Tag Archives: manila

Farewell to Manila

21 May

There is such a thing, when playing hide and seek, as being too clever for one’s own good. In which category I would have to place depositing oneself in the deep end of a swimming pool by night, breathing through a snorkel, commando style.

Yep. My son has definitely watched Dr. No one too many times.

And, it appears, Jaws too.

As he put it, “I’m not sure I’m quite equipped for midnight swims. You see, when you’re underwater, breathing with a snorkel, and it’s dark, you don’t have many senses left to remind you there’s no sharks about.” Continue reading

The Museum of Doctor Rizal

21 May

Manila is not a spiritual city. It’s one of those big, dirty, urban sprawls, expanding organically, growing without control, the beating heart of an archipelago, maybe, but a cancered one at that.

12 million? 15 million? Honestly, who’s counting?

Manila long ago outgrew its natural ties to earth: the river and the Bay. Before its roadways are completed, they are already too narrow for its needs.

High-rise condos with names like Knightsbridge and Gramercy spring up cheek-by-jowl with squatter camps where families fresh from the countryside learn that, unless you’re educated, connected, local and (most often) lucky, the streets of the big city are paved with shit, not gold. Volunteer fire brigades wail down canyons of mouldering concrete to fires that can burn for days.

It’s a maze. A consumerist maze. From the delis to the junkfood to the sari sari store.

Emo ergo sum.

But if the city has a soul – and I’m not sure my own city does — I guess it flits and murmurs through the mirrored shadows of the Rizal Museum, in Fort Santiago, the old colonial core. Continue reading

The Inflatable Waterpark

16 May

Ek biki inflatable waterpark, Santa Rosa, Philippines

The magic of childhood. Or something.


[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

This technicolour dream palace is indisputably special. Possibly a little “special needs” too.

What is it?

You may well ask. For this, my friend, is an inflatable waterpark.

Occupying 5000 square metres of apple-green Astroturf in the middle of nowheresville, Luzon, EK Biki comes complete with dangling sharks, inflatable dragon slides, slightly forlorn clownfish and, weirdly, an Olympic-sized paddling pool.

All, like the giant hamster’s wheel and spinning top on which Z spent many happy minutes scrambling, entirely blow-up.

To add a further note of the bizarre, it caters entirely for non-swimmers. Continue reading

Working Girl

16 May Bright white explosion as a firework goes off in the night sky.

Bright white explosion as a firework goes off in the night sky.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]MJ’s been working bars since she was fifteen. Standard shifts. 6pm to 6am. She was an Avon Lady before that, but this pays better.

She’s seventeen, now, she says, almost eighteen, and works in, or more often, outside of, a tourist bar in downtown Manila.

Nothing slick. But nothing especially seedy. It’s sort of a tent, with some wall hangings, a few tables, a bar at the back, Poker Face on repeat on the stereo, and MJ bouncing and jiggling on the pavement in shorts, vest and hightops, with a big smile and a big, big laugh.

Your drinks cost the standard. Forty pesos for a beer, or thereabouts, twenty-odd for fizzy pop. Her Red Horse super-strongs, when she joins you at the table, cost two hundred pesos. One hundred goes to MJ, one hundred to the bar.

And on that steady stream of Red Horse, a hundred pesos a pop, MJ is keeping three adults and eight children. Four full siblings. Four half-siblings. Her dad, her stepmom and, lest we forget, herself.

And hormones don’t come cheap. Continue reading

Eating the Philippines

17 Apr

Dish of kilawin na lato -- Filipino ceviche-style tuna with sea grapes

Kilawin na lato: ceviche-style tuna with sea-grapes

Much to both of our surprise, Z and I last night enjoyed a healthy Filipino meal. And discovered the most amazing seaweed: lato.

A type of Caulerpa which sprouts succulent, grapey, bubbles in long tendrils like fresh green peppercorns, lato has all the translucent gorgeousness of fresh salmon roe. And it’s probably the closest a vegetarian will ever get to caviar. Even better than the Mekong riverweed, served nori-style, that we ate in Luang Prabang.

Even before you get onto the fast food trail, so many iconic Filipino dishes are just plain wrong. Take halo halo. This is a “fruit” salad, made with chunks of jelly and tapioca pearls, mixed with shaved ice, ice-cream, puffed rice, soy beans and oodles of condensed milk.

Or knockout knuckle (pata), Pampanga style. An entire pig’s leg, slow-cooked until the crackling is crispy and the meat below is succulent, fatty, deep red and falling off the bone, topped with crispy, deep-fried garlic. We ate this — along with soft-shell crabs tempura style — at Bistro Remedios in Manila, and my arteries are hardening just thinking about it. Continue reading

Mega-Malls

15 Apr

Yesterday we said goodbye to Granny and Grandpa, who are off to Hong Kong for a week of sybaritic luxury with an old friend, then back to sunny England.

To ease the parting, Z and I made like Manileños. That is, we spent the day at the mall, shopping, scoffing junk food and abusing the free aircon.

Though I guess if I were really going native, I’d have stocked up on diet potions — enriched with L-Carnitine to help burn fat! — too. Or perhaps a diet coffee to accompany my chocolate brownie? That is, a calorie-burning coffee. Not a coffee with low-fat milk.

The Philippines is a nation where Kraft Cheez Whiz can feature on the health pages of a major newspaper –- as a recommendation.

And where Kraft’s chief nutritionist for Asia can tell a hack, presumably with a straight face, that said product, though packed with calcium and undoubtedly beneficial, does not quite contain every single ingredient required for a healthy diet. Continue reading