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“Don’t bring all your cash out. Keep them in separate pockets.” 

“Carry your backpack in front of you.” 

“Be careful, don’t whip out your camera, someone might swoop in and grab it.” 

These were just some bits of advice my friends (Filipinos, no less!) gave me before I ventured to Manila. When E landed a week earlier and his phone ran out off battery (it was around 11pm), I got frantic calls/messages from his mother and sister because they were worried he’d been mugged. E is a native Manilan, but he hadn’t been back for eight long years.. many things could have changed in that time. (eg Kuala Lumpur used to be safer eight years ago lol.)

I was naturally cautious after these warnings. I never brought more than I needed for the day and only kept a copy of my passport instead of the actual thing. Thankfully, nothing untoward happened during our visit. :)

“You don’t have to worry that much, especially if you’re dressed like a local,” the fiancee said while helping me to ‘coordinate’ my outfit – flipflops, shorts and a baggy T-shirt. I guess it helps that I look Asian and blend in, unlike white tourists (Southeast Asians always seem to think that white = money. It’s not just in Phils but in Malaysia too).

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Security is high in Manila, at least on private premises. You don’t see the police much, but there are guards everywhere – shopping malls, subways, shops, departmental stores, tourist attractions, etc. A unique experience in Manila: Being frisked before you enter a mall lol. They even have detectors (like the ones you see at the airport) ! You have to line up to enter and have your bags checked.

My thoughts on safety in Manila is the same as everywhere else you go – don’t  be an idiot, keep an eye on your belongings, be alert, and stay out of dangerous areas – and you’ll be fine.

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Made a beeline for a uniquely Filipino fast food chain – Jollibee! Ever since I tasted their fried chicken with gravy and rice in LA, I fell in love. The rice has a very fluffy texture, the chicken is juicy on the inside and crisp on the inside, and the gravy is bomb.

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Filipino spaghetti is sweet.

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Drowned in gravy. Fyi, Malaysian fast food chains do not serve gravy.

More of Manila to come!