...where our hostess with the mostest was the one and only Ruwani Jayarwadene, better known as Ru. Here you see her teaching me the tabla on the one hand while bashing the hell out of her Western drumkit on the other. The two sets of instruments sit in two separate rooms in her spectacular 34th floor flat, along with lots of fine old Asian teak chests and Indian rugs, a maid and driver or two and almost as many shoes (neatly stacked in their own ceiling-to-floor wardrobe) as a certain former first lady.
Without wishing to offend our many Filipino readers, I have to admit our 3-day break here was always going to be more about seeing Ru than seeing Manila. Despite the jolly jeepneys with their crazy driving (and inscriptions like God is Love), it's never been my favourite city since I came to report on an arts festival sponsored by Imelda and got robbed. Not sure if it was because of my normal absent-mindedness or because I'd said something to the organisers that was mildly critical of her.
But on hand to meet us as we stepped off the plane was not just Ru herself (whose job at the Asian Development Bank for some reason allows her to sneak through immigration and customs) but also a colourful steel band performing Crosby Stills and Nash songs complete with perfect Filipino harmonies. This encouraged my hope that I might find an even better Beatle band here than The Betters had turned out to be in Bangkok (where I became so excited I ended up dancing round stage with a chair...rather well I was told by some ... and where Better George even asked me to be their UK manager). However, all we could find in Manila's red light district was a not-so-hot Eagles cover band, who when asked for a beatle number eventually came up with Imagine and wouldn't believe me when I told them it wasn't.
If you think it's the non-smoking that's making me a bit rattier than usual you're absolutely wrong mate ... it is of course the disastrous news I keep hearing from london about West Ham. In fact India, Thailand and HK had british football on screen everywhere you looked, but Manila and now Sydney from where I'm writing this have different sorts of sporting interests, so yesterday's hammmers-spurs derby wasn't available anywhere. I daresay i'll be told the brutal truth about the result soon but until then I'll remain optimistic. And do give my love and sympathy, Simon or Andy, to Tel and co in the pub.
Anyway, suffice to say we had a lovely and luxurious time with Ru without actually doing much apart from discuss retirement plans, learn her suggested steps for a dance called the Pensioner Globetrot and swim in the exotic pool and gardens about 600 feet below her window. It made for an excellent cure for our hangovers after that last night in Hong Kong. If HK was the climax of our Asian nostalgia trail, Manila with its latino rythms and all-american feel was a good stepping stone towards the rest of the trip -- quite exciting to be going to spots that are totally NEW!
Meanwhile, seems we're getting a bit behind with this blog -- we might lap ourselves if we're not careful. Suffice to say for the moment Sydney's fair dinkum fantastic but as usual we've brought the rain with us -- in fact a dramatic thunderstorm last night. We'll also try and fix the problem with the disappearing Comments icon...