Manila: Fighting Through the Darkness

The Philippines leg of my far Eastern trip ends this morning as, I wait for my flight in the airport, and it was very far from plain sailing.

My accommodation plans fell through. The taxi driver had never heard of my accommodation, and despite the fact I had the address written down he couldn’t decipher it and kept mis-interpreting what I had written. He enlisted help (and then insisted I tip said help…) and we still got nowhere. The area really didn’t feel safe either. After being in the taxi for over an hour, I called my friend who I was meant to be meeting in five minutes, and his family offered to put me up for the night.

His family were lovely, and gave me some yummy mango ice cream dessert and found me a hotel by the university where my friend, and their other son of that age, attend. It was a much safer area, and most importantly, it was private. I didn’t want to stay in a dorm after what had just happened, and needed a lot of time to recover. It was more expensive than I had wanted, but I was happy to pay to be in a nice area and not where I had initially booked.

I had a bit of time before being able to check in so went to the park right where I was supposed to be staying. I think I found where I had booked, but it was under a different name to the one on booking.com… I really wasn’t feeling good, all I could see was the bad in everything. I felt like everyone was watching me as a lone white person in the city, and that there was a huge target on my back. I put my headphones in even though I wasn’t listening to anything, to block out the world, and managed to have a good morning (as good as it could be) exploring the park and the museum of natural history.

As soon as it became time to check in, I went to the hotel, and got into bed with all my plushies, the thoughts of wanting to leave the country as soon as I could filling my head. Luckily I fell asleep for five hours, and then when I woke up found that my adaptors did indeed fit the plug sockets (I was worried they might not as they had three slots and my adaptors only have two pins) which was a life-line really as I now had contact with people again. After aimlessly scrolling for a while, really desperately not wanting to leave the comfort and safety of my bed, I knew I had to get dinner, and found a very nice Italian restaurant that had an offer on pasta dishes, and an amazing smores cake!

I then returned and sent a picture of said cake to friend A and told him the trip had been a disaster, and he called me on discord to check up on me. After we’d chatted for a while amidst a slightly glitchy connection, I felt able to sleep, and woke up at midday the next day xD

I desperately needed to do laundry, and had found somewhere nearby. It was very cheap, and the staff were very friendly. This, along with the wonderful service I had got at the hotel and restaurant, finally got me seeing the goodness in people again. I had been walking past restaurants the previous night too, seeing happy families eating and after the usual “everyone gets to enjoy themselves but me” thoughts subsided, it helped me realise that most people here are good people. I shouldn’t be afraid of going anywhere just because I happened to meet some more questionable people on my first day. At 3pm I had finished laundry and felt ready to finally explore Intramuros, the main Spanish colonial district in Manila.

It was a great experience, seeing the architecture, the parks, and some beautiful churches. I was meeting another friend for dinner and so didn’t have enough time to explore everywhere, but I was happy with what I did get to see.

 

My friend had advised me not to take the LRT (the equivalent of subway) which had really confused me as it was insanely cheap (around £1 return for more than half an hour’s travel) and I had had no issues, but I understood why trying to get a train back at 5:30pm. I waited on the platform for half an hour because all the trains were so crowded, until finally an empty train arrived. Everyone clapped and cheered, justifiably as we’d been waiting ages and finally had a comfortable train to get on, and it was plain sailing from there. I’d still use the LRT in a heartbeat over taxis, it’s safe and convenient after all.

Meeting my friend for dinner, I was finally able to try Filipino food, and it’s really nice. We had some battered seafood to start, and I had a chicken, beef and garlic dish while my friend had a whole cooked fish. We ate so much, and then went for bubble tea, that I was in pain from how much I had eaten. It was great to see both him and my other friend again and talk about anime and Japan (having met them both on a Japanese language course last year), and it made the trip worthwhile.

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I’d like to go back to the Philippines in the future, ideally either with a companion or at a time when one of my friends there could accompany me when travelling. I had so much I wanted to do but I couldn’t because I wasn’t in the right state of mind. It’s weird how my mental health problems have changed how they manifest after going abroad. Normally I’d have been close to tears hugging my plushies and have an awful internal screaming, but this time it was just a huge feeling of uneasiness and fear of going anywhere. But by booking somewhere better next time, I won’t have any such issues.

I am very grateful to the Filipino people I met, and my friend’s family, for getting me out of such a dark spot and able to enjoy what little of the trip I was able to function properly for. It goes to show the old saying, that if it sounds too good to be true (£7 for three nights) then it probably is, and also to judge places based on more than just first impressions.

The next, and final, stop on my tour is Singapore, and I’m really excited to go and see my friend who I haven’t seen for three years!

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