The Metroplex Mall
En-route to Bohol I stopped off in the Philippines second city. The streets here are jam-packed with cars and motorbikes, respiration masks are common-place and pedestrians often walk with a cloth clamped tight in their mouth between their lips (no hands) to breath less fumes in.
The average wage here is £1 a day and most locals travel by Jeepneys; narrow mini-vans with paint jobs converted to transport 16 people in the back to whatever street name they have written on the side of their colourful, customised toy van.
Where could I explore safely? “Take a taxi suurr for your safe-ity suurr.” The receptionist sirred sardonically at me. ‘Well that sounds like fun,’ I thought, ‘go exploring in a taxi…’
Everyone speaks decent to very good english because the English colonised here once upon a time ago, the television is mostly in English (there is a cock-fighting channel), the newspapers are in English, all of the advertising posters are in English. The taxi drivers speak mostly English.
I taxied to the gargantuan Ayala Shopping Mall and walked through the complex with my head spinning. There is every brand name shop you can think of and then some. The endless array of shop windows and aisles are packed full of very polite staff, I must have heard “Hello Surr!” about 60 times in 5 hours.
1800 hours OJT (Official Jesus Time)
Everyone within view stopped moving and stood still as I was browsing tee shirts too small for me. For a moment I wondered was there a Jurassic Park T-Rex in the room, nobody moved. Then I noticed the music playing over the tannoy had been replaced by some meaningful ‘BONG-ing,’ then came the religious prayer. The entire metroplex attunes to this cult-like phenomenon that occurs at 6pm every day — Official Jesus Time.
As I realised what was happening, I thought to myself: “Nah. Fuck this, I have important too-small tee shirt browsing to get done here.” I didn’t get arrested for ignoring it, not even any dirty looks as I flagrantly continued to walk around and sincerely inspect small tee shirts; the Filipino people are extremely polite.
After walking several miles with only a semi-scrambled egg and some white toast in me I was looking for the way out when I spotted ‘Kublai Khan’s All You Can Eat Restaraunt.’ I couldn’t not go in there so I decided to try out some of their mediocre Mongolian style noodle offerings.
I left the complex 5 hours later with one bad hair cut and an impromptu hairdresser massage that was not asked for. Might have well just slapped me around the back of the head, kicked me up the arse and told me to tip good, it would have been preferable.
The taxi rank outside swelled down the footpath and into the road by several hundred peoples worth. Motorbike taxi’s pulled up but I didn’t want to risk the unregistered traffic beaters and was lucky enough to jump into a vacated taxi that pulled up across the road from me, beating several others to it in a race through a raised bed of flowers.
Surprising Filipino Fact No. 2
Karaoke is so big here in the Philippines, that people regularly walk around as they work singing just before they “Sir” you. You don’t have to look up to find a waiter, you can locate them audibly as they walk around singing a West Life or Mariah Kerri song. Often staff alternate singing lines of the same song. That’s not a joke.