Located on the southwest shores of the island of Luzon, it lies right beside historic Manila Bay and its celebrated golden sunset. This fluid, easygoing metropolis immediately places the visitor at ease with its hospitality and modern comforts.
Manila is a city of many striking contrasts. Glass and steel skyscrapers stand alongside the concrete images of heroes past. Sleek cars drive past horse-drawn carriages. Ancestral churches are a stone’s throw away from the poshest of shopping malls. A city plunging head on towards the 21st century with a healthy respect for spirits past.
Manila took its name from a white-flowered mangrove plant, called the nilad. A small tribal settlement along the Pasig River, Manila was then ruled by Rajah Sulayman. By the 16th century, the Spaniards invaded Manila, built a wall around it, and claimed it as their own. Spain ruled the walled city of Intramuros, Manila, and the Philippines, for the next 300 years. Afterwards, it was the Americans’ turn to conquer the islands. But above it all, Manila thrived and survived.
The capital of the Philippines -
its heart and soul -- is Manila. It sets the rhythm of life in
this archipelago and is a pulsating hub that blends the Oriental
with the Occidental, the quaint with the modern, the mundane
with the extraordinary.
Manila was born out of the ashes
of a once flourishing Malay settlement by the banks of the Pasig
River. In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established the Ever
Loyal City of Manila which, until 1898, was the seat of Spanish
colonial rule in Asia. He built the city within walls and called
An anchor tourist destination, Manila
is the very core of the 7,000 times more islands that make up
the Philippines. It is a center for the performing arts in Asia.
The Grandeur of Intramuros
At the turn of the 20th century,
the great American architect and city planner Daniel Burnham
noted that "the old walled city of Intramuros at the mouth
of the Pasig River is one of the best preserved medieval cities
anywhere in the world."
But the Pacific War of the 1940's
took its toll.
Faithful reconstruction goes on today
in Intramuros. A few of the gates and ramparts have been turned
into parks and performing venues, including Puerta Real and Baluarte
de San Diego. Chambers found along its gates are now occupied
by art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, even a cyber café.
Fort Santiago, the site of torture
chambers and dungeons where political prisoners from Spanish
to Japanese times were kept and executed, is now a lush park
with flowering trees and homing pigeons. Here, one may enjoy
a leisurely ride aboard a horse-drawn carriage.
At the center of Intramuros is the
grand Manila Cathedral with its detailed stone carvings, stained
glass mosaics and rose windows.
San Agustin Church, completed in
1606, has withstood all the fires and earthquakes that have hit
Manila through the centuries. One of the four Philippine Baroque
Churches inscribed in the World Heritage List, its monastery
has been turned into a museum housing priceless religious artifacts.
Adjoining it are the restored gardens of Fr. Jose Blanco who
studied Philippine botanical life during the Spanish period.
Barrio San Luis along Juan Luna Street
is made up of five faithfully reconstructed colonial houses -
Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El
Beyond the Walls
Manila has since expanded beyond
Intramuros to become the nucleus of the country's largest metropolis,
Greater Manila, made up of 11 other cities and five towns.
But before it spread out of its confines,
history saw Manila figuring prominently in the Galleon Trade,
the first trans-Pacific commerce between Asia, America and Europe
for some 250 years.
The city was also scarred by many
foreign invasions, ravaged by Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and
British marauders. Shortly after the country declared itself
Asia's first democracy in 1898, the Americans invaded its shores
and ruled for 50 years. And after the Pacific War of the 1940's,
when the Japanese Imperial Army reigned for four years, Manila
was the second most destroyed city in the world.
The rubbles of the past have seasoned
and strengthened Manila's character today.
Just off Intramuros' walls is the
world-class Club Intramuros which offers day and night golfing.
Adjacent to it is the 58-hectare Rizal Park, which runs from
Taft Avenue up to the seawalls of the fabled Manila Bay.
In 1902, Burnham designed a U-shaped
government complex within Luneta. Only three buildings were however
constructed: the Executive House occupied by the National Museum,
the Department of Finance Building which now houses the Museum
of the Filipino People, and the Department of Tourism Building
envisioned to become the future Museum for Natural Sciences.
Across the Pasig River from Fort
Santiago is Binondo, or Chinatown. Not much has changed in terms
of lifestyle in this quaint district although, now, high-rise
buildings have started to appear in its skyline.
A stone's throw away from Rizal Park
is the Ermita district which, together with the Malate district,
forms what is known as Manila's Tourist Belt. Ermita is antique
and art galleries, curio and souvenir shops while Malate is cozy
cafes, music lounges and performance theaters.
At the heart of Manila is Quiapo.
What has caught the fancy of many bargain-hunters is Ilalim ng
Tulay - literally, "Under the Bridge" - where stalls
sell an array of handicrafts at prices that are practically a
Near Quiapo is the genteel San Miguel
district, with its ancestral homes and Malacanang Palace, seat
of the Philippine government. A museum of presidential memorabilia
is open to the public.
A few minutes away from the Ninoy
Aquino International Airport and the Fiesta Duty Free Shop in
Paranaque City is Nayong Pilipino, or Philippine Village, which
features the country's famous landmarks in miniature.
Weekends are good days to visit,
when the park assumes a barrio fiesta (village festival) atmosphere,
complete with traditional games, indigenous music, songs and
dances, and craft demonstrations.
The Sunset Strip
Roxas Boulevard, which extends from
Paranaque City to Manila, is the Bay Area from where one can
have a view of the famed Manila sunset.
Many landmarks are found in this
area, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine
Senate buildings. Within the stretch is the International Trade
Center complex, the Philippine Trade Training Center and the
World Trade Center. Further back is the Government Service Insurance
System building which houses an art gallery by the bay.
The boulevard is also home to the
country's premier performing venue, the Cultural Center of the
Philippines. Within its complex are the Philippine International
Convention Center, the Product Design and Development Center,
the Folk Arts Theater, the Coconut Palace and the Westin Philippine
Adjoining the complex is the Manila
Yacht Club and the Philippine Navy Headquarters. A little farther
is the US Embassy.
Across the Yacht Club is the Bangko
Sentral (Central Bank) complex which houses the Money Museum.
The bank has Asia's biggest and finest gold collection at the
Metropolitan Museum, a home for the modern masters.
Roxas Boulevard is lined with posh
hotels, casinos and lively nightspots.
Greater Manila is where the country's
most prestigious business addresses and the trendiest leisure
establishments are found. By day, it hums with the bustle of
commerce and, by night, throbs with the excitement of varied,
high class entertainment.
Makati City is the country's financial
center and the most prestigious business address. Many foreign
embassies and multinationals call it home. Fashionable hotels,
restaurants, discos, music bars, boutiques and specialty shops
converge around the sleek Ayala Center.
In Makati is Forbes Park, home to
the rich and famous. The most elite country club, Manila Polo
Club, and golf course, Manila Golf Club, are nestled within the
Giving Makati a run for its money
is Mandaluyong City, with Ortigas Center an impressive alternative
to Ayala Center. Home to the Asian Development Bank and the Philippine
Stock Exchange, it is also the site of three of Metro Manila's
gigantic shopping malls - SM Megamall, Robinson's Galleria and
Shangri-la EDSA Plaza.
San Juan is the hometown of President
Joseph Estrada. Built on a hilly terrain, a drive along the old
residential section can be a pleasurable diversion. Its Greenhills
Commercial Center houses some of Metro Manila's vibrant music
Quezon City was envisioned by the
late President Manuel L. Quezon (after whom the city was named)
to be the country's government center. Many of the national government
offices are located here as well as the country's leading educational
institution, the University of the Philippines.
Dominating Cubao, Quezon City's commercial
center, is Araneta Coliseum, the country's biggest enclosed entertainment
arena. For nightlife, the Quezon Boulevard, Timog Avenue, Tomas
Morato Avenue and West Avenue strips offer varied, colorful fares.
Marikina City is the Shoe Center
of the Philippines. The city takes pride in its 75.6-hectare
Paranaque City is generally associated
with its dry goods and seafood market and restaurants, and Redemptorist
Church, a pilgrimage site which houses the Shrine of Our Lady
of Perpetual Help.
Las Pinas City has retained much
of its provincial appeal. Visitors flock to this city to see
the world's only bamboo organ, housed at the picturesque St.
Joseph's Parish Church.
Metro Manila is one big gastronomic
trip of many cuisines.
In Intramuros is Illustrado Restaurant
with its colonial ambiance and Spanish provincial cuisine. The
old Malate district, with Remedios Circle at its core, is the
favorite watering hole of artists, designers and the café
society who are only too willing to try the varied international
flavors offered by the many restaurants in the area. Authentic
Chinese cuisine can be had at the old financial district of Binondo.
Aside from Ayala Center, many fine and theme dining establishments
line Jupiter Street and Pasay Road in Makati City. From theme
restaurants to beer-and-grill gardens, Tomas Morato Avenue, Timog
Street, Quezon Avenue and West Avenue in Quezon City have them
all. Interesting clusters of restaurants and bars are found in
San Juan's Greenhills and Mandaluyong City's Ortigas Center.
The outskirts of Manila offer many
places of interest that are easily accessible by day excursions.
Many of these destinations can be reached in an hour or two.
Corregidor is a tiny tadpole-shaped
island lying across the entrance of Manila Bay. Also known as
"The Rock," it was the focus of a protracted battle
between Filipino-American and Japanese forces during the Second
World War. The shell of the Mile Long Barracks still stands.
Within the Malinta Tunnel, a light-and-sound show is staged for
day tourists. It can be reached by de-luxe cruisers from the
CCP Complex jetty in Roxas Boulevard.
Laguna boasts one of the most beautiful
country-sides in the Philippines with a plethora of waterfalls,
springs, seven big rivers and the lake from which it got its
name spanning all of 90 hectares, making Laguna de Bay the biggest
freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
The town of Los Banos ("The
Baths") has numerous resorts fed by hot and cold springs.
Standing guard over the resort town is Mount Makiling which houses
at its slopes a botanical park and the National Arts Center,
a high school for budding artists.
The quaint town of Pagsanjan was
the setting of the Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."
Its star attraction is the Pagsanjan Rapids and Falls.
In the town of Alaminos is found
Hidden Valley which is actually a volcano crater. A number of
hot, cold and soda springs lace a forest of towering fruit trees,
tropical shrubs and flowering plants.
Also in Laguna is the historical
town of Calamba where the ancestral house of Dr. Jose Rizal has
been turned into a museum.
SAN PABLO CITY
In San Pablo City are found seven
lakes. For a taste of plantation living, visit Villa Escudero.
Here, bamboo cottages gird a river that flows into a dam.
A one hour drive south of Manila
is Tagaytay, a city perched on a ridge. From the Tagaytay Picnic
Grove, there is an unobstructed view of Volcano Island, a volcano
within a lake with a volcano within a lake, which is the standard
description of the 406 meter-high Taal Volcano, the smallest
volcano in the world.
The heritage town of Taal in the
Southern Tagalog province of Batangas features the largest church
in the Far East, the Ionic-columned and Gothic-designed Basilica
of Saint Martin of Tours.
In the southeast area of Batangas
is the resort village of Anilao in Mabini town, the nearest scuba
diving center to Manila. Anilao is also a jump-off point for
Also within Subic is a virgin forest
where one can go on a 12-hour trek, visit a tribal village, and
take a jungle survival course. Subic Bay is a rich hunting ground
for both professional and Sunday anglers alike.
Clark, in the Central Luzon province
of Pampanga, is the former homebase of the United States air
fleet in Southeast Asia. A short hour and a half drive north
of Manila, Clark is a special economic zone that has a recreation
network which include an 18-hole golf course, an aviation school,
a de-luxe hotel, and duty free shops.
An hour's drive from Clark is Subic,
the 18,000-hectare former US naval reservation in the province
of Zambales. Subic's recreation area includes an 18-hole golf
course, horseback riding trail, firing range, casinos, restaurants,
duty-free shops, bowling area, a bungee jumping area, and a marina
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Manila is the main gateway to the
Philippines and is readily accessible from the travel capitals
of the world.
Traveling time to Manila from Hong
Kong is an hour and 50 minutes; from Singapore, 3 hours and 10
minutes; from Bangkok, 3 hours and 50 minutes; Tokyo, 4 hours
and 15 minutes; Sydney, 10 hours and 20 minutes; London, 20 hours
and 45 minutes; Paris, 21 hours and 15 minutes; Frankfurt, 19
hours and 40 minutes; San Francisco, 16 hours and 15 minutes;
Los Angeles, 15 hours and 20 minutes; and New York, 25 hours
and 20 minutes.
Philippine Airlines is the national
Filipinos do not simply provide the
guest with a place to rest or park their luggage, they also share
the best of what they have. This warm, effusive brand of hospitality
is what distinguishes Philippine hotels from the others.
Here's a listing of de luxe hotels
in the Greater Manila Area:
DUSIT HOTEL NIKKO
HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL MANILA (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8159711
MAKATI SHANGRI-LA HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8138888
MANDARIN ORIENTAL MANILA (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 7508888
NEW WORLD RENAISSANCE HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8116888
THE PENINSULA MANILA (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8123456
EDSA PLAZA SHANGRI-LA HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 6338888
CENTURY PARK HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5288888
MANILA DIAMOND HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5262211
THE MANILA HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5270011
THE PAN PACIFIC HOTEL MANILA (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5360788
GRAND BOULEVARD HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5268588
MANILA MIDTOWN HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5217001)
HOTEL MERCURE (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8338080/8332530
THE HERITAGE HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8548888
WESTING PHILIPPINE PLAZA (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 5515555
HYATT REGENCY HOTEL (De Luxe)
Telephone (632) 8331234