Saturday, January 1, 2011
Manila Baywalk and Harbour Square - Is Manila A Hell of a City?
A few weeks ago, while waiting for my ride for Yogya in Probolinggo, an amorous English nurse in her 60’s asked me: “Is it true that Manila is a hell of a city?” I was shocked by such raw impression of the Philippines’ capital. But I wasn’t going to sugar coat – I am in no way Manila’s ambassador of tourism. Expecting I’d actually paint Manila as an otherwise rose-colored city, she was stunned to silence when I replied with a curt, “No, Manila is just plain hell!”
This was a British lady who visits Asia on a yearly basis along with her family. This year they were lounging around Flores Island off the Bali coast. Funny thing is, she and her family have seen much of Asia – even those off the beaten track far removed from the usual backpacker circuit: Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Vietnam. Fact is, Manila hasn't been enjoying flattering impression from tourists and would-be visitors.
My thoughts on this go: those with scruples about the Philippines should just stay away from my country. I am not gonna apologize for any unfair misconception. Just read through Lonely Planet’s Thorntree Forum to realize how unpopular Manila is among backpackers. When one query is posted saying he has 3 months to travel around Asia, and would it be worth gallivanting around the Philippines for a couple of weeks – the replies were disheartening. My heart bleeds for my country. I am more convinced that people who treat us with snide remarks and utter disdain should never experience the grandeur of a Palawan sunset; the serenity of Davao waters; the powder fine-ness of a Boracay sand; the warmth of Pinoy hospitality. They should go elsewhere – we will richly live our lives without them, surely.
So is Manila a hell of a city? She conjured images of Delhi squalor when, to be really honest about it, Manila might as well be Los Angeles compared to the Indian capital. This isn’t hyperbole but a rather objective observation from someone who has traveled Asia far and wide. If I have no reservations to describing it as “hell” to “support” a foreigner’s misconception, I am capable of an objective comparison.
A few days ago, I was able to visit Manila Baywalk from the area beside the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). It has somehow been transformed into a well groomed dining promenade called “Harbour Square”. Manila’s golden sunsets can be enjoyed from here. There are several restaurants for your gastronomic requirements. I must have missed the sunset by 10 minutes, but it didn’t matter. Walking along the lantern-lined baywalk felt peaceful. There were no ambulant vendors nor touts. I am glad I won’t be able to share this piece of “hell” with my amorous pal - the British nurse from London.
This is the Eye in the Sky wishing everyone a Happy New Year! Stay safe and may you all be filled with happiness and contentment!