In Manila; Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

I’m here to tell ya, don’t ever pack more luggage around the Philippines than you can easily carry at one time.  Never again.  If we bring things to relatives here again, the extra luggage stays in either Cebu or Manila.  Or shipped in advance.  Or it’s hauled ONE time to Cavite or Dumaguete or something like that.  And here’s why.

We truly enjoyed the ferry trip.  It was relaxing and we got to see some of the islands along the way.  The route was between Negros and Cebu, passing near Romblon (at night), between the islands of Mindoro and Luzon, and finally into Manila Bay.  27 hours, the seas were quite calm and a deep blue.  People continually say “you should have taken the plane”.  Yeah, that is probably a good idea if you aren’t loaded with luggage.  Excess baggage charges in the Philippines are horrendous.  But, I’ve noticed that any country is hard to see from 30,000 feet.  And I’m here to see, not miss.  Thus the ferry.

I mentioned it in my last blog, and here it is again.  PURCHASE IN ADVANCE!  We saved a bundle doing that.  Eddie and Sheila Joy paid nearly as much as we did for a shared cabin, but they purchased the day before.  I bought our tickets in September.  Eddie, I hope you were able to get a decent fare for the return trip.  He is trying to get back to Negros by Christmas.

We enjoyed watching Luzon pass by on the starboard side with the Filipinos,

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there were ritzy houses and resorts all along the coast before turning into the bay.  Some were incredibly fancy, as in one huge home on it’s own island.  I jokingly told Eddie that we should get together an buy a little rock I spotted, it would be all I could afford anyway.

As we approached Manila,

IMG_4879 (1024x683)IMG_4889 (1024x683)IMG_4890 (1024x683)IMG_4894 (1024x683)it was clear we were going to be in late by the hour we were late out of Dumaguete.  People started lining the rails to be the first off.  There was no way we could do that because of our luggage.  No problem, I was willing to wait until later.  A couple of thousand people were crowding the exits was something I was not interested in joining.  The people piled and piled.   I could feel the boat settling to the port side, there were so many people on that side.  Up to the dock and…wait.  And wait.   And wait while the shore crew struggled to get the boats just right for all three gangplanks and the container ramp.  It became abundantly clear to me that a cluster foxtrot was about to unfold.

Arturo Jr. and I exchanged texts about how we were going to meet up and he teased me about “Welcome to the Philippines!” and “I’ll be you wished you had flown!” and I’m still laughing about that.  I’m glad we took the ferry, but the luggage now was a horrible liability. 

Wait, wait, then finally the first stage to the front desk.  People everywhere.  Wait, wait, then, the mothers showed up with hoards of little kids running around from out of their cabins.  They were waiting for the crowds to clear so they could safely get their kids down the stairs.  I couldn’t blame them.   But it was hard not to mash any of the little tykes with our luggage.   Wait. wait, then out on the deck.   Wait, wait, then out on the walkway on the side of the ship and looking down on chaos.  Wait, wait, then finally clear enough to take the luggage down the steps to the dock.  Fortunately for us, the ship’s crew helped us and that was the only thing that really went smoothly until we were out of the secure area.  Down on the dock and…no carts.  Of course they were all gone.  I’ll bet the that there were a couple hundred orange luggage carts with a thousand people needing to use them.  Wait, wait, no carts.  I walked out to try to find one and I would have to leave the secure area.  Not a chance without my wife.  I stalked angrily back and decided to sit on the luggage until a cart showed.  Then, miraculously, a porter showed up with a cart and would give it to us for 50 pesos.  That pissed someone else off, but I didn’t care.  We paid and ran off with the cart and let the porter explain to the other people what had happened.

An hour had passed since we had reached the dock.

From then on things went pretty well.   As we pushed our cart through the gate, Arturo, Arturo Jr. and our driver met us there and together we marshaled the luggage to the waiting van, about 200 yards away in a parking lot.  Into the van and…Ahhhh.

Into the traffic.  Everything that you have heard or read about Manila traffic is true.  Manila has to be one of the most congested cities in the world.  Bumper to bumper, it took nearly 30 minutes to get to a place to eat.  MacDonalds.  No one cared, we were all starved and there was an open parking spot.  Chowed down and off into the maelstrom of cars, busses, trucks, and motorcycles.

Our driver Michael was the most aggressive driver I have ever seen.  He honked, switched lanes, cut off busses and trucks; and he could squeeze his van through the tightest places imaginable.  All this while chatting on the cell phone and texting at times.  Everyone seemed to know his driving style and either got out of his way or gave him room.  Come to find out, that is what he does for a living.  Drives his van through Manila for hire.  He has a police scanner (for traffic stoppages), cell phone, and, along with Arturo Jr. with map in hand as a navigator, we flew through the crowds and squeezed through the traffic jams for two hours.  Freeways were a bonus, his own private race track.  One instance in particular stands out. 

We turned off a main thoroughfare and onto a side street.  Both men up front agreed that this would beat a bunch of traffic.  Nope.  Around a corner and a line of cars as far as the eye could see.  Maybe thirty lined up to a blind left hand corner and around.  No problem.  Michael gassed it very hard and we took off down the empty lane for oncoming traffic.  A truck loomed around the blind corner and it looked like we would become a hood ornament.  Nope.  Off he darted into a gas station without slowing down.  Between the pumps, around the cars being fueled, and out right behind the truck and he continued down the wrong side.  Around the corner and 20 cars more.  No problem.  He gassed it hard again, we must have been doing 45 mph, and we knifed into the line two cars from the next main road that turned right as a car turned in to face us.  I think he would have gone right out into the traffic if that car hadn’t turned in.  Praxy and I were nervous wrecks by this time.

Machael claimed that he has a gifted ability to judge distances, speed, and traffic gaps instantly and can pick out the safest and quickest route or know when to back off and grab the brakes.  I believe it.  I used to race motorcycles off road and I know just how much skill and reflexes it takes to avoid obstacles and squeeze through tight gaps at high speeds without crashing.  But I was never in his league, the guys that were became professional riders on organized teams. 

I suppose in the United States he could have joined the Air Force and I’ll bet they would have made him a fighter pilot.  He is that fast and daring.  No one around us could even hope to keep up.  In one simple statement; he left everyone, big or small, fast or slow, eating his dust.

I don’t know if I want round 2, though!  Jojo said he was annoyed that Michael was texting and talking while driving, but he kept quiet.  Didn’t want to piss Michael off and get him driving more wild.  (12/22 10:00 am…I found out two days later Arturo and Jojo were not favorably impressed and they will NEVER employ his services again.  He was even faster and wilder after he dropped off Praxy and myself.  I guess my impression was spot on!  Some day he will make a mistake and become another victim of Manila traffic)

We ended up at a little hotel in Pasig City, called the Sogo.  It is nice, but it looks to me like a place where people go for trysts.  There is free porn available on the TV and the rooms can be rented 4 hours at a time.  A red light on either side of the bed, with a mirror on the wall.  Hmmm.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.  But it is clean and comfortable, with two shopping malls next door.  Plenty of restaurants, and three MacDonalds near by.  Gotta love that free WIFI, I don’t have to worry about finding an internet café.    We walked around and did some shopping, then came back to the room.  It’s almost two and I’m going to wake Praxy from her nap.  We are going out for a bit of lunch and a halo halo.  Her reunion is at 7 tonight and her sister will pick us up and take us over to Quezon City.

12/17/2011  2:00pm


About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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