I really wanted to share 5 things Manila has taught me:

Kiwis, residents of New Zealand and Australia take so much for granted.  We truly are privileged and although our population is tiny compared to the huge numbers in the Philippines, we have so much to be thankful for!
Here are some photos!

1) TRAFFIC (Click in to see more!)

On a bad traffic day we might be stuck in a queue for an hour on a four lane highway. In Manila its a two lane highway with four vehicles across and it can take you up to 2 hours to get somewhere normally 15 minutes away. Everyone is out to get themselves where they want to go as fast as possible. There’s a frequent use of horns when people are cutting in front of others to change lanes or, because the give way rule is too mainstream, people toot through intersections to warn others not to go. Anyone used to a western way of driving/ road rules should not drive here. You’ll get lost in the maze of streets and be more of a hindrance and a danger to everyone else than anything!

2) CROSSING THE ROAD
I’ve always been a bit lackadaisical about my road crossing. However one has to have 9 lives and quick feet crossing Manila CBD. En masse is the easiest and safest way to cross as traffic will continue to creep up to your heels if your not fast on your feet!  I quote “Cross with confidence!” Stick your hand out towards on coming traffic and say “No!!” (*at your own risk!!)

3)MALLS
If you want to talk big in the mall world how bout 5 floors 3 buildings each and a couple of blocks a piece? We were there five hours only covered two floors. That’s not visiting each floor either. The food court is the size a football field, literally!  There is almost a mall in every suburb, and a giant one at that. Think a mall in Newton, a mall in Grey Lynn, a mall in Western Springs!

4) SECURITY
In Manila there is security everywhere. When I say everywhere I mean it. Even Starbucks had a guard equipped with his own hand gun. Malls have a guard at almost every corner, and roadside shops pretty much have one each. The condo where we are staying has two guards on each entry/exit and throughout the building there’s roaming un-armed security. The main entrances to malls are guarded outside with men in dark blue uniforms carrying large shot-guns across them and highlighter orange reflective security identification. Inside the malls the security are dressed in black perfectly fitted trousers, shiny black shoes and white dress shirts tightly tailored in at the waist. Emblems and badges of the company, country and rank decorate their collars and lapels. Each wears a stiff but official hat with a peaked brim shading their stern proud faces.
Roads have similarly uniformed men at every corner, sometimes in multiples for each multiply crammed direction on the road. Additionally they each have a loud, very piercing whistle and ‘hand’ glove. The whistle encourages traffic to keep going or stop and the ‘hand’ is literally that. An oversized hand shape worn by the traffic directors, one side fluorescent yellow and the other orange which also lights up at night to be seen and direct the endless streams of cars, buses and jeeps!

5) SOUL
Often Manila gets looked at or stereotyped as a big dirty city by westerners who know nothing of its rich history and the diversity of its culture. I challenge anyone who says its city with no soul to look past the inside of a mall or step outside of the clean-faced business district and visit the real Manila.  We went to Intramuros the original heart of Manila city yesterday, to see what still remained of the city that Theocracy built. We were taken on the “Walk this way” tour by the infamous cultural activist Carlos Celdran. Theatrical and humorous we were also able to hear about the Philippines past that no one would normally hear about. Spain came with friars, build six churches and a cathedral and taught the people the catholic faith. When Spain fell however the Philippines were sold along with a number of other colonies to The United States of America for $20,000,000. Can you believe that? With that came the introduction of schools for everyone and American English being taught, where as Spanish had previously only been the language of the few wealthy and educated. With the English language came technology, architecture and soon Manila became the “pearl of the pacific”. A metropolitan decompression city between the rest of Asia and America. A modern city with an exotic flavour. Then the war came. Col. Douglas McArthur, the man sent by America to protect the Philippines fled the country as the Japanese invaded. Unfortunately, these peaceful people were left defenceless  History in the Philippines recalls Col. McArthur saying “I shall return” when he left the country. Of course, the colonel made good on his promise to save the country. As the Americans start to take back the Philippines the Japanese were ordered, by the way of the sword, to take their lives as well as the lives of the people who they saw were beneath them. To save the Philippines the colonel saw what he must have thought as the best plan in the world. Bomb Manila to kill the Japs. By doing so they killed a large amount of Japanese soldiers but at the same time killing hundreds of thousands of people.   Although the city has its scars, I see its heart still beating strong. Family units or communities are tightly knit and take utmost importance in life.  Despite any hardship a Filipino always has smiles on their faces and a sense of humour. They have soul!

Have a Happy New Year for 2013!!

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