Manila

Right: The ubiquitous Jeepney

We three blokes had all been to the Philippines before but for Eleen it was a bit of an eye-opener. The thronged masses, beggars, touts congested traffic and the ubiquitous Jeepney. The Jeepney is a peculiar beast, a mode of transport unique to The Philippines. It's basically a converted jeep and functions somewhere between a bus and a taxi. They are marvels to behold with shining chrome and brighly painted panels. They all have names such as Josephine, Santa Maria, or Kenneth.

Jeepney

They tend to pile as many people in the jeepney as possible so on the longer trips it's not always the most comfortable way to get around but they can be fun.

We managed to get diddled by some money changers on the very first day in Manila. It was only after we had made our transactions and sat down for a bite that I discovered that I had in pesos, roughly half of what I should have had. Sure enough it was the same for the others. We had been duped by some pretty deft sleight of hand as I for one, was watching them like a hawk as it all went down. Next came the all important question of how to respond to the situation at hand. My initial reaction was to write it off and chalk it up to experience, having little faith in the police forces (the best that money can buy) of South East Asian countries. Colin was more in favour of seeking recourse to the law and indeed he had lost the most of all of us. He was vindicated as surprisingly the police came through for us. As we entered the booth, cops in tow, the money changers capitulated before a word was spoken. We returned to the station to sign some documents and one of the officers assured us "This will not happen again" at which point another officer walked out with a large weapon over his shoulder. Public execution? Surely not.....

I saw the word "estapha" in a list of crimes on the bulletin board. "What does estapha mean?" I enquired. I might have known....estapha is money fraud.

The word on the street is that the cops get a kick-back from the money changers if they get caught fiddling the cash. I suppose the money changers that try this sort of scam bank on the tourists jumping on a plane and being somewhere else before they realise their losses (if at all). Fortunately we were only half asleep on this occasion and managed to recoup our losses.

Left: Abu Sayyaf send President Arroyo a bloody Valentine

On our return to Manila from Palawan Makati was rocked by a bus bombing thanks to the muslim seperatist faction Abu Sayyaf who wished to send a "Valentines day message" to President Gloria Arroyo Macapargal. Bombs also went off in General Santos and Davao. As if this wasn't enough, communist rebels in the north shot four police officers in a shootout at an airport, on the very same day, a reminder of how unstable the Philippines can be.