High rises abound at the port of Manila, Philippines. Lots of volcanic islands surrounding the big U-shaped harbor. The culture is a mashup of Malay, Pilipino, Spanish and American. Manila was key trading harbor with China and Malaysia well before the Spanish arrived in 1600s. The Spanish built a huge walled city (bigger than the Vatican) with 15 feet high and 12 foot thick walls and a moat. The city/fort held for 300 years until the British breached one side and ruled briefly. Philippines became a US territory in 1888 as part of the Spanish American war along with Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guam. There were actual battles in Manila between the Spanish and US. Missed that in American history. Major battles for WWII were fought here between the US and the Japanese. MacArthur headquarters were here until the Japanese invaded. Even bloodier when we took it back. Many of the old Spanish structures were destroyed in the encounters.
We were supposed to be in Manila for two days, but several weeks ago we were told we have to get to Shanghai earlier because of the tides, so we only have until 10 PM tonight. Our historical city tour for tomorrow got rescheduled to 7:45 AM today. That ended up to be a good thing because its our hottest day yet with 95 degrees. The fort now contains a large park and the moat is a golf course. Very impressive walls and really small gates. The country is 85% catholic and as it was Sunday morning, we could only peek into the beautiful churches. A highlight was a restored Spanish villa. The woodwork was gorgeous. Furnishings were an eclectic mix of Spanish and Chinese since China is closer than Spain. Our bus had a motorcycle escort to navigate traffic, which early Sunday morning was not too bad but parking was horrible.
Traffic was much worse when Mel and I went out to mall later in the afternoon. There are some scooters, but the main transport is the Jeepney – a highly decorated, stretch jeep made from leftover American jeeps. 7 pesos ($0.15) for senior citizens. Another favorite is a bicycle sidecar which functioned as everything from passenger seat, vendor shop or mobile home.
We went to the Mall of Asia with over 2,000 stores. Part of it was open air and part was air conditioned. You needed to go through a metal detector to get into the air conditioned part. One whole row was hair, nail, foot salons and massage places. Our feet got tired before we covered the entire mall. I did get a new watch band for my ancient Timex watch that had broken earlier in the trip. It was $8.00 at the Timex store. We picked up a Tshirt for the quilt and a table runner.
Manila was very inviting. The first thing that comes to mind is “smiles” when I think of the city. Everyone was smiling, everyone waved from cars, bikes and buses. The kids in the parks were all laughing and loved having their pictures taken. It was a fun day.