So, I arrived in Manila a couple of days ago. I haven't taken many pics, but posting even what I have taken has become a hassle because this work-supplied, Windows 7 machine doesn't seem to like GimpShop. It's not so much that I want to edit the pics, but I generally set my camera to take photos in the largest possible parameters and then scale them down. I can't do that right now.
Manila is a bit more intense than I remember from my last visit. Or Malate is, anyway. Yesterday, just after I arrived, I was walking down the street and a couple of prostitutes approached me. I'm no prude, but I'm not the type of guy that negotiates with prostitutes in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon. Hmm... Well, you know... They were both quite attractive, and I suspect they were both ladyboys, but "I'll do anything you like for 500 pesos" spoken out loud in the street as people are walking past is probably not the best sales pitch one can direct at a middle-aged guy with a family.
Later, in the evening, things got even more intense. There were very aggressive touts/pimps every 10 meters hawking their "wares." One guy actually followed me for a couple hundred meters yelling, "We got young girls for you! They'll suck your cock and lick your ass!" The details were, I guess, a nice touch; but fuck, what an asshole.
Seeking a bit of refuge from all of that I went to a nearby mall. I was hungry. I' d hoped to get dinner at a local restaurant, but I was tired and was growing annoyed by all the people aggressively trying to sell me stuff or ask me for money. It's especially grating being asked if I want to buy Viagra at a rate of about once a minute while I'm at street level. Do I look like I need Viagra? And worse, does everyone assume I'm here to have my way with the local women (or, worse still, the local kids)? What the fuck are all the other white guys doing here, anyway?
I figured the mall would be a bit more sedate. There was a place--not in the food court, but an actual restaurant, that was advertising "a taste of New Orleans." "Heh," I thought to myself. (Yes, I really do say "heh" in my head.) The food was actually pretty good, but I was somewhat surprised to "find out" that Caesar salad, onion rings, and fish 'n' chips were actually "Cajun" food! (Guys--you know who you are-- help me out here.) My meal, as tasty as it was, was not without an honest-to-gosh moment of utter dismay. I asked for "petite" orders of salad and onion rings, but when they arrived at my table there was enough food to feed 3 or 4 people. And my order of fish 'n' chips was gigantic. There was no possible way I could eat all of that food by myself. This would never happen in Japan, and back in Canada (and probably the States) nobody would blink about just chucking my uneaten portions into the garbage.
But, I'm not in Japan or Canada or wherever. I'm in Manila where little kids come up to you making gestures towards their mouths. I can't throw this food away. I can't. (I suppose there's some sort of criticism that could be leveled at me for feeling the way I do about this, but I really don't give a damn.) I apologized to the wait staff, explaining that if I'd known the orders would be so big, I wouldn't have asked for so much food. They offered to put it in a doggy bag, but because I was staying in a hotel that wasn't really an option. One waitress suggested that I take the doggy bag outside and give it to the first kid that approached me with the hand-mouth gesture. A ray of hope. "Do people sometimes do that?" I asked. I was assured that there was nothing strange about doing it, and that they thought I would be a nice guy if I did it. I wasn't honestly interested in looking like a "nice guy." I just didn't want to be a "bad guy."
I have to tell you that I went through a few changes as I walked out of that mall with my doggy bag. One of them: "Well, look at you, going out to feed the poor kids of Manila." Fuck. As I exited the mall I stopped for a minute and had a smoke. Then I made my way to the street. I stopped for a moment as some cars passed. Just as I was about to cross the street, a little girl, about 6 or 7-years old, filthy, no shoes, tugged on my arm. When I looked down at her she gestured towards her mouth. I handed her the bag. "There's good food in there," I said. She smiled and said "thank you." "No," I said. "Thank you".