No Thrilla in Manila

So I just got back from Manila in the Philippines for my best friend’s wedding, and boy was I glad to be back home. Even thought there were a few parts of the trip that were eye opening to say the least, over all, I didn’t like this place one bit.

As soon as I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the amazing smell of sewage! Fair enough, its nothing new in first and second world Asian countries, but lets continue shall we.

My best friend and his father picked me up from the airport and finding a cab was a bit of an issue. If you get a taxi directly from the airport taxi stand, they charge you an extra 500 pesos ($12). So when we finally got a cab across the road, we had to negotiate a price. … Holy shit, where were the seat belts? … Holy shit, they have been removed…. ummmm okay.

When I arrived in San Antonio, Ortigas, the town I stayed at. I noticed that it was a private suburb blocked off by security guards with guns that needed your address and the text driver’s license in order to drive through. Okay, so there are security issues here. Great. My room was nice for what I paid. A simple one bedroom with a bathroom and kitchenette with no fridge but aircon. All for $440 for 9 nights. Not too shabby at all.

Throughout the week I took note of a few things that really annoyed me though. The traffic is terrible. what should take 5 mins can take up to 30 mins due to the amazing bumper to bumper traffic. These traffic conditions don’t really fluctuate from Monday to Friday either. The main problem is that most Philippinos can’t afford a new car, so most of the cars on the road are 15 to 30 years old and have a tendency of breaking down. These constant breakdowns, along with an over population of people and bad infrastructure is the main reason for these terrible traffic conditions. And they all have grown accustomed to it!… I mean, ZERO road rage… in that heat too. What’s going on here?

Francis’ (The Groom) father told me that when they left the Philippines back in the early 80s, the Philippines was nothing like it is today. There were nowhere as much people and life was more easy going. The population in Manila today is around 21 million! (that’s about the entire population of Australia) as apposed to 1980 – around 6 million. This is an almost quadruple boost in population in 30 years and I can bet you that not much has been done to accommodate for such a number. Ref – http://www.newgeography.com/content/002198-the-evolving-urban-form-manila

Population and environment go hand in hand, and let me tell you, Manila doesn’t fall short in a lovely pollution discussion. It actually surprises me that it doesn’t even make it in the top 25 most polluted cites in Asia. Ref: http://list25.com/the-25-most-polluted-places-on-earth/

The air is so bad there that when I decided to go for a 5 km walk to see the city by foot, I only got to the 1km mark before starting to feeling sick. The following day I got conjunctivitis in my right eye! SHIT! I had to cover up this bung eye. Must have made quite the impression when the best man met the father in law, wearing trippy orange shaded/ blue framed sunnies to dinner to cover up the wack eye. No problem Dave, just keep putting eye drops in your eye every 30 mins to prove you are actually still slightly sane : )

Pretty discusting, and alarming knowing I have a wedding to attend in 2 days. The heat and humidity feels like it’s set at 80% its peak all day which feels really weird. Its not humid enough to sweat and not hot enough to feel like you are going to burn, but also too uncomfortable to accept due to the pollution in the air.

Hey guys, whats there to do in Manila?? how about…. FUCK ALL. Hey, I’ve got an idea, lets go… SHOPPING!!! Jesus Christ, if I see another shopping center any time soon, I’m going to loose my shit. Literally, the amount of shopping centers in Manila is ridiculous, and the shear size of them! they are HA – UUUUUGE!! ! Philippinos take their shopping VERY seriously, and when I say seriously, ladies and gents, I mean it… look into my right eye! Their largest shopping centre is actually the largest in the world and its called Mall of Asia – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO5oklBfS-o

One day of shopping is enough, but when there is nothing else to do, and you have to enter these giant blocks of consumer concrete to find shitty food (next topic) then it gets really annoying. I mean, how many times is it fun to get lost in a mall? I noticed that the corridors in these malls are twice the width of ours back home, and the reason for that is just to accommodate the amount of people who wander through on weekends. If you love shopping though, go check out Greenbelt, its actually an impressive shopping environment with luscious green nature walks and ponds surrounding high end retail stores.

I couldn’t help but see something very wrong here in this city. The consumerism is crazy. It seems like the government has purposely put all these shopping centers in place to distract and occupy the people from realising whats really going on in this country. I see a mass of glazed over eyes believing that they actually need things in these places. But what else is to do here? What else is put in place to accommodate for the people of Manila to feel at ease and safe? Clearly nothing outside but poison and street stress, right? No wonder there is so much crime and corruption… A form of desperation for being neglected? Maybe.

The Food. Ok, if your not prepared to go and buy all your food and cook it at home, be prepared to eat unhealthy food. No matter where I turned, all I saw is fast food restaurants, deep fried and sweetened meals. Sure, if you are happy to dine out in expensive restaurants each morning afternoon and tea, then by all means, but for the average person that wants a healthy snack or dinner… good luck with that. I’ll give you an example of my situation. One night I decided to stay in, but I start to get hungry, that means that I would have to find a cab, then get stuck in traffic, then find a place to eat, find another cab, get stuck in traffic again and finally get back. That ordeal could take up to 2 hours.. all for dinner? So I checked to see what I can find online for home delivery. Yay, the first thing to pop up is Jollibee! the Philippino version of McDonalds. I was surprised that I could actually taste the sugar in the buns though. Oh , they stole the chicken from KFC and they sell rice on the side. Just wouldn’t be Asian without it right ? : )

I also ordered Bangus with Rice… Fuck, I thought it was a Philippino version of ‘Angus’ steak. Got served with a flat piece of dirty fish. Tasted fishy too.

Oh, here’s another interesting fact…. if a car runs over a dog, they don’t just keep driving… they go to check if its dead. If it is, sweet as, chuck it in the boot, free grub tonight over beers with the boys. Dog meat is quite tough so they normally chop it up fine with herbs and spices and have it as a snack over beer….. I know…………. I know.

The cab drivers are corrupt. They try to bullshit you all the time and take as much as they can cause you are a foreigner. I don’t blame them though. Who’s helping them to get enough pay to feed their family? I gave an honest cab driver who became my main driver for the next few days an Australian 10 dollar note. He actually freaked out and gave me a massive hug and tried to set me up with his cab company’s secretary who apparently is hot. Apparently she got excited when he told her I was over 6ft tall. Hahaha… that’s funny. No offense.

Security. WTF. Every entrance of every shopping centre and shop have police with shot guns and metal detectors. Some have metal detector doors like at the airports! Everywhere you walk, there is a policeman or security overlooking at every corner to make sure no security threats erupt. Last year saw a security threat in a shopping center and a terrorist bomb threat so the government decided to up the anti… they weren’t kidding, trust me.

This link tells the story. What they don’t tell you is that the tool used to smash a shop was actually bought IN the mall he attempted to rob.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/264048/manila-police-boost-security-after-bomb-scare

What I don’t understand is why one of these shopping Malls I visited had a gun store on the top level disguised as a hunting store. What are the 9mm guns for? shooting wild dog for breakfast? Double barred shot guns next to the fishing rods. Ha!

I sensed a vibe the entire time whilst been in the Philippines that hinted unconscious defeat. Lets not ponder the whole time on the negative though.

Overall, I have to say, the Philippino people are very friendly and kind at heart. The older generation show a deep respect to their elders and family which unfortunately is slowly dying with Gen Y and lack of personal communication due to technology and online communication options. I have to say that I felt very welcome where ever I went and no one made me feel uncomfortable. People there generally come across more humble and tolerant than Australians. Something to take back. We really do take our beautiful country and 1st world standards for granted.

I love the prices!

Can of beer – $1.
Pack of Cigerettes – $1.
6 beers and 2 plates of food – $10.
A 1 hour trip from the airport to the city with the meter on – $6
All you can eat sushi – $14.
Haircut – $5

Oh, if you want food from the bar you are at but they don’t serve it, no problem, they will get it for you from the bar next door or the restaurant adjacent to it for you. They all work as a team to take your money. I love it.

Oh, the wacky side of Philippino cuisine! I ate Balut! Balut is an unborn duck egg that is boiled 3 days before Daffy is supposed to hatch out and quack quack. Its an old traditional street food snack. Enjoy the video. Yes, I was drunk, but I very much enjoyed Ronny (military trained) having some difficulty : ) It actually taste quite nice. Like chicken!

To sum it all up, I’d like to say that if you want to experience the Philippines, I suggest the only reason you need to go to Manila is to transfer at the airport. Go see some amazing Islands that the Philippines has to offer like Boracay.

Signing off,
D Dog.

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