One goal Jen and I had for this trip was to meet up with as many of our internet friend as possible, and on our first full day of the trip we had arranged to meet K, a long time correspondent and someone we already considered a close friend. She’s a very open-minded, committed and hard working individual, and as she works for local government, she has to be. We had bonded over our love of art and frustrations with the current state of Filipino politics. Jen and I both agreed she was the first person we wanted to meet.
However, we weren’t sure which day we had actually arranged to meet her and having no internet at my tita’s we had no way to get in contact. She was traveling from Cavite, braving a two hour journey and the monstrosity that is Manila traffic to see us; we couldn’t leave her hanging. We scrambled to buy a SIM card and managed to message her. She was already in the city and we arranged to meet in Makati around midday. We bid my ‘paranoid talaga!’ mother and tita L goodbye, listening politely to their nonsense about possible kidnappings and the dangers of meeting ‘strangers’ and agreeing that, yes, we would take a photo of our friend (for proof, I guess?).
To get to Makati we decided to take the MRT (Metro Rail Transit system). It’s reputation precedes it; known for being vastly overcrowded, especially at rush hour, and poorly maintained in recent years, people had warned me not to bother with it, but that just made me curious to see what the fuss was about.
We bought our tickets at Araneta center and climbed to the platform just as a train was about to depart. Jen grabbed my hand and pulled me into the nearest carriage five seconds before the doors slid shut. It was basically full, with just enough wiggle room to manoeuvre my backpack off my shoulders without hitting someone in the face, but not yet at the chronic over-capactiy locals often complain about. A few minutes later, Jen had an uneasy feeling.
‘I think we’re in a women only carriage’, she whispered to me.
I turned to look around. Sure enough, it seemed like she was right.
Being half-white and tall for a Filipino I tend to get stared at a lot, something I hadn’t been prepared for on my first trip to the country where I was old enough to be conscious of it, though I’d become used to it by now. Still, nothing has made me more self-aware that having nearly an entire carriage of women (and one man, for some reason) gaze intently at you and wonder why you’re there. I was a head taller than everyone else and standing by the doors; there was no way to blend in, and I kept one had on my backpack and one on Jen’s shoulder so they knew I was with her. Jen told me not to worry about it. At the next stop, I tried hard not to get in the way as women squeezed in and out of the carriage, Jen and I getting shuffled back into the very centre. A large Caucasian man in sunglasses and typical middle-aged-tourist attire walked casually through the doors at the far end, seemingly unaware (I’d hope) that he shouldn’t have. This might have made me feel more relaxed, but it didn’t. At the next stop, Ortigas, Jen and I both agreed we should alight and board the proper carriage of the next train.
We found K at Glorietta mall, eventually. Due to a miscommunication and us not knowing the geography of the area, we kept walking around and missing each other. At one point Jen waved at someone she thought was K, only to realise that she had embarrassed herself. It’s okay, not many people saw.
So we decided to stay on one place. Ten minutes later, K appeared gifts and hugs for us. We’d brought her presents from England too, but we all decided that it’d be better to exchange them later rather than standing at the entrance to Glorietta. We weren’t sticking around anyway; K was taking us to BGC.
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