Manila as I like to remember it.

When Sydney’s Philippine tourism attaché Consuelo Jones and Philippine Airlines’ AustralAsian manager Arnul Pan sent Filipino-Australian journalist Michelle Baltazar to Manila for a routine press tour of Manila, it was to bring back trendy stories on the latest developments for the travel pages of Filipino and mainstream media in Sydney.

That too was Ms Baltazar’s intention: to bring to her Australian audience updates on the latest tourism attractions that the city of Manila had to offer today. It was where senior journalist Jimmy Pimentel was born more than 70 years ago, in Intramuros, at the very heart of the city. Understandably, he was among those who looked forward most to what Ms Baltazar was to bring back, especially as he hadn’t returned to the ”City by the Bay” for more than 40 years.

What her sponsors Philippine Tourism and Philippine Airlines didn’t expect was something beyond travel destination stories from perhaps the first Filipino-Australian to undertake this kind of travel tour. Neither did Mr Pimentel. Ms Baltazar returned with a surprise package. Not only did she provide the press with ”touristy” stories for our consumption, but she also made Manila come to life with images and stories like no others before.

Moreover, she came up with a bonus that is this coffee table book, Love, Manila: 10 Days, 10 Discoveries, a remarkable photojournalism piece comprising a selection of images and a ”diary” of her impressions.

Ms Baltazar’s pictures bring you up close and personal to Filipino children and old folk, to characters and vendors in the street, to a couple settling a lovers’ quarrel on a park bench.

Her accounts and images reflect both the Manila of old and the new Manila. In a way, it tells about a city that hasn’t changed much but for impressively new modern structures.

Welcome to the city of Manila, with a heart that is still beating and a face that hasn’t stopped smiling. ###

Updated: 05/07/2013 — 09:29:50