Vanilla Manila

There’s not a whole lot to do in Manila. It’s just another huge metropolitan city with not much in the way of tourism. I would not recommend spending more than a day here unless you have something planned, but we were in the city for almost a whole week since we were playing in the Manila Spirits tournament. Even the one “touristy” thing that is recommended, visiting Intramuros (the remnants of the Spanish settlement in Manila), was not particularly exciting or interesting. I think the one thing that stood out most to me about this city is how bad traffic is. While the driving isn’t nearly as bad as in India, it’s the congestion that really wore me out. It takes hours just to go from one part of the city to another.

While Manila itself isn’t fascinating, we managed to get ourselves into adventures meeting tons of great people and finding hidden gems.


I have a thing for alternate modes of travel. One of my very favorite memories of traveling to India was our group hopping into four tuk tuks at midnight to get dinner. We raced through the finally empty mega-highways of Mumbai, our little vehicles jostling and speeding along amongst the semi-trucks. It was real-life Mario Kart!

In the Philippines, the most popular form of transportation is the Jeepney. This is a Jeepney:

a jeepney in manila

Note the guy hanging off the back. We also saw passengers piled up on tops of Jeepneys when the inside was too full.

Originally created from leftover US military Jeeps, these vehicles are now garishly decorated and used as shuttles throughout the city. They run routes just like a bus. When the Jeepney stops, people jump in through the back and cram themselves in like sardines (we had 20+ in ours) or hang off of the back, passing the fare (8 PHP or 18c USD) forward to the driver. When you have to get off, you just let the driver know and he stops (regardless of where he is in the road…), and you squeeze your way out of the back. At one point, when we realized we were not on the right Jeepney, Matt yelled, “We gotta get off!” and we just leaped out the back. It’s not as much fun as a tuk tuk, but it’s definitely more exciting than taking a bus or train. Plus, our local friends find it hilarious that we attempt to use transportation that’s a mystery even to some of them.

Ultimate community

Throughout the US, ultimate communities tend to be very similar. Regardless of which city a team hails from, you can expect them to be adventurous, intelligent, funny, open and accepting, weird people who love to chase plastic and throw epic parties (especially of the dance variety). Turns out those similarities also apply to our international brethren. Matt and I picked up in one of the leagues on Wednesday night, and we got to meet a ton of ultimate players who welcomed us with open arms. There was a party afterwards where they made all the visiting players (there are a ton of players in town for the Spirits tournament this weekend) participate in various games. Matt and I were put to shame in a beer shotgunning contest.

The Southeast Asian ultimate community is very integrated, and most players are close friends with players from other countries since they all see each other often during the tournament season. We met a handful of people, and within a few hours, we were introduced to many more who gave us travel advice and offers of places to stay when we’re in their respective cities. Getting plugged into the local ultimate scenes was the best idea Matt has ever had as it has already made our travels much more social and enjoyable.

Ultimate is great for many reasons, but the community has to be one of the best. It’s so comforting to be able to travel to a far-flung place and still feel welcome and at home because of the ultimate community. For the most part, Manila Spirits didn’t feel very different from any of the tournaments we have back in the US. I was able to have thoughtful conversations with my teammates right off the bat because we already have ultimate in common, which is to say, we share similar mindsets (and also because most people here are fluent in English as well as Filipino). Getting to know my teammates and discuss our lives are was my favorite part of our time in Manila.

Special shout out to Lester, Mitzie, JC, Randall, Kaye, and the rest of Mother Huckers and Sid Vicious for helping us out, driving and showing us around, letting us play with their teams, and showing us amazing hospitality!  Also, I have finally met my food eating twin! Mitzie and I split two eating contests of huge Filipino and Japanese meals. These  are the best people in Manila:

Mitzie & JC, the best people in Manila (and possibly the whole world)

Mitzie & JC, the best people in Manila (and possibly the whole world). Not pictured but also awesome: Randall.


We can’t say thank you enough to Lester for hooking us up with the Manila group! By far one of the most authentic and fun people I have ever met.

Matt is putting together a longer post about the tournament itself, but I’ll throw in my 2 pesos here:

  • I played 3 days (1 day of women’s, 2 days of mixed), and it was unbelievably hot and humid each day (85+ degrees and at least 80% humidity). It’s a miracle I didn’t die or get heat exhaustion or even cramp, though I do have an even worse tan than when I started. My neck will probably be peeling for the rest of the year. Fortunately, being at sea level, I never got too tired or sore. It’ll be interesting to see how our next tournaments are when we’ve acclimatized to the altitude.
  • The Philippines has a booming ultimate community. 10 years ago, there were only a handful of teams in the country. Now, Manila alone boasts 40-50 mixed teams.
  • Their style of play is much faster than back home. They really like to use quick disc movement here with lots of give-and-gos. There are also lots of layouts from the provincial players which was really fun to watch.
  • All of the teams in Manila are mixed. No one really plays Open or Women’s, and they were really interested to find that in the US, it is the opposite: most elite players are in Open/Women’s, and mixed is generally considered a step down.
  • We were very, very thankful and excited to be able to play on a local team (as opposed to a team made up of ex-pats) because it opened so many doors for us.  We were able to meet so many locals, and they introduced us to many places and foods we never would have seen or eaten without them. And it was great to be able to learn about their culture and perspectives.


We wandered out to Intramuros and weren’t overly impressed. But on the way back to the light rail station, we came across Rizal Park which is a huge, beautiful open space. Inside this park, we found a kids play area WITH DINOSAURS. Obviously, we had to stop and play.

we started at the giant fishwe started at the giant fish

giant turtle slide

giant turtle slide

not a dinosaur but deserves to be posted

not a dinosaur but deserves to be posted

hungry hungry hippo

hungry hungry hippo

is this a dinosaur?

is this a dinosaur?

look, Stege!

look, Stege!

this is how matt rides dinosaurs

this is how matt rides dinosaurs

high-five, random little filopino kid on a triceratops!

high-five, random little filipino kid on a triceratops!

Best 10 pesos ($0.25 USD) we’ve spent yet.  We got so many weird looks from families. Little did they know, this is not my first time going somewhere meant for kids without any kids. Stop judging. #restrainingordersdontapplyoverseas

Up next…

It’s really hard to believe we’ve only been gone a week! We feel as though we’ve been gone both longer than a week and also that the adventure hasn’t really started….  Somehow, it just hasn’t clicked that we are traveling for a year / don’t know when we’ll see the US again / have no plans for the next year. More thoughts on this will be in a blog post later.

We’re currently in El Nido in Palawan. The beaches here are amazing, and we’re off tonight to go camp on a remote island. Power in El Nido is only on between 2pm-6am, and it’s been hard finding time to catch up on blog posts, but more will be coming soon!

About lisa

28-year-old Asian-American hailing from Denver, Colorado, USA. Traveler. Adventurer. Ultimate frisbee player. Snowboarder. Photographer. Giffer. Blogger. Sarcastic / snarky / sassy comment-maker. Fond of eating, sleeping, and wandering.

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