Larry had retired both from the US Military and then the Asian Development Bank and had built this house about four years ago. In his "retirement" he runs a consulting firm that provided our local Filipino consultants and has a Security business which is doing well with the current local and global unrest.
When we pulled into the driveway we were "greeted" by two german shepards. Max was all white and according to Larry loud but still a happy puppy. Ghengis (as in Ghengis Khan) was the offical watchdog and was quite another story. We stayed in the car until Da da, a Filipino maid who might have been 4 foot tall came out and shooed Ghingas and Max down the driveway to the back of the house. Tere, Larry's Filipino wife met us as we entered. We were immediately drawn to the massive plate glass window (which we were told is the largest in Manila) that looked out over the swimming pool between the palm trees at Ortigas where we had just come from. We settled into the den with a glass of orange juice to await the call for lunch.
We found out later that Larry & Tere rarely have visitors aside from an annual visit from their daughter who lives in California.
Rina had prepared lunch, a mix of Filipino and other styles and we sat down to the first of a series of substanial meals. It was Larry's birthday so Helen had brought a cake to celebrate the occasion.
There were two spare bedrooms one for Steve W and one for Helen and I. When Larry had turned on the window air conditioner in Steve W's room the day before and it had died so the local repair guys were there trying to make it work so he could have a comfortable night. The first attempt failed and they wanted to wait until next week, which of course defeated the purpose of using it that night. After much negotiating (and some overtime pay no doubt) they agreed to persevere until it worked. The driver then took them back to their shop for supplies.
We opened the door and walked out on the porch to get into the car only to find that Ghingis was waiting. We all dove back inside while Larry jumped between us and the charging German Shepard. Ghingis had enough momentum that he knocked Larry over backwards onto the porch. But Larry is no small guy and totally surprised Ghingas by rolling over on top of him and pinning him to the pavement. Da da chased Ghingas down the driveway again and we scurried for the car.
Helen had done some research and found out about a converted home now called the Pinto Art Gallery in Antipolo. Larry & Tere had never heard of it. This is a common phenomena. It happens to us as well, it isn't until we have visitors that we discover some of the gems in our own backyard. It was about five minutes away and was a beautiful house that had been converted to a gallery by a local doctor. Most of the items were either locally made or antique.
On the way back Larry told us about the Santos-Andes house in his village and we decided to make an unannounced stop. Mr Santos happened to be home and graciously offered to show us around. Normally a house in a gated community wouldn't have been that interesting. Seems however that Santos had gotten the title to his family's house in the city that was a traditional Filipino style built in 1917. He had dismantled the house board by board and rebuilt and restored it on a hill in Anitiplo overlooking Manila. He had carefully stripped off paint and grime to reveal the original spendor. The windows are actually shutters with no glass that open into the air and reveal the spectacular view. This is not a museum (although it looked like one) and is not open to the public, in fact few people even know of it's existence. They are working on a book about the house that looks elegant.
We got back to the house about 5:00 pm so that Helen could have her heart's desire, to see the sunset over Manila bay. With wine and cheese we sat on the balcony outside our bedrooms to watch the brilliant sun turn red as it slid behind the clouds and down behind the city buildings. It was glorious setting.
But were destined not to be alone as two air conditoner repairmen arrived with a rebuilt cooling unit, a tank of freon and a blowtorch. The head guy looked to be in his 70s and squatted next to the unit as he wedged the cooling unit into place and sorted out the mass of copper tubing that had been cut to remove it. Moments later there were two balls of fire, one from the sun and another from the old style (meaning large) blowtorch a few feet from us. Using pliers, a piece of metal and the now roaring torch he began soldering the tubing togther. We watched both intently until the sun sank into the ocean. By now this was beyond just a repair, it was a matter of principal and that air conditioner "was" going to work. The maids brought water to test for leaks, we all helped lift the unit into it's backet above our heads and cheered when cold air flowed out the back end. Helen (who was the only one of the ten of us that managed to not get invloved in the process) leaned over and whispered "It takes a village". How fitting.
After it was over we went to dinner at a "Swiss chalet" open to the elements and ate fondue and seafood while the city lit up below us. At the conclusion the waiter brought out yet another birthday cake that Tere had smuggled in and sang Happy Bithday. The only other people in the resturaunt was a couple who were also having a bithday celebration. So Larry shared his cake with them too.
We slept in the next day and had a leasurely breakfast after 9:30 am. Helen and I explored the yard where Larry had several aviaries with Cockatoos, Macaws and Ringnecks. There were also ducks who shared the pond with the turtles at the bottom of a 30 foot waterfall. We could sit in the small gazebo, watching the waterfall and listening to the birds.
After lunch Josie arrived to give us each a massage. It was a weekend of being pampered in a beautiful setting. After a late dinner we piled into the car and Bong drove us back to our hotel and the chaos we knew we would face the next morning.