The plane had barely touched down on the runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport late Tuesday afternoon when the buzzing and beeping of cell phone text messaging began. The sky was surprisingly clear and the weather not the skin-melting humidity I was bracing myself for. I walked toward immigration, passport in hand, passing both a live band and a sign welcoming visitors to the “bird flu free Philippines.”
I made my way through immigration, got in a cab, and was immediately confronted with a staple of Manila life — sitting in an idling car in the parking lot that is EDSA. When you buy a plane ticket to Manila, travel agents should just be honest when you ask how long it takes to get from your departure location to Manila. My flight from Bangkok to Manila was three hours, but there should be a disclosure stating that just because your flight is over, that doesn’t mean you don’t have another hour and a half travel time before you get to your destination, which could be only a mile from the airport.
Luckily I had a chatty cab driver who spoke excellent English. He informed me that the Philippines is the third most corrupt country in the world and that the country would never advance economically without an end to corruption. I tried to tell him that other countries also have plenty of corrupt politicians, but he wasn’t convinced. He was exceptionally friendly. I believe he should be appointed as a designated tourist taxi driver by the Department of Tourism. I’m sure many visitors to Manila have been put off by some of the city’s more questionable cab drivers.
The guards at my building welcomed me back. My apartment was still neat, just the way I left it a month ago, but I quickly pulled everything out of my suitcases to give it that rock-star-just-trashed-a-hotel-room look, minus the empty bottles of booze.
I have to admit it doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but it is nice to be somewhere familiar, back in my old routines, back to the craziness at work, back to my apartment with the sounds of karaoke drifting through my window.
Photos and stories of my travels in Laos, India and Bangkok are on their way!