Manila City Guide
Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, has a rich history associated with it. This city was founded in 1571 on the east coast of Manila Bay by the Spanish Conquistadors. The evidence of this Spanish rule can be seen in the oldest part of Manila, Intramuros, which is the original Spanish settlement and a walled enclave that contains ancient and historic edifices.
Metro Manila, which is a national capital region of the Philippines, is a crowded, buzzing, chaotic megalopolis made up of the smaller cities like Makati, City of Manila, Passay, Quezon, Caloocan and Pasig and others.
Like other countries in the developing world, Manila is a city of great contrasts, where palatial mansions coexist with squatter slums. Manila is home to approximately 10 million inhabitants and the Metro Manila region is the political, educational and commercial capital of the nation.
Manila suffered considerable damage during the Second World War though it was rebuilt with much aid from the US and it continues to function as a US base till date. Manila today is a popular vacation hotspot that is often used as gateway by tourists en-route to the many tourist resorts located around the Philippines.
Where to stay in Manila
Sprawling Metro Manila is divided in to sixteen districts (or cities) which are further classified as into South and North Manila on the basis of their location north or south of the River Passig, which flows through the city.
The city of Makati, which is located in South Manila, is its most prestigious neighborhood that is home to foreign embassies and consulates. The neighborhood is also an important business hub of Manila that hosts several upscale hotels, retail outlets and restaurants. Makati City is usually the number one choice of visitors on a vacation to Manila.
Ermita and Malata Hotels
Ermita and Malate are located within the southern Manila and host several well priced hotels and other budget accommodation options. These areas are also popular with visitors visiting the city for they offer a whole host of attractions like the Rizal Park, the National Museum of Manila amongst others.
Quezon City, which is located in north east Manila, is one of the most populous areas of the city. Quezon City hosts many important political and educational buildings of Metro Manila along with many diverse hotels, which include extended-stay hotel properties.
Places to see in Manila
The medieval remains of the Spanish walled city are a prominent tourist attraction in Manila. Several gates and parts of the wall are located on the southern banks of the Pasig River. The Intramuros contains several religious sites, art galleries and a walk through the gates gives you a glimpse of colonial Philippines as many of the historical buildings are being today restored to their former glory.
The stone Fort Santiago is located within the Intramuros and overlooks the Pasig River. This fort has much historical significance as it has been used over the years by the Spanish, Japanese and the Americans. The fort encloses a verdant park where Filipino plays are staged today. The dungeons of the fort are located below sea level and prisoners who were housed in these subterranean cells often drowned when the tide rolled in. Many American POWs perished at Fort Santiago during World War II.
The church of San Augustin is the oldest church in the Philippines, which was completed in 1606. This church, which is located within the Intramuros, has survived the major earthquakes that rocked Manila in 1863 and 1889. The church has a beautiful engraved door and a trompe-l’oeil ceiling. The church’s décor also includes choir seats, which are hand carved from a local wood called molave and its magnificent pipe organ dates back to the 18th Century. San Augustin is further equipped with a small museum that is run by the Augustinian monks and offers displays of religious artifacts, icons and religious garments.
Malacanang Palace was used as the summer residence of the Spanish Governor General during the ages past. Today this grand palace, which once housed the infamous Imelda Marcos’s collection of a gazillion pairs of shoes and bullet proof bras, is the official residence of the Philippine head of state. A museum is located within the Palace offers displays of artifacts associated with every president’s rule along with portraits of the former presidents. Malacanang Palace is open to the public from Monday to Friday from 9am-3pm.
One of the biggest parks in S.East Asia, Rizal Park stretches over 128 acres and is an important center of recreation for the residents of Manila. The park is named after Dr. Jose Rizal, a prominent thinker and anti-colonialist. He was executed by the Spanish in 1896 for his progressive views and was originally buried in another park but in 1912 his remains were interred in the park under the Rizal monument built in 1912. The Park has a Chinese Garden, an Orchidarium as well as a pond where the Philippines archipelago has been recreated. This park is open from 7am to 7pm daily.
The Spanish colonists of Manila didn’t permit Manila’s Chinese traders to live within the walled section of Intramuros. The city’s Chinese inhabited a settlement called Binondo, which was located north of the Pasig River.
Manila’s Chinatown is a noisy raucous area populated with numerous shops that sell Chinese herbal remedies and potions, clothes jewelry, magazines and Chinese fruits and vegetables. Chinatown also hosts cinema houses that show the latest Hong Kong movies and several budget hotels.
The Coconut Palace
The Coconut Palace is one of the many remnants of the Marcos regime that governed the Philippines from 1965-1986. This palace offers an insight to the excesses of the former first lady, Imelda Marcos. The palace is built entirely of materials derived from the coconut tree and was erected at the cost of $10 million in 1981 for the Pope John Paul’s visit to the Philippines though it received a papal snub as the pope refused to stay there.
Over the years the elaborately decorated and adorned suites have accommodated a number of famous people who were invited as guests of Mrs. Marcos such as musician Van Cliburn and Hollywood actress Brook Shields. The Coconut Palace is definitely recommended as a must-do attraction on any visit to Manila.
During the rule of the Spanish colonists, members of Manila’s Chinese population were not allowed to bury their dead with the Catholic folk of Manila. The Chinese then went on to build a separate cemetery for their dead in the 1850’s.
The Chinese in order to ease the journey of their dead adorned the graves with modern day conveniences like air conditioning, flushable toilets, chandeliers and other devices, which were believed to help a corpse in its onward journey. The Chinese cemetery makes for a hugely interesting sight on any visit to Manila.
Best time to visit Manila
Manila experiences hot and sultry weather all year round. The city typically experiences soaring temperatures in the month of May when temperatures can easily touch 94F (35C). Temperatures are slightly less harsh during the months of December and January, when daytime temperatures usually tend hover around 86F (30C) and nights are pleasant at 69F (20C). Manila also experiences a monsoon season that lasts from June to October.
Getting around in Manila
Manila can be accessed via its Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This airport is located at a distance of seven kilometers from the city and it welcomes both international and domestic carriers. Fare Buzz periodically announces attractive flight deals for Manila and if you are currently in the market for a cheap air ticket for Manila, you should contact Fare Buzz to explore the various cheap air flights that it has for Manila.
Car rental agencies such as Avis and Hertz have offices at the airport as well as around Metro Manila. An International Drivers permit is required for one to drive in Manila. However traffic in Manila is often a chaotic maze and driving in these conditions requires considerable skill. Pollution can wreck havoc by producing a haze, which hampers a visitor’s ability to maneuver a vehicle in the heavy traffic and gridlocks are a common occurrence.
In spite of these adverse conditions, if you are desirous of renting a car for your vacation in Manila, then Fare Buzz can be of assistance as it offers a wide array of affordable car rentals for Manila, which can be reserved through its normal booking channels.
Manila also has a well developed public transport system that is made up of taxis, public buses, the MRT and the LRT and several indigenous modes of public transport like Jeepneys or quirky people carriers that are adorned with various bells and whistles. Jeepneys provide transport all over the city and are available 24/7. You must take a Jeepney ride at least once during your stay in Manila.
Where to shop in Manila
The Philippine capital is considered to be one of the best shopping destinations in Asia. A large variety of goods and low prices, are the hallmarks of Manila’s shopping landscape. The city offers numerous malls, department stores and markets, all of which render it a veritable shopper’s delight.
Popular shopping locales in Manila include the Glorietta and Greenbelt shopping complexes, which are located in the upscale Manila neighborhood of Makati, the city’s financial hub. Both these malls host a slew of brand name stores that sell the latest fashions, home wares, electronics and more. Other heavily-trafficked malls in Manila include locales like the Megamall, the Mall of Asia (the third largest mall in the world) and the SM City North Edsa, all of which offer a comprehensive mall shopping experience by way of their numerous brand name and high street stores and numerous amenities like restaurants, beauty salons and spas. The Ortigas Center located in the east of Manila, is yet another favored retail destination that offers four large malls and thousands of specialty stores that offer a wide assortment of products and goods and services.
If however, you wish to go shopping for souvenirs on your trip in Manila, you need to visit locales like the Balikbayan Handicrafts Center, a large warehouse-like store located in the heart of the city, which offers products like furniture, souvenirs, home furnishings and decorative home accents sourced from all parts of the Philippines. Additionally if your goal is inexpensive shopping in Manila, then locales like the city’s Central Market in Santa Cruz, the Santa Andres Market and enclaves like the Divisoria and the 168 shopping areas offer a whole host of opportunities for cheap and cheerful shopping.
Where to eat in Manila
Manila offers a varied dining landscape populated with restaurants, cafes, bakeries and outlets of popular US and home-grown fast food brands like Jollibee, which offers American-style fast food customized to local tastes.
A wide selection of global cuisines is readily available in Manila and currently the city’s best restaurants include eateries like Va Bene Pasta Deli(Italian), Brasserie Ciçou (French), Elbert’s Steak Room, Charlies Grind and Grill (American burgers), Terry’s Selection(Spanish), Hai Shin Lou (Chinese), Sugi(Japanese), People’s Palace(Thai), Abé (Filipino), Kaya (Korean), New Bombay Indian Cuisine(Indian), Hossein’s Persian Kebab(Middle Eastern). Also worth sampling are the city’s casual dining restaurants like Corner Tree Café, Wild flour Café and Bakery and Sala Bistro.
Nightlife in Manila
Manila is an expansive city that includes various precincts like Makati, Taguig/ Bonifacio Global City (The Fort), Pasig, Pasay (Resorts World and Entertainment City) and Quezon City. All these various sections of the city are equipped with bars and clubs that offer locals and visitors a chance to relax and let down their hair after a hectic, work day. Popular clubs and nightspots in Manila currently include establishments like Republiq and Republic Cabana Club, Opus, (clubs in Pasay city), Prive, 7th High, Hyve ( all located within the Fort entertainment complex in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig), Palladium, Time, Icon (all clubs in Makati) and Eden and Excess( clubs in Quezon City).