Manila Philippines August 2006


This was my first visit to the Philippines, I was not sure at first how I felt about it.  I still feel that I formed no truly distinct impressions on all fronts.  However, I'm not sure you can expect to be able to do so in a six day visit.  First of all the people for the most part are friendly, warm, genuine and truly appealing on an emotional level.  I did ask my friend Beth who was kind enough to show me around "Why are these people so damned happy?"  They really do seem to have an immense capacity for joy that is different somehow from what I experience in India.  For instance, one day while shopping in Balik Bayan, a big Philippino craft shop, the employees just sort of kept bursting into song in unison as different songs came on the sound system.  People in India love to sing and love music but catch all the employees at Cottage Industries here in India joining into a sing-along whilst working?  I think not.  We were one night treated to a cultural program of Philippino song and dance and it was the best of it's kind that I've seen anywhere.  There was none of the self conscious "going through the motions" that you so often see in the young people of the ballet folklorico in Houston.  They seemed to generally appreciate their art and convey it in a way full of joy in sound and movement.  At one point they recreated in song and dance an idyllic day in village life and they entered completely into the spirit of the thing, calling out to one another and clapping.


It seemed much much cleaner than India.  That of course is not hard but still, they have a large number of poor in the Manila area but I did not see so much poverty related trash.  Beth and Charlie's neighborhood is clean, felt safe, had wide tree lined avenues with people jogging and walking, large green areas with no animals grazing, no people living on them and with not a single piece of trash on them.  There didn't seem to be that sullen greediness that seems to overtake much of life in India.  There was the same "hello madame" from shopkeepers but not in such a pushy and relentless manner.  Manila proper is frankly not much to look at.  Our hotel while comfortable was nothing I felt the need to photograph and the view from the restaurant atop the hotel was pretty only at night.  During the day it was fairly bleak.  Manila seems full of projects that used to be and have fallen into disuse or almost were or are going to be.  Once out of the Manila the countryside is beautiful with it's banana trees and pineapple groves.  I enjoyed one aspect of Manila in that the shopping still has plenty of the flavor of the country available but has REAL department stores with employees who are there to help, not there to overwhelm you, be over solicitous or follow you nonstop around the store.  There is plenty of western influence in dining and shopping that is sort of a relief to be around.  They have a lot of the conveniences of the west, large spacious gymnasiums, supermarkets with broad aisles and loads of choices and prices were reasonable.  They have a large problem with stray animals and with the help of Beth P. and her vet we were able to rescue one small kitten who was eking out a pathetic malnourished existence in front of the hotel.  If I could have wished one thing it would have been more vegetarian options available in Philippino food.  Other than fruit the veg option just doesn't exist.  meat is in everything.  Western restaurants seemed to provide plenty of veg options though.

I enjoyed our visit very much and Charlie and Beth gave us a warm welcome and Beth patiently "shopped" me for 3 days running for which I was very grateful and enjoyed very much.  We hit the fakes market at Greenhills where I bought bags and watches and then hit the pearl markets and craft shops the next two days.  I bought a load of beautiful Philippino craft items and if we had more luggage allowance would have brought home more.  The prices were good and they have such beautiful weavings and patterns in baskets, resinware and wood.  There are a few objects that I have my eye on that I had to leave for the future.  I bought loads of pearls for my jewelry making and I found the prices to be fairly good.  I bought some very high quality (more perfect round shape and better luster mean higher quality and price) pink and white pearls.  I also bought some lower quality because for some pieces the ridges and more elliptical shapes add beauty and texture.  I also bought black pearls, seed pearls and natural freshwater pearls.  Anyway, on to the photos.


This was the baby we rescued, such a sweetie and so trusting

in Festival Mall to do some more pearl shopping and hanging with Pikachu

at lunch with Beth P. And Terry


a bridal display at Rustan's Department Store


We took a day trip with Beth P. and Tang the driver up to Tagaytay to Taal Volcano, it was fascinating and beautiful.  The volcano is an island in the middle of a lake and quite green and tropical.  Fissures vent steam from random places in the greenery and rock.  We rode ponies (Mike walked) to the lip of the volcano and the inner sides are also richly green and fertile with a huge lake in the center of the volcano.  I would have loved a swim but we would have had to make a long approach via the lake by boat and then hiked to the lake and we didn't have the time.  The day was cloudy which was good since we didn't have trouble with the heat and it made it very misty and mysterious.

we hire a boat to take us out to the volcanoanother smaller volcanic island

really beautiful views from the lake journey

once on the island we hire ponies and guides in the villageI am not so comfortable on a horse as you can see

steam vents from one of many fissures on the island

Mike takes the long view

Beth and Tang on an outcropthis is the lake in the center of the volcano, there are places where the water is bubbling as the steam vents up from fissures in the bottom of the lake, there is a lot of sulphur as you can see from the picturesthis is a row of steam vents just offshore

a large vent and volcanic rock along shoreBeth and Beth

another steam vent inside the volcano


after the boat ride back to the shore of the big lake, we went to watch the sunset at the People's Park in the Sky, after seeing Mrs. Marcos with Chairman Mao in photos the name of the park is no surprise, the park is quite beautiful but has been let go.  The sunset however was one of the most gorgeous I've ever seen. and there is a chapel at the top of the park that is lovely


Saturday we took a trip out to Marakina, home of all things shoe.  I wanted to see the shoe collection of Imelda Marcos.  I was told that the collection has slowly become something of an embarrassment and has been moved several times further and further out of Manila.  A small portion of it is currently housed in the Shoe Museum in Marakina, a city that lives on shoe manufacture, along with shoes of other notable persons and shoe oddities.  I wasn't supposed to take photos but the guard let me anyway.  Marakina seems to be a great home for folk art as well as we saw 4 giant shoes one of which is supposed to be in the Guinness Book and also other folk art pieces

supposedly the largest shoe in the worldherd of concrete water buffalo

the Shoe Museum

only 200 pairs of Imelda's shoes are on display and they want the rest of the collection but seriously, the museum is so small I'm not sure where they'd put them, there are thousands.  I saw 17 colors in the same shoe.  Some of them are tackarama but some are just gorgeous and all the major designers of the time are represented as well as some not so well known Philippino designers.

she was definitely a beautyher name is in many pairs

here she is with Indira Ghandihere she gets a personal jeep tour of Havana from Castro

there was also a picture of her with an aging Chairman Mao whom she idolized.  Unfortunate.

the scary thing about these is that they look WORNoh to have tried these on

a tree of shoe lasts from ceiling to floor

Mike and his endless quest for fruit

some pretty water plants in a market


I fell in love with the jeepnys though I don't think I'd like to ride in one.  They put me in mind of the lowriders of the states.  They are sort of a cross between a bus and a jeep, they are very cheap public transport and some of them are works of art in the same style as lowriders and vans.  Some of them are super ornate and some very plain, they often carry religious messages, or airbrushed film and music stars.  My favorite are the silver colored ones that look like a cross between Mad Max and the Munsters car.  I was not able to get that many good pictures but here are a few.