|Tourists from around the World|
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
|Jeepney Factory Floor|
Sunday, February 23, 2014
MANILA, PHILIPPPIANS: A haircut in Manila costs $1. A good meal costs $10. To take the jeepkey (the most popular form of transportation) four kilometers you’ll have to pony up seventeen cents. Yet, even at these prices, it’s difficult for most Philippians to get by. Teachers make only $14/day and medical doctors gladly give up their practices for the opportunity to become nurses in America. The established minimum wage in Manila is just $11/day, outside Manila $7/day. But companies, apparently reluctant to pay even these low wages, routinely avoid paying the minimum wage at all by firing their employees before they complete their six-month probation. As a result, companies often pay no more than $4/day, which is equivalent to the subsistence level for a family of four. It’s no wonder you can see run-down shanties just about everywhere. The irony is that, at 90%, the Philippians has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia and as my guide assured me, “People here are happy.”
Thursday, February 20, 2014
MANILA, PHILIPPIANS: I’ve learned never to rely on first impressions. The drive from the airport to my hotel on Makati Avenue in the City Center took two hours. I’m guessing I could have walked it in less time, but then walking is no breeze either. The area around the hotel, where my driver assured me is safe, is alive with people stumbling over each other; the streets and sidewalks are obstacle courses of misplaced signs, broken chunks of sidewalk, buckling pavement, food stands, garbage bags, beggars, hawkers, prostitutes, and vendors selling their wares, “Viagra, I make you a good deal.” — I guess they know their target market, white men over sixty. There are a few of those around as well. I stopped by an open food market where chicken intestines and pig stomachs appeared to be selling well. I ordered a bowl of spicy chicken and two scoops of rice. It was delicious. If people aren’t walking or clogging up the roads with their cars, they take a tuc tuc, a motorbike with an attached sidecar, or a jeepney, a stretched version of the jeeps the US Army left behind after WWII. At the hotel, you have half a dozen porters and doormen whose obsequious kowtowing can drive you crazy. “I’m okay. I can pull my bag myself. Please, no, no, I can do it myself. Thank you, it’s okay.” Lest I forget, security is also everywhere. There are security guards in front of every building, traffic cops at every intersection. There are cops in cars, and cops on motorbikes, and cops with sawed off shotguns. My driver was probably right. This is a safe area. I’ll see where these first impressions will take me.