“saan man patungo sa buhay”

Date:   1/28   –   2/2

Location:   Manila, Philippines

And just like that we were boarding a flight back to Manila from Kalibo airport. Sad days. I could have stayed in Boracay for at least another couple of days.

[Google Images]

We checked back into the hostel in Manila and slept well after our delayed flight only to be woken up early the next morning. I feel like there are very few places else in Asia where I can get woken up at 6 by church bells. In Boracay it was the neighborhood roosters crowing at dawn. In Manila, it’s the neighborhood church at 6 and the taho peddlers at 7. Taho is a food consisting of silken tofu in a caramelized brown sugar sauce with tapioca pearls. It’s usually eaten for breakfast and thus, the peddlers strap on their aluminum buckets and caw like birds to the morning commuters. Unfortunately their calls worked better than an alarm clock.  There is just no way that the Philippines would let us sleep in.

After our arrival, the reins passed from one of my cousins to the other in order to show us around the city. Ate Tzel and her boyfriend did quite the job, taking us to several different malls and also an hour outside of the city towards Tagaytay and Lake Taal where the Taal volcano sits pretty, water filling its caved-in crater, often called the “lake within a lake.” There was fog rolling in so visibility was low, but it lent a certain mystique to the area, methinks.

Also at Tagaytay, we were treated [on Ate Rodz’s coin] to a veritable smorgasbord of Filipino cuisine for lunch. There was so much food. Kare-kare, Seafood Platter, kilawin, and pork knuckle. Afterwards, there was halo-halo served in buko shell for dessert and let me tell you I could not have been happier, or more full.

~ ~

On an unrelated note, here is one of the main forms of transport in the provincial Philippines. It’s called a traysikel [I’m not sure of the spelling] but it’s basically a motor-cab. They all share the character of the little engine that could, chugging along, the motor fighting and vibrating violently beneath your seat in the cab which often puts you at a 45 degree angle to the ground, especially in the back. As expected seat belts do not exist in this realm of public transportation. It’s quite the fun ride and it only costs 7 pesos (~$0.20)

~ ~

But now back to the important stuff. And by that I mean food. While wandering through Rockwell’s Powerplant Mall, Andrea, Julia, and I stumbled upon a Chili’s. Feeling as if we’d had enough of the local cuisine to merit a visit to a good old-fashioned American chain restaurant, we sat down and got ready for what was going to be the most nostalgic meal of our entire trip. You see, all throughout Asia we’ve been searching [mostly in vain] for good American food. A juicy burger and thick cut fries for example. Or a salad that’s made of lettuce and not cabbage and corn. We received our food and almost cried. Chili’s got it right, even in Manila. Kudos, Chili’s. And what’s more, they even had Philippine twists on the menu to include my favorite, the Mango smoothie which used local Philippine mangoes and was top-tier. I could have also gotten Dalandan flavor if I wanted. Nice touch. But yeah, to any non-US readers, if you want to know what American food tastes like with just a touch of Tex-Mex, go to Chili’s. You won’t regret it.

I did, however, regret trying balut, lol. One of the Philippines’ most famous strange foods is the boiled egg with a half-hatched embryo inside. Julia and Andrea’s room-mate had bought about five and was willing to share. I’d have to say it tasted like any other boiled egg except the yolk tasted like straight up chalky chicken bone marrow. Not my favorite. Maybe if I slathered it in barbecue sauce or ketchup to mask the taste and followed it up with a lot of rice, I’d maybe order it. Otherwise, it’s not really for me lol.

~ ~

“Well, back in the States, I’m a 10 ;D,” I replied smoothly as…

the sales clerk asked me about my shoe size. -_-;;

Oh, the malls. I feel like any redevelopment that occurred in Manila went towards constructing these oases of air-conditioned fire-arm-proof [see above] shopping splendor all over the Metro area. There’s Greenbelt one through five, Glorietta one through four, the Greenhills Shopping Complex, and of course the SM Mall of Asia and Megamall. What better way to lure people into spending money than by providing them with respite from the heat. It sure worked on me. And with the exchange rate the way it is, I could buy so many [knock-off] brand name clothes for so little. I think my crowning achievement was my pair of Vans which I haggled down in Tagalog to approximately $10. Score.

I also made sure to get a haircut in the Philippines because God knows that Japanese barbers tend to be unsure what to do with curly hair. It turned out to be the best haircut of my life which included not only the cut but a straight-razor shave, a series of steamy towels to the face, an application of hair oils, a scalp massage, a shoulder and neck massage, and some tips on hair care. For 5 dollars. Double score.

~ ~

After our day spent raiding the Mall of Asia, my cousin took us out to the fresh fish market on Manila Bay right next-door in order to pick out the food we wanted for dinner because we were to have it cooked to order right then and there. Most everything was moving and splashing water on the buyers and the ladies behind the stalls hawked everything in Tagalog saying that the fish were still lively the clams clamoring and the crabs still walking. All of which was true. My cousin got some sweet deals on sea food using her awesome haggling skills and we set off for the restaurant, Lola Ina’s [haw haw] in order to have everything cooked. It was divine, let me tell you.

And I’ll leave you on a sweet note. The meal was followed up by a ridiculous amount of Philippine mangoes which by far are the best in the world. You can quote me on that. My mom always says that the mangoes we buy in Florida are never as sweet as the ones back home. And I’d have to agree with her. I would never choose another country’s mangoes over those of the Philippines. Both ripe and unripe mangoes here are out of this world.

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