Courteous Manila

26th Jul 2013
Photo of Courteous Manila 1/13 by Molly
Adorable Puppy
Photo of Courteous Manila 2/13 by Molly
Photo of Courteous Manila 3/13 by Molly
Photo of Courteous Manila 4/13 by Molly
Legazpi Sunday Market
Photo of Courteous Manila 5/13 by Molly
Manila Bay
Photo of Courteous Manila 6/13 by Molly
Rizal Park
Photo of Courteous Manila 7/13 by Molly
San Augustin Cathedral..
Photo of Courteous Manila 8/13 by Molly
San Augustin Cathedral..
Photo of Courteous Manila 9/13 by Molly
Sunset@ Manila Bay
Photo of Courteous Manila 10/13 by Molly
the Manila House
Photo of Courteous Manila 11/13 by Molly
Wedding @ San Augustin Cathedral
Photo of Courteous Manila 12/13 by Molly
rickety old jeepney
Photo of Courteous Manila 13/13 by Molly
Manila bay during the sunset.

People have described Manila to me in various ways. Some adjectives include "dangerous," "squalid," "wretched." When I mentioned that I was traveling there for the weekend, the most common response I received was, "Why would you go there?"

I would respond, "Because I randomly found round trip tickets for $67 on Kayak and I couldn't pass up the opportunity."

Now I realize that those people were right, but they were not telling the whole story, just what they had read in the news. Manila is extremely crowded and polluted, and the poverty is heart-breaking. It also is dangerous, and the security guards posted all over the city are a constant reminder of the bombings and kidnappings that have occurred in recent years. Whenever you enter a hotel or mall, or similar edifice, there will be a guard who will either scan you with a metal detector or pat you down. However, the culture in Manila is amazing, and it stems from history, religion, and the kind hearts of the people.

Manila is an amazing blend of Filipino, Spanish, and American influences. The Spanish colonized the islands for a few centuries, so it isn't surprising that they left their footprints. First, many people are Catholic. There are stunning ancient cathedrals that dot the city. Services are held in all sorts of odd places. We walked through a modern, high-end mall shopping complex, and came across a large group of people out in the gardens, attending a service. It was raining quite heavily and they still remained there devotedly, standing under the alcoves near the walls of the mall for shelter. The language also has bits of Spanish mixed in, which I was able to pick out. Obviously, a lot of the old buildings also are in the Spanish architectural style.

The American historical influence is best seen through the rickety old jeepneys that drive around the streets, picking up and dropping off passengers for only 8 pesos one way. (42 pesos is about $1). These old vehicles were left over by the Americans during the Second World War, and somehow are still able to function. The exhaust fumes are pretty ugly though.

The people here are the most gracious I have ever met. I think the kindness and generosity is embedded in the culture. Individuals will go out of their way to help a stranger out. People smile and say "excuse me, ma'am," or "thank you, ma'am." Guards will walk out into the middle of a busy street and stop traffic so that you can cross. Another guard held an umbrella over us while we rushed to a taxi in the middle of the rain. People are glad to give directions and they usually are good at it too! This kindness does make it difficult to turn down individuals offering tourism services, as well as those begging for money and food.

I had a really heart-wrenching experiencing, which made me understand the use of the word "wretched" to describe the city. Our taxi was stopped at a light at an intersection. It was pouring down rain in buckets - this is what the locals call typhoon rain during the wet season. Suddenly I hear a knock on the backseat window, and I see this woman, soaking wet, with her hair plastered to her face, big eyes pleading. She is holding a very small baby, and it is also drenched from the downpour. They have no type of cover against the weather. First I am just much shaken from the sight, then I get out some money and we fumble with the window to give it to her.

In similar situations I usually do not give money, because you never know what or who it will be used for. But this time I was helpless - the sight was so pitiful that I could not make myself ignore her. This was one of the moments of the trip that really will stick with me.

Don't worry - that was one of the only bad experiences of the trip - there were lots of fun ones, including watching a Filipino wedding in a beautiful cathedral, eating lots of fried food, going to the market, and riding a zip line along Manila bay during the sunset.

Our visit in Manila started out with a trip to the Intramuros, which is a walled historic city from the Spanish colonial times. There are museums, cathedrals, and overall beautiful architecture. Surprisingly, there are a lot of universities within the walls as well, and we saw lots of students and canteens where they can grab a quick and cheap meal. We were able to walk around on top of the walls, which were once fortified with cannons.
Photo of Intramuros, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly
Manila House showcased a mansion in which a wealthy family would have lived, with traditional Spanish-influenced décor and opulent furniture.
Photo of The House of Ramie - Manila, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly
The San Augustine Cathedral is the oldest in the Philippines. It is an absolutely gorgeous structure, and there are tons of portraits and sculptures which are placed a bit randomly in the hallways.There was a wedding taking place in the cathedral, which we were able to observe from the upper balcony in the back. The ceremony was breathtaking, and we saw the bridal party walk up the aisle in pairs.Then the bride arrived, and everyone started taking pictures. The train of her dress was very long. It was beautiful but seemed very awkward to handle, especially when she got up to the altar and needed 4 helpers to assist in arranging and managing the fabric. Both her mother and father accompanied her up the aisle and "gave her away" to the groom.
Photo of San Augustin, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly
Later we visited Manila Bay to watch the famed sunset.There is a small amusement park located on the bay, with activities such as a zip line and merry-go-around. We rode the zip line - it was really scary but fun! The experience was a bit surreal, and I was screaming the whole way. No wonder everyone on the ground was staring up at me.The sunset lasted a long time! It probably started around 5:30 and the last rays of the sun did not disappear until 7.Apparently the Bay is popular with the locals too, because there were tons of people crowded along the side-walks, just sitting around with friends and family to enjoy the beautiful view. We barely were able to find an opening on the wall alongside the water to sit.
Photo of Manila Bay, Mariveles, Central Luzon, Philippines by Molly
Later that night we went to a shopping area called "Tiendesitas," translated as "little shops," from Spanish. There was a whole row of shops that sold animals, from tarantulas and rabbits to dogs and cats. It was really sad how cramped some of the conditions were. A large golden retriever shouldn't be living in a small cage.
Photo of Tiendesitas, Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly
On Sunday morning we visited the Legazpi Sunday Market, which is comparable to a farmer's market. Locals sell food, arts and crafts, jewellery, and fresh produce here. The food will be detailed in the next post! I also bought a cute hand-painted wrap dress.
Photo of Legazpi Sunday Market, V.A. Rufino Street, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly
Later during the day we went to Rizal Park, which is where many historical moments took place. The gaining of Filipino Independence took place here, as well as the execution of Rizal, who was a leader in the movement for Independence. It's a great place to relax on a Sunday - there were many families here walking around and enjoying the greenery. Tourists also are common, hence the many individuals who tried to sell us photos, tours, and rides on horse-drawn carriages.
Photo of Rizal Park, Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Philippines by Molly