Think of Manila as a jigsaw puzzle. This shambolic, teeming metropolis really is a sum of many parts – 16 geographical ones alone – and the fun part is fitting them all together. And as more and more people relocate from the countryside, it just keeps on growing, making Manila one of the most densely populated city in the world. Luckily, Manila is adept at welcoming strangers. The ‘Pearl of the Orient’ saw Spanish, British and finally American occupation – the latter instilled a sense of ordered urbanism but was ultimately responsible for much of its destruction during WWII. Despite this, the ghosts of Manila’s jagged past are everywhere, from imposing Hispanic churches and convents to towering monuments of the revolution and a shoe museum housing the famous collection of the former first lady – Imelda Marcos.
Manila’s University of St. Tomas was established in 1611 – 25 years before Harvard.
Modern malls and skyscrapers complete the layer cake, iced with a spangled nightlife that rivals Las Vegas.