Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Saturday, August 06, 2005

And I Thought Baguio was a BIG CITY!

Baguio is so small compared to Manila!!! I had the opportunity to do a little Manila exploring as I am now an Alternate Warden in Benguet Province. OK, here's the boring info part to explain what a Warden is...Peace Corps has a security measure in place so that if information needs to be passed to volunteers quickly, there are certain contact people in specific areas. It works like a phone tree. Well, there is already a Warden for Benguet, but he will be COSing next April so I'm next in line. Anyway, to be a Warden or the Alternate, you have to attend a 1 and a half day training.

Training was in Silang, Cavite...very close to Manila. A few volunteers and I went a day early so that we could meet up with other volunteers in Malate, Manila. We got checked into the Pension (a budget, dormitory type hotel) and then met up with people at a bar called the G-Point. I know, sounds pretty seedy, right? Well it gets worse. At first I thought that the others were leading us on to have us come to a bar called the G-Point. We walk in and I swear, there was an old, balding, fat, white guy at every table with a Filipina sitting beside him. I realized that we had just walked into a GRO (Guest Relations Officer...code name for prostitute) bar. The other volunteers were there and we ended up having a really good time, except for the occasional wave of nausea!

The next day I went with people who were on a mission to buy a bicycle...I decided to hold off on that due to the limited area I feel safe to ride a bike. Then we headed to the training site about an hour and a half away. It was so nice to sleep in a place that didn't have chickens or dogs right outside your windows or TAHO vendors screaming up and down the block at 5:30 in the morning! I usually wake up a little before 6 due to these disturbances, but found that I was able to sleep until 6:30 without any was a good day!

Ok, so I think I've mentioned, or maybe not, the various ways some Filipinoes have tried to rip me off, but I have never experienced anything like the taxi drivers in Manila. It was ridiculous. When we first got off the bus, there were 3 or 4 of them who were willing to give us a ride to the pension, but for PHP 300...a ride to the pension should only be about PHP 100. We finally found a driver who would turn on the meter, but then he decided he needed to get gas before he dropped us off. We said no problem as long as he paused the meter, but he didn't like that idea so we got out and walked the rest of the way.

The next hassle I had was when we were leaving the Peace Corps office in Manila. A taxi pulled up and I explained where we were going and asked for him to turn on the meter. He said sure, but plus PHP50. I said no, and he tried to bargain down to plus PHP30. I explained that there was no reason he needed to add anything and that we would find a different taxi if he didn't like it. What was even more incredible was that he said ok and would rather have no fare than to give us a metered ride!

Ok, one last taxi story. So we are still waiting for a taxi and finally one pulls up. I did the whole explanation...we want to go to the Victory Liner bus station in Pasay City and want it metered. The driver says ok, so we're off. A few blocks into the ride he asked if we were going to Baguio and I said yes. "Well, you want the Cubao terminal then, I will take you there." I said, "No, no! We want the terminal in Pasay City on EDSA. No Cubao!" "Oh, you know where?" he says. Cubao would have been a couple hundred peso ride. It's just really frustrating at times. Needless to say, I'm very thankful I'm in's nice and cool, the people are friendly and the taxi drivers are honest!