Welcome to the 21st Century, where the Internet has made our world, our cell phones, and our attention spans smaller. From SMS IM-ing and digital communications to MySpace and YouTube to television adverts for web sites. If you are not online, well, you’re totally off. In the Philippines, however, a third world Asian country, where priorities are obviously different, not being online for a day isn’t the greatest of worries. Or at least it wasn’t for our clients on my third day in Manila.
Wednesday had me hopping around as visiting a couple of different clients were on the agenda. Saw a number of jitney-type buses out on the streets that were totally wild. These vehicles of public transportation stood no taller than a standard SUV, certainly not more than a Ford Expedition, but were about three times as long and with an open back that the passengers used as a hop-in/hop-out portal. Generally these bus were all stainless steel in appearance like a Hot Wheels car or like the buses that still appear in period-piece movies before businesses realized that moving billboards made much more sense. Luckily America’s mighty corporate influence has yet to make its full presence known in the Philippines, allowing these buses all to sport their own unique look as the drivers seemingly decorate their steeds with outlandish themes: surfin’ Hawaii, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sylvester & Tweety, Bob Marley, and on and on and on. What is equally amazing is that the insides of these buses must totally be tight as one certainly could not stand upright in it. But they were everywhere.
The drive around also allowed me to get a good look at Metro Manila where tall, glass skyscrapers complete with helipads stood side-by-side with shanty-town sheds and their peeling plaster facades and rusted tin roofs. Hardly a love shack. Across the street from the Pan Pacific stood a Buddhist Temple that looked equally out of place as our 21-story hotel. Unemployment, I was told, was not all that high as menial jobs are created simply to keep a workforce in place. Pulling up to our hotel, as an example, would have two or three attendants opening the cab’s door and seeing you into the hotel where another employee would actually push the elevator call button.
None of these sights, however, prepared me for the fact that one of banks we visited, one of the largest Philippine banks, responsible for million of dollars in transactions coming in from abroad, was totally offline for our visit. Problems with their DNS provider. And hey, stuff like that happens, but the point here was that they didn’t really care. “No Internet,” they said with a shrug of their shoulders.
I shrug right back. After all, they flew me around the world on their dime. However, I feel slightly more foolish with my shrug that their indifference swallows whole with a smile. Their lives are right outside, across the street at the Shabu-Shabu. I’m a six-foot Anglo that still has recycled airport air residing in my lungs. But this world is small. I can comfortably retreat digitally: editing a photo gallery of my most recent trip to England, listening to the new Ghastly Ones’ release, following news on the Phillies, even typing up this blog.
”No Internet,” they said.
No good tacos either. But I leave tonight.