Mabuhay Manila!October 19, 2017 on the Philippines
We had become somewhat part of the furniture by the time our 12 hour stay at Vancouver airport had ended. We had planned to go to the on-site aquarium but this turned out to be merely the official shop for the city aquarium - a crushing discovery. With no budget to shop with we retired to the ‘observation deck’ - a big windowed area overlooking the runways. Reading about the Instrument Landing System that Sharlene was so keen to find in Toronto quickly grew old, so we resigned ourselves to a long read of our books.
So Philippine Airlines; after reading some reviews online, the polite and friendly cabin crew are apparently the saving grace of the airline, however this was not our experience. A young hostess pottered down the aisle serving meals from the trolley and glanced over to me with an expectant look. Appearing confused, she then actually asked me what meal I wanted and abruptly handed over an odd concoction of beef stew and pasta. Although the offer of water throughout the flight was virtually non-existent (I think twice in the first 11 hours), the films on offer were unexpectedly decent, and we crammed in as many as we could before our inevitable deaths from thirst. A Philippino lady next to Hugo asked us about our trip and warned us to ‘be careful’ when in Manila - the broadness of her warning made it sound very ominous. Mabuhay! Thirteen hours after take off we came in to land at Manila airport, although the extra 2 hours flight time hadn't gone unnoticed by the passengers. With no explanation, or even announcement by the pilot, as to the extended flight, we joined a queue in arrivals of people with only 30 minutes to board their connecting flight, or worse still, who had missed their onward flight.
After a very disorganised and confusing passage through border security, we made it to the equally chaotic arrivals hall and sought the advice of a very unenthusiastic guy at the information booth. The police directed us to a taxi and Hugo demanded to know the price of a drive into to the city. The driver ignored the question, chatting away as we got into the taxi. On the third attempt at the question (a little more emphatically this time) we were passed a card that quoted $45 and suspicion immediately arose. Having already set off, we said we wanted to get out as we were not willing to pay that much, to which he replied something along the lines of 'oh you want cheap taxi’ and ushered us out at the petrol station, without demanding payment thankfully. We then swapped into a vehicle offering the trip at the more reasonable price of 200 pesos - about 4 dollars. We joined a traffic jam and conversed a little before a young boy of no more than 8 years repeatedly knocked on my window. The taxi driver told us not to give any money and leaned over to lock my door, before handing over a few coins of his own. As we passed a few hotels he informed us that Trump would be staying in one of them in November. Poor city. We disembarked at Manila Bay and walked to the rather unpleasant smelling harbour. Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and we decided to take cover in an unassuming cafe. We were handed menus and failed to identify any of the unfamiliar dishes, looking to the young waiter to tell us what each contained. We opted for some sort of pork dish and a local seafood speciality, still unsure what to expect. The pork was yum but the seafood was probably an acquired taste. Refuelled, but with no further knowledge of any sights to see, we decided to walk the hour trip to the mall. Of course we hadn't accounted for the unbearable heat. As we sweated through the streets, it became apparent that there were only three occupations for Filipino men, namely labourer, taxi driver or security guard. Security/police were at the entrance to almost every building and on every street corner. Besides two police, we watched a guy hop on a motorbike and shove an object down his pants. We looked at each other in alarm and horror to confirm what we had just seen. He had concealed a pistol! We skirted into an air conditioned convenience store and cautiously sat to have a drink and consider what had just happened. We hastily marched to the mall and went air-conditioning hopping between shops. This included a B&Q style shop with a staff member singing live karaoke over the shop speakers and a disproportionate number of staff (at least 2 per aisle) milling about with nothing to do. Hugo found himself drawn to a stand selling only mozzarella cheese sticks, temporarily died and went to cheese heaven. We did a spot of clothes shopping in Uniqlo and then negotiated a taxi back to the airport. We commented how similar it was to India - ramshackle vehicles including the 'jeepney’; a kind of brightly decorated tin bus crammed with people, and few road rules to govern them. Local street vendors lined the roads with their string vests rolled up to their chests and shanty towns made from corrugated tin popped up periodically.
Our wait in the airport was a slightly frustrating affair akin to being herded like cattle into the next pen. After clearing security and settling down at the gate, we were told that we would have to vacate the seating area as they would be setting up a security zone. We were ushered to the edge of the room while they put up the cordons and then had to queue to go through a security check (again) to get back to the same seats we had been lounging on for the last hour. We also had to abandon our water bottles and finish our meals (that we had bought in security!) One guy behind us had just bought a can of coke, only to find himself chugging it to get back in. Never have I had to show my passport to get to the toilet (which was outside the new security zone). We were just happy to get on the plane without a third security check.
Although a fleeting visit, we were somewhat glad that was all it was. Not somewhere we will return to anytime soon, although I'm sure the more rural areas and beaches are worthy of a visit!Read more