Bean bags. Beers. Pool table. International cast. Travel stories. Party. Hostel. Manila, your fun, grimy Manila. A weekend well-spent with people who shares the same passion as yours. Never ending chats until our bodies effortlessly retired themselves in the dorm room.
Getting there was interesting. We had to ride the LRT-1 line train and alighted at Abad Santos station. We could’ve taken a pedicab or tricycle but opted to walk our way to the hostel. Chateau de Elizabeth was the building we were looking for; just a few cartwheels away from the South Gate of the Manila Chinese Cemetery – that’s our landmark.
A few flights up the hostel and then we were teleported. Disco balls, laser lights, lounge seats, blackboard filled with doodles, lockers, busy kitchen, loaded fridge, half-naked men, notes, posts and an international ensemble. A hodgepodge of very interesting people with various travel stories to share. For $8 per night, the Red Carabao hostel is the perfect shelter when you’re in Manila.
|keep 'em safe|
We were welcomed by Aldrich, the very young owner, who looked like he’s doing some paint job that afternoon. This cool, moustached guy immediately introduced our group to his guests who seemed to be friends with him for he knew their names by heart – it felt like we were intruding a family gathering. My heart pounded as these guys started to clarify some things about their travel plans in the Philippines, nose bleeding at its finest.
|very busy kitchen|
|oops, there's a curfew|
As we all settled into our own spots (some of the international contingent were still busy inquiring about routes and transportation with their maps and travel guides), we were asked to join everyone to the wet market (Blumentritt area) to buy some stuff for the communal dinner that night. Wow, a communal dinner in a hostel, how cool is that eh?
With all the grime Manila has to offer, the international contingent was pleased with what they were experiencing at that moment; legit Manila in-your-face. And hearing some good words from them was just amazing. These people were enjoying all the bits and pieces of what I consider as dirty and unsafe. And then I went with the groove. I asked them to try balut, spicy dilis and some stuff I found on the streets. They were all game.
A feast of char-grilled chicken and pork with some steamed rice and pancit were shared by everyone. A few games, party drinks and more travel stories went on as the night went by. The rooftop of the building was filled by alcohol-induced, fun and passionate young people.
As if we weren’t tired of each other yet, Aldrich invited the whole gang to go to a disco (club?) somewhere. We couldn’t fit in a tricycle or a taxi so we hailed a jeepney. The party jeep brought us to the club. It was blasting.
They were dancing and drinking. They asked me to dance and I drank more. They partied and I buried a hole on my seat - me and dancing are not friends. But I had fun watching them blending with the crowd. With the loudest music and screams ever, which I usually detested, the gang partied all night.
The night didn’t end there, the drunkards roamed around Manila (still in Blumentritt area) to look for a satisfying after-beer-munch. A steaming hot lugaw (congee) and some 5-peso coffee from a vendo machine nourished us. Endless stories until we reached our hostel. And then our tired bodies retired on our assigned cots, it was four in the morning. I dozed off effortlessly.
I woke up to the smell of coffee and brekkie stuff from the kitchen. I immediately got up and it took a while for me to realize that I wasn’t home. I was somewhere with listless bodies all around. I went to the kitchen and grabbed some bread and coffee while saying my morning howdy to Yana who’s preparing some pancakes and scrambled eggs.
While sipping my coffee, I noticed that the three British teeners (who were supposed to be at the airport at that time for their 9 a.m. flight to Palawan) were still lounging on the couch. I asked them what happened and they told me they woke up late, they weren’t alarmed as I expected them to be. They were asking me if they could still catch their flight, I frowned. And they slumbered back. Haha. That was funny. The attitude and spirit of these guys are just awesome. Their happy ending was that they booked a new flight in the afternoon and everyone forced them to leave early to the airport.
At around ten in the morning, everyone (the Brits, the French duo, the cool Mexican diver, the Argentinian and us) was up and lounged at the common area. And it started; the chat about traveling, the Pinoy culture as compared to theirs and the free flowing of tales from every corner of the world. I was living vicariously through them (while I was downing some bottles of beer). It was wonderful. They were spending half of their day chatting with us, not minding about their itineraries and activities for the day.
And just like pure instinct, we all agreed on checking out the Manila Chinese Cemetery just a few cartwheels away from the hostel. The guards happily greeted and welcomed us. No fees were collected for our quick stroll that day. We wandered inside in a very relaxed mode. It was peaceful. We checked out some interesting-looking crypts, tombs and mausoleums of our dear Chinese friends. It was weird but we had fun inside the cemetery, getting lost in all the stillness of the place.
We went back to the hostel and bid everyone goodbye. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave yet. Being with these cool guys on a very chill place makes it harder for me to go home. I was surrounded with very passionate people who share the same passion as mine and that was very rare; people who understand what you do and why you do it. It felt like home.
And we will come back just to chill and hang out with whoever comes along. ‘Coz it feels home. And everyone feels they belong.
Red Carabao Hostel
2819 Felix Huertas Street, Sta.Cruz, Manila
Contact Number: (+632) 740.3211
Email Address: email@example.com