After a month in Bali and the Gili Islands, we departed for Australia where we spent a lovely Christmas holiday with Tommy’s family; while 40 degree weather is a little different than what I’m used to on Christmas day, we had a beautiful holiday relaxing, indulging and planning our next move. We decided to give the scuba instructing one more go, and head off to a new South East Asian country: the Philippines.
Our first stop was Manila, the capital city of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands. To give you an idea of how densely populated it is, Manila has 12 million people – in 38.55 square kilometers. Manila is absolutely teeming with people, and, to be completely honest, it is downright terrifying.
Plagued by corruption, poverty, violence and drugs, the city of Manila is armed and dangerous. Even with Tommy I still felt uneasy in certain parts, especially when the young man on the bike taxi, who was clearly out of his mind on some sort of chemical, trailed us asking us for a fare for 3 blocks. Children as young as 6 walk around sniffing bags of glue, their vacant eyes bulging out of their still-developing heads, while everyone imaginable has a gun. A family vehicle cruised past us with photos of firearms taped to their windows – an arms dealer, perhaps? A thick layer of smog constantly hangs over the city, and the buildings, old and new alike, look run down and decrepit.
We took a visit to Bayleaf Hotel’s Sky View Deck Bar, and were greeted with an uninterrupted view of how massive Manila truly is. In every direction there is a combination of high-rise buildings, run-down hotels and endless streets. To the east, there is Manila Bay, a slight glimpse of the beauty that tourists to the Philippines expect when they step off of the plane. But Manila is no paradise, no white beaches or crystal blue waters: it is a city burdened with the constant threat of violence and natural disaster.
Our time in Manila was blessedly short, and soon it was time to access a far more picturesque part of the Philippines: Boracay island.