Wandering around Manila, Philippines

Hi everyone,

The Philippines is a beautiful collection of 7000 islands of varied landscapes. I started in the main city, Manila, then took to the mountains of the north, and finally made my way south, where I am today.

My experience here has been coloured by my unfortunate reaction to pollution (mostly the vehicle emissions), but that is not to say that this is not a fantastic destination. The people are friendly, the destinations are so numerous it likely would take a year to fully explore them, and apparently they have some of the best beaches and diving in the world. If I had scheduled beaches for the beginning of my itinerary rather than at the end, I would have seen more. I ran out of time for the south being slowed down by illness. (After an x-ray ruled-out pneumonia, a doctor in Sagada told me I am, “allergic to the pollution which is causing bronchitis.” Prescribing allergy meds plus wearing filter masks made all the difference, so she was right.

Beaches are never my main interest, especially when travelling solo. If you are unable to make any friends, beaches can be quite lonely. This was the case at the beach I accidentally chose for a week in Goa where I found myself surrounded by Russians who did not feel like speaking English (except when ordering), and who could blame them. My attempts to start conversation (usually made after hearing someone speak English to a local) were always met with cold stares, like, why are you talking to me? But I had planned to visit some of the Philippines most beautiful regions which are centred around pristine beaches had my time not disappeared. (I allotted 4 weeks for the Philippines, and one is granted a 30-day tourist visa on entry.)

I had one occasion of pollution overload that pushed me over the edge here, if I hadn’t had that specific experience in Quezon city I might have been fine my entire trip. (I got caught in a fog of exhaust that had migrated off the highway onto a lane I was exploring and I couldn’t get out of it fast enough. It burned my throat and chest and the following days I was ill.) In fact, I think that is highly likely that I would have been fine with the higher emissions everywhere had I not had that specific unfortunate event. As it was, I was wasn’t fine for most of my trip. I often found myself tormented by a coughing fit after being doused by exhaust trying to wander down a road. This first happened in Quezon city as I said, then happened in Laoag, in Vigan, in Sagada, and especially in Baguio, and now here in Cebu. What can I tell you but the experiences I have had. Now I have taken to wearing a mask over my face most of the time I am walking street-side. I don’t love that, but it is necessary for me. I simply have not had time to fully recover so I relapse easily.

I arrived in Manila on January 21, 2015 and now it’s nearly a month later. This has been a travel-intensive trip, more so than any travels I have taken before. For this I spent a lot of time in buses where I could neither read nor write, but I had a lot of local experiences on those buses.

I spent my first week in Manila acclimatising to the weather (25-30C everyday, wonderful), and to the time change (13 hours different than Toronto), to the food (which is just different as one would hope, I can’t get my usual salads or grains), and to the culture. All the excitement of travel. These photos I share today are from that first week.

There is lots of life on the streets in Manila.

Crossing the road is often an exciting adventure.

Lots of modern buildings too, this view near the waterfront.

I think you might call this a budget dining option, closed for afternoon siesta at the moment.

I spot a kitty at another budget dining option occupying a wheelchair space.

I find these kind of organic scenes actually quite enchanting.

It’s Pinipig. It’s crunchy and it’s munchy. Of course.

I had to try it because from it’s name I was still uncertain what to expect.
It was basically a cheese-flavoured ice-cream popsicle covered in rice crispies.
I liked it.

I found there was a nice feeling of community in the quieter streets.

I think the owner is suggesting that one should not park there.


It would seem this is a strip where many tricycle drivers live.

This shows the style of gas station that does not have pumps in the way (I’ve seen this in a number of countries) as well as the armoured vehicles one sees around the cities. It looks like the driver has to stand-up peering out the limited vision window. Never mind theft, limited visibility trying to navigate Manila traffic, I guess others get out of the way.

I enjoy grafitti everywhere I go.

I enjoyed this lounge at the Wanderers Guest House.

Green Mango.

What this scene needs is a touch of colour.

I hope you’ll join me for part two of photos from Manila. Mainly from Intramuros and Quezon.

Being Who You Want To Be

Hi readers, thanks for continuing to visit my blog or for reading this posting arrived into your email.


By this time I am settled in Manila, Philippines starting my latest travel adventure. I decided to begin this adventure in the Wanderers Guest House in the city of Malate (Metro Manila is a collection of cities, and Malate is one of the most central). Really it is a hostel where I will have my own room but will be able to meet fellow travellers, hopefully Filipino as well as international. Following this stay I will be joining a homestay in another central city of Metro Manila before making my way to interesting scenarios further afield.

There is generally a lag between my travel adventures and when I get a chance to share them with you but this one is another non-travel posting written while visiting friends in Cobb County, Georgia with some photos inserted from my current location in Manila.

The image below is a short clip walking the streets of Manila, click on the image to play. If you received this post by email, click on the title in blue to open this posting into your browser so you can also play the video.

“I don’t know who I am anymore,” he had said and I listened. I understood, I had been there myself.

I thought back through the years to when I struggled with my own identity the most, struggling to discover who I was early in university at age 18,19. Before I had accepted many things about myself. I wished I could change things about my nature that were unchangeable. Being inherently introverted. Being highly sensitive. Being creative. Wanting to fall in love with a man instead of a woman. This last one caused me my greatest grief. (I value all of these today as some of my greatest gifts.)


I held to my conviction that all mankind is created equal. This helped me struggling with low self-esteem. Deep down I felt I was worth less than those around me. That I was broken and unlovable. But I’d remind myself that all of us are of equal value. I knew and felt that the poor man was as valuable as the rich, that a good-looking person was no better than a plain person. That we all had something within us to be cherished. Even me.

One’s value is not determined by status. The person who found this public space to air their laundry is worth as much as the person whose housekeeper does theirs. When I see a scene like this, I think of the life of the person behind the scene.

“You don’t need to know who you are,” I said to him after some moments of reflection. “You just need to know who you want to be. Within the limits of accepting your own nature and embracing your fixed character traits. Who you want to be is who you can be. Because who you are is constantly changing.”

Because who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. And we can change most of our behaviours. We can focus to be more kind, more generous. more loving. We can take action to be less hurtful, less aggressive, less controlling. We may need the aid of a good therapist to figure these things out if we find it impossible to break our knee-jerk reactions, but there is nothing stopping you from making the effort to be more like the person you want to be starting today.

Who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. Think about how your job becomes a part of your identity, because it is what you do. I’ve had times when who I was – was a teacher in Japan. -was an office worker in Edinburgh. -was an espresso bar manager in London. -was an artist in Toronto. -was an actor and tour guide in Fredericton. -was a recruiter in China. -was a student. -was a substitute teacher in Winnipeg. -was a retail business owner in Winnipeg. What we do is changeable, not just for work but how we behave in all areas of our life.

We all have our shortcomings but hopefully we all have ideals as to how we want to act, behave, and be in various situations. Often we react poorly and disappoint ourselves. But we can learn from our mistakes and improve. We can work towards being who we want to be in many different domains. It is well-known now that we cannot work towards being straight if we are gay, that is a fixed trait. But for character traits that actually matter, we can strive to improve.

A closer view of someone’s laundry hanging to dry in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Make a list of who you want to be as if it is true today.

What you value as important, is who you are. Or at least it can be, if you choose to make it so.

You may not be that yet, but you can work towards it. Changing automatic responses takes time, patience, and perseverance. But you can teach yourself to respond with kindness (for example) by being mindful to notice when you did not and promising yourself to behaving differently in the future. And then doing it.

Mine was something like this.

Who I am is someone who is:
-Kind, especially to those who deserve or need kindness.
-Generous and giving of myself and what I have. (But not overly generous, anymore. There needs to be balance. Too many people will take as much as you will give without consideration to you. I learned this the hard way.)
-Thoughtful of others thoughts and feelings.
-Polite and respectful with others behaviours, ideas, and values. (But also with my own.)
-Patient with myself and with others.

We can all benefit from stepping back, looking at ourselves, and deciding what values and behaviours we want more of and holding ourselves to a higher standard.

I’m going to make my own new list in my journal right now, as part of my starting 2015 on the right foot. Why don’t you do the same? It will only take a few minutes and it can only bring good.