These three images show different aspects of old Manila. The map of Intramuros dates from 1851; the stereo-opticon image of Escolta in the business district dates from 1899; and the aerial photo of Intramuros dates from late February 1945, showing the devastation wrought by the American bombs.
Fort Santiago is a diminutive fortification that housed the Spanish military, one cannon shot's distance from Chinatown. It is part of Intramuros, the walled city of old Manila. This place has a sad but fascinating history, it was really done over in the final moments of the Second World War, 100,000 dead on the streets due to the butchery of the Japanese, followed by carpet bombing by the American forces. Manila was all but obliterated, and a glittering, cosmopolitan city was razed to the ground. In many ways, it still hasn't recovered. Still: the spirit of the people is strong, and a gracious and friendly population lives here in this city of 15-20 million people.
Manila is a wonderful place, if you aren't in a hurry. I am finding that the café in Manila is an excellent spot to web surf, and most importantly, to feel the icy chill of some air conditioning when out and about. Unfortunately, most of the cafés I have been to have been big American chains like The Coffee Bean and the dreaded Starbucks, but by the time I pass through the glass door I am usually far too grateful for the cold air to worry too much about the quality of the coffee on offer. Not that Starbucks coffee is really that dreadful - it's just not what I know as coffee. Coffee to me is espresso or cappuccino, without frills and bits and bobs added to complicate it and fuss it up. And for some reason they seem to want to add cinnamon to every hot beverage.
Tea, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. The proximity to China and the Philippine islands' location right in the heart of the great East Asian trade routes means that tea has been here for a very long time, and I have sampled some great western and eastern brews. Of particular note was a cumquat iced tea I had last night; a little too much sugar syrup, but otherwise delicious if you didn't stir it up too much.
Then there is this tea shop I found. I didn't even get the name of it - it was an acronym that you can see on the tins here in this photo - but it was rather fabulous. I got off three photos before they asked me to refrain from taking photos - in that incredibly polite, gentle and gracious Philippino way.
Below is another shot of the tea caddies up close, beautiful packaging and colour.This tea was very expensive! The small round tins were about $35USD, or 1400 pesos in the local currency. That's four times the minimum daily Philippino wage for a small tin of tea. Kind of puts things in perspective. I refrained from purchasing in this shop, which was shoehorned in amongst Prada and Hermes.
In addition to coffee and tea, I have visited two markets and seen some fabulous local produce being sold out under canvas canopies, in regularly held street markets. I have to confess, though - the markets I have been to so far are the expat markets, where the quality is guaranteed and the sights, smells and sounds are far less confrontational than the more gritty street markets outside of the rather upmarket district of Makati, where I am spending much of my time amongst the diplomats and other expats. More to discover, and perhaps tomorrow, when my friend is at the Embassy and I am free to roam, I might find a quiet café, sit down and do some writing.
Dear InkShotters, for the next couple of weeks I will be in the Philippines, taking my little laptop and notebooks up in the air to land safely in Manila, for a thoroughly ex-pat kind of holiday in a friend's rather lavish apartment. Think mornings spent swimming in a resort-style pool, lunchtimes spent sampling the local food and coffee, and day trips out to islands and volcanoes. Nice! Will I post from Manila? Almost certainly, but it depends on whether I get any writing done. Chances are I will be relaxing too much to write, but we shall see. So adieu from me: watch this space for updates.