Welcome to Philippines not fun at all. It was not a very warm welcome, as I walked towards the immigration department I was sad to see the huge crowd. It was around midnight and they had less immigration counters given the number of people there at that time. It took two hours to get out of the airport and it was 2am. Luckily my hostel was not very far from the airport and taxi took only 15 minutes. First impression of the Philippines was it was hot and bit chaotic similar to India. Hostel was a big house in a gated community and I had this huge dorm room with 10 bunk beds to myself with fans all over the room.
I asked the hostel staff about cheapest way to go to city center and they gave me directions and told me it would take few jeepney and tricycle rides. I found the tricycles interesting so basically it is one big seat attached to a bicycle or motorcycle on the side and it is low and has that third wheel beneath it. Jeepneys are the local mode of transportation and it is a huge van with glass less windows and accommodates about 20-25 people.
I reached the city center one and a half hour later after few tricycle and jeepney rides. It was lot of fun and reminded me of my childhood days. Another tricycle guy offered to show me around few touristy sites and it was fun seating next to him while he was telling historical significance of the buildings and was quite chatty. It was a good quick tour of intramuros in a style.
I stayed with a local host the next day and met other travelers from different parts of the world. It was interesting to talk about various things. Each one was trying to figure out what to do next and most of them were seasoned travelers. I wish I had more time to spend there, its amazing to share travel stories and get to know a new perspective. It’s always interesting to know about the place where I have lived from another person sometimes they have totally different view which I had never thought about.
Next day I flew to Cebu, it is an another island in the country about 1 hour by flight from Manila and the flight was delayed by more than 2 hours. My host (K) in Cebu was a teacher from Poland in an international school and had been working there from last 10 months, K planned to go a nearby island for the weekend and asked me if I want to join. I was reaching on Friday evening so we decided to meet at the ferry terminal and the last ferry left at 7:40pm, I was suppose to reach cebu by 3pm but due to the delay I reached at 6pm and taxi line was really. After 30 minutes when I get in the taxi the driver asked about the destination and I told him Pier 1. He started asking questions where I was going and coming from etc, I guess I was tired and bit annoyed by this small talk and then I realized that he has covered the meter by a cloth and I was like take that cloth off, where is the meter and he started giving me some gyan, its weekend we don’t use meter on the weekends and the ferry terminal is far blah blah and I said turn on the meter or stop the taxi and he was still trying to convince me about some nonsense and I raised my voice and gave him a stern a look and asked him to take me to the police station or stop the car because I am not going with him and he stopped the car it was just outside airport and near the main road and turned back towards the airport to find another person he can scam.
I was worried about getting late to the ferry terminal and missing the last ferry as it was rush hour traffic time. I asked one taxi driver about the price to Pier 1 and he told me some ridiculous amount and I declined his offer. I was walking on the road and asked about taxi stand to a group of people standing near the motorcycles. They spoke little bit of english, one of them asked where I want to go and I said, Pier 1 and he replied Pier uno? I was like yes, pier uno. He said come fifty and I was like let’s go. He gave me one helmet and I sat on his motorcycle and he was a maniac. When we stopped at the red signal I showed him my watch and asked how much time to pier uno, 30 minutes? And he was like no, 15 mins. I was like ok. He was driving like crazy, cutting through traffic, speeding close to 100 km/h on the streets, it was thrilling. When we reached at the terminal, first thing he asked how much time he took. He was interested in his performance and he took 14 mins and it was a crazy ride. I was happy I made it before 7 and gave him 100 pesos, double than he asked. When I handed him 100 pesos, I was like good? he said 250 and I was confused. I told him you asked for 50 and I gave you 100 and he was like no he asked for 250 and all my excitement was gone. I finally gave him 250 and told him it was not fair.
At the ferry ticket booth they had a poster which said “Sold Out” and when I asked at the counter about the tickets for the last ferry, they replied it’s sold out. I was still waiting for K and meanwhile this French dude shows up at the counter and he asked for two tickets and was told the same thing its sold out. As he was still standing on the counter a lady approached him and told him she will check with the staff if they can manage two seats for him and I was just observing the whole scene and waiting for K. After some time lady takes the dude in the corner and hands him two tickets. I understood the game, it was Indian style. I asked the dude how much did he paid for the ticket and he said 500 each, regular price for that ticket was 350. I was not sure if K wanted to pay extra or not so I just waited before I asked for the ticket. Finally K arrived on the motorcycle taxi, apparently it is very common and I explained her the situation that if we need the tickets we have to pay extra and told her about the dude who got tickets few minutes ago and she was like ok.
Lady who gave ticket to the dude was sitting in the corner and I asked her get me two tickets and I will pay extra and she said ” Sorry sir, its already sold out” and I said “Please check again, there might some two more seats at extra price” and she was smiling and said wait she will check with the ticket issuing person, she spoke with him in Filipino and then came back where I was standing with K and said sorry, those were the last ones, it is really sold out. It was already 7:20 and we decided to take the next morning ferry.
We went to a night festival going on near the terminal and I was tired, K was excited about the weekend and her work just ended so she just did not wanted to go home. It was a nice festival with lot of college and school kids as volunteers and participants in various things going on like stage shows, singing, dance show and lots of local people. One of the places they were celebrating the buddha’s birthday and one college kid was our guide when we walked in and she was showing us around and when she asked where I was from. She said if I am relative of Aamir khan the bollywood actor and I told her “No, I don’t even like him” and I guess she did not like it and said ” She watches all his movies” They get the bollywood movies with filipino subtitles.
It was a long eventful day.