Manila is only fun if you know people to take you where it’s fun – Manila Bulletin
While I was with Filipinos in Paris, I ventured to define Manila as a city of initiates.
Unlike most other cities, like Paris or Athens or Rome or New York or Hong Kong, even only as a shopping mecca, Manila is a treasure trove of secrets that the random tourist can’t just help themselves to.
Outside of Manila, it’s a different story. Of course, the Chocolate Hills are in the open, as are the beaches of Boracay, Nasugbu or Morong, although the best of them – the best sand patch on the La Union coast, the best view of the Banawe rice terraces, the interior of the most historic house in Vigan, the paradisiacal coves of El Nido, the best guinamos in Cagayan de Oro – off-limits to the distraught tourist who has to depend on trade routes, even scammers, and tour guides to get a glimpse of what the Philippines is like.
But in these cities we see a lot, not only in travel magazines but also in literature, movies, song lyrics and pop culture, the gems are in the public domain – and the gems give to the traveler. a reason to commune with the city they represent, often for free.
Just go around Rome, for example, as I did without a map, turning left or right as you please, and it is not unlikely that you will find yourself going down or up. the Spanish Steps, next to which, at the bottom, to its left, is the Keats-Shelley House, a surprise find for me, who was not looking for it, but it will cost € 5 to enter and see for yourself the deathbed of the great British poet John Keats. A few meters from the Spanish Steps, you can take refuge in a cup of cappuccino at Caffe Greco on via Condotti, quite expensive but that’s because this cafe dates from the 18th century, and you can enjoy your cup there with the ghosts of Keats and Shelley, Goethe, Lizst, Wagner, Mendelsson, Berlioz, Gogol and even Casanova.
In Venice, you don’t need to rent a gondola for 80 € to see the gondoliers at work and earn their black and white stripes. If you are lucky, as I was during a stay in 2016, having breakfast on your AirBnB balcony, from where, like an opera box, you can watch a gondolier interpret Verdi or Puccini.
The same can be said of the Statue of Liberty, although it takes a little money to see through your eyes, or the Eiffel Tower, although it takes a lot of money to eat at Jules Verne. It’s the same with the Charles Bridge in Prague, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the World Heritage Site of Andrássy Avenue in Budapest, the Great Wall of China, the Golden Gate Bridge, the temples of Siem Reap or the Hong Kong skyline, viewed from Victoria Harbor.
But in Manila …
I’m taking a risk here: there’s the Rizal monument in Luneta or Rizal Park, but you have to know José Rizal at a level deep enough to appreciate it. For having read his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, really just an epic two-part story, not enough, although I would say, even to my fellow Filipinos, that these stories are far more valuable than the literary gems that have won the world through pure marketing and because they come from countries which, unlike ours, attach such great importance to literature. Rizal’s life story was one for the books, and not just because he’s Filipino. At the end of the 90s he was adopted by Malaysia as a heroic figure, “the Renaissance man of Asia” he was called, but that was because he lived his life around across the globe, between Europe and Asia, speaking so many languages, looking for answers that should benefit anyone curious about nationalism, imperialism, youth, travel, philosophy, even ophthalmology, and more. It is for this reason that Rizal is commemorated with monuments or plaques not only in his country, but in other places of the world, such as Wilhemsfeld, Germany, Chicago, Hong Kong, Jersey City, New Jersey, Montreal, Madrid, Tokyo, Jinjiang, China, Limoterice, Czech Republic, Lima, Peru, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago, West London, Toronto.
But that’s nothing for the average tourist, even if they claim to be interested in history. Manila is not like Istanbul, in which the remains of the rise and fall of empires, from the Roman Empire to the Ottomans, are still steeped in culture, preserved in stone slabs or the ruins of millennial buildings who have kept their place of pride in the streets or in the skyline. Manila is not like Berlin, razed to the ground during WWII, but the rumble of its violent history remains in the city’s vibe, in its underground culture, in its Beherrschung der Vergangenheit or his mastery of the past.
Manila is the cradle, the cemetery, the memory. Mecca, the cathedral, the brothel. The mall, the urinal, the nightclub. I barely speak metaphorically. It is the most waterproof of cities. How to convey all this? –Illustrated, Miguel Syjuco
So let’s stick to entertainment. Sure, we have some great beaches lining our 7,641 islands, but they are far from Manila and you have to take the boat or plane or drive long hours, through traffic and roads which are not ideal for some. places, to get there. . Although it is a coastal city surrounded by two large bodies of water, Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay, Manila is not like Cannes, where, in the heart of the city, the Mediterranean waves and people answer the call as they descend to the seafront in their bikinis and swim shorts and in the water, the Croisette towers above them in steel and glass and concrete as much as the mediterranean sky. For the same reason, Manila is not like Rio de Janeiro or Miami or Honolulu or Santa Monica or Long Beach on Long Island in New York City, although even Long Beach is a bit out of the way, unlike Cannes Beach. , where you can shop until you stumble upon Gucci or Moncler on Boulevard de la Croisette, then cross the street and dive into the Mediterranean.
That’s not to say that Manila has nothing to offer tourists, but Manila is a city of insiders. You need to know enough people to take you where it’s fun, whether it’s a hotel, bar, club or restaurant, or bookstore-sprinkler cabinet.
Because the best thing about Manila is its people, you need to know some Filipinos well enough to take you around town with their guards down. Only then can you say it’s more fun in Manila.
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