08 September 2010

Surviving The Most Notorious Part of Manila

There’s this saying that, if you want to ‘read’ a city, go to its markets and that’s exactly what we did on our very last day in Manila. The biggest market in Manila is actually situated in a place called Divisoria. The problem is, it is also known as one of the most notorious areas in Manila.

Located totally on the other side of the city from where we stayed, it’d be quite too long to go there by jeepney. We did take a jeepney to a Beunda LRT Station anyway – somehow this time we managed to catch one with air-condition. At least we were spared from the smoky air of Manila for awhile.
LRT in Manila is not well-written about in the internet and I can see why. For one thing it is so damn-packed, probably 10 times more packed then our LRT in KL. Even to line up for the ticket was already a torturing test to my patience.
Quite surprisingly though, they do separate the ladies from the men – apparently a mitigation against opportunistic barbarians that probably enjoy getting sandwiched so that they can put their hands at work.
The last time I was sandwiched like sardines in an LRT was when I attended a Malaysian Cup’s final in which Sabah was defeated by Selangor and that was like many many years ago.
It’s amazing to see how it is like a daily routine for the LRTs in Manila.
Disembarking from the LRT at a Recto Station, Manila suddenly showed its ‘real face’ to me.
A little bit of info here, cities in Manila are all divided by a significant line of social level– the poorer and the richer. It’s hard to say how the line took its shape but one of the reasons that I can think of is probably the racial and social segregation practiced by the Spaniards during their 300 years occupation in Manila.
The likes of Makati and Malati are probably the richer sides while Divisoria for sure is on the poor. Having my camera slung around my neck, I got warned at least THREE TIMES by three different persons in all the rides that I took to Divisoria alone. So you can imagine how dangerous Divisoria can be even in the eyes of the locals. o.O
And sure enough, Divisoria Market is nothing like any other market that I’ve been to before. It is so huge it is so likely that you’ll end up tagging behind your own tail.
It is like a cornucopia of people with all the looks that you can imagine of, so many of them that you’ll eventually look at them as more like errr, ‘moving shadows’ after awhile.
If you’re one that would throw up at the slightest smell of garbage, that it is just advisable for you to stay away from Divisoria. For one thing they’ll just leave all the unsold produce to rot on the street, producing the most smothering stench that anyone could have ever smelled.
Seriously, the stench is such a killing machine. It’s like somebody rammed your head into a garbage bin full of rotten vegetables that hasn’t been picked by the township workers for at least a week. You can never be prepared for the smell. It was just so yucks,yucks and yucks.
So here’s how I’m gonna describe Divisoria. Put like a thousand of those RM2 shops that we have here in Malaysia into one big area and it’d become a Divisoria. It is like the epicenter of bargaining and shopping where you can find just about everything 'under the sun'.
I mean, EVERYTHING - even the weirdest stuffs that are so unlikely to be up for sale in our flea markets in Malaysia.  
It is full of China-made stuffs – those (super) light products that seem so brittle and fragile you wouldn’t want to put them into your backpack sack AT ALL.
SO… It’d say YES to being extra careful with all your belongings. Some of the areas would require you to squeeze into sardines of people it’s very easy for pickpockets to do their job.
With this tourist-looking attire that I had on, I probably looked like walking money to them. o.O
I mean, seriously. People kept staring at me I couldn’t help but looking at myself over and over again just to make sure I was not naked. I DID NOT SEE ANYBODY WITH A CAMERA in any of those many thousands of people that I saw in Divisoria.
I even SAW people swallowing a gale of saliva down their throat while looking at my LX3, NO KIDDING! I saw their adam-apples move! Erkkkk.
In case you want to give your head a break from the sweltering sun and your nostrils from the foul smell, you can always make a dash into any of the shopping malls in Divisoria. Errr, if you don't mind getting through the petty security check.  
Shopping Malls here are more like a giant kedai runcit with all the products stashed into floors of China-made goods and stuffs you might get spoiled for choices and end up buying nothing in the end.
Lizzie didn’t like the place and I didn’t blame her. It was a place where you see quite so many things up for sale and yet you don’t want to buy any of them.
But then, we probably don't get to see these here in Malaysia. Errr, not in big stacks like this. DIFFERENT is still a relevent word then. :-P
Straying away almost aimlessly off, I was so surprised at the sight of something so familiar.
We were there the day before and we were there again today! Apparently, our walk had led us back to the China Town!
Ohh, and China Town on a weekday is far more interesting to be walking around in.
With the scorching hot sun so boiling on us in Manila, I was so ready to join these kids playing in the fountain here.
But just when I was about so ready to strip naked, the place suddenly went roaring with siren from a police motorbike that came to shoo the kids away.
There goes my chance of cooling myself down at the fountain NAKED. The police was just so kacau one.. :-P 
As we continued walking, my attention was caught by a group of people being surrounded by a big bunch of kids.
Apparently it was part of a project called Giving Back the Smile to The Street Children – a non-profit project coordinated by a France-based NGO called Virlanie.http://www.virlanie.org/
Somehow, just as it is in most parts of the world, those who are poor tend to make babies more than those who are well-off. Manila is full of poor people and yet they seem so productive when it comes to making babies.
The outcome? Thousands if not millions of children roaming the streets of Manila every day! Their parents are too poor to even take care of themselves so they’ll just let their children out in the streets surviving on their own.
They have no access to basic necessities and proper education which make them so vulnerable to physical and physiological abuses.
Virlaine facilitate the street kids with basic education so that they can become self-reliant, productive, independent individuals using a family atmosphere and reintegration into normal community life.
It really was so amazing to see how this group of people bringing the smiles back to so many children. :-))))
So inspiring it was to me that I actually invited them to broaden their projects to Malaysia in which I promised I’d take a part.
By then, hunger was pinching in the pit of my stomach. Lizzie suggested that we went to a McDonald’s.
As much as I enjoyed McDonald’s, it wasn’t a good feeling to have such a relatively ‘lucrative’ meal when there are so many people starving just a few yards away from us. :-(
WE actually returned to the Binodo Church to see if we had missed anything on our first visit the day before.
Good thing about visiting the church on a weekday is that there are not so many people around so you’ll feel more comfortable taking photos.
And you’re free to get even closer to those beautiful paintings o the ceiling. OH jeez, my jaws actually dropped at a closer look of them.
But I found their portrayal of Jesus in this cross-bearing sculpture quite amusing to me. I mean, for one thing, Jesus that I grew up knowing was not black. Was He?
And being a God at least in the Christian belief, He can’t be looking so……….. terrified, no?
Finally saying goodbye to the Binondo Church later, the French guy that volunteered for the Virlaine project actually suggested that we go to a place called Quipo – a place referred to as ‘the old downtown’ of Manila. Due to my very last minute research on Manila, I almost missed this amazing place in my must-visit list! Seriously, I would have become a damn sorry fella if I did (miss). UHUHUHU. All in my next post lehhhh. :-)


aud said...

Jipp - Is that the Church of the Black Nazarene? We went there, at Quiapo area - apparently always crowded as churchgoers go there and make a wish as they touch the statue.

I didn't visit Divisoria; but had a crazy-damn-packed-morning rush LRT experience too :-P

In Quiapo I was also loudly warned by a local to take off my necklace (she spoke Tagalog); kinda scary encounter but I took it off anyway.

Kelvin said...

Kids getting naked is a culture there~

JIPP said...

Aud: Nope, the Binando Church is a different church, a very old one, located in the area of China Town. Quaipo is the one that we went to later from there. Err, it's in the next post. :-) LRT in Manila is definitely sardines. hehe.
Kelvin: Yupp, but thanks God they'd grow out of the habit. :-)

Open Chapters said...

It is called the Black Nazerene made of carved wood by a mexican. It was brought to Philippines around 16th century.
Jose Rizal did not kick out the Americans. He is the famous educated Asian in Europe on 18th century. For his colored skin, any becomes awe how literate he was. They executed him for writing literature about Spain in stories in symbolical way. Try reading Noli me Tangere or El Filibusterismo. It is a good reading. You woudn't think it is a brown race who wrote it. Refer link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Rizal


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