Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is situated in the southwest of the country’s largest island, Luzon on the shores of Manila Bay. Luzon is the largest, most densely populated and best developed island in the Philippines archipelago.
Its northern region is dominated by the Cordillera Mountains and Cagayan Valley in the east. The central plains separate this part of the island from the south, which is primarily made up of rolling hills, mountain ranges and ridges, with the Sierra Madre (479 km) extending from the northeast to the southeastern part of the island. Greater Manila is a sprawling urban center covering 636 square kilometers, packed with restaurants and clubs, baroque churches, shopping malls, parks and 12 million people. It consists of seven formerly independent cities.
Manila was founded in 1571 on the site of a Muslim settlement. Today the city’s main attraction is the old Spanish walled-in city of Intramuros where historic buildings and ruins can be found.
Manila offers the visitor a unique style that can be found in practically every facet of life. A large number of Manilans travel around in "jeepneys", colorful public vehicles that are half art and half transport, and are often responsible for the heavy traffic during the rush hours. Manila showcases the country's healthy blend of east and west. While practically all Filipinos speak and understand English, migrants from all over the country retain and use the dialect of their region. There are over 100 different dialects in the country. Manila is the center of arts and culture, the seat of government and the financial, industrial, commercial and business hub of the nation. Despite of the fact that the city was badly damaged during WW II, spectacular jewels of the colonial past can still be found hidden in the net of concrete streets.
Manila has hot and humid weather all year round, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius. It does become a little cooler in the period from November through February. May is the hottest month with temperatures averaging 29 degrees.
Humidity levels vary and the rainy season lasts from June to October. The wettest month is July with the average of 403.9 mm of rainfall. The dry season starts in November and the humidity levels are at the lowest between February and April.
May is on the average the warmest month, and January the coolest. The most rainfall occurs in July.
January average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 20.3 mm rainfall February average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 10.2 mm rainfall March average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 15.2 mm rainfall April average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 30.5 mm rainfall May average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 124.5 mm rainfall June average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 261.6 mm rainfall July average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 403.9 mm rainfall August average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 365.8 mm rainfall September average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 342.9 mm rainfall October average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 198.1 mm rainfall November average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 134.6 mm rainfall December average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 66.0 mm rainfall
Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located in Paranaque on the southern edge of Metro Manila; it is the international hub for the Philippines.
Shuttle: owned by major hotels in Manila and are very convenient. Taxi: It costs around P300 to get to the Tourist Belt. Another option is to buy a coupon at one of the booths for a fixed price that covers transfer from the airport to a designated spot in the city. Public Bus: passes by the Tourist Belt via Makat. It leaves every 15 minutes and cost P20.
Manila has no central long-distance bus terminal. There are over 20 bus companies in the Philippines, and their numerous bus terminals are scattered around the city. The ones closest to downtown are at Plaza Lawton, along EDSA in Pasay City, and north of EDSA on the corner of New York St.
A commuter train Metro-Tren operates during rush hours, between north (Paco in Manila) and south (Alabang suburb). The only train link in the country connects Manila with the Bicol region in the south. These trains are slow and not recommended as they can sometimes be dangerous.
LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT (LRT)
Light Rail is an elevated modern railway with two lines. It is a fast and safe way to get around in the city. Line 1 runs between terminals Monumento in the north and Baclaran in the south. Line 2 runs from Recto to Santolan. It operates from 5:00 am till 9:00 pm. A fare costs P12.
METRO RAIL TRANSIT (MRT)
The MRT runs from north to south above the EDSA highway. It operates from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm and costs from P12–20. Public transport is fast, efficient and very useful for visitors. It does tend to be crowded at peak hours, but it is still the fastest mode of transport.
Walking in Manila is almost impossible with the exception of the Tourist Belt, Roxas Boulevard and a few parts of Makati. In general, sidewalks are narrow or non-existent.
PUBLIC BUS OR JEEPNEY
Public buses and jeepneys are the cheapest way to get around Manila and are convenient for the areas not covered by the LRT or the MRT. (A jeepney is a cross between a jeep and a van.) The fare is between P5–10.
CARETELA OR CALESA
A caretela or calesa is a horse-drawn carriage and is convenient for shorter distances. They are very inexpensive and mostly available in the older neighborhoods like Binondo (Chinatown).
PEDICAB OR TRICYCLE
Bicycles or motorcycles with attached sidecars are very inexpensive and can be found everywhere. A ride will cost you P5-7.
Taxis are not as cheap as other public transport but not too expensive either. A 3 km ride will cost you around P40.
Do not miss the famous Manila Bay sunset. You can admire it from Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard, or onboard a cruise ship that sail around the bay. The high humidity and the clouds over the city harbor create an unforgettable lightshow.
Address: General Araneta Avenue, Quezon city Open: daily 5:00 am – 8:00 pm Access: Cubao (MRT) Disabled access.
This market is abundant in fresh produce, like fish and meat, vegetables, fruit and flowers. You will also find stalls selling cooked food. The market is busiest in the morning and slows down during the siesta. It comes alive again in the late afternoon and in the evening.
A calesa is a horse-drawn carriage and used to be 'the king of the road'. Today, they are quickly disappearing from the streets of Manila. Be prepared to haggle for the price. Expect to pay approximately $2 for a 15 minute ride anywhere. Most Calesas can be found in the Chinatown district.
Golf is a very popular sport in the Philippines. There are some 11 golfing areas in Manila, and are at the same time among the best places for playing golf in Asia.
Fees and club amenities are inexpensive. You can choose from different courses in terms of difficulty as well as price. Caddies speak English and it is not uncommon to find even ‘umbrella girls’ who hold out an umbrella to shield you from the sun, and ‘ball boys’ who fetch the balls that go out of bounds.
Address: Bonifacio Drive and Padre Burgos Street Access: Central (LRT)
Intramuros is the medieval Spanish walled enclave and the oldest district of Manila, which served as the seat of the government from 1571 to 1898. It lies on the southern bank of the Pasig River and is full of historic buildings: the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church and Casa Manila Museum. The area is also known as the Ciudad Murada (Walled City), because of its almost 5 km (3 mi) long massive stone wall with fortifications which surrounds the district and can be visited via a walking tour. During WW II it was severely bombed but it is now being reconstructed so visitors are able to get a feeling of what the old churches, palaces, monasteries, schools and wealthy homes looked like. The reconstruction has allowed the inclusion of several parks, restaurants, galleries and shops, so the area has also become an interesting and entertaining tourist spot.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH
Address: Calles Gen Luna and Real Phone: (0)2 527 4060 Open: daily 7:00 am – 7:30 am and 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Disabled access.
San Agustin, completed in 1606, is the oldest surviving church in the Philippines. It was left intact when most of Intramuros was destroyed during WW II. It has been included on the UNESCO list of the world heritage sites. The church features a marvelously carved floor and an elaborately decorated Baroque interior. You will find a museum in the monastery near the church housing a collection of religious paintings and art.
Address: Roxas Boulevard, Luxon Open: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm Access: UN Avenue (LRT) Admission: free Disabled access
The park is named after the Philippine national hero, Dr Joze Rizal, a renowned writer, philosopher and anti-colonialist. It encompasses 60 hectares of gardens, woods, and open spaces. It is a popular recreational and entertainment area with the locals. In the park you will find the Rizal monument, the place of his execution, the Chinese and the Japanese Gardens, the pool, a chess plaza and a skating rink. Nearby you can find other points of interest such as the National Library and National Museum.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE PHILIPPINES
Address: Valenciana Circle - Former Finance Building, Rizal Park Phone: (0)2 527 1215 E-mail: nmuseum@ i-next.net Open: Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Admission: Free Disabled access.
The museum is situated within Rizal Park, and houses a collection of natural, cultural and historical heritage of the Philippines. The museum is housed in two buildings and is divided into 5 categories, botany, zoology, geology, art and anthropology.
The most notable exhibition shows the 17 th century San Diego Spanish galleon which, with the items recovered from the wreck, offers an interesting glimpse into life at that time.
Another important item is the skull of ‘Tabon Man’, which is the oldest human remain found on the archipelago.
AMERICAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL
Address: McKinley Road, Makati City Open: daily: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Closed on December 25 th and January 1 st
The cemetery is a peaceful and quiet spot amidst the bustling city. Situated on a hill, it covers 61.5 hectare area of lush green lawns where thousands of white marble crosses commemorate the lives of over 17,000 American soldiers who died in the Philippines and New Guinea during WW II. The circular memorial contains the names of those missing in action and the cemetery is frequented often by many veterans of WW II, amongst other tourists.
Address: Jose P Laurel Sr. Street, San Miguel Phone: (0)2 733 3721 Open: Monday – Friday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Admission: P200 (Monday to Wednesday) and P40 (Thursday and Friday) Disabled access.
The palace became the seat of government after the previous one, Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1863. The Malacanang palace was built on the banks of Pasig River in the 18 th century for a Spanish aristocrat. It was the official residence for the heads of state and became the seat of presidents of the Philippines after the state gained independence. Today the palace also houses a museum where mementos of all previous Philippine presidents are on display.
Address: along Rizal Avenue Extension and Aurora Boulevard Open: 7:30 am – 7:00 pm
It is worth visiting this unusual cemetery where the mausoleums of the wealthy Chinese are equipped with things like toilets and chandeliers. You can hire a guide to get to the best tombs.
Manila offers a wide range of cuisines. Restaurants offering Filipino specialties serve dishes from different regional kitchens and of diverse flavors.
Address: 532 Padre Faura Street , Makati City Phone: (0)2 815 1463
This restaurant serves traditional Filipino food. Here food is eaten with the hands; forks and spoons are available too but much less fun. You can get specialties with pork, seafood, and vegetables. Try their desserts too, for example Halo halo or Caramel custard.
The bistro is located in a house resembling elegant Filipino homes circa 1950. It specializes in exotic regional delicacies, such as stuffed frogs with pork and spices. However, if you are not so adventurous the menu also offers less outlandish dishes.
In case you are not yet familiar with Filipino food, feel free to consult the maitre d’.
Address: 589 Banawe Street, Quezon City Phone: (0)2 712 4249
Excellent food and affordable prices are the key reasons why the restaurant’s name is no exaggeration. The menu is diverse and offers many specialties including meat, vegetables and seafood dishes. Soft drinks and juices can be drunk in unlimited quantities with the cover charge. Alcoholic drinks are only served in function rooms and on special occasions.
MOTHER SACHI VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Address: 1180 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City Phone: (0)2 890 8324 Open: Monday – Friday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm; Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
This simple restaurant offers intriguing vegetarian dishes, both in taste and appearance. Vegetables, tofu, and fried seaweed accompany pasta. Natural fruit juices are available.
Location: throughout the city Date: varies, March or April
Holy week includes all major religious celebrations for the Filipinos: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday. All business in the city comes to a stop on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Even the public transport and national airlines close down on Good Friday.
Many crucifixion ceremonies are held and the most famous ones are located in San Fernando and in Antipolo, both in the vicinity of Manila.
ALL SAINTS DAY
Date: November 1-2 Location: throughout the city
This is probably the most characteristic festival of the Filipinos. On this day everyone goes to the cemeteries, the families get together, and the day is filled with visiting, playing games, and even spending the night on the cemetery. The celebration continues to the next day, All Souls Day.
SANTACRUZAN & FLORES DE MAYO
Date: May 1-31 Location: various locations
These two fiestas are much loved by the Filipinos.
Santacruzan is based on the legend that Christ’s Cross was found by mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor. For this occasion, young ladies dress in beautiful gowns and are escorted by handsome young men. The parade occurs every year on the first Saturday in May.
For the celebration of Flores de Mayo young girls dressed in white throw flowers around the picture of Virgin Mary, celebrating purity and innocence.
FEAST OF THE BLACK NAZARENE
Date: January 9 (from dawn till midnight) Location: Quipo Church and the surrounding streets Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thousands of pilgrims come to Manila from all over the country to join in the festivities. There is a big procession accompanying the black statue of Christ, called ‘The Black Nazarene’. Streets are filled with thousands of pilgrims joining in the procession, hoping to gain health, wealth and happiness for the next year.
FIESTA DE SANTO NINO / BULING-BULING FESTIVAL
Date: January 1-31 Location: Roxas Boulevard
This festival is honoring the Child Jesus, it is held all over the Philippines, which is predominantly Christian. There are street parades that start early and continue throughout the day. There are traditional dances and numerous entertainers and floats depicting themes related to Baby Jesus’ life.
Manila offers a great variety of entertainment after the sun goes down.
First-class hotels and restaurants offer meals accompanied by performances of local pop, folk and jazz artists as well as string quartets.
Theater, classical concerts, and ballet performances can be seen in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Manila Metropolitan Theater, the Repertory Theater at Shangri-La Plaza and many others.
If dancing the night away is more your style, head to places like Makati Avenue and Pasay Road in Makati, look around the Quezon Boulevard, Timog and West Avenues in Quezon City, Roxas Boulevard and Malate in Manila, as welll as Greenhills in San Juan.
There you will find anything from trendy noisy discos, to cosy jazz lounges, to karaoke bars.
Manila has also two casinos, where you can try your luck with cards, roulette and slot machines. You can find Casino Filipino on Ninoy Aquino Avenue.
The beginnings of Manila can be traced back to a Muslim settlement located at the mouth of the Pasig River along the shores of Manila Bay. Before the arrival of colonials, the archeological records bear testimony of settlement and trade with Asian neighbors and the Hindu empires of Java and Sumatra. Trade with China blossomed in the 10 th century and with Arabs in the 12 th century. When Spaniards arrived in the 16 th century Islam was well established on many islands.
Manila ’s written history can be traced back to 1521 when Spanish conquistadors, led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, conquered the city from Rajah Sulayman. The Spanish colonials built the walled-in city known as Intramuros for protection. In 1595 Manila was proclaimed the capital of the Philippines and the city became the center of trans-Pacific silver trade.
Due to weakening power in Europe, Spanish rule also began to unravel in the Phillipines. The area became politically unstable in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. The execution of Jose Rizal in 1896, who was a renowned writer, philosopher and an anti-colonialist, triggered a huge revolt which shook the foundations of Spanish reign. America went to war with Spain two years later and this further weakened and eventually ended the Spanish reign.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
In 1899 the Americans took over the Philippines. English language was introduced, mass education was instituted and new infrastructure was constructed. The face of the Philippines was quickly changing and being remodeled after the American image. The people accepted Westernization with gusto; they started going to the movies, decorated their houses in Art Deco style, and Western-style clothing became fashionable. Buildings like the Central Post Office, Manila City Hall, Old Congress Building and Metropolitan Theater are a testimony of those times.
The period ended with the onset of World War II. The Japanese occupied the islands and Manila suffered extensive damage. At the end of the war the city was in ruins. The extent of the devastation can be compared to that of Warsaw, Poland. The old historic center, Intramuros, was in rubbles; the only building left intact was San Agustin Church.
The post-war years saw a fast recovery. The country gained independence on July 4, 1946, and democratic rule was introduced. Economy was booming and the Philippines became the second richest nation in Asia. In the 1960s many new landmarks were erected; the University of the Philippines and other education facilities were so full of students that the Philippines reached one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
However, the situation took a turn for the worse in 1972 when President Ferdinand Marcos was elected. He imposed martial law, and for the next 20 years Manila was grasped in the hands of authoritarian rule, corruption, lack of civil rights and economic mismanagement. In 1986 the people revolted once again. The People Power Revolution was a unique moment in the history of the world as the street protests passed without bloodshed. The day is now commemorated by the EDSA (Epifiano de los Santos Avenue) shrine.
Today, the city is a flourishing economic and cultural center. However, it now faces problems of overpopulation, traffic congestion and crime. Still, it has become one of the most important cities in East Asia.
The main areas for petty thieves are busy tourist areas, airline and tourist information offices. The area of Rizal Park, in the district of Ermita, is notorious for this activity.
Never leave your belongings unattended and it is not wise to wear any gold or diamond jewelry or accessories in public places as you can easily become the target of snatchers or muggers.
Do not change dollars, yens, or other acceptable foreign currencies on the black market. Chances are you will get swindled.
Do not drink tap water or eat the food that has been prepared on the streets as diarrhea is a common phenomenon.
When hailing a taxi check if the meter is on. If the driver claims it is broken find another cab. Do not leave the windows open when driving in a cab, snatchers can easily get to your bags or other belongings. For the same reason, always hold on to your belongings and keep them out of sight when riding in open vehicles such as jeepneys, pedicabs or tricycles. The most troublesome areas are in and around Tondo and Divisoria.
Listen to your instincts, if something does not feel right, leave the place and make sure you still have all your belongings.
There are also many cell phone thefts so it is best not to use it in public places. It is also a good idea to buy a local operator’s SIM card during your stay and save a lot of money on your phone bill.
Avoid strangers offering free food or drink - tourists have often fallen prey to such schemes, and found themselves drugged and then robbed.
Be careful when crossing a street. Some drivers do not stop at the pedestrian crossings.