Even heaven knows I love to take pictures. But during that day that finally, my life-long dream of becoming a tour guide had been realized - I didn’t bring a camera with me and this was the only photo that I have to remind me of that wonderful memory. How come? I guess I really enjoyed finally being a tour guide that day that I have forgotten to be a photographer.
The day was November 26, 2011. A 23-year old girl from Hong Kong named Sally Xu met me at the train station in Recto Avenue. A couple of days ago, she asked me to be her tour guide in Manila for her short vacation. I was excited! Finally, my occasional daydreaming of becoming a tour guide, a promoter of my own city and country to foreign visitors, paid off. Sally was able to find my profile online where I posted myself as a guy offering tour guiding services to Intramuros - and that I speak a lil’ Mandarin. Turned out the latter wasn’t necessary. Sally can speak English.
Sally studies engineering in a university in Hong Kong. She hails from the province of Hunan, a province I vividly remember with its ultra-spicy dishes – where chili peppers are actually dominating the entire dish - not just a mere “spice”. (Imagine a picture of a dish floating in chili oil and chili peppers. Whew!) Anyhoo, Sally says she was here for a short vacation to find “energy” for 3 major exams waiting for her in Hong Kong. (Thank God I’m so done with college.)
I admired Sally for her sense of adventure. I was able to take her to one of the noisiest and the most crowded part of Manila. I was able to let her experience riding a jeepney too. I had hesitations at first, riding a cab might be the best option that time, but it turned out Sally was enjoying everything about it. She even let me take her photo inside the world-famous public utility vehicle of the Philippines. I like the fact that I was able to let her experience that part of the Filipino culture. Something that I think some tourist probably miss out when they come here – because they take the cab.
Going back to the photo. Can you guess where this was taken? The clue is on the picture itself. Take a look.
It was inside a money changing shop in Sta. Cruz. The photo was taken by the storekeeper herself. This was after the whole day of walking tour in Intramuros- we visited Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral and the Lights and Sounds Museum. When we are about to depart from each other, Sally declared she was running out of peso. She needed it for her trip to Taal Volcano scheduled for the next day. I willingly helped her find the nearest money changing shop. After seeing a couple of closed shops (it was 6:00pm then and most businesses are already closed), we- at the end -successfully found one. Sally got her peso and at that moment, nothing could truly stop her to seeing the magnificent volcano sitting at the middle of Taal lake.
When Sally finally reached her youth hostel in Makati, she sent me a short message. She said, “Thank you. Phillipino are nice.”
I smiled. It was a job well done.
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