My Opinions Were Mixed At First... To Say The Least
But I Quickly Fell In Love With The Philippines!
Arriving at Manila, Jared and I had a private driver waiting at Ninoy Aquino Int'l Airport with an aircon van full of beer. Originally it was supposed to be full of ladies too, but as our host told us upon arrival, had he done that there would have been nothing left of us upon arrival... we would have been eaten alive!
(And how right he was — I was literally nearly raped by a prostitute my first night in the Philippines).
Before reading, let me just say please don't get disillusioned and stop halfway through. This was written in 2008 while I was living in Tokyo, the biggest, cleanest, most advanced city in the world. But partying seven days a week for a couple months on end was starting to wear my buddy Jared and I out, so we decided to fly to the Phils. However we were expecting to land in somewhere that looked like Boracay, not Manila. Clearly we had not done any research, just trusted some friends from back home. Regardless, I am still a fan of "first impression" posts because they become that much funnier when you re-read them later. Especially after seven or eight more trips through the Phils LOL. What, I really used to think that?!?
From A Blog Post My First Day In The Phils
Although my views have changed, the text remains the same...
Capturing the essence of my initial amazement and naivety :)
Oh man oh man where do I start? So we arrived in the Philippines a few days ago and there was immediate shock. The airport in Manila looked like it was built in 1950 and never upgraded. There was not so much as a single computer anywhere throughout the terminals, even at customer service. The signs announcing arrivals/departures were still those old ones with the letters you have to physically change yourself. I expected the airport to be bigger, just because Manila is the capital of the Philippines and does at least some international business, but nope — a whooping like half-dozen terminals, that is it.
Going out into the city was another shock. I tell you folks, I have never seen anything like; no other country compares, not Mexico or Costa Rica or Honduras, nowhere! The roads are a cluster-fuck of old vans, smoke-spewing buses, motorcycles that barely run, all driving crazy like. People swing from lane to lane non-stop, will even pass on the shoulder, and there are no rules like in the States: first come first serve. It is a wonder more accidents do not happen.
And when I inquired with our driver, he said "people in the Philippines drive crazy, so you just have to driver crazier!" And what a fucking crazy ride it was. We were passing people in the oncoming lane, sometimes coming so close I thought we were about to have a head-on accident (I mean literally within a centimeter or two a few times). And as if all that is not bad enough, you have people constantly crossing the street and even–believe it or not–standing in the middle of the street trying to sell bottled water or fresh fruit. Unbelievable shit, unbelievable!
As for the condition of the city, Manila is a shit-hole. Even the locals here in Subic realize Manila is the shitter of this beautiful country. We have heard nothing but horror stories from the locals. Crime is rampant. The buildings — if you can call them buildings — are sometimes just slapped together pieces of sheet metal. Clothes are strung up every which way out to dry. But they are drying in smoke that just pours off the road from all these old and shitty cars tearing up the street. People everywhere walk with handkerchiefs across their mouths to try and breathe in less of it. Along the coast there is a few tall nice-ass hotels for traveling business people, but at the entrance to each is a guard armed with a mother fucking assault rifle! An assault rifle for God's sake! They built a tollway a few years ago on the outskirts of Manila, for people heading to San Fernando, a city we had to pass through to get to Subic Bay. They have so few highways here that was called Route 3! And at each of the booths where you have to stop and pay to get on the tollway there are also guards armed with assault rifles! Like seriously I can understand them outside of hotels, but at a tollbooth? Oh, and don’t even get me started on the banks. All the banks have two armed guards at the front doors, again with assault rifles! We were lucky enough to witness a money pickup in action. The armored truck looked like those military vehicles that have eight wheels and can drive through water as well. It was like a fucking submarine on wheels actually! And there were an additional four guards armed with assault rifles covering it while the money was being brought out by more guards. Ridiculous and crazy crazy shit!
~Derek, 2008, from his old blog of drunken ramblings, Shibuya Daze.
Toll Roads In The Philippines
The tollways in the Philippines, despite being newer, lack all of the amenities that we Westerners are used to on tollways. Don't get me wrong however, they work fantastically and get the job done — allowing you to bypass the traffic and wandering roadside vendors and random small motorcycles and pedestrians — so you can't complain.
So as you finally start to break free from the traffic in Manila, the road separates into 12 or 16 lanes, each complete with a toll booth. Pulling up, you realize none of the toll booths are automated, but each one staffed with a meager individual inside the booth and then secured by an armed police officer (again, armed with an assault rifle mind you) outside the booth, posted up front, nearly unmoving -- almost like those British Palace Guards. In addition, there are signs at each lane reading "TRAFFIC DISCIPLINE AREA" (i.e. drive the right way you crazy locals) and another reading "Our good roads keep your mood good". The way the locals drive, they definitely need this reminder.
Anyway, unlike every other modern toll I have been around the world, this one still operates solely on paper slips. You take your slip at the first window, then whenever you finally exit the tollway — which is, keep in mind, secured by chain and barbed-wire fence, cement walls, and armed guards the entire way, to prevent both fraud and smuggling — you submit your tollway ticket and pay the difference. Rates are based upon three different classes, depending on your weight and industry: personal/commercial.
There are occasional rest stops along the way, each complete with a couple of fast food places, public restrooms, and a gas station -- but even there an armed guard always checks your slip on the way in, before granting you parking, to ensure you are authorized to be on the tollway. I took a few pictures from the main one on the Westbound side, which you can see below, as this is the stop we hit every time on our way from Manila.
The view along the way is spectacular, almost entirely countryside except for when you pass through San Fernando and have to take the toll exchange. We always pass all sorts of rice and suger cane fields, in addition to lots of lovely mountains. The pics down below do not do enough justice in my opinion. It really is a beautiful country, they are just so very poor. The scenery was definitely nice, that's for sure -- I'll post a photo gallery soon.
Luckily the four hour drive through the countryside passed easily enough, even without any women. It was nearly sunset by the time we first arrived at Subic Bay, but when we did we were immediately the subject of attention with all the ladies, being two young, good-looking, and obviously loaded guys. Jared and I spent a few minutes unloading and checking out our rooms before heading downstairs to play a cpl laid-back games of pool while switching to liquor. However it took only seconds for word to spread and the next thing you know about a dozen "working girls" started one-by-one coming inside from the attached disco to see what was up with us young gringos.
Two of them basically put the other girls in check and claimed Jared and I as their own. Next thing you know we are playing a team game of pool with the "working girls" as our partners. The booze keeps flying, now the girls are drinking, and next thing you know they are making out with Jared and I. I had been awake for something like 48 hrs though so I called it a night right around when the prostitute kept asking to go upstairs. No way you are getting my money six hours after I landed in this country, no way! Even after she tried to ask Jared what room I was in so she could go upstairs and crawl into bed with me. Luckily he didn't tell her. However little did I know at this time that within a cpl months I would soon be dating a Filipino and flying back already.
Ok so since I've been here my mind has just been going and going so much to think about. Ok so I consider my self a left wing liberal progressive person with that being said I think me and Derek are literally the only guys to vacation in Philippines with out having sex with a local girl. You think hepatitis would be enough to stop most guys but not the case. Ok with that being said everyone here is ex military old and love McCain and love to do drugs and fuck young hookers all day make sense? Palin is a right wing conservative fanatical Christian so all these people are saying they love and support a women that literally thinks they are going to burn in hell for eternity make sense? Yeah and to think leave it to the Agnostic guy to be the only one with morals here...~Jared, 2008, from the old Shibuya Daze blog
Jared enjoys a cold San Miguel
Needless to say, Jared and I had very mixed first impressions of the Philippines. It was a lot different than we'd told by our friends back home and even the Subic region itself just seemed kind of lacking of any real substance or anything really exciting to do. Oh yeah that and seemingly every girl is a hooker. That first night in Subic Bay was a total surprise. Apparently the pros were all over us because they are used to only having old veterans and seniors as johns. Either way, we definitely felt like celebrities our first week there.
See, any and all foreigners living in the Philippines are ex-military, usually almost always American but we did also meet a couple Brits and a few Australian guys. They are all in their 50's and 60's now, beer-bellied and weathered from the years and the things they have seen. Most of them own the bars and discos around town, financed by the wonderful salaries we give our troops.
But, as they all say, "the Philippines is a hell of a place to spend money, just not to make it!" At roughly $0.50 USD a beer, $2 for a full meal, and $20 a night for a nice hotel suite, you'd have a hard time finding a better quality product at such a low price.