(Kalesa, Spanish influenced carriage)
Since I started backpacking even before I were not considering myself as one, I keep asking backpackers questions about how they do things, travel extensively, and for a long period of time without needing a lot of money. I learned a lot from them which made me who I am now.
Then, it was just a one way interview. Backpackers started asking me questions about my own country. That time, I have not seen much of my country and was still in the mode of thinking traveling would need a lot of money, so I ended up telling them the truth. That I could tell them more about other Southeast Asian countries than my own. Shame!
Yes, it was. It didn’t stay that way though. After realizing it at that moment, I made sure to at least travel around my own when I went back 2011. I worked in a call center again as my grounds to stay in the country and whenever the itch needs a scratch I made sure that Philippine soil would do the scratching while I was there. Still, not too much places but at least I can boast the beauty of our Sagada, Mt. Pinatubo volcano, marine wealth in Davao, beautiful islands like Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa Cove, and Capones Island as well as the nearest surf place in Manila, Baler.
From exploring my own, I get to discover more and more places that are worth visiting. Definitely more pristine and beautiful compared to places I have been. It’s making me a proud citizen of the Philippines. So, you’re probably wondering why I am calling the attention of Manila Mayor? Our city is the capital of the country, making it the trade, tourism, and business hub of the nation. Yet, the reputation of our beloved city is starting to get into me as I keep hearing horror stories happened in Manila from the travelers’ experiences.
Why Am I Calling The Attention of Our Beloved Manila Mayor?
As a native Manileña, I am very concern of how other travelers reacted to how is it like for them in Manila? Most of the backpackers would skip Philippines. Why?
- We only give 21 Days Free Tourist Visa as opposed to most Southeast Asian Countries’ 28-30 days.
- Traveling to the Philippines, will have to fly which will cost more than traveling by land or by boat.
- Security reasons spread by the media about the country.
I am not bothered with the first two reasons, however, they will know that the country is worth visiting when they get to explore The Philippines. Let the gems be for the eyes of those who seek harder. It is in fact known as “The Pearl of The Orient”.
(Philippine’s Common Transport: Jeepney)
Travelers Reaction About Manila: “Terrible! Horrific!”
Travelers, specially backpackers will stay in Malate area upon their arrival in Manila. This is where the cheap hostels and places are located. Many times, it is such a shame to hear travelers’ horror stories about Manila. Most of them complain about:
- Rubbish everywhere
- People sleeping on the ground everywhere
- Scammers such as taxi drivers, money changers, tricksters, etc.
- Traffic Jam
- Thieves, snatchers, bag slashers
- Expensive Tours offered by travel agents
- Lack of independent travel amenities(Eg. Free local street/train maps, means of cheaper exploration such as bike rentals, motorbike rentals, nice & cheap hostels, etc.)
One backpacker from US said to me, “I don’t think I would ever come back to The Philippines”. His reason? He was a victim of pick pocket in Malate, causing him trouble to move and get stuck in Manila for few days without money until he got his account settled with one of the bank branches.
One British guy I met in Yangon said, his favorite place in Southeast Asia is The Philippines. Then again, he is a backpacker, a hardcore traveler that can survive all these common tricksters when traveling. Yet, he made sure to mention about his brother who asked his advice on where to go on a good holiday in Asia. He recommended Philippines, of course, the first stop is Manila. He said that when his brother got to Manila, he called him up to curse him as to where in the world he recommended him, the brother’s girlfriend too was terrified and threatened to fly out ASAP. He just managed to convinced his brother to just book a flight to Palawan and just trust him with it. Devastated, frustrated, and not too convinced they tried their luck one last time to believe him. When they get to Palawan, he said, “They could not believe it. They were like,’This is a totally different world from Manila!”.
My Singaporean boss in a Salon back in Orchard Road said he will have a great holiday in Thailand, when I asked “What about Philippines?”, he said “I don’t want to get kidnapped or get killed yet!”.
Sad to hear that story, but then I was relieved to find out that the country redeemed itself through the beauty of other places. I can hear backpackers talking about skipping Manila or just fly from Manila airport to the islands. Hardcore backpackers now suggest to fly to Cebu instead of Manila.
If Thailand Can Do It, Why Can’t We?
In Khaosan Road, the backpackers place of Bangkok where thousands of travelers come and go as they travel around Thailand, there are “Tourist Police”. The ‘Tourist Police” was said to be an elite police force that takes care of the tourist, they get higher pay and better benefits for them not to be tempted to accept bribe or do under the table business in the tourist areas. They takes care of the traffic jam, get rid of the scammers such as taxi driver scams, tour scams, money changer scams, etc. They are they to protect the travelers. What’s the benefit? The flow of tourists in Bangkok does not stop, instead it’s growing!
It’s Bangkok vs. Manila or more specifically, Khaosan Road vs. Malate, Ermita. I know Khaosan Road is starting to get a little dirty due to the influx of travelers coming in, but I would not say it’s disgusting(something backpackers have described Manila and India).
Travelers: Backpackers Vs. Tourists
Tourists are different from backpackers, both wants to visit and see places. However, Tourists spends a lot and stay for a shorter period of time, while Backpackers take their time and just go with the flow.
My point is, just as some national leaders would ignore the backpackers, they are the ones who really help the locals earn their living. They may want the cheapest price they can get, but surely they will stay longer(which gives a little bit more stable living to the locals) than just a one-time-big-time splurging tourists. I hope we will not make other nation’s mistakes taking for granted the backpacker travelers. They may spend little, but their marketing power is unbelievable. News spreads as quickly as no space and time you can ever imagine. Everyone is moving, which makes one’s word be heard by more and more travelers and locals from different places. Believe me, their word of mouth is a HUGE marketing tool in tourism business.
Manila Citizens and Immigrants, Let’s Work On This All Together!
We already have the title, the privilege to be the first stop of the tourists as the business and trading hub of the country. We have a lot of unemployed people, out of school youths who are waiting for their second chance. Instead of judging jobless Manileños, let’s give them a chance. If we all work together, there will be less unemployed people in Manila that will starve, less un-sheltered ones, less scammers, less thieves, less snatchers who can’t find their living but to do these jobs to save themselves from hunger.
There will be a lot of opportunities from this, tourism brings in money and will lessen the poverty in Manila(if not all, at least a bit). It is better we go low and slow, than charge big and quick. There are a lot of volunteers who are willing to start something out of this. I can name one, Pinoy Travel Bloggers are amazing volunteers, they are great ambassadors of the country’s tourism and in Manila alone, I believe there are a lot of PTB, Manila based(even if they’re not, they go places!). I’m sure tourism schools To our beloved Manila Mayor, I am not losing hope… Manila is where I am from, we can do this!
TIP: Here’s one good link on What to See in Manila.