Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Finally weekend

Posted by Monica Johansen on July 3, 2009

It is Friday evening, and I have finished my main project here in Manila. Next week I am working a couple of days on site for a different customer before I fly back to Singapore, and hopefully everything will go smoothly.

The back yard of the customer office

The back yard of the customer office

It has been a great week. First of all, the working hours are shorter here than in Singapore, and it has been very nice to be able to go back to the hotel while it is still daylight and have time to relax and look around in the city. Secondly, the people here are very nice, and pretty much everyone can speak English. One of the hotel guards is always smiling and waiving in the morning when I come down for breakfast, and he always looks happy to see me when I get back in the afternoon. Today I asked him if he always is happy, and he laughed and nodded. It is really nice to feel welcome when you come “home”, even if it is only a hotel and the people are paid to make sure you have a nice stay.

Yesterday evening I went out for dinner with some guys from the reseller I am working with. We went to a place called Greenbelt Park, which is a sort of mall surrounding a park area and with lots of plants everywhere, and I recognized the place from the first time I was in Manila, in June 2007. Back then the mall was not completed yet, but I went for a walk in the park and had a drink on one of the many cafes there. It was fun to finally see the place completed. I find that Manila, or more correctly Makati City, is very green, and Greenbelt Park is a typical example of one of these green lungs in the city.

On the way back to the hotel I asked my work mates if it would be safe for me to catch a jeepney back to the hotel. They don’t look very comfortable, but I have always wanted to try it just for the experience. However, my work mates replied “for locals it is safe, but maybe not for you”. Hence, I decided to take a cab instead and make sure I made it back to the hotel safely.

The train in Manila

On the train in Manila

When I travel and work in other countries I usually prefer to live as similar to the locals as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of places in Asia are not very safe for white people, so I have to take some precautions, but to be a little adventurous this week I decided to take the train from the office and back to the hotel. Besides, the traffic is usually so bad that taking the train is a lot faster than going by taxi. One of the younger guys I am working with here was going back on the same train, so he accompanied me to make sure I didn’t get lost. One of the interesting things about the train in Manila is that they have carriages for women only. The reason is that the train usually gets very crowded, and apparently some women have complained about men making inappropriate physical contact. Luckily the trains were not too crowded when we left the office today, so my work mate and I could travel together, and he ensured that I got off at the right station.

Two of my colleagues from Singapore were supposed be here with me this week, but since the Philippines were listed as a high risk H1N1 country they canceled the trip. Frankly, I am not afraid of a little flu, and even if I should end up getting sick the virus has a relatively low mortality rate. Hence, I decided that the threat is not severe enough to miss a great travel opportunity. Since I am here over the weekend I have booked a trip to the island of Bohol, which is a little wildlife paradise. I am flying out first thing tomorrow morning, and I will be back in Manila on Sunday afternoon. Not the longest holiday, but at least I will get out of the city for a little while.


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