Docking at the wharf of Manila reminds me of my first arrival in the city many years ago: the first of many arrivals I have experienced in the Philippine capital. A sunny climate greets me. The sunlight is intense yet reflecting so vibrantly upon the waters of Manila Bay. Over the years, there have been critics moaning about the city – mentioning its smog and chaotic traffic, its crimes, not to mention the voluminous homes (if such can be called of homes) of poor squatters along North Harbor coast (its polluted seawater), and taxi drivers waiting to possibly fleece you outside its seaport and landing areas.
Crime lives everywhere in the world and so too, does poverty. Describing a place solely through cynical views is unfair and of a narrow perspective. That is not what Manila is all about. It is about the greatness of its historical genes, its location, and the city’s natural splendor that poverty, crime—or even time—cannot change or somehow erase. Unfortunately, some people the world over do not appreciate these other positive attributes of Manila. Or perhaps, the common image still persists after Claire Danes described Manila as “a weird and ghastly city”.
Splendid Display at the Bay
The 5:00pm sundown casts its magical light. Manila’s western sky looks like a blazing banner of scarlet, crimson, yellow, purple, and the seawater below seems like liquid gold. Its shores have long been my favorite hangout place. All remains the same as my special someone and I amble along the southern coast of the city.
Many people say that the sunset over Manila Bay is exceptional and without equal to any other in the world. Watching it is the city’s most avidly observed ritual. Such sunset is justly famous that only the sundown over the Nile at Luxor could possibly be its equal. There the Egyptian sunset makes its orange orb glide slowly toward the horizon. It reminds me of the earliest Egyptian belief that the sun is God and why the Valley of the Kings is on the Nile’s west bank.
What about Manila Bay’s? It is the effect of light on clouds, sky and seawater that is remarkably terrific. Such blend of reflections is rare and mystical. And to that, the city’s legendary view of the sunset, its unique location, somehow tells me that Manila indeed is one of Asia’s great cities.
Ideal Viewing Locations
Aside from truly inclement weather, the best period to experience sunsets at Manila Bay is when the sun is at its roundest and excellent color and there are some clouds hovering overhead. There are several places of interest to observe it’s descent. One can go to the Mall of Asia or its San Miguel by the Bay area, a dining strip and open park at the back of the mall. Such a place is situated at the Bay City in Pasay City, near SM Central Business Park and the southern end of EDSA. The commercial edifice is the largest mall in Asia and the 4th largest mall in the world; it was founded in May 2006.
However, the most ideal vantage place is beside the shorelines of Roxas Boulevard, along the promenade of the once popular Baywalk. It is a 2-kilometer long strip that stretches along Roxas Blvd between the US Embassy and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The public walkway of Baywalk did have a number of leisure and nighttime pubs, but the present City Government of Manila ordered their demolition some years ago. However, the location still remains very much open to the public.
Adding more excitement to watching the sunset, one may go to the dock next to the Folk Arts Theater at the CCP Complex. There you can board a sea vessel that sails across the waters of Manila Bay. The history of Manila is intimately tied to these waters during the Spanish rule. It was here the Americans won the crucial battle against Spain – although some historians say that such an eminent clash was a sham and was staged with the aid of Spain. The splendid display of the world’s best sunset can be enjoyed on-board a scenic cruise with a romantic dinner.
Also, along the South Harbor coast, a simple floating restaurant near Manila Hotel gives a suitable view of the rare sunset. My countless arrivals in the Philippine capital are memorable, but overall, I am still seeking that “perfect sunset”. I shall carry on with my task until I’ve realized that such a different light over Manila has actually made my experience in this city complete. ~For Piyen~
Sunset Photo (c) Roy Cruz