Spring Adventures – Manila, Philippines

From the airport to the apartment:

My auntie recently moved here and invited me to stay with her for a month, and I felt like I’d been waiting to get on the plane and go for a long, long time. 35 degrees or 10 at home and ski season blues? Easy decision.

One 8 hour flight and one 9 hour flight and I’d arrived. Severely jet lagged, but just about conscious enough to take in my surroundings because I think, for the first time in my life, I’d actually slept through a lot of a long plane journey – unheard of in my world. It was about midnight which meant it would be 5pm at home, so this was going to take a little bit of getting used to, but, like in most aspects of travel there’s a regular dose of rough in the quest to get to smooth. After negotiating immigration and filling in my landing card (surprisingly easy for Asia), I headed out of arrivals to meet the driver who would take me to my auntie’s flat – Edward – I was instructed he thought my name was Lucas rather than Hamish, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a placard reading HAMISH LUCAS, both bold, and in capitals standing waiting for me with about 30 other drivers who all coincidentally thought I was also their passenger. But hey ho, I shook hands with my responsible placard holder and he welcomed me to the Philippines. He proceeded to walk me towards his car. Well I thought it was his car, but it wasn’t, and in fact he was an agent for other drivers (I think). I was told Edward was ‘away’ and an alternate driver turned up about 20 minutes later. Bear in mind this was 20 minutes on the pavement in Manila humidity in pre-rainy season – I was sweating to say the least. Anyway, en route (thankfully with god-sent air-con) he kindly stopped at an ATM machine at a petrol station. I got out and withdrew enough Pesos to cover the taxi journey. On departure I amusingly noticed a large billboard at the front, reading ‘CUSTOMER IS KING’, and underneath was an employee of the petrol station sitting on a plastic chair. The ones like you used to sit on at primary school. The best thing was this employee was asleep. Brilliant and classic Asia. Customer must only be king in the daytime?

We swerved through traffic like we were playing Grand Theft Auto as the journey continued, and I’d heard this was often the case in Manila. Although, luckily, my fear of roads like this had been completely conquered the previous year in India, by many near deaths on Delhi’s 20 lane wide roads with no rules and extremely consistent horn use. I was pleased to see the horn use was equally consistent here. As we clutch controlled our way through traffic and negotiated a thousand traffic lights on this GTA-style mission, I suddenly noticed skyscrapers and I couldn’t help but become an inquisitive owl, and rotate my head in 360’s to take in my surroundings…

…Anyway, sorry but I’m tired. More to come on the Philippines soon.


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