Article and Photography by: Danelle Go
The first things that come to mind when I think of walking around Manila aren’t exactly… endearing. So when I was assigned to go on a two-hour walking tour around Pandacan, Manila—alone—I was honestly scared. I was alone. I was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what to expect.
Now, I’ve lived in Metro Manila my entire life. But living in San Juan, I’ve never gotten to experience much of it. My exposure to the rough and not so clean-cut area of Manila had only been limited to out-of-my-car-window glances, occasional school field trips, and rare adventures undertaken by my parents and I. Needless to say, I grew up sheltered—hence the uncertainty I felt in that moment.
Soon enough, my tour guides arrived. Anne and Andrei, the pioneers of Don’t Skip Manila. They introduced themselves, their passion project, and what they stand for as Filipinos and Manileños. They told me about their background, how they started these walking tours last December out of a love for Manila, and how they intend on setting up tours all around our capital in the hopes of encouraging people not to take Manila for granted.
Anne and Andrei, the co-founders of Don’t Skip Manila
For the next two hours, they took me on a journey through Pandacan, which they also called the Lakbay Kamalaysayan Tour. Personally, I didn’t know much about Pandacan. When I think of tourist destinations in Manila, the first thing that comes to mind would be Intramuros, not Pandacan. But as the tour progressed, they began to prove me wrong. It turns out the hidden beauty of Pandacan lies in the stories of its people, which were revealed to me little by little.
Kapitan Isidro Mendoza Public Library
Going back to the Spanish era, Pandacan (its name comes from the pandan leaf that used to be abundant in the area) used to be an area filled with workers and farmers. It has ties to national icons like Padre Jacinto Zamora (one of the three priests known as Gomburza), Jose Rizal, Fransisco Balagtas, and even Imelda Marcos.
The stories of Pandacan are not focused on the beautiful scenery or the picturesque lands; but on the people and how they found success, or hope, or redemption in the confines of this small river town.
Padre Jacinto Zamora
Throughout the walking tour, these stories unfolded at the different locations my tour guides took me to. From the library to the church to Spanish era houses and intricate statues, each point came with its own unique take on the town, and held stories that contributed to the growth of Pandacan.
Sto. Niño de Pandacan Parish Church
In a similar way, Pandacan holds the same essence as Manila as a whole. Tourists who visit the Philippines, as do locals, tend to take the city for granted. I wouldn’t blame them; it’s easy to judge this city. It’s smelly, crowded, hot, and lined with problems, which is probably why people would recommend skipping Manila and instead opting to see the white sand beaches or picture-perfect hills and mountains.
The oldest house in Pandacan, Manila, dating back to the Spanish-era
However, no matter how bad things may get, there is no place quite like Manila. Sure it’s polluted and congested, but it’s also a city filled with life. There’s also nothing quite like the people of Manila. They are always hustling and bustling, racing to grab every opportunity possible.
Just like Pandacan, our capital is a place of never-ending success, hope, and redemption; it just may take a while to realize that. But, like the founders of Don’t Skip Manila say, if you continue to love your city, no matter how hard it may seem, then you’ll always be able to find the beauty in it.
Jacinto Ciria Cruz Sports Complex
To learn more about this life-changing walking tour and the destinations they have to show, visit them on social media.
Don’t Skip Manila