Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It took us 10 hours to get back to Manila from Banaue. I can understand why so many of the bus companies really focus on overnight rides. Not only is the traffic in Manila so terrible during the day, the "highways" are just 2-laners and choked with traffic so the going is slow. We wanted to see the scenery though so opted for the day trip. As we came out of the mountains and approached Manila the weather finally got warmer and sunnier so I've finally accepted "summer" and shaved my beard :)
We spent a day in Manila and because it was a Sunday we were actually able to get around a little. We went to the Greenbelt mall (very interesting with all the outdoor cafes in a green "courtyard" surrounded by 5 different malls) and then to the Mall of Asia, one of the largest in Asia, and I must say, it'll be hard to come back to the mediocrity of Canada. Unless technology has changed a lot at home in the last few years, we definitely can't think of ourselves as very advanced. There is something nice about a big middle class of course, but in all honesty, it's the places with the huge class differences that are the most interesting....
Now I'm getting off track again....
After a quick look around we then went to the harbour for a walk about. There were a lot of people beginning to gather along the street and we weren't quite sure why but on the way back we ran into the parade that had started. It seems that Filipinos don't need much of an excuse to have a parade or it's the season or something because we've seen quite a few now. This one was huge in length and even though we watched it for a while and then walked against it's movement for a km or so, we never saw the end. They were supposedly celebrating the day for Santo Nino (the young Christ I think) but since most of the parade was actually gay guys dancing all dressed up in tribal costume, I think it was some sort of pagan gay pride parade, disguised in Christianity! I'm so confused...... Woah! Not about that! Just about who exactly was running the show and how it was all supposed to fit together. It's actually a bit shocking how many gays there are in this country and the Filipinos are super tolerant about it. So different from the Middle East! It's also strange to see so many guys with long hair, earrings and tattoos here as well. It's been a long time..... The worst thing about being back in Asia is going to be the karaoke.... Has a worse form of entertainment been invented since feeding Christians to lions?
You can also really see the US influence here. The Philippines were originally a Spanish colony and some of the local languages still use Spanish words, most people are Roman Catholic and love festivals, etc. The Spanish lost the colony to the Americans during the Spanish-American war in 1898 so from then on it has mostly been influenced by the US. It's easy to see that influence in the language usage, the writing of forms (they do month/day/year unlike most of the world that does day/month/year) and various products. It's just "American" as opposed to an English-speaking, ex-British colony. In fact, one of the weirdest things about the American influence is that a lot of people yell "Hey Joe!" all the time to you. As a foreigner they just assume you are American and Joe goes back to the G.I.Joe days of all the military camps here.
I think our biggest problem is going to be the fact that it's too easy to upgrade to something a little nicer and the quality is so good. The air-con bus is just a little more, a cheap restaurant with good food is just a little more than street food, etc. It's too easy to get sucked in and spend just a little more.... We're getting soft! Speaking of food, they don't use knives here. I haven't seen one yet. They always eat with only a fork and spoon so you have to cut things with the spoon....
Ok, let me get us to Naga, our next destination. Our bus ride down there took about 10 hours on very slow, windy roads. I don't even really notice now when we lose the tarmac for short stretches :) Naga is in the Bicol region, southeast of Manila but still a part of the main island of Luzon. It is still the rainy season there so we have had many brief showers during the days that we've been here. Rain's no problem though, it's still warm and nobody really changes what they're doing :)
We are staying with another very nice local host family and they continue to introduce us to new and exciting foods. We also spend the day yesterday relaxing at a hot spring resort that we had all to ourselves in the rain. Perfect! Today we went out to their farm in a nearby village and were introduced to the world of rice. We eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner, so might as well know where it's coming from :) It was interesting as well, but I'll spare you the details!


At 10:08 AM , Blogger The Bear said...

Hey Ammon,
So I was sitting here in the OR, and just thinking of your amazing trip, and feeling sad it was over...... then I went 'holy crap' they are still out there, I had totally forgot you three were still out there travelling, I kept thinking you were just on a holiday. Sorry.
Love the blog, was funny informative, and you sound so much more alive than you were late into africa.
So why is a large class difference much better? you got me curious?

LOVE and Big Bear Hugs


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