After 12 hours on the ferry we arrived early at the pier in Manila. To be honest, we had not heard much positive feedback about Manila. Almost all the advice we received was to not leave the airport. D’s goal was to find something nice to say about the city.
Getting off the ferry it smelled like garbage, but it is the port, so no judgments yet. In looking at the maps we were near Rizal park and the National Museum. On a tip from a helpful local we met at the Underground River, we discovered that the Museum entry was free due to what he called art month. With the trusty help of Google maps off we went.
We we definitely felt out-of-place. Near the ferry port there is a neighborhood that is a slum. There are people sleeping on the street, garbage everywhere, cats and dogs wandering around, and yet the city was alive with energy. Surrounded by utter poverty there was still a sense of normalcy. People were getting ready for work, washing clothes, children were playing, and even the garbage men were collecting trash, which seemed strange because of the litter everywhere. The traffic ebbed and flowed as Manila traffic infamously does. The only thing strange was us. As interesting as this part of the city was I did not feel right taking a picture, not due to safety, but because I felt like it would disrespectful. These people are going about life the best they can, it is not my place to treat it as some kind of side show exhibit. Sadly, after we returned to Taiwan I saw a news article that showed this very neighborhood had a fire and 15,000 were without a home.
Once we crossed the river it was clear that the neighborhood changed drastically. We passed a gated golf course, the cruise ship terminal, and arrived at our destination Rizal park. The sidewalks were cleaned or in the process of being cleaned. If only some of those people could have moved further down the road. I mean I get it they are trying to keep up appearances for tourists, but the contrast is striking. I never felt like we had wandered into the wrong neighborhood, but we clearly were not local and I probably would not want to be there after dark. It really puts life in perspective. The excess of some and the meager lifestyle of others, we erred on the side of over tipping. When the question is over 10 pesos, which is roughly .20¢, as far as I am concerned they can have it.
Rizal Park’s main feature is the memorial of Joseph Rizal. It is flanked by two soldiers standing guard surrounding the monument where his ashes are stored. It was early and many restaurants were not open, so we had the remaining snacks we bought for the ferry with a food stall cup of instant coffee and tea. The park has a prominent fountain in the center and is surrounded by other gardens and art installations. We enjoyed the surroundings until 10 AM when the Museum, which sits on the edge of the park opened. I think we needed the rest as we still felt we were walking on the ferry and moving up and down with the ocean.
The National Museum makes up two different museums, an art museum and a natural history museum. Going to a Museum was a great idea. A place to store our backpacks and a place full of interesting things to look at. We ended up in the art Museum, it had a special exhibit about the history of cuisine and the origin of food in the Philippines through the age of exploration.
We wandered through the different exhibits. The Catholic influence was apparent in the subject matter of many of the paintings. After spending 3 hours at the museum we went to a recommended restaurant on the pier for a late lunch before heading to the airport.
D. had chili crab and I ordered fish Sinigang, a seafood soup. Both of these dishes we were told were traditional Filipino dishes.
Regardless of where you are born, kids are kids everywhere. These children were playing king of the mountain… or old pier support. It reminded me of playing at the pool at the West side Estates as kids trying to take over the island and not be thrown into the water. Despite the poverty, kids just want to be kids. It was a nice way to end our Philippine adventure. After watching the local children play in the water while eating lunch, we caught an Uber to the airport. Yes, they had über!