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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Where do you think the friendliest people in the world are?


  1. Wow, this is an interesting area! Honestly, i have a love and hate relationship with Metro Manila, but it is an inspiring city no matter on what angle you wanna look at.

    Before clicking the link from Twitter, I was expecting that you had a videoke moment in one of the popular KTV places here. It’s nice that you were able to bond with the locals.

    What’s with beer and ice? Hmmm… for me it does taste better with ice or maybe we can also blame the hot weather? Hehe I don’t really drink much, but i never drink beer without ice haha. If only i knew you were here earlier, I could have invited you in Pangasinan or within Metro Manila. Come baaackkkk soon! 😀

    And yes, although Manila is a deadly city for some, most people here are nice, approachable and funny 😛
    Micamyx|Senyorita recently posted..Dagupan City Pamper Weekend Tips and SuggestionsMy Profile

    • Hehe, didn’t go to any of the KTV places; I was in Malate and most of them seemed, well, a bit dodgy :) Manila does seem a bit difficult city to approach for an outsider, but you are right, most people there actually seem really nice.

      I will have to come back to Philippines for sure! But in the mean time, let me know when you get to London 😉

  2. It amazes me how people are so friendly and happy but have so little and live in such conditions! Its great to see.
    lizza recently posted..Snow socksMy Profile

    • Yeah, people at Philippines were so friendly and nice!

  3. I haven’t been to enough parts of the world to answer that question. But I will NOT say Canada :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..My First Argentine AsadoMy Profile

    • Hehe, yeah I’ll have to agree, need to see more places before I can answer that question also :)

  4. “The game had something to do with collecting straight flushes?” made me laugh! Looking at the picture I tend to agree.

    The activity and colour in those streets really does put most western cities to shame. The people, of course, in western cities do not even compare in terms of friendliness, and I say that with complete confidence despite having never visited the Philippines.

    The less people have the friendlier they seem to be.
    Sam recently posted..Gooseberry Mesa Mountain BikingMy Profile

    • Most of the Intramuros was really quiet that day (because of the national holiday), but that one part was so lively. Seemed like a really nice area.

      Yeah, couldn’t quite figure out the game, something to do with flushes for sure, but what?

  5. Have always wanted to go to the Philippines, especially to check out the old Spanish parts. Great fototitos tambien!
    TheWorldOrBust recently posted..Art Basel Miami Beach Make Your Booty Go Baaap!My Profile

    • Philippines was very nice, definitely worth the visit. It has a bit of a South American vibe to it because of the Spanish history.

  6. Sounds like a really fun way to spend the day. I’ve never heard of this beer with ice tradition but I guess .. whatever keeps it cold! :)

    I will go ahead and say that Canadians are the friendliest out there but maybe I’m a little biased being from there. 😀
    cheryl recently posted..Christmas Markets: Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin.My Profile

    • Yup beer and ice, you should try it sometime, no wait, don’t!!!

      Canadians, hmmm, maybe, all Canadians I have ever met have always been really friendly and I do remember Vancouver being quite nice and friendly.

  7. You’re right, the people do look really friendly. It’s nice to get away from the usual tourist spots and meet the “real” people.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..5 Places for an Amazing Winter Ski VacationMy Profile

    • It is nice when you get to meet the locals, and it seems to be quite easy in Philippines because most people actually speak at least some English.

  8. not sure if they’re the friendliest in the WORLD but the turks are pretty darned friendly. Italians are also a blast!
    jenjenk recently posted..My Travel ABC’sMy Profile

    • I can’t remember when I went to Turkey, it was a loong time ago, but I do seem to recall that they were friendly.

  9. Glad to hear you got to experience the famous Filipino hospitality.

    Ice on beer? That’s pretty common around here. A nice cold glass of beer is a great way to cool down what with the humidity and all.

    And I know that card game, it’s called tong-its LOL

    Yes, part of the goal is to get a straight flush. We’ll have to play a round the next time you drop in!
    yols recently posted..Four weeks ago, I was so happy to have my first post up. I…My Profile

    • A-ha, so I did figure out something about the game. Tong-its, glad to know what it is called; you will have to teach it to me when I’m in Philippines next time!

  10. loved your writing style in this article. I actually feel as if I was there. It looks like you’ve found a gem in Manila. The friendliest people I’ve encountered are from Albania. It’s by far the friendliest country I’ve been to.
    Amer @TendToTravel recently posted..The joy of discovering my own backyard – BrogaMy Profile

    • Thanks Amer, I was really happy with this post and the whole experience :) Albania, one country I’ve yet to explore!