Hot Manila Flavour

Trip Start Dec 03, 2012
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Trip End Jan 09, 2013


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Flag of Philippines  , Luzon,
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eggy Hot Chocolate
Nid's Balot near Remedios Circle was my first choice of venue for breakfast. An okay looking cafe with okay prices for local food. Ordered a Pancit Palabok or whatever I had pointed on the menu. It was described to me - a seafood noodle dish but what arrived was this fat vermicelli noodle topped with a pumpkin gravy and egg which was not too bad. The hot chocolate with egg was pretty interesting. I headed out on foot towards Rizal Park along a largely deserted Roxas Boulevard, looking for Manila's city skyline but the taller buildings were scattered with nothing for me to make a reference to. It was an overcast day. Or was it just smog? It was hot, humid and smoggy at the same time.
 
Mini Philippines
On the east end of Rizal Park lies the Relief Map of the Philippines, set in a pond and navigated on boardwalk. Built to scale, you can appreciate details of various volcanoes and mountains found in the Philippines. I reckoned I would enjoy this more after my travels in the Philippines but for today, it was a good overall view of where I would be heading for the next 38 days. The boardwalk took me across Mindanao and from this end I cut across to the southern entrance of the Intramuros. 

A tricycle driver convinced me to take a tricycle tour with him for 250 php per half hour. In this intense heat, I needed no convincing. What I did not work out in advance is the cost. Behind the fortress, the main sights are Fort Santiago, San Augustin church and parts of the walled city which overlooks a golf course (which I find rather bizarre). It took 2.5 hours to complete the tour but I blew 1400 php for his toiling efforts. If you are looking for cheap eats, look no further than the strip of food stalls facing one of the four universities located within Intramuros. A local deli lunch of rice with meat and vegetables for 80 php.
 
Get Patted Down
Exiting from the eastern side of Intramuros, and ventured into City Hall - a vast complex of government bureaus. It was next door to SM Shopping Mall so I popped in to get shelter from the afternoon heat. To get in, you would have to be frisked by armed guards and open up your bags for inspection. This routine included train stations across the country. Feeling adventurous, I hopped onto a very decorated jeepney (a public transport vehicle recycled from US army jeeps) and made my way to Quiapo (pronounced Kee-Po) for only 8 php. 
 
Black Nazarene
Quiapo is one of the gritty part of Manila I wanted to experience. Street children/beggers were living out their lives among nonchalant shoppers. Quiapo Church being the central-piece, and her surrounding buildings is the playground of Manila's poorest...or at least when I saw it. The Church is also home to the Black Nazarene - a life-sized, dark wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross. There are 3 annual public processions attended by millions on the streets. The LRT station closest to Quiapo is Correido station. I remembered that very well because I had lunch at one those food stalls under the station. It was a simple fare of pig offals  on rice - only 55 php.
 
Super Typhoon Bopha
I learnt in Manila that one could only purchase bus tickets at the bus station itself, so I was trying to track down Ohayami bus station where I can get my bus ticket to Banaue, North Luzon. After arriving in a jeepney at Espana and a further few kilometres of searching, I finally found the bus station (Espana was designed like a maze!) and secured my ticket for tomorrow night. There was a concern that super typhoon Bopha (or Pablo as they called it here) might hit Manila in 2 days. I could either stay and brave the typhoon in Manila or escape to the Cordilleras in North Luzon. I chose the latter. 

The skies, pregnant for a while with looming dark clouds, opened up and poured, trapping me at bus stop. It was a short 10 minutes deluge but intensively heavy. Just when I thought the streets were going to flood up the pavement, it stopped raining. I am guessing this was the peripheral rains of typhoon Bopha. With the smog and humidity, I thought the rain was to be welcomed. It made it worse. Now I am uncomfortably sticky.  I learnt later in the evening that parts of Mindanao suffered high fatal casualties from super typhoon Bopha.
 
The Reality of Manila
Boarded the LRT at Legarda station to get back to Malate but mistakenly took the wrong train. It turned out to be a very revealing experience of Manila as a city. High above, my eyes simply cannot avoid the sights of derelict slums in every direction. Oddly enough, it was not very evident at street level. I thought I have seen it all in Bangkok but Manila sets a whole new level of poverty in my experience. On my way to room, I encountered this old man trying to get me to visit his chain of girlie bars. I probably looked like a walking atm machine to him. He was persistant enough to walk the entire street with me until he pleaded that he has five children waiting for him to bring food to. 

Now I been through this before in Laos when a teenage villager pleaded to me for some money for an English/Laotian dictionary. I declined to the boy out of my lack of experience in encounters like this. This time I knew exactly what to do. I am not giving him money in case it is spent on drugs. It was food that he wanted so we went to the nearest convenience store and I offered to pay for food items he needs. Oh my! He grabbed loafs of bread, butter, fruit jam, instant noodles, instant coffee, milk and spam. He even looked to me for approval when he was about to grab spam. He took two tins. At last with groceries in tow, he was unable to follow me further.
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