Philippines – ambiguous Manila

May 2, 2014

Manila jeepney


I’ve written this post in my head million times and yet there is still nothing on the blog.

So if you remember in February we went on holidays to Philippines. I’ve wrote about El Nido and rice terraces, but what I really wanted to write about was Manila. We’ve spent a day and half there after we landed in Philippines and two last days of ours holidays.

My first impression of Manila was, that it is busy, dirty, poor, chaotic, and not interesting at all. I didn’t expected too much of it anyway, almost everywhere I’ve got advice to stay away. I’ve read a bit before and it was said it is quite dangerous. To prove my point in front of every bank entrance or shopping centre we saw guards with machine guns. To get to a shopping centre your bag needed to be searched. Other than that people were living on the street. Traffic was tremendous. Although on my photos I didn’t catch it, I was actually pretty scared to use my camera.




A lot has changed with a sightseeing tour Walk this way by Carlos Celdran. We’ve learnt of him watching some travel tv series and Tomek insisted to go. To be fair that wasn’t really a sightseeing tour, we’ve spent almost a three hours walking around Fort Santiago (that’s the fortress within the oldest part of Manila called Intramuros) and listening to Carlos talking about history of Philippines.

Carlos Celdran, Walk this way

Manila Intramuros

Carlos is a special character, he may be too loud, too theatrical, but his story of Philippines was so absorbing. You know in travel guides there is always history of the country you plan to visit, but usually it’s dry, just a bunch of facts that don’t have too much in common with place you’re going to see. Carlos’s story was different, it was subjective, full of irony and sarcasm, I laughed and then I almost cried. He told us why Philippines are such a mix, he answered my questions why Manila is so ugly. It was a beautiful story, a story of once loved city, city that was beautiful, until bad things just happened. Manila was the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw during the Second World War. Carlos said, that Filipinos forgot about their heart and roots, when they let Intramuros devastate after the war and he is probably right.

Manila Intramuros

Manila Intramuros

Manila Intramuros

It was sad to walk through the streets after the tour, knowing how splendid they were and how hard it will be to fix all the damage that was done. Slowly Intramuros tries to change.

Manila Intramuros

Manila Intramuros

Manila Intramuros

Manila Intramuros

I would want to ask you for just one thing, if you ever visit Manila, try not to be judgemental, I know it’s not the prettiest city, but it went through a lot. Try to look for those signs that show it is getting better and keep your fingers crossed that in next decades it will be city you will want to come back.

Don’t miss Casa Manila. It’s beautiful!

Go to Rizal Park in the evening, when fountains are dancing to the music and people just hang out.
Manila Manila Intramuros Manila Intramuros Manila Intramuros Manila Intramuros

We also visited Divisoria Market, it’s a place where you find everything and nothing. It’s huge. Huge as streets and streets of market stalls selling everything. Manila Divisoria Market Manila Divisoria Market Manila Divisoria Market

Manila Divisoria Market

Manila Divisoria MarketChinatown – Binondo was one of the most pleasant areas we walked around. It was clean and very organized considering we were still in Manila.

Manila - China Town

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  • Reply Dee Sewell May 3, 2014 at 08:59

    You have it in a nutshell there Magda – don’t be too judgemental. I’m sure we must all be like that when we visit somewhere or even meet someone new, until we know their story and it’s one of the reasons it’s so good to travel. Your photos are lovely and do represent thoughts I have about Manilla – colour and vibrancy. Enjoyable read thanks :-)

    • Reply Magda May 4, 2014 at 22:44

      Thank you Dee. It’s hard not to be judgemental, we always think we know it all, but life is always surprising, I hope I will never forget that.

  • Reply Angie@Angie's Recipes May 4, 2014 at 08:29

    Beautiful photos of Manila…so colourful. I was in Manila a decade ago and really miss some local specialties…like ube ice cream and the dried mangoes. Thanks for sharing, Magda.

    • Reply Magda May 4, 2014 at 22:41

      Thank you Angie, I wish I knew before. We haven’t tried ube ice cream or the dried mangos, only the fresh one (so delicious!). I buy dried mangos in shops with Indian and Asian food.

  • Reply Peanut butter tart - Magda's Cauldron May 7, 2014 at 21:54

    […] post your photos instantly, I post mine usually at the end of the day. I post my holiday photos after three months (and I’m still not finished) and I blog about food that is long gone. It’s a little […]

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