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Jeepney in Makati City - Metro Manila

Jeepney in Makati City - Metro Manila

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Manila is not really known for being a tourist hot-spot, thanks in large part to a delectable combination of heavy pollution, the world's densest population, and a frantic pace of life. But Manila is a fascinating city nonetheless, where Latin influences infuse a modern east Asian city simultaneously experiencing the push of American globalisation.

Manila is located on Manila Bay, in the north of the Philippines on the island of Luzon. It is the second largest city in the wider metropolitan area of Metro Manila.




May Nilad (old name of Manila) was founded and ruled by Raja Matanda and later his nephew, Raja Suleiman, son-in-law of the Sultan of Brunei. Because of its wealth and prosperity, the Muslim settlement attracted the interest of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi who had previously conquered another wealthy settlement, the Malay kingdom of Cebu. From there, he sent an expedition to attack May Nilad led by Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo. But the two and its forces were repelled by Raja Suleiman's troops. The Spaniards returned with de Legaspi himself leading. The conquest was successful, and from its ashes, the foundation of Intramuros was built.

The city got its name from an extinct mangrove species that bloom a white flower and once grew on the banks of the Pasig River called the Nilad. The locals called the place 'may nilad' which is translated as "having the nilad". Later the local name evolved from being Maynilad to Maynila and eventually internationally known as Manila.

Originally within the confines of Intramuros, Manila became the center of government during the Spanish era, with Fort Santiago guarding the mouth of the Pasig River.




Some of the notable districts within the city of Manila are the following:

  • Binondo is home to the country's largest Chinatown and the oldest in the world. Back in the colonial years of Spain, Binondo was home to Chinese traders living among the common Filipino that are not allowed to enter the Intramuros.
  • Ermita remains to be a red-light district but has scaled down its notoriety after the demise of the US military bases in Subic and Clark north of Manila in the early '90s.
  • Intramuros is confined by 30-foot thick fortification walls built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The walls delineate the original boundaries of the city of Manila.
  • Malate is a popular dining and bar-hopping destination, specially Friday nights, among yuppies and the younger generation.
  • Paco This district boasts of an enclave in the middle of a small rotunda called Paco Park, that used to be a Spanish cemetery in the 18th century. It has an old chapel within and rumoured to have originally contained the remains of the national hero, Jose Rizal, after his execution.
  • Pandacan is located on the east where big oil depots are heavily guarded. There is growing demand from its residents to have them transferred elsewhere.
  • Quiapo is popular for its Church where zealous Catholic devotees flock every Friday to pay homage to its known icon, the Black Nazarene.
  • Sampaloc This district has a huge student population, mostly living in dormitories, apartments and flats, because of its proximity to major university campuses called the University Belt. During 19th century Spanish rule, up to the early 1900s of American occupation, Sampaloc was the red-light district of Manila. The more expensive brothels had European, American and Russian women.
  • San Miguel is where Malacanang Palace, the Presidential Residence, is situated. It hugs the Pasig River on its north banks.
  • Santa Ana is on the eastern part of the city. Once popular for its horse racetrack located at its eastern tip boundary with the city of Makati. The property has been bought by a real estate company for a massive housing and commercial project. Horse racing activities are now held at a new and modern racetrack in Cavite province outside Metro Manila.
  • Santa Cruz is adjacent to Quiapo district and is popular for bargain shopping among the locals, specially hardware and electronic goods along the streets of Raon, Carriedo, and Avenida.
  • Santa Mesa is known for its spanking motels, dozens of them, in the eastern border with Mandaluyong City. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines, which has a very large student population, is nearby.
  • Tondo is north of the Chinatown district and better known for its urban-poor populace and the hub and depot of the country's railway system known as Tutuban Station.



Sights and Activities


  • Intramuros - "Within the walls" in Spanish. The Walled City of Manila where during the Spanish colonial period, politicians, friars, and influential Hispanics reside. Intramuros was the center of power and faith during the Spanish colonial years of the Philippines
  • Fort Santiago - A historic fortress within Intramuros that guarded the mouth of the Pasig River. It was the main barracks of the Spanish Army for more than 3 centuries of Hispanic rule, then after that, the main garrison of the US Army during the American occupation. It served as prison of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, while being tried for treason by the Spanish Military Court until his execution in 1896.
  • San Agustin Church - Built and completed in 1607 by friars of The Order of St. Augustine, it is the oldest church standing in the Philippines. Declared a National Historical Landmark by the government in 1976 and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1993. It is located along Gen. Luna street within the walls of Intramuros. The adjacent monastery was converted into a museum now filled with interesting historical artifacts dating back to 100 BC.
  • Manila Cathedral - Located inside Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral is the mother of all Catholic churches in the Philippines. It had been built and destroyed and rebuilt again numerous times since 1571. The current structure standing today is the 8th cathedral; only its facade was originally from the 7th cathedral which was built in 1870.
  • Rizal Park - Also known as Luneta Park, the main park that marks the location of the monument of the Philippines' national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. It was known as Bagumbayan during the Spanish rule.
  • Malacañang Palace - The presidential palace, located along the north bank of the Pasig River. It was built in 1802 as a summer house by a wealthy Spanish noble named Don Luis Rocha. Because of his lavish lifestyle, he gave up the 16-hectare real estate to a Spanish army officer, Col. Jose Miguel Fiormento. In 1825, the manor was bought by the Spanish government where all succeeding Spanish Governor-Generals assigned to the Philippines took residence. The compound where it stood had expanded through time and numerous structures housing various offices had been built. Through wars, revolution and earthquakes, the original summer house remains standing and intact. The word Malacañang is derived from the Tagalog "may lakan diyan" which translates to "a nobleman lives there" in English.
  • Chinatown - Situated in Binondo, it is the biggest Chinese community in the country where different Chinese goods, foods and products may be bought.


Cultural Center of the Philippines - This center opened its doors in 1999. Located along Roxas Boulevard at the south end of Manila, it is a grand edifice that plays host to both local and international cultural performances, exhibitions, shows and concerts. It houses the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Folk Dance Company, and the world-known Madrigal Singers.

Museong Pambata - An interactive museum for children and the younger generation. Located on the southwest fringe of Rizal (Luneta) Park, beside the US Embassy. Hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays 8:00am-5:00pm and Sundays 1:00pm-5:00pm., Price: P100 adult or child

Eco Tourism

  • Manila Ocean Park - The first oceanarium in the country that features endemic marine creatures found in the archipelago. It is located at the back of Luneta Grandstand, Luneta Park. Opened daily. Price: 400 pesos for adults, 350 pesos for kids.
  • Arroceros Forest Park - Located near the Manila City Hall and adjacent to the Central Station of LRT line 1, this is the last and only forest park remaining in the city. Concerned citizens have fought hard to demand for its continued existence against pressures of redevelopment.


  • Malate nightlife - Once part of the red-light district, it has become a busy destination for yuppies and younger individuals who enjoy bar-hopping and comedy bars specially on Friday nights. At those times, the bars extend their front real estate onto the street that are closed to traffic for the night.
  • Ermita nightlife - Adjacent to Malate to the north, Ermita remains a red-light district but has scaled down its image since the Americans abandoned their military bases in the Philippines in 1991. Some sleazy bars still continue their business.


  • Divisoria - A very busy center for different goods that range from clothes, souvenir items, and to different raw materials and is famous for very cheap prices and best place for bargains. One has to be extra careful with personal belongings in the crowded streets and shopping malls as pickpockets roam the place.
  • Quiapo - A block away from the famous Quiapo Church, this is a popular shopping destination among locals. Video and photographic equipment and supplies can be haggled at the lowest price in photo shops lining the streets of Hidalgo, Gomez and Palanca. Vegetable and fruit vendors line the side streets selling cheap fresh produce. The newbie traveller must be wary of the crowds as they are largely infested with pickpockets. The best ham in town is sold at Excellente along Palanca Street.
  • Santa Cruz - Adjacent to Quiapo, Santa Cruz is a shopping haven for hardware, D.I.Y. items, electronic goods and curios. Haggle hard and be aware of your surroundings for pick-pockets.
  • Binondo - The Chinatown. Popular for shopping wholesale, lots of bargains on retail. All banks have their branches set-up here as the place is secondary to the financial district, Makati, in terms of business volume. Relatively very safe for the traveller. Police presence is outstanding. Expect traffic to near-standstill during the months between November and Chinese New Year.



Events and Festivals

Main article: Events and Festivals in the Philippines

  • Feast of the Black Nazarene - This event is held every ninth of January in Quiapo, Manila. A grand festival is thrown to honor the image of the Black Nazarene. During this event, thousands of devotees flock to the streets, and in bare feet, they walk in procession to celebrate this venerated image. The event ends with a grand feast of local delicacies and traditional cuisine.
  • Chinese New Year - The dates of this largely celebrated event change every year, but are held sometime in January-February, coinciding with the Lunar new year. The festivities take place in Chinatown (Binondo) where visitors can expect to see lavish decorations, parties, and merrymaking. There will also be numerous on-street dragon and lion dances, parades and firecrackers. Locals know to shop for Chinese delicacies, especially the favorite sticky rice cake Tikoy. Elaborate cultural shows commemorate the event as national networks cover the event on Ongpin street, which takes place next to Binondo Church.
  • Fete de la Musique de Manila - An annual music festival in mid to late June featuring that will satisfy all types of musical taste. This music festival originated in France, but it tours internationally, with an important stop in Manila. This festival in Manila hosts sixty-plus artists in multiple venues around town each year.
  • Flores de Mayo (01 May 2013 - 31 May 2013) - An important religious festival that takes place every May. The city is decorated in all of the beautiful flowers that bloom during this month. Children have a significant role in this festival; they carry flowers in baskets in religious processions held all around the city, and the flowers are sprinkled in memory of the highly venerated Virgin Mary.
  • Cocoa de Flores - A lover's celebration with the popular centerpiece of Chocolate and Flowers. This annual celebration, held the second week of every April, features a variety of events that celebrate all-things love. Every day of the fair offers something unique for visitors. On Monday, shops and restaurants offer discounts. On Tuesday, the Chocolates and Flowers fair opens, with games, food, and fireworks. On Wednesday, there is a huge parade with lavish costumes; this is an adults-only night where there festival hosts an open bar. On Thursday, there is another parade featuring a popular beauty pageant and talent show. Friday is the last day of the parade, known for it's romantic theme and horse show. Saturday is all about chocolate; visitors can indulge on many desserts and treats that are offered. Sunday is a holy day, where everyone is expected to be reverent and quiet. All throughout the festival, flowers are worn and can be seen just about everywhere.




There are two seasons that characterize the country's year-round weather system: dry (between December-May) and wet (June-November). During the wet or rainy season, the islands are frequently struck by typhoons (averaging 21 weather disturbances a year) between June to September and can extend up to the first week of December. The dry season is hot and humid and very balmy in coastal areas, ranging from 32 °C to as high 39 °C. It gets to be a gorgeous 20-28 °C between December and February. Elevated areas like the cities of Baguio and Tagaytay are 5-10 °C degrees cooler than the lowlands year-round.

Tropical cyclones or typhoons that hit the country have been, increasingly, more ferocious in intensity in recent years, probably due to altered weather systems caused by global warming. The deadlier ones have caused massive flooding in urban areas as much as 14 feet of water for days.

Avg Max29.5 °C30.5 °C32.1 °C33.5 °C33.2 °C32.2 °C31.1 °C30.6 °C30.9 °C30.9 °C30.7 °C29.7 °C
Avg Min23.5 °C23.8 °C24.9 °C26.2 °C26.7 °C26.2 °C25.8 °C25.5 °C25.5 °C25.5 °C24.9 °C23.9 °C
Rainfall19 mm7.9 mm11.1 mm21.4 mm165.2 mm265 mm419.6 mm486.1 mm330.3 mm270.9 mm129.3 mm75.4 mm



Getting There

By Plane

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) and the Manila Domestic Airport serves as the main airports to get to Manila. These airports, located south of Manila, are about 30 minutes' drive from the city. Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (CRK) in Clark is servicing nearby Angeles City and currently services low-cost airlines and some legacy airlines and is set to support Ninoy Aquino International Airport as part of a dual airport system.

By Train

The Philippine National Railways, whose train hub is located in Tutuban north of Manila, services the city to and from the southern provinces of Luzon and has stations along the way. This runs from the Manila to Legaspi City.

Within Metro Manila, 3 light rail transits service the metro.

  • LRT1 (yellow line) - Traversing south to north of Metro-Manila on its western rim. 18 stations; starting with Baclaran on the south and ending at the Monumento station in the north. For one-time fare: P12 for first four stations, P15 for more than 4 stations. Stored Value tickets available. Service runs 6:00am till 11:00pm, weekdays. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.
  • LRT2 (purple line) - 13.8-kilometre-route distance traversing 5 cities of Metro-Manila in a west-east direction. 11 stations, with Santolan station on the east-end, Recto station on the west-end. Fares start at P12, P15 for the whole stretch. Service runs 5:00am till 11:00pm.
  • MRT3 (blue line) - 13 stations traversing the length of the famous Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). Fares start at P10, P15 for the whole length of the route. Service runs 5:30am till 10:00pm. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.

By Car

Right-hand drive, traffic direction on the right side, American system.





  • Frugal Budget - 4-storey building Gwapotel Inn is managed by the government’s Metropolitan Manila Development Authority or MMDA located along Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila. Decent, safe and clean. Check-in at 2:00pm and leave before 9:00am the following day. Bunk beds are arranged in rows inside halls. Separate quarters for male and female. Common showers. 20 pesos for a bunk bed, 5 pesos for an 8-minute shower, 25 pesos for a blanket. No air conditioning, just air curtains and fans. Very popular for traders, truckers, waiting ship passengers and other transients from the provinces. Some foreign backpackers, too.
  • Low Budget - Motels are popular for people who wanted to rest or sleep in comfort. Come anytime of the day because rates are on a per-hour basis (200-300 pesos for the first 3 hours). A whole day costs 500-800 pesos. Air conditioned with Cable TV. Motels don’t have lobbies. Serviced apartments called apartelles usually rent out on a weekly or monthly basis, but increasingly, more rent out on a daily basis. Range: 1,000-1,500 pesos/day. Some have free breakfast as a come-on.


You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Employment of foreigners require a work permit issued by the Department of Labor & Employment (DOLE).



Keep Connected


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 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.


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.


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.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 14.579
  • Longitude: 120.9726

Accommodation in Manila

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