Manila, Philippines, is a city of contradictions. Residents often complain about the pollution, garbage and lack of adequate infrastructure, but many choose to live in the city for its upbeat tempo and laid-back atmosphere. The sight of beggars confirms the country's economic struggles, but a few minutes in the shopping complexes show happy-go-lucky people who try to find a day's pleasure, regardless of what tomorrow may bring. A rising middle class is fueling growth among consumers, both domestic and international.
Despite Manila's vulnerable economic conditions, the mall culture has thrived. At an average of four stories tall and spanning entire blocks, malls are the landmark of even the poorest district—and the pride and joy of the most affluent neighborhoods. Filipinos have made the malls of Makati, Ortigas and Manila their second home. Many go to them to watch a movie, dine at a restaurant or just walk around in the air-conditioned environment. Sunday Masses are even held in malls.
Manila is a city where people live for the moment. The heritage sites in Intramuros, the old bombed city of Manila, have been transformed into speakeasies, government buildings and public schools. The development of government museums is slow—residents are too caught up in present-day life to secure the past.
It is this carefree spirit that marks the way of life in Manila: Work can be put off for tomorrow. The city appears crazy, chaotic and even incomprehensible to some visitors, but it is these same elements that will allow them to let their hair down and unwind. It also helps that foreign currency goes a long way in Manila, offering access to convenience and luxury beyond what many tourists experience in other cities.