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New thrills in Manila
Manila is perhaps most famous around the world for it being the site of the most famous boxing match of all time, the ‘Thrilla in Manila’, fought between the brash, much loved, and tremendously talented Muhammad Ali, and the quiet, maligned, and criminally underrated Joe Frazier. The fight took place on October 1, 1975, showing to a world wide television audience. The media had been relentlessly following the build-up to the fight for weeks. The fight was brought to the Philippines by the country’s infamous dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, as an advertisement to the world that the Philippines was capable of staging such a show. In the end, the most brutal fight of all time ended when Frazier’s trainer stopped the fight just before the 15th round. It is rumoured that Ali would not have gone back into the ring for the final round, and had begged his trainer to cut off his gloves – but we shall never know.
For a few weeks in the 1970s, Manila was the focus of world attention. The attention it attracted apart from the fight, before, during, and after it, was not so positive. Marcos’ government was riddled with corruption, silencing of opponents, and plundering of the nation’s wealth. But the Philippines is nowadays a democratic country, with a developing economy that has seen it added to the list of the ‘Next Eleven’ economies of the future. Manila itself suffered much during the Second World War, with much of the city’s traditional centre, Intramuros, destroyed during the conflict. It is now emerging into a true world city.
It has been much maligned for its rapidly expanding boundaries and population, but these factors make Manila a truly interesting place that deserves exploration. Makati is the epitome of the modern Philippines, with its generic ‘mall culture’ mixed with the vibrant feel of the crowds of Filipinos who come here for recreation. Intramuros is almost like a full-scale museum of ruins, a great place to explore. And many other parts of the city have fantastic markets and cafes that provide a unique atmosphere. Manila is the gateway to the Philippines for the outside world, but too many people overlook its charms and move straight to the tropical beaches on other islands.
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