I keep coming back to Manila

Manila Travel Blog

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Chinese Garden
One of the most famous rock bands in Manila during the 70’s era had this particular song titled after the Philippines capital city. “Manila” tells of a jet-setting lad who’d been to several cities around the world, but at a later stage of his carefree vagabonding still chose to be at the bosom of a place that he truly loves " the city of Manila. The song is a fitting ode to that city and something that I was able to relate to during my recent trip back home.

I left Manila and immigrated to Canada in the late 90’s. My wife always having a more upbeat optimism than myself of starting our married life in Manila grew tired of my reasoning and finally gave me a sullen look on the day I was told by the embassy that my permanent resident visa was approved.
A man with his balloons
Hers is a clan of family close-by in times of needs; however, I was more adventurous and the fact that I had become tired of seeing big disparity happening in our country’s social status realm " too cliché, but truth to be told: rich gets more and the poor gets less " which was worsened by various political fanfare and scandals. I justified to her my selfish goal and somehow wanted to get this going after all.

“Nivra, we have our family here and our house loan was just approved,” says my wife with a hint of painted guilt put on me, she continued, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I wanted that question to sink-in and haunt me, and to finally look at her face afterward and say: I’m staying! Still, I became unsympathetically deaf.

Fort Santiago museum
Part of me wanted to stay, but Canada is a bigger-than-life dream that I didn’t want to ignore. In Canada opportunities are great, a country that inspires any hardworking individual; I was younger and had bag full of dreams and motivation to be successful, I surmised.

There was a bit of bitterness leaving my wife and the city. I didn’t like to just leave behind the warm and uplifting tropical sunlight, the unrelenting fresh shower during monsoon season when folks had to, sometimes, wade through a knee-deep flood, nor my childhood memory running around in a hot, dusty, and humid park on my flip-flops.

Fast forward to 2009, after a grueling 14 hours flight from Vancouver to Manila, our airplane was slowly darting down through thick fluffy white clouds descending shortly to the city I half-heartedly left.

Luneta Park
It was a trip I made primarily to visit my mother; going places was not really so as I only had one week vacation arranged from my employer.

Though my lingering desire - to see a place and relive the amusement of a six-year old child visiting Luneta park for the first time with cousins on a balmy April 1976 evening playing around several colourfully-painted made-up dinosaurs at children's park, and dining with cousins jaw-dropped with thrills at a restaurant whose conversation between patrons and waitresses had to be by anything-goes-sign language, and watching roller-skaters on a rink around globe water-fountain - was simply immense. After my jet lag subsided the following day, I indicated my wish to my sister that I see the park once again. She happily obliged.

Ice cream vendor

Enroute to the park, the breeze of a typical Manila that I grew accustomed to at one point in my younger years hinted its presence; white and sweet yet heavy and repugnant. How can I forget the familiar city air with its purity that has long been espoused with the collective breath of smoke of Manila's iconic jeepneys billows its way up to the city skyline so proud and unapologetic? "Classic!" I thought.

There was a feast building up in my eyes as we passed by along the streets of Manila. The mingling and interlocking play between my memories of Manila years ago and the rolling assortment of displays right before my eyes fell fittingly at each corner of my head, as if they were there all along: the heavily snarled PLDT and Meralco power lines hopping haplessly from stoic wooden post to the next, the orphaned puddle of water from underground water line breakage, or even the seemingly gritty wall in some public places that's somehow has become a victim of numerous Philippine elections judging from overlapping oversize posters - torn and discoloured - of local politicians' faces vying for government seat.

Rizal Park

The raucous orchestral auditory display of honking, beeping and screeching from public transportation all over was admittedly annoying (where the sun-blanched jeepney barkers, the animated kunduktor with his masterful finger-clipping ability to hold paper bills, and his ever hardworking partner, the driver all seemed to be oblivious to the noise), yet needful for an appreciation from someone like me who was equally desiring to be satiated of all these. I closed my eyes momentarily.

This is Manila. A stark contrast to other global city, yet her charm is still so lovingly different. Manila is an artful multi-colour canvas where the posh and the wealthy thrive; relatively visible are the marginalised individuals of society. Manila is where the abundance is, but where hunger also freely pins the unfortunate down; it is where the good-hearted souls flourish, but ill-spirited ones tend to exist; it is where opportunities lie, so are misfortunes; and where glories are given, so are pains.

Washington in Manila
Yet in all these 'splashes' of colourful contrast, one thing remains unchanged of her children: the (Filipinos) profound sense of forbearance and resiliency.

"Tutuy, gising na...malapit na tayo sa Luneta!" my sister whispers as she gently and excitedly shakes me from the backseat and telling me to wake up as we're getting closer to the park.

I was never asleep though. Closing my eyes for a moment and letting my free-spirited mind 'tango' with the memory of her was only my better way of  reconnecting to the city I longed and missed, a country that became a part of me. (To be continued)


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Chinese Garden
Chinese Garden
A man with his balloons
A man with his balloons
Fort Santiago museum
Fort Santiago museum
Luneta Park
Luneta Park
Ice cream vendor
Ice cream vendor
Rizal Park
Rizal Park
Washington in Manila
Washington in Manila
Intramuros
Intramuros
local jeepney
local jeepney
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Manila
photo by: Deats