Manila, Manila…

…if you were coffee, you’d be quadruple strength instant, oblivious to milk, taken scalding hot straight to the back of the throat. Edgy, loud, grimy, proud; shy you are not. Your colours just visible through the smog like a dream of breeze through the sweat. As we wait, endless, for movement through traffic that does not crawl so much as grind painfully over the melting tarmac, like an ant with one leg. But slower.

The civility of your beggars astounds me. Can we even call them that? They don’t beg, they politely enquire as to the chances of one’s potentially having something that may be of use to them. I say one – and if one is Philippino/a then that is correct. Foreigners are largely avoided. A no is taken as simply that. Hungry children polish off leftovers with their fingers. Delicately. With a shout out to a nearby friend to come and share in the bounty. Then look you in the eye as they thank you and ask if perhaps you might have some water because they ate a little too much too quickly.

Conducive to drinking, your Red Horse clops along at a good pace, neatly delivering us to free-poured rhumcokes by the dozen. A celebration of cooling air, as the dark hours creep by like an accordion – time concertinaed tightly across the jump into tomorrow, a surprise every time.

Morning fallout of heavy heads and questionable ideas. But we decide to make them happen anyway. Que an impromptu 15 hour journey by bus and Jeepney and possibly other, as yet unconceived, modes of transport to somewhere up past Pinatubo. In search of Whang Od. Last living Kalinga Head-hunter tattoo artist…


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