Manila; paradise lost?

After months in Hong Kong, Manila seems a stark contrast. The modernistic skyline replaced with run-down “bolt-togethers”, the clinical cleanliness overthrown by grime. It’s just as busy, though in a less predictable sense.

After an eye-opening taxi ride, I arrived at what seemed to be a quiet, off-street hotel. The friendly workers puzzled at my lack of luggage amusing me. Travel light. Try it.

If your looking for a culture shock, Manila at night is the place to be. For the Glastonbury fans, imagine a city of Shangri-La, laced with poverty. After the German I had met departed ways at the local 7-11, I went for a walk round, with no particular place to be.

The amount of children on the streets will surprise you; most happy playing in derelict rubble, others exchanging thuds of makeshift pugil sticks; “Philippine ingenuity” they call it. I saw one child sleeping in abandoned rubbish amongst feral animals, before I was franticly ushered away from taking a photo.

Following the busy, unlit side streets, I emerged at Roxas Boulevard, a contrast of colourfully lit, relaxing atmosphere along the bay line. It seemed a bit of a mirage however: looking closer, people were diving amongst floating rubbish, some simply collapsed in an malnourished haze.

Dodging the myriad of street sellers, I went for a quick dinner; the “please leave firearms here” reminding me of the havoc outside.

After passing by families cooking from dustbin cans and frequent chants of “Americano!” bellowed in my direction, my conscience stretched, I sought refuge in a completely out of place shopping mall, a sanctuary for my naive middle-class mind, the paradise archipelago seemingly distant.