They say that Manila is just another big Southeast Asian city: busy, crowded, polluted and stressful due to traffic. However, if you look beyond these facades, you will find that its beauty does something good for your soul. That’s what happened when I took this road a couple of years ago, in April 2016, hoping to get myself occupied after ending a romantic relationship.

My trip to Manila and its neighbouring highland city of Tagaytay didn’t just keep my mind occupied; it also taught some profound lessons, aiding my heart’s healing.

Walking around Intramuros: Beautiful Memories From The Past

My journey started in Intramuros, the top among all the places to visit in Manila. The Philippines may have long been a colony of the Spaniards, 120 years to be exact, but the walled ancient city of Intramuros continues to stand strong. Although this preserved structure is a memorabilia of many things dark, like slavery and death of Filipino soldiers and civilians, it also serves as a glorious reminder of the nation’s resiliency. It reminded me that no matter how challenging the past may be, you can always end up stronger if you persevere and not give up. As the cliche goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Staring at Manila Bay Sunset: Endings Can Be Glorious

Walking a short distance from Intramuros, I reached Roxas boulevard facing Manila Bay, famous for its never-failing beautiful sunsets. While waiting for the sun to turn from intense yellow to soft amber, I strolled the stretch of this 2-km bay walk observing the vendors setting up their food stalls, the children making the boulevard their playground, and the families, friends and lovers finding their sweet picnic spot. Sitting down at the boulevard’s pavement, I watched the sky explode with sunset colours, making me realise that every day ends beautifully, but sometimes we’re too busy to notice. Manila Bay’s sunset indeed did not disappoint.

 Sunset by Manila Bay

Sunrise In Tagaytay: A Spectacle of New Beginnings

Although my heart already felt peaceful with my time in Manila, I thought it would be better to complete this journey where I could enjoy the cold weather and with a nice scenery. I rode a bus to Tagaytay city, around 2-3 hours of travel from Manila by public transportation. I spent the night at Taal Vista Hotel and headed early morning to Twin Lakes for a view of the sunrise. With benches covered in morning dew and cool winds blowing, I sat in silence waiting for the dark skies to lighten up. As the sun showed up, the famous Taal Volcano started to form a picturesque silhouette. There were also various kinds of restaurants in the area, and I settled in Starbucks for a while to munch some breakfast and sip a cup of hot coffee. I breathed deep and got excited that the day of conquering this volcano in my view has started.

Silhouette of Taal Volcano during sunrise as viewed from Twin Lakes Tagaytay

Conquering Taal Volcano: There Are Things Difficult But Worth It

I have never hiked before, but when I found out that I could actually swim the lake at the crater of the smallest active volcano in the world, I decided to do the trek! Later that day, I met some local and foreign travellers in Tagaytay City whom I shared the boat with going to the foot of the volcano. Together, we endured the gruelling heat of the sun as our feet hiked the dusty Calauit trail to the crater of the volcano.

What took a quick 3-hour hike to and from the crater seemed like longer because of the dust and rocks that made the way slippery and dangerous. Although the volcano is advisable for beginner hikers, one must bring a lot of perseverance. In the end, my sweat and weary leg muscles were rewarded by the crater lake’s amazing view. Swimming in Taal Volcano Crater Lake is definitely the best thing to do in Tagaytay!

Meeting Other Travellers: Sharing The Road Is The Best Way To Recovery

The people I shared the Taal Volcano trail with came from Philippines, Romania, USA, Vietnam, Indonesia and France. They became an important part of my journey to healing. Although we have only met for a day, the adventure we’ve experienced together made it feel like we have been friends for a long time. After the hike, we ate dinner together back in Tagaytay’s town proper before we took our own paths. My time with them reminded me that there are a lot of good people in the world. Share a road with a stranger and who knows? That stranger might just give you a shoulder to lean on in the future.

There goes my story of mending a broken soul while travelling. Whether healing from a heartbreak, lost of a loved one, depression or simply stress, Manila and Tagaytay have their way of easing the pain and redirecting your emotions and energy to make sure that recovery is on its way!