I will never forget our arrival in Manila in my life.🛬 It was the year 2015. Exactly on the first of April, after a 9-hour flight from Dubai, we finally landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
The long flight was exhausting. When we got off a plane, jam-packed with Filipinos, everything seemed to be going smoothly up until the baggage claim. However, we got slapped for the first time with the first step out of the airport hall. “Omg, it’s so hot here”, I said. My boyfriend looked at me and said: “Yeah, but why is here such noise?”. We did not understand what was happening 🤷♀️😅 People were shouting at us and cars were honking pointlessly. Later we realized they only wanted to give us a ride in a somewhat unusual way🤔. The situation in front of the airport was a bit chaotic for us. Luckily, after a few minutes, we met our contact person.
From the airport, we had to move to a hotel in Ortigas. It’s a part of Manila about 12km from the airport. “Yeah, great, we’ll be there in twenty minutes,” we thought. After spending a while in a car, we realized it probably wouldn’t be just twenty minutes. It won’t be thirty, forty, not even fifty minutes. We asked our driver if this is normal. ”Yes po, bad traffic, haha”, he answered😅. After an hour and a half, we finally reached the hotel. At that moment I realized nothing will be as I imagined😣.
Over the following days, weeks, and months in the Philippines, I became aware of various cultural differences. I wrote down the most important things that shocked me after moving to Manila.
As I mentioned, local traffic was one of the biggest shocks for me right after arrival. In the Czech Republic, driving five kilometers will take you about ten minutes. Here, it will take you about an hour during rush hour. I’m not kidding!
Nobody follows the traffic rules here. I am suspicious they don’t even know them!🤔😅 Driving through the red light is a common thing here, even if there are pedestrians at the crosswalk. Cars generally do not yield to pedestrians. Crossing the road here is sometimes like playing Russian roulette 😅.
Another habit that shocked me is honking. Who does not honk doesn’t exist📣. It seems honking is a national sport here. Drivers use a car horn to express “watch out, I am going now!” 🚗
In front of the entrance to any building is a guard who will call you “hello ma’am/sir” and ask you to show him what is in your backpack/purse.
When I visited the shopping center for the first time, I thought: “Wow, they probably take security seriously here”. After a few more visits, however, it turned out the control of the bags is only about pretending “some” activity. Guards will casually look into your backpack, with the help of a wooden stick and the inspection is over.
If you had a gun in another pocket no one would notice.
Nevertheless, the guards are usually very nice. They smile at you in beauteous uniforms👮♂️ and usually carry a gun. However, they rarely have a trigger, so we could argue about their usability. 🤔😅
I would rather not comment on my experiences with local food here 😅.
What fascinated me was the way of dining; Filipinos share their food. Normally, in the restaurant, you can see a group of people ordering several dishes, which they then share with each other. Everyone tastes everything. This doesn’t suit us for we follow the rule “Joe doesn’t share food!”. We are simply not used to share food with other people. Another curiosity is nobody cares about in what order the meals will be served. So it often happens I get my dish and my boyfriend hungrily stares at me while I am eating.
Street food is a big part of Filipino culture. For foreigners, street food is a certain attraction. You will find all kinds of combinations of flavors, parts of animals that you would never have considered edible before. But it is necessary to add that each cuisine has its “specialties” that raise the eyebrows—if not the gorges.
The most famous specialty is Balut. It’s a boiled duck egg with an embryo 14-21 days old. The embryo at this age has already developed bones that are easy to bite. Sometimes it may have developed complete parts of its body, such as eyes, beak, and feathers. I haven’t found the courage to try it yet. As a matter of fact, the friends who tasted it say it is not as terrible as it seems.
When you hear someone ordering “Adidas”, don’t think they’ve just ordered a pair of sneakers from a well-known brand. This is how they call grilled chicken feet. You can find this delicacy not only on the streets but also in local restaurants. They are marinated in BBQ sauce and then grilled for a few minutes until done. Would you dare to try it?
When I first visited a drugstore, I was fascinated by products with whitening effect. Deodorants, skin moisturizers, body lotions, all products promised the same – lightening the skin 😲. I had to start laughing at how absurd this is. In Europe, women strive for tanned skin and here they want to get rid of it.🤔This trend is rooted in the old days of colonialism. The powers divided society according to skin color. People with darker skin were considered a lower class. Conversely, people with lighter skin colors were favored. Unfortunately, lighter skin is still more than just a standard of beauty here.
Despite all the struggles I had here at the beginning, I found a lot of things I like and I will miss once I leave. I will tell you about them in the next article 😊