The Pearl of the Orient. The Paris of Asia. The Big Mango. I’ve been to the Southeast Asian cities of Singapore, Kuala Lumpar, Bangkok, Yangon, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, but for me none of these cities have maintained the same level of allure as Manila.
This place is packed. There’s about 1.6 million people in true Manila, but closer to 12 million in Metro Manila. Binondo is the largest Chinatown in the world, and Manila is described as the most densely populated city in the world (43,079 inhabitants per square km).
There are a lot of people here, which has made for a lot of history too. I’m not trying to write a novel on here about the history of Manila. But I thought I’d write a little about some more contemporary history that PCTs were able to learn about during a tour of St. Agustin Church. Manila was the site of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific during World War II, and after falling to the Empire of Japan in 1942 it was recaptured by American and Filipino troops in 1945. When the United States “liberated” Manila from the Japanese, the people of Manila were the ones that suffered. I put quotations around the word liberated, because that February, almost 100,000 civilians were killed in Manila from both the Japanese and American forces as they attempted to reclaim the city.
Manila was known to be the second most devastated city during the war apart from Warsaw. Manila also sits astride the Pacific typhoon belt, and is also criss-crossed by a few fault lines, which has lead the city to be ranked as the second riskiest capital city to live in. Now, Manila suffers from a large amount of air pollution and smog from both industry and high use of automobiles. The Pasig River is one of the most polluted rives in the world.
The Barong Tagalog is an embroidered formal shirt that is considered the national dress of the Philippines. Some of the nicer fabrics used are piña, hand-loomed pineapple fibers, and jusi, mechanically woven and traditionally made from abaca or banana silk. Note: we listened to a presentation on traditional clothing, so even though I don’t know anything about clothing…I didn’t just pull all this information from wikipedia. Only some.
Peace Corps Trainees were encouraged to purchase a Barong Tagalog, or a Filipiniana (traditional women’s formal wear), at the Divisoria Market in Manila. The place was amazingly crowded and hectic, but it was really fun to pick out a Barong from the different colors and intricate designs. I chose a Barong Tagalog with a traditional off-white color (to be worn with black pants and black shoes) and my goal was to find some sort of design with a lot of vegetation…like a lot of branches and leaves and stuff. Most of you probably have never seen one of these so you are probably just thinking “that looks about right” or “Dov’s right, there are a lot of leaves on that Barong Tagalog”. I feel good about it.
My stay in Manila has been too short, and there’s too much to explore here for such a short visit. That being said, I’ve meet my supervisor for the Municipal Agricultural Office that I’ll be working in, and I couldn’t be more excited for swearing in and my move to Almeria, Biliran.