October 5th 2015, Manila, Philippines
We arrived around sunset time and I’m watching through the Moroccan motifs grill by the window at the 5th floor, while I’m still in my uniform and with my suitcases. I’m looking at the harbor and at the clouds, the palm trees and the water. I’m full of hope and love.
The Manila Hotel is in Manila Bay and was opened in 1912 to rival the Malacanang Palace – the official residence of the President of the Philippines. I enjoyed my two stays there and I found the magazines in the room and the complementary fruit and chocolates a pleasant touch. I guess Michael Jackson, The Beatles, J. F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway liked it, too.
The hotel was occupied by the Japanese troops during the WWII and set on fire by the same, later during the Battle for the Liberation of Manila. Well, a place filled with history and a great place to be.
The lobby is an opened space where there’s always someone playing the piano, under the huge chandeliers and between the doric columns.
All tables have real flowers beautiful arrangements.
The classical, it will never go out of style.
My room is huge and I feel somehow lonely thinking about …
The locals recommended The Aristocrat as very good restaurant and we got a taxi to get there.
Taxis are very cheap in Manila and distances relatively short. The restaurant is by a fountain park and there is a man dressed in policeman at the door. It gives the sense of a college cafeteria, but the food is good. We opted for – of course – a huge pork dish and some local beer – Red Horse.
Then we had some massage in the park on some chairs. There are a couple of men there who claim to be there for years and to be serious. Actually, I think they are and the massage was good, one hour long and very cheap.
We roamed around the streets behind The Aristocrat where later on everyone told it is dangerous. Did not seem so, but we stuck to police stations – involuntarily.
The Philippines has a population of 100 million and the poverty rate is high. As a matter of fact, in the park where we wasted time talking about the moon and the stars there were maybe 100 homeless. From the sort of bike with a roof behind us came out a young couple with a baby. By midnight most were gathering their boards of carton and were looking for a place to sleep. The cold is not an issue, it is hot. Two maybe 12 year olds kissing. Screaming and some policemen bringing a car with some young people. Around 10 others running to follow them from the car to the station. Peace and quiet again.
We stop at every second 7-11 to get more Red Horse, as small as possible since it gets warm fast. Then we eat in the street and watch the street spectacle – old people begging, drunk prostitutes shouting in the street, merchants selling stuff I have no clue what they are. Well, time to go back.
October 6th 2015, Manila, The Philippines
I’ve been snoozing this alarm 10 times at least and I’m so glad my cousin is late, as much as I want to see her. Actually, I am here because of here. She is working one month in the Philippines and I asked for the flight to meet her. We don’t have a precise plan, but since it’s my first time to be here, I’d like to see the 16th century Spanish walled city of Intramuros.
A little bit of Filipino history
Fernando Magellan reached The Philippines in 1521. In 1965 the Spanish colonization began (Mexican and Spanish Rule). In 1898 the country became American colony after the Spanish-American War. During the World War II Japanese occupied the territory and after the War, by the Treaty of Manila, The Philippines became independent. In 1972, president Ferdinand Marcos imposed the martial law, but later in 1986 democracy was reestablished.
It means between the walls and was built by the Spaniards to protect the city from intruders. Fort Santiago is in the North of Intramuros and it’s quite impressive.
The atmosphere is peaceful and the temperatures high. Pasig River is nearby with some green tiny plant islands going so fast downstream that you can barely follow.
Close by is the Manila Cathedral, which is also worth a visit. Filipinos are very faithful and pray to God constantly.
We walked behind the Cathedral through some very poor streets where you can find anything.
I mean, anything. Behind the Cathedral there is Casa Manila Intramuros, a beautiful place, a “colonial lifestyle museum” where you can breathe some air in a hot afternoon and see how a house used to look like.
Then I rushed back to the hotel.
November 9th 2015, Manila, Philippines
Here I am back in Manila after one month. Entering The Manila Hotel the cinnamon fragrance hits me, then I see the ginger bread huge house, the penguins, the polar bear, the huge Christmas tree with white lights only and the Red Christmas flowers everywhere.
Maybe I was tired or maybe it was a Monday that I decided not to go out of the hotel. Otherwise, the locals recommended Valkyrie Club. Another good place I read about is The Palace Pool Club.
With good company, the watch ticked 6 AM in the wonderful stained glass and wood walls Tap Room Bar before I went to bed. We talked about everything and anything and nothing at all. It healed a lot of the grief I was carrying, but too little.