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Manila needs a guide book. Under her oriental exterior is hidden a wealth of historical material of the highest human interest. In the very things that make many places famous among sightseers, she is easily the queen of the cities of the East, and for one who knows how to find the buried treasures, a year of residence in Manila may be one of the most profitable of a lifetime.
If Manila could, by some genius of modern times, be laid down in Europe and ticketed, labelled, bill-posted, and guide-booked, it would be famous. But Manila is in the Philippines, which is very different, and her wonders are not revealed to the wise and the prudent but to those who have the zest for original discovery. This is the peculiar charm of it all. There is nothing more depressing than to be led about by a professional guide, looking like a sucker and feeling like a fool, listening to the pedantic formula unwound from the human phonograph who points out the sights with one hand and reaches for the tips with the other.
The utter emptiness and superficiality of all such show-window sight-seeing is in marked contrast to the facilities for getting back the sources and seeing, not the show-window, but the factory with its human skill and processes. It may take some searching to find the pearl, but when found, the discovery is all one's own and has not been spoiled by a commercial greed that would place an exhibition the family skeleton if the price could be collected from the gaping visitor.
If life in the Orient is to be enjoyed rather than endured, it is important that there be kept alive a sympathy for all things, both great and small, that possess human interest. The commonest street scenes are fascinating when first seen, and every day will bring some new feature, if the vision is keen and the heart open to the soul of things. To pause a moment before some quaint corner in a narrow Chinese street, or to catch a mental photograph of a picturesque banquero paddling his Filipino gondola loaded with humanity and zacate, is to break the monotony of the day with a touch of color that lightens the long hours, and nowhere are there more bits of human flavor than in Manila.
Suppose a barrio of Manila were set up in the suburbs of some American city! What a commotion would arise! People would flock to see the narrow streets with overhanging houses, the pony trying hard to reach the ground in spite of his carretela loaded with four generations of humanity, the two wheeled carabao dray moving one mile per hour, the playing children dressed in close-fitting brown satin and pleasant smiles, with an occasional brief shirt, the dulce baskets and market produce on the heads of the straight-shouldered and bare-footed women, the crooked esteros with their teeming traffic and their primitive laundries, the picturesque nipa shacks, the impromptu tiendas, and everywhere the contented and slow-moving native waiting for someone to run hum down. If these things and a thousand others would be interesting in America, are they not worth looking at here?
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