Manila (Filipino: Lungsod ng Maynila)is the capital of the Philippines and the nation’s center of education, business, and transportation. Listed as a global city, Manila has its strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport making it the historical, cultural, political, economic and educational center of the Philippines.
Lying at the confluence of the fabled Pasig River and the picturesque Manila Bay is the capital City of Manila. Pulsating with life anytime of the day. Manila is considered one of the most dynamic cities in the orient.
A center of trade and commerce long before the recorders of the history have arrived, a part of it was known as Tundun ( it will be known later on as Tondo ) a settlement cum outpost north of the river in the 9th century AD for the Shrivijayan empire. Centuries later, another Malay settlement and trading post called Maynilad was flourishing at the other side of the river when the Spanish conquistadores headed by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi started their foray in 1570. A resistance was put up by the chieftains of Tondo (Raha Lakandula) and Maynilad ( Raha Sulayman) but was subjugated by the might of the foreigner colonizers.
In 1571, Manila was established as a Spanish port city and works begun for the constructions of the Walled city of Intramuros.
Places of Interest in Manila
Intramuros was, for a long time, the seat of Spanish colonial government in the Philippines. This fortication was built around the old native settlement Maynilad. Within the walls are ramparts and dungeons that helped the colonizers imposed their rule over the indios for more than 300 years. At its northwest ingress from the Pasig River, is Fort Bonifacio-the garrison where Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines National Hero was imprisoned before he was executed in 1896.
Those people who are interested in the religious history of the area will specifically want to check out this cathedral which was first established as a church in Manila way back in the sixteenth century.
A virtual oasis in a frenzied metropolis is Rizal Park, a 58-hectare park whose hallowed ground was immortalized by the ultimate sacrifices of Filipino martyrs in centuries past. Called Bagumbayan Field during the colonial period, it was where the Filipino rebels and mutineers, including the country’s national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, were publicly executed by the Spaniards.
Today, the park, also popularly known as Luneta – which means “Little moon”-is a huge expanse of green where locals usually go to unwind. Dotted with fountains, ponds, playgrounds, outdoor theaters, gardens and a planetarium, it is considered one of the largest parks in Southeast Asia.
Standing with all immensity and pride at the western end of the square is Rizal Monument, the country’s foremost landmark. The 50-foot high memorial was erected in the early 1900s during the American occupation. The statue of Rizal was created in Switzerland and shipped to the Philippines in 1912.
THE TOURIST BELT
Essentially, Manila’s tourist belt refers to Ermita and Malate. These two contiguous districts fronting Manila Bay are famous for their never-ending street parties and sizzling nightlife. To feel the heat, the streets of A. Mabini, M. Adriatico, Pedro Gil and M.H. del Pilar to Remedios Circle are places to reckon with.
The area enjoys a soaring concentration of hotels and inns, restaurants, bars, outdoor cafes, nightclubs, curio shops, travel agencies, money changers and art galleries. It is said that all things and services the tourists need are available here somehow, somewhere. Imposing a strong presence too is the century -old Malate Church whose Moorish-inspired structure secures the miraculous image of Nuestra Seňora de los Remedios. A block away heading south is the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden.
Along Roxas Boulevard are high-rise hotels and apartment buildings with magnificent views of the world-renown Manila Bay sunsets. Just across the strip is Bay Walk, a romantic promenade that was recently refurbished with terra cotta pavements and multi –colored street lamps. Heading south of the boulevard as a reclaimed land bordered by Manila and Pasay City, is the CCP complex.
A trip to this busiest part of Manila starts at Plaza Miranda where Quiapo Church, the Basilica of the Black Nazarene, holds court since1586. Although the present concrete structure is relatively new having built only half a century ago, the original church was constructed by the Franciscan missionaries more than 400 years ago. And on January 9 each year, the Feast of the lack Nazarene brings the wooden statue of Jesus parading through the narrow streets of Quiapo with almost a million devotees in tow.
Nearby are the enduring commercial areas of Escolta and Carriedo. From there you can proceed to Binondo and Ongpin- where Chinatown is- for a good buy of jade and gold and a taste of authentic oriental cuisine. The bargain paradise of Divisoria is next and dropping by Tutuban- an old railway station turned shopping mall- is worth taking for a discounted shopping hunt. Heading south via C.M Recto Avenue will bring you to a church made entirely of steel- the San Sebastian Church. And in stone-throw a distance is Mendiola, short yet very historic street leading to Malacaňang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines.
THINGS TO DO IN THE CITY OF MANILA
Manila is often described as the only capital city in Asia that’s not exotically Asian. A foreigner will be surprised that a local looks just like any Asian, but wears mostly T-shirt & jeans, or jersey, can relate in English, reads and writes in Roman text, and is not at home with chopsticks. As we now see it, Manila is more modern and western judging from the steel and glass skyscrapers dotting the skyline.
Though Manila is not the cleanest or nicest looking city in Asia, it has a unique atmospheric buzz and presents amazing opportunities of adventure and submersion.
Binondo: The World’s First Chinatown
Strolling through various Chinatown’s around the world from Yaowarat in Bangkok to Chinatown in Buenos Aires, is always a culinary expedition. The world’s first Chinatown also known as Binondo in Manila is no different, as an exquisite place to stimulate your senses. Walking the cluttered streets are particularly interesting with hundreds of people going about business, napping, and chowing down great things.
- Ho-Land Bakery: purchase a few Chinese Filipino baked treats
- Dong Bei Dumpling: Serves incredible dumplings and fresh noodle soups
- Wai Ying Fastfood: Stunner dim sum and other Chinese foods
- Many Restaurants: the notorious Soup Number 5: Discover the aphrodisiac soup that remains mysterious (see for yourself)
Quiapo Church and Market
In and around the Quiapo Church in Manila, is a wonderful place to see Manila’s finest trinquets and a chance to scan a storm of bizzare inhabitants. On Friday, the area is buzzing with people lighting candles, fortune tellers contemplating lives, and vendors trying to sell junky items. Walking around the church and under the highway is the sprawling Quiapo Market where infinite shopping options are to be discovered.
Manila Bay Waterfront
A decent place to see the sunset over Manila Bay or to let the kids run around, is directly outside the avoidable Mall of Asia . The huge crowds may be discouraging, but the sunset and ice cream carts with their tunes are always worth it. Other entertainment includes blackjack at a bay facing casino, bowling, watching iMax movies, and jogging along the waterfront.
It is without doubt that most Filipino’s love to sing and it seems that all of them can sing quite well. The widely popular karaoke booths are outfitted with high tech sound systems and there’s nothing like a little evening sing-off with a crowd of friendly Filipino’s. In fact, Karaoke makes one to believe that singing is not actually all that difficult and can act to really boost the self esteem.
A cockfight in Manila, though may be considered brutal by some, is one of the more interesting things to do in Manila. The men in the bleachers shout at the top of their lungs and blurt their gambles for their choice rooster.
The premises then goes silent and the fight begins. The roosters fight till death do them part to cheers and then shrieks of the men who lucked out. Money rolled into tight balls is angrily thrown to collectors from the not so lucky’s. There are various cockpits around Manila to check out and maybe win a few pesos on the fiercest rooster.
From greasy midgets boxing each other to hard thumping electro mixed nightclubs, Manila is full of a vibrant community of party attenders. There are also countless neighborhood restaurants serving San Miguel (local beer) and Sisig (fried pig’s face) till the wee wee hours of sunshine. A trip to Manila is incomplete without browsing or at least making a few empirical conclusions in this direction.
Ride Around on a Jeepney
Rustic WWII Jeeps are the most affordable and entertaining transportation system in Manila. The drivers hurl through traffic with jerks and stops, pretending there are no passengers in the back. The greatest part of the adventure is that when sitting in a Jeepney crammed with people, it is impossible to look out the window and determine where you are or where you are going.
Browse a Local Market
Pyramids of naked chicken heads, piles of pig snouts, messes of fish, weird bakes goods, colorful coconut deserts, ancient looking candies, bite sized dried fish, rice everything, assorted sausages, and all kinds of tropical fruit and vegetables are to enjoy in a local Manila market.
If you care about attempting to finish buffets (like we do), or are just passionate about the utmost in fresh food from the sea, Manila’s Dampa Seafood extravaganza is a gig you will never want to miss. Seafood Dampa works like this: At the market, purchase kilos and kilos of seafood from the extensive catch selection, walk it over to the next door restaurant, and have them transform everything into a tasty art form of your liking.
Some of the delicious dishes include, cheesy mussels, stir fried prawns, chili crab, and ginger fish. Eating a good seafood dampa is one of my favorite things to do in Manila!
Recommendation: There are a number of Dampa Seafood markets but the greatest one I went to was in Pasay City near Manila Bay called Seaside Dampa.
Location: Diosdado Macapagal Blvd., Pasay City, near Manila Bay and close to Mall of Asia
If you haven’t prearranged for a car to whisk you to your destination from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, join the queue for an official taxi, which will take you downtown in around 30 minutes (assuming good traffic, and that’s quite a big assumption). Look for the yellow taxis to the left as you exit: more expensive than those you flag down on the street, these are safe, reliable and air-conditioned.
The elevated LRT is fast and reliable, and the preferred transport method for office workers looking to avoid traffic. Jeepneys are colorful and cheap, though you need to know your route in advance as there’s no other way of telling where you’re going (shout “Para” when you want to get off, and give your fee of about 20 cents). Taxis are inexpensive, with fares starting at 70 cents, but service can be varied, since many taxi companies are less than regulated.
- Philippine Top Destinations
- Diving in the Philippines
- Philippine Shopping
- Activities in the Philippines
- Philippines- More than the usual
- Top-Rated in the Philippines