Leaving Manila

Almost 18 months after we deplaned (a word I first encountered in the Philippines) our Cathay Pacific flight from London, via Hong Kong, to Manila, we boarded our Philippine Airlines flight direct to London.  With a one-way ticket.

Our time in the Philippines had come to an end.

When we arrived in Manila, it was a balmy January evening.  It was dark and everything was new and strange to us.  We ventured out on that first evening to get some dinner at the local mall and were somewhat surprised at a sign in the entrance of the mall: Please deposit your firearms with the guard.  We found a restaurant which was open, and were presented with a bowl of ice with sticks of orange and white vegetables protruding out of it.  Apart from wondering what the white sticks were, we were thinking ‘is ice safe here?’.  I think it’s fair to say we were both a little shell shocked.

On our first day in Manila, we did some exploring.  We explored our immediate area, which wasn’t too interesting – a shopping mall and some fancy apartment blocks.  We decided to go and see where Mr H was going to work.  We jumped in a taxi to ‘RCBC’.  RCBC, we were later to discover, is the home of the UN in Manila as well as various embassies.  This would explain why there were sniffer dogs, metal detectors and guards to examine your bags and frisk you as you entered the building.  At the time though, it further alarmed us that we had moved to a very dangerous city indeed.  As we walked the streets from RCBC to Greenbelt (a mall we had read about in the Lonely Planet), we were a little cautious.  We were trying not to stick out as tourists with our little folded, black & white print out of a Google Map of the area.  We found the first cafe we could (Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Greenbelt 5) and ordered a restorative.

18 months later, on the weekend before we left Manila, we visited that cafe again (we had also visited it numerous times inbetween as it had become one of our local cafes).  We reminisced about our time in the Philippines.  And about how we felt to be leaving the Philippines.

What surprised us most was the number of times we questioned our decision to leave, during that conversation and at other times.  It surprised us because there had been lots of reasons to leave Manila when we’d first made the decision to leave.  But as our departure date drew closer, we needed to check that we were doing the right thing!  We had grown to call Manila home.

Walking down the airbridge to board our flight away from Manila I had a tear in my eye.  We had carved out a life for ourselves in this sometimes-crazy city.  We were privileged and fortunate enough to live in a fantastic condo complex, with all the amenities we could want right on our doorstep.  We had tropical fruit (the best mangoes you will taste ever.  Fact.) and vegetables on tap.  We were able to explore paradise-like beaches and islands at the drop of a hat.  We lived in the Philippines with some of the most friendly people in the world.  We could get massages for less than £5.  We had affordable part-time house help.  The healthcare was second to none.  And we had made so many really good friendships.

Why were we leaving?

I suppose, quite simply, we were leaving because we had arrived as a 2 and were now a 3.  It seemed to make more sense to be in Europe closer to friends and family, now that we are a bigger family.

We are in Malaga, in the South of Spain now.  I haven’t decided what to do about this blog, but I may keep it going on some level.  There are still some experiences in the Philippines I would like to write about, and perhaps some of my readers might still be interested to read about our adventures in a new country.

For now, adiós.

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