Travel Guide to Manila, Philippines
Manila, the capital of the Philippines is located on the east coast of Luzon Island, the largest and northernmost of all the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines. Manila City constitutes one of the seventeen cities that make up Metro Manila, the national capital region of the Philippines.
The origins of Manila can be traced to the 10th century, when the city was believed to have been a part of the Hindu Majapahit Empire, which had trading links with China and Japan. Manila was then invaded by Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei in the late 14th century, in a campaign that brought Islam to the Philippines.
The Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, who followed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Philippines in the early 16th century, greatly influenced the culture, growth and development of the city. In fact the founding of Manila in 1571 is credited to the Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. The evidence of this Spanish rule exists until today, in modern-day Manila, in the form of a fortification known as the walled city of Intramuros, one of the city’s most prominent attractions.
The Second World War further shaped the history of Manila, for the city was the site of some of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific. Manila was captured by the Japanese in January 1942 and was then recaptured by a joint army of American and Filipino troops in March 1945. These fierce battles that waged in Manila, between November 1944 and March 1945, completely devastated the city and killed thousands of civilians. After the war, Manila was rebuilt with much American aid.
Manila today is a busy, crowded, pulsating metropolis that is home to more than 1.6 million people. The city which is located on the east coast of Manila Bay and has the Pasig River flowing through it, is also the educational, political and commercial hub of the Philippines, and offers a cityscape that features a charming mix of the old and the new worlds.
Best time to visit Manila
Manila experiences year round hot, humid weather. The month of May is believed to be the hottest month in Manila, when daytime temperatures usually register readings of 28ºC (83ºF) and nights are hot as well. The city also experiences a monsoon season that extends from June to October, and features heavy rains, floods and storms called typhoons. The best time to visit Manila is thought to be between November and February, when the weather in the city is usually a bit cooler and not as humid.
Passport holders from more than 150 countries don’t need a visa to travel to the Philippines for tourism. They can enter the Philippines for up to 21 days provided that they have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their date of entry into the Philippines. These visitors also need to have a valid onward/return ticket and sufficient funds to cover the expenses of their stay in the Philippines. More details about visas for the Philippines can be found at:-
Getting to and around in Manila
Manila is usually accessed via Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is located at a distance of seven kilometers from the city center. The Manila airport, which features in the list of the world’s busiest airports, receives a whole host of domestic and international carriers that make getting to Manila infinitely easy. The Manila airport is well connected to the city by light rail, taxis and an airport bus service that runs every fifteen minutes.
Getting around Manila is also relatively easy as the city has a well-developed public transport system, made up of taxis, public buses, the metro rail, the light rail and the colorful, quirky, Jeepneys. The Jeepneys are Manila’s indigenous, rather quaint people carriers, which are usually adorned with various trinkets, bells, feathers and the like. The Jeepneys run around the clock and must be experienced on any visit to Manila.
Family-friendly hotels in Manila
Visitors to the Philippines, usually have to transit through Manila to access the country’s various outlying islands, hence the big, bustling city of Manila is equipped with a wide variety of hotels that cater to various travel budgets and accommodation needs. Some of the city’s hotels are especially family-friendly, and include the following properties: -
The Linden Suites Manila
The centrally located, Linden Suites hotel offers facilities like an indoor pool, a sauna and a health club. The hotel is equipped with a coffee shop, restaurant, a gift shop and a grocery store and offers both wireless and wired high-speed Internet access for a fee.
The 168 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel are equipped with a wide range of conveniences like LCD TVs with satellite and cable TV channels, DVD players, tea and coffee makers, in-room safes along with kitchenettes and dining spaces. Most packages offered by the hotel also include complimentary breakfast for guests. The hotel also supplies cribs on request.
Mandarin Oriental Manila – Makati
The Mandarin Oriental Manila- Makati City is located near the city’s family friendly attractions like the Manila Zoo and the Mall of Asia. This luxurious hotel offers a whole host of facilities like a full-service spa, fitness facility, an outdoor pool and a children’s pool. The hotel is further equipped with seven restaurants that offer a smorgasbord of eastern and western cuisines, a currency desk and a 24-hr front desk.
The hotel has designated areas for smoking and offers 442 well-appointed rooms and suites that also offer wireless and wired high speed Internet access for a charge. The rooms all have a sitting area and are outfitted with conveniences like flat screen TVs with access to satellite channels, a refrigerator and coffee/tea makers. The hotel also offers cribs and rollaway beds on request.
The gorgeous Makati Shangri-La hotel is set amongst lush, verdant environs in the heart of Manila, near the airport and attractions like the Ayala Museum and the World Trade Center. This top-notch hotel offers a wide array of family-friendly facilities like seven restaurants, an outdoor pool and a children’s pool, a fitness facility, a full-service spa and complimentary wireless Internet access in its public areas.
The hotel has designated areas for smoking as well. This large hotel offers 698 sumptuous rooms and suites outfitted with amenities like LCD TVs, private sitting rooms, wireless Internet access and more. The hotel also offers babysitting and childcare services on request.
Family-friendly attractions in Manila
The Intramuros was a European-style medieval fortified city, which was constructed by Spanish conquistadors when they established a settlement in Manila in 1571. The massive walls of the Intramuros stretched over 5 kms and enclosed an area extending 158 acres high, which was populated by palaces, churches, monasteries and schools. Only the Spaniards were allowed to inhabit the buildings located within the Intramuros. This walled city served as the seat of government until 1898. Unfortunately much of the Intramuros was destroyed during the fierce battles of World War II.
Today only a few buildings like the San Agustin Church and the Augustinian Monastery exist within the Intramuros, and other structures like the Manila Cathedral and gates like the Puerta Isabel and Puerta Real, have been restored to provide a glimpse into the city’s ancient past.
Fort Santiago is located within the Intramuros and has great historical significance. This stone fort was built by the Spanish colonists in the late 16th century under the reign of Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas. The fort, which was equipped with booming canons, was relinquished by the Spanish to Americans during the Battle of Manila and the American flag was raised over the fort on August 13th 1898. The Americans then went on to make many alterations to Fort Santiago.
The Japanese army then captured the fort when they occupied Manila during World War II. They used the subterranean dungeons of the fort, to house American POWs during the war. These dungeons, which were located below sea level went on to become watery graves for thousands of American soldiers when the tide rolled in. Fort Santiago was heavily damaged during the war.
Today the fort encloses several points of interest including the Rizal Shrine, which commemorates the life of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, who was imprisoned in the dungeons of Fort Santiago before his execution.
The San Agustin Church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Manila, which was built in 1607, under the auspices of the St Augustine monks. The church, which is located within the Intramuros was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993. The church seems have to been equipped with a rock solid foundation, for it successfully withstood the devastating earthquakes that shook Manila in 1863 and 1889. The San Agustin church appears to be rather simple but does have some decorative touches, like intricately carved doors, a trompe-l’œil ceiling and granite sculptures of lions in its courtyard. The San Agustin church was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993.
The statelyMalacañang Palace building, which dates back to the Spanish era in Manila was originally built as the summer home of a Spanish aristocrat in 1750. Subsequently the palace served as the residence of the Spanish Captains-Generals and the Governor Generals of the Philippines during the reigns of the Spaniards and the Americans. Since the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1935, the ‘Malacañang’ Palace’ has served as the residence of the President of the Philippines. The palace complex hosts several structures including the Malacañang Museum which offers displays of tasteful Filipino art, furniture, and sculptures.
Rizal Park, which is also known as Luneta Park is Manila’s main patch of green. This park which is deemed to be one of the biggest parks in S.E. Asia is named after, Dr Jose Rizal, a prominent Filipino activist and thinker. The Spanish executed Dr Rizal, in 1896 and his remains are housed in the granite and bronze Rizal Monument erected a few steps away from the site of his execution.
The lush Rizal Park offers several interesting attractions like a man-made lake, a Planetarium, an Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, the National Museum of the Filipino People and the Quirino Grand Stand, which is used for the swearing-in ceremony of every President of the Philippines.
Family-friendly activities in Manila
Take a trip to Binondo
Manila’s Binondo district is one of largest and oldest Chinatowns in the world. This busy, bustling area, which is located north of the Pasig River was settled by Manila’s ethnic Chinese population during the Spanish era, as the Spanish didn’t permit the Chinese population of Manila to live within the Intramuros.
Manila’s Chinatown is a cacophony of sights and sounds that hosts several attractions like the Kuang Kong and Sen Gunag Buddhist temples, the Bindondo Church,which dates back to the 16th century and main shopping streets like Ongpin and Carvajal, which are filled with numerous stores that sell apparel, jewelry, trinkets, Chinese herbal remedies, Chinese groceries and more. Other points of interest located here include the Arranque Market and the Estero Fast food block, both of which are home to several restaurants and stalls that sell a smorgasbord of delicious Chinese eats.
Visit the Coconut Palace
Manila’s exotic Coconut Palace was commissioned by the country’s infamous First Lady Imelda Marcos in the 1981. The palace, which is also known as Tahanang Philipino, was constructed out of several kinds of by-products of the coconut tree, like coconut shells, and a special kind of coconut lumber. The palace’s elaborate guestrooms have housed celebrities like musician Van Cliburn and Hollywood actress Brook Shields over the years. The Coconut Palace used to be a popular venue for wedding receptions in Manila but the palace now serves as the residence of the vice president of the Philippines.
Take a boat ride on Manila Bay
Several tour operators offer boat cruises of Manila Bay, these cruises give visitors a chance to take in gorgeous views of the city from the water.
Go shopping in the many malls of Manila
Manila is home to numerous western style malls that host a wide array of stores. If you and your family enjoy shopping while on holiday, then a visit to the Manila malls like SM Manila, Mall of Asia, and Greenhills Shopping center is definitely recommended on any trip to the city.
Spend a day at a Manila amusement Park
The city of Manila is home to several amusement parks like Star City, Manila Ocean Park and the Enchanted Kingdom. These Manila amusement parks offer a wide array of attractions and provide the option for a fun day trip while visiting Manila.
Visit the quirky Chinese Cemetery
During the rule of the Spanish in Manila, the city’s Chinese were barred from burying their dead at the city’s Catholic cemeteries. This prompted the Chinese to build a separate cemetery for their dead in the 1850’s. The Chinese, like the Egyptians, also believed in easing the journey of their loved ones, in life after death and went on to adorn their graves with several modern-day conveniences like air-conditioning units, flushable toilets, chandeliers and more. The city’s Chinese community regularly visit the graves located within the cemetery though special celebrations are planned at the cemetery on All Souls Day on November 1st, when the Chinese honor their dead.
Useful contacts for Manila
Department of Tourism
Rm. 207 DOT Bldg., T.M. Kalaw St., Ermita, 1000 Manila
Tel No.: +63(0)2 524 2345 / 525 6114
Fax +63 (0) 2 524 8321 / 521 1088
Airport Office Tel.: +63(0) 2 832 2964
Airport Office Fax: + 63(0) 2 832 1687
Emergency contacts for Manila
National Emergency Phone Number: 117
Foreign embassies in Manila
United States Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 301 2000
British Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 858 2200
Canadian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 857 9000
Australian Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 757 8100
South African Embassy, Manila: + 63 (0)2 889 9383
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Manila: +63 (0)2 896 4668
New Zealand Embassy, Manila: +63 (0)2 891 5358.