Arriving in the Philippines
Arriving in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, started off nicely. After an 8-hour flight, we saw a beautiful sunset through the window of the plane. The city skyline was perfectly visible. Getting of the plane, it was hot and humid. A nice kind of hot; probably because the sun was gone. We were trying to get a taxi fare, but luckily remembered Uber in time. Just like in any country, the Uber’s are cheaper here. Plus, most taxi drivers are trying to scam you.
On our second day Manila, we experienced this twice, in a most unpleasant way. All over Manila, there are trycicles; they consist of a motorbike with a side span. They fit five people, two on the back of the bike, and three in the span. It’s built for slim and short Asians, so I wouldn’t say it’s too comfortable. But it’s an experience. Unfortunately our first driver tried to make us pay double, even after agreeing on a price. He got quite aggressive, and followed us around. I’m used to people trying to take you for a ride, as this is the usual in Indonesia, but I tell them no and they go away. This person however, was very scary and was not about to leave our side. In the end we just gave him the money to get rid of him.
Our Uber driver tried to make us pay in cash, with a story of our credit card not working. We asked him to show us this message on the screen, and obviously he couldn’t prove his statement. But even after getting out and walking into our hostel, he was still standing there and telling us we had to pay.
Manila is a Metropol with 17 million people. The same amount as in the whole country of The Netherlands. Unless you have seen it, you can’t imagine what the traffic here is like. I found it similar to Kuta, Bali. It can easily take you one hour to travel 10 kilometres. It’s a death wish to be on the road. There’s cars, motorbikes, jeepneys and trycicles everywhere, and all over. They drive on the right side of the road, but if they need to turn, it might also be the left.
The jeepneys are a leftover from World War Two, when the Americans came in and rode jeeps. After getting out of the country, they left all the jeeps, and the Philippines implemented them as a new way of transport. You sit in the back sideways, with about 15 other people. You pay the driver, who will accept the money, find change and hand it back while driving. When you want to hop off, you tap the roof or yell ‘Para Po’. ‘Po’ is what you say to older people, as a polite form.
Within Manila, you can see a big influence from the Spanish colonization. Intramuros (in between walls) is a large area that the Spanish built and for a long time was only accessible for the rich. There are many tours here, but we chose Bambike Ecotours. Bambike is an organization set up by an American, who invented this bike, built out of bamboo. With his business, he provides many jobs for Filipino people to help the community. The tour guide has a wide, impressive knowledge and tells us all about the influence of the Spanish, Japanese and Americans while we bike around the area.
We also went to my boyfriefnd’s family in Batangas for a few days. He is half Filipino and it was his grandma’s 82nd birthday. The whole community came out to celebrate, and we were treated as celebrities. It was so special for them to have foreign people over, as no one in the neighbourhood has ever experienced that. Everybody in the streets stared at us and waved, even more than in Manila. They seemed so happy when we would wave back or say hello. One of the cousins at the house was so shy every time we were around. She would stare at me from behind the wall, and whenever I smiled at her, her little face would disappear around the corner. The birthday party contained a lot of food, and karaoke. The Filipino people love their Karaoke, and after a late night it started again at 5:30 in the morning..
Children in the streets
There is a lot of poverty in the city, with people and children begging in the street. A little girl, I estimate she was no older than 7, tried to sell us ice cream. When we said no, she grabbed a stick, and hit a stray cat. It upset me so much, but in the end I felt more upset for her, having to live like this. It happened again later with a boy, asking for money. He rode his skateboard away from us and purposely crashed into a dog. The poor animal was just sleeping.
Later, we went for a little getaway within our holiday, to an island called Puerto Galera. We took the catamaran from Batangas Port to Sabang Beach. Children jumped into the water to climb the sides of the catamaran, and ask all the tourists for money and food. They were about 8 years old, and a few no older than 3. We didn’t have any food left, but on the way back we gave them bread.
They were so happy with it, and seemed to save it to share it all together. I couldn’t look at them without thinking about my younger siblings and the children I babysat. As I witnessed it, I felt tears rolling over my cheeks. Quickly I put on my sunglasses, as I felt embarrassed. I didn’t want them to see me as the rich, white tourist, who couldn’t cope with their misery because I am so fortunate with my background. The next, captivating moment, a girl started dancing on the boat when she got a few bags of chips of somebody. I realized they live from day to day, and today was a good day because they had enough to eat.
We’re staying around Cebu now, first at Bonita’s Guesthouse, hosted by a Dutchman. Now nearby Cebu city. This week we’ll hopefully be completing our Open Water license for diving.