As you might have noticed, I鈥檝e been a frequent visitor to Manila. In fact, every year I spend more and more time in the Philippines. One might think that there鈥檚 not much to speak about anymore. Wrong. This time I鈥檝e gotten to experience a beautiful holiday called Pask贸 (Christmas).

Christmas season starts on September 1 and ends on December 25. Filipinos don鈥檛 take it lightly. Manila changes drastically. All the malls, parks, and other public spaces get decorated with Christmas lights, lanterns (called par贸l) and such.

Why not, right? Although it consumes a lot of electricity, it鈥檚 good for business, and makes ordinary people like me happy. It鈥檚 very lively.

Malls know it best and put the most effort. As result, famished for pictures tourists get attracted.

That said, life doesn鈥檛 revolve around Christmas 24/7. Workers gotta work.

The construction is just crazy here. The city is being built every day and every night. Everyone suffers because of noise, pollution and congestion.

So yeah, most of the time Manila is congested. The roads are full of cars. Average speed is close to 5 km/h.

This is not always the case, though. There鈥檚 one, just one special day in the calendar when Manila turns into a ghost town (only for half a day). If you guessed the morning of December 25, you鈥檙e right.

Frequently, popular roads, turn into situational markets or places for beggars. Since the car speed is so low, even a child can knock on your window and ask for a peso.

While one bunch struggles to survive, some other people live in year 3000. Who could鈥檝e guessed that you can shop like this?

Churches, though, have been here since forever. But what if old churches were built according to modern blueprints, they would look something like this one. This church is on the rooftop of a mall (yes, Philippines likes to shop religiously).

Speaking of urban planning in other areas, Manila, as you may know, doesn鈥檛 have any bicycle lanes. That鈥檚 bad. So they started building them. That鈥檚 good. However, I couldn鈥檛 believe my eyes when I saw what they did. A bicycle lane that goes through鈥 trees and light poles?

This one is really a prominent piece of cursed achitecture. It used to be a sidewalk, but now it鈥檚 a bicycle lane and a sidewalk. If everybody follows the rules, there鈥檚 no room for pedestrians to walk. Luckily, cyclists still prefer cycling on the road.

Basically, cyclists are not welcome in Manila.

Cars still rule the streets. A casual car of a casual consul from the Russian embassy. Looks scary because you don鈥檛 see what鈥檚 inside.

Scooters or motorcycles also have their place. Often times I would pass by this parked scooter. Every time I would have the same question: 鈥渨hy?!鈥.

You might think that they鈥檙e builing a nice bicycle lane here. No, they鈥檙e just repairing the road because it was damaged due to construction of the highrise building nearby.

Modern Filipinos communicate a lot through smartphones. It鈥檚 not a lucky shot, where I noticed a group of people not noticing each other. That鈥檚 just how life is in 2018.

Modern life here is also about food and restaurants. The hypewave has also hit my brain. I鈥檝e got lucky enough to go to the first branch of the famous Rico鈥檚 Lechon in Manila when they just opened. It鈥檚 famous because even the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, likes it (there鈥檚 a picture on the wall with Duterte and Rico, the owner of the restaurant).

As for me, year 2018 in the Philippines was important because I started learning Tagalog (an official language of the Philippines spoken in Manila). While it鈥檚 not mandatory to know the Tagalog language if you live here, it certainly smoothens your communication experience. With help of it I鈥檓 able to connect with Filipino people on a different level, which can鈥檛 be achieved with English only.

So Tagalog lacks the letter 鈥淔鈥. That鈥檚 why the word 鈥淔ilipino鈥 is actually 鈥淧ilipino鈥 in Tagalog. This leads to interesting results that may tickle your brain.

A lot of people seek happiness and good salary outside Philippines. They鈥檙e called Overseas Filipino workers (OFW), and get treated in a special way. Filipinos work all over the world (maybe except Ukraine because I haven鈥檛 met a single Filipino there).

鈥淔irst world country, thirld world people鈥. This is usually associated with Singapore but someone meant Philippines this time.

The climate can also be harsh here. Either draught with insane heat, or endless rainfall. Because of this some light poles have marks on them. They represent the level of flood on the street. During those rainy days some parts of Manila can be reached only with help of a good boat.

If runners are crossing, the sign says they should be wearing red sneakers. I鈥檓 wondering, what if the runners wore blue sneakers? The sign looks a bit silly because it looks like the guy is escaping from someone, rather than training.

A memorial for American and Filipino soldiers who fought in WW2 against Japan.

Makati, which is a part of Metro Manila, has a remarkable street. Nighlife is flourishing there, but at the same time also smells like armpits, sewers and roaches. If there are children in the room, please cover their noses before you start smelling the picture below.

I celebrated New Year鈥檚 Eve 2019 on the street. There was a concert with many Filipino stars. Some of them were so horrible that you had to cover your years ;-)

Yes, I spent New Year鈥檚 Eve 2019 in Asia again and entered year 2019 on the street. Might it be my home now (Philippines, not the street)?

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