01 July 2007

Hectic week at Manila

Flag of The Philippines at the Manila Bay area

It has been a week since I last posted that I was in Manila. My schedule there was tight as the team went to Manila to kick start our project there. Meetings were held with the Filipinos the whole day. We normally reached back to our hotel late at night. There was no time to go sight seeing or shopping even though the shopping malls were very near to our hotel.

In Manila, I stayed at the Renaissance Makati City Hotel which is located in the financial district of Manila City. In front of the hotel is the Greenbelt area.
Before I was in Manila, I thought that Greenbelt is a park but it turned out to be a large area of complexes of malls and restaurants where there are Greenbelt 1 to 4. Connecting the Greenbelt area with overhead bridges are other shopping complexes like The Landmark, Gorlietta and SM Mall. The shopping malls and restaurants in the area are packed with people even on weekdays. On weekends, the crowds got bigger.

One thing I like about about the Makati area that I was staying is that there is a long overhead bridge that interlinks all the places that I require to go like to the shopping malls and even up to the office in Ayala Avenue. Walking on the overhead bridge was safer and at the same time the I can view of the streets below which is packed with traffic. But the weather in Manila is very humid. A fifteen minute walk from the hotel to the office would make me sweating even though it is in the morning or evening.

Along the route to Fort Santiago taken from taxi

Another thing that caught me was the level of security in Manila. When I arrived at the hotel, my luggages were required by a dog and I was required to go through a metal detector before going into the hotel lobby. Similarly, security guards were stationed at the entrances of the shopping mall and office building. There would a door for entrance and exit and everyone entering the malls of offices were subjected to the screening and some with metal detectors. The security level made me feel like Manila is under high security threat but the locals are used to these style of life.

It was only on Saturday that I managed to have sometime to go around Manila. My flight was in the afternoon and I thought I would go to an interest tourist spot for a few hours before I head to the airport.

The local guidebooks recommended to go to Fort Santiago where the shrine of the Philippines national hero Jose Rizal lies. I engaged a taxi to take me there and he offered to take be to the other Intrauros area for Peso1,000 (about RM80). Along the way I managed to snap a few photos from the taxi. The first stop was at the Rizal Memorial, then to Fort Santiago and the church area. The whole journey took me about two and half hours. Some of the photos are are here while the bulk of it are posted at my Flickr photo album.
Rizal MemorialFort Santiago

My flight back home was at 3.30 p.m. and I checked out of the hotel at noon reaching the airport in half an hour. From what I understand from the taxi drive there are three (3) Ninoy Aquino Airports which consist of 3 different terminals but only 2 of the terminals are function. The newest terminal which is nearer to the city was not opened due to so dispute between the Government and the people. When I reached the airport there were many passengers there in long queue going at the entrance. All luggages are to be screened at the x-ray machine before going to the check in counters. All the check-in counters were also queue with people. MAS opened up 5 counters for checking 2 flights going to Kuala Lumpur. After the check-in process, then I have proceed to the counter to pay the airport and security charge which cost me Peso 750. Then to the Immigration counter before going to the last security check before going to the board hall. I was caught by surprise at the security check. Every one was required to take off their shoes and belts which are required to be x-ray. Wow, this is the first country that I been to where the security check was so strict and stringent.

The flight to KL was 3 hours and 50 minutes and I reached from the airport at about 9.00 p.m.

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