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Thank you Jet Star for your cheap flights! But I will give you back your onboard mystery meat & cramped seating. A funny thing happened to us in the airport in Singapore.  We met a stanford graduate who went by the name of Nat, and was in the business of Medical Tourism.  (Later I would find out many people come to Bangkok and Manila for medical procedures that cost way less then their home country and offer the same quality of service).  We starting talking, and discussed many things about Manila, Canada, and the U.S.  When it came time to leave we followed Nat through to the baggage claim. A women from his company had been hired to meet him and walk him through the airport customs. I know this sounds sketchy as HELL but you had to be there.  You see I have my macbook with me, and Nat had about 3 macbook pro’s he was bringing to his boss in Manila.  And the custom officers in Manila are corrupt as hell, like their government. Nat explained its easier for his company to pay someone to help him through, as he made trips to Manila weekly. Instead of the risk of the officers taking the laptops for whatever reason they choose. Call it airport assistance. We walked with our bags through customs, only the lady helping us showed them her pass and we were through.   We say our goodbyes, and exchange cell numbers. After spending too much money in Singapore, our gateway city, we are finally in the Philippines and it is cheap. Manila is the first place we land 3 hours later, and far off the typical south east asia backpackers trail. Moments out of the airport and its intense,  the traffic congestion, blazing humidity and the poverty. People are everywhere and begging for money.  Children are taught to beg before they can walk or talk. Maybe this is why so few backpackers in Singapore hadn’t crossed Manila off their list.  In the ride to the Manila Bay area our cabbie tells us the slums of Manila to the east (just slightly) are home to 70,000 people per square kilometer. Their homes are just built up and up until they collapse in the rainy season (which is considered to be now Sept). We are dropped off somewhere in the enclaves of Ermite and Malate (old red light district go go bar leftovers are still around and working) just east of Manila Bay.  This city is dirty, the shining opposite of Singapore.  And lacks any kind of organization. The only exception to this would be the one sign and set of traffic lights I saw at the intersection on Roxas Blvd (no lights, road lines) , the sign of course referring to the zone as a ‘traffic discipline’ area where people had to slow down I guess? Silly enough there was an actual typhoon above, which responsible for the rain and wind was my first of the kind.  Within a hour or 2 we find a hostel, drop our bags and head out to explore.  Regardless of the filth and poverty I am excited.  I know we will reach Boracay’s white beach the next day, so spending the afternoon in Manila is not so bad after all.  After seeing a little girl almost molested on the street, I start to feel sick to my stomach. I want to cry, I am only a tourist and cannot get involved with helping anyone today. The are beggars, prostitutes, women nursing their babies while lying on the dirty street, kids from every direction yelling money, money. And dog fights around the street, one in particular stays with me where the smaller dog was trying so hard to get out of the circle of men and onslaught of bites from the bigger dog.  The streets are covered in garbage, and shit, literally. I break my shoe, and head into the malls (all guarded by armed police with shirts labeled ‘shooters’.  Funny enough, I’m considered a giant here. Finding a size 9 flip flop is impossible for a small while, I eventually splurge $2 on a fancy pair. Most of them were running 40 to 50 cents Canadian. While on the topic of giant, we decide to grab beers and cover from the monsoon rain at the Hobbit House. This is what is sounds like. A pub run entirely by a staff of filipino midgets. The owner himself looks like J.R Tolken, well what I would assume he looks like –old and white and american.  The imported beer list is exceptional, my dad would of been pleased. We start to talk to the wait staff and one of the friendliest midgets, Monet (no not like the painter she says) explains to us the problems in Manila, and the crazy expensive electric bills which cause almost the whole population to suffer with no fan or a/c in 40 degree weather.  Leaving the Hobbit House to Ben’s dismay, we head out to sample Jolibee (the equvilant to Mcdonalds) and find its nasty sauce to be slightly edible.  We leave to the beautiful beaches of Boracay tomorrow, but before I close my chapter in Manila I have to mention the people and how they put their horribly dangerous and dirty city aside to greet us at every chance they got. This is what made the city remarkable in my eyes. People every five feet would ask your name, your home country, and more personally questions were quick to follow. Are you married? Why not? They were so excited to talk to us, and happy to answer our questions back.  The rough guide to Asia I have been reading is very misleading in the Manila section. It mentions nothing of the scale of poverty, and even calls Malate fashionable. I want to see more more chicken adobo (filipino dish) and adoring people within the pages, as that’s what I took from this city.  I have had my eyes opened in this city.  The world is a big and scary place, and one that I don’t want to miss or hide from.IMG_0017

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