City snapshot of Manila

So here I am working in the Philippines. The hotel that I am staying at is far from the office so the hotel has a deal where we stay there and they drive us to and from the office. Everyday I get in a car and get driven to work, and from the back of the car I watch an amazing display of synchronised driving.

For those that have been driven around in Egypt, the rules appear to be the same. There is a white line down the middle of the road as a guide to which side of the road to stay on, beyond that, anything goes. There have been occasion on my journeys to work where I could not only reach out and touch the car next to me, but reach in and take his sandwich.

However you would think that this lack of order would result in beaten up cars, road side crashes and punch ups between irritated drives, you would be mistaken. If anything this lack of order makes them better drivers as they are constantly watching their surroundings, be it for a car that decides to execute a u-turn into the one foot safety gap my driver has allowed for the car in front, or a wayward pedestrian that has dared to use the pedestrian crossing to try and get across the road during rush hour. Pedestrian crossings are places where drivers can reasonably expect to see people crossing the road, but that is about it, they do not necessary have to stop if they see people using it

It is interesting to see how people in other countries get to work in the morning. In the Philippines the commuters use Jeepneys which were originally converted US army jeeps left over from the World War 2. They are as colourful as the inside of an Indian tourist taxi and as crowded as a Bajan ZR van going into Bridgetown in rush hour.

However amidst all this city morning bustle the think that made me stop and wonder was seeing a McDonald’s McDelivery scooter on its way for a delivery at 08.15 in the morning. First of all, a McDelivery scooter, when there is a McDonald’s on every street corner, you would really have to be lazy to get your McDonald’s delivered. Secondly, it was 08.15 in the morning, what on earth was the order!

Once at work the conversations range from how my students are coping after the typhoon that laid most of their homes to waste in September, to introduction of the ban on guns and alcohol during the election season which started on Monday and how this might inconvenience them. I was too shy to ask whether it was the alcohol or the gun ban that was the inconvenience.

The newspaper had an article about controlling the militia…. I am in a country were militia are common place, cool.

Guns in villages is widely discussed here, this is not unusual anywhere in the world as we have guns in our inner cities, however guns are discussed here as one might discuss what furniture you might have in your house. “Do you have the AK-47? Oh darling it is to die for”.

But whether they are holding conversation or holding a gun to your head, the people are nothing if not polite. Everywhere I go the greeting is Sir or Madam. Not in the way that the Americans use it, although that is probably how it was reinforced, but in the way we British use to use it, as a salutation to somebody whose name you do not know. I hear it around the office all the time, and it makes a welcome change from the ubiquitous “mate” that I am subjected to from absolute strangers in Australia.

I wanted to explore the area surrounding the office so I asked the receptionist how long it would take for me to walk around and explore Eastwood City, she informed me that it would take two hours, as it turns out what I should have asked was how long it would take if I was not going to shop. I was back at the office and adding the next section to this article within an hour.

Because I am working rather than on holiday I am able to get a snapshot of city life, a hot and humid snapshot. At the moment the temperatures are in the high twenties and low thirties rather than the top thirties of Melbourne, however the humidity here is like Singapore without the air conditioning. I am doing my best to stay in acceptable business attire and not come into work in cut down trousers, while the Filipinos in my class are jumpers, and why would they not be as it is winter here, hot season starts March.

This is certainly an experience and it will be interesting to compare my views of the country from a business perspective with my ‘soon to be’ changed perspective as a weekender on the island of Boracay.

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~ by jeditopcat on 13 January, 2010.

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