Sunday, June 29, 2008

Manila - End of Week 1

So it's our first official day off and I feel like I should go out and do or see something in Manila. And I'm thinking that something might just be a movie. Not much motivation for anything else.

I went out last night with some cast members and managed to stay up until midnight – quite a feat considering I still want to lay my head down around 8pm. Managed to sleep in until 7:30am this morning, too! We went to a Thai restaurant in the Greenbelt, which is quite possibly the best mall ever. Lots of coffee shops, restaurants, stores, live music, museums, and all spread out in this mix of indoor/outdoor spaces. Lots of trees, plants, open air – really the best way to design a mall if you have to have one. I hate shopping, but this place is really quite pleasant and relaxing.

Anyway, we had some Thai food, and I proceeded to set my lips afire with my stir-fried chicken with holy basil. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a 5-alarm kinda' girl – I love spicy, and am usually not satisfied until my nose, eyes, and ears are running and I'm almost crying. This was WAY beyond that. The kind of spicy that literally made my lips AND NOSE burn, and almost had me convinced that I could, in fact, breathe fire. I only made it halfway through my meal – it was good, but it's clear that even super spicy Thai food in the States is nothing compared with the real thing. I also had the Tom Yum Goong soup, which is a spicy prawn soup that I've always loved, but was a little grossed out that they actually put the whole animal in my soup. Two, in fact. I had to let my mind wrap around that idea for awhile, scooped the two crustaceans out and set them aside, finished my soup, then decided to go for it, anyway, and tore into the poor (very much alive-looking) creatures. Once they no longer had faces they were much easier to swallow and quite tasty.

A couple of our cast members are local actors and one of them suggested a specifically Pinoy delicacy: balut. I thought he was pulling my leg but have since verified that this is for real. Duck fetuses and hot sauce. Baby ducks, not quite fully-formed, that you break out of the egg and eat whole. Uncooked, even. I've been eating a lot of raw fish since I got here – perfect breakfast food, surprisingly enough – but balut will be a struggle for me, I'm sure. I have several weeks still to work up the guts . . . literally.

I might be off to a museum today, because that sounds nice and easy and not too expensive or overly ambitious. I'd really love to sit by the pool, but I don't think the sun is going to show at all today. There's this weird cloud cover; Manila doesn't seem to have too many super tall buildings, so you can practically see horizon to horizon and there's just white covering everything. Not really cloudy as I know it, and not really fog, either, but like someone just laid a thick layer of cotton over the city. Not very inspiring to get out and about.

Recently got a short introduction to Manila's seamier side. I'm not sure what it is about me that makes people want to share this kind of info with me, but at least it's interesting stuff. One of the locals I get to interact with every day pointed out a couple of sex hotels on the way back to our hotel. Maximum 3-hour stay. His English wasn't the best, so I'm not sure if we were communicating very clearly, but he told me prostitution is legal here, along with dog-fighting and cock-fighting – you know, in case I felt the need to satisfy EVERY possible vice, I'm now covered. I'm not really into seeing animals tear each other apart (I've seen enough of that kind of thing backstage when two divas collide), and I'm not sure I could keep a straight face long enough to ever try and hire a prostitute, but I do love getting to know something not-so-touristy about Manila.

I'm beginning to think half the Pinoy population is employed as security guards. They're everywhere. Anytime you enter a building, you're screened. They look in your purse/bags, they've got the metal-detector wands, etc. I'm not sure what all the security is about. It's a little annoying – my backpack is searched everyday even re-entering our own hotel after rehearsals – but if it's that strict, I guess there must be good reason.

Rehearsals are awesome; I feel so blessed. We record the cast album in 10 days, then hard back at work to open, I think, maybe 2 weeks later. I see posters everywhere, and Lea's face on billboards, and even one giant 4-story banner hung up in the mall advertising a contest to win tickets to our show. (I know, I should take a picture!) I promise to keep my camera with me today, and will take a photo of SOMETHING so I can get myself in the habit.

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