Manila, Philippines II

Day 3 – 4, Mandaluyong City and Quezon City, Manila

Here are some more insights into Filipino culture I thought I’d share, from the time Meg and I spent in Manila, prior to arriving in Mindoro, where I am at the moment (more on Mindoro later).

Manila is busy, hot and stinky with air pollution. As a result, I spent a fair bit of time indoors, watching local TV. Memorable TV moments:

  • Ads for Tang. I remember growing up with this stuff, powder you mix with water to make a sweet orange drink. Haven’t seen it around much recently in Australia but it still is very popular here, with ads currently airing for “Tang Grape”, the purple version.
  • A game show called “Willie of Fortune”. Well I thought it was a game show, but it’s just a segment on the very popular daytime TV show Wowowee. You really have to be a born-and-bred Filipino to appreciate this show, otherwise it’s bizarre.
  • Ads for sanitary napkins ending with the slogan “Go Girl! Have a happy period”. Weird…

Other cultural observations from Manila:

  • There is a massive mall culture here. Massive malls are massively popular, I would say more so than in Australia. We visited Megamall which is not at all dissimilar to Sydney’s Macquarie Centre and the like. As much as I’m not a fan of American style big box shopping centres, I can understand the popularity here. The mall delivers respite from heat and humidity, no doubt exacerbated by the chronic smog in Manila. The air-conditioning along with the clean and orderly environment is a stark contrast to dirtiness and chaos outside. The mall also provides a lot of entertainment as well as shopping, with an AMF bowling centre and and ice skating rink. There is a larger mall, Mall of Asia, which we haven’t been to. It is apparently the largest mall in the southern hemisphere. We passed it and it looked like some sort of massive theme park from the outside.
  • Mall culture is not the only American import, in fact the Filipinos have a strong connection to all things American, which is not surprising seeing that The Philippines came under the wing of the USA after the Spanish colonial era at the turn of the last century, and US forces fought off the Japanese in World War II. Coca-cola is ubiquitous here. It’s easier to get Coke than water here, and unfortunately for non-Coke fans, it’s safer to drink than local water (if you’re travelling through that is). McDonald’s, of course, KFC and Pizza Hut are commonplace in Manila. Big brand names are highly regarded here, in clothes, shoes, household products and just about everything else. My innate cynicism to large corporate giants seems out of place here.
  • Certain aspects of caucasian appearance are considered really highly desirable here. Pointy noses and white skin are particularly highly regarded, and many skin bleaching or whitening products are available. I find this quite amusing in comparison with Australia and America, where people spend millions on fake tan products and tanning salons. I’ll put it down to the grass being greener on the other side…
  • People here in general genuinely love Christmas. It’s understandable given that apart from some Muslim areas in the south, the country is predominantly Christian, and not in a laid back Aussie sort of way, but quite devoutly so. People really get into their decorations and Christmas carols, with people in shops happily singing along with the instore Christmas music.
  • There seems to be a fairly lively music culture here, with indie and rock having taken off commercially much like in Australia, but OPM (Original Pilipino Music), R&B and soppy ballads are perennial favourites.
  • Driving in Manila, like in other places in Asia, seems to be a mystery to me. What I have gathered so far is that you drive on the right-hand side of the road (in left-hand drive vehicles, like in the US), keep one hand resting over the horn, as the driver tends to use it non-stop. If you’re turning, you are likely to use your horn. Same goes for overtaking. And if a taxi or tricycle driver wants to pick you, he’ll blow his horn at you. Accordingly, indicators aren’t used.

We managed to get out for some drinks again in the evening and enjoyed some local food and San Mig Light beer. Sisig and Videoke were the go… Sisig is a dish of sizzling bits of pork ears and tongue with an egg cracked over the top… mmmm. Meg always goes for the weird stuff.

We made friends with a fellow, John (the owner of the Internet cafe) who recommended we try Sisig and showed us a cool little place near where we were staying. As I’d mentioned previously, we’d been wanting to give these coin operated karaoke machines a go, and we weren’t disappointed. Along with many Filipino songs, we found some staple favourites, like Toto’s Rosanna and Video Killed the Radio Star, which Meg dedicated to Amy for her birthday.

Videoke action

Next stop: Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro.

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