I am not ashamed to say that I love the Philippines. Nowhere else that I have ever visited manages to capture so much of humanity’s amazing variety. It’s an incredible place and I am so lucky to have found it. This is a selection of pictures from that trip. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
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Makati and Greenhills, Manila 2015. Makati is definitely one of the nicer areas of Manila, and it also happened to be where I had to go to do visa renewals back then. Both Makati and Greenhills are well known for ladyboys after dark, but during the day, not so much. Still a fair smattering of eye candy. Greenhills is basically a posh mall with a plaza and landscaped gardens and is very pleasant.
Manila is huge. Apart from Manila itself, the conurbation of Metro Manila includes other cities that would themselves be enormous by any other measure: Makati, Pasig, Quezon, Cavite, and others. So transport is a major part of Manila life. But this is Asia, and unlike Europe, there is no organised public transport. There are no service buses, no trams or metro systems oganised by local government. Everything is run privately, and the sheer amount of private transport provision is staggering.
Given that I have not yet see anyone carrying a passenger on his shoulders, and horse-and-cart solutions are reserved for the tourist area of Intramuros, the old part of Manila, the most basic, though not always the cheapest, means of transport is the gloriously named ‘pedicab’. This is a bicycle with a side-car.
The main problem with this solution, leaving aside the thorny moral issue of whether it can be right for a 14-stone Scotsman and an admittedly much lighter Filipina to be push-biked around by a sweating 9-stone Pinoy, is the complete lack of suspension on these contraptions. Since the roads in Manila resemble the Somme after a barrage, this means a bone-jarring ride that risks lumbar impaction.
I have just been to the Bureau of Immigration Visa Extension Office in Makati. I have to do this once every two months, for the economy of the Philippines.
My papers are in and my money has been paid, but for unknown reasons, they’re not handing the passports with the new visas out yet. I have plans for the afternoon so will have to come back on Tuesday. I sigh and decide to get a beer and some food. I had no plans, then, to meet baklas.
Baklas, to let you know, are the local ersion of the ubiquitous ladyboy, the transwomen found all over southeast Asia, under different names. They are highly feminised males who live as women and seek straight men for partners. They are often as beautiful as natal women — or more so.
I head for Market! Market! in Taguig. It’s my favourite mall in Manila by far, partly because half of it is actually outside. Unlike some malls, there are plenty of beer-bars and small restos too, serving a myriad array of meals in price bands to suit any bakla’s pocket, as they say. So I indulge in a taxi — 105 pesos — and, once I’m there, head for the bars at the back, near the van depot. I know from experience that these are good and cheap and so, attract locals — including baklas.