What to see in Manila

Metro Manila: Knowing the Basics

Metro Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and the city is often called as “The City of our Affections”. This is the very heart of all developments, the fashion center, seat of government administration, and the heart of all educational and religious movements; and of course the largest shopping arcades in the country.

For most Filipinos especially those from far away provinces, Manila is their city of dreams where opportunities are just endless, but unfortunately for those who are living poorly there, it is one jungle where the game of life is ruthless and yet irresistible.


Manila is an old city and just before the arrival of Spaniards in year 1571, a town is already developing and they call it Maynila. This town is occupied by Moslem settlers ruled by Rajah Sulayman of Borneo. It is not big, but is flourishing trading port which you find between Pasig River and Manila Bay.

On 8th of May 1570, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi sent his first expedition to Maynila. Upon arrival the Spaniards was welcomed by the Filipino-Moslem natives in Maynilad however, the peace did not last long and fierce bottle ensued in 24th of May 1570. The Spaniards won the bottle.

Map of Manila
Map of Metro Manila
The brave Filipino-Moslems fled to Tondo and Bagombayan and have their hopes high that they can take back Maynilad. They were successful for a short period and on 1571, Governor General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came back to Maynilad with his entire force and for the second time has defeated the natives and conquered Maynilad. On 24th of June 1571 Maynilad is proclaimed as the country’s capital and the heart of Spanish government in the East.

Because of this conquest the creation of municipal government of Cabildo was ordered. Various structures were erected like Spanish style houses, schools, churches, nunneries and monasteries. This gives birth to the creation of the famous “Intramuros”.

Under Spain, Manila became a hotspot of trade in the East. After the Spaniards conquest, a succession of other conquests follows like the Chinese warlords, the Portugese and Dutch fleets from Indonesia and British occupation. By 1898 the American occupation came. By the end of World War II, the city was heavily damaged. By 1946 the Philippine Independence was born and gave the metropolis its title as the Premiere City of the Philippines.


The metropolis today does not only consist of Manila, but it includes seven other cities and nine towns. The metroplolis has an area of 38.3 square kilometer and situated in the west coast of Luzon. The city is at the delta of the Pasig River that links the lake of Laguna de Bay with South China Sea and Manila Bay.


The city government is ruled by a Mayor with the assistance of a Vice Mayor with the thirty six councilors that is duly elected by the people. The present administration was focused in the program of the government which would push Manila’s position as the country’s center of trade and commerce. Despite the plenty of problem the councilors, city executive, civil servants and peace officers unite together to achieve the vision of a good quality life as well as a peaceful life for individuals.


Climate is the same as the other cities in Metro Manila. Temperature is generally humid and higher due to its lower elevation. The area experiences rain as early as second week of May until October.


English is widely spoken in the country most especially in the city. Literacy is quite high and English is their medium of communication when involved in business, schools and government. Although Filipino is the official language still English is widely spoken among the populations in the area.

Historical Attraction

Plaza San Luis

It is located at Intramuros and is named after one of the old barrios of Intramuros. Its is a commercial complex that is consist of five houses which are El Hogar Filipino, Los Hidalgos, Casa Blanca, Casa Urdaneta and Casa Manila. The complex has a museum at Casa Manila where it showcased 19th century to early 20th century furniture which you usually find in Filipino Illustrado homes. You will also find gift and specialty shops where you can shop for souvenirs to bring back home.

You can reach the place by riding a PUJ bound to Pier and go down at intersection at Bonifacio Drive. From there you can walk towards Aduana Street for about ten minutes and reach Plaza San Luis. As another route, you can take PUJ en route to Pier at Quezon City and go down at Aduana Street. If you are from Manila, then it only takes about 25 minutes ride or an hour if you are from Quezon City.

Fort Santiago

It is also located at Intramuros. Fort Santiago is at the northwestern part of Intramuros and the creation of this started 1571 and was completed one hundred fifty years after. The structure looked out to the sea; it’s the major defense position of the Spaniards on the island. It is also popular as the Shrine of Freedom to commemorate the Filipinos who died and imprisoned here during the Spanish as well as the Japanese era. Today, it is now turned into a park and it also houses the famous PETA theater company and small chapels.

You can reach Fort Santiago by walking through Pedro Gil. Street where you can ride a PUJ bound for Pier and get down at the intersection at Bonifacio Drive. From here, just walk towards Aduana Street for about five minutes and you will find yourself in the entrance of Fort Santiago. Travel time is about twenty five minutes.

Rizal Shrine

You can find the shrine inside Fort Santiago in Intramuros. Several items were preserved in memory of the Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal. Jose Rizal stayed in this place until he was executed December 30, 1896. The items showcase are paintings, books and manuscripts of the national hero, sculpture and wood carvings done by the national hero and different souvenirs he got from his various travel abroad. It also showcases a collection of colonial designed furniture from his hometown in Calamba, Laguna.

Mabini Shrine

This is the place of Apolinario Mabini that is found in Pandacan. The house is made of bamboo and the roof is of nipa. The floors are made of bamboo slats and sawali for the walls. This house is a typical lower middle family house. You can find replicas of original furniture in the house.

You can ride a PUJ en route to Paco from Taft Avenue in the corner of Gen. Malvar Street and get down at Nagtahan Bridge. You can walk a short distance to the Presidential Security Group compound which will bring you to the shrine. Travel time takes about twenty minutes.

Palacio del Gobernador

This palace is located at Plaza Roma, General Luna Street, Intramuros. This palace is formerly home of Emmanuel Estacion de Venegas who is a governor’s aide. This place was made the official residence and office of the Spanish governor-generals in the year 1654 until 1863 when an earthquake destroyed the place down. It was almost a century before another structure is built in this place. Today it is the office of Intramuros Administration.

From T. Kalaw street you walk towards Pedro Gil or Mabini street and ride a PUJ en route to Pier and get down in the intersection of Bonifacio Drive. From here, walking towards Aduana street for about fifteen minutes, you will find yourself at Palacio del Gobernador. Another option is to take PUJ bound for Pier in Quezon city and go down at Aduana street. It takes about twenty-five minutes to reach the place.

Malacañang Palace

This is the seat of the president of the Philippines since Spanish times until today. It is situated in the north bank of the Pasig River. This structure was owned by Luis Rocha and is built in the 18th century. By year 1825, the Spanish government purchased the palace for just 5,000.00 pesos from Luis Rocha and converts it to a summer house for the governor-generals. When an earthquake destroyed the Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros paves the way for Malacañang as an official permanent set of the president or Head of the State.

Rizal Park

It is considered the largest park in Southeast Asia with an area of about fifty-eight hectares. This park is popular as the Bagombayan field at the time of the Spaniards since this is the place where the Filipino-Moslems stayed after the Spaniard has occupied the Intramuros.

Year 1902, the Bagumbayan was chosen as the proposed site of American government center and Daniel Burnham designed a u-shaped building, unfortunately only three were made – Executive House, Department of Finance building and the Department of Tourism building. This park was named after Philippine national hero who is Dr, Jose P. Rizal.

If you come from the south, then you can ride a PUJ bound for Taft Avenue and get down at the park. If you are from Quiapo, then you can take a PUJ from TM Kalaw to Taft Avenue and get down right in the park. Travel time is about thirty minutes.

Other historical attractions worth to check out in Manila are – Plaza Samplucan at General Luna street, Intramuros; Chinese Cemetery at South Gate, Aurora Ave., Blumentritt; Paco Park and Cemetery at Paco; Ermita District at Ermita; Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila at General Luna Street, Intramuros; Plaza Dilao Paco District at Paco; University of Santo Thomas at España; San Miguel District at San Miguel; Isla de Convalencia at San Miguel; Pasig River, Manila Bay, Escolta, Philippine Normal University at Taft Ave., Ayala Boulevard; and Chinatown at Binondo.

Cultural Tourist Attraction

San Agustin Museum

It is located at San Agustin Monastery, Intramuros. The museum is privately owned and is supervised by the Augustinian Friars. The museum is found inside the old Monastery of the Church. It showcases collection of oil paintings of saints; the crypt; Don Luis Araneta Collection of Antique Santos, and colonial religious arts. You can also find inside the monastery church the Capitualtion Room where the Spanish submits to the Americans year 1898.

You can take a PUJ en route to Pier from Mabine and Pedro Gil street and get down the intersection at Bonifacio Drive. From here take a ten minute walk towards Aduana street. It takes about 25 minutes if from Manila proper and about an hour and fifteen minutes from Quezon City.

Casa Manila

It is located at Calle Real cor. General Luna street, Intramuros. It is a Colonial Lifestyle Museum which you can find at Plaza San Luis Complex. This is already a replica of the original house which stood in the same site. The house showcases old furniture and furnishings from Europe and China dating back to 19th century. To mention a few of the famous collection inside the house – religious images, marble top tables, antique piano and hard, crystal chandeliers, Chinese Ceramics, Persian rugs and many more.

Take a PUJ bound for Pier from Pedro Gil street or Mabini and get down at the intersection of Bonifacio Drive. Takes about 25 minutes to reach Casa Manila.

National Museum of the Philippines

It is located at the Executive House, P. Burgos street, Manila. This National Museum was built 4th of October 1901. It takes pride of its five divisions namely Anthropology, Geology, Zoology, Botany and Art.

If you are from Baclaran, you can take PUJ en route for Lawton or Manila City Hall and get down at P. Burgos street (corner) just along Taft Avenue. Executive House is just a five minute walk from Taft Ave. It takes about thirty minutes to reach the museum.

Museo Pambata

The museum then features several kinds of artifacts and paintings made by Filipino artists. Many years after the museum is now renamed to Museo ng Pambata. This museum is now consist of six rooms with different themes – Bata sa Mundo or Children on the Global Village; Katawan Ko or Body Works; Paglaki Ko or Career Options; Tuklas or Science; Maynila Noon or ld Manila; and Kalikasan or Environment.

Other cultural tourist attractions in Manila include Central Bank Money Museum at Roxas Boulevard; Metropolitan Museum of Manila at Roxas Boulevard; Archdiocesan Museum of Manila at Intramuros; University of Sto. Thomas Museum of Arts and Sciences at España; De la Salle University Art Gallery at Taft Avenue; Museo ng Malacañang Palace at San Miguel; and Sta. Ana Church Excavations at Sta. Ana.

Religious Tourist Attractions

San Agustin Church

The church is located at General Luna street, Intramuros. It is the oldest church made of stone in Metro Manila which dates back to 1571. It has interesting features like their intricately designed carved door, 18th century pipe organ, molave choir stalls and the Baroque pulpit. This church has certainly survived the calamities that came and is a proof of how nature has tested this structure.

Take a PUJ en route to Pier from Pedro Gil street and Mabini and get down at the intersection at Bonifacio Drive. The church is a ten minute walk towards Aduana street. Travel time is about 25 minutes.

Manila Cathedral

It is situated at Plaza Roma in Intramuros. This is the 6th cathedral church to erect in this site since 1581 and it is the office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila. The cathedral is designed with stone carvings and the rosette windows of the old cathedral. You can see stained glass windows which show the Christianization of the Philippines.

From Pedro Gils street and Mabini, take a PUJ en route to Pier and get down at the intersection of Bonifacio Drive. Manila Cathedral is just ten minutes walk towards Adriana street. It takes about twenty-five minutes to reach the church.

Quiapo Church

Quiapo Church Manila
Quiapo Church Manila
The church is located at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo. A record showed that this church was established year 1586. It was originally constructed with bamboo and nipa and is founded by Pedro Bautista, a Franciscan missionary. Year 1899, stone construction of the church followed, but was destroyed and burned down year 1929. It was again restored in the year 1930s and it took three decades to finally make it the way it looks today.

Take a PUJ from TM Kalaw street for Quiapo and get down right across Quiapo church. It takes about fifteen minutes to reach the church.

Other religious attractions in Manila includes Malate Church at Malate; Ermita Church at Ermita; Paco Church at Paco; Santa Ana Church, San Sebastian Church at Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo; Binondo Church at Plaza dela Basco, Binondo; and Sta. Cruz Church at Plaza Lacson, Sta. Cruz.

Man Made Tourist Attraction

Rizal Monument

This monument is found in Rizal Park, Manila. This monument was built in the early 1900s and was completed year 1912. The monument is fifty foot high and stood on granite blocks just below an obelisk.

Take a PUJ bound for Pier from Mabini Street and get down at Manila Hotel just along Bonifacio Drive. Travel time takes about twenty minutes.

Manila Zoological Garden

This garden is located at Quirino Avenue, Malate. This Zoological Garden is home to various exotic African and Philippine wildlife. Some of the animals and birds that are already endangered are the Philippine Tarsier and Tamaraw which are both found in the Philippines.

Take a PUJ en route to Harrison and Mabini streets from United Nations Avenue corner Taft Avenue and get down at the right corner lot in Mabini Street and Quirino Avenue. Travel time is about twenty-five minutes.

Japanese Garden

This garden is found in Rizal Park. The garden has an area of 9,000 square meter and is made like an authentic Japanese Garden. It is a Japanese garden, but it is no surprise if you can find local vines, grass, hedges, trees and other ornamental plants like the bituin marikit, camachile and camias which grow in the Philippines soil. This garden does not only promote Japanese culture, but it promotes mutual understanding and friendship between the Filipino and Japanese people.

Take a PUJ bound for Pier from Mabini Street and get down at Manila Hotel at Bonifacio Drive. Japanese Garden is just a ten minute walk. Travel time is about twenty minutes to reach the garden.

Other manmade tourist attractions in Manila includes Carfel Seashell Museum at Ermita; Manila Hotel at Rizal Park; Kanlungan ng Sining at Rizal Park; Ayala Bridge at San Miguel and Arroceros, Manila; Meban Garden at Plaza Lawton; and Liwasang Bonifacio at Plaza Lawton.

Festivals and Events

The most famous festivals and events celebrated in Manila the whole year through are the following – 9th of January for Quiapo Fiesta or the Black Nazarene; 15th of January is Sto, Niño Fiesta in Tondo; 19th of January is Buling-Buling of Pandacan; 3rd of February is Liberation of Manila; 12th of June is Independence Day at Rizal Park; 24th of June is Araw ng Maynila or Manila Day; month of November is the Nuestra Señora delos Feast; and month of December is the Feast of Birhen of Loreto.

Living Cost in Manila

Manila is quite an expensive city to live in. In fact, it is currently ranked as 153 out of 300 international locations or country as the most expensive place in the whole world to live for foreign nationals. Checkout below its cost of living rank under the following categories:

Categories Rank out of 300 International locations
Grocery – cost for food, cleaning materials and non-alcoholic beverages. 60 out of 300
Alcohol and Tobacco – alcoholic drinks like beer, whiskey and wine; Tobacco like cigarettes 32 out of 300
Clothing – clothes and footwear both for adults and children. 19 out of 300
Household – housing, electricity, water etc. 145 out of 300
Healthcare – medical insurances 151 out of 300
Communication – telephone charges, internet connection, service provider etc. 232 out of 300
Education – Tuition fees 283 out of 300
Furniture and Appliance – furniture, household appliances and equipment. 247 out of 300
Personal Care – personal care products 173 out of 300
Recreation and Culture – costs of books, theater tickets etc. 242 out of 300
Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotel 150 out of 300
Transport – vehicle cost, public transport etc. 156 out of 300
Miscellaneous – general goods and services 173 out of 300

With the table above you can see that living in Manila is not as cheap as most expatriates thinks it is. However, living in the rural or provinces is definitely much cheaper.

Indeed there are Pros and Cons when it comes to living in Manila. Read further to find out its Pros and Cons.

Manila – Pros

  • Expect hospitality everywhere.
  • People can understand and communicate English so you do not have any problems when it comes to communication.
  • You can find all kinds of restaurants from fine dining restaurants to affordable eateries in the streets.
  • Plenty of tourist attractions to see.
  • Beauty services are quite cheap compared abroad.
  • Different kinds of public transportation.

Manila – Cons

  • Overcrowded.
  • Pick-pocketeers around.
  • Pollution is worst
  • Traffic problem
  • Poverty-stricken
  • It’s an old city and it’s dirty
  • Some taxi drivers are not reliable

One thing to note if you plan to visit Manila for a vacation, then it is better if you visit during summer, it might be quite hot but you can be sure there is no storm to ruin your day. Bring light clothes and if possible do not stay at Mainland Manila. It will be more enjoyable for out of town trips and besides you get to save a lot for accommodation and even food this way. If you love to shop and wants to shop for bargains, then go to market in town like Divisoria and Baclaran, however, be careful with your belongings and money because this place is not very safe.

“Let’s go malling” to experience another great shopping option visit Manila’s biggest shopping malls. In Manila you will find some of the biggest malls in the world namely “Mall of Asia” with a total floor area of over 400,000 square meters. The largest mall in the Philippines is SM City North EDSA in terms of leasable area 482,878 square meters. Mall of Asia is visited by more than 200,000 people each day.

Learn more about Manila…

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