'Mabuhay', the purser said as the plane prepared to land. 'Welcome to the Philippines'. It was 5.30am and the temperature outside already was 27 degrees centigrade. I've had an overnight flight from Sydney to Manila via Melbourne and I'm sleep deprived and twitchy and my eyes feel full of sand. But I do feel welcome.
There are brilliant bunches of spiky yellow and red tropical flowers gathered in the forest gardens in the country-side and brought to the city house:
There are heaps of rambutans and bunches of tiny sweet lady finger bananas also gathered in the country-side, and buttery-textured Philippine mangoes and papaya from the market:
For lunch we ate tuna in soy sauce and a vegetable stew of pumpkin, beans and tiny eggplant in coconut milk, followed by neon-green bibingka (sticky rice and coconut milk cake topped with brown sugar and wrapped in banana leaf).
I'm in the Philippines for a week before a three-week trip to China.