It's been a rollercoaster ride; and I wouldn't change a thing. An amazing, spellbinding country. From the cool Cordillera mountains of Northern Luzon, to the archipelagos around Palawan and Busuanga, to the madness of Manila's sweltering backstreets...it's been stunning, breathtaking, funny and sometimes heart-stopping at times; pursued by robbers in Baguio, and tempting fate on the rocky roads to Sagada. The people have been warm and friendly in the main, it's easy to avoid those who aren't. The place is not on many people's radar, but I think it should be. It certainly makes Thailand, Laos and even Vietnam feel like you're on a Tourist Escalator. There are many more places I want to see next time around, it didn't make sense to try and cram them all in. Leyte, Mindanao and the reefs at Apo and Tubbtaha will certainly be on the list next time.
I saw Gerd for a few beers at Erra's in Manila. I'll really miss him, it's been the best part of my trip so far. He offered me work anytime I want to come back, so I'll maybe aim to head out again at the end of the year, or early the next. I met a nice local girl called Jane when he left. We arranged to meet the next day for an induction in the English art of Pool. She'd never played before, but got quite good by the end of the second day. We also took a walk up to Paco Park, an old Spanish burial ground set around a circular chapel. A serene, peaceful escape from the traffic. On the way up there we'd seen a lifeless, almost naked man on a pavement. Eyes wide open and staring, and his body paid attention by flies. I shuddered as we stepped round him. I had a bet with Jane on whether or not he'd be in the same position when we returned ie. dead. Thankfully he wasn't, he'd moved. Unfortunately his old chap was now hanging out of his loincloth, much to the disgust of female passers-by. He was long past caring; more existing than living...his eyes were empty. I wondered what his story was.
A trip to Manila wouldn't be complete without the taxi driver who avoids the meter. This one tried negotiating a price, I said I'd never paid more than 200 on the meter. He was chatty, until I noticed he'd covered the meter with a cloth. I asked him to remove it, and conversation strangely dried up. He gave me the silent treatment all the way to the airport. Suit's me just fine, pal. 100 pesos on the meter, is it? Here's a hundred...keep the change.
A whisk from the automatic door, baking heat gave way to merciful airconditioned heaven, and thirty minutes later I'm paying the extortionate airport tax to escape the country. Thanks for the memories. See you next time.