Manila is one of the world’s megacities. There are more people here than all the island nations of the Pacific combined. In the era of “Oriental Chic” of the 50’s, Manila is in the league of oriental cosmopolitan cities of Shanghai, Singapore and Saigon. Ordinary Europeans may not know where in the world is the Philippines -- but they know exactly where Manila is.
We took Malaysia Airlines flight 704 from Kuala Lumpur and landed at Ninoy Aquino Airport around 4pm yesterday. The very first time I came to Manila was when I was 18, Sofia was here 3 times before but Morgan and Akihiro are first timers. We didn’t pass immigration so, no “picking-on-the-immigration-officer” stories this time. We were swiftly escorted out, through a private hallway and herded to a car. Our passports was given back to us at our hosts’ house! To be quite frank... I hope they didn’t do that! I wanna pass through immigration just like everybody else. And I don’t wanna lose my passport in a foreign land! Uncool.
The Manila that we know internationally is actually a group of 16 cities forming a huge metropolis which – Manila City, the Capital of the Philippines – is part of. The finance center is Makati City (where I am right now) and other government offices are in Quezon City, the former capital.
Manila used to be a Muslim sultanate before the Europeans came. It was ruled by 3 Malay aristocrat rajahs – Sulaiman, Matanda and Lakandula. Spaniards coming from Cebu Island attacked Manila in 1570 and easily fell. It then became the center of Spanish colonial rule 50 years after their first arrival on Mactan Island.
Ever wondered why Manila doesn’t have much building older than 60 years old? It’s because this city was literally flattened in the 2nd World War. The whole city is relatively new -- Historical buildings are either rebuilt in the 1950s or just demolished altogether. That’s why in the 60s and 70s, Manila showed us how a modern city should look like.
Manila has 2 population figures – day and night. At night time it’s more than 11 million people but when day breaks, it soars to a whopping 16 million! Whoa! 5 million workers from the suburbs and nearby provinces come before 7am and go after 5pm. Just imagine the chaos on the transit system everyday! The best way to go around Manila is by taking the Light Rail System. Just like Kuala Lumpur, taxis here doesn’t have a nice reputation.
Manila is the only SE Asian capital that shares it's name with other places abroad -- Manila, Arkansas and Manila, Utah in the United States. *I bet you didn't know that.*