I’ve lived in Metro Manila all of my life. Although I live in a separate city, I spent many of my childhood weekends with my grandmother, just a couple of kilometers away from the City of Manila. So, I am pretty familiar with the gritty, notorious little town that has made a its name across cultures as heaven for the sinner.
On the surface, sure, there is filth. The grimy underground lives among the mortals. Ask Claire Danes, she’ll tell you.
Recently, I’ve had to spend a lot of time here again, for matters which I consider to be tending to my future. The city has not changed much in the last 28 years, but my perception certainly has. Now I see it with a completely new set of eyes. I see joy in the most unlikely of places, like in naked, homeless boys, dancing in the rain. I see curbside prophets, baptizing themselves with streetcorner showers, because it is the only salvation they can find on a 40-degree day.
Manila is a physical, metaphorical representation of my people: rough around the edges, but all sorts of divine at the core. It is both hard and soft; Western and Eastern; gray and colorful; uptight and loose; modern and antiquated; stubborn and forgiving; barren and lush; complicated and simple.
And for all its complexities, it is difficult not to love.