Thursday, June 28, 2007

Things I won't miss...

This is the first of a two part post...the second - not surprisingly, and more postively - will be on things that I will miss...this, as titled, is things that I will not miss....

I won't miss the smelly, dirty, about to fall apart taxis that I have been using on a daily basis since I arrived here.... I have clocked up four accidents in a taxi and one disintegration (under the Shaw-Edsa flyover - the back wing fell off a taxi whilst we were sitting in the middle of the junction waiting for the traffic to clear - the driver got out...asked me to move into the front seat, whilst he man-handled the back wing into the back seat!!). Or the taxi that mid-ride to Makati said he needed to do something urgent stopped the car, got out, flipped up the bonnet and started fiddling around with the engine.

Taxi drivers (there is a flip side to this one - see the positive post later!)
I wont miss the conniving, scamming drivers...the ones that ask for extra money due to traffic, weather, time of day/night, general political situation etc etc....
I wont miss the drivers that it is a battle to get them to use their meters
I wont miss the drivers who run out of petrol mid-ride (happened twice), or on one occasion, the driver who mid-ride asked if I could advance the fare so he could fill up with petrol... actually this made me quite sad - it just goes to show the hand-mouth lifestyle that the lower classes here have...nobody should have to deal with that...worker or customer.
And I sure as hell wont miss being turfed out of taxis because either the driver has changed his mind, or I refuse to pay any extra over and above the meter.... I've been turfed out on Edsa three times (usually late at night - not fun) and once in Cebu, fortunately in the middle of Lapu-Lapu city where there was a friendly policeman!

The Airport
I don't know where to start....!!!!! It's a disaster....organisation, cleanliness, security, its all bad....Manila International Airport does not have one redeeming feature that I can think of.....from the wildlife, to the terrible shopping and f&b facilities, lack of a decent bookstore, the process for getting to check in....its all bad....and arrival at the airport is even worse!

Waste of resources
The Philippines has a lot going for it...language, education level, fantastic tourist sites and locations, vivid history, diving, lovely resorts, a generally friendly and welcoming population, great shopping, relatively good weather..... so why is it not a booming, flourishing nation with a bright and rosy future.... the political situation and the government are mostly to blame but...and I tell my Filipino friends this....the problem is 'resignation'...the other day whilst catching up on blog reading...a post by Torn & Frayed, had one sentence in it that whilst in this case was referring to political killings, I think refers to the Philippines in general....

He is battling against the biggest ally of all politically motivated killings—the resignation of the Filipino people.

he goes on....

An almost unlimited well of stoicism it this country’s greatest strength and its most overpowering weakness. It sees balikbayans through the most terrible experiences from Jeddah to Singapore to LA and almost all points in between and somehow gives them the strength to come out of it all laughing. It enables Filipinos at home to smile despite low wages, poor living conditions, and some of the world’s worst traffic. It is an absolutely necessary quality in the often brutal world of modern Manila.

Yet stoicism has its limits. Putting up with crap is all well and good, but there comes a point when you have to change the world instead of just putting up with it

....I copied pasted, because i couldn't have written it better myself. Never have I come across such a waste of resources, such complete and utter chaos and such resignation..... it's tragic.

The Peeing
I don't understand why Filipino men have this urge to unzip their trousers and pee where ever they wish..... it is disgusting and its unhygienic.... Whilst in BKK I actively looked to see if this was an Asian thing (although have not seen it in HKG or Singapore!) but in three days...not one guy standing close to a wall, lamp post, tree etc relieving himself.... here I see on average three or four a day when out and about.... its not nice.

The staring
It's not polite and given the number of foreigners that have been in the country, one would think we were not a rarity...granted if I go way out into the provinces...being blonde and rather - how can I put this -'busty'??!!, I can understand that I'll get a few looks...but in the Metro Manila area there is no excuse for the out and out staring that goes on...whilst waiting for a cab, walking down the road, in a mall, wherever...again, its not nice....

The overall feeling of chaos, disorganistion and dirt
Self explanatory....I loathe it!

The supermarkets
Quality, items available, supply and again, organisation - all lacking....although I would say that the new Rustans at Rockwell is an improvement...a few more like that would make life more pleasant.... they even have conveyor belts at the checkout counters (I'm a simple soul really), and it's clean, bright and doesn't smell....!!! OK, I know I'm being fussy - when we lived in The Gambia in the mid-80s we only had butter for four months of the year.... a real treat was a mini tin of condensed milk, meat was purchased in the market - usually half a cow and we would take it home and butcher it... so yes, this is an improvement....but on the other hand, we are now in 2007, 20 years on, in a huge city with a large expat population...

The overall lack of trust
There is an overriding lack of trust in this country that is shown in the way that purchases are handled in a store (packed and checked off against the receipt, not being able to leave without the receipt visible), the way that credit card purchases are handled, the way that people are frisked going into and out of establishments, even moving out of my apartment needs security checks etc (and its my belongings that are being if I have broken into another apartment and stolen their items). I realise that this lack of trust is due to previous abuses of trust, due to the levels of poverty in the country....but still it is quite disheartening that this is the case.

I think that's basically doubt I shall think of other annoyances but, off the top of my head, these are the ones that have bothered me the most whilst I have been here!

When I told my friends and colleagues two years ago that I was moving to a man (and a woman), they could not believe that I would do something that daft...nobody, including those that had worked here had a positive word to say about the country.

Here I am two years later and the same friends and colleagues are amazed that I have managed two years here. Quite a few people that I have spoken to don't understand my frustrations with day to day life here...but (and I have gently explained this to them!) these are people who have drivers (removes the taxi stresses!), helpers for shopping, running errands etc, and other little bits of help like collecting things from the post office (all things that relieve stress)...Granted, compared to the average Manila resident I lead a charmed life here, I can use taxis instead of buses, I do have the spending power to shop and eat in the better places and I live in a secure apartment.

The reason I guess I get so agitated about all of this is that, if all goes according to plan, my time in the Philippines is not yet over...Bangkok will be just a short 'break' for us....I repeat, if all goes according to plan (which in my life it rarely does), I shall be returning to these shores to set up home with the Island Boy! Which means that I will have to face this all over again....

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Blogger Mia said...

"Which means that I will have to face this all over again...."

Yes, but next time you won't have to leave.

4:02 pm  
Blogger amateur misanthrope said...

Re: the staring.

I'm afraid I've done a bit of that myself. Why? Because I can't help but wonder what a white person from the first world would do here. Most of us would rather go out and live elsewhere, you see.

4:28 pm  
Anonymous Pinay in Barnsley said...

Madame C!!!

First of all, I totally commiserate on all the points you've raised on how agitating living in Manila could be. If I hadn't lived outside the Phils for more than half of my life, I wouldn't be able to comprehend the issues you've raised. But I totally hear you esp the bits about lack of trust and waste of resources and the general feeling of resignation.

I know I've harped on about how much I miss the Philippines since I started my blog and that hasn't changed, although I'm sure there would be many things I'd struggle with when I finally get to go home. Resignation is just not part of my genetic make-up you see. So, it should be interesting.

But setting up home with the Island Boy?!!! Wow!!!Congratulations! Such exciting times.... ~BIG GRIN~

5:52 am  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

Mia: True, and hopefully next time will be Cebu!

AM: I still find the staring bizarre, and being here in Bangkok, where I haven't been stared at yet....I find it even odder that its such an issue in Manila!

Pinay in Barnsley: No where is perfect...and believe me, if I were living in England...there'd probably be harping on other things...I think the one thing that physically makes my blood boil in the Philippines is the waste of resources... Oh, and don't buy a hat....anything can happen between now and....whenever!!!!

11:21 pm  
Blogger Ching said...

All the things you wrote about in this post used to drive me crazy when I was living in Manila. Now, just reading about these pet peeves makes me miss home! (Probably because I'm now living in Singapore which doesn't have nearly enough quirks).

I'm sure the minute I step foot in NAIA all of these things will drive me crazy again. But for now - I miss Manila.

1:04 am  
Blogger boostah said...

Im glad someone else feels the same, ive been living here almost two years myself on and off, and i agree with everything you say, and i have a lot more to add to it, check out sometime, thats me, im from ireland.

7:22 am  
Anonymous Mark said...

Oh how I miss the Philippines too!

My mother and father were born and raised there, but I was born and raised in the States.

I went there last summer - when I was 24, and that was my first time going there since I was 8.

I hated it there! I didn't like the heat, the crowded buildings, malls, and smog! I HATED it!

Then I came home, and within one week, I was already missing the Philippines! I missed the beautiful land, the nice and beautiful people, the beautiful scenery, my relatives, and even the malls and crowds, and even the stares I got just for being Fil-Am!

Oh how I miss the Philippines!!!

8:12 pm  
Anonymous Edmund said...

The writer is totally right, and there is no skepticism.
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5:14 am  

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