Traveling is easier if don’t have any expectations. At least, those were my thoughts upon my departure to the Philippines 11 days ago. You get into your plane, buckle up and fly out to your final destination. Then, if the gods decide to bless you (or curse you I suppose), you will either land in heaven or in hell.
The Pearl of the Orient, as some refer to Manila, turned out to be quite mesmerizing. However, if you open your eyes you will see a lot of differences. Large skyscraper garnish the landscape, massive Malls fill the gaps, and traffic is everywhere. Ask a local and he will tell you that you found a patch of first world in Metro Manila.
Food turned out to be heaven. Whether, you eat a delicious slice of juicy pineapple, nibble on some fresh sashimi, or enjoy the taste of a medium-rare steak, it is extremely tasteful. Even the Filipino food, including grilled chicken intestines, turned out to be quite delicious. Now here is a fun fact, in the Philippines you don’t really drink alcohol while eating food. The focus solely relies on the consumption of the food itself.
Though drinking may not be a habit during dinner, it surely is when going out at night. The nightlife (and I haven’t seen a thing) is s quite similar to what I am used to, but it includes unexpected surprises. The crowd is quite young and occasionally you will bump into a transgender. Now, if you have ever seen a transgender in Europe, they are quite easy to spot. Different story in Asia, there seems to be an impossibility to correctly identify their true identity until … you know … they wait in the same line for the restroom as you.
Turn 180 degrees around and you will see the other side. The inequality of Manila could not be bigger – old white foreigners come to Manila for their last joy ride (at least so it seems), whereas some poor locals hustle for every cent they can get. Sex tourism is a real thing and easy to spot. The white 55+ foreigner is mainly present, it’s the last mileage on his shiny Ford Mustang before it gets recycled – so why not take it out for a last ride?
As much as you like a place, you have to face its’ flaws. The Philippines can surely be the paradise on earth, but one should never forget the costs of that. I am already looking forward to discovering more – places I haven’t seen, food I’ve never tasted, and differences I never knew about.
See you in a few…