Typhoon Ketsana made the next few days wet as well, but we moved to Bianca’s Garden Hostel, a converted imperial Spanish villa in Malate district, with the clubs and the massage parlors and the Cuban food. The one sunny day we stayed on the hotel grounds and played backgammon in the yard and drank San Miguel with our takeout, which was a bit of a pity because there is a volcano where you can ride horses about two hours drive from Manila that is only worth visiting when it’s clear, but the roads were probably flooded anyway. Laundry in the sink and laid out to dry on the driftwood.
Marauding through Quiapo and Binondo districts, we bought white pellets from a candy seller’s basket that turned out to be cockroach poison, so I burped camphor the rest of the day but was otherwise just fine. McDonald’s has delivery scooters and at the carnival games you win sea snakes in baggies, not goldfish.
In the Green Mosque district near the swollen river we intruded on the Muslim ghetto, first hesitantly because of the sign admonishing against women over 12 without combong, and then with a swarm of two, ten, a score, a hundred miniature followers. Women peeked at us over balconies and behind curtains; men sought out status as our next models. The real stars were the mountains of kids: one was writing a book, two kind of spoke English even but mostly we spoke guidebook and stuffed animal, all of them clearly had seen Vogue magazine through store windows and knew all the model poses, most were apoplectic at seeing their faces on the camera’s touchscreen, and we won’t even mention the paroxysms of ecstasy everyone suffered at seeing their faces on the video playback. All hundred and fifty dogged us till we finally gave them all high fives and sent them home, and our few final bodyguards gave up at the bridge, like witches.
Malate district is sketchy at night but is as good a place as any for sangria and planning, and when the weather forecast warned of the imminent landfall of Super Typhoon Melor we acknowledged our defeat an escaped to Hong Kong, tailed by the wind and waves, satisfied at having properly seen the one city, at least, and when we come back we can explore the rest of the country and the underwater territories.