Near our hostel was a kareoke bar (just one of the ways you can tell you're in Asia, is the general love of kareoke.) So we went one evening...singing our little hearts out and ended up making friends with the locals. They were so cute and ended up coming and sitting with us and buying us a round of drinks. Then we went to a bar nearby where a cover band were playing. I was super excited as it's been such a long time since I've seen a band play. There is a lack of a music scene in Taiwan...or at least where I live. So it was great. So in a true Western fashion we danced like lunatics to their music. Which encouraged a few Pinoys to join us. And the next thing I know, Reign, the lead singer of 808 band, grabs my hand and pulls me up on stage to sing with them. So I then find myself singing Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe with 808! I'm still unsure how I managed that!!
After the set the band were so appreciative of us enjoying their music they asked us to hang out with them. So we had a meal backstage with them and just hung out. They taught us bits of Tagalog and just chatted with us, why we were in Palawan, why we all live in TW and such like. It's just so amazing to be welcomed by everyone in Philippines. From what I can understand of the culture, this stems from the close family bond. Families and extended families are very close in Filipino culture, as with most Asian cultures. The band members referred to each other as brother and sister, and they treat everyone like family. So we had become their extended family.
Many people have said 'oh you need to be careful in the Philippines, there is a lot of crime' etc. I can honestly say, I never felt unsafe anywhere in the Philippines, whether I was with the girls or on my own. Even in the big city of Manila. I would go so far as to say I feel safer there than in parts of London. In reality, there is crime wherever you go, but if you are sensible I see no reason why you wouldn't feel safe. There are areas of the Philippines I probably wouldn't choose to go, but there are areas in every place you probably would avoid.
The difference between Palawan and Manila was huge. In the traffic of Manila people are trying to earn a living selling things...it wasn't uncommon to see people selling all manor of random things, even little kids were there selling things. As it's a city it was obviously more built up. But the people were just as chilled and happy as we had experienced in Palawan.
Manila is home to the biggest malls in Asia. The Mall of Asia, Greenbelt and Glorietta. So some shopping was in order for us. It was sooooooo wonderful to see some familiar faces...Zara, Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams and even Marks and Spencer.
On our final night in Manila we went to the meeting. After the meeting some of the brothers and sisters took us out for dinner to a local place. Ahhhh again the Filipino food did not disappoint. Sisig, BBQ pork, seafood, rice and a traditional dessert, cassava cake. At first appearance, the cassava cake kinda looked like caramelized mash potato. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But it was delicious, really creamy. It tasted almost like custard. I love learning from the locals, you really do find out what the best foods and places to go are from them.
It was sad leaving the Philippines, as we flew out you could see the built up areas, the slums and the beaches. Considering the poverty within the country, I've never seen a happier bunch of people. They really do seem to make the most of the simple pleasures in life.
So the Philippines can be ticked off the Abacus atlas...but I am convinced it's not the last time I will find myself there. I really hope to go back and explore for longer.
For now it's back in TW for me. And I've reached the 五個月 mark. Which means...little over 4 weeks and I will be back in the England. Madness! I'm kinda nervous to come back...only because it means back to work and everything being expensive again. But I'm excited to come back too. But the lessons I've learnt in Taiwan and the Philippines are invaluable and ones I will remember for life.
Tune of the day is The Black Eyed Peas - The Apl Song.