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Full Circle

Day 88: Saigon to Manila

Manila, Philippines 
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Grid-lock in Manila.
Michael Palin - Full CircleI expect some similarities with Vietnam but find only differences. The famous observation on Philippine history: 'Three hundred years in the convent, fifty years in Hollywood' explains most of them. The Spanish took a firm hold of the islands in 1565. The Americans bought them from the Spanish in 1898. The Filipinos had to wait until 1946 to run their own affairs. Culture, traditions and social attitudes reflect Europe and America. Not the East.

The great, sweeping, sometimes intimidating free-flow of bicycle and scooter traffic in Vietnam has evolved here in Manila into the fully-fledged immobility of the late twentieth-century traffic jam. Traffic management is a constant topic of conversation. Tomorrow an 'Odd/Even' scheme comes into effect (cars with odd numbers only will be allowed into the city on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, evens on the other days). This replaces a colour-coded system dropped last year after only three days in operation. Meanwhile, we wait in a mile-long jam on Roxas Boulevard, the strawberry-flavoured air-conditioning of our minibus shielding us from the sticky 86° humidity, as we do our bit to further pollute a city of ten million, forty-four per cent of whom are officially homeless.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 88
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Manila
  • Book page no: 129

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