Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Holidays in Manila
Manila is a challenge for its crowds, its heat and not least of all, its poverty, but this country has to have the friendliest people in the world.
After my long flight from British Colombia to Manila my feelings of insanity finally dissipated, and upon waking from my nap at 4:30 in the morning I struck out for food like a zombie with his arms raised, not realizing it was 4:30 in the morning because I hadn't changed the time on my watch. Munching on nachos at a stand around the corner and wondering why the streets looked so deserted, I finally clued in that it wasn't 10:30 at night but 4:30 in the morning. I didn't feel threatened though because it appeared the zombies walking towards me had stumbled straight out of a bar from my home town and it made me feel right at home. However, if you're ever worried about people approaching you in the dead of night, just give them a weak smile and cross your eyes and they'll back off. It's my secret weapon. Who wants to rob a crazy old hag that might be looking for some get-go to boot?
If you want to see Manila in a slightly different light, wait until 6:30 in the morning and watch all the park dwellers coming out of their bunkers. Children can live their whole lives on the street. I saw one child no more than 3 years old pathetically trying to have a dump on the sidewalk and he was so constipated it was painful. It was sad and difficult to see, especially as there were so many children and their families living on the street.
I strolled down to the waterfront and on to the glass-littered beach and talked with a man and his wife who was holding an emaciated child that was too weak to cry. Another man with them threw his fishing line out and pulled it in slowly and I would have stayed and talked with them, but the smell on the beach was so bad I almost gagged before moving on. When I walked to the edge of the tide and peered into the gray, murky water, I saw that the bottom was at least half a foot deep with rotting garbage, tin cans, cardboard and muck, so when I saw this horror on flickr I wasn't surprised. However, I was amazed later when I saw a determined crowd of teenagers both male and female storming into the water, barefoot. Some of them brushed their teeth with their fingers and washed their hair with bars of green and pink soap. Poverty is just a reality of so many people's lives, yet in the Philippines I was offered far more by those who had nothing than by those in Canada who had everything. Philipinos are just downright beautiful people.
In Manila I stayed at Friendly's Guesthouse. It was a great place to network and get all kinds of information about the islands.
Jeepneys, which were originally US military jeeps left over from the war, are the most popular means of public transportation and they're as over-decorated as a World War II veteran, with just as many crosses and crucifixes attached to every movable part; probably in supplication to Jesus to get them through the most hideous traffic jams in the world without losing their minds.
There was a hostage-taking crisis taking place downtown while I was on my way to the airport to catch a flight to Dumaguete City, by a man with a gun and a briefcase full of grievances who was demanding better education and free housing for the poor. He really blocked up traffic, if traffic could get any more constipated in Manila. Now dude is probably in jail for life, but he certainly made his point.
I was relieved I had left two hours in advance to make the ten-kilometer journey to the airport. Cars moved ten yards then stopped for ten minutes, moved another ten yards, then stopped for another fifteen minutes and so on until I finally reached the airport. There was unbelievable gridlock. One sweaty hawker after another came up to the taxi to flog something - drinks, kites, water balloons, newspapers, candy, books, cigarettes, and with so many people camping out on the highway - toilet paper. At the airport security was heavy because the minute I was out of the taxi security guards wanted to see my passport and tickets. It was good to get out of Manila.
When I got to Dumaguete City I stayed at Harold's Mansion Hostel. The place was comfortable and air-conditioned and full of color. It's a good place to network. Harold was a great guy and he took me by motorcycle on a tour of Valencia, a town just west of Dumaguete. It was incredibly beautiful. I promised if I went back there I'd stay in the overgrown hostel beside the waterfall, Forest Camp. Unfortunately, I lost dozens of beautiful pictures from the Philippines when my computer crashed. Make a backup!
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. - St. Augustine
Posted by Nancy O.