Day 16 – Pearls and Serpents in Manila

“I will tell you another thing about them, too. Among them are monks who live in monasteries to serve their idols. And when they are named to a new office or rank – for instance if someone dies and his replacement need to be chosen – they are put to test in the following way. The girls who have been offered to the idols are brought in and made to touch the men who tend to the idols. They caress them in this place and that all over their bodies, embracing and kissing them and bringing them to the utmost pitch of earthly pleasure. If a man is fondled in this way by the girls I have told you about and his member does not in the least react but rather stays just as it was before the girls touched him, he passes muster and stays in the monastery. But if another man is fondled by the girls and his member reacts and grows erect, far from retaining him they drive him away at once, declaring that they cannot stand having a lecher among them.”

Wow! Who is writing this kind of exciting stuff? Well, it is Marco Polo himself and it is from the thirteenth century. The anecdotes he tells in his blog “Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls” from 1296 (I guessed the exact year) are spicier than what we have ever read on a travel blog or written in this blog.

“You should understand that these leather mats I am telling you about are used by the Muslims to sleep on; and how well you sleep on them.” 

But what can you learn from reading Marco’s works as a highly successful travel and lifestyle blogger? His stories are so much more exciting and interesting than any travel blog I have ever read. He is brave, open and does not shy from covering general customs to juicy details.

“So long as these girls remain virgins, their flesh is so form that no one can grasp them or pinch them anywhere on their bodies. For a penny they will let a man try to pinch them anywhere on their bodies. After they are married their flesh remains firm, but not as firm as before.”

No travel blog will impress by the sheer novelty of the places it depicts or the experiences that it recounts. The white beaches, the rainforest and the exotic food – none would tickle your genuine excitement. Only when the author crosses the valley of glanzbild and penetrates the pass of honesty, stories worth telling will arise. The beauty in any trip lay in the small moments when you stop – look around, and, remember that you live. 

“And as for debts, the following laws and procedures are observed among them. If a debtor who has been repeatedly asked by his creditor to pay a debt keeps on fobbing him off day after day with promises, and the creditor is able to get hold of him in such a way that he can draw a circle around him, the debtor cannot leave that circle until he has satisfied the creditor or given him a lawful and binding pledge that the debt will be discharged in full that very day”

Marco Polo wrote his Travels while being in Prison in Genoa. What I appreciate the most is the collection or stories, big and small, and the mat that he weaves. Travelling has always been a futile pull away from the routines that fast forward life. But a collection of some crazy stories is the best you can reach on a trip.

Still free from prison in Helsinki I can see how your faint smile is revealing your poor yellow teeth. And the sour smell of coffee, emanating from deep down in your nervous stomach.


Day 15 – Supermarkets

Supermarkets are only markets here. Super may be awarded later, when the customer experience has been improved. 
 Based on three outlets reviewed our experience is as follows.

No bread of the healthy kind and touching the baguettes will bring soggy old cucumbers to mind. The cheese selection is very limited and the packs are tiny, which is very sad for us cheese lovers. The obvious benefit is that the sour smell of dairy consuming Finns is absent. Row after row of processed food in US inspired packaging brings the floating plastic viewed during the last snorkelling trip to mind. Plastic packaging must be eliminated asap.

Buying ice cream requires at least two revisits to the fridge to change to an un-melted pack while queueing.

Most customers take the wait very patiently, leaning over their carts supporting their chins in their fists or nibbling on their smarties.

Leaving the supermarket we witness two workers pushing and dragging a full cart of black bananas escorted by guard prepared for the worst with a walky-talky in hand closely pressed to the lips and prepared to call for backup.

Local fruit and vegetables are excellent. To tap the riches extensive research is required. Just last week we ate the bitterest wok ever prepared having not removed the seeds from a long green thing. Many exotic vegetables rot in the fridge as we fail to understand the culinary opportunities they present.

The music is loud. Noise from several sources make a dense and dirty carpet. For demonstration:

Credit cards get a beating here. They don’t like them here. Last night I heard crying from my wallet. It was the chip in my credit card complaining about his pains. The lady cashier looked so pretty and petite but surprised with her roughness.

My father would like it here. Groceries are packed in boxes. He likes to pack things in boxes. I like it too.

And last there is a science behind the cashiers. There are the blue basket lanes, big cart lanes, premium lanes, lanes for disabled and pregnant. Once we did the mistake of going to a big cart lane with a basket. We were told off. Slightly agitated M emptied the basket in a cart and appeared back at the cashier with a mean smile. The trick is we learned that you take a cart, place a basket in it and when closing in on the lanes choose the short one and dump the superfluous vessel.

Some economist would cry about opportunity cost here. If you have your smartphone with you it’s OK. 
 This post, including the photos, were produce in the queue.

Day 14 : Dampa Sa Libis

In this episode we visited Dampa Sa Libis that has a Wet Market (“palengke”) where you can buy fresh seafoods and a restaurant where you can decide how it will be cooked.

Day 12 – Living Green in Manila

Living green in Manila seems difficult in the beginning. All the meat, cars, traffic jams, plastic, people, air pollution

After a bit of confusion, we understood that the same old recipe works here – minimise energy use and spending and you are on a good way.

Housing – housing in Manila is so much more ecological than living in Finland! It’s amazing, no heating is needed! The sun is heating us here! Live in a small house or apartment and get used to the hot weather and keep the AC on minimum. This saves electricity and by getting used to the warm weather you will also enjoy being outside more.

Transport – Manila is jammed and tons of people sit in cars, buses, taxis and jeepneys that are not moving but the engines are humming and roaring. Klaxons screaming! What a waste! Try to live close to your work and travel with public transport as much as possible. Carry your food home and no gym is needed. Especially if you carry home the water. Avoid flying – it’s terrible.

Eat fruits, it’s good for you and mother earth.

Food – meat is popular in Philippines. Beef, chicken and pork are in high demand and prepared everywhere. Small shacks where chicken heads are fried to restaurants churning out adobo to hungry office workers. Try to reduce the amount of meat and get acquainted with the everyday vegetables that are eaten here. The fruits will make the transition easier.

Lifestyle – the warm weather requires frequent showering. Keep the water cold and the showers short. Avoid consumption and always bring back your waste from the nature. Wake up at six and no lights are needed.

Philippine people may seem uninformed about the environment, ignoring the waste that is piling up at beautiful tourist spots. But the criminal is not the local fisherman or IT-worker. It’s us, living in AC cooled homes and flying to various places around Philippines only for a weekend.

Coral reefs are losing their colours at this very moment and fishermen can’t catch any fish. They eat canned fish and see their sons moving to the cities, crying.

As almost always, save money and you’ll save the environment. That’s one of the most beautiful things in life.

The biggest issue is not the pollution that we are emitting. It is the lack of courage and ignorance that keep prevailing.

Ps. Recycle.


Day 11

This morning a thin arm hit me with surprising force. The other hand’s fist opened and some silver coins sparkled. The boy said something I couldn’t understand and he wanted money. I turned away and continued walking into the morning heat, checking my phone and wallet were still in my pockets.

Philippines used to be poor. Philippines is still poor, but the amount of poor has been decreasing. Skyscrapers pop up around Metro Manila, housing companies that take care of support services for oversees companies. HR and IT-support 24/7. A young man checking in at work at 7 p.m. in Manila to serve customers on the East Coast in US, where morning is breaking at 7 a.m. Providing IT-support all night and to the other side of the globe, through satellites, with a perfect American accent (sorry Martina).

After the shift he goes out with his friends and party. The foreign companies pay twice the pay that domestic companies do. A team performing well will be rewarded. The best teams get two free days in a row. The best of the best are free on the week-ends.

Listening to stories of people in our age in Philippines remind us of grandfathers and passed times. The cold winters, the lack of food, the scarcity. Here a diet of only rice and no toilets. Only after the father getting a better job, dried fish would be served for dinner. The lack of medicine and no access to doctors ever present, with infections leading to complications for life.

And people are pouring into Manila packing up in the streets and constipating the traffic. Manila is living at the verge of bursting.

I look back. The boy is gone, mixed with the commuters under the overpass.