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Getting lost in Manila

Take me anywhere in Bangkok, blindfold me and leave me anywhere — as long as it’s not an isolated place — and I will find my way home. Do I speak Thai? Survival level only. But take me to Metro Manila and even give me a map, I will still get lost! I don’t know why but I seem to feel indifferent to Manila. There are only a few places I could go without getting lost. I think my number one struggle is getting through the crowd. Manila is too crowded anywhere I look. It’s a lot smaller than Bangkok — only 636 square kilometers compared to Bangkok’s 1,568 square kilometers — but the transportation system is hard for me to understand. Do I speak the vernacular? It’s my mother language, for Quezon’s sake! Manila LRT The one and only kind of transportation I could use with ease up to this day is the Light Rail Transit (LRT). You can send me anywhere in Metro Manila as long as it’s viable by LRT. As long as I could see the LRT infrastructure, I feel safe. But once it gets out of sight, I know for sure I am getting lost. When I was 21 years old, I was challenged by an insult hurled at me when I was asked to go to Farmer’s market in Cubao, it’s a big market that sells everything but farmers’ produce. I refused to go by myself because I didn’t know the place very well. And there was a  bigot who called me “Promdi” short for “from the province”. It’s a derogatory term for anyone who lives outside Manila, especially from a far-flung country side. I met the insult with fortitude and a determination to prove myself capable. So I took off and was proud of myself when I got to the Farmer’s Market. I thought to myself, “It wasn’t that hard after all.”  On the way back, I had to cross the street to get a jeepney. I remembered the name of the street very well and was pretty sure I was on the right track. But I walked and walked and couldn’t find a jeepney to take me back home. They were all going to different places. It was getting dark and I was starting to panic. I retraced my step until I got back to Farmer’s Market, walked and walked until I found the right street.  When I got back home, I pretended to act casually so my friends would not find out that I got lost. Many years later, I still don’t know Manila that well. I haven’t even been to the Malacanang Palace. I have been to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Buckingham Palace in London, Colosseum in Rome, but not Malacanang in Manila. But wait, why Colosseum? It should be Quirinal Palace, right? Oh, well, I haven’t been there either. 😀

Photo Credit: Flickr.com
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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • melody August 4, 2013, 5:33 am

    I so agree! I hope there’ll be a book out on how to understand the transportation system in Manila. Getting from one place and getting back are most of the time different. So many roads in such a small area. I get lost 80% of the time. I’m thinking of getting GPS / mobile internet to use Google Maps, but even that doesn’t help with which jeepney to ride. lol. Good thing there’s LRT/MRT. But it’s hard to go anywhere far from it.

    • Jem August 4, 2013, 8:00 pm

      Hi Melody, there’s probably a map for sure, but still if you don’t know the jeepney routes you will still get lost. I think it’s because Manila is far too crowded, making it difficult to see landmarks clearly. The gps and satnavs are helpful only when you drive a car. But if you’re taking the jeepney, you have to know exactly where to get off.

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