Trip To The Philippines
I am a frequent visitor to Thailand – once or twice a year since 2005, sometimes for 3 months or more (3 times for 6 months). These days it’s cheap from Australia – $650 return on Jetstar which includes a few luxuries.
This year I decided to review my travelling habits – I’m 73 now – time’s running out! The only other countries I have visited in South-East Asia are Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and then only as visits of a week or so during a visa run from Thailand.
Where to go first?
I have a work colleague from long ago living in the Philippines, so I decided this is my first alternative destination – go visit him. He’s a bloke who in his lifetime has made a lot of money but I know he has spent / lost a lot of money as well, so I’m interested as to how his life is panning out these days – in the Philippines for many years and with a wife and child. He’s now 80 years old, what the hell is he doing with a 2½ year old child?
So I decide to visit him. He’s living about an hour or so south-east of Manilla, in the lovely locale of Tagaytay. It’s elevated such that he says there is no need for A/C in his house. OK, I’ll believe that when I see / experience it.
Turns out I have enough Qantas frequent flyer points so the return fare will cost me only $350 (down from full fare $850+, this is an added incentive). This includes a Qantas domestic flight from Melbourne to Sydney, a Qantas flight from Sydney to Manilla, and return is a Jetstar flight from Manilla to Singapore, then an Emirates flight Singapore to Melbourne. That Emirates flight was on an Airbus 380, huge double story plane, fantastic and very roomy. Had to go to Singapore because as soon as you click the frequent flyer button on the website, all the direct flights disappear! Anyway, no probs, got there and back for not much money so no complaints!
Got to Manilla and stayed at a previously booked hotel for 2 nights. Turned out this hotel, in Malate was a no-tell motel (they exist in Bangkok and I suppose all over South-East Asia). I like to stay in the less salubrious parts of cities because 1. it’s cheaper, and 2. it gives a better idea about how governments treat their people. Staying in Malate showed me that the Philippine government doesn’t give a shit about its people. Sorry to say, Malate is a shit-hole.
As an aside I’ll tell a story about how people get screwed by their countrymen big time – but hey, this happens all over the world. In this no-tell hotel room there was, no surprise, a pamphlet offering massage – just call. I called ‘cos I always like a massage, and in due course a lovely lady arrived in my room. The price on the pamphlet was 500/hr. During the massage we chatted, and I ascertained how the 500 was split up. 250 for the hotel. 200 for her agency. 50 for her. So, one hour’s work, $A1.25. Holy shit, ripped off! This is exploitation! I gave her a 250 tip. In hindsight, pathetic really. Useful sure, but why not 1000? That would have made a difference. Even as an Aussie old-age pensioner I can afford $25? No big deal! Felt like a prick.
An interesting aspect of these encounters (there were several) was comparison with a similar situation in Thailand. A private setting in a hotel room, naked with a Thai lady would have meant fxxxing was almost inevitable, and if not then some form of sexual activity. In the Philippines this scenario did not lead to any sexual activity – they (4 women on 4 separate occasions) seemed to think my nether regions must be radioactive and they stayed away in droves! Strange but true! Happy ending? What are they?
Got on a bus in Manilla, bus station chaotic – much more so than Thailand, and arrived at Balibago in Santa Rosa (wonderful names they have there) and met up with my mate. He’s driving a 17-year old Honda. Hmm, he’s struggling, and with his 35-year old woman and child we set off. Quite a drive to his place, all up hill, but still about 5 km down the hill from Tagaytay.
He’d bought a block of land and built a house. Actually, partially built a house, ran out of money before it was finished, but living in it. This was felt most strongly in the fact that he hadn’t the money to buy a water tank and pump. It’s the same as Thailand – every house needs these items due to a less than reliable water supply. At this house town water flowed between 7 and 9 PM (I’m being generous here), so if you don’t have tanks and a pump you’re up shit creek properly!
I’ve read about this type of scenario in Stickman stories (and other sites) for many years and have felt a mixture of sympathy and ‘serves you right you, idiot’. I never expected that I’d find a friend and former colleague of mine that I respected as an intelligent and sensible man in this situation. Seems the little man downstairs still rules the roost no matter what age you are! As I said, he’s 80 now, so had the child when he was 77 years old!
Anyway, I stayed with them for a few weeks but was glad to get away in the end. The child was great, full of hybrid vigour, and more than a match for him and his wife put together. Neither of them had any idea how to bring up a child – both of them rewarded her bad behaviour with treats. OMG.
We travelled to the beach a couple of times and stayed in a resort at Matabungkay, lovely safe beach for families, so I got to see a bit of country that way. Driving in the Philippines seemed less stressful than in Thailand – Philippines drivers are a bit more sensible than Thai drivers I judged, but still have a healthy disregard for rules and regulations. We bought fresh-caught blue fin tuna on the morning of our departure from the resort, later that day at home the wife cooked “tuna adobo” with it – absolutely delicious!
So in summary, I didn’t get to sample much variety in the Philippines, but I can say that the people are on the whole more friendly and approachable than Thai people, especially the males – they are just as friendly as females, certainly not my experience in Thailand. Language is definitely easier than Thailand – but don’t believe the story that all Filipinos speak English – they may have a smattering but don’t necessarily expect a conversation.
I need to go there again and travel around a bit – with 6000+ islands there are awesome beaches, great scenery and interesting cities. My trip was in March this year – didn’t see any rain at all, weather was mild and comfortable. Hotels were on a par price and service wise with Thailand, but travel to other islands has got to be more expensive – you gotta fly there. Robinsons malls were in evidence – presumably the same company as in Thailand.
BTW my mate was correct. No need for a/c in his house. Really lovely climate up there in Tagaytay!
So, next to Thailand in June until August, and as a break for the visa run, Vietnam for 2 weeks. Looking forward to that one!
Sounds like a fun trip. Sad to hear your mate is doing it tough, financially. There are many foreigners like that all over Asia and the sense I get (and it is just that, a sense) is that many foreigners are doing it tough financially in the Philippines. I heard a story recently of a know-it-all professor from California who has been living in some backwater in the deepest, darkest depths of rural Philippines. I’m all for adventure but I could never live like that!
The author cannot be contacted.