Many people choose destinations far away and grimace at the thought of passing through this bustling, nerve-wracking capital city. We are right there with everyone else, having overlooked this hub for all places Filipino. A wild city waits out there, but we’re regrettably bypassing it. I’ve seldom heard a positive thing said about Manila, yet am sad to be ignoring it again. The city is begging to be explored, but it won’t happen this time.
Why I Want to Go Back to Manila
This Manila travel guide is part of our series on Southeast Asia Travel. It was originally created on March 4, 2015. It has been maintained and updated (as of December 27, 2018) to reflect current viewpoints and travel trends.
Everything Goes Through Manila
One still has to step out onto the ledge presented here, before moving on. Everything goes through Manila is an often whispered and remembered phrase throughout our time spent in the Philippines. Getting in and out of the city takes time, with current residents mentioning up to 8 hours that it can take from Manila to Boracay or one of the other known hot spots.
My own dreams of the Philippines start with clear blue water and vibrant green spaces like we found in Bohol. Islands to hop to and places where you can get lost. You rarely ever hear of the hustling crazy hotspot where the action truly exists. Tourists seek one thing, while the pride of the Philippines lies hidden under a sea of colors, cold faces, and vrooming motorbikes.
Early Morning Airport Traffic
Knowing that this chaotic city is only a pit stop before moving on to our final destination in Bohol brings a brief smile to my face, as we taxi to the airport at 6 A.M. That bleary-eyed-haven’t-had-enough-coffee traveler wants to lay their head down during this quick commute, but little did I realize that in doing so I would miss all the hustle and bustle happening outside my window.
Gridlock never makes a city look good, and Manila’s has yet to rear its ugly head. The amount of traffic surrounding the airport at such an early hour indicates the peak hours will be maddening. Something interesting starts to come about. Traffic is usually akin to a boring record, but Manila’s tune awakens me from a brief slumber. A variety of colors moves furiously around our car as it weaves in and around others through a roundabout.
Manila on my Mind
A procession of motorbikes zooms through cleverly decorated tricycles and jeepneys. Traffic is traffic, but it’s more interesting in Manila. Seeing these intersecting colors and shapes make me want to ask the driver to turn away from the airport and go back into the city. The voice inside keeps me quiet. We have to board that plane, remember?
Even as I sit on the plane that will take us to a place with more appealing green spaces and natural beauty, Manila stays on my mind. I read a friend’s words about the city I’ve just left, its unbelievably accessible streets and points of interest—about it being Better than Vietnam. A bold statement to make, and I can’t stop thinking about it. The natural beauty found throughout Bohol keeps me centered and focused until the final day.
It’s Still There and Waiting
An early morning flight back to Manila should be simple enough, but a delay pushes us dangerously close to missing our flight. The pilot on Flight #1 explains that it’s all thanks to a “V.I.P. shutting down the airport for 2 hours.” Even as he finishes the announcement that introduces a lineup of truly frustrating moments on this day, I can’t help but want more.
Even upon returning to comparably quiet and cozy Korea, Manila is still there—running through my thoughts. I want to go back to the Philippines, but not just to another one of its fabulous destination islands. Unlike what many people before me have never said, I want to go back to Manila. There has to be something there, for us all. It’s a place truly overlooked, and I want to find what’s inside. It all started with that motley crew of colors, and now I want to find more beneath the city’s rough and unpolished surface. No, I have to go inside. There has to be more.