To make it up for not managing to Hong Kong on this trip I made a reservation to a Golden City Hotel, which is in Sta Cruz near the Carriedo LRT station and also nearby the entry to Manila China Town and surrounded by shops selling only gold and other jewelry related items. I also had in mind to buy some Chinese New Year (2013 year of Snake) related items for my friends new apartment, even though we did not have too much time to do the shopping in there or in SM Mall of Asia since our flights back home took place the next day.
The "ride" from Tagbilaran to Manila was smooth and quick, until we took the taxi from Airport to the light train station. The last 100 m walk to the station itself we got comment about our bags and that we should take good watch of the pickpockets. We were also in trouble with our back packs when there was an inspection before we were able to step in the train or even buy the ticket. But, we managed. This time we noticed that we had arrived to the less touristic area and it was the first time during our whole trip when the begging children approached us. After our shopping trip we arrived around 11 pm and the whole area looked a but shady with trash and homeless laying around and our taxi driver told us to be safe! Still, I feel that this country was much safer than Mexico and less nonthreatening when it comes to beggars than India.
However, for a coffee enthusiast Philippines is a tough place with all the 3in1 instant coffee. There was only a few places were we tracked down even some brewed coffee, and maybe one of them was local brand. In Coron the "Manneken Piss Restobar" offered Batangas coffee in a French presso pot, in Cuyo were were lucky to get some brewed coffee in Nikki´s place after we told how hard it was to get real coffee and at Alona Beach we were of course spoiled with options. And then, in bigger cities one of the options is Starbucks,Coffee Break or others in the big mall environments. On our last day walk we spotted a place called SaLido Restaurant in Chinatown and decided to get in to have a coffee. I was super happy about the nice coffee infusion system they had, and found out that the place is famous for the coffee. There was a special cups for the VIP guests and it was a popular place, the food also looked nice and tasty. More about the place you can find out in here
http://www.talesfromthetummy.com/binondo-food-wok-a-mix-of-the-old-and-new/ and SaLido is also a place to go on food walks.
On our last taxi ride to Manila Airport International Terminal we witnessed a lot of people waiting for something at Manila Baywalk area. There was a lot of people dressed up in costumes or carriages filled with dolls of baby Jesus or Santo Nino. The event had not yet started and we were able to only take a glimpse of what it might be, and got a small example of what it might have been on famous Sinulog Festival in Cebu earlier in January. However, I was not able to find anything about this from the internet in English and I cannot be sure what the event was.
Btw, in Philippines it is illegal to drink alcohol or other intoxicating drinks in public. Especially on the sidewalks and streets. We did not know that on our first night and we were not told. Therefore we got in trouble at the Manila Baywalk area. All in all we were ok, and nothing happened to our friends after the few beers we consumed. BUT it involved a tired police officer, a very eager assistant to the police officer, 1000 PHP and some people who had called the police after seeing us having a chat with locals. I am happy that nothing else happened since our new friend might have got a note in her passport and would have not been able to leave the country to work in Saudi's, and support her children after the incident. After reading a few more internet pages I understood that the particular Baywalk area had been before a place where people gathered to walk and eat in the evenings, but it had been "cleaned" by the present mayor. After the cleaning procedure the place is almost empty during the evenings and kinda darker place. But there is still some action; many do sleep there, but it is also a popular place to get a massage (my foot massage was 100 PHP), and back massages are offered as well if you´re not too picky to lay down on a piece of fabric on the grass) and we heard stories of a Korean man who had been extremely talented massage-our.
All in all (now, when I am sitting at home after recovering from a fever I got in Amsterdam) I felt Philippines was a safe country and we did not confront too much poverty during our stay, and we must be lucky in that. also, after India I am always concerned if I see a lot of trash but there was not big amounts, not the quantity of India anyway. People are very friendly, gentle and reliable (only one crappy taxi driver who did not put the meter on), and fun to talk with. I just love the Philippine breakfast combos, because it comes with a fried egg! the highlight of our trip was Cuyo islands filled with the great characters we were lucky to meet there. Also, jeepneys could be the only reason worth to go to Philippines!