In March 2015, completely by chance (not by choice) I spent 27 hours in the Philippines.
This was due to flying with Philippine Airlines from Sydney to Tokyo and having layovers in Manila. Initially, the layover on the way back was only meant to be around 3-4 hours, but this ended up suddenly changing to a 27 hour layover. This didn’t bother me so much as I was eager to increase the number of countries I’d visited, but what I really should have done, was contact the airline and tell them to pay for my accommodation.
I was rather unorganized leading up to the February Japan trip, and hadn’t booked any sort of accommodation for the Philippines at all. Luckily, while in Japan, I met some Filipinos at Sapporo New Chitose Airport. One of them, Lizette, happened to be a Couch Surfing host, and invited me to stay at her place in Manila.
I arrived at Manila airport, not too late on a Monday evening in March. Lizette and I had been communicating online prior to my arrival, and she’d recommended that I get a metered taxi from the airport to her place in Paranaque.
Being drowsy and not dressed for the muggy weather once I stepped off the plane, I was a bit disoriented when I got out of the airport. I saw a man who was directing people to taxis and followed him because he had said that it was a metered taxi. I was ushered into a white 4wd and asked where I was going (after I’d already gotten in). I gave him the address in Paranaque and he said it would be about 2000 pesos. Being disoriented and tired after the flight, I willingly handed over the pesos without a second thought. What I should have realized, but didn’t until later, was that a metered taxi would never have asked me for the money upfront. What I also didn’t realize until later, was that about 2000 pesos (which I had just changed from 7,000 yen) was the equivalent of about $70 AUD, and much more than that taxi ride would have been worth. Needless to say, I was kicking myself later.
Due to being a developing country and not having a good public transport system, the roads of Manila were choked with traffic, and it took me at least 40 minutes to get to Lizette’s place.
After getting to Lizette’s place, I enjoyed a traditional Filipino home-cooked meal. I had initially wanted to go out that evening, but due to being broke and not having an Internet connection, I reluctantly went to bed after dinner.
The next day, I woke up early to get a lift with Lizette to her office in the city. Driving in peak hour, traffic was bad again, and we had to set out early for her to get to work on time. I didn’t really have a plan for sightseeing in Manila, so Lizette had recommended that I go to Intramuros, a popular sightseeing spot. When we got to her office, we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet up again later that night. From her office, I got a tricycle to Intramuros and made sure to bargain this time. Due to cars and tricycles being the main form of transport in Manila, cabs were readily available, and I had no problem comparing prices and bargaining with drivers.
When I got to Intramuros though, my tricycle driver changed the price we had previously agreed on and stated a higher price. Me, being passive, accepted the higher price meekly. At this point, I barely had any money left.
I got out and walked around Intramuros, taking in the sights. There were a ton of tricyle and taxi drivers looking for customers in this area, and many called out to me as I walked past.
I enjoyed walking the streets and looking at the colourful, historic buildings in Intramuros before I decided to head off to Mall of Asia to meet some friends who happened to be in Philippines at the same time.
After Intramuros, I decided to head to Mall of Asia and wait for my friends there. I caught a jeepney (a vehicle like a truck, with an open back to hop on) and a tricycle there. During my second tricycle ride that day, I had an angry run in with my tricycle driver. We had previously agreed before I got in, that I could pay whatever I liked. However, when we actually arrived at Mall of Asia, my tricycle driver changed his fee and said something much higher than what we had agreed on previously. I gave him the last of my money, which was something like 100 pesos, and walked off, only to have him follow me and threaten to take me to the police station.
This experience would have been more terrifying, had I not been in broad daylight. After a few minutes of me walking nonchalantly, and him following, protesting angrily, he gave up and left.
I was never so happy to reach the inside of a shopping mall in my life, and be safe from the wrath of angry tricycle drivers. They had free WiFi there, which I used to contact my friends and waited in a cafe, until they came to rescue me.
It was by a serendipitous coincidence that two of my childhood friends happened to be in Manila at the same time as me, and so we all met up and enjoyed a long overdue catch up, walking along the waterside and chatting about our travels.
After we’d walked a little while, Rayban treated me to Jollibee, a Filipino fast food chain that specialises in fried chicken and spaghetti. Filipino fried chicken and their sweetened spaghetti is absolutely delicious, and I wish they would bring this franchise to Australia.
After hanging at Mall of Asia, we got a taxi back to Lizette’s office and went to another part of the city to watch the sunset. Because of the traffic situation in Manila, we needed to head back to Lizette’s straight after that to get my luggage and go to the airport.
My unintended long layover in Philippines brought me the chance to meet new friends and old, and explore a new city. I was frustrated by problems with transport drivers, but am looking forward to coming back and seeing more of the Philippines in future.
- Always get a metered taxi, and check beforehand, even if they say they have a meter
- If you decide to ride a tricycle, ask them for the price beforehand