SOTM World Tour – Philippines

Manila is a tough city. That’s not to say I didn’t find it interesting, and it actually worked out as a very fruitful stop on the SOTM World Tour.

But it’s an ugly place. Very congested, poverty in many places, grubby kids and their folks sleeping on some streets, and endless, fume-spewing traffic.

You know those science fiction movies where Earth is so choked and polluted that the human race has pushed off into outer space? Well, that’s Manila – Earth in 300 years’ time, probably.

There are some swish spots. This is the beautiful Manila Cathedral that I spotted in Intramuros.

1016544_10153846009405241_670491987_nElsewhere in the city, the Greenbelt mall is very nice, with designer stores, a modern cinema and some nice eateries which are also cheap.

But even here, the legacy of Manila’s over-population is evident. While sitting in a nice pizza/pasta place, freshly decorated with smart, polite staff, eating a good pizza for a cheap price, I saw a large rat scurry between the seductively curved legs of the tables.

It was running frantically about, as it was very much incongruous with the surroundings. I suspect it knew it was in the wrong place, but still, it was there.

But what actually made Manila a successful city for SOTM is the people. Hugely warm and friendly, I got 24 pictures and some cracking stories.

Here’s one I particularly liked:

And I managed to get on to the local Wave 89.1 FM radio station to talk about the SOTM World Tour, thanks to the excellent Tony, an American chap who lives in Manila and was hugely helpful to me. The whole radio visit was a lot of fun and you can listen to the interview here.

I got a SOTM from KC Montero, the DJ, too.

Also while in Manila, I visited the city’s North Cemetery, where people live. There are several cemeteries in the city which have other homeless people living in the tombs, among the dead. This one was quite organised, with little kiosks – sometimes based in a tomb – dotted about.

1011205_10153846012895241_62353581_nThe trappings of a functioning community were simply woven in between the memorials of the deceased.

1920443_10153846019955241_1617959129_nAs you can see here, washing lines are strung up next to sarcophagi.

1900099_10153846012435241_748118025_nI looked through one window and saw these neatly-packed personal possessions tucked in next to several sarcophagi.

1012070_10153846025725241_1173488283_nWhile wandering around I came across a karaoke session in one area. I couldn’t persuade anyone there to take part in SOTM but did get a few shots of those there. They were hugely friendly and it was a great atmosphere.

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But I did get some SOTM success. This is the brilliantly-named Boy, who lives in the tomb you can see in the background.

And I also met the very sweet Angeline and Elmira, two girls who live in the cemetery.

This is Angeline’s SOTM.

I met the woman who lives in this tomb.

1743563_10153846025535241_1007002913_nThese are her possessions, and her bed. The woman wearing red in the photo on the right, at the altar, is her late mother-in-law.

1798395_10153846026735241_688722889_nAnd here’s the SOTM for the lady who lives here.

I spotted this little chap while walking around.

1898257_10153846020395241_1842396434_nAnd this is another SOTM participant from the cemetery. Tony asked me to get a close up shot of her eyes, as he said that when some Filipinos get older, their eyes get bluer. This lady certainly had striking peepers.

1001415_10153846024755241_1263528504_nJust one more – I loved this woman’s SOTM, and her baby was incredibly comfortable with the camera, peeping over the top of the sketchbook for both versions.

My visit to the cemetery, and the things I saw, were unforgettable. Another highlight on the SOTM World Tour, if a sobering one.

After the heaving Manila, we flew to the island of Boracay, and I saw why people rave about the Philippines.

While there, Kate and I witnessed the sunset of our lives. Seriously. The most amazing one I’ve ever seen. This shot has been run through Instagram, but it’s quite close to what I actually saw.

Apologies if this puts you off your dinner, but here I am, happy as a sand boy, wearing my new £4 trunks. Boom.

1622132_10153789433150241_693106254_nBoracay was a busy spot as well – it was Chinese New Year during our stay – but still the waters were clear and the sand was pretty clean.

As it was so busy we did struggle for accommodation and stayed in a couple of crap places, with complimentary cockroaches and damp, but in between had five days in a decent hostel room.

Still, this place is a superb beach destination, and would be even better if it had not been peak season.

While there, I met the delightful Sunshine, a journalist and restaurant owner who treated us to a meal at her fabulous Greek joint, Cyma.

16022014So, after a bit of beach time and plenty of walking along the sand, I packed up and headed to a place I was very excited about – Hong Kong.

Check in next time to see how I got on in the city of skyscrapers, which still retains much of its old-world charm and is also home to one of the world’s most famous harbours.

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One Response to “SOTM World Tour – Philippines”

  1. ryan-1 says:

    I liked this edition of the newsletter a lot. Keep it up.

    :)

    A

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