20 hour layover: Manila

On our long-way route out of Asia, we had a 20 hour layover in Manila, Philippines.

Jordan and I have visited Manila before, back in August during our summer vacation. Our time there was cut short due to delayed flights, however, so we decided to take advantage of our time in the city to see a little more of it.

In our 20 hours we

-Woke to construction noises

-caught in terrible traffic

-walked through the rain

-Rode a jeepney

-Had ice cream to cool down from the heat

-Ate delicious Filipino food at Aristocrat’s

-Enjoyed Intramuros

-Crashed a wedding

All in all, I think we had a pretty good time (besides getting caught in traffic). Pretty much all of the things on our list are must-do or unable-to-avoid experiences in Manila, and the rest we just kind of blundered into.

I had wondered if we would experience anything different in the country this time, because of Filipino-US relations souring. President Duterte has made several bold statements in the past month about strengthening ties to China and letting American relations fall by the wayside. He’s a highly controversial leader anyway, and prone to making exaggerated statements and troubling policy reforms. This sign is the only difference I saw, though.


We of course rode a jeepney because 1) I love it and 2) It’s cheap transportation in Manila, city of endless traffic, all the way to Intramuros, the colonial, historic district of the city.


There, we admired all the beautiful folk handicrafts we couldn’t afford to buy and ship home, then wandered through Casa de Manila, a small museum showing the home of a typical wealthy family in the 1800s. The house was just around the corner from San Augustin church, the oldest church in the country.


After finishing at the museum and enjoying it’s picturesque courtyard, we went to church to avoid the rain. San Augustin has a lovely convent and museum attached to it, but we’d already visited it before. Instead, we sat in the sanctuary and admired the extravagant carvings and paintings.

And then suddenly people in fancy dresses started filling up the church. And we noticed the white runner down the center aisle and the candles on the pew ends.


“Did we just miss a christening?” I whispered.

“There was a funeral going by earlier,” Jordan answered.

I shook my head. “All those girls in red dresses…are we crashing a wedding?”

And then music filled the sanctuary, Canon in D by Pachelbel swelling to the rooftop.

I was afraid we were going to get yelled at, because we obviously didn’t belong, but we wanted to stay and see.

After an endless stream of family members and friends walked down the aisle to cameras flashing, we were instructed to stand and wait for the bride.

“Smile, because we might be in some of these photos,” Jordan told me.

So we smiled. And the great wooden doors flung open to reveal a lovely young woman in a flowing cream dress with a long, tufted cathedral-length train and veil. Her father was waiting halfway down the aisle, a big smile on his face, and she walked slowly to meet him.

“Oh, I’m so glad we got to see this and no one yelled at us,” I whispered.

“Don’t forget to smile,” Jordan told me.

Two bridesmaids came in twenty minutes late, slipping to the front to stand with the others.

“Oh, Southeast Asia and your flexibility with time,” I breathed, smiling.

We sneaked out the back door to wait for our airport shuttle, only to find that Southeast Asia had decided to be flexible with our time, too. The shuttle showed up 50 minutes late. We fought traffic all the way back to our hotel to pick up our bags, rushed back to the shuttle, and hurried to the airport late. I’m summarizing this now, but I want you to know that we were very stressed and worried about every minute.


The shuttle dropped us off at the international departures entrance 50 minutes before our flight took off.

We had to go through security to get into the building, and nice strangers let us cut ahead of them to slip inside. Then I ran for the ticket counter while Jordan picked up all of our bags from the scanner. A ticket agent called out, “last calls for Beijing!” and I raised my hand. Again, we got to skip in line and check in.

The ticket agents gave us a look for cutting it so close, but we were just happy they were letting us on the flight. Then we book it through immigration, security, and ran halfway through the terminal just as the gate gave it’s final boarding call.

Yes, it was a miracle. We got on the plane and arrived in Beijing at midnight, just like we’d planned.

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