Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It has been quite a few weeks since our trip to Manila. Oddly enough, it was our first time there even though Mama has been based there for almost 3 years! In fact she has left the WHO office in Manila and transferred to the New Delhi office, which was the reason why we went there - for her farewell party!

Papa has been going there from time to time but otherwise she prefers to come back home and tells us there isn't much in Manila and so no need to go there! But to me, no matter how boring a place is, it is still worthy of (at least one) visit! It is true Manila is not the most enchanting city in the world with not much culture or attractions (apart from shopping malls!) but I still think the history is interesting and the good natured people pleasant.

In fact I couldn't help but to draw a lot of parallels between the Filipinas and the Malays which I found quite intriguing as history would tell us they are the same ethnic group anyway. To me, if not for the difference in religions, the characteristics between the two are amazingly similar - warm but lazy, very particular about looks and style, not very innovative but easily content.

Our visit to Intramuros which is an old walled city built by the Spaniards proved to be satisfying too. It is like being transported all of a sudden in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city to Europe in the 16th century. Doing the tour on a horse carriage intensified the experience even further and of course the kids were thrilled! The old buildings ranging from churches to schools, most are still in use but some are abandoned, told a story of how Manila once was a long time ago.

Today, Manila which up to the 1970s was the richest country in South East Asia is sadly one of the poorest, thanks to a corrupt government and lack of education among its people. And to me it was an eye opener as Malaysia too, if not careful could fall into the same trap some day.

The disparity between the poor and the rich is disturbing to say the least. Our very own experience proved this as we were exposed to both 'worlds' in one day. As Theresa (my parents' Filipino helper who has been with us for almost 15 years) came with us on this trip and has been so excited to show me their new place - we decided to give them a visit. They have moved to this 'house' from the slums about a year ago, so it was a big deal and a proud moment for her. And I am saying 'house' because in actual fact it is just a room may be 4m x 8m in size. Soon after we entered, Imran asked "but where is the bedroom Tita?" not realising not only don't they have a bedroom, they don't even have a bed or a mattress.

On the way to and from Theresa's house, we had to drive pass one of the biggest slums in the world - and as I wasn't quite prepared for such hardcore poverty to be displayed by the main road, I found myself almost not being able to even look. Unclothed children bathing by the roadside together with chicken and dogs, scrap being used to house families - it was ridiculously sad.

Then, we went back to Mama's apartment to freshen up and waited to be picked up by the chauffeur of one of Mama's colleagues. They wanted to give us lunch (as part of the trail of farewell invitations by such warm friends Mama made while working there) in one of the restaurants in Makati. Arriving in the posh area of Makati, I could not believe we were in the same country as the one we have just experienced in the morning! Lush greenery, wide clean roads, skyscrapers and huge haciendas - how is this possible?

Imran and Rania had a great time. I think the experience of living in an apartment in a shopping mall with the 7th floor being the pool and playground area complete with a mini-golf was a novelty for them. I, on the other hand realised I am not made for apartment living as I was dying to get back on the ground and feel the grass again!

But the thing that topped the list for me from this trip is how Imran till today keep saying that he wants to go to Manila again and "this time for good!" And then when I said to him, "but where will you stay as Dadi is not in Manila anymore?" He says "I will stay in Tita's house and I will sleep on the floor with Tita's mother and daughter." Aaah, the purity in children. If only they remain like this...