Bamboo rafting on Pandin Lake

After the day spent at carnival the peace and shade of the oldtown within the walls is a welcome respite from the clangs and drums of the Dragon performance. Two churches survive the devastation of the war. The church of St Agustin is built of volcanic stone and is the oldest church in the Philippines built by the Spanish friars around 450 years ago. There is a conveyor belt of wedding parties waiting for their slot to tie the knot. Even though Catholic, there must be something auspicious about being wed on the first day off the year of the monkey.

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Manila cathedral takes up the slack with the faithful, providing space and opportunity for prayer and reflection.

Today brings the real Manila to life. The streets fill with school children filling like ants to their places of learning. It seems that so many Filipinos work abroad that the young are left to build their country’s future. Traffic builds amongst the growing pedestrians walking the old streets within the wall. From above the tricycles skittle their way around and through the gates in the wall like mini robotic toys on mini tracks on endless journeys to locality nowhere. The main roads fill with traffic a thousand of commuters put into town. Every other vehicle is a jeepny with its cargo crouching down to get some air into its squashed confines. The occasional bigger coach, Toyota taxis,shiny private cars compete for space amongst the gridlock of the main routes into the commercial centre of bright lights, posh shops, tight uniformed security guards, retail outlets, western coffee houses and stretching Hightower apartments and offices.

Travelling by bus I am squeezed out onto the skyway heading for the provinces and the open spaces to the south of Manila. Outside the capital the jeepny is no longer king. Here the motorised tricycle tuktuk has taken over as the main form of public transport. These are the shiny silver cockpits of space modules attached to the side of a motorbike and will take two passengers in a rather intimate space plus one on the pillion.

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Pandin Lake, outside San Pablo City, is enclosed by a jungle of palms and bananas and coconuts. The rains come for a while as the path to lakeside passes the corrugated iron security fence of a cock fighting breeding farm emitting the perpetual crowing of hundreds of birds. Cock fighting is the national sport of the Philippines along with boxing and basketball. Bamboo rafts, propelled by locals, men and women, pulling hard at a rope strung across to the far side, plough a lazy channel over to the far side and back again. Quite why I am not sure. Maybe just an attraction to get the tourists in. On the return leg the sun comes out making the scenery so much more attractive and enhancing the whole experience. These are some of the guys working the rope.

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