Jeepneys are amazing. We love them. They’re bold, boisterous and pretty darn bonkers. They personify Manila.
American World War II relics, jeepneys are the mode of transport for the masses.They are all unique, plated in silver and adorned with flags and murals. The more garish the better.
Clamber aboard and you are confronted by sweaty bodies jiggling for a seat and disembodied hands passing coins to the driver. A typical journey sets you back 7 pesos, or 10p.
We crawl through the city hanging off the back or squidged in-between smiling old women. When you get to your stop you bundle out onto the throbbing streets, swerving traffic until you reach the safety of your destination.
We were headed to Rizal Park and Manila’s Old Town, Intramuros. Our little sojourn to the park the night before had left us desperate for more open spaces and Rizal Park certainly gave us them in spades.
Most of the gardens cost extra to get in which was disappointing, so we soon headed out towards Intramuros.
This part of town is worlds away from swanky Makati. Here, the most adorable street kids I’ve EVER seen, ran up to us asking for money and beggars with horrendous deformities lay in the gutters. My time in Asia has hardened me to poverty but the hopeful glint in a toddler’s eye when they are pulling at your skirts is still horrible to ignore.
Our first stop in Intramuros was Manila Cathedral. Like a cat with 9 lives, this Cathedral has risen from the flames of earthquakes and wars 9 times, being re-built from the wreckage. It was nice, cool and more importantly free, so we took our time resting our tired feet and admiring the stained glass.
Next up was San Agustin Church. As the oldest stone church in the Philippines, this cathedral is well worth the 100 peso (£1.50) entry fee. The cathedral’s ceilings are beautifully ornate and the grounds are a welcome sanctuary from hectic Manila.
For lunch, we popped into Ilustrado café, a sweet little placed tucked away in a peaceful courtyard. Here we feasted on ‘merienda’ (snacks) of chicken porridge, sweet potato fritters and a strange but yummy Chinese pancake with peanut satay sauce. We had ordered completely blind as the menu was in Tagalog. Although around 90% of Filipinos speak English, food menus seem to be more commonly written in the native language. Needless to say, we took some lucky guesses this time!
With full tummies, we strolled around the old streets, where families had begun to emerge into the cooling air. Children played and adults chatted as we ambled past, admiring the brightly colored buildings and colonial architecture.
As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, we made our way to Manila Bay to watch its famed sunset. We made ourselves comfortable at White Moon Bar sipping on £2 cocktails and listening to their trip-hop playlist.
It felt surreal to say the least.
After toasting the setting sun, we hopped back onto a jeepney and headed back to our local night market. Here, we sampled lechon (roast pig) and sank 70p San Miguels in the shadow of twinkling skyscrapers.
The wealth gap here, as with many other flourishing megacities, is vast. This city has sprung up from nowhere and is still attempting to catch up with itself.
We are heading to Boracay tomorrow so spent the rest of the evening trying to squeeze 3 weeks’ worth of clothes into our tiny carry-on backpacks. The struggle is real. We will be leaving our big bags at the hostel and travelling light for island hopping. I am so excited to be quitting the city and heading to the beach. Manila has certainly be an experience but I am looking forward to breathing clean air and not having to say a prayer before I attempt the cross the road.
As ever, I’ll keep you posted!