Manila, through the eyes of a visitor

Louie Lapat lives in Tagum City. He shares his perspective as a visitor to Manila, and his experiences in this colorful and vibrant city

Louie Lapat

Published: 12:47 PM December 4, 2016

Updated: 1:55 PM December 4, 2016

The author at the old session hall of the Senate of the Philippines inside the National Museum for Fine Arts along Taft Avenue, Manila. Photo by Louievic Loquiño

On a busy weekday in Binondo, site of the world’s oldest Chinatown in the heart of Manila, I sat pensive in a Chinese restaurant as I observed the world that thrived around me. There were traders doing business, cars honking and slowly moving, people hastily walking from one place to another.  (READ: 7 delicious Binondo food discoveries)

CHINESE CONNECTION. Symbols of Chinese culture are evident in Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown. Photo by Louie Lapat

There’s something about Manila. Though it's often tagged as a chaotic urban hub, its charm is magnetic. There was an uproar then among metro dwellers when Dan Brown’s Inferno described this city of roughly 12 million people as being the “gates of hell.” 

Despite its flaws, one can still embrace Manila as it offers a myriad of sights and sounds that is unparalleled by any other city in the country.

Reasons are plenty why I keep coming back to Manila, but every time I set foot here, it seems there are always new flavors adding to its tight menu. First-timers to the city would always have on their to-go list the usual items on everybody’s itineraries: a visit to Luneta, going around Intramuros, riding that crowded train, watching the sun as it sets over Manila Bay. And yes, even shopping in Greenhills, Tutuban or Divisoria. 

TRAIN TO TUTUBAN. Forget the LRT and the MRT. For once, try these trains of the Philippine National Railways that ply the Alabang-Tutuban route. Photo by Louie Lapat

Walking in the walled district of Intramuros, for instance, pushes you back in time. You reimagine Manila in its glory days, perhaps a striking contrast to the noise beyond the district’s lonely wall. 

A replica of Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” is displayed at Manila Cathedral, located inside the district of Intramuros in Manila. Photo by Louie Lapat
GLORY DAYS. The Rizal Monument is perhaps Manila’s famous landmark, photographed here before the rise of a photobombing building. Photo by Louie Lapat
Taken in Ayala Museum in Makati City. Photo by Louie Lapat
FROM THE PAST. A cover of a burial jar displayed at the National Museum of the Filipino People. Photo by Louie Lapat

Though often overshadowed by stories on crime, Manila’s charm comes from its people. People here showcase the best of the Filipino identity: always ready to give a warm and genuine smile and always ready to show you the way if you are lost.

The Manila Ocean Park is also a must-visit for young and old alike. Photo by Louie Lapat

The country’s capital might not be suitable for the faint-hearted, but you will discover that as in many other highly-urbanized cities, Manila is a world of its own. You just have to go out and explore it, and embrace this beautiful chaos. –

Louie Lapat is a government employee in Tagum City, Davao del Norte where he writes for a local government on weekdays. On weekends, he explores his beloved Mindanao and write accounts about it on his travel