Friendly Encounters in Manila
As much as I would want to, it is difficult to say that Manila is a pretty city. There is however at least one place in Manila that is actually really nice to walk around, and that is Intramuros, the old Spanish capital of Philippines.
Intramuros, the old Spanish capital of Philippines
We were strolling around there aimlessly around the old buildings with a girl I had met back at the hostel. We were both surprised how quiet it was, it didn’t look lively at all; where were all the people? Well, apparently it was a public holiday, we later learned, which explained the lack of people.
We did however stumble upon one street that seemed to be teeming with people. There were people washing their motorbikes, playing the guitar on the corner, children playing and running around. This seemed more like it.
Kids playing basketball
Street teeming with people
Not quite sure what the interesting thing was here
Guy practising his guitar by the street
As we strolled down the street, we curiously leaned in to have a glimpse of what looked like an inner courtyard. People were coming and going thru a busy passageway in which a few women were washing clothes by hand. They all looked at us curiously and were smiling. We ended up chatting with them and they invited us in, and we of course accepted, but I don’t think neither of us knew what to expect.
We passed the women at the entrance and dodged half a dozen children running past us before we reached the first courtyard. There were shades and plenty of benches to relax on, and it was busy. People coming and going, or relaxing on the benches; many of them were looking at us curiously.
Women were washing clothes by the entrance to the courtyard
People were sitting in shade from the scorching sun
On one of the corner tables there were plenty of Red Horse bottles and a bunch of guys drinking and singing karaoke that was blasting out of a single big speaker in the corner. They offered us glasses of beer and invited us to join in with the karaoke. I always of course find it impolite to refuse drinks, so I accepted the glass of Red Horse with ice. What is it with Asian countries and beer with ice?
Anyway, as I enjoyed my beer (Red Horse definitely is the best beer in the Philippines) ,we leafed thru the song list of the karaoke, which was pretty comprehensive, but I usually need be at least a little drunk before I start singing. So we politely declined and moved forward.
The karaoke corner
Thru the tiny corridor we arrived at another opening where people were again enjoying Red Horse, and again we were offered more beer. So we joined them for a while and answered their curious questions about where we were from and why we were here. Quite a few people at Philippines seem to speak at least some English, which makes these kinds of conversations much easier than in some other SE Asian countries.
Further into the courtyards
After this we still pushed forward, eventually reaching what seemed to be the last of the open courtyards. There was some kind of washing room in one corner and plenty of naked kids running around with moms trying to get them to stand still long enough for them to get washed. I suppose that’s one thing that’s always the same, no matter what the culture or the country.
There was also a card game going on in one of the corners with plenty of money on the table. I naturally moved closer to have a look at the game, but I was unable to figure out the rules; it wasn’t a game I knew. So I had to decline the tempting offer of joining the game. Instead I just observed it for a while.
There was also another game going on in one of the rooms by the side of the courtyard. Surprising thing about the games was that half of the players were women. Usually in the west, it’s more the men that partake in games involving money. I am reluctant to use the word gambling here, as I didn’t understand the rules and therefore can’t say if it was more a game of luck or more a game of skill.
Here it was the guys doing the laundry
The game had something to do with collecting straight flushes?
Slowly we made our way back through the narrow dark corridors and busy courtyards; waving at the kids who were still curiously looking at us. We thanked everybody for their hospitality as we emerged back to the street, and pondered what it was that we just saw.
Back to the first courtyard
Again they asked us to sing karaoke
And this wasn’t the first act of friendliness I had encountered in Manila. The first one was actually on the bus from Clark airport to Manila. I hadn’t really done my research about Manila, so I really had no glue where to get off from the bus and there weren’t any other westerners on board either. So my plan was basically to get to the last stop and get a taxi to the hostel.
We had talked at the airport with guy from Manila and as he was one of the last people still on the bus, I decided to ask his advice on getting a taxi. Eventually he offered me a lift to my hostel as he was being picked up from the bus stop. I told him it would be enough to get a lift to the closest metro station, but he insisted. So in the end I didn’t need that taxi.
I had heard that the people at Philippines were friendly, but honestly, I had no idea. Philippines was off to a great start!
Laundry drying up by the street
Where do you think the friendliest people in the world are?