Getting anywhere in Manila in rush hour traffic is a slow process, cars, lorries, jeepneys, cycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, roadblocks, roadworks etc make for a generally slow but interesting journey. Imagine then if you had a few police outriders and a police car ahead of you, stopping the traffic and redirecting the traffic around you trying to smooth your way …. just imagine …… well, imagine no more, because this is what happened to a group of journalists, including me, last week!
Our destination, the President’s Palace at Malacañan Palace where we had been invited for a dinner reception as part of the Madrid Fusion programme.
Our vehicle, was the first double decker jeepney in Manila on its first day in service and we were the first passengers which explains the amount of people stopping on the streets first to stare and then to click a photo of the bus (and us) as we made our way through Manila. We in turn, were watching them and taking photos of them and street life in Manila too. Whilst the idea of the police escort sounds great, at times the police guys were unable to part the traffic since there is virtually nowhere for them to redirect the traffic to especially during peak traffic, but they gave it their best shot and we arrived at the Palace with just a few minutes in which to order a chilled glass of wine, before being ushered inside for the reception to start.
Jeepneys have a long standing history in the Philippines, long wheel based converted jeeps, originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II. They are often decorated in bright colours and can be somewhat kitsch and flamboyant and can be seen hurtling around the streets generally sticking to a set route and usually packed full of people going about their day. Each jeepney is decorated differently and in Cebu we even saw some offering on board WiFi.
Our jeepney, is somewhat more sophisticated and refined from the typical jeepneys but still retains the overall jeepney look at feel. Downstairs there are comfortable seating areas with tables, whilst upstairs, we had a TV screen and full karaoke system which we tried out on our journey home, after a few glasses of wine – it’s a lot of fun to be singing ‘I am What I Am’ by Gloria Gaynor, the only song out of 5,000 that we could all agree on, as you arrive at your hotel ! Bedecked with neon lights we were a sign to behold and I feel sorry for the poor guys on the bus who were not in our party spirit – but hey, we were testing out all of the on-board features.
Last year when I visited the Philippines the hashtag was #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines – this time it’s #VisitPH2015 – both apply !! I urge you to visit if you can, it’s only an overnight flight away from Dubai and whilst you may not get the full VIP Police Escort that we did I can vouch for the fact that, It is More Fun In The Philippines !!
Disclaimer : I was a guest of the Philippine Department of Tourism to cover Madrid Fusion. All photos and opinions in this post are my own and capture the essence of the day.