i love to travel. so in april of 2015 when my friend told me she was going to the philippines in 2016, i said i wanted to go with her. i assumed april of next year would give me enough time to get my money together.
however, one day in the month of june while at work, i got a phone call from my friend telling me she was going home in october of 2015! i panicked at first because the plan was to travel next year and i knew if i did not go with her in october, my chances of going in 2016 would be reduced.
i threw caution to the wind, as some might say, and growled, “get me a ticket.” i would figure out the details later. the details were figured out quickly and not only were we going to the philippines, but we would also be spending a few hours in hong kong.
during the month of april, i will publish five blog posts sharing a few stories from my trip and several photos.
to discourage young boys and men from public urination, there are several outdoor male urinals randomly placed for those who can’t hold it, but with more privacy than a tree, wall or alley would provide. believe it or not – and i find it weird – i did not go over to the other side to see what the urinal looked like, maybe it’s a good thing i didn’t. not everyone is happy with the sanitation of the urinals.
businesses and stores fill the streets of manila. filipinos are zealous entrepreneurials and will sell water to a water cooler. one perk about visiting the philippines is it’s inexpensive for tourists. well, at least my dollar went far. i actually shopped and i hate shopping, but i felt rich.
while on the job, filipinos are well-dressed and pride themselves on customer service. when i shopped at the local supermarket, i noticed all the women wore the same uniform (same for the men but pants, shirt and tie), usually a dress, pantyhose, black shoes and their hair was pulled back and tied into a bun. make-up is NOT optional.
my trip to the mall in manila was also impressive. there was more floor support staff than there were people shopping in the store. okay that might be a slight exaggeration, but one would never need to look around for help, probably because they’re following you waiting to see if you buy anything.
once you do decide to buy something, your personal shopper will walk with you throughout the store, fold your clothes for purchase as you pick them out and walk you to the register. i enjoyed it because it was a first time experience, but i’m not sure i would be comfortable with this being the norm.
i thought new york was the city that never sleeps. manila is over crowded with people always on the move taking care of the necessities of everyday life. where we went didn’t matter, the narrowness of a street made no difference, every square inch was filled with lively and happy looking people.
i imagined i stood out like a sore thumb because of my…height. i did get a few looks and some people tried to sneak a photo of me. i caught one woman in pizza hut, she stopped smiling when i stared at her for the remainder of my meal while there or 15 minutes.
i did see a few black people, three to be exact, and stopped each and every brown person, made it my business to say hello and even pulled one guy aside and jokingly asked if he was being held against his will.
i was just having fun with him, but i did take his picture and asked where he lived. he told me too. he asked if i was visiting the philippines to study and i told him no, i was on holiday and then i released him back into the wild. okay he told me he had to go. i guess he got tired of my questions.
smokey mountain was one of the places i wanted to visit when i went to the philippines, but i never booked a tour. i was driven past the area several times and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see how some live. my reason for wanting to visit the area was to capture something different in the travel photos i usually take (palm trees and sunny skies), but photography is not allowed on tour out of respect for the people who live there, it is their home after all, and yet they still find reason to smile. click to read more on smokey mountain.
i loved riding on the back of the motorcycle or inside the seating area. the motorcycles or taxis are mostly used for transporting people on short to medium trips around the island or to a main road where one can either catch a bus or taxi. a one-way ride is 20 pesos or .45 cents in u.s. currency.
a taxi ride (in a car) to manila, about an hours drive, cost us 200 pesos or $4.34. the traffic in the philippines is horrible or the equivalent to a 1,000 car traffic jam every day. the transportation infrastructure is frustrating as it was not designed to handle the number of cars and people on the island.
mopeds are also a popular form of transportation too, weaving in and out between people and cars to get where they are going. buses also briefly drove on the sidewalk to pass by vehicles stopped for whatever reason. waiting in line behind another car is not an option as the driver would rather switch lanes to get ahead one car length.
one time there was so much commotion in the street, i squawked, “everybody is in the street!” people, animals, mopeds, buses, taxis, cars, bicycles moving about nonchalantly, not afraid of being hit, and no one was bothered by the chaos. it’s the accepted norm.
not only is the traffic bad, but the air pollution will kill you, literally. i was sick for a few days, it wasn’t a cold, but my throat was raw and i coughed a lot. when i was outside for long periods of time i used a tissue to cover my nose and mouth to lessen the amount of pollution i was breathing in.
besides walking, the jeepney was my favorite form of transportation. i loved each and every jeepney i saw, the colors and designs were striking. i looked at each one as if i were seeing it for the first time. i learned, prior to traveling to the philippines, that jeepneys were vehicles left behind by the U.S. during world war ii.
the jeepney is boarded and exited through the back door, except there is no door, but an opening. once inside, the passenger hands money, or 50 pesos, to the stranger next to him and the money is passed forward until it reaches the driver.
if change is required, the driver hands the money back to anyone until it reaches the original owner. when the jeepney gets crowded, people hop on the back and hold on like a garbage man en route to his next trash pickup.
at this point, i can’t believe i’m actually in the philippines, so far away from home, and my eyes are taking in everything in disbelief. i enjoyed the feeling like i was in another country. i’ve been to many countries, but this is the first time i felt like i was not in kansas anymore and i’m not even from kansas. the philippines, part ii will be published one day next week, stay tuned.