Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sparks' take on Manila, the Philippines.

This city is one which you either love or hate. For those accustomed to systematic living will find it hard to navigate around Manila's organised chaos without the occasional 'deer caught in head light' moments. An experience with much frustration of course. On the other hand, amidst the chaotic drama of this city, it offers its vibrant spirit that's so flavourful, it's hard not to pause and take delight in everything that doesn't make sense to us, foreigners. In Manila, you'll be overwhelmed by your senses where the air is heavy, the traffic is heavy and the taste of almost anything is heavy. But once bitten, you'll go home satisfied, that I promise.

For the past three days, I've been trying to get an orientation of Makati and its surrounding frenzied streets and traffic (which I still can't) and what started out as frustration soon became a sense of appreciation of the local way of life. Amidst their hustle and bustle, the locals do make time to chat with you. Almost everyone is willing to share a conversation if you take time to slow down, break down some personal guard and strike one. But of course, caution to lady travellers, sometimes some people may seem a little too friendly. But soon, you'd realize that it's all good fun and no harm intended. Filipinos are just a bunch of warm friendly people who don't just talk about themselves. They swear by the fundamentals of communication which is to listen and soon, they'll be drawing out all sorts of information from you - where you're from, what you do, how old are you, if you're single, why you're single and whoa! That's when I pull the handbrake and make a U-turn of the conversation. Ah but of course, if you're comfortable with it, why not? :) Filipinos are not your typical Asian type who are generally reserved and superficial at first introduction. I'm telling you, these people really want to get to know you!

In this city, like home, you witness a huge disparity of upper, middle and lower income groups. As usual, middle-upper areas pose no satisfaction to the inquisitive mind because like everywhere else in the world, this group has the most clockwork habit and consumes pretty much the same culture. What really fascinates me is the lower-middle areas where you get to see a lot more action and the local way of life that's still being shaped by traditions.

The foods are array although some require one to be a little more like Braveheart to attempt mastication of unknown animal parts like the Balut and some innards, pig's blood sort of porridge, etc. I am no Braveheart, so most unfortunately, I spent a lot of my time having more Italian than I normally would back home. Except for this afternoon's BBQ pork satay sticks which were an amazingly mouthful of satisfaction, juicy and grilled to perfection. Local sweet sins like the Ube (purple yam paste) and Cassava (creme brulee sort of cake) are such delight to those who possess a sweet tooth and a 'candied' bloodstream. Next time, I tell myself, I shall savor more. The Salcedo Market on Leviste Street in Makati is certainly a good place to start with many stores not only offering taste samples but come with proud chefs and owners who would unselfishly educate you on the origins of their dish, only if you care to ask.

To understand the local culture and this country more, you'll definitely have to visit the Ayala Museum that houses centuries old artifact as well as an extremely well-designed, intricate and systematic diorama that tells the story of the Philippines from the days of her first men till modern day independence. If you are a school-going Filipino and can't seem to hack the history book, maybe you should take a visit here. You'll pass your test, I promise. This country that has so much historical influence from the Spanish, Americans, British and Japanese, has certainly gave birth to a hybrid culture that might be familiar to some but made it uniquely and entirely the Philippines'. Even by features, I think Filipino men and women have some of the most beautiful and exotic features that are alien to many Asians. Their English somehow 'sings' with a peculiar , almost 'Spanish-y' sort of accent. Blessed with a natural glow and bronze tan, no wonder they are known as the Latino and Latina of the East!

As my short journey ends, I thought about it and I'll stay true to what I said to Jeremie, Joey, Beth and a whole bunch of good people I met last night. I'll definitely be back. Don't miss me too much and see you in Boracay ;)

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