Malate and the Global Bohemian


Before SG and HK, there was MNL. Global commerce found solace in the robust corridors of Manila, thank you to the majestic galleons parking in our ports. Being a melting pot of cultures manifested itself in the diversity and quality of goods traded. Like what they say in the popular mall – they’ve got it all for you here from silk and exquisite textiles from the indochina to sausages from Bilbao to Chinese porcelain to Indian spices, precious metals and stones, to sewer rats from the West and diseases from unknown corners of the globe.

Sifting through the filth, chaos, and safety hazards, Manila still got it. When you look good enough, you’d still see rows of antique shops showcasing artifacts and gems from different generations amidst the forex blackmarket and artwork restoration stalls in Mabini. Follow Middle Eastern nationals to Salas St., you’ll get lost in groceries with drums of basmati rice and dahl, sacks of roasted peanuts, bottles of olives in lemon juice, tahini, yogurt drenched in oil. Then you’d see a large tarpaulin – Biryani is Lyf ornamenting a Malaysian eatery. Not far away, you’ll find a small canteen serving Tausug chicken in roasted coconut I’ve known to love as pianggang. The nooks and crannies of Malate are where a hodge podge of Japanese, Korean, Middle Eastern, And Chinese stores may be found.

Three years is not enough to exhaust all there is that can be discovered here in the same way that hundreds of years of neglect has not been sufficient to totally wipe out influence of global commerce in this city. Diversity is in the DNA of this old, tired, but never monotonous city.

(This series was featured in my Facebook Page beginning on the 10th day before I my resignation from my Manila employment became effective. This uncut version pays homage to my love affair with the capital. Not all lovers are given the chance to say goodbye. This is my attempt to chronicle her beauty. #10DaysOfManilaUncut )

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