Difference between revisions of "Metro Manila"
Revision as of 06:28, 31 December 2012
Metro Manila (Filipino: Kalakhang Maynila) is the National Capital Region and the prime tourist destination in the Philippines. The metropolis is the Philippines' center of commerce, education, and entertainment. It is located on the island of Luzon, bordered by the province of Bulacan on the north, Rizal on the east, Laguna on the south, Cavite on the southwest, and Manila Bay on the west. Though it is the smallest region in the country, Metro Manila is the most populous of the twelve defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines and the 11th most populous in the world with a population of 16.3 million people.
Metro Manila is home to the country's business districts, wealth extremes as well as major shopping centers, with a combined population of 11 Million and growing.
Locals refer to Metro Manila simply as Manila. However, the City of Manila forms only the city proper of Metro Manila. Consisting of 16 cities and 1 municipalities in 630 square kilometers, the metro is the national capital region, and the center of Philippine culture, arts, commerce, industry, and tourism. Metro Manila likewise serves as the pivot point to other exciting, popular destinations in the Philippines such as Boracay, Cebu City, Davao City and more.
Metro Manila's population is a diverse mix of Multi-racial people as well as people from different classes either from the richest businessmen to the poorest of the poor. The streets of Binondo in Manila is Metro Manila's Chinatown, while the district of Paco is known as Little India and Japantown. European and American enclaves are found in Business districts where urban life is enjoyed and much similar to western lifestyle. Koreans forever everywhere and anywhere have resulted to Koreatown which is located in Makati City's Burgos St. which features many Korean restaurants, shops and groceries. The growth of immigrants is due to cheap cost for education and living in the Philippines. This is also a home to many of the rich and famous which most reside in Forbes Park as well as home to many homeless and poorest of the poor who seek job opportunities in this metropolis. Efforts have been made to clear slums in order to clean the Pasig River which have been reportedly successful and sustainable.
Religion is a major key role in a local Filipino's life, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian temples are found, the Golden mosque is located in Quiapo; the Filipino-Muslim district, while cathedrals, churches and chapels of various Christian denominations are scattered around mostly of Roman Catholic faith. Processions of holy images are carried through in some cities of Metro Manila and during these times streets are crowded with a little space to move around or sometimes no space to move around.
Metro Manila is a haven for investors and businessmen alike and the region accounts about 30% ($124 Billion) of the total GDP of the Philippines. It is also where major Filipino companies have their headquarters. Business, commercial and Financial districts include; Makati, Ortigas (Pasig and Mandaluyong) and Taguig, this is also where the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSEi) is located.
Communication with the locals is easy because almost everyone is bilingual. While Filipino is the national language which is based on Tagalog, English is the primary language of trade, government, media and education not only in Metro Manila but in the whole Philippines as well. Spanish-speakers may recognize some words in Tagalog, since some of its vocabulary is Spanish-derived. A minority of Min Nan (Hokkien), Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages, Korean, Japanese is spoken by Korean and Japanese immigrants, Filipino-Muslims residing in Manila or any other part of the country know how to read and communicate in Arabic, and other ethnicities/immigrants speak their native languages. Some Filipinos have knowledge of Spanish.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Travellers using Ninoy Aquino airport should be aware of extensive issues of bribery and corruption. 
Ninoy Aquino International Airport(NAIA) (Filipino: Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Ninoy Aquino) (IATA: MNL) (ICAO: RPLL) Metro Manila is the primary gateway to the Philippines. From overseas, most visitors arrive by plane. NAIA consists of 3 terminals as well as 1 domestic passenger terminal:
Philippine Airlines (PAL) usually provides seamless transfers between their international and domestic network whereas you would generally not be given this service on other carriers. Terminal 2 has free internet access, NAIA is voted and rated as one of the worst airports in the world -- this is because Terminal 1 (where most passengers arrive from international flight) has over reached the capacity of 5 million, Terminal 3 however is the newest of all terminal but not fully operational because of some legal issues, T3 is the most comfortable of all 4 terminals, it is expected to replace T1 in the near future, Manila Passenger domestic terminal is uncomfortable, it is small and often crowded. T2 is the only terminal which is comfortable which is fully operational, it serves flights for the Philippines' major carrier; Philippine Airlines.
Getting around: All the terminals are divided however use the same runways, transferring from one terminal to another may take 10-20 minutes depending on how the traffic is. Taxis are available while a free airport shuttle between T1-T3 is provided from all terminals if you're in transit. Taxis are the only way to get to Manila Domestic Passenger terminal.
Getting out of the airport: 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. 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, particularly when lugging around heavy baggage.
Citylink buses (6-11am, 4-7pm)now also take passengers from Terminal 3 or Newport city (across terminal 3) to Eastwood in Quezon City for a fee of 38 pesos, ideal if you're staying in Eastwood or the Quezon city area.
Shuttle services now take passengers to and from Terminals 1-3, as a well as a stop in Pasay Rotunda which is a short walk away from the MRT or LRT stations. Shuttle operate every 15 minutes from 5am-11pm, and you can ask the tourist information desk where they are in each respective terminal. Look for shuttle vans that say "NAIA 1-2-3Domestic Loop". 20 pesos/pax 
Getting in: Taxis are the best option for getting to NAIA. A shuttle service from the Pasay rotunda (where the MRT and LRT lines meet) takes passengers to NAIA for 20 pesos.
If you're coming from Eastwood in Quezon City, a Citylink bus (6-11am, 4-7pm)will take you all the way to Terminal 3 for 38 pesos, with stops alon the way, including Fort Bonifacio.
Leaving Manila by air: Be careful that, due to the low efficiency of some activities in the airport, you should be there at least 2 hours before your flight (3 to 4 hours being safer); otherwise, you will have no chance to get your flight. You must pass through airport entrance queue, initial security queue, Philippine Travel Tax queue (if ticket is purchased online or outside the Philippines; for Philippine citizens and residents only), check in queue, departure tax payment queue (Php 750 as for February 2011), immigration queue, final security queue, and boarding queue, all being very long. Don't forget to keep money (Php only) for the departure tax.
Diosdado Macapagal International Airport
Low cost carriers such as Air Asia and Tiger Airways utilize the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) (IATA: CRK) in Clark, Pampanga, which is a 2-hour drive 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  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. Departure tax for this airport has been increased to 500 peso.
The PNRoperates rail lines from Tutuban into going as far south as Laguna. A Bicol express line to Naga City is soon to open, while rehabilitation of the northbound rail line is awaiting resumption after corruption allegations stalled them.
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 (although this behavior has been decreasing significantly over the years). 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 occasions. Another fact to take note is, drivers in Manila tend to be more aggressive and undisciplined.
When driving, be cautious of pedestrians crossing illegally. Be also aware when driving in narrow streets, where children usually play, given Manila is a crowded metropolis. Be also aware of the existing Number-Coding Scheme, where some vehicles are not allowed to ply Metro Manila streets from 7AM to 10AM, and from 3PM to 7PM, Mondays to Fridays, i.e. cars with license plates ending in numbers 1 and 2 should not go out of the street on the said schedule every Mondays, 3 and 4 every Tuesdays, and so on and so forth. Makati City however observes the Number-Coding scheme the whole day.
The price of petroleum is relatively comparable to that paid in the US but expensive in the eyes of locals.
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 your fare or "bayad" directly to the driver by telling him where you want to get off and how many people you are paying for. It is a norm all over the country that if you are seated far from the driver, one just need to say "Bayad po" while extending the hand with your fare to the driver and someone will readily take your fare and pass it until it gets to the driver. Giving back of change or "sukli" if the fare given is in a large denomination will come in a similar manner, and a polite expression of "Thank you" or "Salamat po" as a sign of gratitude is encouraged.
The fare structure begins with a minimum fare for the first four kilometers and increases every additional kilometer thereafter. As of February 2011 minimum fare is P 8 (14 US cts) while the per kilometer additional fare is P 1.25. Do not however expect that a driver will be able to give any change for very large denominations, e.g. P500 or P1000.
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. Saying "para" or "para po!" is the standard way to tell the driver that you need to get off. 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! This arrangement is cramped even for the size of the locals who are small by Western comparison and some would regularly complain. Though not widely practiced, some people would pay for the price of two to avoid getting cramped by someone else as the fares are anyway extremely cheap. Jeepneys usually seat anywhere from 0 to 30 people.
Taxis are very affordable by western standards but pretty expensive for locals and almost all are now air-conditioned and use a meter to compute for the final fare. The taxi rates start at PHP 40 (USD 0.90) for the first 500 metres and an extra PHP 3.50 (USD 0.08) for every succeeding 300-metres or 2 minutes of stopping.
Some drivers may take advantage of tourists, but closer regulation by authorities and even by mall operators, are curbing this practice slowly. Many taxis are in a poor state of repair and drivers drive erratically. The LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) has now instituted hotline numbers to report erring drivers. Just take note of the cab name and number. Mall operators also closely monitor the operations of taxis that use their taxi racks by ensuring that cab drivers do not choose only passengers bound for nearby destinations. Do not hire taxis waiting at bus terminals; they will charge much higher fare (100% more than normal fare). Just walk out from any main bus terminal, and you will find plenty of cabs.
Be wary especially during traffic as drivers will ask for a minimum fare higher than what the meter requires you to pay. Also during rush hour (both morning and evening), as well as other times when there is heavy traffic (such as heavy rains), it is not unusual to see taxi drivers hesitant to drive you if your destination involves EDSA or an area full of offices; it is extremely difficult to hail a cab during these hours. During the early morning, passengers are strongly advised to bring smaller denominations of bills (as well as coins) as drivers usually don't have ready change.
Buses are common in the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila and most will pass through EDSA. The common routes are as follows:
There are both ordinary and air-conditioned buses available. Conductors collect your fare once on board and they are ready with change although it is suggested you have coins during morning rush-hours ready. Just tell him/her where you want to get off. Like the jeepneys, buses do not have route numbers identifying their routes and 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, most notably in Makati's central business district. 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. Furthermore, they don't have a timetable for when to stop at a particular area although buses bound to the same place stop at a particular area seconds from each other. The fare structure of buses is almost the same as that of jeepneys where a fare matrix is provided and fares increase at a constant rate per kilometre after the first few kilometres. 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. It is not uncommon to see that a bus won't go until it is fairly packed so it's best to avoid an empty bus. This is because the drivers and conductors are paid depending on how many passengers they take-in. 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 up to 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.
Travelling by rail is so far, one of the fastest options but be prepared with frequent train breakdowns, long lines, lack of signages and maps, and heat and pollution. Here are some options to choose from:
Single-journey and stored-value tickets are available for each of the lines. You can transfer between lines at the following areas:
However, unlike most other countries, you will need to exit the system and purchase a separate ticket to ride on the other lines except if you're in possession Strong Republic Transit Flash Pass. Also be prepared for long queues at the entrance as security personnel will check to see if bags are loaded with prohibited items.
Lines 1 and 3 are expected to be crowded during rush hour and while the journey itself can be fast, expect to wait a long time before riding and be mindful of your personal belongings as pickpockets are not uncommon.
It is not recommended to walk in Manila since many street sides are infested with vendors and peddlers. If walking is inevitable, just remember that you should always walk on areas were pedestrians walk (common sense), and crossing a street is not a problem, if you know how to cross the street correctly. Walking at night is not also recommended, especially for women. Walking in groups is a safe option if you are going at night. The business district of Makati is walkable as well as Taguig.
One should see Metro Manila's numerous attractions.
Plazas, Parks and Nature Reserves
When it comes to parks, , Luneta park and Intramuros are the most popular destinations. Luneta Park (also called as Rizal Park and Rizal Monument) is home to the Rizal monument; a statue of the Philippines' national hero, Jose Rizal. It is one of the most significant and most important places in Philippine history from the Spanish colonial era to the EDSA revolution. The walled former city of Intramuros served as a settlement for the Indianized-Malay-Muslims, then it was taken over by the Spanish and fell into ruins during the World War II, it is one of the most popular icons of the Philippines. See Plaza de Roma in Intramuros where a statue of King Carlos IV of Spain stands, Plaza de Goiti or now known as Plaza Lacson is where a statue of Arsenio Lacson; said to be one of Manila's greatest mayor stands, next to it is Roman Santos building which would again make you think you're somewhere in Rome, Italy because of it Greco-Roman architecture. Plaza Miranda stands infront of Quiapo Church in the Filipino-Muslim district of Quiapo, an unfortunate event occurred here on 1971; the Plaza Miranda bombings. Manila Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoos in Asia unfortunately it is criticized for its inadequate care towards animals as well as its dirty surroundings and animal rights activists are demanding to free the animals due to this while Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center have rare animals such as water monitors and the Philippine deer, it also treats injured animals even if it isn't part of their zoo. La Mesa Dam EcoPark is the haven for most Filipinos after a tiring week of work and a getaway from the noisy and polluted metro, not only is it an ecopark but is also a dam which provides water to Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Manila Ocean Park is larger than Singapore's Sentosa Underwater World, construction is incomplete however it had already opened to the public, tickets cost 350 for a child, 400 for adults. Quezon Memorial Circle is a shrine and a national park, it is where the remains of late President Manuel Quezon and his wife are rested. While Greenbelt Park is located in Makati and is worth seeing.
Places of worship
Religion is one of the major aspects of life of a Filipino, the diverse population of the Philippines follows the world's major religions;Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and some following the Jewish faith and part of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, some forms of paganism, animism or any other kind may somehow exist. Manila's population follows almost all of those religions.
See Basilica Minore de la Immaculada Concepcion or Manila Cathedral in simple words in Intramuros, it is a historic church which served 2 funerals for 2 Filipino presidents as well as bishops' funerals. Basilica Minore de San Lorenzo Ruiz or Binondo Church in Chinatown caters to Chinese Filipinos, seen here is the synchronization of Western architecture, Catholic faith and Chinese influences. Our Lady of China chapel is located in this Church. See the miraculous Black Nazerene or Itim na Nazareno in Basilica Minore de Jesus Nazareno or Quiapo church which is believed to give miracles and blessings, during January it is crowded as well as the streets of Metro Manila too, as a procession is held, during Fridays the church is filled with devotees.
Churches and sanctuaries
The Golden Mosque is located in the Quiapo district which is somehow the Filipino-Muslim district of Manila, its dome is made of gold and is built in order of the Marcoses.
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. In February 2006, Manila upped the ante on shopping malling with the opening of the gargantuan SM Mall of Asia exactly adjacent to Manila Bay, said to be 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. An entertainment city is planned by the government and has since broken ground in 2008 adjacent to the Mall of Asia which will feature 5-6 star hotels, casinos, high-end condominiums, shopping malls, theme park, an observation tower that is set to be one of the tallest in Southeast Asia and Manila's version of the London Eye. Already a Neochinatown has sprung nearby as well as the new Marriot Resort Community (Newport) is currently under different phases of development.
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 think bazaars). 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 fashion jewelry and things for the house at very reasonable prices!
Metro Manila is by-far the most expensive urbanized area in the Philippines, but cheaper compared to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Brunei. According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting Cost of Living Survey of 2008, Manila is the cheapest to live in Southeast Asia for expatriates.
A tourist or visitor may be amused or perplexed to see Filipinos eating most of the time. Apart from the three major meals of the day, there are snacks in the morning and in the afternoon called merienda which are integral part of a typical Pinoy's everyday life. Metro Manila's diverse racial community had brought the rise to international cuisine, from just one corner of the street a Filipino would be eating Shawarma (more commonly known as Doner or Kebab for some westerners), another one would be enjoying his kimchee, while others would enjoy their night with sushi, some would desire Indian and Thai curry for their lunch while some would prefer the typical American breakfast in fastfood stores. For Chinese cuisine go to Chinatown where they serve Hokkien dishes; American steakhouses, high class Japanese, Korean, Indian and Thai restaurants lurk around Makati, Koreantown have cheaper options as well as Japantown (Little Tokyo). Usually if you prefer to splurge, Makati is one of the best options. Typical Filipino cuisine and streetfood are found in the streets of Manila which provide the best options, the cost could be $1-2 per serving or even lower.
America's influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you'll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds and KFC. Filipino fastfood chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Philippine tastebuds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of fastfood chains that have branches all around the Metro, and in many cases around the country.
Where to eat
The epicenter of Metro Manila's famous nightlife is the Greenbelt in Makati 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. The Fort, Serendra and Bonifacio High Street are three different clusters that offers high-end restaurants, bars and shops in the nearby city of Taguig. Bohemian Malate and the adjoining Baywalk contain a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol and live music in Manila. Other nightlife clusters in the Metro are Eastwood, Araneta Center, and Timog all in Quezon City.Many nightclubs now rival first-world standards both in terms of luxury and vibrancy.
Check city articles for listings
Hotels range from P500 to P10,000 above or more if you want to stay in a luxurious place, popular hotels such as Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental are found in Manila and Makati while Marriot hotels just opened a branch in Newport City. Hotels include common frills such as laundry service, telephone, TV etc. Motels have a bad reputation and perception by Filipinos as they are viewed as meeting places for illicit sex and things alike however it is the one of the cheapest options available. Condominiums are perhaps doubling and doubling in years which is a result of a growing economy in the country and investment. If you are staying for a long period of time, Condos are OK and most of them are found around financial districts and often near to commercial establishments.
Aside from pickpockets and cellphone-snatching, Manila is relatively safe for almost all tourists, especially Caucasian-looking people Koreans. Tourists are expected to receive warm welcome from locals especially if they are somewhat connected to the locals (for example, you are married to a local or you have a boyfriend/girlfriend who is a local).
Violent crime is quite evident in some parts of the metro, but this usually happens among locals, and tourists should not worry a lot, since there are many police and frequent police patrol cars within Metro Manila, especially tourist areas.
Bag-snatching is also common, but, of course, common sense will reduce that threat. Most victims are locals.
Be also aware of stray dogs, but they are not a problem in financial districts such as Makati CBD and Taguig and can be seen only in residential outskirts and non-commercialized suburbs of Metro Manila.
Embassies and Consulates
Metro Manila is where most countries have their embassies as it is the main gateway to the Philippines.