#30. Manila, Philippines (Day 1)

17:11:00


The Flight Experience:
I'm pleased to share my very first experience in travelling alone with Derrick to Manila, Phillipines as this trip really meant a lot to us. There were many things we had to consider before we actually decided to go to Phillipines, but the fact that I knew someone there made the decision a whole lot easier. If it wasn't for my friends, Cyrene (Zai) and Chuza, I think this trip would've been a tough one for us.

Sight of the clouds
Getting closer to Manila
So basically, on 17th June, we packed everything that we needed and headed to Senai Airport, Johor Bahru for our flight to KLIA2, Kuala Lumpur. We booked the AirAsia flight, and the staffs extremely friendly, very kind and helpful (and also, very attractive). It was a short flight about an hour. When we landed, we went to the arrival hall and went through several customs before proceeding to our next flight to Manila. I think it was about 8:10am that we boarded the plane. We were famished since we didn't get much sleep and breakfast. You can say we were in heaven when the flight meals arrived. 

Nothing too "wow" about the flight meal. It's just basic food that tastes decent and sufficient to last the flight. I got the rice with Thai green chicken curry, Derrick got the nasi dagang with chicken curry. The meal certainly didn't look pretty, but it tasted way better than it looked. And I enjoyed it.

Thai green chicken curry (Google pic) - RM15
Nasi dagang with chicken curry (Google pic) - RM15

Reaching Manila:
The flight lasted about 4 hours. When we had reached the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and went through all the customs, we were greeted with a warm welcome from Zai and Chuza. Got our SMART Sim-card that cost us 500php pesos. I was a bit disappointed because my mobile data was extremely slow for the price paid. Either way, we got a cab to our hotel "Leesons Residences". At first we were wondering why something felt odd in the cab. Only then did we realize that their driver seat was on the left side and that they drive on the right side. When we reached the hotel, it was Derrick's turn to get a shock because the loan for staying was 1500php pesos (sure did not see that one coming). The nice surprise was that the room was bigger than it looked in the photos from Agoda and the official website. Best part? Free breakfast. 

After 2 hours of solid resting in an air-conditioned room, Derrick and I were woken up by our alarms for Chuza to pick us up. Aha, and that's when Derrick and I sat on the jeepney for the first time. Oh, the thrill of sitting in one!
View from the Jeepney
Children playing basketball in the middle of a street 
Some occasion going on

Filipino Food:
As we made our way to their apartment, I got a nice whiff of sinigang. I knew then that dinner was going to be fantastic. Zai had cooked us a meal that comprised of their famous chicken adobo, sinigang bangus, and also multi-grain rice. Also, Zai would rather feed people than eating the food she cooks. The chicken adobo was crazy good especially when that chicken has been slow-cooked in a pot with vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, black-peppercorns, onions, and bayleaf. But I really got to give it to the sinigang bangus. It was intense, it was delicious. Sour, just the way I imagined it to be. When you marry the bangus (milkfish) with the tomatoes, finger chillies, kangkung, stringbeans, and eggplants.. Oh Santa Maria, sweet mother of a sinigang, it is beautiful. I feel that this dish is the embodiment of Philippines. I didn't even bother to count my calories.

Sinigang bangus, chicken adobo, multi-grain rice

Rizal Park:
Dinner was superb. We took a rest for 30 minutes and sipping some coffee, then we headed off to Rizal Park (Luneta Park). It was pretty warm that night but that didn't stop the people from visiting. We saw people sleeping on the grass, we saw a number of monuments dedicated to their national heroes. There's something about the Filipinos being proud of national heroes and it's worthy to be taken note of. You can see it in their faces that they really honor Rizal and appreciate the national heritage he left to them.

We also caught sight of the tallest flagpole in the country. It was majestic, truly remarkable to see it flowing with the wind. In the park lies also the 40-foot statue of Lapu-Lapu or the “Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom” erected at Teodoro F. Valencia Circleas a gift by the Korean Freedom League to honor the memory of freedom-loving Filipinos who helped them during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Lapu-Lapu is best known as the hero of the Battle of Mactan who stopped the invasion of Magellan in Cebu. He is considered as the first Filipino national hero who resisted the Spanish conquest.

We walked a bit more and explored the Chinese Garden then. It seems like a place to relax, meditate, and for students to practice their dancing. And yes, cats, they were everywhere. My only wish was that it could used more care. Maybe a little bit maintenance would help and certain structures need to be repainted. It's just simple garden without many flowers or interesting plants. Then again, I'm only paying 10php pesos for entrance. But overall, it is a place to ease your thoughts.

I should also mentioned that we saw the Philippine archipelago with a giant raised-relief map but it was hard to make out because it was dark. Nevertheless, this historic park located in the heart of the city is best enjoyed when the people learn, realize and appreciate its historical worth.

Jollibee Experience:
As usual, all that walking made us sweat and I got hungry (again). I was excited to try Jollibee's for the first time since almost everyone keeps mentioning that it's the McDonald's of Philippines (but there's McDonald there too, no?). With that saying, I've watched a lot of mukbangs where the Youtubers would explain that the spaghetti.. is sweet. For one, I am not a fan of sweet things. For two, the idea of sweet spaghetti scares me but makes me curious as well. Derrick and I got the same set. The sweet spaghetti with fried chicken and basic coke. Oh, and a side of some kind of gravy for the chicken?

Jollibee's sweet spaghetti and a piece of fried chicken
I'm going to be honest here. I was mentally preparing myself that if it was too sweet and I didn't like, I wouldn't finish that spaghetti. The whole idea of spaghetti with sliced hotdogs topped with a scary-looking red sauce... it just didn't work for me. But after tasting it, I must say I'm a huge fan now. It is an oddly enticing dish, one bite just led to another. The fried chicken was hot and crispy (not that oily too). And after tasting the spaghetti, I can see why Filipinos enjoy. It's a sweet treat, it's comfort food.

And then it was time to say goodnight. We headed back to the hotel, Zai and Chuza headed back to their home. Much sleep was needed.

And that, concludes our day 1.

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