Wednesday, November 03, 2010

One night in Manila

The four hour layover in China wasn't too bad. In fact an upside was that we had made some new friends. This foreigner bond, this willingness to talk to anyone with a familiarly foreign face, one who speaks the same language is an interesting one. It is true anywhere you go, finding people who understand your situation, who are going through the same thing, makes life just seem more rich. Don't get me wrong, I love the aspect of learning about another's culture. I wouldn't be a travel bug if that wasn't the case. But sometimes it is so nice not to struggle to communicate. It's nice to speed up your English to a regular tempo, to use larger words that Koreans or Chinese people wouldn't understand, even when they are English speakers.
So while we waited, we made some new friends. Ate seaweed flavored Pringles, no I am not making that up, and yes, we all liked it.
We had been told to skip Manila entirely that it was a dangerous and dirty city. That there was nothing to see except crime and dirt. We choose the closest hostel to the airport as we had to spend the night in this city before flying out to our REAL destination- Boracay. However, close, was a relative term. We spent $15 on a 30 minute cab ride to our "close" hostel- The Green Mango. The hostel private room wasn't even $12.
While checking in, a familiar looking girl approached me.
"You were on the layover in China right?" she asked. I recognized her shoes. I had noticed them in the airport. I wanted to steal them, but as I can occasionally act like an adult, I peeled my eyes from her feet and said, "yes, we were."
"I wanted to chat with you guys but you looked like you had a big group." she confided.
"I'm sorry you didn't, non of us knew each other." I told her.
I told her that Kyle and I had planned to go try a local beer if she wanted to join us. Thats the greatest thing about hostels. You are always meeting new friendly folks. I still keep in touch with travelers we hung out with for only a few nights from years ago in a hostel meeting.
We made a date. After inspecting our hard mattress placed in a shoebox room with nothing but a sheet and a sad excuse for a towel we quickly exited.
A, her boyfriend met up with us at a bar they frequented.
"I grew up in this neighborhood. It is one of the safest neighborhoods in Manila. It has changed so much since I was a kid though." she offered.
She had been teaching English in China. Korea doesn't allow Philippinos to teach English, even though their official language is English.
"We want to try local dishes." Kyle exclaimed over enthusiastically as we choose our table.
"Alright. I'm not sure if you'll like it, but it's not expensive." Our new friend told me.
Ten minutes later, a hot skillet with some type of sizzling meat was placed in front of us. Kyle and I grabbed our forks and took a bite. It was interesting. It was ground, but had some harder chunks.
"Do you like it?" They asked timidly.
Kyle said he did. I hadn't made up my mind.
"It's fried pig face. Its a favorite local dish." they finally admitted.
I nodded knowingly. Of course I was eating pigs face. What else would people eat? No wonder it had strange cartilage pieces within.
The next dish was intestine on a stick. It was A's favorite. I took a bite, slowly chewed and swallowed diligently like a child trying something that her mother is making her eat. Ironically though, the spicy chicken wings, the most normal dish on the table was what made me feel nauseous after only one bite. Needless to say I didn't eat much that evening.

It was a fantastic evening, hanging out with bona fide Philippinos in a NON-tourist bar, eating real Philippino food. But not only that, they were people we enjoyed being with. They shared their culture, and we shared ours. Actually, random funny story, their friend had just gotten back from working abroad in none-other than our home town- good ole San Antonio, Texas. We were so taken aback at this we couldn't stop asking him questions about home. He confided that he was tired of everyone speaking Spanish to him because he was constantly mistaken for a Mexican.

As we sat out on the patio on the warm humid night, a few children approached us selling flowers. They were beautiful flowers and they didn't charge much, so we bought a few, and gave him a little tip. However before he left, our friends gave him a strong talking to in their other native language (Tagalog or now officially Filipino). Afterwards they told me that they made him promise to buy food and not the glue that the street children are so well known for being addicted to. They start at young ages because of its cost effectiveness and the lessening of appetites.

From a general article I found on the internet:

Glue sniffing is perceived as a cheaper and safer alternative to intravenous drug use among street children themselves. The ‘high’ occurs quickly, with effects similar to drunkenness, although glue sniffing can also induce sometimes hallucinations. Users do admit, however, that glue sniffing kills their appetite, its fumes burn their eyes and leave the body dry. Medical reports say that glue sniffing can cause damage to the brain, lever, kidneys, heart and myocardium. Daily use over a period of six months can cause permanent brain damage. Prolonged addiction also visibly impairs a glue sniffer’s comprehension and can lead to dangerous side effects on behaviour, such as psychosis.

The economy in the Philippines is improving, but it is still considered third world. At one time their economy was thriving. "We lent South Korea food and money when they were poor." Our diving instructor informed us. "At one point, we were well off." he said sadly and yet proud of his country's history.

Besides the depressing news about how their poverty affected the innocent of the country, we had a fabulous time. I even wished a little that we had opted to stay in Manila more than 12 hours, but our flights were booked, and we were ecstatic about our relaxing beach adventure awaiting us.

p.s. The Green Mango Hostel was very friendly and for the most part clean. Other than the disturbing water situation; we had brown water in the evening flowing out of the faucet I was about to brush my teeth with, and no water in the morning, it is a good place to stay. And I am pretty sure it is the city with the water issues, not just that hostel.

1 comment:

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

I found your blog through the Best Posts of the Week, and I read it with amused interest. I'm a Filipina living in Sweden, and I can clearly see the pictures you painted through your words. And yes, I agree with you about Manila, the friendliness of the people, the small hostel rooms, etc.

But there's one thing I'd like to add concerning the teaching of English to the Koreans. Maybe Korea doesn't like Filipinos to teach English to its people, but it's ironic that hundreds of thousands of Koreans go to the Philippines to study English there. Their fellow Koreans set up English academies, hire Filipino teachers, even those who are not really well-educated in English (as I observed), and then they recruit their fellow Koreans to go there and study in their schools. In the city where I came from, Baguio City, there were about 20,000 Koreans recently, most of them studying English. There are more in other cities, like Manila, Angeles, Cebu, etc. Problem is, most of the teachers don't really teach proper English grammar. They reason that it's enough for them to be able to speak English regardless of the grammar. (I disagree to this. I was also offered the opportunity to teach them but I had other more interesting freelance jobs, like photography, arts and crafts and writing.). So the Koreans cannot really express themselves well in English. Maybe that's why Korea doesn't like Filipinos to teach them.

This is all I want to share. I want you to know that I truly enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.