Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Update from Quezon City

It's been almost a whole year since my last update (2016) and time sure flies. I can bet that my 23-year-old self wouldn't have believed me if I told her that I would be updating this blog in the Philippines a year later.

Now this is my first time here and I can tell you that the days that had led up to my departure from KLIA 2 were just buzzing with anxiety. Firstly, I was arriving in Manila at night, alone in a foreign country with no one to meet me there. I've been told stories of kidnappings, taxi scams and other frightening stuff. What's more, at the customs before my departure, I was stopped because my passport was blacklisted. Why? Because PTPTN staff were slacking. I was told to drop by this small, makeshift counter and I told the dude there that I just started paying my dues about a week ago. He looked at me funny and said that the center I paid at should've removed the ban by now. Long story short, the issue was dealt with and I was cleared to leave the country. 

NOTE TO GRADUATES: Pay your student loans!

Anyway, I kinda had a half-meltdown in the plan. Was it anxiety? Perhaps. Wasn't sure why though. This had never happened. And so when I came out to NAIA Terminal 3, the first thing I did was text everyone who I had made contact with just before my flight (thanks for praying for me you guys! Truly appreciate it) and then decided to get a Grabcar. 

Hurdle number 2: cars were everywhere. My Grabcar ride had to make a second round because he couldn't find me, and when I strayed too far from the terminal entrance my precious wi-fi would disconnect. Luckily he was chill with it.
When I got into the car, I was stunned for a moment because I forgot that the folks here drove on the right side of the road, American style. He also spoke little English, but it was no biggie.

Throughout the 1 hour ride from Manila to Quezon City, I enjoyed the sights (or lack-thereof) obscured by the lack of bright street lights. There were a couple of things I noticed that felt familiar, and some that were totally different from what I was used to:
  • Maybank (one of our local banks)
  • various petrol stations (Shell, Caltex, Petron)
  • high walls and barbed wires
  • graffiti. rubbish. everywhere
  • some moments I felt like I was in an American ghetto, then in Kuala Lumpur the next. One moment I was in Ipoh and Penang, and then occasionally in a dilapidated version of the Japanese suburbs 
  • Shorts, t-shirts and slippers are the go-to fashion
  • People didn't seem to mind walking in the dim lighting on the sidewalk. You can barely see where you're stepping most of the time
  • Did I mention already that the streets are really dark in some places??
  • At least 5 lane roads. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. But opposite where I stayed had 10 lanes.
  • I had mistaken a primary school for a prison
These were just some of the first few things I saw during my ride to accommodation. 

6 lane traffic
They also have strange flavoured ice-cream here. Avocado seems to be pretty popular.

There was also a typhoon that passed by yesterday. It had been raining heavily since Monday night and it continued on into the early hours in the morning, then sporadically throughout the rest of the day on Tuesday.

Oh, and the jeepneys are terrifying. Even so, it was quite an interesting experience. I'm not quite sure if I can explain the ride right, but I'll try.

So the jeepneys have 'designated' drop-off and pick-up points and honestly how anyone figures out where to get off baffles me. On the side of every jeepney is written its route and its drop-off points. A person pays by passing the cash on to the driver, then the driver returns the change, all whilst driving through multiple lanes of heavy traffic. The inside of a jeepney is really small and if you're tall, then you're gonna have a sore neck, but really it's not too bad.

the inside of a jeepney
Passengers would often knock the ceiling of the jeepney, or say the magic word (I don't know what that is, it's in Tagalog) and the driver would swerve to the right side of the road to stop, and the passenger would get off.
It's amazing how there's such cooperation between the driver and the passenger, and since everything happens so quickly, you would need to keep your eyes and ears open to make sure you don't get dropped off too far away from where you intended!

The tricycle is even more terrifying than the jeepney. It's this tiny, side-car thing that you ride in that fits 2 people and one more behind the driver. It whizzes past cars, zooming jeepneys, and large trucks and buses, honking away to make way. Pretty thrilling watching the world past you by all while praying your belongings don't fly away.

zoomin' through the streets on a tricycle

Not sure what else is there to write about this place, other than the fact that it's incredibly crowded and smoggy and somewhat dangerous for unsuspecting tourists, but it's an alright place. You really get to see the slums in certain parts of Commonwealth and along the highway from Manila.

Would I come here again? Maybe, maybe not.
Perhaps to a city where there's a nice beach and not so much smog.