The Bold and the Beautiful

LARA DAY

STREET LIFE: The vivid color and relentless energy of the Philippine capital are undeniable

"Why does everyone love Bangkok and Havana? Even Mumbai sounds better than Manila," says Filipino conceptual artist Yason Banal over coffee in Quezon City. There isn't an immediate answer. The Third World cities he lists aren't immune to the challenges that beset the Philippine capital: all grapple with congestion, crime and corruption, and none escape the banes of poverty, heat, seediness or pollution. So perhaps it's a question of marketing. Tourists are drawn to destinations with double-pronged, p.r.-friendly pegs—saris and spices for Mumbai, cigars and salsa for Havana, markets and temples for Bangkok. Manila, with its bewildering collision of Spanish, Mexican,...

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