Manila: November 2015

It’s been a really, really long time since I posted anything on here.

Looking back on old posts, it makes me realize that there is a distinct value in blogging.  I am starting to remember things that I have done that I haven’t thought about in months, and there is a lot of value in that.  As I look back on the traveling I’ve done in the past 6 months that I haven’t blogged about, it worries me that there are aspects of those trips that I may never remember, or at least in detail.  So, over the next week or two I will catch up on all my travels and in the future, blog about my current travels in an effort to hang onto the memories that I have created.  Since writing the last post months ago, I have made a pact with a friend to fly somewhere at least once a month.  As a result, I’ve hit 1K on United and fully intend to make 1K again in 2016 – last year was 106K miles, this year?  Who knows!

Please join me on this adventure that we all call life 🙂

Rewind back to November.  Well maybe rewind to September.  In September I flew to London for 6 days.  I spent October in Korea, and in November we started to make some staff changes on site which called for a trip to Manila to work out a few projects we’re currently chasing as well as work out some kinks in visas for some staff members we have that are from the Philippines.  As such, I flew with my boss to Manila for a day of meetings and a Saturday of exploring.

First of all I would like to start by saying Filipino people are some of the kindest, most caring individuals I have come in contact with in Asia.  Manila on the other hand is basically just like Tijuana without the tacos.  And yes, that will come across wrong and most likely offend someone but remember, I’m only writing this for my own memories so…. Anyway the reason why the two places are so similar is the Philippines is suffering from a depressed economy.  Their main export is labor (send people overseas or to the Middle East as cheap labor) and most of the money that comes into the country is in the form of money grams sent via Western Union from fellow family members working overseas.  This isn’t verified, but I was told while there that the male to female ratio in the PI is 1 to 6 – because they’re exporting so many people.  As such, for being such a catholic country there is a striking amount of prostitution, most of it not extremely blatant but it is also very possible to walk down the street and have anyone be willing to sleep with you for money, especially if you’re a foreigner.  Anyway, there is a severe lack of employment yet a large portion of the population is desperate for work, which I saw first hand when I was driven by the PI Army enlistment office – there wasn’t a line outside, rather a huge throng of hundreds and hundreds of people trying to shove their way through the door to get in.

Anyway, I digress.  So we’re flying to Manila.  Since I’m not running the show we end up flying Korean Air which isn’t part of Star Alliance so I’m not getting any miles for it… Which is a mega bummer…  But my boss is mega something or other on Korean Air so we randomly get upgraded at the counter because we wanted to sit together and the only place with seats next to each other is in the front.  Nice.

So we land in Manila, go through what they call “immigration” and we’re outside in the most humid air I’ve come into contact with.  We get into a taxi and start driving and it’s literally like my days spent in Mexicali, traffic and everything.  We make it to the hotel and get searched by no less than 8 armed security guards and make it inside, and head up to our rooms.  We stayed at the New World Hotel in Makati, the financial district.  We drop our bags and go across the street to find our business partner whose drowning himself in wine with some random dude he’s met that same evening.  First thought is wow, there are a lot of people here, followed by there are a lot of women around, followed by why are most of them sitting around at empty tables.  Yet another indication of the state of affairs in the PI.

Oh and everything was decorated for Christmas already, as they don’t have a Thanksgiving so they jump straight into Christmas.  Lol

Friday entailed meetings all day with said business partner, as well as with the company office in Makati.  It was also hot and humid, who would have thought.  Walking around was awkward because you feel like you’re being constantly watched by every person around you.  So after sweating profusely we all go back, shower, and then get ready for an evening out.

Our hotel had a happy hour so we took advantage of it, and in the process asked one of the attendants where a nice place for dinner was.  Being on business we wanted to go somewhere expensive because we weren’t paying for it.  We get a recommendation for a “really expensive” sushi restaurant only to have it end up being $80 for 3 people.  I mean, yeah that’s kind of pricey I guess but not the kind of “your company is paying for it” kind of expensive.

We end up in a taxi trying to find a jazz club only to have him try to take us to this suuuper shady area, meanwhile we’re telling the taxi driver that we don’t want to leave Makati (the financial district) only for him to refuse… It was pretty awkward.  He finally drives us back but he was pretty peeved.  That and he spent the entire time telling us how the Philippines needs another dictator in order to get everyone back in line.  Aaaawkward.

So Saturday I get a frantic call from my boss saying that he’s trying to get us the next flight out when we had originally booked for an 11pm flight.  Apparently it was the start of OPEC, which was being held in Manila, and it was the reason for all the added security.  It wouldn’t have been a problem normally but when we woke up, all that was on the news was the developing story of the Paris bombings.  Seeing as how Obama had just landed in Manila, he was concerned that there was going to be something similar and he was starting to freak out.  Meanwhile, Obama in Marine One and 6 V22 Ospreys are literally flying around outside my hotel window.  As would be expected our travel agent couldn’t get us an earlier flight so we decided to stick it out for the rest of the day, and we went out to an old fort in the heart of Manila.

In the fort Santiago area there was this amazing church that we walked into, where there just so happened to be a wedding going on.

We found an awesome spot for lunch where we had some dish that’s basically pork belly with super crispy skin.  It’s really good.  We also got a bucket of beer.  The really funny part of it all is that we were trying to decide if we should get a bucket of 8 beers or if we should buy them individually, because what if we didn’t want to drink them all?  They would go to waste.  But the bucket of 8 was cheaper than 6 individual ones.  But the funny part was the price difference was the equivalent of a dollar… It was just so funny that we’re trying to determine the cost/benefit of what to get when the difference is literally negligible.

I would also like to say that as a foreigner you get targeted a lot by people either trying to sell you something or trying to sell you a service.  It got really tiring after awhile.  Plus did I mention it was really humid?

We explored the fort for awhile, and had the distinct pleasure of watching kids (most were naked) jump off a barge into the river which literally had floating garbage in it right next to a half demolished building and a rundown shanty town.

Then we checked out the Mall of Asia which is apparently a huge mall in Asia, we didn’t really buy anything though… We did however find out that real estate is suuuper cheap here.  I also got cup checked by yet another security guard, checking people before they entered the mall.  I mean seriously…

We had a drink or two as we watched the sun set next to the mall, which is along the sea of… China?  And then we went back and showered before we went out to dinner.  Because like I said, it was extremely hot and humid the entire time we were there.  And for the life of me I can’t remember what we ate that night… I do know we went somewhere good but I just can’t remember and it’s really bugging me… More of a reason to make sure to BLOG SOONAFTER I TRAVEL.  Oh wait it wasn’t really “dinner” more like a few snacks at the hotel bar area.  They had pizza and stuff so we had them make us one even though we were in a time crunch.  LOL.

Lastly, I had the distinct pleasure of flying the redeye back to Korea, landing at 4:20AM, and having to wait for the first train to leave the airport.  Miserable.  I was also stuck in a middle seat.  So there’s that.

All in all, don’t visit Manila if you’re going to the PI.  Go somewhere like Cebu or Palawan.

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