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!

Cradle of Bethlehem as depicted in a manger by the bay.

Lights adorn Roxas Boulevard.


Siddhartha Joshi said...

i really have no impression about the city, in fact i do not even know anyone who has been to manila! its rather weird i think...

ur images are magnificent sure manila is hell of a city! looks like a tempting travel destination to me...

eye in the sky said...

That's so true. There's almost nil "degrees of separation" between India and the Philippines. All over India, people would ask me where I come from, and when I say "The Philippines" , they would nod and say, "Ahhh, Thailand" or "ahh, Japan"... it's almost funny.

Come visit, and I can treat you out for a plate of adobo and sinigang. Haha

Siddhartha Joshi said...

i have no clue what these are...but would surely leave a msg on your blog when i do visit manila :)