Despite my best efforts, Manila failed to leave me with a good impression. I spent three days walking the streets
looking for a hidden gem or some redeeming quality. I found the city to be harsh and dirty with a constant smell of
raw sewage and diesel fumes. There was no escaping the smell, even restaurants and hotels could not subdue the stench.
In comparison to Bangkok or Hong Kong, Manila feels rotten; poverty and filth have the upper hand. There were many people
with blank stares just standing around without any visible purpose. They seemed to lack motivation or direction.
Over all, the city seems to be in a sad state. Even the grass in the central park was dead. After three days,
I had too much and needed to leave.
I walked into the travel agent across from my hotel and asked for the next plane ticket out of the city; to someplace beautiful.
She handed me a ticket to the resort filled island of Boracay for a stay at the Red Coconut Resort. Wow, what a difference!
The island was beautiful and full of life. The people were friendly and quick with warm smiles that shown in their eyes.
One big difference between Boracay and Fiji is that the resorts are frequented by Filipinos and foreigners alike, not just
The staff at the Red Coconut were welcoming and friendly. I think they gave me some extra attention because it is
rare for a single traveler to be staying in a place frequented mostly by couples and families. One of the staff invited
me to her place to meet her husband and two year old daughter. They live behind one of the small shops filled with tourist
goods. We sat for a couple of hours sharing stories, drinks, and cookies. Their daughter played peek-a-boo with
me while the couple told me of their dreams to move back to his home town once they have saved up enough money. They
came to Boracay for the good jobs, but always dream of returning home. I found this to be a common theme among the staff.
Everyone was very well educated. I believe most of them had a Bachelor degree. Many of them had worked in Manila
at some point in time, but it was not for them and left. Each one was willing to share stories of their lives and were
interested in mine. "Was I married?" was the most common question I was asked. When I told them no, the response
has been the same all across Asia, "Why not, you have such a kind face?" Hmm, I am not sure how to take that.
Most of my days were spent diving. It was cheap, the water was warm, and the visibility decent. The sites were
on par with Fiji. At 1/3 the cost, I would choose to go back to the Philippines over Fiji any day.
On my last night, the staff of the Red Coconut invited me to join them for dinner. I felt honored. I had a
great time; the food was wonderful; and they had a great laugh trying to teach me some words in Tagalog. Over all it
made for a very memorable experience.
These are pictures taken from the beach just outside the Red Coconut Resort.