There are probably thousand and one things you can do in Manila, but i’ve streamlined to a couple of things and places to go that perhaps could shorten your need to research!
This trip to Manila was a little impromptu, in fact, unplanned for. Like mentioned in my previous posts, i’ve seen and met many Filipinos while i was working for the restaurants in Singapore, interviewed and spoken to them many times, but i’ve never had the chance to visit their motherland. For once i had the opportunity, so i took my bags, passport and off i flew!
Less then 4 hours from Singapore, i arrived in Manila, Ninoy Aquino International Airport T1, the oldest airport in the Manila, and perhaps (mentioned by our driver), the busiest airport because most international airlines still choose to land at terminal 1 instead of 2 or 3.
Man! This was indeed an experience, as i enter the country with fear, especially when many of my friends told me to be careful because Manila is really dangerous, i beg to differ! It’s perhaps safer than many other countries across the globe! I’ll tell you why later:) Meanwhile, i’ve collated some places of interest that i visited and perhaps it could give you a rough idea of where to visit when you do happen to be in Manila:)
Taal Volcano – Taal volcano is located in the southern part of Luzon in the Philippines. It is about 50km from the capital, Manila. Right in the center of the island is the main crater that holds a sulfuric lake. It is famous for having an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Named as the second most active Volcano in the Philippines, i understand that the last minor activity was dated five years ago with hints of smoke and rumbling sounds heard by the residents living close to the area. To get to the Taal Volcano you have to travel across by boat from Talisay, Batangas and hike up to the crater. On the other hand, for the travellers who wish to have a little more comfort, there’s always a horse-ride available that brings you all the way up to the crater:)
The Archdiocesan Shrine of Jesus – The Way, the Truth, and the Life
Central Business Park – Located right in front of the SM Mall of Asia and beside the SMX Convention Center, the church holds regular mass sessions and if you’re lucky – like me, you probably can catch a glimpse of a traditional wedding ceremony!
Museum of the Filipino People – DO NOT BE FOOLED! Tell the driver the National Museum and he will bring you to the art gallery which is currently undergoing a major renovation (my personal experience). Make sure you tell your driver that you want to head to the Museum of the Filipino People, a division of the National Museum. Over here, you will be able to understand a little more about the cultures and history of the Philippines. Also, this is where over one million archeological treasures and masterpieces are kept from the remains of the San Diego Sinks.
SHOPPING & FOOD
168 Shopping Mall – It’s perhaps THE MALL to go to if you visit Manila. Think about Platinum, MBK and Chatuchak Market in Bangkok combined into one in an air-conditioned complex, that is 168 shopping mall. You can almost get anything you want! Most importantly, it is much cheaper compared to the rest of the places. Nevertheless, if you are cool with the heat during the day, try the Divisoria Market which is located just outside of the 168 Shopping center, i heard that you might get the same item for a cheaper price, not much cheaper though, but perhaps you’ll enjoy the thrill! *One tip, as most of the shops are owned by Chinese Nationals, if you happen to speak Mandarin, my experience shopping there proves that you’ll probably get almost half the retail price! What i understand from my driver is that if you were to speak in English, they’ll mark-up the prices to a hefty price tag, if you speak Tagalog, they’ll mark-up by just a little more above cost, but if you speak MANDARIN, like i’ve mentioned, almost cost price! So remember to BARGAIN!!
999 Shopping Mall – Situated just beside 168 shopping center, 999 sells relatively the same items as what 168 offers, i personally prefer to shop at 168 because of the wide variety of items available. Nevertheless, 999 is where the ladies can shop for their cheap accessories such as hair bands, clips, etc… for the guys, just stay at 168, you’ll probably be able to get a lot more stuff there:)
SM Mall of Asia – A huge mall that is worth to visit, you’ll be able to get many locally-made products and International brands here in the mall. Opened by a group of Chinese businessman (one of which is the richest man in the Philippines), you’ll definitely see a lot of SM malls all around Manila, but the one that you should really visit is the SM Mall of Asia, the biggest mall in the Philippines and also apparently, the World’s third largest malls with 4 hectares of shopping, leisure and entertainment facilities such as an ice-skating ring, IMAX theatre, bowling alley, hypermart, departmental store, etc… all in one location!
Bonifacio High Street – Food, Shopping, Shopping and Food, these are probably the two main things you’ll enjoy in Bonifacio High Street. A heightened experience of gallery-designed offices, avant-garde/fashion forward boutiques, and chef-based restaurants it offers consumers a variety of International brands such as MUJI, La Senza, Springfield, Topshop, etc… and for the Singaporeans, if you think that Charles and Keith is the only Singaporean brand at Bonifacio High Street, you are wrong! Guess what i saw? WEE NAM KEE HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE! Lol!!
There are probably more public transport than you can actually think of, you’ll see a lot of Taxi, Jeepney, Tricycles (Motorbikes/ Bicycles with sidecars), Tranvia (horse trams), LRT, MRT and PNP (which are basically acronyms for train services.
But for your own security and comfort purpose, just go ahead with the taxi services, they start at 40Peso (SGD1.16) and increases about 15 Peso/KM
Most importantly, you need not squeeze with the crowd on the Trains and Jeepney which in my honest opinion is almost unbearable.
Security is perhaps one of the most important thing on all of your minds before travelling. But don’t worry too much, because in all major malls, banks, restaurants and hotels, there’ll be security guards on duty. Armed with pistols, rifles and handcuffs, you’ll perhaps worry more for the robbers and burglars then yourself! Oh! Also, most malls have only one entrance and exit point, and they are taken care of by the well-trained security guards. Holding a drum stick on their hands, all bags have to be checked by them prior to you entering the building:)