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Experiences in Manila

I don’t know if I’ll make it out of The Philippines tonight, but I’m really hoping I make it to Kuala Lumpur before the sun rises.  At the moment, I’m at Gate 115 in Terminal 3 (stay tuned) which would have been good info earlier this evening.  The Cebu Pacific flight has been delayed at least 1hr so if we depart by 10pm, I should be in bed by 4am taking into account a  4hr flight, customs, and an hour taxi. *Update, a few minutes after I typed this paragraph, they moved us to Gate 111 and put us on another plane.  We got to the condo at 3am and I was able to sleep 8hrs in my own bed and own room!
Proof of payment and stamps in order to leave Manila
The last 2 days in Manila were educational but I was ready to leave and happy to be in Kuala Lumpur (KL) this morning.  I was only exposed to the real Manila for a couple hours each day, but it was plenty to take in and try to process.  

We left the hotel on foot Tuesday morning and walked several blocks to one of the Malls.  There are shops and stalls on the streets but the malls have A/C and security.  The smells and sounds on the streets can't be put into words, pictures, or even videos.  Something you just have to experience.  The poverty pours from every eyeball and hand asking for money.  The traffic is horrible and I wish I had brought a washcloth from the hotel to protect against the taste of pollution.  I didn't feel in danger since there were 3 of us and I think I was more of an attraction (tall, white, blonde, female) than a potential victim.  We stopped in a 7-Eleven and got some drinks and a break from the humidity, then made our way to the Mall.
Similar to the Mall of Asia visit, there were Male and Female security lines.  You go thru a scanner, then get your purse checked, and then a pat-down.  The lines for the men were 30 deep, but the women only 10 or so. I don't think there are more men, it is just that they get a more complete check.  We were there around lunch and the mall was packed with students and workers getting lunch. All the students wear uniforms, so you could pick out the nurses and then all the different schools.  At this mall, there were a few more local stores and a grocery, but otherwise, lots of American brands and restaurants.  I hadn't noticed yesterday, but hardly anyone actually has shopping bags.  I watched several people go into stores and "act" like they were shopping.  Picking up shirts and holding them up like they were on TV, in fact, many people took pictures of each other "shopping".  There is a strong urge here to be someone else.
Mall Security

We took a taxi back to the hotel and met up again with my colleagues family.  Their trip in only took a couple hours and they were excited to swim in the hotel pool, clean up in the hotel room, and have another family meal.  I was included in the activities and got to know everyone a little better.  The 2 kids experienced things the past couple trips to the hotel that they may never get to do again in their lifetime (probably not, since their American family will continue to visit) but you never know.  They don't know that yet, but their mom, aunt, and cousins did.  After seeing the desperation in the streets and the mall, it was nice to get caught up in their excitement.
Hotel Pool by Day, Theme Park Light Show by Night
Yesterday (Wednesday) I woke up with a sore throat and drainage.  I wasn't too surprised with all the A/C, pollution, and some late work nights so I'm in recovery mode and drinking as many fluids as possible.  We didn't fly out until 8pm so after putting our baggage in storage, left the hotel on foot again planning to visit the National Museum.  It was midday and hot, so we finally said yes to one of the horse carriage vendors and went on a 90 minute tour of Manila.  The city has a complicated history with the Spanish, Japanese, Americans, and Chinese all contributing whether for the good or bad.  We went by many statues, a few churches and parks, and Chinatown which were all interesting, but overshadowed by countless homeless, effluent smells and rivers, traffic and pollution, and begging.  We even had a barefoot boy jump on the back of the carriage trying to pickpocket while his mom made distractions.  I was very worried about the horse and we were told he would be going back to the stable for rest and food.  I would like to believe it, but have my doubts.

Horse Carriage

Effluent River

General MacArthur Statue

Men hoping to get jobs as Fishermen. Lines filled an entire block.
We returned to the hotel for some lunch and relaxation before heading to the airport.  You need time to come down from a trip and then have to get yourself geared up for going backed out - no matter what the task.  We loaded in the taxi around 5p and told the driver to take us to Cebu Pacific for an international flight.  The traffic was intense and when I say traffic, it is hard to compare to what we are used to.  There may be 3 lanes, but there is no order and every type of vehicle tries to inch forward in it's own dimension.  There are homeless moms sitting with babies on the concrete barriers and school kids threading their way from the buses across the lanes... probably to their next bus.  We heard horror stories about the time some of our hotel staff spent commuting, which has to be taken with a grain of salt since they are very skilled at pulling at your heart strings to try and get money, sponsorship, whatever.
Hotel Outside Bar

So, we get dropped off an hour later at a Terminal go thru security and can't find our flight.  That's when we realize we've been had and the driver dropped us off at the wrong terminal and took off.  You may think, no big deal, just walk to the other terminal but the infrastructure doesn't exist.  So you have to leave the airport perimeter and get back in the traffic and drive around to the next terminal.  We were now going to possibly be late and had to agree to pay the driver extra to take us.  It was an intense 30 minutes and we were all very thankful to end up at Terminal 3 in one piece.  We checked in and had time to spare even before the delay.  Once we took-off and played the "Show Me" game (we didn't win), the flight was uneventful and there was a since of peace knowing Manila was behind us.


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