I made my first visit to the Philippines in the middle of August. The flying time from Minneapolis to Manila is significant, but I availed myself of the private in-seat video monitors on my Delta flights and watched many movies. Interestingly enough, the first two I watched were “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Life of Pi”. Both stories are about / narrated by men that are writers talking about listening to other peoples stories. Both have Asian settings, both have an element of love, family (of origin and of choice), disaster and strong conflict (wars / family money in the first and nature in the second) and, ultimately, loss. A strong theme I took away from both is “listen” to life around you and it unfolds in complicated ways. Take part, live, love and be in communion with your fellow man to be able to tell their stories. You are a writer, let the stories come to you and tell them, as heard, but through your own filter and with your own emphasis.
Part one of the story of this trip focuses on my time in Manila. As I said, this is my first visit to the Philippines and I spent about half the time in the capital, Manila, and half in the province of Palawan, in El Nido, mostly on the island of Lagen.
I saw many beautiful and interesting things during my stay, but by no means think I have a good understanding of the country or the people. The Philippines is a Southeast Asian island nation made up of 7,107 islands, 115,831 square miles and about 100 million people (according to Wikipedia) so ten days isn’t enough to take it all in.
My Manila, or more correctly my Metro Manila, stay was based in Makati at the Shangri-La Hotel. There are many great places to visit in and around Manila, as well as many great places to stay. I chose this location because it is quite central, close enough to the airports for the island travel yet far enough away to have very little plane noise. Additionally, it was clean and safe for walking around during the day and later evening and is a strong business and shopping district. Also, I knew it would be totally different than my El Nido island stay. I chose the hotel because of the tremendous number of solid and strongly positive reviews in TripAdvisor.
This visit hit squarely in the middle of the rainy season, which is from June to November, so I was emotionally and physically prepared for anything, but extremely happy when the entire trip went off without a typhoon or even a major rain storm. There were some clouds and even a few showers, but it could have been so much wetter, and was just a few weeks prior to my visit. Typhoon Rammasun (better know as Glenda in the Philippines) hit Manila mid-July bringing flooding, tree damage and power outages all over the metro. Just one month later I made my trip with no visible signs of the damage where I visited.
Here are a few pictures from my trip (click on the picture in any gallery for the full view). My very good friend and untiringly excellent guide, Danny, was with me in all places. First of all, the Shangri-La as base camp. It had an excellent view and the first day after my arrival was perfect for laying around the pool (this also fit my energy level that day):
The hotel had entertainment, as well as good food at restaurants both inside and close by:
We did a lot of hiking based from the Hotel location in Makati:
The Ayala Museum was an afternoon:
Manila Bay and the Mall of Asia was a day trip with a particular focus on taking sunset pictures from the bay:
Next up – Palawan, El Nido and Lagen Island…