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Life after FB

As I mentioned earlier on my facebook page, I am going to stop updating information there and find another way of keep you posted on my journey in the Philippines.  I came up with the name Noodling Noodles so that it's easier to remember versus my previous page and I hope each one of these posts (the labor of noodling my noodles) will give you something to think about, contemplate, or just bring a smile to your day!  So, please leave comments (I added a comment section) or add your email address so the updates will be sent to you electronically.  Thank you for checking in time and time again for an often delinquent blogger!


All hell breaks lose when it rains in Manila.  The already congested traffic comes to a complete stand still.  A plethora of taxis magically disappears into thin air as if the taxis were conspiring to gauge prices.  For a foreigner that doesn’t know how to get around the city other than using taxis, you are at the mercy of the weather and the taxi drivers.

“Mam’m, I have a lot of customers to choose from, you pay more yes?”  If you dare to refuse, you’ll end up on the street for another half an hour looking for another taxi driver that will readily take advantage.

This morning I went down onto the street like I have always done since moving to Rockwell.  Normally, it takes around 5 to 10 minutes to hail a cab.  However, in the rain plus the ongoing Christmas pilgrimage (this topic is for another day), getting a taxi is mission impossible.  After waiting for 5 minutes, I noticed this foreigner across the street from me competing for a taxi, so, I moved closer to the cross street.  After he noticed that I have moved in front of him, he moved too.  I changed my location again to stay ahead, and he followed.   This time, he didn’t just follow, he headed in front of me.  “How dare he?”.  I thought to myself.  I waved harder, raised my arm higher, and tipped toed more to gain more visibility, but to no avail.  The man was taller, had longer arms, and looked Caucasian which might translates into a better customer (or target depending on how you see it).  Thirty minutes had passed, we were still doing our dance for the amusement of taxi drivers.  The stranger walked across the street and asked me where I was heading.   “Ortigas.” I said.  “Me too.  Do you want to share a cab?”.  Out of desperation, I agreed.  We split up into different corners, continued our hail-a-cab cha-cha, another 20 minutes must have gone by and he got us a cab while standing in the median of the street.  We small talked until I arrived at my office building.  “I would never have gotten into a cab with a perfect stranger, but in the rain in Manila, it’s a different story” I thought to myself as I handed him the cab fare. 

The dreaded evening commute has arrived sooner than expected.  Andrew and I have been sharing a taxi to Rockwell in the evenings.  After the horrible wait this morning, I had no patience for a repeat of this morning.  “Andrew, let’s take the MRT.”  I suggested.  Andrew looked at me and said, “Have you ever taken the MRT before?”.  “Yes, once, with Marly” I said proudly.  He laughed, “only once?”.  He shamed me into silence.

The MRT cost P10 or $0.23 per person, which is about one tenth of the taxi fare when there’s no traffic.  After a short MRT ride, Andrew and I trotted in the rain searching for a taxi, jeepney, a converted motorbike to take us to the Power plant mall.  The taxis were full or heading to the wrong direction, the jeepneys were so packed that only the heads of the passengers were inside the jeepneys and their bodies were hanging outside the back of the jeepneys, and the converted motorbikes were packing five or six people when it was only meant for three or four.  Finally, two passengers got out of a jeepney, I jumped onto the jeepney with my Louis Vuitton bag tightly tucked under my arm, Andrew hopped in with his wet suit pant still hanging outside the jeepney.  We handed over P16 altogether and squeezed in for a hard seat in this hot, sticky, and polluted jeepney.  Andrew tries not to smile but I had this huge grin on my face.  This has been the best adventure that I have had in three months in the Philippines! 

The jeepney stopped after Andrew said something to the driver in Filipino.  We ended up right outside the Power plant mall.  As soon as we walked into the mall, there’s Salvatore Ferragamo, DKNY, Armani Exchange, and all the high-end stores.  The contrast of the jeepney and the mall was impossible to miss.  As I was about to exit the mall to head home, I thought, “If it wasn’t because of the rain, I would never have the opportunity to peek outside of my luxurious foreigner lifestyle bubble.  Thanks to the rain, I had the best commute of my life!” 

It's Over

My honeymoon with Manila came to a squeaky halt.  Maybe it’s because I am traveling every weekend so that I spend my free time away from Manila.  Maybe it’s because how disorganized work has been that I am taking out my frustration on the City.  Or maybe the romance was never meant to be no matter the city…  Of course, just like everything that bothers me, I have developed a hypothesis and I am going to test it and form a theory!

Before my relocation, people have told me to start in Singapore as it is considered “Asia-Light”.  However, Singapore and Hong Kong are a little bit too easy in my opinion.  Both places have a lot of expatriates, one can get by easily with English, and they are both extremely commercialized and developed.  To me, they are not “Asia” enough.  Prior to accepting my job in Manila, I also had my doubts.  “Will the Philippines be ‘too’ much of a developing country which will be too challenging for me since I have lived in the US for the past 20 years?”  Upon arriving Manila, all of those doubts evaporated.  The food selection is diverse and immense, English is one of the official languages, people are friendly, the apartments can be extremely modern, and consumerism blends right in with the polluted air.  All these ‘Western” influences make everything seem so “normal” and “US” for those who are not careful.

The expectations were low before I moved to Manila knowing that it is not as developed as some of the other Asian cities.  I was pleasantly surprised by almost everything that I encountered over the last three months - the food, people, culture, prices, accessibility, convenience, etc.  Then, slowly, the disappointments set in when the traffic gets in the way of catching a flight, when not knowing Filipino directly translates into higher prices, and when the perceived friendliness is just that, perceived.

My honeymoon with Manila is over probably because my expectations have changed significantly since my arrival.  Manila did not set out to deceive my expectations but as a new resident of the City, I wanted to see and experience familiarity, comfort, and relatedness instead of what the City can offer.  Maybe this is the beginning of a new phase – marriage, where reality sets in and staying married will take hard work from both Manila and I.