I have often declared my love for Japan in this blog in a number of entries. While the land of Astro-Boy, geisha and cherry blossoms has stolen my heart, it is Manila, the city where I was born and raised, where it holds roots. Though I still live within Metro Manila (the National Capital Region comprised of different cities including Manila), just less than an hour away from where I grew up, I don’t get to revisit the familiar places of my childhood as often as I want–Escolta, an old commercial center where my mom used to work; the busy marketplaces and crowded streets of Binondo and Divisoria, where my family often went to shop (or Harrison Plaza, the only shopping mall back then if my parents were in the mood to splurge); Rizal Park and Manila Zoo, where my parents took us when we were kids. They are way past their glory days, but still worth a visit–whether for the bargains, the hole-in-the-wall eateries and the old buildings.
So it was exciting when my former editor asked me to join her to write the pocket-sized travel guide she was commissioned to do for Enjoy Philippines on Manila, sometime mid-last year. It was also, I realized, unnerving to write about places close to your heart, while keeping expectations as grounded as possible for Manila-newbies, who may very well not find an ounce of charm in all the chaos, the noise, the grime, and the crowds that is part of everyday Manila. And we had to do it in a sentence or two per attraction or dining destination. It was a challenge, but editing skills came in handy (mostly my editor’s) and the project made me appreciate Manila even more.
Then last December, I was asked to do a travel story on Manila from the point of view of a local celebrity for the February 2011 issue of Jetstar Australia. It felt good to be able to write about the place where you come from, and (fingers-crossed) to capture its energy, its charming corners, and even its sins. Below are some photos of Manila from a few years back to a few months ago when I was able to go around and, well, water those roots. They are of a number of Manila attractions that a first-time visitor might want to visit to get a bit of culture, history and good food. (Looking again at the photos, I just realized that though Manila is densely populated, the photos hardly have any people in them, mostly because they were taken either on an early weekday morning or a slow Saturday afternoon.)
National Museum: P. Burgos Ave.
San Agustin Church and Casa Manila: Gen. Luna and Real Streets, Intramuros
Ilustrado: Gen Luna St., Intramuros
Fort Santiago: Gen. Luna St., Intramuros (Gen. Luna St. is one long street)
Wai Ying: 810 Benavidez St., Binondo