It’s midday—not even rush hour and I hold my son’s hand as we briskly walk a few blocks, past bumper-to-bumper traffic, holding our noses from the fumes, and defying the heat of the sun in search for an empty taxi.
I’ve gone to town with Karsten to try to set up Internet for our newly-rented apartment, which is on a different side of the city. Only about four Kilometers away, but it takes 40 minutes to plow through traffic.
After finally hailing one, we get in and sit tight. The driver doesn’t try to negotiate a higher price to our destination. At least one thing has changed since we were last here—for the better.
I subconsciously hold my son close to me, strapping my arm over his lap like a seatbelt. He’s not used to sitting in a moving vehicle without being tied down to a kiddie car seat. We’ve only been back in this country a couple of days. He’s enjoying the change.
“Ma’am, are your doors locked?” the driver calls back, and turns to check the locks—which I’ve already secured, an old habit.
But I still shift uncomfortably. This isn’t your backstreet or dingy side of town. It’s urban Makati, the busy commercial center of the metro. High rises fill the streets; suited businessmen come and go. And yet…
“Just in case of hold-uppers,” he adds. “They like to stand on the corner and nab people in traffic.”
“But there’s a lot of guards in this area, no?” I ask.
“Yes, ma’am,” he sighs, “but sometimes they are part of the hold-up, too.”
I hold my son closer.
Welcome back to crazy, chaotic Manila.