The Philippines archipelago was formed as a result of earthshaking movements to the tectonic plate which sat in between the vast Asiatic and Pacific plates. The buckled plates threw up molten earth in volcanic eruptions in over 200 known volcanoes in the archipelago. The ring belt of the Philippines covers Philippines’ two dozens active volcanoes, including Pinatubo, Taal, Banahaw, Iriga and Mayon.

When it comes to Philippines’ guidebooks, they are hard to come by,at least in Malaysia. But I found Insight Guides: Philippines at Kinokuniya KLCC. I highly recommend this for its illustrative and colourful maps and pictures sold at affordable price of USD30.

Manila derives its name from Maynilad/nilad, a white flowering plant that once grew along the Pasig river’s banks. Metropolitan Manila is a hustle bustle city meant for hardcore survivals. Faint-hearted person should at all material time avoid Metropolitan Manila. It’s an over-populated city where the economy gap is huge between the poor and the rich.

Before embarking to the heart of the Philippines, I had formed a perception that Manila would be similar to Jakarta of Indonesia. My friend, Shukri, had told me Manila was a worst city, even he dared not to travel around. His friends lost 2 DSLR cameras there. My traveller friend, Hunch, whom I met the night before at KL Sentral taking the late bus to LCCT for 3 months volunteer work in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal told me never ever take the taxi to commute for they would rip you off! And beware of the bed bugs, they are looming the cities as well as backpackers’ guesthouse.

I breathed the poluted air of Manila for the first time as I reached NAIA Terminal 3 at slighly 5.30a.m. Filipinos have the vast similarity to that of Malaysian people. The only thing you can differentiate between the two is language.

The immigration check took a tad bit too long and it was unclear which line was for the Foreign passport holders or FiIipino passport holders although there was a special line for diplomat, students and apex members.

I was just too tired from relentless work to worry about being in a strange land alone. The sun rose in Manila more or less 2 hours early. I stepped out of the airport and sunrise greeted me to its fullest capacity. Confused on where to go from there, I asked the information counter on which taxi to take to my guesthouse at Makati avenue.

It costs me about Php300 to reach Oh Melting Pot Guesthouse at the 18th Floor of Makati Avenue Suites. I paid so high a price for the ride but given that I was on my own and might end up paying higher price, I was ready to assume the extra costs. As the yellow taxi slashed its way into Edsa Highway, Manila disclosed itself bit after bit. From the elevated highway, I saw the concrete jungle of Manila covered in mist with light orange coloured sunrise. Ah,not bad! I could wake up every morning to this view, I said to myself. For the sake of excitement I have to mention, there was a huge Paris Hilton billboard of Bridgestone too!

The taxi driver took me to Makati Avenue Hotel Suites, I gasped jaw-dropping. That was one expensive hotel entrance my financial budget could never commit too. While the doorman took my 55L backpack, I asked to confirm if I were at the right place as I was looking for Oh Melting Pot. He said yes, it was on the 18th Floor, room No. 18NO.

I needed to do some clearance with the guard and was told to go to 18th floor. I was still surprised how a guesthouse could be located at a lavish hotel. Doorbell rang and a lady opened the door. I told her my name and she asked me to come in. So I was at the right place after all! She was the girl I spoke over the phone with to let her know of my early check-in.

Ella, the front person of Oh Melting Pot was a lively and talkative person. She shared with me tips on how to get around Manila and where I should go and even tips for my Bohol trip. Ella and Janice, another front person, served me good breakfast that was not even charged in my bill later on.

I kept my backpack and brought my waterbag to do-it-yourself city tour. Having survived many major cities, I thought it would not be that bad for this one. Much to my under-estimation, I had my first ordeal with public transportation.

-to be continued in Surviving Manila – Part 2