Welcome to our Urban Travel Issue.
The focus on our cities may come as somewhat of a surprise since we’ve cast out further afield for our first couple of issues, and because cities—especially Philippine cities—aren’t top of mind when it comes to picking out a travel destination. When people talk about the beauty of the country, when we point to the “more fun” of the Philippines, we usually look away from the cities almost as a matter of course.
In fact, we introduce our features on Makati, Cebu, and Dumaguete with an acknowledgement of the many shortcomings of Metro Manila. Travel is usually undertaken specifically to get out of the city, and not to run into the traffic-choked arms of another one.
This magazine has always been about the Philippines, and about its many faces. The easy way out would simply be to say that we cannot claim to be a magazine about the Philippines without also paying attention to its urban side.
But there is more to it than that. If we really and truly examine our feelings, we find that we really do love our cities. How could we not? Live in a city, and you become shaped by it. No wonder there is a wealth of literature about cities: It’s the omnipresent character in all of our stories, the invisible presence that either nurtures us, or thwarts our dreams at every turn. We’re attracted to it and repulsed by the city, true; but that kind of emotional tug- of-war also makes us deeply loyal to it.
In this issue, we take a look at three Philippine cities, out of the country’s 144. These three stand out because their loyalists have told us (repeatedly, and with lots of fervor) what excellent places they are to visit, and to live in. We tell their stories, too, in the same way that their residents experience them—through their places and their people, in fragments and in images, all together forming the ineffable spirit of the place.
That said, our bold choices for these three “best cities” named here, of course, are purely subjective—we fully understand and expect the loyalists of other cities to chime in and argue us down. (Perhaps “most beloved” cities would keep us out of trouble, but that makes us sound like we’ve read one too many Rudyard Kipling stories.) In that case, we hope that readers will also take our feature for what it is: a celebration not just of the individual cities, but of the vibrancy and dynamism, of the joyous chaos, of urban life.
Editor at Large