Thursday, June 11, 2015

Manila and San Pablo City (Philippines)

Previous visits to Manila with its ridiculously snarled traffic, e.g. 2 hours to move 100 meters, have not left us with the greatest of impressions so this trip to the capital was strictly limited to visiting family. The size of our group meant staying in other accommodations. Our hotel was in Makati, the financial district and home to what appeared to be a branch for every major global luxury brand imaginable. With an Hermes, Prada, and Peninsula hotel, it's hard to remember the Philippines - at least the rest of it - is still very much a developing country.

Outside Makati and other affluent parts of the capital, this is more obvious. The drive to San Pablo City in Laguna province (~ 100 km south of the capital) could be reminiscent of many other places in Southeast Asia, Latin America, or the Caribbean - tin roofs, brightly painted concrete buildings, roadside fruit stands, roaming dogs, and crowing roosters. The most distinctly Pinoy (slang for Filipino) characters in the scenes are the jeepneys and tricycles.

The Philippines spent nearly 50 years under the Americans following the Spanish-American War, and jeepneys are a remnant of that past. Old U.S. military jeeps were refurbished with Filipino ingenuity and repurposed into what has become the main transport of choice. Privately owned and operated, each one is tricked out with stylized lettering - usually referencing a romantic sentiment, family, God, or all three - and all manner of bling whether that be highly polished chrome, colorful streamers, or elaborate tunes when the horn honks. The back has bench seats facing each other, and people hop on and off along the route written on the outside, e.g. Rosario to San Pablo.

Tricycles, on the other hand, are modified motorbikes with a sidecar. A roof and windscreen extends to cover both the driver and passenger side. Besides the driver, we fit 4 adults comfortably into one. My mom fondly recalled getting 10 people plus baggage into one, a testament to the tricycle's abilities as a clown car.

Another common sight in San Pablo (and later in other towns) were vinyl banners. The combination of photo printing and Filipinos' love of celebrations seems to have taken the country by storm. Personalized banners decorated nearly every block, announcing everything from who was having their second birthday to who graduated cum laude in nursing from the local college. When your academic success has been announced to the town at large, talk about pressure!

San Pablo is known for its seven volcanic crater lakes, and we started a stroll around the largest one, Lake Sampaloc. Before the heat of the day finally beat us down into submission, we got to see quite a few interesting sights. On the lake itself, fish pens cluster next to huts built on stilts for the people raising tilapia in the waters. Along the shore, teams were lashing together sturdy bamboo stalks and coating the edges in heavy crimson, turquoise, and fuchsia lacquers in preparation for a raft race in the upcoming town fiesta. Spaced every few meters, proud roosters were tied up to individual A-frames, which my dad pointed out meant that they were for the popular sport of cock-fighting. Another beloved sport - despite the height challenge of most Filipinos - is basketball so it shouldn't have been surprising to see a full-sized DIY backboard and goal in the middle of the path. This gave Rich a great opportunity to represent Tarheels and try out his best Michael Jordan impression.

Click on the picture to see the whole album.

No comments:

Post a Comment