Manila is a city that has a bad reputation. Once known as the Pearl of the Orient, it is now a city with many divisions, where security guards, barbed wire and fences guard against their fellow inhabitants. A city tourists shy away from despite most other Asian cities currently experiencing a tourism boom. I have loved exploring cities ever since I was very young. I’ve always felt that so called ghettos and slums were never as dangerous as the wealthier and middle class residents, and the nightly news reports made them out to be.
Later as I traveled the world I always made a point of exploring some of the poorer neighborhoods of whichever city I visited, whether in Paris, Osaka, Philadelphia, or the favelas of Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires. Of course crime and social problems do exist, but a city can decide to turn it’s back on it’s fellow poorer residents or it can engage them. We have seen this happen in American cities where fear almost destroyed cities like New York and Philadelphia, where crime was devastating in the 70s and 80s, but they rebounded and now they are very safe cities. Other cities like Cleveland and Detroit in America for instance, never recovered from the fear and people and businesses abandoning the city for the suburbs or for other Sunbelt states. I see similar patterns repeating themselves in other global cities like Manila, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. Many times the issues rooted with these cities is not a governmental problem, nor even necessarily an economic problem (Manila is an extremely wealthy city by Philippines standards and the Philippines as a whole is growing very fast), but a societal/sociological problem.