I mentioned yesterday about the noticeable disparity in living standards within Manila. The Philippines is a long way down the GDP per capita rankings. Despite recent rapid economic growth, it’s essentially a poor country. That said you’ll still see some gleaming modern facilities that wouldn’t look out of place some of the world’s wealthiest countries. The most notable example are shopping malls, something that seems to be a Filipino national obsession. They are all over the place in Manila. As I have a bit of time on my hands I looked up the largest shopping malls in the world. According to Wikipedia (so it may not be true), a mind-boggling 36 of the world’s 100 largest shopping malls are in the Philippines. Manila itself has eight malls larger than the Trafford Centre, the UK’s biggest number 45 in the world. I had a look around the Mall of Asia. This is only the third biggest in Manila (and number 11 in the world), although it’s currently being extended to regain the world’s top spot. As impressive as it was size-wise, the Mall of Asia was impractical to walk around and I just kept getting lost. Despite the Philippines not being a particularly well off country in financial terms, there must still be enough money around to keep such humongous shopping centres in business.
Today was People Power Revolution Day in the Philippines. My immediate thought was that Manila would come to a standstill and I wouldn’t be able to reach the airport. Although I later heard about a bit of protesting via the news, I avoided all the fun and games and arrived at the airport for the flight to Boracay with plenty of time to spare. When I say my flight to Boracay, I mean that in the loosest sense. Air Asia sometimes use the Ryanair style of poetic license with destinations. Kalibo International Airport is about an hour and a half drive from the island of Boracay. There is an airport much closer but today flights to Kalibo seemed to be half the price. The minibus transfer was pleasant enough, driving along some lovely scenic roads. Unusually for the dreadful music normally served up on Philippines radio, there were some great songs played on this ride. The pick of the bunch was New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. It was even the extended remix too. After being dropped off at the harbour there was a short ferry ride over to Boracay followed by another van for the last couple of miles to the hostel.
For a place that takes a bit of effort to get to there were loads of tourists in Boracay. Most backpackers who I’ve known or spoken to tend to entail the classic South-East Asia route of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. Some may also visit the islands of Malaysia or Indonesia. Apparently I wasn’t any sort of trendsetter by visiting here. Boracay even has branches of well-known high street coffee and fast food outlets. Tonight it wasn’t easy to find a table in touristy D-Mall or beachfront restaurants. I found a nice enough place in a back street near the hostel that served some great enchiladas. Afterwards I was planning on heading out to watch the football. However with kickoff at 11pm, I felt a bit tired by then so hung around hostel bar watching the vidiprinter via the internet.