Monday, May 26, 2008


Thank you PJ for sending me this link to SFGATE, the San Francisco Chronicle website. PJ was nice enough to leave it in the comments section of my post about my search for Manila's next top tour guide.

Apparently, a guy named Joe DiBernardo just came back from the Philippines and this is what he had to say:

Traveler: Joe DiBernardo, Walnut Creek

I went because: My wife, Alison, had a qigong retreat in the Philippines, and we chose to visit Palawan afterward in part due to an article in The Chronicle ("Philippines Green," Nov. 18, 2007).

Don't miss: Islands, beaches and rock formations in the Bacuit Archipelago near El Nido (on the island of Palawan).

Don't bother: Spending more than two days in Manila.

Coolest souvenir: Locally made hand-carved wooden box with frogs on top from Asiano shop in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Worth a splurge: Staying at Dolarog Beach Resort (midrange). Cost includes your individual hut, most meals and daily island-hopping by boat.

I wish I'd packed: Fewer clothes so that I was traveling lighter.

Other comments: Carlos Celdran's walking tour in Intramuros (Manila) was informative and fun.

And although I was kinda thrilled that he found my tour both informative and fun, what really broke my heart was his dismissal of Manila as not being worthy for more than a couple day's visit. Now, I don't hold this against him. I know our setbacks all too well. His opinion is a rather accurate meter of what people out there think of us. It just disheartens me to see once again just how far we have allowed ourselves to fall as a metropolis. And despite the seven years worth of hard work, sweat, and tears I have shed for this damned place, it also breaks my spirit to see how far Manila has to go in changing people's negative perceptions.

Good God. Why did we Filipinos allow Manila to go to hell? I mean, doesn't anyone out there see that Fort Bonifacio, Ayala and Ortigas Center DOES NOT COUNT AS MANILA? It never has and it never will be the face of the Philippines. No matter how many fricking fancy malls we put in these privately managed areas, the world will always judge us by Manila. Specifically, Old Manila, the areas by the Pasig River and all the way from Sampaloc to Pasay City.

Now I know the government doesn't give a rats ass, but don't regular Filipinos see this? Does the business community of the Philippines see this? Do the Ayalas see this? Do the Gokongweis, and the Sys? Sorry for dragging their names into this, but these people (and all those involved in big business/real estate in Manila) have the most at stake here and have the most power in changing people's perceptions if they just bothered to look OUTSIDE their own interests. Why don't these developers strive to create real estate/commercial projects that ENHANCE Old Manila and it's culture instead of providing an ALTERNATIVE TO IT? Or if not, can't their foundations allot a little more money to the protection and proper developent of the heritage/commercial districts that they poached their clientele from? I mean, really, Manila is our central heritage/tourist district and we have allowed it to be abandoned by the middle class and overrun by garbage, bad infrastructure, moronic planning, unimaginative architecture, prostitution, drugged out squatters, and Korean Karaoke bars.

Sigh, So I guess that until all we Filipinos (and especially businessmen and government officials) realize that Old Manila is the true yardstick that the world measures our culture by (AND NOT MAKATI nor MALL OF ASIA), we should just prepare for the world to think of us as blighted and unworthy of more than a 48 hour glance.

That's all.