I had Angeles City on the list of my destinations, as I wanted to visit the nearby Mount Pinatubo for quite some time. Therefore, I rented a car at the airport of Manila, where I got the first stress.
I had made an online reservation with Europcar as I had done many times before without any problem. However, this time the registration process at the counter took forty-five minutes. The person serving me was obviously pretty nervous for whatever reason. I got a free upgrade to an automatic car, which was a good start. But then I was asked to complete a form titled something like “Application for Car Rental”. Very strange! I made an online reservation and have been a customer for many years, but here I had to apply to rent a car from them! Usually I would expect that a company applies to me and tries to convince me to buy their products.
They even asked for three references in the Philippines they could contact to find out whether I am a serious and reliable man or not. I told them I have no references in this country. Then they wanted names and addresses of some friends in Germany, which I refused. What was the whole sense of such a procedure? They could not even verify that my indications would be true.
Then all my personal details like passport number, licence number, names, addresses, etc. were written down by hand although they had all been available in their system and although they had taken copies of all my documents. This writing down by hand alone took twenty-five minutes or more. I had gotten visibly nervous by then, which in turn made the guy behind the counter even more nervous too. In the end, one hour had passed by until I finally had the car. Just as a benchmark, last year I rented a car from Europcar too and took it over at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati, Manila. There the whole process did not take more than ten minutes.
Afterwards I had an easy going 100 KM-trip to Angeles City with low traffic on a Sunday afternoon getting me out of Manila very smoothly.
There are only two points for which Angeles City is known: The nearby volcano Mount Pinatubo and its red light district. Apart from this, the city is pretty ugly and makes a very run down impression. Sorry to all Angelenos!
However, it definitely has an interesting history. Angeles City has been heavily depending on the US military for many years. At the time it was the largest US military base outside the States. After the Philippines government was not prepared to extend the agreement on the basis, the US military had to leave the country completely. This withdrawal had cost hundreds of jobs for the local people.
In June 1991 the Pinatubo erupted in a catastrophic way. It was the second strongest eruption worldwide in the twentieth century and covered the whole area, the military base and the city with grey ashes. However, two years later the cleaning of the area and a successful economic restructuring process were started and has finally made Angeles City a prospering town again.
I had booked three nights here. So I had two full days to take pictures. On my first day, I overslept a bit, and then I had to change my room in the hotel as they made a booking error. In the end, it was after 01:00 pm when I went out and wanted to take some images of the street life. Usually I love to just walk around leaving the main roads and getting into the areas where the real people live. But here nothing really attracted me.
In the evening I went out for dinner in a large pub around the corner of my hotel. And it was here where I met poor Robert.
I was sitting at the bar and had ordered Spaghetti Carbonara, but what I received did not taste nor look like Carbonara at all. I just tried one fork and immediately called the waitress. I wanted to order something else and expected that I would not have to pay for these strange noodles. But she called the manager. And this was a big, a very big black man, weighing many kilos too much, wearing a moustache and glasses and being of my age. I guess he was American. But he was nice. I carefully and politely explained the problem to him and without any discussion he credited me the noodles they called Carbonara.
This is when I got in touch with Robert. He was sitting close-by and watched the noodle affair. He felt, he should make a comment about this bar´s food and then about the Filipino food in general. He found it all just disgusting. He has been travelling around the Philippines for a few weeks already and said that meanwhile he lost a few kilos and is going to starve soon.
Robert was a London guy in his mid fifties, and he was once married to a Filipina with who he has a grown up son. He is a self-employed painter and was strongly complaining about “these fucking polish immigrants in England undercutting my prices, sleeping together with twenty other fucking Polish in a fucking single room and not even spending a fucking pound in Britain because they all send their fucking money back home to support their fucking families!”
Whenever I meet an Englishman usually it does not take too long until “The War” has to be discussed. And I am so tired of having to go through this kind of discussion time and time again with my English friends. But with Robert it was different though very strange. He was praising Hitler because he was trying to hold up the Sowjets and if he had won the war, Robert went on emphatically, he himself would not have the fucking problem with the fucking Polish price cutters.
I listened carefully but was frowning every now and then aobut his historical interpretations. This made him a little unsecure. He asked me whether I would be Jewish because I somehow looked like a Jew in his eyes. When I denied to be a Jew he seemed to be very relieved, as he probably thought he would not have to have anymore consideration about his historical contemplations. So he went on that Hitler was actually a friend of England and without the Americans and Russians Britain would have lost the war and so on and on.
After a while of continued history lessons I wanted to move on to a small quiet bar I found the day before. And as Robert was so disappointed about the bar scene in Angeles City, he asked me whether I would mind if he follows me. I did not and we left the pub walking down the street.
I walked a few meters in front of him when a group of street kids approached us. I could easily shake them off immediately. But when I turned round I saw the kids clutching to Robert´s arms while he was walking and nicely talking to them. Suddenly something appeared a bit strange. A woman stopped him on the street and said a few words to him. Robert seemed to be pretty shocked for a moment. He was looking down a side street and started to run down there.
I went to this young woman and asked what happened. And she told me that one of the kids pickpocketed his wallet. “Oh, my God! What a shit!” After some seconds I followed Robert and caught up with him after a hundred meters.
He was in a very desperate mood and told me that not only all his cash was in the wallet but also all his credit cards and some documents. And then he said “What shall I do now? Please, please! You must help me!”. I just answered that all he could do is going to the police and report it, and…..! I could not finish because a Filipino came by on his motorbike and told Robert that he would chase the kids, and he should sit on. So, this is what he did, and I never saw him again.
But just as an advice. Whenever I travel around and go out for dinner and a few beers I always only carry the estimated amount of cash for the night with me. Never ever would I take my credit cards or even documents with me. And should you fall victim to such a crime, always make sure that you can at least make an online money transfer to yourself using Western Union. This keeps you going for a long while.