Most people often associate the word “Manila” to the file folder used to organize documents, or just merely know this place as the capital of the Philippines. Not a lot of people know that this bustling city is a treasure chest of history and culture, showcasing the best of what the Philippines has to offer.
Yes, Manila can get chaotic most of the time, but this chaos is part of its charm. In the midst of all this commotion, you can discover food, art and other cultural gems that were shaped by the Philippines’ colonial past, influenced mostly by Spain and the United States. Of course, people in Manila are as warm as locals in the rest of the country, always willing to help with smiles on their faces.
There are a lot of things you can do in Manila Philippines, but be ready to take on its sweltering weather and congested roads. Although the train system is not as developed as in other countries, it can still greatly help you in moving around. Taxis and ride-hailing services can also be convenient ways to get from one point to another. These slight inconveniences will be rewarded once you reach the historical and culinary spots in this soulful city.
What to See
• Intramuros – If there’s one place you have to visit in Manila, it’s this Spanish-era walled city located at the northern end of Manila Bay. Within the walls of Intramuros, you can see impressive architectural gems like the Manila Cathedral and Palacio del Gobernador. This place also showcases the heroism of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero who was detained within these walls during the colonial years.
• Rizal Park – Speaking of national hero Jose Rizal, this park named after him right at the heart of Manila is also worth visiting. It’s a nice spot for an early morning or late afternoon stroll, with various sights to be seen including a giant map of the Philippines, monuments honoring the country’s heroes, and locals enjoying picnics and picture-taking sessions.
• National Museum – A day is not enough to explore the extensive collection of artifacts and art by Philippine artists in this museum. You will definitely be fascinated by the creativity of Filipino painters and sculptures, whose works also provide insights to this nation’s rich history and culture.
Related Article: Top 5 Tourist Attractions in Manila
What to Do
• Catch the sunset at Manila Bay – This is perhaps one of the most captivating sunsets you will ever see in your life. During the late afternoon, the sky in Manila Philippines Bay turns into a picturesque orange hue, giving a relaxing and dramatic vibe. You can appreciate this sunset in numerous ways, either while jogging along the baywalk or on board a cruise ship.
• Go on a historical walking tour – There are a lot of individuals and groups offering walking tours that will take you to Manila’s historic spots for a reasonable fee. Joining these walking tours is advisable so that you will appreciate the historical relevance of the spots even more. Among the most popular tours are those going around Intramuros, China Town and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.
• Ride a Jeepney – What’s a tour of the Philippine capital without riding Manila’s king of the roads? These remnants of the second World War are ubiquitous in the capital, and riding one is very affordable. You will get to experience how locals hail, pay and stop these vehicles, which have also become outlets for Filipinos’ creative expression.
What to Eat
• Balut and other Street Foods – If you’re in the mood for some gastronomic adventure, hit the streets of Manila for some local food, including the infamous balut or boiled duck embryo. Eating this can be like an episode of the “Fear Factor,” so better get your stomach, heart and some tissues ready. There are also other street foods you can try if you’re feeling more adventures, like grilled intestines and coagulated chicken blood.
• Adobo – Considered to be Philippines’ national food, adobo is definitely a crowd pleaser. It is chicken or pork boiled in a delicious mixture of vinegar and soy sauce. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this dish. It packs a lot of flavors in every bite.
• Jollibee Fried Chicken – Another food item that you should definitely not miss during a trip to Manila is the famous fried chicken from Jollibee fast food chain. It is crispy on the outside, and juicy in the inside. Order the meal with spaghetti in it to also get a taste of the sweet and meaty version of this well-loved pasta dish.
The nightlife of Manila is also very happening, with so many clubs & pubs in the city. Get to know what you can do at night by exploring this Manila Nightlife Guide.
Feature image credit: Sumarie Slabber