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The City of Manila [1] (Filipino: Lungsod ng Maynila) is the cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines located in the west coast of the island of Luzon. Up until World War II, Manila was considered the most beautiful city in Asia but the war put the city into complete ruins. It was the second most destroyed city after Warsaw, Poland. But this modern capital-city is the premier Christian city of Asia and considered as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a population of over 1.5 million people.

The Manila Cathedral

Historic, bustling, awe-inspiring, Manila is a blend of cultures and flavors that offers an endless serving of places to see, sights to behold, and experiences to never forget.


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.

Map of Manila with its Districts (click to see the larger details)

The eight districts north of the Pasig River are:

  • Binondo - country's Chinatown before the arrival of Spaniards in 1571 and the city's main center for business
  • Quiapo - Hometown of the Black Nazarene and also a place which offers cheap prices on items ranging from electronics to native handicrafts
  • Sampaloc - means tamarind fruit is the district wherein the University of Santo Tomas, Asia's oldest university and the famous Dangwa Flower Market is located
  • San Miguel - known as the University Belt District and the location of residence of the Philippine Government, Malacañang Palace
  • San Nicolas - shares Divisoria Flea Market with other co-district is the hub for the adventurous shoppers that may venture for cheap buys
  • Santa Cruz - is on the edge of Chinatown, which is the district of usual frenzied mix of commercial and residential premises
  • Santa Mesa - from the Spanish term Holy Mass, this district marks the first shot of the Filipino-American War
  • Tondo - the largest, historically 1100 years old, it is one of the first provinces to be established and rebelled against Spain and is now the World's Most Densely Populated District

The other eight are:

  • Ermita - one of the two Tourist Belt (another is the Malate district) is the former Red District and offers numeorus coin and antique shops aside from nightlife business
  • Intramuros - taken from the Latin, intra muros, literally "with in the walls", the History Town of the Philippines and considered as Old Manila itself during Spanish times
  • Malate - the Gay Capital of the country which is known as the center of bohemian night life in the city and in the metropolis
  • Paco - lies city's historic but mysterious octagonal park cemetery
  • Pandacan - district home of many of the country's literary and musical geniuses
  • Port - the country's chief seaport consisting of North and South Port where one can witness the dramatic sunset of Manila Bay
  • San Andres Bukid - was previously part of Santa Ana, this district has a touch of Moslem culture and has a mosque
  • 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


Manila has a bad reputation, and not entirely without reason: the usual developing world city problems of choking smog and traffic and appalling poverty are abundant here. This however should not dissuade any traveller from visiting this city for it is a warm, exciting and diverse place that is ripe for discovery by any adventurous tourist. English is widely spoken, prices are cheap and you get more than your fair share of sunshine. All in all, Manila is a fun and exciting place to be. Together with the warm and friendly people of the Philippines, tourists will find their Manila experience an enjoyable and unforgettable one.


Manila, as with a lot of major cities in the world, began as a settlement on the banks of a river, the Pasig River. The name Manila originates from the term "Maynilad" which refers to the mangrove plant known as Nilad, which was abundant in the area. Prior to the arrival of westerners in the 16th century, Maynilad was populated by an Islamic community descended from the Malay and Indonesian settlers that crossed over from the Asian mainland several centuries before. In 1571, 50 years after Magellan's discovery of the islands, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi claimed the Philippines as a colony and established Manila as its capital.


Manila is but one of 13 cities and 4 municipalities that comprise the area known as Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines. The NCR is located in the southern portion of the island of Luzon, in between the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog Regions, between Manila Bay and the inland lake of Laguna de Bay. The City of Manila, where most of the historical attractions are located, lies at the confluence of Manila Bay and the Pasig River.

The City of Manila is in the western part of Metro Manila. It is bordered to the west by Manila Bay, to the north by Quezon City and Kalookan City, to the east by San Juan and Mandaluyong City and to the south by Pasay and Makati.

Makati is Metro Manila's business district with tall buildings, luxurious hotels, vast shopping malls, lively entertainment spots, and numerous restaurants.

Quezon City also has its share of large shopping malls, and electronic and automotive parts discount centres. The Ortigas Centre at the confluence of Quezon City, Mandaluyong and San Juan is also a shopper's paradise.


English and Filipino (Tagalog) are the common languages in the northern mainland of Luzon. If you speak English, you will have no problem being understood everywhere because it is the language of instruction in schools, as well as in business. Most Filipinos speak English well, no matter their level of education. This is because Filipinos learn the English language at home, and more formally when they start school. It is not unusual for school children to speak impeccable English.

Moreover, Filipinos love American movies, television shows, music, food, and fashion.


The Philippines is a tropical country that has basically two seasons, a wet season and a dry season. Typhoons and tropical storms are a common occurrence during the wet season particularly in the northern part of the Philippines where Manila is located. The wet season lasts from June to early November. Late November to May is then the dry season with the Philippine summer months of March to May being the hottest. December to February is still relatively pleasant particularly if you are coming from the northern hemisphere where this is the winter period and sub-zero temperatures prevail. Temperatures during this time would range from 24 to 30°C at its peak. From March to May, temperatures heat up but as Manila is by the coast, it rarely goes beyond 36 to 37°C.

Get in

By air

From overseas, most visitors arrive by plane. Manila is served by three international airports. Philippine Airlines (PAL) has its own terminal, called Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 (NAIA 2), that serves both international and domestic flights. PAL usually provides seamless transfers between their international and domestic network whereas you would generally not be given this service on other carriers.

All other international airlines use NAIA Terminal 1, which is due to be replaced by the newly built modern NAIA Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) in 2006; while other domestic airlines use the old domestic airport which is about a 5 to 10 minute ride from Terminal 1. Be wary of this if you have a connection between a domestic and international flight arriving/departing from these airports.

Coupon (pre-paid) taxis are available at the airports to bring you to your hotel or wherever you may be going. Rates are fixed and dependent on the destination and generally are more expensive compared to what you would pay in a metered taxi. Coupon taxi counters usually are found immediately after exiting customs in both Terminals 1 and 2. Expect to pay somewhere between 10 to 15 USD for destinations within Metro Manila. The usual metered taxis are generally not allowed at the Arrival Terminal so you would either need to catch one unloading at the Departure Area or outside the airport complex. This may be easier said than done however, particularly when lugging around kilos upon kilos of baggage.

Apart from taxis, there are no regular public transport services to the airports except for buses and jeepneys plying routes that pass nearby. It will take a few minutes walk however before you get to a place where you can board and all this effort may not be worth the hassle so most opt to take the coupon taxis.

Low cost carriers such as Air Asia and Tiger Airways utilize the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga, approximately one hour north of Manila. These airlines have dedicated bus transfer services that transport passengers to and from the DMIA via newly renovated toll roads. You can catch the bus by Philtranco [2] either from it's terminal in Pasay City, Manila or from SM Megamall (behind building A) in Mandaluyong, Manila. From Pasay the fare is 350 pesos and from SM Megamall 300 pesos. The schedule can be seen on the Philtranco website [3] or on the Airasia site [4].

Air travel between islands is reasonably priced, with tickets averaging P4,000 to P5,000 round trip to most popular destinations. Promotions, particularly the "Go" fares offered by Cebu Pacific airlines, have pushed domestic roundtrip prices to the P2,000-P3,500 range.

By boat

Ferries run all over the Philippines, but should you not reserve a first class cabin be prepared for uncomfortable cramped conditions. There seems to be lax enforcement of Western safety standards.

Supercats and fastcrafts connect short distances between islands on high-speed air-conditioned hydrofoil crafts. Not only do they provide a faster option than ordinary ferries, they are also much better maintained and have a remarkable safety record. Among the major routes serviced by fastcrafts in and around Manila are: Manila-Bataan, Manila-Cavite and Batangas-Puerto Galera.

By bus

The Strong Republic Nautical Highway has made inter-island travel by bus possible. Major islands are connected by Roll On - Roll Off ferries which can carry cars, buses and cargo trucks. An example is the Manila to Boracay route which goes via Batangas, Calapan and Roxas in Mindoro then Caticlan. Philtranco [5] serves various inter-island routes and has a terminal in Cubao, Quezon City. Needless to say however that these trips can take quite a bit of time and may not be worth the savings if you have only a few days to spend in the Philippines.

Normal provincial buses serving other parts of Luzon also have terminals in various portions of Metro Manila. The Cubao area in Quezon City and the Bonifacio Monument area in Kalookan City is where buses serving the northern portions of Luzon (e.g. Baguio, Zambales) have their terminals.

The Buendia Ave. cor Taft Ave. intersection in Makati and the area near the Taft Ave. and EDSA intersection in Pasay is where buses to the south (e.g. Batangas, Laguna) have their terminals.

Get around

The metropolis has an extensive system of highways connecting the various cities and municipalities. The major roads include ten radial roads, which branch out from central Manila and five circumferential roads which form concentric arcs around downtown Manila. Most of these roads are very important transportation arteries. One is the C-4 (Circumferential Road 4) also called Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or more popularly known as EDSA. Some other other important roads are R-1 (Radial Road 1) or Coastal Road/Manila-Cavite Road; R-3 or South Luzon Expressway (SLEX); R-7, which consists of Espana Avenue, Quezon Avenue, and Commonwealth Avenue; R-8 or the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX); and C-5 going from Bicutan to Libis (simply referred to as C-5).

However, driving in a private car is not recommended for people who are unfamiliar with Manila because many drivers there ignore such things as stoplights and lane markings and most also have no idea what right of way means. Public transport is very cheap however but may get very crowded during the rush hours in the morning and early evening (7 AM to 10 AM and 4 PM to 7 PM). Traffic also tends to crawl during these times so best avoid being on the move in these occassions.

  • Jeepneys are evolved versions of the Jeep which American Armed Force units used as utility vehicles during the war years. Usually built with a reconditioned surplus diesel engine from Japan coupled to a locally fabricated chassis, jeepneys come in a wide range of colors and decorations that are limited only by the owner's/driver's imagination and taste. Over time, it has become the most common means of public transport in the Philippines. Recently however, the introduction of more modern buses as well as the more efficient LRT and MRT have lessened the importance of the jeepney. They still do travel all over the city, particularly in routes which are too small to be serviced by buses - but know exactly where you are headed before getting on. Once inside, pay directly to the driver by telling him where you want to get off and for how many people you are paying for. The fare structure begins with a minimum fare for the first four kilometers and increases every additional kilometer thereafter. As of Jan '06 minimum fare is P 7.50 (14 US cts) while the per kilometer additional fare is P 1.25. You can also request the driver to inform you that you are near to your destination. Note that loading and unloading zones for jeepneys are rarely followed so people hop on and get off practically at will. Caution - Jeeps are designed to carry small people - and can get very cramped for anyone over 6ft tall particularly if the jeepney is fully loaded! Jeepneys can usually sit anywhere from 12 to 14 people.
  • Taxis are affordable and almost all are now air-conditioned and use a meter for the fare. Some drivers may take advantage of tourists but closer regulation by authorities and even the mall operators is curbing this practice slowly. The LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) has now instituted hotline numbers to report errant drivers, just take note of the cab name and number. Mall operators also closely monitor the operations of taxis that utilise their taxi ranks by ensuring that cab drivers do not choose only those passengers bound for nearby destinations.
  • Buses are common in the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila and most ply the EDSA route from the Bonifacio Monument in Kalookan City in the North to Baclaran or Alabang in the South. There are both ordinary and air-conditioned buses available. Conductors collect your fare once on board. Just tell him/her where you want to get off. Similar to jeepneys, buses often do not observe loading and unloading areas except for some highly regulated zones where they are bound to get a ticket for not doing so. As such, it is not uncommon for people to get on and off in odd places. Buses sometimes load and unload in the middle of the road and couldn't care less about the traffic they may cause. The fare structure of ordinary buses is almost the same as that of jeepneys. Fares of air-conditioned buses are not regulated by the government. While EDSA has a bus lane (two lanes wide on each side), these are generally packed with buses from city/provincial routes funneling down the thorughfare, and are rarely followed. If your route/destination is along EDSA, it is best to take the MRT (see below) to avoid the traffic.
  • FX (minivans) are a relatively new transport mode available now. They are more expensive than jeepneys, but cheaper than taxis. FX follow the jeepney practice of having a fixed route but like taxis are usually air-conditioned. You likely will have to share the ride as the FX can take upto 10 passengers at a time, but it's reasonably comfortable.
  • Tricycles (motorcycles with modified side cars) These are common for short trips in areas where jeepneys do not travel. In Manila proper you are unlikely to see any. However, in outlying suburbs and towns they are more common. Another variant is the pedicab which is merely a bicycle with a side car.
  • MRT The Metro Rail Transit [6] is a light rail transit system that runs along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, one of the main thoroughfares in Metro Manila. The MRT runs from the North Avenue Station in Quezon City to the Taft Avenue Station in Pasay City. Fares are cheap (15 pesos for the entire length) and it is air conditioned albeit quite crowded during the morning and early evening rush hours.
  • There is also the LRT which is run by the Light Rail Transit Authority or LRTA [7]. The LRT has two lines. Line 1 runs along Taft Avenue from Baclaran in Paranaque to the Bonifacio Monument in Kalookan City. Line 2 runs from Santolan in Pasig to Recto in the heart of downtown Manila.


There are generally two kinds of shopping destinations in Manila: the mall and the tiangge ("chang-ghe"). The Manila mall is more than just a shopping experience but a cultural destination as well. The largest malls in Metro Manila are practically their own cities within the city: complete with boutiques, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, cinemas, medical facilities, hotels, schools, offices, gyms, serviced apartments, spas, convention centers, art galleries, bowling alleys, museums, ice skating rinks, and even a chapel for Sunday masses.

There are numerous malls around Metro Manila. Most of them are actually in the heart of the city and commercial districts which on the positive side makes them so accessible. Due to their location, they also tend to create huge traffic jams.

In Manila itself, SM City Manila is a stones throw away from Manila City Hall. It is a short jeepney or cab ride away from the Rizal Park and Baywalk areas. LRT Line 2 actually passes in front of the mall and Central Terminal is a short distance away. A short walk away from the Pedro Gil station of LRT Line 2 is Robinson's Place.

In Makati, there is the sprawling Ayala Center: an interconnect shopping complex comprised of Glorietta Shopping Mall, LandMark, Shoemart and Greenbelt. Ayala Center is accessible via the MRT Ayala Station. Several major hotels such as the Makati Shangrila, Hotel Intercontinental, Mandarin and Manila Peninsula are either within or a short distance away from the Ayala Center.

In Mandaluyong City, there is the Shangri-La Mall and the extremely vast SM Megamall. These malls are a short walk away from the MRT Shaw Boulevard Station. A block away at Ortigas Avenue is another mall, Robinson's Galleria which is nearer to the MRT Ortigas Station. A short jeepney or cab ride from Robinson's Galleria is the Greenhills Shopping Center which has both a mall and tiangge within its shopping complex. At the northern end of the MRT in Quezon City is the historic Araneta Center (MRT Cubao - Araneta Center Station) and SM City North Edsa (MRT North Avenue Terminal).

In February 2006, Manila is upping the ante on shopping malling with the opening of the gargantuan SM Mall of Asia exactly adjacent to Manila Bay, said to become the largest mall in the region. Simply put, shopping malls abound in Metro Manila and the shopping experience is second to none, even by western standards.

However, if you wish to experience the "ultimate Manila shopping experience", one has to shop at a tiangge. Tiangges are small makeshift stalls clustered together that sell anything and everything you can imagine but at bargain basement prices. In these places, one has to haggle, particularly if you are buying wholesale (defined as at least six pieces of the same item). The best tiangge complexes are in the Greenhills Shopping Center, Tiendesitas, Market! Market!, St. Francis Square, Tutuban Center Mall, Divisoria Mall, and 168 Mall. Go crazy buying quality clothes and shoes, pretty jewelry and things for the house at very reasonable prices!



The main tourist sites of Manila are located along Manila Bay. At the northern end of the Bay lies the remnants of the old walled Spanish settlement of Manila called Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls'). Intramuros contains museums, churches, ruins, schools, parks, cafes and restaurants. It's worth a stop if you are in the vicinity. All travellers are welcome to play on the city's most picturesque golf course which was built over the moat that used to surround Intramuros' walls.

Within Intramuros is the Manila Cathedral [8]. Destroyed and rebuilt several times over, it is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila and is one of the most important churches in the Philippines.

Just outside this "walled city" 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.

Rizal Park

Right outside the walled city is Rizal Park more widely known as the Luneta. The Luneta is the venue for the best museums of the city, bayside restaurants, an open-air theater featuring free classical music concerts, a planetarium, early morning jogging and tai chi enthusiasts, and the Manila Hotel. It is a popular meeting spot for family picnics and was the site of the execution of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines.

South of the Luneta is the renovated Baywalk a linear park adjacent to Manila Bay. This promenade is home to numerous open air restaurants and bars lying between coconut trees and futuristic lamp posts. Nightly entertainment is provided by live acoustic bands, street performers and the kaleidoscopic parade of Manila's inhabitants.

Manila also has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, where one can find exotic Chinese goods and delicious cuisine.


There are also various impressive Spanish-era Cathedrals that are more impressive than old Spanish Missions in California. Among the best churches of Manila are San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the country and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the all-steel San Sebastian Cathedral; and Las Pinas and its bamboo organ.

One of the most popular tour guides for San Agustín Church is Carlos Celdran: his top hat has become an institution in the church's plaza. He has a 2-hour tour around Intramuros among some other tours like "Living La Vida Imelda" or "Going down to Chinatown". Instead of a dull tour guide reciting data and years, Mr. Celdran uses a good amount of jokes and good sense of humour to make the tour something to remember. His moto has become: if you don't like the way Manila looks, change the way you look at Manila. The tour fare is 450 pesos per person, with discounts for students, it doesn't include the tickets for San Agustín church and Casa Manila. If you choose the long tour, it includes Fort Santiago and it takes about three hours. You can contact him through his website:


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 Metro are the Bahay Chinoy, Casa Manila, San Agustin Museum and the Museum of Filipino Political History.

World War II Manila American Cemetery and Memorial[9]: At the southeastern end of Metro Manila within the limits of Fort Bonifacio in the district of Taguig. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery is the final resting place for 17,206 American military dead lost during the War in the Pacific for New Guinea and the Philippines. A monument is inscribed with the names of 36,285 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. Twenty-five large mosaic maps around the chapel depict the Pacific campaigns. Free.



Manila is home to the most vibrant theater scene in Southeast Asia. Manila's premiere English speaking theater group, Repertory Philippines, performs plays and musicals throughout most of the year. Numerous actors from Rep have appeared in London's West End and Broadway.

Other English speaking theater troupes based in Manila are Trumpets, Atlantis Productions, New Voice Company and Actor's Actors. Government funded Tanghalang Pilipino and the Philippine Experimental Theater Association perform classics and original Filipino works in the Filipino language.

For those looking for a more classical performance, the Cultural Center of the Philippines hosts folk dance, ballet, concerts, and classical music performances. For a unique Manila experience, there are free weekly concerts, plays and ballet performances at the open air theaters in Rizal Park and in Paco Park.

Most malls in the metropolitan area offer at least one cinema, usually equipped with enough screens to distribute the usual Hollywood fare, along with other major releases from local and international studios. Cine Adarna, the cinema run by the University of the Philippines' Film Institute, mostly showcases both international and locally-produced art house films, along with retrospectives, festival selections, and Hollywood films (mostly after their initial theatircal run).


The introduction of American hip hop music has had a noticeable effect on Philippine night life, serving as the soundtrack to a high-spirited Manila youth culture. Many nightclubs now rival first-world standards both in terms of luxury and vibrancy. [10] [11]

Additionally, there are numerous venues in which to catch elements of an active Philippine alternative rock community. Some venues, such as saGuijo Cafe in Makati, have risen to some prominence.


Manila is home to numerous spas offering traditional Filipino massage techniques such as the hilot. Most hotels and shopping malls have in-house spas that provide massage services at reasonable prices. By far, the best spas in the Metro are the Oriental Spa at the Mandarin Hotel and the Discovery Spa at the Discovery Suites Hotel.


Universities and Colleges

  • De La Salle University - Manila

De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU-M, La Salle Taft, or simply La Salle) is a private Catholic university located in Taft Avenue in the district of Malate in Manila. It was established on June 16, 1911 by the De La Salle Brothers on Calle Nozaleda in Paco, Manila. It was moved to its present location on 2401 Taft Avenue in 1921. The school was exclusively for boys until 1973 when it opened its doors to women. The university draws inspiration from the life and works of the institution's founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle. It offers programs in undergraduate and graduate levels covering various fields in business and economics, engineering, science, liberal arts, education and computer studies.

The university is composed of six colleges which provide undergraduate and graduate programs:

   * College of Business and Economics
   * College of Liberal Arts
   * College of Education
   * College of Computer Studies
   * College of Science
   * College of Engineering
  • University of the Philippines

The University of the Philippines was established in 1908 with just three colleges. UP is one of the most respected Universities in the country. There are four branches located in Baguio, Visayas, Los Banos, and Mindanao. The pioneering schools of UP are the College of Fine Arts and Architecture, the College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Medicine and Surgery. These colleges are located in Padre Faura and R. Hidalgo in Manila. Another pioneering school is located in Los Banos, Laguna which is the School of Agriculture. Additional colleges were established, which were the College of Law and the College of Engineering in Manila. UP Manila expanded and secured 493 hectares in Diliman. UP Diliman offers 94 graduate and undergraduate courses. Its research centers were declared by the Commission on Higher Education as National Centers of Excellence.

  • Ateneo De Manila

Ateneo De Manila was established by Spanish Jesuits in 1859. The first school is the Escuela Municipal de Manila - a public primary school established in Intramuros for the city of Manila. The Jesuits originally established and ran the educational system of Ateneo De Manila. In 1590, the Jesuits founded one of the first colleges in the Philippines, the Colegio de Manila (also known as the Colegio Seminario de San Ignacio) under the leadership of Antonio Sedenio, S.J. The school formally opened in 1595. The schools of Ateneo include professional schools which are the Graduate School of Business, School of Government, Law school, IT institute, School of Medicine and Public Health. For the lower grades, there are also Ateneo High school and Ateneo Grade school.

  • University of Santo Tomas

Established in 1621, the University of Santo Tomas {UST} is the oldest university in Asia.

  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines [12]




Manila has most of the usual American fastfood chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dairy Queen, Shakey's Pizza, and KFC. Coffeeshops such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best have also recently become quite common in malls and commercial centers. Meals could be had for as low as 2 to 3 US$ in most fast food joints. A typical burger meal with fries and a drink would fall under this range.

Street food peddled by ambulant vendors is quite common and can usually be found in places with high amount of pedestrian traffic. Note however that street food in Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines may not be as clean as what you would find in Bangkok or hawker centers in Singapore and Malaysia. There is very little (if any) regulation and hygienic practices of these establishments vary from place to place. The variety of street food available is tremendous however and may reward the truly adventurous traveller. Some notable examples are the following:

  • 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.
  • Isaw, Helmet and Adidas - grilled chicken intestines, head and feet respectively
  • Banana Cue - bananas fried in hot oil coated with caramelized brown sugar. There is also kamote cue which is sweet potato served the same way.
  • 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.
  • Kwek Kwek and tokneneng - boiled eggs (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.

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.
  • Inengs BBQ - this establishment is all about pork barbecue. Their skewers have much more meat than other barbecue outlets and are a better value, tastes better too! You can find one at the Ayala Central Bus Terminal at Makati Avenue beside The Landmark.


Most sit down and casual dining restaurants in Manila would fall under this category. You could generally eat well for under 10 US$ per person. At some establishments, this price will even allow you to partake of a buffet and eat to your heart's content.

  • Kamayan, 523 Merchant Bldg., Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila +632-528-1723 to 24. Kamayan literally means to eat with your hands in Filipino. Their native buffet has a wide range of Filipino food to offer for just under 10 US$/person. Specialties include the lechon (suckling pig) and grilled seafood. Kamayan also has branches in Makati and Quezon City and is usually located alongside its sister restaurants Dad's (Western food buffet) and Saisaki (Japanese food buffet).
  • Sentro 1771, Greenbelt 3 2nd Level, Ayala Center, Makati City +632-757-3940 to 41. Casual dining restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. Popular dishes include the tomato and kesong puti (native white cheese) salad, sizzling tofu and corned beef sinigang (corned beef in tamarind broth). Dessert to die for is their coffee pie.
  • Cibo, Italian restaurant with several branches, most notable at Shangri-la Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong and Glorietta 4 in Makati. Their pasta dishes as well as panini sandwiches are great. Don't miss the very refreshing fresh red grape shake.
  • Via Mare, Greenbelt 1 1st Level, Ayala Center, Makati City +632-893-2306. For the best oysters in Manila.


Being the only former Spanish colony in Asia, Manila has the best Spanish food in the Far East. To sample the best Hispano-Filipino dishes, grab a bite in the following restaurants:

  • Casa Armas, 573 J. Nakpil St., Malate, +632-523-5763. Specialties: paella, cuchinillo (must be ordered 6 hours in advance) and garlic crab Thanh Long style (admittedly not very Spanish but great nonetheless).
  • Terry's Selection, Lower Ground Level, Podium Mall, 18 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong, +632-638-5725 or 26. Specialties: Tapas.
  • Ilustrado [13], 744 Calle Real del Palacio (General Luna Street), Intramuros, Manila, +632-527-3674 to 75 Fax No +632-527-2345. Fine dining in the heart of the walled city of Intramuros. Filipino and Spanish cuisine such as paella and rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish).
  • Shang Palace [14] Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Ayala cor. Makati Ave., Makati, +632-840-0884. Chinese/Cantonese cuisine. Excellent Dim Sum.
  • Lolo Dad's Cafe, 899 Pres. Quirino Ave., Malate, Manila, +632-526-7151. Gourmet Filipino cuisine. Try their lamb specialties such as the roasted lamb cutlet and lamb shoulder ragout.


The epicenter of Manila's famous nightlife is Greenbelt where some of the city's best restaurants, cafes, bars and karaoke joints cluster around a park in the middle of the main business district. Bohemian Malate and the adjoining Baywalk contain a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol and live music. Other nightlife clusters in the Metro are Eastwood, Araneta Center, Marikina and Timog.

  • Tavern on the Square [15], Level 2 Greenbelt 3, Makati, Tel +632-757-4484 Fax +632-757-4485. Music bar right in the heart of Greenbelt in Makati. Excellent ambience, great location and hip crowd. Good music too! Popular bands perform nightly.
  • iO Family KTV, 136 Jupiter St., Makati, Tel +632-8895-5938. KTV (Karaoke TV) bar where you can sing to you hearts content in private rooms while having the usual drinks and eats. Best enjoyed with a group of friends.
  • Laffline, 3 Timog Ave. cor. Mother Ignacia St., South Triangle, Quezon City, Tel. +632-372-2656. Comedy bar in Quezon City serving good food and drink with a healthy dose of laughter with stand-up comedy acts.



  • Friendly's Guesthouse, 4th Floor, Adriatico St. (corner of Nakpil St.), Malate, tel. +63-917-3331418, [16], [17]. New, clean, secure and has a 8 bed air-con dormitory for 250 Php including sheets and towel. Single/double bed fan rooms with shared bath for Php 400, 450. Aircon rooms at 700-800 pesos. Free Coffee & Tea, 24 Hours Security, Well-Equipped Kitchen, and great view of the Malate Tourist District from the common room veranda.
  • Saint Illian's Inn, 7461 Santillan Street, Pio del Pilar, Makati City 1230, [18]. Situated in the business district of Makati City, Saint Illian's Inn is a budget Makati hotel that's clean and efficient. Located along Santillan Street, a five-minute walk or so away from Makati Cinema Square, one of Makati City's many malls, and about 15 minutes away (by foot) from the two premiere Makati City malls, the Ayala Glorietta and the Ayala Greenbelt.
  • Townhouse Hotel, #31 Villa Carolina Townhouse, 201 Roxas Boulevard cor. Bayview Dr., Tambo Paranaque, Metro Manila. Dormitory P180 etc. Not the cleanest and located in a dilapidated area, but only 3km from the main nightlife district. They also have an extensive library & Friendly filipino staff.
  • Kabayan Hotel, #2878 Zamora St. corner Edsa, Rotonda, Pasay City, Metro Manila. [19]. Geared towards returning Filipino OCWs (Overseas Contract Workers) has accommodation ranging from dormitory beds to family rooms. Price range is from 8 to 45 US$. They even provide a transfer service to and from the airport. There is another Kabayan Hotel in Cubao, Quezon City. Reservation by e-mail is possible.
  • Pension Natividad, 1690 M.H del Pilar, Malate, Manila 1004, tel +632 5210524, +632 5260992, +632 5240811, fax +632 5223759. Clean, secure and friendly staff.
  • Joward's Pension House, 1730 M. Adriatico St., Ermita, Malate, Metro Manila. tel. +632-5214845. A bit run-down but relatively clean. Small rooms, dismissive staff, but pretty cheap for a single room. 275/525 php (single with fan/air-con, shared bathroom.)


  • City Garden Suites Manila, 1158 A. Mabini St., Ermita, Manila, +632-536-1451, Fax +632-524-4844, [20]. Three star hotel in the heart of Manila, close to the major sights and attractions. On-line reservation possible, rates start at around 33 US$. The City Garden chain also has a hotel in Makati.


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.

  • The Peninsula Manila, Ayala cor. Makati Ave., Makati City, +632-887-2888 Fax +632-815-4825, [21]. Just across the road from the Ayala Center in the Makati Business District. Rates start at 120 US$.
  • The Makati Shangri-La, Ayala cor. Makati Ave., Makati City (Across The Landmark in Ayala Center), +632-813-8888 Fax +632-813-5499, [22]. Shangri-La also has a hotel near SM Megamall in the Ortigas Center and a resort in Mactan Island in Cebu.
  • The Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard, Manila, +632-527-0011, Fax +632-527-0022, [23]. Right beside Rizal Park and a short distance away from Intramuros and the Baywalk Area in Manila.
  • Sofitel Philippine Plaza (formerly the Westin Philippine Plaza), CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City, 1300, Metro Manila, Tel: (632) 551-5555, Fax:(632) 551-5610 to 11 / 832-692, [24]. Located at a bayside area within the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex
  • Hyatt Regency Manila, [25], 2702 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Manila, Philippines, Tel: +63 2 833 1234 Fax: +63 2 831 8076. Situated along Roxas Boulevard offering spectacular views of Manila Bay. Hyatt also has another property in Manila.
  • Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, 1588 Pedro Gil Corner MH Del Pilar, Malate, Manila, Philippines, Tel: 63-2-245-1234, Fax: +63-2-247-1234, [26]. Conveniently located near Manila's nightlife district, this hotel is the newest addition to the city's collection of luxury hotels.
  • Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila, Ortigas Ave. corner Asian Dev. Bank Avenue, Quezon City, 1100 Philippines, Tel Nos. 1800 1651 888, 63-2-6337222, Fax: 63-2-6349966, [27]. Erected atop of one Manila's most exciting shopping centers, the Robinsons Galleria.
  • Hotel Inter-Continental Manila, 1 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Manila, Philippines, Tel Nos.: 1800 1651 888, 63-2-8159711, Fax: 63-2-8171330, [28]. Adjacent to the upscale Ayala Center, the Inter-Continental is within the center of Manila's shopping capital
  • The Mandarin Oriental Manila, Makati Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati, Manila, 1226 Philippines, T: +63 (2) 750 8888, [29]. Located in the heart of Manila's financial district, this hotel has a reputation of being Manila's most favored business hotel.
  • New World Renaissance Manila, Esperanza Street Corner Makati Avenue, Makati City, 1228 Philippines, Phone: 63 2 811 6888, Fax: 63 2 811 6777, [30]. Across the Greenbelt Lifestyle Center, Manila's most fabulous shop and dine destination.


Internet Cafes have become a common sight in Metro Manila. Most malls would have at least one internet cafe. Netopia and Pacific Internet are common chains. Netopia also has a branch at the MRT Ayala Station. Rates usually run at less than 1 US$ per hour. 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.

Stay safe

Manila has a serious problem with guns and crime, and if you are a 6 ft+ Caucasian you are bound to stand out like a sore thumb. Travellers from other South East Asian nations should have no problem blending in with the crowd however. One has to use common sense of course. Don't 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 the undue attention of petty thieves. Be especially careful around downtown Manila (Recto, Quiapo, Avenida, Tondo District, Divisoria, and Ermita).

Get out

Around the capital are numerous attractions for people desiring a quick daytrip away from the hustle and bustle of this mega-metropolis.

  • Tagaytay (1 hr south of Manila) 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.
  • Taal (1 hr south of Manila, near Tagaytay) 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 (30 km east of Metro Manila) 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.
  • Subic Freeport Zone (2 1/2 hrs north of Metro Manila) 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 whitesand beaches, bayside 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.
  • Baguio (5 hrs from Metro Manila by bus, 50 mins by plane) 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.
  • Beaches There are a number of beach resorts within a couple of hours drive from Manila for those in search of the sand and sea. The closest among the top resorts is Caylabne in Cavite, a little more than an hour away from the metropolis. The towns of Nasugbu, Tali, San Juan and Calatagan in Batangas are lined with beach resorts for people of different budgets. North of Manila are the beaches of Bataan and Zambales. Montemar Resort in Bataan is accessible by fastcraft and van from Manila Bay in one and a half hours. The beaches of Zambales cluster in and around the Subic Bay freeport.
  • Scuba diving For those wanting to experience spectacular dive, the seaside resorts near Anilao in Batangas offer breathtaking dive spots. Anilao is where most Manila residents get their diver's license. Sabang (Philippines) is also another option for a short dive trip (popular for weekends) that does not require a plane but offers great diving.
  • History A must-see for any history buff is Corregidor Island. Corregidor is one of the last Philippine strongholds the Americans ceded to the Japanese in World War II. The various facilities and barracks used are still there for all to see. The gun emplacements are still there, as are the skeletons of several of the buildings, all with evidence of battle damage. Tours are run from the docks in Manila (near the Philippine Cultural Center), and are approximately $40. The fee includes the boat out and back, the guided tour, and a lunch.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!