Mangoritas in a bar in Makati, heavenly
I had been warned to be careful travelling to Manila
on my own so was feeling a bit nervous. I already had a brief stopover in the city on my way through to Palawan
, the night of the karaoke chef, but didn’t spend any real time there so didn’t yet have the place sussed out. Off the flight from Bohol
and immediately snapped into city mode, started giving the taxi drivers what for, making sure they put that darn meter on or finding another driver that will. No messing here, taxi drivers continued to be my biggest annoyance! I stayed in quite a nice hotel in the district of Malate
, near to Universities and shopping malls.
Robinson Mall, malate
Occasionally I have been staying in nicer hotels to recharge the batteries, have a bit of a pitstop break away from the cockroaches and mice. This was one of those occasions, so big comfy bed, aircon and room service breakfast it was.
I met up with Magda, a local from TB. We met in the Makati district, a fascinating area of Manila simply because I did not realise there were places in this city that were so damn swanky. Everything was very modern and pristine, trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs, glitzy shopping malls, all very glamorous. We had such a lovely evening, nice dinner, then beers then a new cocktail to add to the list ‘mangoritas’. Did I mention how awesome the mangoes are in Philippines? I think i might already. Anyhow, margherita with fresh mango, absolute heaven.. Magda had just returned from an amazing trip to the States so we swapped travel stories and a good ol gossip, was a very lovely evening.
San Augustin, Intramuros
Next day i went sightseeing around the historic walled city of Intramuros
, to see a very different side of Manila. Intramuros city was built in the 15th century during the Spanish occupation and was at the heart of the colonial rule. It is a compact and colourful city surrounded by a moat and walls. Over the centuries, Intramuros has been invaded by Chinese, Dutch and British, survived many earthquakes but succumbed to heavy bombing during WWII so much is now in ruins. I had a very enjoyable afternoon strolling through the cobbled streets and admiring the buildings. At one point I got followed by a group of young girls playing with a broom in the streets around casa manila. I admit I immediately put my guard up after hearing about nothing but scams against tourists in Manila.
San Augustin, Intramuros
The girls were asking me to take their photo with my camera. It seemed that this is actually all they wanted after all and had a good giggle when i showed them back their photo. It was sad that I had felt wary of these girls but I think understandable. It started to chuck it down with rain so I took shelter in San Augustin Church, the oldest church in the Philippines and the only major building in Intramuros to come away unscathed from the WWII bombings. This was a stunning building with never-ending grand, colourful rooms full of antiques and treasures.
I ended a great day with the compulsory visit to a shopping mall. Filipinos seem to love their big American-style malls and are a great place not only to shop and eat but to people watch and get a feeling of modern Filipino life. Robinson mall in Malate was absolutely huge, very very busy and very exciting.
Intramuros, the walled city
There is a huge supermarket on the ground floor with the most amazing fruit section. I spent ages checking out the mountains of durian, mango and dragon fruit. Also, spent some time trying to buy moisturiser that didn’t have added skin whiteners! As I now have a tan from my months in Asia I am no longer fashionable! The paler the better here, and with brand names like ‘placenta’ whitening soaps, creams and lotions are a big business in SE Asia.
Up early the next morning to catch a bus to Clark
airport for my onward journey to Singapore. I caught a taxi to the Pasay bus depot only to be told by a lady with a gun that the bus had been cancelled and the next one probably will not get me to the airport in time for my 1pm flight (Clark is a three hour drive from metro Manila).
Scary or sweet?
Not good eh? Again, the thought did cross my mind that this was some kind of scam for me to use a taxi or another bus company, I was always on the lookout for scams fully expecting to be fleeced at every opportunity! I don’t know if this was but i ended up sharing a taxi ride all the way with a couple of Filipino ladies and a cute little girl. They seemed to want to brush up on their karaoke as were singing along quite loudly to the radio but i ended up joining in when Greendays 21 guns came on the radio and we bonded!! We stopped off at a checkpoint at one point and the driver looked quite flustered, had to get out the car and speak to some authorities with machine guns or other. I think they noticed my concerned look as teased me saying ‘he is giving some money under the table’ hahahaha I fell for this, again I am just expecting everything to be corrupted and scammed here! When the ladies started chuckling at my worried look I realised the joke was on me!
By the time I left for Singapore, I had an overall positive feeling towards Manila.
I fully expected not to like it here but to me this place, although edgy and I am sure many problems, had multi-personalities and a lively latin American style soul. Maybe I was lucky but the worse corruption i witnessed during my stay in the Philippines was the housekeeping extra services offers on Bohol Island, the most unsafe I felt was being lost after the visit to the Tarsier sanctuary, but it was fine as I had help from some kind people. OK, so Philippines is not the easiest of places to get around, the food is rather bland and the ‘deposit firearms’ signs a little unnerving, but for me I will have memories of the pure beauty of el nido bacuits and of the warm, humorous people I met everywhere.