Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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Stuff I Like in Manila #2: Bookstores

November 22, 2008

Stacked inside Manila, often found in shopping malls, are sanctuaries to Knowledge.
Their sizes range from tiny chapels to grand cathedrals. They have different ways of recruiting the devotion of buyers. Some sell overpriced coffee and food as a message that they offer books of high quality. Some merely stack the books into their respective genres, silently telling buyers that the stores also belong to them. Yet there is one offer that is particularly tempting: reading chairs.

These chairs are like relaxing pews that give a pilgrim respite from his physical wanderings and a boost for his mental wanderings. On them he is able to settle comfortably as his mind is transported to the worlds inscribed in books. The books, btw, can be had around him without charge. He merely has to grab any unsealed item, and he is free to do whatever he wants short of damaging it.
When I traveled inside a mall in Manila, I was like a pilgrim seeking an oasis to ease my mind in my wanderings. I rested for a while in Powerbooks, Mall of Asia. The place was like a temple dedicated not just to knowledge, but also to those who sought whatever kind knowledge. I looked around for the knowledge that I could barely find in Iligan. I found books under the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.


Then I realized that my mind was no longer a pilgrim. It had found its home…

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Stuff I Hate in Manila #4: Poverty

November 2, 2008

The poor are flooding Manila.
They flock to the city hoping for a better life than what they had in the provinces. Too often they are greeted by a harsher life in Manila. They cramp themselves in squatter settlements, risking life and health under squalor conditions. Very few of their children grow up to escape the cycle of poverty. They and many of their children fall prey to crime, or succumb to a life of crime. Thus the city is filled with drug traffickers, petty thieves, hold uppers, rapists, kidnappers, and two-headed-vampires.


Squatter Settlement near the Recto LRT2 Station.

Same Squatter Settlement, Different Angle.

The Very Same Squatter Settlement, which also doubles as an arsonist fantasy.

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Stuff I Hate in Manila #3: Price

October 31, 2008

Everything is expensive in Manila.
What I can buy cheap in Iligan can cost twice as much in Manila. Food I can eat for less than P40 in Iligan can be bought for twice as much in Manila, and to think I’m still referring to ordinary fare. Borderline fancy fare in Manila can cost more than twice the average wage in Iligan. Genuinely fancy fare in Manila may very well cost someone his life in Iligan.
Even basic commodities are very pricey in Manila. Coffee-shop-served coffee is beyond the reach of ordinary folk of Iligan or Manila. Personally, I do not crave pricey coffee and rarely buy it even when I was still studying in Manila. Nevertheless, who am I to decline if somebody offered to treat me with it.

Coffee
Shown above is coffee courtesy of D*, a generous Kalayaan batch-mate of mine.

Coffee, btw, is not the only expensive ordinary product in Manila. The list includes ice cream, burgers, steaks, soaps, perfumes, and perhaps every other item known to modern man. Whatever product that can be sold for pits in Iligan can be sold for diamond dust in Manila. Whatever also that product may feel like when it’s first used, it will eventually become bland and tasteless in the future.
Yet strangely, people do buy the expensive stuff as opposed to the cheaper ones. I can understand them if their main priority in buying expensive goods is product quality. Yet I fail to see the point on why they would buy those stuff for altogether different reasons. Do they even know what the word S-A-V-E* means?
I must admit that I was tempted to enjoy the pricey luxuries of Manila. I could afford many of the usual Yuppie luxury fare. Yet I know that to succumb to that lifestyle is to live and work in Manila, and to abandon my pursuit of medicine. I could easily pay that coin, but I dare not. The price is too expensive for such a fleeting luxury.

*Strangely, despite the credit crunch; people still flock ind droves to malls in Manila.

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A Cross in the Road Part 1

May 27, 2008

Drive around the streets of Northern Mindanao* and you may find wooden crosses supported by rocks.
These are not shrines to obscure Catholic saints nor are they remnants of the Stations of the Cross displayed during the Holy Week. These are in fact analogous to gravestones, except that there are no bodies under them. They only mark the places where someone was killed directly or indirectly**.
These crosses, however, do not just have a memorial function. They also have a spiritual function. They are said to prevent the appearance of a San Telmo, a ghostly fire that is said to form from blood. Filipino folklore and even some** eyewitnesses, if they could be believed, say the San Telmo looks like a floating fireball. Although San Telmo can be literally translated to English as St. Elmo’s Fire, its use in Filipino vocabulary bears no resemblance to that weather phenomenon. Instead, it bears more resemblance or it could be the same thing as the Will O’ the Wisp.
These crosses are rarely removed from the road. Some of them may stand on the site of violence for days, of which the responsibility of removing them was left to nature. Others, which are placed in sites of heavy traffic are routinely removed. The general rule for removing these crosses seem to be, “The longer it is there, the better everything will be.”
After all who would want to do a legitimate but almost sacrilegious act of dismantling a cross? Who would want to remove its memorial function for onlookers and spiritual function against the San Telmo?

*I am not sure if this kind of cross can be seen in other parts of the Philippines. I never saw one when I was in Luzon or even Cebu.
**One credible witness said he saw a San Telmo while their bus got stranded near a mountain. He and the other passengers saw a flame descend from the mountain in record time. The flame went to the road, and they saw that it was in the shape of three men, two of whom were carrying the apparently injured third man.

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Leaving Already?

February 24, 2008


For my foreign readers, this is what a jeepney looks like.
Photo taken from: http://www.bohol.ph

Jeepney drivers are probably the best guides one can find in any Philippine city. This should come as no surprise considering that it’s their job to drive people around. Plus they also frequently change routes.
With this in mind, I hailed a jeepney with a vacant front seat. Then I asked the driver, “Is the NBI* still around Palao?”
“Yes,” he answered. “Just walk a few blocks from the market.”
“Thanks,” I said thinking that the conversation was over.
“I once tried to get an NBI clearance,” he continued, “but it turns out I had two driving violations. I almost had a job working abroad, you know.” Filipinos usually can’t travel abroad if they still have uncleared records. This, by the way, can be circumvented by well placed friends, if you know what I mean.
“That’s sad,” I said. “You’d have to have your records cleared by the court.”
“Yeah, but it’s expensive,” he continued, “that’s why I’m still here, driving, and trying to save for them. By the way, do you happen to know how to have them removed?”
By this, he meant illegally of course. I said, “Nahhh. NBI records are in a national database. They’re not like police clearances.**”
Soon we were chatting like old friends. The topic was about going abroad, and it delved into a lot of subtopics under it. He even told me about his retirement plans once he returned after hoarding a decent amount of cash from abroad. Academically, I already knew that the average Filipino wants out of the country as soon as possible. I didn’t know just how desperately so until that conversation. The guy wanted money, and the only way he thought possible to get it was to get out of the country.
Before long, I had to drop off to get to the NBI station. The driver gave me a few last instructions before driving away leaving me to my thoughts. I reasoned that If the average citizen of my country wants to go abroad then there really is something wrong with the way this country is run. Has my country gone down so low that its citizens already consider it as a cage preventing them from living the good life outside it?
My fears were not allayed when I stepped inside the NBI station. Perhaps more than half of those who queued up for clearance received green colored cards, and not yellow colored cards. Green, by the way, is for clearance to travel abroad. Yellow is clearance to work locally.
My people are leaving this land. I’m not justifying them nor am I condoning them. I’m just stating a fact. 8 million of my country’s 80 million citizens are already outside it. More are following. Still more wish to join them, but are prevented because of various reasons. If jeepney drivers are already advising travel abroad, then it must be good advice. After all, they’re supposed to be the best guides around here. Nevertheless, that would be one advice I’ll not be following.

* National Bureau of Investigation
** Don’t ask, I ain’t telling.