A Dream of the Birds of Paradise! Hello, my name is Juan José Maria Jiménez Pedro Dos Santos, I know in spite of my Castilian name, yes it’s true, I’m a young Filipino boy and I’m proud to be one. However, I would not have had this name and this first name if the Inquisitor Conquistador had not forced my ancestors to change their name. It is therefore difficult to go back in time because from that time, that is to say, in the twelfth century, once they landed we lost our culture, customs and roots forever, erased by the Franciscan priests who wanted to guide us towards the light and Christianity. Today we do not know the names of our ancestors. I am six years old and I live in a big dystopian city, you guessed it right, Manila in the Philippines. I have three brothers and two sisters, we are one big family. My mother died after the birth of my little brother Eduardo three years ago, our dad is very nice to us, he lets us play a lot and when we are hungry we wait for the tourists when they leave their hotels. They don’t want to give us money, but they have too much and we live in poverty. I don’t understand why they don’t give us the money, so we rush to ask them for money. We are lucky, we live not far from the big luxury hotels, during the day we have nothing to do and at night we sleep on cardboard boxes like many people on “Manila Bay”. I told you that we are lucky, it is one of the most beautiful bays in the world or at least that’s what we make tourists believe so that they come to visit us and spend a few pesos. The weather is always good in Manila and it almost never rains except of course during the monsoon periods. Unfortunately the sea water is very polluted, we can’t swim, the smell is very unpleasant but we get used to it quickly. To earn our living as I told you, we give alms, but we receive only the denial of the widow. We wait a bit for tourists to move away from the entrance of the hotels, yes because we are afraid of the guards and there are dog handlers and checkpoints in front of the hotels. There are even people with guns who can shoot us if we get too close to the tourists because they consider us a nuisance. I also wanted to tell you that my daddy and a real clam frog. The second week of April is Holy Week in Manila. My daddy was chosen by the priest of our church to be crucified, yes for real but without piercing his side with a spear. No we are not going to kill him like Jesus did when he was crucified, we all encourage him and we are all proud of him.
The dream of the birds of paradise! Hello my name is Mosquito and I made a trip for a week to Manila in the Philippines, as little Juan José Maria Jiménez Pedro used to tell you, I was attracted by these pretty pictures, where you can see turquoise blue waters, beautiful sandy beaches, swimming with dolphins etc.. I find it difficult to listen to the advice and experiences of other tourists, I prefer to see and evaluate the situation by myself. It was a terrible experience, Ha! But I told you, it was my wife who was telling me all the time, I started to realize it as soon as I arrived at the Manila airport. You have to know that the capital of the Philippines is very little served by major airlines, so to get to Manila we took Philippine Airlines. A big bullshit, by the way, if you know a pilot who works for this company, give him the following message “tell him that we are landing a plane on a runway, and that we don’t throw it like shit on the runway, so that the plane will go in all directions before stopping by miracle, especially since that day it was sunny and there was no wind. In short, I’m not telling you, a scare and it happened on the way there and back. Now that this has been said I feel better, what can I tell you and tell you more about my trip? You have read that like Juan José Maria Jiménez Pedro, for the Filipinos tourists are wallets that walk around every corner to be swindled and that in some streets you are not sure to get out unharmed. I’m not exaggerating, they are the ones telling me not to go to this or that place or you risk a lot.
Well we managed to get off the plane despite the little adventure during the landing, bravo “Filipino pilots”, we wonder where you learned to fly. We finally landed at Manila International Airport. The landing hall is so small that the passengers who got off the plane last, stayed standing on the stairs because there was not enough room in the hall to accommodate all the passengers on one plane. Of course we have to understand these latecomers, the time it took for them to come to their senses after the landing of our super airline pilots. There were two police officers for immigration formalities, and since it took three minutes per passenger, I’ll let you guess how people behaved in those conditions where everyone wanted to get out first, to get their suitcases before they disappeared. But fortunately, the baggage handlers were as few and slow to get the luggage down as their police colleagues were to check us in. Finally, we retrieve our suitcases at least two and a half hours after landing, to get out of the airport we head towards a flock of individuals who offer you the service of a taxi. We all know that you should not take the ones that are offered first, because these people prevent you from taking the time to make the right choice. Namely that all taxis have a meter, but they don’t use it because it’s not very remunerative, rather scamming tourists than making them pay for their errands with the meter, so we found a place where people were queuing to take a taxi, we quickly understood that it was the right place, we paid eight hundred pesos for the ride to get to our hotel.
Our Hotel is a five-star hotel at fifty-eight euros a night, I did not hesitate for a long time when I made the reservation, especially when I learned that in this hotel many important personalities were accommodated during their stays in Manila. But what was most shocking was when we arrived at the hotel for the first time, when the taxi that brought us from the airport showed up in front of the two-meter-high fenced entrance that surrounds the hotel. There was a gate like a highway tollgate except that you had to stop, turn off the engine, open the trunk so that a security guard could check the contents while three dog handlers circled the car and two other security guards each with their shotguns were watching you. To open the second gate, the taxi has to take a ticket, because he was allowed five minutes to drop us off and leave. The barrier opens and we are slowly walking towards the entrance of the building, meanwhile my wife and I were exchanging a worried look, but without saying a word. There we were sitting in this little taxi on the other side of the world with the feeling of being trapped without knowing the outcome of this adventure. In all my life, I had never passed a checkpoint and I was sincerely afraid, there were all the ingredients, security barriers, dog handler, armed guards. I felt like an actor during the shooting of a movie and I was playing the role of a poor unfortunate trying to cross the Palestinian territory controlled by the Hebrew army without papers and surrounded by a militia army. In a panic attack I look around me with a small grin, I don’t want to show my anguish so as not to frighten my wife. About fifty meters further on we are in front of the hotel entrance, a concierge opens the door of the taxi, the time to pay the taxi, our suitcases are on the floor, the concierge reassures us that we will find our suitcases in our room, I breathe a sigh indeed with what we have just been through, he could even keep our suitcases if he wanted nothing more to bother me.
But wait, it’s not over yet, once we got inside the hotel, and before going to the reception we had to pass our hand luggage through the security gate and we had to raise our arms to be palpated, fortunately the men are searched by a man and the women by a woman, and they put on white gloves. Waouh! Here we are, we’re on our way to the reception, please tell us, Madam receptionist, what’s going on, is there any problem, you’re at war? No, says the receptionist, it’s normal, don’t worry, it’s because something is happening right now, except that the pattern has lasted the whole period of our stay. During his election campaign, the presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said Rody the punisher had declared: “forget about human rights, if I become president, it will bleed” he established what has been called the Kill List, in fact between 2016 and the end of 2018, he made about 30,000 victims, people who were found dead without being arrested, judged or convicted of any crime, for Rody it is a new crusade to clean up the Philippines. So after a few days, going in and out of our hotel, as soon as I arrived at the hotel door I had my arms up in the air, to say I’m unarmed, don’t shoot, I’m unarmed. As usual, my wife’s in diapers again. Didn’t you ask around? You didn’t know it was going to happen like this? Well no I didn’t know, but I did pass a check-point for the first time, believe me it’s very formative and it’s not a small experience, it’s true that you have to be a bit stupid to accept to be scammed just to visit the beautiful city of Manila and even if I saw some reports that put the chip in my ear, I didn’t think it was like that, traveling doesn’t only form youth.
Transport, in Manila there is for the moment only one sky train line, and this one is crowded, the others are under construction. Otherwise there are also Jeepneys, these are Jeeps of the American army that the Filipinos have modified to make buses, we were strongly advised against using this means of transport. So there are still taxis to get around, they are very affordable, but to find a taxi-meter, i.e. one that accepts to start the meter, you had to order it through a Grab application that you can download to call a taxi, with the principle that it locates your position using Google map, and you receive the taxi’s registration number and the driver’s photo, but there were still some taxis that refused to start the meter, and in that case you absolutely had to get out and take another one. What can we see in Manila, first problem : the backpacker’s guide does not exist for Manila, so we had to manage somehow to find the right neighborhoods and the right places. There are a lot of shopping malls, a lot of people buying, a lot less. I was wondering how these merchants manage to pay their fees to continue to exist. A good neighborhood is Makati, the malls were luxurious, and people seemed to be living normally. But once you’ve been around, all that’s left is the hotel pool which was superb, there was a bar in the middle to order a drink and the service was very good, in fact if we had stayed in the hotel during our stay, without sticking our noses out, we would have been fine, indeed that was the case with many tourists, they would have stayed in the hotel without moving, to go and visit some places proposed by the hotel which also set up a bus to pick up the residents only and bring them back to the hotel after the visit, in my opinion it would have been the most ideal solution, it deserves it at least to avoid us to see horrible scenes, misery and scams, remains the 15 hours of plane trip and seventeen hours for the return to stay inside Manila Hotel.
I leave you with a big kiss.
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