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Three Perfect Days: Manila

To discover the heady charms of the sultry Philippine capital, you'll need to navigate the chaos of mototaxi rides and a relentless nightlife scene—and eat a lot of garlic rice

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Francisco Guerrero

At the luxurious island resort Bellarocca

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FOR ALL ITS CHARM, Manila has long been something of a fixer-upper. Over the past 400-odd years, this bayside city has been invaded by the Spanish, ransacked by Chinese pirates and occupied by the British; it’s been infiltrated by Japanese soldiers and bombarded by the American GIs who dislodged them. Many of its monuments have been knocked over not once or twice, but as many as five or six times.

So Filipinos have become adept at dusting themselves off and rebuilding with whatever’s at hand. They’ve used the ballast of Chinese pirate ships to pave streets, and built exuberantly decorated buses out of the carcasses of U.S. military vehicles. And while many of the buildings that once made Manila the “Pearl of the Orient Sea” no longer stand, the city remains a rollicking, beguiling puzzle box that zings with energy and zealous hospitality. In Manila, the question is never “What’s going on?” but “Will you find it?”

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