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The Holy Week
Naga (Philippines) to Manila (Philippines), Mrt-28-10 / Apr-09-10

The “Holy Week” is week to keep in mind when you travel to the Philippines. This week starts on the Monday before Easter and ends on Easter Sunday. For most Filipino’s, this is the most important holiday of the year and they use this period to visit the picturesque places of their country. Already months in advance, resorts are fully booked and bus tickets are often difficult to get. The only place where you are rather certain to find reasonably priced accommodation is Manila. This metropolis is without a doubt the least picturesque place of the Philippines, and millions of inhabitants are fleeing the city during this holiday period. We have chosen to have a relaxing stay in Manila during the Holy Week to prepare ourselves for the visit of Edwin’s parents, who arrive on the Friday after Easter.

View on Adriatico street from the roof terrace of our guesthouse in Manila
We arrived in Manila on the Sunday before the Holy Week starts. To be on the safe side, we booked a hotel in advance. The hotel were we stayed last year is closed during the Easter holiday; therefore, we ended up in a true backpackers hostel. The slogan of our hostel is: “By Backpackers For Backpackers (and other cool and hip tourists too!)” so this is definitely a place for us! Hostels that aim to attract backpackers, all have the same amenities. Often, there is a wide choice of accommodation. The larger the dorm and the lesser the facilities (like airco or hot water), the cheaper you sleep. While we are also travelling on a budget, until now we have always avoided sleeping in a dorm. Also in Manila, we have chosen to pay a bit more to have a room for ourselves as we prefer to have a bit of privacy. Many backpackers who travel on their own prefer dorms, because it is a perfect way to get in touch with other travellers. However, if we looking for some new contacts, we can always go to the communal area. A communal area is a must for a backpackers place. It doesn’t have to be a luxurious area, but a TV with a movie channel of a DVD player with lots of illegal movie DVDs are an advantage. Beer shouldn’t be expensive and free coffee and tea are often available to help guests get over their hang over from last night. At least part of the communal areas is open for smokers, as most backpackers are clearly nicotine addicted. While most midrange hotels ask additional money for internet access, wireless internet is often free in backpacker hostels. Internet access is a necessity for the real high-tech backpacker to keep a their facebook friends up to date about their adventures abroad.

In our hostel stay mainly two “kinds” of guests: the young backpackers and the older male tourists who try to find a young and beautiful Filipina. Most already have succeeded in this goal. Most part of the day, they are sitting in front of the TV while their new “love” is providing them with food and drinks. Sometimes the girls are giving their men a cuddle to give the impression that they are really in love. The young backpackers gather to talk about their travel experiences and to have lots of beer. The later it gets in the evening, the noisier the backpackers become. Especially when your room is adjoining the communal area, this is something to keep in mind. During the day, they all try to recover from their hang over to be relatively fit for the next evening. When being among young backpackers, we notice that we are getting older. The thoughtlessness of many of the youngsters when coping with illnesses amazes us. A boy has red spots all over his body. Pus is coming out of the spots and his feet are swollen in a way that they look like elephant feet. Going to the doctor doesn’t seem like a good idea to him, as he fears the advice of the doctor. “Maybe, he tells me to rest for a while!”

Time to relax on Friendly's Guesthouse's roof terrace

We didn’t only spend our days in Manila observing our backpackers hostel. The main action that we had to undertake was to hire a car for the period that Edwin’s parents are coming. It appeared to be less easy as expected. When reading the small print of the rental contracts we came to know that the large international car rental companies forbid their renters to go to the mountainous provinces on Luzon (the island where Manila is located on). As we certainly want to go there, this isn’t an option. We hoped to find better conditions at JB Rent a Car, a local car rental company that is recommended by our guidebook. They, however, have included in their conditions that renters have to pay the complete market value of the car if it gets stolen. This is a risk that we don’t want to take. In countries like Vietnam, where this sort of conditions are normal for motor hire, a common scam is for to let thieves follow renters with a spare key to steel the vehicle. So far, we never heard that this scam is also done in the Philippines but we don’t want to be the first one to get scammed this way. In the end, we hired the car at Filcar (www.filcartransport.com) where the rental conditions seem fine. The insurance is extensive and we can visit entire Luzon, without exclusion of certain provinces, roads or places.

At this moment, we are sitting of the rooftop terrace that serves as communal area. We are waiting for Edwin’s parents to arrive tomorrow. We are really looking forward for the weeks to come. The Philippines are a splendid destination and we can’t wait to travel around together. Before we meet the parents of Edwin at the airport of Manila, we have a dinner appointment tonight. We are catching up with John (a nephew of Ivonne) who lives in Manila. It is for the first time since we started this trip that we are paying a visit to people we know from the Netherlands; mostly, people are coming to visit us!


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