I am currently safe and sound, and awake at 430am, at the overbooked Friendly Backpacker’s hostel in Manila, PH. It was a long day… or should I say day(s)– not so sure on that one. I left Reagan airport on an 1130am flight on February 6th, then stayed in Detroit for a couple of hours, and then loaded a large plane (two stories) for Najoya, Japan and then Manila. I arrived at the busy, but decently organized Manila airport at 12:10am on February 8th.
We stopped in Nagoya Japan to go through a tame security and then reboard the plane. Very unique experience. I think I got my share of Japanese culture, though, just at that airport. I have never seen such unique toilets, vending machines or advertisements. It is a beautiful airport… and they have Starbucks.
High points include, but are not limited to, bingeing on airplane food (the food has gotten much better) and six movies; getting a ride to the hostel with a man who was picking up his mail-order bride (I actually met four of those men on the flights); waking up to someone AGGRESSIVELY throwing up right next to my bed; and thinking I have gotten bed bugs (have not confirmed or denied that one).
I met an older Danish man who writes travel books in his retirement this morning. He told me that his 31 year old girlfriend’s family lives on 200 pesos a day. He met his girlfriend on a ferry and apparently she heavily pursued him. Since he is in his sixties he said that she was too young, but she told him that he could offer her a better life. She has two kids and her family takes care of a farm. They get food and a place to sleep working at the farm; however, 200 pesos is very little money. For example, the hostel I am staying at costs around 400 pesos per night for a bed in an eight person room.
I also was fortunate to see the Red District of Manila in action. The girls are so young… such a shame. Sex tourism, mail-order brides, human trafficking and prostitution of children are all huge problems of the Philippines. These issues are complicated since they involve organized crime groups and gangs, as well as reflect development challenges that the Philippines faces (namely, lack of education infrastructure, which prevents young girls from gaining knowledge or skills to get a better income).
Also, in answer to questions about where I am located versus the 6.7 earthquake that hit: I am now in Manila for two days and then will be heading to the Southern island (on which Davao is located). All Hands was probably hit with some big waves after the earthquake…