Part 1: How did I end up living in a health club called Kerry Sports in BGC, Manila, Philippines?
Part 2: What was living at Kerry Sports like, and why was it fabulous?
This is Part 1:
You may already be asking - Why was I living in a sports club and not in a normal apartment or hotel? And what would make that fabulous anyways?
I will be getting to the answers about why it was fabulous for me in Part 2! But I will mention now as a side note that actually it wasn’t all fabulous and perfect. During those 2 months that I lived in Manila, Philippines, I was frequently complaining to myself and to others that I really longed to go back to Thailand. I would say something like “Thailand is so perfect for me” and “I really miss the beach in Koh Samui, Thailand sooo much” and “I wonder if I can ever go back”? My whole experience in Manila, including living at Kerry Sports only seems fabulous and perfect to me now that I am gone from Philippines. Now I totally imagine my experience there as being perfect. That’s why I use the word “fabulous”. Please note that my mind is really well trained to focus on only positive images of places and events as much as possible, and discard negative ones. I have trained my mind pretty well to do this through lots of practice, motivated by my ultra intense dislike for what I perceive as negative images. That’s just a side note!
Now back to the real topic… How did I end up living in a health club called Kerry Sports in BGC, Manila, Philippines? This question has two parts. First - Why was I living in a sports club at all? (what does that even mean?!) Well, I had been living this sort of odd life for many years actually, ever since I got separated from my ex husband. I was well accustomed to getting a membership in a 5 star hotel health club, a luxury type club with swimming pools, fancy locker room facilities, etc. I would stay these places most of the day, swimming, showering, sleeping, etc. from the time the club opened until when when the club closed (typically about 10pm), when I would go out and amuse myself all night. Then I would return to the club when it reopened in the morning (typically 6am). This unusual sort of living arrangement had been working for me for years. It suited me for several reasons : (1). I felt alone after my divorce and living in an environment with other people around can be a distraction and lessen potential loneliness, (2) I highly prefer luxurious upscale environment but buying or renting a luxury condo unit or staying in a luxury hotel room gets super expensive, whereas on the other hand the cost of a monthly membership at a fancy luxury health club is reasonable by comparison (its something like $400 per month compared to $10,000 per month), (3) I like staying up all night and sleeping in the day anyways and had been doing that even before my divorce and certainly before starting to stay in health clubs, (4) I love water and water facilities such as swimming pools, showers, jacuzzis, etc, especially if they are well maintained. So you can at least sort of see why I was comfortable making a health club my home.
So now that you know a little bit about why I was living in a luxury sports club, rather than a normal apartment or hotel, you might wonder how did I wind up in Kerry Sports Club in BGC, Manila, Philippines specifically? Actually I ended up in the Philippines for the first time ever sort of by chance. I am a US Citizen who had been living here and there in South East Asia for many years (mostly in “alternative” accommodations such as a these luxury sports club or sometimes in a sauna room of a luxury condo). But before 2018, I had never been to the Philippines before. I had been to Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia many times each. I had also been a few times to India and at least once to Vietnam and Cambodia. But to Philippines, never.
In early December 2018, I exited Thailand by airplane from Bangkok for the purpose of renewing my Thailand tourist visa. I intended to travel out of Thailand for only one day, just to go out and come back to Bangkok the next day to get a new visa stamp. As usual I had overstayed my 30 day Thailand tourist visa and had to pay a visa overstay fee of 20,000 Thai baht (about $650 USD) at the airport. But since I had overstayed by less than 90 days (official cut of for mandatory one year ban from Thailand), I thought that I would be allowed back in since I always had been before. But my circumstances were a bit more complicated this time than usual. For one thing, my passport had less that 6 months validity remaining. I tried to get it renewed as an emergency case at the US Embassy in Bangkok the day I before my flight, but the embassy was unexpectedly closed that day due to a political problem in the United States. Secondly, my passport was a bit damaged, due to me having washed it with soap an water after a previous trip (motivated by OCD). And third, it was a one year validity emergency passport, not a normal passport. I decided to travel anyways with the passport the way it was because I was already in Bangkok and had a specific flight to catch that night. I decided to risk it. My flight was to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I didn’t even bother to go through immigration in Sri Lanka. Rather I just turned around and took the next flight back to Bangkok. Back at Bangkok airport I had really bad luck. The female immigration officer remembered me from several months ago and said “i remember you. I told you to go to your embassy and get a new passport, and I told you not to overstay ever again. This time I will not be letting you in”.
So I got sent back to Colombo Sri Lanka (at my expense), as is the official policy when someone is rejected entry into Thailand. But since I was a deportee, Sri Lanka immigration wouldn’t let me enter their country either. Normally what is done in such cases as this, is that the person is sent back to their country of citizenship. (In my case to the United States). But I insisted I didn’t want that, and would be paying for it. I insisted to go somewhere nearby instead. But with less than 6 months passport validity it was really difficult to think any country might accept me. Somehow, after much negotiation, I convinced a guy at the USA embassy in Colombo to come into the airport to process a emergency passport application on my behalf. Within about 24 hours I had a new emergency US passport with one year validity and no water damage, as it was brand new. I paid for a ticket on Sri Lankan Airlines to Manila, Philippines and the airline agreed to send me as a normal passenger (not deportee). I figured I had a decent chance of entering Philippines since I hadn’t been there before so I had no negative immigration records. Fortunately I was right, I did successfully enter the Philippines. I was pretty exhausted at that point, needless to say, since I had not slept more than a couple hours during the prior 50 or 60 hours (those couple hours were the nap I took on floor of a shower room of the Colombo Airport hotel that’s inside of immigration - yes I really did choose that as the only place I was willing to rest there). So that’s basically how I made it to Manila.
I didn’t join a health club in Manila immediately. Instead I found a flight to go to Boracay (famous for beautiful beaches), and there in Boracay I stayed in a pretty expensive hotel room for about four nights (it was pretty difficult for me to find a hotel that I considered acceptable, and it required some assistance, and maybe I will write about all that in a separate article). Boracay Beach was indeed very beautiful and the water was super clear (I love that!) and I got some much needed sleep. But after four nights this hotel didn’t want me staying there any more (that almost always happens!, and again it’s maybe a topic for a separate article).
So I got a flight from Boracay back to Manila and immediately started looking for a luxury health club to join. I clearly remember at stage I was longing to stay in a beautiful health club in Manila as opposed to a hotel room as I thought it would be much less stress, more relaxing, more fun and more “clean feeling”. Since I am very picky about where I am willing to spend my time (OCD), I did a lot of research on potential clubs as soon as I landed in Manila. I did this research right there at the terminal 3 airport information counter by asking the information staff to make phone calls and inquiries to various 5 star hotels in Manila. By the way, you may be surprised to know that I didn’t have a mobile device or any device with me. I never traveled with things I can’t wash.
Even though I landed in Manila in the early afternoon that day, I didn’t leave the airport until almost 10pm. I only had time to visit one health club since all were closing about that time. The one I did visit that night ( at The Manila Hotel) was really bad! Not my style! It was technically luxurious and expensive, but there were too many carpets which looked totally disgusting to me. I hate carpets, especially in a health club. The place was also not so new. I felt very dirty just looking and immediately left, hoping to find something much better by the next day. I was really exhausted, but I am used to this sort of thing so not that worried. I had already taken a shower and washed my dress and possessions before I left the Manila airport. I had used the shower rooms there in Terminal 3 where I landed. I had also visited the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf there and had a snack.
That night I went to the famous and large Mall Asia before they closed, and I wound up later in the middle of the night at another famous landmark Hotel called the Okada Manila. The Okada is absolutely emormous and was very new at the time, so that made it feel clean to me. It was also kind of exciting since it had a big 24 hour casino and lots of staff, and was lit up all night. I just hung out there in the lobby all night talking to various staff, acquiring as much information and insights as possible into what areas of Manila are most clean and beautiful, and would maybe not seem not dirty and scary to me.
The Okada had a beautiful huge spa and lots of facilities but their spa only offered spa treatments and day passes, no weekly or monthly memberships. In the morning when the spa opened I bought the expensive day pass for the spa which had lots of wet facilities and it’s own swimming pool. I washed all the new stuff I had bought the night before at Mall Asia and threw away as much old stuff as possible. I bathed, lounged and I slept by the swimming pool until the spa closed at night. So again that second night in Manila I still had no health club membership. Before I left the spa I put a lot of my clean stuff into couple of brand new paper shopping bags from the hotel, and I conveniently checked those bags with the Okada Casino’s Coat-Check. Inside one bag, I included my passport. That Is typical deliberate habit I have - to leave my passport somewhere I think it will be safe, safe from being stolen and safe from me washing it. In this case especially I was motivated to not wash my passport since I wanted to someday get another chance to reenter Thailand. The guy working at the Coat-Check said there wasn’t any time limit as to how long one can keep their stuff there. I just had to present my ticket to collect it. So that was good enough for me! I figured I would get my passport and some other things eventually. I just took a few basic lightweight things with me when I left, including my swimming suit, toothbrush, listerine, etc.
The time between when I left the Okada Manila that night and when I finally found Kerry Sports seemed endless. I went in so many taxis and with so many major traffic jams, searching for a suitable health club in a city that was completely new to me. Nothing seemed suitable and everything was seemed very far apart in distance from one another. I became incredibly exhausted. I don’t even remember how long I was wandering around like this, maybe about 30 or 40 hours at least. Finally I was going to buy some healthy snack at this upscale health food cafe in the Shrangri La Forte, in Manila BGC. The health club at the luxurious and prestigious Shangri La Forte was called Kerry Sports, but it didn’t have a one month membership available, which was what I was looking for. They did have two months membership and one year membership. But I really hadn’t been considering such a long term membership at that point.
By this stage, my brain and body were exhausted, and I could not think well at all. I asked the staff, could I take a shower before I had my snack? They were really nice and allowed that. The locker room and the entire atmosphere of this club were so beautiful, amazing and perfect. It was huge and energetic and very new. After I took a shower I told them I wanted to join and I paid for the two months minimum membership. I had my snack, spent the rest of the day and evening in the locker room and by the swimming pool. That night when I went out to explore BGC Manila I was happy and relieved I had a beautiful friendly place to go back to the next day.
So that’s how I ended up at Kerry Sports in BGC, Manila, Philippines. In Part 2 I will explain more about what made my life there so “fabulous”.