But it’s an ugly place. Very congested, poverty in many places, grubby kids and their folks sleeping on some streets, and endless, fume-spewing traffic.
You know those science fiction movies where Earth is so choked and polluted that the human race has pushed off into outer space? Well, that’s Manila – Earth in 300 years’ time, probably.
There are some swish spots. This is the beautiful Manila Cathedral that I spotted in Intramuros.
But even here, the legacy of Manila’s over-population is evident. While sitting in a nice pizza/pasta place, freshly decorated with smart, polite staff, eating a good pizza for a cheap price, I saw a large rat scurry between the seductively curved legs of the tables.
It was running frantically about, as it was very much incongruous with the surroundings. I suspect it knew it was in the wrong place, but still, it was there.
But what actually made Manila a successful city for SOTM is the people. Hugely warm and friendly, I got 24 pictures and some cracking stories.
Here’s one I particularly liked:
And I managed to get on to the local Wave 89.1 FM radio station to talk about the SOTM World Tour, thanks to the excellent Tony, an American chap who lives in Manila and was hugely helpful to me. The whole radio visit was a lot of fun and you can listen to the interview here.
I got a SOTM from KC Montero, the DJ, too.
Also while in Manila, I visited the city’s North Cemetery, where people live. There are several cemeteries in the city which have other homeless people living in the tombs, among the dead. This one was quite organised, with little kiosks – sometimes based in a tomb – dotted about.
While wandering around I came across a karaoke session in one area. I couldn’t persuade anyone there to take part in SOTM but did get a few shots of those there. They were hugely friendly and it was a great atmosphere.
And this is another SOTM participant from the cemetery. Tony asked me to get a close up shot of her eyes, as he said that when some Filipinos get older, their eyes get bluer. This lady certainly had striking peepers.
After the heaving Manila, we flew to the island of Boracay, and I saw why people rave about the Philippines.
As it was so busy we did struggle for accommodation and stayed in a couple of crap places, with complimentary cockroaches and damp, but in between had five days in a decent hostel room.
Still, this place is a superb beach destination, and would be even better if it had not been peak season.
While there, I met the delightful Sunshine, a journalist and restaurant owner who treated us to a meal at her fabulous Greek joint, Cyma.
Check in next time to see how I got on in the city of skyscrapers, which still retains much of its old-world charm and is also home to one of the world’s most famous harbours.