Manila, Philippines

The captain of the Cebu Pacific flight to Manila announced onboard that the ground temperature in the nation's capital would be 34 degrees celsius. I could almost hear a hushed "ouch, that burns" from one of the few Caucasian passengers onboard. Indeed, it was hot as we deplaned using a mobile stairway that I couldn't help noticing former Senator Ernesto Maceda covering himself with his jacket as we all rushed to the luggage carousel in the main terminal. Davao was not this hot earlier when I checked-in for the 12 noon flight.

I'm in Manila on the last week of my Philippine vacation. My friend Archie Barcelona from Los Angeles was waiting for me outside the arrivals area, himself having just deplaned from a flight originating from Kalibo. He's supposed to be travelling with me tonight on the long bus journey to Banaue but he had to cancel for a really valid reason. I was prepared to hit this Northern Luzon sojourn by myself but Harley Quion, another friend, wanted to join me instead.

Harley lives in Muntinlupa so I told him to take his time as I still have to check-in at the condotel where I intend to store my luggage. After checking-in, I went to the Autobus terminal in Sampaloc and paid 462 pesos each for our reserved seats. The bus will depart at 10:00 p.m. and zooms overnight for the next 8 or 9 hours on its way to Banaue. And from there, we still have to make arrangements for travel up to the "saddle" since our ultimate destination is Batad.

As the condotel is on Roxas Boulevard, Harley and I decided to have dinner in one of the many al fresco restaurants on the Baywalk. We're hoping to kill time before going to the bus terminal. There's a live band performing. I would have preferred just plain dining without the extra sound but it seems music is a good come-on for customers here. The Baywalk has undergone a massive facelift and looks like the effort of the local mayor has paid off. There's a busload of Korean tourists watching the glorious Manila Bay sunset. On most evenings, this seaside promenade that stretches from the U.S. Embassy all the way to the CCP Complex, sees a lot of human traffic. It gets crowded especially on Friday and Saturday evenings as people from all walks of life try to breathe some "fresh" salty air mixed with the aroma of barbecued chicken. On early mornings, the active set among the citizens of Manila takes over - doing aerobics, jogging, brisk walking or tai chi. For now, the resurrection of the Baywalk shows that a part of Old Manila can be enjoyed by everyone. It's good to see that this piece of land in the metropolis is alive and kicking once more.

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