Ang Maynila

Ang Maynila

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Masayang mahirap ang buhay sa Maynila lalo na para sa mga ordinaryong mamamayan.  Ang unang-unang pagdurusa ay dulot ng mala-impiyernong trapik. Ang mga lansangan ay umaapaw sa mga sasakyan. Lalong malala ang kalagayan ng trapik tuwing panahon ng tag-ulan dahil sa mga baradong drainage o mga imburnal at mga hinukay na kalye na ire-repair kuno subalit iniwang nakatiwangwang ng mga dispalinghadong kontraktor na hindi naman pinapansin ng mga walanghiyang in-charge na ahensiya ng gobyerno. Ang mga kawawang estudyanteng nahuhulog sa mga imburnal kung may baha ay ni hindi nakakapagreklamo dahil hindi rin sila binibigyang-pansin.

 

Walang disiplina ang karamihan ng mga drayber kaya hindi maiwasang magkapatayan dahil lang sa tinatawag na “road rage” o init ng ulo sa kalye….wala kasing gustong magpalamang. Dahil sa matinding trapik, mas mahaba pa ang oras na ginugugol sa biyahe papunta sa pinapasukan at pauwi ng bahay, kaysa sa pagtigil sa mismong pinapasukan at sa bahay. Maraming magulang ang umaalis sa bahay nang madaling araw habang tulog PA ang mga anak, at nakakauwi sa bahay ng halos hatinggabi na kung kaylan ay tulog NA ang mga ito kaya nagkikita lang sila kung weekend.

 

Sa Maynila, hindi napapansin ang ganda ng buwan kung ito ay nasa kanyang kabilugan dahil sa dami ng mga streetlights, neon lights, dancing fountains, kumukutitap at patay-sinding signboards at billboards. Wala ring nakikitang mga alitaptap sa mga puno, naririnig na kuliglig (cicadas) at kokak ng mga palaka. Ang paglubog ng araw ay nakikita at kinamamanghaan pa rin sa natitirang bahagi ng Roxas Boulevard mula sa breakwater ng Mall of Asia at mula sa Philippine Navy hanggang sa US Embassy. Subalit baka dumating ang panahon na pati ang mga bahaging nabanggint ay mare-reclaim na rin upang patayuan ng mga nagtataasang gusali tulad ng ginawa sa Baclaran at Pasay.

 

Maraming manloloko sa Maynila. Ito ang mga animo ay linta na nabubuhay sa dugo ng mga niloloko nilang nagsisikap upang makaraos sa araw-araw na pamumuhay. Hindi lang mga bagong salta sa Maynila ang biktima ng mga ungas na ito kundi pati na rin ang mga matagal nang nakatira sa lunsod pero hindi hindi pa rin nagkakaroon ng leksiyon. Samantala, ang ibang ungas na manloloko ay regular na nagbabago ng strategy upang makalusot.

 

Kung magpakasipag lang at magsikap habang nakatira sa Maynila, walang mamamatay sa gutom sa Maynila…nakakatiis lang dahil sa pagpipilit na pagkasyahin ang maliit na kinikita. Marami rin ang nakakaraos sa pagkain ng “pagpag” (tira-tirang pagkaing napulot sa basurahan, nilinis at niluto uli). Dahil diyan, kahit ang mga nakatira sa bangketa at marunong dumiskarte tulad ng pamululot ng mga mapapakinabangan sa basura ay nakakaraos pa rin. Marami ring mga nagwo-working student sa Maynila sa pamamagitan ng pagpasok sa mga burger joints, restaurants, malls, at iba pa. Ang iba namang gustong kumita agad ng pera ay nagpuputa o nagpoprosti sa Avenida. Marami akong nakausap na nagtatrabaho sa Ayala business district na dating mga “escort ladies” at “escort boys” habang nag-aaral hanggang makatapos sa kolehiyo.

 

Ang Maynila ay malaking lunsod na maraming oportunidad o pagkakataon para sa masisipag. Okey ditong mag-aral dahil sa dami ng mga unibersidad at kolehiyo. Ang matindi lang ay ang ugali ng mga iskolar ng bayan na dito nag-aaral at naghihintay ng pagkakataong makasama sa mga rally ng mga komokontra kay Duterte. Marami ring nagbabakasakaling dito sila makakatisod ng partner na mayamang matandang malapit nang mamatay. Subalit marami rin akong nakausap na may kakambal yatang kamalasan na na-stranded sa Maynila at sumusumpang hindi na babalik dito kapag nakaipon ng perang pamasahe pauwi sa kanilang bayan.

Si Gerry…nagpipilit mabago ang buhay sa kabila ng kakapusan

Si Gerry…nagpipilit mabago ang buhay

sa kabila ng kakapusan

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nakita ko siyang nagkukumpuni ng payong sa ilalim ng tikatik o ambon na unti-unting namumuong ulan sa Roxas boulevard. Ako naman ay taranta sa paghabol sa nagbebenta ng trapal na pambigay sa mga vendor na wala man lang payong. Nang dumaan uli ako ay tinitiklop na niya ang payong na naayos na at naisipan kong bilhin dalhin kailangan ko rin, at para naman sa kanya ay upang magkaroon siya ng kita. Kahit halatang hindi pa siya nag-aalmusal ay tinanggihan niya ang alok ko na ibili siya ng sandwich, kaya pareho na lang kaming nagkape.

 

Habang nagkakape kami ay nakita ko kung paano niyang ipunin ang mga tirang sinulid at iba pang gamit na nakakalat at ipinasok sa maliit niyang bag. Hindi nawawala ang ngiti sa kanyang mukha habang nakikipag-usap sa akin kaya napanatag ang loob ko dahil nang una ko siyang makita ay medyo nabahala ako dahil sa ayos niyang may mahabang buhok na nakapungos, manipis na bigote at ilang tattoo sa nakalantad na bahagi ng kanyang katawan.

 

Siya ang nagsimula ng usapan tungkol kay Duterte at ang paglaban nito sa droga. Hindi siya nahiyang magtapat na minsan din siyang gumamit ng droga at kung minsan ay naaakit pa rin subalit pinipigilan niya ang kanyang sarili. May tatlo siyang anak sa Bulacan na inuuwian niya tuwing weekend upang hatiran ng pera at makakayang pasalubong. Dahil mahina ang kita sa Bulacan, sa Maynila niya naisipang maglibot upang magkumpuni ng mga payong. Ang tinutulugan niya noon ay Luneta subalit nang ipagbawal na, nakakita siya ng puwesto sa kahabaan ng Roxas boulevard kung saan siya nagsisiksik upang makaiwas sa mga gumagalang may masamang balak.

 

Bandang huli ay inamin din niya na kahit maliit siya ay kaya daw niyang makipagsabayan ng patayan kung kinakailangan para sa kanyang kaligtasan. Habang nagkukuwento ay hindi ko siya nakitaan ng kawalan ng pag-asa. Sanayan lang naman daw ang pagharap at pagsuong sa kahirapan. Ang sinabi niya ay kapareho ng aking pananaw na inamin ko sa kanya kaya tuwang-tuwa siyang nakipag-high five sa akin. Nagsisikap naman daw siya upang makakita ng mas maayos na trabaho, lalo pa at naging salesman na rin daw siya noon. Sa ngayon daw ay dobleng ipon ang ginagawa niya upang makabili din siya ng mga sariling gamit lalo na mga damit. Ayaw daw niyang nangangamoy kung sakaling siya ay may aaplayan.

 

Isinabay ko na siya sa sinakyan kong jeep papuntang Maynila dahil pupunta din daw siya sa Luneta upang bumili ng trapal na pambenta. Pandagdag daw ang ibinayad ko sa payong sa pambili niya ng trapal. Inabutan ko siya ng pera ni “Perla” na laan sa mga taong tulad niya at upang tanggapin ay sinabi kong “pampasuwerte” ito. Bumaba siya sa bukana ng Luneta papunta sa rebulto ni Lapu-lapu, ako naman ay nagpatuloy sa biyahe papuntang Divisoria. Sa ibang araw magkikit pa kami dahil marami pa raw siyang “ibubunyag” tungkol sa buhay-kalye.

GERRY ADIK SA ROXAS BLVD

 

 

Anna…ang eleganteng food vendor sa Roxas Boulevard (Manila)

Anna…ang eleganteng food vendor sa Roxas Boulevard

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

 

Masasabi kong elegante si Anna dahil sa sinasabi sa Ingles na “regal bearing” niya habang nagtitinda ng kape, kendi, at mumurahing sandwich sa isang bahagi ng Roxas Boulevard. Lalo akong nagulat nang walang pangingimi niyang sabihin na ang inabot niya ay Grade One. Hindi na siya nakapagpatuloy ng pag-aaral dahil tumulong siya sa kanyang mga magulang. Isa siyang Tausug, taga-Jolo at ang asawa naman niya ay isang Samal na nagtatrabaho bilang part-time security guard, ibig sabihin, ay “on standby” para magrelyibo o pumalit sa umabsent o aabsent na guwardiya. Lumalabas ang likas na talino ni Anna sa mga sinasabi niya habang nag-usap kami.

 

Una ko siyang napansin nang lumapit siya sa ilang bikers na nagpapahinga at omorder sa kanya ng sigarilyo. Lalong napaaliwalas ng hindi nawawalang ngiti ang likas niyang ganda na pilit lumulutang kahit pinapawisan siya. Kapansin-pansin ang maraming bikers na nagpapahinga at may isang umamin na matagal na nilang suki si Anna sa kabila ng kakaunti nitong paninda dahil mabait daw. Ikinuwento ni Anna na ang ginagamit niyang maliit na kariton ay regalo sa kanya ng isa niyang suking biker.

 

Dahil ang pinag-usapan namin ay tungkol sa buhay-buhay, ini-share niya na sa kabila ng maliit nilang kita, ay napapag-aral pa nilang mag-asa ang dalawa nilang anak…isa sa college at isa sa high school, samantalang ang panganay nila ay may sarili nang pamilya. Nakatulong ng malaki ang mura nilang upa sa bahay kasama ang kuryente at tubig, sa halagang Php2,500, dahil mabait daw ang may-ari. Sa San Andres Bukid sila nakatira na mararating sa loob ng ilang oras na lakaran mula sa Roxas Boulevard. Hindi din daw maiiwasang magalaw niya ang bahagi ng puhunan niya upang magamit kung may emergency, subalit kahit kaunti lang ang paninda ay pinipilit niyang pumunta sa Roxas Boulevard upang magtinda tulad nang Linggong yon nang mag-usap kami.

 

Sa mga Muslim Filipino, ang mga Tausug, tulad ng mga Maranao ay kilala bilang mangangalakal. Sila yong mga dumadayo sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pilipinas na karamihan ay nagtitinda sa palengke at bangketa kahit kakaunti ang kalakal. Mapapansin din na kahit sa iisang bilao lang nakalatag ang mga paninda, ang nagtitinda ay maayos ang bihis. Sa murang edad sila ay sinasanay na sa ganitong uri ng pagkikitaan kaya may mapapansing mga tin-edyer pa lang ay may mga sarili nang puwesto. Matiyaga sila kahit ang kinikita sa maghapon ay barya-barya. Ayon na rin kay Anna, ang gusto nila ay kumita ng maayos upang magkaroon ng tahimik na pamumuhay, dahil ayaw nila ng gulo kaya sila pumunta sa Maynila.

Ang Bamboo Xylophone Band sa Roxas Boulevard (Manila)

Ang Bamboo Xylophone Band

sa Roxas Boulevard

ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

 

Sa paglalakad sa Roxas Boulevard ay natawag ang aking pansin sa mga nagkukumpulang tao at may narinig akong tugtog mula sa isang instrument. Bigla kong naalala ang inusyuso kong bamboo xylophones na tinugtog sa iniistambayan ng mga seafarers sa TM Kalaw. Noon ko pa gustong makausap ang may-ari ng bamboo band tungkol sa grupo nila. Nang umagang yon ay nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong makausap ang may-ari mismo ng banda na si Doy Tamparong at ang maganda niyang anak na si Anne. Habang tinutugtog ni Doy ang isang xylophone, ang isang paa naman niya ay ginagamit naman sa tambol. Si Anne naman ang tumutugtog ng isang xylophone. Marami na raw siyang naturuang tumugtog ng xylophone at ang pinakahuli daw ay ang kanyang anak na si Anne na palagi niyang kasama ngayon.

 

Taga-Pandacan sina Doy Tamparong at matagal na raw silang tumutugtog. Ilang pista na rin ang kanilang tinugtugan at ang nag-imbita pa ang mga opisyal. Inuupahan din daw sila upang tumugtog sa mga birthday party. Kung tumugtog sila sa mga public areas ay naglalagay sila ng garapon sa harap upang lagyan ng mga donasyon mula sa mga nasisiyahang usyuso.

 

Makokontak ng mga interesadong umupa ng kanilang grupo si Anne sa cellphone niya: 09056886681.

 

Baclaran Creek: Ugly Stain on the Philippines’ Tourism Image

Baclaran Creek: Ugly Stain on the Philippines’

Tourism Image

by Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nothing can be one hundred percent clean, sanitized, germ-free, well-kept, etc., to show a pleasant image. But in exerting an effort for such end-result, consistency should be exercised, as failure to do so could be tantamount to being negligent.

 

Among the ugliest manifestation of the Philippine government’s negligence and inconsistency is the creek at Baclaran which is fringing the northern edge of the purported “business-tourism showcase” of Metro Manila – the cornucopia of condominium buildings, malls, office buildings and the supposedly biggest casino in Asia. Practically, the creek that serves as the catch basin-cum-open drainage of Pasay and Paraἧaque that flows out to the Manila Bay, shows it all. How can the Department of Tourism proudly declare that Manila is a clean city with the obnoxious filth floating on the stagnant creek in all its obnoxious glory greeting the arriving tourists from the airport on their way to their hotels along Roxas Boulevard? Is this progress as what the Philippine president always mumbles? How can such a short strip of open drainage not be cleaned on a daily basis, just like what street sweepers do to the entire extent of the Roxas Boulevard?

 

It has been observed that every time a government agency’s attention is called for not doing its job well, it cries out such old lines, as “lack of budget” and “lack of personnel”. But why can’t they include such requirements every time they submit their proposed budget? In the meantime, as regards the issue on the maintenance of the city waterways, national and local agencies throw blames at each other, trying to outdo each other in keeping their hands clean of irresponsibility and negligence!

 

During the APEC conference which caused the “temporary” bankruptcy of commercial establishments in Pasay and Paraἧaque, as well as, local airlines and lowly vendors by the millions of pesos, the creek was almost “immaculately” clean with all the floating scum scooped up and thrown somewhere else. But as soon as the delegates have left, the poor creek is back to its old self again – gagged with the city denizens’ filth and refuse.

 

Viewing the Baclaran creek is like viewing the rest of the waterways around Metro Manila, including Pasig River, as they are all equally the same filthy picture of neglect, irresponsibility and inconsistency of government concern! One should see the nearby creek at Pasay where the Pumping Station is located, with an “island” that practically developed out of silt, garbage and clumps of water lily! Some days, the short length of artificial creek is skimmed with filth to make it look clean, but most days, it is neglected.

 

In view of all the above-mentioned, why can’t the national and local government agencies concerned co-operate and do the following?

 

  • REQUIRE the daily cleaning of the creek by assigning permanent “brigades”, just like what they do for the streets. If there are “street sweepers”, why can’t there be “creek scoopers” and “dredgers”?

 

  • REQUIRE the vendors with stalls along or near the creeks to maintain the cleanliness of their respective periphery so that they are obliged to call the attention of irresponsible pedestrians who do not show concern. Each stall must be required to have a garbage bag or bin, as well as, broom and dust pan. Their negligence in carrying out such obligation should be made as a basis in revoking their hawker’s permit.

 

  • REQUIRE government employees with sanitation responsibilities TO GO OUT OF THEIR OFFICES AND DO THEIR JOB, and not just make reports to the City Administrators based on what street sweepers tell them.

 

  • DREDGE the creek regularly on a yearly basis, not only when flooding occurs during the rainy season, which is a very repugnant reactionary show of concern on the part of the government. The yearly dredging of the waterways would eventually “deepen” them to accommodate more surface water during the rainy season, and even bring their bed back to their former level.

 

The costly effort of the national government in putting on a pleasant “face” for Manila every time there is an international event, as what happened during the APEC conference, may elicit sympathy and grudgingly executed cooperation, but there should be consistency in it….otherwise, it would just be like sweeping the house, only when visitors are expected, or worse, sweeping the dirt to a corner to hide them.

 

Cooperation between the government authorities and the citizens is necessary. However, as there is a clear indication that the concerned citizens, such as vendors and pedestrians, lack discipline, the government should take necessary steps in imposing measures to ensure their cooperation, albeit by coercion, so that whatever sanitation projects may have been initiated can be consistently maintained, for the benefit of all.

 

If littering on the ground can be prohibited with appropriate penalty, why can’t the same be done for the sake of the waterways? If ever local government units have passed such measures why can’t they be imposed authoritatively and consistently?

 

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Embarrassing Prides of Manila – Roxas Boulevard and Macapagal Avenue

Embarrassing Prides of Manila –

Roxas Boulevard and Macapagal Avenue

By Apolinario Villalobos

Roxas Boulevard is considered as one of the main arteries of Metro Manila. Along this strip of avenue, flow traffics to the airport, southern destinations, Rizal Park, Makati business district, and city proper of Manila. Unfortunately, the boulevard is being used for special events, hence, closed for as long as half day, posing a problem to motorists. Traffics get snarled along secondary streets where the motorists are redirected. The length of the boulevard is shared by Manila City, Pasay City and Paraῆaque City. None of them ever thought of sitting down to discuss options on how to solve the problem, one of which is using the reclaimed area now being developed into an “Entertainment City”. Its streets are more than enough to accommodate running events, as they are wide without any impediment, especially on Sundays. Meanwhile, for as long as this problem is not solved by the “three heads”, the historic strip shall remain an embarrassment to the government.

Then, there’s the Macapagal Avenue, right in front of the Dream City, with its giant potholes. For several months now, the road made useless by these traffic obstacles, have not been touched by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), headed by its General Manager, Peter Anthony Abaya, who is incidentally, brother of Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Jun Abaya. President Aquino always refers to the whole area where a forest of modern structures has sprung up, as the next “Entertainment City of Asia”. But, even with the simple retouch to a short length of road not applied, will it happen?…or remain just to be a dream.

The Shabby Scenes from the Airport Terminals and the Derelict Intramuros and Liwasang Bonifacio

The Shabby Scenes from the Airport Terminals
and the Derelict Intramuros and Liwasang Bonifacio
By Apolinario Villalobos

The problem with the Department of Tourism is that, while it promotes touristic destinations in the countryside, it forgot Manila which is supposed to be the gateway. The agency is proud of the oceanic theme park at the back of the Luneta grandstand and also the “dancing fountain”. But those can be found anywhere as they have become ordinary fixtures of parks, with some provinces even having more picturesque and enticing dancing fountains. The tourism people seem blind to the shabby scenes from the airport terminals that surely catch the eyes of incoming tourists on their way to their hotels along Roxas Boulevard and Makati Business Center.

From the Terminal 1 and 2 for instance, what catch the eyes are big bill boards and ramshackle shanties of barangay Pildera. The patroness of air voyage looks forlorn with the neglected shrubs at the base of its pedestal. Trees that line the street are untrimmed. Pieces of garbage dot the ground with wilting grass due to neglect. From Terminal 3, the same monotonous view greets the visitors as they drive down Andrews Avenue toward Baclaran and Tramo. From terminal 4, the short distance to Airport Road of Baclaran is worst, especially, as one exits towards Roxas Boulevard, with both sides of the street lined with run-down beerhouses.

The clusters of modern edifices that are filling the reclaimed Manila bay are being developed by owners of the business establishments, themselves who are mostly foreigners. In this regard, the Department of Tourism has no right to claim the credit for the fast transition of the once grassy reclaimed land.

Intramuros at the northwest terminus of Roxas Boulevard is supposed to be the historical showcase of the city, together with Liwasang Bonifacio or Lawton Plaza. Unfortunately, both are awful disappointments. What makes Intramuros interesting a bit, are just the presence of Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, and some of its streets lined with old houses that are not even refurbished to improve their antiquated facades. What worsen the disappointing landmark are the filthy skeletons of neglected government buildings and stinking nooks of the once formidable walls and their imposing bastions.

Liwasang Bonifacio’s conspicuous landmarks are the Post Office Building and the fountain behind the statue of Andres Bonifacio. But the grounds are always littered with refuse. The public toilet is perpetually closed and has become the abode of vagrants. The police precinct under the flyover lacks decency in appearance, though, fairly clean. The vacant lots have become dumping grounds for practically everything. The once glorified Metropolitan Theater because of its exquisite beauty is now an eyesore. Entrances and exits to the underpasses are lorded over by vagrants and rugby-sniffing street urchins. Ironically, the Manila City Hall, is just several meters away!

Several years ago, a foreign student blogged the dirty public toilets that stink due to the absence of water, with cracked and grimy tiles, lack of tissue paper, doors without lock, and lack of lighting fixtures. Instead of being thankful, the government reacted negatively, threatening the poor student with deportation unless he apologized publicly which he did, when all he wanted was just to call the attention of the negligent government agencies, particularly the Department of Tourism and concerned local government units.

And now, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is located in a busy section of Makati, and housed in a building – far from the people that it is supposed to assist. Its location can be accessed with much difficulty due to heavy traffic along the way. The agency should have made use of common sense in relocating itself within the “tourist belt” to serve its purpose with propriety. If the DOT is renting and how much, I dare not say more…

Daniel Dejapin…batang Ermita

Daniel
…batang Ermita
(para kay Daniel Dejapin)
Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Batang kalye kung ituring ng iba
Subali’t panglalait, ‘di niya alintana
Ang nasa isip ay kung paanong mabuhay
At matupad ang pangarap na siya’y magtagumpay.

Ni hindi naisip, gumawa ng masama
Dahil panlalamang ‘to ng kanyang kapwa
Payak na pangarap, sa kanya’y gumagabay
Tumulong sa iba, kapag siya nama’y magtagumpay.

Nagtitiis sa init ng araw at lamig ng ulan
Kailanga’y magsikap at walang nasasandalan
Kaya’t sa Roxas Boulevard, abutin man ng gabi
Nagtinda ng sigarilyo at kung anu-anong mga kendi.

Talagang ang Diyos ay mabait, mapagmahal
Sa mga taong nagsisikap, matatag at marangal
Kaya sa katulad ni Daniel na ang kalooba’y busilak
Isang pagkakatao’y kanyang ibinigay, ito’y ‘di hamak.

Libreng pag-aaral sa Alemanya’y natanggap niya
Pagsisimula upang matamo’ng kanyang mga adhika
Sana ang kuwento ng buhay ni Daniel, maging inspirasyon –
Maging gabay ng iba na hangad ay maganda ring pagkakataon.

Touristic Manila

Touristic Manila

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I came to Manila during the early 80’s, the city was just gaining a momentum toward its recognition as a prime tourist destination in Asia. The most popular district then was Ermita which would come alive just when the sun was about to set beyond the horizon of Manila Bay. From its daytime drabness the district would undergo an instant transformation into the gaudiness made heady by the loud music that emanated from the hole-in-the-wall beer joints. The jolly racket lasted until just before sunup. A night was never complete without a brawl. And when the sun finally warmed its sidewalks, giddy girls with still rouged faces lined the sidewalks for cheap jeepney ride home.

 

Today, Ermita has been transformed into a safe tourist haven. Roxas Boulevard is dotted with five-star hotels, and side by side with the Children’s Museum is the United States Embassy complex at the western end of the boulevard. M.H. del Pilar and A. Mabini Streets previously known for their raucous beer joints are now assuming a wholesome façade with rows of restaurants, affordable hotels, and a casino housed in five-star Hyatt Hotel that provides a highlight. The newly-renovated National Library of the Philippines breaks the monotony of T.M. Kalaw St., and a few meters from the imposing structure is the office of the National Historical Institute. A big shopping mall stands out among the condo buildings being built along the  United Nations Avenue where the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters are also located. Manila Pavilion that adds splendor to this particular section of Ermita was once the popular Manila Hilton.

 

Avenida, the main thoroughfare of the Sta. Cruz district, is still alive with sidewalk bazaars that overflow to the adjacent Quiapo district. Both districts have historic churches that serve as their centerpiece, and which are popular among pilgrims during Lenten season. Quiapo Church is the shrine of the Black Nazarene, the festivity of which draws millions of devotees every year. On the other side of Quezon Boulevard is the Islamic district, in the midst of which is the Golden Mosque. Though differing in faith, the residents of the two districts live in harmony.

 

Another shopping district of Manila is Divisoria where malls have mushroomed during the past years. It is still the most popular shoppers’ mecca of Manila where one can find practically everything – from school supply to the latest electronic gadgets. It is, however, more popular as showcase for latest fashions.  Late in the afternoon, a portion of the Recto Avenue is closed to give way to stalls of vegetable wholesalers who come from different provinces. Practically, the whole area is alive the whole night until six in the morning of the following day during which the merchants begin to pack up whatever are left of their goods. It is also at this time that the sanitary teams of the city begin to haul out piles of garbage and mop up the street for daytime shoppers.

 

The Chinatown of Manila, known more among the locals as Ongpin, referring to the main street, is the oldest in the world. It went through different historic transformations – from its being made as a segregated Chinese settlement or “parian” during the Spanish regime, into becoming a hideaway of urban Filipino guerillas during the WWII, until finally blossoming into an elegant enclave of oriental culture today with its towering condo buildings and restaurants where one could partake of exotic cuisine, though, the reliable steadfast apothecaries are still around with their different aromatic concoctions.

 

The Pasig River cuts across the landscape of Manila. The Manila City Hall is found on its west bank which is lately enhanced by a newly-built shopping mall, while the Malacaῆan Palace occupies a well-shaded north bank. The so-called “university belt” because of the several educational institutions within this particular section, is located several street corners from the palace.

 

The Liwasang Bonifacio (Bonifacio Park) near the Manila City Hall is dominated by the Post Office building and across from it is the idle Metropolitan Theater, still trying to stand proud despite years of neglect. The structure, though, could still gain attention because of its classical architecture. The theater was once the principal venue of both local and international plays, aside from concerts which launched several singers, actors and actresses to stardom.

 

Across the street from Liwasang Bonifacio, the Old Intramuros beckons to those with a desire to quench their thirst for history. Within the walls of Intramuros are the centuries- old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. On foot, going around the Walled City, including leisurely stops for refreshing drinks or snacks, takes only about three hours. However, if the Fort Santiago is included in the itinerary, one should add another hour to their stroll. Inside the fort, one can find cells where prisoners were confined during the Spanish regime and the WWII. Local horse-driven coaches or rigs are available for leisurely ride that can be contracted for a jaunt up to Rizal Park or Luneta.

 

Rizal Park  was known in history as Bagumbayan where Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero was shot for purportedly instigating rebellion against the Spaniards. Behind the grandstand, one can find the H20 Hotel and Ocean Park which are just a few steps from the historic Manila Hotel. Lately, the park has undergone facelifts that made it more alluring to regular visitors. The park’s administration is not daunted by the small area of the park, instead, defied this limitation by using resourcefulness and creativity. The park’s crowning glory today is the cluster of renovated fountains that “dance” with the music and lights. The imposing Department of Tourism building is located on the T.M. Kalaw side of the park with its façade facing the giant bronze statue of Lapu-lapu that stands at what was once the skating rink, and a few meters from them is the National Parks Development office that manages Luneta. The Philippine map lagoon has been made more stroller-friendly with the floating lane that diagonally cuts across it.

 

The mentioned landmarks of Manila are accessible via the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, jeepneys, buses, and aircon vans.