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Despite the popularity of flights to the Philippines, many Westerners sidestepped the archipelago when visiting Asia. It has endured its share of adversity, from economic to earthquakes, with Manila emerging as a strong and spirited metropolis. The resilient dispositions of friendly and family-oriented Filipinos also radiate. Manila now stands on its own as a cosmopolitan city and destination in its own right, as well as a gateway to the pristine Philippine islands.
Energetic live music, speakeasy bars, artisanal coffee shops and cutting-edge galleries like Manila Contemporary, are treasures to find amid this capital city's congestion and chaos. Taking cues from America, many young Filipinos enjoy fashion and breathe life into a Manila's burgeoning art scene. On a different foot, the Marikina Shoe Museum, showcasing Imelda Marcos' notoriously famous shoe collection, remains a tourist draw. Manila's resolute modernization is a testament to her dogged determination and conviviality. It is safe to say, Manila's cool factor rivals more major Asian conurbations-perhaps even more so, because of this lesser known persona.
The Philippines was named to honour Philip II, the king of Spain who reigned in the late 1500s. Vestiges of the Spanish influence, like surnames of the population, to architecture like Intamuros, Manila's oldest district (Latin for "within walls", it was built as a fort to protect from foreign invaders) are evident. Since 1571, the mighty Intramuros citadel has withstood natural and human destruction and is a Manila must-see.
The city has a prominent Chinese community, so there's a chance you may take in one of many Chinese festivals that are celebrated. The Mid-Autumn Festival's lively reverie is the second biggest to Chinese New Year, which is observed as a national holiday. Besides the aforementioned American, Spanish and Chinese influences, you'll quickly spot Malay and Arabic, too. That being said, Filipinos take their traditional food seriously and a hearty plate of adobo (a marinade or seasoning, which differs slightly per province) pork and rice, arguably the national dish, must be sampled for a tourist to get a true taste of this fascinating country.
Immerse yourself in Manila. All it takes is just a little digging and you'll be greatly rewarded by what you find.