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I’m here! If home is where the heart is, I’m definitely home. I’ve arrived at Diosdada Macapagal International Airport, more easily known as Clark, just north of the city of Angeles (not pronounced the same as you’d say Los Angeles — instead try to say the ‘g’ more like you’d say ‘guess’) and caught the shuttle bus down to Cubao.

Immediately I knew I was back in Philippines. The shuttle bus had a B-grade movie playing on DVD, not from the start but from three quarters of the way through because that’s where it happened to have got to on the previous trip in the opposite direction. It was endless gratuitous horror and bloodshed, definitely not something any Australian bus company would be showing to their general public audience which includes families with young kids. Once that movie finished, another was started — this was Prince of Persia, but it had been sub-titled in Chinese, and then sub-titled again in English but not from the original audio track, rather by translating the Chinese back into English, resulting in completely nonsensical and unintelligible sentences (reminds me of the hazards of translating marketing copy and survey questionnaires into another language!!).

The drive from Clark to Manila city region is fairly pleasant, but as the miles go on you feel like you’re stepping into another universe — the traffic abandons all rules, grows in volume, and becomes a writhing mass of metal, just waiting to tear somebody’s limbs apart. The housing along the roadside turns from newly constructed mansions proudly sitting in the middle of a half-empty ‘estate’ into rusted corrugated iron shacks and concrete block ghettos. Even places with names like “New Hope” have fading, flaking paintwork which leaves you wondering what things would be like if they lost that hope.

When I dismounted my bus and asked the nearest ‘tricycle’ driver to drop me to my hotel, he had no idea where P. Tuazon Boulevard was. Neither did the police man. Or the taxi driver. So I got the tricycle to take me to the nearby shopping centre, the Araneta Centre. In a country riddled with poverty, Cubao has three major retail and entertainment precincts nestled side by side occupying a huge swathe of real estate and serviced by EDSA (the main highway) and the MRT (elevated rail system). But still nobody here knew where P. Tuazon Boulevarde was.

Eventually my mobile phone’s GPS located the street, but incorrectly identified which end Number 245 was at. Fortunately, I was riding in a taxi with a very pleasant and helpful driver who was pretty much on track and got me there in reasonably economical time. Along the way, I got to experience again the incredible congestion and randomness of Manila traffic, the masses of people walking both on the footpath and across the roads, the 125cc motorbikes ducking and weaving in between the SUVs and buses…

I’m so pleased to be here! Now a bit of a rest, some casual photography over the next few days, and then some more structured work next week.

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