A Day in the Life of Manila [true story]

Just another day in Manila:

Novita took the car so I grabbed a taxi home from work. Traffic in Manila was so obscenely terrible that I decided to get out and walk. Only after exiting the car did I realize the entire street was lined with gates – meaning it was completely illegal to be on the busy street vs the sidewalk. (Ayala Ave / Paseo) Nice of the taxi driver to mention that. WTF?

So just as I’m ready to hop the gate, a cop runs over and yells at me to stay where I am – in traffic – with cars driving dangerously close to me. I politely tell him the story – that I didn’t mean to, didn’t know, blah blah. He asked for my ID so I lied and said I only had my work badge. “Sir, where is your license?” “Well, sirrrr, I’m walking so I don’t really need my driver’s license do I?” His face wrinkled up like he just swallowed a burning cigarette.

He said he’d confiscate my work badge. No problem, cause I’d just get a new one at work rather than spend 5 hours sweating in a filthy Manila police station to retrieve it. A far better option than handing him my license which was in my pocket.

He then tried to issue me a ticket. Hmmm, based on what – my work ID? “How long have you been in Manila?” “Uh, only 3 months.” “And you didn’t know you can’t walk on this street?” “Uh, I never walk this way – I drive to work.”

Now he’s really confused. Or is it angry? Irrelevant.

“Sir, I thought you didn’t have a license?” “Yeah, uh, I left it in my car.” Moving on… “Sir, do you realize I can give you community service for jay-walking.” “Yeah, but I also realize it’s your job to keep people safe and we’re standing here talking on the very street where you said it’s not safe to be.”

Obviously hard of hearing as he didn’t reply.

“Sir. Do you see all these flowers planted? They were planted by jaywalkers.” “Right. So how about you help me hop this fence and I can get home safely rather than chat with you in this ridiculous traffic?” He wasn’t amused but I think he simply couldn’t stand my insubordinate face anymore so he said, “Ok, but next time I catch you I will give you community service planting flowers.”

“It’s a deal, boss. Can you give me a boost?”

After I hop the fence. In my nice clothes. At rush hour. In front of 300 people. Carrying 3 bags and a bunch of photo gear that crashes to the sidewalk. I compose myself and continue on. At the next intersection a woman near me starts screaming. (Not at me, fortunately) The screaming escalates. She starts throwing punches at another woman. The other woman punches back – hard. Only then do I realize that the other woman has unusually large biceps under her skin tight dress. She was he in drag. So basically a street brawl opens up right in front of me between she-men with far too much estrogen/testosterone to be safe for anyone breathing fumes like that. In a city like Manila, you don’t wanna hang around for round 2.

As I’m walking away, a cop runs over and starts yelling at them, all I hear is, “Ladies, do you want community service!!!”

And this, my friends, is why I love expatriate life. Never a dull moment.

 

Want more? Here are similar posts:

Expat Experiences

Bule Behavior

Culture Clash

Two typhoons hit Manila in less than a week

In less than 6 days, two separate typhoons have rolled through Manila. These hit almost exactly two years after Ondoy ripped through killing many and leaving devastation and horrendous flooding in its wake. Fortunately these have been relatively mild in Manila compared to Ondoy, but with heavy flooding occurring in some areas nonetheless.

My neighbor and coworker had a massive tree get ripped out of the ground during the heavy winds. I believe it knocked out his power for a few days. When I asked him about it, he mentioned that the electrical company sent workers out to begin slicing up the tree for removal. Apparently the guy with the chainsaw forgot to cut the power to the lines and the chainsaw went through the main line sending sparks everywhere – as he was wearing flip-flops standing in the wet street.

Sorry for the poor quality but this was taken from Novita’s Blackberry in a rush.

Expat life remains anything but dull.

typhoon tree 1 540x405 Two typhoons hit Manila in less than a week

typhoon tree 540x404 Two typhoons hit Manila in less than a week

 

Back in Manila in a new role

Phew – it’s been a while huh?

A tremendous amount has happened since my last update, with the most important change being the start of a new role at work. I’ve now taken on the position as IT Coordinator for the HS and program leader for the computer dept. It’s a highly demanding role, but a challenge I welcome and was ready for. I’ll continue with technology integration but in correlation with the coordination. I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath in 2 1/2 weeks and am often working late into the evening, hence the lack of blogging.

We were in the States all summer, mainly on a beautiful lake in Tennessee, but also a couple of weeks near Clearwater Beach, Florida. All in all it was a wonderful summer spent relaxing with family and taking time to enjoy a digital diet. Each time I return it feels harder to leave, but I also feel quite content with the expat lifestyle overseas.

We’re back in Manila in our new house in Makati (heart of downtown Manila). It’s great to have so much space and a quiet office of my own, but I miss the amenities of condo living. I’m sure once we’re more settled it’ll grow on us.

On a spur of the moment decision days before leaving the States I sold my primary Mac – my 17″ MacBook Pro. I had a really tough time deciding what to do about a new computer. The new MacBook Airs are incredibly fast for their size and I was contemplating picking up the 11″ Air and using the 27″ Thunderbolt display at home. In the end I decided that in order to best get back into my love of photography, the power and size of the 27″ iMac is the way to go. I ordered the BTO top of the line: 3.4 Ghz, 12GB RAM (8GB from Crucial that I’ll install myself), 256 GB SSD + 2TB internal drive, and 2 GB GPU. It should be a beast that will last me many years. I’ll likely supplement the iMac with a 2012 Ivy Bridge MacBook Air in a year or so for the best in power and portability. (we already have a Macbook / iPad / iPhone, etc that can get me by for a while)

Unfortunately, the Philippines built-to-order Macs take quite a long time to be delivered. I’ve been told it could be up to 6 weeks. Ugh. So in the meantime I am quite limited in my photo editing capability.

Overall, I’m quite happy with how things are progressing with life in Manila. Love the job, like the house we’re in, the coworkers are fantastic, and surprisingly I’m enjoying Manila more the longer I live here. There are many things I miss about Indonesia (we’ll be back in October for 10 days), but for the next couple of years (at minimum) we’ll remain happily in the Philippines.

Sunset in Manila – taken with iPhone 4 and Camera+

There are tons of everyday shots that I take with both the iPhone 4 and Canon S95 that never make it to the blog. Generally if I post any of them, they go onto Facebook or Twitter.

I’m thinking about posting more of the everyday stuff on this blog. Here’s an example, this sunset taken last night on High Street, Fort Bonifacio with the iPhone and the Camera+ app. If you don’t have that app, I highly recommend it over the ‘stock’ iPhone camera app.

If this looks a little funky, it’s because I used the ‘clarity’ feature in Camera+

210530 10150234525555708 740580707 9086192 1049700 o 540x402 Sunset in Manila   taken with iPhone 4 and Camera+

204682 10150234524900708 740580707 9086184 2974983 o 540x723 Sunset in Manila   taken with iPhone 4 and Camera+

 

Is Manila ready for an earthquake? A study states up to 38% of the capital may be devastated

“CNN’s Anna Coren revealed that the Philippine government commissioned an Earthquake study several years ago. The results of the study made by the Japanese hinted that up to 38 percent of the capital would be devastated, and the projected death toll to be at least 50,000 people.”

Also read: “UN to Metro Manila: Ready for Big One?”

And here’s the “Earthquake Impact Reduction Study for Metropolitan Manila” [PDF]

The scary thing is I can see the fault line from my window at both home and work.

“Blow-Up Babies”: Quite possibly the most inappropriate name for a business? [photo]

Throughout Southeast Asia the English language is often misinterpreted, misrepresented, or massaged into new forms of communication through humorous signage. Take this one I captured as an example.

Throughout the Philippines, and Manila especially, English is widespread and I have yet to see many humorous examples as I have so often seen in Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan.

Until today.

Let me introduce you to a photo studio by the name of “Blow-Up Babies”.

IMG 1641 540x405 Blow Up Babies: Quite possibly the most inappropriate name for a business? [photo]

IMG 1638 540x405 Blow Up Babies: Quite possibly the most inappropriate name for a business? [photo]

 

Photographing Manila as an expat

Took a stroll the other day with a fellow photography enthusiast and Novita through a part of Manila most expats would never dare explore. Between that area and the area we live in, “Fort Bonifacio”, there’s a massive, imposing wall reaching 5 meters in some places.

I wasn’t sure if it was keeping them out, or keeping us walled in.

The security guards near one entrance just smiled and said there’s no way we could enter. Of course that didn’t stop us – we found a small gate 300 meters down the road that led us into what can only be deemed the polar opposite of where we live.

IMG 3353 540x359 Photographing Manila as an expat

In Indonesia, I regularly went exploring on foot through less developed areas, landfills, and slums. The major difference was that I understood what those around me were saying. Yet after more than a year in Manila, I still can’t speak a lick of Tagalog – English is much more widespread. I’ll admit, it feels more vulnerable not knowing what the young guys are saying about Novita when they chuckle together. I try to smile and keep walking when I’m pretty sure they’re saying something derogatory about her – continually reminding myself that we’re the visitors wandering around their grounds by choice. It’s not always easy.

Luckily, most of those we met on the street were friendly and just wanted to practice their English. I managed to take a few interesting photos, but for the most part simply wanted to take in my surroundings and gauge everyone’s response to our cameras. I consider it groundwork for going out again.

IMG 3262 Photographing Manila as an expat

Unfortunately, the next day, my friend went out again on his own to take photos and was pick-pocketed. His phone was stolen right out of his bag as he was taking pics. He felt it, but by the time he realized it, the guy was on his way out of there. A few girls pointed the thief out and my friend managed to get his phone back. It is a reminder to not always assume the best in people I suppose, but it could have happened nearly anywhere. It’s not fair to label a country, its people, or their station in life – there are thieves in every country, culture, and level of society. It is what it is. Better to lose a cheap Nokia than a pension plan. It won’t deter him; he’ll be back out next weekend with his camera and a grin.

It’s taken me much longer to get out with my camera in Manila than it ever did in Jakarta. But I hope I can get to know the people beyond my expat bubble, to see the similarities and contrast amongst Indonesian and Filipino people, and learn to appreciate this amazing culture just as I did with my beloved Indonesia.

jeepney hdr Photographing Manila as an expat

jeepney hdr autobot 540x355 Photographing Manila as an expat

UA-176554-2