Did I mention that I was going to be in the Philippines this week? (As in the week just gone I mean…)
Anyway, that’s why there haven’t been any posts. Interestingly, the connectivity in the Philippines is brilliant. I’ve been in some fairly remote areas south of Manila, and at a minimum I’ve always been able to muster up phone reception. But I have also been working very hard, so the blog has been on hiatus.
Manila is like so many Asian cities – big, dusty, chaotic. The roads are choked with traffic, and my lungs are choked with pollution. Apparently the nation’s maxim is “There is nothing that can’t be improved by neon”. There are some truly horrendous lighting arrangements that only work because that’s just how Asia is.
I spent most of the week about 100 kilometres south of Manila in an area called Cavite. The drive could be described as ‘field, field, field, mall, field, mall, field, field’. But more on the national obsession with shopping later. Some of the rural countryside is just beautiful – verdant rice paddies and palm trees, with mountainous karsts providing a spectacular backdrop. Given that almost everyone speaks english, it’s a mystery to me why tourism here isn’t massive.
Every night there have been stunning tropical lightning storms in the distance. Most of the days have alternated between torrential rain and baking heat. The humidity has been oppressive.
So after a torrid week of work, I’m now back in Manila where I have spent yesterday and today ‘relaxing’, Filipino-style: shopping. When you find yourself in a Philippines mall with a man from Papua New Guinea, a woman from Indonesia, another one from Vietnam, and two girls from Mongolia, you know that your work lands you into some unusual situations.
The Mongolian girls shopped for 12 straight hours. They had to buy suitcases to hold everything they bought. The lady from Indonesia was displaying all the signs of being an addict. She dropped hundreds of dollars on stuff and didn’t think twice about it. I bought two books and a t-shirt. Total cost, about $25USD.
Shopping is a central part of life for middle- and upper-class Filipinos. In many malls (and there are a lot of them) you can actually find Catholic Churches. My Bible knowledge is a bit scratchy, but the story of the money lenders in the temple comes to mind. I’m not sure if I missed the point, but wasn’t it about not mixing religion and commerce? Anyway, after church you can go straight out into the mall and shop, or get involved in the next game of bingo. It’s a typical Sunday out. Bizarre.
Speaking of which, a girl from Nepal who I was working with decided that I looked like a guy called Hrithik Roshan, a Bollywood actor most famous for playing a superhero called Krrish (below). This bloke looks like someone who takes himself far too seriously. More than a touch of the Derek Zoolanders about him.
And just for the record, he looks nothing like me.
Righto, better go and catch a plane.