Greetings from Manila!
I'm still a bit too exhausted to write much or well, but (nearly) everyone else has gone to mass, so this seemed like a good time to sit down at the computer.
The trip here was pretty much what I've come to expect for airline travel -- complete with a whining, seat-kicking child behind me for 11 hours, a seatmate with astonishing halitosis and a series of special "non-dairy vegetarian meals" consisting of things like shrimp and bean and cheese burritos. Basically, what survives in my sleep-deprived brain is a long string of boredom and discomfort, punctuated by a few moments a grace (the shadows of clouds on the sea, the way breaking surf, from the right height, looks like a stationary line of white on the water)
I survived though, and got off the plane in Manila on my own steam.
Even just walking down the gangway between the airplane and the airport, I could feel the pressure of the damp, vegetative heat closing in.
The entire process of immigration, baggage claim and trying to find the people who were supposed to be waiting to greet us was a bit of a circus, but fortunately I ran into one of the other students in the bathroom. She actually approached me. Given that I'm a conspicuously tall, white college-aged person carrying a laptop, I don't think she had to go out on too much of a limb to ask if I was part of the program. Everyone else was a bit harder to spot though -- I'm the only non Fil-Am. There were actually four of us on the same flight from Japan, but we didn't figure out who was who until everyone was collected and ready to leave the airport.
It turns out we're spending the first week in Manila, at a hotel/dorm for de la Salle university. (We're all on bunkbeds in one room, but the building is fancy, air conditioned and has a swimming pool and a restaurant.) I will probably be getting a cellphone in the next couple of days, so email if you want the number. Otherwise, I'll try to update this when I get a chance. Hopefully, more thoughts and impressions will follow later -- I just wanted to let everyone know that I made it in one piece.