Manila is not a very popular travel destination. Every time I meet someone who’s been there, my heart instinctively drops as I wait for the horror stories to come spewing out. To be honest, it hurts me a little whenever someone disses my city, but I can’t say it’s not completely unfounded. For the record, Manila’s is not the worst airport I’ve seen but the people there scare me. The taxi drivers are crooks; I’ve never met one who didn’t try to overcharge me. Still, I think Manila is deeply misunderstood.
Manila is my first love. She’s an old soul with a deeply troubled past. She is that mysterious girl with deep, soulful eyes and mischievous grin. If you get past the shock of your brusque first encounter and if for a minute longer you’re willing to overlook her tough slightly battered shell and instead allow yourself to be fully enveloped in her warm embrace, before you know it you’ll be completely bewitched. She has stories to tell. Her life is one big drama. Colonialism, revolutions, the devastations of war, slow and painful reconstruction, oppressive dictatorship, flirtations with democracy, calamity, abject poverty, a brief and fleeting economic stability and now uncertainty. Manila has been around for over 600 years, conquerors and dictators have come and gone, but Manila remains.
Her relationships are too complicated.
She carries her fair share of historical baggage.
She’s a touch sleazy but just enough to be sexy.
She can be really charming when she wants to be.
Then she can be downright cold.
She’s rough on the edges.
She stares you boldly in the face, completely unafraid.
Like a phoenix, she reinvents herself.
She builds and just as quickly destroys her dreams.
She wears her heart on her sleeve.
She wants more than what you’re likely prepared to give.
Sometimes I can’t get enough of Manila. I’m overwhelmed. I am enamoured. I never want to leave. Other times I’m deeply repulsed and disgusted, I can’t wait for the plane to take off and take me far away. I used to think I knew her like the back of my own hand yet she remains an enigma. Every time I visit, I discover a new side that I didn’t know or never knew existed. I doubt I’ll ever really know who she truly is.
For a complete and excellent first-timer’s travel guide, please visit the amazing people at Will Fly for Food