“kailangan ng magingat”

Date:   1/28   –   2/2

Location:   Manila, Philippines

Our last full day in Manila and ultimately of our entire month and a half long vacation was basically us finishing up the historic part of Manila after all of our shopping travails in the malls as detailed previously.

The old part of the city which was left over from the Spanish colonial period is called Intramuros and it’s bordered to the south by Jose Rizal Park. We had met a couple of Koreans at the hostel and they were going to head out with us because we were aiming for the same place.

I’m lying about the chronology of this jeepney ride, but now is as good a time as any to introduce the other uniquely Filipino form of public transport. They’re leftovers from the American occupation after World War II [like our English skills, various vocabulary words, and pop culture] and they’re re-purposed army jeeps painted in bright colors and run circular routes throughout the city stopping anywhere and everywhere along the way. Tell the driver where you want to go and if it’s on his stop then just pay him about 50 cents and you’ll be there eventually. Julia and Andrea really liked the ride. The picture on the right is a view from inside the jeepney.

Jeepneys also have to contest with everyone else on the road including buses taxis and traysikels and everybody is weaving in and out of the lanes where there even are lanes. The lines on the road pretty much don’t mean anything and Manila drivers know just how to get their passengers where they need to go. It’s said that if you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere. And I think that’s pretty accurate.

~ ~

We stopped at the Luneta park first which houses just about a million busts of all our national heroes lined up in a green field with fountains and everything. On one side of the park, there’s one huge statue of Lapu-Lapu, whose story is as follows:

As I understand it, when Ferdinand Magellan was circumnavigating the globe, he stopped in the Philippines and entwined himself arbitrarily into a fight between local tribes. Lapu-Lapu was like “what the hell are you doing stay out of our business,” and consequently killed the meddling European. And now he’s a national hero.

There was also the orchidarium which is a tropical garden that has gone into a little bit of disrepair because the country has more important things to spend limited funds on than beautifying this corner of an already beautiful park. The dilapidated greenhouse at the end of one pathway made for a good photo-op.

Anyway, after snapping a photo of the Rizal monument which is the featured pic for this post, we decided to head down Bonifacio Avenue towards Intramuros. Big mistake.

~ ~

So we were walking in a loose group, Julia and I were ahead and Andrea and the Korean girls were a little ways behind as we were walking down this rather large road. I was talking to Julia and then suddenly we heard a scuffle and some screaming coming from behind us. We froze.

Andrea and the girls were fending off a couple of guy thugs and a street girl who were trying to get at their purses. It happened very quickly and I couldn’t even think to run towards them for fear that they had guns or knives. [On that wuss status, I know.] The girls struggled for a bit [and Andrea got a good kick to one of the guys’ knees. Go her!] but then the thugs THOSE KNAVES ran across traffic where we couldn’t get at them and then Julia and I went to check on everyone. They had run away with one of the Korean’s cameras and with Andrea’s iTouch. Btw, the title of this post translates to: “you’ve gotta be careful.”

We were at a loss as to what to do, wading in our stagnant anger. A nearby old woman pointed us back to Luneta park where we should look for the police to help us. We reported the incident to the police and then they told Andrea and me to hop on the back of two of their motorcycles so that we could go on a chase and identify the perps.

Not gonna lie, it was sort of cool.

We wove in and out of traffic at high speed, stopping only to question various people hanging around the street in an attempt to catch these people who had run away. It was real movie-like.

I felt sort of bad for Andrea that this had happened to her in the Philippines, but everyone was a really good sport about it. I mean, she was pissed, but not at the country. All I could think about was the fact that we passed through a park filled with statues and memorials for all the people who tried to keep this country free and who instilled pride in the Filipino people and then this is what happens. I was sort of ashamed. Andrea said though that “this could have happened anywhere and the Philippines is still probably one of my favorite places that we visited.” I was glad.

I won’t pretend to know the political situation in the Philippines, but the impression I get is that like many post-colonial nations, we struggle to overcome corruption in our government and try to provide equal opportunity for everyone in a society where the gaps between classes make things incredibly unequal [the same way it was in colonial times]. Most of our best and brightest end up seeking ways out of the country. And even a lot of women find ways out of their socially disadvantaged lot by taking foreign husbands. [Every time one of us would see a couple like that, we’d code name it “upward mobility.”] Sort of sad, but true at least in part. So as a person who is not living the reality of a Philippine citizen but not entirely estranged from the predicament of the Filipino, one who is neither here nor there, I can only hope and hope for my [?] country that at best seems to be able to teeter on into the future and at worst seems stuck in a post-colonial rut. It’s a strange situation, but one best left to people who know what they’re talking about. Aka not me. Hope is nice but it is not action. And I wouldn’t even know where to begin to act.

~ ~

After the harrowing incident which everyone chalked up to experience, we walked to Intramuros using a different path, this time with a bike escort from the tourist police, and undauntedly went to go visit these historical sites.

There was the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago, remnants of a colonial past as well as kalesas, horse-drawn carriages with drivers trying to net tourists into a buggy ride kind of like they do in Sevilla, in the motherland’s motherland, Spain.

Also in Fort Santiago was the Jose Rizal shrine, the museum dedicated to our main national hero, the “Pride of the Malay Race”, the genius ophthalmologist diplomat architect musician poet who mastered 22 languages and incited the Filipino people to break free from the corrupt Spaniard grip on the country, dying a martyr’s death at the hands of the Spanish, shot by firing squad at the age of 35. His books are required reading in Filipino high schools and his story is taught in history classes from elementary school on. I feel like everyone aspires to be as accomplished. Julia agreed lol. But yeah, Rizal is my homeboy [see picture below right]. Love that guy.

The highlight of my day was riding on a see-saw for the first time with Julia.

And then we went to karaoke and drank Red Horse Strongs until we didn’t even care about what had happened that day. Good end to our journey, I think.

Except for that one part at the airport where they took away my Thai soy sauce because it was equivalent to a water bottle. Booooooo.

AND NOW I’M FINALLY CAUGHT UP. So back to our regularly scheduled programming. I hope you enjoyed the SUPER FANTASTIC ASIA ADVENTURE JOURNEY TREK. I’ll be posting a new-semester post within the week, hopefully and then we’ll be back.


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