To the Philippines and Beyond: Part 1

Some places simply find their way into your life and transform it irrevocably. I first landed in Manila in 2019 and still remember what a journey it was. To tell you the truth, many people I knew found it intimidating when I mentioned that I was planning to travel alone in the Philippines as a woman. Since I chose to experience Manila on my own, they inferred that there must have been something fundamentally wrong with me. I had a pleasant week in Manila in the fall of 2019 and proved them wrong. 

I was enchanted by the country then and am still in love with it now—so far as to declare the Philippines my favorite country in Southeast Asia. There I said it! After this bold statement that might upset lovers of other Southeast Asian countries (sorry, not sorry!), I feel compelled to write a blog post that will justify my reasoning. Yet, I believe it won’t be a challenging task because the Philippines doesn’t need me to defend its beauty and worth. All I have to do is show you what a wonderful country the Philippines is.

Those who have known me will also know that I am (conveniently) terrible at writing in chronological order. I won’t mention everything in the order it happened, but rather, I will tell you the tale of my Philippines journey from a limited but well-intentioned worldview. And I will write it in the present tense for two reasons: to make you feel you are there in the Philippines with me and to soothe a part of me that is still in the Philippines. 

Oh, My Manila!

Manila (or Maynila); it’s one of the city names that sounds sweet when I pronounce it. From my atlas mania, I know that the capital of the Philippines is Manila. That’s all I know about the Philippines as a kid, and that their religion is Christianity, unlike other Asian countries. “I have to go there! It’s different there! It must be different there!” I tell my mom. Manila must have something for a child aching for adventures. My mom laughs it off and doesn’t seem interested in my fernweh

It surprises my mom that I want to visit the Philippines a second time after my solo adventure in Manila in 2019. I rarely visit the same place twice except for my two visits to Hong Kong. There has been a new addition to the family since then: my husband, who is also into traveling and exploring different cultures. She sounds relieved to hear I won’t be alone this time. And she is worried like the people who forwarned me about the perils of traveling in Manila. She once watched the movie “Metro Manila” with me and cried a great deal. I assure her that Manila is a friendly and welcoming place for people from all walks of life. And I mean it. Besides, this time, I will be exploring Cebu, Bohol, and Panglao, too.

We stay at a soulless budget hotel in the heart of Makati City for the first five days of our trip. We are surrounded by luminous skyscrapers and caged in one. I put my hand on the glass window that I can’t even open and watch outside from the I-don’t-know-what-floor. Metro Manila looks wild at night, too illustrious even, too luxurious for my taste. And I cannot help but see the contrasts that I initially thought made the city imperfect but attractive. I sleep uncomfortably and feel small that night, thinking that the city lights swallow people up and entomb their dreams. Is that why Metro Manila seems brighter when viewed from Makati? 

The following days in Metro Manila prove that this city is more than Makati City, the country’s financial hub. Makati symbolizes the urbanized and striving side of Metro Manila. It is hardworking, earnest, and competitive. The rest of Metro Manila is like a lovely little girl ready to open her heart and show what she’s hiding in her treasury only to people who won’t judge her. And I feel delighted and privileged to hold her hand and let her guide me through the details, colors, smells, and shapes of her world during my 8-day stay in Manila. 

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  1. Monch Weller

    Glad you enjoyed your stay, and I look forward to reading the rest of the entries from this series. Also, it’s surprising that you’ve had an interest in the Philippines stemming back from university!

    Well, to answer the question you posted (though this is what I remember from my history class) — it’s because the Spanish originally termed the country “Las Islas Filipinas” (the Philippine Islands). The “Filipinas” eventually became anglicized to “Philippines,” retaining the plural form which continues to be used today — in the same manner as the Netherlands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      I’m sorry to have seen this late! Yeah, I was interested in the Philippines in the past and am still interested in your country 😊 Thank you for answering my childhood question 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 100 Country Trek

    This definitely caught my attention. Thanks Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you 🙏


  3. kegarland

    I have not, but this has made me want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for reading this 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Stuart Danker

    Lovely. Manila was the only city in Southeast Asia that gave me cyberpunk vibes, just as your pic of that 24-hour diner shows. I only managed a brief stay in Manila, but I do remember the traffic. I’m used to standstill traffic in Malaysia, but Manila’s was on another level. Nice pics too, btw!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been to Malaysia and find it much less chaotic than Manila. Malaysia, especially Kuala Lumpur, feels like Japan, a more tropical one 🙂


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