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Simply no place like Manila |


Simply no place like Manila

BRIEF HISTORIES - Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star
Simply no place like Manila

Images courtesy of @Manilaandmore

It seems a little bizarre to put out a Manila city guide in 2017. As news of the drug war, embattled politicos, and the deteriorating state of human rights populate social media timelines, there might be fewer things to look forward to in this city.

Just a few months ago, an Israeli guy I met in Rome asked if he should still push through with his planned vacation in the Philippines with his boyfriend. I was a little hesitant to say he should, what with all the news of martial law in Mindanao and the spate of killings in Manila’s streets every night. I left his question hanging, unsure of what to say, as the situation in the country was becoming more volatile every day.

Recently, I was told that a Manila city guide I worked on was finally being published. Called Manila, Manila, and More, the book is publisher and editor Raymond Ang’s brainchild and took three years in the making. It seemed to come at a curious time, reminding readers and tourists-to-be that there might just be more reasons to consider coming to Manila.

Divided into three chapters — the “posh” Manila of the business districts and bigger satellite cities, the charming Old Manila, and “more” being the destinations outside the capital — Manila, Manila, and More is filled with hotel recommendations, food and pasalubong guides, neighborhood tours and cultural destinations and is intended as a guide to the metro’s sprawl, to make sense of its chaos and rhythm, if only for a little bit.

For the book, I helped produce the Old Manila section, a chapter dedicated to the heritage-rich areas of the metro, from the (crumbling) art deco buildings of Escolta, Malate’s cultural and culinary playgrounds, to the hidden gems of Pasay. I remembered then the swelling feeling I had in going to these places, talking to residents as they recommend places to go and sights to see. Each bar, park and building thrived with the energy of the people, reminding us that life goes on, whatever happens.

Ang collaborated with Serious Studio for the design of the book, which captures the halo-halo culture that runs amok in our country’s capital.

“The cover reflects exactly that,” Kookie Santos of Serious Studio said during the book launch.





From the Makati skyline to the walls of Intramuros, to shopping bags and dirty ice cream carts, the cover of Manila, Manila, and More is a reflection of the wealth of surprises Manila has to offer. “We put everything on the cover. What are the good things about Manila? It’s imperfect, it’s cramped; it’s overwhelming and it has a lot to offer.”

Manila has gradually transformed in the last few years. Blame the pockets of development to neighborhoods — Maginhawa, Poblacion, Escolta and even a little compound in Pasay — that make us reconsider the city as a sprawling expanse of traffic and noise (both visual and aural). Local publications and websites have mapped out these restaurants, galleries, bars, and other unique destinations that have sprouted around the city. So maybe it’s high time that a guide to Manila was presented by locals, people who actually know its nooks and crannies well — and this is what Manila… aims to provide, a tour of the city through the local’s eyes and ears.

During the launch, representatives from the communities of emerging neighborhoods of Poblacion, Maginhawa, Pasay, and Escolta (where the launch was held during the Escolta Block Party) discussed what it’s like to be at the forefront of the changes Manila’s cities have seen over the past years. Maginhawa has turned into a foodie strip; Poblacion a hip alternative to Makati’s bustling business side; Pasay a respite from the larger stretch of Manila; and Escolta a reminder of the glorious charm that the capital used to have.

But in these neighborhoods, talk of gentrification has emerged so it will take an effort from creatives and artists doing business and practice in these areas to keep these efforts inclusive.

“We have not reached the tipping point in Escolta,” says Marika Constantino of 98B, the artist collective responsible for igniting the revitalization of the street. “We have not involved enough people, the people along the street in the activities. Part of the dream is that it trickles down to all the stakeholders — that everyone has a sense of ownership or belonging to what’s happening.”

“It almost seems as if every problem, every crisis, arises just to prove the aliveness of this city; continually destroyed and continually rebuilt, ever decaying and ever re-greening,” wrote Nick Joaquin in his book Mania, My Manila, a quote that Ang invokes in his introduction to the book.

Manila, Manila, and More comes at a crucial point to remind us that there is much to love about the cities that we live in, and that we have to fight the good fight for everyone to thrive and fall in love even more with the places that we call home.

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Manila, Manila, and More is available at National Book Store, PowerBooks, and all major bookstores nationwide.

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