48 Hours in Manila
We are now 6 days into our trip and I still couldn't tell you what day or time it is here. After a combined 24 hours on the road, 1 ferry ride and 9 flights - we finally made it past Manila and onto El Nido which is where I am writing this from. To be more precise, I am on the second floor of what feels like one DIVERSE dance party. This is only the second hostel I have ever stayed in...and based on the A/C and fully stocked bar...I think its my favorite. Needless to say, a post about this week is soon to come.
We spent 48 hours in Manila and as exciting as it was, I was unfortunately happy to leave. Let me preface this a bit...When Josh showed me the pictures of the Pink Manila Hostel, I thought to myself "A pool AND a killer view of the city...Im good to go". The reality of the situation turned out to be quite different. Once landed in the airport, we happily hopped in our uber and set off for the Pink Manila - smiles and all. When the uber began to slow down, I looked around and didn't see a pool or a cute strand of pink dangling lights. Instead, I saw a sad looking rooster in a cage, a dozen broken down cars and an outdoor gym that could easily double as a drug front. But alas...we had arrived at the Pink Manila.
We paid the driver, gave a gracious thank you and collected our 40+ pound bags (barely). As we stepped through the outdoor gym past the stray dogs and cats, I made a joke about my workout regimen to Josh which seemed to lighten the mood - after all, we are in this together. The hostel ended up being through the ally and up an elevator that barely fits two small people. The water pressure was literally non existent and was ice cold...the whole time. Ah...Asia.
But to my surprise, the view from the common area, smog and all, was worth the wait. This sounds like a dismal start to the trip, but it actually turned out to be the opposite. We spent the next 2 days exploring the city, dodging oncoming "Jeepneys" and "Trycikals" and bartering over the price of street food that would inevitably make me sick.
I was shocked to find out that there are very few trash cans in all of Manila. The trash is littered all over the street reaching as high as the man made tin and wooden shacks that line the dirt roads. Stray farrell animals crowd the streets, itching, with no place to go. The street markets which are rarley traveled by westerners, supply the locals with fresh fish, vegetables and cooking supplies. Naturally, Josh had his sights set on one particular market where you point at a fish and have it wrapped and passed along to a nearby restaurant to prepare. This was by far the best meal I have had yet. Kudos Josh.
Our waterfront seafood dinner ringing in at $41 USD was followed by a $1.50 bottle of rum...My kind of night. Going into the next day, I had extremely high hopes. We were heading to the zoo and then another market. Once in the Uber, the neighborhoods went from not good to poor, to bad, to worse, to fucking terrible. People were piled on top of each other with small children running in the streets and the same farrell animals urinating near their fires. The tin/wooden huts turned into straw/cardboard structures - clearly damaged by the immense amounts of rain that the city sees.
I honestly wish I had more to say about the area, but unfortunately - I didn't even get out of the car. There are 1.66 million people in the city of Manila which is roughly 20 square miles. The average yearly salary is PHP383,911 which is roughly equivalent to $7,439 USD. That's just the average...these neighborhoods had nothing. That was extremely sobering.
While this might have been the hardest place to visit first on our year of exploration, I think it was the most important. Josh asked me how I would describe what I was feeling during my first week in three sentences (listed below)
1) The word privileged has an entirely new meaning to me
2) I truly appreciate the value of $1.00
3) I want to see more
This first stop was one for the books.