Normally I skip big cities, but fate had me stuck in Manila for 5 days. While I had to endure the pollution and traffic, lucky for me I got to visit my good friend from home. Sajira is doing her Master’s Degree on the urban poor in Manila. Her two-year program has her volunteering, studying, and living in an actual slum all at the same time. I’m so proud of her!
She showed me around her neighborhood in Quezon City in the outskirts of Manila. To get there, I took a jeepney to the metro, crowded into the women only carriage for an hour, and met her at a shopping mall. We hopped on a rickety tricycle to her neighbourhood. She has her own tiny room and shares the communal space with an older couple and their 3 daughters.
In my short visit, I thought the slum looked quite clean and comfortable, perhaps just a bit noisy and crowded. Sajira told me it is one of the nicest ones in Manila. It didn’t seem dirty, and has electricity and running water.
In these communities, people really know each other and are prepared to help their neighbors. Kids play in the street with sticks, which in my opinion is better than the plastic toys we have in western culture. Visiting the slum definitely made me aware of how I define happiness, and how it compares to a ‘poorer’ perspective. Does money have any relationship with happiness? I’m beginning to doubt it.
I stayed at a great hostel called Our Melting Pot in Makati, the business district. There I met Jordana, an adventurous Canadian traveling solo who became a good friend. We climbed a volcano, went out for karaoke and got foot massages together. She is one of those people who I know I will be in touch with for life.
Thanks, Manila, for an interesting yet smoggy 5 days. I will be back when I fly home in a few weeks… See you then!