Philippines

Well, I know, I am running way behind on all these blogs, let alone the artistic side of this venture. Agreed, I am a horrible person. The art is by far the hardest thing to get rolling but really what is driving me crazy is the technology side. It’s possible I put too much trust in the iPad, when my laptop would have worked better with the adobe package. I am picking up a slew of apps, but they really don’t work that well. A sketching one for a photoshop replacement, a comic one to layout pages, and a font one for text design, etc. etc. none of them work that great, and drawing on the iPad is like painting with mittens on your hands. Spell check doesn’t even work. So be patient and hopefully I get this system going.

But now, back to the Philippines….

We arrived late at night in Manila, excited but a little in the dark as to where we were. After much confusion at the airport, trying to figure out how best to catch a cab/car service to our hotel. We would walk out of airport, and an official said we had to upstairs to get a cab, even though they were right in front of us. Then upstairs, we were told to go downstairs. In the end we actually had to go through the metal detector three times before we finally got our car service. And all the time we while were messing around in customs a large group of guys were escorted quickly through the airport to their limos. The entire airport staff were taking pictures of them. We did not find out till a few days later that they were Maroon 5 because their picture was on a huge billboard. It would have been nice if one of the staff could have helped us, but we are just not famous enough yet.

Forty minutes later we ended up in a very dodgy area of the city. It was very wet, being typhoon season and all, and there were homeless people everywhere. It’s always a shock going from a first world country to a third world one, and it takes a bit of an adjustment period. And the Philipines did not have a great reputation to begin with.

So we show up at our hotel, Mabina Mansion Hotel, and let me tell you, it was never a mansion, an apartment building sure, mansion no. Well the room was dank, and we had some roommates in the form of roaches in the loo. Now, that did not put us off nearly as much as the mildews smell. It was a huge room, with kitchen and all, but not that nice.

We popped the air on, and went straight out. We had no idea where we were, and at this time of night, you really feel like everyone is sizing you up. Look at the gringos at night, in the wrong hood. There really were people sleeping in every nook and cranny. Whole families with naked children sleeping under a bunch of boxes. It was really sad, and worrisome also. Clearly we did not look like we fit in. So you grab your wallet and hold it tight, keep your eyes open and tread carefully. Most people would have locked themselves in the hotel room and then assumed safety till morning, but not us. We needed to be out, but neither of us were up to being in the hotel room yet. We turned down a few streets in our hood, looking for some food, anything really.

Truthfully we walked the blocks around the hotel, till we were really able to determine how safe we were. After a bit we finally found a place, the Slouch Bar. Looked relatively clean, there were some westerners there, old grizzled 60 year olds who look like they just got off the boat. We still had no idea about the currency conversion, but the beers seemed cheap enough. So a liquid diet was in order. We nursed our beers and discussed how different it was from Tokyo. We noticed some odd things, the few older men who came in always had some young philipino. Most had woman with them. Sure, it happens, young girls fall in love with older men, and for some men, this is the dream. They also did not feel like powerful or charismatic men, definitely not the Bruce Wayne’s of the world. Quite often these men seemed like guys you would not want to go down a dark alley with, or the others were dorky enough that you wondered how they were able to get to out of their closet. Most looked like their grandfathers. But after seeing four men come into the bar with cute philipino woman, it really makes you wonder. And the last guy only had one eye, 300 lbs, and he lead two girls to the back of the bar, and up some shady stairs.

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So no more wool over our eyes, we just were introduced to the world of sex tourism, one of Philippines major industries. And apparently the rooms above our bar were where they were taking the girls. I have to say it's a bit unnerving, it's all done so openly here over the next few days the only westerners we saw were these type of men. Usually the girls seemed old enough, but sometimes you could not help but cringe at the age of some of the girls. It was just too disgusting. But it was something that we would become very accustomed too.

Now I'm not preaching here, I support legalized prostitution. The problem in these places is you don't know if the girls are doing it willingly, or if they are forced to do it through human trafficking rings, and as far as I am concerned, any girl under 18 is too young.

Well it's amazing how much the sun coming up can change your opinion on a place. With the air running the room was actally ok. We stayed for three nights there because we were very central to everything. Now its true that there were a ton of people living on the street, but it did not seem as threatning as it did the first night. Sadly, most the people who have stalls and sell on the street also live there. I saw the money box for one vender locked with a padlock while he slept wrapped around his neck. Most people who had tricycles slept in them also. But even with such horrid levels of poverty, every one on the streets was so nice, and even in such conditions the smiles on all the kids faces were infectious.

We spent the next three days there, checking out the sights, eating in various parts of town, and figuring out the system. There are numerous sections to Manila, and we were hanging out in the older section. From what I understand, there are huge malls and more suburban style living in other sections of the city. But that is not really my thing. The other thing we discovered is that we our pretty much in the center of the sex trade business, the red light district of Manila. So that explains some of the shadynessss around.

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