Difference between revisions of "Manila"
Revision as of 17:57, 2 April 2012Manila is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
The City of Manila  (Filipino: Lungsod ng Maynila) the premier gateway to the Philippines and the epicenter of all activities in the country, located in the west coast of the island of Luzon, sheltered by the finest natural harbor in Asia, Manila Bay. It’s strategic location, sitting at the edge of Asia close enough to China, and within the sailing path of the Pacific Trade Winds made it possible as a transit point for intercontinental commerce, ensuring the success of the lucrative Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, becoming as fabled and celebrated as the Silk Road. Most of its history, it was a link between the East and West, a title now jostled and jealously guarded between the triumvirate of Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore.
But amidst the diminishing returns faced by Manila, it is still replete with titles they may only crave. It's the jumping off point to the finest beaches in the world; to the most diverse and colorful coral reef spots in the world with thousands of species of fish, shell, seahorse, nudibranch, and starfish; to the finest assembly of exotic rare orchids in the world, and to the most awesome bird-watching sites offering an envious lineup of 650 plus endemic birds nowhere matched by any country.
- Cities & Town
- [+] Understand
- [+] Get In
- Cash and Credit
- [+] Get Around
- [+] See
- [+] Do
- [+] Buy
- [+] Eat
- [+] Groom, Relax, & Rejuvenate
- Stay Safe
- [+] Cope
- [+] Get Out
- See More Sights
Manila is distributed into 16 territorial districts, which are all original towns except one, the Port Area District. All of these original towns except Port Area have their own churches and several of these districts have attained identification in their own right.
The eight districts of the City of Manila (not to confuse with Metropolitan Manila) north of the Pasig River are:
- Tondo — the largest, historically 1100 years old, now Southeast Asia's Most Densely Populated District, and the first in Manila to be associated with urban blight and gang crime. The proletariat Andres Bonifacio, the father of the revolutionary Philippine independence movement was born here. Divisoria Market, the country's premier, if not the biggest combined wholesale and retail center, as well as the largest spillover ambulant and flea market, is here. Old Tutuban Station, the country's Grand Central Station, a terminal of the Philippine National Railways is also here, now converted to a thematic shopping mall.
- Binondo — The world's oldest Chinatown thriving before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1571 and the city's original center for business, finance, and wholesale, as well as retail trade ranging from jewelry to aromatic essences. It's famous for its authentic Chinese, mostly Hong Kong cuisine and quaint interesting Chinese shop-houses. It's church is a fascinating fusion of Spanish Baroque & Chinese styles as shown in its pagoda bell tower.
- San Nicolas — shares Divisoria Market (see Tondo) with other co-district is the hub for the adventurous shoppers that may venture for cheap and wholesale bargains.
- Santa Cruz — is on the edge of Chinatown, which is the district of usual frenzied mix of commercial and residential premises. It's where Escolta starts - the main artery that used to be Manila's old Wall Street and 5th Avenue during the early American Colonial period to the 1960's. Carriedo St. is where a hodge podge of stalls selling locally-made clothes, export overruns, and household items. It is also home to a cultural curio and the second oldest cemetery in the city - the Chinese Cemetery, where the Chinese community's burials were relegated due to restrictions by the colonial Spanish administration. It features palatial mausoleums with hotel-like suites, some with jacuzzis.
- Quiapo — Home to Plaza Miranda, Manila's original answer to Trafalgar Square, and most especially to the Black Nazarene, an enduring Catholic icon brought from Mexico in the early 1600s. It is also a place famous for flowers, herbal remedies, love potions, fortune tellers, religious items, as well as electronic goods (Raon St.) to native handicrafts and tourist curios sold at Quinta Market and under an overhead bridge fondly called by some locals as Ille de Toule a French corruption of Tagalog "Ilalim ng Tulay" meaning in English "Under the Bridge". Old deligthful Art-Nouveau elite houses are now converted to tumbledown slum enclaves sharing space with B-rated movie houses past their grandeur and glory days. The premier and oldest mosque in the city serves as centerpiece for Manila's small rendition of Arab & Muslim Town, a concept set up by Imelda Marcos to imbibe some sense of cosmopolitanism in the city.
- Sampaloc — the word for tamarind, this University Belt district, an easily identifiable nerve center of the country's major institutions of learning and a hotbed of diploma mills, is where the University of Santo Tomas, Asia's oldest university (founded in 1611), famous not more for its notoriously morally bankrupt and corrupt Dominican Friars during the Spanish colonial days as the inspiration portrayed by the National Hero Jose Rizal in his fiction novels, nor for its movers and shakers alumni, but also for being converted into the biggest concentration camp of international civilians held by the Japanese during WWII. Also, it's where lies the Dangwa Flower Market. It is also the student dorm central of the Philippines where most Filipinos nationwide claim temporary board and lodging in the myriad of apartment houses lining a warren of narrow streets while enrolled in the more than a dozen universities, colleges, and review centers within it, along with service shops such as bookstores, copier & printing (including fake diplomas) shops, thesis and reports mills, and computer rental shops, as well as entertainment joints catering to student clientele such as internet and video games, bootleg DVD & software shops, billiard halls, and student-budget sex and related vices safe houses. The imposing San Sebastian Church, inside the campus of a university, is the first and only iron pre-fab church in the Philippines manufactured in Belgium in the mid 1800s.
- San Miguel Beer.
- Santa Mesa — from the Spanish term holy table, this working class district is not so holy anymore as it hosts most of the city's short time love hotels and motels; marks the first shot of the Filipino-American War.
- Port Area — the country's chief seaport consisting of North and South Ports, where wharehouses are arrayed elbow to elbow along docking and refueling stations for all ships, ferries, and cruise liners, and where one can witness the dramatic sunset of Manila Bay.
- Intramuros — taken from the Spanish, intra & muros, literally "within the walls", the History Town of the Philippines and considered as Old Manila itself during Spanish times, just right south of the mouth of the traversing Pasig River. First of all, it is a fortress city used to be surrounded by a moat now transformed into a putting green, and it is where the old Spanish Fort Santiago was headquartered. The fort, converted into a museum, a very historical piece of landmark where almost all the who's who of Philippine colonial resistance - Spanish, American, & Japanese were incarcerated. It used to house a dozen or so churches and congregation mother houses that during clear skies, the skyline was picturesquely lined with cupolas and sphires and the morning air was deafening with peeling bells coming from belfries; the finest assembly of colonial architecture, just reduced to ashes with the exception of San Agustin Church during the last World War. Sir Banister Fletcher, a noted architectural historian wrote "Until...years ago the Philippines could offer many well-preserved examples of Spanish architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Intramuros, the old walled stronghold of Manila, the capital, which was once a treasure-house of ultramarine Hispanic art, suffered irreparable damage during World War II." Ultramarine Hispanic Art, whatever it was, must have been another lost 8th Wonder of the World which this and future generations have sorely missed. A great plan was underway in the late 70's by Imelda Marcos to reconstruct the old city but since everything else associated with her means opulence and extravagance, it fizzled off. The Manila Cathedral styled as Philippine version of Romanesque-Byzantine Revival, prominently stands within the walls of this district. There is a patch of land east of the walled city informally called Extramuros, the new Civic Center designated by the Americans where the Classical Revival style Post Office Building majestically visible, built on an imposing spot that should have been used for a more important stately building such as the Classic Senate House which holds ground on a spot where it can only be viewed obliquely and less grandly on a passing glance, and by now demoted as the National Art Gallery, The Art-Deco stylish Metropolitan Theater, and the City Hall with its subdued Mughal-Big Ben style clock tower are situated nearby.
- Malate district) south of Intramuros, used to be the one and only Red Light District, bars, pubs, cafes, bistros, night clubs, and massage parlors, share equal billing (and rent) with most of the city's overseas job recruitment firms, a cozy set up for mostly Middle Eastern employers to unwind after a day's round of interviewing applicants on a business with pleasure trip. It has a lively and diverse nightlife; also offers numerous coin, art and antique, and souvenir shops. Ermita is also where the American Embassy is located, together with Rizal Park, where the National Hero-Martyr Jose Rizal was executed by firing squad by the Spaniards, now immortalized by his statue-and-obelisk-on-a-pedestal memorial; and also Manila's mini rendition of New York's Central Park, the only biggest lung of the city used as promenade with a dual role as a national mall. The Manila Ocean Park, Manila's answer to Singapore's Sentosa Aquarium is also located in this park complex, as well as the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Artist's Gardens, the Orchidarium, the Open-Air Auditorium hosting the weekly Concert-at-the-Park and foreign film screenings, the Planetarium, and the Classical Revival style National Museum renamed Museum of the Filipino People building as well as the pathetic looking 1950's style National Library. At the east end of the Park is where used to be Wallace Field where the American-style Mardi Gras festival Manila Carnival was yearly held for 32 years until it was abruptly ended by World War II. Around and nearby is where one can also find the grand Manila Hotel, one of the finest hotels in the Far East even though the exterior looks dusty. And farther down a few blocks south is the Supreme Court building back to back with the equally Greek/Roman Classical styled campus of the Manila branch of the premier state university, the University of the Philippines, which location is the very first campus of the University built around 1900 before it was transferred to Quezon City after World War II.
- Malate — just right south of Ermita, an equally very colorful hotel district, used to be famous for its mansions where the city's cream of the crop resides and its elite girls convent schools as well as the De La Salle University, which started as an elite boys school now transformed into a learning center of choice for the country's Chinese elite class. It is now more known as the center of bohemian night life in the city and the whole metropolis. Also, the site of the fiercest atrocity done by the Japanese to any civilians at the closing of World War II where whole neighborhoods were forced to assemble in the nearby Rizal Memorial Sports Coliseum to be dealt with mass orgy of rape and massacre. The district has a quaint and handsome Philippine-Baroque style church. The Manila Zoo, Asia's oldest zoo and, together with the title, is probably the most huggard looking, is also here.
- Imelda Marcos' dreamy City by the Bay called the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex or CCP Complex for short, a flat extended open space reclaimed from the bay that resembles Beijing's Tienanmen or Moscow's Red Square lined with coconut palm trees, as Civic Center and breezily tropical as it gets and an inspiration for Singapore's Marina, is bannered by the zen-like and boxy Cultural Center of the Philippines - home for national theatrical performances, co-inaugurated by then Marcos buddy and Governor Ronald Reagan. Designed by Leandro Locsin, King Bolkiah of Brunei and Imelda's favorite architect, in the mold of Oscar Niemeyer and Meis Van Der Rowe, this travertine veneered masterpiece is typical of those "less is more" fancies of the 1960's-70's. Other similar structures in the vicinity designed by him are the Philippine International Convention Center, the National Design Center, a supporting institution for the growth of industrial design arts, the Folk Arts Theater, built specifically to host the 1974 Miss Universe Pageant, and the resortly sharp and still spiffy Philippine Plaza Hotel. Most are now in their not-so-pristinely-intended condition. The two other important landmarks in the complex not designed by him is the said to be haunted Manila Film Center, the venue for the first and only Manila International Film Festival which premiered the film "Gandhi" in 1982, now the repository National Film Archives, and the architecturally intriguing, humble and yet tasteful Coconut Palace now as the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines. The last important structure here is the GSIS Building or the Government Service Insurance System, meant as the social security apparatus of government workers with the Banawe Rice Terraces concept in mind, also architecturally engaging, now temporarily housing the National Senate, the senior legislative arm of the government. Although technically contaguous, this landmark is not part of the district anymore and belongs to the city of Pasay.
- Pandacan — district home to many of the country's literary and musical geniuses, originally named after the pandan plant species.
- Paco — a working class district that started out as Little Tokyo during the Spanish era, lies the city's historic but ruined and abandoned Paco Train Station where overhead, Japanese and American planes combated in a dogfight showdown after the Pearl Harbor attacks and the run-up to the invasion of Manila by the Japanese. It's also the location of the mysterious circular cemetery now simply called Paco Park, the first burial site of the national hero - Jose Rizal, after he was executed by the Spanish, now used as venue for chamber music symphony concerts. Paco Market, another of the city's major wet-dry public market, has one of the most frenzied, colorful, and interesting market scenes in the city with it's boisterous ambulant vendors, busy Chinese owned stalls, and hawker market food. The district specializes in furniture and hardware items.
- Santa Ana— known as Sapa in ancient times, this district is the old capital of Namayan Kingdom which is the precursor of modern Metro Manila and used to be a quiet upmarket residential neighborhood comparable to Chelsea district in London during the American colonial era, but now a blighted working class district with its defunct Santa Ana Hippodrome which used to be one of the finest horse racetracks in Asia. A small museum by the colonial church of Our Lady of the Abandoned or simply Santa Ana Church, shows remnants of a pre-Spanish settlement.
- San Andres Bukid — also known as St. Andrew Fields as its English translation sounds more pleasant to the ear, was previously part of Santa Ana. It is also home to San Andres Market - another major public market, famous for it's variegated fruit stalls and a little bit touristy ambiance.
Cities & Town
Manila as a metropolis, is composed of the city itself and another closely knit 15 cities and 1 town, which all used to be satellites. Traveling to at least two of these will make a more or less complete tour of the city as some indispensible attractions are located in one of them.
- Quezon City— named after the 2nd and 1st actual/formal President of the Philippines, this city is home to most national government headquarters and more importantly the lower legislative house - Batasang Pambansa, since it was the capital. Most importantly, it is home to centers of learning that have moved out from Manila for larger, more expansive space, foremost of which is the University of the Philippines and the elitist Ateneo de Manila University. Completing the list of public institutions which make this city the country's no.1 venue are the Kidney Center, the Lung Center, and the Heart Center - Imelda Marcos' pet projects in the 70's that were once trailblazing in the region. The Heart Center is the first in the region when open heart surgery was just being pioneered. The Araneta Center in Cubao district, one of the pioneer commercial establishments in the country has its concept entirely patterned and that is why it is the Rockefeller Center of the Philippines. The complex is in the same management mold of multi-million family-owned corporations. It has a 15,000 capacity sports-concert arena that hosted the Trilla in Manila bout between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazer in the 70's. Another commercial strip that is "bourgeois", "yuppie", "dinks" popular, and touristy too, the T. Morato Avenue within Kamuning district with boutique-size shops, restaurants, and night clubs catering to the Middle to Upper Middle class clientele.
- Makati City—the de facto financial "district" of Manila and the financial and economic hub of the country, superseding from the 1960s the Escolta area of Binondo, Manila. The Stock Exchange office is here, a fitting cap to be located close to all other Philippine Fortune 500 offices which have set up their headquarters here as well as practically all multi-national corporations. Embassies have set up their offices here too. It has three premier upscale shopping centers in the country namely Glorietta (the oldest), Greenbelt, and Rockwell (a little farther). Also, seat of exclusive rich and expatriate gated communities in the country - Forbes Park, Dasma Village, Magallanes Village, San Lorenzo. Makati has two outstanding Spanish colonial churches, the San Pedro Makati Church and the Guadalupe Viejo Church both of which have grand fiestas honoring their foundation anniversaries.
- Pasay City—where the infamous NAIA or Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located.
- Mandaluyong City— used to be a quite residential suburb where a big institutional estate occupied a large portion of the city. This estate is where the National Mental Hospital lies as well as the former Refugee Processing Center for Vietnamese Boat People. But now, gone are the Vietnamese and in come thousands of squatters who are now awarded most of the property, partitioned into small plots transforming the once and only verdant breathing space expanse remaining in the city into a densely populated ghetto. This city has a cluster of skyscrapers conglomerating on the eastern section collectively known as the Ortigas Center. If Makati City is for the Ayalas, Quezon City is for the Aranetas, then Mandaluyong City is for the Ortigases. It still has its old affluent residential areas maintained. One of the largest shopping malls in the world, the SM Mega Mall is here, near the site of the EDSA Shrine the focal point among the many memorable sites lining EDSA, the avenue where the 1986 People's Power Revolution erupted, a momentous episode in Philippine history that culminated with the toppling of the Marcos Regime.
- San Juan City— now fully developed, dense, and chaotic as any city, this is the humble political training ground of ousted Ex-Pres. Estrada, the second President in Philippine history to be ousted, San Juan had him as its Mayor for about 30 years but now, he still maintains considerable clout in this once low-profile but high brow residential suburban town transformed into a thriving and upper middle-classy commercial area.
- Caloocan City—
- Navotas City—
- Malabon City— one of those Ma-places in the metropolis to describe its attributes among them Ma-nila (full of nilad plant), Ma-kati (full tide), Ma-rikina (full of cuteness), Malabon which means full of labong or bamboo shoots is a Bangkok-Venice like trading village that can trace its Spanish founding to 1599. It's a culinary town famous for its noodly Pansit Malabon dish, among other seafood and rice cake fares. Surprisingly, Malabon still have some vintage houses to show off as tourist attractions.
- Valenzuela City—
- Pasig City—
- Marikina City—
- Paranaque City—
- Las Pinas City—
- Muntinglupa City—
- Taguig City—
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.
Indeed, Manila and to the extent, the Philippines seemed out of place. When God endowed the Asian countries when he created the world, he left out the Philippines. It was separated by deep seas from its immediate neighbors, difficult for elephants and tigers to cross over from their jumping off point in Mainland Asia save for rodents and rodent sized critters. While these star animals have become cultural icons and inspirations eventually proving as come-on for tourism in practically all of Asia, here, the Philippines have nothing to speak of.
It was too remotely set off from India and Sri Lanka whose cultures initiated the building of Angkor Wats, Borubodurs, Bagans, Sukhothais, and the likes. As this tattered rag-shaped country can’t support uninterrupted large swats of territory for big mammals to roam freely, so does royalty. Only feudal warlords were able to thrive in its scattered little islands, unable to be united by one monarch, thus no kings to talk about and their court rituals, ceremonies, and pageantries like those we found in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Java & Bali – something what the tourists especially the western ones come to look for.
It is limited in arts and crafts department, no tradition in ceramics & pottery, woodcarving and woodworking, bronze and goldsmith, lacquer work, or silk weaving, etc. in what is seen as ‘a-must’ tourist magnets in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar where the royalty nurtures and initiates its patronage. Hardly a prerogative industry for the Spanish colonizers to cultivate and yet, ironically, even if the Philippines were administratively and culturally a part of Mexico, which has a surprising rich arts and crafts scene.
The Spanish colonizers censored everything using their religion and stunted cultural creativity to achieve their subjugation of the populace. The native’s brain was picked and twisted – whatever his thoughts are, before it’s executed, there is the confessional box to edit and delete it. This comes down to all forms of cultural expression – not only the visual arts but theater or folklore as well. Mythology was underground; subjects were restricted to Biblical characters so that there were no puppetries and masks plays to speak of as those thriving in every Asian country. Everything done not to their approval and liking was considered work of the devil.
They cultivated in the Filipino mindset that anything Asian is inferior - thoughts, ideas, and material things, except for the imported exotic goods that they covet from China through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, the next important route following the Silk Road. It now comes naturally that Filipinos need to confirm approval by European or American tastes before they can appreciate it.
Even in the culinary department, the Spanish limited the range of Filipino cooking if not for the Chinese. No thanks to the Spanish, ingredients are limited - no basil leaves or very few selection of herbs, curries, turmeric, lotuses, etc.. Even the availability of tamarind sauce, coming from the tamarind fruit, a very locally adapted tree and growing almost in every local farm, is limited to Thai imports sold in expatriate-patronized supermarkets. Exotic fruits thriving in the tropics – passion fruit, dragon fruit, toddy palm, pomegranate, or mangosteen – everyday fruits you see in the sidewalks of Saigon or Bangkok, appear rarely in specialty stores.
It was never conceived as an Asian city in the first place. If being not so Asian is what discourages foreign tourists to come, worse is that its cultural or historical heritage is not so appreciated and maintained. With the penchant for the new and western, Manilans shun the old aside.
Once, it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, having been compared with London, Paris and other European cities, Manila was far more enlightened, westernized, and advanced when much of the capital cities of Southeast Asia, and Asia for that matter have only a few kilometers of paved roads, no sanitation, public lamp posts, nor electric public street cars. For good measure, delightful and dandy Spanish colonial Manila was expanded and designed by the famous urban planner, Daniel Burnham during the American Colonial Era and never had it so good, its 1930’s Art-Deco Spanish-American style mansions equipped with balconies facing the famous Manila sunset.
But by twist of fate, World War II destroyed all those. Manila was a scene of two colonial monsters battling it out not on their own turf. The suicidal Japanese, sore losers and nearing definite defeat, burned and hacked everything in their path, while the Americans pursued them assiduously in every nook and cranny no matter if they trampled somebody’s precious grandfather’s clock or ancestral dining table. Everything from the capital city’s National Museum to the popular neighborhood cinema was turned to rubble. Next to Warsaw, Poland it was one of the most destroyed cities during World War II. Despite bombings, traces of Spanish influence still stands today such as in Intramuros.
Manilans proved incapable of “rising like a phoenix” so to speak, unable to rally themselves and administering and maintaining a first class city in the aftermath of its worse devastation as the country was granted independence by the Americans shortly after, and as the culture of corruption and lack of sense of civic mindedness set in.
A cycle of boom and bust opportunities marked by corrupt and inept political administrations, corrected by an illustrious one, and then squandered by the next goes on. Meanwhile the economies of Southeast Asia were growing into little tigers with their sustained developments.
Today, Manila, interchangeably called Metro Manila, is the most populous of the twelve defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines. The metropolitan set-up originally conceived by Imelda Marcos, the flamboyant Ex-First Lady who at least gave Manila its quickie 15-minutes of fame in the 70’s and 80’s. Those 40 and older may remember one of the best building boom years after WWII when she spearheaded the construction of almost all the cultural attractions a local could brag to a tourist. She started the Philippine Village or Nayong Pilipino, a concept unknown to many which has been copied by every Southeast Asian country where a sample of its regional houses and architecture is showcased in one park. Among other things, her memorable landmarks – the Cultural Center of the Philippines, conceptualized as a white pearl rising from the waters, something evoking mystique and awe, unheard of years before Singapore built her own counterpart gem from reclaimed land. Now, it’s a sad grimy and sooty remnant of the past. Then there’s too, the Philippine International Convention Center – so modern and aptly 70’s, built during the time when practically all Asian cities, even Hong Kong, have no convention center to speak of; the massive Philippine Folk Arts Theater built in just 77 days, and the National Design Center completing the menagerie, while the National Film Center molded as the modern Acropolis – the abode of the cultural gods, now stands like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, pun not intended, for its sorry state as an abandoned de facto cemetery for entombing unaccounted number of workers when it collapsed while rushing it to completion. Not to forget the Coconut Palace – an ingenious way to showcase Filipino craftsmanship using native, most especially the versatile coconut as a building material. They were all proud landmarks in the 70’s-80’s but for reasons one can suspect that since its Imelda’s projects, anything associated with her is just allowed to decay.
Such is the attitude cultivated by Manilans, accustomed to regime changes. Anything past means rinky dink and passé and should be neglected and confined to oblivion, a habit when the Spanish came, when the Americans came, and practically for every next regime.
Many visitors also have described the city as polluted, crowded, and dirty. Locals just shrugged it off nonchalantly as normal part of life. During Imelda’s time when slums were limited to a few areas and few militant slum agitators were around, she would hastily cover it with walls of white washed and painted murals to hide it from the visiting foreign dignitary, where his limousine cruised through as he navigates the city. Nowadays, the slums have practically invaded all habitable spot with only pockets of clean, well maintained places as exception. It would be a gargantuan job for Imelda to sweep them all under the rag.
When Rachel Weisz was shooting the film “Bourne Legacy”, she can’t but noticed the slum areas precariously standing next to her scene prompting her to ask, is it just here? The response was: No, there are more, everywhere!
A look at the skyline and the way these dozen steel cranes hoist more and more floors to the sky, skyscrapers are poised to project ever higher and higher as land prices keep on soaring and the narrow avenues and boulevards are unable to accommodate more cars and parking spaces. Anarchy seemed to be the norm as 30 plus-storey buildings sprout like mushrooms everywhere starting from the late 80s that it looks like there is no Master Zoning Plan, a gathering perfect storm. The Americans ironically initiated the design of narrow roads in this country while their cities had wide-laned roads, unable to foresee the population boom.
And truthfully, population growth has reached alarming proportions. Even if the country experiences China-like economic growth, it can’t alleviate the high rate of population growth among the poor - poverty constituting the non-diminishing 47% of the nationwide population - with a zero institutionalized family planning system. Much of the resistance lies in the influence of the Catholic establishment which is fully entrenched, Manila being considered as the hub of Catholicism in Asia. Just as during the Spanish times, the Church interferes with the State affairs; solutions are hindered by the dominant religious establishment, nowadays with vocal force. Lawmakers meekly follow their conscience, most probably fearful of threats of excommunication, images of brim of fire, or being tagged as pariahs. Meanwhile the city is becoming unsustainably livable. All its (and the country’s) resources are forced to burst at the seams and everyone is dreamily living in denial.
Note: As of the 2007 census, it had a population of 11,553,427, comprising 13% of the national population. Including suburbs in the adjacent provinces of Greater Manila, the population is around 20 million.
For over three centuries Manila was colonized and administered by Spain which left an enduring architectural heritage throughout the Philippines, especially with respect to churches, forts and other colonial buildings which can still be seen in the ruins of Intramuros, built in the late 16th century. Manila began as a settlement on the banks of the Pasig River, and its name originates from "Maynilad," referring to the mangrove plant known as Nilad, which was abundant in the area. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, Manila was home to Muslim-Malays, who were descended from the Arabs, Indians, East Asians and other Southeast Asians. In 1571, 50 years after Magellan's discovery of the islands, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claimed the Philippines as a colony and established Manila as its capital. Manila was also briefly colonized by the British for two years. Manila was also part of the Spanish East Indies until 1898, when the U.S. took over the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.
Manila was first sought by the Spaniards, then the Americans. The Spaniards want a counterbalance to the expanding Portuguese empire which had almost taken a big slice of the pie in the lucrative Spice Trade. They got it through Manila, so strategically placed between China together with the rest of Asia, and Mexico - the next closest transit point for goods onwards from Asia to Europe.
Its location seemed a well thought out choice. Legazpi took five years after arriving in the Philippines and settling in Cebu in 1565 to mull over before deciding to finally move up north to Manila in 1571 and make it the capital of the new territory. By numbers, it shortened the traveling distance to the other side of the empire in Acapulco. Manila is also in a much easy and straighter drafting reach for sailing ships to catch the Pacific Trade Winds as it blow northeastward to Japan for Acapulco and blow precisely at San Bernardino Strait for the westward-bound return trip without being diverted any farther. Most importantly, Manila is much closer than Cebu to China.
When Mexico pushed for its independence from Spain and finally shoved her out, the Philippines' glittering importance began to dwindle due to the discontinuance of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, cutting off the Acapulco to Vera Cruz segment and it accelerated more when the Suez Canal was opened enabling the Chinese exports to go opposite direction and making Singapore as most important transit hub to Europe in the region. A token administration was just maintained in Manila which confined it to the doldrums being one of the unreachable and hard to maintain colonies of Spain. Until a new imperialist era dawned, emboldened countries embarked on a new competition for raw materials and market.
Netherlands, Britain, & France are already there now with Germany, lurking somewhere and fit to fill in the voids about to be vacated by waning superpowers. Germany was already sniffing its way around the Pacific Ocean like a shark smelling a kill when the US, spurred by the windfall of acquiring Hawaii and which desperately wanted a toehold in Asia for her trade, notably with Japan and China, grabbed the first opportunity of coveting the Philippines. The Philippines once more, so strategically placed as the soon-to-be-linchpin of American imperialism extended her colonial servitude to the US.
With the dynamic geo-politics working, the Philippines and Manila in particular prove to be manna from heaven as Japan begins to flex her muscles. The result, the Philippines served as first line of defense for Australia and the mainland US to buy time and it really proves more beneficial as another realignment was in force after World War II when communism comes into the scene and is threatening to swallow the whole of East Asia except Japan, putting the Philippines as a buffer zone for whatever adverse contingency and as long as the Manila leadership sides with the US, things will be OK.
Now that communism is under control and every country on both sides of the Pacific seemed to be embracing free market economy, all of Southeast Asia are grinding strong and busy buzzing. The factors of time, location, and distance are not a consideration anymore and what needs to be important is that Manila is as peaceful, orderly, productive, and creative as all her neighbors to win visitor's attention.
Being a city with its ears and antennae always tuned in to European and American trends, and in the forefront of modernization and constant cultural refinement more than any other city in Southeast Asia or Asia as a whole, Manila witnessed or hosted innovations - political, cultural, civic etc. and enjoys such first titles as:
- The Birthplace of Asia's First Anti-Colonialism & Independence Movement (1896)
- The Capital of Asia's First Republic Republic of the Philippines (1898)
- The First Zoo in Asia Manila Zoo (1959)
- The First Botanical Garden in Asia Mehan Gardens (1924)
- The First City Symphony Orchestra in Asia Manila Symphony Orchestra (1926)
- The First Movie Production Studio in Southeast Asia Nepumoceno Studios (1919)
- The First Urban Public Rail Transport System in Southeast Asia Manila-Malabon Railway (1888)
- The First Light Rail Transit System in Southeast Asia LRT-1 Monumento to Baclaran Line (1984)
- The First University in the Far East University of Santo Tomas(1611)
- City Where The First Bank in Southeast Asia Was Established Bank of Philippine Islands (1851)
- Site of The First Beer Brewery in Southeast Asia San Miguel Beer Brewery (1890)
- Site of The First International Convention Center in Asia Philippine International Convention Center (1976)
- City Where The First National Asian Airline Was Launched Philippine Airlines (1941)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to be Electrically Served La Electricista (1892)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to Install Water Supply Manila Waterworks (1878)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to Have a Medical Center Philippine General Hospital (1909)
- Host of the First Printing Press in Southeast Asia (1593)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to Publish a Newspaper Successos Felices (1637)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to Have a Regular Newspaper Del Superior Gobierno (1811)
- The First City in Southeast Asia to Have a Public Broadcast Station Philippine Broadcasting Station (1933)
Manila sits on an archipelago just at the edge of the Asian continent, some 14° 35' N, 121º 00 E'. It’s 700 miles (1,100 km.) or 2 hours flight time from Hong Kong, 1,400 miles (2,200 km.) or 3:15 hours from Bangkok, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) or 3:35 hours from Singapore, 1,900 miles (3.000 km) or 4:15 hours from Tokyo, and 1,800 miles (2,800 km.) from 4:25 hours from Beijing.
Ever so physically endowed, it is sitting in the throes of two notoriously dangerous volcanoes - Pinatubo to the north, which made headlines in 1991 when it spewed dust all over the world and dropped global temperature by 2°, and Taal to the south which always makes headlines every decade or so, while this city straddles the Pacific Rim of Fire underneath. What more, it lies in the path of the tropical monsoon bringing those more and more powerful typhoons during the second half of the year. It is fringed to the south by the idyllic Lake Bai - a veritable scenic showcase of Hispanized native folk and traditional culture, and farther south by cool and refreshing Lake Taal.
The City of Manila is in the western part of Metro Manila. It is bordered on the west by Manila Bay, to the north by Navotas, Quezon City and Caloocan City, to the east by San Juan and Mandaluyong City and to the south by Pasay and Makati.
Manila is 7 hours ahead of GMT.
The electrical current in Manila is 220 volts A.C.
Fixed:01 January New Year's Day 25 February People's Power Day 01 May Labour Day 12 June Philippine Independence Day 01 November All Saint's Day 02 November All Soul's Day 25 December Christmas Day 30 December Rizal Day
Movable:March/April Holy Thursday & Good Friday November Bonifacio Day
The Philippines has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. Typhoons and tropical storms are a common occurrence during the wet season, particularly in the northern part of the Philippines, and occur from late May till early November. Dry season starts from late November until late April. December to February is a pleasant time to visit the Philippines. Temperatures during this time range from 24-30°C (75-86°F) at its peak. From March to May, temperatures heat up but as Manila is by the coast, it rarely goes beyond 37°C (99°F).
March is the best month of the year, when even at noontime, it is a pleasure to walk, and when other Southeast Asian countries are experiencing 40°C heat and muggy weather.
Filipino (Tagalog) is the language of the locals. It is the chosen language at home to most. It is also the language of the media and movie industries as Manilans watch TV and movies and read newspapers in Filipino. Being one of the common denominators of the locals, Filipino based from Tagalog shares with English, the other most popular.
English comes second as a medium of instruction in any institution. It is the language of the government, and the preference for written communication, be it in school or business. It is also the language of the media.
Tourists who have just arrived here can easily catch up with the latest gossip news in the local tinsel town as well as government scuttlebutts as there are plenty of English version newspapers and magazines.
BTW, the Philippines with a population of 100 million, is the second largest English speaking country in the world after the US (330 million) and has now surpassed Britain with a population of 65 million.
In Binondo, Manila's Chinatown district, Hokkien is widely spoken while Mandarin might also be known as it is taught in Chinese educational institutions. It is fast becoming the third most important language following Filipino and English, unseating Spanish.
Spanish used to be the official language of the Philippines and deteriorated to the language of the old time generations, one time used to be taught for a 12-unit course in all university curriculi. A tertiary education is not complete unless one takes the whole course and must at least have basic conversation skills. Now, Spanish is practically dead, but the language has somehow percolated through the Filipino vocabulary which is now about 10% Spanish derived.
Filipino being 100% based from Tagalog grammar and more or less 50% from Tagalog vocabulary, is a hodge podge of other Philippine languages, setting aside English, Spanish, Malay, Sanskrit, Arabic, & Chinese. Here are the main ones that one might detect being spoken by neighbors or seatmates, Manila, being the Tower of Babel and melting pot of the country.
- Tagalog - the base for Filipino and spoken in Metro Manila and outlying regions covering the Central Plains down to the southern middle part of Luzon island just as the strip of Bicol Peninsula begins. But everywhere else, Tagalog is well understood, along with English.
- Ilocano - its origin and turf is the northern third part of Luzon island. It's the mother tongue of Ex-Pres. Marcos.
- Pampango or Kapampangan - it used to cover a wide area but now reduced to the western delta emptying out into the north of Manila Bay. It's the mother tonque of Ex-Pres. Cory Aquino's forefathers not from the Chinese side.
- Bicolano - covers the Bicol peninsula, it is a more or less language because there are so many dialects within it although people from this area understand what one from the other side is saying.
- Ilongo - covers the western part of the Visayas or Central islands particularly Panay island and the western half of Negros island.
- Cebuano - covers the middle part of the Visayas or Central islands namely Cebu and Bohol islands, as well as the eastern half of Negros island.
- Waray - covers the eastern part of the Visayas or Central islands namely Leyte and Samar islands. It's Imelda Marcos' mother tongue.
Taglish has been part of everyday life of Manilans as they try to grapple with expressing themselves the easiest and the most effective way, mix n' matching English words and phrases with Tagalog and vice versa. It used to be frowned upon by teachers but as the quality of education deteriorates, they too found themselves commiting the same sin since this new wave of teachers are also product of younger half-baked generation.
The assault on purists comes both ways, those who have inadequate schooling in English at lost for words, and on the other side, those specifically bred and schooled in the US establishing their foothold back in the country struggling with their broken Tagalog, or finding experiences and descriptions that can't be expressed in Tagalog, throwing in some English words and phrases as filler. It so happened that being "foreign", "western", and "American", they are more endeared and adorable to the grounded natives, their way of speaking becoming the "in" thing. Also, English being at the forefront of technological and cultural development (ex.: computer), produces new words and experiences that can't be purely translated.
Movie personalities being role models are more of the culprits as they magnify the popularity of Taglish.
Some useful Filipino words:
Some Taglish words or English derived Tagalog words:
- Okidok - Okey or Okee dokee
- Bay Bay - Bye
- T.Y. (tee-why) - Thank You
- Jeproks - laidback dude - Reverse of "projects", a suburban brat living in (gov't.) housing projects
- Komander - Wife - the queen of the home
- Bosing - Boss - term of endearment
- Orig - Original - not bootleg
- Shucks! - Shockingly Yucky (very gross)
- Tateh - States - USA
- Tayp na Tayp - Type - someone's match or crush
- Super galing - Very good - superlative added to any Tagalog adjective in this case magaling for good
- Sosyal - Socialite - cool and sophisticated
- Trapo - Corrupt and inept politician - trapo or rug in Spanish but short for traditional politician
- Baybs - Compatible - from "vibes" or good vibration
Some Filipino words derived from Spanish:
- Bongga - Boga - vogue, cool
- Kumusta ka? - ¿Como estas? - How are you?
- Sigeh - Sigue - move on
- Asikaso - Hacer caso - well taken care of
- Arangkada - Arrancada - set off, pick up speed
- Barat - Barato - tightwad
- Borloloy - Borla - adornment
- Tsismis - Chismis - gossip
- Delikadesa - Delicadeza - regalness/taste
- Deskarte - Descarte - subterfuge, strategy
- Kwidaw - Quidar - to be careful
- Machonurin - Macho + Tagalog: masunurin for obedient - henpecked husband
- Syano - Provinciano - bumpkin and simpleton
- Umpisa - Empezar - to start
A valid passport or internationally recognised Travel Document is required. All tourists, except nationals from restricted countries, may enter the Philippines without visas and may stay in the country for 30 days provided they can present confirmed bookings for onward or return journeys. An extension of stay may be applied for at the Bureau of Immigration.
Just in (Mar.'12), visa-free privilege is given to 166 countries/territories from 21 to 30 days. A 30-day visa-free stay to Chinese nationals travelling to the Philippines (as part of a tour group handled by a Department of Tourism-accredited Philippine tour operator) and a 14-day visa-free stay for Indian nationals who have a valid American, Japanese, Australian, Canadian, Shengen, Singaporean, or British visa is now in effect. ASEAN countries are allowed to enter visa-free.
Visitors must have valid certificates of vaccination against smallpox and cholera. Yellow fever vaccination ncertificates are needed by visitors who have come from, or who have traveled through infected areas.
The Philippines have only six border crossings all of which are accessed only by sea, and all are all the way down south namely Bongao and Turtle Islands in Tawi Tawi, Taganac and Balabac in Palawan, and Batunganding and Tibanban, Davao del Sur. It is highly unlikely that foreigners will go to the trouble of crossing these border stations on their way to Manila by boat from Malaysia or Indonesia, its only close neighbors.
The most reasonable and practical why to reach Manila is by air.
*NAIA - The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is situated 6 km. from the Tourist Belt Areas of Malate & Ermita while it's 10 km. from hotel areas of Ayala Center in Makati City. Arrival procedures are swift and there are ample hotel buses and limousines available for tourists.
There are buses outside the arrival area heading to downtown Makati City and Quezon City via EDSA or Efipanio de Los Santos Ave.. This arrangement is preferable for those with only one light backpack heading for the mentioned areas.
Airport metered taxis are colored yellow, previledge to stop and pick up passengers and line up the porte cochere area as you step out of the arrival hall. Each departing taxi is registered by a dispatcher. The base fare is P70.
For those penny pincher budget junkies, go up the elevator to the departure level and "hijack" those white painted (standard color for all city taxis) taxis that have just dropped off their departing passengers and are heading their way out of the airport. Fortunately, they don't pass any airport fees to passengers they may pick up and that's the advantage. The pay back is since the yellow ones have the only previlege to pick up passengers, security guards are under orders to shoo away non-yellow (and non-registered) taxis picking up passengers in the departure area. But based on experiences by other travelers, yellow cabs, although registered, tend to have faster calibrated meters. So it may end up that a white cab can get you to your destination for less than half the fare it cost you to use the yellow cab.
NAIA is a conglomeration of three terminals. It used to be just one terminal now named as Terminal 1. But as it reached full capacity in the 1990's, a French study team was commissioned and in the end recommended two additional separate terminals, the rationale behind may not have been published, same way why they're spaced so far apart, unlike that in Singapore, or why there's no connecting rail transit system to facilitate speedy and hassle free transfers especially between international and domestic flights. The other two terminals - Terminal-2 and Terminal-3 fulfill the present volume demand.
It would not be easy updating the list of airlines using which Terminal as it's still in the state of flux and confusion. Airlines keep on moving their landing/take-off locations between the three within a year or so. However, the rule of thumb is all international airlines use Terminal 1 while Philippine Airlines uses Terminal 2 and Cebu Pacific Air uses Terminal 3.
Cash and Credit
The unit of currency is Peso and judging by the impressive performance of the economy and its big foreign currency reserves, the peso is at US$1 to P42 and dollar is still sliding down. Bill denominations are in P20, P50, P100, P500, & P1000 while coin denominations are in 25¢, 50¢, P1, P5, & P10. 25¢ is found very common nowadays since the jeepney fare has now increased to a base fare of P8.50 (Mar.'12).
Banks and Money Changers are available in the airport but it's better to change money outside where competition abound. Money changers are everywhere and most homecoming Filipinos prefer to change them here than in banks or Western Union or M. Lhuillier. There is no commission. The farther it is from the Tourist Belt Area, and the nearer it is around a town or city public market, the better the exchange rate is. Safety is not a problem especially if you change them during busy hours (safety in numbers). Be sure to count everything and put them safe in your person before you leave the premises.
Money can be withdrawn from ATM and they are also everywhere. The Philippines are one of the countries with the most available ATM machines per capita.
Credit Cards are accepted almost everywhere especially at all upmarket shops.
Manila is crossed by three lines of the Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS), Metro Manila's (partially) integrated railway network. The SRTS Yellow and Purple lines, operated by the Light Rail Transit Authority, cross through Manila city proper, converging at the intersection of Rizal Avenue and C.M. Recto Avenue.
- Line 1 or the LRT-1, also known as the Yellow Line, serves Malate, Ermita, Quiapo, Binondo and Santa Cruz, while the Purple Line, also known as MRT Line 2 (MRT-2), serves Quiapo, Sampaloc and Santa Mesa. Most tourist sites are along the Yellow Line.
- Line 2 or the LRT 2, also called the Purple Line traverse through the eastern section of the metropolis, specifically connecting Manila with Quezon City from the thick of the action of downtown Manila at Doroteo Jose, passing through downtown Quezon City in Cubao District, and ending in Santolan.
- Line 3 or the MRT-3 (There are no MRT-1 & MRT-2, a very confusing naming system.), also known as the Blue Line, the latest line and operating under the name Metrostar Express, more or less traces the Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue from Taft Ave. in Pasay City, to Makati City, Mandaluyong City, and finally at Quezon City in North Avenue.
Metro Manila's main regional passenger train station is Tutuban in Tondo. The PNR operates the Bicol Express daily night train between Manila and Naga in Camarines Sur, as well as a nighttime commuter service to Biñan in Laguna, which returns to Manila in the early morning.
From Tutuban station, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates the Commuter Express (Commex), also referred to as the SRTS Orange Line. Forty trains serve the commuter service daily, with the line crossing through Tondo, Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Paco and San Andres before extending to Metro Manila. There is an interchange with the Yellow Line at Blumentritt station, and with the Purple Line at Santa Mesa station.Fares
Fares on the SRTS are distance-based, with the base fare being ₱12 for the Yellow and Purple Lines, and ₱10 for the Orange Line. Each line has a differing fare structure:
- Yellow Line: ₱12 for the first four stations, ₱15 for more than four stations. A journey on the Yellow Line from Vito Cruz, the first station on the line within the City of Manila, to Abad Santos, the last station within city limits, is ₱15.
- Purple Line: ₱12 for the first three stations, with an increase of ₱1 depending on the number of stations crossed thereafter. A journey on the Purple Line from Recto to V. Mapa (the last station within city limits) is ₱12.
- Blue Line:
- Orange Line: ₱10 base fare with increases of ₱5 depending on the distance from Tutuban station. Travel on the Orange Line within the City of Manila, from Tutuban to Vito Cruz (not to be confused with the Vito Cruz station on the Yellow Line), as well as points in between, is charged the ₱10 base fare.
Single-journey and ₱100 "stored value" tickets may be purchased at LRT stations. Stored value tickets are valid for six months after first use. The LRT has full fare integration for stored-value tickets: stored-value tickets purchased for use on one line are also valid on the other line. However, this does not extend to single-journey tickets, which are only valid for one line, and the Orange Line, which uses a separate paper-based ticket system.
Be advised that SRTS Blue Line (Metro Rail Transit; MRT-3) stored-value tickets are not valid on the LRT. However, the SRTS Flash Pass, available for ₱250, is valid for LRT journeys: the Flash Pass grants the bearer unlimited use of the LRT and MRT for one week. This, however, is available for purchase only at selected Blue Line stations.
Several city and provincial bus routes either cross through or terminate in Manila. Most buses which serve Manila proper will cross through the Lawton bus terminal, which is conveniently located in front of the Central Terminal LRT station. Routes include points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan, and bus fares normally begin at ₱10.
Several bus terminals, with the biggest being the 'Park and Ride Lawton bus terminal along Padre Burgos St., beside the Manila Metropolitan Theater.
Manila city buses are not numbered. However, the bus route is prominently displayed on the side of the bus as well as on the dashboard, listing both the route's endpoints and major points in between which will be served by that particular route. When in doubt, ask the bus conductor if a particular bus will go to a particular destination.
Jeepneys are the most available mode of transport in the metropolis. These vehicles are a product of Philippine ingenuity, a World War II Army surplus converted as solution to transport logistical problems after the city was devastated during World War II.
It has morphed into a folksy metallic music-sardine box on wheels with kaleidoscopic glitters, studs, mirrors, and trimmings, etc..plus a boom box and miniature altar shrine surpassing its primordial purpose as a very accessible form of mass transit, able to reach every nook and cranny, where buses can't reach.
Almost all routes are serviced by jeepneys privately driven by Operators who earn their income by pocketing the excess after paying the obligatory "boundary fee" to the jeepney owner of 500 Pesos per whole day usage. Since this system is operated like a micro business enterprise and drivers are treated like individual street vendors, it's hard to govern and regulate. Unlike in a public bus company system, there is strict and efficient supervision and accountability, and where easily everyone is ordered to toe the line. Here, the government deals with hundreds of thousands of these operators and where most of the time, anarchy is rule of the game. Adding congestion to the narrow roads, capacity wise, it is also inefficient. Comparing the space utilization between a bus and two jeepneys, both of which occupy the same length, a bus can accomodate about 80 passengers while two jeepneys, only half at 40.
Fares begin at ₱8.50 for the first four kilometers. Like buses, jeepney routes are not numbered, but the route label is prominently displayed on the sides of the jeepney as well as on the right hand side of the windshield. Drivers, or specialized barkers announce their destination and departure at route origins.
By FX Taxi
An airconditioned jeepney-sized public transport and functioning like a jeepney in a way that it plies a certain route and collects not just one passenger at a time but must fill up optimally all the seats to maximize the profit per ride. Fare is more expensive.
Limited to short distances as it can access hard to reach and tight areas. It is more used in suburban gated communities usually by people coming from their bus or jeep commute to their homes (and vice versa) about 3 to 10 small blocks away, or in squatter areas where driveway lanes are very narrow.
Short for electric-powered tricycle, it looks more like a space age tuktuk and re-charges on electric power.
It's how Manilans call their version of trishaw.
The main tourist sites of Manila are located along Manila Bay.
- Baywalk - South of the Luneta is the renovated Baywalk a linear park adjacent to Manila Bay. Restaurants formerly on the actual baywalk have been moved inwards to allow a clear view of Manila's legendary sunsets.
- Bonifacio Shrine - A shrine in honour of Andres Bonifacio who was one of the Filipinos who struggled and fought for freedom for the country against the Spanish forces.
- Chinatown - Manila has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, where one can find exotic Chinese goods and delicious cuisine.
- Coconut Palace - a residence commissioned and built along the waterfront by First Lady Imelda Marcos for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1981. While open to the public at some point, it is currently (as of June 2011) occupied by the current Vice President and still open for public visits (by appointment by calling the Office of the Vice President, leaving a return call number and waiting for a confirmation).
- Intramuros - At the northern end of the Bay lies the remnants of the old walled Spanish settlement of Manila, Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls'). Intramuros contains some of the city's most interesting museums, ruins, and churches including the Manila Cathedral, the most important church in the country.
- Mabini Shrine - Apolinario Mabini's former home. Mabini was a Lawyer and fought for Philippine Independence. During the American Occupation, this home became the first intellectual headquarters of the First Philippine Republic.
- Malacañan Palace - Manila is the host of the official residence of the president of the Philippines. While heading your way here, you will see wonderful places. People can roam the garden afterward.
- Manila Hotel - Just outside Intramuros and on the edge of Manila Bay is the beautiful and historic Manila Hotel, a legacy of the American colonial era and the place where General Douglas MacArthur made his home before World War II.
- Plaza San Luis - A commercial complex consisting five house; Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino. Plaza San Luis showcases Filipino-Hispanic Architecture. Other than Souvenir shops there is a museum in Casa Manila.
- University of Santo Tomas (Unibersidad de Santo Tomas (UST)). This University is oldest and first University in the whole of Asia and the Philippines. It was used as a camp by the Japanese during their occupation where the imprisoned about 10,000 people even though it only can hold 4,000.
- Quezon Memorial - An Ethnic-Islamic inspired mausoleum and monument honoring the first formally recognized President of the Philippines. It is surrounded by parks and playgrounds as well as good native-inspired restaurants and horticulture, herbal medicine seedling stalls. The exotic durian is sold in one of the stalls.
- Bonifacio or Balintawak Monument - much superior and bravura-fired in composition as well as in execution than the caricaturish and more comical than awe-inspiring EDSA Memorial, molded in the true school of classical realism, it was executed by the Father of Philippine Sculpture, Guillermo Tolentino. The memorial is a fitting tribute to the violent side of the Spanish seccession revolution of 1896. It is located off the Balintawak Station of LRT-1 line.
Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue or EDSA for short, is the metropolis' foremost beltway, the original circumferential road but its historical significance has understated its utilitarian purpose. Before 1986, it was merely known as a major thoroughfare, but then the People's Power Movement erupted. Sections of central EDSA became very poignant landmarks where much of the riveting images of the Movement that eventually turned into a peaceful revolution were being flashed on screens and front pages of the world's major TV networks and newspapers coming from this epicenter of upheaval, namely Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. For lack of formal title, this revolution may be called The First and Most Spectacular Peaceful Revolution In Modern History coming at the heels of the peaceful but boring Argentinian, the violent Haitian, and preceding the dramatic copycats - Korean, Chinese (man facing off an army tank) Czech, Hungarian, East German, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Chilean, and South African, among the many, each upstaging each other. A Roman Catholic-thematic shrine at Ortigas Avenue and a sculptural monument at White Plains Ave. are now installed to immortalize this event. Then comes along the compelling urge for Metro Manila to solve its georgian knot of a problem - massive traffic jams that need to be mitigated, coupled by the waning years of Cory Administration to leave any concrete legacy - entangled by the peace and order problem and coup abortion business most of her term. In a quick fix style, flyovers were born. The super wide EDSA that years ago, resembles the spacious and gorgeous Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, where clear pleasant vistas lead to intersections overlooking from miles away from a double decker bus, were now broken by tentacles of flyovers ordered constructed by her Public Works Department. What a way to make a splashy ending, now the Aquino administration has something to write in the books. And to finally put the icing in the cake, by 1999, an overhead metropolitan rapid rail transit line (MRT) was installed after years of planning & construction by the succeeding Ramos Administration, making this avenue as not only historic, but a very important utilitarian artery of the city, drowning its once sunlit drenched lanes by drab and dingy infrastructures, not to mention deafening, as the noise emitted by traffic bounces back and forth between concrete piers and overhead carriageways. In other words - ugly and third worldish - much like the same fate that happened to once elegant and stroll friendly Taft Avenue, the first metropolitan rapid transit system (LRT1) installed during the Marcos Administration in 1984, Imelda's brainchild which is the first in Southeast Asia, preceding that of Singapore's by 4 years. Subways may be a solution to the areas where the EDSA line traverses for they are not prone to flooding unlike the city itself where the first line was installed. Before the global warming phenomenon, it's been a problem for the city of Manila founded on a swampy soil, sinking by 2 cm. per year. But much of it is all water under the bridge, the traffic and commuting problem of Manilans are somewhat alleviated - for now.
- Manila Metropolitan Theater - The Manila Metropolitan Theatre or MET is an art deco building designed by the Filipino architect Juan M. de Guzman Arellano, and inaugurated on December 10, 1931, with a capacity of 1670. The theater is located on Padre Burgos Avenue, near the Manila Central Post Office. Renovated under the auspices of Imelda Marcos, it now falls back under the management of neglect and decadence.
- Manila Central Post Office - Designed by Filipino architect Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano, located in a very prominent visual and commanding spot of the first Civic Center in Manila and could have been perfect location for a Senate building, the Post Office building was built in neoclassical architecture in 1926. It was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt in 1946 preserving most of its original design. It is located in the Intramuros district of the city, at the bank of the Pasig River. The front of the building faces the Liwasang Bonifacio plaza (now known as Plaza Lawton).
Manila has seen a drastic improvement in its museum offerings with the recent renovation of old favorites such as the National Museum of the Filipino People and the Ayala Museum. Other must-see museums in the city are the Bahay Chinoy (Chinese House), Casa Manila, San Agustin Museum and the Museum of Filipino Political History, the "Museo Pambata" children's museum'.
- National Museum of the Philippines (Pambansang Museo), P. Burgos Ave, ☎ +63-2-5271209, . Built and opened in the 1900s The museum showcases significant collections from archaeology, arts, cultural properties, zoology, botany and many more. This museum boasts of amassing over a million artifacts but in actual, only 125 pieces or so are on show. An optimist would describe something as a glass half full, and for one, this museum is less than half full for one would see halls and halls of empty space. A floor would have just about a maximum of two utilized halls with displays in it. As in anywhere in the Philippines, things are forever in transition. At the entrance is somewhat an apology board explaining that there's supposed to be three separate buildings - this one and the one facing it as showcases for anthroplogical and archeological artifacts while the third one, the former Senate Building functioning as the National Art Gallery where paintings and sculptures are to be housed. There is no time frame when will this wishful thinking be achieved.
- The National Art Gallery version as explained, took over the premises of the former Senate Building and the repository of works of Filipino masters. The more than life-sized painting of Juan Luna titled "Spolarium", a powerful imagery in the mold of classical theme and Romanticist in style is the museum's version of "Mona Lisa", meaning the most priced Philippine artwork.
- Museum of Philippine Political History (National Historical Institute Museum), T.M. Kalaw Ave., Manila. Includes documents such as the signing of Independence displayed in a holy grail-like showcase.
- Metropolitan Museum of Manila (Met Museum), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila, ☎ (02) 521-1517, . Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Inaugurated during Imelda's heyday, it used to display works by Caravaggio. This premiere art museum of Manila showcases both traditional, hispanic and modern art through its exhibits. Located along Roxas boulevard, across the Manla Yacht club.
- Ayala Museum, Ayala Center, Makati City.
- Yuchengco Museum, Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City. </see *Bahay Tsinoy.
- GSIS Art Museum.
- Ateneo University Art Museum.
- Vargas Museum.
- Museo Pambata, Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive Manila, Philippines 1000 (From EDSA, turn right on Roxas Boulevard then take a U-turn on T.M. Kalaw Street. From Quiapo, take Quezon Bridge going to Padre Burgos Street then turn left on Roxas Boulevard. Or you may take the LRT or a jeepney (A. Mabini route), get off on United Nations Avenue, and walk to Roxas Boulevard. Museo Pambata is right beside the U.S. Embassy), ☎ +63 (2) 523.1797 or 98, 536-0595, . 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM (August to March) 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (April to July). The Museo Pambata is a children's interactive museum, the first of its kind in the Philippines. Opened in 1994, Museo Pambata is the dream come true of Nina Lim-Yuson, who was inspired by the Boston Children’s Museum to open up a similar facility in Manila. P 100.00.
- Marikina Shoe Museum.
- Nayong Pilipino.
- Rizal Park  Right outside the walled city is Rizal Park more widely known as the Luneta. The Luneta is the venue for the national museums, bayside restaurants, an open-air theater featuring free classical music concerts and acclaimed international films, a planetarium, an open gym for early morning jogging and tai chi enthusiasts, or a night ballroom, as well as Japanese, Chinese, Filipino gardens, an orchidarium, an aquarium, and a children's museum. It is a popular meeting spot for family picnics and lovers' trysts, and was the site of the execution of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, as well as the inaugural grandstand for the incoming President.
- Paco Park was actually built as a final resting place for Spanish families residing in Manila. After Jose Rizal's execution, his remains were sent and buried here, which is today commemorated by a monument in the park. It is now a public park with jogging lanes and open air concerts, and is also a popular venue for weddings. It is accessible by taxi and bus, as well as a 10 minute walk from the LRT United Nations Ave. station.
- Arroceros Forest Park Situated in the heart of downtown Manila, Arroceros Forest Park is a 2.2-hectare piece of land behind the old art deco Metropolitan Theater. Arroceros got its name, which means “rice dealers,” from the rice trade along the Pasig riverbank during the early colonial period.
Nature and Wildlife
- Manila Zoo is rather decrepit, and in need of drastic renovations. The Manila Zoo covers an area of 0.055 square kilometers. Accessible via Quirino LRT station.
- Manila Ocean Park is a much better maintained marine wildlife facility which was recently opened in 2008 and is located behind the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park. The 8,000 square metres (86,000 sq ft) oceanarium is larger than the Sentosa Underwater World oceanarium in Singapore, and features a 25 metres (82 ft) underwater acrylic tunnel. Mostly accessible by taxi, but can be walked if you are in the vicinity of Rizal Park.
- Balara Grounds
ChurchesSpanish Colonial Churches
Baroque colonial churches where once proud showcases of the past especially before World War II but the wanton destruction of the Japanese and the equally guilty American soldiers during the Battle of Manila in 1945 dissolved all that except for a handful remaining. Lack of maintenance, vandalism, theft, and no proper awareness, guidance, or education by administering priests and architects who undertook renovation blunders (multiplied more incidents in the provinces) complicated the already pathetic state of remaining churches.
- San Agustin Church
- Manila Cathedral
- Malate Church
- Santa Ana Church
- Binondo Church
- Santa Cruz Church
- San Nicolas Church
- Tondo Church
- Basilica of San Sebastian - The only all steel church of the Asia, the Europeans were tired of building the church over and over again after fires and earthquakes, they finally decided to build the cathedral in solid steel. The materials were ordered from Europe while the architect is Gustav Eiffel; the architect of the Eiffel tower in France. Its Gothic architecture might make you think you're somewhere in the middle of Europe.
- Parish Church of St. Joseph - See the Las Piñas Bamboo organ here.
- Pasig Cathedral
- St. Peter & Paul Church of Makati
- Guadalupe Nuevo Church
- San Felipe Neri Church of Mandaluyong
- Santuario de Santo Cristo Church of San Juan
- San Bartolome Church of Malabon
Aside from the interesting Spanish Colonial Churches, there is one group of church-structures belonging to the "Iglesia ni Cristo" (No "h"), a homegrown reformist church established by a Manilan named Felix Manalo in 1914 that is uniquely Filipino somewhat parallels with the Latter-Day-Saints Mormons (its cultish-ness and disciplined regimen demanded from its congregation), that merit some curiosities. These unique churches have two outstanding features: that they are kept in pristine white condition (with some little color highlights), and they soar to the sky like those gothic cathedrals, or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Salt Lake Temple in Utah. In some cases, they jot out in the middle of a green countryside off the suburbs of Metro Manila. But even in the midst of urban jungle in Manila, one can't help but notice its towers and sphires projecting through the clouds among the busy skyline.
No name yet is given to this architectural style but it may safely be called Philippine Gothic Revival and the churches show the usual suspects of Gothic tracery, lacework, and rosettas, with the emphasis of verticality and noticeable indigenous geometric motifs as substitute. The detailing is tasteful and awesome.
Its "Vatican" is located in the New Era District of Quezon City and can be easily seen from about two to three miles away from all directions heralding in a Cinderella-like castle fashion, their main shrine and headquarters.
Since these churches are everywhere, a town or city in Manila may have one or even five of these, and a church-hopping tour is just as pleasurable. Here are the locations of Iglesia ni Cristo churches in Metro Manila.
- SOLIS - Solis Street, Tondo District
- TONDO - Moriones Street, Tondo District
- TAYUMAN - Apitong Street, Tayuman, Sta. Cruz District
- QUIAPO - Concepcion Aguila Street, Quiapo District
- SAMPALOC - Domingo Santiago Street, Sampaloc District
- WASHINGTON - Maceda Street, Sampaloc District
- PANDACAN - Pres. Quirino Avenue, Pandacan District
- PACO - San Marcelino Street, Paco District
- PUNTA - F. Manalo Street, Punta, Sta. Ana District
- Pasay City
- PASAY - F.B. Harrison Street, Pasay City
- Quezon City
- LAGRO - Km. 23, Brgy. Pasong Putik, Quirino Highway, Lagro District
- NORTH DIVERSION - North Diversion Road, Camachile, Balintawak District
- CENTRAL - Central Avenue, New Era District
- CUBAO - E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Cubao District
- BAGO BANTAY - EDSA, Quezon City
- CAPITOL - Katuparan Street, Brgy. Commonwealth, Gao District
- NOVALICHES - Nitang Street, Gulod, Novaliches Distirct
- SAN FRANCISCO - Del Monte Avenue, San Francisco Distirct
- Makati City
- BELAIR - 8408 corner Orion and Kalayaan Streets, Poblacion District
- EVANGELISTA - Corner Evangelista and Mascardo Streets, Bangkal District
- GUADALUPE - Nuestra Señora Del Carmen, Guadalupe Nuevo Distirct
- SACRAMENTO - Corner Sacramento and San Anselmo Streets
- San Juan City
- F. MANALO - F. Manalo Street, San Juan City
- Paranaque City
- PARAÑAQUE - Filipinas Avenue, UP5, Sucat District
- Las Pinas City
- LAS PIÑAS - Diego Cera Avenue, Brgy. Manuyo
- Muntinlupa City
- MUNTINLUPA - National Highway, Brgy. Putatan
- Malabon City
- MALABON - Gen. Luna Street, San Agustin District
- Caloocan City
- CALOOCAN - A. Mabini Street
- GRACE PARK - F. Roxas Street, 10th Avenue, Grace Park
- Navotas City
- NAVOTAS - Naval Street
- Valenzuela City
- BAGBAGUIN - A. Marinao Street, Bisalao, Bagbaguin District
- VALENZUELA - Tamaraw Hills, Marulas Distirct
- MALINTA - Km. 15, McArthur Highway, Dalandanan District
Manilans are mostly very pious Catholic people. On a different angle, being afflicted with problems and ailments, Manilans may not have much alternative and feel that some things are just out of their control and the best way is to ask for answers and solutions to their favorite saints. It would be interesting to note that some streets leading to a patron saint's home church are extra tight during their special days.
For the anthropologically curious, it also provides a good peek into the daily life of the locals, young and old, men or women. It alo reveals a facet trait of the Filipino - being fatalistic and true blue believer of some higher spirits.
- St. Jude Thaddeus Shrine, San Miguel District, Manila - Near Malacañan Palace, this church is the busiest on Thursdays.
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine, Baclaran District, Pasay City. - Near the border of Parañaque and served by LRT lines, this Church is the liveliest on Wednesdays much more especially so because the surrounding area is carpeted by a flea market.
- The Black Nazarene Minor Basilica, Quiapo District, Manila - Its feast day is on January 9 but its special day of the week falls on Fridays.
This article is posted rather in the See Sub-section for curious tourists to watch rather than participate in the betting. It also brings closure to the persistent question of most tourists, wondering why even in urbanized Manila, they always keep on hearing and being awakened and annoyed in their sleep by crowing roosters.
As how they are called in the Philippines, Sabong or cockfighting is legal, one retired National Senator even owns a cockpit arena. To compensate for the bullfighting spectacle the Spaniards are fixated to, Filipinos settled on this game, a pastime and even a full time endeavor to most men since pre-Spanish times. The Spaniards earlier noticed when they arrived in the Philippines, men pitting cocks against each other and even some Spanish observers can't help but notice the predeliction of most men, that they would rather carress and groom their pet cocks, rather than their wives and children after, and even during work, while tending to their farms. It seemed these fighting cocks are the foci of their lives and always the topic of their conversation, day in and day out, and to the extreme, go to sleep with them on the same bed and are the subject of their dreams.
That's why it would really be an uphill battle for PETA to ban this sports spectacle as much as they are facing off a long time tradition as Spain's gory bullfights as well as the Makah Tribe whale hunt in Seattle, pitting the old traditional culture with the new humane culture. For Filipinos, removing this sports tradition in their lives means castrating their balls, not only taking away a part of their manhood, but their very being of existence.
Here's a sample list of cockpits in Manila:
- Pasay City Cockpit Arena - Arnaiz Ave.
- Mandaluyong City Cockpit Arena - Shaw Blvd.
- Makati City Cockpit Arena - PRC, Jose Rizal Ave.
- Pasig Square Cockpit - Concepcion St., Santolan District
- Malabon City Dampalit Cockpit- Dampalit District
- Intramuros Tour - visit the Walled City starting from Fort Santiago. Inside is the Rizal Shrine, honoring the country's National Hero, Jose Rizal - polymath, doctor, engineer, scientist, artist, linguist, propagandist, and most of all, an avid traveler who was incarcerated in exactly that same cell before he was executed, now transformed into his shrine. His patriotism and nationalist advocacy preceded that of Mahatma Gandhi's by about 20 years. His shrine houses his memorabilia. Other places to see are the Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Roma, Ayuntamiento, Palacio del Gobernador, and the Manila Cathedral. San Agustin Church needs more than a passing glance. The monastery-church complex houses priceless collection of religious art. Across is Plaza San Luis Complex comprising a group of houses replete with authentic furnishings of the colonial period. Trace the walls of the city and the interestingly unique gates of the walls, eight in all and stopping at Parian Gate, the gate leading to Bahay Tsinoy, meaning House of the Filipino-Chinese, Philippines' version of the Peranakan House in Singapore or Malacca. The House-Museum extolls also the economic, political, and cultural, among other things, from the humble beginnings to, achievements and contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community.
- Rizal Park Tour - Designed by Daniel Burnham, this park is the Philippines' answer to Paris' Jardin des Tuileries or Washington Mall. Gaze at Rizal Monument, a must stopping point for Heads of State visits, the Japanese & Chinese Gardens, the National Museum, the Planetarium, the Ocean Park, the Museo Pambata, as well as the Quirino Grandstand, the oath-taking stand for Presidential inaugurations.
- Downtown Manila Tour - This tour starts at Bahay Nakpil on Bautista St. in Quiapo, on a turn-of-the-century house, then to Plaza Miranda, now teeming with vendors of religious, herbal merchandizes, as well as fortune tellers and prayer proxies as you make your way to the Quiapo Basilica housing the Black Nazarene. Stroll to Raon, Villalobos, and Palanca Sts. on your way to Quinta Market and the Ile de Toule (Ilalim ng Tulay) for handicrafts and souvenirs. Pass by Carriedo and Juan Luna Sts. another commercial strips towards Chinatown at Binondo where it ends in Binondo Church, the heart of town.
- Malate & Ermita Tour - Cover this area starting from Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Malate Church, a quiant baroque church, then meander in any direction along Adriatico, Mabini, Del Pilar Sts., and Roxas Blvd. Make sure to stop at San Andres Market.
- CCP Complex Tour - Probe into the mind of Imelda Marcos by strolling, jogging, or biking into the reclaimed CCP Complex where a menagerie of her showcase art-beauty-culture projects stands, albeit not in its spic-n'-span condition. See Districts/Malate' and Understand sections. These public buildings except for the Cultural Center Building or Theater for the Performing Arts, used to be accesible but have now been reduced to being admired from the outside. The Coconut Palace, always unpredictably closed, is now open for viewing, albeit by appointment.
- Skyscraper Gazing Tour - Tour the three major skyscrapers clusters of Metropolitan Manila via EDSA starting from Ayala Center in Makati, diverting to Eastwood, then back again to EDSA to Ortigas Center. There are alternative routes connecting these three. As you go along, you will be arching back your neck and staring upwards. Manila has seen another period of construction boom in practically the busiest areas in the metropolis (and these areas are just a sample) with an upward sales growth of condominium units. Be discreet on taking photos. Just like in traumatized New York or Los Angeles, here in Manila, skyscrapers and camera equals trouble. People here are not used to seeing a lot of tourists and mostly will have some second thoughts why you are doing this thing, unless you are white.
- Electric Chariots Tour of Intramuros - tour in style, meaning in segway rented from White Knight Hotel, Intramuros.
- City Tour of Metro Manila Via LRT - This do-it-yourself tour provides a panoramic view of the city from a different vantage point, exactly from a moving elevated train about 15 feet above street level. It comes in three lines - Line-1 (Yellow) for the North to South Route, Line-2 (Purple) for the East to West Route, and Line-3 (Blue) for the circumferencial route. For an all female-tour, LRT has an exclusive all female coach just for discerning takers.
Fiestas & Festivals
- New Year Welcoming Festival
- Chinese New Year Welcoming Festival, Chinatown, Binondo District
- Oblation Run, University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman District, Quezon City
- Feast of the Black Nazarene and Caroza Parade, Quiapo District, Manila, January 9
- Feast of Santo Nino, Tondo District, Manila, 3rd Sunday of January
- Bulaklakan Festival, Muntinlupa, January 1
- Caracol Festival, Makati City, 3rd Sunday of January
- Lavandero Festival, mandaluyong City, February 1-6
- EDSA People's Power Revolution Comemmoration
- Feast of Our Lady of Rosary, Kanlaon, Quezon City
- International Bamboo Organ Festival, Las Pinas, February 11
- Tiburin Horse Race, Pasay City, February 12
- Pamaypay ng Kalookan Festival, Caloocan City, February 12
- Sambalilo Festival, Paranaque City, February 13
- Feast of Santa Clara, Pasay City, February 13
- Serenata, Pasay City, February 14
- Parade of Festivals, Muntinlupa City, March 1
- Pasig Summer Music Festival, March
- Manila Summer Sea Sports Festival, March
- Lenten Week or Semana Santa, Catholic Churches throughout Metropolitan Manila
- Feast of Resurrection (Salubong), Paranaque City
- Santacruzan Festival
- Flores de Mayo
- Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
- Moro-Moro, San Dionision District, Paranaque City
- Philippine Independence Day Celebration
- Feast of St. Peter and Paul, Poblacion District, Makati City
- Fluvial Festival for Saint Martha, Pateros
- Iglesia Ni Christo Anniversary Celebration, Quezon City
- Sunduan Festival, Paranaque City
- Feast of Christ The King
- La Naval Fluvial Parade
- All Souls & Saints Day Celebration, Cemeteries throught Metropolitan Manila
- Marian Festival in Intramuros
- Misa De Gallo
- Christmas Day
- Metro Manila Film Festival
- Pageant of the Three Kings
- Bota De Flores, Ermita District, Manila
A separate section is dedicated to a set of activities that can't exclusively fall in any of the template activities. In one word, these activities can be described as malling, a pastime that fits so perfectly for Manilans, and in general, Filipinos just like a peg in a hole. It's done under one roof which is the mall. Living in a tropical third world country, Filipinos make the most of what is available. Not much museums, libraries, nature and wildlife parks, or amusement parks in Manila to see, few and far between, if any consolation. Unable to afford, they resort to a simple and free activity - window shopping and people watching. Especially on hot and muggy weekends, they come in droves in tank tops and shorts to take advantage of free air-conditioning, the promenade-like hallway full of fountains and seats chillaxin' and being distracted for hours and more importantly, gazing at parading shoppers. Not much to browse though, for all the books for sale in any of the bookshops here are sealed in plastic. If it happens to be a payday, they have some extra pesos to dine in, which as expected on fast-food joints, those that are not everyday food - hamburgers, hotdogs, pizzas, spaghettis, fries, ice creams, and nowadays, sushis and shawarmas. It could be an expression of feeling on top of the world and having a taste the world has to offer on a limited budget since most Filipinos dream of seeing across the seas. For now, Filipino and Chinese foods which are commonly eaten are set aside. If there's extra from the budget, that's the time to see a movie, then shop mostly on clothes, accessories, and electronic goods. And if there's still more, a trip to the bowling alley or skating rink will do. And if none left, watch some open singing contests or join in, see the local stars and have their autographs, just hope to win in a lottery draw, or maybe bump into Paris Hilton's media publicity appearance.
A trip to the mall will not only provide a glimpse into the life of the locals but immerse oneself into it.
This is the best and sanest thing to do in the city in one stop, more so when city traffic is horrendously terrible and security is a top concern. It would be a reassuring thing to know that malls are a safe haven for paranoids concerned on the breakdown of peace and order that the entrances are closely guarded and monitored, inspection of bags and frisking is the norm, and pick pocketing is practically nil.
Another thing, food is hygienically prepared. No worries of threats of hepatitis or dust and pollutant particulates showering on the food, although one more question is if the food worker washed his hands after he used the toilet. But how can it be assured also that in New York every worker complies too? The dining areas are clean. Plus the ambiance is pleasant to relish the food. Practically, there's room for everyone - the squeamish, the epicurean, the health buff, the homesick traveler... And of course the food cost is cheap. And not to worry, although Filipinos love to patronize foreign food, especially American fast food, there are dozen and dozen Filipino, on top of the interesting and exotic international and gourmet foods to choose from. The larger the mall, the better the shop and restaurant mix are. Practically, everything is recommendable.
Lumping these activities in one category just as they are actually done under one roof, makes the presentation of information more organized thereby eliminating redundancy with the Shop, Eat, and Drink sections. Malls offer shopping and at the same time dining experiences, as well as grooming, and entertainment.
There are about 93 malls in all in Metro Manila. More are under construction. Filipinos in general are the world’s frequent mallers, among the Americans, Malaysians (65 Malls in Kuala Lumpur), and now the Chinese, with 4 of the Top 20 Mammoth Malls in the world and the 3rd Biggest located in Metropolitan Manila, and with easily 60% of them each covering more than 100,000 sq. m. of commercial space.
All of them are google-searchable with their websites easily providing facts and figures on their amenities and their specialties, although here, it is ranked with no discrimination on the hippest, coolest, upscale or downscale. However the 10 most popular and considered the best malls ranked by WikiPilipinas are:
- 1. SM Mall of Asia
- 2. Glorietta
- 3. Greenbelt
- 4. Shangri-la Plaza
- 5. Trinoma
- 6. SM Megamall
- 7. Gateway
- 8. Robinsons Galleria
- 9. Robinsons Place Manila
- 10. SM City North Mall
The following may be a complete list of malls (93 malls in all as of Mar.'12) listed according to cities. Along with each entry is the corresponding location:
- In Manila
- Tutuban Mall - C.M. Recto Ave. and Dagupan St., Tondo District
- New Divisoria Mall - Tabora cor. Sto. Cristo Sts. Binondo District
- Lucky Chinatown Mall - Reina Regente cor. De La Reina Sts., Binondo District
- 168 Mall - Sta. Elena cor. Soler Sts., Binondo District
- SM City San Lazaro - F. Huertas St. cor. A. Lacson Ext. Santa Cruz District
- Ever Gotesco Plaza Recto - C.M. Recto cor. Mendiola Aves. Quiapo District
- Isetann Recto - C.M. Recto cor. Quezon Blvd., Quiapo District
- SM City Santa Mesa Centerpoint - R. Magsaysay Blvd. cor.G.Araneta Ave., Sta. Mesa District
- SM City Manila - Concepcion cor. Arroceros & San Marcelino Sts., Ermita District
- Robinson’s Place Manila - Adriatico St., Malate District
- Harrison Plaza - F.B. Harrison St., Malate District
- Jumbo Floating Palace Restaurant
- In Pasay City
- SM Mall of Asia - Sm City Business Park, Bay City
- Taft Central Exchange Mall - Gil Puyat Corner Taft Aves.
- Empire Center (a.k.a.Valuepoint Saver’s Square) - EDSA Ext.
- Metro Point - Pasay Rotunda, EDSA cor. Taft Ave.
- In Quezon City
- Berkley Square - Tandang Sora cor Congressional Aves.
- Circle C Quezon City - Congressional Ave.
- SM City North EDSA Mall - EDSA cor. North Ave.
- SM City Fairview - Quirino cor. Regalado Aves. Greater Lagro
- SM City Novaliches - Quirino Highway, San Bartolome, Novaliches
- SM Supercenter Commonwealth - Elliptical Rd cor. Commonwealth Ave.
- Robinsons Nova Market - Brgy. Pasong Putik 2, Quirino Highway,
- Trinoma Mall - EDSA cor. North Ave.
- Ali Mall - Araneta Center, Cubao District
- Gateway Mall - Araneta Center, Cubao District
- Fair Mart - Araneta Center, Cubao District
- Plaza Fair - Araneta Center, Cubao District
- Farmer’s Plaza - Araneta Center, Cubao District
- Fairview Center Mall - Commonwealth, Quezon City
- Eastwood City Walk - E. Rodriguez Ave., Libis
- Ever Gotesco Commonwealth - Commonwealth Ave.
- Walter Mart Quezon City - 222 E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave.
- Walter Mart North EDSA - EDSA, Munoz District
- Isetann Cubao - Aurora Blvd., Cubao
- In Makati City
- Glorietta - Ayala Center
- SM Center Makati - Ayala Center
- Greenbelt Mall - Ayala Center
- Rockwell Powerplant Mall - Poblacion District
- Guadalupe Commercial Complex - EDSA cor. J.P. Rizal Ave. Extension
- Cash & Carry Mall - South Superhighway
- Makati Cinema Square - C. Roces Ave.
- Landmark - Ayala Center
- Park Square - Ayala Center
- Walter Mart Makati City - Pasong Tamo cor. Arnaiz Aves.
- In Mandaluyong City
- Robinson’s Galleria - EDSA cor. Ortigas Ave.
- SM City Megamall - EDSA cor. J. Vargas Ave. Ortigas Center
- Pavilion Mall (a.k.a Edsa Central Market) - EDSA cor. Shaw Blvd.
- Jeepney Central] - EDSA Service Rd.
- Shaw Blvd. MRT Station Mall
- Shangri-la Mall - Ortigas Center
- The Podium - Ortigas Center: caters to the ultra-upscale market clientele
- St. Francis Square - St. Francis Road (Back of SM Mall)
- Starmall EDSA-Shaw - EDSA cor. Shaw Blvd.
- In San Juan City
- Puregold Agora San Juan - N. Domingo cor. F. Blumentritt
- Connecticut Carpark & Bridgeway Shops - Greenhills Shopping Center:
- Annapolis Carpark - Greenhills Shopping Center
- Theatre Mall - Greenhills Shopping Center
- Shoppesville Arcade - Greenhills Shopping Center
- The Promenade - Greenhills Shopping Center
- The Shops/Unimart - Greenhills Shopping Center
- V-Mall - Greenhills Shopping Center
- In Pasig City
- SM Center Pasig - E. Rodriguez, Jr. (C5) cor. J. Vargas Aves., Frontera Verde, Ortigas Center
- Tiendesitas - E. Rodriguez, Jr. (C5) Frontera Verde, Ortigas Center: developed with the concept of Chatuchak market in Bangkok in mind, it is made up of small stalls, practically forming a universe of shoppng experience.
- Metrowalk - Ortigas & Meralco Aves., Ortigas Center: one of the latest strip malls in the metropolis, it imbibes the Universal Walk in Los Angeles concept
- Ever Gotesco Grand Central - Ortigas Ave.Ext.
- In Marikina City
- SM City Marikina - Marcos Highway R6 Calumpang
- Riverbanks Mall - Andres Bonifacio Ave. in Ngy. Barangka
- C & PS Mall - Liwasang Kalikasan Road, Marikina Heights
- Blue Wave-Marquinton - Sumulong Higway cor. Mayor Fernando Ave.
- In Taguig City
- Market! Market! - Fort Bonifacio Global City
- Serendra - Fort Bonifacio Global City
- Bonifacio High Street - Fort Bonifacio Global City
- SM City Taguig - Fort Bonifacio Global City
- In Muntinlupa City
- SM City Bicutan - Brgy. Don Bosco
- SM Center Muntinlupa - Brgy. Tunasan
- Alabang Town Center - Alabang-Zapote Rd. cor. Madrigal & Corporate Aves., Alabang
- Festival Supermall - Corporate Ave., Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang
- Starmall Alabang - East Service Rd., So. Luzon Expressway
- In Paranaque City
- SM City Sucat - Dr. A. Santos Avenue, Brgy. San Dionisio
- SM Center Bicutan - Dona Soledad Ave., cor West Service Rd., Brgy. Don Bosco
- Duty Free Fiesta Mall - Ninoy Aquino Ave.
- Uniwide Coastal Mall - Marina Ave.
- Walter Mart Sucat - Dr. A. Santos Ave., San Isidro Sucat
- In Las Pinas City
- SM Center Southmall - Alabang-Zapote Road
- Home Plus Center - Alabang Zapote Rd. cor Dona Manuela Ave., Pamplona 3
- Starmall Las Pinas - C.V. Starr Ave., Philamlife Village
- In Malabon City
- Malabon City Square - C-4 Rd. cor. Dagat-Dagatan Ave.
- In Caloocan City
- Ever Gotesco Grand Central - Rizal Ave. Ext., Grace Park
- Zabarte Mall - Camarin cor. Susano Rds., Camarin
- Araneta Square - Rizal Ave. cor. Samson Rd.
- Victory Central Mall - Rizal Ave. cor. Samson Rd.
- Puregold Monumento - 300 Samson Rd. Monumento
- In Valenzuela City
- SM Center Valenzuela - MacArthur Highway, Brgy. Karuhatan
Notice the proliferation of SM initialled malls. These are owned by Henry Sy, the Philippines' foremost billionaire and whose clan is the Philippines' answer to the Waltons. Notice too, that SM stands for Shoemart indicating the humble beginnings of the empire from just merely selling shoes in 1958. Now it has fully diversified into the malling business beyond magalomanic proportions, it's corporate visible presence and tentacles spread to practically all the metropolitan areas in the Philippines.
A part of the Philippine's bustling capital is a remarkable melting pot of Asian, Oceanic, and Latin cultures, which are thick with history and flavor in tune with most traveler's interests. The best way to get a feel for Manila shopping is to go to a ‘tiangge’, a market of stalls where everything can be bargained. Market! Market!, St. Francis Square, Greenhills Shopping Center and Tiendesitas in Pasig City are examples of such. There are shopping centers catering to handicrafts, antiques, and curio souvenirs. Aside from Ilalim ng Tulay in Quiapo are the shops in the districts of Ermita and Malate around M. Adriatico, A.Mabini, and M.H. del Pilar.
If you are interested in a Western-type mall, you cannot pass SM Mall of Asia, currently the 4th largest mall in the world. Warning to shopaholics and their spouses: You could spend a day there and still not see every shop or have to time to ice skate. That's right, there is an ice rink as well.
Public markets are one microcosm of Manila. Practically, Manilans from all walks of life come here to buy their everyday needs. They are as lively and colorful as any market in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam. Generally, they are divided into wet and dry sections and another section for dining. Dining is very cheap and can be wholesomely hygenic. Just look out for the huge block of ice dragged along the floor on its way from the delivery truck to a stall. If you see one delivered in that manner, never mind, don't eat there, ever. Joking aside, a filling meal will cost you as little as US$1.25.
If you happen to see just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry in a blighted neighborhood in Manila wearing Abercrombie & Fitch get-up & Levis jeans, chances are it's original and bought at Ukay Ukays. How can they afford it? Ukay Ukay is the answer. It's the Philippines' answer to Salvation Army. Nowadays, they are everywhere and Manilans love them. It's actually a contraction of the Tagalog word "Hukay" meaning to dig, the description for the exact action done while rummaging through the bins of clothes. But there are actually no bins installed in those stores, only clothes neatly hanged on the racks. For less than $2, one can find hand me down good qualities of branded wear. The more enterprising provide home delivery and roaming services by hanging them on racks installed on pedicabs, as they make the run on neighborhoods. Judging by the unafforable cost of living to most of the middle class and the soaring gasoline prices, they may be here to stay.
It's also great for the budget tourist who would not want to have the hassle of packing and carrying tons of clothes by simply buying them here, then discarding them somewhere as his piles of souvenirs accumulate.
Street Food/Comfort Food - Stationary
Street Food is often described as "Pamatid Gutom" or food to tide over, something to temporarily hush a stomach growl, sold at small food stalls, food stands, or food carts set up in places with high amount of pedestrian traffic. Cheap and rushed, it could be something commuters can chew & swallow, or gulp in seconds while transferring from one route to another, or from station to station, with a quick standing stop at a sushi, siomai, barbecue, or hotdog stall.
The variety of street food available is tremendous and may reward the truly adventurous traveler. Some notable examples are the following:
- Boiled Eggs
- Balut – boiled duck embryo, generally safe to eat as the whole duck egg is intact and well cooked. The sight of the fully formed duckling complete with wings, ribbed feet and beak may not be too easily swallowed by the squeamish however.
- Penoy – boiled undeveloped duck egg.
- Quail Egg – boiled quail egg.
- Grilled Meat Cuts
- Barbecue – the term barbecue in the Philippines usually means bite size pieces of pork marinated, skewered and charcoal grilled. Chicken barbecue (bbq for short) is also common.
- Isaw, Helmet, Adidas and Betamax - grilled chicken (or pork) intestines, head, feet, and blood with funny names, respectively.
- Atay, Balun-balunan, Puso - body parts liver, gizzard, heart.
- Deep Fried Meat Balls
- Bola Bola – deep fried balls with variations such as fish, squid, pork, chicken, beef, or combination.
- Kikyam – ground meat wrapped in bean curd sheets, then deep fried.
- Sausage – small cured meat cuts then deep fried.
- Hotdog – deep fried hotdog, in different sizes - nite size, jumbo, meat types or combinations.
- Waffle Hotdog - exactly American style.
- Siomai - meat dumpling wrapped in wonton wrapper with variations as either pork, shrimp, chicken, beef, sharks fin, or beef & shrimp.
- Siopao - steamed bun with stuffings such as asado, bola bola, or egg, or combination.
- Deep Fried – Batter Added
- Kwek Kwek and Tokneneng – boiled egg (duck, chicken or quail) covered in an orangey batter and deep fried in hot oil. Usually dipped in vinegar with onions, chili peppers and garlic.
- Ukoy - shrimp, mung sprouts, carrots or any veggie thrown in formed into flat pattie with a batter and deep fried.
- Sushi Rolls
- Boiled Saba – Philippine plantain, boiled.
- Banana Cue/Q – Philippine plantain fried in hot oil coated with caramelized brown sugar and served on a barbecue stick like a barbecue.
- Maruya – deep fried plantain slices held together by a batter.
- Turon – sweet spring rolled plantain with a slice of jackfruit flesh, deep fried.
- Root Crops
- Camote Cue/Q – sweet potato served the same way as banana cue/q.
- Kalingking - sweet potato cut french fries style, a handful are held together in batter and deep fried.
- Fresh Fruits
- Watermelon - sliced.
- Singkamas – sliced jicama topped with fermented shrimp.
- Pinya – sliced pineapple on stick.
- Mangga – sliced crunchy mangoes topped with salt or fermented shrimp.
- Guapple - giant guava the size of a big apple, sprinkled with salt, very crunchy.
- Pancake – simply slattered in margarine.
- Japanese Pancake – with variation filling.
- Crepe –with variation in fillings.
- Waffle– with variation in fillings.
- Native Cakes
- Puto Bungbong – exact Philippine version of the Puto Bambu sold at Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur and where "white" tourists are going gaga. Here, the mixture of grounded rice and sugar is steamed over a real bamboo over claypot heated by charcoal and not by industrial stove. Sold especially during the 9 days of "Misa de Gallo" a very long time tradition of early morning mass prelude to the eave of Christmas.
- Nilupak – a steady fixture along the streets abutting markets, this local pudding variety is made from sweetened pounded root crop tuber and formed in a style of mashed potato but with drier and stickier consistency.
- Pichi Pichi - cassava patties.
- Ube Halaya
- Sapin Sapin
- Suman - glutinous sweet rice or cassava wrapped in leaf and steamed.
- Asian Inspired Cakes
- Peanut Ampao
- Bread & Pastries
- Pan de Coco
- Empanada - with variation in fillings.
- Putopao - another Philippine product of fusion ingenuity, the common Chinese pao or bao or steamed meat bun has its dough substituted by steamed rice cake instead.
- Beverage or Palamig
- Gulaman - refreshing drink made from brown sugar syrup and water, made heavier by adding colorful squiggly pieces of jelly from agar agar sometimes mixed with evaporated milk.
- Sago - brown sugar syrup mixed on iced water with tapioca balls.
- Mix - Gulaman & sago.
- Buko Juice - coconut juice and shredgings.
- Melon Juice
- Creamed Palamig
- Buko Macapuno Cream - young sport coconut shredded with very diluted cream almost like evaporated milk, in a portable cup.
- Buko Macapuno Pandan Cream - likewise, with Pandan flavor distinguished by its green color.
- Buko Macapuno and Nata de Coco Cream - likewise but added with Nata from coconut, the jelly cream formed from fermented coconut juice.
- Jelly Cream - an all-jelly cast, including Nata de Coco.
- Combined Macapuno & Jelly
- Sorbetes/Ice Cream
Low income workers patronize them the most as they commute to their homes, often taking two-hour trips. These are noted in the open streets where they are the cheapest and these are what most bloggers and media immediately see. But there are ones that are as even cleaner as those found in Bangkok or at par with those in hawker centers in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, or Japan and Korea.
Mall walkways and Food Courts offer a wide selection of Street Food menu and that is some notches less in worrying about hygiene. Expect the cost to be a little bit higher, although that would just come up to be in cents difference.
For a taste of street food without the accompanying risk, try out the following establishments:
- Balut Eggspress - serves balut, kwek kwek and one day old chicks, which are quite literally day old chicks marinated and fried in hot oil then eaten whole including the bones. They have a stall in the MRT Ayala Station.
- Nanay Q - serving special pork and chicken BBQ, liempo, grilled fish and shrimps. They also serve special Pinoy dishes such as Beef Caldereta, Menudo, Pinapaitan, Gambas and Sinigang. Sisig is also their specialty. They have branches at Robinsons Pioneer and Edsa Central. You may visit  for more info..
Carinderyas/Carinderias sound like Spanish style cooking but there is no relation to it. It's simply a collective term for a working class type of eating stall, now with table and seats for sit-in meals, more as a hole-in-the-wall or a makeshift school canteen (some may have wheels) for the lowly construction worker, the jeepney driver, or the student low and tight on budget. The style of presenting the food (no menus but some have posted menus) is laid out on a glass-covered or open counter in pots or deep square aluminum platters (for the more classy ones) and where the customer can just scan his eyes and choose what he wants.
Panaderyas/Panaderias are Bakeries dispensing bread and pastries. But the line is not clear if they are a separate class of their own or as Street Food. Goldilocks Bakeshop operate as a full-time restaurant but they can have some presence in malls as food stand types. Dunkin’ Donuts or Mister Donut also establish their presence as either a shop with dining tables or as a stand-alone stall.
This is a special class of Street Food distinguished from the stationary ones. Vendors roam around in their carts in a certain route and a specific time, as some food that are sold are time sensitive, meaning they can only be eaten say, in the morning, or as afternoon snack. Some of their itineraries are neighborhoods, where their target clientale are pre-school or school age children, and some are office blocks, where their prime targets are lady workers. There are only a few types of these food that are mobile.
- Taho - this ubiquitous mushy tofu, found in the whole Southeast Asia has this Philippine version topped with sugar syrup and tapioca balls. It's patonized mostly by children in the morning.
- Mais - boiled corn-on-the-cob sold in the early to late afternoon.
- Binatog - boiled glutinous corn topped with coconut milk, sugar, and fresh coconut gratings.
- Bola Bola - fried fish balls, small hotdogs, etc...
- Assorted Fruits
- Ice Cream or Dirty Ice Cream - sold in folksy carts, it announces its presence with a bell that looks more like a collector's item. Flavors are as native themed as its cart - mango, carabao cheese, pandan, and yam.
Breakfast in the city is described as dry - meaning not wet as in noodle and soup or porridge like what is taken in the morning in most Southeast Asian cities. More like an amalgam of the East and the West, specifically the American, Hispanic, and Malay, somehow as if McDonald's and Cuban entrees collided with Nasi Lemak to form these creations that are very catchy to begin with for they all end with "SILOG".
First, these are the key words in Tagalog: Sinangag for fried garlic rice and Itlog for egg more often sunny side up and rarely scrambled. They combine to form the portmanteau "SILOG". Along with these is the main item - meat or fish plus the given mainstays - Set A: lettuce-sliced tomato(s)-sliced cucumber(s), Set B: carrots and peas toppings over sinangag, Set C: achara or pickled unripe papaya and carrots, Set D: fried garlic or shallots over sinangag, or Set E: onion rings. The main items are as follows:
- Tapsilog - for tapa or cured beef jerky
- Dasilog - for daing or sun-dried fish
- Adosilog - for adobo (vinegar & soy sauce marinated chicken, pork or beef)
- Hamsilog - for ham
- Disilog - for dilis or fried smelt or anchovy
- Cornsilog - for corned beef
- Bacsilog - for bacon
- Bangsilog - for bangus or milkfish
- Bisteksilog - for beef steak
- Dangsilog - for danggit or rabbitfish
- Vicsilog - for vic or chinless hogfish
- Chosilog - for chorizo or Spanish style sausage
- Chiksilog - for fried chicken
- Embotidosilog - for embotido or Philippine-style meatloaf
- Shanghaisilog - for shanghai roll or Philppine-style fried srping roll
- Hotsilog - for hotdog or Philippine-style bloody red hotdog
- Longsilog - for longganisa or Philippine-style sausage (derived from Chinese style)
- Tosilog - for tosino or sugar/honey cured meat
- Masilog - for 'Ma Ling' brand Chinese luncheon meat
- SPAMsilog - for 'SPAM' brand luncheon meat
- Nuggetsilog - for chicken nuggets
- Porksilog - for chuleta or porkchop
- Lechonsilog - for roasted pork
- Liemposilog - for crispy pork
- Bangusilog - for fried milkfish
- Baloneysilog - for Bologna sausage
- Pusitsilog - for fried breaded squid rings or octopus tentacles, or plain midget squids
- Siomaisilog - for siomai ( a type of meat dumpling)
- Tuyosilog - for sun dried mackerel
- Isawsilog - for a piece of pork intestines
Of course, this is assisted with hot coffee, tea, or juice and a couple of morning bread called Pan de Sal (salted bread).
There are stalls or Carinderias/Carinderyas that specialize in this breakfast "SILOG" fare called "Tapsihan" named for the first type of of these combo ever concocted, the tapsilog.
Snacks or nibblers called Chichireya or Papak while office workers multi-task and at the same time working and chatting. Also, it is eaten on long journeys or while watching movies or simply doing school work.
- Peanut - garlic-fried peanut
- Japanese Peanut
- Cornick - garlic-fried corn ear
- Green Pea - garlic-fried green pea
- Butong Pakwan - watermelon seeds
- Champoy - preserved dried fruits
- Cheese Curls - popular junk food
- Chippy - popular junk food
- Ampao - poprice thats molded in blocks by sugar syrup
When it comes to dining, in a nutshell, Filipino food can be described as timid in flavor, not much creativity. Food is trained to have only one dominant flavor - either the bitterness, the sweetness, the sourness, or the saltiness is enhanced. For some reason, the ingredients used don't have that wide range like those in Malaysia, Vietnam or Thailand, its closest neighbors. Filipinos are just as happy and contented to limit their range of ingredients, a people that never had a royalty. Practically all countries that had/have a monarchy developed their superior palate taste through the royal court. No particular doting attention is given no more than it fills the stomach of the ordinary hungry person.
In a close comparison on a vegetable & spice market tour between the Philippines and Vietnam, the Philippine counterpart is limited. For seasoning, Filipino dishes do not digress from the daily triumvirate of garlic, onion, and tomatoes, sometimes ginger. No cinnamon, anise, or cardamom. On the herb section, only parsley, spring onion, and lemon grass are popularly known to Filipinos, while in Vietnam, there are so many kinds of herbs used in the daily diet. One glaring observation, basil is not eaten fresh, only as seasoning sold as dry as a dead leaf. As a side note, the saw-leaf herb which is an everyday ingredient in Vietnam which happened to originate in Mexico, ironically skipped the Philippines during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.
Speaking of Acapulco, Mexicans drink tamarind as a beverage. Tamarind juice coming from the tamarind fruit, being as Asian as rice, is surpisingly absent in the Philippine beverage menu even though it is popular in Latin America and the rest of the Southeast Asian countries.
Noodle varieties are limited to a handful. Rice wrappers for spring roll is just one type, unlike in Vietnam. Having plenty of variation and versatility for example, the Vietnamese would use rice as sesamed crackers, or Mexicans would make their corn into taco shells, or Indians would use wheat as poppadoms.
Filipino food is safe to say more as a comfort food, a peasant food concocted at a time when all Filipinos were all living on agricultural-fishing existence, contented to eat simply on rice and one or two-dish meal - one dry and the other wet or soupy. Even if Filipinos have attained a higher degree of sophistication, the same ingredients are used and the same flavor is maintained.
Most sit-down and casual dining restaurants in Manila would fall under the mid-range category. But there are budget ones as well. For budget dining, just follow the office workers making a beeline to building basements, canteens, or carinderias (road side stalls) during lunchbreak almost everywhere in the city and even in high class Makati area. The men usually wear short sleeved Barong Tagalog and the ladies, like bank teller attires. These are not lowly workers but they pay lunch as cheap as US$1.00 complete with a clear broth, a dish, and a cup of rice enough to energize the office worker for the rest of the day. University canteens open to the public offer student meals and have resident nutritionists too. Along Recto and Nicanor Reyes Sts., the epicenter of downtown university belt cosmos, there are dime a dozen shops that offer complete and filling budget meals as low as P35 or US$0.80 (80 cents).
Manila as a national hub of regional cooking, has almost all its regions represented in eating establishments either exclusively or featured with the others. General restaurants, either catering for the working class or the elite, can offer varied dishes coming from every region and have assimilated in every one's palette taste. For example the northern region called Ilocos has its favorite fare called Pinakbet approved by practically everyone and has melted in every local's daily diet although it still sticks to be identified as an Ilocano fare.Regional Dishes
The following are the regional dishes that have assimiliated into the restaurants, canteens, and carinderias in Manila.
- Northern Luzon Island Region or Ilocos (Ilocano) - Ilocanos are know industrious and thrifty brought about by the origina people who lived in limited cultivable strip of land bounded between the sea and the Cordillera mountain range.
- Pinakbet - vegetable dish seasoned with fermented fish
- Papaetan - tripe seasoned with bile secretion
- Dinengdeng -
- Central Luzon Island Region (Kapampangan) - Pampaguenos lead in the art of cooking combining the best of Spanish and Chinese legacies.
- Relleno - stuffed fish or chicken
- Pastel -
- Cocido -
- Pansit Palabok - noodle dish
- They also excel in fine desserts:
- Turon de Casuy
- Leche Flan
- Biscochos Borrachos
- Central Luzon Island Region or Tagalog (Tagalog) - Tagalogs are generally good cooks too.
- Adobo - now considered as National Dish, it's pork, beef, or chicken marinated in soy sauce and vinegar.
- Sinigang - Philippines answer to Tom Yam, a meat or seafood boiled in a sour fruit.
- Dinuguan - internal organs of butchered animals and cooked with pork blood. (Note: eating animal organs was introduced by the Spaniards).
- Hipong Halabos - boiled shrimp
- Kari-Kari - beef parts flavored by vegetables and pounded peanut turned into sauce.
- Biya with Gata - fish cooked in coconut milk.
- Pangat - fish cooked without coconut milk.
- Southern Luzon Peninsula Region or Bicol (Bicolano) - Bicolanos are considered the hotties because they can tolerate chili more than any Filipinos. They also like coconut milk.
- Pinangat - sauteed seafood with coconut meat and hot pepper.
- Tanaguktok - fish stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and hot pepper wrapped in banana leaf.
- Gulay na Natong - Taro leaves cooked in coconut milk
- Bicol Express - very hot meat dish
- Western Visayas Islands Region or Iloilo (Ilongo) - The islands are fertile and more blessed with rain than the other Visayan islands and the waters abound with fish. Ilongos are the most creative in the Visayas when it comes to ccoking.
- Pansit Molo - soup with wanton like dumplings.
- Laswa - vegetables cooked in little water with fermented fish.
- Linagpang - broiled fish.
- Inasal - another fish cooked over charcoal.
- Kadyos - vegetables with fish or meat.
- Central Visayas Islands Region or Cebu (Cebuano) - Cebuanos live on these dry and barren islands and are corn eating rather than rice eating people. They have been influenced more by the Mexicans.
- Corn Suman - corn desert removed from the cob and rewrapped in the husk.
- Utap or Hojaldres - Cebuano biscuit.
- Eastern Visayas Islands Region or Samar-Leyte (Waray) - Warays are coconut milk lovers minus the hot chili pepper.
- Kinilao - raw fish in lime and vinegar.
Local Snack or Ice Cream Parlors
Some of the food offered by these parlors may be also be on restaurant menus (since these are categorically dessert items), those that specialize in local cuisine. But these parlors are also a separate category of their own. Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, super hygienic Americanized establishments stand out from the rest usually found in malls, and from the humble food stalls in the public markets where they originated. These two are basically bakeshops but they function as native ice cream parlors, serving more or less the following which are authentically or adaptively Filipino:
- Ice Cream- mostly serving never heard flavors at least in the western world such as purple yam, avocado, carabao cheese, coconut, or pandan.
- Sago Parfait - tapioca balls parfait.
- Creamed Coconut and Pandan flavored Jellies
- Almond Jellies Lychees - also with shaved ice.
- Sweetened Sport Coconut Flesh - also with shaved ice.
- Frozen Fruit Salad
- Halo-Halo - the queen of Philippine Snacks/Desserts, a Japanese invention of a salad of sweet beans and peas, jellies, and fruits and shaved ice found everywhere in the Far East. The Philippine version always has these ingredients - young sweetened coconut shreddings called Macapuno, nipa palm nut flesh or Kaong, Pinipig or toasted sweet rice, Ube or purple yam paste, Leche Flan or egg custard, and ice cream.
- Guinomis - Pinipig or toasted sweet rice and sago in coconut syrup and shaved ice.
- Mango Jam
- Mais Con Yelo (Hielo) - iced sweet corn porridge in syrup
- Saba Con Yelo (Hielo) - iced stewed plantain in syrup
- Langka Con Yelo (Hielo)- fresh jackfruit in syrup
- Mangga at Sumang Malagkit – Philippine version of the Thai mango and glutinous sweet rice. In this case the rice is steamed while wrapped in banana or palm leaf.
- Banana and Young Coconut Pies
- Leche Flan or Custard
- Mango Pudding
- Crema de Fruta - layered fruit cocktail cake.
- Cashew Tart
- Egg Bonbon
- Polvoron - some foreigners call this volcano candy because it inevitably spews the powdery concoction once the mouth is opened while chewing it, a Spanish shortbread from flour, sugar, carabao's milk, and nuts.
Even while the enlightened world hates McDonalds/Pizza Hut guts, Filipinos are great lovers of its dining style and menus - hotdogs on stick, hotdogs on bun, hamburgers, or cheeseburgers, pizzas, and spaghettis. Their pictures proliferate everywhere, be it as street food or sit-in meal. Manilans also love donuts in the personification of Mister Donut which has its creations not as sweet as its American competitions. On a side note, Philippine style spaghettis are done sweeter than normal.
Manila has most of the usual American fast food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dairy Queen, Shakey's Pizza, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, TGIF, Italianni's, Outback, and KFC. Jollibee, the Filipino counterpart of McDonald's now ecclipsing it's once held dominant position, it is very common in Manila. It started out as a spoof spin-off of McDonald's, copying its menu and business model but substituting it with local ingredients (ex. mango pie for apple pie) and taking consideration of the local palate, now has become a billion dollar peso franchise business empire. Another spin-off of this business is Chow King, the same business model and packaging (styrofoams, plastics, and cardboards) but with Chinese influenced menus and has become as ubiquitous as Jollibee and McDonalds. Another spin-off to the spin-off is Mang Inasal, this time the theme is country or provincial style menu with packaging this time using banana leaf and cane and bamboo baskets as plates, and claypots as serving plates catering to native food lovers.
Coffeeshops such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best have also recently become quite common in malls and commercial centers. Meals could be as low as US$2 to 3 in most fast food joints. A typical burger meal with fries and a drink would fall under this range.
The Philippines has its own version of the Spanish Tapas but little is known about it outside the country even if Filipinos have invaded almost all corners of the globe, employed and even permanently residing in their host countries. Anyway, it's more or less the same kind of presentation - as a finger, toothpick, or fork food, and relevance - to accompany any alcoholic drink, mostly beer, on a social gathering between neighbors, relatives, work colleagues, peers, and clients and mostly fall under male-bonding or camaraderie social dining. It comes from the root word "PULUT" meaning "to pick up".
It is always served in a communal plate or bowl with plenty of forks (if it needs to pick up the food, otherwise finger is OK) arrayed on a plate like oars on a boat. If there's a need for a dipping sauce, then a bowl is also served with it to be used communally.
- Mani - (peanuts) are often sold boiled in the shell, salted. (Note that peanut is also called Mani in Latin America.)
- Balut - duck embryo.
- Fried & Boiled
- Tokwa't Baboy - tofu fried with boiled pork, all diced and mixed together then dipped in a garlic-flavored soy sauce or vinegar dip.
- Deep Fried
- Chicharrón - (also spelled chicharon or tsitsaron), pork rinds that have been salted, dried, then fried.
- Chicharong Bituka - pig intestines that have been deep fried to a crisp.
- Chicharong Bulaklak - similar to chicharong bituka it is made from mesenteries of pig intestines and has a bulaklak or flower appearance.
- Chicharong Manok - chicken skin that has been deep fried until crisp.
- Mani - (peanuts) deep fried in garlic, and may be spiced.
- Pea - all varieties from chick peas to endadame (not fried), same as peanuts.
- Kropeck - fish and shrimp crackers.
- Pusit - Squid
- Octopus -
- Hipon - Shrimp
- Isda - skewered fish, all sorts.
- Barbekyung Isaw - chicken or pig intestines marinated and skewered.
- Barbekyung Tenga - pig ears that have been marinated and skewered.
- Barbekyung Baboy or Pork Barbecue - skewered pork marinated in a usually sweet blend.
- Lechong Manok - skewered piece or rotisseried whole chicken marinated in a usually sweet blend.
- Betamax - salted solidified pork or chicken blood which is skewered.
- Adidas - which is grilled or sautéed chicken feet.
- Sisig- made from the pig's cheek skin, ears, liver, and even brains that are initially boiled, then grilled over charcoal and afterwards minced and cooked with chopped onions, chillies, and spices.
A very local drinking experience in Manila meant going to beer gardens or beerhouses as is commonly called. They are scattered mostly around the working districts of Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Quiapo and even the tourist belt areas of Ermita and Malate. Every city in the metropolis has practically it's own adult entertainment strip, block, or district where these establishments can be found. These are heavily sexualized. It's mostly working class men and those working in the military and police establishments who are the clientele with young sexy and provocatively dressed waitresses or euphemistically called GROs or Guest Relations Officers serving the customers. Some beer gardens take it up a level higher and have entertainment on the sides with scantily two-piece suit dancers taking turns on the stage. The kind of food served somewhat resemble the Spanish Tapas style ranging from the simple such as peanuts, corn, and peas - boiled or deep fried to mundane such as fried pork, beef, chicken to the adventurous such as other body parts - ears, gizzards, livers, hearts, intestines, brains, balls, blood, and what have you. They are categorized under the subject Pulutan.
For establishments resembling the western version of a pub, these establishments are concentrated in Remedios Circle in Malate district a very important hub of nightlife, as well as in Bonifacio Global Village in Taguig City, Tomas Morato in Kamuning District in Quezon City, and Eastwood in Libis District, Quezon City. Bohemian Malate, the older Ermita neighborhood and the Baywalk that stretches between them contains a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol, and live music.
Karaoke and videoke bars are also very common as majority of Manilans are American Idol fans although one's living room can be easily converted into one.
The San Lazaro Leisure and Business Park in Carmona, Cavite Province, 36 km (22 miles) south of Manila is were all betting action takes place, transferred by its operator, the Manila Jockey Club operating since 1867 which used to run the two grand dames of Manila horse racing - the San Lazaro & Santa Ana Hippodromes.
Facilities include slot machines and table games, a twin oval-shaped thoroughbred race track, and other entertainment.
There are casino centers established around 50 km. or more away from Manila such as in Angeles City, Olongapo City, Tagaytay City, and the Freeport Zones of Subic and Clark.
The workforce in Manila covers everything from daily, minimum wage earners to expats being driven in Beemers. Standard working time varies, especially with the proliferation of Call Centers, but the usual working hours are 8AM-5PM. Given that the traffic within the Manila escalates exponentially as the day begins, it's always better to leave early for meetings.
There is also a local saying known as "Filipino Time" wherein it was expected that the attendee would be late by up to one hour. However, this has been significantly reduced through the years, although the bad traffic is usually (and realistically) cited as the main cause for missing one's appointment.
Makati City is the country's main CBD, or Central Business District, and, on every given weekday, it seems that all roads lead here. Multinational firms and big businesses hold offices here.
Ortigas Center, which cuts across the borders of Mandaluyong City, Pasig City and Quezon City, seems to be the alternative CBD, with companies such as the Asian Development Bank headquarters and the World Bank Manila office located in this vicinity.
Check for hotel listings in the appropriate districts
You can sleep in a Manila Hotel for as cheap as 500 peso per night if you wish. Don't expect many luxuries at this price though!
Manila has a lot of hotels, inns and apartelles. Most of these accommodations can be found within Roxas Boulevard overlooking Manila Bay, or in the districts of Ermita and Malate. Manila's hotel accommodations are 20 to 30 minutes away from the international and domestic airport.
There are many major international hotel chains which have a presence in Metro Manila. Rates are still generally cheaper here compared to the same class of hotels in western cities. A stay in these hotels however, would be considered a luxury by Philippine standards particularly since these rates would represent a month's income for some Filipinos.
Groom, Relax, & Rejuvenate
Hair Salons here are cheap and can go even as low as 35 Pesos or US$0.85 that comes with wash and blow.
Barber Shops & Beauty Salons
Spas & Massage Parlors
Payphones are very common in the city center. The use of mobile phones is also very extensive. To use your mobile phone, it has to be at least a dualband GSM phone. Globe and Smart are the Philippine's largest mobile carriers and they invite you to use them as a roaming partner (inquire from your home carrier if they have Globe and Smart as a roaming partner).
To call anywhere within Metro Manila, simply dial the 7-digit telephone number from a payphone or a landline. If you need to call anywhere else within the Philippines, dial 0 + area code + telephone number. To make an international phone call, dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number.
Internet cafes have become a common sight in Metro Manila. Most malls would have at least one internet cafe. Most internet cafes provide broadband speeds. Netopia and Pacific Internet are common chains. Netopia also has a branch at the MRT Ayala Station. Cheap overseas calls can be made at Netopia branches via their VOIP service.
Most coffee shops now also have WiFi services available so you can surf the net while sipping a cuppa. Airborneaccess.net and WIZ are the most common WiFi providers. Ask around if usage is free of charge, otherwise, as the case is often, you will have to buy an internet access card at the counter.
As a slum haven, Manila is one of the most blighted cities in Asia rivaling Calcutta, Bombay, and Dacca. Sufficient to say that it is not convenient to carefree wonder around as one would encounter sidewalks fringed with makeshift shanties that lead to a sudden turn into a labyrinth of squatter neighborhoods. It is very scary if not annoying encountering lolling group of male adult and teenage bystanders, although nowadays, these areas are most likely manned by village watchmen and everyone is more than willing to help and interact with lost strangers. If you love children, especially dirty and malnourished ones, there are tons of them here, product of partnership between Catholic Church policies and responsible parenthood gone haywire.
One needs only to watch "Slumdog Millionaire" to visualize these places.
Nuissances that impedes a pleasurable walking tour are street children who freely use the streets as their playground, manholes that were left open, or probably its cover stolen to be sold as metal scrap, dog poos, uncollected garbage, undisciplined cars and mostly jeepneys weaving in and out of the lanes as they pick up passengers, as well as political billboards.
Political Billboards deserve one article for they are quite an interesting subject to discuss. They proliferate the streets proclaiming the sitting politician's achievements, reminding constituences that they have just installed a community center, or petty projects such as a park fountain, or a police outpost. Vulgar reminders may be hanging on power lines or overhead pedestrian bridges. Even mobile garbage trucks remind everybody whose in charge of collecting the daily garbage. Entry to a community means a sore eye installation of the political directory, some complete with each one's mug shots, broadcasting visually to one and all who are the present bosses, whose hands the power lies. No dearth of messages even in non-election season like during Christmas and graduation time, politicians find it an opportunity to advertise themselves greeting their subjects.
Manila is a city where one should exercise caution. A popular scam as of recent days is for someone to approach you and pretend they recognize you. They will say they work at your hotel (such as room service or security) and that they know you from there. They then say it is their day off and since they just happened to bump into you they want to show you something nice that is nearby. They may be very convincing even to experienced travelers. It is always a scam.
Another popular scam in Manila is for a con artist to befriend a tourist and offer to show them around, hang out, etc. After gaining the tourist's trust, the con artist then slips drugs into the tourist's food or drinks. The con artist then leads the drugged, groggy victim to an ATM and watches while he/she enters her pin. The con artist is then free to withdraw all the money from the account.
Get into a car or go anywhere with people only if you know them (even of they say that have helped you at the hotel on a previous occasion). Of course, if you ask them which hotel they will not be able to answer. They are best fended off if you just ignore them. If they persist, say, "Are you going to leave me alone or should I call the police?" That makes them leave quickly.
Theft is common, especially pick pocketing. You should act cautiously as you would in any other poor country, especially considering if you do not look Filipino. Thieves and scam artists are likely to see you as an easy target. Travelers from other Asian nations, especially South East Asians, should have no problem blending in with the crowd, however.
Never wear valuable jewelry or anything else to broadcast your wealth. Displaying that expensive mobile phone or digital camera out in the open is also a good way to attract thieves.
- China, 4896 Pasay Rd, Dasmarinas Village, Makati, ☎ +63 2 8443148 (email@example.com, fax: +63 2 8452465), .
- Greece, 12th Floor, Sage House, 110 Rufino Str.Legaspi Village, Makati City, Manila, ☎ +632 817-4444, Emergencies: +639279677637 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +632 812-0202).
- Japan, 2627 Roxas Blvd, Pasay City, ☎ +63 2 551-5710 (fax: +63 2 551-5780), .
- Russia, 1245 Acacia Road, Dasmariñas Village, Makati, ☎ +63 2 817-5406 (RusEmb@i-manila.com.ph, fax: +63 2 810-9614), . Monday – Thursday 08.00-15.15 Friday 08.00-15.00.
- United States, 1201 Roxas Blvd, ☎ ACS +632 301-2000 (fax: ACS +63 2 301-2017), .
Manila is the hub of the Philippine ferry network, and ferries to most major cities will stop at the Manila South Harbor, the city's main passenger seaport. Several companies operate ferries to Manila from points throughout the Philippines, and cruise ships occasionally stop in Manila throughout the year. Around the capital are numerous attractions for people desiring a quick daytrip away from the hustle and bustle of this mega-metropolis.
Provincial bus companies also operate their own terminals which are dispersed throughout the city. They concentrate mostly in EDSA in Cubao District, Quezon City for those destined north (Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon, the Bicol Region including Catanduanes & Masbate Islands), around the junction of EDSA and South Superhighway for those destined south (Southern Tagalog Bicol Region), and around the Sampaloc District in Manila for those heading north.
See More Sights
- Puerto Azul, Cavite
- Marbella Beach, Cavite
- Caylabne, Cavite
- Gerthel Beach, Batangas
- Submarine Garden, Batangas
- Mahabang Buhangin Beach, Batangas
- Hugon Beach, Batangas
- Matabungkay Beach, Batangas
- Mt. Maculot, Batangas
- Calijon Falls, Batangas
- Mainit Hot Springs, Batangas
- Cueva Sitio, Batangas
- Ilijan Falls, Batangas
- Sepok Point, Batangas
- Bulalacao Falls, Batangas
- Old Churches and Museums Tour, Batangas
- Tinalunan, Batangas
- Tagaytay — is a city located on a ridge overlooking Taal Lake. The spectacular view of the Taal volcano in the middle of the lake, combined with the exquisite cuisine from the numerous ridge-side restaurants has made this a favorite weekend excursion for Manila residents. (roughly 1 hour from Ninoy Aquino International Airport)
- Mount Batulao is a popular trekking destination near Tagaytay, with the same nice views and cool weather, making for a nice dayhike. Other nearby dayhikes include Pico de Loro and Mount Maculot (which has nice views of Taal Lake).
- Trekking Mount Pinatubo, ☎ +63-2-9251009 (email@example.com), . is a once in a lifetime experience, highly recommended for hiking enthusiasts. Travel two and a half hours north of Metro Manila and board a Filipino 4x4 jeep where you will experience a thrilling drive across Crow Valley, a moon-like terrain, with vast ash fields and rocky rivers. You will hike up towards the summit passing through sandy cliffs and up a mountain path. The views of the Crater Lake are absolutely breathtaking. On the way back you have the opportunity to visit an Aeta Village and enjoy interacting with one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the Philippines. The trip is a full day tour departing early in the morning. You will hike anywhere between 3 - 6 hours depending on your fitness.
- Scenic and Folkloric Lake Bai Tour. tour of idyllic towns of Lake Bai - Angono - art town, haven for painters specializing on romanticist and folk genre, notably the Blanco family; concentration of art galleries; Pagsanjan - shooting the rapids and ancestral homes, Biñan - coco pie, native pastries, and candies, Calamba - hometown of National Hero Jose Rizal and Charice - You Tube singing sensation.
- Villa Escudero
- Taal — is a heritage town containing many Spanish period homes that were built from the spoils of coffee, sugar and other 19th century export crops. A number of these homes have been turned into heritage museums that allow one to imagine what life was like during those times.
- Antipolo City — Manilans make their annual summertime pilgrimage to the shrine of the Nuestra Senora dela Paz y Buenviaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) in this hilltop town. Once there, you can partake of the delicacies such as roasted cashew nuts and kalamay (glutinuous rice pudding). The Hinulugang Taktak Falls are nearby and prove a welcome respite to the city's hustle and bustle. On the way up to Antipolo via the Sumulong Highway are restaurants and bars which provide an excellent view of the Metro skyline. (around 1.5 hours from airport)
- Subic Freeport Zone — This former American military base has been converted into an industrial park and ironically, an eco-tourism zone. Within the confines of the freeport one can partake of practically all of the activities that most tourists generally experience in the Philippines: sun-tanning on white sand beaches, bay side dining, studying English, forest canopy walking, wreck diving, casino gaming, survival trekking with native Aeta guides, bar hopping, golfing, getting a massage (one spa even offers synchronized massage with two masseuses) and other spa treatments, outlet shopping, you name it. (around 3.5 hours from airport)
- Paskuhan Village
- Mt. Samat & The Death March
- Baguio — lies further north and up in the mountains of the Cordilleras. With its cool climate and pine trees, Baguio is said to be the summer capital of the Philippines. (around 8 hours from airport)