explore Manila, Philippines

What to do in Manila, Philippines


Intramuros Tour – visit the Walled City starting from Fort Santiago. Inside is the Rizal Shrine, honoring the country’s National Hero, Jose Rizal – polymath, doctor, engineer, scientist, artist, linguist, propagandist, and most of all, an avid traveler who was incarcerated in exactly that same cell before he was executed, now transformed into his shrine. His patriotism and nationalist advocacy preceded that of Mahatma Gandhi’s by about 20 years. His shrine houses his memorabilia. Other places to see are the Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Roma, Ayuntamiento, Palacio del Gobernador, and the Manila Cathedral. San Agustin Church needs more than a passing glance. The monastery-church complex houses priceless collection of religious art. Across is Plaza San Luis Complex comprising a group of houses replete with authentic furnishings of the colonial period. Trace the walls of the city and the interestingly unique gates of the walls, eight in all and stopping at Parian Gate, the gate leading to Bahay Tsinoy, meaning House of the Filipino-Chinese, Philippines‘ version of the Peranakan House-Museums in Singapore and Malacca. The House-Museum extolls also the economic, political, and cultural, among other things, from the humble beginnings to, achievements and contributions of the Filipino-Chinese community.

Rizal Park Tour – Designed by Daniel Burnham, this park is the Philippines’ answer to Paris‘ Jardin des Tuileries or Washington Mall. Gaze at Rizal Monument, a must stopping point for Heads of State visits, the Japanese & Chinese Gardens, the National Museum, the Planetarium, the Ocean Park, the Museo Pambata, as well as the Quirino Grandstand, the oath-taking stand for Presidential inaugurations.

Downtown Manila Tour – This self-guided tour starts at Bahay Nakpil on Bautista St. in Quiapo, on a turn-of-the-century house, then to Plaza Miranda, now teeming with vendors of religious, herbal merchandizes, as well as fortune tellers and prayer proxies as you make your way to the Quiapo Basilica housing the Black Nazarene. Stroll to Raon, Villalobos, and Palanca Sts. on your way to Quinta Market and the Ile de Toule (Ilalim ng Tulay) for handicrafts and souvenirs. Pass by Carriedo and Juan Luna Sts. another commercial strips towards Chinatown at Binondo where it ends in Binondo Church, the heart of town.

Malate & Ermita Tour – Cover this area starting from Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Malate Church, a quiant baroque church, then meander in any direction along Adriatico, Mabini, Del Pilar Sts., and Roxas Blvd. Make sure to stop at San Andres Market.

CCP Complex Tour – Probe into the mind of Imelda Marcos by strolling, jogging, or biking into the reclaimed CCP Complex where a menagerie of her showcase art-beauty-culture projects stands, albeit not in its spic-n’-span condition. See Districts/Malate’ and Understand sections. These public buildings except for the Cultural Center Building or Theater for the Performing Arts, used to be accesible but have now been reduced to being admired from the outside. The Coconut Palace, always unpredictably closed, is now open for viewing, albeit by appointment.

Skyscraper Gazing Tour – Outside of the City of Manila, get hands on experience of the modern city with four greatest and latest skyscraper showcases of the metropolis starting via LRT-1 to MRT-3 stopping at Ayala Center in Makati, the oldest at 50 plus years and kept on re-inventing itself. Step into Ayala Avenue, the new Fifth Avenue of the Philippines and walk breezily in its 5-meter wide, flat, and very feet-friendly sidewalks (a rarity in Manila) while gazing at the ever becoming higher and higher skyscrapers. The walking tour heads to Ayala Triangle – a mini park spotted with sprawling acacia trees and a green carpet of turf, home to the Makati and Philippine Stock Exchanges buildings. The vertices of the triangle-park are highlighted by significant Filipino heroes. On the South vertex and first approach is the image of the fiery and enraging female heroine-on-horseback of the Spanish Revolt – Gabriela Silang, on the North vertex, the hubris-full and regal posing Muslim Sultan Kudarat, and on the East vertex, the meek and helpless nerd-looking assassinated hero, Ninoy Aquino. Trace back towards EDSA and switch to another mode of transport, a taxi or on an AUV in order to get to the second major destination, the BGC or Bonifacio Global City, then back again to EDSA, on the way skirting through the third cluster of skyscrapers in an area called the Rockwell Center, then finally to EDSA at MRT-3 Guadalupe Station. The line to the north heads to another concentration of skyscrapers, the Ortigas Center, the last end of the tour. There are alternative routes connecting these four. As you go along, you will be arching back your neck and staring upwards. Manila has seen another period of construction boom in practically the busiest areas in the metropolis (and these areas are just a sample) with an upward sales growth of condominium units). Be discreet on taking photos. Just like in traumatized New York or Los Angeles, here in Manila, skyscrapers and camera equals trouble. People here are not used to seeing a lot of tourists and mostly will have some second thoughts why you are doing this thing, unless you are white.

Electric Chariots Tour of Intramuros – tour in style, meaning in segway rented from White Knight Hotel, Intramuros.

City Tour of Metro Manila Via train – This do-it-yourself tour provides a panoramic view of the city from a different vantage point, exactly from a moving elevated train about 15 feet above street level.

Fiestas & Festivals

New Year Welcoming Festival, not a recommended place to be where Manila is converted into a war zone with unbearable noise, blanket haze, and stray bullets fired from unknown sources.

Chinese New Year Welcoming Festival, Chinatown, Binondo District

Oblation Run, University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman District, Quezon City not in Manila although it may have its own version.

  • Feast of the Black Nazarene and Caroza Parade, Quiapo District, Manila, January 9
  • Fiesta del Santo Niño, Tondo District, Manila, 3rd Sunday of January
  • EDSA People’s Power Revolution Comemmoration, not in the City of Manila
  • Manila Summer Sea Sports Festival, March along Roxas Boulevard
  • Holy Week or Semana Santa, Catholic Churches throughout Metropolitan Manila
  • Santacruzan Festival, the famous one hosted by Manila Hotel
  • Flores de Mayo
  • Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, not in the City of Manila
  • Philippine Independence Day Celebration at the Luneta
  • La Naval Fluvial Parade at the Pasig River
  • All Souls & Saints Day Celebration, Cemeteries throughout Metropolitan Manila
  • Marián Festival in Intramuros
  • Misa De Gallo held in all churches.
  • Christmas Day held in all Christian homes
  • Metro Manila Film Festival along Roxas Boulevard
  • Pageant of the Three Kings held in all churches
  • Bota De Flores, Ermita District, Manila