Sunday, March 22, 2009


I just returned on Thursday from a three day trip to Manila. I ostensibly went there to help with a language proctor licensing (at the end of training we take a language interview to gauge or abilities and the proctors must be US certified every 5 years). I really went to Manila, though, to get my clarinet fixed and eat Wendy’s.

I had my apprehensions about going to Manila for its seedy reputation. Although not so blatantly thrown in your face as it is in Bangkok, Manila is a hotbed for sex tourism. Being a port it also has its share of lonely seamen…and their semen. Walking around our part of Manila it was pretty common to see what could be compared to a Hooter’s Girl every 50 feet trying to entice those in need.

Besides this, Manila is also rumored to have some crazy pickpockets. Rumors abound about men who can slice open your pocket and catch your falling wallet without you noticing. They’ll also cut necklaces off your body. You always have to lock your cab doors because they could open them during a red light and run off with your bag. Recently a volunteer had her phone taken out of her hand and the nabber didn’t even run away but taunted her to get it back from him.

What Manila taught me is that everything I’ve observed here in Bacolod is carried out on a much larger scale there. If the scale of not-having to having is 1-10 then Bacolod is something like 3-8; Manila is 1-10. It’s maddening to see people with bags full of things I can’t afford in the states walking past children who are playing with a used tire that they found. As a volunteer there’s a natural want to try and fix this. To right such a terrible wrong. The wrong is so systematic though that there’s nothing I can do to fix the whole problem. That is the difficulty of this job, there is so much that needs fixing that one must be realistic in terms of what actual results they can achieve.

The biggest thing I took away from Manila is the fact that I can’t go back to the states during my service. Because it is summer here a lot of people are making plans to go back for a visit in the coming months. I wonder how smart a move it is for some of them. I know that I was willing once to say, “Sure send me anywhere and don’t pay me much to work at a really hard job.” But I would I be willing to say that again if I had my old life back?

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