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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

discovering Chinatown...

So it's been a while since I've written...either I can't find an internet cafe or the computers that I find have really bad internet connection that it's not worth paying money to sit in front of your computer and wait for it to unfreeze...

Day 7: Saturday, January 9 the remaining 4 left the city to return to Manila and it was just little 'ole me. It got pretty lonely, I must admit. I spent that day attempting to go to Quiapo (pronounced chee-ah-po) in search of the Chinatown in Manila. Oh my gosh, WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! The place was a mad house. As soon as I stepped off the LRT (light rail transit), the entire place was sour of urine! I could barely breathe. Supposedly there was a festival going on but I am not sure what festival. It was extremely chaotic but I had a feeling that I stumbled upon Chinatown on a rather normal day***. There were street vendors that lined the streets selling pirated DVDs, gao (Chinese rice cake), trinkets, clothes, panties! You name it, it was probably there.

It was so crowded there that it started to make me a little nauseous. It reminded me of the time that I snuck away with Stephanie for a weekend of debauchery (threatening my college graduation) at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 10 hours away. It was sort of like that except Quiapo was not fun. It smelled bad, there was no free movement and you weren't just dealing with rowdy college kids where you didn't care if you bumped into them (because they were usually drunk too) but you had to be mindful of the po pos (grandmas) and gong gongs (grandpas) as well as the little children. At the end of the lane, stood a church. At first I was very tempted to follow the music towards the church but after thoughtful consideration (a good :05 seconds), I realized that it wasn't worth it to walk all the way down to the church because there was probably nothing special to see. Anyway, I had to use the bathroom so I quickly turned around. I felt like I was cheating my Chinatown experience so I tried to venture out to other side streets but nature was calling and I needed to GO!

I quickly hopped on a jeepney (old leftover WWII jeeps that are DECKED out pinoy style) for P7 ($0.15) and tried to quickly get myself out of there. I was trying to find Rizal park. According to the map in my Lonely Planet, this park looked huge and demanded a stop.

I had heard about Dr. Rizal first from my high school and college classmate Jeremy Rafal who had composed and perfomed some pieces, accompanied by singer Ulises Solano, both in Hawaii and Manila a few years ago. I remember him telling me that Dr. Rizal was a national hero and sure enough, when I got to Rizal park, there stood a 100' obelisk with the Dr.'s bronze statue at its base.

The park was quite impressive, I mean it wasn't Central Park but it was a nice space where many young families and couples could be seen enjoying their Saturday afternoon. I stopped to take some photos and admire the Rizal monument. Also located at this park was the site where Dr. Rizal was executed, charged guilty of conspiracy against Spain.

It was getting dark and I didn't want to stay out too late. Remember, I am staying very near the Red Light district. So started to head back home. Before making it home though, I stopped at Ziggurat known for its Mediterranean, Indian and African foods. I had a pita with hummus, samosas and a vegetarian kabsa (Middle Eastern pilaf). The meal was great and I only spent $7.50!

The pollution is so getting to me but turns out my friend Jeremy is actually going to be in town for another piano concert performance this time at Paco park so I should stay to meet up with him...

***Addendum 1.24.10: Every January 9, 2010 The festival honoring the Black Nazarene takes place at the Quiapo church which is where Chinatown is located. For more information on this celebration:

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