Travel Notes: Manila

Travelling is an awesome teacher. And while some learn their lesson on top of a mountain or in a deserted island in some exotic destination, I got mine in Manila, the same “unsophisticated” city that I was born into.

Fresh out of my first trip abroad, I stepped out of the cab, looked around me and saw something different. Well, not too different, but it certainly wasn’t the same. Having spent the the past five days in four different cities in Thailand, I think I still had in me the wide eyed wonder of a tourist. Everything I saw felt like it had a promise of a new discovery. Perhaps this is to be expected while travelling in a different country, but the feeling of weird unfamiliarity prevailed during that hot May morning.

– Let the excitement subside, I reminded myself.
– Adventure’s over.
– There’s nothing here you haven’t seen.
– But is there really nothing more to discover?

I walk the same streets everyday going to work and school. The only place that I am used to exploring are the brightly lit halls inside shopping malls. Basically, I know the place that I know, but outside of that, I am lost.

Travelling, for me is not just about getting on a plane to go somewhere different (although, I wouldn’t say no to that). I think it has more to do with the intention of experiencing a space with fresh eyes and savoring all the craziness that comes with it.

Don’t be a foreigner in your own country, I think that is how the Philippines’ tourism catch phrase years ago is translated. Although I know that it meant to encourage Filipinos to  travel the Philippines, I also don’t think that it is such a bad idea to go about with the “eyes of a tourist” sometimes.

Familiarity does breed contempt sometimes. Even worse, familiarity nurtures indifference. Seeing the same squalid environment and hopeless traffic condition day in day out has robbed us all of the opportunity to appreciate the energy of this bustling city. The intention of experiencing this place, this vast living space, has all but passed. The beauty, the history and the spirit of the city is left waiting to reveal itself for the next willing tourist.


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