Whenever my foreigner friends and colleagues would ask me about the best places and experiences in Manila, 90% of the time, I go blank.
I wasn’t born and raised in Manila, but I’ve been living here since I was 16 when I went to college, and I have been spending every single summer vacation of my childhood with my cousins and relatives.
I feel like when anyone gets used to living in a crazy city like Manila for years, they will feel nothing but loathing and seeing all the shitty side of the place. Visiting any city for a vacation and living in a city are two different things.
I have a roller coaster journey of love and hate relationship with Manila. Manila gave me the best education I can get in the Philippines, Manila is a very modernized city (some parts of it are very cosmopolitan. In fact, it was hailed as the BPO capital of the world because of the vast BPO-related opportunities, and developed countries such as Finland have been exploring business opportunities here), and I never felt I do not fit in. At the same time, Manila is noisy, Manila is dirty, Manila smells like shit, Manila has so many people, Manila is scary, and the daily expenses in Manila are costly.
If I can romanticize other cities I’ve been to, why can’t I do it in my own home city, Manila?
So, I did what I had to do: explore Manila like a tourist.
Bored and going insane with the pandemic, I asked my brother to drop me off at Manila Chinatown because I want to see the sunset by the newly-renovated Jones Bridge and take street photography shots there. Holy cow, the bridge looks like the ones in Europe (like the Charles Bridge in Prague or that bridge in Paris). The volume of people walking by the bridge was making me paranoid because of COVID, so I just took a few photos both with my film camera and my phone and met my brother at the parking lot and dropped me off at my condo.
I tried to see Manila with fresh eyes, and I think I can live with that from time to time.