Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Back in the Philippines

Posted by Monica Johansen on October 27, 2008

This week I am working in Manila. The Philippines in an interesting place, and I find it rather different from the other Southeast Asian countries. As opposed to many other Asians, the people in the Philippines don’t seem to have anything against Caucasians, and they are always very friendly. Sometimes when I walk on the street they wave at me with a huge smile and shout “Americano!”. I get the impression that they in general are very impressed by the Americans, and their English accent is closer to American than is the case with other countries in this region. The Americans used to have a military base here, and I suppose that is the main reason.

Local transportation

Local transportation

The security in Manila is extensive. Every time you enter a hotel or an office building you have to go through a security counter where they search or screen your bags, and if you arrive by taxi the guards will search the car before they allow you through the gates. The first time I was here it felt a bit over the top, but after a while you tend to get used to it. Besides, it has been unstable in certain parts of the country, which by the way is also the case with Indonesia where the procedures are very similar, and at the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry.

When I am working in Manila I am mostly based in the business district, Makati. Makati is a very safe area, and I can walk around on the street alone without being hassled by anyone, other than complete strangers smiling and saying hello because they are fascinated by white people. But there are other more dangerous parts of Manila, which I have only visited by car, and where the driver advised me not to open the door. The first time I was here, in May 2007, I wanted to see the poor areas, and my driver and guide took me to a shanty town near one of the garbage dumps where kids where looking for stuff to eat and sell. It was quite a devastating sight, and it makes you appreciate living in a wealthy country. But I think it is important to see all sides of a country, not only the glorious business parts.

Poor area

The slums

From a business perspective, I find that the locals are mostly quite laid back. Time is not so important, and meetings tend to start much later than scheduled. With regards to business outfits, most people I have worked with are wearing the typical straight, short-sleeve, round collar shirt which they don’t tuck into their pants. And sometimes the shirts are decorated with nice embroidery. The shirts look very comfortable, and it is a smart way to dress in this climate.

A local guy I worked with here a while ago told me that there is a saying that the reason the people in the Philippines are so happy is because they eat a lot of chocolate. I am not sure if it is true, but the people are nice and they do indeed enjoy sweets. I have a sweet tooth too, so I don’t mind, and I tend to hang around the dessert table in the hotels here at dinner time. The best dessert I have ever had here was mango ice cream and mango sorbet with fresh mango and mango sauce topped with pieces of white chocolate. Yummy!

I have been thinking about extending my stay with one day, and go down to the Taal Volcano and Lake, which is about 50km south of Manila. However, we are still in the end of the wet season, and although it doesn’t rain all the time it tends to rain quite heavily when it starts. Hence, I might delay my volcano visit a couple of months when the wet season is over.


4 Responses to “Back in the Philippines”

  1. Nina said

    Den desserten hørtes god ut 🙂 Du er heldig som får oppleve så mye Monica!

  2. putanga said

    Desserten var nam nam! Jeg tok bilde av den faktisk. Jeg elsker jo mango, og det er sjelden jeg får tak i maken. 🙂

  3. lordportico said

    Cool. I’m glad you like it here. I think we’re generally friendly because we have a sort of colonial mentality going for us. And as a race, we are genetically hospitable, I think.

  4. maniladude said

    I created this detailed road map of Metro Manila. Hope someone finds it useful. http://manilaroadmap.com/

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