North Pacific Island Hopping, Philippines

48 hours of Manila

Manila is a huge, weird Asian – Latino hybrid with spanish names on everything, siesta culture, lots of catholic churches. It is laying on the eastern corner of Asia, feeling almost as if it was closer to Central America.

The city is overwhelming and the best way to experience it is to go as if you were one of the 11 million locals. If you are travelling with Jeepneys and eating from the street vendors or Jolly Jeeps it might be one of the cheapest places to go. People are not pushy and really friendly too, except from a Calesa (horse drawn carriage) driver, no one has tried to rip us off or been unfriendly in any way.

Sights are many, but most of them are historical monuments and churches, like the Spanish Old City Intramuros with Philippines oldest church San Agustin and the Manila Cathedral which was not too exciting for us adventure seeking travelers, but just spending the time in the Worlds oldest Chinatown and in the lively streets and in the parks was well worth our visit to Manila.

The people are really friendly. Going to the Ritzal park and sunbathing on the grass or relaxing at a bench of one of the icecream shops, you will see that people sitting next to you are very interested in knowing more about you and your homecountry. A guy even walked with us throughout the whole Intramuros while sharing his knowledge about the country and the buildings that he had learned from being a tour guide. And not asking for money or anything in return afterwards!

Transport options are many with two elevated train lines: the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) and the LRT (Light Rail Transit). Taxis are cheap running on the meter, but they might ask for an extra 50 pesos to go on meter in rush hour or 20 pesos to use the highway. Usually the cheapest and most fun alternative is going by Jeepney, a custom build jeep with benches along the sides in the back. Just saying the name of where you are going and people on the street will help you get in the right ones.

Eating is also a big part of the Philippine experience. Jolly Jeeps and other street vendors sell all kinds of food in Makati City and the rest of the huge city of Manila. The local specialities are many, including “Balut” which is a week old egg, with a fetus inside. A chicken abortion in other words. I tried it myself and it tasted very much like a normal egg, just with some crunchy beaks and bones (video coming up!).

Our favorite moments from Manila must be laying in the Ritzal Park watching the fountain show go off while eating icecream. It was also quite an interesting experience buying meals off the street and then being invited to come inside his home and eat the food right next to the sellers bed. The people you meet are also the things you remember the most, and the Filippinos will definately be among the top of the most friendly people I have met.

Jilbert M. Vargas: a friendly stranger who showed us around town