Malaysian journalists on a jeepney at New Clark City yesterday. NST PIC BY AIZUDDIN SAAD

IF monstrous Manila was horrible, New Clark City turned out to be a maganda (beautiful) experience for athletes and officials arriving for the Sea Games.

Manila is full of horror stories for athletes, some stuck in traffic jams for three hours one way, and only allowed to train for 30 minutes at their venues, before enduring another three hours back to their hotels.

The Malaysian women's football team actually endured a six-hour to-and-fro journey.

Malaysian journalists took seven hours to travel from Manila to Clark, even though a normal journey should not take more than three hours.

The venues in Clark Sports City are spanking new, with no effort spared to make aquatic sports, as well as track and field stadiums not only maganda, but also fit for world class events.

And smiling and ever willing volunteers are eager to make one's stay enjoyable.

Starting from volunteer Faith Maria at the airport, who made it a breeze for journalists to get past immigration, right up to the mariachi-style street band welcoming music for visitors to Clark, it was simply maganda.

Expecting the worst after all the news about organisational horrors in Manila, Clark turned out to be a smiling city.

From people squeezing into jeepneys (mini buses) to tricycle riders to the folk in the barangay (villages), there were warm smiles and great hospitality.

The only issue in Clark is the lack of hotels at nearby venues. The motels, or inns, are about 30km from the main venues and the only way to travel is by the Philippines traditional bus called jeepney which is actually a jeep converted into a low-roof mini-bus and can seat anywhere from 10-20 people.

And the driver also collects fares, passed from the passenger at the back to the one next to him/her until the money reaches the driver.

Skilfuly driving while counting money and coming up with the change, the driver then hands it to his nearest passenger, and the chain of “helpers” make sure the change reaches the right person in the crowded jeepney.

But the jeepney only travelled half of this writer’s journey to Clark Sports Centre, and the remainder of the ride is by a tricycle, a three-wheeler ride in a small cabin attached to a rickety old motorbike.

However, the Malaysian athletes and officials here have nothing much to complain about, as they are housed in a Games Village which provides them with everything from a games room to a “food hall” which runs for 23 hours a day.

Six meals are served a day, starting from breakfast at 5am, ending with supper at 4am. It only closes for an hour for a clean-up operation, before welcoming hungry athletes back again.

Clark is simply maganda, and the people of the City of Angels are really beautiful in nature.