GUEST ARTICLE: Manila, wow what a place! The driving there is pretty crazy and during rush hour it’s some of the thickest I’ve ever seen and forget about driving between the lines, you pretty much make up your own.
Back in WWII the Americans left a bunch of jeeps there and the Filipino’s decided to pimp them up. So driving all over the city are thousands of very colourful vehicles called Jeepnees, each of them distinct but all sporting lots of chrome. I think they cost about 7 Pesos (about AUD 20c) for a ride and they are used as the local’s main transportation.
Being dry season (February) the days were pretty hot but thankfully not too humid. Fortunately we had a pretty big shopping centre near us so we usually spent the mornings either there or by the pool. In the afternoons we played tennis with the hotel pro who is the former Champion in Manila so you can imagine how the games went, let’s just say we successfully woke up each morning feeling like we’d been run over by a truck! It cost about $20AUD for a 1 hour lesson, not bad eh?! Kinda gives you an idea of how cheap everything is there.
In the evenings we took cabs to some local hot spots to listen to Karaoke, it’s everywhere! Filipinos love to sing and we think that out of all of the places we’ve been, they are by far the best in the world. While we were there we also saw heaps of bands, the Filipinos are also fantastic musicians and really know how to rock and they love… “Love!” You can be guaranteed to be sung a score of sappy love songs, especially anything by the Bee Gees and the Carpenters. And while you’re listening to the entertainment you can partake in their local beer which costs about $1.50 – thank you San Miguel!
One day we took a cab across the city to a place called Intra Muros, it’s a small town inside a huge wall that was built in the late 1500’s by the Spanish. Everyone inside was having their own little celebration with music abound. They even had a little karaoke machine set up on the side of the street just in case you felt like belting out a tune.
We came upon some kiddies happily playing with some old fashioned spindles, I haven’t seen those since I was a kid! And not too much further down we met an old lady roasting a huge pig head, as appetising as it looked we decided to move on. So we jumped into a cab and told the driver to take us to one of their infamous cockfights we’d been hearing all about…when in Rome…
After winding through a series of back streets we were dropped off in a fairly hidden location. We walked down an alleyway and entered a property and it wasn’t long before we could hear the roaring crowd of about a few thousand people (mainly men). The whole scene was pretty surreal, as we entered the small makeshift arena the crowd was going nuts yelling out their bets on either Walla or Maron, it felt like Wall Street but on the movie set of Blood Sport! They had 3 guys in the ring (2 opponents and 1 ref). First they got the cocks all riled up to fight, then they attached big sharp razor blades to their feet.
Once the cocks were set down to fight everything went silent while we watched these two cocks battle it out until the death. We found out that the cocks can’t help themselves but fight when seeing another one, it’s just instinct for them. For the ones that get only injured (rather badly) and are worth keeping, they have a chicken doctor in the back stitching them up, we saw one getting it’s neck sewn up (not nice). It’s pretty brutal and I don’t think I want to witness something like that ever again but it was an experience and something practiced freely in the Philippines.
On our last evening we went to explore some more of the nightlife on a strip called Baywalk situated along the beach. It must go on for about 5km or so and there are tonnes of bands singing along the walkway (and all very good of course). There is also quite a big restaurant area there as well perfect for partaking in some Filipino cuisine and an assortment of others. Even though there is much poverty in Manila the people always seem to be smiling and when they’re not smiling they’re singing! We had a great trip and would love to go back to explore some more, maybe Cebu
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!