I landed in Manila around 1pm.
It was an uneventful and quick 2 hour plane ride from Taiwan. As has become my norm on layovers, I’d only checked if I would be allowed into the country without an official visa and a quick search about transportation out of the airport. I stood in line to get a stamp on my passport from the guy behind a thin wooden booth and then… I was in the Philippines.
I had no luggage except for my carry-on so I walked to another set of security guys who waved me through. I walked over to the “Concierge”, grabbed a small city map, looked at what seemed like an interesting neighborhood, and asked the woman at that counter on her advise: I have x amount of hours, can I go here and come back within that amount of time; is this a good place to go; where else would you recommend I go; what’s the best way to get there; how much should I expect to spend on a taxi. She was very helpful and with that small amount of information in my head, I exchanged some money and haggled my way onto a taxi.
My taxi driver turned out to be an extremely informative man who talked to me a bit about the history of Manila, different neighborhoods, his experience there in the past few years, and also pointed out interesting locations: parks, museums, embassies, and restaurants. After declining his invitation to have him be my personal tour guide for a few hours around Manila, he advised me on the best way to get back to the airport, gave me his card and told me to call him if I needed a taxi back or in case of an emergency. He dropped me off at the point I wanted, told me to explore around the area, and to walk toward where his taxi was heading, back south.
And so my walk began. I wandered around alleys, streets, churches, parks, malls. I took a jeepney, a light rail train, a taxi. I talked to security guards, baristas, information desk clerks, strangers on the street, passengers on my jeepney. I thought about how similar some streets seemed to be, and how different the smells, sounds, colors, and people were. In the end, I was in Manila alone for 8 hours.
I’ll return some day.