Friday, September 1, 2017

MANILA - THE CITY I LEFT YESTERDAY

WELCOME TO MANILA

THE COUNTRY AND THE CITY


It had always been one of the places in my bucket list that I had to visit one day. When an ex-student, Mr. Muhammad Ariff Mohamad Nizam, decided to join, we started planning for about 2 months. The Republic of Philippines is the 9th ASEAN country I visited so far, and that leaves one more to complete all the ten. Please study the map if you are not sure where the Philippines/Manila is actually located.


I was quite hesitant at first to go to Manila. The city is not a popular destination among Malaysians (they prefer Boracay) and there are not many travel blogs written by my fellow countrymen of this place. We are always worried of the bad things we hear rather than the positive ones and luckily, people wrote many good things about Manila and I was convinced everything should be alright there - what more I was not going to travel solo this time.

THE PEOPLE


After traveling to many countries in South East Asia, I believe that we somehow share the great ancestors maybe million of years ago. Many Filipinos look similar like us, and when I was there, people would speak to me in Tagalog almost everywhere, until I had to explain to them that I am not a local. Or perhaps, I have this universal South East Asian look. 

80% of the population are Christians, which should be the result of Spanish colonization in the 16th - 19th century. We brought our own food from home as we had decided not to eat out. We found two halal (Arab) restaurants near the hostel we were staying, 

Almost everybody I met spoke English but they were not using the language widely I supposed as very minimal interaction could be established most of the time (except with the hostel staff). That should be good enough though, rather than not to be able to communicate at all. However, their unwillingness/disability to speak more English had made them less friendly to the tourists especially the Grab drivers and museum staff.

And here, I saw people of two different worlds live together, but separated by a border created by their social status. People who have are found walking in posh shopping malls, while people who don't, roam the streets in their dirty attires, and small kids begging in the middle of the roads at night. 


THE CURRENCY


The currency used is Peso. When I was there, the rate was like 100 Peso = RM8.50. I found the prices of the goods there were quite reasonable, or slightly cheaper than home. That should be good news for us budget travelers.

TRANSPORTATION




There were a few popular choices for tourists like the train/MRT and jeepneys. We, however, opted for Grab Car as it was more convenient and the prices were still reasonable. I was not so confident to take the other means of public transportation like the jeepneys by looking at the crowd and the also the traffic jam, people could simply alight in the middle of the roads it seemed. The distance could be quite short from one point to the other but the road congestion could delay you, but it was not as bad as the congestion you might encounter in Jakarta or Bandung.


THE SURPRISES


First, Manila has many huge shopping malls, either the usual ones of the buildings that house designer labels outlets. We could just spend hours walking from one mall to another, and then found there was another mall connected that could be explored. The city could actually be a shopping haven for some. Second, Manila offers world class museums. We managed to visit a few museums and galleries and I was impressed with what I saw. If you love museums, history, art and culture, this should be the place you must visit.

 THE HISTORY


What I learned from my travel this time was the history of the Philippines. The people had suffered for many years under the Spaniards and they had to suffer more when the Americans took over. Jose Rizal was the national hero who sparked the spirit of revolution among the citizens to fight for the country. I could not remember much of what I had learned in school about the history of the Philippines but I think it was not taught in detail. You should be thankful to live in the era after independence - it was sad to see how many lives had to be sacrificed and the innocent had to suffer to free the country.

SAFETY

Is Manila a safe city for tourists? I think even if you travel solo, you will be safe if you go to well-known touristy spots, like us. We took Grab Car all the time. There were security officers everywhere, especially at the entrance of shopping malls and they inspected your bags. Actually, they just browsed the content with naked eyes when you opened your bags and if your bags were small, they did not even bother. They were even security officers at convenient stores like 7-Eleven and fast food restaurants. I had a feeling the security officers were there just to prevent the poor people from the streets from entering these premises. OR, the employers just want to make sure the guards would be occupied with something to do when to come for work.


CONCLUSION

If you are thinking of going to Manila, have no doubt. Just pack and go. It is a safe place and you will be amazed with all the things the city has to offer. I must say I have enjoyed my 4D3N stay tremendously. and I am looking forward to explore other parts of the Philippines in the future. In fact, I am already reading about other possible and exciting sites to be visited later.


OTHER RELATED LINKS:

The City of Makati
The Greenbelt Malls
Manila Bay Walk [PART 1] [PART 2]
The Mall of Asia
Kultura Souvenir Shop

Fort Santiago [PART 1] [PART 2]
The Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago
The Intramuros
Manila Cathedral
CASA Manila Museum [PART 1] [PART 2]
Art Exhibition in NCCA Building
The National Museum of Anthropology [PART 1] [PART 2]
Rizal Park
Manila Ocean Park
Ayala Museum
Eating Halo Halo
Our Melting Pot Hostel, Makati
Ninoy Aquino International Airport