Manila IS the Philippines: 8 Ways on How You Can Come to Love Manila
In defence of the Philippines, it’s common for Filipinos to convince foreigners that “Manila is NOT the Philippines”. I disagree with this. Manila IS the Philippines, and it is remarkable. It is a metropolis where people from all of the different provinces of the country come together. It is flashy yet sobering. It is both a centre for dreams and a centre for harsh world realities.
Whenever I hear of a visitor who “stayed in Manila for two days and hated it”, I insist the following is true:
You come to love Manila through your own appreciation of it, on your own terms. What Manila means to you is what you are going to love it for.
I thought I disliked Manila when I moved there at age 14, too. Luckily, though, my aunt encouraged me to experience the city to the fullest. Here are some of the things that made coming to love Manila easier for a foreigner such as myself.
8 Ways on How You Can Come to Love Manila
8. Spend a good amount of time in Manila.
If you experience an enormous city of 12 million people for a day or two, you aren’t going to find something you like. This applies to many populous cities in the world. However, with time, patience, and an active willingness to learn; Manila can win you over. If you were stuck in NAIA for half a day and “hated it”, you don’t “hate” Manila.
7. Do the touristy stuff.
Read the plaques under the statues. Do the Binondo Food Tour. Go to Greenhills. Let Carlos Celdran take you under his wing at Intramuros. Take some time to learn about Manila’s history and culture. Whether or not the “touristy stuff” is for you, do it. You’ll end up enjoying yourself, learning a lot, and connecting with both locals and other foreigners.
6. Make friends.
Making friends is NOT hard in the Philippines. Filipinos are incredibly sociable, and they’re considered to be among the (if not the #1) most outgoing people in all of Asia. Filipino people are the perfect cultural ambassadors of Manila. You’ll quickly learn about the customs, traditions and norms in the city. Plus, you’ll be busy in no time with so many events, gimiks and parties to go to!
(Dear Yellow Cab, buy this picture off of me already)
5. Learn Tagalog.
Learning languages is fun! And a long stay in Manila is the optimal opportunity to do so. If you’re just staying short-term or you’re not very good with languages, try to pick up and use a few key phrases. Foreigners actually do very well with this step, and it eases the adaptation process. I was fortunate to have the best Filipino teacher on the planet (shoutout to Sir Francis); but even if you don’t take a class, your Filipino friends will teach everything you should (ahem, and shouldn’t) know.
4. Get (and stay!) out and about.
Power through that wave of afternoon fatigue! I found it useful to go for walks every day to become oriented and familiarized with the city of Manila. Try to walk around and take jeepneys or the MRT/LRT (stay safe, though!). Engage in everything. Yes, Manila has a nightlife. Engage in it. Yes, Manila has poverty. Engage in it. Don’t surround yourself with one aspect of Manila; pay fair attention to all of it. Once you start exploring all of Manila and realize how massive it is, it will feel limitless.
This is crucial. Get involved with the community. One of the reasons I moved to Manila was to have the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the harsh reality of how billions of people live. Regular volunteer work with an organization you trust will not only be super fun, but it will also help you learn about regular Filipino life (not like you see on TV) and the language.
3. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the rest of them.
Manila is densely populated. You’re going to encounter all sorts of personality types. Don’t let the annoying cameraman trying to get paid or the text-scammer “l0ad u n p0 me”-ing you let you judge Manila. Every city has flaws. Yes, there is corruption and it sucks to see people suffering the effects of it. Acknowledge this, though; do not opt to be ignorant of it and don’t let it tarnish your view of Manila and Manilenyos. Take the good with the bad– for every Filipino trickster, there are thousands of Filipino sweethearts!
2. Realize Manila’s beauty through your own eyes.
Come to gradually appreciate Manila’s beauty for what you perceive it to be. You may find yourself becoming emotionally attached to the city. This could mean you have fallen in love with the culture, you enjoy the language, or you can’t miss a fireworks spectacle at MOA— or you may just come to feel at home.
For myself, I love Manila because when I’m there, whatever I’m doing, I feel as though I’m floating on a cloud or flying.
(Photo by Frank Schuengel, creator of the incredible viral NYE 2014 Manila fireworks video!)
Why do you LOVE Manila?