Located on the island of Luzon, on the Pacific Ocean, the capital of the Philippines can be considered one of the most significant cities in Southeast Asia. Manila is a sophisticated, naive, aristocratic, and simple tourist destination. The modern metropolis, recognized as the most densely populated city on the planet, remembers numerous centuries and eras. However, it is still easy to find a quiet place in order to relax, enjoy the peace and tranquility of various beautiful gardens and parks with exotic flowers. Temples of different faiths add a special highlight to this city, making it incredibly atmospheric. The capital of the Philippines can teach people how to stay strong and love life: after being burnt and ruined, it was still reborn better than ever. Warmed by the bright rays of the sultry tropical sun, the city is surrounded by picturesque Pacific nature. Moreover, it fascinates with its harmony and compatibility of incompatible monuments of architecture, catchy colors, and strong energy of life. Once you decide to go to the Philippines, you can find yourself in one of the most unusual places in the world, as well as get a flurry of emotions, unforgettable impressions, and the opportunity to visit the eternal summer.
Districts of Manila
The Pasig River divides the city into two halves: Intramuros — the oldest part of town, preserving the memories of the Spanish conquistadors, and the northern half with modern architecture and industrial area, adjacent to the port.
The city center is filled with numerous restaurants, bars, open-air cafes, and huge shopping malls.
The image of modern Manila surprises with its diversity and contrasts. Fashionable neighborhoods, cultural and historical monuments, comfortable residential districts are combined with simple dwellings of ordinary residents of the capital. Glass and metal skyscrapers rub shoulders with XVI-century stone buildings. The most ancient sites of the city, preserved since the times of the conquistadors, are the San Agustin Church (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Santo Domingo Church and Convent. There are also the ruins of the fortress walls of Santiago, the oldest University of Santo Tomas, and a variety of architecture with the imprints of ancient eras, styles, and cultures of several countries. These can't leave the most discerning tourist indifferent.
Today, the situation has changed dramatically. Modern Manila is the most densely populated city in the world. It has a high birth rate, which is not affected by natural and economic disasters. It is the largest educational center. Therefore, many young people live here during the school year.
Many residents of the capital work in industrial enterprises, widely and diversely represented in the metropolis. They are smiling and friendly. In their free time, they love to hang out at the markets and wander through the numerous shopping malls. Manila residents inherited their zest for life and optimism from their ancestors, undefeated by war and disasters.
In the early XVI century, the famous Portuguese explorer Magellan discovered the Philippine archipelago, and the Spaniards captured these places. Fifty years later, Lopez de Legazpi was attracted by the cozy bay. After a brief battle with the local raja, the city of Manila was founded here, which became the capital of the Philippines. Fortress walls were erected, and the first church was built. It got its name from the fortress of the Tagalog tribe Manila, which means "the place where the indigo plant grows." This is a kind of plant that still stains the waters of the Pasig River with an unusual green color.
At the beginning of the XVII century, the first educational institution opened here, and a new generation, the first educated inhabitants, appeared. Muslims repeatedly tried to regain power over the city, and the pirates were very interested in it. That's why Fort Santiago was built to protect it. It was an inner-city with solid stone fortifications. Manila becomes the center of trade between China and Mexico.
In the XVIII century, the Seven Years' War broke out, which resulted in the capture of these lands by the British, which brought the city to stagnation and ruin. Two years later, under the Treaty of Paris, the British abandoned Manila, and an era of peace and prosperity began, and the city began to develop actively again.
At the end of the XVIII century, an earthquake struck Manila, causing severe damage. The rebuilt capital received movie theaters, cobblestone streets, and locals learn what an elevator is.
The turn of the XVIII and XIX centuries brought new troubles. The American troops invaded the capital, and the locals had to endure the invaders' cruelty for a hundred years.
World War II was a huge tragedy for the Filipinos, and the city was destroyed to the ground. The Japanese troops killed about 100 thousand civilians. In 1944, the Americans exposed the city to fierce bombing to defeat the Japanese army's remnants. Only Warsaw suffered more in that war than Manila. But the city, scorched and devastated, survived again and found the strength to rebuild. After the devastation of World War II, the Philippines' capital was rebuilt in the North American likeness — straight wide streets and crisp lines of highways. In 1946, Manila and the Philippines became free, and the country gained its independence.
Manila of the XXI century is a modern metropolis, a cultural, industrial, the Philippines' political center, the most densely populated city on the planet. Many educational institutions are located here. It is a modern port of national importance and the center of world tourism.
The best time to visit Manila
Jeepneys are the exclusive means of transportation of the Philippine capital. They are brightly colored cars that can take you anywhere in the metropolis around the clock. Note that their drivers are characterized by fast and chaotic driving. The fare is relatively inexpensive, and you can find them everywhere, with destinations written on the doors or one of the car windows. Jeepneys hold 10 to 15, and during peak hours up to 30 passengers, who are seated on benches inside;
Manila has an LRT light rail system with comfortable air-conditioned trains. Operating hours are from 4:30 AM to 10:45 PM. It runs from Baclaran, along Taft Avenue in the south and Rizal Avenue in the north, to Monumento. It consists of a total of 16 stations. Payment is made with magnetic cards, which are sold at the stations. You can buy a card valid for one day only, or you can buy one for six months from the date of purchase;
When planning your trip and getting around the city, consider the fact that traffic jams are an integral part of city life here;
Manila does not have the best crime situation, so do not carry purses, keys, and cell phones in your pockets. Local thieves are noted for their fearlessness and virtuosity. It is best to carry bags and backpacks in front of you, so they don't get snatched out of your hands or ripped off your back.
There is a public holiday in Manila a week before Catholic Easter. During this time, the subway does not work, some streets and bridges will be closed, and stores and many cafes are shut down;
You can visit Manila's oldest district, Intramuros, Fort Santiago, Rizal Park, and its attractions for free at any time of the year.
Things to do in Manila
- Touch the historical heritage by walking through Fort Santiago, built by Manila's founder Lopez de Legazpi and feel the breath of time;
- Try tinola (a soup made from chicken meat, young papaya fruit, moringa leaves, and lots of ginger) at one of the home-cooked restaurants. In nasty weather, this dish will warm not only the body but also the soul. For those counting calories, Pancit Bihon, a light dish of thin rice noodles fried with meat, chicken liver, and vegetables, is perfect;
- Visit the Binondo district, the oldest Chinese quarter in the world;
- Get some luck and perhaps simple and straightforward answers to the most difficult questions at the Buddhist Kuang Kong Temple;
- Count the coconut fruits in the unique candelabra of the picturesque Coconut Palace. Make sure there are exactly 101 of them, smile and make a wish for your career, and it will surely come true;
- Enjoy paintings performed by local and international artists and admire the unique gold jewelry in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art;
- Throw a picnic in Rizal Park on Manila Bay's shores, relaxing in the shade of the trees from the bustle of a crowded city. The park is famous for being the most beautiful place where the Philippine independence as a state was proclaimed in 1946. Admire the illuminated fountains in the evening. Visit the Japanese or Chinese gardens, the Butterfly Pavilion, the Orchid Orangery and take marvelous, colorful photos against a backdrop of magical nature;
- Combine swimming in the warm waters of Manila Bay, sunbathing, and sightseeing on the beaches of Cebu Island. There are a variety of activities for children, and adults can have a hydromassage while lying under the waterfall streams on a bamboo raft;
- Explore the Universe at Spaceport in the Enchanted Kingdom theme park;
- Go shopping at the Divisoria Market in the heart of the Old Town, where you can buy everything from food to exclusive clothing from renowned designers. Experience all the colors of life in Manila.