Manila ( MNL )


City Guide, Manila

Fourteen cities and three municipalities make up what is officially known as Metro Manila, referred to by most residents and visitors simply as MANILA, a massive, clamorous conurbation that covers 636 square kilometers and is home to almost 10 million people. To add to the confusion the old part of Manila – the area near the old walled city of Intramuros – officially remains the capital and seat of the Philippine government. In practice, the seats of government are all around Metro Manila, with the executive, administrative and judicial branches in Manila, the Senate in Pasay City and Congress in Quezon City.

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.

Today, Manila is a fast growing metropolis with countless possibilities for the enterprising tourist. Apart from the original Intramuros, 8 cities and 9 municipalities were developed and annexed for the new Metro Manila.

Tourist attractions

Metro Manila offers visitors the opportunity to explore the cultural wealth of the Philippines through art museums, historical museums, and cultural and scientific displays. Three art museums can be found in Malate: the Cultural Center Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and the Museo ng Sining, which is the largest museum of contemporary art in the Philippines. The San Augustin Museum in Intramuros contains oil paintings, frescoes, and vestments.

The National Museum, located in Rizal Park, contains prehistoric artifacts, as well as pottery, weapons, and costumes. Seven native boats, dating from between 890 and 710 B.C., are also featured. The Ayala Museum in Malate presents a chronological display of Philippine history in over 60 dioramas. The Lopez Museum in Pasig has a collection of over 13,000 Filipino books, some dating back as far as 1524. Its large collection of historical travel literature includes the first printed account of Magellan's journey to the Philippines.

Culture and entertainment

Music of many types can be found in Manila. The Cultural Centre in Manila hosts performances by international orchestras and artists as well as by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Free outdoor musical performances are held weekly in Paco Park on Fridays, at Puerta Real at the Intramuros Wall on Saturdays, and at Rizal Park on Sunday afternoons. Jazz is performed regularly in several of the larger hotels' lounges. Numerous bistros and cafes provide a stage for local singers or the chance for a karaoke experience.

Folk dancing demonstrations are held Sunday afternoons in the Mindanao section of Nayong Pilipino in Pasay City. Several restaurants in the Metro area feature Philippine folk dancing as their dinner entertainment.

A variety of live theater experience is available in Manila. The Rajah Sulayman Theater, located in Intramuros, provides open-air performances. Other theaters are located in Malate at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, as well as at the Folk Arts Theater and at the William Shaw Theater in Mandaluyong.

Food and Drink

With dozens of restaurants serving a variety of different cuisines, you are spoilt for choice in Manila. American fast-food chains are particularly common and can found all across the city’s various malls and districts. For authentic Filipino cuisine, sample the local delicacies cooked by street vendors and other roadside restaurants


Manila offers a variety of shopping experiences, from colorful open-air markets to air-conditioned shopping malls. Shoppers seeking Philippine handicrafts, such as carvings, lamps made of shells, and cane work, would do well to try the shops at the Nayong Pilipino or to visit the famous outdoor market in Quiapo called Ilalim ng Tulay. (The name means "under the bridge," for the market is located under the Quezon Bridge.) Other outdoor markets are found throughout the Metro Manila area. Notable ones include the Quinta Market in Quiapo, not far from Ilalim ng Tulay; Cartimar Market in Pasay, known as a place to buy pets; and the Baclaran Flea Market, located near the Baclaran Church in Baclaran, Manila. The Baclaran Market sells food, flowers, and household items, and is especially lively after mass on Wednesdays. Bargaining is acceptable and even expected at most outdoor markets.

Manila City Map

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