Sun 12/08/12 08:07
and a big walk around Manila

I’ve been back in manila for the last 12 hours and it sure is better without the rain, but there still isn’t anything that I feel comfortable taking photos of. Just like when I was in Cebu it seemed like I never could get away from prying eyes enough to snap a photo and I felt that I was exploiting people if I took a photo of their poverty. So I ended up carrying my camera all day and didn’t take a photo.

Manila Skyline, ken curtis's summer 2012 vacation.

I ended up walking all around the financial center and the docks. There are a few things that I’m starting to realize about the Philippines in general and Manila specifically; it must be a dangerous place. I haven’t had any problems, but everywhere I go there are security guards, and as I mentioned before they are normally heavily armed. I’ve also been warned dozens of times not to show my computer… I even had one old woman get a security guard to come over and tell me that I shouldn’t show my computer. She was frantic when she was trying to explain to me. The thing was, was that I got it I just had to look at the map.

I’m staying in a different hostel than I did the last time I was here and this one seems better, but the neighborhood is a little bit sleazy. Each time I’ve left the hostel I’ve been propositioned by prostitutes, and they were not subtle in their intentions. I don’t think I’d stay here again just because of the neighborhood, but having said that, I’ve been propositioned all over the city so it may  just go with being “on the ground” here.

I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow morning and I’m starting to get a bit excited. I think I’ll have better opportunities for taking photos than I’ve had here and that will be a good thing. I plan on going to Macau for at least a day, and I’ve got about four walking tours planned as of now. It’s also the last part of my vacation so I’m going to try and do some relaxing too.

Sun 12/08/12 07:31
Not too bad.

The ferry I’m on is more of a local type of transport than I used to using. In fact when I look around there are no other European looking people, I have seen a few today, maybe four in total, but they must be staying in their cabins because I haven’t seen them very often. The lack of other Europeans is a good thing for the most part, but there is a down side to it as well. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conspicuous as I have today. Everywhere I go I can feel the stares burning into my back and hear the giggles from girls that I pass by. The best way to describe it is to say that I feel like a celebrity (if I actually knew what being a celebrity felt like). I don’t want to bore anyone with the details, but it has been strange to say the least.

Cebu, Philippines. Ferry ride to Manila.

Later on I guess some people were curious about me first I had a couple girls come sit down next to me and valiantly tried to get into a conversation, but they didn’t speak English well, and I don’t speak Tagalog. They did manage to tell me that they liked my nose… okay.  They got up for a second and a guy and his mother sat down and started asking me questions about everything. They asked where I was from, what I did for a living, how old I am, if I was on FB, and pretty much everything else I can think of. I kind of felt bad because the girls came back and the guy and his mother were still there. After that I headed in for dinner and the waitress started asking questions and even the girl behind the counter was super friendly. Since this all happened in relatively the same place I figure that each had seen me speaking to someone else and that made it easier for them to speak to me, just a guess though.

Cebu, Philippines. Ferry ride to Manila.   Cebu, Philippines. Ferry ride to Manila.

Honestly, I wasn’t in a social mood and that is really a shame because people were so friendly that I could have, or better yet, should have, had a blast. Instead I kept to myself. I think the problem was I didn’t find any place to just unwind, as I mentioned I felt like everywhere I went I was being watched. If I were to take the same ferry again, I think a stateroom would be the best thing for me. Even still when I was leaving this morning, three people went out of their way to say good-bye to me. One girl came out the shop that she worked at to wave goodbye as I was leaving. Nice.

Cebu, Philippines. Ferry ride to Manila.   Cebu, Philippines. Ferry ride to Manila.

The area where I slept was different than any place I’ve ever slept before. If you can imagine about fifty bunk beds in one room, that’s what it was like. I’ll put a photo up to give you an idea. When I first got on board there were two girls reading tickets and telling people where they should go, one of them took me away from the group and led me to an empty room and told me to pick the bunk that I wanted. It was nice to pick the bunk bed that I wanted since the room did fill up, and it gave me some control to pick a bed with a window and better yet my back was against the wall.

It was a long walk to the hostel from the terminal at about 8 this morning. It wasn’t a long walk, just a long walk while carrying my two packs. No real stories except for the amount of people pestering my when I got off the boat. Geez, I’ve been rushed before by taxi drivers and other merchants, but it was pretty bad this morning. At one point while trying to get away from one of the drivers, I asked him which direction he was going… and went the opposite way. I even told one to get away from me. The terminal is really long maybe a kilometer or so, and the whole length is lined with taxis each one is saying, “Taxi?” to me as I pass. At one point I said, “You know you’re about the thirtieth driver to ask me that?” The guy busted out laughing, like he got how stupid it was for him to ask me.

Fri 10/08/12 06:32
I hope so because I just spent the day watching women’s diving.

Today I have been extremely lazy. After walking all around Cebu yesterday and not seeing anything worth taking photos of I couldn’t get the interest up to go out walking today. Seriously I’m not sure what happened but I ended up spending the day watching the Olympics and various Discovery Channel programs. Since I don’t have cable at home, I guess this was kind of relaxing… vacation”y” in some strange way.

At about 6 I got up to kind of wrap my mind around what I’m going to be doing tomorrow. I know the basics; I’m taking a ferry to Manila, but after that I’m not really sure of anything else. I don’t even know when it leaves, except I kind of remember it being 10am. Turns out, after having read the ticket that the ferry leaves at 9 and I’m supposed to be at the terminal four hours prior. Okay, I wasn’t expecting that I’d have to be getting up at 4am to get to the terminal at 9.  I’m pretty sure if I was there 3 or maybe even 2 hours early things would be okay. By tradition I believe the ferry would be carrying vehicles which may take longer to load onto the ship, so four hours seems pretty necessary.

Thu 09/08/12 06:48
Will I find a beach???

I’m in Cebu, Philippines right now and I’ve been here for a couple of days. The rain was just too much for me in Manila and I had to get out. I’ve never been a “rain” person and even though it’s been a while since I tested my aversion to rain I can report without doubt that I still hate it. Hate is a strong word and maybe I should say that it makes me depressed just as it did when I lived in Portland so many years ago.

Cebu. I don’t know what to say about it. I can say that I had heard from several different sources that Cebu was the place to go after Manila… I’ve got to admit that I have no idea why, it is dirty and what is worse it is very poor, with the accent on “very.” I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place like this on my own. I’m in no way suggesting anything about the people here because in almost every case they have been super nice to me. Just like in Manila they seem to be curious about me, or to generally like Americans… if they can tell I’m an American. The poorness is real though, it’s so real you can feel it around you. Several times since I’ve been here I’ve found myself in what could best be described as an almost shantytown. Houses made out of scrap tin or wood, the stream next to the houses filled with trash, and everybody just sitting around watching me go by. I’ve felt so bad that I haven’t taken any photos of what I’ve seen. The sad thing is that everywhere you see a “shantytown” more than likely you’ll be a couple of blocks away from wealth, in two of the times the wealth was a mall complete with parking lots filled with nice cars and streams of shoppers carry packages.

Cebu, Philippines   Cebu, Philippines

Cebu, Philippines   Cebu, Philippines

As I mentioned I’ve been here for about a day and a half, but except for the weather being warm and sunny Cebu has been a bust. This portion of the trip has been so much of a bust that I made a reservation for a ferry cruise back to Manila. I’ll leave on Saturday morning and it will take me 23 hours for the journey.  That will leave me one day in Manila before I fly to Hong Kong. So far I haven’t done anything fun since I’ve arrived in the Philippines almost five days ago and I’m hoping that the last couple of days I’ll do something memorable.

Tue 07/08/12 22:13
Not too much that is different from day one

The rain hasn’t really stopped at all today. There have been a few times that it seemed to have mostly stopped but it has never really ended. Without a doubt this is the most rain I’ve seen in years, maybe more than I’ve ever seen. I even saw a manhole cover that looked like it was going to fly into the air. I took a video of how it kept lifting up, air and water escaping and then the cover going back down.

After doing some errands this morning I headed back to the hotel to have lunch and change into dry clothing. The rain does something to me, makes me want hibernate and it wasn’t long before I was asleep. I think that’s a big part of why I hate the rain so much, it’s just depressing enough to make sleep something to look forward to in the afternoon.

I headed down to the river to see what it looked like. I’ve been hearing a lot of news about the flooding going on around me. For the most part the rain is coming down hard, and sometimes surprisingly hard, but except for streams of water making its way down the street there’s not too much of an indication of the amount of flooding that I’ve been hearing and reading about. When I got to the bridge I was struck how the neighborhood changed from touristy to almost slum-like, it was as if the river was the dividing line.

Manila, Philippines during flooding,   Manila, Philippines during flooding,

Even though I’ve never seen the river before today, I could tell that it was close to flooding. They have concrete walls along the bank of the river, and most of the time these walls would be more like guardrails to keep people from falling in. Today though the water was right at the base of these walls. Not really eerie but any higher and the water would be higher than the sidewalk I was walking on. What really was surprising was the amount of people there. Some were taking photos, some were just watching the water, and still others were playing in the river. Mostly the kids were jumping off the concrete walls and jumping into the river, but some older people were having fun too.

Manila, Philippines during flooding,   Manila, Philippines during flooding,

I was the only Westerner that I saw as I walked along the river. Sometimes I felt like I stood out too much for my own good, but in every encounter I was greeted very nicely. Almost everyone that didn’t say anything to me, smiled and nodded as I passed, but there were many who could tell that I was American. I was getting saluted by some kids, other were yelling at their friends to make room for the American so I could pass. Many of the kids said, “What’s up?” like it was a phrase that they’ve wanted to use for a while. With the same energy, I heard, “How’s it going?”  and “Dude.” It was fun because as they would say something, I’d come up with something new, “Sup?” or “Hey.” Which they would immediately repeat as I walked past.

Manila, Philippines during flooding,   Manila, Philippines during flooding,

Manila, Philippines during flooding,   Manila, Philippines during flooding,

At one point I was walking along there were three girls dancing in the rain. Okay?? As I passed one started to tease me, asking me things like where I was going and stuff like that. I smiled, said something and kept walking. I got a ways away and realized that there wasn’t a bridge up ahead so I was going to have to turn around. That’s when the fun started. One group of kids saw me taking pictures and asked me to take one of them. So I did. They were making so much noise that others heard and they asked me to take photo of them as well. In the span of about a hundred meters I had taken about 6 photos of people asking me to. They were all wet and all very happy. By the time that I made it back to where the girls were dancing, they had gotten beer and were even bolder than before. They insisted that I take their photo so I did.  I don’t think I can include a photo of the dancing girls, it’s just a little too risqué for the blog. It’s not that bad, I’m just not sure if it’s appropriate.

Mon 06/08/12 07:11
Did I mention rain? Seriously it’s rainy here.

Wow is not the word to use, it’s more like, “Geezzz!” I’ve been in Manila for about five hours and it hasn’t stopped raining since I’ve been here. I haven’t seen rain like this, both in duration and shear amount in years. Streets are flooded, sewers are backing up, and umbrellas are virtually useless. Regardless, I’m only going to be here for a few days and I don’t have the luxury of not going out and exploring. Because of this, the first thing I did when I got to my hotel at about 3 was to start walking around. In no time I was drenched and hadn’t taken one photo. I ended up taking some photos just to show the rain coming down.

Manila, Philippines Ken Curtis' summer 2012 vacation   Manila, Philippines Ken Curtis' summer 2012 vacation

There a couple of things that I noticed here though, crime may be a big issue. Everywhere I turn there are armed guards standing in front of banks, malls and other places. Seeing security guards is nothing new, in Dubai they’re everywhere, but here they’re carrying shotguns and hand guns, some with semi-auto. At one point I stopped to take a photo of the rain and as I was fumbling with the camera an alarm goes off behind me. I turn around and I see two guards staring at me. I don’t know for sure, but it seemed to be their way of telling me to move on. At least when I moved away the alarm stopped. Another is that I think Philippine women are pretty. It’s no surprise to anyone that knows me that I like Philippine women, I always have. In fact I don’t think there has ever been a time that I didn’t think they were pretty.

So now I’m sitting in a Chinese restaurant having just finished my lemon chicken and debating if I should order another beer or just go back to the hotel. What to do? Isn’t that the age old question… What to do?

I really need to decide how to spend my time in Manila. I’ve done some research but haven’t really found anything that gets me excited. For the most part I’ve always just wanted to come here, I never really figured out what I’d do when I actually arrived.

I also got a couple of photographs from my hotel room of the sunrise in Singapore.

Manila, Philippines Ken Curtis' summer 2012 vacation