While I returned home from Hong Kong, I took a little departure to the Philippines. This trip was last minute and made while I was traveling, but I absolutely had to go to the Philippines due to my history with Filipinos.
Growing up in San Diego, where much of my multiculturalism is shaped from, had a great deal of Filipino influence on me while growing up. One of my caretakers, Nana (I called her) was Filipino as she was the grandma (maybe the mother?) of two of my mom's coworkers (a sister pair named Evelyn and Devlyn). I would say they were some of my mom's favorites because I got to know that family deeply. I went to celebrations for their kids, watched Van Damne flicks, learned how to play Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 2, had tons of lumpia and pancit (which is important later), and my mom is even a Godmother for one of the kids. Extremely friendly people who would appear again heavily in my high school as I played sports with, flirted with and even danced in their debuts. As such, when all of this culture was cut off when I left San Diego I would miss it and only have flashes (Filipino coworker in Houston) and those bartender siblings (See the Spain post).
Anyways, all of that made for a nostalgia overload while in Manila. Sure I got to see Intramuros, Jose Rizal's many contributions for independence, the oddity of American colonization (we're the worst) and some amazing churches. All of those were fun to see, but the real highlight came from hanging out with Filipinos again with their heavy, but tasty food, a drink of kolo (coconut drink that was a rush of memories because I had no idea I had had it before), kindest women you may ever meet and the politeness of being called Sir everywhere.
Where I stayed was in the red light district (if you haven't figured out a couple ideas by now then you haven't been paying attention) so that was interesting with all the massage (non-sexual) ladies competing with all the other business. The San Miguel beer was fairly solid as was trying out another Michelin dim sum place (Tim Ho Wan the big chain, One Dim Sum is better). I took cheap taxis to get around because I got a huge upsell from the airport (though I did feel about the driver he's just doing his job). Didn't ride the jeepneys because I was confused so instead I rode the super crowded metro - which was hilarious times as I was bigger than most of the people; and yes they have women's only cars. I also had some fun times with tagalog and the fun mixtures of the language.
Lastly, Manila isn't the most glamorous city for that so you have to be ready for that as I would say that one spot in Intramuros may have had the poorest section I've seen, but still good natured people and even college students around the corner - the class clash is higher here, people living on the grass right outside a fancy golfing greens area. It's for cheap fun as that pandesol bread cost 2 pesos (10 cents basically) and that was also a flood of remembrance. Still it's the main city for hopping over to other cities in the islands so you'll pass through it.
As such, go check out the Philippines it's a friendly place and you'll enjoy being around good-hearted people who may barely nudge Thailand out of the friendly top spot on this trip.