Think of Manila.
What does it spark and speak of?
The Philippines has over 7,600 islands and in the biggest one of them is the hustling city of Manila. For most people, it is the capital city of the country, but what most people do not know is that much more than that, Manila is a vibrant city filled with life and diversity. Locals and tourists alike have their own share of their #KwentongMaynila (Manila story).
But for someone who has lived in Manila for the past 24 years, here’s what it is for me: my home. The city where I’m most comfortable at. Which is why I’d like to share some things you need to do and experience should you happen to visit the city any time soon.
WALK ALONG HISTORY IN INTRAMUROS
Ah, the famous walled city. A symbol and souvenir of the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. Intramuros literally means within the walls, and inside these walls are historical locations and churches.
As you go inside Intramuros, you’ll get to experience what it must have looked like during the Spanish colonial times.
You can visit famed spots like:
Fort Santiago, where Jose Rizal, our national hero, stayed during his exile;
Palacio del Gobernador, the official residence of the Governor General of Spain in the Philippines (which is now the office of the Intramuros Admin by the way);
and so many other government offices, Universities, spanish colonial forts and refuge centers.
NOTE: Fort Santiago has an entrance fee of php 75.00 and a discounted rate for students, senior citizens and PWDs.
Intramuros have also had its share of historical churches, two of which are still standing up to date, namely, San Agustin church, which is the oldest church to be built in the country and one of the UNESCO heritage sites for the Four Baroque Churches in the Philippines, and the Manila Cathedral which is a Minor Basilica.
STROLL (and SHOP!) ALONG ESCOLTA
Escolta street (literally “Escort”) has its share of rich history and background. Originally a route of marsh land for Spanish soldiers carried by horses from Jones Bridge to a pedestrian bridge known to them as Fuente de Espana (Bridge of Spain). It then became a red-light district during the American occupation, with pubs and shops on both sides. Now, after so many years, Escolta has managed to carry over its unique architectural style and each building has a story to tell.
When in Escolta, don’t forget to visit the First United Building museum, and the museum at Calvo building. Oh, and during the first Saturday of every month, there is an gathering of indie and artisanal people in FUB for the monthly Escolta Saturday Future Market. It’s a good place if you’re looking for something rare, unique, and aged.
GO ON A GASTRONOMIC FOOD TRIP at HEPA LANE
& SCORE CHEAP BOOKS
Hepa lane as in hepatitis lane, is an area along the University Belt of Manila that is a food haven for students or anyone on a budget. Most foods here are local Pinoy streetfoods and thus the name heap lane (hepa because apparently high consumption of streetfoods on a daily basis could cause hepatitis).
Also along University belt is Recto avenue, just a jeepney away from the ultimate thrift shopping center that is Divisoria, Recto offers a different kind of shopping. Books being sold here are sold at as much as half the price off, when bought at any mall based bookstore. The reason? Most books are second hand that have been sold so that others might be able to reuse them again.
Just a word of advise though, many shops in Recto also offers doctored diplomas and other paper credentials, even passports! So be wary of them!
VISIT MANILA CHURCHES
Aside from the churches in Intramuros, Manila is booming with churches that has been around for decades! These are some:
Quiapo Church also a minor basilica which enshrines the Black Nazarene. Every January 9, this church holds one of the major feasts of the Catholic church in the country which is the feast of the Black Nazarene. Annually, millions of devotees gather to participate in the Translacion. Little do most people know that the actual patron saint of the Basilica is St. John the Baptist.
Sta. Cruz Church another baroque church in the Metro. This church isn’t the only main attraction in Sta Cruz, the Carriedo fountain is also worth appreciating at night, when the lights of the fountains are lit.
San Sebastian Church the first all steel church in Asia. It has been said that Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the iconic Eiffel tower had something to do with the design and engineering of this grand church.
Tondo Church probably one of the biggest churches in Manila and the one with the longest aisle. Tondo church is situated at the heart of Tondo, and in close proximity with Divisoria. An urban legend says that when the statue of the church’s patron saint, Santo Nino, was stolen, it rained for over a month and that the rain only stopped when the statue was returned in the church.
Binondo Church situated in the world’s oldest Chinatown. Binondo has been home to our Filipino-Chinese community since 1594! This church is dedicated to the first Filipino martyr, San Lorenzo Ruiz.
WATCH THE FAMED MANILA BAY SUNSET
An oasis in the urban jungle. It wouldn’t be famous for nothing! The Manila bay sunset offers a captivating view that mesmerizes even those who see it on a regular basis. It seems as if the sea is engulfing the sun and painting the sky the most amazing dusk orange anyone could see. If you’re looking to just chill and relax and appreciate the sun setting on one of the busiest cities in the country, go on and sit down at the Baywalk in Roxas Boulevard. It’s a very rewarding experience and a perfect way to cap off your Manila journey.
And when the city sleeps, we will always remember what it made us feel during the day. I hope this list gives you something to look forward to on your next visit to Manila!