Construction Mania

I may have mentioned before — several times in fact — that there’s a lot of construction going on around here. Running the danger of boring everyone rigid on what has become a bit of an obsession…I thought I’d do a post specifically on the subject. Its really compelling to me that I am in a city that is literally growing up around me faster than I can keep track. There are probably as many as two dozen buildings in various stages of construction just in my immediate vicinity. And I really do mean in various stages…from the very first ground breaking, through to the final stages of fitout and everything in between. On my walk to the store this morning, I took the following photos, just by pivoting on my heel from one spot:

First groundbreaking. Two weeks ago this was just open space that we cut through on the way to the store. Now it looks like the first hole for a new building is being dug.

Here are some more taller examples. Note the sheer number of cranes and the blue/green netting everywhere that protects people below from falling materials. Sometime the city just looks half unwrapped to me:

I could go on, but you’ve probably seen enough!

This used to be the US air force base for many years, since before the second world war. It was called Fort McKinley and has been renamed Fort Bonifacio…or the Fort… and from this the marketing wiz guys have created “Bonifacio Global City” or BGC. In the last five years or so, they have taken flat open land with a few remanents of old miltary buildings into a giant plan for a new “global city”. As its the first really planned city of its kind here, its a big deal, as other areas of the city have just sprawled organically with ensuing disastrous consequences. The planners here are promising better. If you can stand to listen to the saccharin language of this promo video (you will gag) it actually gives an overview of whats going. Grab a barf bag and watch this:

The most significant building of this whole production to me is the one that is going up directly across the street. Looks like its going to be a very tall combination of residential space, office space and retail units. When we arrived in late December it was two stories high and I couldn’t figure out why the windows were all slanted. Two months and 5 stories later, its obvious that the first six floors are just going to be parking and that the “sloping windows” are doing so because of the garage ramps they are building.

Here’s a couple of comparison pics:

This was back in December.

Here is now (late Feb):

The significance to me is two fold:

1. Once this thing hits about 15 floors 50% of my kitchen view is going to be obliterated. Fortunately there are other windows and other directions, and the view of the golf course is guaranteed to remain. So its with fascination and regret that I watch it grow

2. Its the closest building to me. I can see it from my desk as I work all day and I watch the guys crawling all over it like ants….doing what they do from 6am when I wake until at least 9pm at night…on and on… From my soundproof window it just looks ants on a picnic table, but if I crack the window just an inch the noise is overwhelming. The hours and the work are brutal.

I have the luxury of being able to take an academic interest in all of this, while they labor on in brutal heat for little money. But these are also valuable jobs and will hopefully create an infrastructure that will bring more wealth and jobs in the long run. Some of the buildings are proudly declaring themselves LEED compliant, which is a good thing, but the city still has a long way to go to save its own environment. In the meantime, the building goes on…

“Green Thing in the Driveway” Gets an Upgrade!

Its hard to get everyone out the door.  Making kids sit in the car and actually wait for you, while you close up, grab the shopping list and turn off the oven is the only way to go….  When I would get frustrated enough at getting a certain person to actually depart, I found myself saying “PLEASE get in the car…NOW….It’s the green thing in the driveway”  and shuffle him towards the door.  Hence “Green Thing in the Driveway” was born and lived there — in our driveway — for seven years.

G.T.I.T.D has now made a monumental journey across the Pacific and is now “Green Thing in the Basement – complete with the upgrade of (temporary) diplomatic plates.  The most modest car with diplomatic plates that I have ever seen, I might add….I think I see a couple of new dings too.

Here are some not so great shots of the car in our basement parking lot….(hey – I got it down there…it wasn’t easy…3 levels of weirdly laid out basement which are totally confusing) …

A pic for my VA friends (remember that sticker?)… Well it made it to the Philippines:

And Here’s an A.T.I.T.B (I’ll let you work that one out)  with our car:

Now the question is whether I have the guts to take it out on the road?

Yes…This is Pretty Disgusting…

If  you read my earlier post, you would have seen that we had a very interesting trip to Corregidor last weekend.  What was missing from the post, however, was another discovery….. garbage.  A gift from the people of Manila.  Arriving by sea in a constant flow is every conceivable type of rubbish from old shoes…tyres….plastic bags…you name it…

I decided to deal with it as a separate post as I didn’t want to detract from the historical experience of the island, which deserves better.  And the garbage certainly did NOT hamper our enjoyment of the island and was limited to just the Manila-facing beaches…but pretty disgusting it was.

To be honest, I was fascinated.  We’ve all seen garbage. Every major port in the world (that I’ve ever seen) has filthy water and floating junk.  Pireaus is no exception.  However, I had never seen anything like this, especially garbage deposited elsewhere from a major port….  So I took some pictures:

However, photos still don’t capture the sheer ebb and flow and SCALE of so much rubbish.  There just had to be a video …so here it is:

A local cafe owner told us that the garbage goes away at a different time of year when the currents change.  Who knows where it goes then?  To that giant Texas-sized garbage island in the Pacific, maybe?

Weekend Tour to Corregidor

This weekend we took our first trip outside of Manila since we arrived, which is unbelievably more than six weeks ago.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to get out of the city but with Robert’s new job and all those pesky real life details that go on, its not been possible until now.  The Embassy has an office called the CLO that takes care of community activities for Embassy employees and families.  CLO organized an outing to nearby Corregidor island, and we signed up for the overnight trip.

World War II buffs may be familiar with Corregidor.  It was an important American/Philipino stronghold during the defence of Manila Bay against the Japanese.  It is strategically located at the mouth of the Bay guarding the city from attack by sea. Unfortunately, after intensive air bombardment and loss of nearby territory to the Japanese, the island fell in 1942.  General MacArthur left promising to return (which he did in 1945) leaving the remaining 13,000 Americans and Phillipinos to their fate in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Today the island is covering with ruins of massive long barracks, officer housing, tram lines, fortifications, tunnels, caves and storage tanks.  It even had a movie house which still remains.  All over the island are little secret bunkers or caves, dug into the hillside.  Their is a massive tunnel, completed in 1932, called the Malinta Tunnel, which consisted of a main long tunnel, with lots of side arteries coming off.  Bombproof because of the solid rock above, the tunnel was used for storage, supplies, sleeping and working.  There’s even a separate section of tunnels used as a 1000 bed hospital.  All in all, its a pretty extraordinary place.

So, without further ado….some photos….

Setting off from Manila Bay

An hour and 15 minutes at sea (on a hydrofoil). Mmmm....this isn't the Med..!

Before we even get ashore.. A beach with some of those little caves...

We were driven around in little wooden trams...easy on and off...and much nicer than tourist buses

One of the many ruined barracks on the island. Built around 1913 and abandoned in 1945

More photos of ruins around the island.  Many structures were bombed out.  Others were destroyed by Banyan trees growing all over them.  The Corregidor Foundation has worked to preserve the buildings, but you can still see the roots of massive tree embedded into the walls:

Looking out to sea from one of the many Japanese caves: