Monday, July 20, 2009

Manila Dinner Day 1

For once we didn't have 5 meals a day as we usually do when traveling. Both Yi and I lost our appetite, partly because we had a slight flu and partly because of an awful lunch. We do love Filipino mango juice and their halo halo, which is like Malaysian ABC (shaved ice with beans and jelly mix) except halo halo has fresh fruits. I like the cut fresh fruits stalls at the entrance of their supermarkets. You scoop your own mix of fruits and pay according to the weight. The only fruit that disappointed was their papayas which were yellow-orange, totally bland and flavorless, unlike Malaysian papayas which are deep orange, fragrant and sweet.

The thing about confining ourselves to the CBD was that we only got to eat at malls and malls only have chain restaurants which to me are a waste of time. I wanted to eat at a family restaurant called Gateau de Manila in Quezon City but Hub wouldn't venture out of Makati, especially at night. Makati's malls are filled with American-Filipino chain restaurants but between Greenbelt 4 and 5 are many fancy restaurants and bars. We finally decided on Marciano's. We never thought we would resort to Italian food in Manila but after that lunch, we wanted to play very safe. I wanted Spanish but the others objected violently. No Chinese food either, because Filipino Chinese restaurants had Pearl S Buck-kind of names. Dragon Inn, A Thousand Flowers, that sort of stereotype names. You can tell an authentic Chinese restaurant by its name which is usually the pin yin version of the Chinese meaning, such as "Long Ke Jan" for Dragon Inn.

My Documents1-2
The food at Marciano was just okay. Bill was about P1200/RM90/US$ .The Mediterranean pizza tasted of coconut oil so I lost my appetite. Ah well. Time to loose those 2 kgs.

Jollibee's is their most successful contender to McDonalds'. We used to have one in KK but it closed despite the large Filipino population here. Yi bought some fries from Jollibee and sure enough they tasted of coconut oil, quite faintly, but it was unmistakable for me. I can take the whiff of coconut oil in Revathi's or Muthu's hair but not in my food, no.


Manila must've had its glory days in Marcos' time because most of their skyscrapers look like they were built in the 70s. The only modern and reasonably aesthetic building I saw was that of the Union Bank. With the English signs, American chain restaurants and older buildings, Makati almost feels like some city in the US. But take a taxi ride out of Makati and you will suddenly cross the line where the CBD melts into slums that are packed together on top of each other, with shacks made of cardboard, wooden planks and rusty zinc sheets. I just can't understand why the government can't provide lost cost houses for the people. There are no high rise apartments for the poor, just hectares and hectares of slum with dirt streets. Hub said it looked like Jakarta, another city you needn't visit.

I think it was Newsweek that did a feature on the happiest people in the world years ago and the happiest people in Asia according to their survey was the Filipinos. You remember that cover photo, the one with a Filipino playing a guitar standing knee-deep in water as his house floods. One reason for this happiness, I read somewhere, could be that being Catholics (there were statues of Jesus Christ everywhere; I nearly didn't recognize this Jesus), Filipinos have this belief that life on earth is full of suffering and is only temporal. Another reason postulated is that their extreme poverty keeps them from high expectations and so they appreciate everything, unlike the Japanese who, despite being the most advanced economically and technologically in Asia, are the unhappiest people because they have so much from young and so they expect more. Which is why I disagree with the new research results that showed that the Danes are are happiest people on earth on account of their easy accessibility to education, wealth and good health. I think the survey is flawed because it assumed that people who have a high quality of life are the happiest. The answer should come from the people and not from assumptions based on material achievement. The Filipinos are proof that you can be happy (or happiest) despite poverty, just as the love songs tell us that we are happy when we are loved not when we have a million $ in the bank. So based on that and our declining standards of living, I can see us Malaysians becoming an increasingly happy people too. We may even be the happiest people in Asia soon, happily banging on our gongs while haze choke our lungs.

But really, I think the main reason for Filipinos' happy state of mind is their closely knitted families. The Filipinos are very family-oriented and have a big network of relatives. It is well-known that you don't marry a Filipino, you marry the whole family including the uncles and aunties and nephews and nieces, distant cousins and yet-to-be-born relatives. Everybody looks out and helps each other.

One of the things I like about Filipinos is their friendliness and eagerness to help. Of all things, I am impressed most by their washrooms. Hospital-clean. Probably the cleanest public toilets in the world. Not a drop of water on the floor or mirror or counter or sink, and not a teeny bit of unpleasant smell. There is a cleaner in every toilet and she will clean nonstop while singing (very well too), unlike the toilet cleaners in KK who are more like minders who will stay outside while the inside is flooded, stinky and blocked. The washrooms in Manila were so squeaky clean I think I could eat in them. As a traveler, clean washrooms are my top priority. I have complained about it before and I will again: I don't see why we need to have hoses in our toilets. People who use public toilets should be expected to use paper, whatever their religion. Do the washing at home, keep the toilet floors dry and s--- free. If this practice of providing hoses and water is not stopped, we will never have clean and dry toilets.

The next thing we liked about Manila is that everybody speaks good English. So okay, they curl their 'r' too much for us (while we drop our 'r' completely, do you notice?) but at least we can communicate. I know there are Filipino readers out there but I'm going to relate a hilarious incident. Have you ever noticed that Filipinos can't or don't pronounce 'f'? The first thing Yi said when we arrived was "Everybody speaks like Marilou". Marilou was our first Filipino maid, the best maid we had who could mind the kids, clean, garden and even bake our birthday cakes. Marilou curled her 'r' and didn't have 'f' words, literally, in her speech.

We were in a cab in Clark, Hub in front and Yi and I at the back.

Cabbie: What time is your plight, Sir?
(Yi and I glanced quickly at each other. Did we hear right?)
Hub (unfazed): Our flight? Er, six but you come at four 0'clock.
Cabbie: Pour o'clock? Okay, I'll come at pour o'clock Sir.
(Yi and I did a quick glance at each other. I told Hub in Chinese excitedly, "He did it, he used 'p' instead of 'f', I told you they do that!")
Hub (unfazed, straight to the point): How do you say Filipino?
Cabbie: Pilipino? Pilipino Sir!
(Behind them, Yi and I were twisted up, laughing without making a sound and the sight of each other trying to laugh without making a sound was torturous. Our shoulders were shaking crazily.)
Me (trying to make him speak more words starting with 'p'): Er, What work do people do here, any industries, such as pisheries? There must be lots of pish here." (I nearly didn't get to finish the sentence because I was laughing as I talked and Yi had a hand over her mouth when she realised what I was doing. I saw my grinning teeth in the rear view mirror and saw the cabbie looked at me in the mirror when he answered me so I slid down the seat because I couldn't hold it anymore. Yi and I couldn't bear to see each other and we bent over behind the front seats at the opposite corners as far from each other as possible, working out our laugh without a sound. If she had let out the slightest sound, I would have lost control but we both stifled our laugh very well. My sides ached, she had tears rolling from her eyes.)
Cabbie: Yes, we have fisheries, mom (don't be offended, they call all females "mom", for "ma'am".)
(We sat up. He said "fisheries", he knew! We stopped laughing. But then he went on.)
Cabbie: We also have many pactories, mom. (We both dived quickly into the corners away from each other again, clapping our hands tightly over our mouths, tears rolling down our faces.)

Can you blame us for laughing?! I wanted to hear him swear.

But seriously, Filipinos speak the best English in the Asean region and Malaysian English ('Manglish', how apt) is at best "half bucket".


Anonymous said... are good, Terri. Naughty, naughty you. Oh boy...I pity the cab driver. :-) You are right about the toilets. Shame on us, Malaysians.

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: yes, we were bad. my girl felt so guilty laughing at him but it was a highlight on a 'lowlight' trip.

Johnathan Oh said...

Hi Terri, now that you mention, I realise my God bro did that too.. .the "F" thing. Hahaha!

I guess the lousy food sorta got into you... plenty of gramatical errors here and there :p

ganache-ganache said...

While I was reading your post, I was also imagining the scenario in the cab, couldn't stop laughing & had to control because the girls were sleeping, hahaha !!
Ya, toilets in KK, I tell my girls to go pee each time we're about to go out, no public toilets, except hotels !

Anonymous said...

Thanks for fun episodes, looks like we were in the cab giggling with you. Have you heard them say "fax"? In the office, the ladies' eyes grow wide in embarrassment, when the new staff comes and ask "to teach me how to fax" !!!!

J2Kfm said...

hahaha... you should have made him swear! hahaah .... :)

anyway, didnt know filipinos use so redundant coconut oil in the cooking. repulsive i can imagine.

Anonymous said...

I'd like share that Pilipino is for people and Filipino is the language. Example is "I'am A Pilipino and i speak Filipino"

Anonymous said...

There are lots of really good restaurants in Manila and Makati, hope you get enough time and some tips from your hotel concierge for some hidden culinary gems. If you're staying until the weekend, check out the Salcedo Market on Saturday mornings in Makati - they sell all sorts of yummy food there!

zurin said...

I would have died laughing...lolololol...btw the f thing is because tagalog is very similar to malay language. Malays too(kampung people) also cannot pronounce the f sound...funfair wld be panpair,an old lady I knew pronounced 'papaya fool' as 'papaya pool'..lololol...If you notice the malay languange does nt have many f alphabets in their words(im not refering to the newly coined words tho) and I suspect tagalog also does not have f in their words (al least nt many m sure).

Yes hoses are definitely the culprits..I totally agree....bring your own water bottles eh. LOLOLOL always a way to do things without messing everything up....its all a matter of attitude...even hospital toilets are dirty ..yukh even my former gynae's toilet is dirty yukh and its attached to her office..that says a lot about our standard or expected standard of cleanliness in toilets in malaysia...sigh

thnak god we're not riddled with slums must have been a shocking sight.. ive been to jakarta and its really sad...

btw Terri chk my blog..I passed on an award to you...drop by if you want to pick it up k. :)))

TripleJin said... are sooo naughty!!!!

But hilarious!!!!! I just told my friend I wanted some room serbis.. coz I needed someone else to cook for me. Alas.. I'm at home.

gerrie said...

hahahaha...i think i laughed as hard as you and Yi - i could see the whole cab scene in my head! That is so what my son and I will do as well, in that situation!

And yes, toilets should and ought to be DRY, and clean. Otherwise compromise...those who feel compelled to hose themselves so in maybe two toilets specially allocated for this purpose, and stay clear from the other toilets!

terri@adailyobsession said...

johnathan: ur godbro did the 'f' thing...u think he likes it u telling us about his sex life lol? ah, my grammer i guess u r right. but we still speak better than singaporeans :D

ganache: my girl had this habit of always going to the toilets when she was small. esp wisma merdeka, n it killed me everytime to bring her in. then i got the boys n it was my hub's turn to bring them into the men's.relief.

anon: u rmade tt up didn't u?? but they do pronounce 'a' as 'u' and 'o'

j2: remember ur geog lessons? lots of coconut trees in the philippines

anon: is this true? thnx for telling me!

anon: info came kinda late..

zurin: thnx for the award not sure if i'm up to passing it arnd...

chinese can't pronounce 'r'. "rory lion" would come out "lohli lion" lol! i read somewhere tt researchers found tt we pick up verbal sounds n pronounciatn when young, below age of 10 or some age like tt, n tt's why if we, say, migrate to england, we won't be able to pick up the english accent bc our tongues haven't learnt the proper sounds (there's a technical word for tt but i don't rmber). the younger the child learns to speak a language, the more likely she'll develop the right accent.

triple jin: serbis. tt's intentional right?

gerrie: i've thot of tt too but still as long as u allow water inside the toilet stalls, there's going to be wet floors n foot prints all over, passing on to the dry stalls. i say ban water hoses inside the stalls in the name of hygiene n respect for everybody.

Plain Jane said...

ahh...the pinoys/pinays make loyal and true friends, you know? They're so much fun to be around!!

about the 'f' and 'p' hub wud intentionally speak without his 'f' when he's around these guys! so nasty one! But yes they speak very well and I love their accents, when they speak WITH 'f's tho :-). and oh, their 'v' are 'b's too..?

Heard them swear??..yes I have and its fuuunnyyy...WTP!

:-) did you also notice the pinoys/pinays' finely manicured hands? Even the blokes were manicured! First thing I noticed upon my visit there years ago!

Salamat po!

Shirley So said...

This is funny! I'm a Chinese who grew up in the city where Clark is. Yes, the confusion between f and P is a regional defect since the people speak the dialect, "Kapampangan" as well as the "Filipino" language.Sometimes, they have problems with "h" too. In the southern region, people interchange "o" and "u" because their dialect does not have a distinction for that.
Now that I'm living abroad, I can see how that regional defects sound funny. My husband's tastebuds could not accept filipino food too. :)
I enjoyed reading your blog!

Anonymous said...

There's something worse than wet toilets in places with low standards in public toilets - no running water in places with low standards in public toilets. Happened to me in Delhi and man, I was feeling so nostalgic for the good old hose. At least with the hose you can do a bit of DIY sluicing, if you know what I mean. BTW during your trip to Dubai, did you notice that the toilets there also have the hose, but the toilets are not wet at all?

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