Thursday, August 27, 2009

Manila – An old filigree with new threads

The first thought that struck me as my cab rolled out of Manila airport, is just how normal Manila looks. For all the hype of being the capital of one of the most beautiful island nations in the world, Manila is far removed from the coconut tree lined, sandy beach you might be expecting. It is also not the shiny Southeast Asian city like glistening Hong Kong or spotless Singapore. Manila is just Manila.

Wide roads with the latest cars making way for the ubiquitous jeepneys…Skyscrapers with Mac Donald’s in the ground floor, next to single storied buildings with small eateries offering Inasal chicken and garlic rice. To the traveler, Manila is a city that is moving forward to embrace the future while the past still hangs around, as an old friend, you run into now and then.

Over the first few days, I roamed around getting to know the Philippines and its people. I realized that they really like malls here. There are roads that cut through these gigantic structures that are easily a few kilometers across with a different township on either side. I’ve heard stories of mall goers who’ve forgotten where they parked their car and had to spend three hours looking for them in the vast parking areas. Mall’s are a serious part of soaking up Manila. And it’s O.K even if you’re not a big shopper. They are great places for some uncomplicated people watching as well. Malls are to Manila what parks and gardens are to us back home in India. They are places to catch up, to relax, and to have relaxed family lunches and all the walking around gives you some serious exercise as well.

And exercise is vital, here of all places where different kinds of eateries are poised at every corner tempting you, as you stroll by. Manila is a veritable paradise for the foodie. From traditional Filipino cuisine to food stalls boasting of all sorts of fare from Spanish, Mexican, French, Japanese and every other country in the world, it’s hard to live in Manila without some yummy in your tummy…every day.

But the best of all are the people, the strangers who I’ve encountered here. I’ve traveled by the metro during the city’s weekday rush hour and never have I been jostled. I've caught Taxis without knowing a smattering of Tagalog and had long conversations with drivers about different cultures. From the security personnel asking to check your bag at the malls to the woman who just bought the last donut, all of them have a smile on their lips and a greeting. The day Manila convinced me that I can still afford to believe in the goodness of man, was the day me and my husband were stopped by a cop for a wrong turn, who then proceeded to apologize to me for having disturbed us on our drive!

Sometimes Manila reminds me a little of Delhi with its broad roads, Mumbai with its bay and Bangalore with its traffic jams. And then sometimes, I see the city for what it really is to someone who’s so far from her country, it’s a city that’s all heart and open arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment