Be A Tourist In Your City, At Least Once

Shara Mae Balce
PUBLISHED November 7, 2018 10:23 am
Art by Dani Elevazo

Once there was this beautiful and untouched place. Many were lured to its gem. It later on benefited unfairly from invaders. It was attacked, raped, and abused. Its name is Manila, and it has been trying to recover ever since


I was raised in a suburban area, Laguna to be exact. And like most dreamers in these peaceful towns, Manila was the place to fulfill dreams. And so I’ve been in this promising city ever since I earned my degree. And I’m still trying to earn my place (and keeping up with its pace).


It took me two years, two jobs, and a weary (but curious) heart to walk around the places anyone who’s been to Manila is bound to visit--the museums, Intramuros, the parks. I basically put my tourist hat on and here’s what I have to say.


Manilenyos are Tough


I bet you have heard people telling you of the high possibility of getting mugged if you stroll around Manila. Sure, it happens. This city definitely keeps you on your toes. But let us not give all the judgement to Manila in general, because even the places we think safe aren’t that so all the time. There’s nothing constant or predictable in Manila, not even the traffic (it can range from okay to worse), weather, or good fortune. I do have to say that it’s quite alarming (and admirable to a point) that Manilenyos have accepted this as a fact in their everyday lives. If I can make it here, I can most probably make it anywhere.



There is nothing predictable in Manila, not even the traffic, weather, or good fortune.


It’s not that expensive


Manila pushes me to my limits—mentally, emotionally and most often—financially. But anyone who ever said Manila is expensive obviously did not know where to look. Manila has a lot to offer when it comes to cheap stuff. There is always divisoria. There are also a variety of street food options and local food bazaars popping on each corner.

There are lots of hidden gems here


From 3D-museums and amusement parks to unique-themed restaurants and several food hubs popping in every corner, Manila seems like a present with lots of surprises in it. Not to mention the happenings we only see in the Internet like music festivals and celebrity-studded events, almost everything the younger (and not-so-young) ones look for happen here.


It is rich in historical values


I just knew the city from history books and educational television shows. I have dreamt of winding down every famous spots here and it was a dream came true when I first saw Rizal’s Monument in Luneta. It was a share-worthy experience then especially to my friends who haven’t visited the place yet. Then I knew about Intramuros, where the bittersweet memories in our national history lies inside the walls of the city—and there’s a lot more. Aside from its contemporary image, it is the historical importance behind the famous landmarks and iconic establishments that made Manila truly valued. Now, I know why it is called as Pearl of the Orient. Because Manila itself is a gem.



Manila has a lot of hidden gems, it fogot that it is one, too.


It is a city that will help you grow


I hated Manila at first. My days usually end up really tired because of the commute, being exposed to pollution (both air and noise). But I learned to live with that. I learned to hate this city a little less and appreciated myself more as the months go by. Because living independently in this city challenged me, it made me more human. And most importantly, it made home (back in Laguna) feel more like home.



If I can make it here, I can most probably make it anywhere.


Explore Manila at least once in your life. Better yet, live in it just once. Explore it again even if you’ve lived here. The place is cloaking with secrets from centuries. Looking from my apartment windows, I saw those tall buildings from afar look like miniatures—a never-seen-before moment for me. And every now and then, I still get the same wide-eyed moments. But pretending to be a tourist this time that has lived through Manila’s ups and downs, I didn’t just see the city. I felt it.


Time has a way of clearing imperfections. And I’ll always regard Manila with a sense of appreciation, and most importantly, feel lucky to have experienced it all.

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