A Travellerspoint blog

Manila nightstop

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large_5550_14924352558302.jpgJeepney in Pampanga.
I had a relatively late wake-up today without the alarm around 0730 and took my time with breakfast of mueli and milk before checking out at 1030. I had asked two receptionists during the course of my stay about buses to Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524] and they both said I could easily get them at Starmills Robinsons mall kinda next door. Having checked out the place, I could see signage for various Manila stations.

However, when I got there, there were no buses to Manila Cubao [Cubao-travel-guide-878822] or Pasay [Pasay-travel-guide-1314404]. Staff at one company pointed to the other company but in the end, I had no choice but to take a tricycle to the intersection where there were definitely buses to Manila.large_5550_14924352595811.jpgMy lunch stop. Sack of MSG in the corner. Not a good look.

Szymon and Magdalena had mentioned that accurate information is hard to find in Philippines. I’d tend to agree. It is quite a contrast to Indonesia where people are generally very clued up about their surroundings and are very helpful (but it helps that I speak the language there).

It took a short wait before a Pasay bus arrived. It was standing room only but as there were only three standing, I was able to grab a seat as soon as we entered into the Manila area 50 mins later when some people starting disembarking. It was another 30 minutes through Manila’s congested streets to Pasay (stopping at Cubao first).

I hopped in a taxi and he turned on the meter. But a little later, he said that there would be a PHP100 surcharge for traffic. I said that he should have told me beforehand. There was a large double-back due to the one-way system and another when he didn’t quite know the location of the hotel. The trip cost only PHP160 and there was no argument of not paying his “surcharge”.

At the Red Planet Hotel (formerly the Tune Hotel where I once stayed), I managed to get my room immediately. Nothing much had changed but disappointingly the Irish pub is now a Suzhou restaurant. Out of convenience I took my lunch there. It was so-so but very off-putting to see a huge sack of MSG sitting in the corner.

Strangely, after having done so little, I felt like a rest. So rest I did ... until about 1730. It was too late to revisit Intramuros and took a short walk along the waterfront before disappearing into Robinsons City mall for dinner.
The gogo bars were alive by the time I made my way back. There were many girls posing outside cheerfully inviting guests in. An Asian man and his friend in a wheelchair were just making their way in when I walked past .

So, that was my Manila nightstop. I didn't want to travel from San Fernando to Tagbilaran in one hit because of the schedules and since I had the luxury of time, Manila made a pleasant but a kinda "nothing" stop.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Good Friday & Good Frinight

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large_5550_14922449583446.jpgOn the streets of San Fernando, some people carry crosses to the Cathedral.
Today is the big day of my trip. It is the day of the gory Good Friday crucifixions.

At the Cathedral (Whippings and Cross Bearers)

Szymon (whome I met yesterday with his wife-to-be Magdalena) knocked on my door at 0800. He had read that we needed to go really early as Cutud was near Angeles city and it was quite a long ride.

I explained that there was more than one Cutud and the one we need to go to is across the motorway and would involve s short jeepney ride and perhaps a tricycle as well. I showed him all my references but still wanted to go early toensure we missed nothing. Fair enough as we have all come a long way especially for this; I had originally planned to go around 1000.large_5550_14922449611927.jpgOn the streets of San Fernando, some people whip themselves till their backs are raw.

We hopped into a jeepney (PHP8) marked Palengke and got off in San Fernando when we saw people bearing crosses and whipping themselves till their backs were raw. We followed them on foot for a while. It was quite a grim sight at first but I soon got over it.

The natural assumption would be that they are proceeding to the crucifixion site. But I checked with some passers by who said they were going home. And the site was actually in the opposite direction!

We headed that way which was where the San Fernando Metropolitan Cathedral was located. In front were more people whipping themselves, some lying face down getting beaten by others, and some others bearing crosses. There was a constant stream of others coming in as they left.

Magdalena told me that Szymon was obsessive with photography and would do”anything” to get the best pictures.large_5550_14922449666877.jpgOn the streets of San Fernando, some people whip themselves till their backs are raw.He work tirelessly taking “more of the same” pictures in the oppressive heat whereas I retreated to the Cathedral after a while and took refuge in its relative cool.

In the foyer of the Cathedral was a glass case which would take the body of Christ for a procession in the evening. Once inside, in the small chapel to the left, was a statue of lying Christ. People wee given a small ball of cotton to wipe his feet so that they could kiss it. I told Szymon about this the information of the night procession; I think his focus meant that he could easily miss good information.

Crucifixions at Santa Lucia & San Pedro Cutud

At around 1130 we decided it was time to walk to the San Pedro Cutud crucifixion site.large_5550_14922449701567.jpgThe whips are wooden sticks not too different from a stick of pencil.We kept asking for directions along the way. A lady along the way insisted on taking us to Santa Lucia instead. My research indicated that there are three crucifixions in the whole area and recalled that Santa Lucia was before San Pedro Cutud. We agreed amongst ourselves that we would go to Santa Lucia after checking that we had enough time to get from Lucia to Pedro.

We braved the stinking heat and walked about 20 minutes. We knew we were close when the foot, tricycle and motor traffic was heavy. In the large open shed, they re-enacted the final moments of Christ’s life (we have missed the procession re-enacting the Stations of the Cross).

The Jesus character was taken to the artificial mini-hill where he was crucified with two others. I was only able to observe from a distance couldn’t see theh actual nailing of all three people.large_5550_1492244974977.jpgHaving made his way to the Cathedral, he takes a quiet moment of devotion.But once the deed was done, the nails were clearly there.

Szymon had managed to rush in and get into the press area where he got some good photos. Hopefully I’ll get to see some of them.

As I was conscious of the time to get to San Pedro Cutud, I went to our agreed meeting point soon after the nailing was complete (and a few photos taken). Unfortunately the other two didn’t turn up for quite a while.

It was more walking in the now midday heat. The crowd grew thicker with people , motorbikes, tricycles and cars but at no time did it get disorderly. Then we would come to a complete standstill. It became apparent why when we discovered that we had caught up with the Stations of the Cross procession re-enacting the whole story. Szymon saw some foreigner going up to Jesus, bearing and dragging his cross and having a selfie with him.large_5550_14922449777728.jpgHaving made his way to the Cathedral, he takes a quiet moment of devotion.The sheer disrespect was beyond me.

The cordoned off area once we got to the crucifixion site was quite large. Szymon, again, got into the elevated platform for the press. I was far enough to still get OK shots but was able to join him once the nailing was done and a few people had left.

Here, only the Jesus character had real nails. He may also have had a nail in his foot but I’m not sure. The two thiefs escaped lightly with only being tied up on the cross. I had read that there's no big interest amongst locals to get nailed; perhaps that's why the two thiefs were tied up. That must put a lot of pressure for the Jesus character to keep going year-after-year and not "retire" from the role.

Szymon got the idea that here, the crucifixions go on for about 2h as there are lots of people wnting to play the Jesus role but I think there had been a misunderstanding.large_5550_14922449811858.jpgThere are people who help whip or slap the participants as well.

I had finished the last of my three bottles of water and bought two more. We walked all the way back to the Cathedral area. It was still bloody hot and I would have taken transport but it was quite pointless in view of the congestion ... not that there were any empty tricycles around.

As the malls near the hotel were close today, we decided it would be wise to eat in San Fernando rather than the hotel (where they guarantee you get your meal in 10 minutes or it is free ... can’t be that good!). There was a choice of Jollibee, McDo or Chowking all in one row and we opted for the Chinese. All our meals were OK and the two Poles decided to add on a Halo-Halo each after seeing mine :-) We took a jeepney back to the hotel where I had time for a two hour rest.

Evening processions at San Fernando

At about 1700, I took the jeepney back to San Fernando by myself (the Poles had moved on).large_5550_14922449859688.jpgThere are people who help whip or slap the participants as well (if you look cafefully behind the two main characters).I saw a few beautiful floats along the way. In the Cathedral courtyard, there were a small but growing number. Close to 1800, the courtyard was full and it was a glorious sight when they were illuminated for the procession.

The procession began fairly promptly at 1800. One-by-one, each float exited the courtyard. It was a relatively silent affair except for the sound of the diesel generators. In between and alongside were people carrying candles.

I didn’t follow the procession. I gathered that they would return and went for dinner at Chowking. I wasn’t too fussed about seeing the procession come back. But where I had to wait for my return jeepney, I saw the glimmer of their lights. It was good to see them a second time even though I had had enough and they were holding up my jeepney!

The traffic followed closely behind the last float.large_5550_14922449897185.jpgMetropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando.It was quite a chaotic scene with many jeepneys all making a U-turn and boarding at the same time.

Closing note and other observations

I had been an awesome day watching the crucifixions and the processions. It was an insight into the deep religious fervour that is now unseen in many Western countries which were once populated with practicing Christian (rather than just celebrate Christmas as a commercial event).

One interesting observation in San Feranando is that a disproportionate proportion of the shops and traders were Muslim. Maybe they’re from the south of the country. Perhaps it is a case of minorities trying harder than the rest to get ahead.

To me, the Philippines feels like a blend of Latin Amrerica and Malaysia/Indonesia.large_5550_14922449938385.jpgThree people were crucified in nearby Lucia.Really, native South Americans aren’t too different from the people of SE Asia if you’re able to strip away the Spanish influence (in South America and Philippines) and the Islamic influence (in Malaysia / Indonesia). In fact, ditto for North American natives; my Malaysian friends get mistaken as Native Americans! Many Westerners can't see the similarity but coming from the region, I can't dispute it.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

To Pampanga via Clark

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Even though my alarm was set for 0600, my bodyclock woke me at 0530. My flight to Clark [Clark-travel-guide-1323056] near Manila was at 0945. I checked out at 0615 and managed to get a bus at 0640 after having just missed one. At this time, there wasn’t much traffic and I was at the airport around 0710.

There wasn’t a queue at check-in, security or immigration so I was airside in no time. But the complimentary lounge I wanted to use had a queue out the door. Once inside, it was busier than many of the gate areas and actually less relaxing. But stayed an hour and fuelled up for free here with food and coffee before taking the train to my gate at the new concourse (gate number 2xx range).

I got to the gate about 40 mins before departure and was surprised to see the tail of the boarding queue. I hurried on board but people kept straggling through until we closed up for an ontime departure.

The 2h flight to Clark went quickly. Cebu Pacific has really uncomfortable seats which feel quite upright with no lumbar support. But when reclined, the lumbar is too prominent. I wonder how seat designers get away with such flawed designs! The other thing I noticed from previous flights was that there is no carpet on the aircraft; only vinyl that looks like carpet! I’m happy with that if it keeps the price of the fares low! Cheaper to buy and less cleaning, maintenance etc.

We arrived and the airbridge wasn’t in use. Presumably, Cebu Pacific is like AirAsia and tries to save on the extrac charge imposed by the airport authority, claiming that it is reflected in the price. As I was midship, I was one of the last to disembark to join the end of the long but fast-moving queue.

Despite the requirement to view my exit ticket, they didn’t ask for it (all airlines require it strictly at time of check-in though). When I offered, the officer seemed to trust me and declined the offer.

There were no buses to SM City Pampanga or Robinsons Starmills where my hotel was located. A sign suggested that it would be PHP1100 so I offered that to a driver that asked me. He then put me in a combined vehicle and I protested as it should be just a share of that fare. I got put into a private vehicle for the same price immediately.

The Sogo Hotel is a chain of windowless hotels. I think they specialise in short stays of a couple of hours so people can have sex in the relative privacy and comfort compared to their own homes with the extended families. It was very clean and comfortable enough.

I was more than ready for a late lunch and ventured into the 37 degC heat (but it wasn’t too ohumid). The very good-looking mall, SM City Pampanga was closed (being Maundy Thursday). But nearby Robinsons Starmills was open; strange.

I had a grilled chicken whole thigh (small) with rice then did a small shop-up of milk, fruit and a few bits; plastic bags are banned in the city of San Fernando so everything was put into brown paper bags (double bagged). After a rest, I returned for an awesome grilled stuffed squid in the evening.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Lazy day

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I woke up at 0600 after 8h solid sleep. With the gloomy weather, my plan to go for a hike on Lamma Island was scrapped. That meant I could do everything in slow motion today and didn’t leave the room till around 1000. Actually there isn’t much point going out early here as very little (apart from food) is open early.

The weather was cool and lovely with a hint of humidity to keep the skin nice. The morning wat turns spent shopping: Apple Store to get a watch strap for a friend, then Uniqlo to check out their range (the items I wanted were cheaper on promo on their Malaysian website but the HK store had better choices of colour).

Aft er a simple lunch of charsiew rice (not as good as my suburban foodcourt in Northcote), I had a 1h05min massage for HKD165 in Wan Chai at my “regular” place. It was very hard but that was partly my fault. My left side appeared to be very knotted up and hurt rather badly when she worked on it but not so much my right side.

The rain had started when I came out from my massage. I did very little for the rest of the day except for getting dinner. I had a wonton noodle soup, choy sam with oyster sauce and then tofu jelly with almond.

It was nice to be back in Hong Kong after a relatively long absence. It was also nice to do very little and enjoy the fast-moving city at my own leisurely pace!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Back to Hong Kong after a long absence

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In Hong Kong, we were lucky to pull into a gate very near to immigration. I do dislike the airports multiple escalators to get down/up the trains that take you to/from the gates. Immigration queue was long but fast-moving.

I took the A11 bus to Causeway Bay [Causeway-Bay-travel-guide-1339866] and hopped off for my short walk to the Butterfly on Morrison hotel. It was extremely muggy even though it wasn’t hot.

It was a very nice place with nice touches like a free wifi modem with unlimited data, a free cellphone loaded with guides and free unlimited data again. Those two options are great when roaming around the city and are additional to the free wifi in the room!

It had been a long time since I had done a daylight longhaul flight. It had been a long day. I retired around 2200.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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