A Walk In Mandaue

A short slice of life on a busy Philippine street.

I don’t post much photo or video of my life in the Philippines. There’s a reason for that.

I’m pretty much a walker; it’s how I get to know the places I go and things I see at the ground level. When I get to a new environment, I expand outward from where I’m staying as much as I can.

The Philippines is a uniquely hard place to discern good areas from bad areas. Basically you have sometimes extreme squalor existing side by side with malls (some very shiny and modern) that dot the landscape every kilometer or so. Poverty is not a determinant of danger, especially here, where a lot of the building infrastructure is pretty worn down. A highly functioning, bustling Filipino neighborhood and one that’s a bit on the shady side can be hard to discern to a first-timer. It really takes a few walk throughs to get the comfort level together.

I generally don’t feel particularly in danger on these walkarounds. I go out in day time and I avoid streets with no visible exits, too empty, or that are exclusively populated by men. But even when I get into areas that are pretty rough – which happened shortly after the video I’m going to show you – usually the shock value of a big white guy walking through the neighborhood, plus a smiling self-deprecating but fearless attitude and a rudimentary command of the language keep me out of trouble.

However, if I am that same guy walking through the same neighborhood with an iPhone taking pictures of everyone, not only would that seem rude and intrusive (since I’m already walking into neighborhoods where white people generally don’t go) but the bemused confusion that my presence generates would immediately be transformed to “that white guy is obviously an idiot inviting us to take that phone away.” So although there’s a lot of stuff I see that most people don’t get to see and that I’d like to share, I don’t.

This time I went for it, though – down the bustling street that contains the Mandaue City Market, an almost exclusively local area crowded with activity. The shakiness of the camera is a result of me moving quickly and not wanting to, again, be rude by lingering. As I said, further down the street I got into a squatter area with many shirtless men drinking next to the street and live pig pens lining the road.  Even then, when a bag fell out of my pocket they all called out to alert me, so I encountered no problems. But I was glad I didn’t take out the Phone. And in fact, when you watch this video, you’ll see why I don’t do this very often. It feels rude, it feels invasive. It isn’t, actually, when I’m walking around. People tolerate it, if barely. With a camera, to me it crosses the line.

So with apologies for the jumpy video, enjoy a short walk with me through the center of Mandaue City in the Philippines.

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