Why do we travel? St Augustine said it nicely: "The whole world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page". We travel to see new things, to add to our world experience, for we believe that more is better. Yet we are constantly hampered by the success of globalisation. Every street corner in Manila has a McDonalds or a San Francisco Coffee or a carbon-copy design store. We, as tourists, have a responsibility to strike out and seek new things away from the comfort of air-conditioned malls and grand broadways. I try to make the promise to myself before I travel: No Big Macs, No Whoppers, No Coca Cola. And yet, it is almost impossible to stay away from all this. Today, I have already had a Gatorade. I would feel as if I had betrayed my community of World Travellers, except that I've never had that flavour before.

The temptation is strong to reach back to what is familiar. We could say that we want to experiment to see if the Big Mac in the Intramuros tastes the same as the Big Mac in Petaling Street, but we know that the answer is almost a resounding "yes". We could argue that there are McDonald dishes unique to each country, but deep down inside we feel as if we're cheating.

No, the right thing to do is to strike out and eat that set of things that the locals eat but is not available back home. Yet, still there is a conflict. What about Jolibee? It's a local fast food franchise. Eating Jolibee chicken and rice is not like eating balut, but are we short-changing ourselves if we consume a local version of a genre made popular by multi-national corporations?

Incidentally, I have no interest of consuming partially-developed duck embryo, feathers and all, hard-boiled from it's own shell. There is a certain extent of adventuring that should be considered "too far".

It's the same with watching films. I really should be looking for Filipino cinema. I'm more attracted to Daredevil (not available in KL, so it is a 'new experience', I suppose). It's not a problem here in Manila. Every shopping mall has a cinema in it, and every cinema, it seems, is showing "Daredevil", "Shanghai Knights" and "Two Weeks Notice". Globalisation again. Live with it.

posted on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - permalink
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