My Name Is…Too $hort
First let’s get this out out of the way: The Philippines is one of those countries you cannot be satisfied spending anything less than two or three weeks in. For those familiar with my traveling style of popping into a country for one to three days and bouncing—yeah, that works well for me in most countries. I’ve left countries like Chile, The Bahamas, Suriname and Taiwan, thinking that I’d seen and done enough; feeling more than fulfilled with the things I accomplished in just a couple of days. But the Philippines…no way. Even before I arrived, I’d learned that there are just so many “can’t miss” places, including some of the world’s best islands and beaches. And here I was, just dipping into Manila for two nights. I new I’d failed before I even started, and that a second trip back, for much longer, would be in my future.
The People of The Philippines
I wonder if it’s possible that I’ll ever visit a country with friendlier people than those of The Philippines. I’m not sure how to even put into words how loving Filipinos are, especially towards Americans. Their hearts are full of love and they are the most caring, hospitable people I have ever interacted with. And I say this with only two days experience! I was truly overwhelmed with just how cool Filipinos are. I certainly left with a fuller heart. I’ve also never visited a country where Americans are more loved than here. I had heard that Filipinos truly treat Americans like celebrities, and I now that I’ve been, I can confirm this. Everyone was truly so kind, warm and welcoming to me. It was such a great feeling experiencing such constant, positive vibes from strangers on the street. It’s really hard to put into words; you’ve got to visit for yourself.
I arrived at 8PM on a Saturday night and was at my hotel by 9. I splurged on this one—spending more than I usually would, on a one-bedroom suite in at the New World Hotel, in the swanky area of Makati. I was beat from the travel, so after one beer at the lobby bar, I headed up for some much needed Zs. My room was nice except for the air conditioner, which had only two settings: OFF and ARCTIC BLAST. No in between. Why???!!!
I was up the next morning for my only full day in the Philippines. After breakfast at the hotel I grabbed a cab to The Mall of Asia, where I enjoyed strolling through the massive expanse of shops and restaurants, until I came out of the other end and met the bay. I walked along the water past a Ferris wheel and various other carnival rides. It was hot and sunny; I lucked out—it had been raining cats and dogs for weeks leading up to my trip; I was so fortunate to score a sunny day.
Walking back through the mall again, I was reminded at how awesome the people are. I found myself in a huge, all-electronics wing of the mall. I whipped out the phone for a selfie and before I could take two pictures, the whole crew at a cell phone shop was posing right behind me. Fun people!
Next stop was the famous Rizal Park, where I strolled alongside palm trees and flags and snapped photos of monuments. The Filipinos sure are a patriotic people. They have lots of national pride. I asked one lady her opinion of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, which she responded, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s our president now, so I support him.” Wow! I couldn’t but think, we sure could use some of that unity here in The United States.
The See Me Rollin’
I’ve ridden in a Tuk-Tuk and a Chicken Bus…but never a Jeepney. There’s a first time for everything, and this was it. Picture a stretch-Jeep, with bench seating inside, no seatbelts of course; that’s a Jeepney, and they’re everywhere in Manila. Many of them are decked out in shiny chrome and have their own names, as boats do. Jeepneys are the common mode of transportation in Manila, and I’m guessing elsewhere in the Philippines. Which brings me to the traffic situation: the worst! In fact, people warned me about it before I even arrived. There’s no real public transportation system in Manila. I saw a train/tram/monorail thingy, but apparently it doesn’t go many places. It’s gridlock almost all the time in Manila and can take an hour to drive two miles. I was told that when Filipinos are describing distances, they don’t do it in “kilometers,” but rather “hours.” Oy vey!
So yeah, I took this Jeepney contraption from Rizal Park over to the historic walled district of Intramuros, where I spent a good hour bumming around. I enjoyed the neighborhood and all its charm: old stone walls with moss and vegetation filling in the cracks, canons, a moat, more monuments, a little museum, and some nice views of the river. After I explored the neighborhood and grabbed a bite and cabbed it back to the hotel, where I chilled the rest of the night. I finished up day one sipping a Singapore Sling in the lobby bar listening to a really good lunge singer belt out some Carol King. I love this place.
Sadly, day two was my final day in The Philippines. I spent most of the day being angry that I would be leaving that night, and plotting my return. I even discussed apartment rental prices with my Uber driver. I could totally live here.
I had two appointments at radio stations today. You may or may not know, that my day job is a radio DJ. I host an internationally syndicated radio show–it’s a love songs and dedications program called Sunday Night Slow Jams. So I love visiting radio stations in foreign countries–just to see the studios and meet other radio DJs; sometimes even to pitch my show.
I first headed a station called Magic 89.9FM to meet up with Program Director Andrew Santiago. That’s when I got an even better understanding of Filipino hospitality. Not only was Andrew kind enough to give up some of his valuable time on a busy Monday, but he even invited me to sit down and enjoy coffee and pastries with him. How nice! We had a great time talking radio and it was cool to see the Magic 89.9 studios, as well as their two sister stations. Andrew even drove me to my next appointment…what a cool dude!
Next, it was over to Wave 89.1FM. This station actually airs my show! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to be on the air in Manila. Big shout out to Nelson “Sarge” Capulso for having me on. You can catch Sunday Night Slow Jams every Sunday at 10PM on Wave 89.1FM. It was great to see Sarge in person, and the station. I even went on the radio with the midday DJ, Dash. We talked about Slow Jams, my trip to Manila and I gushed about how much I loved The Philppines. So fun!
After my awesome visits to the radio stations, I grabbed an Uber back to the hotel and packed for that night’s flight out. I can’t tell you how sad–downright angry–I was to be leaving so soon. The Philippines is one of those countries I not only must return to visit, but it’s one country I would actually consider living in, or at least staying for months. Philippines, I’ll be seeing you soon. Leave the light on for me.