Quite unexpectedly I found myself in Manila, the capital of the Philippines leaving my family behind in Vietnam. Another chance had it that I landed in the city on the day of its biggest festival, the holy procession of the Black Nazarene, that falls on January 9. I had assumed the world records in terms of religious gatherings belong to Poland. The Philippinos in this respect are indeed true record holders. The 2012 procession had the attendence of as many as 5 million worshippers!
The miraculous and life-size figure of Christ bearing the cross was brought to the Philippines from Mexico. During the fire on the boat carrying it the face of Jesus got charred, thus the name Black Nazarene. The worship of this figure is enormous here. Many people suffering poverty and daily hardships identify themselves with the Christ suffering on the cross. The procession participants wear characteristic maroon shirts and robes symbolizing the Passion. The figure itself is drawn by long ropes through the crowd attempting to touch it. Typically in such a huge crowd there are some accidents. When you related the 1000 people who receiived medical support to the 5 million participating, the proportion does not look bad at all given the spontaneity of the whole event.
During my two-day visit to Manila a few other things have caught my attention. Firstly, I saw a lot of poverty and many beggars in the streets. Though Vietnam is equally poor for almost month now we have not seen people begging. They all rather do something to earn their living. The second observation was the sheer size of the metropolis having around 20 million inhabitants. It is hard to imagine putting half the population of Poland in one largely spread area. The population density of some places in Manila is the highest in the world.
The third sighting was of a peculiar kind of vehicle used as a means for public transportation. Its history and name, Jeepney, are quite interesting.
In its original version, these flamboyantly painted mini-buses were creatively converted from hundreds of US jeeps left behind by the US Army after WWII. Modern jeepneys are made from scratch in local plants and are similar to the old ones. Speaking about WWII I did not realize Manila was only second to Warsaw when it comes to the percentage of its destruction by frequent Japanese air raids.
You might be wondering by now where is the disease hidden in all of this. Many Polish readers will recall how our former President Kwasniewski came down with a “mysterious Philippine disease”. When it was brought to light along with the mass media and many people I had a good laugh at this lame excuse made up by the President’s entourage to justify his indisposition. Well, after my recent health problems I can confirm that the Philippines disease does exist . On the way back from the Philippines I got such a high fever and shivers that the taxi driver carrying me from the airport to the hotel gave me all warm clothes he had plus put the car heater on full.
The curing administered by “our family doctor”, Ania, worked wonders and I was up and running after a week. By the way, except for this incident we have hardly had any health problems in the last 11,5 months of travelling. Most of the medicing we have been carrying with us has stayed intact including the anti-malaria and bloody expensive Malarone. It is particularly true with our kids. Back in Poland and our normal life we would all have some kind of medical condition once or twice per year. The only visit to a doctor we had was with Wojtus who needed to have his tooth extracted in Honduras.
Simple life – healthy life.