Manila and its people are extremely photogenic and congenial even in May’s sweltering midday heat, albeit with squinted smiles and sequins of sweat on golden brown faces and well-toned upper arms. The city and conurbation of 12 million odd souls known collectively as Metro Manila is an Asian ugly duckling that is only now beginning to show its graceful plumage. Asian tourists have stayed away because they heard that they could be kidnapped for ransom or shot at by robbers while sightseeing. I am not sure if there is any truth in this. I have never felt unsafe walking in Manila. Since President Benigno Aquino assumed office guns and corruption have reduced drastically. It is easily one of the most interesting big cities in Asia. Although it has lost most of its Spanish colonial buildings in world war two, many of its historic churches still survive and are very actively used for worship and weddings. Forget what tourist brochures tell you about Macau or Malacca, the Intramuros district of Manila has the biggest collection of Iberian architectural and heritage buildings in this part of the world. The China coast may be only 700 miles away across the sea to the north but in mood, culture and spirit Manila is closer to Honduras than to Hong Kong.