Manila From Above…


I probably fly close to a hundred flight segments every year, the vast majority of them on domestic hops from Manila to Cebu and back. And I take the scenery for granted for the most part, or perhaps because I prefer an aisle to a window seat. At any rate, the combination of clear skies, a reasonably clean window and being awake in a window seat is a rare occurrence, but I was happy that all those conditions were in place for this particular flight…


It was a straightforward approach from Cebu, up over Mindoro, Batangas and to the east of Laguna de Bai, when I spotted this stunning view of the islands in the Laguna Bay which is really a lake, not a bay… I took these photos with my phone and I was surprised how clear they turned out once I downloaded them to my computer.


Even this shot of the South Luzon Expressway, probably covering Bicutan, Sucat and Alabang in the distance actually made you think there was some order down there…


…surprising patches of green, some terrific clouds and lighting from a sun that was just about to set… we banked to the West, and didn’t land but kept flying towards Marbella or Puerto Azul in Cavite…


…snapped this photo just as we started a sharp “u-turn” back towards the runway and I also got a terrific view of Corregidor island and parts of Bataan and the fire that glows from the gas refinery there. In recent weeks, there have been a disturbing amount of brush fires with the dry grass and incredible heat as well. They are eerie to watch during an evening approach to the airport.


Another shot over the bay and towards Bataan. The characteristic wingtip of an A321. I HATE this aircraft that PAL has packed seats and passengers into like SARDINES and with only two toilets in the rear if you are traveling in economy. They are new planes, but are so packed so tight they are really horrific.


A snapshot of Sangley Point, where a new airport on mostly reclaimed land is being proposed for Metro Manila.


A final shot of the reclaimed land along Roxas Boulevard, which is now home to casinos, massive malls, and apartment buildings — there is surprisingly little smog (normally the city is under a thick BLANKET of grey) in this photo. I wonder if the reclaimed area will liquefy during a massive earthquake which Manila is likely to have in my remaining lifetime. Yup, these are the things I think about when landing into the Manila airport… :(

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22 Responses

  1. Breathtaking pictures.

    The Spaniards, most likely Martín de Goiti or Juan de Salcedo, grandson and nephew of Miguel de Legazpi respectively, along with their ragtag pose, explored for the Spanish crown a place called Bai by the natives, studded with a body of fresh water that is smaller than a lake, therefore a lagoon, hence laguna. Laguna de Bay (ba-ee) in Spanish. Laguna Bay to most current day Filipinos.

  2. Liquefaction is the reason why I discouraged my sister from taking up an offer from a company whose office is in the MOA area.

  3. Footloose, and while on the topic of the lagoon near Laguna province, one of my favorite posts is this one where the link between kabuyao or Cabuyao and market limes and fragrance in maiden’s shampoo in the 1500’s is discussed in the comments section… :)

  4. When I read these:
    I wonder if the reclaimed area will liquefy during a massive earthquake which Manila is likely to have in my remaining lifetime. Yup, these are the things I think about when landing into the Manila airport… :(

    I somehow laughed a little!
    ‘coz that is what I always think of whenever I pass by that place ;)
    weird to think of such a thing to happen but I also entertain thoughts on what if a tsunami happens? what if destructive waves will go beyond Heritage Hotel? how high would those waves be if that happens? what will happen to those who are there in case it happens? will big fish/marine life ride with the big waves going inland? will they get back to the sea or get stranded on land?
    such thoughts. . .

  5. cecile, hahaha, I hear you. But as for tsunamis, I don’t fret about them in Manila Bay, precisely because it is an almost enclosed bay with a very narrow opening to the open sea. So the likelihood of tsunami in the bay with full force is less likely, or so I think it is. Having said that, there is a large fault near Bataan, so anything is possible I guess. I wasn’t worried about a tsunami in Cebu City either for similar reasons when that earthquake hit Dumaguete and caused tsunami panic of all sorts, or in Bohol… Now as for a MASSIVE Pinatubo style explosion of Taal Volcano that takes out all those luxury homes along the ridge, THAT I have thought about once or twice. But then again, there would lots of steamed tawilis littering the surrounding area I would imagine… :)

    On a more serious note, I do really worry about all these new high-rises in Metro-Manila and whether they could withstand an earthquake of say 9 or stronger on the Richter scale. We don’t live in one, but are in the shadow of several. It’s bad enough if the folks in them plunge to their peril, but worse if they land on top of us and wipe us out in the process as well. :(

  6. Hello MM, this is out of topic but we thought we should let you know… we are having our first family holiday in Cebu and we just experienced how amazing Zubuchon is, I have been dreaming about zubuchon since I discovered your blog after I had given birth last year, and it has definitely lived up to our expectations; gourmet lechon indeed!! Great staff at Mango branch we dined there last night, take away tonight fantastic food only suggestion if we may, is for proper take away containers (it was in styrofoam trays covered in cling wrap, but like we said fantastic food) our special thanks to the Mango branch staff in helping us get a cab back to our hotel, and keeping our one year old entertained in her high chair while we enjoyed our zubuchon… definitely the best food and best service we’ve had in Cebu, thank you!!

  7. Great aerial photos, MM. (Re-visiting a treasured book – Jose Honorato Lozano – Filipinas 1847 by Jose Maria A. Carino – Laguna de Bay in idyllic days.)

  8. I love aerial sunset shots!

    As for the reclaimed land, it made me think “liquefaction necrosis” – for some reason!

    I also fear for high rises here in Makati. I don’t live in one (yet) but will soon move in one. When asked about the risk of death in an event of fire or earthquake, I just say – Valar Morghulis! Harhar…

  9. ami’s comment re MOA offices…roughly 5-6 years ago when MOA was still relatively new…my friends and i noticed that there were already uneven “patches” in the open parking lot…and i heard that a company rented only one space instead of its initial two because of that worrisome liquefaction possibility…

  10. Reclamation sounds as though it’s restoring something that was previously owned although it’s nothing of that sort. They probably use the term to avoid landfill which for all is associated with dumping of garbage. But my major concern is how long will they be able to keep this foothold. What with the polar icecaps melting at an unprecedented rate that results in rising sea-level all over. It seems more prudent to invest in something that can be buoyed up than on something that will be engulfed.

  11. We were based in Cebu last year so I’ve taken this route several times as well. Say what you want about the city, but Manila is beautiful. One thing though is that I’ve always been disturbed by the quality of the water in what I assume is Laguna Bay. Especially the parts with the fish pens. The water is either gray or brown. It makes me wonder how it affects the taste, or more importantly, cleanliness of the seafood taken from those areas.

  12. Carl, I am told that at some point in the past (several hundred years ago), the Laguna de Bai was connected to Manila Bay and boats could reach it quite readily. That would make complete sense that the body of water would be called a “lagoon” or “laguna” rather than a lake or “lago”… it also suggests that the water in the laguna may have been brackish, with sea water meeting up with fresh water. I agree with you that the color of the lake is strange, and frankly, I am not sure what commercial fish is raised there… tilapia? bangus?

  13. A few years ago, we invited someone from National Disaster Coordinating Council in our office to talk about emergency response, disaster preparedness, etc. She was discussing about safety areas one can go to after an earthquake (open spaces, parking lots), then she mentioned that for the MOA area, the nearest, safest place from there is already Taft Avenue! And yes, that area is prone to liquefaction, as the speaker said.

  14. I agree with you regarding PAL’s latest A321. Economy section is extremely crowded while Business Class and Premium Economy looks dated. They even use A321 for their Hong Kong, Haneda and other international destinations. The A321s PAL use for international destinations does not even have IFE for their economy class. They should have lowered their airfares considering the removal of IFE, but it seems they are charging full service fares for budget service. PAL also use their new A330 for their Cebu flight and the seats in the Economy are even narrower than those in A321, and the aisles in A330 are so narrow that hand carry luggage with wheels cannot even pass through the aisle. The A330 seats in economy are configured as 3-3-3 when normally it should have been 2-4-2. I dislike taking flights using these new PAL airplanes but sometimes we don’t have any choice.

  15. JC, I agree, they are confused. Crappy planes at full price. But like you say, there isn’t much choice around these days… To fly to Cebu RT is roughly $110 right now, for two hours in the air. But they are offering a RT to NY via Vancouver for $1,100 or so, for some 36 hours in the air. The former domestic airfare is 80% more expensive per hour of flight… :(

  16. Thankfully, Air Canada is not as avid airplane space exploiter as domestic carriers in the states. I would seriously consider taking up hatha yoga if I were you.

  17. Photo #7- Aptly shows why Cavite City was once called “Tangway” which means a Peninsula, a land mass surrounded by water except for an isthmus connecting to a mainland. It has 3 bays surrounding it: Manila bay, Bacoor bay and Canacao bay.

    My best aerial view: once,while the plane was gaining altitude and following the highway I was able to pinpoint our house! :)

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