A lot of foreign visitors fly into Manila with no intention of staying long in the city. They just use it as a jump-off point in their trips across the Philippines.
If this sounds like you, there’s no need for you to spend the whole day in your hotel or at the airport. Manila has its share of attractions that you can appreciate even in just one day. Here is my suggested itinerary if you have a limited time and still want to experience the city of Manila.
Appreciate Philippine history and visit Intramuros and Fort Santiago
Make sure to go and visit Intramuros, the walled city of Manila. It was the Spaniards’ center of political and religious power back when the Philippines was still a Spanish colony. There are only seven gates into the “city” and there is a moat which was added in 1603.
Inside Intramuros, you will find Fort Santiago, the prison where Jose Rizal, the Philippine National Hero, spent his last days.
There are also around twelve churches inside Intramuros, the most famous of which are the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. There are hospitals, lodging houses, commercial spaces, universities, and even a military barracks.
To go around Intramuros, you can walk or hire a horse-drawn carriage (a calesa). Make sure to negotiate the rate first before getting on! If you choose to walk, bring an umbrella or a head cover, as well as a large bottle of water. It can get hot in the Philippines, and you would want to avoid getting a heatstroke.
Have traditional Chinese lunch in Chinatown
Binondo is the site of so many food trips done by my friends in CouchSurfing. It’s no wonder though; all over Chinatown, there are a lot of restaurants and smaller establishments that offer authentic Chinese dishes. Go there after you’ve had your fill of Intramuros.
Visit Quiapo Church
From Binondo, you can walk all the way to Quiapo Church. On the way, you will get a glimpse of how the locals conduct their business. As you get nearer to the church, notice the kind of things sold there—from pirated DVDs and clothing, to household items as well as appliances.
However, a lot of the sidewalk stalls also sell herbal concoctions to induce labor (for pregnant women), various amulets to ward off evil spirits, and other items that seem incongruous given the nearness of the Catholic Church.
Built in the late 1500s, Quiapo Church is the oldest church in the Philippines. It survived the bombing of Manila in World War II and had undergone several restorations.
Every year, the Black Nazarene—its patron saint—is brought out during the Feast of the Black Nazarene and paraded around the district. Held annually every January 9, it is usually attended by millions of devotees.
From Quiapo, take a cab and have dinner in Baywalk
By day’s end, it would be good to see the sunset in Manila Bay. Go to Harbor Square (near the Cultural Center of the Philippines) and choose from the numerous restaurants there. There are coffeeshops as well if you just want to hang out.
Alternatively, you can also stay in Intramuros and have a buffet dinner at Barbara’s Restaurant. Aside from their great menu which varies daily, they also offer an hour-long cultural presentation that all foreign visitors should have a chance to see!
After such a full day of sightseeing, you may feel that you have seen all of Manila. This is not true! There is so much more to see and so much more to experience in this Philippine city. Check out the other entries in this blog carnival to appreciate how beautiful old Manila can be.