The VT meet begins.
The 12th January I had arranged to meet my mad mate Claus and some of his Danish friends for a walk around and then we were going to Intramuros for a VT meeting and dinner which was to be the start of the whole VT weekend.
Sitting on the roof terrace ofClaus's hotel waiting to go, I was again reminded of how different a place this is. The two images give you an idea. There were two guys perched on what was effectively a couple of bamboo poles slung by ropes from the roof painting about an eight or nine storey building with what appeared to be a domestic paint roller and a 2 inch brush. Heaven knows how long it was going to take them.
Compare and contrast the above with this image, taken from exactly the same spot about 10 seconds later. This is the whole thing about the Philippines, and much of Southeast Asia. Huge modern blocks co-exist with primitive bamboo shacks in close proximity, 4x4 tanks race on the roads with 20 year old scooters and multi millionaires live in gated compounds while small children beg on the streets. Sure, we have similar juxtapositions in the West, they are just not as pronounced. I suppose this is one of the things that makes this region endlessly fascinating.
We eventually took off and wandered from Malate towards Intramuros. As the name suggests, this is the old walled area of the city from where the Spanish administered the country.
On the way, we passed this statue in Rizal Park. It is of the eponymous Jose Rizal who is the absolute national hero of the country. This statue is replicated in every town and village, always in the same pose with the book in the left hand and there is a Rizal Street in every Barangay (township). I won't bore the reader with a complete biography but he was a poet, writer, scholar, educator and Heaven knows what else. He spoke well over 20 languages fluently and had travelled the world. He was also something of a ladies man and his last girlfriend was an Irishwoman called Josephine Bracken. Poor man, you would have thought with all that intelligence he could have avoided that one!
Rizal wrote two famous books which were very critical of the Spanish colonialists and, as a result they sentenced him to death in 1898. He was executed by firing squad and, interestingly, the Spanish chose to shoot him in the back. Appropriate I thought. There is still photographic evidence of it which you can get on the internet. This act effectively sparked a long brewing revolution and the Spanish were eventually sent packing a few years later when the Americans took over.
This was also the site chosen for the Declaration of the Republic of the Philippines in 1946 after the War.
We finally got to Intamuros which is charming. The first thing you encounter is the Manila Cathedral pictured, it is a delightful building. Actually, it is the eighth Cathedral on this site. War, fire, typhoon and earthquake have all contributed to this. Maybe God does not want the Cathedral in this spot, I don't know.
Neither do I know if 12th January (a Thursday) is particularly auspicious for weddings but we ran into three in the space of 30 minutes and 150 yards. They do like a good wedding in Manila. If you are wondering about the photo, it is back to the Virtual Tourist thing again. We have a tradition of seeing who can get the most offbeat photos of the VT flag in various odd settings. These delightful wedding guests, bridesmaids etc. were kind enough to pose this one for me.
Another cathedral and another wedding. This is the Augustinian Cathedral which is a mere 150 yards from the main Cathedral. You cannot believe how strong the Roman Catholic Church is in the Philippines. I am not sure what indigenous religions the Catholic Spanish eradicated, I must look it up.
We all then started to gather in Barbara's restaurant for the evening, but I decided to take a solo ramble as is my wont and managed, more by luck than judgement, to find the seedier end of the place. I seem to have an inbuilt ability to do this and I find these places far more interesting than the tourist trail. I went into a bar for a beer and within ten minutes had attracted some very pretty female company of, I would have thought, dubious morality. Pleading a prior engagement, I made my excuses and left as the News of the World journos used to say.
Barbara's was superb, an excellent buffet meal accompanied by a pianist on a baby grand, then occasional music from a young but very talented string ensemble. After this came a dance show featuring traditional Philippino dances from various regions as well as the more Spanish influenced dances. It really was very good.
After a wonderful night in great company a few of us decided to go to a newly opened rooftop bar for a view of the lights of Manila, which was delightful. I will try and get back there in daylight, the views must be great.
At the end of the night, my good friend Miko was giving some of us a lift to various locations. Unfortunately, even with his large people carrier, there were still too many of us, so Claus did the right and proper thing, as you see.
And so to bed, preparing for the flight down to Boracay the next day.
Well, this has taken a little while, and I have things t do today, so I'll try to catch up later.