Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Vacation In Manila: Day 1

So I'm on vacation right now in Manila. It's just a local trip, but it is one plane trip away from my city. This isn't my first time here... heck, I lived here for two months back when I was reviewing for the bar exams (which I failed, before you ask)

The trip started out on the wrong foot, really... and ironically, the first mishap would set the tone for the other untoward incidents for the remainder of the day -- that of unprofessionalism. Our flight was scheduled for an 11:15 AM departure today, so we had called a local taxi business called "Light of Glory" a day before the flight to hire one of their taxis to take us to the airport by 8:30 AM so that we'd have plenty of time to get things in order at the airport. Come at 8:15, the taxi service hadn't called nor had their taxi arrived. We had to call the ourselves and guess what? The operator said that there were no available units at this moment but they'd have one fetch us within 3-5 minutes. So anywayz, come 8:25, we gave them another call and this time, the same operator says that there really are no available taxi units at this time because all their taxis were "pulling out" really fast. So anywayz, we told them that this is an internal business process and had nothing to do with us, the client. All that we know is that we had scheduled a pick-up at this time with 24 hours notice to them and they failed to comply.

With that aside, we found a free taxi nearby who agreed to take us to the airport for pretty much the same rate as Light of Glory. We arrived at the airport at around 9:50 AM -- still plenty of time to check in our luggage and even have a light snack at one of the restaurants at the lounge area.

Our plane finally departed at around 11:20 AM. A little bit late -- but quite acceptable. The pilot announced that we were making our final descent into Manila at around 11:45 AM, which was actually earlier than the estimated arrival date of 12:20 PM. Unfortunately, probably due to runway congestion, the actual touchdown came at 12:41. 


No mistaking these pieces of luggage
Upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, we found our check-in luggage pretty easily (because who else would use bags like these?) and then boarded a bus which took us to within walking distance of our hotel. We checked in at just a little bit after 2. We were to meet with my aunt a little bit later, but we had lunch inside a KFC at Metropoint Mall, which was just right next to the hotel.

I had a bit of trouble setting up the wifi for my laptop and had to ask help from the IT personnel at the hotel, so we somehow made it just in time for rush hour at the train station (MRT). I have to say, the MRT has really degraded quite a bit since I was last here just about 3 years ago. Back then, the air-conditioning was pretty good even though it did get a bit overcrowded. Right now though, it took over 30 minutes to get from the last point of the southern station (EDSA/TAFT Avenue where our hotel is located) to the last point of the northern station (North Avenue which is where the Trinoma mall where we were to meet my aunt was waiting.), the air-conditioning is almost nonexistent and they don't even announce the names of each station clearly at each stop -- aside from the fact that there are almost no signages.

Oh yeah! Project Mirai DX GET!
Anyway, after meeting up with my aunt, I finally got my physical copy of Project Mirai DX at Datablitz... and it comes with a lanyard too!
My mother and aunt
After that, my mother couldn't decide on a restaurant at Trinoma Mall, so we crossed over to SM North where my aunt suggested that we try Burgoo... which was a great idea since they had crayons and a paper tablecloth for the kid... I'm a big kid, ok?
lordcloudx was here

So after a really filling but delicious dinner, it was time to go back to the hotel, but the train stations were already closed at this time... now here's where we were treated to another spot of "Filipino Professionalism." At the taxi waiting area, the taxis were acting all high and mighty and choosing which clients they'd allow to ride. They favored people whose destinations were only a short distance away. If you wanted to travel a longer distance, they'd either outright refuse or demand that you pay them extra... beyond what was due to them on their taxi meters.

Well, we finally got a taxi who agreed to a sort of reasonable settlement after about 45 minutes... but I have to say, the elderly woman and her family who were also hailing taxis right next to us had it worse. I have some video segments of how these taxi drivers were behaving.

We had a nice chat with the taxi driver on the way to the hotel and I was actually already quite pissed off at this point and thought of him as some desperate, unprofessional, money-hungry boor -- and I probably wouldn't be wrong here, but talking to him did help give me a little bit more perspective as to his predicament -- and probably that of a lot of other taxi drivers and other people living in this huge city of extreme poverty and extreme affluence.

So basically, our taxi driver was originally from my City, Iloilo, but his family moved here when he was 10. He eventually became a taxi driver, but he just rents the car that he's using via a "boundary system." He has a wife and three kids and he speaks my language and a few other Filipino dialects well. He obviously can't earn enough from being a driver, so he sells herbal supplements, which he bought from some company's starter kit on the side for an amount that I would willingly spend to buy a new PS Vita. From the way he said it, this investment was a make or break deal for him... but he did break even within the first month... fortunately for him. He also buys and sells merchandise from the flea markets of Manila to the more remote provinces of Luzon whenever he can.

video


Now his story is most likely a pack of half-truths and perhaps a few plain lies, but I did catch the sincerity in the way he told his story of "working hard" and while I had already prejudged him for asking for extra compensation as soon as we boarded the taxi, I could sort of see things his way and perhaps understand, just a bit, just why he'd be somewhat unprofessional and not all straight and narrow in his work as a taxi driver. It's easy to say that we should always do the right thing no matter what the circumstance, but then again, it's usually the people from the privileged class who have never been through what the hardworking, poorly-compensated average Joe has to go through on a daily basis.

Personally, I know I've never worked as hard as this taxi driver in my entire life -- and I certainly hope I never have to and his situation is not even that bad. The sad reality is that his story is probably very common all throughout this city and while I've spoken of contrasts in Iloilo City before, the contrast in the rift between the rich and the not-so-rich is really quite pronounced here in Manila with its tall skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and resorts, sportscars all while other people live in makeshift houses made out of scrap plywood and rusted roofing and resort to begging or sifting through garbage to earn a little bit of cash to feed themselves.

Anyway, that tops off the first day of my vacation in Manila.




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