Where I Spent the End of the World

I imagine a lot of you have wondered where I would spend the end of the world (in particular so you could share the occasion with me).

Well after a lot of time, money and science the optimal choice was obviously inside a volcano. After all if there is anything I remember from primary school it’s that putting baking soda and vinegar in a cardboard cone is a lacklustre affair and consequently the most boring (and therefore safest) place to be.

So on the 21st of May 2011 I traveled out of Manila to Mount Pinatubo the last place God would think to look for sinners.

Mt Pinatubo erupting in 1991


So I’ve taken this end of the world thing further than is warranted (or at least as far as I can be bothered with), so I’ll just get to putting up some of my most impressive pictures and making the occasional comment. The first of these much-anticipated comments will be a (retrospectively) obvious observation that the closer you get to the mountain itself the larger the rocks are, so the initial trek went from being a pleasant stroll to an epic struggle of man against nature (as usual my preference is to simply eradicate nature, but it’s a work in progress).

And even though an epic struggling may seem to some an exageration, it’s not, and as far as I’m concerned you’re not a man until you’ve stared down the barrel of one of these bastards:

Unintentional double-entundre aside the walk was long, but cruisy and in my opinion an undersold component of the journey (along with the absense of Jollibees on the trail), the landscape is incredible, depite the state-sanctioned age discrimination (see below).

I’m not telling you where I belong.

I have to admit the sign’s overconfidence bothered me the most, essentially its accuracy (and the reputation of the Philippines) rests on a sixty second window. After obnoxiously elbowing (pretty much literally) my way past a bunch of octogenarians not adhering to the sign’s recommendations I managed to make it to the head of the pack, at least that’s how I’ll be telling this story from now on.

Thanks to some naturally occurring signage, I managed to track that crazy crater down.







I don’t have a legitimate segway for the next part, so let’s just say we fucked around swimming in the crater for a bit until a boat was available to take us across to the other side of the crater.

Unsurprisingly the opposite side of the river was pretty much identical except that you could burn your feet on the ground and that there were some of the scraggliest rocks I’ve ever seen:

You scraggly bastards!

As you may have also already guessed the water was also (at least in parts) piping hot, meaning that you had to piss-bolt out of the water when swimming to outrun third-degree burns. Having been able to do this successfully, I then proceeded to wash my hands in the water ten metres along dashing my hopes of hand modelling.

Anyway, the trip was amazing and highly recommended. If there is one thing I could say honestly at the end of the day, it’s that this destination is undersold to foreigners. In anticipation of the runaway success of my call to arms I’ve purchased Qantas shares.

I also met a monkey:



Putting the ‘Man’ in ‘Manila’

Like all great men, I’ve decided to start where it all began. The ninth floor:

Having paid many a Peso to secure myself a shoebox in the city, I was pleasantly surprised that once I opened the balcony door I had twice the space and a view overlooking Ortigas, Manila.

It being three weeks since I first set foot in the city it is hard to remember precisely what my first impressions were but from the best of my recollection:

1. Heat.

Yep, not surprisingly Manila (and I’m told the Philippines more generally) is hot. Hot to the extent that around 24 degrees (Celsius) is the average low throughout the year, the temperature’s max peaks around April and may at around 34 degrees.

To give you ozzies a reference point Sydney’s typical max is around 24 degrees. So Manila’s min is higher than Sydney’s max. Manila could totally win in a fight.

2. Traffic.

This shouldn’t have been such a surprise to me, but there are zebra crossings littered around Ortigas which seem to have no other function than knocking the pride from westerners such as myself. Zebra crossings don’t work and cars don’t stop. On the plus side it’s like playing frogger.

This seemed like an appropriate time to show you one of the popular forms of getting around the city, a ‘jeepney’. These are everywhere and cost around 16 pesos (30 cents). The aim of the game is to pile as many people in there at once and call out ‘para’ when you want it to stop. Because they travel down specific routes you generally need to know where you’re going, which I don’t.

3. Pollution.

Yep, the air can be thick. Wikipedia tells me it’s from automobiles and industrial production.

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But the Filipinos aren’t super friendly just because I’m good-looking (gwapo). They’re (also) friendly because they know how to handle all these minor inconveniences. Firstly, unlike me they don’t complain and secondly they have malls. Lots of them. In fact there are three within walking distance of me.

They also have self-esteem with over 48 per cent of men rating themselves in the looks department. (Google Filipino men most narcissistic in Asia… no I’m not doing it for you). I personally don’t think 48 per cent is that high. In fact, having 52 per cent of men thinking they’re not attractive might explain why the nation attracts so many ugly westerners.

So those are some thought on Manila. I’m not going to stand by the quality of those thoughts, but mainly because I don’t trust my workmanship at this hour.

I will say, however, that Manila is a great city. The people are friendly, the food is cheap and down every street is something new, possibly somebody looking to mug a bald Australian (see postscript) or possibly somebody selling legitimate DVDs for 50 pesos.


That last paragraph is more a whimsical sign-off than anything else so I should clarify that in fact I’ve found Manila to be generally safe.