Fish Eye View: Manila

A couple of years ago, I walked around the city of Manila armed with my Fish Eye II film camera. I remember buying it a few weeks prior and what better way to use it for the first time than taking a few snapshots of a city I've both learned to love and rant about. I took the LRT at Monumento and got off at Carriedo station then walked my way towards the historic Quiapo church and the Plaza Miranda.

Quiapo Church
The weather was fine and the crowd was starting to thicken just in time for the weekend mass. Located beside Quiapo church is the Plaza Miranda, the site of the infamous event when a bomb exploded in the middle of a crowd attending a Liberal Party rally on August 21, 1971. The blast injured scores of people including leading LP Senatorial bets Jovito Salonga, Eddie Elarde, Sergio Osmena Jr., Eva Kalaw, Gerardo Roxas to name a few. During that time, all fingers were pointed at then President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos as the mind behind the attack, but in the intervening years that followed - a bright truth surfaced that eventually led people to believe that  CPP-NPA founder Jose Ma. Sison was the real mastermind - details of which was thoroughly narrated by Jovito Salonga in his autobiography "A Journey of Struggle and Hope"

Sta Cruz fountain
I continued my walk towards Quezon bridge (thanks for the correction Ivan) crossing into the old Metropolitan theater which has started to show signs of decay as it has since been rendered unoccupied for years and counting. It was re-opened in 2010 after a number of renovations were made and hopefully the city government could sustain the existence of this landmark for a long time, because it's a shame if the city government would let this building just collapse on its own and be beaten by time. Today, an ongoing campaign is still aimed at resurrecting and saving the establishment popularly known as MET, in order to bring it back to its glory days.

Metropolitan theater
My walk took me further towards Luneta Park and unto the Quirino grandstand where I rested briefly and stared at the calm waters of Manila Bay, where one can also witness an awesome sunset. I walked along Roxas Boulevard passing by the US Embassy, the Manila Yacht Club until I reached the wall of the breakwater where I saw a few butt-nekid kids enjoying an afternoon by temporarily escaping the heat through diving into the murky and oftentimes dirty waters of Manila Bay. They seem not to mind the floating plastics and what have's by the look on their beaming faces - they could probably well be swimming in the cleanest lake in the world.

Luneta Park
After reaching the far end of Roxas Boulevard, I backtracked and headed North which took me back at Luneta Park, where I walked around and watched a few games of chess being played by a dozen of people huddled together over a few rows of chess tables.

After a few games and realizing I would never win or even salvage a draw with anyone playing that day and the thought of challenging someone for a bet would only resort to a further dent on my pocket, I decided to leave and head straight to the National Museum Building.

Roxas Boulevard
Another long walk has me threading Jones Brigde and unto Binondo passing by Carriedo and Escolta. All the while taking a few Fish eye shots in between. Since I was using a film camera and since the price of 1 roll of film is pegged at 150 pesos, I've to be more conservative when to take my shot.

I had lunch consisting of sizzling sisig at one of the carinderia stalls under the Carriedo LRT station. Tired feet but with still un-weary hands I walked towards the fountain in Sta Cruz and sat there briefly while I took a few shots of Sta Cruz church. I've read a number of books about the Old Manila and comparing it all with the present day Manila brings regret and an ominous question of "what the hell happened". It use to be the most romantic city in the Pacific before the war and after the war it was the second most damaged city after Warsaw, Poland.


Manila managed to recover and became a shining example of a bustling modern city. We had the first international convention center in Asia in the PICC and a number of other firsts. Sadly we failed to ride that momentum, lost the fluid motion of the swelling wave to progress. Corruption and greed for power happened, but same with any story, the story of Manila to redemption continues on and that excites me to no end.

Post Office Building
Plaza Miranda
The whole walking around lasted into late afternoon - I wanted to go back to Roxas Boulevard to witness the sunset but I was already feeling needles pricking on my sole. It was after all, already shaped as an awesome afternoon - definitely beats staying at home on my off day and wasting my time by just watching the telly. Manila is like this lover that you could not really interpret, it is mysterious and filled with secrets. Only time will tell whether I'd really say if I'm madly in love with her or If it has driven me mad to the brink of relocating to a far away city. Technically, I don't live in the city of Manila, but I pass by this city to and from my work in Makati and everyday I get to experience its embrace like a nagging wife sometimes to a wild but loveable college sweetheart to the next.

Sta Cruz church
Perspiring heavily I reckoned I'd need to feel some air-conditioned loving so I dropped by SM Manila and indulged with the cool machine breezed air and had an early merienda at KFC. I took a shot of the spiral staircase from the upper floor, the mall at that day was surprisingly less crowded. I guess it wasn't timed for a payday nor there was a Harry Potter movie showing that day.

SM Manila
  Escalators always presents me a memory from childhood.
Tired from all the walking I found myself adrift and almost falling asleep while standing on an LRT train bound for Monumento. I've given my Fish Eye II camera a great first step into its baptism into street photography and I sort of re-introduced myself to a city wherein I move and breath over day after day. I always complain about what is lacking in Manila but oftentimes I choose to ignore the simple, small yet unending charm that it still provides - that can be best viewed with an open eye and an exciting zest for the future.

Wherever I may roam someday, whether on some holidays to lanzarote or the Bahamas, Jamaica, Nepal or Kazakhstan. Manila will always have a unique bearing on my consciousness. Never the bright lights of Manila has failed me miserably. There is always that hidden something waiting to be discovered.


This is my entry to the August 2011 edition of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival. The theme for this month is "Manila in Focus" hosted by Angel Juarez of