A little bit of everything
07.01.2009 - 17.01.2009 35 °C
We landed in Manila and headed for the exit, however unlike most travelers; we opted to avoid the very overpriced taxi and insisted on the public bus. Walking past the taxies, and security guards who insisted we were lost and tried to redirect us to the taxi queue, we made it to the bus stop within meters of the terminal. We boarded the bus, and when the ticket person came around to collect the money, we with ease handed exact change over. Impressed by our fluency with the new currency and navigating the bus system, a Filipino man in front of us gave us a big thumbs up. This quickly broke into questions about the city, and he told us everything he could about the people (specifically the thieves and crooks), food, and how to get to our meeting spot with Andrew.
Getting onto the LTR was ok, minus the fact that a bag inspector needed to see into our packs, and getting down to Adriatico pub was ok as well, despite having to walk through some impoverished areas with all our gear. Once there, Andrew popped through the door wearing a familiar VD Union Blues shirt. We immediately sat down for a drink with the three of us and Bob, Andrew’s girlfriend’s uncle who had been living in Manila for 20+ years. We caught up a bit, and shortly after, Bob brought us around to find a hotel and then invited us back to his home. On the way there we were told a bit of the history of the country from him living there with his family. The most obvious was the discussion about the traffic we were stuck in. Basically there had been no investment in infrastructure since the 1970’s, when Philippines had actually been ahead of its neighbours, but has since fallen behind because of government corruption. We were also told that 10 million Filipino people live abroad, and send money back to support their families. However if the situation were to ever improve, and these citizens wanted to return, they basically would find a country that would not be able to support or host them.
One at Bob’s home we were shown a true extension of Filipino hospitality, because we were sat down to lovely cold beer, an imported cheese platter (which Monique devoured), and great conversation. We were introduced to his family, and ate a home cooked meal with tons of meat and other amazingly prepared items – which we emotionally expressed our gratitude for having us, and cooking a family meal which we hadn’t experienced in over a year.
Monique and her cheese
That night we took a cab back to our hotel, and while Monique rested, Michael and Andrew were eager to catch up after a year reunion. To properly show Andrew how different Asia was from back home, Michael went into the convenience store and purchased two beers and proceeded to drink them on chairs set up on the street. From there they traveled around the streets of Manila, and despite great conversation with catching up and philosophies on life, the city was out to show its ugly side. Children ran alongside of you tapping their open hand at you for money, prostitutes and sex tourists lingered everywhere, and the city was unable to offer anything different.
The next morning we woke up and made our way out of the hotel. The one we originally selected was not allowing three guests to a room, so we had to sneak out without drawing attention to ourselves. Unfortunately, Monique and Michael went down stairs to check out and left Andrew to follow. However the two of us were told to sit while they did a room inspection, which luckily worked out because we came down a different elevator and walked straight out. They asked us why he was there, but we simply stated to pick up our bags. Suspiciously, they gave us an “exit card”, which we had to give to the front door guard. This was scary really because he too was armed with a gun, and we can only imagine what happens if you didn’t agree to a charge and decided to exit anyways…
From here we headed up the street to eat breakfast, which was the first meal we would be eating and paying for with Andrew, so we began to demonstrate how cheap travelers get by. Setting up at a little shop on the street, we went with burgers which sounded like a good idea, especially to Andrew and Michael who spent the night out. But this idea was immediately regretted once they came out; covered in orange sauce, and containing a very strange meat patty, we reluctantly ate our breakfast/lunch. After which Andrew and Michael ventured to find a place to stay (which turned out to a hostel, in a 12 person dorm), while Monique began to fear the upcoming days as she read the local English newspaper (which had 2 full pages of gun related deaths).
From here we had decided to establish the basics like money, and itinerary, and logistics. We found it almost impossible to change travelers checks in Manila for a decent rate, and were left with few options. We finally went a different route with money, because we were frankly getting tired of going into banks. Robbery must be a bit of an issue, because every bank, tourist hotel, or any other place that handles money, would have a security guard(s) (sometimes no older then 16) who were armed with a hand gun, or full on shot gun. On our journey looking for an HSBC (several have closed recently and retreated from the city), we walked through some very precarious looking streets which was lined with families lying on the street, food stalls full of people and no food, and tough “jeepney” (their public buses that look like jeeps/”the bullies of the streets” - Bob) drivers casing you as you walked by.
We finally ventured to a mall that turned out to be a nice portion of town, where we decided to spend a bit of time shopping for goods that we needed. This led us to a travel agent nearby - Filipino Travel who hooked us up with a great flight and arrangements to get down to Boracay. These arrangements did however require us to cut out seeing the more historic portion of town the following day, which could have changed our opinion a bit about the city, but unlikely. At night we treated ourselves to a very nice dinner, and spent the remainder of the night in our hostel thinking about white sand.
In the morning we made our way to the Airport, and were reminded once again of the unfulfilled dreams of the Filipino people, as our taxi driver told us stories about how his country has impressive spirit, but is riddled with corruption and has suffered since. He told us the story of their new airport terminal, and how government officials became wealthy from its construction, and how his only dream was one day take off from that airport to a country with more prospects.
With a beer in us, and boarding a propeller plane, we flew to Caticlan, and then a very rocky boat ride to Boracay Island. From here we took off in a tiny motorcycle tuck-tuck over the hills and then finally to our resort. It was a beautiful resort, and we decided to stay the entire time; until we discovered that we accidently paid more than we thought, which sent us on a hotel search. We ended up finding a lovely little hotel set in from the beach, which was owned by a family, and decided to go there once our time at Casa Pillar expired.
With everything out of the way, we made our way down to the beach and spent the remainder of the afternoon in the sun. We then went to dinner, which was a bbq buffet, on the beach with the waves crashing right up to our table. However Monique was not feeling it, so she went off to get “Boracay’s best burger”, which was disappointing at best. Since we had spent the day traveling and were thinking of taking it easy we picked up some drinks and snacks (Monique got popcorn from a random street vendor) and made our way to the bungalow. Once again Monique tuckered out quickly, and Andrew and Michael were eventually behind her, but on a whim, we put on our shoes and made our way to the main stretch.
We eventually made it down to the beach path and scouted the bars in Boracay. Settling down at a little bar which had a talented band and singer who had a unique gravel sounding voice, we enjoyed the sights of the patrons. Including a 45 year old man who almost stumbled into a palm tree, and then into a group of people who were sitting next to us. This led to some laughs and eventually them joining us, along with others who made the upcoming day enjoyable.
The following day we made our way to the beach and spent the day in the sun. Unlike most of the countries we have been in, we found the sun was much stronger than before – more so then we expected. By the end of the afternoon, while the boys made their way down the beach, Monique laid in sun and got a severe sunburn. When we made it back to the room, we discovered we all had heat stroke and Monique was starting to develop a rash.
As the night we mustered enough strength to have a pizza party and movies in a new room (which we insisted on changing because we thought Monique had bed bug bites or something). However in the morning we noticed that Monique’s rash was spreading throughout her body, and causing her a lot of anguish. To the point that as Andrew and Michael would go down to the beach, while Monique rested in the room for the majority of the day.
The beach in the afternoon
Andrew and Monique looking out at the sunset
The first day out the boys walked the streets and through the town to capture a bit of the local life. This lead through different remote parts, but finally against Andrew’s will, Michael suggested going down some precarious looking paths into village areas. This turned out to be a worthwhile gamble, because we got to see (Andrew for the first time), true South East Asian dwellings and living standards, but at the same time, see their hospitality. We ended up by some homes where a dozen locals were celebrating Boracay Island Day. We were sat down and ended up sampling some of their local beers and whiskeys. Delighted, but tight of time, we needed to leave and get back to Monique
The beginning of the walk
A clearner environoment
This is where the walked started
Our drinking friend
The lazy beach routine was repeated for a couple days after this, as Monique rested and became increasingly uncomfortable with her situation in a foreign country, while Andrew and Michael suffered a bit of anguish with the food, but generally fought it off with drinks at night. Despite being on one of the whitest beaches in the world, and weather being generally sunny, we were becoming increasingly frustrated with our health and the persistent bombardment of salespeople constantly hounding for a sale (to the point they would wake you up while resting to ask “motor bike, jet ski”)
On our last couple days the boys were feeling themselves again and decided to venture out. Andrew and Michael set out on foot along the beach, snapping photos along the way. We ended up on a more private beach, away from the hawkers and in a less developed region of the island. After spending the day here, we headed back and began to pack things in and get ready for our onward journey to Singapore.
The quite beach we found further away
Us at the quite beach, enjoying our time
The three of us
Massive sunset on our last day
We all learned how to cut a mango
The next morning up at 5:30 we made our way back to Caticlan, and then to the airport. In the middle of the week, the girl who was the receptionist invited us out to a big festival on the same island as Caticlan, which we considerate because it was so notorious in the Philippines, but after we got a better prospective of the logistics of Caticlan and its surrounding area, we were happy we opted for staying at Boracay. Not to mention it would have meant departing the party at 4:00 with them to get back for a flight at 8:00.
Once back in Manila, we had to take a taxi from one terminal to the other, and then had to spend the remainder of the time in an archaic terminal waiting for our flight. In the end we were delighted to see the beautiful parts of Philippines, including Boracay, but were happy to set off to continue our journey.