Hello all, from the Philippines! The time has really flown by without me noticing, as it is already the beginning of my third week here in Manila. I must say I am starting to like the Philippines a lot; the people here are friendly (for the most part), everyone speaks English, and the wares for sale here are just as cheap as in Thailand. I have noticed a few quirky characteristics about this place though…
During my first week here, every day in the afternoon the electricity went out for several hours. And not just in my building, but in the whole city. I found this incredibly annoying, as my laptop’s puny battery only manages to power my computer through the first hour of these ordeals. Plus, I couldn’t really go out to any stores to do any shopping, as they were all cut off from electricity as well. So, I asked around, and it turns out that these “blackouts” are actually planned so that they are in the middle of the day in order for the city to save money on electricity. Very odd. However, big businesses such as McDonalds can afford to buy their own generators and thus stay open during these times (I’d imagine they make quite a bit of money by doing this, since a lot of people flock to McDonalds to eat and stay cool while the power is out). These daily blackouts have stopped occurring this past week though, so I guess the city has got enough extra duckets in the bank to skip this ritual for a while.
There is a large shopping mall called The Greenbelt near where I live, and it is full of mid to high end shops that attract
people there every day of the week. Much of it is outdoors, and it is kept very clean with security guards at all the entrances (it sort of reminds me of Southpoint, for those who live in NC). I get a good look at the interior of this mall every day, since I actually have to pass through it to get to the gym.
So during these walks of mine, I often notice that even though the mall itself is very nice, the short distance between the mall and my building is completely different. There are stray cats, cockroaches, and little kids begging for money. Just a quick anecdote; I was walking home from the The Greenbelt just yesterday with my friend, and three steps after I exit a little boy comes up to us. He asks for money (or at least I assume that’s what he wanted, the only words coming from his mouth that I could understand were “…please, sir…”). We ignore him and keep walking. This kid followed us barefoot across for a block, and then across the street, and then another block, during which he stepped in a pile of dog droppings because he was so focused on my friend and I. Then he finally gave up.
I think the contrast between the upscale shopping complex and the conditions just outside of it is just crazy. I suppose every major city has good areas and bad areas, but its unusual that in this case these two places are so close together.
One last thing. I know I’m not in Thailand anymore, but I think it is worth mentioning that the country is quite chaotic right now. Well, not the country, mostly just Bangkok. I mentioned the Red Shirts causing riots several posts ago and even included a video I recorded myself. Well now the Red Shirts are gathered in a central part of the city (and there are very, very many of them by the way) and have pretty much stopped many businesses from operating. And the situation is escalating still; my friend who is still in Thailand sent me this video earlier today.
Apparently the Red Shirts are calling for government reform and fresh elections, and the government is pretty much saying “no way”. They’ve even dispatched the military to keep these rioters in check for the time being. Of course I’ll mention it in another post if any more major changes occur in the situation.