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Manila, Philippines

Manila (Tagalog: Lungsod ng Maynila) is the capital of the Philippines and the center of governance, education, religion, and finance. Sprawling, congested and polluted will likely be the first words to enter your mind when you think of Manila but don't let that impression stop you from exploring its places of interests: its churches; its diverse and complicated culture; colonial history; gigantic malls; bustling markets; hidden architectural gems and vibrant nightlife. Take the opportunity to explore Manila and make your own personal connection with the city.

Most people in Manila wear T-shirts & jeans, can speak English, read and write in Roman text, and do not feel comfortable with chopsticks. Manila is known for being a city where the old meets the new. Here you'll find Spanish colonial churches, old-fashioned museums and neo-classical buildings versus modern shopping centers, stylish art museums,... Read more

Manila, Philippines

Destination:

Manila (Tagalog: Lungsod ng Maynila) is the capital of the Philippines and the center of governance, education, religion, and finance. Sprawling, congested and polluted will likely be the first words to enter your mind when you think of Manila but don't let that impression stop you from exploring its places of interests: its churches; its diverse and complicated culture; colonial history; gigantic malls; bustling markets; hidden architectural gems and vibrant nightlife. Take the opportunity to explore Manila and make your own personal connection with the city.

Most people in Manila wear T-shirts & jeans, can speak English, read and write in Roman text, and do not feel comfortable with chopsticks. Manila is known for being a city where the old meets the new. Here you'll find Spanish colonial churches, old-fashioned museums and neo-classical buildings versus modern shopping centers, stylish art museums, and glass-stained skyscrapers. Its blend of urban development and historical heritage had made Manila's image unique and attractive.

Orientation

Manila sits on an archipelago just at the edge of the Asian continent, some 14° 35' N, 121º 00 E'. It’s 700 miles (1,100 km.) or 2 hours flight time from Hong Kong, 1,400 miles (2,200 km.) or 3:15 hours from Bangkok, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) or 3:35 hours from Singapore, 1,900 miles (3.000 km) or 4:15 hours from Tokyo, and 1,800 miles (2,800 km) or 4:25 hours from Beijing.

Ever so physically endowed, it is sitting in the throes of two notoriously dangerous volcanoes - Pinatubo to the north, which made headlines in 1991 when it spewed dust all over the world and dropped global temperature by 2°, and Taal to the south which always makes headlines every decade or so, while this city straddles the Pacific Rim of Fire underneath. What more, it lies in the path of the tropical monsoon bringing those more and more powerful typhoons during the second half of the year. It is fringed to the south by the idyllic Lake Bai - a veritable scenic showcase of Hispanized native folk and traditional culture, and farther south by cool and refreshing

Lake Taal

.

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


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Manila, Philippines: Port Information


Cruise liners usually dock at Manila North Harbour Port. The cruise terminal is situated at Pier 4. One can get to Old Manila on foot.
Take a taxi or a leisurely stroll to get to the main tourist attractions.

Get around Manila, Philippines


By train

Manila is crossed by three lines of the Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS), Metro Manila's (partially) integrated railway network. The SRTS Yellow and Purple lines, operated by the Light Rail Transit Authority, cross through Manila city proper, converging at the intersection of Rizal Avenue and C.M. Recto Avenue. The Yellow Line, also known as LRT Line 1 (LRT-1), serves Malate, Ermita, Quiapo, Binondo and Santa Cruz, while the Purple Line, also known as MRT Line 2 (MRT-2), serves Quiapo, Sampaloc and Santa Mesa. Most tourist sites are along the Yellow Line.

Metro Manila's main regional passenger train station is Tutuban in Tondo. From Tutuban station, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates the Commuter Express (Commex), also referred to as the SRTS Orange Line. Fifty trains serve the commuter service daily, with the line crossing through Tondo, Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Paco, and San Andres before extending to Metro Manila. There is an interchange with the Yellow Line at Blumentritt station, and with the Purple Line at Santa Mesa station.

The Manila Train Guide has a map that shows connections between train lines and points of interest in Metro Manila.

By bus or jeepney

Several city and provincial bus routes either cross through or terminate in Manila. Most buses which serve Manila proper will cross through the Lawton bus terminal, which is conveniently located in front of the LRT-1 Central Terminal station. Routes include points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan.

Manila city bus routes are not numbered. However, the bus route is prominently displayed on the side of the bus as well as on the dashboard, listing both the route's endpoints and major points in between which will be served by that particular route. When in doubt, ask the bus conductor if a particular bus will go to a particular destination.

Manila is also served by several jeepney routes, some of which ply the routes previously served by Manila's pre-World War II tram system. The Lawton bus terminal is also a major jeepney terminal, with several jeepneys either crossing through, terminating or originating here. Like buses, jeepney routes are not numbered, but the route is prominently displayed on the sides of the jeepney as well as on the dashboard, and drivers or specialized barkers announce their destination and departure at route origins.

By taxi

Taxis (usually marked by the words 'taxi' on the sides of sedan cars) are plentiful and easy to find. During peak hours, it will be difficult to find an empty one, so find a taxi-stand where people form orderly lines and wait for empty taxis to pull up. It is advisable to have a general idea of how much your trip would cost and ask the taxi driver as you board how much will it cost (approximately) to get to your destination. Taxi drivers have been known to not switch on their meters as the journey starts, only to tell passengers to pay a fare that is two or three times the normal rate.

In general, be prepared with the name of your destination, a rough map with landmarks and an estimate of the fare before attempting to board a taxi on Manila roads.

By tricycle or pedicab

Tricycles and pedicabs are, in the City of Manila, limited to short distances as it can access hard-to-reach areas. Tricycle and pedicab terminals are found throughout the city: major points for taking tricycles and pedicabs within the downtown area include the Lawton bus terminal, the area around LRT-1 Doroteo Jose and MRT-2 Recto Stations, Tutuban railway station, Plaza Lacson in Santa Cruz, and Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo. Tricycle and pedicab terminals are normally located alongside jeepney terminals and railway stations.

By law, tricycles and pedicabs must display a fare matrix which displays fares to areas served by the vehicle and is normally adhered to for short distances. For longer distances, it is not uncommon to negotiate the fare beforehand with the driver.

By calesa

In Ermita, Intramuros, and Binondo, it is still possible to ride a calesa, or traditional horse-drawn carriage. While no longer used as a meaningful form of transport by most locals, calesas are useful for navigating through narrow streets (similar to tricycles and pedicabs), as well as getting a feel of transport in colonial Manila. Fares are negotiated beforehand with the cochero (driver).

 

What to see in Manila, Philippines


The main tourist sites of Manila are mostly located along Manila Bay.

Landmarks

  • Baywalk - South of the Luneta is the renovated Baywalk a linear park adjacent to Manila Bay. Restaurants formerly on the actual Baywalk have been moved inwards to allow a clear view of Manila's legendary sunsets.
  • Bonifacio Shrine - A shrine in honor of Andres Bonifacio who was one of the Filipinos who struggled and fought for freedom for the country against the Spanish forces.
  • Chinatown - Manila has one of the largest and oldest Chinatowns in the world, where one can find exotic Chinese goods and delicious cuisine.
  • Coconut Palace

    - a residence commissioned and built along the waterfront by First Lady Imelda Marcos for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1981. While open to the public at some point, it is currently (as of June 2011) occupied by the current Vice President and still open for public visits (by appointment by calling the Office of the Vice President, leaving a return call number and waiting for a confirmation).
  • Intramuros - At the northern end of the Bay lies the remnants of the old walled Spanish settlement of Manila, Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls'). Intramuros contains some of the city's most interesting museums, ruins, and churches including the

    Manila Cathedral

    and San Agustin Church one of the finest churches in the city.
  • Mabini Shrine - Apolinario Mabini's former home. Mabini was a Lawyer and fought for Philippine Independence. During the American Occupation, this home became the first intellectual headquarters of the First Philippine Republic.
  • Malacañan Palace - Manila is the host of the official residence of the president of the Philippines. While heading your way here, you will see wonderful places. People can roam the garden afterward.
  • Manila Hotel - Just outside Intramuros and on the edge of Manila Bay is the beautiful and historic Manila Hotel, a legacy of the American colonial era and the place where General Douglas MacArthur made his home before World War II.
  • Plaza San Luis - A commercial complex consisting of five house; Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino. Plaza San Luis showcases Filipino-Hispanic Architecture. Other than Souvenir shops there is a museum in Casa Manila.
  • Roxas Boulevard - A wide boulevard which runs along the shores of Manila Bay, it is known for its view of Manila's famous sunsets and a stretch of coconut trees. The boulevard offers a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, and significant cultural landmarks.
  • University of Santo Tomas (Unibersidad de Santo Tomas (UST)). This University is the oldest and first University in the whole of Asia and the Philippines. It was used as a camp by the Japanese during their occupation where the imprisoned about 10,000 people even though it only can hold 4,000.
  • Quezon Memorial - An Ethnic-Islamic inspired mausoleum and monument honoring the first formally recognized President of the Philippines. It is surrounded by parks and playgrounds as well as good native-inspired restaurants and horticulture, herbal medicine seedling stalls. The exotic durian is sold in one of the stalls.
  • Manila Metropolitan Theater - The Manila Metropolitan Theatre or MET is an art deco building designed by the Filipino architect Juan M. de Guzman Arellano, and inaugurated on December 10, 1931, with a capacity of 1670. The theater is located on Padre Burgos Avenue, near the Manila Central Post Office. Renovated under the auspices of Imelda Marcos, it now falls back under the management of neglect and decadence.
  • Manila Central Post Office - Designed by Filipino architect Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano, located in a very prominent visual and commanding spot of the first Civic Center in Manila and could have been perfect location for a Senate building, the Post Office building was built in neoclassical architecture in 1926. It was severely damaged in World War II and rebuilt in 1946 preserving most of its original design. It is located in the Intramuros district of the city, at the bank of the Pasig River. The front of the building faces the Liwasang Bonifacio plaza (now known as Plaza Lawton).

Museums

Manila has seen a drastic improvement in its museum offerings with the recent renovation of old favorites such as the National Museum of the Filipino People and the Ayala Museum. Other must-see museums in the city are the Bahay Tsinoy (Chinese House), Casa Manila, San Agustin Museum, the Museum of Philippino Political History, and the Museo Pambata (Children's Museum).

  • National Museum of the Philippines (Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas), P. Burgos Ave, +63 2 527-1209. Built and opened in the 1900s, the museum showcases significant collections from archaeology, arts, cultural properties, zoology, botany and many more. The National Museum of the Philippines is a government institution in the Philippines and serves as an educational, scientific and cultural institution in preserving the various permanent national collections featuring the ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological and visual artistry of the Philippines. Since 1998, the National Museum has been the regulatory and enforcement agency of the National Government in the restoring and safeguarding of important cultural properties, sites and reservations throughout the Philippines.

The National Museum operates the National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, and National Planetarium, all located in the vicinity of Rizal Park.

As of July 1, 2016, entrance to the National Museum of the Philippines is now free of charge.

  • The National Art Gallery is the repository of works by Filipino masters. The more than life-sized painting of Juan Luna titled "Spolarium", a powerful image in the mold of classical themes and Romanticist in style, is the museum's version of "Mona Lisa", meaning the most prized Philippines artwork.
  • Museum of Philippine Political History (National Historical Institute Museum), T.M. Kalaw Ave. Includes documents such as the signing of Independence displayed in a holy grail-like showcase.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Manila (Met Museum), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Blvd (Located along Roxas boulevard, across from the Manila Yacht club.), +63 2 521-1517. M-Sa 09:00-18:00. Inaugurated during Imelda's heyday, it used to display works by Caravaggio. This, the premier art museum of Manila, showcases both traditional, Hispanic and modern art with its exhibits.
  • Bahay Tsinoy. One of Manila's well-known museums; see Chinese biographies and their contributions in the history of the Philippines.
  • Museo Pambata, Roxas Boulevard cnr South Drive (From EDSA, turn right on Roxas Boulevard then take a U-turn on T.M. Kalaw Street. From Quiapo, take Quezon Bridge going to Padre Burgos Street then turn left on Roxas Boulevard. Or you may take the LRT-1 or a jeepney (A. Mabini route), get off on United Nations Avenue, and walk to Roxas Boulevard. Museo Pambata is right beside the U.S. Embassy), +63 2 523-1797. Aug-Mar: 08:00-17:00, Apr-Jul 09:00-17:00. A children's interactive museum, the first of its kind in the Philippines. Opened in 1994, Museo Pambata is the dream come true of Nina Lim-Yuson, who was inspired by the Boston Children’s Museum to open up a similar facility in Manila.

Parks

  • Rizal Park. Right outside the walled city is Rizal Park more widely known as the Luneta. The Luneta is the venue for the national museums, bayside restaurants, an open-air theater featuring free classical music concerts and acclaimed international films, a planetarium, an open gym for early morning jogging and tai chi enthusiasts, or a night ballroom, as well as Japanese, Chinese, Filipino gardens, an orchidarium, an aquarium, and a children's museum. It is a popular meeting spot for family picnics and lovers' trysts and was the site of the execution of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, as well as the inaugural grandstand for the incoming President.
  • Paco Park was actually built as a final resting place for Spanish families residing in Manila. After Jose Rizal's execution, his remains were sent and buried here, which is today commemorated by a monument in the park. It is now a public park with jogging lanes and open-air concerts and is also a popular venue for weddings. It is accessible by taxi and bus, as well as a 10-minute walk from the LRT-1 United Nations Station.
  • Arroceros Forest Park Situated in the heart of downtown Manila, Arroceros Forest Park is a 2.2-hectare piece of land behind the old art deco Metropolitan Theater. Arroceros got its name, which means “rice dealers,” from the rice trade along the Pasig riverbank during the early colonial period.

Nature and Wildlife

  • Manila Zoo. Is rather decrepit, and in need of drastic renovations. The Manila Zoo covers an area of 0.055 square kilometers. Accessible via LRT-1 Quirino station.
  • Manila Ocean Park is a much better maintained marine wildlife facility which was recently opened in 2008 and is located behind the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park. The 8,000 square meters (86,000 sq ft) oceanarium is larger than the Sentosa Underwater World oceanarium in Singapore and features a 25 meters (82 ft) underwater acrylic tunnel. Mostly accessible by taxi, but can be walked if you are in the vicinity of Rizal Park.
  • Balara Grounds

Churches

Spanish Colonial Churches

Baroque colonial churches, where once proud showcases of the past especially before World War II but the wanton destruction of the Japanese and the equally guilty American soldiers during the Battle of Manila in 1945 dissolved all that except for a handful remaining. Lack of maintenance, vandalism, theft, and no proper awareness, guidance, or education by administering priests and architects who undertook renovation blunders (multiplied more incidents in the provinces) complicated the already pathetic state of remaining churches.

Iglesia ni Cristo Churches

Aside from the interesting Spanish Colonial Churches, there is one group of church-structures belonging to the Iglesia ni Cristo, a homegrown reformist church established by a Manileño named Felix Manalo in 1914 that is uniquely Filipino somewhat parallels with the Latter-Day-Saints Mormons (its cultish-ness and disciplined regimen demanded from its congregation), that merit some curiosities. These unique churches have two outstanding features: that they are kept in pristine white condition (with some little color highlights), and they soar to the sky like those gothic cathedrals, or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Salt Lake Temple in Utah. In some cases, they jot out in the middle of a green countryside off the suburbs of Metro Manila. But even in the midst of urban jungle in Manila, one can't help but notice its towers and spires projecting through the clouds among the busy skyline.

No name yet is given to this architectural style but it may safely be called Philippine Gothic Revival and the churches show the usual suspects of Gothic tracery, lacework, and rosettas, with the emphasis of verticality and noticeable indigenous geometric motifs as a substitute. The detailing is tasteful and awesome.

Its "Vatican" is located in the New Era District of Quezon City and can be easily seen from about two to three miles away from all directions heralding in a Cinderella-like castle fashion, their main shrine and headquarters.

Saint Days

Manileños are mostly very pious Catholic people. On a different angle, being afflicted with problems and ailments, Manileños may not have much alternative and feel that some things are just out of their control and the best way is to ask for answers and solutions to their favorite saints. It would be interesting to note that some streets leading to a patron saint's home church are extra tight during their special days.

For the anthropologically curious, it also provides a good peek into the daily life of the locals, young and old, men or women.

  • St. Jude Thaddeus Shrine, San Miguel District, Manila - Near Malacañan Palace, this church is the busiest on Thursdays.
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine, Baclaran District, Pasay City. - Near the border of Parañaque and served by LRT Line 1, this Church is the liveliest on Wednesdays much more especially so because the surrounding area is carpeted by a flea market.
  • The Black Nazarene Minor Basilica, Quiapo District, Manila - Its feast day is on January 9 but its special day of the week falls on Fridays.

What to do in Manila, Philippines


  • Intramuros Tour - Visit the Walled City starting from Fort Santiago. Inside is the Rizal Shrine, honoring the country's National Hero, Jose Rizal - polymath, doctor, engineer, scientist, artist, linguist, propagandist, and most of all, an avid traveler who was incarcerated in exactly that same cell before he was executed, now transformed into his shrine. His patriotism and nationalist advocacy preceded that of Mahatma Gandhi's by about 20 years. His shrine houses his memorabilia. Other places to see are the Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Roma, Ayuntamiento, Palacio del Gobernador, and the Manila Cathedral. San Agustin Church needs more than a passing glance. The monastery-church complex houses a priceless collection of religious art. Across is Plaza San Luis Complex comprising a group of houses replete with authentic furnishings of the colonial period. Trace the walls of the city and the interestingly unique gates of the walls, eight in all and stopping at Parian Gate, the gate leading to Bahay Tsinoy, meaning House of the Filipino-Chinese, Philippines' version of the Peranakan House in Singapore or Malacca. The House-Museum extols also the economic, political, and cultural, among other things, from the humble beginnings to, achievements and contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community.
  • Rizal Park Tour - Designed by Daniel Burnham, this park is the Philippines' answer to Paris' Jardin des Tuileries or Washington Mall. Gaze at Rizal Monument, a must stopping point for Heads of State visits, the Japanese & Chinese Gardens, the National Museum, the Planetarium, the Ocean Park, the Museo Pambata, as well as the Quirino Grandstand, the oath-taking stand for Presidential inaugurations.
  • Downtown Manila Tour - This tour starts at Bahay Nakpil on Bautista St. in Quiapo, on a turn-of-the-century house, then to Plaza Miranda, now teeming with vendors of religious and herbal merchandise, as well as fortune tellers and prayer proxies as you make your way to the Quiapo Basilica housing the Black Nazarene. Stroll to Raon, Villalobos, and Palanca. on your way to Quinta Market and the Ile de Toule (Ilalim ng Tulay) for handicrafts and souvenirs. Pass by Carriedo and Juan Luna and you'll find another commercial strip towards Chinatown at Binondo where it ends in Binondo Church, the heart of town.
  • Malate/Ermita Tour - Cover this area starting from Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Malate Church, a quaint baroque church, then meander in any direction along Adriatico, Mabini, Del Pilar Sts., and Roxas Blvd. Make sure to stop at San Andres Market.
  • CCP Complex Tour - Probe into the mind of Imelda Marcos by strolling, jogging, or biking into the reclaimed CCP Complex where a menagerie of her showcase art-beauty-culture projects stands, albeit not in its spic-n'-span condition. These public buildings except for the Cultural Center Building or Theater for the Performing Arts used to be accessible but have now been reduced to being admired from the outside. The Coconut Palace, always unpredictably closed, is now open for viewing, albeit by appointment.
  • Skyscraper Gazing Tour - Tour the three major skyscrapers clusters of Metropolitan Manila via EDSA starting from Ayala Center in Makati, diverting to Eastwood, then back again to EDSA to Ortigas Center. There are alternative routes connecting these three. As you go along, you will be arching back your neck and staring upwards. Manila has seen another period of the construction boom in practically the busiest areas in the metropolis (and these areas are just a sample) with an upward sales growth of condominium units. Be discreet about taking photos. Just like in traumatized New York or Los Angeles, here in Manila, skyscrapers, and camera equals trouble. People here are not used to seeing a lot of tourists and most will have some second thoughts about why you are doing this thing unless you are white.
  • Electric Chariots Tour of Intramuros - Tour in style, meaning in segway rented from White Knight Hotel, Intramuros.
  • City Tour of Metro Manila via Rail - This do-it-yourself tour provides a panoramic view of the city from a different vantage point, exactly from a moving elevated train about 15 feet above street level. It comes in three lines - Line-1 (Yellow) for the North to South Route, Line-2 (Purple) for the East to West Route, and Line-3 (Blue) for the circumferential route. For an all female-tour, The trains have an exclusive all-female coach just for discerning takers.

Fiestas & Festivals

  • New Year Welcoming Festival
  • Chinese New Year Welcoming Festival, Chinatown, Binondo District
  • Feast of the Black Nazarene and Caroza Parade, Quiapo District, Manila, January 9
  • Feast of Santo Nino, Tondo District, Manila, 3rd Sunday of January
  • Manila Summer Sea Sports Festival, March
  • Lenten Week or Semana Santa, Catholic Churches throughout Metropolitan Manila
  • Santacruzan Festival
  • Flores de Mayo
  • Philippine Independence Day Celebration
  • Feast of Christ The King
  • All Souls & Saints Day Celebration, Cemeteries through Metropolitan Manila
  • Marian Festival in Intramuros
  • Misa de Gallo
  • Christmas Day
  • Metro Manila Film Festival
  • Pageant of the Three Kings
  • Bota De Flores, Ermita District, Manila

What to eat and drink in Manila, Philippines


Eat

Street Food

Street food is often described as "Pantawid Gutom" or food to tide over, something to temporarily hush a stomach growl, sold at small food stalls, food stands, or food carts set up in places with a high amount of pedestrian traffic. Cheap and rushed, it could be something commuters can chew and swallow, or gulp in seconds while transferring from one route to another, or from station-to-station, with a quick standing stop at a sushi, siomai, barbecue, or hotdog stall.

The variety of street food available is tremendous and may reward the truly adventurous traveler. Some notable examples are Balut (boiled duck embryo), Fishball, Kwek-Kwek (boiled duck, chicken or quail egg covered in an orangy batter and deep fried in hot oil) , Isaw (grilled chicken intestines), Banana Que (Philippine plantain fried in hot oil coated with caramelized brown sugar) and many more!

Low-income workers patronize them the most as they commute to their homes, often taking two-hour trips. These are noted in the open streets where they are the cheapest and these are what most bloggers and media immediately see. But there are ones that are as even cleaner as those found in Bangkok or at par with those in hawker centers in Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, or Japan and Korea. Mall walkways and Food Courts also offer a wide selection of Street Food menu and that is some notches less in worrying about hygiene. Expect the cost to be a little bit higher, although that would just come up to be in cents difference. For a taste of street food without the accompanying risk, try out Balut Eggspress, which serves balut, kwek kwek and one-day-old chicks, which are quite literally day old chicks marinated and fried in hot oil; and Nanay Q which serves special pork and chicken BBQ, liempo, grilled fish and shrimps

Comfort food

Carinderias sound like Spanish style cooking but there is no relation to it. It's simply a collective term for a working-class type of eating stall, now with table and seats for sit-in meals, more as a hole-in-the-wall or a makeshift school canteen (some may have wheels) for the lowly construction worker, the jeepney driver, or the student low and tight on budget. The style of presenting the food (no menus but some have posted menus) is laid out on a glass-covered or open counter in pots or deep square aluminum platters (for the more classy ones) and where the customer can just scan his eyes and choose what he wants. Panaderias are bakeries dispensing bread and pastries. But the line is not clear if they are a separate class of their own or as Street Food. Goldilock's Bakeshop operates as a full-time restaurant but they can have some presence in malls as food stand types. Dunkin' Donuts or Mister Donut also establish their presence as either a shop with dining tables or as stand-alone stalls.

Ambulant Food

This is a special class of Street Food distinguished from the stationary ones. Vendors roam around in their carts in a certain route and a specific time, as some food that is sold is time sensitive, meaning they can only be eaten say, in the morning, or as an afternoon snack. Some of their itineraries are neighborhoods, where their target clientele are pre-school or school age children, and some are office blocks, where their prime targets are lady workers. There are only a few types of these food that are mobile.

  • Taho - this ubiquitous mushy tofu, found in the whole Southeast Asia has this Philippine version topped with sugar syrup and tapioca balls. It's patronized by everyone, like children in the morning.
  • Mais - boiled corn-on-the-cob sold in the early to late afternoon.
  • Binatog - boiled glutinous corn topped with coconut milk, sugar, and fresh coconut gratings.
  • Bola Bola - fried fish balls, small hotdogs, etc.
  • Assorted Fruits
  • Dirty Ice Cream - sold in folksy carts, it announces its presence with a bell that looks more like a collector's item. Flavors are as native themed as its cart - mango, carabao cheese, pandan, and yam.

Breakfast Fare

Breakfast in the city is described as dry - meaning not wet as in noodle and soup or porridge like what is taken in the morning in most Southeast Asian cities. More like an amalgam of the East and the West, specifically the American, Hispanic, and Malay, somehow as if McDonald's and Cuban entrees collided with Nasi Lemak to form these creations that are very catchy to begin with for they all end with "SILOG".

First, these are the key words in Tagalog: Sinangag for fried garlic rice and Itlog for egg more often sunny side up and rarely scrambled. They combine to form the portmanteau "SILOG". Along with these is the main item - meat or fish plus the given mainstays - Set A: lettuce-sliced tomato(s)-sliced cucumber(s), Set B: carrots and peas toppings over sinangag, Set C: achara or pickled unripe papaya and carrots, Set D: fried garlic or shallots over sinangag, or Set E: onion rings.

Of course, this is assisted with hot coffee, tea, or juice and a couple of morning bread called Pan de Sal (salted bread). There are stalls or Carinderias/Karinderyas that specialize in this breakfast "silog" fare called "Tapsihan" named for the first type of these combo ever concocted, the Tapsilog.

Restaurants

Filipino food is safe to say more as a comfort food, a peasant food concocted at a time when all Filipinos were all living on agricultural-fishing existence, contented to eat simply on rice and one or two-dish meal - one dry and the other wet or soupy. Even if Filipinos have attained a higher degree of sophistication, the same ingredients are used and the same flavor is maintained.

Most sit-down and casual dining restaurants in Manila would fall under the mid-range category. But there are budget ones as well. For budget dining, just follow the office workers making a beeline to building basements, canteens, or carinderias (road side stalls) during lunchbreak almost everywhere in the city and even in high class Makati area. The men usually wear short sleeved Barong Tagalog and the ladies, like bank teller attires. These are not lowly workers but they pay lunch as cheap as US$1.00 complete with a clear broth, a dish, and a cup of rice enough to energize the office worker for the rest of the day. University canteens open to the public offer student meals and have resident nutritionists too. Along Recto and Nicanor Reyes Sts., the epicenter of downtown university belt cosmos, there are dime a dozen shops that offer complete and filling budget meals.

Manila as a national hub of regional cooking, has almost all its regions represented in eating establishments either exclusively or featured with the others. General restaurants, either catering for the working class or the elite, can offer varied dishes coming from every region and have assimilated in every one's palette taste. For example, the northern region called Ilocos has its favorite fare called Pinakbet approved by practically everyone and has melted in every local's daily diet although it still sticks to be identified as an Ilocano fare.

Fast Food

Even while the enlightened world hates McDonalds/Pizza Hut guts, Filipinos are great lovers of its dining style and menus - hotdogs on a stick, hotdogs on bun, hamburgers, or cheeseburgers, pizzas, and spaghettis. Their pictures proliferate everywhere, be it as street food or sit-in meal. Manileños also love donuts in the personification of which began with Dunkin' Donuts and Mister Donut, which were dethroned by the J. COs and Krispy Kremes. On a side note, Philippine-style spaghettis are made sweeter than usual.

Manila has most of the usual American fast food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dairy Queen, Shakey's Pizza, Taco Bell, Dunkin' Donuts, TGIF, Italianni's, Outback, and KFC. Jollibee, the Filipino counterpart of McDonald's who now eclipses it's once held a dominant position, is very common in Manila. It started out as a spoof spin-off of McDonald's, copying its menu and business model but substituting it with local ingredients (ex. mango pie for apple pie) and taking consideration of the local palate, now has become a billion dollar peso-franchise business empire. Another spin-off of this business is Chowking, the same business model and packaging (styrofoam, plastics, and cardboard) but with Chinese influenced menus and has become as ubiquitous as Jollibee and McDonald's. Another spin-off to the spin-off is Mang Inasal, this time the theme is country or provincial style menu with packaging this time using banana leaf and cane and bamboo baskets as plates, and claypots as serving plates catering to native food lovers.

Coffee shops such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best have also recently become quite common in malls and commercial centers. Meals could be as low as US$2 to US$3 in most fast food joints. A typical burger meal with fries and a drink would fall under this range.

Desserts

Some of the food offered by these dessert establishments may be also be on restaurant menus (since these are categorically dessert items), those that specialize in local cuisine. But these parlors are also a separate category of their own. Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, super hygienic Americanized establishments stand out from the rest usually found in malls, and from the humble food stalls in the public markets where they originated. These two are basically bakeshops but they function as native ice cream parlors, serving more or less the following which are authentically or adaptively Filipino desserts such as Sago Parfait, Halo-Halo (the queen of Philippine desserts), Leche Flan, Mais con Yelo (iced sweet corn porridge in syrup), Saba con Yelo (iced stewed plantain in syrup) and Polvoron.

Pulutan

The Philippines has its own version of the Spanish Tapas but little is known about it outside the country even if Filipinos have invaded almost all corners of the globe, employed and even permanently residing in their host countries. Anyway, it's more or less the same kind of presentation - as a finger, toothpick, or fork food, and relevance - to accompany any alcoholic drink, mostly beer, on a social gathering between neighbors, relatives, work colleagues, peers, and clients and mostly fall under male-bonding or camaraderie social dining. It comes from the root word "PULOT" meaning "to pick up".

It is always served in a communal plate or bowl with plenty of forks (if it needs to pick up the food, otherwise finger is OK) arrayed on a plate like oars on a boat. If there's a need for a dipping sauce, then a bowl is also served with it to be used communally.

Drink

A very local drinking experience in Manila meant going to beer gardens or beerhouses as is commonly called. They are scattered mostly around the working districts of Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Quiapo and even the tourist belt areas of Ermita and Malate. Every city in the metropolis has practically its own adult entertainment strip, block, or district where these establishments can be found. These are heavily sexualized. It's mostly working class men and those working in the military and police establishments who are the clientele with young sexy and provocatively dressed waitresses or euphemistically called GROs (Guest Relations Officers) serving the customers. Some beer gardens take it up a level higher and have entertainment on the sides with scantily two-piece suit dancers taking turns on the stage. The kind of food served somewhat resemble the Spanish Tapas style ranging from the simple such as peanuts, corn, and peas - boiled or deep fried to mundane such as fried pork, beef, chicken to the adventurous such as other body parts - ears, gizzards, livers, hearts, intestines, brains, balls, blood, and what have you. They are categorized under the subject Pulutan.

For establishments resembling the Western version of a pub, these establishments are concentrated in Remedios Circle in Malate district, a very important hub of nightlife, as well as in Bonifacio Global Village in Taguig City, Tomas Morato in Kamuning District in Quezon City, and Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City. Bohemian Malate, the older Ermita neighborhood that stretches between them contains a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol, and live music.

Karaoke and videoke bars are also very common as the majority of Manileños are American Idol fans as one's living room can be easily converted into one.

Shopping in Manila, Philippines


Cash and Credit

The unit of currency is the Philippine Peso, and judging by the impressive performance of the economy and its big foreign currency reserves, the Peso is at US$1 to ₱46 and the Dollar is still "sliding down". Bill denominations are in ₱20, ₱50, ₱100, ₱500, and ₱1000 while coin denominations are in 25¢, ₱1, ₱5, and ₱10.

Banks and money changers are available in the airport but it's better to change money outside where competition abound. Money changers are everywhere and most returning migrant Filipinos prefer to change them here than in banks or, Western Union or M. Lhuillier. The farther it is from the Tourist Belt Area, and the nearer it is around a town or city public market, the better the exchange rate is. Safety is not a problem especially if you change them during busy hours (safety in numbers). Be sure to count everything and put them safely in your purse before you leave the premises.

Money can be withdrawn from ATMs. The Philippines is one of the countries with the most available ATM machines per capita.

HSBC Bank ATMs are the only ones without a ₱200 fee for overseas bank cards, and also the only ones which allow customers to take out up to ₱40000 per use. Unfortunately, there are not many of these in Manila and none in or near the airport; the one which is relatively convenient for city visitors is in their Binondo (Manila's Chinatown) office.

Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, especially at all upmarket shops.

Public Markets

Public markets are one microcosm of Manila. Practically, Manileños from all walks of life come here to buy their everyday needs. They are as lively and colorful as any market in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam. Generally, they are divided into wet and dry sections and another section for dining. Dining is very cheap and can be wholesomely hygienic. Just look out for the huge block of ice dragged along the floor on its way from the delivery truck to a stall. If you see one delivered in that manner, never mind, don't eat there, ever. Joking aside, a filling meal will cost you as little as US$1.25.

Shopping Centers

One of the experiences that you must try in Manila is shopping and the best way to get a feel for Manila shopping is to go to a ‘tiangge’, a market of stalls where everything can be bargained. There are a lot of flea markets scattered around the city catering to handicrafts, clothes, antiques, and curio souvenirs. These flea markets offer almost everything: gadgets, clothes, bags, shoes, food, furniture, antiques, jewelry and even books which are all often sold at cheaper prices.

Aside from flea markets and bazaars, Manila is also home to modern and western-type shopping malls which offer branded products, these are mostly located in the commercial, financial and cultural districts of Ermita and Malate which are known for being a premier shopping destination in Manila. Robinsons Place Manila is the largest shopping mall in the city, it is a modern shopping mall located in the district of Ermita and is home to a wide collection of international and local retail shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Harrison Plaza is also located in the district of Malate, it is considered to be the first and oldest shopping mall in the country. The SM City North EDSA which is located in nearby Quezon City is the largest shopping mall in the country and in Southeast Asia as well. The second largest shopping mall in the country is the SM Mall of Asia, this shopping mall has much to offer for every visitor, it has international and local retail stores, a Ferris wheel, a Science Discovery Center, an IMAX theater and an ice skating rink.

Other major shopping malls in the city are SM City Manila, SM City San Lazaro, Robinsons Otis and Lucky Chinatown Mall. Manila is known for being a major shopping hub of the Philippines, from modern shopping malls to colorful and traditional markets, it's all here in Manila.

Ukay-ukay

If you happen to see just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry in a blighted neighborhood in Manila wearing Abercrombie & Fitch get-up and Levi's jeans, chances are its original and bought at ukay-ukays. How can they afford it? Ukay-ukay is the answer. It's the Philippines' answer to Salvation Army. Nowadays, they are everywhere and Manileños love them. It's actually a contraction of the Tagalog word "Hukay" meaning to dig, the description for the exact action done while rummaging through the bins of clothes. But there are actually no bins installed in those stores, only clothes neatly hanged on the racks. For less than $2, one can find hand-me-down qualities of labeled apparel. The more enterprising provide home delivery and roaming services by hanging them on racks installed on pedicabs, as they make the run on neighborhoods. Judging by the high cost of living to most of the middle class and the soaring gasoline prices, they may be here to stay.

It's also great for the budget tourist who would not want to have the hassle of packing and carrying tons of clothes by simply buying them here, then discarding them somewhere as his piles of souvenirs accumulate.

Safety in Manila, Philippines


Manila is a city where one should exercise caution.

As a slum haven, Manila is one of the most blighted cities in Asia, rivaling Kolkata, Mumbai, and Dhaka. Sufficient to say that it is not convenient to carefree wonder around as one would encounter sidewalks fringed with makeshift shanties that lead to a sudden turn into a labyrinth of squatter neighborhoods. It is very scary if not annoying encountering lolling group of male adult and teenage bystanders, although nowadays, these areas are most likely manned by village watchmen and everyone is more than willing to help and interact with lost strangers.

Nuisances that impedes a pleasurable walking tour are dirty and malnourished children who freely use the streets as their playground, manholes that were left open (or probably its cover stolen to be sold as metal scrap), dog feces, uncollected garbage, undisciplined cars and mostly jeepneys weaving in and out of the lanes as they pick up passengers, as well as political billboards.

A popular scam as of recent days is for someone to approach you and pretend they recognize you. They will say they work at your hotel (such as room service or security) and that they know you from there. They then say it is their day off and since they just happened to bump into you they want to show you something nice that is nearby. They may be very convincing even to experienced travelers. It is always a scam.

Another popular scam is for a con artist to befriend a tourist and offer to show them around, hang out, etc. After gaining the tourist's trust, the con artist then slips drugs into the tourist's food or drinks. The con artist then leads the drugged, groggy victim to an ATM and watches while he/she enters her pin. The con artist is then free to withdraw all the money from the account.

Get into a car or go anywhere with people only if you know them (even if they say that have helped you at the hotel on a previous occasion). They are best fended off if you just ignore them. If they persist, say, "Are you going to leave me alone or should I call the police?" That makes them leave quickly.

Theft is common, especially pickpocketing. You should act cautiously as you would in any other poor country, especially considering if you do not look Filipino. Thieves and con artists are likely to see you as an easy target. However, most travelers from other Asian nations, especially from southeast Asia, should have no problem blending in with the crowd.

Never wear valuable jewelry or anything else to broadcast your wealth. Displaying an expensive mobile phone or digital camera out in the open is also a good way to attract thieves.

Language spoken in Manila, Philippines


Filipino is the language of the locals. It is the chosen language at home to most. It is also the language of the media and movie industries as Manileños watch TV and movies and read newspapers in Filipino. Being one of the common denominators of the locals, Filipino based from Tagalog shares with English, the other most popular.
American English is widely spoken in urban areas of the Philippines. It comes second as a medium of instruction in any institution. It is the language of the government, and the preference for written communication, be it in school or business.

Tourists who have just arrived here can easily catch up with the latest gossip news in the local tinsel town, as well as government scuttlebutts, as there are plenty of English version newspapers and magazines.
In Binondo, Manila's Chinatown district, Hokkien is widely spoken while Mandarin might also be known as it is taught in Chinese educational institutions. It is fast becoming the third most important language following Filipino and English, unseating Spanish.

Spanish used to be the official language of the Philippines and deteriorated to the language of the old time generations, one time used to be taught for a 12-unit course in all university curricula. A tertiary education is not complete unless one takes the whole course and must at least have basic conversation skills. Nowadays, Spanish is practically dead, but the language has somehow percolated through the Filipino vocabulary which is now about 10% Spanish derived.
Filipino being 100% based from Tagalog grammar and more or less 50% from Tagalog vocabulary, is a hodgepodge of other Philippine languages, setting aside English, Spanish, Malay, Sanskrit, Arabic, and Chinese. Here are the main ones that one might detect being spoken by neighbors or seatmates, Manila is the Tower of Babel and melting pot of the country.

Manila's economic growth has attracted people from provinces with a delusion that a better life can be attained in the city, these people had brought a diversity in Manila's culture from their hometowns with tongues that speak Ilocano from the Ilocos regions, Pampango from Pampanga, Bicolano from the Bicol Region, Hiligaynon from Western Visayas, Cebuano from Cebu and Waray from Leyte and Samar.
Taglish ("Tagalog-English") has been part of everyday life of Manileños as they try to grapple with expressing themselves the easiest and the most effective way, mix n' matching English words and phrases with Tagalog and vice versa. It used to be frowned upon by teachers but as the quality of education deteriorates, they too found themselves committing the same sin since this new wave of teachers is also a product of the younger half-baked generation.

The assault on purists comes both ways, those who have inadequate schooling in English at lost for words, and on the other side, those specifically bred and schooled in the US establishing their foothold back in the country struggling with their broken Tagalog, or finding experiences and descriptions that can't be expressed in Tagalog, throwing in some English words and phrases as filler. It so happened that being "foreign", "western", and "American", they are more endeared and adorable to the grounded natives, their way of speaking becoming the "in" thing. Also, English being at the forefront of technological and cultural development produces new words and experiences that can't be purely translated.
Movie personalities being role models are more of the culprits as they magnify the popularity of Taglish.

LOCAL TIME

6:13 am
November 15, 2019
Asia/Manila

CURRENT WEATHER

25.53 °C / 77.954 °F
light rain
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sky is clear
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27.94 °C/82 °F
overcast clouds
Mon

28.77 °C/84 °F
light rain

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