26 August 2010

My Biggest Lesson in Manila: Always DOUBLE CHECK!

So, Intramuros is like a whole world different from the Metro Manila that surrounds it. The moment you come through the gate, you’ll be thrown into some little European town – with the sweltering tropical sun remains to burn you head out.

Just past the gate is the University of The City of Manila. I never knew a university could get that small. With the sudden growth in the number of oversized schools all over Malaysia in the past few years, this university here looks more like some little school to me.
Apart from the horse carriages, there are other means of transportation that are readily available to bring you around in this beautiful little city.  
WE actually didn’t have any map of Intramuros with us so we just walked to follow our footsteps. The very first thing that caught MY eyes was this beautiful fusion of half-bricked an half-wooden building.
You can't miss seeing these beautiful giant wooden jars (or are they tabla?) at the entrance.
And I instantly went WHOAAAA the moment I came in.
It was the greatest collection of wood crafts that I’ve seen in my entire life. They’ve got just about everything that hands can possibly craft up.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything. I wasn’t really a good idea to carry a handcraft around. OK, I lied. I couldn’t afford to buy any of them. :-P
Out of the building, I got my very first glimpse of the San Agustin church looking so out of place with its striking color among low-toned buildings.
And the carvings on the side doors are just too beautiful to ignore.
A wedding ceremony was just about to start so no visitors were allowed to come in. Jeez. Out of 360 days in a year, why did they choose to get married when I was there?! Grrrrrrr.  
Hehe. Realizing that the battery of my camera was running flat, I smiled at myself knowing that I had the spare battery inside my sling bag. I fumbled through it and a pang of lightning suddenly struck me. It was nowhere to be found!

That was when I wanted to kill myself right in front of San Agustin Church. I cursed myself over and over again for my stupidity.
Well, I felt so frustrated with my own carelessness more that I had possibly wanted to. Last time I forgot something quite ‘vital’ like that was in Sydney when I forgot to bring my tripod to Manly Beach and the frustration wasn’t even that close to what I felt this time. I can get creative with my camera without a tripod to put it on to but I can’t do anything when I can’t even switch it on.

If you don’t already know, San Agustin church is actually part of a museum.
Since we were already there, I forced myself to buy an entry ticket because it wouldn’t be fair for Lizzie if I didn’t.
But then, I found it quite impossible to enjoy all the things when I didn’t have a camera with me. The battery indicator was blinking I only allowed myself to take a photo when I really had to.
But then again, most of the ‘important’ sections of San Agustin Museum strictly forbid photography.
Just as it was in most museums that I had been to, San Agustin Museum is full of old paintings and beautiful sculptures and just making my way through the hallways was giving me the odd feeling of being in some medieval time.
The building has a lower and upper floor that encircles a beautiful open-air area in the middle.
There were times when I felt a wave of goosebumps oozing down the back of my neck. The place is definitely haunted by the unseen.
As a Catholic myself, I’d rather believe that they are angles. I mean, they can’t be – demons right? Demons are afraid of churches no? :-D
Some section of the museum was allocated as a columbarium (storage of ashes for cremated bodies). It was actually my very first encounter of a columbarium so it was quite an experience to be surrounded by hundreds of small boxes containing human ashes. Oh well, again, this section of the museums doesn’t allow photography so – I could only take a photo of it from outside the entrance door.
I took a peep at the wedding ceremony. I don’t know if that guy in the blue jeans was hired to block out the sight. I really couldn’t see the wedding couple. Damn big@SS!
Getting out of San Agustin Museum, the wedding ceremony was still on-going. If it was an indicator, I’d hope their marriage would last as long as the wedding ceremony had been. Tsk tsk. *sarcastic mode ON
SO……. With NO functioning camera in hand, I didn’t really see the points of going any deeper into the city of Intramuros. A little bit of discussion with Lizzie had come up with a decision that we’d come back there again tomorrow. I felt so sorry for her I actually REQUESTED that she knock on my forgetful head the hardest she could so that I’d learn my lesson. She politely refused. LOL
If you think that apartheid had belonged to South Africa alone – than you haven’t learnt enough. Intramuros for me is a symbol of racism that had once haunted Manila. Back in the Spanish time, YOU GOTTA BE WHITE to be allowed to stay in Intramuros. If you are a colored, then you can only be in the Intramuros as a coolie to the white people during the day BUT you gotta go back to your nest in the racially segregated district of Binodo comes night. (see how I hit into Binodo in my next post).  
Racism was so rift that white women were not allowed to marry the local men even if size doesn’t really matter to them. Thanks God they actually allowed WHITE MEN to marry local women and the outcome is all the beautiful girls that you see all over Manila nowadays. :-D
But of course, all of those are a thing of the past now.
Intramuros is now inhabited by just about all colors even though their 'nest' looks more like a dirty germ in the middle of this beautiful little city of Intramuros.
It had even become of a play ground to colored kids.
And even colored hens. LOL.
Saying goodbye to Intramuros at least for the day, we took a jeepey to go to another place that I had been hearing over and over and over and over and over again about – The Mall of Asia.

Oh well, just in case you didn't know yet, jeepneys have a unique way of collecting fares from the passengers. They don't have have a conductor to collect money and to hand it down to the driver. Instead, they'd give the role of a conductor to whoever sit right behind him(driver). The only problem is, you don't get paid for this unintended job and they wouldn't give you a free ride either. You still have to pay.
Sitting on the front seat next to the driver is a smart way of avoiding the unwanted and unpaid job and that's exactly what Lizzie did.
Lizzie the smart girl. Hehe.
OK, what happened next was an interesting story to tell. The driver had first assured us that the jeepney would take us right to the Mall of Asia. Then when all the other passengers had gotten off and we were the only ones left on board together with a Filipino guy, the driver must have suddenly changed his mind and DUMPED us off in the middle of nowhere!
Ohhh, that is not the most interesting part. He actually asked the Filipino guy if he could take us to the Mall of Asia. AND OHH again………. That is not the interesting part YET. The most interesting part is………….. He agreed! HE AGREED TO TAKE US TO THE MALL OF ASIA! And it wasn’t even the place that he wanted to go.

Before I knew, we were tagging behind this Filipino guy going asking around on where we could get a jeepney to the Mall of Asia. It really was amazing how somebody who is a total stranger to us were willing get through all the difficulties of bringing us to somewhere totally out of his original route.
Oh well, I gotta admit that I was quite suspicious at first I actually attempted to break away from him at least a few times. I mean, who doesn’t right? In many places that I’ve been to, people always do something for something. I reasoned out to him how I didn’t want to trouble him and that we could find our own way and Lizzie was there to back me up. But he just kept walking and gesturing a “Follow me” at us.
Oh well, we went through a series of asking around and took at least two jeepneys before the famous giant globe finally came into sight. WE had arrived at the Mall of Asia!
You see, quite in most of the 3rd world countries that I’ve been to so far, people wouldn’t do you a favor just like that. They wouldn’t even bother to say HELLO to you if they don’t see money coming into their pocket. MANILA – that I’ve come to discover - is different. They still have the trend here and there – perhaps – but Filipinos are being friendly because that is just how they are – friendly.

As we made our way into the mall, he actually asked if we knew how to go back to our hostel. Thinking that what he did to us was already too much of a favor, I promptly said “Oh, please don’t bother. We’ll probably just take a cab”.
Offering him a goodbye later, I took the chance to ask him why he did all that. This is his EXACT answer.

As you have probably known, Filipino people are known for their hospitality. I JUST FEEL THE OBLIGATION”.

And that changed my ages of bad perspective over Filipino people FOREVER. I felt so bad for being suspicious of him earlier, I even felt worse I didn’t pay the jeepey fares for him. Shame on us! Shame on us! Huhuhu.

And there was one last quick quiz from him: Are you two boyfriend and girlfriend?

And Lizzie was quick to answer (while shaking her head with a disgusted look at me. Erkkkk!) : no no no no no. We’re just friends.

And he just nodded with a smile before disappearing into the crowds.

You see, some people are just blessed with good hearts. But then, Manila is full of good hearts. It wasn’t our last encounter with one – there were many more but I’m gonna talk about them as I go along.

Mall of Asia is one of a kind. Being one of the biggest malls in the world, it is like the epicenter of life of the whole city. There are just so many people that I felt like the whole population of Manila was there to be part of the shopping frenzy. If you get sick of crowded places than Mall of Asia is not the right place for you. Believe me, IT is just so so crowded.
But then, a shopping mall is a shopping mall. I’ve never been a big fan of shopping malls so I look at the Mall of Asia as just another one of the bunch. It’s a place where you can choose to walk or just sit down and stare at people the whole day if you want.
This is Lizzie presenting the Mall of Asia to Jipp's Blog's readers.
And this is my personal proof..*cough cough
And there goes my last picture of the day before my camera beeped to its death.

IT IS the ‘backyard’ of the mall that had interested me more than the mall itself. It looked more like an amusement park to me, with throngs and throngs and throngs of people were there to be part of what appeared like a weekend celebration or something.
It opens out to the South China Sea so the wind from the sea breezes by to give such a relaxing feeling to those who were there to spend the weekend.
Ohh, and I just love this game. It was one of those games that I had always wanted to play as a kid.
The feel was like owning your own world that offers solidarity from the outside world around. You know, like, living in a ball and be oblivious the surrounding. As much as I wanted to have my own ball, I was too old for it now. :-(
Coming back to the hostel later (jeepney), dishes of Philippines cuisines were waiting for us at the hostel. The owners of the hostel had been very nice to prepare dinner for us. Oh well, I wouldn’t give them too much credit than neccessary for this – Ronald the co-owner described it a ‘cost-sharing’ dinner.
BUT – it was such a good experience having a conversation with a group of people over dinner with whom we share the passion for travelling. Ronald the co-owner was more than happy to tell us just about everything of this great country, spanning from its multi-cultural people to its customaries to its list of “PLACES not to be missed in the Philippines”.
THAT was when he told me about this place called Palawan! – a place described by many people as “one breath to heaven”. He even told us how a friend of his had to pinch at himself over and over again just to make sure he was not dreaming. Now,,,how is that for a description? LOL .
Oh well, he could be overly exaggerating about Palawan and all but somehow I knew for sure I was gonna be heading there soon. Oh yeah. Good knows I will. :-P

And I also heard the existence of these magnificient mounds called the Chocolate Hills for the very first time.
And it is already in my list of travel destinations next year. Hehe. *drooling

The dinner was good but I had some problem with the super-thin paper plate. It was just so thin that it’d tear off at the mildest force of my fork I actually accidently ate a tiny slice of it once and stopped eating immediately.
I might have had enough of food but my stomach hasn’t. WE headed off to a restaurant recommended by Ronald, a place called Mang Inasal.
This restaurant seems to be quite popular for its very affordable prices of food. I was obliged to hold this stick of table number before our food had finally reached us.
I had the simplest of Sinagang at the cheapest price of PHP49 (RM3.30) and it was surprisingly not bad at all.
Lizzie had the smallest of burger at PHP48 and she liked it too.
And of course we both had the thinnest of ice-cream, and we both liked it. (forgot the price).
We REFUSED to end the night just like that. San Miguel Light was just so irresistible I could almost smell it even before I opened up the bottle. LOL
Oh, and I realized how its retail price is soooooo damn cheap for something so alcoholicious like San Miguel. PHP24 is like……. RM1.60? WE have to go all the way to Labuan to get a beer at that price in Malaysia.
It was such a relaxing ambience to be sipping at my favorite beer while watching the night go alive in the Makati street of Manila. And you know you’re in Manila when you see kids playing on the street at 2am in the morning.
The sleepless Manila it is. I can never cope up with it. NEVER.
I needed to sleep. After all, every traveller needs to sleepZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ..

*************************************************
OK. This one is more like a sub-entry. You don’t have to read it really. In the wake of the bus massacre in Manila a few days ago, I actually received a few emails and even chatted up with some friends about this shocking incident.
Just so happened that the 11-hour drama had happened on the road that separates Rizal Park from Manila Bay, right from where I took this picture – in between our runs to get rid of those persistent horse-carriages.
One of my male friends got quite scared he was actually seriously thinking about canceling his trip to Manila which was supposed to happen in less than a month’s time. Being single and self-proclaimed VIRGIN, he had a lot of thinking in his head after the massacre and one of them was, of course – He doesn’t want to die a virgin. Yeaaah rite! He he he!

So, were we lucky? I’d say – not really. In fact, those Hong Kong tourists were lucky to have been there to be part of the dramatic siege. After all they were all over the internet, TV news, CNN, Al-Jazeera and probably BCB news. Alright, I don’t want to be too harsh. I do sympathize for those who have been killed and their families and those who have been or going to be affected by the incident - among others for sure those in the tourism industry. My deepest condolences go out to all of them.

Manila is just like any other city. You can say London is safe when you hear a killing happens there every now and then and people are still ‘dying’ to go there. Some cities might be safer than some other cities but then we can never guarantee that we are really safe from some ill-fate.

If death scares you to death then you have to accept the fact that it doesn’t hold any boundaries. It can happen to you any time of the day, any day of the month and any month of the year even for the silliest cause and most importantly, any place – ANY place at all. Every now and then you’d hear about people getting killed right in front to their house, drown in their backyard swimming pool – even INSIDE their house, or at their workplace, even just outside of a SPRM building, for a variety of reasons and causes.

You see, there is no way of escaping death if that is what you're really scared of. The risk is always there no matter where you are. It’s not for you to decide whether it is ‘your turn’ or not. To decide whether to die a virgin or not? Yes, may be. But to live to be a 100 years old? No. It's up to Him up there.

So go travel. Go to Manila. Don't stop a freak like Rolando Mendoza freaks you out more than it is supposed to. :-)

8 comments:

aud said...

Phew! Reading this post took up all my reading time for today! haha, jk :)I think Manila has its own charms for travellers, probably not for everyone though.

Palawan and Bohol! When when when?

Murphy said...

It's true that death always comes at unexpected moment. who knew holidayers who enjoyed sunbathe in phuket would be swept away by tsunami in 2004? other tourists got so panic and cancel the trip, but then no tsunami til today. when we think death would come, they go away instead. when we think we are safe, it'll catch us off guard.

for the camera battery thing, usually i'll plan & pack all the accessories i need before bedtime. so the next day i can wake up & grab the bag & go, without missing anything.

JIPP said...

Aud: Haven't really decided on the exact date yet. Next year seems to be full of uncertainties. Will tweet about it once decided though.

Murpy: Yes! That's what I'm trying to tell everyone. Tsunami in Phuket is the best example. We'll never know what's gonna happen in the future but we can't for sure stay in the house all the time. Life's too short for that. :-)

Pu3 said...

Manila looks like a great place to visit. Im curious about that bubble balls (with the kids inside), floating on the water.... what are they for really? So kids were just free to roll everywhere they want? Its the 1st time I see such a thing

chegu carol said...

Ala sayang kamu tida dpt masuk sana San Agustin church. The interior inside is so mesmerizing. But then again, you have been to places with churches like that bah kan Jipp so maybe you won't feel as awed as me. That was my first time seeing church THAT enchanting. Tiada di Malaysia gia...

Ya! I also enjoyed looking at the wooden crafts collection at that same building you mentioned here. In fact, that's the first thing we went in. Well, more like it was the first thing we saw when in Intramuros. Hehe...Wanted to buy some souvenirs from there...tapi mahal pula.

fufu said...

aww... manila! how i wish i could go back... i like watching sunset at manila bay :) plan to visit back... hihihi bring me along next year!

JIPP said...

Pu3: Yupp, Manila is a great plc to visit and it is so near to us. :-) Yeah, the bubble balls fascinated me I actually spent quite long looking at them. They are free to roll around. SO cool.
Carol: SOmehow churches in Manila are so mesmerizing, even better than most of the churches in Europe that I went to.
Fufu: Sure sure. We can go there together. :-)

Anonymous said...

very nice read on Manila.thank you for the kind words and i apologize for any untoward happening. for Palawan and Bohol, i must say its a must for every Filipino or everyone for that matter to visit the two islands. they are just so pretty and nice! dont miss out on Cebu as well. Cheers to you! Hoping to visit KK soon!:)

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