Philippines | the lost blog posts
I’ve been to the Philippines twice now. I didn’t purposely try to keep it a secret. It’s not like the Philippines is shrouded in mystery or enveloped by a dark bubble with no light, life or visual stimulation. It’s exactly the opposite actually. The people are very friendly, the architecture is dichotomous and the country has quite an amazing, albeit tumultuous history.
Apparently the beaches are spectacular but, to be honest, I didn’t spend any time on one. As a matter of fact, I spent the majority of the time in Manila. What I do know is that Manila is very crowded. Traffic is horrendous.
My first visit was three years ago when my husband had to go there on business. I was pretty adamant that it was necessary for me to go with him. Who doesn’t want to travel and see the world? I already knew that it wasn’t going to be a beach holiday. So I set my sights on main attractions. Sitting in traffic wasn’t supposed to be one of them but it was the one I spent most of my time in.
When I was able to get from point A to point B, I found myself in The Walled City of Intramuros. Intramuros (Spanish for “within the walls”) is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. The walls were built in 1590… 1590! to protect the city from foreign invasion. *Mind boggled*
Once I was able to pull myself together from the frustrating car ride, I found Intramuros to be quite quaint and eclectic. The streets were narrow and the old buildings that had actually survived the multitude of historical bombings were quite fascinating. But I didn’t find any coffee shops. I’ll leave that to my own ineptitude for direction or observation in my post-traumatic traffic disorientation (PTTD).
On another excursion, my main goal was to stay off the roads and decided to take a long boat ride to see Corregidor Island. During World War II, Corregidor was used as a U.S. Army Coast Artillery position defending the entrance to Manila and played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces.
I went on a guided tour and was in awe of the surroundings. Other than the lush, green foliage and large leafy trees, nothing has changed on this island since the battle of Corregidor in 1942. All the buildings lay torn apart on the ground as they had since being bombed. Rebar and concrete lay tangled, twisted and splintered on the ground, jutting in all directions. Malinta Tunnel was also magnificent in it’s size and structure as well as the magnitude of its role in the war.
Trying to imagine what these soldiers endured is beyond scope or understanding; especially when you’re strolling leisurely on lush green grass, listening to soothing birdsong and feeling a gentle breeze on your skin in the exact same spot where others had seen only terror, atrocity and apocalyptic destruction.
My only regret is that I didn’t do any research of these areas beforehand so I didn’t have a clear picture or understanding of where to go, what to see or the actual significance of what I was seeing at the time. I must stress, that if anyone is going to Manila (or anywhere in Philippines) a read through the history of this country is highly recommended! If you’re not into several hours of laborious history lessons then I’ve provided (more than) a few main facts:
- The Philippines was named in honor of King Philip II of Spain
- The Philippines has approximately 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi.) of land area and is spread over 7,107 islands.
- This gives the country 36,289 kilometers (22,549 mi.) of coastline and puts the Philippines at fifth place for the longest discontinuous coastline in the world
- The Philippines’ location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons
- abundant natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity
- The national symbol of the Philippines is the Philippine, or monkey-eating, eagle
- The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of Hispanic colonization
- The Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years
- 1898 – Spanish-American war. US ceded ownership over The Philippines
- 1899–1902 – Philippine-American war.
- 1902 – “Philippine Organic Act”. Filipinos were initially given very limited self-government
- 1946, following World War II and the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, the United States granted independence through the Treaty of Manila
- The Philippines is the world’s leading producer of coconuts, having produced 19.5 million tons of the fruit in 2010
- predominantly Christian with 90% of the population practicing some mode of Christianity, the vast majority being Roman Catholic
- The positioning of the Philippine flag’s colours is quite indicative. If it is flown with the red stripe on top, the nation is in a state of war. In peacetime, the blue is on top
- The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built about 2,000 years ago
- After the Second World War, the Philippine jeepney was borne out of the G.I. Jeeps American soldiers brought to the country in the 1940s
- Manila, the capital of the Philippines is considered the world’s most densely populated city in the world. With a population of 1,660,714 and an area of just 24 square miles (38.55 square km), it has a population density of 55,446 people per square mile (43,079 people per square km) with faster growth than any other east Asian country
If you’ve read this far (and if you have I applaud you for making your way through a tedious point-by-point list of boring facts without throwing your hands in the air, rolling your eyes and x-ing out of my blog posthaste), you may be asking, ‘so what about your second trip?’
Well let me tell you….
Again, I had accompanied my husband on a business trip not more than 8 months ago. I considered doing the Mount Pinatubo hike. It sounded absolutely brilliant and exactly what I love to do! A two hour scenic trek to the crater of an active volcano! Sounds awesome! To get there it is a 3 hour car ride with an early morning pick up at the hotel – get this… at 2am. 2am! In the morning! Once you arrive at the base, you have another 2-hour 4×4 ride. Then a boat ride. And THEN you get to hike for 2 hours on the gorgeous scenic volcano. That’s just the one way! … uh uh. Not doing it. Nope. I’m too old for that shit.
I also considered the Mount Taal excursion; for about a second. After researching Mount Pinatubo I was already too exhausted to even delve into the Mount Taal options and called it quits on the ‘Things To Do’.
So, other than shopping at one of the 3 largest malls in Southeast Asia, I wiled away my hours across the street at our hotel – The Fairmont Makati. I LOVED the gym! It was so well-equipped that I was excitedly drawn to it and actually had some of my best workouts! I relaxed by the pool with a good book and was spoiled rotten by the staff (who I now consider to be the best in the industry anywhere in the universe ever!).
So my second visit may not have been exciting to those reading this. But it was the best time I’ve had in Manila. Next time I go to the Philippines, I won’t be stepping foot out of Manila airport other than catching the connecting flight to some other quiet, luxurious, beachy Philippine island.
To hell with that traffic!