Friday, December 03, 2010


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".


  1. First of all, thanks for the story. That's a hell of a window into another world.

    Second, check this out for some advice on Gimp in Windows 7. It might be easier to run the 32-bit version, presuming you've been trying the 64-bit:

  2. Hey Brad,
    Thanks for the comment and thanks for the Gimp tip. I'll check it out.

  3. Hi Rick, Thanks for your work to write down these experiences. It's sad about the kids begging for food. But, about the Cajun food, you better come to Louisiana for it-- New Orleans or Lafayette. We were on our wonderful beach holiday at Thanksgiving-time (only 2 states away) and I chose a new restaurant called "Le Roux", supposedly Cajun, and I will have to say that I RUE the day. Negative research for future trips. I hope you have a successful trip & get to go home soon. thanks, sp

  4. Hi Sussah,
    Well, the food was a bit spicier...!

  5. Well. After hearing about your stay in Malate, Manila (whatever - you say potato, I say poTAHto ... ), I will never criticize life in New Orleans again.

    What am I saying? All it takes is for me to walk outdoors.

    I hope you fed the kids with what was left of your foreign food. As for myself, I've come to the conclusion that Cajun and New Orleans cuisine (they are different, you know) do not travel well. I've never had Cajun food like I had growing up in Acadiana, and New Orleans food doesn't seem to exist outside of this quadrant of the state. It sounds like what you had was Long John Silver's. Maybe sussah, Nurse Dave, and I should whip up a care package for you.

  6. I was hoping Glenn would say something about the Acadian food of his childhood! Right now, Long John Silvers sounds better than what I had for lunch today, a poor-of-kind triangular sandwich from the Walgreens. But they had just received a new truck-load of of Hubigs pies... I searched for Hu-Dat sweet potato but they only had apple and peach. Next time... (or online? eat all 12 of them immediately) sp

  7. I guess it's not unheard of for even some authentic Cajun places to have salad and onion rings on the menu in addition to the good stuff. Maybe you just ordered badly? :)

    In my travels in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it's not at all uncommon for hungry kids to hang around pretty much anywhere food is being served, hoping to snag some leftovers. It's just us fat spoiled first-worlders that find it odd. That said, I've donated doggie bags on the streets of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and here in New Orleans. Hungry people are everywhere, if you look for them.

    I'm with Glenn—we need to UPS you a sack of crawfish or something. And I'd really love to see those pictures!

  8. Glenn, Sussah, and Dave,

    Glenn's probably right that I was in a Long John Silver's type of place, and Dave's probably right that I ordered poorly. Fish 'n' chips is hard for me to resist--it's a favorite back home and pretty rare in Miyazaki.

    As for feeling weird about giving my leftovers to hungry kids--it's not that I mind doing it at all, because I hate to see good food go to waste; I guess it's just the idea of being a "fat spoiled first-worlder" tossing scraps to the poor that bugs me. As I hope I conveyed, I got over it, or at least didn't let it get in the way of some hungry kid getting something to eat.

    I'm afraid, Dave, that I didn't get many photos, and none of them are of a "journalistic" sort. I didn't wander around the neighborhood shooting pictures. At least not much. A few are OK, and some might give you a general idea about Manila. For the kind of stuff I wrote about in this post, I feel more comfortable writing about it...