I am in Manila for a month on an adventure. What follows are the idle thoughts and brief chronicles of my time abroad.
My first impression of the cast of characters on my adventure is a swirl of early thirties partiers from across the globe. My host is American, vibrant, competitive, and everyone's friend. The Irishman is in the doghouse with his girlfriend for something ridiculous he did last weekend. The Frenchman is one minute convinced his relationship will last and the next predicting his doom. But within his crazy mind is a long term plan to be a good father...by having a daughter first, and a son two years later. The Frenchman says this way will let his son hit on his daughter's friends for practice. My mind boggles at the concept. The Brit is a good guy, the German is only visiting for the weekend, and the other guy keeps trying to convince us to go to a party where the only person he knows is the rich girl throwing it. There is another person in this group I have yet to meet, the one with the odd nickname and a penchant for weed. Overall they are loud, alive, and on each other's cases given the slightest opening.
Friday night follows from bar to club to bar to bed, although there may well have been another club or bar mixed in there somewhere. The celebutante chaser never shows, although he texts about a party the next night. The Irishman passes to spend the evening with the Nickname and their hobby. I meet my Host and the German in the back of a smokey little sports bar in the middle of an active mall of restaurants, wanderers, and alehouses. Introductions go around and we pass the time establishing a baseline of familiarity before the Frenchman and the Brit show. Once the team assembles and cutting remarks are made against absent fellows, we drift into the warm Manila night. There is a bar between the sports place and the club after all, established on the roof of one of the rising towers within the heart of Manila, open to the sky and the full moon. Some sections are roped off for private groups, but there are ex-pats and swirls upon swirls of local color all of whom know either my Host or one of our crew. After a few hours of socializing we once more take to the night and make our way to a very fancy club.
By this point we have acquired most of the accompanying girlfriends of the crew, each of them dressed for the evening, bright and shiny and friendly. As we approach the club my Host realizes I am not wearing a collared shirt, but his girlfriend smooths things over and I promise the doorman next time I will conform to their ideals. The club is that loud ubiquitous melee I have seen in every other half-lit scene trying hard to prove how great it must be that you have been allowed within its walls. Islands of excited club-goers break up the pockets of those who want you to see them here. The music is an odd mix of years and years ago and I laugh inside to see the club kiddies bounce and sway to Journey. The drinks are not strong and eventually we have to leave when someone jostles the Frenchman and wants to make an issue of it. Rule number one in Manila, don't mess with the rich guys. The rich guys have guys with guns and you will never win an argument with any of them. We take our leave before anyone tries to prove anything. All this is revealed to me the next day. At the time, I thought we had come to our senses and decided to close down shop for the night. It was late.
We wind our way back through Manila to our base of operations and the chain of a bar tucked neatly downstairs and around the corner. Halfway around the world and I can still get the worst kind of bar food at the perfect time. The German is disgusted and says the little things of chicken are mostly deep fried skin coated in a sweet sticky sauce. They are indeed, and I lick my fingers after finishing my small plate of them. It doesn't matter where you are, when 3 A.M. rolls around after a night of beers, rum, loud music, and shouting to be heard, awesomely bad bar food is the perfect send off to sleep.