The Philippines is Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret. It is the only Christian country somehow out of place. Vibrant with Latin American and Caribbean under-tones, music and dancing are everywhere and the non-stop smiles and laughter have no rival in the region in their warmth, sincerity and enthusiasm.
The country’s intense historical influences – the Malay love for colour, Chinese penchant for intricacy, Arab traditions of scholarship, an easy-going Pacific Island attitude, Indian mysticism, a Spa-nish-introduced religion and American consumerism have all together blended into the psyche of a people with a long history that has created a culturally rich heritage and outlook. The result is a land of surprising diversity ready to delight the unsuspecting over-seas visitor.
Metro Manila today is an urban sprawl that has swal-lowed up 11 cities and five towns in the past two centu-ries. It’s younger sister cities of Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao are not left too far behind either. They are all places of contrasts: old and new; wealth and poverty; and grandiosity and squalor. As with most urban cen-tres found elsewhere in the world – smog, traffic snarls and a general air of decay in some of their much older sections leave a less than favourable first impression. But just beneath this surface lies a fascinating and pulsating place to explore and savour.
By day, the original, medieval walled city of Intramuros delights with its history and ele-gant Latin architecture. As the sun sets ablaze in purples, reds and pinks under Manila Bay, the bright lights of Ermita, Malate and Makati districts beckon you with a mélange of jazz pubs, dancing clubs, karaoke lounges, 24-hour diners and trendy bars.
The Filipino people’s zest for life, natural friendliness and ease with the English language also make them the perfect hosts – always ready to invite you to join in their celebrations. This is a city in Asia that obviously loves living life to the full; where you are encouraged to loosen up your shoestrings and shoulders to relax. The only muscles you’ll ever use will be those found on your smile.
Filipinos take fun seriously and they take it with them anywhere they happen to find themselves to be in the world, along with their sense of humour. But in their hearts Manila is still their major party central. Entertainment venues are among Asia’s liveliest. Locals call it “The City of Our Affections” where people’s love affairs with art, fashion, music, dance, culture, entertainment and just sheer fun are on bright and beautiful display.
If your thinking of food, Manila does have one of the most diverse and affordable places to suit your heart’s desires. Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, French, German, Italian and just about any other ethnic-based cuisine are served to international standard, including the Philippines’ very own regional delicacies. Excellent service and beautiful set-tings make Manila an ideal place where the best things in life are found.