Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Philippines 2011: I can never remember where to put the Ls and the Ps...

Before jetting off to the Philippines, we had to waste some time in Singapore, no thanks to having to transfer to another flight- this was all planned, by the way. Oh, and if you've noticed by now, I said 'we'- I wasn't traveling alone, but with various bits of the extended family, and I'm not going to bother elaborating on that.

Instead, you can content yourselves with knowing that I had a little trouble crossing the border in Singapore- no thanks to having 'lost' my passport there a few months back. I'd made a police report then, and was allowed to leave the country. Once back home I made another police report to the effect that I'd lost- and a week or so later- reunited with the blasted thing. Anyway. They wouldn't let me enter Singapore without some fuss. Technically this was breaking the rules and I was entering the country as an illegal- but it worked out alright in the end.

We arrived in Angeles City sometime past midnight, and met up with my dad, who'd arrived a few days earlier to scout out the place. Grabbed a 'jeepney'- one of those old shiny jalopies for a ride to our hotel- Oasis Hotel. Our rooms were supposedly called suites but I don't think they really understood the meaning of the word- it was just a large nicely decorated room with two queen sized beds. Headed to the bar for our complimentary drink before crashing for the day... for a few hours, actually.
Oh what fun!
First stop of the day. I think we'd hired a jeepney driver as a tour-guide of sorts- he took us to this place first- some sort of Christian park. Wrong season, though- the only other visitors there besides us were statues, who didn't look too excited to be there either. Loitered around for a bit before unanimously deciding that the place was a rotten dump and none of us wanted to stay.
This here's the jeepney I've been talking about. Back home we'd call this thing a kereta potong- literally translated as chopped car. What these guys do is they buy the engine- and if they're well off perhaps they'll have the rotting frame of a deceased vehicle to start with, and build the rest of the car from whatever they can get their hands on. It's actually quite interesting, and would be delightful if not for the fact that these things are the primary mode of transportation. They're like minibuses.
Halo-halo? Bye-bye
A local recipe known as Halo-Halo. After consuming one of these things you grow a halo around your neck, which will procede (The typo is on purpose) to drag you to heaven, whether you like it or not- but I jest. It's pretty much the local equivalent of Air Batu Campur (ABC, or just Shaved Ice)- the version back home is better, and I'm not saying this out of some ridiculous sense of culinary patriotism- my taste buds are too fussy for that.
"I walk as I poop. Saves time."
Ride a horse-cart (I can't think of a better term right now- and chariot is too fancy) in the boondocks if you like. I can't remember where we were when I took this photo- either San Fernando, or Guagua (Or Gaugau?) or somewhere in between. Anyway, the horse-carts stink- notice the pouch strategically placed beneath its ass? It's a poop bag.
Nice roof.
One of the markets. It's a crazy mess of colours and sights, not to mention being a mess in itself (But not too messy, mind you), as are wont of third world Asian markets. This of course made it rather fun to wander around, even if nothing was purchased.
Wotta mess.
The remnants of volcanic sludge, according to our driver. The government never got around to cleaning it up, and just doesn't have the money to do so anyway. I don't think they see any point in doing so either.
The same goes for the roads. Mud, potholes, everywhere. In some places it looks like the place is flooded. You won't see anything like this in the cities, though. As always it's the poor people who get the sharp end of the stick...
Harem spotted!
Some painting- or a print, spotted in a custom furniture shop- a lot of their stuff priced in numbers which the regular consumer can interpret as an alien language. They said their recent customers include some member of one of Malaysia's many royal families- tsk. That's where our tax money's going.
The Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Long name. I don't think the statue of the Lady of Lourdes (Which interestingly enough, in acronym form is LOL) is real, or was ever there in the first place. They're 'rehabilitating' the place because it fell underground during an earthquake. Or volcanic explosion. Or a combination of both.
Oh the drama of it all.
This is how it looks like indoors- underground. The whole building was submerged- you can even step on the roof if you feel brave enough. I actually like it better underground.
Pizza. Well at least it looks like Pizza.
Dinner in Angeles City. Some sort of Pizzeria- luckily it didn't taste as odd as it looked. Can't remember what it was called, though. Ground Meat on Flour Base, with a squirt of Mayonnaise Sauce made to look like Fresh Slug, and some Black Things for Decoration, maybe?
Paint? Paint is for sissies!
Oh look, a pretty building. However I just can't shake the feeling that the builders spent all their money on the stone and ran out of dough for paint. This thing is seriously in need of a paint job- it would look a lot less cheap that way. It's a church, by the way, and a wedding was in progress.The people attending certainly looked like they had more than enough paint on them to spare for a naked building or two.
Nobody cares.
Ah yes. At some point we ended up in Manila, after a long bus ride. We had a real suite this time- or rather, a service apartment. My first night wasn't very pleasant, being assaulted by dreams involving a charming young lady I'd become infatuated with. It was the same on the second night. We wandered around town. It was a most miserable city. I got sick, and had a bad vomiting spell.
Yodelay, yodelay, yodelay-huhu~
Dinner at the Singing Cooks & Waiters atbp. Whatever that stands for. They can sing in various languages, sure, but they're just overrated IMHO. I'm sure we all know what that acronym stands for.
Dish A
One of the dishes we ordered. Um. Veggies and seafood with some sort of gravy. I'll be damned if I can remember what it's called. Oh, and it's served in this metal wok like thing which would come in handy if the waiters decide to go frisky on you, but then again they're all armed with similar weaponry, so...
Dish B
Ah, crab (I think) and noodles. It tasted a lot like, well, crab and noodles. Nothing much, really. I should add that most of the local food we'd had so far was either (a) fried, (b) salty, (c) bloody sweet, (d) pork, which I'm not a fan of, or (e) if we were living in ancient times when salt were the global currency I'd kiss the cook, but these days we use something called money, and if possible I'd rather not pay you anything, because everything you've cooked is so bloody salty it's borderline inedible. Now go back to your little kitchen and don't bother coming back out.
A random mish-mash of stuff.
Oh, there you go. At least this picture is clearer- I used flash this time. Ah. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have used it. It doesn't look very appetizing, no? Especially everything not red. I should say that this post can't be used as grounds for a defamation case against me- oh I dunno, maybe a class action case for smirching the good name of Filipino (Oh, so it's spelled with an F here huh?) cuisine- this is just my opinion, and besides that my stomach is not made of that strong ablative heat shield used to protect the space shuttle, so maybe I couldn't appreciate it to the fullest extent.
The Intramuros area in Manila. It's the oldest district in Manila, and looks the part, being a fortified township. Just being within the walls makes it feel different, like an imaginary sense of attitude, or a fake disguise kit. In truth it's as Manilan as the rest of Manila.
That being said, it probably has more old buildings. Oh, and statues. Like this funny one of a boy sailor humping a ship's wheel in public. I think this was attached to the maritime museum or something in that vein.
Oh, look. Empty seats. Grab.
Stopped for a snack in some old building which happened to have a cafe. Ridiculously pricey, but the location was nice- took some pretty photos here.
Nice architecture.
Like this one. I think I'm rather good at taking pictures devoid of people in them. I liked this building- the Spaniards did a good job colonizing this place. Makes me wish more of Europe had fought over Malaya instead of it being just the British and the Dutch piddling around making silly contracts and halfheartedly shooting at each other every now and then. I wonder if this statement could get me hauled up to court for treason. Or being mean-spirited. "Your Pusillanimous (I'm sure you thought I was praising you there, ha!) Honour, (Spoken as if I mean it) I was actually just being creative here, in a retrospective way..."
Poor girl. Not that I care.
The waitress. One of them, really. Nice uniform. Doesn't make for good memory, though- she screwed up our bill.
It's gotta be an over-sized chess piece.
Some fancy statue. Nobody looks at it. Nobody except tourists, of course, who take pictures of it, and then forget about it, and then leave said picture to languish in a Facebook album for a year, before deciding to take it out and stick it in a blog post, because it looks rather fancy. Oh, I said that already? Ho-hum.
Big, Wide, River.
The biggest river in Manila. Who cares what it's called. Go google it if you're so curious. All I know is that it's big. And we were walking to Chinatown when we saw it. We weren't expecting to see a river though, so thank you for being a pleasant surprise, you big river, you. Oh, and for not being filled with rubbish or being the colour of milk tea- I wouldn't have bothered with a picture if that were the case. Well, actually I would, if only to make fun of you.
You know you're in Chinatown when you see the purple fire engine. They've the only purple ones in the world- sponsored by a local business. I gather that they quite like their fire engines. Dunno how they feel about the sponsor, though.
Now isn't this just plain amazing? Incense, a Taoist/Buddhist altar, and a Crucifix. Might as well throw in the other religions while we're at it. The 'freedom fighters' over in Jolo would be mighty pissed, though.
I won' pretend to know what hopia and tikoy are.
This here's the business I mentioned. They sell cookies, mainly. Nice, but nothing mind-blowing. Business was roaring, though (At least in comparison to the other shops). Had some trouble here when some members in the group decided to wander off in search of a restroom without telling the others. A long wait and a random search before finally reuniting for a late lunch.
Cos you've gotta have a Temple to Temp in
To a Chinese Mausoleum Park. You heard me right. It's actually a cemetery, but the scale is clearly wrong for that definition. It's Chinese because all of the people interned here are of the yellow-skinned slanty-eyed variety (I'm not being racist, half of me might end up in a place like this someday), and Mausoleum because- well...
High Street
It's just ridiculous. It's like a little dead town. Except that it really is a dead town. Most people would kill to have a place to live in like this.
"I don't like my job"
OK, that's a bit much, dude. Come to think of it, that angel looks like it's giving the finger to heaven... two fingers to be precise (Sideways view). Like, screw you for posting me in this dump.
Pillow heaven.
Lunch in some Middle Eastern restaurant near the hotel on our last day. The Ziggurat, I think it was called- quite highly rated. I think it's in Lonely Planet too. I still felt pretty sick but the traveler's rule in this case is 'when you smell good food, do your best to puke the rest out, and then fill it up again', a rule which I took to heart, and thus spent the first few minutes in the restroom making space before coming out to help place our order.
Not so pleasant a coloring given the circumstances.
Pomodori soup, to quell the residual rumbling. The stomach is a hard thing to please, and even harder to predict. Volcanic gurgling (Of the geological kind) is nothing in comparison, because you don't need to stop to puke/crap when it blows. You just run.
Carnivore's Delight
A lot of meat. The tomatoes were heavenly. Thankfully, the food here did not taste like the rest of the food we'd had so far (Refer to the 5 possibilities listed under the deconstruction of Filipino Cuisine above). Finally, a delicious meal, though admittedly not as good as the Lebanese restaurant we went to in Bangkok last year.
Harem Tea
A pot of blueberry harem tea. I felt like a desert Sheikh, though I didn't have lovely Scheherazade by my side (Though I couldn't get that other girl out of my mind). Till now I've only been able to find raspberry tea, and it just can't compare. Maybe they used an unholy amount of sugar- I'll never know.
Terminal Fee. If you pay it your condition becomes terminal.
A word of warning when leaving Manila- keep some spare change. We weren't expecting this, but luckily we had the cash to get through. It was pretty pricey. Government endorsed extortion, this is. Nothing wrong when it's the government doing it, eh?

Which reminds me of something else- back in Singapore the kid at the ticketing counter was a bit of an ass- he wouldn't let us take our ticket unless we showed proof that we'd be returning home. In other words, a return ticket, which obviously, we didn't have. I went backstage with him to get a printout of the flight booking, but didn't have it- in any case he said that wouldn't be sufficient either. 'Filipino ruling', he said. Luckily a light-bulb lit up above my head and I remembered that pop was already in Manila without any issue- he gave us our tickets after that.
Sigh. At least it didn't taste Filipino.
Malaysian Airlines in-flight meal. Quality had dropped somewhat since the last time I'd flown MAS (Uh, might as well have been a lifetime ago). Another odd incident- they wouldn't give us our tickets until we'd shown proof of purchase instead of just a booking receipt. A credit card, in other words. Which pop had conveniently left back home (He'd read about this ruling but forgot about it- in other words, we played dumb). It's a stupid ruling, anyway- after all we had our flight booking, and all our passports were in order. Irritating, really.

And that's that. We got home the next day and went our separate ways. I went back to college and more ridiculous self-inflicted misery, of which I really don't feel like telling the whole world about, though I may do so someday, albeit in code or what may look like gibberish. I'm afraid I didn't really enjoy this trip, the days spent in a miserable environment, the nights spent in feverish contemplation of a romantic liaison which was not to be, not to mention being sick.

To the Filipinos reading this, my apologies- I'm sure there's a lot more to see, and better food to eat. Elsewhere, however. In any case I for one will not be recommending Manila or its surrounds to fellow tourists anytime soon.

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