Midnight in Metro Manila

Hello reader,

I just got back home from an adventure filled two week trip in the Philippines with my wife and family.  I learned a lot about my people’s culture and about myself as well. I got to see some incredible places and experiences I don’t think I will ever forget along with meeting some of the kindest and story-filled people.

Of course I’ll get to writing all about it. I’m going to write a post for every major stop we made. Our first day in Manila. Our trip to the tropical limestone islands in Coron, Palawan.  Road trips to history filled areas like Tagaytay and Baguio. This post though, I decided to do out of order. This is about my very last night in The Philippines in Metro Manila, just a day ago really.

My focus lately has definitely been on photography.  Certain events and people have really inspired me to push forward in my hobby.  However, I’ve not normally been very open to sharing my work or the criticism that follows. A lot of it is in my head. What are people going to think? Is this too out of character for me? A lot of it stems from anxiety issues I’ve been dealing with for a while. It would get to the point where I would overthink something so much, that I’d rather just avoid it altogether, even though it was something I truly believed in or wanted to experience.

With the help of my close friends and reading some Tony Robbins, I’ve been working hard on changing things and not allowing my anxiety or emotions control my decisions.

My last night in the Philippines I planned on going out with Jamie’s cousin and hanging out at Valkerie, a night club in BGC that we had been to earlier on our trip. Jamie had already left the Philippines for a wedding in Vegas the day before. Less than an hour before I was supposed to leave, her cousin texts me that he’s going to have to stay home because his daughter had gotten really sick. I started feeling really bummed out. I was looking forward to going out and now it seemed like my last night would include scrolling through social media and turning in for bed early. Then for a brief moment I was hit with the idea of going out all by myself. This was quickly shot down by the probability that I would end up going out, paying a cover fee, buying drinks for myself, and standing around alone the whole time until I finally ended up going home without actually having any fun and not having the confidence to meet people on my own without a friend or Jamie with me.

This is normally how my train of thought rolls through my head:

“What is the worst thing that could happen and what is the probability of that happening? Oh, I should just avoid it all together then.”

But this time, I decided I wouldn’t let my anxiety hold me back from enjoying my last night. So I set some goals for myself.

  1. Actually go.
  2. Make some friends
  3. Dance with someone

Yes, the first one seems way too obvious, but it’s actually a huge step. Convincing myself to go, knowing that I wouldn’t know anyone, that I may run into language barriers, and that I may come home completely unsatisfied and feeling worse off than if I stayed, was not an easy thing to do. I finally came to the conclusion that it was something I really needed for me and that the amount of regret I would feel about not trying would probably follow me forever.

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Burgos Circle, from our condo.

So I headed down to Burgos Circle and walked to an ATM to withdraw some cash for the night. The area is very alive at night with many bars and diners open late lining the sides of the street. I could already feel my anxiety setting in as I walked alone passing groups of people having a good time. I couldn’t help but think that I could just walk back up to the condo and call it a night instead. But I didn’t.

I walked over to where the taxis usually come through and waited for one. After a few minutes one shows up to drop off a girl. She gets out and walks away. I walk up to the driver and start asking if he can take me to the club, but he stops me mid sentence with a “hold-on”. I look back to where the girl went and then back at him, staring off in the same direction. The girl must have left to get some money. So I stand there awkwardly waiting until he closes the door himself. Off to a great start, I thought.

Finally another cab shows up. I get in and ask him to take me to the club. At first he doesn’t hear me correctly but the second time he understands. As we drive through the city I stared out at the buildings and people passing by, having second thoughts again.

We pull up and I pay the driver, walk up to the bouncer, get in and pay cover. Valkyrie is a nice place, very similar to some of the larger clubs in SD and LA in layout. Apparently a lot of famous people from the Philippines go there. I walked in and looked around. Not many people were there yet. So I walked over to one of the three bars and ordered a Jack and Coke. At first I faced toward the bartenders and sipped away, but I realized I looked kind of depressed, so I turned around and leaned back to watch the people walking in.

  1. Actually go.
  2. Make some friends
  3. Dance with someone

I stood there for a good amount of time. The place started filling up and I started to feel like I was in the way as people tried to order drinks next to me. Anxiety setting in again. I step away from the bar with an almost empty cup in my hand, trying to figure out what to do.  I see a spot open at the bar on the other side and decide I need another drink.  Another Jack and coke in hand along with a water this time. I leaned back yet again and watched people pass by. One of the guys to my left, a Filipino guy talking to his friend gets a little too close as he backs up and steps on my shoe.  He turns around and gestures ‘sorry’ and returns to his conversation.  I figured this was it.  I started thinking again. One out of three of my goals down and that’s all I was going to leave with for the rest of the night. I mean, I tried right? I’d probably stick around a little longer, just to feel better about myself, then take a miserable cab ride back and go to sleep.  But I didn’t.

I reached out and tapped on the guy’s shoulder who stepped on my shoe. Then I punched him in the face.

Just kidding. I asked him where he and his friend were from. They told me they were from ParaƱaque and were in a rock band. I told them I was from San Diego and they got excited because their favorite band Switchfoot was from there. Then I learned their names. Joseph and Destiny. Coincidence? Probably. We got to talking about the differences between this club and clubs back in California. They warned me about things to watch out for.  Ladyboys in disguise. Prostitutes fishing for customers by acting like they’re interested in them. Then Joseph, who goes by Seph, asks me “So you want to fuck a Filipina tonight huh?”.

I tell them I’m married and just looking to have fun, meet new people and dance with someone the most.  They’re surprised, especially because I came alone, then bring me over to meet a couple other friends. A larger American girl named Angela and another Filipino guy named Zo.

  1. Actually go.
  2. Make some friends
  3. Dance with someone

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So naturally, the guys and I start looking for girls to dance with.  I start conversation with a few very shy Filipino girls. For girls that were smiling at me and acting interested, neither of them really held up a conversation.  Maybe it’s the English. Then, Zo walks up to us and says “Guys, check it out” and points over to a girl standing alone. She’s obviously tipsy and is nodding to the music. “One of you should ask her to dance, she looks ready to go haha”, he says. Then a group of foreigners approach her (I’m not going to say what race they are as it isn’t important). One of them comes up and tries taking her with them by the arm. We could see her visibly telling him no while smiling and trying to be polite while his hand was on her arm, pulling her to the dance floor. She was able to escape and back away enough for the guy to back up and finally take it as a no. Then Angela,the girl from our group goes over to her rescue and takes her back where we are at the bar.

Her name was Yu, she was Japanese and from Tokyo. Her friend ditched her last minute and that’s why she was there drinking by herself. She ended up talking to me a lot because the others weren’t as fluent in English. We spent the rest of the night dancing and I ended up buying her a drink. I had to tell her I was married of course when she tried to lean in for a kiss.

  1. Actually go.
  2. Make some friends
  3. Dance with someone

It’s funny how different the dancing is over there.  Go to any busy night club in LA or San Diego, and you’re sure to see people grinding and getting nasty all over the place.  It’s just normal.  In this club everyone was dancing like it was a rave. Hands in the air. Pumping to the beat. If you wanted to film a PG rated commercial with people dancing, this was the exact setting you’d be looking for.  To top it off, it was hip-hop night at the club, which apparently means playing techno versions of popular hip hop and pop songs from the last 10-15 years.  Not trap or edm, but actually techno. I asked the guys and they said that’s just how it is.

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On the cab ride home, I looked out again at the same buildings passing by. Hours ago I was sitting in my room, thinking about how I would be better off just going to bed. How I wouldn’t have the confidence to meet some new people and actually enjoy myself. I wish I could say I laughed at the idea then.  To be honest I was instead just very proud of myself. That night I was able to get past one of my worst problems: myself.  It sounds really corny, but I convinced myself I could, so I did. Just like the way I’m writing this post. I don’t normally write these kinds of posts, but I’ve always wanted to. There will be more posts about the trip that I will write, but this one is a little different.  I would have stayed in that night. But I didn’t.

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