Saturday, March 26, 2005

Memories of Manila

Memories of Manila

I'm blogging this from my favourite halfway stop, Changi airport, on my way to Manila. It would probably appear as if I had purposely planned to go to Manila for the Easter weekend, but when I made my appointment a couple of weeks back, this coming week is the only time I could fit into my calendar. Flight was difficult to get, so I had to fly out today, in time for Easter Sunday tomorrow.

I didn't mind because I haven't been to Manila for almost 5 years and I kind of miss the place. Manila is another one of those congested and polluted Third World cities which I am particularly fond of.

Now it looks like I've chosen the most dangerous time to go to the Philippines. Every Western embassy seems to be issuing out alerts, warning against travel to the country. Today's news tells of the Philippines military foiling a bombing plot targetted over Easter.

Well, I suppose having lived in Indonesia for over 2 years, I'm quite used to "living dangerously". Manila is very similar to Jakarta in many ways--lots of slums, horrendous traffic, corrupt officials and rich Chinese businesses. The Mel Gibson movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" was actually filmed in the Philippines. Some of the "Indonesians" in the movie actually speak with a noticeable Tagalog accent.

But I think Manila is a more dangerous city than Jakarta. Unlike in Jakarta, the Abu Sayyaf and JI terrorists don't only target bules or Mat Salleh places, here every target--LRTs, buses and malls--is a legitimate one for them. Kidnappings are frequent occurences. I guess I'll have to be extra careful.

Despite all that, I'm actually more fond of Manila than Bangkok. The Spanish and Catholic influence there makes it a more romantic city--it feels a bit like being in a South American banana republic. But it has been many years since my last visit; I'm not sure whether it's still the same. I'll have a weekend to find out.

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