Monday, November 3, 2014

Manila the Capital- Get a Feel for the Philippines

Warm and muggy air hits me as I exit the international terminal. Even at the early AM hour, traffic is heavy and chaotic, the system here disorganized.
Arrive at a high-rise condo unit; pay my driver as I'm cooled by an ocean breeze. Polite and helpful workers check me in. 
guns on guards like this all over
"The Philippines is a violent society."

Racist insensitive stereotyping by 'non-progressives' or an accurate depiction? 
Verified within minutes, in front of the Mall of Asia, guards walk with high-powered rifles slung over their shoulders. Before entering the mall you go through a metal detector, a cursory bag search, and pat down, a sign letting you know to leave your firearm at the door. 
No business undertakes such an expense needlessly. 

The mall is gigantic and expansive, and has anything and everything you could dream of, including Western prices, which, when traveling in SE Asia, is really more of a nightmare.
Behind the mall I discover a path along a sea wall. Sitting atop it, I watch the ocean waves pounding away. Though the Philippines have quite possibly the most beautiful beaches and ocean on earth, none are located in Manila.
Expensive tourist restaurants line the camino, and two kilometers down the road is the gorgeous (it's truly visually stunning) Soleil Casino where suckers pour their money down the drain. 
large rotating globe in front of Mall of Asia
The Philippines is an incredibly cheap place to travel, and that's due to a large segment of the population working for under a $1 an hour.
I speak with a young security guard who works for the minimum wage of 466 Philippine Pesos- ($10.50) for each 12 hour shift, 6 days a week.
"How much would I make in America?" he inquires.
"About 3000 pesos," I lowball after some quick math, "For an 8 hour shift."
His eyes go wide in surprise. Living in the reality which is the Philippines he's never even contemplated such a possibility.
"I need to go to America," he slowly replies, his eyes glazed in thought.

Note: To all of you who Americans who bag on the USA, who moan about the deck being stacked in favor of the wealthy, who agonize and expend energy complaining about this fact, I invite you to travel the world and enter reality from the viewpoint of others. In recent history, perhaps the greatest fortune which could befall you as a human being is to have been born in America. 

Just shy of 6 foot, I tower over everyone. I'm the giant here no one wants to mess with. I get a touch extra space wherever I walk. I feel like an NFL linebacker.
True fact: The center for the Philippine national basketball stands 5' 7" ... he's considered a monster.

Basketball is in fact the national sport, with courts abounding throughout the islands, though in classic American fashion I saw far greater numbers of people watching than playing.
Man, sports is like porn, why you gonna watch when you can do it? Huh? (pelvic thrust) Answer me that.

I walk a few kilometers inland from the ocean down Roxas Boulevard. Massage parlors and strip/sex bars pop up as I continue down the road.
A 22 year old girl staying in the same high-rise condo complex as me, described how she recently divorced her 53 year old American husband whom she met online. After some hemming and hawing about true love, she admits, "Life is hard here in the Philippines. It was do that, or sell myself on the corner." 

I continue past the small red-light district. Now the area turns into more of a shanty-town, people seemingly on the street in make-shift housing. Alone and white, intuition tells me to retreat. 

Walking back I note the fast food franchises dominating the landscape. This is the most Americanized nation in Southeast Asia, and by that I mean the fattest. Unless you're eating seafood, the food here is incredibly unhealthy, deep-fried, and full of added fat and sugar. 

"Mr. Richard, come come, breakfast is included in your stay." 
"Great, what are my choices?" 
"We have ham, pork adobo, or if you want, bacon." 
"My options are pork, pork, or pork?"
"I'll have some eggs." 
Manila- many stories above

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