"Toto, I have the feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." On the drive from the airport to our latest hotel in Bacolod City it was clear I'm a long ways from home: 7,454 miles to be exact. Out the window were fields of sugar cane, with lush mountains in the background. Every few miles you'd see a farmer using a water buffalo to help with the work. On the outskirts of town we started seeing trucks being piled 15 feet high with stacks of the sugar canes. The closer we got into the city, the more our driver weaved around motorcycles and bikes with sidecars filed with passengers.
I've done a fair amount of traveling in the west, but this is a different adventure and I enjoyed soaking in the sights. I arrived in Manila late Friday night and took a short taxi ride to Makati City were our team of IBMers would meet. Makati City is the financial hub of Manila and it was clear from the luxury stores nearby, that this is where people with money like to hang out.
Jaydip and I spent Saturday morning getting familiar with Makati City before the bulk of our team arrived. When they arrived, we enjoyed lunch together at a Filipino restaurant (Ebun). We were glad they had a picture book to go along with the menu or we would have no idea what we were ordering. We shared a mix of fish, prawns, chicken dishes to go along with our Filipino rice: it was a nice meal. I had the bright idea of ordering a mango shake and most of the team followed the suggestion. I thought it would be milk based but quickly learned it was mango and ice. So, it took about an hour for most of us to break the rule of avoiding ice in our drink (luckily no one is sick yet).
After lunch we headed off for a very quick tour of downtown Manila. We had six of us crammed in the hotel's SUV and only two hours to get a feel for the city: so we only had a brief taste of the sites of Manila. We saw the San Agustin Church (the oldest in the Philippines), drove by the old Fort Santiago, and got a feel for life outside of the financial district. To be honest, my favorite sites on the trip were the Jeepney driving by. Jeepnies must be the inspiration for the "pimp my ride" series because many of these war jeeps turned mini-buses are truly works of art.
We also stopped briefly at Manila Bay and the first thing we saw were enormous piles of trash in the bay. In one section, the trash pile must have gone out 50 feet. It took me a minute to realize most of this came from the recent typhoon/flooding. On the piles, were people rummaging for anything worth salvaging in the trash. Throughout the drive in Manila we saw many signs of severe poverty but this touched me the most. This truly is another world from my normal environment. I hope our limited efforts can have some impact on those suffering in this area.