Friday February 18th:
Having been in Manila for nearly four days I know feel able to write on my first impressions of the city and spout a little about the Philippines. I arrived and checked into a little hostel in the tourist part of town and immediately realised how much in the racial minority I was. I assumed there would be a decent bunch of white European travellers about, how wrong I was! The city is actually pretty Americanised as it became a central hub for the US’s military actions in WWII and, much to my surprise, everyone who I come into contact with seems to speak English to some level which is handy. I am trying to pick up some words along the way but I feel it will be slow and steady. One of the main words I have learned, and one which I read about before I left is ‘bahala’, which roughly translates as ‘que sera sera’, whatever will be. This is something the Filipinos apparently live by which is good news!
On my first night I came across two opposite sides of the same coin that does play a role in life here. The first positive side was seeing loads of kids out in the local roundabout/square area, playing away, kicking balls about, laughing and generally having fun before too late. The other side of the coin was found in the local bars of the area, outside of which I was repeatedly offered sex. child prostitution in particular is a problem. Today in fact, my lovely host Pauline (who offered me a bed through couchsurfing) and I went to a talk at a university on Human Trafficking and I was told all about the issues around it and what one group called ‘Visayan Forum Foundation’ were doing to help prevent it. Inspiring stuff, and something that might offer some valuable volunteering experience in a month or two.
After a night in the hostel I found my way to Pauline’s house and have been here for three nights before I leave Manila to head north to work on an organic coffee farm. Pauline and her family have been lovely and really helped me settle into life here. A couple of highlights from this week included seeing a ‘Vegertarian Health Foods Stall’ near a shopping centre that sold, almost exclusively, meaty kebab dishes with thick salty sauce. And learning about Dr. Jose Rizal, a bit of a national legeend who fought for independence from the Spanish and was executed by them.
I’m now looking forward to the wonders of the North Luzon mountain forests and their civet shit coffee, a sort of permaculture set up with the coffee being grown in and amongst the forest and fruit trees. I will hopefully have some sporadic internet access to update over the next few weeks as I work there. (Certainly on the 8th March as I will go to a local town to watch Arsenal beat Barcelona, come on the Gunners (for all the Gunners fans out there!)). The links page has details on the websites of the coffee farm and the human trafficking group. Photos up soon, I haven’t taken too many yet as wondering around Metro Manila with an SLR ain’t super wise, once I hit the more rural areas I will be snapping away.