MANILA, the capital of the Philippines, is found on the southwestern edge of the largest Philippine island of Luzon. Nestled between Manila Bay in the west and Laguna de Bay in the east, Maynila, as the locals call it, literally translates as “the place where there are mangroves.” From its origins as a small harbor town founded in 1571 by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, it has grown to include 17 cities that make up what is now called Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR). 12,877,253 inhabitants call it home.
Manila is host to the central seat of government, historical landmarks, and biggest malls. Although most of Old Manila was destroyed during World War II, some structures remain. The Manila Hotel is one of them. Built in 1909, it is the oldest hotel in the Philippines as part of the American city plan headed by famous American architect Daniel Hudson Burnham. It has hosted several historical figures: Ernest Hemingway, James A. Michener, John Wayne, President John F. Kennedy, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, among a few. At one point, it served as the residence of General Douglas MacArthur from 1935 to 1941 followed by Japanese troops during the Japanese Occupation in WWII.
Intramuros, the walled city established during the Spanish colonial period is just a stone’s throw away from Manila Hotel. Built as a defense against invaders, it now houses several churches, universities, office buildings. Amongst those inside is the famed San Agustin Church, a Unesco World Heritage Site landmark and Fort Santiago, the fortress guard.
Also situated nearby is Luneta Park, renamed Rizal Park, and considered one of the largest urban parks in Asia. It was the site of the execution of the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
There is no shortage of air-conditioned malls in Manila. The nearby mall includes SM City Pasay and Robinsons Malate. A bit further south along Manila Bay area is the SM Mall of Asia, the high-end S Maison Mall and the City of Dreams complex. Of course, Manila’s business districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City are home to countless restaurants and retail shops, easily reached by taxi. Bargain hunters flock to Greenhills shopping center in San Juan further north.
Transport and Communication
Metro Manila is serviced by numerous modes of transportation, from bicycle drawn sidecars to modern light rail trains. The iconic jeepney is seen at every corner of the city operates on a set route written on its sides. Commuter buses are also common. The light rail transit has 3 lines (with the 4th line under construction): Green, Blue, and Yellow lines. Taxi cabs are abundant, convenient and reasonably priced for point to point travel.
There are several telecom companies that provide cellular service in the country. Frontrunners are Globe Telecom and Smart Communications. A prepaid sim card can be purchased for Php 40 with call rates of Php 6.50 per minute and text message for Php 1 per SMS and various LTE/4G packages.
Manila is classified to have a tropical savannah climate and is warm all year round with temperatures ranging from 21C to 29C. Manila has a distinct dry season from December through May and a relatively lengthy wet season that covers the remaining period. Based on temperature, the warmest months of the year are March through October; the monsoon brings cooler air from November to February. May is the warmest month, and January, the coolest. Typhoons usually occur from June to September.
Tagaytay. Tagaytay is just two hour’s drive south from Manila. It offers a scenic view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano. With a cooler climate, it is a popular weekend getaway with overlooking restaurants and hotels.
Antipolo. Antipolo lies an hour’s drive east of Manila, a mountainous area along the slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. It is a popular pilgrimage site and due to its high elevation, provides a scenic view of Manila.