Turkey Day an Ocean Away: how to party Manila-style

My Couchsurfing host - Japs (and his two phones - work and play). Love it!

It wasn’t too hard missing Thanksgiving last year. When no one around you is celebrating, when the weather isn’t cool and crisp, when the leaves on the trees aren’t falling, when there aren’t Pilgrim and Feast displays at the grocery store, when no one even knows what “Black Friday” means… it’s not hard to not be homesick. If you’d asked me a month ago what I was doing for Thanksgiving this year, I probably would have said “avoiding Facebook.” Thanks to my couchsurfing-host-turned-posse-connector Japs, I ended up at an “American Thanksgiving!”

But first I spent the majority of two days sleeping, taking antibiotics, and pushing through hour long bouts frozen in place while my eardrops did their job. (In case you missed it, I blew my eardrum Sunday.) Wednesday night rolled around and it was finally time to prove I’m not a total dud (as jetlag and illness might otherwise lead my new friends to believe). Japs and I headed out to join the members of the Makati Dinner Club, but ended up feasting on Mexican with Adrian and four Norwegians. We closed down the restaurant, but let the looming 9-5 vibe carry us home early.

Albert and Chat - Thanksgiving hosts - at our night on the town

Thursday morning dawned clear and sunny and hot as ever. Japs’ friends, Chat and Albert, have adopted the American holiday. With relatives in the States, careers that often are affected by this annual four-day weekend, and a sense of gratitude for all life has given them, Thanksgiving is on! I got a grand tour of Manila as we crossed city after city on the way to Turkey time. We missed the carving of the bird, but were in time to sample the whole spread. After some dessert, wine, cheese, and a few games of 9-ball, we headed out to a local bar where — unbelievably — the drink specials included rounds of free appetizers. We didn’t escape one of the hallmarks of Thanksgiving after all — we went from full to stuffed on plate after plate of nachos, sausages, and fried chicken.

Cruising home with Adrian and Mark

By the time I finished sleeping off all that fun and got around to researching out-of-town bus schedules the next morning, I’d put myself in sort of a pickle. I had a six or seven hour journey ahead. It’s winter here, so daylight is gone pretty early in the evening. The way I saw it, my choices were: a) take a bus as soon as I was ready, arrive in an unfamiliar city late and in the dark, and risk not being able to find a place to stay… or b) spend another evening with my favorite Manila posse and leave in the middle of the night arriving after dawn. Obviously “b” sounded more appealing. A few hours later, Adrian came by and we hit up a cool, hole-in-the-wall Italian joint straight out of a cobbled alleyway in New York. The wine and conversation flowed until Adrian’s cousin texted an appeal for help with party leftovers. We spend the rest of the evening chatting with a small group of relatives in a house that felt incredibly Southwestern to me — high ceilings, tile everything, rough-hewn bar and stools (and bizarrely, a nice green patch of grass outside). Afterwards, it took knocking on the proverbial (sketchy) wrong door a few times in the bus-departure neighborhood and I was off to Baguio! ♣

Check out the rest of the Thanksgiving photos on Facebook.

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