off at the bus station in Laoag City to head back south; she was willing to stay with us the whole 5 days, but we sent her packing so that she could visit her family, from whom she’s away for two weeks at a time for work.  If she could get extra time with her, then go for it.  We were doing fine.

We had to stop by the market, because I wanted batteries (for the flashlight in our cottage with which John-John loved to play) and some chewable candies (for John-John on the airplane flights we’d be taking over the next few days, so that in swallowing he would equalize the pressure in his ears).  Travel tip #9: Always have something for the children to chew on and have to swallow.  Gum works, or if they’re young, then it’s hard or chewy candies, like Starbursts.  Jackie had introduced us to Mentos, which were fruit chews that we really liked, so we got a bunch of those.

Jackie was my guide to the market, while Faith stayed with John-John in the van.  Sadiri was driving of course.  After the market, we went our separate ways.  She took a tricycle to the bus station, and we continued on in the van to the museum.  We drove past the parking lot, so Sadiri circled back through a number of alleys to get back to the parking lot.  This was probably the least comfortable I felt driving the whole time I was in the Philippines.  The alleys were congested, both with tricycles and pedestrians, so we moved at a snails pace.  This meant three things:  the frustration of driving in gridlock (which we’re familiar with in Chicago), no relief from the heat due to open windows, and breathing the exhaust fumes from the tricycles.  Also, I didn’t feel safe.  The people staning in the alleys stared at us (look at the white people!), and they didn’t look at all friendly.  If they had wanted to make trouble, they easily could have.  But they didn’t, and I was very relieved to finally arrive at the museum and get out of the van.  We even found a tree to park under.

We went through the museum fairly quickly.  As I suspected, John-John really didn’t care all that much.  Honestly, I didn’t either.  It was hot, as I predicted, and of course John wanted me to carry him (doesn’t make it cooler).  So, I wasn’t particularly interested in reading plaques about the region’s history, etc.  There were a number of interesting artifacts there, and I imagine for the region it was a very nice museum.  We did, however, make it to an air conditioned gift shop at the end of our time there, which I found much more interesting.  😉  Not only was it a chance to rest and cool off, but John-John found many more interesting things to touch and play with that he shouldn’t have been picking up.  Faith also found a number of souvenirs for people there, which were extremely affordable.  John-John particularly liked this hat, but I wasn’t sure how we’d fit it in our luggage…

John tries on hats at the Ilocos Norte museum

John tries on hats at the Ilocos Norte museum

From the museum, Sadiri took us to Fort Ilocandia, a local resort frequented by (particularly Chinese and Japanese) tourists.  It was a very upscale place, at least the lobby, restaurant, and courtyard were.  We didn’t see the rooms.  Ironically, this was another place Faith had discovered in her online research, so it was vaguely familiar to us even prior to arrival.

We played in the lobby for a while.  John-John was all about running up and down the steps (must have done so 12-15 times), and watching the fish swim around in an indoor pond.  The hotel had a beautiful indoor courtyard area where both the pond and the steps were. We took great joy in listening to John-John say “Hi, Fish!” in his enthusiastic voice over and over.  We were also thrilled that he counted with us when we walked up and down the stairs.  With some help, he was able to make it over 20, but I think on his own he starts getting stuck at about 12 or 13.  This was all great fun (and indoors out of the brutal sun, so dad was happy).

We then went to the mini-zoo in the outer courtyard.  John wanted nothing to do with that.  Even the statues of animals scared him, let alone the real things.  With monkeys, tigers, alligators, etc, that didn’t surprise me.  But he didn’t even want to pet the little chicks or the bunnies.  I guess he *really* doesn’t like animals.  So much for Faith’s theory that he’ll want a dog.  *whew*!

We had an interesting cultural experience while there.  While we were wandering around amongst the animal cages, without a word, Sadiri ducked a fence, crossed a road, and headed off the property.  We weren’t sure where he was going, but went ahead and followed.  He had a head start on us, so we were trying to catch up.  I was carrying John-John, so naturally it was Faith who first noticed that he was trying to get somewhere to relieve himself, and here we were following him.  Faith was so embarrassed.  It was kinda funny.

After that, we headed back inside to the hotel restaurant.  It was wonderfully air conditioned, and the food was very good.  John-John, Faith, and I all had spaghetti, and Sadiri ordered some pork-laiden Philippine soupy dish.  Ugh.  Not to worry though, when we got the spaghetti, it had pork in the sauce.  lol

We also got fruity drinks with lunch.  I got a watermelon shake, while John-John and Sadiri each got mango.  Faith sampled mine and John’s.  You could tell Sadiri was uncomfortable through the whole meal, not used to the environment of the semi-posh western-style restaurant.  It created more than one awkward pause during lunch.

Another funny experience came with our drinks.  My watermelon shake came with a piece of melon as garnish.  I know John likes watermelon, so I asked if he wanted it.  Of course, he did.  So, he’s happily eating that and Faith and I are talking with Sadiri.  Suddenly I hear a nice strong *crunch* come from John.  I look over, and he’s eating the rine of the melon right along with the meat.  We thought about stopping him, but he was more than content, so….  at least it wasn’t a catfish head.

After lunch, we wandered the grounds.  We wanted to go to the beach, but the security guard wouldn’t let us.  Only for those staying at the resort, he said.  That was okay.  We were about to leave when he – I think took pity on us; I was sopping wet from sweat again – told us that there was a playground that John might want to play on.  So, we walked him over there, and he and Faith had a BLAST playing on it.  He climbed and slid, and had a generally great time.  He was tentative at first about everything.  Don’t know if he’d ever played on a playground like this.  He loved crossing the rope bridge too, but never got up the nerve to go himself.  Mom had to carry him.  Where was dad?  Well, the sun pretty much wussified me again, so I spent most of our time at the playground sitting in a bungalow provided for us weaklings, cheering John on … especialy when he’d do something he previously hadn’t been willing to do.

John plays on the jungle gym at Fort Ilocandia

John plays on the jungle gym at Fort Ilocandia

John was not at all happy when it was time to leave, and threw a bit of a tantrum.  It was also due to the fact that when I asked him for a water bottle, he refused to give it to me, so I had to explain to him that although I love him greatly, it’s unacceptable for him to refuse to do something I ask him to do like that.  Between that and having to leave, he got all withdrawn (as is his custom), and Sadiri had to jump in afterward and pull him back to the land of fun.

We left the fort at about 2PM, and headed back.  John fell asleep in the car for a while, but still needed a nap afterwards.  He wasn’t too thrilled about going down for his nap, though.  He cowered in a corner, and Faith had to sooth him back into letting us lay him down on the bed.  She stayed with him until he fell asleep.

Faith read while he slept, and I was able to sneak over to the main building and get some time on their office computer to send out a “We have John” email, and update Facebook.  When John awoke, he and Faith came over to get me, because he had been asking for me.  We played there with the other children for a while, and eventually headed back to our cottage to get ready for dinner, which they brought over to us.  We clearly observed that John got jealous every time we devoted too much attention to the other children at the orphanage.  I became very sensative to always making John feel special.  I rarely held other children, and when I picked John up, I always did so in a unique way (tossing him up in the air) and told him he was special.

Dinner and the remainder of playtime went well / were somewhat routine.  Before bed, John refused to go potty, which put a wrench in the evening routine.  Came out of nowhere, since we were having such a good time with other things.  He just got it in his head that this wasn’t something he was going to do … to the point that he plopped down on the bathroom floor and cowered in the corner by the toilet.  Yuck!  I’m thinking “Not there!  It’s disgusting down in that corner!”  We tried to coax him out, but eventually just pulled him out of the corner.  We played for a little while to snap him out of it, and that worked until we said we were going back into the bathroom.  Then back to tantrum mode.  So we took his clothes off him (he wasn’t happy), and put him in the shower.  He *loves* the shower (water in general), so he warmed back up immediately.  Guess there’d just be no potty tonight.

It was here we learned / made a vow that we would not ask him if he wanted to do things which he had no choice whether or not to do.  Duh!  Aren’t we brilliant.

He wasn’t too thrilled to go to bed either.  Got all sullen while we were having story time.  We tried to snuggle with him and tell him we love him repeatedly, but he would have none of it.  This little guy just doesn’t like going to sleep.  Eventually, we left him in his bed to just fall asleep, and he did.

Before I close, I thought I’d share a few other observations we made of John that day that I think are worthy of note:

  1. We started worked on “Please” and “Thank you”, which is new to John.  He’s doing pretty well, but that’s going to take a while I’m sure.
  2. He started posing for pictures today, which is really awesome, because now we actually have a few non-candid shots were he’s actually smiling.
  3. He played by himself a couple of times.  That’s huge, and would prove to be an ongoing struggle.  He pretty much wants constant attention frommom and dad.

All in all, John-John is such a good kid.  He’s well-mannered and compliant 90% of the time.  He shares with other kids, is fun and energetic, and has the best facial expressions ever.  There were quite a few (new) challenges today, but we made it through.  We’re also fairly convinced that the challenges will only increase, so welcome to parenthood, right?

Either way, there was evening and there was morning the third day.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Family and Friends, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Philippine Travel Log: Outing to Laoag

  1. Pingback: Philippine Travel Log: A Virtual Tour of Shekinah Home « Jeff Block’s Personal Idea Fountain

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