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Metro Manila

Travel Guide Asia Philippines Luzon Metro Manila

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Introduction

University of Santo Tomas

University of Santo Tomas

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Metro Manila was created and organized through a Presidential Executive Order in 1976. It encompasses the National Capital Region of the Philippines which is a political subdivision of the greater metropolitan area for Manila. This metro region, composed of 17 cities and municipalities including Manila, has 12 million residents and has become one of the most populous metro areas in the world. With a GDP of $108 billion in 2005, it is on the 42nd slot of the richest metropolis in the world. It is expected to take the 30th slot by 2020 with an average annual growth of 5.9%.

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Geography

Located on the island of Luzon, Metro Manila lies on an isthmus bounded by Manila Bay on the west and Laguna De Bay to the southeast and is divided by the Pasig River which connects both bodies of water. It is situated on a flood plain with some cities on the banks of Laguna Bay and on the shores of Manila Bay being prone to flooding due to the rise and fall of tides and the ever perennial problem of over-population.

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Cities and Municipalities

  • Caloocan is unique because it has two separated areas, the southern part (where the seat of the local government is located) and the bigger but remote northern part. There were moves by residents of this northern part for "independence" to pave the way for a new city called Novaliches. But that has not happened, as yet. Caloocan has difficulty brushing-off its stigma for being the refuge of lumpens and shadowy characters that dates back to the 1762 British attack of Manila. After the defeat of the Spanish forces, the British set free inmates of Manila's jails who rampaged, settled and brought havoc to the area north of Manila that is now Caloocan City.
  • Las Piñas is the last city on the southwest, bordering the province of Cavite. Home to the world-known Bamboo Organ, built by the Spanish Fray, Diego Cera, in 1816. Declared as a national cultural treasure by the National Museum, it is housed inside the Church of St. Joseph in Las Piñas.
  • Makati is the nation's financial capital and home to most of the Filipino elite who reside in plush neighborhoods like Forbes Park, Dasmariñas, San Lorenzo, Bel-Air and Urdaneta. Ironically, on its fringes are squatter colonies like those in Guadalupe Viejo and Tejeros.
  • Malabon is a low-lying town (below sea-level) situated on the northwest. Its perennial problem of flooded streets is well-known.
  • Mandaluyong boasts of new urban development, with big malls and shopping centers mushrooming in the Ortigas area where Metro Manila's second Shangrila Hotel is located (the first one is in Makati) and a satellite of Manila's Stock Exchange.
  • Manila is the nation's political capital and is the beginnings of the bigger Metro Manila region. Manila was an important port city ever since the Spanish colonial period where the center of power and religion are confined within the walled city of Manila, the Intramuros.
  • Marikina is situated on the easternmost part of the metropolis; famous for its shoe industry and urban discipline, thanks to its efficient city government bureaucracy.
  • Muntinlupa is located in the southern-most part Metro Manila. New urban development had changed its landscape drastically in the last few years that eclipsed its stigma of hosting the country's national penetentiary, the Bilibid Prison.
  • Navotas is popular for having the biggest fishing port and market in the country. The majority of the fish caught are sourced here and channeled to various markets elsewhere in Metro Manila.
  • Parañaque is host to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminals 1 and 2. It is also one of the big residential havens within the metro. Also on the reclaimed land along its Manila Bay shores, a Las Vegas styled casino and family entertainment complex are rising. Four big casino operators is developing the area under the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCor). Solaire Manila has opened in 2012 to be followed by Belle Grand in 2013 and Resorts World and Manila Bay Resorts to open until 2017.
  • Pasay is host to the Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Manila Domestic Airport. Very rapid urban development on the west side of this city as a result of reclaimed land on Manila Bay, where high rise condominiums compete for the world-famous Manila sunset view. Huge shopping malls, convention centers, hotels are newly constructed, with the Philippine Senate Building complex amongst these. To its north, bordering Manila, is a thriving Korean community where most of them settle in transient as their children take their education in a top university nearby.
  • Pasig used to be the provincial capital of Rizal province prior to the formation of Metro Manila. It is mainly a residential district but recent urban development has changed its landscape, specially on its western border with Mandaluyong and Quezon City on its north side, where commercial activity has attracted shopping centers.
  • Pateros is the smallest town in Metro Manila. Located in the southeast, it is known for its best-tasting exotic food: the balut!
  • Quezon City is named after a former Philippine President, Manuel Luis Quezon. This city was the former capital of the country. Having the largest land area among Metro Manila's cities, it is also the most populous city in the country. It is home to all the big national TV, film and multimedia networks, mostly located not too far from City Hall.
  • San Juan is the smallest city within Metro Manila. It is where the first battle of the Katipunan, the Philippine Revolutionary organization, was fought against the country's Spanish colonizers.
  • Taguig is an emerging center of business and lifestyle following the footsteps of Makati and even envisions to surpass Makati. It is home of the Bonifacio Global City a new central business district in the making.
  • Valenzuela is mostly a residential city located on the northern part of Metro Manila. It is the 13th most populous city in the country.

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Sights and Activities

Metro Manila being the center of commerce and trade in the country, plus its historical background offers a variety of activities. The cities within the metro, specially Makati, Greehills in San Juan and Manila are best spots for shopping clothes, souvenirs, and a lot more. Historical locations like Intramuros and Fort Santiago are located in the city of Manila.

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Events and Festivals

  • The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held every ninth of January in Quiapo, Manila (coinciding with its annual fiesta). It is a grand festival honoring the image of the Black Nazarene where devotees flock to the streets on bare feet during its procession. Due to crowd control problems and accidents that have seen injuries, and unfortunately, deaths caused by stampedes, the organizers of this annual ritual have changed the procession's route from the Church. In the last 2 years, the procession starts at the Grandstand of the Rizal Park, right after the concelebrated mass usually led by Manila's Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. The annual event is aired and televised nationwide in all major networks. This year, the crowd-estimate attending the procession reached an amazing 2 million people!
  • Flores De Mayo or the Santacruzan is held all around the Philippines during the festive month of May. It's a parade of a town's beautiful ladies on procession to commemorate St. Helena's search for Christ's cross.

Other major Philippine festivals are listed in the Events and Festivals in the Philippines section.

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Weather

It gets to rain during the wet season between the months of June till the first half of December. It is cooler after that (18-28º Celcius) until the end of February. When the dry season sets in, the climate gets very humid and hot to as much as 39 °C. The strongest typhoons usually come at the start and end of the rainy season, bringing havoc to its path. There is a joke that the best export to its neighboring countries are typhoons originating from the Philippines - very high quality!

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Getting There

By Plane

Metro Manila is serviced by the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for all international flights to major cities around the world while the Manila Domestic Airport connects the metro to most airports in the country. Both airports are located in the city of Parañaque.

By Train

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) connects Metro Manila to other cities south of Manila. The rail line is currently undergoing rehabilitation to revive the northern section of the railway to connect to Clark in Angeles and the southern section up to Legaspi.

By Car

Major expressways connect Metro Manila with neighboring provinces on the north via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the McArthur Highway. While the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) and the Coastal Expressway connects the metro to southern cities and provinces. Towns and cities east of the metro may use radial roads and avenues to get into the metro.

By Bus

Different provincial buses provide services for passengers coming from different parts of country from the northernmost part of Luzon up to Mindanao. Most Provincial Bus terminals are located in Cubao area of Quezon City, Taft Avenue in Pasay City, and in Monumento area of Caloocan City.

Here are some provincial buses found in the metro.

  • Autobus Transport Systems: Trips to Baguio, Banaue, Tuguegarao, and Dagupan in the north.
  • Baliwag Transit: Trips to Bulacan and Cagayan Valley provinces in the north.
  • Fariñas Transit: Trips to Laoag and Vigan in the northern Ilocos region.
  • JAM Transit: Trips to the southern provinces of Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon City.
  • Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines: Trips in the northern provinces of Abra, Ilocos, La Union, and Tarlac.
  • Philtranco: Trips in the Bicol peninsula, upto Davao City via ferry and through Samar and Leyte.
  • Tritran Transit: Trips to Batangas and Quezon provinces.
  • Victory Liner: Trips to Baguio and the northern provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Zambales, Cagayan and Tarlac.

By Boat

Metro Manila is connected to other Philippine islands through the Port of Manila on Manila Bay. Passenger ferries from different island ports in the south and international cargo vessels dock on this port.

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Getting Around

By Train

Currently the Philippine National Railways (PNR) line, which runs from Manila to Legaspi City in the south, has stations that pass through the cities of Caloocan, Manila, Pasay, and Muntinlupa from north to south.

Metro Manila has 3 light railway airconditioned services connecting its central cities. Fares are very cheap because of heavy government subsidies.

  • LRT1 (yellow line). Service started in 1980 and runs along the western periphery of the metropolis; starting from the south in Pasay City and ends north in Caloocan City. Fares: 12 pesos (for 4 stations or less) and 15 pesos (5 stations or more)
  • LRT2 (purple line). Started operations in 2005. Runs from Pasig City (Santolan Station) in the east and ends up in downtown Manila (Recto Station) in the west where one can walk 200 meters on a covered walkway to get a connecting ride of LRT Line 1 at the Doroteo Jose Station. Minimum fare: 12 pesos; full-length fare: 15 pesos.
  • MRT3 (blue line). Service opened in 1999. Runs along the the busy and historic Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue (EDSA) from Pasay City on the south end to Quezon City on the north end. The line is currently being extended and construction will end in 2011 to meet up with the north end of LRT Line 1 in Caloocan City. Graduated fares start at 10 pesos.

By Car

Cars are left-hand driven. Other than maps, on-street directions are easy to understand, as they are in English! Be careful, however, as many reckless jeepney drivers and motorcyclists roam the streets at will.

By Bus

Routes and where they are headed for are easy to get by with as they are written over the front of the buses. Board and alight at designated bus stops. Most of the buses are airconditioned. Fares start at 11 pesos for the first 4 kilometers of travel.

By Boat

The Pasig River Ferry provides passenger services along the Pasig River. It has stations in Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Marikina cities.

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Sleep

Low Budget Travellers on a budget can check-in at a motel for 500 pesos per night, or even less, depending on location. You have to get on a taxi to get to these, as walking-in is frowned upon, if you are a local. Walk-in foreign guests will just be fine but don't expect a lobby because there is none! Upon entry is a driveway that will lead you to individualized garages and you walk up to the rooms above them. Enter any vacant one and wait inside the room for the bellboy to knock and have you register. You pay upon leaving. The room decors of most popular motels are outrageously ornate - your stay would be quite an experience.

Budget
An apartelle that accepts daily room rentals costs around 1500 pesos per night. Some offer free breakfast.

Medium
3-star hotels cluster around Manila, Quezon City, Makati, Mandaluyong and Pasay. Serviced-apartments for business travellers are also available such as Gilarmi and Oakwood found within the central business area of Makati.

Luxurious
Major hotel-chains are represented in Makati, Manila and Mandaluyong. A number of boutque hotels are found in Makati.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are a number of internet service providers nationwide: PLDT-Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms, BayanTel and Sun Cellular and each have their signal strengths in various locations. Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. WiFi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to ₱200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ₱15/hour (approximately US$0.35).

Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost ₱100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is a internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a landline internet connection for around 20P an hour (about 0.46 US). Coffee shops as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi. The SM chain of malls offer free wifi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company commonly known as PLDT is the leading telecommunications provider. It is also the largest company in the country. There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home. Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ₱30 and provide a cheaper alternative.
If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ₱1,500.The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls.

Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.

Post

The Philippine Postal Corporation, or PhilPost, is the provides the postal service throughout the Philippines. PhilPost is pretty reliable, but one can hardly call it fast services. It is fine for sending postcards and letters though, both domestically as well as internationally. Prices for sending postcards or letters within the country start at around P7, while most international post costs at least P20. For sending parcels to and from the Philippines it might be wise to use companies like FedEx or UPS. The opening hours of post offices in the Philippines differ from one place to another. Usually, post offices are open from 8:00am to 12 noon and from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on weekdays. And for those that operate on Saturdays, the business hours are from 8:00am to 1:00pm.

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Metro Manila Travel Helpers

  • elhombre

    I live in the Philippines, specifically in the Central Business Dsitrict of Makati City. If you plan to go on a trip to Manila Philippines, just drop a questions and I will try my best to share my inputs. I've been to several places like Boracay, beaches of Batangas City, Province of Bohol, Cebu and Davao City, and some places in Luzon like Baguio.

    Ask elhombre a question about Metro Manila
  • pau_p1

    I was a resident of Metro Manila for 32 years and have been to almost every nook of the metro.

    Ask pau_p1 a question about Metro Manila

This is version 78. Last edited at 8:08 on Aug 7, 13 by Utrecht. 12 articles link to this page.

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