Manila

Manila (Tagalog: Lungsod ng Maynila) is the capital of the Philippines and the center of governance, education, religion and finance. Sprawling, congested and polluted will likely be the first words to enter your mind when you think of Manila but don't let that impression stop you from exploring its places of interests: its churches; its diverse and complicated culture; colonial history; gigantic malls; bustling markets; hidden architectural gems and vibrant nightlife. Take the opportunity to explore Manila and make your own personal connection with the city.

Districts

District map of Manila

Manila is distributed into 16 territorial districts, which are all original towns except one, the Port Area District. Each district is glorified through its history, culture and cuisine.

The eight districts of the City of Manila (not to confuse with Metropolitan Manila) north of the Pasig River are:

Understand

Fort Santiago, Intramuros

Most people in Manila wear T-shirts & jeans, can speak English, read and write in Roman text, and do not feel comfortable with chopsticks. Manila is known for being a city where the old meets the new. Here you'll find Spanish colonial churches, old-fashioned museums and neo-classical buildings versus modern shopping centers, stylish art museums and glass-stained skyscrapers. Its blend of urban development and historical heritage had made Manila's image unique and attractive.

History

For over three centuries Manila was colonized and administered by Spain which left an enduring architectural heritage throughout the Philippines, especially with respect to churches, forts and other colonial buildings which can still be seen in the ruins of Intramuros, built in the late 16th century. Manila began as a settlement on the banks of the Pasig River, and its name originates from "Maynilad," referring to the mangrove plant known as nilad, which was abundant in the area. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, Manila was home to Muslim-Malays. In 1571, 50 years after Magellan's discovery of the islands, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claimed the Philippines as a colony and established Manila as its capital. Manila was also briefly colonized by the British for two years. Manila was also part of the Spanish East Indies until 1898, when the U.S. took over the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

Manila was first sought by the Spaniards, then the Americans. The Spaniards wanted a counterbalance to the expanding Portuguese empire which had almost taken a big slice of the pie in the lucrative Spice Trade. They got it through Manila, so strategically placed between China together with the rest of Asia, and Mexico - the next closest transit point for goods onwards from Asia to Europe.

Its location seemed a well thought out choice. Legazpi took five years after arriving in the Philippines and settling in Cebu in 1565 to mull over before deciding to finally move up north to Manila in 1571 and make it the capital of the new territory. By numbers, it shortened the traveling distance to the other side of the empire in Acapulco. Manila is also in a much easy and straighter drafting reach for sailing ships to catch the Pacific Trade Winds as they blow northeastward to Japan for Acapulco and blow precisely at San Bernardino Strait for the westward-bound return trip without being diverted any farther. Most importantly, Manila is much closer than Cebu to China.

When Mexico pushed for its independence from Spain and finally shoved her out, the Philippines' glittering importance began to dwindle due to the discontinuance of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, cutting off the Acapulco to Vera Cruz segment and it accelerated more when the Suez Canal was opened enabling the Chinese exports to go in the opposite direction and making Singapore the most important transit hub to Europe in the region. Just a token administration was maintained in Manila since the Philippines had been confined to the doldrums as one of the unreachable and hard to maintain colonies of Spain. That obscurity lasted until a new imperialist era dawned, with countries embarked on a new competition for raw materials and market.

Netherlands, Britain, and France were already there now with Germany, lurking somewhere and ready to fill in the voids about to be vacated by waning superpowers. Germany was already sniffing its way around the Pacific Ocean like a shark smelling a kill when the US, spurred by the windfall of acquiring Hawaii and which desperately wanted a toehold in Asia for her trade, notably with Japan and China, grabbed the first opportunity of grabbing the Philippines. The Philippines once more, so strategically placed as the soon-to-be-linchpin of American imperialism, extended her colonial servitude to the US.

With dynamic geo-politics working, the Philippines, and Manila in particular, proved to be manna from heaven as Japan began to flex her muscles. The result was that the Philippines served as first line of defense for Australia and the mainland US to buy time and it really proves more beneficial as another realignment was in force after World War II when communism comes into the scene and is threatening to swallow the whole of East Asia except Japan, putting the Philippines as a buffer zone for whatever adverse contingency and as long as the Manila leadership sides with the US, things will be OK.

Now that communism is under control and every country on both sides of the Pacific seemed to be embracing free market economy, all of Southeast Asia are grinding strong and busy buzzing. The factors of time, location, and distance are not a consideration anymore and what needs to be important is that Manila is as peaceful, orderly, productive, and creative as all her neighbors to win visitors' attention.

Being a city with its ears and antennae acutely tuned in to American and some European trends, and in the forefront of modernization and constant cultural refinement more than any other city in Southeast Asia or Asia as a whole, Manila witnessed or hosted innovations - political, cultural, civic etc.

Orientation

Manila sits on an archipelago just at the edge of the Asian continent, some 14° 35' N, 121º 00 E'. It’s 700 miles (1,100 km.) or 2 hours flight time from Hong Kong, 1,400 miles (2,200 km.) or 3:15 hours from Bangkok, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) or 3:35 hours from Singapore, 1,900 miles (3.000 km) or 4:15 hours from Tokyo, and 1,800 miles (2,800 km.) from 4:25 hours from Beijing.

Ever so physically endowed, it is sitting in the throes of two notoriously dangerous volcanoes - Pinatubo to the north, which made headlines in 1991 when it spewed dust all over the world and dropped global temperature by 2°, and Taal to the south which always makes headlines every decade or so, while this city straddles the Pacific Rim of Fire underneath. What more, it lies in the path of the tropical monsoon bringing those more and more powerful typhoons during the second half of the year. It is fringed to the south by the idyllic Lake Bai - a veritable scenic showcase of Hispanized native folk and traditional culture, and farther south by cool and refreshing Lake Taal.

The City of Manila is in the western part of Metro Manila. It is bordered on the west by Manila Bay, to the north by Navotas, Quezon City and Caloocan City, to the east by San Juan and Mandaluyong City and to the south by Pasay and Makati.

Get in

The Philippines have only six border crossings all of which are accessed only by sea, and all are all the way down south namely Bongao and Turtle Islands in Tawi Tawi, Taganac and Balabac in Palawan, and Batunganding and Tibanban, Davao del Sur. It is highly unlikely that foreigners will go to the trouble of crossing these border stations on their way to Manila by boat from Malaysia or Indonesia, its only close neighbors. The most reasonable and practical way to reach Manila is by air.

By plane

Main article: Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Ninoy Aquino International Airport is situated 6 km. from the Tourist Belt Areas of Malate & Ermita while it's 10 km. from hotel areas of Ayala Center in Makati City. Arrival procedures are swift and there are ample hotel buses and limousines available for tourists. NAIA is generally regarded as the worst airport in Asia, especially for transferring passengers. Terminals 1, 2, 3, 4, are not internally-connected, and require a drive through the crowded city streets on taxis/jeepneys. Allow lots of time for connection. Better yet, book your flights on 1 reservation so you are "protected" with continuity.

Terminal 1 is used for most international flights. It is in poor condition. Terminal 2 is used exclusively by Philippine Airlines. (note: other flights of Philippine Airlines and its subsidiary PAL Express use Terminal 3) Terminal 3 is used mainly by budget carrier Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines, Emirates, KLM, and Singapore Airlines also operate from the terminal. It is the newest and largest among Manila's air terminals. Terminal 4 is used by other domestic carriers (Tiger Airways, Philippines Air Asia, Air Asia Zest, Seair, and SkyJet)

Airport metered taxis are colored yellow, and have the right to stop and pick up passengers and line up the porte cochere area as you step out of the arrival hall. Each departing taxi is registered by a despatcher. Despite this, there have been frequent scams (accelerated meters, charging full days' mileage, etc). Do not let the yellow taxi driver retain both taxi slips. You should not need to pay more than ₱250 to most hotels in the city. Keep an eye on the meter at all times.

White taxis are warned as "not officially sanctioned" by NAIA, but often times are much more honest and cheaper. Base fare start at ₱40. But they can only be caught in the departure level, where they are dropping off departing passengers.

There are buses outside the arrival area heading to downtown Makati City and Quezon City via EDSA or Efipanio de Los Santos Ave. This arrangement is preferable for those with only one light backpack heading for the mentioned areas.

By boat

Manila is the hub of the Philippine ferry network, and ferries to most major cities will stop at the Manila South Harbor, the city's main passenger seaport. Several companies operate ferries to Manila from points throughout the Philippines, and cruise ships occasionally stop in Manila throughout the year. Around the capital are numerous attractions for people desiring a quick daytrip away from the hustle and bustle of this mega-metropolis.

By train

Manila is accessible by three of the major train lines in Metropolitan Manila: the Philippine National Railways (PNR) which passes from Sta. Ana and ends at the terminal station in Tutuban; the LRT Line 1 (LRT-1); and the MRT Line 2 (MRT-2) which has a terminal at Recto Ave. and passes through Quezon City from the V. Mapa station.

By bus

Provincial bus companies also operate their own terminals which are dispersed throughout the city. They concentrate mostly in EDSA in Cubao District, Quezon City for those destined north (Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon, the Bicol Region including Catanduanes & Masbate Islands), around the junction of EDSA and South Superhighway for those destined south (Southern Tagalog Bicol Region), and around the Sampaloc District in Manila for those heading north.

Talk

Filipino is the language of the locals. It is the chosen language at home to most. It is also the language of the media and movie industries as Manilans watch TV and movies and read newspapers in Filipino. Being one of the common denominators of the locals, Filipino based from Tagalog shares with English, the other most popular.

English is widely spoken in urban areas of the Philippines. It comes second as a medium of instruction in any institution. It is the language of the government, and the preference for written communication, be it in school or business.

Tourists who have just arrived here can easily catch up with the latest gossip news in the local tinsel town, as well as government scuttlebutts, as there are plenty of English version newspapers and magazines.

In Binondo, Manila's Chinatown district, Hokkien is widely spoken while Mandarin might also be known as it is taught in Chinese educational institutions. It is fast becoming the third most important language following Filipino and English, unseating Spanish.

Spanish used to be the official language of the Philippines and deteriorated to the language of the old time generations, one time used to be taught for a 12-unit course in all university curriculi. A tertiary education is not complete unless one takes the whole course and must at least have basic conversation skills. Now, Spanish is practically dead, but the language has somehow percolated through the Filipino vocabulary which is now about 10% Spanish derived.

Filipino being 100% based from Tagalog grammar and more or less 50% from Tagalog vocabulary, is a hodge podge of other Philippine languages, setting aside English, Spanish, Malay, Sanskrit, Arabic, & Chinese. Here are the main ones that one might detect being spoken by neighbors or seatmates, Manila, being the Tower of Babel and melting pot of the country.

Manila's economic growth has attracted people from provinces with a delusion that a better life can be attained in the city, these people had brought a diversity in Manila's culture from their hometowns with tongues that speka Ilocano from the Ilocos regions, Pampango from Pampanga, Bicolano from the Bicol Region, Hiligaynon from Western Visayas, Cebuano from Cebu and Waray from Leyte and Samar.

Taglish has been part of everyday life of Manilans as they try to grapple with expressing themselves the easiest and the most effective way, mix n' matching English words and phrases with Tagalog and vice versa. It used to be frowned upon by teachers but as the quality of education deteriorates, they too found themselves committing the same sin since this new wave of teachers are also a product of the younger half-baked generation.

The assault on purists comes both ways, those who have inadequate schooling in English at lost for words, and on the other side, those specifically bred and schooled in the US establishing their foothold back in the country struggling with their broken Tagalog, or finding experiences and descriptions that can't be expressed in Tagalog, throwing in some English words and phrases as filler. It so happened that being "foreign", "western", and "American", they are more endeared and adorable to the grounded natives, their way of speaking becoming the "in" thing. Also, English being at the forefront of technological and cultural development, produces new words and experiences that can't be purely translated.

Movie personalities being role models are more of the culprits as they magnify the popularity of Taglish.

Get around

If you need to use public transportation try sakay.ph, it will show you the right type to your destination.

By train

The Manila Light Rail Transit System Line 1 (LRT-1)

Manila is crossed by three lines of the Strong Republic Transit System (SRTS), Metro Manila's (partially) integrated railway network. The SRTS Yellow and Purple lines, operated by the Light Rail Transit Authority, cross through Manila city proper, converging at the intersection of Rizal Avenue and C.M. Recto Avenue. The Yellow Line, also known as LRT Line 1 (LRT-1), serves Malate, Ermita, Quiapo, Binondo and Santa Cruz, while the Purple Line, also known as MRT Line 2 (MRT-2), serves Quiapo, Sampaloc and Santa Mesa. Most tourist sites are along the Yellow Line.

Metro Manila's main regional passenger train station is Tutuban in Tondo. From Tutuban station, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates the Commuter Express (Commex), also referred to as the SRTS Orange Line. Fifty trains serve the commuter service daily, with the line crossing through Tondo, Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Paco and San Andres before extending to Metro Manila. There is an interchange with the Yellow Line at Blumentritt station, and with the Purple Line at Santa Mesa station.

The Manila Train Guide has a map that shows connections between train lines and points of interest in Metro Manila.

Fares

Manila's light rail transit system

Fares on the SRTS are distance-based, with the base fare being ₱12 for the Yellow and Purple Lines, and ₱10 for the Orange Line. Each line has a differing fare structure:

Single-journey and ₱100 "stored value" tickets may be purchased at LRTA stations. Stored value tickets are valid for six months after first use. The LRTA has full fare integration for stored-value tickets: stored-value tickets purchased for use on one line are also valid on the other line. However, this does not extend to single-journey tickets, which are only valid for one line, and the Orange Line, which uses a separate paper-based ticket system.

By bus or jeepney

Several city and provincial bus routes either cross through or terminate in Manila. Most buses which serve Manila proper will cross through the Lawton bus terminal, which is conveniently located in front of the LRT-1 Central Terminal station. Routes include points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan, and bus fares normally begin at ₱10.

Manila city bus routes are not numbered. However, the bus route is prominently displayed on the side of the bus as well as on the dashboard, listing both the route's endpoints and major points in between which will be served by that particular route. When in doubt, ask the bus conductor if a particular bus will go to a particular destination.

Manila is also served by several jeepney routes, some of which ply the routes previously served by Manila's pre-World War II tram system. The Lawton bus terminal is also a major jeepney terminal, with several jeepneys either crossing through, terminating or originating here. Fares begin at ₱8.50 for the first four kilometers. Like buses, jeepney routes are not numbered, but the route is prominently displayed on the sides of the jeepney as well as on the dashboard, and drivers, or specialized barkers announce their destination and departure at route origins.

By taxi

An airport taxi in Manila

Taxis (usually marked by the words 'taxi' on the sides of sedan cars) are plentiful and easy to find. During peak hours, it will be difficult to find an empty one, so find a taxi-stand where people form orderly lines and wait for empty taxis to pull up. It is advisable to have a general idea of how much your trip would cost, and ask the taxi driver as you board how much will it cost (approximately) to get to your destination. Taxi drivers have been known to not switch on their meters as the journey starts, only to tell passengers to pay a fare that is two or three times the normal rate.

In general, be prepared with the name of your destination, a rough map with landmarks and an estimate of the fare before attempting to board a taxi on Manila roads.

By tricycle or pedicab

Tricycles and pedicabs are, in the City of Manila, limited to short distances as it can access hard-to-reach areas. Tricycle and pedicab terminals are found throughout the city: major points for taking tricycles and pedicabs within the downtown area include the Lawton bus terminal, the area around LRT-1 Doroteo Jose and MRT-2 Recto Stations, Tutuban railway station, Plaza Lacson in Santa Cruz, and Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo. Tricycle and pedicab terminals are normally located alongside jeepney terminals and railway stations.

By law, tricycles and pedicabs must display a fare matrix which displays fares to areas served by the vehicle, and is normally adhered to for short distances. For longer distances, it is not uncommon to negotiate the fare beforehand with the driver.

By calesa

In Ermita, Intramuros and Binondo, it is still possible to ride a calesa, or traditional horse-drawn carriage. While no longer used as a meaningful form of transport by most locals, calesas are useful for navigating through narrow streets (similar to tricycles and pedicabs), as well as getting a feel of transport in colonial Manila. Fares are negotiated beforehand with the cochero (driver), and a one-hour ride for two people normally costs around ₱50-70.

See

The main tourist sites of Manila are mostly located along Manila Bay.

Landmarks

The gate of Intramuros
The Roxas Boulevard
Plaza Lawton with the Manila Central Post Office in the background

Museums

The Museum of the Filipino People

Manila has seen a drastic improvement in its museum offerings with the recent renovation of old favorites such as the National Museum of the Filipino People and the Ayala Museum. Other must-see museums in the city are the Bahay Chinoy (Chinese House), Casa Manila, San Agustin Museum and the Museum of Filipino Political History, the "Museo Pambata" children's museum'.

Parks

Rizal Park

Nature and Wildlife

Churches

The Manila Cathedral
The interior of the San Agustin Church

Spanish Colonial Churches

Baroque colonial churches where once proud showcases of the past especially before World War II but the wanton destruction of the Japanese and the equally guilty American soldiers during the Battle of Manila in 1945 dissolved all that except for a handful remaining. Lack of maintenance, vandalism, theft, and no proper awareness, guidance, or education by administering priests and architects who undertook renovation blunders (multiplied more incidents in the provinces) complicated the already pathetic state of remaining churches.

Iglesia ni Cristo Churches

Aside from the interesting Spanish Colonial Churches, there is one group of church-structures belonging to the Iglesia ni Cristo, a homegrown reformist church established by a Manilan named Felix Manalo in 1914 that is uniquely Filipino somewhat parallels with the Latter-Day-Saints Mormons (its cultish-ness and disciplined regimen demanded from its congregation), that merit some curiosities. These unique churches have two outstanding features: that they are kept in pristine white condition (with some little color highlights), and they soar to the sky like those gothic cathedrals, or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Salt Lake Temple in Utah. In some cases, they jot out in the middle of a green countryside off the suburbs of Metro Manila. But even in the midst of urban jungle in Manila, one can't help but notice its towers and sphires projecting through the clouds among the busy skyline.

No name yet is given to this architectural style but it may safely be called Philippine Gothic Revival and the churches show the usual suspects of Gothic tracery, lacework, and rosettas, with the emphasis of verticality and noticeable indigenous geometric motifs as substitute. The detailing is tasteful and awesome.

Its "Vatican" is located in the New Era District of Quezon City and can be easily seen from about two to three miles away from all directions heralding in a Cinderella-like castle fashion, their main shrine and headquarters.

Saint Days

Manilans are mostly very pious Catholic people. On a different angle, being afflicted with problems and ailments, Manilans may not have much alternative and feel that some things are just out of their control and the best way is to ask for answers and solutions to their favorite saints. It would be interesting to note that some streets leading to a patron saint's home church are extra tight during their special days.

For the anthropologically curious, it also provides a good peek into the daily life of the locals, young and old, men or women. It alo reveals a facet trait of the Filipino - being fatalistic and true blue believer of some higher spirits.

Do

A calesa in Intramuros
The Chinese Garden of Rizal Park
Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch in Binondo

Fiestas & Festivals

Buy

Cash and Credit

The unit of currency is the Peso, and judging by the impressive performance of the economy and its big foreign currency reserves, the peso is at US$1 to ₱46 and dollar is still "sliding down". Bill denominations are in ₱20, ₱50, ₱100, ₱500, & ₱1000 while coin denominations are in 25¢, 50¢, ₱1, ₱5, & ₱10. 25¢ is found very common nowadays since the jeepney fare has now increased to a base fare of ₱8.50 (Mar.'12).

Banks and money changers are available in the airport but it's better to change money outside where competition abound. Money changers are everywhere and most homecoming Filipinos prefer to change them here than in banks or, Western Union or M. Lhuillier. There is no commission. The farther it is from the Tourist Belt Area, and the nearer it is around a town or city public market, the better the exchange rate is. Safety is not a problem especially if you change them during busy hours (safety in numbers). Be sure to count everything and put them safe in your person before you leave the premises.

Money can be withdrawn from ATMs. The Philippines are one of the countries with the most available ATM machines per capita.

HSBC Bank ATMs are the only ones without a ₱200 fee for Overseas bank cards, and also the only ones which allow customers to take out up to ₱40000 per use.

Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, especially at all upmarket shops.

Public Market

Public markets are one microcosm of Manila. Practically, Manilans from all walks of life come here to buy their everyday needs. They are as lively and colorful as any market in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam. Generally, they are divided into wet and dry sections and another section for dining. Dining is very cheap and can be wholesomely hygienic. Just look out for the huge block of ice dragged along the floor on its way from the delivery truck to a stall. If you see one delivered in that manner, never mind, don't eat there, ever. Joking aside, a filling meal will cost you as little as US$1.25.

Shopping Centers

Robinsons Place Manila, the largest shopping mall in the city

One of the experiences that you must try in Manila is shopping and the best way to get a feel for Manila shopping is to go to a ‘tiangge’, a market of stalls where everything can be bargained. There are a lot of flea markets scattered around the city catering to handicrafts, clothes, antiques, and curio souvenirs.These flea markets offers almost everything: gadgets, clothes, bags, shoes, food, furniture, antiques, jewellery and even books which are all often sold at cheaper prices.

Aside from flea markets and bazaars, Manila is also home to modern and western-type shopping malls which offers branded products, these are mostly located in the commercial, financial and cultural districts of Ermita and Malate which are known for being a premier shopping destination in Manila. Robinsons Place Manila is the largest shopping mall in the city, it is a modern shopping mall located in the district of Ermita and is home to a wide collection of international and local retail shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Harrison Plaza is also located in the district of Malate, it is considered to be the first and oldest shopping mall in the country. The SM City North EDSA which is located in nearby Quezon City, is the largest shopping mall in the country and in Southeast Asia as well. The second largest shopping mall in the country is the SM Mall of Asia, this shopping mall has much to offer for every visitor, it has international and local retail stores, a ferris wheel, a Science Discovery Center, an IMAX theater and an ice skating rink.

Other major shopping malls in the city are SM City Manila, SM City San Lazaro, Robinsons Otis and Lucky Chinatown Mall. Manila is known for being a major shopping hub of the Philippines, from modern shopping malls to colorful and traditional markets, its all here in Manila.

Ukay Ukay

Divisoria, a haven for shoppers

If you happen to see just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry in a blighted neighborhood in Manila wearing Abercrombie & Fitch get-up & Levis jeans, chances are its original and bought at Ukay Ukays. How can they afford it? Ukay Ukay is the answer. It's the Philippines' answer to Salvation Army. Nowadays, they are everywhere and Manilans love them. It's actually a contraction of the Tagalog word "Hukay" meaning to dig, the description for the exact action done while rummaging through the bins of clothes. But there are actually no bins installed in those stores, only clothes neatly hanged on the racks. For less than $2, one can find hand me down good qualities of branded wear. The more enterprising provide home delivery and roaming services by hanging them on racks installed on pedicabs, as they make the run on neighborhoods. Judging by the unafforable cost of living to most of the middle class and the soaring gasoline prices, they may be here to stay.

It's also great for the budget tourist who would not want to have the hassle of packing and carrying tons of clothes by simply buying them here, then discarding them somewhere as his piles of souvenirs accumulate.

Eat

Street Food/Comfort Food - Stationary

Street Food is often described as "Pamatid Gutom" or food to tide over, something to temporarily hush a stomach growl, sold at small food stalls, food stands, or food carts set up in places with high amount of pedestrian traffic. Cheap and rushed, it could be something commuters can chew & swallow, or gulp in seconds while transferring from one route to another, or from station to station, with a quick standing stop at a sushi, siomai, barbecue, or hotdog stall.

The variety of street food available is tremendous and may reward the truly adventurous traveler. Some notable examples are the following:

Low income workers patronize them the most as they commute to their homes, often taking two-hour trips. These are noted in the open streets where they are the cheapest and these are what most bloggers and media immediately see. But there are ones that are as even cleaner as those found in Bangkok or at par with those in hawker centers in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, or Japan and Korea.

This is one of the ultimate selections when it comes to Filipino comfort food. This is made out of noodles that are either boiled and has a variety of toppings or are sautéed together with its savory components. This can be found (albeit rarely) in small, clear plastic bags in the streets and are usually eaten on site with a fork. It has Chinese influences.

Mall walkways and Food Courts offer a wide selection of Street Food menu and that is some notches less in worrying about hygiene. Expect the cost to be a little bit higher, although that would just come up to be in cents difference.

For a taste of street food without the accompanying risk, try out the following establishments:

Carinderyas/Carinderias sound like Spanish style cooking but there is no relation to it. It's simply a collective term for a working class type of eating stall, now with table and seats for sit-in meals, more as a hole-in-the-wall or a makeshift school canteen (some may have wheels) for the lowly construction worker, the jeepney driver, or the student low and tight on budget. The style of presenting the food (no menus but some have posted menus) is laid out on a glass-covered or open counter in pots or deep square aluminum platters (for the more classy ones) and where the customer can just scan his eyes and choose what he wants.

Panaderyas/Panaderias are Bakeries dispensing bread and pastries. But the line is not clear if they are a separate class of their own or as Street Food. Goldilocks Bakeshop operate as a full-time restaurant but they can have some presence in malls as food stand types. Dunkin’ Donuts or Mister Donut also establish their presence as either a shop with dining tables or as a stand-alone stall.

Ambulant Food

This is a special class of Street Food distinguished from the stationary ones. Vendors roam around in their carts in a certain route and a specific time, as some food that are sold are time sensitive, meaning they can only be eaten say, in the morning, or as afternoon snack. Some of their itineraries are neighborhoods, where their target clientale are pre-school or school age children, and some are office blocks, where their prime targets are lady workers. There are only a few types of these food that are mobile.

Breakfast Fare

Breakfast in the city is described as dry - meaning not wet as in noodle and soup or porridge like what is taken in the morning in most Southeast Asian cities. More like an amalgam of the East and the West, specifically the American, Hispanic, and Malay, somehow as if McDonald's and Cuban entrees collided with Nasi Lemak to form these creations that are very catchy to begin with for they all end with "SILOG".

First, these are the key words in Tagalog: Sinangag for fried garlic rice and Itlog for egg more often sunny side up and rarely scrambled. They combine to form the portmanteau "SILOG". Along with these is the main item - meat or fish plus the given mainstays - Set A: lettuce-sliced tomato(s)-sliced cucumber(s), Set B: carrots and peas toppings over sinangag, Set C: achara or pickled unripe papaya and carrots, Set D: fried garlic or shallots over sinangag, or Set E: onion rings. The main items are as follows:

Of course, this is assisted with hot coffee, tea, or juice and a couple of morning bread called Pan de Sal (salted bread).

There are stalls or Carinderias/Carinderyas that specialize in this breakfast "SILOG" fare called "Tapsihan" named for the first type of these combo ever concocted, the tapsilog.

Snacks/Chichireya

Snacks or nibblers called Chichireya or Papak while office workers multi-task and at the same time working and chatting. Also, it is eaten on long journeys or while watching movies or simply doing school work.

Restaurants

When it comes to dining, in a nutshell, Filipino food can be described as timid in flavor, not much creativity. Food is trained to have only one dominant flavor - either the bitterness, the sweetness, the sourness, or the saltiness is enhanced. For some reason, the ingredients used don't have that wide range like those in Malaysia, Vietnam or Thailand, its closest neighbors. Filipinos are just as happy and contented to limit their range of ingredients, a people that never had a royalty. Practically all countries that had/have a monarchy developed their superior palate taste through the royal court. No particular doting attention is given no more than it fills the stomach of the ordinary hungry person.

In a close comparison on a vegetable & spice market tour between the Philippines and Vietnam, the Philippine counterpart is limited. For seasoning, Filipino dishes do not digress from the daily triumvirate of garlic, onion, and tomatoes, sometimes ginger. No cinnamon, anise, or cardamom. On the herb section, only parsley, spring onion, and lemon grass are popularly known to Filipinos, while in Vietnam, there are so many kinds of herbs used in the daily diet. One glaring observation, basil is not eaten fresh, only as seasoning sold as dry as a dead leaf. As a side note, the saw-leaf herb which is an everyday ingredient in Vietnam which happened to originate in Mexico, ironically skipped the Philippines during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

Speaking of Acapulco, Mexicans drink tamarind as a beverage. Tamarind juice coming from the tamarind fruit, being as Asian as rice, is surpisingly absent in the Philippine beverage menu even though it is popular in Latin America and the rest of the Southeast Asian countries. However, it is used in a tamarind soup called sinigang in some areas of the city.

Noodle varieties are limited to a handful. Rice wrappers for spring roll is just one type, unlike in Vietnam. Having plenty of variation and versatility for example, the Vietnamese would use rice as sesamed crackers, or Mexicans would make their corn into taco shells, or Indians would use wheat as poppadoms.

Filipino food is safe to say more as a comfort food, a peasant food concocted at a time when all Filipinos were all living on agricultural-fishing existence, contented to eat simply on rice and one or two-dish meal - one dry and the other wet or soupy. Even if Filipinos have attained a higher degree of sophistication, the same ingredients are used and the same flavor is maintained.

Most sit-down and casual dining restaurants in Manila would fall under the mid-range category. But there are budget ones as well. For budget dining, just follow the office workers making a beeline to building basements, canteens, or carinderias (road side stalls) during lunchbreak almost everywhere in the city and even in high class Makati area. The men usually wear short sleeved Barong Tagalog and the ladies, like bank teller attires. These are not lowly workers but they pay lunch as cheap as US$1.00 complete with a clear broth, a dish, and a cup of rice enough to energize the office worker for the rest of the day. University canteens open to the public offer student meals and have resident nutritionists too. Along Recto and Nicanor Reyes Sts., the epicenter of downtown university belt cosmos, there are dime a dozen shops that offer complete and filling budget meals as low as ₱35 or US$0.80 (80 cents).

Manila as a national hub of regional cooking, has almost all its regions represented in eating establishments either exclusively or featured with the others. General restaurants, either catering for the working class or the elite, can offer varied dishes coming from every region and have assimilated in every one's palette taste. For example the northern region called Ilocos has its favorite fare called Pinakbet approved by practically everyone and has melted in every local's daily diet although it still sticks to be identified as an Ilocano fare.

Regional Dishes

The following are the regional dishes that have assimiliated into the restaurants, canteens, and carinderias in Manila.

Local Snack or Ice Cream Parlors

Some of the food offered by these parlors may be also be on restaurant menus (since these are categorically dessert items), those that specialize in local cuisine. But these parlors are also a separate category of their own. Goldilocks and Red Ribbon, super hygienic Americanized establishments stand out from the rest usually found in malls, and from the humble food stalls in the public markets where they originated. These two are basically bakeshops but they function as native ice cream parlors, serving more or less the following which are authentically or adaptively Filipino:

Fast Food

Even while the enlightened world hates McDonalds/Pizza Hut guts, Filipinos are great lovers of its dining style and menus - hotdogs on stick, hotdogs on bun, hamburgers, or cheeseburgers, pizzas, and spaghettis. Their pictures proliferate everywhere, be it as street food or sit-in meal. Manilans also love donuts in the personification of Mister Donut which has its creations not as sweet as its American competitions. On a side note, Philippine style spaghettis are done sweeter than normal.

Manila has most of the usual American fast food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Dairy Queen, Shakey's Pizza, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, TGIF, Italianni's, Outback, and KFC. Jollibee, the Filipino counterpart of McDonald's now ecclipsing it's once held dominant position, it is very common in Manila. It started out as a spoof spin-off of McDonald's, copying its menu and business model but substituting it with local ingredients (ex. mango pie for apple pie) and taking consideration of the local palate, now has become a billion dollar peso franchise business empire. Another spin-off of this business is Chow King, the same business model and packaging (styrofoams, plastics, and cardboards) but with Chinese influenced menus and has become as ubiquitous as Jollibee and McDonalds. Another spin-off to the spin-off is Mang Inasal, this time the theme is country or provincial style menu with packaging this time using banana leaf and cane and bamboo baskets as plates, and claypots as serving plates catering to native food lovers.

Coffeeshops such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best have also recently become quite common in malls and commercial centers. Meals could be as low as US$2 to 3 in most fast food joints. A typical burger meal with fries and a drink would fall under this range.

Pulutan

The Philippines has its own version of the Spanish Tapas but little is known about it outside the country even if Filipinos have invaded almost all corners of the globe, employed and even permanently residing in their host countries. Anyway, it's more or less the same kind of presentation - as a finger, toothpick, or fork food, and relevance - to accompany any alcoholic drink, mostly beer, on a social gathering between neighbors, relatives, work colleagues, peers, and clients and mostly fall under male-bonding or camaraderie social dining. It comes from the root word "PULUT" meaning "to pick up".

It is always served in a communal plate or bowl with plenty of forks (if it needs to pick up the food, otherwise finger is OK) arrayed on a plate like oars on a boat. If there's a need for a dipping sauce, then a bowl is also served with it to be used communally.

Drink

A very local drinking experience in Manila meant going to beer gardens or beerhouses as is commonly called. They are scattered mostly around the working districts of Sampaloc, Santa Mesa, Quiapo and even the tourist belt areas of Ermita and Malate. Every city in the metropolis has practically its own adult entertainment strip, block, or district where these establishments can be found. These are heavily sexualized. It's mostly working class men and those working in the military and police establishments who are the clientele with young sexy and provocatively dressed waitresses or euphemistically called GROs or Guest Relations Officers serving the customers. Some beer gardens take it up a level higher and have entertainment on the sides with scantily two-piece suit dancers taking turns on the stage. The kind of food served somewhat resemble the Spanish Tapas style ranging from the simple such as peanuts, corn, and peas - boiled or deep fried to mundane such as fried pork, beef, chicken to the adventurous such as other body parts - ears, gizzards, livers, hearts, intestines, brains, balls, blood, and what have you. They are categorized under the subject Pulutan.

For establishments resembling the western version of a pub, these establishments are concentrated in Remedios Circle in Malate district a very important hub of nightlife, as well as in Bonifacio Global Village in Taguig City, Tomas Morato in Kamuning District in Quezon City, and Eastwood in Libis District, Quezon City. Bohemian Malate, the older Ermita neighborhood and the Baywalk that stretches between them contains a variety of venues serving a combination of food, comedy, alcohol, and live music.

Karaoke and videoke bars are also very common as majority of Manilans are American Idol fans although one's living room can be easily converted into one.

Work

The workforce in Manila covers everything from daily, minimum wage earners to expats being driven in BMWs. Standard working time varies, especially with the proliferation of Call Centers, but the usual working hours are 8AM-5PM. Given that the traffic within the Manila escalates exponentially as the day begins, it's always better to leave early for meetings.

There is also a local saying known as "Filipino Time" wherein it was expected that the attendee would be late by up to one hour. However, this has been significantly reduced through the years, although the bad traffic is usually (and realistically) cited as the main cause for missing one's appointment.

Makati City is the country's main CBD, or Central Business District, and, on every given weekday, it seems that all roads lead here. Multinational firms and big businesses hold offices here.

Ortigas Center, which cuts across the borders of Mandaluyong City, Pasig City and Quezon City, seems to be the alternative CBD, with companies such as the Asian Development Bank headquarters and the World Bank Manila office located in this vicinity.

Sleep

Check for hotel listings in the appropriate districts

You can sleep in a Manila Hotel for as cheap as 500 peso per night if you wish. Don't expect many luxuries at this price though!

Manila has a lot of hotels, inns and apartelles. Most of these accommodations can be found within Roxas Boulevard overlooking Manila Bay, or in the districts of Ermita and Malate. Manila's hotel accommodations are 20 to 30 minutes away from the international and domestic airport.

There are many major international hotel chains which have a presence in Metro Manila. Rates are still generally cheaper here compared to the same class of hotels in western cities. A stay in these hotels however, would be considered a luxury by Philippine standards particularly since the cost is a month's income for some Filipinos.

Connect

Payphones are very common in the city center. The use of mobile phones is also very extensive. To use your mobile phone, it has to be at least a dualband GSM phone. Globe and Smart are the Philippine's largest mobile carriers and they invite you to use them as a roaming partner (inquire from your home carrier if they have Globe and Smart as a roaming partner).

To call anywhere within Metro Manila, simply dial the 7-digit telephone number from a payphone or a landline. If you need to call anywhere else within the Philippines, dial 0 + area code + telephone number. To make an international phone call, dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number.

Internet cafes have become a common sight in Metro Manila. Most malls would have at least one internet cafe. Most internet cafes provide broadband speeds. Netopia and Pacific Internet are common chains. Netopia also has a branch at the MRT-3 Ayala Station. Cheap overseas calls can be made at Netopia branches via their VOIP service.

Most coffee shops now also have WiFi services available so you can surf the net while sipping a cuppa. Airborneaccess.net and WIZ are the most common WiFi providers. Ask around if usage is free of charge, otherwise, as the case is often, you will have to buy an internet access card at the counter.

Stay Safe

Manila is a city where one should exercise caution.

As a slum haven, Manila is one of the most blighted cities in Asia, rivaling Kolkata, Mumbai, and Dhaka. Sufficient to say that it is not convenient to carefree wonder around as one would encounter sidewalks fringed with makeshift shanties that lead to a sudden turn into a labyrinth of squatter neighborhoods. It is very scary if not annoying encountering lolling group of male adult and teenage bystanders, although nowadays, these areas are most likely manned by village watchmen and everyone is more than willing to help and interact with lost strangers.

Nuisances that impedes a pleasurable walking tour are dirty and malnourished children who freely use the streets as their playground, manholes that were left open (or probably its cover stolen to be sold as metal scrap), dog feces, uncollected garbage, undisciplined cars and mostly jeepneys weaving in and out of the lanes as they pick up passengers, as well as political billboards.

A popular scam as of recent days is for someone to approach you and pretend they recognize you. They will say they work at your hotel (such as room service or security) and that they know you from there. They then say it is their day off and since they just happened to bump into you they want to show you something nice that is nearby. They may be very convincing even to experienced travelers. It is always a scam.

Another popular scam is for a con artist to befriend a tourist and offer to show them around, hang out, etc. After gaining the tourist's trust, the con artist then slips drugs into the tourist's food or drinks. The con artist then leads the drugged, groggy victim to an ATM and watches while he/she enters her pin. The con artist is then free to withdraw all the money from the account.

Get into a car or go anywhere with people only if you know them (even of they say that have helped you at the hotel on a previous occasion). Of course, if you ask them which hotel they will not be able to answer. They are best fended off if you just ignore them. If they persist, say, "Are you going to leave me alone or should I call the police?" That makes them leave quickly.

Theft is common, especially pick pocketing. You should act cautiously as you would in any other poor country, especially considering if you do not look Filipino. Thieves and scam artists are likely to see you as an easy target. However, most travelers from other Asian nations, especially from southeast Asia, should have no problem blending in with the crowd.

Never wear valuable jewelry or anything else to broadcast your wealth. Displaying an expensive mobile phone or digital camera out in the open is also a good way to attract thieves.

Cope

Embassies and Consulates

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, February 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.