manila is not a disaster and now one of my facebook friends is down an appendix

when i reached manila i was feeling completely dead to the project.  it was impossible in january and no less possible in october.  i had traveled all  the way to the phillippines via korea and taiwan only to find out that f2fb friend #243 mark bitanga del rosario had appendicitis and couldn’t see me.  a wasted plane trip, a hotel, a new city, another exhausting day of cabs and trains and figuring out the right line at customs and immigration. 

and i would have failed at meeting a friend.  i was coffee-d out.  my son joseph was relentless about whether i knew the exact location of the cab to take to the air port because he had heard from a friend of a friend who had been to the phillippines that it was a dangerous place.  no, i didn’t know the exact place where the taxi driver would meet us because i have never been to the phillippines — and right then i didn’t want to go to the phillippines at all. 

i checked into the hotel and it was beautiful.  manila is such a place of  contrast.  the view from my window was a shanty town, built with fencing, plywood, strips of corrugated steel. 


joseph’s room faced skyscrapers and luxury brand shops.  and we were just across the hall from each other!  as i put down my carhartt’s utility bag that has been my luggage, the hotel room phone rang.  a miss nona was waiting downstairs.  i rushed for the elevator.

so many things on facebook are not what they appear.  we put on a good face.  we put on an entirely false face.  we hide what we don’t like.  we proclaim accomplishments that may not exactly have been our own.  i have found out this year, for example, that my f2fb friend #54 InDaLoop is not actually a female rapper from brooklyn, but is a white dude f2fb friend #53 richard “mop” furniss.  and i have had one contretemps when a friend in san diego failed to advise me that he had a girlfriend, his girlfriend that he was going to see me, and three months later she googled his name and KABOOM! 

so i didn’t know what to think about mark’s appendicitis episode.  or his wife being in the lobby.  and yet, this was a case in which everything was as it appeared.  he had taken ill on monday evening and was operated on.  he is in hospital for at least another day.  he remembered that he was seeing me and my son yesterday.  he sent his wife with a present–a charcoal portrait that is called “shaman” but which bears a striking resemblance to fritz leiber, jr., my grandfather the science fiction novelist.  both mark and his wife nona are fans. 

nona, joseph and i had a few drinks at the hotel cafe–there is a specialty drink which is thick juice with a carafe of pure corn syrup on the side.  then we went to a stationery store to buy a nice “get well soon” card.  difficult, since manila is in full “christmas decorating” mode. 

we were treated to a johnnie rockets’ “spontaneous” dance show!

and then we made a special video, nona and i, for mark! 

then it was on to kuala lumpur and from there to mumbai in a scant fourteen hours of flying and standing in lines for customs, immigration, security, and then customs, immigration, security again.  i slept so soundly on the plane that i couldn’t sleep this past evening and i have started to feel ill.  i worried yesterday about seeing mark and now today, i worry that i won’t be able to see my friends anto and rahul simply because i am so sick.  i regret the prescriptiosn for antimalarial serum that i didn’t fill and that typhus serum that i  left in the refrigerator unopened.  or maybe it’s just the fifty one years catching up to my itinerary.  around the world in less than 18 days is almost as crazy as top to bottom alaska in less than 96 hours.  who does that stuff?

4 responses to “manila is not a disaster and now one of my facebook friends is down an appendix

  • Mark Bitanga Del Rosario

    Glad to have had you here. Glad you like Shaman. Four words: YOU CAN FINISH THIS! Have faith, you’re almost there. God bless.

  • derrellyn yates

    Goofy girl! Apparently, YOU “do that stuff!” 😉 And I think you are brave beyond belief — an astonishing adventurer.

    • arlynnpresserarlynn

      derrellyn, you have been such a strong supporter, a real cheerleader when i have needed one! amazingly, i write from dortmund germany–i have been in an astonishing nine countries in nine days if you include countries where i didn’t even see a friend but just hopscotched through the place! and it was really really wonderful to see how seriously mark took the charge of seeing a friend. sure, he had appendicitis but he was determined to send someone to “represent” him. and it was such a delight to meet nona his wife. i can’t wait for them to come visit me in chicago and frankly, i can’t wait to see you in chicago too! bring will and george. i know will is going to love it! i’d love to show him kendall college!

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