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Written on: Tuesday December 11th, 2007

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

Leveriza Street, Pasay City

Espenida Residence

I arrived late at night in Manila. Thank goodness the flight from Hong Kong was short. I sat beside a young fellow from the US army, who I later discovered is stationed in Afghanistan. At first he was refusing to place his obviously oversized belongings underneath the seat in front of him. So can you just imagine the commotion that was caused by this disgruntled soldier aboard the plane - it took several flight attendants to convince him to comply and settle down. Yikes! I was dreading the awkward flight ahead by having to sit beside him, but surprisingly we had a delightful conversation after takeoff and as we waited in line at customs.

From the moment you step off the plane, I am reminded of how home and here are worlds apart and as many times as I visited the Philippines, it always strikes a different chord each time. The wait at the airport seemed like hours and the humid heat had already started to permeate my skin even before I got off the plane. Driving here is fierce and the traffic atrocious. Dilapidated jeepneys, buses and tricycles crowd the streets and undisciplined drivers cause hours of gridlock. It takes great skill to get behind the wheel and you must become a passenger to understand the ruthlessness. The saying, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere" applies if one were to drive in Manila.

My aunt's house in Pasay City will be my base for the next month or so, as I am planning several island getaways that involve some major R&R. My brother, Dennis will also be arriving later this month, so it will be a treat to spend the holidays with my immediate family as well as my extensive network of relatives. The haphazard fireworks have already started in preparation for the festivities in the weeks ahead and with no snow outside, the simple Christmas decorations serve as my only reminder that the holidays are near.

New developments continue to take place in the form of super malls and shopping centres which juxtapose the slums and shanty communities that surround them. It's the one thing Filipinos have a knack for - shopping. My aunt claims that it's a way for people to forget their hardships and that spending money they don't have, allows them to live freely.

That night we were warmly greeted by a troop of girls and the newest rendition of door-to-door Christmas caroling. The girls put on quite the show as they danced and entertained us with their booty shaking and private popping moves. It was impressive for a six-year-old.

It's 7am and breakfast is served. I rouse groggy and frozen from what feels like the subzero air-conditioning throughout the night. I swear off of it but in the back of my head I know it will be a challenge. Lionel arrives later this evening. The plan is to have a day of sightseeing around the city and a night out in Makati. We will then make our way down South into the Visayas. After several days of Metro Manila madness, I am looking forward to the sand, sun and water.