Expat

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A trip to the Dentist

Visits to the dentist are not high on my favourites to do list, but there comes a time in the affairs of man when one must bite the bullet, so to speak. One must submit to a stranger poking about in your gob with sharp metal objects.

Being a stranger in a foreign land hit home with the force of Novocain but without the numbing effects. Finding a dentist with English equal to mine was the first priority as my Tagalog is konti lang (very little) and definitely not up to and in depth discussions about teeth.

A flick through the yellow pages revealed a list of practitioners which at just over one page isn’t a lot, considering the population of Manila. A walk round any barangay would indicate that a yellow page’s listing isn’t a high advertising priority for the followers of St Apollonia.

The first call was answered by a gruff voice of the dentist himself who informed that he was there when asked about an appointment, mmmm didn’t instill confidence. The second call revealed that the receptionist didn’t know when the dentist would be available. A third call and pay dirt was hit with an appointment for later in the day being arranged.

I will spare you, gentle reader, the graphic details but this was, for me, a unique experience. Not only was it professional and painless but this dentist had a chair side manner second to none. Unlike other dentists he not only explained what he was doing but found time to relate as a person. We chatted about our mutual interests of art and red wine. There was a person behind the mask.

That the cost of the treatment was about an eighth for the same in Australia was a very pleasant surprise on which to leave.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A State of Emergency

Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo, declared a state of emergency yesterday, banning public rallies on the 20th anniversary of People Power 1 which saw the end of the Marcos regime. She also decreed that all educational institutions close for the day giving school kids a day off. It seems that an army general and an equivalent ranked policeman were arrested for planning a coup and several other offices, up to ten in number, are being sought.

It is a very good bet that Gloria knows a bit more about the workings of people power than your humble scribe. She came to power in January 2002 through the auspices of People Power 2. The president at the time, Joseph Estrada, having escaped impeachment by congress through his mates in the senate was kicked out when the military sided with the people’s massed demonstrations at the people power shrine. That Gloria is feeling a tad nervous must be a given. In September last year she escaped impeachment, on a technicality, herself.

The state of emergency didn’t stop five thousand Filipinos gathering at the People Power shire on the EDSA despite the rally permits being revoked. Around noon the police, with the aid of a water canon, dispersed the demonstrators with some twenty two being arrested.

Throughout the afternoon a steady throng of people on foot and in jeepneys headed up Makati Avenue to Ayala Avenue. In all, ten thousand people gathered at the Aquino monument in Ayala Avenue in Makati City. They were addressed by Corrie Aquino, the ex president who came to power through the first people power.


In Mandaluyong, on the other side of the Pasig River to Makati, the EDSA protesters were halted by the police from crossing the river to join the Ayala gathering. This was a peaceful affair with spectators out numbering police and protestors by at least three to one. After confronting each other for about an hour the protestors decided discretion was the better path than valour and returned to whence they came.

A walk home through the barangay after watching this confrontation it all seemed a world away. Kids were playing on the streets, enjoying their pupil free day. Older folks were going about the daily business and street vendors were headed home to stock up their supplies after a successful sell out to the crowds that were now dispersing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Surfs Up

The Filipino’s acceptance of technology is rapid and total. Running a close second to cell phones, as shown in There Everywhere, There Everywhere, are computers and the internet.

Due to the initial start up costs of entering the super highway being in the order of 20,000 pesos plus running costs, a very significant proportion of the population get their IT fix at Internet Cafes. To say there is an internet café on every street corner is over kill but only just.

Within 5 minutes walk from the house I know of 3 such cafes, if that walk is extended to 10 minutes there are about 15. Once when walking through a shopping mall in Cubao, I came across 8 cafes in a 50 metre stretch of the mall. They all seemed to be doing pretty good business considering it was 10 in the morning.

From playing the latest games the internet can provide to chatting and making friends with people on the other side of the world they have a steady stream of customers. Costing between 20 and 60 pesos an hour, all strata’s of society can afford to indulge.

The Filipino’s acceptance of the outside world and their willingness to become involved with it as evidenced by the popularity of OFW participation no doubt fuels these café’s demand. If it comes from overseas, especially America, it must be better than the local equivalent.

There is a significant number of Filipinos using internet cafes to search for a mate from overseas. The benefits from such a successful liaison are too great to be ignored. Apart from the material benefits for themselves and their families there is the perception of a more liberal acceptance that an affluent and compassionate lifestyle can give.

As a Filipino friend in Australia once remarked, “You won’t see any Filipino boat people, we’re smarter than that, we come into the country on the arm of a national.” If his words are true, internet cafes will no doubt be in the fore front of this migration.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mabuhay

The lure of experiencing folk art on wheels and hours of retail therapy in Manila’s malls has got to you. A visit to the Pearl of the Orient is high on your agenda of places to experience. If you are from but a small handful of countries (check here for a list of allowed countries) it is as easy as easy can be.

You can visit the Philippines for 21 days without a visa as long as you have a ticket to somewhere else when you arrive and your passport is valid for more than 6 months after your departure. If you want to stay longer, you can extend your visa up to 59 days when you are here at the Bureau of Immigration or you can get a 59 day visa from a Philippine consulate or embassy before you leave home. This visa, a 9a tourist visa, is good for entry up to 90 days after being issued and your 59 days start from day of entry.

You can continue to extend your visa for up to a year then you will have to leave, if only for 24 hours, and then you can start the process all over again. Like most travelers in the 21st Century, you will get to experience either of 2 of the 3 terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

If you are flying with PAL, Philippine Airlines, you will experience the delights of Terminal 2. This terminal is for the exclusive use of PAL international and domestic flights. It is a 7-year old glass and steel structure that operates reasonably efficiently, although my direct experience is limited to the domestic side of its operations, which I found to be on a par with domestic terminals in Australia.

All other international flights will use Terminal 1. Terminal 3 is in a state of limbo and has been for some time as the Philippine Government squabbles with the builders and operators of this new terminal over numerous contractual disputes. The latest dispute went through the appeals process of the Philippines Supreme Court and is currently before the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. When Terminal 3 will actually see passengers grace its fair halls is anybody’s guess as opening dates keep getting pushed into the future.

The kindest things that can be said about Terminal 1 are that it is old, its capacity has been out grown and due to its imminent replacement not much has been done to rectify its problems. Consequently when 2 or 3 international carriers arrive at the same time, be prepared for a long wait at immigration as 600 to 900 people are processed. If yours is the only carrier to arrive the process can be quick. I once got through immigration, baggage collection and customs and was out on the street in 25 minutes.

Before you get to immigration you will go through a SARS inspection which is not as bad as it sounds. As you leave the concourse from your entry gate you will pass what looks like a video camera that checks for high body temperatures and take a few steps on a disinfected mat. Then it’s on to the immigration queue after passing your last chance duty free shops.

From my experience of international travel it seems a truism that the longer you spend waiting at immigration the less time you spend waiting at the luggage carousel. I have yet to have my baggage arrive at the carousel before me in the USA, Australia or the Philippines.

Once you have been reunited with your baggage it’s a short walk to customs where baggage and baggage claim tickets are checked along with your customs clearance form. If you have nothing to declare and don’t raise their suspicions, it’s off the exit door. Here your stamped customs clearance form will be collected and you are free to go.

At NAIA Terminal 1 you exit into an under populated arrival hall. A few people will be hanging about with the mandatory name on a sign; this is the Claytons arrival hall and the last of the aircon. A few steps and you will be outside, smokers can at long last light up, you will notice that there was aircon inside and you are just a short walk from the Philippines.

Cross a quiet road to the entrance to the ramps that will take you to the real arrival hall. A few meters in and you will be offered the choice of a ramp to right and a ramp to the left. At the end of these ramps is a covered area with the letters of the alphabet hanging over head, A to the right, Z to the left. Across a busy roadway is a second waiting area with corresponding letters that is teeming with Filipinos awaiting the arrival of loved ones and friends. It is advisable, if you are being met, to stand under a pre-arranged letter because as everyone knows, all Kanos look the same.

It is here that you will also come face to face with the Filipino economy in the form of fixers. Whilst waiting for your welcoming party, yep there will be more than one person, ever so friendly touts will offer to arrange a taxi, accommodation or anything else your heart desires for ever so small a gratuity, especially if it is in dollars.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

F is for Family

A few days ago Pinsan (cousin) Neil visited the house. He is the driver for the undersecretary of the Presidential Legislation and Liaison office. His boss was attending the local court, which is at the end of our street, and he had a couple of hours to kill.

Neil is my asawa’s uncle’s son on her mother’s side and they hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years. Lots of chatting and catching up ensued interspersed with coffee and cake. The recent Kano addition to the family was also checked out.

A few months earlier his father's brother, uncle Papa Bobby, had installed our new kitchen sink. No doubt when we get round to the renovations up stairs he will be a front runner for the job.

My stepson, Paolo, is studying a Hospitality and Restaurant course at the University of Santo Thomas. One of the requirements of the course is on the job experience of six weeks in each area. His uncle in law, Tito Leo, a supervisor in the concierge department of The Manila Peninsular Hotel, was instrumental in him getting a foot in the door for the hospitality experience. Paolo’s good work saw his on the job experience extended for his restaurant requirement. Having one of Manila’s premier five star hotels on his resume will do him no harm when he starts looking for paid employment at the end of his studies.

When I married into my Filipino family, my family went from seven, one sibling and assorted children, to thirty eight counting siblings and kids and a hundred and forty four if the extended family is included. This clan that consists of four generations does look after its own, be it with financial support when hard times hit to moral support for ventures undertaken.

The flow of money between siblings, when financial emergencies hit, is common place. The amounts are usually small to top up savings for a larger than expected expense. From my experience it has always been repaid, if not in cash then definitely in kind.

At major gatherings such as Christmas when all the immediate family comes together, the interaction between the generations is one of total acceptance. The sharing of others’ fortune is genuine with adult eyes being as bright as any ten year olds when the Chrissie presents are opened. Like the forty something fellow of the University of the Philippines showing to all who would look his newly received gift.

Very unlike similar Aussie gatherings where past insults and slights are dragged up for one more airing. Fortunately this cynical Aussie outlook has had an injection of optimism that it seems is irreversible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Toothpick Named Cuddles

I have always envied those people who have widely spaced teeth. I just hate it when a tiny morsel like a grain of rice or shred of meat gets stuck between my teeth. All the wiggling with ones tongue just can’t shift the little sucker. And sticking your finger in your gob, apart from not being very effective, just isn’t all that attractive for your friends.

Consequently I am a great advocate for toothpicks. A restaurant that openly displays them has always received extra brownie points and a blight on those that don’t supply them or have them hidden away in some dusty corner.

My addiction is such that I have become an expert at shredding a match to make an impromptu toothpick when the real thing hasn’t been available. But all that has changed, I have found the ultimate toothpick here in the Philippines.

A plastic cutlass shaped unit that is toothpick at one end and dental flosser at the other. Flossing, essential as all dentists decree, is a rather gross activity best conducted in privacy of ones bathroom. With this unit the days of two handed flossing is now a distant memory. It is now possible to do a quick floss in public and be discreet about it.

A real boon to oral hygiene and if the meal gets tedious a quick swash buckle with a trusted friend can relieve the boredom for a few minutes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Surpise Surprise

I went to a Birthday party last night. Didn’t know it was a birthday party until we walked in the door and saw the 100 other guests. We were under the impression we were attending a tete a tete affair, old school chums catching up. Damn glad I ignored the “this isn’t Australia” advice and did the Aussie thing of bringing a couple of bottles. Instant birthday present, it was a shame about the Pure Gold plastic shopping bag.

It was a very nice upwardly mobile affair. With waiters in black and white attending your every need. Excellent food including Lechon, it was my first experience with this delicacy, reminded me of an Aussie back yard spit roast, thankfully without the flies.

A half way decent red ned was supplied to wash it down. Although I did have to convince the waiter he would travel a lot less miles if he actually filled my glass rather than bringing me a glass a third full each trip.

The background music to mask the sounds of the noshing was by a very good pianist who played some lovely renditions from the jazz standard’s repertoire. The plastic furniture was nicely masked with white slip covers for the chairs and the tables covered with damask cloths adorned with rose center pieces, quite a Victorian feel.

I was surprised that it was a knife and fork affair, took me a few minutes to become fluent with the combination again. I have been using a spoon and fork for the last six months everywhere, restaurants, home, other parties.

The view of the Makati skyline at night from the roof of their three story house was spectacular and me without my tripod, bugger. Though I think the door is open for a second visit with tripod in hand.

Around 10pm the karaoke moved from the roof to the main dining area down stairs. As we had commitments the next morning we made our goodbyes and headed home after an enjoyable evening

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Here Comes the Judge

The lingua franca of the Philippine judicial system is English. The proceedings are conducted in English and the judgments are written and delivered in it as well. Although English is widely spoken in the Philippines for the majority of the population it is a second language. Consequently each court has an interpreter for the local language.

I had occasion to attend a regional trial court when a female relative brought a case of sexual harassment against one of the professors at her college. As such it was a criminal case with the People of the Philippines versus the accused. The case was tried before a judge without a jury. I am reliably informed that there are no jury trials in the Philippines and the layout of the court confirms this as there is no place for a jury.

The judge was a woman in her late 50s who took no rubbish from anyone. She would scold a witness who was giving vague or evasive answers to counsel’s questions and would jump on a lawyer who strayed from the facts of the case. In her search for the truth of the case she would also direct questions to witness’.

During the latter part of the trial when it was obvious that the defendant was in deep doggie do after the prosecution had made mince meat of the defence witness'. His counsel drew the court's attention to the fact that the claimant, my niece, was sitting next to a Kano, me. The judge landed on that counsel from about six hundred feet admonishing him to stick to the facts of the case and to desist from making such innuendos in her court.

On two of the three occasions I attended the trial, the proceedings started late. For two hours on the first occasion and for an hour on the other we awaited for the judge to arrive. The trail itself was a drawn out affair mainly due to the defense not turning up or being ill prepared. It took three attempts to deliver the judgment.

Neither the defendant nor his counsel attended any of the judgment sittings. The defendant had moved residence and not informed the court of his new address. The notification to his counsel was sent by mail and its delivery couldn’t be confirmed. At the second judgment sitting of the court it was determined that notice should be served on the defendant’s counsel in person. The cost of serving the notice was to be bourn by the claimant, my niece.

The judgment was eventually delivered in the defendant’s absence. He was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced to four months jail, fined 10,000 pesos and ordered to pay 40,000 pesos in damages to the claimant. A warrant for his arrest was also issued.

It was a month short of two years from the committing of the offense for the judgment to be delivered. It was good result for my niece and the professor, if he can be found, will no doubt rue the day he tried to take advantage of a pretty student.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Don't Forget your Camera II

It has finally happened to me here in the Philippines. Just shortly after posting yesterdays piece about taking photographs I was requested to desist. Security at The Power Plant Mall confronted your happy shutterbug and advised that permission should be sought from the Mall administration to continue taking pics. It is private property so they have every right to do so.

At this time I haven’t been able to find anything definitive about photographer’s rights in the Philippines. Consequently I follow the lead from the information I have found from the US, the UK and Oz. Which basically says the owner of private property has control over the activites conducted on that property.

I posted this on pissedpoet pics a few weeks ago and am re-posting it here for your information.

Photographers Rights

We have all seen the scene of the photographer being surrounded by the heavies, the camera being confiscated and the film being thrown on the ground. Makes for great dramatic footage but in most jurisdictions such behaviour is illegal unless accompanied with a court order.

Essentially if you are in a public place, you can shoot away to your heart’s content. Even in the paranoia of post 9/11 and officers from security forces both private and government saying otherwise. But do use some commonsense, taking pics of military installations is just dumb as with any other sensitive government building.

However you will have to exercise restraint with regard to a person’s privacy or expectation of the same. The person seen in the window of your shot of that lovely composition of windows could land you in trouble if they took exception to being in the pic. Conversely, the same person walking down the street would be fair game.


An excellent article on the state of play in the US by Andrew Kantor, published in USA Today, can be found here. As he says, “If you can see it, you can shoot it”. He also refers to a downloadable PDF by Bert P. Krages The Photographer's Right.

In England things a little more complicated, not only do you have to take English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish law into account, which can vary from place to place, but the European Convention on Human Rights also gets a look in. An extensive over view is the The UK Photographers Rights Guide

There is no such guide available for Australia at the time of writing although the information available from the Art’s Law Centre indicates that taking photos in public places you can just click away. Justice of the Peace, Barry Daniel spells it out a lot more here and in essence says. “The general rule in Australia about photographing in a public place seems to be that, unless there is a legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance or a legally authorised sign indicating photography is not allowed, you can photograph virtually anything you wish.”

For street photographers, overcoming the invasion of another’s personal space is a greater concern. It does take some nerve to get in close and personal with a stranger. Although being completely legal, the subject’s reaction could be down right illegal. If it comes down to a choice between a broken/stolen camera and a broken photographer, I know my choice.


Fortunately it rarely escalates to that extreme and in 5 years of street photography it has only happened to me once and that was my own fault. I was so intent on what I was shooting I didn’t notice the agitated subject in the lens, who was incidental to my shooting. When he turned up a short while later with 2 large mates in tow, well a stolen point & shoot isn’t high on the police crime statistics.

If you do find yourself the subject of a street photographer, ignore them. It isn’t you they are shooting it is the scene, which you just happen to be a part of that is their point of interest. Unless you are providing a street performance, in which case its free publicity. If you’re embarrassed by your performance, should you be doing it in the street?

Canadian street photographer, John Brownlow has some very good advice regarding overcoming shyness when engaged in street photography, it can be seen here. Nitsa, another very good street photographer suggests taking a friend along on your shoots, not only are they good back up but can help distract a subject from giving you their photo face. More of her thoughts and tips can be seen here.

In this post 9/11 time of terrorists under the bed, shooting infrastructure will be sure to attract attention. As happened to a colleague in Australia, who became enthralled by the way the light was working the local oil refinery. He stopped to take some shots and a couple of hours after getting home the local gendarmes were on the door step with the mandatory who, what, where and especially why.


It escapes me why the person with the big, black SLR is such a subject of official concern. Any self respecting terrorist is going to go to some trouble not to be noticed in their activities. If they can’t get what they want with a Google search, one would suspect that a cell phone would be their camera of choice. But such are the times we live in.

If anyone has any definitive info regarding photographers rights in the Philippines or knows where it can be found, please drop me a line in the comments section.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Don't Forget your Camera

Being a highly populated archipelago of tropical islands the Philippines provides a great diversity of photographic locations. From the teaming hustle and bustle of the cities to the serene calm of a tropical beach complete with coconut palms there is something to appeal to the shutterbug in all of us.

From the raw slice of life at the butchers stall to the frenzy of the bargain hunters, just before Christmas, as they descend upon the clothes stalls at the barangay markets.

From the public utility vehicles, the often highly decorated jeepneys, as they negotiated their way through the chaotic Manila traffic to the scurrying tricycles rattling through the back streets.

From the historic landmarks that denote the time of Spanish rule to the calm of a tropical beach scene on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the camera will have its moment in the sun.

From the narrow lanes between houses to the broad expanses of the shopping malls the contrasts abound for the camera to capture.

From the excited faces of children competing for prizes at a street fiesta to the devotion of the church goers at midnight mass, photo opportunities will present themselves.

Here in the Philippines, where terrorism raises its ugly head from time to time, the camera toting individual isn’t a cause for suspicion. Unlike an Australia colleague who was visited late at night by the police because he took some shots of an oil refinery in the afternoon sun.

No post 9/11 photo paranoia here. The big black SLR isn’t the omen of ill will it seems to be becoming in first world countries. The friendly Filipino is rarely camera shy, often quite the opposite. Stopping and posing when the Kano with the camera comes up on their radar, jumping into the frame with a big smile to add that human interest to your shot.

If you’re shooting film there a myriad of photo labs scattered through the cities. If you’re shooting digital the ever present internet cafes will happily assist you to download your camera’s contents. It is wise to have your software and connection cables in your camera bag to make the process as painless as possible.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

There is Cash in them there Islands

There are over 2000 banks in metro Manila. That is bricks and mortar buildings that provide the full range of banking services to their customers operated by some 40 brands.


As would be expected in the 21st Century, they are interconnected electronically with ATMs being the preferred method of getting your hands on your cash. BPI, Bank of the Philippine Islands, who claim to have 3000 ATMs nation wide, charge a 100 peso fee for withdrawals over the counter that could have been made from an ATM. If your withdrawal is greater than can be handled by the machine there is no fee, but if not this rule is strictly adhered too.

For Christmas we required a supply of 20 peso notes for gifts for the small fry of which there are a considerable number. The teller informed us that although the machine doesn’t supply 20 peso bills to do the transaction over the counter would attract the fee. We went outside withdrew the money from the machine, took it back inside where the teller happily changed it into the required denominations free of charge.


As with ATMs the world over, there are limitations on just how much cash a hole in the wall will allow you to stuff in your wallet at one time or in one day. BPI has a 20,000 peso limit per transaction with a 50,000 peso limit per day. The Philippine National Bank limits its ATM transactions to 4000 pesos per hit.

The machines will also pay out on major foreign banks with Cirrus endorsed MasterCard’s being happily accepted. But be aware, your bank will charge you a fee for a foreign transaction.

Not only do the banks have a hole in the wall but the machines can be found in numerous other locations, especially shopping malls. Any self respecting mall will have a section devoted to the machines and the larger malls will have several. Hotels, most consumer goods shops and supermarkets will accept plastic but you will get a better price for cash in shops where there is the opportunity to negotiate. Smaller shops like sari sari stores and market stalls are cash only and the real bargains are definitely cash only.

Although bank ATMs are on the street, if accessed during the banking hours of 9am to 3pm, the bank’s armed security will ensure you’re not hassled. Being a multi-lingual country your first choice for getting your hard earned will be transaction language, either English or the local dialect, which in Manila is Tagalog. The rest of the transaction will proceed along the lines of the usual human, machine interface we have come to know and love, especially when it spits out the lovely lolly at the end.


Should your stay warrant the opening of a local account, the procedure is relatively painless. As a Kano you will require your passport, your visa or immigration papers and a couple of passport size photographs. Half an hour with a bank official will sort out the paper work and your plastic access to your wealth will arrive in the mail 3 to 4 days later. A far cry from the 3 to 4 months that it takes for the government to issue plastic, but that is another post.

For a country that is on the bones of its bum economically, the banking sector seems to be in rude good health especially if the number of armoured cars ferrying valuables about is any indication. To go more than 10 minutes, during business hours, on a major thoroughfare without seeing one is a very long time.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Stroll in the Park

Stretching between TAFT Ave and on its Manila Bay side, Bonifacio Drive is J P Rizal Park. A garden style park, it is a lasting monument to the Philippine national hero Dr Jose P Rizal.

This good doctor was not only a physician but also a man of letters. It was through his writing that attacked the excesses of the church, championed Filipino rights and earned himself the ire of the authorities. Perhaps his greatest crime was coming from a privileged background and exposing their questionable claim to legitimacy. Like India’s Gandhi he was a man of peace and throughout his writing he propounded the futility of armed rebellion. The irony was that in the late 19th century when armed rebellion against the Spanish erupted, he was arrested as the principal ring leader. The Spanish ensured his reputation by martyring him in 1896.

The two monuments to him are at the TAFT Ave end of this long narrow park. An obelisk some 50 feet high complete with two armed military guards on duty and a remembrance wall at the place he was executed.

The long sides of Rizal Park are flanked with various smaller gardens. Amongst the more notable are Kanlungan ng Sining, The Artists Haven, the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden.

Kanlungan ng Sining is a delightfully shady over grown garden. Dotted amidst its lush topical greenery are an eclectic array of sculptures that range from the whimsical to the reflective. The sounds of the bustling city never seem to intrude. To the rear of the garden is a pavilion housing two dimensional works and often a working artist or two.

On the other side of the Park are the Chinese and Japanese gardens. The Japanese garden is austere under the glare of the tropical sun. As you stand on the bridge across its man made pond, the hum of the traffic and the city can be clearly heard.

A hundred or so meters away is the more contemplative Chinese Garden. A pagoda type walkway skirts one edge of its pond and its denser foliage seems to keep the hustle and bustle of the city at bay. Here you will see lovers strolling, chess players doing battle, groups relaxing in idle conversation or singles with a newspaper.

The park itself is flanked by two suburbs that reflect the country’s history. On the Makati City, the central business district, side is Ermita which is also home to the US embassy. Ermita was until the early 1990’s one of South East Asia’s more infamous flesh pots. The red light district was cleaned up on the grounds that it was immoral although the rumours of conflicting business interests have never been proven. Be that as it may, in the noughties, the area is slowly returning to its former glory.

On Rizal Park’s other flank is Intramuros. A walled city established in the late 16th Century which was home to the Spanish administration until the Americans took over at the end of the 19th Century. The moat protecting the walls, which remain today, has been filled in and subsequently turned into a golf course. These walls surround the refurbished gentile grace of a bygone era along with a host of churches including Manila Cathedral which has been rebuilt six times.

As you stroll the boulevards of Rizal Park, the opportunity to grab a snack, a trinket or keep body fluids at optimum levels will never be very far away. Perhaps every 20 meters there will be a small stall of some description. This is the Philippines.