Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Weekend in Manila
Evening, 20th of January 2007

Previous part. A Manila Bay Sunset
Part 3. 'The Fort' by Night

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES 
Composition: Impromptu

The more time I spent in Manila, the harder it became to pin down what the Philippines truly is. A third world country? Perhaps. Economic indicators would point to this as the case. As well, when passing by the dirty, smelly, and poverty stricken parts of Manila, this would be the easy conclusion to reach.

But during the evening of the 20th of January, as we rolled in to the parking lot of the nightlife scene at "The Fort", I saw a Porsche Cayman. Then, I saw some European Luxury barges - Bentleys, Jaguars, and S Class Benzes. Then a few more exotics and lots and lots of dressed up Japanese GT's and Sport Compacts. And I wasn't even really trying to look for them.

Third World, eh?

Beyond the visible indications of individual personal wealth, the place itself lent a different feel to this experience. The structures, the zoning, and the layout of the place also made me think question the Third World label.

What a day - and it wasn't even over yet!

That morning I woke up in the half rural, half developing, fully chaotic and crowded Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Then I had breakfast at the crowded district of the Chinese enclave of Binondo. Then lunch and sunset by the scenic tourist attraction of Manila Bay.

All that time driving through Manila's ridiculous traffic congestion to get from place to place, and bearing witness to the roadside opera of street vendors, street beggars, and streetside squatters - seeing the daily struggle that a vast number of Filipinos experience.

Finally, I found myself having dinner in a newly developed place (still under development at the time that I was there) looking not unlike Calgary's Eau Claire (the only other place that I've frequented which I can compare 'The Fort' as having a similar feel - a place found in the First World).

I was pondering these mixed impressions when I saw the women. Beautiful, gorgeous, women - Dressed, primped up for a night out.

Magagandang Pinay!!! Rowr...!

Ate Yayi, who seemed to have read my mind, said: "Randy, the women here are very beautiful. We'll forgive you if your eyes wander."

We had dinner at a Hawaiian place called Polu-Kai. A lovely lady who had a very Japanese look to her greeted us with an 'Aloha' at the door. She wore something blue, and around her neck she had a Lei. I half expected her to Lei me too - but only got that greeting. Boy, would I love to have been leid by her. I need to get leid by a Filipina.

Anyway, we joined a couple for dinner at this place. Ate Mireille's close friend, Mirelle (yes, they have very similar names) and her husband were already there, waiting. Cris and Mireille sat opposite of this other couple, while I sat on the other end of the long table. There was a light commotion, and I saw Ate Mireille showing off something in her hands. What? Whu?


It was only then that I fully comprehended it. Cris and Mireille are a couple! Yay!

I actually was already getting the clues all throughout the day, but all that time was just afraid to ask.

As the food we ordered arrived, Yayi raved about the great Filipino tradition of sharing food. I on the other hand didn't get the hint, and had what I ordered all to myself.

Talk about committing a cultural Faux Pas...

Ate Michelli, Mireille and Yayi's older sister, joined us later for dessert. She's now based in Bacolod with her family. Oh, and she had an open invitation for me to visit their place! Hmmn.

Mirelle's (the friend) husband (whose name escapes me now), asked me over dessert what it is that I do.

I did not want to say outright that I'm in-between jobs. (hence the ability to have such a long vacation) I also didn't want to say outright that the last job I held involved shovelling dirt, driving an 11 ton dump truck, pouring concrete, and sticking plants to the ground.

It's not that I was ashamed to say it... I just thought it was out of place to say it. I just met the guy. If I told him I'm here on vacation because of some sort of personal turmoil, he might have a completely different impression, y'know?

So what did I do? I still told the truth. I said, "Well, I uhh finished... Broadcasting. You know: producing, writing, setting up, shooting, and editing shows, news segments, docs... that stuff. But, the last job I held was my summer job."

The discussion was shifted to winter sports, while some celebrities and gorgeous shampoo models a few meters away were in some restaurant cum danceclub.

After everything, Mireille, Yayi, and I picked up Mireille's 7th Gen Civic she had parked at "The Fort" when she met up with Cris earlier in the day. We then went home to their place in Quezon City around midnight.

Check out Part 4: Breakfast and Lunch at Quezon City


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