Cruising in the Far East with HAL: Manila Heat

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Special by Dennis Cox

High school girls from a marching band meet the Westerdam cruise ship at Port of Manila, Philippines.

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – We reached our pier at the Port of Manila at about 7 AM and were out of the ship as soon as possible after breakfast to avoid the heat predicted to reach 90 degrees today. Greeting the ship’s passengers on the dock was a local high school band and some pretty teenage girls eager to pose for a photo.


The port in the capital of the Philippines is quite conveniently located near Old Manila. Our independent walking tour there included historic Rizal Park and the old walled city of Intramuros, built during the Spanish colonial period. Nearby we passed by Fort Santiago, which served as a military headquarters and prison. Spanish, American, and Japanese colonizers occupied it in succession until it was destroyed in 1945.


The central attraction of Intramuros is Manila Cathedral, a magnificent architectural structure displaying intricate stone carvings, stained-glass mosaics and rose windows. Nearby is Casa Manila, a reconstructed 19th-century mansion replete with furniture and furnishings spanning the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. A block from both is the sixteenth century San Augustin Church, the oldest structure in the Philippines.


Manila has the signs of a Third World country that the Asian Miracle of development has largely bypassed. Modern skyscrapers shadow parks and broken sidewalks that pass for many of the desperately poor as their home.

Lacking more modern transportation, most Manilans with low wage jobs rely for transportation on the ubiquitous, anachronistic, and usually crowded jeepney, originally made from World War II jeeps and presumably some of the same ones I photographed here 36 years ago. The vividly decorated jeepney has become a cultural phenomenon and popular symbol of the Philippines.

A local experience is to buy the local crabs at the Dampa Seafood Market on Malapagal and bring it to a local restaurant nearby to have it cooked to suit your taste. Perhaps I’ll try that some day when it’s not so hot and humid and an air-conditioned cruise ship is not a better alternative.

Manila Skyline

Photos © Dennis Cox / WorldViews, All Rights Reserved

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