First days in the Philippines

Jun 192009

Hello all. My name is Alex Tizon. I’m the new Knight Fellow in Manila, Philippines, and I arrived here May 21, after a 21-hour voyage, late on a muggy Thursday night. I guess all days and nights are muggy here. It only took me a few days to remember that.

    A lot of changes have taken place since my last extended stay in the Philippines in 1992: many more condos and office towers, a new light rail system through the city, wider roads. Starbucks everywhere, which sort of makes me feel at home (I’m from Seattle). The difference is that every Starbucks here has two armed guards. I mean armed as in automatic weapons and shotguns. Actually there are armed guards everywhere you go – at the entrance to banks, malls, restaurants, even the local 7-11 where I buy my newspaper in the mornings.

    A lot has also stayed the same. Manila sprawls and bellows and teems. It can look very chaotic to an outsider. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way. When you cross the street, you are at the mercy of the people driving the taxis and jeepneys and buses. Everyone honks. The streets fill with honking day and night. Also, drivers still don’t seem to have adopted the concept of lanes. Lanes must be a Western thing (future research subject).

    My hosts have been extraordinarily hospitable, a trademark of Filipinos. In the first weeks when everything seemed to go wrong for me – laptop broke, got violently sick, lost a valuable flash drive, denied local ID, etc. – my hosts took care of me in every way. What the people of this country lack in resources and technology, they make up for in kindness and energy. I’m a big fan of kindness and energy.

This is going to be a great year. I miss home but I also love being in a place where you can’t take anything for granted, where every day brings something new. Also, the mangoes here can’t be beat.

More Later,

Alex Tizon