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Sunset seen from airplane aerial photograph Philippines

Philippines: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country

Date: May 1st, 2011

Woke up at 6am, for the same reason I woke up yesterday at the same time — no electricity. Anyway, I had to get ready and reach the transport station in a few minutes.

Leaving El Nido dog on trike
That dog sat on this trike like that all the way to the station 🙂

I boarded the van and was joined by the two Italian girls who were part of my tour group yesterday. The van left El Nido at 7am and the journey to Puerto Princesa would take around 5 hours (cost ₱500/$11/€8). I chose to take a van taxi instead of the bus because I didn’t want to risk missing my 5:25pm flight back to Manila.

I didn’t bother taking any photos throughout the journey because I was behind tinted glass and also, I just didn’t feel like holding my camera. I have taken enough photos the past two weeks! 🙂 The journey was smooth and we only stopped once for a snack break.

The van reached Puerto Princesa just before noon and dropped passengers off at different spots. Myself and the two Italian girls got down at the van company’s office, which was the last stop. Our flights were both around the same time, so we placed our bags at the van company’s office and decided to have lunch together.

We sat at a nice looking restaurant located along the road leading to the airport.

Chicken inasal Palawan restaurant Philippines
I ordered chicken inasal, which was really good here

Post-lunch, the three of us collected our bags and took a tricycle taxi to the airport. But because we were rather early for our evening flights, the airport security said they would only allow passengers in at 3pm.

Puerto Princesa Airport Palawan Philippines
I took this at 1:45pm, sitting outside the airport

Good thing I had the company of the two Italian girls (well, one of them anyway… the other girl dozed off). We chatted away until it was time for us to go in. Once inside, I checked in and got my window seat. The Italians were on a Cebu Pacific flight, which was delayed by a little, but my Zest Airways flight was on time, so I boarded first.

Cebu Pacific airline landed Palawan Philippines
The Cebu Pacific flight had only just landed
Zest Air Puerto Princesa to Manila evening flight
With Zest Air, I had now flown all three of the major budget airlines in Philippines

The following was why I insisted on getting a window seat:

Flying over Palawan shores from airplane PhilippinesAerial photograph Palawan flight evening sunsetPalawan island sea from sky PhilippinesPalawan snake island from airplane PhilippinesSunset clouds from airplane islands PhilippinesSunset clouds aerial photograph PhilippinesPalawan clouds evening sky from airplane

Sunset Palawan flight Philippines
I was hoping for exactly such a sight

Clouds from airplane evening sun PhilippinesSunset sky aerial photography Palawan Philippines

Sunset seen from airplane Philippines
It was time for sunset

Sunset seen from airplane aerial photograph PhilippinesAs I sat looking out the window, in some ways I felt a sense of relief heading back to Manila. No more waking up early! I had nothing really planned for my last few days in Manila besides shopping and meeting my friend Aimee.

Evening sunset sky Philippines aerial photography
It was 6:41pm when I took this

I landed in Manila as it got dark, just past 7pm.  Collected my bags and exited the airport. I approached a taxi, but the driver quoted a rate which was too high and he wouldn’t turn on the meter. I had to walk outside of the airport and hail a passing taxi from the main road.

The last two times I landed in Manila, I chose to stay at the Kabayan in Pasay, but this time I chose to be in a more touristy area. I had asked Aimee to book me a place in Malate, near Robinsons Place and out of the two shortlisted backpacker hostels – Malate Pensionne Inn and Friendly’s Guesthouse – she ended up reserving a bed for me at Friendly’s.

Once I got to Malate (the taxi fare came to ₱110), the roads were busy as this area has a lot of clubs and restaurants. And when I mean clubs, I mean mostly KTV lounges catering to the Japanese and Koreans. Friendly’s Guesthouse and Malate Pensionne Inn are both located on Adriatico Street, and both are close to each other. It wasn’t easy to spot Friendly’s Guesthouse because they didn’t have a glowing sign outside, but after I did find the building, I got into the elevator and got off on the fourth floor.

The guy and girl manning the reception weren’t great, to be honest. But when they showed me to my dorm room, I would say I was a bit disappointed. There were a group of young Americans who were already talking loudly, high on booze, making plans to go out for some more drinking (they were English teachers in S. Korea apparently). The room was a bit messy too. The staff then pointed to my upper bed. Now, this peeved me off a bit, because I had specifically asked for a lower bed at the time of confirming my reservation via e-mail. I told the staff about it, but they said they couldn’t give me a lower bed because they were full.

Frustrated, I decided to just shower and then go out in search of another room. The bathroom wasn’t very clean either, but I was literally itching to take a proper shower. The luxury of a good hot shower eluded me while in El Nido and I needed to get all that coastal sweat off me. A lot of soap, shampoo and a clean shave later, I felt so much fresher.

I stepped out and went straight to Malate Pensionne Inn, but their dorms were full too. So I walked around and decided to check the other hotels in the area. A tout on the street then approached me, asking me if I wanted a girl. I said “no”. Then he asked me “guy?”. Definitely “no”. Then he asked me if I needed Viagra, Cialis or other drugs. I told him at my age, “no”. “Cigarettes?”. “No”. He finally gave up and asked me what I was looking for and when I told him I was in search of another room, he then went “Ah!” and told me he would show me around.

After visiting a few small hotels, nothing was as cheap as Malate Pensionne or Friendly’s. Just about every other ‘pension inn’ cost nearly a ₱1000 and above, while the rest were all star hotels in the area. Eventually, I slowed my pace of walking and decided to just manage a night in Friendly’s and try again tomorrow. Now I know why these two hostels were very popular among backpackers — there is no other choice!

All this while the tout was still beside me. I used the opportunity to ask him about the clientele at most of the KTVs in this area. He told me it wasn’t uncommon for Japanese men to spend $300-$400 on average a night(!), and that’s just to sing karaoke and enjoy the company of the women sitting beside them. If they want to take the girls out, that will cost them extra. $300 was my weekly budget, so no way was I eligible to enter these nightclubs.

The tout eventually gave up and left me alone after realizing I wasn’t going to give him any business for any of his (many) services. The one good thing about being in a touristy and popular area was that there were a few restaurants available that didn’t only serve Japanese and Korean cuisines. I had my dinner at a Persian joint and went back to my room.

I had a lot of sleeping to do!

Date: May 2nd, 2011

Woke up around 9am I believe. Lazily got out of my bed and decided to go upstairs for coffee. Also thought you guys would want to know what Friendly’s Guesthouse looks like.

Friendly's Guesthouse reception hostel rules Malate Manila Philippines
This is the reception (Taken on my phone)
Friendly's Guesthouse stairs to rooftop Malate Manila
You go upstairs for the cafe
Friendly's guesthouse roof top cafe kitchen Manila
The kitchen is up here too. It's fairly big and you can cook your own food.

Friendly's Guesthouse rooftop backpackers Malate Manila

View from Friendly's Guesthouse cafe Malate Manila Philippines
The view of Malate from up here

When you consider the facilities, and the location, paying ₱375 ($8/€6) a night for a bed in an air-conditioned dorm room is really good value. I went back to my room, where the staff were cleaning the toilets. I ultimately decided to just manage at Friendly’s for the next two nights.

Friendly's Guesthouse mixed dorm room hostel Malate Manila
I was given a bed in the mixed dorm; Friendly's has other dorms too

I spent some time online and basically took it easy. Spoke to Aimee before finally deciding to step out. Aimee had some work, so we decided to meet tomorrow. I told her I was going to check out Quezon City, which she told me was the former capital and currently the largest city in Manila province. I looked at my map and only noticed Quezon Memorial Circle as a notable attraction worth visiting. So off I went… without my DSLR. For once, I wanted to walk around without carrying my heavy camera bag. Only phone camera today. It felt so liberating!

Friendly's Guesthouse backpackers Malate Manila Philippines
This is the entrance to the building that houses Friendly's Guesthouse
Malate Starbucks building Manila morning
That yellow facade across the road is a Starbucks, which is also where Malate Pensionne Inn is located
Malate Korean stores Manila morning Philippines
The Koreans have quite literally taken over
Taft avenue Pedro Gil Malate Philippines
I walked to my nearest LRT/metro station

Pedro Gil station Metro Manila Philippines

Walkway Manila Philippines
I simply followed the map and pinpointed Cubao station, which meant I had to get to Doroteo Jose and then switch trains to get on the LRT 2 line (or purple line as they call it)
Metro line Manila Philippines
I don't remember if I got down at Cubao exactly but this was the station...
Gateway mall interiors panorama
... and I then walked straight into this mall

Comics Alley, a chain selling mostly Japanese ‘otaku’ merchandise and anime toys, were having a sale at their branch at this mall and I picked up Domo-kun plush toy for ₱250. I soaked up some more air-conditioning before going up to the food court for lunch.

Wendys prawn burger Manila Philippines
Ended up eating a Wendy's shrimp burger, which I thoroughly liked

Lazily, I got up and left the mall. I did walk around a bit, then looked at the map and decided I needed to go up Quezon Avenue. I got into a jeepney and got down at the busy Quezon Avenue.

Quezon Avenue roads Manila Philippines
The Quezon Memorial Circle is straight up from here

It was really hot today, and even though I had sunglasses on, the heat was getting to me. I stopped to have some ice cream and bought some more water. As I walked up Quezon Avenue, I noticed a man helping people cross the busy Elliptical Road.

Masked hero Quezon Manila Philippines
This masked hero (seriously) was helping the elderly cross the road by stopping speeding vehicles. I don't think he liked being photographed though.
EDSA highway crossing Quezon City Philippines
'Cos when it came time for me to cross the road... he didn't help. Hmpf, superhero with a prejudice!
Quezon Memorial Circle shrine Quezon City Manila Philippines
Anyway, this is the Quezon Memorial Circle

The Quezon Memorial Circle is both a national park and a shrine, which features a mausoleum containing the remains of Manuel L. Quezon, the second President of the Philippines. But I somehow was not in the mood to go any further and check it out… don’t know why. Maybe it was the heat.

I crossed the busy road, which itself was quite a challenge as nobody slowed down even as pedestrians were on the zebra crossing.

Once across, I kept walking further down Quezon Avenue in the hopes of seeing what life is like in this part of Manila.

Philippines Japan Quezon City roads Manila

Quezon Avenue Manila Philippines
Eventually I got tired of walking in the heat and ended up taking a jeepney instead. Quezon Avenue is one big-ass road!
Metallica disco club ktv Quezon City Manila
If Lars saw this, he would sue

In fact there were many large clubs/KTV lounges all along Quezon Avenue, none of which were open at this time though. The poshest one I saw, judging by all the high end vehicles parked there, was the Pegasus Club, which Aimee later me told is where the rich and famous (men) hang out. Also where a few girls working as ‘guest relation officers’ ended up turning into future actresses and models.

After going down the road a bit, I took a left turn as I wasn’t seeing anything besides gentlemen’s clubs and fast moving vehicles.

The Ascension church building Manila Philippines
I don't know which road I was on but the only interesting thing I saw here was this building

Other than that, all I saw were businesses dealing in automotive parts, a few bakeries and other general stores.

Quezon City Manila Philippines
So basically, after two hours of walking, I didn't see anything worthwhile

I called Aimee and asked her if I was in the wrong part of town, but she was sleeping, so I didn’t want to disturb her and cut the call short. I kept walking until I reached a metro station.

Arnel Pineda endorsement ad LRT V. Mapa Manila
Yay, Arnel Pineda of Journey!

(Plug: Do check out Journey’s new album ‘Eclipse,’ it’s brilliant!)

Manila slum houses Philippines
I walked past these slums at Doroteo Jose
Manila city view from lrt platform
I was switching trains to get back on the yellow line

Back at Pedro Gil station, I walked to Robinsons Place mall.

Robinsons Place mall floors from up Manila
Even on a Monday evening, the mall was crowded
Team Pacquiao store Robinsons Place mall Manila Philippines
Manny Pacquiao fever
Robinsons Place mall floors night Manila Philippines
Robinsons Place is a pretty good mall

After hanging around the mall for a while, I decided to have an early dinner from here itself and then head back to the room.

Kido Manga Japanese burger Manila Philippines
I saw this burger outlet and I wondered if it was anything like Mosburger

Being the curious foodie I am, I decided to give it a try. I ordered their shrimp burger meal (which at ₱150 cost the same as Wendy’s) and sat down, since the order was going to take 10 minutes (guess this restaurant isn’t what you would call ‘fast food’).

When the burger eventually came, you could say I was disappointed. I didn’t like the yellow sauce they put in the burger (don’t know if it was some sort of mayo, but it was a tad sweet). The burger patty was smaller than the one at Wendy’s and overall, it just wasn’t all that great. The fries were alright though.

Back in the room, I spent the remainder of the night talking to other backpackers who had just checked in to Friendly’s and later worked on some of my photographs.

Date: May 3rd, 2011

Today I was going to meet my friend Aimee. She was going to show me around Ortigas and then take me to Greenhills for some shopping.

SM Megacity Ortigas construction Manila Philippines
She asked me to meet her at SM Megamall in Ortigas
Ortigas business park overhead view buildings Manila
Ortigas is a major business hub

Ortigas overhead pedestrian bridge Manila Phillipines

Business park Ortigas office buildings Manila Philippines
A lot of these buildings house call centers
San Miguel corporation headquarters Manila Philippines
San Miguel Corporation's HQ - SMC is one of the largest companies in South East Asia
Manila business park buildings Philippines
Lots of glass... so your typical business park then
Ortigas business park Manila Philippines
A lot of pricey condos available here too
Ortigas square business park Manila Philippines
Ortigas is the name of a wealthy family whose land this is
Robinsons Ortigas mall Manila Philippines
Walked through Robinsons Mall just to soak up some A/C
Pedestrian walkway Ortigas Manila Philippines
Got out again
Virgin Mary EDSA shrine monument Manila Philippines
Aimee told me this statue is the Our Lady of EDSA, built to commemorate the People Power Revolution, which saw the departure of Pres. Marcos from power
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration office Manila
The ever busy Philippine Overseas Employment Administration office. Every Filipino going abroad for work has to come here first.
Elevated highway near overseas office Manila Philippines
Aimee and I decided to take a jeepney to Greenhills
Greenhills shopping center Manila Philippines
It was only a short ride away
Greenhills shopping center lobby Manila Philippines
I wanted to check out Greenhills because the way people described it, I imagined it was Manila's equivalent to Bangkok's Chatuchak market
Greenhills shopping center map Manila Philippines
Seemed like a pretty big place
Greenhills bags shops Manila Philippines
Only, unlike Chatuchak, Greenhills is indoors and has air-conditioning!

Theatre Mall Greenhills Manila Philippines

Greenhills shopping center mobiles Quezon City Philippines
You have the usual grey market electronics and mobile stores...
Greenhills shopping center inside shops Manila Philippines
... and of course clothing

But after much walking around and checking out a few stores, none of the offerings were as good as the ones I saw in Bangkok. I guess Bangkok’s street shopping experience is still the best in South East Asia.

Toe finger shoes Greenhills shop Manila
These were the only things I considered buying

After an hour spent at Greenhills, and not finding anything worth buying at all, Aimee and I took a van taxi back to SM Megamall.

SM Mega Mall interiors Manila Philippines
Checked out SM's department store and ended up buying a few good t-shirts from there. SM had official merchandise clothing from The Simpsons, Marvel, Transformers, etc. and they were all quite cheap.
Greenwich pizza pasta meal offer SM Manila
We had lunch from the food court. I ate two-thirds of this... and Aimee ate one-third of what was left. (The girl doesn't eat much)
SM Megamall in Ortigas EDSA Manila
We left Ortigas around 2:30pm
EDSA Shangri-la hotel office towers Manila Philippines
I insisted on seeing Aimee off home, so we took a bus to head to her part of town
Aimee Marie sleeping bus Manila
Poor thing was really sleepy

Farmers market Manila Philippines

Manila through dirty glass Philippines
We were going to an area called Valenzuela
SM city North Edsa Manila Philippines
This is now the largest mall in the Philippines

I walked Aimee back home, and we said our goodbyes as this would be the last I’d be seeing her. I was leaving Philippines tomorrow. It started to drizzle very lightly, so I made my way back to the main road to catch a jeepney to Monumento.

Valenzuela area Manila Philippines
There's a popular nursing college nearby, so a lot of the students live around here

Unfortunately, what started out as a drizzle, eventually turned into rain.

Raining evening Manila Philippines
Two & half weeks in Philippines and I finally see rain... and I didn't have an umbrella with me!

I took shelter in front of a Max’s Restaurant, but then, the rain got really heavy a few minutes later!

Heavy rain Manila Philippines Petron
I had to keep my camera away as it was getting wet (This was taken on my phone)

I waited nearly 45 minutes for the rain to subside. I managed to cross the road and caught a bus going to Monumento.

Monumento flooded after rains Manila Philippines
The bus dropped me here. Quite literally. I just stood on the road after I got down wondering how to get to Monumento station. It was flooded and I was wearing slippers. I just didn't feel like dipping my bare foot in the dirty water.

There were cycle taxis offering locals a ride to Monumento LRT station, but when I asked them ‘how much,’ their rate for me, a non-local, were ludicrous. So I just took a deep breath, hopped across the road — and got wet in the process anyway.

It was past 5pm and I still had some shopping to do. I got the train from Monumento and went to Pasay.

Pasay interchange LRT station evening crowds Manila
This was the scene at Pasay interchange station at 6pm. Yikes.
Glorietta malls Ayala center Manila night Philippines
I went back to Ayala Center to check out one last mall
Pedestrian overbridge to Greenbelt mall Manila Philippines
I was going to Greenbelt, Manila's 'luxury' mall
Blue lights glowing building book store Ayala center
I forgot what store this was
Greenbelt complex at night Ayala Manila
I was woefully dressed for such a place - soggy socks, shorts, moist t-shirt - but what the hell, last day!
Inside Greenbelt mall Ayala center Manila Philippines
I couldn't take many photographs inside. Security came by and said it's not allowed. (Ayala has seen bombings in the past, so security is beefed up here)

After window shopping in Greenbelt, I walked back to Landmark department store and ended up buying two K-pop CDs before walking all the way back to Ayala LRT station.

Once back at Pedro Gil, I wondered where to have my final meal in Manila. For kicks, Jollibee one last time was a consideration, but instead, I chose another chain owned by them which I had yet to try.

Mang Inasal chicken bbq Philippines
So Mang Inasal it was 🙂 (Cost ₱120/$2.7/€2)

Date: May 4th, 2011  – Last day, lasting memories

I packed my bags yesterday night itself, just so I knew just how much space I had left to fill up with some last minute shopping. I still had a few things to pick up and so once I was ready, I walked to Robinsons Place one last time. The mall only opens at 10am, and I had to wait outside until it did.

Once inside, I quickly went up to the department store to see if they had any good t-shirts like the ones I picked up from SM’s department store yesterday. They did, really good ones too – retro gaming themed Mega Man and Mario t-shirts – all for just ₱200-₱250. I ended up buying five t-shirts for my brothers from Robinsons.

After that, I rushed downstairs to the supermarket, picked up some snacks and then stopped when I spotted a bottle of Absinth in the liquor store. Absinth is something I hardly find in most liquor stores, so I picked up a bottle for my friends back in Bangalore.

I rushed back to Friendly’s Guesthouse, adjusted my bags and checked out. I took a taxi to the airport – which stopped along the way to fill up fuel – leaving me cooking inside (no A/C in the car!). I still managed to reach NAIA Terminal 1 in time.

~~~~~~ What this Indian has to say about the Philippines 🙂 ~~~~~~

Sigh. This was it. My epic two and half weeks across Philippines was finally coming to an end. In some ways, I was both happy and sad. Happy because this was such an amazing experience, and I saw pretty much every major attraction I planned to see. Hardly anything went wrong too.

Sad because, well, there’s still so much more I wanted to see! I still didn’t visit Davao – the second largest city after Manila, Boracay – the most popular island in Philippines, Mount Mayon – the most perfectly cone-shaped volcano, and of course the one place I really, really wanted to visit – the island of Batanes. I would love to return to El Nido, or even consider the islands of Coron even further north of Palawan, which people say are incredible.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but unfortunately, Indians are only given a 21 day tourist visa — that too, one that needs to be applied for in advance, something which cost me Rs. 3230 ($60) to get done. None the less, for a first visit to a country, I couldn’t be more proud of myself! Every Filipino who asked me where all I went had the same response: “Wow, even I have yet to go to all these places!”

In the end, it’s not just the natural beauty that appealed to me about the Philippines. As a Gulf-raised child from the state of Kerala in India, it was very easy for me to connect with many Filipinos I met. Especially when I stayed at Kabayan, where just about everybody was either coming from or going to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, etc. Bring up the Middle East, and it was a conversation ice breaker. I know what it’s like, and seeing Filipinos in the Middle East, I can now see how far they go just to make a living.

As a Keralite, I know my state’s greatest export isn’t coconuts — it’s people. Philippines isn’t any different. And that’s largely due to a culture (and religion) that encourages it’s people to be educated, but then, led by governments who wipe their hands clean when people were left with no choice but to leave the country in search of a better livelihood. It’s easy when all the government has to do is sit back and count the millionsbillions sent home by their own hard-working people abroad. The money from overseas workers is what fueled the local economy for decades. Some would argue it still does.

Things have started to change though. With a booming local economy, largely driven by the outsourcing movement, Filipinos now have an option. Work can be found in the country, it’s just that it may not pay as well as a job in the Middle East. The rising incomes of today’s Filipinos is what is fueling tourism within the country. I saw more Filipino tourists than foreign tourists at most places I visited. Which is not how it is in Thailand.

‘Brand Philippines’ isn’t well-marketed to the world either. Sure, San Miguel beer is now available in India, but I doubt the majority who drink it even know it’s Filipino. Yeah sure, there’s Charice and Arnel Pineda, but lets face it — only Filipinos make them appear ‘world famous’. What little most people know about Philippines is judged from its OFWs — Overseas Filipino Workers. Not exactly the best way to learn about the country and its people, especially if you go by the stereotype I hear from friends and family.

Fluency in English has given many Indians and Filipinos an edge over our Asian counterparts. There are over 10 million Filipinos working outside the Philippines, most of whom are in the Middle East. Many work as maids and sales people even in neighbouring Singapore and Hong Kong. But is it fair to draw a conclusion based on those Filipino workers? Not really. And just like millions of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians), especially those from Kerala, a large chunk of their income is sent back home to feed their families and hopefully one day, buy/build a home and retire.

Unless you have been on Philippine soil, your opinion about the Philippine people may remain skewed if you simply assumed every OFW is exactly the kind of people you will find back in Philippines. There are Filipino doctors too you know, they are just not as exported in the sheer numbers the nurses are. You have to come to Philippines to know what the modern day Filipino is like, not judge them based on the career choices they are forced to take up abroad.

All said and done, just like Kerala (and for that matter, all of India), Philippines suffers daily from its share of dirty politics. And what a history it has. Philippines was first colonized by the Spanish, turning just about everyone Catholic in the process. Then the Americans came, waged war with the Spaniards and took over the country. Philippine revolutionaries then fought the Americans. Then the Japanese invaded. Americans fought the Japanese (using many Filipino soldiers mind you) and the U.S. remained in control until Philippines finally gained independence in 1946. But like many countries post-independence, the nation’s headaches didn’t end there.

Post independence saw the struggle of Filipinos living under one corrupt government after another. The worst period being under GeneralPresident Ferdinand Marcos. Even as a kid growing up in the late 80’s, with little interest in world affairs, it wasn’t hard to not hear or come across the ‘Marcos’ name. Especially his infamous wife — just read her profile on Wikipedia and about Yamashita’s Gold — the wealth figures mentioned will leave you shell-shocked if you are non-Filipino who knew very little about Philippine politics.

Revolution after revolution, not much has changed in the political landscape. Or for that matter in society at large. The people may have progressed to a point where homosexuals are not victimized as badly as they are in other Asian countries, but stupid laws like the fact divorce is still illegal persist! Just like the majority of Indians, Filipinos hate their politicians with so much vitriol, reading any news article online about a high-ranking public official comes with its share of nasty comments.

Even the nation’s biggest celebrity, Manny Pacquiao, has joined political fray. How much of an impact will his political punches have? Who knows.

One thing I did find a bit annoying though were the many locals complaining about Manila. I still don’t think it’s as bad a city as they claim it to be. I’d like to see the very same people go to Mumbai – where real estate costs more than Manila – then come back and compare. Manila’s infrastructure still beats most Indian cities. Probably the very reason why Philippines has now overtaken India as the global call center hub.

Of course, not all infrastructure in Manila is worth bragging about. And there is no greater example of that than NAIA Terminal 1 — the terminal for most international flights. Also considered to be one of the worst airports in the world!

NAIA Terminal 1 International departures Manila Philippines
First there was a long line outside the terminal to get in, then the line to check-in was again equally long. It took nearly an hour and half after arriving at the airport to receive my boarding pass.

This terminal was built in 1981… and it still looks like that! I didn’t take any other photo besides the one above because it only goes downhill from there. Facilities are poor, and even though I didn’t face any issues, I have read about Filipinos who experienced corruption at their own airports.

Maybe it’s because I’m a tourist or a ‘foreigner,’ so the airport officials could be too ‘shy’ to try anything funny with us. But, there is one final slap-in-the-face/kick-in-the-groin every passenger gets for using this outdated terminal upon departure. Every airport I used within Philippines had an airport usage fee: ₱200 at Cebu and just ₱40 at Puerto Princesa, since both were for domestic flights. For NAIA Terminal 1 international passengers? ₱750 ($17/€12).

Now I know a lot of airports charge a user fee, and sometimes it’s even included in the ticket cost. Heck, even New Delhi International Airport has started charging passengers Rs. 1300 (₱1100) for international flights – which sucks. But, at least they began collecting this fee after they built, what is now, the 8th largest airport in the world.

Even as a non-Filipino, walking around this terminal after paying ₱750 made me angry. All I kept thinking about after I paid this ‘airport development fee’ was “how many years have they been collecting this?!” and “what the hell are they doing with this money?!”. When I think about my money going to waste or going into a suited up thief’s pocket, it makes my blood boil, be it in India or abroad.

Malaysia Airlines at NAIA Manila Philippines
The Duty Free sucked, so I simply went to my gate and sat there. My flight was on time.

As I looked around, I didn’t notice many Indians besides myself. There was one Indian couple, who looked Punjabi, but they didn’t look like the Punjabis I was used to seeing. They looked more like the Indians who came to this part of the world decades ago and tried best to keep their heritage. The ‘lost Indians’ so to speak.

Oh, I need to bring this up. In Manila, occasionally a few jeepney drivers on the streets would shout “Bombay!” to me. I assumed it was because it’s the only famous Indian city everyone knows, so I used to just smile back. But when I told Aimee about this, she told me that’s not why. Get this, Indians don’t have a good reputation in the Philippines (among the masses) because of certain “Bombays” in the country. It’s the slang term used to refer to several (illegal) money lenders, most of whom are of Indian origin, and have been in the Philippines for decades. Most of their ‘customers’ are often poor street vendors and stall owners, people who wouldn’t get much help from big banks due to the lack any of valid documentation. The “Bombays” approach such people, lend them money, but at very high interest rates. Of course, when things get bad, these “Bombays” show their nefarious side. You could say: “Well, how come they are allowed to operate?”. In a country where the police can be paid off, a lot can be ‘allowed’. They are basically ‘loan sharks‘. For more details, read this excellent research paper I dug up when I was curious to find out more about these “Bombays”.

I still didn’t see many Indians in the two and half weeks I spent in the Philippines. The few I did see were only in Manila and looked like they were here because of the BPO majors in the city — or were visiting from Singapore.

That said, I don’t expect many Indians to fly all the way to Philippines for tourism — because it’s a hard sell. I can show my friends the beaches of Palawan and they’ll say: “Doesn’t Thailand have such beaches?”. And it’s true. When Thailand offers most of what the Philippines also offers (nightlife included), chances are they rather take a 3-4 hour flight to Thailand than the 7-8 hours it takes to reach the Philippines. I can argue about how beautiful the beaches, the stunning rice terrace farms, and how less crowded Philippines’ tourist spots are in comparison, but it wouldn’t matter to the majority.

[Fun trivia: Some similarities between India and Philippines I observed — the mobile numbers are 10 digits long and all begin with 9; the men use the term “boss” a lot :)]

Philippines island leaving for Malaysia aerial photo
Another reason why Philippines is a hard country to market is because of its geography

A lot of international travellers — families, the new markets, and in the case of most Indian tourists — travel on package tours, because it’s convenient (plus they’re too lazy to do all the research themselves — that’s my reasoning). Philippines is a tough country sell as a package tour, because you simply cannot do it in less than a week. Being a nation of over 7,000 islands, it’s not landlocked country like much of Thailand or Malaysia’s touristy half (KL, Penang and Langkawi). If you are in Manila and want to see the amazing Chocolate Hills, you have no choice but to fly. Palawan? Flight again. If not flights, then by ferry. In short, accessibility is an issue. Well, easy access that is. Package tourists prefer convenience, backpackers enjoy the challenge, tiring as it may be.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing airplane wing Philippines islands
Despite the lack of connectivity, I still say Philippines is one of the most amazing destinations in South East Asia. It beats other nations like Malaysia when you compare natural beauty.

Would I go back for a second visit? If I had the chance (and the money), I would go back in an instant! Would I work there? Hmm, only if the work itself was interesting and the pay package makes it worthwhile. Would I live in Philippines? That’s… a bit tough for me to answer. Cebu maybe a preferred city for many retirees, but the only city I would only consider living in is still Manila. It’s a huge city, yes, but it’s the only city that would keep me entertained. K-pop stars drop in often and it’s global enough in its options. I could easily afford to buy an apartment in Manila with my current savings, something I can’t even do back in Bangalore. But cost of living aside, typhoon season scares me a bit. Typhoons hammer much of Philippines every year, and Manila is always hit. Everytime I see the footage, I can’t fathom what the poor slum dwellers must go through… every year!

Flying over South China Sea to Malaysia
Are these islands also a part of Philippines?

Despite all the bad, one lasting impression I will always hold in positive view is the general attitude of the Filipino people. I really like them, they are very friendly and I love their mannerisms (the good ones). Everytime I was at store, the sales staff would approach me with a “♫ Hello sirrrrrrrrrrr ♪” — and it still resonates in my head 🙂 Again, this is how I was generally treated. How Filipinos behave with each other, I’ll only know if I stay there much longer.

Malaysia Airlines seafood meal lunch
My lunch, a slightly sweet fish fillet and rice

The only notion about Philippines that remained unanswered for me was… I still don’t know what Philippine culture is! I didn’t see much that seemed ethnically Filipino, or a heritage that is native to this country. Maybe it’s because of the 300 years of Spanish rule, succeeded by the years of ‘Americana’ that followed. Philippines has, in some way, lost its native identity — probably the only South East Asian country to do so. The last few generations of Filipinos absorbed a culture and influence America left behind, and it’s now very much become their own — like their love for basketball, the preferred genres of music, fast food, and even the English they follow.

Malaysia Airlines plane wings Boeing plane clouds

Flying over Malaysia sunset ray through clouds
I was above Malaysia just before sunset
Kuala Lumpur airport departure Terminal Malaysia
Needless to say, KLIA is a much better airport
KLIA Malaysia airport interiors
I had 2 hours to kill before my connecting flight, so I walked around the terminal
Kuala Lumpur train service food court Malaysia
The trains that take passengers to the other terminals

KLIA terminal train service Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur airport international terminal pillars
This is where the gates are
Bangalore city at night lights from sky
3 1/2 hours later, I was in Bangalore

I began working on this Philippines series in June, after I got laid off from my company. Six months of sitting and writing 16 posts, nearly 2,068 photos used (out of over 5,000 clicked)… it was a lot of work, but it’s with immense satisfaction I conclude what has been the most satisfying international trip of my life so far! The response from my friends back in Bangalore when I showed them my photos of all the wonderful sights Philippines has to offer was nothing short of amazement. I guess I’ve played my small role in promoting the country.

What else can I say… hanggang sa muli Philippines! 🙂

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Philippines: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Date: April 25th 2011

I woke up really early today as I had to catch my AirPhil Express flight to Cebu at 7am. I checked out of my hotel and took a taxi from Pasay to the airport. It cost ₱70 ($1.6/€1.2) but I reached the airport in under 20 minutes and there were long queues because of the security checks. I checked in, got my window seat and whipped out my phone to take a few snaps.

NAIA Terminal 2 Manila airport
I paid the airport user fee of PHP200 ($4.5/€3.4), which Aimee told me is something every airport in Philippines makes travellers pay
Ninoy Aquino bust airport Manila Philippines
Philippines' main airport is named after this revolutionary
Ninoy Aquino history Manila airport
And this is his story

My flight was unfortunately delayed by nearly 45 minutes due to poor weather conditions (apparently), but it was better than hearing some flights being cancelled, leaving passengers frustrated.

Aerial photography cloud mountain Philippines
I asked for a window seat because I read online that one could see Mount Pinatubo on this route. Though I feel I ended up on the wrong side.
Aerial photography valley road Philippines
Not that the views were disappointing or anything

Aerial photography Cebu green plateau PhilippinesPhilippines islands Cebu flights

Cebu city aerial photography Philippines
An hour later, we were above Cebu
Cebu shallow waters coral marsh Philippines
Shallow waters along the coast of Cebu

Aerial photography Cebu shallow waters

Cebu airport Airphil Express flight landing Philippines
A little late, but the weather seemed perfectly fine

I called Aimee and informed her about my arrival and she told me where to get a taxi from.

Cebu airport ramp Philippines
Though there were taxis available where I was standing, Aimee told me to get a regular cab from outside this other building
Bridge to Cebu city Philippines
It cost ₱160 ($3.6/€2.7) from airport to where I needed to go

I had reservations at Sugbutel Bed & Bath for two nights. I chose this place because, as per the map, it was close to the pier. I needed it to close to the pier because tomorrow morning, I was to go to the island of Bohol by ferry. But when I arrived at Sugbutel, I must say, I had the look of disappointment on my face. It was bang opposite the pier, sure, but there was little else around it. No restaurants and it didn’t look like it was within city limits. Anyway, I checked in, paid ₱700 ($16/€12) for my dorm bed for two nights and went upstairs.

Sugbutel dorm bed Cebu Philippines
I got an upper bed. It was clean and had all the essentials - universal plug point, night lamp and an air-conditioned room. If you like shipping containers, then the view is fantastic!
Sugbutel dormitory floor Cebu Philippines
This is the dorm floor. Toilets are clean and large enough.

Since today was the only day I had to check out Cebu city, I wasted no time and took a jeepney straight to the first attraction on my list, Fort San Pedro.

Road to fort San Pedro in Cebu Philippines
The ride from Sugbutel took just 5 minutes (cost around ₱7)
Cebu pier ferry Philippines
I walked all the way to the pier to find out when the first ferry to Bohol was
Cebu pier ships Philippines
There are several ferry companies plying daily to the neighbouring islands

Cebu Mariners court Philippines

Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines
I walked to Fort San Pedro, which is very close to the pier

Cebu tree in front of Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines entrance
There is an entrance fee of ₱30 to Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines flag
Fort San Pedro, built by the colonial Spanish in 1783, is one of the oldest in the country

The Founding of Cebu Fort San Pedro Philippines

Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Philippines
Didn't look very promising from here

Fort San Pedro steps railing Cebu Fort San Pedro wall red flowers Cebu Fort San Pedro domes Cebu Fort San Pedro wall Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Fort San Pedro cannon Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro wall facing Cebu port office Fort San Pedro shed Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro gardening Cebu Fort San Pedro corridor pillars Philippines Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro boy fish statue garden Cebu

Fort San Pedro exit Cebu
And that was it! I was done with the fort in 10 minutes.

I felt it was a bit of a waste of money. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen countless forts, both in India and in other places like Malaysia. After a while, they all start to look the same.

Cebu sea near pier
I walked on
Magellan's cross Bank of Philippines islands Cebu
Next up, Magellan's cross

Ferdinand Magellan was a famous Portugese explorer who became the first European to land in the Philippines. He ordered this cross be placed here signifying the arrival of the invaders explorers.

Magellan's cross chapel Cebu Philippines
The cross is housed inside this chapel
Magellan's cross Cebu Philippines
Magellan's cross, it marks the spot where the first Christian Filipinos were baptized
College St .Nino Cebu Philippines
It's right in front of this college
Cebu bakery sweets pastry
I got distracted by the sweet smell coming out of a bakery/eatery/other junk college kids eat/stationary shop attached to the college
Cassava cake Cebu Philippines
Ordered a Cassava cake as it sounded interesting to me. It was quite yummy, though I felt they used a little too much condensed milk for the sweetness
Basilica del Santo Nino church Cebu Philippines
I walked towards Cebu's most famous attraction, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest church in the Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino red candles Cebu Philippines
Saw a lot of worshipers near these red candles

Basilica del Santo Nino church red candles praying PhilippinesBasilica St. Nino candle holders Cebu Philippines

Basilica St. Nino candles Cebu Philippines
That's a lot of wax...
Basilica del St. Nino candle wax Cebu Philippines
...which is recycled to make new candles I presume

Basilica del Santo Nino saints statues Cebu Philippines

Basilica St. Nino candles fountain Cebu Philippines

St. Nino Basilica church Cebu Philippines
I walked towards the church

Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu PhilippinesEntering Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu Philippines Basilica del Santo Nino church arch Cebu Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino baby angels Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino man praying Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino chairs Cebu Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino chandeliers Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino golden Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino Jesus cross Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino church figure Cebu PhilippinesBasilica del Santo Nino conversion of locals Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino ceiling paintings Philippines
Ceiling paintings
Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu Cathedral ceiling
The main ceiling

Basilica del Santo Nino gated hall Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino prayers Cebu
It was time to leave
Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu cathedral open hall
Some courtyard right opposite the church

Basilica del Santo Nino christian statues Cebu Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu stone artBasilica del Santo Nino visitors Cebu

Osmena Blvd Santo Nino Jollibee Chowking Cebu
Across the road was a Jollibee (of course) from where I had lunch from

As I sat there, eating my burger, I wondered what to see next. It was only the afternoon and I… felt bored already. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Anyway, I hopped on a jeepney and decided to go towards Robinsons Mall.

Osmena blvd traffic afternoon Cebu Philippines
I just hopped into any one going straight up the road
Osmena Blvd jeepney name Cebu Philippines
The names of some of these jeepneys 🙂
Cebu city North district pedestrian overbridge
I got down here
Robinsons Place mall Cebu Philippines
And this is Robinsons Place mall. Closed. Like, for good/for renovation/for demolition kind of closed.

I walked around some more, since I didn’t know what else to do.

Cebu Mango Avenue nightlife road Philippines

Robinsons Cybergate Osmena Fuente Cebu Philippines
Robinsons Cybergate is an office building

After converting some dollars at a nearby plaza, I got into another jeepney and decided to head towards the Philippine Taoist Temple.

Cebu provincial capitol building Philippines
Cebu provincial capitol building; take a right from here

The Maxwell hotel Escario street Cebu

Escario street Cebu Philippines
I got down a bit further ahead

From the main road, I was instructed to cross over to a road on the other side.

Entrance to Beverly Hills road Cebu
There were bike taxis (licensed or not, who knows) who offered to take me up for 10 pesos. Since I didn't feel like walking uphill and not knowing how much I would have to walk, I got on.
Road to Philippine Taoist Temple Cebu
Took this sitting behind the driver

It was only a short drive and the driver dropped me at a guarded entrance from where on, he told me, I would have to continue on by foot.

Beverly Hills road Cebu Philippines
Apparently it's private property from here on and so, bike taxis aren't allowed
Beverly hills road Cebu Philippines
Guess what this locality is called -- Beverly Hills 🙂
Philippines Taoist temple from afar Cebu
And that's where I needed to get to
Beverly Hills junction to Taoist temple Cebu
Took the left

Beverly Hills road to Taoist temple Cebu

Beverly Hills uphill road to Taoist temple Cebu
It's a good 10 minute walk

View from Beverly Hills Cebu

Philippine taoist temple entrance Cebu city
The entrance
Philippine Taoist temple garden Cebu
There is no entry ticket or anything

Philippine Taoist temple steps CebuPhilippine Taoist temple lion statue CebuPhilippine Taoist temple drum CebuPhilippine Taoist temple hall Cebu

Philippine Taoist temple prayer hall Cebu
The prayer hall is to the left, but photography of the hall and the idols aren't allowed
Philippine Taoist temple red staircase Cebu
I went up

Philippine Taoist temple inside CebuPhilippine Taoist temple door design Cebu

Beverly hills neighbourhood Cebu
Pretty posh neighbourhood
View from Philippine Taoist temple Cebu
The view from up here

Philippine Taoist temple dragon statues roof Cebu Philippine Taoist temple fisherman statue Cebu

Philippine Taoist temple steps down Cebu
Went back down

Philippine Taoist temple bell Cebu Philippine Taoist temple design CebuPhilippine Taoist temple dragon CebuPhilippines Taoist temple office Cebu

Philippines Taoist temple Cebu panorama
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Philippine Taoist temple exit Cebu
I was done
Philippine Taoist Temple Inc. second entrance Cebu
I know this temple was built by Chinese businessmen but '... Temple Inc.'?
Cebu Beverly hills stone wall
A lot of rich people live in Beverly Hills, though I wonder which came first -- the name of the hill or the residents?

Road behind Taoist temple Beverly Hills CebuBeverly Hills afternoon sun shadow Cebu PhilippinesWoolbright drive Beverly Hills Cebu Philippines

Villa Beverly Hills Cebu
Nice looking pads
Beverly Hills road downhill Cebu
Walked all the way back down
Cebu Beverly Hills horse riding Philippines
Rich people = own horses
Cebu Beverly hills slum shanty homes Philippines
But just like India, regardless of any fancy name, it doesn't take too long to come back down to the reality of the majority in Cebu
Locals near Beverly hills Cebu
I bought some credit ('load' is the term in Philippines) for my phone and had a drink from here

The bike taxis approached me again and asked me if I would like to go to a higher viewing spot, which was a bit further up from here. They said I could watch the sun set from there. I was honestly bored, so I said “No thanks” and just walked on.

I stepped into a nearby mall, mostly to get some air-con. I dropped by a travel agency and asked them how much a tour to Bohol island tomorrow would cost. They quoted just over ₱3500 which I knew was exorbitant, since I did look it up online and had a fair idea as to how much the tours approximately cost.

I messaged Aimee telling her I was bored in Cebu and she told me to go check out Ayala Mall. So I got into a jeepney and headed to Ayala.

Cebu business park Ayala Philippines
Got down at an area that looked like a business park
Cebu business park IT office building
A lot of IT offices here
Wipro Cebu office Philippines
Well look who's here! (Wipro is an India IT/BPO major)
Ayala mall interiors shops Cebu Philippines
Anyway, this is air-condi... I mean, Ayala Mall
Ayala Mall Convergys call center hiring banners
Call center hiring is all over the mall

30 minutes of store-hopping, got bored (again) and left. I was pretty sleepy by now and decided to just take a taxi back to the pier instead of a jeepney.

Cebu pier at night
This was at 7pm
Supercat office Cebu pier Philippines
Came to the pier for Supercat's office & to know when the first ferry to Tagbilaran (Bohol's capital) was

The tour of Bohol when purchased from Supercat themselves cost around ₱2800. I opted not to buy the tour package and instead, decided to do it myself.

I left the pier and walked back to the main road. As soon as I got to the main road in a minute, I realized why I booked at Sugbutel. You can literally walk to Supercat’s terminal from here.

Pier road Sugbutel Radisson hotel at night
If you don't like Sugbutel's budget offerings, you can move up to the Radisson up ahead

I dropped my camera bag back at the dorm and stepped out again wondering where I could have dinner. There are hardly any eateries outside Sugbutel.

Pier area at night Cebu
The surroundings aren't exactly what you'd call 'great'

But walk all the way up to the Radisson Hotel and right next to it is one big-ass mall!

SM City cebu mall restaurants
Felt stupid just wondering a few minutes back, where I could get some decent food! No dearth of options here.
SM City Cebu mall Philippines
SM City is the biggest mall in Cebu!
SM city Cebu mall foodcourt
I ate from here
SM City Cebu mall shops
Walked around the mall a bit. It was past 8pm and many stores were done for the day.

I walked back to Sugbutel, freshened up and hit the bed early. Tomorrow was going to be another early wake-up call.

I know Cebu residents will be going “Oh, there’s more to Cebu than just these sights you saw!” and you’re probably right. Aimee told me if I headed up north in a vehicle, I could have explored the beaches and other sights Cebu has to offer. But I’m keeping all my “beach and sea” experiences for Palawan, which is why I only used Cebu as a stopover point to get to Bohol and then fly to Palawan.

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Date: April 24th, 2011

Sunday, the concluding seventh day of my first week in Philippines. Today’s itinerary involved meeting my friend Aimee, and then letting her show me around Manila’s famous landmarks.

UN Avenue metro station Manila Philippines
Aimee asked me to get down at U.N. Avenue MRT station (taken on my Nokia E72)

After meeting her at a nearby 7-11, we stocked up on fluids and Aimee told me why its named U.N. Avenue.

UN Avenue Manila Philippines
The World Health Organization has an office here

Aimee first took me to Rizal Park, one of Manila’s largest public parks.

Rizal Luneta park Manila Philippines
It's also called Luneta Park
Rizal Park islands geography display Manila
This used to be filled with water. When viewed from higher ground, it's the geography of the Philippines

Metro Manila skyline buildings Rizal Park Philippines

Rizal Park Sunday morning Manila Philippines
We just walked through the park
National Museum Rizal park Manila Philippines
The National Museum building
Rizal Park Lapu Lapu statue Manila Philippines
That's a statue honouring Lapu Lapu, considered to be Philippines' first national hero
The Orchidarium Manila Philippines
The Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion

Rizal Park road Manila Philippines

Rizal park Philippines National heroes Manila
More national heroes
Chinese garden Rizal park Luneta Manila
The Chinese Gardens. They have a Japanese garden too.
Rizal Park Luneta monument Manila Philippines
This monument is in honour of Philippines' greatest patriot, Jose Rizal. It was on these grounds the revolutionary was executed by the Spanish, who colonized Philippines at the time.

Rizal Park statue Manila Philippines

Rizal park map layout Aimee Marie Manila Philippines
Aimee checks where we are

Rizal Park Philippines flag mast Manila hotel Roxas Boulevard

Jose Rizal park Luneta monument Manila Philippines
It was time to leave Rizal Park
Rizal Luneta monument Mithun Manila Philippines
Aimee took one of photo of me and we moved on
Kilometer zero Rizal park Manila Philippines
The clock structure you see on the left is called Kilometer Zero. It serves as a point from which every road is measured.
Horse chariot ride Roxas boulevard Manila Philippines
They have horse cart rides around this area, in which they take you all the way to Intramuros and other tourist attractions
Manila Hotel Roxas boulevard Philippines
The oldest hotel in Manila. Manila Hotel has seen everybody from The Beatles to John F. Kennedy among other famous guests. In other words, a very expensive place to people like you and me.
Plant trees outside Intramuros golf club Manila Philippines
We walked to Intramuros next
Tree plantation Intramuros golf club Manila Philippines
There's a golf course just outside Intramuros
Intramuros pavement sun shade Manila Philippines
It was scorching hot by the way

Department of labor and employment Intramuros Manila Philippines

Intramuros main entrance Sunday Manila Philippines
There is no entrance fee for Intramuros
Intramuros entrance panorama Manila Philippines
Panorama comprised of 9 shots

Intramuros literally means “walled city” and was created during Spanish colonial rule. It’s the oldest district in Manila and one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. It was built to keep invaders away, although, it eventually failed to do so as years progressed).

Intramuros road school zone Manila Philippines

College of Nursing Intramuros Manila Philippines
There are many colleges and other educational institutions in Intramuros

Silahis arts artifacts Intramuros Manila PhilippinesVictoria Intramuros road Manila Philippines

Colegio De Santa Potenciana Manila Red Cross Intramuros Philippines
This building was formerly the Colegio De Santa Potenciana, the first girl's college in Manila. Now it's used as the office for the Philippines Red Cross.
Patio Victoria Intramuros Manila Philippines
This is a really popular venue for weddings and events
NCCA office Intramuros Manila Philippines
Office of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts
Intramuros filipino children playing Manila Philippines
A few people still call Intramuros their home
San Agustin church back walls Intramuros Manila Philippines
There are two main attractions inside Intramuros. One, the Manila Cathedral and two, the above -- San Agustin Church, the oldest church in Manila.

San Agustin road Intramuros Manila Philippines

Urdaneta house Intramuros Manila Philippines
Intramuros still retains many of the colonial architecture

Intramuros building corner brick roads Manila Philippines

Jojie's jasper classic photography building Intramuros Manila
Despite the modern offerings, the overall classic look is still retained

Intramuros Spanish colonial design door Manila Philippines

San Agustin church cars parked Intramuros Manila Philippines
I wanted to check out San Agustin church, but unfortunately (for me) there was a wedding scheduled for today, being a Sunday that too.
San Agustin church world heritage site Intramuros Philippines
San Agustin church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Barbara's hotel Intramuros Manila Philippines
Hotel Intramuros inside

The papier tole shop classic Spanish building Intramuros

Ironcon builders road to Manila cathedral Intramuros Philippines
We walked towards the Manila Cathedral

Building Intramuros Manila PhilippinesManila Cathedral Intramuros Philippines

Manila Cathedral front Intramuros Manila Philippines
We went in
Manila Cathedral hall praying Intramuros Philippines
While Aimee prayed, I continued shooting
Manila cathedral hall gothic architecture Intramuros
I love gothic architecture. Heck, I like all good architecture.

Manila cathedral architecture design interiors PhilippinesManila cathedral Mother Mary Intramuros Philippines

Manila Cathedral interiors ceiling dome Intramuros Philippines
Panorama comprised of 8 shots
Manila Cathedral mother mary statue glass art Philippines
Panorama comprised of 4 shots

Manila cathedral benches Intramuros PhilippinesManila Cathedral organ pipes Intramuros Philippines

Manila Cathedral organ pipes panorama
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Manila cathedral Christian glass art window Philippines
I have always been enamored by glass art like this
Manila Cathedral pipe organ history
A little bit of history about the very old pipe organ
Manila cathedral pipe organ musical scores
There's a section of the church dedicated to historical trivia and relics

Christian statue Manila Cathedral panorama

Manila cathedral glass painting church Philippines
More wonderful glass paintings

Manila Cathedral mary glass art window PhilippinesManila Cathedral statue glass art window PhilippinesManila Cathedral glass painting Christian art Philippines

Manila cathedral pillars panorama
Panorama comprised of 5 shots

Glass painting art church Manila Cathedral PhilippinesManila Cathedral benches glass art PhilippinesManila cathedral chandeliers dome Intramuros Philippines

Manila Cathedral hall benches Intramuros
We decided to leave
Manila cathedral door carving Philippines
Carvings on the heavy wooden doors of the cathedral

Manila Cathedral door caring Intramuros

Manila Cathedral Intramuros Philippines panorama
Attempted the fish-eye look

Walking out of the cathedral and past some of the ‘No to RH Bill’ banners around, I couldn’t help but turn the conversation about the controversial RH bill. Aimee told me how, even to this day, the Catholic church has such an influence over the people and policies in Philippines. The RH bill is basically aiming to promote the use of contraceptives and family planning in a bid to control population growth.

But what was even more shocking news to me was when Aimee told me divorce is yet to be legalized in Philippines! I mean, I considered a predominantly Christian country to be far more progressive in many regards, besides being educated. Clearly that wasn’t the case in Philippines. Now all the single pregnant women I saw across Philippines made sense. It’s like men abuse the law (or the lack of it) because they know there is little the woman can do.

Casa Rocha Intramuros Manila PhilippinesIntramuros house flower pots ManilaIntramuros building Manila Philippines

Intramuros way to Fort Santiago Manila
Aimee took me next to Fort Santiago. Entrance fee was a steep PHP75.

Fort Santiago garden sculpture Intramuros Manila

Fort Santiago wall Intramuros Manila Philippines
The fort is of historical importance because it was where national hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his death

Fort Santiago pool Intramuros Manila Fort Santiago history fact Manila PhilippinesFort Santiago entrance Intramuros ManilaFort Santiago plants vines ManilaFort Santiago brick wall Manila

Fort Santiago wall path Intramuros Manila
We walked along the walls
View from Fort Santiago Manila
The view from the Fort
Fort Santiago prison cells Manila
Chambers used to hold prisoners
Pasig river behind Fort Santiago Manila Philippines
Got distracted by Pasig river
Pasig river slum children swimming Manila Philippines
There were children jumping into the river for a swim

Manila children jumping in Pasig river Philippines Tugboats Pasig river Manila PhilippinesAnyway, back to Fort Santiago.

Fort Santiago coins prison Manila
People throw coins into these chambers now... I don't know why
Fort Santiago dungeons Manila Philippines
Walked around to the side where you had these dungeons

Palm trees Fort Santiago Manila Philippines

Jose Rizal statue Fort Santiago Intramuros Manila
The man himself, Jose Rizal

Rajah Sulayman Theater Fort Santiago Manila Philippines

Jose Rizal's steps Fort Santiago Philippines
They re-trace Rizal's final steps before he was executed by the Spaniards

Fort Santiago Rizal last walk map Intramuros

Rizal's final steps Fort Santiago Philippines Rizal last walk golden steps Intramuros PhilippinesFort Santiago Rizal last walk ManilaFort Santiago water pool Philippines flagFort Santiago ducks pond ManilaIntramuros tram ride Manila Philippines

House near Fort Santiago Intramuros Manila
We left Fort Santiago

Brick road Intramuros Manila Philippines

Manila Cathedral zebra crossing Intramuros Philippines
We walked past Manila Cathedral again

Manila Cathedral ambulance Intramuros Philippines Old building Intramuros Manila PhilippinesIntramuros graffiti Manila PhilippinesGraffiti Intramuros walls Manila PhilippinesTamayo's catering building Intramuros Manila PhilippinesWe walked back to San Agustin church hoping the wedding would have been over by now…

San Agustin church door wooden carving Intramuros
... but it wasn't. So I took a photo of the door and left.
Marine Officer's Seamen Union Philippines Manila
HQ of the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen's Union of the Philippines
Houses Intramuros Manila Philippines
We decided to have lunch
Filipino food chicken gravy beans rice Intramuros Manila
Stepped inside a small eatery and had some Filipino food. Totally came to PHP62 ($1.4/€1)
Intramuros alley Manila Philippines
We resumed our walk

Intramuros arches Manila PhilippinesSan Francisco building Intramuros ManilaIntramuros Lyceum road Manila PhilippinesLyceum Philippines University Intramuros ManilaIntramuros wall ramp ManilaBrick wall boundary IntramurosIntramuros kids playing ManilaIntramuros dormitory better billiards ManilaHerald newspapers building Intramuros ManilaIntramuros wall walk ManilaIntramuros wall walk Manila Philippines

Intramuros exit entrance Manila
We finally decided to leave Intramuros
Intramuros entrance under the bridge Manila
We left via another exit
Manila post office building fountain Philippines
Manila Post Office building
Manila Metropolitan Theater Philippines
The Manila Metropolitan Theater, renovated many times over but hardly in use nowadays
Way to Chinatown Manila
Aimee and I now walked towards 'Chinatown,' known locally as Binondo
Chinatown bridge Manila
We walked across a bridge

Bridge to Chinatown Manila Philippines

Bridge to Chinatown graffiti Manila
The bridge was decorated with lights...and graffiti
Pasig river Manila Philippines
Pasig river
Way to Chinatown fountain Manila
Not a very glamorous entrance, but apparently Manila's Chinatown is the oldest in the world
Arch of Goodwill Chinatown entrance Manila
This is the most famous street in Chinatown
Ongpin street Chinatown Manila Philippines
Ongpin is what it's called
Ongpin jewelry center Chinatown Manila
A lot of jewelry stores here
Chinatown betting OTB locals Manila
Betting on horse races is a popular pass time for many (broke) locals

Chinatown Manila afternoon PhilippinesGolden stone KTV Chinatown Manila

Hopia mooncakes Filipino sweets Chinatown Manila
We (okay, okay... I) got distracted by the sweet smell of fresh hopias (mooncakes) being made at this bakery. Ended up buying a pack.
Aimee Marie Chinatown vegetable market Manila Philippines
Aimee, my wonderful 'guide' throughout Manila. She enjoys walking a lot just as much as I do.

Royal garden far eastern moon cake Chinatown ManilaChinatown bridge ManilaBlack spots polluted river Chinatown ManilaChinatown residential apartments Manila Philippines

Election posters criminal mugshots Chinatown Manila
Those photos make them look like wanted criminals. Oh wait, politicians, same thing.
Manila Chinatown Mithun Divakaran Philippines
One shot of yours truly before leaving Chinatown

Ongpin street Chinese god worship Manila

Chinatown purple fire engines Manila
Chinatown gets cool looking purple fire trucks!
Chinatown Ongpin street security cameras Manila
Since a lot of affluent businessmen in Manila are Chinese, kidnappings are high. Aimee told me they have security cameras installed on this street.
Binodo church Ongpin street Manila
At the end of Ongpin street is Binondo church, also known as Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz
Binodo church Sunday prayers Manila
Today was Easter Sunday
Binondo church Chinatown Manila Philippines
The church was first erected in 1596, making it one of the oldest churches in Manila

Aimee decided it was enough of walking. She and I got into a jeepney and we thought of watching the sunset at Manila Bay.

Pedro Gil road to Robinsons Place Malate Manila
We got down near Pedro Gil MRT and walked up the road
Philippines Supreme court Manila Malate
Passed by the Supreme Court
Robinsons Place mall Malate Manila Philippines
We went inside one of Manila's most popular malls
Robinsons Place mall Cabalen Malate Manila Philippines
Plus we felt like soaking up some a/c
Robinsons Place mall elevator fountain Manila
Despite being a few years old, Robinsons Place is still very popular
Malate jeepney trike
We stepped out of the mall and made our way towards the bay
Roxas boulevard road Manila bay evening
Roxas boulevard

Manila Bay high rise buildings PhilippinesWe sat on the ledge and gave our feet a break.

Manila Bay American Embassy Philippines
The white building is the United States Embassy
Manila Bay sunset Aimee Marie Manila
A big thanks to this girl for making the most of my day. I don't think I could have seen everything that I saw today for less than 100 pesos if it weren't for her.
Hotel H2O Manila Ocean park Philippines
That's Hotel H2O, part of Manila Ocean Park
Manila sunset golden sea Philippines
The sunset was wonderful, as always. Look how golden the water is.
Manila Bay Dog walking Philippines
The whole experience is a nice one, even for dogs

Except for a tiny incident which abruptly disappointed me… but I promised Aimee I wouldn’t mention it in the blog. So anyway, time to leave.

Roxas Boulevard hotel Manila bay lights at nightRoxas blvd at night Manila bay Philippines

Roxas boulevard at night Manila Bay Philippines

We walked back to Malate.

Rajah statue fountain Manila Bay Philippines sunset

Malate Church manila bay Philippines
Malate Church
Malate Church sunday evening mass Manila Philippines
Easter Sunday prayers still going on
Robinson Place levels Manila Philippines
We went back to Robinsons Place because I now needed to look for something for my lens *cough*Aimee'sfault*cough*
Robinson Place mall stores Manila Philippines
Scanned a lot of electronics stores but no luck
Jailbreak services chicken Robinsons Place mall Manila
By the way, saw this at some store at Robinsons. I get everything mentioned here... except for the 'chicken' part. Could somebody tell me what it is?

We eventually left the mall as it was getting late for Aimee. We said our goodbyes and she told me which jeepney to get into to head back to Pasay, where I was staying at the Kabayan Hotel.

So that was my Sunday in Manila. Lots of photos, I know! Tomorrow, I begin the second leg of my journey across the Philippines and for the next seven days, it’s all islands. So here come the blue waters!

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

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