Manila, Philippines – Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Manila has never enjoyed the best of reputations, but amid the traffic chaos and commercialism lies an ambitious city that is both rich in history and character. This is the most Americanized of all Southeast Asian cities. It now has over 13 million people living and working in the Filipino capital of Metro Manila. That also means that traffic congestion, pollution and crime are fairly ubiquitous, but not out of control.
The Philippines have been colonized by both Spain and America, the outcome of this is a blended architectural heritage and some fantastic entertainment and shopping areas.
When most people think about Manila they never think of the glamour and style of other Asian cities, such as Singapore, Bangkok or Tokyo. There is an awareness that it’s a little rough around the edges. Also, the fact that there has been a scarcity of direct links from the UK has not helped its cause. However, this has now been rectified with Philippine Airlines increasing its Heathrow to Manila service to daily flight schudle. So with this in mind, it might be time to look again at one of the world’s most underrated capitals. You might sometimes need to take a leap of faith if you’re going to embrace this city and what it has to offer.
It started life in the 16th century under Spanish rule. What may have begun as a quaint fortified town wrapped around the moon-shaped Manila Bay has long since been overtaken by urban expansion. The capital is currently joined with 16 other surrounding cities. They all join together to form the sprawling, fast paced Metro Manila which is an imposing prospect. The only way to really see the city is to just dive in and go with the flow. If you need a respite then at least there are plenty of air conditioned megamalls at hand to serve as an island in the sea of people. It is a fact that it’s congested, the climate is humid and the poverty is very evident. However, it can still make you smile because of the friendliness of Asia’s most lively, outgoing and chatty people.
Food here is an aromatic mix of Filipino, Chinese and Spanish heritage all infused with a sizeable squirt of American culture. This all creates a fiercely tempting and much underrated cuisine. On the streets, old Spanish citadels and skyscrapers nestle cheek by jowl and Catholic fervour is epitomised by the many exuberant processions, especially Holy Week’s vast Procession of the Black Nazarene. Commercialism, however, tempers any piety and you’re just as likely to spot a billboard above a crematorium selling spicy crisps or a church attached to a shopping mall.
Culture can still be found in the ageing remains of the original Spanish fort of Intramuros. As you sit and look out you can see just how far one city can come in four centuries.
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