o c a t
. n e t
|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
Manila & Sydney, August 22, 1996,
1. Thursday, August 22, 1996
The tour ends with a room of blown up photos from the Corazon Aquino `People Power' revolution. I remember those days from 1986, and am quite moved by the photographs. Mixed in with all my cynicism and bitterness about this country is an astonishment, almost a reverence for what happened here just 10 years ago. With whatever problems this country still has, they are legitimately experimenting with democracy. Also, I'm very much aware that my distrust of this place is due to personal, emotional luggage from failed relationships.
Every lesser developed Southeast Asian nation has its own version of the pedal-powered tourist transport. In Vietnam, it's the cyclo, with the struggling driver pedaling from behind the lazy tourist. In Thailand, it's the samlor (literally, ‘three wheels’). In Laos, I saw mostly those deeply slanted Laotian tuk-tuk things. Here in Manila, it's the pedicab. The "bicycle" part is located alongside the little canvassed-in tourist sidecar. The sidecars are all decorated Filipino style, with bright, pop art colors and phrases. They look uncannily like the passenger compartment of any number of amusement park rides.
After I return from the palace, I've just enough time for a meal and then it's off to the airport. When the receptionist at my hotel orders a cab for me (150 pesos), I learn just how badly ripped off I had been by the cab ride on the way in (350 pesos). How fitting that my last Asian country should so closely follow the proud regional tradition of airport taxi cab rip-offs.
When I try to check in at Qantas, I am told that I cannot go to Australia, because I don't have an Aussie visa. Whaaa? I had no idea that Australia does not offer the standard visa-on-arrival for passport holders from advanced Western countries. I'm told that I'll have to wait until tomorrow, go to the Australian Embassy, explain my situation, and ask for a transit visa. They may be able to issue one that day. Ah, gad... I can't handle this. I go to find a place to just sit and think for a while. Another day in the Philippines? Will it be two days? Why won't Asia let me go peacefully? My whole trip flashes before my eyes. No--if I can't go to Australia, I will NOT stay here. I start to look into possibly going back to Bangkok to job-hunt for a few weeks. I try to call KLM airlines, but the phones aren't cooperating. You need a 2-peso coin. No, not that one--the old, big, heavy kind. Sorry, our offices are closed. Please try again between the hours of.... So, you mean I'm going to have to get yet another goddamn Philippine taxi cab, cab it back to Metro Manila, find another hotel... I'm just not gonna make it. I'm exhausted, I'm weary... Hey--what about Auckland? I had canceled that stop to save money. Maybe I could just take the next flight to New Zealand?
I head back over to the Qantas supervisor who had tried to help me earlier. She sees me coming and runs up to greet me. She's been looking for me too. There has been a misunderstanding. They can send me to Sydney after all, so long as I take the next flight, that day, to L.A. (because it’s just under the minimum transit time of 8 hours). That's fine with me--a 7-hour and 55 minute airport wait for my connecting flight. I immediately agree and in zombie-like fashion follow all the directions and people that I'm told to follow. Sooner or later, I end up in an airplane bound for Sydney.
2. Thursday, August 22, 1996
Can't get away from TV invasion. Hadn't realized how long I'd been free from the constant information onslaught--and here I can understand every word! No wonder everybody in the developed world wants to kill everybody else!
There is no place I can go here to escape the relentless outflow. Everyone--everyone trying to steal space in my mind. The Borg is here. We are Borg.
I overhear the young white American woman going through her last-minute gifts for her parents. I'm utterly unaccustomed to this perpetual psychic bombardment, this relentless background music of English-language information. I guess I'd unknowingly grown comfortable with the pleasure of an unintelligible background noise. I may get used to this again, but I greatly don't want to.
Now there are British accents saying, "I want to do Baton Rouge and Laugh-ah-yet, and what's this--Mo-byle?"
Make it stop!
A few words here of a young mother's emotional abuse of her child, a few seconds of the "Entertainment Tonight" theme.
I'm back in the Western World.
Somewhere between Fiji and Samoa, we cross the International Date line, and the 24 hours that I had gradually accumulated over the last nine months while I was searching for some place of gentleness is handed back to me in one lump sum: Here's your day again. Live it right this time.
David SaiaDavid Saia traveled extensively in Southeast Asia in 1995-96. These travelogs were originally sent out via email to a select group of friends and acquaintances. The collected travelogs, now in manuscript form, are awaiting print publication.