Thriller in Manila is the third and final famous boxing match between
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of
the World, fought at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Metro Manila,
Philippines on October 1, 1975. And they keep having re-runs on Cable
TV. And there's another contest on soon - May 3 with Pacquiao and
Well I said I would return to the 'Pines in my book and
I have. Just spent the one night in Manila and decided to head for the
hills - the Cordillera in the north of Luzon. First to Baguio, City of
Lovers - well the pot-bellied kind with their Filipino girlfriends.
Also called the City of Pines and there's plenty of those. Much bigger
than I thought, about 250,000 inhabitants and apparently as many
students - it is a centre for education. St Louis University. The coach
crawls up the hill through forested slopes, then suddenly it hits you -
the SM Mall built on the top either gets rave reviews or is considered
an eyesore. But there are some great views from the balcolnies and
amazingly for the Philippines, a vegetarian restaurant - called the
Bodhi. Actually there are more vegetarian options now than a few years
ago. Baguio is very much a mixed bag - parks, wooded areas, open
spaces, but also a lot of traffic and some slum tenements.
about not eating dog meat - the prospect of catching rabies. The
Philippines is the sixth worst country in the world for that. Up to 500
die every year from the disease. Just as well I've had the injections.
Lots of mangy dogs around. They're really into Country and Western here
- American influence, as well as basketball and cockfighting - shown on
TV. Abba is popular too.
Then it's off to Sagada on the Halsema
Highway up to 2255m, highest point on the Philippine Highway Network.
Very overcast - weather very unpredictable up here so views not so
good. And the hairpin bends make the Pai-Mae Hong Son route look like
the M25. The bus company is called GL Lizardo - well it could be
compared to a gecko scuttling over rocks and crevices, as the driver
attempts to avoid the potholes, roadworks, landslides and oncoming
Sagada is a hilltown somewhat like Kalaw in Burma, as
I remember. Temperate plants, forested slopes, and a cool moist climate
until the sun comes out. I stay in St Joseph's Resthouse, surrounded by
a hillside garden in the Matthew room, complete with Gideon Bible. The
Philippines are 90% Christian, so here's a quote from Matthew, which I
found quite appropriate.
Matthew Chapter 4, Verse 8.9.
the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth
him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them: And saith
unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and
And how the mighty have fallen in their worship of Mammon, unfortunately taking the rest of us down with them.
busy with Jeepneys - a very colourful extended jeep with facing benches
for carrying passengers and festooned with Christian regalia, buses,
mini-buses and trucks in the build up to Holy Week.
and Hanging Coffins - concrete blocks built into the hillsides, and it
really does echo, witness a group of screaming Filipinos. Calvary Hill
at Campo Santo - I wonder if anyone was crucified there. Kiltepan - a
great view of the rice terraces and hillsides. Lumiang Burial Caves
with 100 stone coffins stacked at entrance. Notice saying "Please do
not get anything inside. Don't open the coffins." Then the heavens
opened and I got drenched.
I would recommend Red Horse (extra
strong) beer. Gives a real kick. 6.9%. Sorry for the pun. Only for
domestic consumption. And orange vodka.
The guy sitting at the
next table to me in the restaurant has just got up and screamed
"There's a cockroach up my arse." Well, that's really put me off my
meal. And I've noticed too that Filipinos are getting much bigger too -
it's all the chips and pizza. Even Kim Jon Il likes his pizza - he has
an Italian chef. And they're playing 'Stairway to Heaven' which will
conveniently bring me onto the next instalment of my travels.