Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 2 (Part 1)

Dateline : 3rd Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.
My second day in Manila started quite early at 7:45am. I slept OK for most of the night but was a bit disoriented for a moment when I woke up that morning. I guess that I’m just not used to sleeping in a bigger bed then what I’m used to. Since the group didn’t make plans what they wanted to do in the morning, I decide to explore the streets surrounding the hotel on my own. After a quick shower, which wasn’t hot since the water heater in my bathroom doesn’t seem to be working properly, and a simple breakfast of instant oatmeal later, I left a message to the others of my group that I will be seeing them later at 11am in the lobby. Once that’s all settled, I took my trusty camera and flipped a coin on which direction to walk to.

I started to walk up Adriatico St. Pedro Gil street, past the Robinson’s Place shopping mall that was still preparing to open for the day and found myself in a new area that I could not see from the hotel room that I was staying in. As I walked in that area, I saw people either going home after their night’s activities or just starting to go out for the day. Some looked bright-eyed and bushy tailed while some others looked really worse for wear. Some, who might be working the stores that I passed, called out to me in Tagalog thinking that I’m a local before I told them that I don’t understand their lingo. I was so immersed in my surroundings that I forgotten to take any pictures of the places that I passed.

The other thing that I noticed was the number of homeless people, including little children, in the area. It’s not that we don’t have it in Malaysia but somehow I’ve always kind of ignored them back home. In Manila, I noticed them more readily because they were part of the surroundings that I was observing. Some really looked pitiful especially when they are children who shouldn’t have to be begging on the streets at such a young age. It’s hard not to want to give them something but I know that wouldn’t be wise as they warned against it in the guidebooks. I’m just grateful that they didn’t continue to pester me once I politely declined to give them anything since I could never decide what’s best to do when I’m in that situation. On one hand, I want to help them in someway that I can but on the other, I don’t want to encourage them to continue begging on the street from strangers.

Further up the road, I passed several buildings that look quite well worn with age. Coming from KL, it was quite strange to see almost no new buildings or construction happening in one stretch of road. As I walked down the narrow pavements, I began to realize how much history these buildings must have witnessed throughout the years as they stood there almost unchanging. It was unfortunate that some of the buildings were aging less gracefully than some of the others in the area. The feeling that I got while seeing these buildings was that while they were part of the heritage of that particular section of Manila, no one was really funding much of the upkeep and maintenance of the area.

I continued my walk past what I think was the St Paul College and the nearby National Institute of Science and Technology. I didn’t see a lot of students around so I assume that they also have the weekends off the same as college students in Malaysia. I did notice the higher level of security at the gates of both places than I’ve seen in similar institutions in Malaysia. Moving on, I walked down more college buildings until I hit the end of the block as Pedro Gill St. turned into Taft Ave. I could see the elevated train track which I assumed for Manila’s LRT system but I could not figure out how people got to the station. Taft Ave was a big multilane road and I could not see any pedestrian crossings to get to the station that was in the middle of the avenue. I could have just be standing at the wrong spot at the time to see the way to the station.
(Walking alone through a unfamiliar neighborhood never felt so much fun - Gen. M. Malvar St)

Since I could no longer walk down the road, I turned right along Taft Ave and walked down the block. Again, I was so immersed in the sights that I totally forgot that I had a camera with me. There was one gas station in particular that had the petrol hoses hanging from the roof of the station instead of individual filling stations like they have in Malaysia. People would pull down on the hoses to fill up their cars but I didn’t see how they would punch in how much gas they needed. I guess that they had to walked up to the station window and pay for how much gas they wanted but still seeing those hoses hanging in the air like that was a novelty sight for me. Looking back, I wished that I took a snapshot of that gas station but then again who in their right might would be going around snapping pictures of gas stations.

Not wanting to stray too far from the hotel, I decided to turn right again at the end on the block that I was walking around and found myself walking though a quiet neighborhood on Gen. M. Malvar St. I think it was a residential area since I don’t see as many shops around like I did in Mabini St the day before. One thing that I noticed about the area here is that while there was the smell of decay in the air, you don’t really see mounds rubbish around on the streets like you do in some back alleys in KL. There was also a marked lack of open sewers which made walking the pavements without the risk of falling in to a monsoon drain much easier here.

It was at this point when I thought that I had gotten myself lost. I could not see any of the landmarks that I was expecting to see from my walk earlier. I’ve also misjudged how wide a block could be since it was not something that was common in KL. The map that I had was quite general and didn’t offer real details in terms of landmark that I could use to reorient myself. After letting the momentary panic attack pass me by, I decided to just continue in the direction that I was already walking and hope that I can find my bearings again once I hit the end of the road.

As I walked pass the houses, I began to feel excited that I’m walking through an area that I don’t see many tourists like me past through. It was as if I had a whole part of town for me to explore alone. I passed through what I thought was a high school with some children hanging around outside the gate who smiled at me as I walked by. I also saw a security guard stopping the few cars that was on that road to let 2 old nuns cross the road which is something that I personally have never seen before. I walked pass kitchen windows were the occupants were cooking breakfast that added to the smells of that street. My head was telling me that I was still lost but I was enjoying the new sights and smells to give it much thought.

Eventually, I reached the end of the road and saw a building that I thought I recognized from yesterday. Sure enough, it was the Ramon Magsaysay building that I remembered from trip to Manila Bay on the previous day. I remembered the building quite distinctly because it had a fairly unique art deco look to it and the name was one of the many Filipino presidents that I remembered reading about in my history classes. Once I found this building, I knew exactly where I was and how I would be able to get back to the hotel. Of course being this close to the Baywalk, there was no reason for me not to cross the busy Roxas Ave and see how the day time crowd was at Manila Bay.

(The Ramon Magsaysay Center which became the landmark I used to find my way back)
Next installment : Manila Bay in the morning.

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