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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Manila trip

Hi everyone. It has been quite awhile since I posted anything on the blog. Been a bit busy running around. In fact, my Raya celebrations this year was a bit unique. First day of Raya was spent as usual, Raya with mom, mom-in -law, family and friends. Rather busy actually. Though we did not have an open house per se, we had a few friends and family over. It was nice and good.

Second day of Raya, we headed out to Manila. Had something to do there and decided to take everyone along. We were there until Friday, a day before storm Ketsana hit Manila.

Talking about Manila, to a large extent, I am not surprised at what they are going through right now. Even when I was there recently, the level of poverty in Manila was so glaring right on your face. I stayed at a relatively good hotel, Diamond Hotel which is beside Hyatt Hotel. All around us, we could see people living on the streets. Hyatt Hotel is another Five Star Hotel in Manila and a well known up market hotel chain, but just in front of the hotel you have people living on the streets and children sleeping on the pavement.

And there is just so much rubbish on the streets that clogged up the drains and waterways along the roads and so on. On the second night we were there, it rained a bit in Manila. Even then, there was already flooding on the roads and we can see rubbish floating around. So the flooding that is happening in Manila after Ketsana, though I wouldn't wish the storm on any country or anyone, is not surprising.

We were also warned to be careful when walking around - muggings, pickpockets and so on are quite normal there. Thank God nothing happened to us. I also felt as if almost everyone there wants to try to take advantage and cheat tourists. The taxis generally don't want to use meters and charge whatever they feel they can get away with. From my hotel to the Asia Mall for example, I had prices at 150 pesos, 100 pesos, 85 pesos (with a 10 peso tip) when the taxi used the meter. Prices are hiked up immediately when they know you are a tourist. Even a simple thing as buying bottled water at Rizal Park (a memorial park) was subject to price negotiation.

And everywhere, they will demand a tip. It turned into a joke when we visited Tagaytay area. We went to Mount Ta'al, an active volcanic mountain situated on an Island. There was this guy who just helped us alight from the boat and later onto the boat again and he demanded a tip because he said we walked on his plank about 3 feet long. I was flabbergasted!

But there were many good things also in Manila. The whole family enjoyed Asia Mall for example. And I tried ice-skating again after 30 years at the behest of my family. Good fun and I can tell you that my bottom was feeling rather raw after skating. Not including the ache on my feet for wearing skating boots.

All in all, I was thankful we left just before the Storm Ketsana hit Manila. Or else, I am positive I would have been stuck a few days more. What I wrote here about Manila is not to run them down, but I felt sad by the level of poverty I saw there. Almost anywhere and everywhere - at Rizal Park, along Manila Bay area, on the streets just outside the Hyatt Hotel and so on, there will be people making that their sleeping area at night.

Those who are rich are super rich adn those who are poor - I don't know how they or their children will get out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

I pray to God that the Filipinos will get through the floodings and storms in good health.

It was an experience and a sobering one for me. Though both cities are capitals to countries in Asean, a stark difference comparing Manila with Kuala Lumpur.

I thank God for blessing Malaysia and grateful to our leaders for leading and developing the country so well. Granted there is room for improvement but that is also a continuous process. Principally, our Government has done much good for us. And I am happy and thankful that in Malaysia, those who are poor still have the Government to help them out of poverty. Alhamdulillah.

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