San Juan, Puerto Rico

There´s this feeling of familiarity as I got off the plane at Luis Marin International Airport this afternoon. The tropical breeze blended well with the unmistakable warmth of the afternoon sun, a reminder of what my Pinoy skin is used to. It feels like being in my hometown of Davao.

I´m meeting Jovie and Jonathan tomorrow so that means I´ll be discovering San Juan myself for the next 12 hours or so. As my room wasn´t ready yet when I checked in, I went straight to Condado beach, just a few minutes walk from the hotel. This being a Saturday, the whole beach area was awash with bodies of various forms and sizes.

My eyes scanned the horizon and I find myself distracted every now and then by the six-pack abs parading before me. Instinctively, I inhaled deeply in an attempt to tuck-in my protruding belly. I spent $3 to rent a beach chair as I armed my camera while glancing for photo-ops and trying to read a paper-back at the same time. Ahh, what a way to forget the rat race in the big city!

I went back to the hotel and got directions to the publico, or public bus. 75 cents took me all the way to historic Old San Juan, that´s the equivalent of Intramuros to Manileños. It's a pretty neighborhood, full of reminders from a Spanish colonial past.

The massive fort of El Morro sits at the very tip of Old San Juan, facing the Atlantic ocean where Spanish and British invaders sailed through in the past. The fort was originally built in 1846 and rebuilt in 1908 after being heavily damaged during the Spanish-American war.

These days, El Morro is a peaceful haven for family picnics and throngs of tourists disgorged from cruise ships. Puerto Rican children played kites at the expansive grounds of the fort while camera-wielding visitors orbited around the many fortifications and barracks made from stone and corrals.

My afternoon was almost marred by panic when I thought I lost my wallet in the public bus. I was getting thirsty and as I searched my pocket, I felt something was not there. I rushed to the bus depot and spoke with one of the drivers. I´m still glad he spoke English as I wasn´t prepared to ramble in broken Spanish. He asked me if somebody sat next to me. I said "No, only American tourists on the next aisle", to which he retorted "Why, doesn´t Americans steal, too?". Ok, I´m not about to dispute that.

Thankfully, the missing wallet was not missing after all. I got back to the hotel and there it was on the night table! Whew, what a day.

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