Metro Manila, also known as the National Capital Region, is the Philippines’ central hub for culture, economics, governance, and trade. It is a city of extreme contrasts. As in many developing-world cities, the traffic is stifling, the poverty pervasive and the pollution pandemic. On the other hand, the city also offers a glimpse to the rich culture and history of the country, including the city’s Malay, Spanish, American, Chinese and Arabic influences.
Points of Interest:
Also known as the walled city, Intramuros was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. It is the oldest district of Manila and was the seat of government when the Philippines was under the Spanish rule. The thick, high walls and moats were the city’s first defense from foreign invasions. It is constructed almost completely of stone blocks and possesses similar architectural traits of other Spanish defenses around the world. Some attractions inside the park are old gunpowder rooms used as recently as World War II, seminaries and chapels, the Manila cathedral and museums.
Fort Santiago is a citadel built by Spaniards as part of Intramuros. It was a primary holding area for prisoners during the Spanish colonial period, and later during World War II. Over the years, it has become more famous as the fortress of Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, before his execution. It is where he had written his final letters to his family, as well as some poems about his country. A small museum, the Rizal Shrine, is located within its walls. It showcases some of Rizal’s works and memorabilia, as well as a recreation of his cell and the courtroom trial.
Spanning over 60 hectares of open lawn, ornamental gardens, ponds, paved walks and wooded areas, Rizal Park or Luneta National Park is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. As the place where Jose Rizal was executed, the park is a reminiscent of the Philippines’ dark ages under the Spanish rule. Today, however, the park stands as a symbol of Filipino nationhood. One of the park’s highlight is the Rizal monument where the hero’s mortal remains is guarded by sentries in full regalia. It is located along Roxas Boulevard, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros. Due to its proximity to other historical attractions, it has become a favorite leisure spot for both locals and tourists.
A two-kilometer stretch from the US Embassy to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the Baywalk is a seaside promenade overlooking Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard. With open-air cafes that serve local cuisines and venues that feature local bands, the baywalk is considered a popular leisure center for city dwellers. It is also famous for its view of golden sunsets, calm bay waters, and yachts anchored in front of the harbor. SM Mall of Asia, one of the largest malls in Asia, is also just a stone’s throw away from Baywalk.
No visit to Manila would be complete without a venture into the bustling world of Divisoria. Said to be the mother of all markets, it is a district close to the hearts of thrifty Filipinos. It is known for its wide assortment of low-priced goods, and wholesale and bargain shopping. Comprised of malls and markets, this place is simply huge, and sells virtually everything under the sun. Its energetic vortex is one of the most exciting places in the capital to experience local life. From clothes, accessories, toys, and novelties to decorations and household supplies, Divisoria is the mecca of value shopping.