Manila is the industrial and commercial capitol of the Philippines, as well as it's governmental center. Here you will find the "nuts and bolts" that make the entire country work. Docks, warehouses and factories dominate the City.
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When I arrived I had my trusty maps running on my phone so I knew how far it was to the Immigration office. The drivers of the taxis and motorellas I saw were not aware of that. The prices asked of me to transport two people two kilometers (1.2 miles) gave me a nosebleed, to say the very least. I received that "fuck you Joe" smile at no extra charge, of course.
At the Immigration office, things went well, mostly because I acted the fool while I was there and flirted with the ladies behind the counters. If it had been my first day in the Philippines; had I assumed my usual "all business" persona, as I would have in the states; if I had not practiced my "Joe skills" I have little doubt the outcome would have been different.
Business accomplished, the city was ours for the remainder of that day, and the next. First thing I noticed was everyone looked at me like I was lunch.
Manila has some super nice malls. It also has many hotels, hawking rooms to rent by the hour on huge signs, out front. The skanks are everywhere, humming on shabu (meth) and ready to roll.
The police in this country shoot hard drug users, and they shoot to kill.
We found an amicable taxi driver, and we were off. Show us the real Manila, said we, and he did. Total gridlock is the norm, in Manila. Absent was the rudeness and infuriating aggression, of Cebu - probably because nobody was going anywhere, anyway. Our driver knew how to get around as well as possible, making use of every back street shortcut in town.
It was not the first, or even the tenth time I experienced the squalor of slums right beside the (relative) opulence, inhabited by those in a position to use the desperately poor people, that surround them. If it will be your first time get ready for a white-knuckle ride, into hell.
Very soon after dark we were safe and sound, back in our hotel room. Right out of nowhere came the most miserable and heart breaking scenario to play out, in my entire experience with the Philippines.
We got hungry in the evening so we ventured, not far into the Manila night. The seven-eleven (yes, even in the Philippines) was surrounded by a herd of homeless, hapless and helpless little kids. The man at the counter told us to give no money to them because their parents would take it from them and use it to buy shabu, or booze.
So we bought ice cream for them. We bought and bought, until that store was almost out. With the tragedy that is life for those poor little kids as a blaze of fire in my mind, I thanked my God for It's many favors for a long time that night.
Manila sucks - plain and simple. But that's from my perspective. If you can look at filthy, hapless, helpless, homeless children and not want to cry, you might like it.